Lucile Vollnogle, wife of Carson High football Coach Gene Vollnogle, uses humor to help her husband stay loose before games.
“A lot of times, I would say, ‘Good luck--you’re going to need it,” she said. “And I’ve always said, ‘You have permission to run up the score.’
“But most times I don’t say anything.”
“He gets so nervous about everything,” she said.
Not every game, mind you. Just the big ones.
Friday night is a big one. In the final game of Vollnogle’s 38-year career, Carson (11-1) will meet Banning (9-3) in the L.A. City 4-A final at El Camino College. He’ll either go out on top or on the bottom, emotionally speaking.
“He won’t be very happy if he loses to Banning,” Lucile Vollnogle said. “I know Gene hates to lose. He was a bear after the Eisenhower game (a 29-20 loss on Sept. 28). We’re so used to winning, it makes him feel real bad.”
Lucile, married for 39 years to the winningest coach in state history, has been there through it all:
The nine City championships.
The heartbreaking losses to Banning.
The 19 league titles.
The upset loss to Dorsey in last year’s 4-A final.
The 55-7 victory over Banning in the 1988 final.
“It would have been nice if he had retired after we killed Banning,” she said of Carson’s walkover two years ago.
Lucile fears it could be a different story Friday night.
“Banning is real good with that No. 5 (tailback Travis Davis),” she said. “Hopefully, it doesn’t rain Friday night. But you never know what’s going to happen. We haven’t had good luck when we’ve beaten a team early in the season and had to play them again.”
Carson routed Banning, 41-14, on Oct. 12. In nine previous meetings between the rivals in the City final, the team that lost the regular-season game has come back to win the title six times. Banning has turned the trick four times.
Lucile said those things used to bother her husband more than they do now.
“Years ago, when he was young, he would go out at 3 or 4 in the morning and ride his bike because he couldn’t sleep before a game,” she said. “Now he seems to be able to sleep pretty good before a game.”
Of course, the Vollnogles will sleep a lot better if Carson wins Friday.
“It would be a nice way to go out,” she said.
Unless she was kidding, Mrs. Vollnogle said she isn’t looking forward to her husband’s retirement.
“I can’t stand him being home during the summer,” she said. “He drives me nuts and I drive him nuts. My daughter-in-law said, ‘I can see you two leading to a divorce.’ ”
She thinks Gene, 60, will find a coaching job.
“He would like to keep coaching,” she said. “But he can’t stand teaching the kids anymore. The kids are really getting bad. No discipline.”
Following are some of Vollnogle’s coaching achievements:
His teams at Banning and Carson have averaged eight victories per season.
His Carson teams have won at least 10 games for 10 consecutive seasons.
Carson has reached the playoffs for 20 consecutive seasons.
In his 28 years at Carson, 362 Colt players have been named to all-league teams, an average of 13 per season.
Carson has had 160 All-City players, an average of six per season.
His Carson teams have beaten opponents by an average score of 30-12.
His career varsity record of 288-73-1 is the best in state history.
Speaking of milestones, Chadwick basketball Coach Tom Maier celebrated the 300th victory of his successful career last week.
If it rains Friday night, look for Banning, a running team, to have an advantage over Carson, a passing team.
According to Allen Wallace, editor and publisher of Super Prep Magazine, Serra running back-defensive back Jerald Henry has given a verbal commitment to USC, and Carson quarterback John Walsh favors Miami.
South Bay’s Football Top 10
Selected by Times Sportswriters
Rank, School, League Record 1 Carson (Pacific) 11-1 2 Banning (Pacific) 9-3 3 Serra (Camino Real) 10-1 4 Hawthorne (Bay) 10-3 5 Morningside (Ocean) 10-3 6 Leuzinger (Bay) 8-4 7 Palos Verdes (Ocean) 8-6 8 Torrance (Pioneer) 8-4 9 West Torrance (Pioneer) 9-3 10 Mira Costa (Ocean) 6-5-1