Once football gets in your blood, it remains forever.
Pat Lavin can tell you that.
Because he feels it.
He will turn 69 soon, and he is enjoying the game as much as ever in his second tour of duty as head coach at Phoenix Bourgade Catholic.
The Golden Eagles are off to a 4-0 start, and face Glendale High on Friday night (Sept. 27) at the midseason mile marker.
Lavin has been an Arizona coaching fixture for 40 years.
He took over the program at Phoenix St. Mary’s from the legend who coached him there, Ed Doherty, and later coached at Avondale Agua Fria, Phoenix Paradise Valley and Glendale Independence. He also was head coach at Phoenix (junior) College and was an assistant at Northern Arizona University and the University of Minnesota.
He coached at Bourgade for eight seasons and then stepped back for awhile before returning to the sideline, where he is in his third season.
Bourgade was 2-8 in his first season and 4-7 last year.
“There were some struggles,’’ he said. “You have to be disciplined and I think the kids want that, but it can take awhile. Now it is paying off. The sophomores back then are now juniors and seniors and they expect to be successful.’’
In other words, “Expectations Become Behavior.’’ It is written on Lavin’s business card and is a closing thought at the end of his e-mails.
“The early success we are experiencing is due mainly to our running game,’’ he said.
“This is the third year of the rebuilding effort and the players are buying into the higher “expectations,’ evidenced by their dedication in the weight room over the past two years.
“My staff and I would open the weight room at 6:30 a.m. and again after school. We constantly had a very good showing, especially by the seniors-to-be.
“In the past, we would have one or two players get into our “1,000’ club. This year, we had 11 make it.’’
Bourgade has the ingredients to grind it out on the ground.
Senior running back Saul Rascon has tied/set school records for the first four games of the season.
He has rushed for 632 yards and 13 touchdowns. He scored five times against Phoenix Cortez and five against Miami.
“Saul would be the first to applaud his line of Johnathan Rodriguez, Brett Young, Anthony Morales, David Saenz, Adan Leon and tight end Jonah Mayers,’’ Lavin said.
Lavin also stresses the importance of family, faith and academics.
“We want them to do well in the classroom and not let their teammates down by possibly failing a course or being ineligible,’’ Lavin said. “Peer pressure and high expectations have motivated all our players to do well in the classroom and continue to be the best they can be, which is on a sign above the locker-room door that they slap as they go out to practice each day.’’
The toughest part of the Golden Eagles’ Division V schedule will come in three of the team’s final four games. There are road games against defending champion Phoenix Northwest Christian and perennial challenger Yuma Catholic, and a home contest against Phoenix Arizona Lutheran, which has been on fire in the early going.
“At that point, we hope to have our running game fine-tuned to help keep the ball away from those explosive teams and shorten the game by running the ball and keeping the clock running,’’ Lavin said. “Two keys are important – stay healthy and develop a high-percentage passing game to keep defenses honest.’’
A veteran like Lavin is capable of getting the job done. The game is in his blood and always will be.