Byler steps down as head coach

ERATH - Jacob Byler leaned back in his chair Thursday and looked over

22 years of memories.

It is never easy to say good-bye, especially after spending more than

two decades in one place. But that is what Byler is doing. After

Friday's season finale, Byler stepped down as head football coach at

Erath High School, where he has coached since 1987.

"I just felt it was time to get out," said Byler. "It's time to relax."

Byler was doing just that as he sat in his office the day before his

final game. Pictures, scrapbooks and signed footballs are just some of

the things Byler will take with him from Erath High. Byler has had

some time to reflect.

"I have done that since the beginning of the year," said Byler. "It

has been a good ride. I have had some good kids to work with and good

people to meet.

"It's been one of the better places and I have a lot of memories."

Byler said his first playoff team in 1990 stands out.

"They were eighth graders when I started in January of 1987," said

Byler. "They were going to be freshmen that August, so I met with

them.

"I told them they were going to be my first playoff team and they were."

The 1998 Bobcats are another team Byler holds close to his heart. That

is the team that brought Byler his lone district title at Erath.

"That one was special," said Byler, who had teams finish runner-up to

district in 1991 and 2007.

In all, Byler finished his time at Erath with an overall record of

113-117. He is Erath's longest tenured (22 seasons) and winningest

coach. Willie Lutgring, who coached Erath from 1953 to 1971, won 101

games in 19 seasons.

Byler reached the playoffs 10 times, also tops at the school, ahead of

Lutgring's four appearances. Byler collected nine winning seasons,

trailing Lutgring's 10. For Byler, though, his time at Erath was more

than numbers.

"This has been a special place for me," said Byler.

For one thing, Byler's time at Erath allowed him the opportunity to

work with his son Tommy, who served as an assistant coach.

"Having Tommy here was a pleasure," said Byler.

The younger Byler enjoyed the chance to work with his father.

"It was a unique situation," said Tommy Byler. "It is one that I will

definitely cherish."

Tommy Byler is not the only young coach on whom Byler had an affect.

Current Erath assistant coach and Erath alumnus Kerry Richard played

for Byler.

"He has been a big influence on my life," said Richard. "He has been

that for a lot of people."

Byler said he plans one remaining an influence on people, a few in particular.

"I want to spend some more time with my grand-kids," said Byler.

Byler said he will also spend time playing golf and fishing.

"I don't plan to just sit at home," he said.

He will remain busy and said he if he does not enjoy retirement, he

will see what else is out there. The grind of more than 40 football

seasons takes its toll. And Byler was not one to ignore the call to

walk away.

"I think it's time for a change," said Byler, "to give somebody else a chance."

Whoever leads the Bobcats in 2008 will have the chance to fill the

shelves in the office with pictures and scrapbooks. For Byler, that is

what has mattered most during the past 22 years.

"There have been some great memories," said Byler.

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