Kerry Lane Brings the Winning Culture + Aims to Right the Ship at Pine Tree
Kerry Lane knew coming into the job at Pine Tree that he was taking on not only a challenge, but a process.
He took over a program that has just five winning seasons since 1980, and players on this year's team were but toddlers the last time Pine Tree played a playoff game.
Lane, 32, wasn't even born the last time Pine Tree won seven games in a season.
"I told them when I talked to them about the job is that if all you look at is a short-term plan, you're not looking at the big picture," Lane said. "Structurally you have to change some things to get your players excited about it and get the community excited about it. When you're trying to build something that hasn't been good in a long time, you have to have different goals. I said if I was going to be selected it's an eight-year plan, not a four-year plan. It takes time to build something special."
The move has been an adjustment for Lane, who spent the last four years as the passing game coordinator at Gilmer, where he won a state championship and was on the sidelines for two more. He's also coached at Arp, Gladewater and Waskom -- all programs where they know what it's like to win.
"In this classification and in this area, you're not playing bad football teams. You're playing good athletes and good programs. It takes time to get on that level to compete," Lane said. "I knew it was going to be tough and it's taught me a lot of patience."
But like any other coach, Lane said he was ready for something bigger.
"Anybody who is competitive would be lying if they said if they don't like the challenge of it," he said. "I knew I wanted to be a head coach and I'm from Longview, so those things weighed in on it. What we had at Gilmer was very special and it was a great thing to be a part of, but I wanted to bring that somewhere else. If you're a competitor you're always looking for the next obstacle, the next challenge."
After an 0-6 start, Lane's leadership and patience is starting to pay off -- as well as Lane's leadership as head coach. Pine Tree has won its last two games to even its District 16-5A record to 2-2. The Pirates are currently tied for third in district and could make the postseason with one more win. But Marshall and state-ranked Texas High await, which means Lane's team will face its two toughest challenges of the season.
"The biggest thing right now is they're starting to play for each other instead of for themselves. If you have the losing culture it breeds a little selfishness, but we've been trying really hard to get away from that," Lane said. "Our motto is 'All In' and we're going to do that every year. More important than anything they're learning how to fight for the guy next to them instead of just wearing the same jersey."
Much like his offensive system at Gilmer, Lane has worked to get the ball in the hands of several players at Pine Tree. The Pirates have three players with at least 68 carries on the ground, led by senior running back Maliq Owens (100 carries, 608 yards, six touchdowns) and quarterback Keshon Williams (100 carries, 501 yards, three touchdowns).
Just a sophomore, Williams has thrown for 564 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions this season.
"To me, I believe the best way to get kids to want to play and get them excited about doing it is to spread the ball around. And it makes you harder to defend," Lane said. "It brings a different level of excitement. Offensive football isn't always about the big play, so we want to spread the ball around and keep our defense off the field."
Pine Tree (2-6) is coming off its bye week ready to face two of East Texas' best Class 5A teams. Marshall (5-4), which is on a four-game win streak and boasts one of the area's best players in running back Cam Haller, is up first this Friday night.
The key to win? Keep the ball away from Haller and limit mistakes, Lane said.
"You have to plan a way to stop him or at least slow him down, because no matter what teams do against him he still seems to get his yards," Lane said. "The main thing we have to do is play with relentless effort the whole time. We spent our bye week simulating a real game as much as possible to get ready."