Lakeridge football coach Elvis Akpla announces his resignation
While most high school football teams use the summer to build muscle in the weight room, add precision in passing league and create camaraderie in team camp, Lakeridge High School is using it to say goodbye to former head coach Elvis Akpla and welcome interim head coach Forrest Sherman for the coming 2019 season.
Akpla shared news of his resignation on July 31, reportedly meeting with his players in the morning before releasing a lengthy email explaining his decision to leave the program. In brief, Akpla's future wife was offered an assistant principal position in her home state of Missouri in April. After struggling to decide whether he would stay with the Pacer football team for the 2019 season, Akpla was offered a full-time teaching position in the same district at the end of July and chose to accept.
"It is the first time in my tenure (despite countless events) where I chose my personal life over the football program," Akpla wrote in his email. "I've chosen to establish a strong foundation for my family, but I'm simultaneously heart-broken that the circumstances presented themselves the way they did, but I am not one to question God's timing."
Following Akpla's resignation, Lakeridge listed the head football coaching job as "open" on an interim basis, began soliciting applications, and later, conducting interviews. In an email Sunday, Aug. 11, Lakeridge Athletic Director Terry Moore wrote:
"I wanted to let you know that Forrest Sherman has been named the Interim Head Football Coach at Lakeridge. He was Elvis's Asst Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator."
Akpla steps down after six years with the Lakeridge program, the last four as head coach following a nasty conflict that led to the departure of former head coaches Tom Smythe and Chad Carlson. Smythe's exit from the team came during the midst of the 2014 season, a year that was capped by a penalty-filled blowout loss at Jesuit in the Class 6A state quarterfinals.
The team's ugly playoff defeat — the Pacers were whistled for 21 penalties (many of them personal fouls) for 229 yards — led to the program being fined by the OSAA, as well as the discovery that 14 of its coaches did not have their required certifications.
A year later, after finishing fifth in league and reaching the second round of the playoffs, Carlson left the program.
During his four seasons at Lakeridge's helm, Akpla led the team through two difficult seasons, and then, two regenerative years that saw the team return to relevance and competitiveness in the Three Rivers League.
In his first two years as head coach following Smythe's and Carlson's departures, Akpla's Pacers went 0-7 in TRL play and finished eighth twice in a row, missed the playoffs each year and amassed a 3-15 overall record.
In his last two seasons as head coach, Akpla led Lakeridge to a 3-4 record and fifth-place TRL finish in 2017, a 4-5 overall mark and a berth in the first round of the state playoffs. In 2018, the Pacers tied for third in the TRL, notched a 7-4 overall mark and played their way into the second round of the state playoffs.
In total, Akpla's Pacers went 6-20 in TRL play, 14-24 overall, 1-2 in the playoffs from 2015-18.
Among his teams' other accomplishments were:
n In 2017, the Pacers snapped a 17-game Three Rivers League winless streak, reached the state playoffs for the first time since 2014 and at one point put together three wins in four weeks in the always-tough TRL.
n In 2018, the Pacers went 3-1 in non-league play, 3-2 in the Three Rivers League to tie for third and won their first playoff game since 2014 (beating McNary 56-33).
And while the Pacers graduated an important group of seniors last spring — including first-team all-leaguers Javier John (on the defensive line), Andre Martinez (at wide receiver) and Charlie Maynes (at quarterback) — there's a ton of talent coming back that point to more good things ahead and the overall health of the program.
Running back Jalen John — an incoming senior — is coming off an all-star season that saw him rack up 1,727 yards and 23 touchdowns on 210 carries. Incoming senior Xander Houck will return at wide receiver after making 24 catches for 418 yards and three TDs. Incoming senior Cooper Justice looks ready to take the reins at quarterback, and the team will also bring back all-leaguers Caiden Biege-Wetherbee, Hunter Daskalos, Keoni Hepa, Ty Glumbik, T.J. Jakmauh and Eric Reilly.
"To live with the reality that I will not see the product of the endless personal and financial sacrifices I have made over the years for this program will be difficult to deal with," Akpla wrote in his email. "To leave a State Championship contending team behind, after painfully growing years (1-8 year in 2015 and 2-7 year in 2016), will be tortuously difficult to contend with. To immerse my coaches, parents, but especially my players, into an adversity of this magnitude, will be hard to accept."
You can read Akpla's complete statement here.
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