By CHRIS LARICK

Staff Writer

The only varsity head football coach Lakeside High School has ever known has decided to head west.

Not very far west, however - only the six miles or so between the new Lakeside High School and Geneva Junior High School.

Jay Corlew, who has led the Dragons to five Northeastern Conference championships or co-championships in Lakeside's five years of existence, was hired at Geneva on a one-year contract as a junior high physical education and health teacher Wednesday evening. Corlew, 42, will be an assistant football coach under head coach Tony Hassett, working at the junior high school level.

"There was an opportunity here (in Geneva) I felt I wanted to look at," Corlew told Star Beacon reporter Margie Trax Page. "Things in life change and Geneva schools is a good choice for me. It is a big change. I met and worked with a lot of great people at Ashtabula.

That isn't easy to leave. But it isn't like I am moving across the country. I will still be in touch."

One of the things that will change, of course, is that Corlew, a 1981 graduate of Edgewood High School, will be working with younger students. At Lakeside, he was teaching health and physical education to sophomores through seniors. And coaching seventh and eighth graders requires teaching more fundamentals and techniques. High school kids know (or should know) many of the techniques Corlew will now be teaching.

"This is a big change from a coaching standpoint. I am looking forward to the challenge of working with younger kids," he said.

Corlew emphasized that there was no "hidden agenda" in his decision.

"I had a really good conversation with my principal (Jim Candela) the last couple of days. I'm just a guy who needed to take a step back."

During his career at Lakeside, Ashtabula and Ledgemont, Corlew has compiled an overall 79-80 (.497) record. He was 34-55 in nine years at Ledgemont, 9-10 in two years at Ashtabula and 36-15 (.707) in his five years at Lakeside. He took Ledgemont to the Division VI playoffs in 1994 and Lakeside to the Division I state playoffs in 2002. The Redskins' 8-3 record was the school's best until this season, when they went 9-2.

When Corlew took over the Ashtabula job in 1999, the Panthers had gone 1-9 the previous year and had had four head coaches in a four-year span. He went 9-10 in his two years at Ashtabula before the

school consolidated with Harbor in 2001.

"I had a great experience with Ashtabula schools over the last seven years," Corlew said. "I have a special bond with the (Lakeside) players. Leaving those kids is so hard, but I think they understand. It is tough to say goodbye."

Corlew and his family recently built a new home in Harpersfield Township, part of the Geneva Area City School District. He previously lived on Eastlawn Street in Geneva. His children Kylee and Emily attend Austinburg Elementary and son Jason will begin kindergarten next year.

"This was a big decision for me, but I feel I did the right thing." Corlew said. "Life takes you in different directions and, as you get older, your priorities change. Geneva really fits in with those priorities.

"We had a good run. I had a great relationship with our kids. If I wasn't going to coach, I'm better off not being there. I felt this was something that worked out."

Corlew expects the Dragons to do fine regardless of who the new coach turns out to be.

"They have a great group of kids coming back, who will step up. I expect them to do well. I have a special relationship with those players. I talked with them one-on-one. It's all on me, nothing to do with the kids, coaches, parents or administration.

"The booster club was great, good people. I'm fortunate with the support I had. There are a lot of good people over there who made the program what it is. There are some very good football players with fantastic families. I wish everybody the best."

With the resignation of Corlew, along with that of Jefferson coach Jason Root last year, it might seem that there's more pressure on coaches nowadays. Corlew subscribes at least partially to that.

"A lot more is asked of coaches - conditioning, weightlifting, college things (which I really enjoy). I think there's a lot involved.

"I don't think a lot of people coach for money. You coach for the love of the game. Money is not the issue. It's time. You can't take shortcuts when you're coaching."

Staff writer Margie Trax Page contributed to this story.

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