GENESEO — Football has seemingly become a new kids game with young coaches, a fast-paced and wide-open brand and playing in a video-game style.
Well, that's not always the case.
Look about 20 miles southeast of the Quad-Cities and you will find it done the way it has always been done, with coaches who have been there a while.
And when we say "there a while" we mean it at Geneseo. Larry Johnsen Jr. played as a Maple Leaf, was an assistant coach for several seasons and is now in his 16th season as the head coach.
But he is far from being the elder statesman of the staff.
His father, 74-year-old Larry Johnsen, started coaching at Geneseo 52 seasons ago. He works with the offensive line. Standing beside him as the running backs coach is 72-year-old Denny Diericx, who started coaching at Geneseo in 1983 as an assistant to the senior Johnsen.
Both Johnsen and Diericx had tremendous careers as head coaches. Johnsen led the Leafs from 1979-86, piling up a 77-14 record, a second-place finish in 1981 and a state title in 1982. Diericx led the team from 1994-2003 with a 120-30 record and second-place finishes in 1992 and '93.
"I worked under Larry Sr. and then Vic Boblett. I learned so much," Diericx said. "I always wanted to be the Geneseo head coach. Vic got it over me, and then I got it when Vic left for Rock Island."
Both Johnsen and Diericx left Geneseo but never left the game. Johnsen went to Augustana and was an assistant there for 20 seasons under former Geneseo coach Bob Reade and others.
Diericx was an assistant at Beloit College for 10 seasons and then at Rockton Hononegah. In both situations he was asked to put in the Augustana/Geneseo Wing-T offense.
Both never lost their love for Geneseo, and both came back to coach under Larry Jr.
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"I came back in 2007 and the first thing that had to happen was finding out if Larry and I could work together," the elder Johnsen said. "We felt it would work, and once I walked back onto the field that feeling was still there."
Diericx plans to retire at the end of this season so he and his wife can travel and watch his grandson play football in the Chicagoland area. But he had to get one thing done before he could leave.
"I always tried to get my principal, Ted McAvoy, and my athletic direct, Del Nicklaus, to get us in the Western Big Six. I was set that I wanted to be in the Western Big Six just once, and I finally get it this year."
Both veteran coaches walk with the same pep in their step — maybe not as quickly as they used to — when they are on the Bob Reade Field turf and they love what they are doing. And, of course with the Maple Leafs still running the Wing-T, they have a pretty good idea of what they expect to see every day.
"It is basically the same offense as the one Bob (Reade) put in," Johnsen said. "But the real thing that keeps this program going is the coaches still approach the game the same way we have from the start. The coaches work together as a team, and everything we do is about making kids better players and better people."
What Larry Johnsen Jr. likes the most is the way Diericx and Johnsen Sr. approach the players. It was be easy for 15-, 16-, 17- and 18-year-old players to laugh off a couple of grizzled veterans. Instead, the players take in every word they hear from both coaches.
"I think they have seen us on the sidelines or for a lot of them their parents played for one or both of us," Johnsen said. "When Bob came here the first thing he said was if the community gets involved we will be really good. He did the same at Augie. This community and this football program is about relationships."
Diericx did not grow up in Geneseo, but he bleeds green and gold.
"It has been a privilege to coach here," he said. "For 27 years it has been great. The kids buy in every year. Larry and I only get to see them for six months, so that is a challenge, but as soon as we start up in June, we get to know the new ones and the older ones always have a smile."
Johnsen will leave when he is good and ready, noting he and his wife do want to do some fall traveling in the near future. Meanwhile, Diericx will leave after this fall with only one regret.
"Oh yeah, I still think about those two second-place finishes," he said. "Those two and the two-overtime loss to Chatham-Glenwood in the 1998 semifinals. We could have won three of them, but I can leave satisfied with what we did."