Lonnie Williams likes to say his King football players have the benefit of 150 years of coaching experience.
It’s no exaggeration. Which is pretty amazing when you consider he’s basically talking about three people.
Williams is 70 years old and in his 44th season as a head coach. He started at Forestville, King’s predecessor school, and has been with the Jaguars since the school opened in 1971.
None of his assistants from last year returned, but not to worry. A couple of Public League coaching icons, Roy Curry and J.W. Smith, have come out of retirement to help him out on a part-time basis.
“They give me some inspiration and encouragement,” Williams said. “I’ve had more help than I ever dreamed I’d have.”
He also had a breakthrough win last Saturday, when the Jaguars beat Aurora Central Catholic 36-6 in a Class 4A opener at Gately Stadium. It was King’s first IHSA playoff win after eight consecutive opening-round losses.
After so long, Williams wasn’t sure if he’d ever break that state jinx.
“I wondered about that a lot of times,” he said. “We have problems getting [past] the first round because of a lot of things.
“They have better programs [in the suburbs] than us overall. They’ve got more coaches than us, they have more money than us.”
And truth be told, this may not even be Williams’ best club. It does have one distinction: “This is the smallest team I’ve ever coached.”
Indeed, the Jaguars have been known for producing big, talented linemen like Jeff Allen, a 6-4, 306-pounder in his second NFL season with the Kansas City Chiefs.
But most of the best players on this squad are at the skill positions, players like quarterback/defensive back Nate Powell, running back/defensive backs Kyle Harris and Lance Robinson.
“He’s going to be a very special player in college and he’s going to play on Sunday,” Williams said of Powell, who passed for three touchdowns and ran for two more against Aurora Central Catholic.
“I’ve been able to ride him this fall. Great quickness and throwing ability. He can hurt you in a lot of ways. He’s kind of the reason why we’re here.”
It hasn’t always been the same story on the line, apart from mainstay Fred Coffee.
“At the beginning of the summer, we had five, six, good dependable kids who were coming [to workouts] every day,” Williams said. “[But] I couldn’t get any of my big guys up front. We didn’t get our linemen into camp; we had a slow start.”
The Jaguars split their first four games, losing to Joliet West and Raby along the way. But they’ve won six straight since, and they’ve shown a knack for winning the close ones (28-26 over Phillips, 28-20 vs. Harlan, 22-21 against Curie).
“They have bought into the fact that they can win,” Williams said.
How many more games can the Jaguars win? Who knows? They’re on the road Friday night at Harvard (10-0) for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
What is certain is in Williams’ mind is that he will call it a career after 45 seasons.
“Next year will be my farewell tour, I’m done,” he said. “I’m doing that because most of these kids are coming back. I only have one senior lineman. …
“I’ve had a powerful, wonderful experience. I’ve lived a powerful dream.”
And he’s hoping to keep the dream alive for a little longer this fall.