East St. Louis native Orlando Gooden has been hired as the head football coach at Granite City High School, replacing Brad Hasquin.
The Warriors are fresh off their first playoff appearance in nine years. Hasquin resigned in January after one season.
“Granite City is a program on the rise and I’m excited to be here and looking forward to the future,’’ Gooden said in an interview Tuesday. “There is a lot of talent around here. They made the playoffs last year. But we want to get the program to where making the playoffs is expected and not a surprise.”
He was a standout running back and 2001 graduate of Cahokia High School, where he helped lead the Comanches to three playoff appearances. Gooden played defensive back and linebacker at the University of Missouri for coach Gary Pinkel for two years before transferring to Indiana State University.
An All Gateway Conference linebacker as a senior for the Sycamores in 2005, Gooden graduated from ISU in 2006.
“We have a lot of work to do and we’re ready to get at it.,” he said.
Granite City Athletic Director John Moad said there were nine applicants for the Warriors coaching job. But from the outset, Gooden 36, was considered one of the favorites.
“It always amazes me the number of quality applicants we get here at Granite City High School. We knew form the start that Coach Gooden was one of our finalists,’’ Moad said. “We’re excited to have him and iIknow he’s excited to be here. It’s good to see the energy.
“We need some stability and it looks like Coach Gooden is going to be here for a while. We’re excited to see what this football program can be. We made the playoffs last year but we don’t want it to be a one year thing. We want to build on what we did in the future.”
After graduating from Indiana State in 2006, Gooden returned to the metro east. He was a volunteer assistant at Cahokia from 2008-10 then was an assistant, working primarily with the Comanches’ freshmen and junior-varsity teams, from 2010-16.
For the last two years, Gooden has coached in the Cahokia kids program while working as a career navigator for a non-profit group and and is currently a behavioral aide for East St. Louis School District 189.
“I knew I wanted to be a head coach and now my opportunity has come. I feel this is a good fit for me,’’ Gooden said. “We want to develop the team policy and also the no excuse environment within our football program.
“The goal is to win and be successful both on and off the football field and in the classroom. We will do it the right way through hard work.’’
Granite City finished 5-5 and qualified for Class 7A playoffs last year.
This season could be even better. The Warriors return one of the most talented players in the state in senior quarterback Freddy Edwards, along with several other talented players on both sides of the ball.
“I stress discipline and ... the team concept. There are no I’s in team, but these is an “I’ in win,’’ Gooden said. “We’ll stress all three parts of the game ... offense, defense and special teams.
“On offense we’ll try to control the football. On defense, if you can stop teams from scoring, you have a pretty good chance of winning the football game,” he said.