SULLIVAN TWP. — Al Young coached his 307th game at Black River and recorded his 198th victory Friday night. There won’t be game No. 308 or win No. 199.
The legendary coach announced his retirement following a season-ending 56-10 Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division victory over Wellington.
“I wanted to keep it as quiet as possible,” the 56-year-old said. “It’s about the kids. It’s not about me.”
Those kids, many now grown men with families of their own, would beg to differ. Dozens of former players were on hand for Young’s last game at Art Stevenson Field, including former stars Andrew Vaughn, Charlie Moskal, Jeremy Quast and Brett Hastings.
Young never formally told his current players, who finished the season 6-4, 3-2 after downing the Dukes (1-9, 0-5). He didn’t have to, because seemingly everyone in the extremely close-knit Black River community already knew this was his final season.
“It’s been a blast,” said junior running back Caleb Simonson, who carried 12 times for 97 yards and a pair of touchdown while catching two passes for 40 yards. “I couldn’t ask for a better coach. I just wish he’d stay one more year. He brings so much intensity and enthusiasm to the team. I really hope it will still be like that next year.
“We were definitely playing hard for him. Me and the rest of the team wanted to thank him that way.”
Playing hard was already a Pirates trademark when 1980 Black River graduate Young, having served four years as an assistant to Matt Stoll, took over as head coach at his alma mater in 1990.
In 29 seasons under Young, Black River compiled a 198-109 record, won 10 league titles and made 10 playoff appearances.
“I’m thankful for all these guys for letting me coach them,” Young said. “We’ve had great players, great teams, great fans and great administrators. I’ve had a lot of things work out for me here.
“I couldn’t sleep last night. It was a weird feeling. You always think there’s that next team you have to start getting ready. How do we get better? What changes do we make? But now I don’t have to start thinking that way because, this time, there’s not a next year.”
Young’s final game on the sideline was a lot like many others in his tenure. The Pirates went up 30-0 with 5:31 to go in the first half, led 49-0 late in the third period, rushed 36 times for 463 yards six TDs and finished with 505 yards total offense while running just 42 plays.
Senior Spencer Constable carried 12 times for 229 yards, including TDs of 21, 35 and 49 yards, while junior Dylan Kmitt had a 74-yard score while rushing five times for 89 yards and senior quarterback Riley Bartolic added a 5-yard rushing touchdown.
Black River’s other TD came when Tristan Lamp blocked a punt, picked up the loose ball and rumbled 7 yards, while Bartolic and Alex Vormelker had two tackles for loss apiece and Noah Lampshire, Sam Bourdess, Lamp and Dave Krymowski added one each. The Pirates also got a fumble recovery from Ryan Shultz.
Wellington got on the board late in the third period on a 69-yard run by Mason McClellan (16 carries, 109 yards), while Corey Feron kicked the extra point and a 30-yard field goal.
The night, though, was all about Young, who declined any pregame ceremony but spent 10 minutes after the game hugging all his seniors. Hours before kickoff, he reminisced with many former players.
“It’s tough and it’s special,” said Young, who choked back tears as he tried to explain the emotions he was feeling after the game. “They always say you hope you impact kids in some way, but most times you never really know if you did. I’ve been fortunate to get a lot of feedback from kids that come back and help coach or just stop to visit, and that’s always special.
“That’s what makes this place really special. I hope it stays that way, and I think it will. This program is very healthy. We’ve got great players coming up and a lot of kids coming back.”
Constable used the words “crazy” and “intense” to describe Young, but he wasn’t totally happy with those.
“I’m trying to think of a cooler word, but I can’t,” he said. “I’m going to miss him a lot. My dad (Justin) played for him the first year he coached here and now I played for him in his last year. That tells you he was pretty special.”
Young will exit Black River along with his two children, senior twins Mitchell, a rugged two-way starter for the Pirates, and Morgan, the Division III district player of the year in volleyball.
“I never thought about coaching here this long when I started,” Young said. “It usually doesn’t ever come to that. You’ve got to have success, and I was fortunate the administration stuck with me when we had a few tough years. I’ve been very lucky, and I’m very grateful.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or email@example.com. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.
Black River 56, Wellington 10
WELLINGTON 0 0 7 3 — 10
BLACK RIVER 16 14 9 7 — 56
B — Dylan Kmitt 74 run (Spencer Constable run), 7:42.
B — Constable 35 run (Caleb Simonson run), 2:57.
B — Constable 49 run (Riley Bartolic run), 11:46.
B — Simonson 5 run (pass failed), 5:31.
B — Bartolic 5 run (kick failed), 10:04.
B — Simonson 9 run (kick failed), 5:30.
B — Tristan Lamp 7 punt return (Conner Burke kick), 2:42.
W — Mason McClellan 69 run (Cory Feron kick), 0:20.
B — Constable 21 run (Burke kick), 6:05.
W — Feron 30 field goal, 0:24.