Andrew Pratley is right at home in his new job as St. Joseph football coach.
The Bears’ new boss has spent much of his life coaching football, and much of it living near Lake Michigan.
“(St. Joseph) felt like home a little bit, growing up in West Michigan and being on the lake,” Pratley said. “I’m excited to be here, I’ve had a great experience so far and just really looking forward to the season.”
Pratley grew up in Frankfort, Mich., near Traverse City, where his father Mike was a longtime assistant coach at Frankfort High School.
Pratley was inspired to follow his father’s path into coaching.
“Growing up around the game, the impact that he had on young men where they come back from college and things like that, I saw the impact that was there,” Pratley said.
Pratley graduated from Adrian College, and had high school assistant coaching stints at Adrian and Mio. By the time he was 25, landed his first head coaching job at Ogemaw Heights, where he went 60-37 in nine seasons.
Pratley spent the last six seasons coaching Holland. Though the Dutch were just 17-38 in his tenure, he guided them to just their third playoff berth in 2017 with a 6-4 record, and was later named Coach of the Year by the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.
“Each stop’s different,” Pratley said. “Each community’s unique. Each job’s been unique in terms of what that coaching looks like.
“At the end of the day, it’s really just about helping build young men and helping to build their futures and using the game of football for those things.”
Pratley is the president of the MHSFCA, and helped implement a new playoff system which will take effect in 2020.
Pratley inherits a program with a strong history. St. Joseph has reached the playoffs 11 of the past 13 seasons, winning five Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West Division titles, three district crowns, and one regional championship in that period.
“The program’s had a ton of success over the years with great coaches and great players coming through here,” Pratley said. “We just want to continue trying to build that so that we’re perennially competing for our conference championship. If you do that in this league, you’re going to have a chance to compete for a regional title every year.”
Pratley said he plans to run an option-based offense, although the exact formations and plays will depend on personnel. He’s used wishbone and shotgun formations in the past.
“I like to attack,” Pratley said. “I think we’re going to be aggressive both sides of the ball and really try to put the other team in some binds. Try to use the whole field both offensively and defensively and really try to make teams prepare for us.”
Pratley is hoping that St. Joseph will be his last stop in coaching.
“I’m not planning on leaving,” Pratley said. “My wife was mad when we moved the last time. I wouldn’t have left Holland for any job, it had to be a really great job.
“I consider this one of the top 10 jobs in the state as far as I’m concerned. When I saw it open, it just became a situation where I felt like this is what was best for our family. God willing, we won’t move again.”
Contact: bsanders@TheHP.com, 429-1294, @HPBenSanders