Sports Editor Peter Holland Jr.
Where would the McPherson High School football program be without the guidance of Tom Young? Chances are, the Bullpups might still be in a playoff drought after 18 years.
Young connected the dots to build a winning program, and now his former long-time assistant, now Head Coach Jace Pavlovich brought it to a different level. Pavlovich reunited with the former head coach during the basketball team’s opening night to hand him the Wall of Fame plaque. The two looked back on the growth of the Bullpup football program.
“There were so many positive memories coaching with Coach Young,” Pavlovich said. “He taught me a ton about the game and how to treat players and staff. One memory that sticks out is when we started out 0-2 our first year here. We ended up rattling off six wins that year with four losses. The process of turning a program around is a special one.”
Young heard the news about his induction vis email Head Athletic Director Shane Backhus, of McPherson High School. Young coached the McPherson football team for nine out of 44 years in his coaching career in the state. As shocking as it was to him, he was appreciative of being honored along with the other inductees.
“I was surprised because I think most of the coaches that were up there have won a state championship,” Young said. “All though we were pretty successful during my stay there.”
Young and Pavlovich knew each other for 15 years. When Young was hired to take over as head coach in 2006, Pavlovich had high sets of joining his staff. Young’s son, Jason, had put in a good word for Pavlovich while he was a graduate assistant at Fort Hays State, where Pavlovich played college football. It was nonstop communication between the two on building the football program.
“When he was hired as the head coach there were no assistants,” Pavlovich said. “We lucked out by getting quality people in on the staff. I remember meeting with him multiple times in the summer to iron out a defensive plan.”
Both Young and Pavlovich shared similar traits and personalities. Not only as defensive-minded coaches but also as teachers. They are against yelling at their players or use any kind of vulgar verbiage. However, there were some traits that separate the two.
“Coach (Tom) Young has the ability to see the field,” Pavlovich said. “Most coaches cannot watch all eleven players and diagnose the problem. He can do it.” Coach Young was not a screamer. He rarely raised his voice. He accentuated positive examples while correcting negative ones. He was a players coach.”
The Bullpups made playoff appearances nine seasons during Young’s tenure. Plus he developed the Speed-Power-Strength program during the offseason. Despite not winning a state title in McPherson as he did Hanover High School in 1979, Wellington in 1982 and Derby in 1994, he is 72-25 to add the 343-111 of his coaching career, in which he is third all-time in the state.
“I think we had teams that were consistently competitive,” Young said. “It’s neat that all our teams would make the state finals and stuff, but I can’t say they were always the best teams. There are some teams I thought that didn’t make the playoffs I felt played to their potential, better than some that did make the state finals. You can’t go by win or loss record. If anything, although it’s almost impossible to play at your highest, I think most times we were close to it.”
As the two went their separate ways, their bond remains strong. They remain in communication with one another. After Young retired, he made sure Pavlovich had first dibs on replacing him as head coach. Being his assistant for nine years, Young knew Pavlovich was head-coaching material. Pavlovich picked up where Young left off when he took over as head coach in 2015. Four years, 45 wins and three straight undefeated regular seasons later, all it did was prove Young right.
“I recommended he get the head coaching job,” Young said. “I was really happy for him that he had the head coaching job when I left. He’s proven himself to be a very good selection.”
As for Young, one thing he missed out on during his coaching career was not spending enough time with his family, and that was one piece of advice that he passed to Pavlovich. Now living in Derby with his wife, Sheila, Young is happy to be a full-time family man. A proud grandparent of 11, Young tries to make time for all of his grandchildren’s events regularly. At times he’ll drive down to Dallas, to see Jason, who coaches at Lake Dallas High School and he would consult him about his football gameplans.
“A lot of them are at the age of middle school and high school where they are doing activities and stuff,” Young said. “Almost every night of the week we get to go to something. We can’t go to all of the games for every single grandchild, but a lot of times we get to split up. My wife would go to one and I go to another. I really enjoyed that a lot.”
This will not be the last time Pavlovich hands an award plaque to his former mentor. Pavlovich will be honoring him again as the first recipient of the Kansas Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame class of 2020.
“It was a great feeling to honor him by handing his plaque over,” Pavlovich said. “He is deserving of it.”