Over the past two seasons, Lincioln-Way West second-year head coach Dave Ernst has led the Warriors to back-to-back Class 5A state quarterfinal appearances, and you'll be hard pressed to find another program building up as much momentum these days than the Warriors. Ernst, who was also a longtime assistant coach at Providence Catholic under Hall of Fame head coach Matt Senffner, talks about the past and the future here.
EDGYTIM: Taking a look back over your coaching career, you have to talk about the time you spent at Providence Catholic (offensive coordinator) and with Senffner. What type of impact has he had on your career and you personally?
Ernst: He's the best human being I know. Everything that he's been through in his life, he knows true suffering with the death of his son and the death of his grandchild while he was still at Providence. Yet he still found a way to stay positive even after those situations and that is still unbelievable to me. He's taught me things about life, about football and I still go to him to this day with any problems and issues. He was a boss but was also a friend. I think I speak for everyone who's ever coached with him and for everyone ego's ever played for him. The stress and the pressure you felt at Providence, whether you were coaching or playing was from not wanting to let him down. I think that's why we always found the extra effort out of the coaches and the players at that place was because of him. Coaches and players came and went at Providence but the standard never died down. It was all because of that man. I don't know where I'd be without Coach Seff and I know I would be a totally different person without him in my life.
EDGYTIM: This past season you had another great run. Lincoln-Way West won its first ever varsity conference football title and got back to the Class 5A quarterfinals. Yet for the second year in a row, you had a heartbreaking, last-second loss to end the season to Sycamore. That was coming off what might of been an even bigger, more heartbreaking loss to Joliet Catholic in 2012. Every coach takes those losses hard and how long did it take you to get over those two losses?
Ernst: I'm still not over the one two years ago. You go back and look at some of those plays and you can't help but second guess yourself. It also makes you wonder what you could of done differently that might of changed the game. And you can always find those things that could have made a difference or you find things you should of worked on in practice. There is always something as a coach you feel you could do differently or do better. Unfortunately in high school football in the state playoffs kids careers end over mistakes you make as a coach. Those are two losses that will stay with me forever.
EDGYTIM: How strange is it being a head coach at a public high school located just a stone's throw away from Providence Catholic now?
Ernst: I still have some friends there (Providence) and we have some heated back and forth at times. They are trying to get kids and we are trying to keep them here. Like I've said before we offer full ride scholarships here at Lincoln-Way West and they don't. Our place is free and it's a great place to be and to get a great education. I think if I can't get kids living in our district to come here than it's my fault. We are getting something going here that more and more people want to be a part of and that's great.