AVON LAKE — He never lost more than four football games in a season and won at least seven every year.
His 200 career victories represent better than 40 percent of Avon Lake’s 493 in its illustrious history.
He won nearly 82 percent of his games and he’s one of the most well-respected coaches in the state.
Saturday at Ahern’s Banquet Center, Dave Dlugosz’s hometown community paid tribute for a job well done.
Dlugosz retired after 21 years as Avon Lake’s head coach, compiling a 200-44 record with 15 playoff appearances, 18 conference championships, a state title (2003) and a state runner-up finish (2004). He’ll remain on the football staff assisting Larry Laird.
“We’ll see what they’ve got cooked up for me,” Dlugosz said prior to the festivities. “I’m a little nervous.”
What was “cooked up” was a memorable tribute along with some good-natured roasting.
“What they talk about is a retirement dinner for me,” Dlugosz said, “but it’s really a football festival for Avon Lake. Football in Avon Lake is very, very important.”
Dlugosz graduated from Avon Lake in 1970 and from Wilmington College four years later. He was the Shoremen captain and MVP his senior year and played all four years at Wilmington.
He was inducted into Avon Lake’s Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2008. He was recently inducted into Wilmington’s Hall of Fame. He spent 38 years as a teacher at Avon Lake.
Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel gave the keynote tribute to Dlugosz, whose son Dennis played for Tressel at Youngstown State.
“I feel like I know the family more than I know every coach around the state,” Tressel said. “He’s a great leader. He had all the principles and fundamentals the way you would want them. Obviously, he had great success. I admire what he’s meant to the game.”
“Dave is a great example of Shoremen football,” athletic director Tom Barone said. “I’ve been the athletic director going on 18 years now and I couldn’t have asked for a better head football coach — especially the program Avon Lake has.”
“It’s one of those things you never think is going to happen,” said Trey Stross, one of many of Dlugosz’s All-Ohio and Golden Helmet winners in attendance. “It will be strange for Lorain County not to have Coach Dlugosz’s representation for Avon Lake.
“Growing up, it was kind of the mentality from the coaches to the players before us that they implemented. It kind of just fed the train. We were motivated by the players before us. It was a great legacy that he built. It was a special program to be a part of.”
Mike Cairns of WEWS-TV was master of ceremonies and praised Dlugosz’s “tough, hard-nosed, no-nonsense teams.”
“Great players, greater teams,” Cairns said. “He was all about character.”
“He was in constant contact with the team,” 2001 graduate Justin Schenker said. “He was always talking about grades, family, upcoming events — not just football. He motivated me to go to college and he motivated me to do something I liked to do.”
Ed Citro, one of Dlugosz’s longtime assistants, said the philosophy was simple.
“He got kids to buy into the program,” he said. “We had a lot of great players, but we had some that played over their heads.”
Dlugosz’s successor was also on hand to say thanks.
“What am I getting myself into?” Laird said. “He would do anything for you. It’s an honor to have him as a friend. I’m glad he’s going to stay on the staff.”
Dlugosz’s brother Bruce and daughter Kerry gave personal tributes and the former coach was presented proclamations from Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka and state Representative Matt Lundy. Groveland Avenue that runs by Memorial Stadium will be renamed Dlugosz Drive.
His wife of 39 years wrapped up the event, along with former mayor Dan Urbin, who helped organize the banquet.
“He once told me he’s a teacher first who happens to be a football coach — not a coach who happens to be a teacher,” Bruce said.
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Dave Dlugosz Career
Year W-L Highlights
1992 7-3 SWC Champion
1993 8-2 SWC
1994 11-1 SWC/State Playoffs
1995 10-2 Playoffs
1997 9-1 SWC
1998 9-2 SWC/Playoffs
1999 8-3 SWC/Playoffs
2000 10-2 SWC/Playoffs
2001 11-2 SWC/Playoffs
2002 11-2 SWC/Playoffs
2003 15-0 SWC/State Champions
2004 14-1 SWC/State Runner-up
2005 12-1 SWC/Playoffs
2007 11-1 SWC/Playoffs
2008 8-3 SWC/Playoffs
2009 8-4 SWC/Playoffs
2010 8-3 SWC/Playoffs
2011 8-2 SWC
2012 8-3 SWC/Playoffs