By Dave Krider
Gene Schultz never expected to stay very long as a teacher and coach at Kee High School in Lansing, Iowa. He came there in 1969 and lived at a motel the first three years. Then he bought a house trailer and some property on the Mississippi River.
Finally, in 1982, he replaced the trailer with a new house and Lansing really started to feel like home. He eventually got so comfortable, in fact, that he has become the winningest high school baseball coach in history. Playing fall and spring and now summer schedules, he has compiled a mind-boggling 37-year record of 1,523-325. He has won one Class 2A and 10 Class A state championships and was named National Coach of the Year in 2003.
"It wasn't planned that way," Schultz admitted. "I thought I'd only stay about five years and then go somewhere else."
Not coincidentally, the No. 2 all-time winner - Dennis Olejniczak - also is from Iowa, whose non-football schools long have benefited from split seasons. Coaching one year at Jamestown and the last 44 at Decorah, he has amassed a record of 1,185-422-2.
Class 3A Decorah is a much bigger school, but due to the success of the respective coaches and the fact that the towns are just 35 miles apart, they have experienced an electric rivalry over the years. Traditionally they play a season-opening doubleheader against each other every year.
Schultz's teams and individual players also have carved out some amazing Iowa milestones. For example, the Hawks won four consecutive state championships from 1989-92. The records were (in order) 35-12, 45-2, 46-1 and 46-1. They won a state-record 59 consecutive games over the final two campaigns. The 46-1 marks have been topped only by Schultz's 1973 Class A state champs, who compiled a perfect 48-0 record.
An interesting footnote: Chip Peters, a 5-11, 160-pound right-hander, won each state championship game during the four-year streak.
Shortstop-pitcher Tom Imhoff set the state record in 1980 by hitting safely in 43 consecutive games. Another Kee standout, third baseman Jason Crane, just missed it with a 42-game streak in 2000.
Kee is a consolidation of Lansing and New Albin, which have a combined population of around 1,700. The high school has 145 students in grades 9-12. That's a major reason why Schultz has sent "less than 10" players to college on scholarships.
Only one of his players, catcher Pat Heiderscheit, made it to professional baseball. The 1984 Kee graduate either played or coached for five years in the Montreal Expos farm system. He now is the Kee superintendent and principal, in addition to being Schultz's brother-in-law.
Olejniczak cautions that one should not read too much into the small size of Kee High "because baseball is really the only boys sport that's emphasized in Lansing. You've got to beat them because they don't beat themselves. It's a rivalry as intense as Iowa and Iowa State. You look forward to it and it's a good measuring stick."
The Decorah coach characterizes Kee as a gambling team that constantly puts pressure on its opponent. The Hawks love to hit-and-run, bunt with two strikes on the hitter - even suicide squeezes - and force pitchers to balk in first-and-third situations.
"We know it's coming, but they still do it," Olejniczak pointed out. And, obviously, more often than not it is successful because of flawless execution.
Schultz was groomed for a life of baseball by growing up in Winona, Minn., which had a strong Little League program. When he was an 11-year-old pitcher, he accounted for all 21 of his team's victories one summer. "I had a little wrinkle curve," he noted. "I can still hear the parents saying, `He shouldn't be allowed to throw curves.' ''
At Winona Cotter High, the 6-0, 155-pound pitcher-shortstop used a curve and knuckleball - along with sharp control - to win a doubleheader in 90-degree heat. The heady right-hander also pitched a no-hitter and struck out 12 on another occasion. At the plate he was a contact hitter who rarely struck out.
Schultz also played football (quarterback) and basketball (guard), making All-State in both sports.
He graduated from high school in 1964 and was offered a handsome $2,000 bonus to sign with the Washington Senators. He turned it down to attend Division III Wisconsin State University at Platteville, where he played basketball and baseball for two years. He then transferred to Winona State so he could major in physical education and go into coaching.
In the back of his mind, he had wanted to coach since he was a youngster. Somehow he had to remain connected to sports. "Being in sports - I thought that was the reason why they had schools," he said with very little tongue in cheek.
Schultz gives a lot of credit to his youth league coach, Max Molach, and high school mentor, Bob Welch. "He was a terrific guy," Schultz said of Welch. "I wanted to be like him. He related to our guys so well. He knew the sports inside out. We had 11 different offenses in football. He was so imaginative in his play-calling."
When he began his coaching career in 1969, Schultz inherited a meager 10-game schedule for baseball. He soon began expanding that and even though Kee is the smallest class in Iowa, approximately two-thirds of its games are played against bigger schools. "We'll play anybody," he emphasizes.
He is proud of Kee's baseball field, which is named in honor of the town's "baseball godfather," Harris "Shooky" Fink, whose family still owns the property. It is referred to affectionately as "Field of Dreams North" (the original Field of Dreams from the famous movie is located 90 miles south).
The field is surrounded by a cornfield and each year the senior starters receive a special introduction at their final home game, usually played under the lights. They appear to emerge from the corn field as they race in from center field to second base, then move to their position. Schultz admits, "It's kind of an eerie situation."
Schultz and his wife, Julie, have four children. The girls, Courtney and McKenze, both were excellent athletes. Sons Gabe and Quin have been able to play baseball for their father. Gabe, a shortstop-pitcher, is a sophomore at the University of Northern Iowa, while Quin, who plays the same positions, is a senior at Kee high.
For the same 37 years, Schultz has been head boys basketball coach. Due to a series of recent losing seasons, his record has slipped to 367-389. "We've never had a starter over 6-2," he sighed. "These teams (that he beats in baseball) take it out in basketball."
Off the athletic field, he likes to play golf, fish and read novels. He is a member of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Lansing and says, "It is more and more important to me. At one time it was a very dim light. Now it is bright and shiny. I miss it when I don't go to mass."
Though he has received some excellent individual honors, Schultz is extremely modest. He made the Iowa State Hall of Fame this year, but did not even go to his induction. "It's not important to me," he says simply. "I think they put me in because so many writers were asking why I wasn't in. I think it's for the players. I'm just along for the ride."
The 61-year-old legend says he will continue coaching "one year at a time. I'm enjoying it. It's been more fun the last two years. I'm starting to get into some of my nephews and former players' kids."
He'll know when it's time to retire, however. The loud-and-clear signs will be "if my health deteriorates, the bus rides get long and my back gets sore."
Jeannette (Pa.) senior Terrelle Pryor looked like the nation's No. 1 player in last week's season opener. On the very first offensive play, the 6-6 quarterback ran for a 53-yard touchdown. Because his team crushed Brownsville, 60-0, he played less than a half, finishing with 155 yards of total offense and two touchdowns.
The nation's premier running back, Darrell Scott, scored the winning two-point conversion in his first game for St. Bonaventure (Ventura, Calif.). The Seraphs trailed Santa Margarita, 14-0, in the fourth quarter before eking out a 15-14 victory. Quarterback Tony Macarena engineered amazing touchdown drives of 70 and 74 yards in the final , drilling 7-of-8 passes for 132 yards. The only incompletion was a spike to stop the clock.
Bryce Brown did nothing to hurt his ranking as the nation's No. 1 junior when he scored six touchdowns as East (Wichita, Kan.) routed city foe North, 46-2, in the season opener. Despite losing two fumbles in the first quarter, Brown ran 14 times for 173 yards and five touchdowns and snared a 17-yard touchdown pass. Brown's senior brother, Arthur, one of the nation's top linebackers, led a defense which yielded only 63 yards.
Jeff Locke of Glendale Mountain Ridge kicked an Arizona state-record 63-yard field goal against Tucson Sunnyside. Locke, who plans to attend UCLA, broke the record of 62 yards by Kyle Pooler of Glendale Cactus in 1989.
Algonquin Jacobs outlasted Elgin Larkin, 75-58, during the second-highest scoring game (133 points) in Illinois history. The record of 152 was set in 2002. Darius Bowers led the winners with 264 yards and four touchdowns on the ground and 104 yards and one touchdown through the air.
Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, Calif.) set a Southern Section record by defeating Lompoc, 49-14, for its 47th consecutive victory, The record of 46 was shared by Temple City and Canyon of Canyon Country. Senior Chris Potter, who replaced All-American Jimmy Clausen at quarterback, ran for three touchdowns and passed for a pair in just two quarters. Sophomore Malcolm Jones stepped in nicely for another graduated All-American, Marc Tyler, as he ran for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
One of the nation's top senior running backs, Sam McGuffie, was sidelined in the second quarter by a sprained ankle as Cypress Cy-Fair bowed to Houston Stratford, 21-17, in a Texas headliner. Stratford senior quarterback Andrew Luck proved he is one of the nation's best by passing for 228 yards and two touchdowns and running for a third touchdown.
Despite using 47 players in its first varsity game and suffering 12 penalties, Lakeland defeated Okeechobee, 34-13, for its 46th consecutive victory. The Dreadnaughts have won Florida's last three Class 5A state titles.
In Iowa an estimated crowd of 11,200 witnessed West Des Moines Valley's 28-13, victory over city foe Dowling Catholic at Drake University. The state record for turnstile count in a regular-season game is 10,567. The state tourney record is 13,375.
In other Iowa action, Jake Dever tied a state record with a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown as Goose Lake Northeast routed Camanche, 41-0. He also returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown . Hunter Else of South Tama scored twice in the first quarter on 96-yard kickoff returns during a 43-34 victory over Fairfield.
Coaches Fred Wieck (Clear Lake, Iowa) and David Currier (Kentwood, La.) both recorded their 200th career victories last week. Currier's brother, Donald, who resigned from his post at Amite in August, won 254 games in 31 years.
Junior receiver Bryan Mason just missed the Alaska state record when he caught five touchdown passes from junior Jordan Webb as Big Lake Houston soared past Barrow, 48-14. Chuck Quint of Fairbanks Lathrop holds the record of six.
Sophomore quarterback Jason Peters threw a school-record six touchdown passes as Coleville (Nev.) outlasted Smith Valley, 56-40. Even though he threw three interceptions in the second quarter, Peters finished with 316 yards. Trevor Anderson snared 10 passes for 144 yards and four touchdowns.
In Michigan Detroit Cooley junior linebacker Andrew Hall opened some eyes by making 25 solo tackles and three sacks during a 14-8 loss to Detroit Douglass.
Maine South (Park Ridge, Ill.) quarterback Charlie Goro was absolutely perfect, completing all 14 pass attempts for 269 yards and five touchdowns en route to a 40-13 victory over Warren (Gurnee).
Jack Elway is off winging as a senior quarterback at Cherry Creek (Englewood, Colo.). The 6-3, 199-pound son of John Elway passed for 242 yards and four touchdowns in a season-opening 35-7 victory over Montbello (Denver).
Florida's top-ranked team, Miami Northwestern, routed city foe Carol City, 42-0, before a crowd of 8,000 as senior quarterback Jacoby Harris passed for a career-high 330 yards.
McKinley (Canton, Ohio) has forfeited a 66-6 victory over Pershing (Detroit, Mich.) because officials later discovered they had used an academically ineligible player. He saw action only on the last play of the game.
Elkins (Missouri City, Texas) senior Blake Slaughter has made a commitment to Kansas State. The 6-0, 219-pound linebacker had a school-record 124 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss and five sacks as a junior . Montgomery Bell Academy (Nashville, Tenn.) senior tackle Preston Bailey (6-5, 310) has made a commitment to the University of Tennessee.
Juniors also are making their college choices. Trinity Pawling Prep (Pawling, N.Y.) linebacker Shayne Skov has chosen Stanford. He is 6-2, 220 pounds and runs 40 yards in 4.64 seconds . Trinity (Louisville, Ky.) linebacker Jordan Whiting (6-1, 226) plans to attend Ohio State. He runs a 4.59 40 and tied for the team-lead in tackles as a sophomore.
Austin Westlake won a major tournament in Texas, the Pearland Volleyball Classic, by upsetting powerful Amarillo, 25-23, 26-24, 25-13, in the championship match. Amarillo was ranked No. 3 in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com and had won its last 63 matches. Westlake setter Elly Barrett was named MVP. Teammate Cammy Kleinert, who had 13 kills in the finals, was named most outstanding offensive player.
In Tennessee, Knoxville Farragut coach David Moore recently recorded his 600th victory.
The University of Missouri has received a commitment from Marcus Denmon, a 6-1 guard from Hogan Prep Academy (Kansas City, Mo.). Denmon was a prolific scorer as a junior, averaging 32 points and pouring in 40 points in a single half . One of the country's top big men, 6-10 senior Angel Garcia, says he will attend Memphis. He helped East Chicago Central wins Indiana's Class 4A state title last year.
On the girls side, Brownsburg (Ind.) guard Lauren Taylor has made a commitment to the University of New Mexico. The 5-11 standout averaged 19.5 points and 5.7 rebounds last year and was a member of the Indiana Junior All-Star team . DePaul has received a commitment from 5-10 senior guard Deanna Ortiz, who averaged 19.3 points last year for Chicago Resurrection.
The USA Junior National baseball team defeated Canada, 6-2, to place third at the COPABE Pan American Championships in Ixtapa, Mexico. The bronze-medal finish qualified the Americans to compete in the 2008 International Federation "AAA" World Championships. Cuba defeated Mexico, 7-0, to finish undefeated in six games.
Normally a hockey player at Air Academy (U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo.), Allie McLaughlin went out for cross country this year and has tasted instant success. The 4-10, 80-pound junior won the Morris Vogel Invitational last week in , over a minute ahead of the second-place finisher. The boys title went to defending Class 4A state champion Joseph Manilafasha of Denver North, who was clocked in 17 minutes.
Swimming World Magazine has named New Trier (Winnetka, Ill.) as national boys swim team champion for the 2006-07 school year. Westlake (Austin, Texas) has been crowned national girls champion. They were determined by taking the top times across the nation and scoring them as if they were swimming against each other.
Managing editor Jason Marsteller told MaxPreps, "The New Trier team really threw us for a loop as they won the team title without an individual point scored. That is an amazing achievement as winning our national high school championship with only relays definitely proves that there is no `I' in team when it comes to New Trier. Westlake went the other route for the girls. While they had some solid relays, they really rode the shoulders of Swimming World Magazine High School Swimmer of the Year Mary Beck and her teammate, Samantha Tucker."
Ann Arbor Pioneer again appears to have the premier tennis team in Michigan. Pioneer, which has claimed the last seven Division I state titles, won a "mini" state tourney at the University of Michigan which included seven state-ranked teams in an eight-team field.
Highland Park (Dallas, Texas) golf coach Jeff Loyd has taken an assistant coaching position at Baylor University. The 43-year-old Loyd coached Highland Park to 10 state championships, including a record seven in a row.