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Zebras have tough football act to follow

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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An 11-1 season in 2009 does not mean Ken Lowe is a great football coach, just as a 1-9 finish in 2008 did not mean he should have cleaned out his office and searched for a new career. Even if he had to clean out his office, it would not take long. It is a glorified closet with not much in it. Coaches are defined by wins and losses, but Lowe knows better than to use his record as a measuring stick. He is 12-10 in two seasons as Lincoln High School’s head coach, so he is not bragging. Lowe does not expect to be presented with a key to the city any time soon. He still has to reach for his wallet when his family goes out to dinner. Success has not prompted his head to balloon. An interview request by the Lincoln News Messenger’s new sports editor made Lowe a bit uncomfortable. He would much rather talk about his team than himself. He does not yearn for attention. As his players lifted weights Monday evening, Lowe made his way in and out of the room with only a few noticing his presence. He might as well have been the custodian for all the players cared. There is much he still has to prove. Last season could have been a fluke or the product of the seniors’ determination after finishing 5-5 as freshmen in 2006, 2-8 as sophomores and 1-9 as juniors. Those seniors have graduated, but Lowe likes to recall their perseverance as an example when he talks to his players about what it will take to be successful in 2010. Hard work is never a fluke. “They have to know it doesn’t come easy,” said Lowe, who described his approach to the team’s offseason workouts “as almost scary.” That offseason commitment is a necessity, athletic director Donna Tofft said, for players and coaches. “The kids can do it on their own, but sometimes they need a kick in the butt,” Tofft said. “I think the biggest change I’ve seen with him is getting the kids involved before the season starts. The offseason is just as important as the regular season.” Count that among the many lessons Lowe learned in 2008. Lowe now admits it was not a wise move to tinker with the offense two years ago. He got away from Don Johnson’s wishbone and switched to the Wing-T. As the only head coach, it was his call. Johnson directed the offense when he and Lowe were co-head coaches for two seasons. As much as Lowe attempted to sell the virtues of the Wing-T to the players, they were not buying it. “I was wondering if they were listening or was the offense too complicated,” he said. “I was walking a fine line. You have to present it as a learning opportunity instead of shoving it down their throats.” The coach is learning that success comes at a price. Lowe and his players paid it with nine losses in 2008. An 11-1 season is the first return on their investment. For Lowe, the dividends are priceless. Lowe might have thought he was ready to take charge two years ago. Now there is no doubt about it.