MONFORT HEIGHTS – There’s no monopoly on success. As much as some would like to own it, that’s not how it works.
Success doesn’t come easy. It’s a lengthy, complicated process. At the heart of success are people. La Salle’s always had the people. What they needed was success.
They’re the ones clad in red and white, right in the middle of something they’ll never forget — a state championship.
At La Salle, they’ve been busy waiting and working. The wait ended Friday night when La Salle (14-1) beat Nordonia (14-1), 55-20, in the Division II state final game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
Bob Kruger was La Salle’s first football coach. He was hired in 1961. That’s when football and La Salle merged – their paths crossed and have remained intersected.
La Salle players celebrate 55-20 state championship win over Nordonia Dec. 5 in Columbus
The legion of Lancers, and the state record books won’t forget what La Salle accomplished this season.
La Salle spent more than half a century searching for a playoff win. This season, in its fifth all-time playoff appearance, La Salle found five in a row.
“At 83 years old, I never thought I’d see the day,” Kruger said. “It’s just a dream come true for me.”
Kruger, who missed just two games of the greatest season in La Salle history, said he wasn’t going to miss the big one. Kruger was given a sideline pass for the state game.
“I’ve never seen a team so versatile,” Kruger said. “To see these guys haven’t given up is the greatest feeling.”
Kruger’s a prime example of what La Salle embodies. He found them, they found him and they’re both better for it.
La Salle’s an important place. For those that experience it, they can’t help but take it with them when they go.
This game brought them back. They flew in from Oregon, New Jersey and Florida.
Dan McDonald (La Salle ’85) is an assistant high school football coach at Naples (Fla.).
Because his games coincide with La Salle’s, McDonald follows the Lancers the only way he can. He gets text updates from his brother, a La Salle grad, and his 14-year old son.
In his four years at La Salle, McDonald never beat Moeller.
“When we won against Moeller (34-9 in week six) I texted my brother and said if we make a run in the playoffs and get deep, I’m coming up,” McDonald said.
La Salle clinched a berth in the state final last Friday, beating Olentangy 48-13, and McDonald had his plane tickets the next morning.
“I brought my son, he’ll be a freshman next year,” McDonald said. “He’s never been to Cincinnati, he’s never seen where I grew up or La Salle.”
McDonald knew he needed to introduce his son to La Salle.
“La Salle isn’t something you accomplish, it’s an attitude, a demeanor, a commitment you make,” McDonald said.
The newer La Salle generations have picked up where their predecessors left off.
Ryan Stanchek (La Salle ’04) played college football at West Virginia and then with the Atlanta Falcons. Currently, Stanchek is the offensive line coach at Alcorn State.
“I think the people make the place,” Stanchek said. “La Salle’s definitely a place made by people. A lot of schools have great facilities and nice things but the people make the place.”
J.K. Schaffer (La Salle ’08) would tend to agree with Stanchek. Schaffer’s about as Cincinnati as one can get. After La Salle, he starred as a linebacker at Cincinnati before playing two seasons with the Bengals.
Schaffer said his fondest memories at La Salle revolve around the people who taught him and played alongside him.
“The La Salle community is very tight-knit,” Schaffer said. “Guys will go all over the country, but any chance they get to come back and watch La Salle, especially in a state championship, those guys are going to enjoy every second of that.”
From the beginning, La Salle spent more than enough time hearing about the high-caliber teams they have to deal with every year. Teams like Moeller, St. Xavier and Elder.
This season, those teams, and the rest of the state, had their hands full with La Salle for a change. Disregard the division, the Lancers proved something.
They proved they belong. They proved that 50 years was long enough. They proved that persistence pays dividends.
The Lancers have reached the peak. Now, there’s an entire community that can’t wait to see what’s next.