O’Hanlon Delivers Pre-Playoff Pep Talk to Trenton Freedom
Two days before the first playoff game in team history, I caught up with Trenton Freedom Head Coach Kevin O’Hanlon as he delivered tickets after practice. The Freedom host the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks, the Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL) National Conference Championship game Saturday at the Sun National Bank Center.
In his first year as a head coach, O’Hanlon and his staff put together a team from scratch that won the regular season conference title and entertained the fans of the Trenton area. With those accolades under his belt, O’Hanlon’s personal rating of his performance shocks some fans.
“I give myself a C,” O’Hanlon started via phone conversation. “We have a conference championship to win yet, and a league championship. There are some things I could have done better or done differently; we are 8-4, but could have been 10-2, and that knocks me down from a B to a C.”
Last season, O’Hanlon roamed the sidelines as the defensive coordinator with Lehigh Valley, so there is familiarity with his playoff opponent. He talked about the different approach he took in preparation this week.
“I looked at it like a head coach,” O’Hanlon said. “We (the coaching staff) looked at film all week, of course, the game is a lot different this week, and it’s the most important game in the history of our organization. We got the team tuned in, and focused on winning the game.” O’Hanlon also pointed to a small change in approach the staff took in preparation for the playoff game. “We’re probably the healthiest we’ve been all year. We’ve been smart about practicing in the heat, cutting reps back, focusing on hydration schedules according to individual weights and diet, and taking care of the players. Instead of going rep after rep, we focused on quality reps over a large quantity.”
Lehigh Valley (6-6) won the regular season series 2-1, so O’Hanlon knows there is work to do. The coach spoke about his opponent briefly.
“Coach Thompson will have the Steelhawks ready,” O’Hanlon said. “The quarterback (Shane) McSweeny had a very good year and likes to run and the receiving corps is strong. With that said, we can’t let the quarterback run all over the place.”
O’Hanlon addressed his team’s habit of starting slow with a little humor.
“I’m going to have to come up with the thirteenth different speech, as my first twelve didn’t work (laughs) this season,” O’Hanlon quipped. “During the regular season, I let them know that, even with so many rookies to the indoor game on our roster, we are a really good football team. This week, I made it a point of not telling them how good I think they are, but that there is always someone out there ready to knock them off.”
Saturday’s conference championship game kicks off at 7 pm.
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