Bell replaces Manlove as Woodbridge head football coach

Jed Bell

BRIDGEVILLE — Just weeks after capturing its second DIAA Division II state title in the last three seasons, Woodbridge High named Jed Bell as the football program’s next head coach.

Bell, a 2007 Milford High graduate, has spent the last three seasons as Woodbridge’s defensive coordinator and has been an assistant football coach for the last eight years — seven of which he spent with the Blue Raiders.

Bell is replacing long-time coach Ed Manlove, who retired following Woodbridge’s 33-9 state title victory over Wilmington Friends on Dec. 1.

“It’s exciting,” Bell said. “Obviously I’m super grateful for coach Manlove, just because he kind of let my role grow more and more each year and he started giving me more responsibilities. It was nice they ended up keeping it internal.”

The promotion was made official Friday, Dec. 21, just prior to the school district’s winter break.

“I can’t tell you how fortunate I am. I don’t think there’s a better guy I could have fallen under, to learn from and really develop under, so I’m grateful for that,” he said.

Bell, despite not playing football until his eighth-grade year, was an All-Conference and All-State player during his high school career at Milford.

While attending college, Bell — a 2011 Methodist University graduate — says he would return home during breaks and volunteer his time to help out then-Bucs coach Mike Tkach and his coaching staff during Milford football practices.

“Coaching has always been something that interests me, and I tried to do it as much as I could,” he said.

Bell landed at Woodbridge right out of college and the 29-year-old is currently the school’s dean of students.

“It was great coming to Woodbridge right out of school because there was so much opportunity early on,” he said.

Following his first two seasons as an assistant coach with the football program — a pair of 2-8 campaigns in 2011 and 2012 — a job opened up at his alma mater, and he took it.

He couldn’t stay away from the Woodbridge program for long, though.

“It was kind of funny, I was at Woodbridge two years, then a job opened up at Milford, so I went over there,” he explained. “It wasn’t really a good fit at the time, so I ended up back over here.”

When he returned the following season, Woodbridge finished the 2014 season with a 4-6 record.

That season marks the last year the Blue Raiders missed out on a state tournament berth, with Manlove leading his team to four consecutive tourney appearances from 2015-18.

Bell rose to defensive coordinator in 2016, and over that three-year span his defensive units helped the Blue Raiders accumulate a 26-4 regular season record with six state tournament wins and a pair of titles.

“You can’t ask for anything more as a coach obviously, and it’s been cool to see it kind of come full circle,” Bell said. “My first two years we were 2-8 and now it’s come to the point where our kids don’t even realize we used to struggle as a program and lost football games.”

Though the Blue Raiders will be graduating 17 seniors in the spring, next fall the first-year head coach is hoping to use some of the young talent he has coming up from the middle school and junior varsity rosters to pick up right where the team left off in 2018.

“Our biggest thing is we’re just losing a bunch of guys. We’re graduating 17 kids and six of them were All-Staters, so we have some big shoes to fill,” he said.

“With that being said, we have a lot of talent coming up as well. A lot of young kids who are kind of licking their chops and are ready to go. They just have to step up into that role on a Friday night, rather than a Monday afternoon.”

Bell is excited to be able to retain the current coaching staff heading into his first year at the helm.

“It’s nice because I get to retain everybody, it’s not like I have to find guys to get on board,” he said. “Having them be here for the ups and downs — it started with the downs — and we’ve had a great run here in the last four or five years.”

Bell named Manlove and Tkach as two of his biggest mentors.

“The wins, the losses, those are great, and the championship rings, those are fantastic,” he said. “But the signing days and the graduation days, those are what it’s all about if you’re doing it for the right reasons. It’s about the kids and that’s something both coach Tkach and coach Manlove have demonstrated on a daily basis and that’s certainly something I take from them.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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