Matt Taylor answers call as Kewanee new coach

Matt Taylor

KEWANEE - Matt Taylor answered the call to join the Navy after 9/11.

He put in a 20-year career in the Navy, returning to his hometown Kewanee last year, serving as assistant coach for the Boilermakers football team.

Taylor has now answered the call to become the head football coach at Kewanee.

Taylor was named this week as the new Boilermakers head coach, replacing Brad Swanson, who was not rehired after four seasons.

“I’m excited to help the guys reach their goals,” Taylor said.

Taylor said he won’t be changing everything up.

“The plan is to stay the course. We’re only two years removed from a 9-2 season,” he said. “Clearly every coach is going to have some of their things they will emphasize, would pursue, maybe make it their signature.

“I really don’t see reinventing the wheel that went 4-5 and could have been a 6-3 team or 5-4 team and make the playoffs. I don’t think the players deserve some brand new system. They’re poised to just get better next year.”

Taylor, a 1991 graduate, said he learned from his own personal experiences playing at Kewanee how tough it can be on kids with new coaches bringing in new systems.

“I lived with three different varsity systems in my varsity career and it was a huge part of the lack of success (6-21) that some of the athletes I played with went through,” he said. “It’s hard for a new system to be introduced, for everybody to get the terminology down, for everybody to buy in and so forth.

“Since I was here last year, why would I reinvent it and hinder progress? (Just have) more attention to detail, more discipline, just continue to build the foundation, high expectations, accountability. The sky’s the limit for them really.”

The Boilermakers were a young team last year, finishing 4-5, 3-3 in the Three Rivers East. This fall, they will have 18 guys who started last year on one side of the ball or the other.

“We’re going to be taking a 6-3 sophomore team and taking their positive attributes and putting them in the mix,” Taylor said. “We have to get a system and get things established with the program that demands consistency from the players. They’ve got to buy in. I think Brad had that going.”

Swanson came to Kewanee from Galesburg, where he had been an assistant football coach and head softball coach. He led the Boilermakers to second-round playoff appearances in each of his first two full seasons, going 7-4 in 2019 and 9-2 in 2021.

In 2021, the Boilermakers gave Princeton its only regular-season defeat (49-21), sharing the Three Rivers East title with the Tigers.

In four seasons, including a 2-2 mark in the 2021 spring COVID season, Swanson’s Boilermakers were 22-13.

Swanson resigned as PE/Drivers ed teacher at this week’s board meeting.

Taylor was a senior on Greg Christakos’ first team at Kewanee in 1990. After playing at Augustana, he returned home to teach science at KHS and joined Christakos’ staff for five years, serving as defensive coordinator for the Boilermakers’ 1999 quarterfinal team.

Then 9/11 happened.

“9/11 kind of got me. It drove me over the edge to do this. I was 29 so, it was, ‘Let’s do this now or hold your peace.’ The situation was a great thing to do in my mind and it turned into multiple years.

“My sister was in the Navy when (9/11) happened. I had initially thought about going in after college, but I had a football injury. Before 9/11, they weren’t just handing out medical waivers for anybody. There wasn’t a push to get people in like post-9/11.”