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Lions Look to Young Guns to Lead Them into the Future

By OPFL Staff, 01/31/17, 8:15AM EST


The Cambridge Lions have looked to two dynamic young coaches to the lead their OPFL Varsity and Jr Varsity teams into the 2017 Season

Jackson Yanchus (23) and Erik Krebs (26) will each server as Head Coach of these respective teams. These coaches have rocketed up the coaching ranks in the Waterloo Region by taking two different paths. They do however, have three things in common: both were Offensive Lineman, both are great communicators to young men, and both absolutely love the game of football.

Coach Yanchus will be in his 2nd Season. In 2016 the Lions trusted the 22 year old with their top team and he did not disappoint. The 2016 Varsity Lions brought home the clubs first OVFL Championship. Playing though the tough OVFL West Division they finished 6-2 and then made a memorable playoff run which saw them knock off the Essex Raven, Niagara Spear and then Kingston Grenadiers in the finals. Yanchus put together a blended staff of younger and experienced coaches to get the best of both worlds. The younger coaches mainly from Wilfrid Laurier University, brought a different perspective and current OUA Program experience, while the coaches with more experience offered invaluable skills and experience. This blend took a bit to get molded however by mid-season the Varsity Lions were hitting their stride. This should set the Lions up for a great 2017 Varsity Season.

Jacksons has gained great experience in a very short amount of time. Raised in Guelph he grew up in a football household where his father was a local high school coach for 30 years. He began playing multiple positions on the offensive and defensive side of the ball and was a standout for the Guelph Bears. Jackson played 2 seasons in the OUA with the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks as an offensive lineman until concussions cut his career short. Instead of walking away he approached Lauriers’ Head Coach Mike Faulds about an opportunity to become a coach. So in his 3rd year at Laurier he took the roll as an Offensive Line Assistant Coach. This initially would appear to be a challenge as he immediately had to take on a role of authority with players he had just been team mates with. He continues to coach at Laurier to this day.

Then in 2015, Jackson became the Offensive Coordinator of the Jr. Varsity Guelph Jr. Gryphons in the OFC. The team went undefeated and won the Championship. This led him to apply for the Cambridge Lions varsity team for the 2016 season. The Lions interviewed and although there were some skeptics due to his age they moved forward and appointed him as Head Coach. The Lions hope Coach Yanchus is around for a long time however only time will tell and he keeps climbing up the Ontario Coaching ranks.

The Jr Varsity Lions will be led by 25 year old Erik Krebs. Erik is a former Cambridge Lion & Jacob Hespeler Hawk. Collegiately, Eric played one year of Junior College in Southern California and was a 5 year starter at Bishop’s University in Quebec. Erik’s football coaching career is just beginning as he is entering his 2nd season. In 2016 he was the Offensive Line Coach and moved into the Offensive Coordinator role by mid season. There, Erik demonstrated a deep understanding of the game and outstanding ability to communicate and motivate the players.  Football is simply the most recent coaching stop as Erik has been, and still is, an elite snowboarding coach as well as strength and conditional trainer.

On the surface Erik’s massive frame and mountain man facial hair are not typical of the most coaches. While Erik is not a typical coach, his love playing guitar, snowboarding and craft beers make this unique coach infectious to be around. His uniqueness has enabled Erik to recruit a huge coaching staff much like Jackson using the model of a blend of young and experienced coaches. With all of this combined, the player recruitment is going as planned so although the track record is short the Lions have the utmost confident he is destined to lead the Jr Varsity Lions back to the top of the OPFL.

When asked what challenges were as young coaches had similar replies in that the biggest challenges they face are related to being close in age to their players. They both have an understanding that the beginning of their season is about establishing their roles as head coaches and the roles of the young members of their coaching staffs. Once the players understand that on the field, coaches Yanchus and Krebs are indeed their coaches and not peers, the real work can begin.

Both coaches also mentioned that they believe there are many advantages to being a young coach. Coach Krebs said, “It’s easy for me to speak to the guys since I was one of them. I played in this world and they know that I only expect of them what my coaches expected of me.” Coach Yanchus said his staff has had a lot of success in regards to recruitment both in the 2016 season and thus far in the 2017 season. “We've had a lot of success in recruiting elite players because we're able to relate to them in a way older coaches struggle too. Once you create that culture of respect the guys really value your relationship and I feel in our situation, Zach Scotto and Mark Vanderdoelen were able really get the most out of our kids.”

“It all comes down to getting kids to trust your ability to help them develop…once you show them that you can do that as a younger coaching staff, you are able to motive the kids to work in a way that other staffs didn’t”.

As both coaches have been involved in football for the majority of their lives, we asked them what their biggest football moments were.

Jackson Yanchus: “My best moment in my playing career was definitely playing in front of 10 thousand Laurier fans at homecoming in 2013. Getting to go out there and compete for my school and my family was a really special experience. There's nothing like a Laurier homecoming.” 

Erik Krebs: “My biggest football moment was being a part of the Bishops Gaiters team for the 2013 season. We finished that season hosting the Gaiter’s first home playoff game since 1994 and we ended the season ranked #5 in the country. That same season, our QB, Jordan Heather, won the Hec Crighton Trophy after breaking records in the CIS passing game. I am proud that I was one of the guys in the trenches that year.”

These two dynamic young men appear to have of put the Lions in good hands for the 2017 season and the future.