To change the fortunes of the beleaguered Lebanon football program a less conventional approach may be required. Facing a total rebuild, the Lebanon School District has turned to out-of-the-box thinking, youth, enthusiasm, and energy.

And maybe a little divine intervention.

At its meeting on March 18, the Lebanon school board approved the recommendation of Tyler Pritchett as the next head coach of its historic football program. Pritchett replaces Frank Isenberg, who parted coaching ways with Lebanon in November, following the conclusion of the Cedars’ third straight winless campaign.

“God is first and foremost in my life and my family’s life,” said Pritchett. “I will always feel called to serve. I think my ministry is the game of football. I’ve been through a lot as a person, but God never left me. He doesn’t always come when you call him. He comes when you need him. My father was a minister and that’s how I was raised.

“My wife and I both come from families who love the Lord,” he continued. “I know what God has done for me and my family. As Christians, we’re called to serve and bring people closer to God. We felt it (the Lebanon coaching position) was an opportunity to pay it forward. I’ve had an opportunity to see a lot of different things through football.”

The 26-year-old Pritchett played football at the Division I level for three years at North Carolina, then later at Benedict College, and he possesses experience as an offensive line coach and offensive coordinator at the college level, as well as being a mentor at the scholastic level. Pritchett attended Auburn High School in Alabama.

Before learning of the Cedars’ open position on the website, Pritchett had never heard of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, or visited here.

“No, I never heard of it,” said Pritchett. “We don’t have family in Pennsylvania. One time in college we played in Pittsburgh. That’s as close as I ever came to Lebanon.

The Pritchett family, Tyler, wife Avery and newborn child, strike a pose inside the atrium at Lebanon High School. (Provided photo)

“When I saw the opening, I did some research on the town and the community and the football team,” added Pritchett. “My wife and I thought it would be a great place to raise a family. One of the first things I noticed about it was how close-knit a community it was, and it really reminded me of my home in Alabama. Once we were able to lay eyes on it, we fell in love with everything about Lebanon. We could see ourselves raising a family here.”

Pritchett will officially assume his duties as a physical education/health teacher and head football coach on April 1, just over four months before the official start of practice for the 2024 season. Pritchett met with his current Cedar players on the day after his hiring became official.

“When we met as a team, the kids were completely engaged,” said Pritchett. “These kids want to win. They want to be successful. The amazing administration and the community are going to be the ones we lean on. It’s bigger than myself. We have to understand where our weaknesses are. We should all be able to work together. We’re going to figure this thing out, but we need the community’s help.”

“When we met everyone and shook everyone’s hands, it felt like family,” he continued. “That’s the most important thing to me. We feel comfortable in Lebanon. We felt very welcomed. I think Lebanon is the best thing that’s happened to our family. This is a town that we love and where we feel at home. We want to get into the community more, and I want to preach that to the kids. It should be very important to them as well.”

After receiving a positive response to his job application, Pritchett and his wife Avery visited Lebanon for the first time in the middle of February. Among those involved in the hiring process were Lebanon’s new athletic director Tony Sinico, LHS principal Robert Nordall and new school district superintendent Nicole Malinowski.

Pritchett said he did not know how much interest was expressed in the Lebanon head football coach opening overall.

“I’ll be honest, I don’t know anything about that,” said Pritchett. “I just trusted the process. I’m not worried about any of that. I’m just looking forward.”

“After I first applied, Dr. Nordall and I spoke on the phone,” Pritchett added. “He was gauging who I was as a person and a coach. The next step was a Zoom between myself and Tony Sinico. After I was interviewed, I had to answer questions and the answers were taken to the superintendent, Dr. Malinowski. After a week or so, I was approved.”

Pritchett’s faith will surely be tested.

On the field, the Cedars haven’t won a football game in 33 tries dating back to 2020, they’ve dropped 11 straight Cedar Bowls to rivals Cedar Crest, and last year Lebanon was outscored by an average margin of 48-6. Off the field – and perhaps even more importantly – Lebanon has been plagued by an underperforming weight training program, diminished parental involvement, separate disconnects with the youth program and the high school administration and a general lack of support from the community, teachers and alumni.

Read More: Lebanon High’s football struggles reflect wider issues in urban school districts

“All of those things don’t scare my wife and I,” said Pitchett. “You walk by faith and try to do it right. We know God has you covered. I felt called to serve the community here in Lebanon. I think we’ll be able to uplift those kids and turn those things around.”

When asked about initial steps in the process, like assembling a coaching staff, Pritchett’s response was philosophical.

“The first step is trusting the process and understanding the concept of going 1-0 each and every day,” said Pritchett. “We’ve got to change the culture. That starts with how you approach the game of football and how you approach the game of life. Winning starts in the off-season. The kids seem to be very engaged, very excited. I think some buzz is starting to come back to Lebanon football.

“It’s a process, which for us means focus, education and effort. We have to be able to pay that every day. It’s about the team. We’re a family. When we say family we mean that. That’s the environment we’re going to create. The community is a big part of that as well.”

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Jeff Falk is a seasoned journalist based in Lebanon, PA. He's a graduate of Cedar Crest High School, Penn State University, and a lifelong resident of Lebanon, born and raised. Currently, he is a feature writer for Engle Publishing in Lancaster, the editor of, sports director at WLBR...