About Eric Lewis Series – From the Author




Some may wonder why the ‘Croatia’ connection.  It’s pretty simple, I’ve spent nearly fifteen years coaching in Europe and two of those were in Zagreb, Croatia coaching the Thunder.  My wife and I had spent time along the Croatian coast on numerous occasions, and love both Split and Dubrovnik.  I wanted the ‘family’ to have European ties thus the beginning of the story.

Ok, what about the Iowa connection?  Another simple answer.  First of all the town of Crater is fictitious, and I like the Crater Comet combination so I went with it.  My father’s family lived in Iowa, and I was born in Omaha, where the family had moved not long before I was born.  I located the  town of Crater in southwest Iowa close to the Nebraska border which also helped the story as it kept both states involved throughout the book series.



My first coach as a player on the varsity level at Lake Oswego (Oregon) high school was Cliff Giffin.  He also ran the park in Lake Grove where I swam on the team he coached during the summer.  He was a University of Oregon graduate, and after he left to coach at the College of San Mateo, a junior college in northern California Vince Dulcich replaced him.  Later after spending my freshmen college year playing at the UO I joined Cliff at San Mateo in 1960 and was the starting QB on our league championship team.

I only played for coach Dulcich for one season, but like coach Giffin, I enjoyed playing for the man.  Both of them made the game fun to play, and at the same time instilled the importance of acting like a champion win or lose.  I credit my demanding good sportsmanship by both players and staff from lessons I learned from them both.  The following paragraph came directly from coach Dulcich;


“We want to be known as an aggressive, competitive team that always plays by the rules.  It’s our task to earn the respect of every team in our league, and we’ll do that by showing good sportsmanship at every turn of events.” 


The name Bart Vincetti came to me out of the blue.  I guess you could say my admiration for the Green Bay Packers, who were dominate during my playing day time frame in college, and their coach Vince Lombardi, and their quarterback Bart Star.  Thus…Bart Vincetti.

I always felt as a coach you should keep things as simple as possible, thus the paragraph about ‘Rules’ is a direct quote from me made to every team I coached in my forty eight year career.


“I’ve got two rules.  First never embarrass your family, your teammates or this school.  Second, Best Player Plays!”


Luke Alwood, Eric’s best friend, is a clone of Luke Atwood who I had the great good fortune to coach at Mc Nary High School in Keizer, Oregon and again in Vienna, Austria.  Where I coached for nine years, and Luke played for me my last three seasons with the Vikings.



You might be wondering, when you  begin reading, and notice the chapter headings are all music song ‘titles’.  Various styles mostly country, but like my own music I throw in a few classical ones as well, and Neil Diamond and Billy Joel, which of course dates me bit I don’t care.  In my second book, “Hoops” there is an automobile accident, and I wanted to name the chapter after a Rascal Flats country song, “Bless the Broken Road” which is one of my all time favorites.  Then I decided to see how difficult it might be to do all the chapters in that book the same, and found it was easy.  So before “Sophomore” was printed I changed all those chapter titles as well. Maybe we should throw in a CD for the cost of the book.

The inspiration for ‘Sophomore’ came from a situation not unlike what transpires in the book.  The sophomore is more talented, but we can win with the senior, who has paid his dues.  The sophomore is an all-star type athlete, and can play anywhere.  The year was 1979 the scene was Lakeridge High School.  The senior was John Leahy, John Fahey in the book.  While, the sophomore was Todd Anderson, Eric Lewis in the book.  Todd made first team All-State at wide receiver as a sophomore, and at QB his junior and senior season.  We won nine games with John, and made it to the state quarterfinals.



I have used this line as a teacher before every class the first day of a new school year, substituting teacher for head football coach.


“You all need to respect my position as head football coach, but it’s my challenge to earn your respect as a man.”


I believe it’s a lesson all young people must understand.  It’s mom and dad, it’s the teacher, the coach, the pastor, and it’s anyone older than you.

Eric’s second best friend is Cezar Simion.  Where did that come from?  First off, Cezar is a friend of mine from Europe.  I met him while in Zagreb as he played on a ‘football’ (we call it soccer) team, and was friends with one of our Croatian (American) football players.  I’ve had soccer players do the dual role also in America.  I decided it was a good addition to the total story.  I think it works very well.

I show my prejudice against ‘club sport’ people in this chapter. If you are one please don’t take offense.  However, Club Sports have no rules covering when you can play, and in my opinion the bad ones take advantage of that, and hurt school programs.

The end of practice ‘kick contest’ was run by my good friend Coach Royce Mc Daniel, Coach Mack in the series.  He was a great three-sport athlete in high school, and in college, and played professional baseball in the Pittsburg Pirate organization.  He could kick the football, and was extremely competitive and yes, he bent the rules now and then.  He loved to win!  We coached together first at Tigard High School where Royce was the head basketball coach, and I was the JV coach.  Both of us ended up in different sports.  Royce won a couple state baseball championships, and one as head girls basketball coach at Lakeridge.  On the other hand it didn’t take me long to figure out I was better suited to coach football.  My win/loss record as a basketball coach of 27-105 may have had something to do with my decision.



     I first got to know Greg Lord, Greg Loud in the book, when he coached with my college teammate, Don Mc Carty, at Oregon City High School.  Later Greg coached with me at Lewis & Clark College and at Evergreen High School, and has remained a long time great friend.  His enthusiasm for coaching sets him apart.  He had to be in the book!

When John and Todd played for me at Lakeridge I followed the same plan as in the book.  John started but Todd played QB in every game for a series or two.  And in practice Todd took QB reps in drills and played wide receiver during team, just like John and Eric in the book.

The ‘Yeti’ social club was real.  Back in my high school days my older brothers class, he was two years ahead of me, had formed the first ‘Yeti’ club, and when they graduated passed it down to my class.  We had athletes and non-athletes in the club, just like in the book.  Many of them are still communicating today some fifty-five years after we graduated.



Having our receivers line up on different sides came about because while at Mc Nary High School we had a receiver that I just loved to watch play.  His name was Shawn Kintner, Sean Kitter in the book, and because my eyesight was deteriorating, and the angle wasn’t very good either, when he lined up on the opposite side, I made the decision for him to line up on our sideline all the time.  Never realizing what a problem that was for the opposition until one of my coaching colleagues told me, “You’re a damn genius, we can’t locate Kintner half the time because you have him moving around.” I never told him the real reason.

The ‘Bait’ story is true.  My first year at Mc Nary one of our senior players used that line the first time we lined up for team offense, and I stopped the drill, and said pretty much the same thing Coach Vince does in the book.



The last high school game I played was at St. Helens High School.  They had an all dirt field, no grass.  It was solid, and the footing was more like on an artificial field.  That was in 1958 and artificial fields weren’t a part of the game for another twenty years.  It was raining hard throughout the game, so much so that a huge puddle began to form behind our bench.  There was a low spot there, and the water simply drained in that direction.  Had it not been our last game of the season we probably wouldn’t have done what we did.  But, it was, and when the horn sounded ending the game we all did the belly flop thing into the lake.  Seemed like a good idea at the time!



For some, actually very few, this will be a controversial chapter.  It will be obvious to those living in Oregon what it is about.  But I didn’t write this book, or the series, just for people in Oregon, and this story is true and needed to be told.  Simple as that.  There are programs around our country at all levels that act like the ‘Washington’ team in the book.  Thankfully most of the time administrators see the error and fix it promptly.  If it doesn’t get fixed eventually the same thing will happen that happened in real life.  The team becomes a huge embarrassment to the community, far overshadowing any success on the field.   All of the incidents in this chapter happened.  The three penalties in a row episode simply showed the lack of character accepted on that sideline by that staff.   Enough said.



I’m not exactly sure where I got the “Play the Next Down” philosophy, but it has been with me forever.  It’s what pop’s into my head when I’ve run out of words I guess.  But it sums up my feelings about the game.  The next play is the most important one, and never forget that.

My teams have suffered disappointment twice when two games ended with ‘Hail Mary’ passes.  One was the very first year of the two I spent coaching at Evergreen High School in the state of Washington.  Central Catholic, of Portland, was a good team, a few years short of their current dominance, and it happened exactly as described in the book.  The other one happened at Lewis & Clark College, and we didn’t actually lose.  What happened was the opponent threw the ‘Hail Mary’ and it was ruled a catch, and a touchdown by the referee.  The next day looking at the play on film, yes film back in 1992 and not video, the ball actually hit the turf before bouncing into the player’s hands.  The ref’s missed the call, and so did their extra point kicker.  The game ended in a tie.  I thought the miss was caused from above by an angel who noticed the error.  Devine intervention comes to mind.



I was coaching at Mc Nary High just north of Salem in Keizer, Oregon and after a win when we played poorly I stood at my mail box talking with my next door neighbor. I was bemoaning the fact we hadn’t played very well, and it was my neighbor that gave me the lecture that I duplicate in this chapter.


“You need to understand that most of the rest of us don’t have either High’s or Low’s. Just boring routine days one after the other.”


The ‘Blinkey Stevens’ story about the ‘Trap’ block was actually a true story from one of my best friends in the coaching business, Erv Garrison.  Erv tells the story way better than I can, but I think the episode in the book pretty much captures the moment.  Erv was about ten years older than me, but he became a very good friend.  I learned a lot about how to act like a gentleman from Erv.  After he had retired from teaching and coaching I talked him in to coaching with us in Vienna one year.  I had called to offer him the job, and he said he would need a few days to discuss it with his wife.  Not five minutes later the phone rang, and he said, I accept.  Turns out his wife Joanne was with him at the time, and she made the decision in a few seconds instead of days.



I was one month short of my twenty first birthday, and had borrowed my older brothers car to go to a movie with a friend.  Bill Fahey, Bill Fay in the book.  In the back seat there was a six pack of beer and on the way to the movie Bill asked if he could have one.  I said, “Sure”, and he did.  I still didn’t drink, so only one can was emptied.  But we had an ‘Open Container” as the law describes it in our possession.  We were stopped driving home for really no reason, I wasn’t going too fast or driving recklessly.  I think the town cops were just bored.  Anyway, they told us to get out of the car, spread our feet with our hands on top of the car.  Being a smartass young man at times I chose to disagree in not too complimentary terms.  Something like “What the hell are you doing,” probably wasn’t the right thing to say?  The young officer’s answer was, “Your going to jail.”  And off we went.  On the way the driver, an older policeman, saw my ID that I had given to the younger officer at his request.  He exact words were, “Oh hell this is Dana Smythe’s son.  We can’t take him to jail.” The younger and way too aggressive cop said, “We’ve already called it in.”  So off we went to the county jail.  My father was very well known in our little town, and he said the same thing to me that Eric’s does in the book.  “See you in the morning.”  We played monopoly all night long because we didn’t feel very secure or safe surrounded by about twenty drunks in the ‘Drunk Tank.”

“Fix the Problem” is one of my favorite lines.  I can’t stand it when people want to place blame every time there is an issue.  I’ve been in teacher meetings that lasted for hours mostly trying to place blame.  Fix the problem first!





The Saturday night parties at Val’s came right out of my high school days.  Val David in the book, was Valarie Davidson in real life, and we were great friends.  Val ended up marrying an ATO frat brother of mine who also happened to be the starting offensive tackle for the Duck football team.  Riley Matson played in the NFL for a number of years, and is obviously a big man.  Val never weighed much more than large oak leaf, but they’ve had a great marriage.  Her parties were great, and the gang of mostly ‘Yeti’s’ and our girl friends spent many a Saturday enjoying ourselves, and having young people fun.

The late for the bus incident actually happened my very first game at Mc Nary High.  Two of our best players missed the bus, and showed up later trying to sneak into the locker room unnoticed.  I acted just like coach Vince,  “Have a nice trip?” Now, don’t be late for ‘Warm-ups’.

There are one or two administrators who stepped over the line, in my opinion like portrayed in this chapter.  However, I must say that during my teaching, and coaching career those incidents have been few and far between.  I was very fortunate to have worked with mostly excellent administrators most of whom were good friends.



The ‘Belly Over’ incident happened my first year coaching at Mc Nary High School.  The player was an average one on his best day, but to his credit he never stopped working to improve.  He had a great sense of humor, and in this case his timing was perfect.

My first car was a Studebaker.  The front left wheel locked when I hit the break, and I had to park on a hill because periodically it chose not to start so I would glide down hill and pop the clutch, and make it start by compression.  Those are words today’s youth would never understand.

Miss Murty, my high school English teacher is Miss Murtry in the book.  She was a great teacher, and I would spell GREAT with capitols.  I was an A student in English, and PE, not so in the rest of my classes.




In the state of Oregon there had never been a ‘seeding’ process for playoffs in football. I had always been a proponent of doing that, but my efforts fell on deaf ears.  To be truthful  my teams by the luck of the draw came out much better way more times than we didn’t.  In just the last couple years the OSAA has changed the playoff format with a seeding of sorts.  And, this past year had all the higher seeded teams play at home, which was long time over due in my mind, and in many of my coaching friends.



     In my own playing days I can’t remember ever talking to an opponent on the field or diamond or court.  I’m not sure when ‘Trash’ talking came into vogue but it still makes zero sense to me.  Some of it I’m sure is the mis-conception that it might distract the opponent, but to be honest I think it’s mostly bravado that say’s look at me.  However, one of the funniest things I’ve witnessed on a football field was a result of ‘Trash’ talking.  We were using ‘wrist bands’ at the time to help the receivers with routes within a pattern.  It was game one of our season at Lewis & Clark College, and one of our receivers was a fun loving guy who also happened to be an excellent player.  He had played for me in high school as well so I was pretty familiar with his antics.  It was late in the game, fourth quarter I think, and we had just scored a touchdown on a long run.  Suddenly I saw my player running down our sideline with an apposing player chasing him.  Fortunately order was restored quickly, and I had to ask Ted what the heck was going on.  The story was classic Ted.  Coach that guys just asked me what I was looking at on the wrist band, and I told him that it simply said on this play I’m going to kick your ass.  Then as the play developed his defender began chasing the ball carrier, and Ted found time to circle around, and lay the kid out with a beautiful blindside block as our ball carrier reversed field.  I didn’t put him back into the game fearing something stupid might happen.



During my first year as an assistant coach at my alma-mater Lake Oswego High School I was watching basketball practice after our season had long ended.  The coach, Sonny Long, was preparing his team for the state tournament coming up the following week.  He told his players, two of whom were baseball starters, to bring their gloves to practice, and when it was over to do some throwing to get a jump on the season to come.  I had never heard a coach entering a state tournament tell his players to get ready, by practicing even for a second the next sport. I was impressed, and amazed.  It was a practice I was to use for my entire career.  We had a habit of making the playoffs so I had many opportunities.  I always told the hoops guys to don’t be afraid to shoot around before or after football practice.  I know the basketball coach was appreciative just as was the baseball coach for coach Long, those many years ago.  Thank you Sonny for letting me borrow your wisdom!

Ralph Atwood was Luke’s grandfather.  He called me shortly after I had been hired at Mc Nary, and asked if I would join him in a game of golf. I accepted, and thus began a friendship with a wonderful family.  Luke of course played for me in high school and with the Vienna Vikings.  His father, Mark and mother, Mary Gene became great friends as well.  We’ve had some awesome times together both in Keizer and in Europe.  Ralph was a competitor he had started a small glove business years ago, and actually began going door to door selling his gloves.  He built the business over the years into multiple businesses with Mark now running the show, and Luke selling the gloves.  Ralph passed away just over a year ago, but I’ll always remember him for being the ‘Razorback Tough’ guy he was.  Charming and bright he could do whatever was required, and I know it’s where Luke got his playing ‘smarts’.



In my book series I’ve portrayed guys in the shower many times.  You could have  never in a thousand years convinced me that showering after a practice or a game would become obsolete.  Today’s athlete is physically better, and probably more alert mentally as well, and teams just keep getting better.  Not taking a shower after sweating for a couple hours or more?  Why?  Who decided that was OK?  What prude thought it was something to be avoided?  Is it just laziness?  Or are the same kids who dance obscenely, and talk with gutter language in mixed company are afraid to get naked with their teammates.  Really?  I’ll never understand it, and it’s probably a good thing I’m retired.  I’d be know as the hard ass who wanted to watch young boys shower.  I had no hair on my body other than my head until I was a senior in high school, the last to reach puberty in my class. Was I embarrassed?  Yes.  Did I shower?  Yes.  Did it affect me in a negative way?  Hell No!



     I’ve always thought highly of coach Bobby Knight, and I’ve heard him speak a few times at clinics.  I’m a firm believer that you can learn valuable advice from a successful coach in any sport.  Listening to coach Knight talk about shortening practice after mid-season made so much since to me that I began doing that years ago when I was still a young pup coaching, and trying to get better.  Thank you coach Knight!

I see the coaches at every level today with these color-coded huge charts sometimes dangling by a string from their belt.  Disgusting. How many times have I watched a frantic coach trying to find the play to call while flipping his ‘chart’ back and fourth trying to see what he decided on Wednesday night, well past midnight, to do on fourth and forty.  Kick the blank, blank ball you fool.  He’ll figure it out after a time out, probably.

I began calling plays in the sand lot behind the grade school when I was ten years old.  When I entered high school the quarterback called the play, the coach didn’t.  When I went to college, the quarterback called the play, the coach didn’t.  I’ve been calling plays for over sixty years, and I don’t need a chart of any kind to use as a ‘cheat sheet’ to tell me what to call.  I’ve been asked a thousand times by other coaches, friends, players, parents and the media, “Why did you call that play?”  My answer has always been, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

About defeat, it’s never fun.  But it is life.  No one goes through life with facing some adversity somewhere.  This is something I heard a long time ago and I use it whenever I’m discouraged.


“A persons character isn’t determined by how he enjoys victory, but how he endures defeat.”

%d bloggers like this: