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Friday, August 5, 2016

The "Gene Kruis Get His Due" Story

High School Yearbook photo of Gene Kruis
It was an ordinary day.  Reading the sports section of our local newspaper and there he was, once again.  Legendary Manheim Township football coach Gene Kruis is finally going to be honored by having the football field named after him.  It was back on Thursday, December 17 of last year that I wrote a story about Gene's death at the age of 90.  When I was a student at Manheim Township High School in nearby Neffsville, PA, Gene was a history teacher and football coach.  During my senior year Gene led the football team to an undefeated 10-0 season.  I had played football as a freshmen, but decided I needed a car and a part-time job more than I needed high school sports, so I was not on that team, but still went to all the games and cheered for my friends.  My brother, Steve, was the punter for the team when they won a county title.  Then five years later, after returning to MTHS as a teacher and coach, I got to know Gene as a colleague.  
Head Coach Kruis
By then he was teaching Driver Education as well as still coaching.  During Gene's coaching career he won 8 championships with four undefeated seasons.  He had 19 consecutive winning seasons.  His record at MTHS was 142-55-5 and combined with his coaching career at nearby Lancaster Catholic High School, Gene's record was 180-74-5 over 26 seasons.  He was compared by many to John McKay and Vince Lombardi in that he loved the ground game.  Gene was enshrined in just about every local hall of fame as well as a few state-wide hall of fames.  Township now honors it best football player each year with the Gene Kruis Most Valuable Player Award.  Gene was a tough coach and he expected you to play your best and play to your potential.  Many players, after finishing their senior season, said that Gene became a lifelong friend.  Wasn't long ago that Gene would attend the retired teacher's monthly breakfasts and I would have a chance to talk with him.  While we taught together at MTHS, I coached one year of freshman football for him and then spent a few years in the pressbox helping with the broadcasts of the weekly games.  For years I printed the home game programs.  
Gene as a lineman for St. Francis College.
Gene was famous for listing the weights and heights of his players as pounds and inches less than they really were.  Always wanted an edge on the opponent by making them think he had a small and lightweight team.  Well, finally in March of this year the Manheim Township School Board approved a motion to name the football field in honor of Gene Kruis.  On September 9, Township's first home game of this coming season, the field will be named as "Kruis Field at Memorial Stadium."  Seems that back in the early 2000's someone had submitted a request to have the field named in Gene's honor, but some political bickering nixed the idea.  Finally, it has been done.  Just too bad that Gene isn't alive to realize the honor.  Gonna be neat to see the sign over the stadium entrance declaring it Kruis Field.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

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