Millbrook High football coach Clarence Inscore can summarize why he coaches high school football in a couple of words.
“Obviously, it was Earl Smith,” said Inscore, who succeeded his old coach at Millbrook 13 years ago.
“His influence and the love of the game is what made me decide to coach.”
Inscore, the dean of area 4A coaches, and most other area high school coaches, say the experiences they had with their high school coaches led them to become coaches.
Cleveland High’s Scott Riley is in his first season as a head coach. He decided to be a coach because of the influence his Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons high school coaches, Troy Davis and Wayne Stewart.
“I learned from them that there is no other profession that gives you so many tools to have a positive effect on the lives of young people,” Riley said.
Chapel Hill coach Isaac Marsh daily remembers things taught by his Siler City Jordan Matthews coach Phil Senter.
“Coach Senter played a big role for me. I continue to do the day-to-day operations of our program like he did,” Marsh said. “He believed in players being disciplined and enjoying what they are doing by respecting the game of football.”
Heritage’s Jason McGeorge is a little different. He moved several times during his high school career and didn’t have a great bond with his high school coaches. But his father is Rich McGeorge, a former NFL player and a college and NFL coach.
“I’ve been around the game since the day I was born,” Jason McGeorge said. “My dad was a large factor in me becoming a coach because I saw the impact he had.”
Wake Forest’s Reggie Lucas said Rock Harrison’s passion for football and Ron Hales’ work ethic were big factors in his becoming a coach.
“I remember one afternoon sitting down with them and they encouraging me to get my teaching certificate so that I could coach,” Lucas said of his former coaches at Wake Forest-Rolesville High. “They had a huge impact on me.”
Randy Pinkowski, the Clayton coach, said his high school coach was a perfect example of actions speaking louder than words. His coach, Duffy White at Millbrook, N.Y., discouraged him from entering high school coaching because of the long hours, low pay, and time away from your family.
But Pinkowski saw the impact his coach had on the players.
“He had a great demeanor, never got upset, and always made us laugh,” Pinkowski said.
Fayetteville Cape Fear coach Ronnie Luck had such a big influence on West Johnston coach Jimmy Williams that Williams named his daughter, Kasey, after Luck’s daughter.
“He had high expectations of me both on and off the field,” Williams said.
The coaches say they entered the profession to have an impact on young people, but they know their success is judged in other ways.
Wake Forest’s Lucas said identifying outstanding coaches is extremely difficult because the criteria used by many people for judging greatness often is wrong.
“We are judged on wins and losses and not by what really matters,” he said. “I think preparing young men for life after high school is so important. An outstanding coach is someone who impacts their athletes positively regardless of their wins and losses.”
But a small number of area coaches were repeatedly mentioned when other coaches were asked which current area coaches have been exceptional over the past five years or so.
Among the coaches listed as the area’s best are:
Reggie Lucas, Wake Forest: “Coach Lucas and his staff have done an excellent job of preparing their teams over the years,” Chapel Hill coach Isaac Marsh said. “They have appeared in two state championship games. I watched coach Lucas address his players at Elon Team Camp in a respectful manner and giving them encouragement, but correcting mistakes. They have an open respect for all that are involved in the program. That in my opinion is what makes him an outstanding coach along with knowing his X’s and O’s.”
“Results don’t lie. He always has his teams in contention at the end of the year, and they are always at their best the later in the year it gets, which shows me that their coaching is improving his team,” Cleveland’s Riley said.
Sean Crocker, Panther Creek: “He has had success with two different programs,” Heritage’s McGeorge said. “He also does a great job demanding excellence from his players. He also does an amazing job with his staff.”
“No matter the talent level that he has, his players are always fundamentally very sound and do a very good job executing their scheme,” Cleveland’s Riley said.
David Howell, Bunn: Pinkowski lists Howell among the area coaches who have a successful program while setting and maintaining high standards of behavior for players. “Good coaches today more than ever understand their role as a leader of young men is much more than just wins and loses,” Pinkowski said. “This is not something that can be learned over night, and I think it is why during the last round of hiring so many coaches with a good deal of experience were asked to head up programs.”
Ned Gonet, Ravenscroft: “I played for him,” Rolesville coach Germaine Evans said. “He hasn’t changed a bit. He is still a high character guy who demands respect, instills discipline and gets the most out of his players no matter the skill level.”
Clarence Inscore, Millbrook: “He took over a power house program with big shoes to fill and thru many ups and downs, he has stayed the course,” said West Johnston’s Williams. “Millbrook is still a very strong program under his leadership. He has shown consistent leadership since 2001.”