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Glory days

Wilson sees 46-year-old West Branch record broken

October 26, 2012
By RON FIRTH - Journal Sports Editor , Morning Journal News

LISBON - Lisbon assistant football coach Joe Wilson got a call after Friday's game that was a long time coming.

"My brother Jeff called and said, 'I've got some news. It is finally broken broken,'" Wilson said.

West Branch senior Brenden Wells ran for 356 yards on 50 carries in a 35-14 win over top-ranked Marlington to break Wilson's school record of 259 yards set in 1966.

"Records are made to be broken," Wilson said. "They have had a lot of great running backs come through there. To have it 46 years is a lifetime."

The 63-year-old Wilson, who serves on the West Branch Athletic Hall of Fame committee, has never met Wells.

"I just heard through some committee members he's a good kid and a hard worker," Wilson said. "If it's going to be broken, it's good to be broken by a kid like that."

After getting the news Friday night, it was back to work for Wilson.

"Saturday morning he mentioned it," Lisbon head coach Jim Tsilimos said. "I've had people from West Branch tell me how good of a running back he was. And they've had some outstanding offensive teams."

Wilson was back coaching Lisbon's running backs and defensive ends at practice Monday with his old record going unnoticed.

"I knew he played, but I never knew he had a record," Lisbon senior running back Zak Leko said. "I could believe it. I heard from one of my teachers who played with him how good he was."

Wilson was one of the first gridiron stars for newly-formed West Branch High School. His career rushing record lasted for three decades.

He ran for 964 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior and then 1,246 yards and 13 touchdowns in eight games as a senior. Those numbers came when opponents knew the Warriors were going to run as West Branch averaged less than nine passes a game.

"That's a lot yards for a fullback," Lisbon junior running back Brandon Barnes said.

Wilson said today's game is more specialized than when he played fullback, defensive back, punter and kick returner for West Branch.

"If you see me walk, you know it's better," Wilson said. "I've got two bad knees."

He doesn't like talking about his playing days because he said the focus should be on his players.

"I try not to tell them," Wilson said. "These kids work hard. We're going to do something this year - I believe we will have two 1,000-yard rushers.

"You know how improved we are this year? It has been fantastic."

Last week, Barnes became Lisbon's first 1,000-yard rusher since Jay Yorty in 2003 and Leko is also nearing the mark heading into Friday's season finale against East Palestine.

The Blue Devils are having one of their best offensive seasons in years, averaging 22.4 points and 248 yards rushing a game, with Wilson enjoying it all.

"He knows what he's talking about," Barnes said. "He's a good coach."

"He's a motivator," Leko said. "He really gets us going when we're slacking."

This is Wilson's fourth season at Lisbon after coaching at Crestview, Leetonia and Sebring.

"He's a volunteer, but he works as hard as any of my contract coaches," Tsilimos said. "He really understands the game. He's here all the time and he coordinates our weight room."

Wilson lives at Guilford Lake and worked as superintendent of the foundry and then the finishing department at Eljer in Salem, retiring in 2005 when the plant closed.

"I've got two grandsons, so I'm not going any place until they are gone," Wilson said. "As long as I can contribute, I will be here."

Whether or not there are any records broken.

"You know what the greatest thing in the world is?" Wilson said. "The kids I coached in Leetonia and Crestview and Sebring and I could be walking in the mall, they come over and say, 'Coach, how are you doing?' That is the best gift."



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