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Lansing Catholic’s Jim Ahern named Michigan HS Football Coach of the Year by Lions, Farm Bureau Insurance

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, December 3, 2019, 6:45 pm

Jim Ahern had won a lot of things in his high school football coaching career.

Now, he’s got two new additions to find room for on his mantelpiece. 

Tuesday, Ahern was named the Detroit Lions/Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan High School Football Coach of the Year to add to his accomplishments, two days after winning his first state title in 46 years of coaching. 

When he was first came to Ithaca in 1972, the Yellowjackets were on a 17-game skid, and had gone just 11-36-3 over the previous half-decade. 

Within a dozen years, he had the Yellowjackets in the playoffs for the first time ever in 1984 — a team that featured some senior named Terry Hessbrook, now a Hall of Fame coach at Ithaca in his own right — and on the path to becoming a regional powerhouse.

When he left for Palmetto Ridge (Fla.) in 2004, he’d won 197 games in 32 seasons at Ithaca, earning league coach of the year honors eight times, regional coach of the year honors seven times, and Michigan High School Football Coach of the Year honors once, after his spread-oriented Yellowjackets diced up the MHSAA record book. 

What he hadn’t won, however, was a state title.

Until Saturday, that is.

That’s when his Lansing Catholic Cougars finally broke through that barrier, after the third try under Ahern, bringing home the first state championship for the Hall of Fame coach, and the program’s first since 1985. He’d been at Lansing Catholic 11 seasons, going 104-24 with finals appearances in 2011 and 2014.

The Cougars’ semifinal win was Ahern’s 300th as a coach in Michigan (he was 292-167-6 overall coming into the season, including his Florida years). He was the 11th Michigan football coach to pass the 300-win plateau. 

“All week, we said ‘Let’s get him to 301,’” said Lansing Catholic senior Sam Edwards, who was bummed he wouldn’t be able to play for his coach anymore. “No one deserves this more than him right here. Love him to death.”