PennDOT and Lackawanna Highway Safety recently presented retired coach Jack Henzes of Dunmore High School with a certificate of appreciation for his 47 years as a driver education instructor. Members of the DHS football team and from SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) were on hand for the presentation.
At left is Michael Taluto, Safety Press Officer from PennDOT, presenting the award to Henzes, at center.
To the left of Taluto is Rebecca Rybak, Northeast Highway Safety Program and Christina Sullivan, Lackawanna County Highway Safety Program, and at right is Eileen Miller, local safety advocate, and a former student of Henzes.
He has huge shoes to fill and he knows it, but the new Dunmore Bucks head football coach learned from the best.
Kevin McHale played football at Dunmore High School under legendary coach Jack Henzes. He then went on to serve for 17 years as an assistant football coach under the now retired football icon.
Coach Henzes retired recently for health reasons. He finished second to George Curry in career high school football wins in the state. He was a constant at Dunmore since 1971 after spending a few years coaching at Wyoming Area.
McHale is honored to be chosen to succeed his mentor.
“It’s just a tremendous honor to succeed Jack Henzes,” he said. “This is a big loss to us. He was extremely knowledgable. We learned from him. We learned about football on and off the field from him. We will miss his presence and leadership. He was a great leader and an example to the kids.
“I am very fortunate to have played under coach Henzes and got to coach under him for 17 years. It is a great benefit while taking over this job.”
All of Dunmore’s assistant coaches either played and/or coached under coach Henzes. Dunmore assistant coaches under McHale include Mike Barrett, Mike DeSando, Jeff Mills, Miller Holmes, Justin Mitchell, Michael Perry, Michael Gardier, Nick Lawler, Mike Moracco, Colin Holmes and Sean Watson.
“We have a great staff of assistant coaches here at Dunmore,” said McHale. “These coaches really work hard to help the kids.”
McHale filled in for Henzes during his illness last season when the Bucks finished 9-4. Dunmore won the district title with a win over Susquehanna. The Bucks lost to West Catholic in the opening round of the state playoffs.
“Our goals this year are simple,” said coach McHale. “We want to reach our full potential as a team. After that, everything just takes care of itself.
“We obviously want to win the league title and the district title. And then we want to go on and win the state title. That is always the goal.”
Key returning players this season include senior quarterback Steve Borgia, senior offensive and defensive lineman Shamus Cadden, senior wide receiver/defensive back Charles Valvano, senior wide receiver/defensive back Tommy Lewis, senior defensive back/running back Rayshawn Dawkins, junior running back/defensive back Christian Buckley, senior offensive and defensive lineman Anthony Golden, senior offensive and defensive lineman Alec Yanisko, senior wide receiver/defensive back Nick Stanko and senior offensive and defensive lineman John Kalinowski.
Other key players will be junior tight end Nick Waters, junior punter/tight end Dominick Temparino, junior kicker Peyton Badyrka, junior tight end Michael Burke, junior fullback/linebacker Karl Kincel and junior tackle Dylan Aquino.
Coach McHale said the quarterback position is in strong hands with senior stalwart Borgia. “He is a great kid, smart, a great student. He’s a great leader on this team. We expect him to have an outstanding season. He has a nice arm.”
Coach McHale said he thinks the Bucks will have a strong running game. “These guys are really prepared and practice very hard. Buckley, Dawkins, Kincel and the rest have the right appetite and preparation to be successful.”
The new head coach expects Dunmore to be strong defensively. “The guys work hard on defense. As we get more into practice, we will evaluate the defense and see who fits in where. We should be very good.”
Coach McHale said he feels good about the kicking and punting game. Borgia, very athletic, serves as a backup punter. “We also have a lot of competition among a kickers.”
Coach McHale said Aquino played a few games last season and then got hurt. “We expect him to come back strong this year and play a key role at wide receiver. He showed some promise last year before he was injured.”
Coach McHale knows he is succeeding a Dunmore legend, but looks forward to the challenges. “Our senior class has prepared hard for the upcoming season. They invested their time to put the work in. We have a very reliable group.
“It is tough to see coach Henzes have to retire due to health issues. But we all learned from him. He is a part of all of us. That only helps us. It’s an asset. This is going to be a solid football team. Our goal is always to win.”
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.