2012-12-26 / Sports

VanDerMaas steps down as C-L coach

BY DALE BALL
Sports Editor


Jason VanDerMaas (left), former Cros-Lex head football coach, and Chris Zielinski, a longtime varsity assistant and new Pioneers head coach, accept the Thumb Sportswriters Association trophy for 11-Man Football Team of the Year. VanDerMaas, following a very successful 10-year career at C-L, including a 9-0 regular season this past fall, recently resigned. Then, just last week, Zielinski was hired as the program's new head coach. 
Photo by Dale Ball Jason VanDerMaas (left), former Cros-Lex head football coach, and Chris Zielinski, a longtime varsity assistant and new Pioneers head coach, accept the Thumb Sportswriters Association trophy for 11-Man Football Team of the Year. VanDerMaas, following a very successful 10-year career at C-L, including a 9-0 regular season this past fall, recently resigned. Then, just last week, Zielinski was hired as the program's new head coach. Photo by Dale Ball CROSWELL – When the Cros-Lex Pioneers saw their historic football season end prematurely with a loss to Saginaw Swan Valley in the Division 4 regional finals, the public did not know it was the end of the line for Coach Jason VanDerMaas.

The former Pioneer star quarterback, who went on to have a successful four-year career at Alma College, came back to his alma mater and built the football program into one of the best in the Thumb and Blue Water areas.

VanDerMaas recently turned in his resignation as head coach at C-L in order to turn all of his attention to family.

"I love Cros-Lex, but I have a responsibility to my family," remarked VanDerMaas. He and his wife, Jennifer, are raising three young daughters - Emmaline (8), Delaney (4), and Meely (2).

"It's very difficult (to balance both)," he added. "The girls are getting older and I'm missing out on a lot of things .... and it's not fair to them. I probably could have (coached) a couple of more years, but this is what had to happen."

Before leaving his position as high school principal at Cros-Lex last year to be a sales rep for Jostens, which provides graduation products for high schools and colleges, and more, VanDerMaas and his family had moved to Goodrich. His wife teaches in the Flushing school district and he was coaching and teaching at Flint Carmen-Ainsworth during the 2007-08 season.

VanDerMaas added that he feels even more comfortable about his decision now that Cros-Lex has hired Chris Zielinski, his longtime assistant, to replace him as head coach.

"It's very tough (leaving Cros-Lex). I care a lot about those kids," VanDerMaas said. "But, the way this has transitioned, with Chris taking over, and how the administration has handled it, it's all best for the team."

In his 10 years with the Pioneers, VanDerMaas, a 1995 grad of Cros-Lex, turned in a 81-28 record. He opened with a team that went 5-4 in 2002 and never had a losing record. His teams have won seven BWAC championships in the last eight seasons (C-L had a losing mark in 2007 when VanDerMaas left for for Carmen-Ainsworth). From, 2008 until now, the Pioneers have won five straight BWAC crowns. After back-to-back unbeaten league seasons these past two falls, Cros-Lex has a 16-game winning streak in BWAC play. This past year, the team set a school record with 11 wins and only lost to Swan Valley.

Coming back to Cros- Lex in 2002 as a coach, and having that success, has been very fulfilling for VanDerMaas. He added that the success was not all about what he did.

"We won league every year since coming back (in 2008), but that just showed that we have a great staff here," shared VanDerMaas. "I can't say enough about all the players, the community and the staff. With the staff I've had, we've built this into a football school. I didn't do that on my own.

"With the youth program going on and with my assistants here, (Cros-Lex) will continue to have success," VanDerMaas added.

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