By Steve Svetovich
He is a legend beyond measure in Dunmore, and And with 444 high school football wins under his belt, second most ever to George Curry, the legend will now be rooting for the Dunmore Bucks from his Peckville home.
It was a moment everyone knew would come for Jack Henzes someday, but not this way.
The Dunmore football coaching icon announced Thurday, April 25, he was stepping down as head coach of the Dunmore Bucks, effective at the end of the month.
He cited health issues following an illness and recent heart procedure. He simply could not go on.
In 52 seasons as a head football coach, including 48 at Dunmore and his first four at Wyoming Area, Henzes compiled a 444-164-8 record. Curry won 455 games at Lake Lehman, Wyoming Valley West and Berwick.
Henzes called it “a difficult decision” he made “for the good of the program and the next head coach. It had to be done so they could get back to work.”
Henzes did not coach from the sidelines in 2018 while he recovered from heart surgery. He called Dunmore a wonderful community, with a great school system and administration. He said he would miss the camaraderie and competition, but mostly the kids.
Kevin McHale served as acting/interim head coach last season at Dunmore. He played for and coached under coach Henzes. He remains the acting coach at present.
“Although coach Henzes has been super successful as a football coach,” McHale said to The Dunmorean, “all of those wins pale in comparison to what kind of effect he had on students, teachers, coaches and the community.
“There are no words to describe the effect and influence coach Henzes had on student athletes who were in his classroom or the teams he coached. The number of student athletes that benefitted from his life lessons in the classroom and on the football field are nothing short of amazing. And to think many people then passed those lessons down to their children and grandchildren is a very special thing.
“He was a teacher who believed in doing things the right way. He often talked about taking pride in yourself, your team, your school and your community. Those have always been some of his core fundamentals.
“The way you conducted yourself, taking care of the locker room, everyone wearing the same socks, those things were more important than any plays or drills we ever did for coach.”
Former Dunmore Councilman Paul Nardozzi, currently running for Dunmore School Board, called coach Henzes “the driving force behind God, family and the Dunmore Bucks.
“Coach Henzes is Dunmore Bucks football.
“Coach molded many men into what they are today. He was the ultimate coach, teacher, friend and a man everyone looked up to. He cared and took pride in his players’ academic progress as well as their on the field performance.”
Former Dunmore Mayor Patrick “Nibs” Loughney called coach Henzes “truly a gentleman, first and foremost.
“He is a great family man and devoted to his faith. Coach had a great influence not only on his players, but on many students.
“Thank you, coach Henzes. Enjoy your family.”
Coach Henzes introduction to football began at an early age. He played quarterback for his dad, John “Papa Bear” Henzes, another high school coaching legend, for the Blakely Bears.
Following his graduation from George Washington University, Henzes served as an assistant coach under his dad at Blakely before accepting his first head coaching position in 1966 at Wyoming Area High School.
After going 30-12 in four years at Wyoming Area, he took a year off before taking over at Dunmore in 1971 where he has been a constant until stepping down last month due to health issues at 83.
A deeply religious man, he guided his players both on and off the field throughout the years.
Henzes helped elevate Dunmore’s status with a run to a PIAA Class 1A title in 1989.
He led Dunmore to a 42-6 win over Scranton Prep in 2000 to pass his legendary dad on the all-time wins list.
He led Dunmore to state title games in 2012 and 2014.
In 2016, he led Dunmore to a perfect regular season and a third straight District 2 Class 2A title.
In 2017, Henzes led Dunmore to a school record winning its first 14 games and won its fourth straight District 2 Class 2A title to push its regular season winning streak to a conference record 29 straight games.
The wins, district titles and run to state finals are too numerous to mention during his 48 years at Dunmore. But there is one common thread that comes from every player who played for him.
And that was that he didn’t just teach his players about football, he taught them about life and being a responsible, good human being.
That came from every single player this scribe interviewed for The Dunmorean during the past three decades for this newspaper and a previous eight years covering him.
And that really says it all about a true Dunmore legend.