FLANAGAN — Todd Reed has always bled the Orange and Black of Flanagan-Cornell High School.
Reed, a 1997 graduate of the Livingston County school, also played football for the Falcons before the program began its current co-op agreement as Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland. His name and No. 78 is signed on the wall of the Falcons coaches' office from his playing days.
“Flanagan-Cornell is a great school,” Reed said. “I have a passion for the school, and the community is very extremely supportive of this school. It is the heartbeat of the town. I wanted to come back and be a part of that.”
Reed also gave back to his alma mater by becoming an assistant coach to former Falcons (now Seneca High School) head football coach Ted O’Boyle. When O’Boyle decided to take over the Fighting Irish program, Reed switched his coaching focus to a different sport.
“When Ted (O’Boyle) left for Seneca, I decided to switch to junior high baseball because I had a son coming up,” Reed said. “I coached that in the fall, and I have been doing that for a few years.”
The job of head football coach became open at Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland when Tyler Matteson left after three winless seasons as head coach of the undermanned, overmatched Falcons. Reed knew it was time to return to coaching high school football.
He will be ushering in a new era of Falcons football beyond his taking over as its head coach.
Instead of being a member of the Heart of Illinois Conference playing 11-man football, FCW will be taking part in the up-and-coming Illinois 8-man Football Association.
The Falcons are one of 16 small schools who have decided to forgo playing 11-man football in favor of 8-man. The two biggest rule changes are the size of the field (still 120 yards long, but only 40 yards wide) and — as the name denotes — each team in 8-man football playing with two fewer linemen and one less skill player on offense.
One thing that Reed has atop his “to-do” list is to turn around a program in the midst of a 28-game losing streak.
“The last few years, I have been coming to the home games to support the kids,” Reed said. “It was tough. They took some pure beatings. The kids that stuck it out for all four years, I have all the respect in the world for them, because it’s not easy for a kid to go through.”
FCW’s last win came in Week 8 of the 2015 season, as the Falcons defeated Big Rock Crossroads Christian Academy 43-6 behind Woodland School.
To play 8-man football, schools must make a two-year commitment. The new Falcons boss has some goals for those two years.
“I would like to see our program continue to grow,” Reed said. “I want to see the program go back to what it used to be.”
At FCW’s recent camp, the team wore t-shirts reading “Knocking the Rust Off” — which refers to the victory bell that sits under the scoreboard at the football field and hasn’t been rung after a Falcons home victory in a long time.
FCW makes its 8-man debut on the road when it goes to Elgin to face Westminster Christian on Saturday, August 31.