Comets football torch passed to Passerrello

By Jason Hawk -



Mike Passerrello has been tapped to replace Bill Fishleigh as head coach of the Amherst Comets football program.

“It was a good fit for me to be able to coach here and also teach here,” said Passerrello, a health teacher of 15 years at Amherst Junior High. “It was good for my family.”

Passerrello comes from Firelands, where he helmed the Falcons football program for six seasons.

In Amherst, he wants to work to restore balance to the Comets offense and instill a “physical attitude” in players.

“We want to set out to change the culture like we did at Firelands. Coming in, we’re not going to make any excuses. We’re going to go after it, and it starts with our strength and conditioning program,” he said.

“There are good kids here. There are kids who want to work hard.”

Comets athletic director Casey Wolf said he was looking for someone with head coaching experience and who has cultivated success — someone who runs a comprehensive program from youth levels to varsity.

Passerrello checks all those boxes.

“His track record of success speaks for itself in terms of what he’s done at Firelands, which is tremendous,” Wolf said.

A school board vote is still required to cement Passerrello’s role, however. It was added to the agenda of a special meeting held Wednesday after print time.

During his tenure at Firelands, Passerrello amassed a 34-28 record.

That may seem middling, but it’s not in terms of growth.

He was originally hired as defensive coordinator, then just months into the job was promoted when three-year coach Todd Pooch resigned amid a prostitution scandal (the charges were ultimately dropped).

It was rock-bottom for Falcons football — the years when both Firelands and neighboring Oberlin were considered roll-over opponents, sure to lose.

When Passerrello took over, Firelands hadn’t won more than three games in any season for 13 years.

Their fortunes didn’t change overnight. The team endured its fair share of hardships, including a winless 2013.

Passarrello rallied his players to 5-4 the following year, then to second in the PAC’s Stars Division in 2015, capitalizing on the arm of outstanding quarterback Brad Thrasher.

He led the Firelands Falcons last year to a 7-3 season (3-2 in the Patriot Athletic Conference).

Meanwhile, Amherst struggled to 3-7 under coach Bill Fishleigh, who has since resigned. Fishleigh coached the Comets for three grueling seasons during which the team went 5-25.

He announced in November that he’d accepted a central office job at another district.

“Things are definitely on the rise,” Fishleigh previously said. “The new football coach is going to come into a great community and school and inherit a team that’s hungry and ready to win. This was a tough decision but there’s brighter times ahead here in Amherst.”

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.


By Jason Hawk