Rochester High grad tapped to lead Stoney Creek football

By: Timothy Pontzer | Rochester Post | Published January 30, 2018

 Nick Merlo

Nick Merlo

ROCHESTER HILLS — A fresh but familiar face will patrol the sidelines at Rochester Hills Stoney Creek next season.

Nick Merlo was introduced as the new coach of the football program Jan. 22. Established in 2002, the Cougars have made three playoff appearances, with the last coming in 2013. Overall, the club has had seven winning seasons, but has only eight total wins in the last three years combined.

“I am very honored and humbled to be the head football coach at Stoney Creek,” Merlo said. “My family and I are very excited. I look forward to leading our players to becoming elite men of character.”

Merlo is quite familiar with Stoney Creek and the area overall, having served as the defensive coordinator at Rochester High the past four seasons. He spent six years on the Falcons staff, also coaching the defensive backs and defensive line.

Merlo had to help game plan for the Cougars as the Falcons and Stoney Creek clashed each of the past six seasons. The Cougars hold a 4-2 edge.

“I received nothing but love and support from my colleagues at Rochester throughout this process,” Merlo said. “I’m very thankful for everyone I worked with over the past six years.”

Luke Beach, the athletic director at Rochester, praised Merlo for his contributions to the staff.

“We are extremely excited for Coach Merlo and his family,” Beach said. “He is deserving of this opportunity and will do a phenomenal job. Stoney Creek is getting an incredibly dedicated coach who will give everything he has to the kids and the program.”

Rochester football coach Erik Vernon agreed.

“(Merlo) is a very passionate guy who did a really good job for us,” Vernon said. “He was one of those assistants that did whatever was asked of him. I know he’s wanted to be a head coach for quite a while, so I’m glad he got the opportunity.”

Vernon said it will be a little odd seeing Merlo on an opposing sideline, but it is a deserved change.

“I’m really happy for him, and it’s always fun to play a rival like Stoney, so this will only add to it,” Vernon said. “He’s shown that he’s willing to put the time and work in. He does a great job of building relationships with kids. He’s been looking for a chance and Stoney gave him a shot. I’m excited to see what he can do.”

Across town, Rochester Adams coach Tony Patritto said he is thrilled for Merlo’s promotion.

“I knew his dad very well, and I’ve known Nick since he was a young kid,” Patritto said. “I’m excited for him. He’s a very dedicated teacher and coach. He’s a kids-first guy, and for me, that’s what it’s all about. Clearly, I want him to do well except when he’s against Adams.”

Merlo’s father, Mark, served as the coach at Rochester for 24 seasons. Additionally, he coached at Waterford Mott and Owosso High while also helming the Falcons track program for nearly two decades.

“I love my dad very much, and the one lesson that sticks out to me was his effort,” Merlo said. “He would always say that there is no substitute for hard work.”

Merlo plans to implement that mindset quickly.

“We will be implementing a strength program immediately,” Merlo said. “We will focus on making our players tougher, faster, bigger and stronger. We want to block and tackle at an elite level, and focus on the ball. Ball security on offense and takeaways on defense are crucial.”