For the last 10 years, nobody has had more success coaching football in this area than Kevin Langs at Climax-Scotts.
The win over Pittsford last Friday was the 100th win for Climax-Scotts under Langs in the last 10 seasons. And he still has a few more chances during this 10th season to add to that total.
Langs has coached at Climax-Scotts for 14 seasons, but during the last 10 campaigns he and the Panthers have enjoyed a decade of dominance rarely seen in high school football anywhere in the state.
“The foundation was started 14 years ago by those kids that put the hard work in early,” Langs said. “You have continuity in a coaching staff over the years and the community buys in to the work ethic that it takes, not just in football, but to be successful in other athletics and the classroom. And you create that environment and it becomes something that is contagious and some time later you get 10 years like you’re talking about.”
When you are talking about 100 wins in 10 years, you have to remember that each team is only promised nine games a year in the regular season. But starting in 2003, Climax-Scotts has had seven 9-0 undefeated regular seasons, that allowed for extra games to be played in the playoffs and can help a team put together 100 wins in 10 seasons. In 2004, Climax-Scotts went all the way and earned a state championship and went 14-0. Overall, in eight of the nine completed seasons (not counting this year), the Panthers have had 10-plus wins as success has become second nature at the school.
But an era like that doesn’t come by accident – it is a process. The Climax-Scotts process – Langs calls it.
“It builds upon itself. It becomes something bigger than a one year thing. Sometimes you look for that one class, but that’s not something we do here at Climax-Scotts. Kids come up believing every season can be special. They believe they fit into a puzzle that will lead to success,” Langs said. “At our school we call it the process – the Climax-Scotts process.”
The intricacies of the process are many, but they revolve around consistency. That is especially true on the field. When playing football at the youngest levels in third grade, athletes at Climax-Scotts use the same playbook and system on the field that the varsity does under Langs.
Climax-Scotts runs the full house wing-T offense at all levels on offense and the defense runs a 50-front at all levels.
“What that full house wing-T does, it allows you to compete when you have really talented teams and not-so talented teams. It evens the playing field because it’s about execution. You don’t have to have the great athlete, you just have to players that have bought in to what you are doing,” said son Tyler Langs, a former player for C-S and current assistant coach in the program. “We are running the full house T at all levels, so those concepts are engrained in your brain once you get to be a senior.”
To go along with that, there is also an expectation regarding how the young athletes attack their academics so they can be successful in that area also and become solid pieces in the overall Climax-Scotts puzzle.
“When you start in third grade at rocket football and in school academically, there’s a process that we expect you to be a part of. And when you become part of that process, it is successful,” Langs said.
Those that stick with the program understand the importance of the consistent message.
“Coach isn’t just out here to coach football, he’s out here to make us better people in life,” said Climax-Scotts senior Kirk Gibson. “Winning is not everything with coach. If wins come, that’s a good thing. But he’s out here to help us become better people. Everyone buys in to what the coach is teaching and I think that’s a big reason we are successful.”
However, the wins didn’t come on Day 1.
Climax-Scotts was 2-7 in 1999 under Langs, but in the next season the Panthers went to the playoffs at 7-3. However, right after that, the Panthers missed the playoffs for two straight seasons before they hit their stride 10 years ago in 2003. Making the playoffs for the first time earned some excitement in the community, but Kevin Langs added that not everyone was as excited when they missed the playoffs the next two years. He adds that comes with the territory, but the idea was that C-S was going to stick to the program and build something for the long term.
“When I first came, in 1999 I remember kids butting heads with Coach Langs,” said Tyler Langs. “It takes time to create, but kids believe in it now and they know they want to go to battle for Coach Langs.
“Once kids buy in, they are playing sixth or seventh grade football, and they are thinking they want to be a part of all of this. So they are busting their butt way back then, just so they can be a part of something special when they are a senior.”
Sticking to his plan seems to be the secret to success according to the head coach.
Prior to Langs getting there, Climax-Scotts had gone 1-8 in back-to-back seasons in 1994-95. Then after going 3-6 in 1996, the Panthers didn’t have a team in 1997.
“At Climax-Scotts it was the perfect storm. They had struggled, lost all of those games, things were really down. So they allowed a weird guy like me to come in and say let’s try this and do it this unique way,” Langs said. “I came in when I was willing to stay and invest time. Sometimes small towns are revolving doors and people use them as a stepping stone, but when they see you have made an investment in the community, people see that and want to buy in to what you want to do and that’s what happened here.”
And Climax-Scotts has had a decade of unrivaled success on the football field to enjoy because Langs came to town and built the program and created a team of believers in that program year after year.
“People and the players are loyal to the program and the process now. That’s why we play harder and that’s we are able to do this for 10 years, because the motivation isn’t just to win, it’s to be a team. If it was just to win, as soon as you lose a game, you become a failure,” Langs said. “It’s the process and the team. Bo Schembechler had a quote that was, ‘The team. The team. The team.’ We take it further. We say, ‘The relationship. The relationship. The relationship.’ The relationships we build in the program, with all the players throughout the whole process, that is the key. Because of that, every year is a special year. We aren’t preaching about 9-0 or championships, we are talking about that this is our team together as a team and let’s see what we can do together.”