BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – The Annville-Cleona High School football program is seeking an equipment truck driver for away games.
Must have clean driving record, be available Friday nights in the fall and be able to handle large amounts of football equipment. Ability to motivate student-athletes, leadership skills and knowledge of Xs and Os desired, but not required.
The opening was created in November when Terry Lehman stepped down after 28 years of driving the Little Dutchmen’s equipment truck to away games. It may have not been the most glamorous of chores, but someone had to do it.
Never much for the spotlight or attention, Lehman made a career out of simply getting the job done.
Lehman served the Annville-Cleona school district for a total of 31 years, most notably as the Little Dutchmen’s head football coach and a high-school industrial arts teacher. But he never put himself above things like driving the equipment truck to away games.
Lehman will perhaps be best remembered for wearing his heart on his sleeve, speaking his mind and doing things on his terms. And how all those little things he did added up to some pretty big things.
“I still don’t care what people think of me,” said Lehman. “You’re allowed your opinion. It is what it is. I wasn’t snobbish. Even if I didn’t like you, I’d still try to get along with you. I never made a decision in coaching that I knew was the wrong decision. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t make wrong decisions.
“It’s the kids and staff that I will miss the most,” continued Lehman. “Everybody says ‘the game’, but we have great kids at Annville-Cleona. It’s hard work, but it’s fun. The good kids at Annville-Cleona, that’s pretty much what I’ll miss.”
Upon his retirement, Lehman was the dean of Lancaster-Lebanon head football coaches. During his tenure, the Little Dutchmen compiled an overall mark of 138-137, won Lancaster-Lebanon section championships in 1990 and 2004 and qualified for the District Three Class AA playoffs in 1990, 2004, 2013 and 2014.
“I waited till after the season to decide, just to let all those emotions go,” said Lehman, 58. “It’s a good time for a change, for me, for the program. I’ve been teaching for 31 years, and a lot of things have changed. And it was time for a change there also.
“We had a good team last year, and we have a real nice team coming back,” Lehman added. “There’s some other factors involved. Retiring from coaching was harder than retiring from teaching. I knew I didn’t want to be a head coach. But it just came to me. It was like, ‘The heck with it. Let’s make a change’.”
A graduate of Elco High School and Millersville University, Lehman was hired as a teacher and assistant football coach under then-head coach Joe Budgen in 1984. When Bugden moved on three years later, Lehman was offered his position.
Lehman was the sixth head coach in Annville-Cleona’s nearly 50 years of playing football, but none can match Lehman’s staying power.
“When Joe Budgen stepped down, they called me, interviewed me and called me back the same night and said, ‘You got the job,’” said Lehman, who also served as a Little Dutchmen JV baseball coach for 26 seasons. “Originally when I was hired as a teacher, they only had three varsity football coaches. They wanted me to coach JV and I really didn’t want to do it. When it opened up, I was like, ‘Hey, let’s do it’.
“At the time, you have no idea you’re going to do it that long,” Lehman continued. “You really don’t. There’s some situations where you’re like, ‘Why am I doing this? Is it worth it?’ Then you get to the kids and you know why.”
Yeah, coaches coach for the kids, not the pay. But Lehman truly enjoyed the game, his colleagues and contemporaries, as well as the competitive nature of his profession.
“I’m pretty competitive,” said Lehman. “I tried to instill that into the kids. Even if we lost a game, we wanted the other team to know they were in a battle. I can tolerate losing if we get beat by a better team. The ones where we didn’t perform and the kids don’t play well, those are the ones you think about.
“I tried to make things fun for them, but I busted their butts,” Lehman added. “I’m not going to miss not getting sleep on Thursday nights because you can’t sleep before games. Those butterflies on Friday nights never went away. If they do, you shouldn’t be out there.”
The Lehman Era at Annville-Cleona was one of change, moving from the ‘smash football’ of the 20th century to the spread offenses of the 21st century. During Lehman’s time at Annville-Cleona, the Little Dutchmen endured two years of no home games because of the construction of a new school building, the transitioning from Saturday afternoon games to Friday nights under lights and the formation of a cooperative with Lebanon Catholic that allowed its students to compete as members of the Annville-Cleona football squad.
“I pushed for that for two years before it was approved,” said Lehman of turning Beavers into Little Dutchmen. “We looked into everything. That was one of the best things I experienced as a coach. I don’t care if it was for two kids. That’s two kids getting to experience football who wouldn’t have.
“Here’s what I think: I don’t think kids have changed a lot over the years,” continued Lehman. “I think kids’ parents have changed. If you show kids the right way to do it, they’ll do it, especially if everyone else is doing it. But parents don’t like change. Something I did pretty well is deal with different kids’ personalities.”
Because it’s relatively fresh and new, Lehman’s retirement hasn’t fully sunk in yet, and he’s not quite sure what he’ll do with the extra time on his hands, especially come September and November. But in true Lehman fashion, he’s simply not worried about it.
Just remember that old coaches never sit in the stands. They can always be found standing alone in one of the end zones.
“That’s a bridge I’m going to cross when I get there,” said Lehman. “I’ll go to games. But I probably won’t go to the first game. That might be a little emotional. I might go to see my first Cedar Bowl (Cedar Crest vs. Lebanon) ever.
“We were always the second smallest school in the league,” concluded Lehman. “Eighty percent of the time we were playing a bigger school, and we didn’t shy away from good teams outside the section. I have kids coming up to me now from 25 years ago, and all they want to do is talk football. We never had a year when a kid didn’t experience a win. We always had that win. But the program is in good shape. That made it easier to walk away.”
And you can bet he was searching for those.
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