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Kirby leaving as coach of Cougars

June 18, 2003|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

Jay Kirby had heard the rumors in the past and ignored them. Last week, he went out on his own terms.

The Jefferson High football coach tendered his resignation last Friday, ending his sometimes rocky 18-year tenure on the Cougars' sideline.

Kirby compiled a 68-113-1 record as head coach - only the third coach in the 31-year history of the school.

After a 1-9 season his first year, the Cougars improved to 5-5 the next season before earning their first state playoff berth in 1987.

"We got better those first couple of years, then had a run where we were pretty consistently good," Kirby said.

Jefferson posted winning records four of the next five years and made the playoffs in 1991 and 1992, but the program saw a reversal of fortune after that.

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The Cougars have had 10 straight losing seasons, tied with Waynesboro for the longest such streak in the area. The losing led to annual whispers that Kirby was on his way out at Jefferson.

"I had never thought about leaving before this year," Kirby said. "I knew the rumblings and heard them from different people. I just got to the point this year where I had had enough (of coaching)."

Kirby said reports of a petition to have him removed from the position last November were only reports.

"I never got to see the petition, and when I called the superintendent to ask for a copy of the petition, he said he did not have it," Kirby said. "So, to my mind, it was a supposed petition."

Kirby said he is most proud of the kids who came through the program during his time as head coach, including two who played in the National Football League.

James Jett played for the Oakland Raiders and signed a free agent contract with the Buffalo Bills last week. He was an Olympic gold medalist and his widely considered one of the best athletes ever from the Tri-State area.

Derrick Smith was an All-American at Virginia Tech and spent two seasons with the Washington Redskins. He is now a member of the Houston Texans scouting department.

"We've had several other kids that have done well academically, gone to West Point and the Naval Academy and a lot have gone to play at small schools," Kirby said.

Though he won't be preparing for summer practices, Kirby is keeping busy. He's taking administrative classes in order to qualify for an athletic director's position in the future and teaching summer school.

"I've still got a lot going on," Kirby said. "But I'll get to spend more time with my wife and hopefully get to see the kids some."

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