AFM RSS Feed Follow Us on Twitter       

   User Name    Password 
      Password Help

Article Categories

AFM Magazine

AFM Magazine

Madness in the Midwest

Kerry Coombs Has Helped Make Colerain High School One of Ohio’s Best
by: David Purdum
© More from this issue

Click for Printer Friendly Version          

Kerry Coombs has lost control. He’s Colerain High School’s assistant principal and head football coach, but he’s not in charge. The kids, he says, are the one’s in control of his day. His office looks like the inside of several file cabinets or in his words, “absolute chaos.”

“A really wise guy once told me that if I could get to where I’m only touching paper once that I’d be more efficient at my job,” Coombs said. “I’m really bad at that. I’m constantly moving things from this pile to that pile, instead of accomplishing this task to its completion and moving onto the next one.”

His schedule’s no better. Some days he has time to do “football things.” “Some days I don’t,” he said. “I’m the guy with all the plates on the sticks,” he says. “I’ve got them all spinning, and it’s just a matter of keeping on going back to keep them all going.”

Don’t be fooled, though. Coombs loves his job, and he’s good at it, plate spinning and all. “I can’t wait to get up and get started,” he said in between helping develop an individual study plan for a special education student, observing an algebra and a geometry class, doing another interview and sitting down with his Athletic Director Dan Moody to discuss next year’s schedule before noon. “I don’t ever walk in here and think any of it is drudgery. I’m one of those lucky guys that’s found something that he really enjoys doing. I’m very passionate about administration, but I’m more passionate about what happens out there on the field.”

What happened out on the field in Coombs’ 14th season as head coach of his alma mater earned the 2004 Cardinals the reputation as one of Ohio’s all time great teams.

Only six minutes had ticked off the clock in the Division I state championship between Colerain and Canton McKinley, and Coombs found himself shaking his head in utter disbelief. His team, so dominant all season and especially in the playoffs, had fumbled on four of its first six snaps, handing McKinley the ball inside the Cardinals’ 40 yard line on each of its first three possessions.

“How did I screw this up?” Coombs asked himself. “I mean we were pretty good.” It was just a little case of the nerves, quarterback Dominick Goodman said. Coombs later admitted to the crowd he also was suffering from the jitters. Hard to blame them: After all, this was Colerain’s first appearance in the title game. The last three seasons, archrival Elder had sent the Cardinals home, prompting Coombs to hang a digital clock in the weight room, counting down the minutes before they’d have another shot at the two-time defending champion Panthers.

Colerain got that monkey off their back early, holding Elder to -22 yards rushing and 77 yards passing in a 21-3 opening victory. They’d meet again in the first round of the playoffs, with the Cardinals ending the Panthers’ three-pete hope with a 38-3 beating. Elder head coach Doug Ramsey said the Cardinals’ defense was the best he’d ever seen. Colerain did their best to prove him right in the title game. McKinley managed only a field goal off those first three possessions inside Cardinal territory and surrendered 44 unanswered points after taking a 10-6 lead in the second quarter.

“It kind of fired us up,” said Brayden Coombs, a standout defensive back for his dad, of the offense’s early miscues. “We knew if we held that our offense would get it going.”

Goodman and company conquered their butterflies and hung a championship game record 50 on McKinley. The 50-10 rout was the largest margin of victory ever in an Ohio title game. Goodman, after getting a “calming” lecture from his coach, rushed for a record 259 yards and four touchdowns. The Cardinals out-gained McKinley 489-127. Oh by the way, the game was played at Fawcett Stadium, McKinley’s home field.

Wearing a nice shade of Gatorade provided by Brayden, Coombs watched as the final seconds ticked off the clock, wrapping up an undefeated season with the school’s first state championship. Soon he would have the ears of half the stadium. It’s a Colerain tradition for the coach to speak to the fans after each game. But first he wanted to hug another group of excited spectators.

Approximately 30 members of the 1995 Colerain team attended the state championship game. They were a part of the first Cardinal team to earn a rite to play for the title. But due to the use of an ineligible player, they turned themselves in and were disqualified, forfeiting 13 victories and a shot the state championship. As soon as the final horn sounded, Coombs went over and hugged the members of that unfortunate team. Then, he addressed the crowd. “Were you nervous at the beginning?” Coombs asked. “Me too.”

The accolades poured in for the Cardinals, who finished 15-0, sixth in USA Today’s Super 25 poll and were the’s Last Team Standing. Anderson head coach Vince Suriano, whose team was out-rushed 386-2 in a 48-10 loss to Colerain, said the Cardinals were the best team he’d seen in his 31 years of coaching. Princeton head coach Brian Dodds compared them to the great teams he saw coaching in Florida. The Sycamore head coach said the defense was the best he’d seen in his 29 years of coaching. Four Cardinals – defensive lineman Terrill Byrd, linebacker Andre Revels, Michigan-bound fullback Mister Simpson and offensive lineman Brian Shelton - were named All Ohio First Team, and Coombs was the co-coach of the year in District 1.

“We had known were going to be pretty good since the eighth grade,” said Brayden, who became the fifth Colerain student to win the National Football Foundation’s prestigious “That’s My Boy” Award for his excellence on the field and in the classroom. He is headed to the University of Miami (Ohio). “We were pretty good,” added his dad, again.

Chips in the Bank

Moody, in his 10th season as the school’s A.D., describes his football coach with two words, “high energy.” Others characterize Coombs as intense, frantic, insane. He calls himself crazy and has admitted to embarrassing himself on several occasions. His pregame speeches are off the cuff and forgotten before he gets on the field. Before the 1993 opener, his long-time best friend and assistant head coach Rick Haynes told the team that their opponents may have nicer helmets and better cars, but they don’t have this, pulling a freshly purchased cow heart from a cooler.

Coombs works out with his team and requires any coach not coaching another sport to be in the weight room. Sometimes as many as 10 coaches attend off-season workouts. “If it’s important enough for our kids to be there, then it’s important enough for us to be there. It doesn’t send a very good message if we don’t attend, and they do.” He likes to think of it as “putting chips in the bank.”

“If I know about that kid and he knows about me, I’ve developed a relationship,” Coombs explained. “That’s what I call putting chips in the bank. If he’s able to trust me and I’m able to trust him, and he knows that I care about his success, and I know that he cares about what I have to say, we have a relationship where we’ve put some chips in each other’s bank. Now, when I’ve got to do some discipline because he’s messed up, I’ve got something to draw from there.” Whether in the classroom or on the field, it’s that discipline that Coombs says is the key ingredient to his success.

“I enjoy discipline, and most people don’t,” he says. “But taking care of a discipline issue just made a classroom better for a whole lot of kids. I like to think that nothing great is ever accomplished without discipline. That’s true of our football program, and that’s true of our school.”

Every player is required to be at school for 7 a.m. film sessions over breakfast. Normally, Coombs and his staff have already been there for an hour. Luckily for Brayden, they live just five minutes from school. “We just want to make sure everybody’s up and starting their day by thinking about football,” Coombs said. “I think if you can maintain a structured, orderly environment than you have a chance for success. I see that as a big part of my role.”

He admits Brayden receives special treatment, but not always preferential. His assistants have had to calm Coombs down when getting on his son. “We’ve had our moments,” Brayden said, “but it’s because he works so hard. He loves this school, this team, the community.” And his son.

“I’ll have parents come in say that they can be objective when looking at their son,” Coombs said. “That’s just not true, and I’ll tell them that, because I know. There’s no way I can be objective when it comes to my son.”

Class begins at 7:40 a.m., and that’s when he loses control of his day. A junior class of 475 teenagers take charge, keeping Coombs on the move from meeting to meeting and classroom to classroom. Meanwhile, he also has to oversee the school’s math and physical education departments. Finally, at 2:45 p.m., only 15 minutes after class ends and the players are required to be on the field, Coombs regains control, at least some.

With his normal days spanning more than 12 hours, Coombs’ 15-man staff bares more responsibility than most. “If you’re a head coach, you have to, you must assign and delegate responsibilities to your assistant coaches,” he said. “And if you’re an assistant coach, you have to be seeking ways to help the head coach beyond coaching your position or fulfilling your duties on the football field from the first of August to the first of December. On my staff, everybody has assigned duties that are year round.”

Coombs has never called an offensive play and doesn’t even sit in on the offensive game planning meetings. Haynes, who has been with Coombs since his first head coaching gig at Loveland. Their first year together, they didn’t even have a blocking dummy and went 0-10.

At Colerain, an assistant is responsible for the budget. There’s an assistant in charge of handling recruiting. Another takes care of players’ eligibility. Another all the printed material, and one for fundraisers. “Pretty much, every one of the assistant coaches has a job that goes way beyond just being a football coach,” Coombs said.

Imagine if they didn’t, he’d really be out of control.


AFM Videos Streaming Memberships Now Available Digital Download - 304 Pages of Football Forms for the Winning Coach


Copyright 2024,
All Rights Reserved