Mr. Bolen takes the reins as football head coach

Now in his tenth season with the Vikings, Mr. Bolen is ready to lead the football team to the promised land.


Andrew Shinkle

Coach Bolen (left) and Coach Yotsko (right) communicate with the team during the third quarter of their blowout victory against Trenton Central on September 17th, 2021 at McAleer Stadium.

  Since he came to Eastern, Mr. Bolen has made a career out of helping students find success after high school. He’s been a guidance counselor here for almost a decade, and he’s worked with the football team for just as long. But this year, he landed the opportunity to increase his impact on the team, and leave his mark as head coach.

  Having grown up in nearby Westhampton, New Jersey, Bolen has local ties to Eastern. After graduating from Rancocas Valley High School in 2001, he attended the University of Notre Dame as part of the Class of 2005, majoring in anthropology, economics, and computer applications. He played on the football teams at both schools as a defensive back, gaining notoriety as a strong, physical defender.

  In the years after, Bolen found a job at Synthes USA Trauma, a medical device manufacturing company, as a medical sales consultant. However, he realized that he wanted to return to football as a coach, and enrolled at Wilmington University in order to obtain his master’s in school counseling. A month after graduating in 2012, Bolen was hired at Eastern as a guidance counselor, a position he has held ever since.

  2012 also marked Bolen’s first year of involvement with the Vikings, when he signed on as a volunteer coach for the defensive backs. Led by quarterback Tom Flacco, the brother of former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, that year’s roster also included standout players such as T.J Gardner, Ryan Delaney, and NFL first-round pick Eli Apple.

  After continuing as a defensive backs coach for the next eight seasons, Bolen came upon the opportunity to take on a larger role with the Vikings when former head coach John Doherty resigned in December 2020.

  “It was just good timing on my end, and the right situation, and I was able to interview and discuss the things that I wanted to do with the program. They liked what I was putting out there, and I got the opportunity to lead the young men and coaches, and do my best,” Bolen said.

  When Bolen heard that he won the job, he was ecstatic, because he knew that he was inheriting a great group of players and coaches. His assistant coaches include offensive coordinator Nick Yotsko, defensive coordinator Kenny Foulkes, linebackers coach Gary Worthington, as well as defensive line coach Jacob Gruber and wide receivers coach Delaney, who played on the 2012 squad.

  Bolen’s first win as head coach came in the season opener against Seneca on September 2nd. Since then, he’s collected wins against Trenton Central on September 17th and Highland Regional on October 8th. Finishing with a 4-4 record, the Vikings ended the season strong against Rancocas Valley on October 22nd with a 31-21 comeback victory.

   With every Friday night that passes, Bolen and his players have improved.

  “We’ve played some very tough players and had a few setbacks, but the kids play tough and respond well. We’re just looking forward to progressing and getting better than we were last week, and being ready for the game on Friday night,” he said.

  So far, Bolen’s favorite aspect of head coaching revolves around the player-coach relationships. On his squad, the players care about and play for each other, which is crucial for a team’s locker room health and overall performance. The coaches also play a role in fostering a sense of camaraderie and trust throughout the team.

  Going forward, Bolen wants to focus on building the Vikings into a perennial playoff contender.

  “The goal, always, when you get into a position like this is to make the playoffs, and once you have a seat at the table, go and compete, and hopefully win a state title one day,” he said.

  However, he realizes that at the end of the day, the end goal for his players is bigger than football; that developing high-character people is the ultimate prize in life.

  With the way things currently stand, it looks like Coach Bolen will be in it for the long haul with the Vikings. Supported by those around him, and with an honorable goal on his radar, the sky will be the limit for where he can take the program.

  “As long as they’ll have me, I’ll be here.”