It will finally happen.
In the 29th season of his storied head coaching career, Southern Columbia's Jim Roth will coach against one of his ex-players tonight when former Tigers star fullback Jay Drumheller brings his undefeated Muncy Indians to Tiger Stadium to take on his undefeated alma mater.
Roth has coached against teams that had former players as assistant coaches -- in fact another former Tiger, lineman Mark Kreisher, a 1999 graduate, is Muncy's offensive line coach.
Drumheller ran for 4,111 yards, still fourth-best in school history (his 42 touchdowns rank sixth), culminating in the 1983 season when the senior helped the Tigers win the first major football championship for a school that just a few years prior had considered dropping the sport in favor of soccer.
Roth said, "It's nice to see guys go on and get involved in coaching. When people ask me, because of all the years I've been doing this, what the difference is today compared to years ago, I say there are fewer and fewer kids that are highly committed to the sport and become very dedicated and have that heart and desire that propels them to go on and play at the next level and maybe get involved in coaching.
"It is nice to see (the Indians) having success. Obviously they are doing well this year at 4-0."
Drumheller spent two years at Shikellamy -- one with the junior high and one with the varsity under head coach Larry Richardson -- before moving on to Muncy. There he was an assistant for head coach Bob Wolfe for two years, then 16 more with head coach Scott McLean. Drumheller moved up to the head coach position last year after McLean retired.
"This is a homecoming for me. It is neat coming back and seeing people I know." He said in his previous visits (as an assistant), people came up to him and welcomed him back, but smiled and told him they would not be rooting for him.
Drumheller is glad that the Tigers have continued to flourish under Roth. He recalled that as a freshman, the Tigers went winless; in his sophomore year, they didn't score a point until they won in Week 5 to end a 26-game losing streak.
"After that, things came around," he said, noting that some great athletes came through, including Greg Halladay, Bill Freeman and John Fulmer.
He said that what really turned around the program was Roth's implementation of weight training.
The Tigers went 4-5-1 his sophomore season, 9-3 the next and then won the EC title at 12-1 in 1983.
Not only was the future Tigers head coach the defensive coordinator (Roth became head coach in 1984), Drumheller recalled that, in the days before the advent of full-time athletic trainers, Roth also served in that capacity.
"He was taping and taking care of injuries; he spent a lot of time working on shoulders, bruises. I can remember being in various rooms and he'd be down there in a T-shirt taping everyone. He took care of the medical aspects. He did a good job of rehabbing kids, taking care of ankles for me. He kept my body good enough that I could play from week to week," Drumheller said.
Drumheller said the most important thing he learned from Roth that carries with him was his demand for mental toughness.
In a related side note, I pointed out in a recent column that, during its game with visiting Mount Carmel, Southern honored its 1983 EC championship team. In fact, it was the 1988 EC champs, the first and only EC title won by Roth as a head coach.
ANOTHER REUNION: In addition to the renewal of acquaintances in Elysburg, another reunion is set for Friday night at newly dedicated Glenn Ressler Field at Eagle Stadium. There, former Line Mountain lineman and head coach Todd Rothermel, the first-year head coach at Newport, will take on the Eagles, led by first-year head coach Rodney Knock. The latter was Rothermel's quarterback in his first season at the helm in Mandata, the fall of 2005.
Knock said, "When I saw Todd got the job, I was happy. He's a real good coach and he knows his stuff. He is going to have his kids prepared and he is a real good guy overall."
"When I first came here and started coaching with all the coaches who coached me in high school, it was a little bit of a transition period. You looked at them as coaches and now you're a colleague. It is different."
Rothermel joked this week. "It makes me feel old."
He said, "Rodney is a very serious young man, he always was serious, and I'm proud of him that he got into coaching. We need good coaches to mold our kids of today. I think it's great that he's down there."
He had nothing but praise for the Eagles' staff, many of whom he either coached as players or coached with on the staff. Among his former Eagle players are current staff members Ryan Feger, Brian Wetzel and Bryan Martz.
He said the thing he loved about coaching at his alma mater was the stability of the staff.
"We always had a group of guys who understood what needed to be done. Generally when they met to plan for games, there were not any questions when they were leaving the meeting because they had all done it for all those years," he said.
n Assistant sports editor Harold Raker covers high school football for The Daily Item. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.