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Brungards spark Springfield on field and sideline

NEW MIDDLETOWN — Mark Brungard was certain he wanted to coach his kids when the opportunity presented itself. He just wasn’t sure if his kids wanted him to be their coach.

Brungard was the head coach at Poland back in 2015, helping build the Bulldogs into one of the area’s premier programs. He also was a Springfield High School graduate, and his oldest son, Brannon, was about to be a sophomore for the Tigers. His other two boys, Brady and Beau, were a few years younger and also played football.

Mark, a local legend who won two national championships as quarterback at Youngstown State University, understood there was a bit of risk when it came to coaching his kin. He also knew there was reward.

“I had the opportunity to coach these boys in youth sports along with all their classmates,” Mark said. “I knew how much fun that could be, and when (Springfield coach) Sean (Guerriero) offered that opportunity to come over here, I went to my boys and asked them. There was no hesitation from them. I didn’t want them to feel awkward. With the time I spent with them growing up, I just knew we were going to have a good balance between regular family life and football and all the other things. It wasn’t going to become something that consumed us or put anything in a bad direction. It’s been a total blessing.”

More than anyone ever imagined.

Brady, now a senior, plays center, and Beau, a junior, quarterbacks the Tigers, who play Coldwater (11-0) at 5:15 p.m. today in the Division VI state championship. It’s the second straight year they’re playing in the title game, the first Mahoning Valley public school to accomplish the feat since Warren Western Reserve in 1972 and 1973. Since Brungard became offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2016, the Tigers are 49-7 with three playoff appearances and a state runner-up finish.

They’re hoping to add to that legacy today, but even if they don’t take home a championship, the Brungards are enjoying the time together on the field.

“It’s definitely one of the coolest experiences, something that a lot of kids don’t get to experience,” Brady said. “Whether it’s something where he has to yell or correct us on, he just leaves it at practice, leaves it at the game, doesn’t bring it home. It’s just such an awesome experience, and I’m so blessed to have it.”

The Tigers are certainly benefiting as well.

With Brady and the rest of the line paving the way, Beau is again putting up spectacular numbers and leading Springfield’s offense. He has completed 120-of-171 passes (70 percent) for 1,827 yards, 18 touchdowns and one interception. He also leads the Tigers in rushing with 773 yards and 19 TDs on 86 carries. He admits he has learned a lot from his dad, and it started when he was a ball boy at Poland.

“Growing up with my dad as a coach, it really got me excited, every Friday night going out there with my dad,” Beau said. “I was the water boy, and I was just thinking to myself, ‘I can’t wait until I’m in these players’ shoes, and I can get out there and play.’ That helped me a lot, being in the locker room when my dad was the coach at Poland. I sometimes got a glimpse of how it all worked and how it all came together. I got that at a young age, and that helped me a lot, just being exposed to it and getting an understanding of how it all works. I got a lot of knowledge out of that. It really helped prepare me for where I am today.”

Mark has been a guiding influence along the way for all of his sons.

He sees different aspects of himself in all of his boys — both physically and mentally — as well as his wife, Kari, who was a three-sport athlete at Springfield before graduating in 1992. While Mark was a quarterback who thrived with his arm and wit, his traits as a football player expanded beyond basic QB fundamentals.

“A little bit differently in each one,” said Mark of the qualities he sees in his sons. “My oldest son (Brannon) was so knowledgeable, and that was a part of what gave me some advantage, just anticipating and having an understanding of what’s going on. My middle son, Brady, is just super competitive but also is a compassionate person and is always thinking of others. That’s a little bit of my personality too, is considering others. It makes him a great leader and why he’s definitely one of our team favorites. People look at him as one of our central leaders because of that. Beau is ultra competitive and hates to lose at anything, but he also has just a feel for the game and anticipates things well.”

The overall experience has been a blast for the Brungards, most of the time.

While there haven’t been too many arguments between them — on the field, at least — the countless tense moments take their toll on Kari. She has seen as much football as any of them and must endure through the good and the bad.

“(She’s) very competitive, and honestly, she’s probably more competitive than me,” Mark said. “She doesn’t enjoy the games from a standpoint of when it’s close, she’s a wreck. She doesn’t want to lose, and that’s part of what makes it so much fun. That (spirit) is in our kids. They’re competitive because of her too.

“The last two weeks after the games (both last-second victories), she wasn’t too pleasant,” he added with a laugh. “She’s like, ‘What the heck are you guys doing? You’re killing me.’ “

The Tigers hope to alleviate Kari and the rest of New Middletown of any suspense today against the Cavaliers.

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