After 24 seasons together, Ardnt Middle School football coaches Lee Drum and Scott Frank are calling it a career.
The duo is making the 2013 campaign their final on the sidelines, but both are hoping to lead the Redskins to yet another championship.
The pairing between Drum and Frank at Arndt almost never happened, though.
In fact, both men had planned to coach football in high school.
“I was going to be a high school coach, but I ended up here at Arndt,” Drum said. “I know what my motivation was. I wanted to turn this program into a winner. That’s just the way it was. I was focused right here. I can’t say I’d be here 24 years.”
Both Drum and Frank had one goal in mind when they first started coaching together.
“When we started off, we want to be competitive and have teams mark us on their schedule,” Drum said. “We still want to be competitive, but we want to go over that. We want to be one of the top teams. Our goal is always to be competitive, but to never be satisfied.”
In 1993, Drum and Frank started their fourth season together with only 13 players showing up for tryouts on the first day, including future St. Stephens baseball standout Dana Tuttle.
“We looked at each other and realized we couldn’t do a half-line scrimmage,” said Drum, who eventually was able to get 30 players to come out for that 1993 Ardnt squad.
More than 20 years later, a total of 67 players tried out for the 2013 Redskins football team with only 45 of those making the school’s roster.
“(Forty-five) is the maximum number of players we can handle with jerseys and buses,” Frank said.
Since 1999, the Redskins are 84-24 overall under Drum and Frank, including eight seasons with 7-1 records.
Arndt has also won four conference titles during that span, which came in 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2009.
Frank credts one team during that run with helping to shape the program’s identity.
“I really think what took our program to the next level was our 2000 team,” he said. “We were not talented. That was one of the least talented teams ever, but no one told those kids. We went 5-2 that year. Those kids were smaller than everyone else. They won two overtime games and fought their guts out.”
Those results on the field have also translated into respect from former players of both coaches.
“They had a lot of intensity,” said St. Stephens High running back Janarion Knox. “They know how to coach. They took time out to show us what was right and what was wrong.”
St. Stephens junior varsity football player Darrell Moss agreed with Knox.
“By far, it’s been one of the best coaching staffs I played for,” he said.
Shyheim Huitt, another Indians junior varsity football player, said the care by both coaches goes beyond the competition on the field.
“They push you to where you need to be,” Huitt said. “They cared about us winning, but they also cared about us having fun. School was also a big part of that.”
That respect even carries over to Arndt’s coaching staff.
Dan VonDohlen is an Arndt assistant coach in his first year with Frank and Drum.
VonDohlen initially got in to teaching because of Frank, who was also the best man at his wedding.
“I hate they are leaving,” VonDohlen said. “They are both class acts. If you had a kid in middle school, you’d want them to play for coach Frank and coach Drum.”
Next season, Ardnt assistant football coach Lee Vanderlinden will take the Redskins gridiron program over.
“He is one of the most dedicated, committed coaches,” Drum said of Vanderlinden. “He has coached three sports here for 15 years. He is the right person for the job.”
Ardnt kicks off its 24th season of football under Drum and Frank next Wednesday, Sept. 11 at home against Liberty at 4:15 p.m.
Frank anticipates that the Redskins will be strong once again this season.
“We’ve just got to take it one day at a time,” he said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I have to keep reminding myself that because when you’ve won, you can forget the process.”