Family was always a top priority for Bruney

MARTINS FERRY — This fall, Zac Bruney will embark on his first season as head football coach of the fledgling program at Wheeling Jesuit.

Although the Cardinals will be playing a junior varsity slate, Cheryl Bruney is looking forward to watching her oldest son work as he continues to move up the coaching ladder.

She’s been eyeing coaches from the stands the last four decades, keying in on her husband, Dave, as he continued the storied gridiron legacy at his alma mater, Martins Ferry.

Bruney never envisioned a ride like the one she and her family took. And when Coach Bruney announced his retirement in May after 39 years on the Purple Riders sideline, it caused her to reflect on the journey that has encompassed their entire married life, and then some.

“We just went year by year, continuing on,” she said. “It just kind of got up to 40 years before we even knew it.

“I guess, in the scheme of things, I knew he wouldn’t do anything else. Maybe somewhere else. Maybe we would move, go to a different level of (coaching). But I figured this would be it for the duration.”

As it happened, the Bruney’s never left Belmont County.

“A couple of times he had gone to an interview and stuff and we toyed with the idea (of moving),” Bruney remembered. “But I’ll tell you what, once you start having kids and they are established in school and have friends and activities, you’re pretty much cemented in that community.

“It worked out fine. It was really the perfect place for us. It was good.”

Bruney was entrenched in the area long before she met her future husband. A Bridgeport High grad, the oldest of three children underwent nursing training at what was then Ohio Valley General Hospital and soon after begin what was a 43-year career in the field. She, too, retired recently.

“I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, you know,” she laughed. “I had been toying with it anyhow and when (Dave) made his decision I just made my decision, too.”

So came to an end 40 years of games, 40 years of practices, 40 years of pregame meals and preparations. The memories linger, and Bruney said they’ll always light her life and make her smile.

“It wasn’t like I had anything else to compare it to,” she said of a life without football. “This has been the only thing we’ve ever done. It’s worked out well, all in all.”

There were ups and downs in the beginning, she said, and when the kids started to grow, things posed more of a challenge.

“When Dave went to Ferry as head coach he was also an assistant track coach,” she said. “But that wasn’t until spring.

“When the three kids started things like summer ball, that’s when track became an issue. For myself, I don’t think it was ever really hard. You just had to schedule well, you had to routine, you had to do what you had to do.

“It wasn’t hard, but it was tiring sometimes.”

For years, the Bruney’s had a game week routine that included going out to dinner on Thursdays with Dave’s sister and her family at First Ward in Bellaire. But, as the kids got older, especially the boys, it changed.

Zac, then Trevor, became old enough to play. When they did, it was mom’s duty to help “prepare” them all for Friday nights.

“It got easier when the kids weren’t playing,” she recalled. “I didn’t have to worry about getting them there. I just had to concern myself with Dave and getting him mentally prepared.”

Both Dave and Cheryl had their ways of preparing mentally for games. Coach would arrive at the field well in advance of kickoff, while Cheryl might go for a walk near their Colerain home.

At the field, Mrs. Bruney would surround herself with friends, family and other coaches wives.

“The crowds and the people, they very rarely bothered me,” she said. “I really didn’t hear all the stuff that was going on around me. Every once in a while you would.”

Bruney said she would get passionate at times, but mostly kept her cool and rarely responded to criticisms as to what was taking place on the field.

“Sometimes I did,” she said. Usually it was on games that we should’ve won, but didn’t; overtimes or when the games were close.

“It was heartbreaking more than anything else because you knew how hard the kids worked.”

As far as her husband, Bruney said he vary rarely brought his work home with him.

“He pretty much kept it at the field,” she said. “Very rarely did he vent.”

All in all, Bruney said it was great watching how her husband affected his players’ lives.

“He did have a large impact on the kids,” she said. “He was more than a coach.”

Bruney choked up a bit when thinking about a life without football.

“To be able to come home (after the games) with the grandkids, things like that,” she said, “it was just another home for us.

“I know it sounds weird, but that’s what it was. That was our home. It was our life. But it’s been good and very rewarding. I really loved being a coach’s wife. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.

“It was really the best of times.”


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