NEW CASTLE —
Jerry Holzhauser has called it a career.
Holzhauser, 59, announced his retirement after 37 years of coaching for the Spartans, including the last nine as the team’s head coach.
“I had 37 wonderful years at Laurel High School. It has great people, a great community and a great administration,” Holzhauser said. “I’m very grateful to have the opportunity I had. I was blessed with being around some awesome coaches. It was just so exciting to be around the kids I was around for some many years. They were fantastic individuals. The relationships I had with them over the years was priceless.”
Holzhauser is a former Shenango High football and baseball star who went on to play football at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He taught 12th-grade social studies at Laurel for 35 years until he retired from teaching in 2010.
The Spartans compiled a 54-35 record after Holzhauser became the head coach in 2004, including five trips to the WPIAL playoffs. In 2009, Laurel finished 10-2 and reached the WPIAL Class AA semifinals. The season also is notable for a 15-8 win against Clairton, the last time the Bears lost en route to their current 58-game win streak. The Spartans were 4-4 in the Big Seven Conference, 5-4 overall this season.
Holzhauser worked as an assistant coach under coaching legend George Miles for 28 years prior to taking the head coaching job. Miles ran the Laurel program for 32 years and tallied 212 wins prior to retiring after the 2003 season. During that time, Laurel won its only WPIAL title in 1980, a 14-12 decision over Clairton.
“There are too many great moments,” Holzhauser said. “The WPIAL championship in 1980 was pretty big. Every time I was on the field was exciting for me. It’s an awesome occupation. I’ll miss that part. I’ll miss the kids the most though. Every one of them is a little different. They’re hilarious. It’s a great experience that I got to know so many great players.”
When Holzhauser was promoted to head coach in 2004, he handed assistant coaching duties to his son, Jake.
“One thing not too many fathers get to do is work with their son,” Holzhauser said. “My son was an assistant coach for me and that was pretty special.”
Holzhauser, who also spent 15 years as a baseball coach at Laurel, winning three Tri-County titles as head baseball coach from 1980-86, began his football coaching career as an assistant with Laurel in 1976. On that team was a player named Randy Clem. As a testament to his coaching longevity, this season Holzhauser coached Randy’s son, Cody.
“Every day you go out onto a practice field is different,” Holzhauser said. “There is something always new and vibrant about kids. Every day there’s something that’s stimulating that I don’t think you get in any other professions. Kids are just so stimulating to a person to watch them grow as young people. The rewards are great that last a lifetime. It’s a tough sport that only certain kids are able to deal with.”
With his coaching career behind him, Holzhauser is looking to take the next step in life.
“I plan on relaxing and traveling. It’s an opportunity to see family and friends,” Holzhauser said. “I love going places, so I’ll do that. I like hunting, fishing and traveling. It was just another step. I’m still capable of doing other things. I just wanted to take another step in doing those things.”
Despite no longer being part of the team, Holzhauser has no plans of leaving the community he has been a part of for so long.
“Over the years there have been so many awesome kids I had the privilege of coaching. I don’t remember a problem. That’s a tribute to the kind of parents out at Laurel raising their kids,” he said “It’s a coach’s dream to be there. I’ll be watching Laurel football, keeping an eye on them, even when I’m not out there.”