BY JEFF FALK
Gene ‘Spike’ Fuhrman has a certain indescribable presence about him. He also possesses an uncanny sense of timing.
And Furhman has a flair for building, offenses.
And the characters of young men.
Fuhrman was the head football coach at Cedar Crest during a period when the Falcons were a force in District Three. He is the most visible link to the Falcons’ last playoff appearance. And on Monday, Fuhrman will be inducted into the Central Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame for those and other accomplishments.
But ironically, Fuhrman’s induction comes at a time when Cedar Crest is making its most serious push for the district playoffs in the last 16 years. If the Falcons can beat Penn Manor on Friday, they would likely be part of a District Three Class AAAA postseason which would kick off next Friday.
“Oh yes, absolutely,” said Fuhrman, when asked if he is aware of the current football situation at CCHS. “Rob (head coach, Wildasin) is doing a great job. I told everybody when he was hired that these guys are going to get it turned around. I think a lot of Rob as a person. I like the whole approach. I’ve been to a few workouts, and they’ve asked me to come around more.
‘I’ve been to about three games, and I’m very aware of the position they’re in, and it’s exciting,” Fuhrman continued. “I love going to the games. It’s neat to see how excited the guys are. That’s awesome. That’s what they need. That (qualifying for districts) would make me so happy. I’ve been rooting for that program since I’ve been out. Things just haven’t happened for them.”
Fuhrman will be one of five new members inducted into the Central Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, during a ceremony Monday at the Lebanon Days Inn. Fuhrman will be joined by Lower Dauphin field hockey coaching legend Linda Kreiser, former Lebanon High assistant football coach Harold ‘Bud’ Getz, one-time basketball and softball star Jim Gearhart and all-around athlete and good guy Bill Kudrick.
Fuhrman was nominated for the award by his former athletic director, Barry Heckard, who is actively involved with the central chapter.
“With an honor like this, more than anything else, you reflect back on those unbelievable memories,” said Fuhrman, 66. “My career spans quite a while. You go back and start thinking about some of those years, and how you got started. And how little you knew.
“My speech will mainly be about thanking people who helped me get this recognition,” added Fuhrman. “You can’t get an honor like this without other people’s help. There was an excellent group of people I worked with. That’s when I developed my love for football. I was a basketball person at first. When I got the job I told the guys, ‘You are excellent coaches and I’m going to let you coach’. We worked very well together as a staff. I trusted them and they trusted me.”
Fuhrman coached football for a total of 33 years and was the head coach in South Lebanon for eight seasons, from 1996-2003. During that span, the Falcons compiled an overall mark of 54-29, and 40-16 within the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
During a time when District Three took only four teams for its Class AAAA playoffs, Cedar Crest qualified twice, in 1997 and 1999.
“When I came in, I had a vision of what Cedar Crest football could be,” said Fuhrman. “I knew it was going to require energy, time and effort. I knew we had good athletes in the school. But we had to implement a way to get the borderline kids out. So we tried to come up with an offense that was exciting. We incorporated a lot of the spread offense principles. Frank Hetrick and Dale Umberger were instrumental as junior high physical education teachers in getting kids to come out for football. We had kids excited.
“Those teams were really good. Great stuff. Great memories,” Fuhrman added. “They were fun years. We had kids who bought it. They worked hard. They put the time in in the off-season. There was just a tremendous amount of excitement in the Cedar Crest community. I wanted football to be a big deal. We wanted to do things the right way. We wanted to represent the school. Overall, my memories are great. I loved kids. I loved teaching. And I loved coaching. No one enjoyed it more than I did.”
Furhman also coached baseball and basketball at Cedar Crest and Lebanon Catholic. He spent 24 years on the Falcon hardwoods, mainly assisting close friend Frank Kuhn, Jr., on both the varsity and junior high levels.
“I’m a football guy. But my first loves were basketball and baseball, growing up,” said Fuhrman. “For a long time, it was basketball number one. When I went to football it was because we had success as a junior high staff. If you have success in something, you feel good about that.
“I loved basketball before I met Frank,” Fuhrman continued. “I actually played against Frank in basketball. When we started teaching and coaching together, Frank was great. Frank encouraged me and really helped me see the bigger picture. He and I were such good friends, coaching together it was great. He gave me a lot of autonomy. He gave me freedom to coach. We had such great times together. He’s been my best friend for 45 years.”
And while Fuhrman made a grand entrance at Cedar Crest, he also knew when to walk away.
“I was just burned out,” said Fuhrman. “Being an honors teacher for eight years, I got out when I did because I couldn’t do justice to the class room and coaching. I know how time-consuming that job is. It was great while it lasted. I could’ve stayed in it for the money, but I realized it was time. That’s not me.
“I feel I didn’t have that same energy, that same excitement,” continued Fuhrman. “When it was time, it was time. It was time to move on with life. There’s so many things I wanted to do, most of which revolved around family. Your time is limited.”
Needless to say, there are things about that time in Fuhrman’s life that he misses – and others he doesn’t.
“There’s some aspects of it that you miss,” said Fuhrman. “You miss the excitement, that adrenaline rush. You miss building a team, the chess match. But I also know the amount of work required. I feel very welcome around the Cedar Crest program. But I don’t ever see me getting back in the coaching mix.
To purchase tickets from Monday’s Central Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame program, contact Ed Ludwig at 865-3757.