(Part Three of a three-part series.)
TO NO ONE'S SURPRISE, PETE ADKINS has the longest coaching tenure in the history of Jefferson City High School, 37 years.
To put it in perspective, it took seven head coaches prior to Pete's arrival to lead program the previous 37 years. That takes the program back to 1920. And after Pete retired in 1995, the Jays had three head coaches the next 12 years.
But with Ted LePage, the program has had, at the very least, stability, as he's entering his 11th season as head coach. That's the second-longest tenure in school history for a program that started playing football in 1905.
LePage is also the second-winningest coach in school history, with a record of 77-34. The Jays advanced to the semifinals in LePage's first season, 2006, and again in 2008, while last year's team finished 9-2, losing to eventual state champion Blue Springs South in the district semifinals.
For four decades, however, this program was known for something far greater than stability.
"If you accept that it's okay, the school and the community, then it's okay ... going 8-2 or 9-1 is acceptable," Cole said. "If it's not acceptable, if it's not okay, that's a deal for the administration and the athletic director to decide.
"Championships don't seem to mean anything anymore, district championships or state championships or even getting to the semifinals. Those things lost their value somewhere in those 10 years I was gone.
"But I can tell you this --- Ted wants to win a district championship. He knows that they haven't won one, and he wants to go deep into the playoffs and he wants to win a state title. No, it's not okay with Ted to just go 8-2 or 9-1, it bothers him."
Cole came to Jefferson City in 1975 and, after serving as Adkins' top assistant for 20 years, was head coach of the Jays for seven years before retiring in 2001.
Cole, now 70, was lured out of retirement in 2011 and was the team's defensive coordinator for five years, before retiring for the second time --- "This time, for good." --- after last season.
"The thing I see is that kids today aren't as physical as they were back in the 70s and 80s," Cole said. "I think this is a sign of the times ... they're not as hard, they're not as aggressive as they were back then. That's the biggest difference."
Dealing with parents, that's another big one.
"There are parents in Ted's office all the time, I don't think I could handle it," Cole said. "Griping about this, griping about that, griping about playing time ... that would be tough for me, every day having them gripe about something.
"He's got that to contend with and he does a good job with them, but I couldn't do it. He listens to them a lot longer than I would."
Perhaps LePage is too nice for his own good.
"Sometimes, maybe," Cole said. "But as a player in high school and a player in college, he was aggressive, so he has that aggressive streak."
COLE IS THE ONLY MAN to have a hand in all 10 of the school's 10 state championships, but he couldn't get the Jays over the hump during his return.
"The five years I was there, I really couldn't believe we didn't at least win a district championship," he said. "I was really disappointed by that ... I guess I was part of the problem. We won a lot of football games (38) the last five years, but when it got down to important games, we just couldn't get it done. We came close, but close don't count.
"The last two years, we've had solid, together football teams. It's been like old time, Jays football --- all the kids were together, they didn't care if they played offense, defense or they played special teams. Last year, we really weren't very good, but we won because of the kids working hard. So I think we've turned that corner, with the animosity thing, we had the first three years.
"Ted's done a real good job of bringing them together and keeping them together the last two years. And I think this team coming up will be the same way. There are no I's there, they're a team."
For the most part, Cole defends LePage.
"As a coach, you're doing what you think is right and best for the kids," Cole said. "And there's no question in my mind that Ted is doing what he thinks is right and he's doing it with the kids in mind. These guys work with these kids and do things for these kids that's unbelievable.
"I would not do anything against my principles as a football coach. Philosophy can be argued, like running the ball or throwing the ball, to platoon or not to platoon, how long you practice ... those things are a head coach's decision and the assistant coaches must be on the same page to keep team unity.
"But when it gets right down to principle, something you are dead against, then you don't need to be working for that guy."
For the philosophical differences Cole has with LePage, you should start at the end of the season and work your way back.
"Somehow, Jeff City has to figure out how to win in the playoffs. What you have to do is evaluate yourself and say, 'Why aren't we winning? How did we get beat?' Then go back and look at what you did, preparation time, to get there and maybe you can find something."
* Length of practices.
"They're working, but I feel like we didn't have enough practice time," Cole said. "We practiced 2 1/2 hours and that was it, I think we needed at least another 15 to 30 minutes. It was just me, probably, wanting more time, wanting a three-hour practice or a 3 1/2 hour practice to get everything done. I felt like I left things undone on the field because I didn't have enough time.
"The last five years, the guys I worked with on defense, they worked their butts off. They worked just as hard as anybody I coached when I was with Pete, they listened and they wanted to be good. They just didn't work as long as I would have liked."
* The best players playing only one side of the ball.
"I'll defend the platoon thing early," Cole said. "The start of school has gotten so early and the state will not extend the practices --- two a days are a thing of the past --- so the state will not allow you to get a kid physically ready for the first football game. So early in the season when it's hot, you've got to have 22 guys ready to play.
"But when you get down to the nitty-gritty, when you win or go home, there needs to be the best kids on the field. I can't see having kids like Justin Smith or Justin Gage, not having them on the field during a state championship game."
* Fundamentals, starting at a young age.
"Fundamentals are fundamentals," Cole said. "If you don't know how to block and tackle, you're going to get beat. I think they could pay more attention to the fundamentals ... practice time, I think an extra 30 minutes would do wonders.
"In the lower grades, they're not as strict as Pete was or I was --- you will run this defense, you will run this offense. Now when they get the eighth grade, yes, it's the same offense and defense and same terminology.
"We've got average kids who've got to play better than they're capable of playing, that's what Pete was able to do for so many years. I think when the coaching staff and the kids find that secret, they'll be all right. But they've got to find that, first."
Will it ever be like it was, back in those glory years when Public School Stadium was overflowing, when thousands of fans made road trips, when the Jays piled up undefeated seasons and won so many state championships?
You would think not, because Jefferson City had captured lightning in a bottle, for Pete's sake --- the lightning just happened to last four decades.
Cole believes, however, it can happen.
"It can be done," he said, "but it will take time. When you've been on top for so long and you've been in the penthouse and you fall down to the outhouse, it takes a long time to get back.
"It takes the right combination of coaching, the right combination of kids, parents, administration ... it takes everything Pete had, because he had it all. If you have any dissension, it's going to cost you a game or two, it's going to cost you district championships and state championships.
"Eventually, Jeff City will have another Pete Adkins. When that's going to be, I don't know."
Ron Cole was "disappointed" that, after returning to assist Ted LePage in 2011, he couldn't help the Jays get over the hump.
A football life:
on the Jays past,
present and future
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Cole differs with some philosophies
of LePage, but not his principle
A football life:
on the Jays past,
present and future