Lake head coach Jeff Durbin shooting for 150th win

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By Josh Weir

Friday Night Ohio

Jeff Durbin
Lake head coach Jeff Durbin can become the second active Stark County head coach with 150 wins at the same school with a win Friday night over Hudson.

The number would look great on a résumé, but Jeff Durbin has no use for a résumé.

Durbin, in his 21st season as the Lake High School football coach, is approaching a milestone number: 150 career wins. He sits at 149-80 as the Blue Streaks host Hudson on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Durbin has no use for a résumé because he’s not going anywhere. He’s right where he wants to be.

Only three current Stark County coaches have 150 or more wins. Only one has that many at one school.

Durbin would become the second.

As a young coach, Durbin admired coaches such as Hoover’s Don Hertler Sr. and Louisville’s Paul Starkey. Most football fans don’t need to be told where those two men coached. The community and the man are one in the same.

“I admired that they lived in the same community and established tradition,” said Durbin, a 1970 graduate of Danville High School. “That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to get a head coaching job somewhere, stay there long-term and build a program.

“I didn’t necessarily build the program at Lake. I suppose I sustained it. That was always my goal. I’ve lived that dream for the last 21 years, I guess.”

No. 150 doesn’t mean that much to Durbin, who has guided Lake to three state championship game appearances, four Federal League titles and 13 trips to the playoffs.

“My goal is to be good in the Federal League, make the playoffs and make a run at a state championship,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been about for a long time. And that’s still my No. 1 priority.”

Durbin is squarely focused on 2010, which could be a big season for the Blue Streaks. But he allowed himself to think back over the first 20 years of his career and choose some of his most memorable wins.

Jackson and Lake, a pair of 8-0 teams, meet for the Federal League title. Durbin, in his second year as head coach, guides the Blue Streaks to a 22-6 win before 10,000 fans at Lake. It’s the Streaks’ first of three league titles in a four-year span.

A year after losing to Steubenville in the second round of the playoffs, Lake gets a second chance at the Big Red. Both teams enter this state semifinal at 12-0. The Blue Streaks win, 18-7, at Fawcett Stadium and move on to the state championship game, where they fall to Fostoria, 21-6.

In a Week 8 game, Lake ends Perry’s 17-game regular season winning streak with a 14-6 win. Durbin believes that win is a big reason the Blue Streaks found themselves back in the ‘93 state championship game, where they lost to St. Mary’s, 21-0.

It was only Week 3, but Durbin believes Lake’s 7-6 win against Alliance was significant. “Alliance in ‘97, when they had E.J. Lilly, that was a game that really put us into the playoffs, and we went on to the state final.” The Streaks lost to Defiance, 36-10, in the state championship game.

“A defining game” was Lake’s 28-14 win against GlenOak in Week 7, according to Durbin. “They were very good defensively. We played a great football game against them.” The Blue Streaks advanced to a regional final that season.

“The comeback” as Durbin called it. The Blue Streaks overcome a 20-0 deficit to take a lead, fall behind again, then hold on for a 35-34 win when Louisville misses a late PAT kick. This Week 2 classic is a preview of an opening round playoff game back at Louisville that the Leopards win.

Another view
Few people have seen more of Jeff Durbin’s coaching career at Lake High School than Steve Lippe. Lippe was a team manager as a middle schooler when Durbin was defensive coordinator at Lake in the late 1980s. He was a star linebacker along with fellow linebacker Matt Christopher and safety Craig Dues on Durbin’s ‘91 team, which lost in the state championship game. After playing linebacker for West Virginia University, Lippe returned to Lake in ‘98 and joined Durbin’s staff. Now in his 13th season coaching with Durbin, Lippe shares some thoughts on his boss.

Rep: How much has Coach Durbin changed over the years?
“We tease him all the time on how soft he’s gotten (laughs). As a seventh-grader, I was like a waterboy-manager, out there during two-a-days with all the guys. Coach (Chris) Shreve, who coaches offensive line for us now, was a junior on that team. Back then, Jeff was the defensive coordinator and, man, he was on fire every day. He was out of his mind. He’s certainly mellowed over the years, but he’s still demanding and pushes the guys. ... He got fired up out there again (Tuesday), so he still’s got plenty of fire in him, believe me.”

Rep: Why is he a successful coach?
“His attention to detail. His desire to win. He loves to compete. Over the years he’s had a lot of good players, too. That certainly helps. But ... that love of competition and wanting to win every time we take the field. It rubs off on you. As a player back then, I know myself and a lot of the guys I played with would have gone through a wall for him without question. Hopefully, the kids now have that same approach.”

Rep: What is your favorite story about Coach Durbin?
Lippe: “In ‘91, we got rolling pretty good, and about Week 7 or 8 he tells us if we go undefeated (in the regular season), he’ll let us shave his head. You know, being an administrator he’s got to look professional at school. ... Toledo St. John’s comes in (Week 10) and they were really good that year. They thought they were just going to roll us. But we beat them, (14-7).

“So we got up to the locker room and sit him in that chair. It got dead quiet. And you hear the clippers flip on and the place just went nuts. And he shaved it, man. He went right off with it. ... And it was a lot darker then, too. Jet black back then. That will always stick out in my mind as a great moment.



Current Stark County football head coaches with the most wins
Name, School                                Career, Years                  Current school, Years

Lowell Klinefelter, Central Catholic    233-156-6, 38th season    233-156-6, 38th season
Vic Whiting, Northwest                    189-63, 23rd season         95-35, 12th season
Don Hertler Jr., Hoover                    182-60, 23rd season         116-45, 15th season
Jeff Durbin, Lake                            149-80, 21st season          149-80, 21st season
Keith Boedicker, Perry                     135-71, 20th season          1-0, first season

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