Since his retirement as Cambridge High School's head football coach following the 2006-07 school year, local legend Larry Stahl hasn't completely left the sidelines behind him.|
The winner of 169 games during his 27-year tenure with the Vikings, Stahl keeps his hand in the game these days as a member of the "chain gang'' -- the crew that handles the down markers at each game -- for Cambridge's successor, the Ridgewood Spartans' co-op.
Having divided his time between working Ridgewood home games and Cambridge's junior high games, Stahl feels it's a great way to stay involved in the game he has given so much of his life to.
"I've done it off and on since I retired,'' he said. "I get to talk to a lot of coaches who coached against me for a long time, and I still talk to a lot of officials that I've known forever, so that aspect of it is nice. It's the next best thing to coaching, and it's a good place for me to be.''
Even though hip replacement surgery just over a year ago slowed Stahl somewhat, it hasn't kept him off the sidelines.
"I had to let up for a bit,'' he said, "but I've enjoyed it; it keeps me in touch. I'll tell you, in the situation I'm in right now, having hung it up (from coaching) but still being down there on the field, it seems like the year goes much faster. When you're not involved in doing things all week to prepare for a game -- just the Friday nights -- it flies by.''
For Stahl and his chain-gang cohorts at the Viking Bowl, the home stretch of Ridgewood's 2012 season will conclude tonight when the Spartans celebrate their Senior Night against the Stark County Rebels. Nearly two weeks removed from its first win of the season, Ridgewood saw its playoff hopes officially extinguished with last Friday's 26-19 loss to Mid-County.
When Stahl retired after the 2006 season, Cambridge had reached the playoffs seven straight years and was the Class 1A state runner-up in '05. The Vikings made it eight straight seasons in '07 under Stahl's longtime assistant and successor, Terry Anderson, who guided his first Cambridge team to the 1A quarterfinals.
However, a numbers crunch has prevented the three-year-old Ridgewood co-op from achieving the same success. The Spartans were 2-7 in their debut season of 2010, then bumped up to 3-6 last fall. Strong numbers at the youth levels breeds optimism for the near future.
"It was a matter of time before the co-op (with AlWood) would happen,'' said Stahl. "I've done it one way for so long, I still have problems not wearing my maroon and gold (Cambridge's colors); I've got so much of it. But I have a granddaughter in high school now, so I've got some new Spartans' stuff that I wear, but old habits are hard to break.
"It's been a rough deal with the numbers, but I think if we can hang on, things will be OK a couple of years down the road.''
And there is a good chance Stahl will have a sideline view of that success.
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