For Grubb, the beat goes on

Boys lacrosse: John Grubb is the only coach in the North Harford program's history, and come Wednesday, he shoots for career win No. 250.

High Schools

April 20, 2003|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

John Grubb's has several explanations for his longevity as North Harford's boys' lacrosse coach.

But if you're looking for the foremost reason Grubb has been on the Hawks' sideline for the past 26 seasons, your answer may lie in a feeling that Grubb gets shortly after the advent of a new year.

"My stomach starts turning by the middle of January," said Grubb, an earth science teacher at North Harford middle school and a teacher in Harford County for 33 years. "It makes teaching fun because you get into the spring and everything is getting a little mundane and I have every day to look forward to practice. You work with such good kids. If these kids were fools, I wouldn't be around long.

"I fell in love with this game in the ninth grade, and it's just in my blood."

Grubb, an All-American defenseman at Towson State and a member of its Athletic Hall of Fame, was hand-picked to be the first coach at North Harford in 1977, and he has been the only coach the program has ever known.

There's a good reason for that.

Grubb's teams have won 249 games - he will go for his 250th win Wednesday night against C. Milton Wright - two state championships, seven regional championships and 11 county championships. A fiery coach who stresses fundamentals, hard work and discipline, Grubb has gained the respect of his players and his opponents and has always been an advocate for the game.

"He knows a lot about the game," said midfielder Mark Kamyszek. "Throughout my four years here, he's worked with me a lot."

Added his son Todd Grubb, the coach of the Hawks' JV team: "Having him here is like having access to a wealth of knowledge whenever I need it."

John Grubb started playing when he was in ninth grade at McDonogh, where he was on the varsity team for three seasons. He earned a scholarship to Towson State and his career peaked in 1969 as a third-team All-American.

Looking to get lacrosse started in Harford County, Al Cesky, the county's director of intercollegiate athletics, recruited Grubb, who was in the military for a couple of years after graduating , as a coach in the county. Grubb wound up at North Harford and won just seven games in his first three seasons, including an 0-12 campaign in 1979.

But from 1980 to 2000, Grubb's Hawks won 11 county championships and did not have a losing season.

The high point was in 1990 when North Harford went 14-1 and won its first Class 1A-2A crown.

"Just getting that far was just unbelievable," Grubb said. "It was like a blur, one big game after another and very little time to prepare. You're living on talent and we were fortunate enough to have a little bit of talent in those years. ... Yeah, the '90s have been very good to us."

Again in '95, the Hawks captured the Class 1A-2A title, beating South River, 12-5. For Grubb, it was equally as special as the first state title, as his son, Todd, was on the team for this one.

"I guess he believed in the success of the team and pushed and drove to get us there," said Todd Grubb, 25. "Playing for him was a lot harder then than it is now. He has gotten a little softer. Back then, some days he would be like a drill sergeant and you'd go out there and wonder what we were getting into."

Known for his intense and emotional style, John Grubb acknowledged he has toned it down a bit.

"As you get older, you mellow out a little bit," said Grubb, 55. "You really have to change with the times. These kids these days, they respond a little better - at least this team does - when you're not some dictator."

Junior attackman Nick Mezzanotte, the team's leading scorer, said that it looks like Grubb is having much more fun this year. "He never yells really, he just corrects you. He's very laid back," he said.

North Harford hasn't given Grubb much to fret over.

The Hawks' 7-0 record (3-0 in the county) marks the best start in program history. Ranked 15th, a North Harford win Wednesday would give it the inside track to the county title.

Grubb said that this year's team, led by an athletic defense, reminds him a lot of the two state-title teams in the 1990s.

"This is one of our special teams," said Grubb. "They're molding together well and they believe in what they're doing, and that's really important this time of the year that you come together like that."

Another county title would just add to Grubb's legacy.

"You think about retiring, but I've always said that two things should detail when I hang it up," he said. "Number one, when I don't get out of my kids what I should get out of them and number two, if I reach a position where I don't identify with teen-agers anymore. I hope then I'm smart enough to get out.

"This game has been very good to me, and it's nice that I can give a little bit back," added Grubb. "You know, I don't know what a spring would be without having a lacrosse team."

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