Laker football coach Thompson resigns

Keith Thompson announced on Facebook on Sunday his resignation as Lakeland High School’s varsity football coach after 15 seasons at the helm. He finished his coaching tenure sharing the program lead in wins with one of his mentors, Rex Bowser, at 82.

LAGRANGE — Keith Thompson announced his resignation as Lakeland High School football coach on Sunday after 15 seasons at the helm.

Thompson announced that he is stepping down in a post that appears on the program’s Facebook page, Lakeland Football. He is one of the administrators of that page.

Thompson has coached football for 32 years, including 30 at Lakeland High School. He has often coached track and field for the Lakers in the spring, leading both the boys and girls teams recently.

With changes in society, high school football and the landscape in the Lakeland School Corporation, Thompson felt it was time to step away from coaching football.

“As society changes it has become more difficult to convince kids they should spend their spare time focusing on athletics,” Thompson wrote on Facebook. “This year Lakeland struggled to maintain a roster of 50 in grades 9-12.

“With declining junior high numbers, policing social media and falling enrollment, this position requires more energy than I can give. It is time to pass the keys to the program to a new coach that has the energy needed to move the program forward.”

Thompson compiled an 82-71 record over 15 seasons and his teams were largely known for their rushing prowess and physicality. He shares the program lead in coaching wins with the man he replaced, Rex Bowser.

Thompson led the Laker gridders to two conference championships and to victory in four Class 3A sectional first-round games. He won the Northeast Corner Conference Big School division championship in 2013 and shared the NECC title with Churubusco and Fairfield in 2009 when the conference was not divided into divisions.

Thompson’s Lakeland teams never gave up the Milk Can to LaGrange County rival Prairie Heights, winning all 15 games against the Panthers. He was picked KPC Media Group Football Coach of the Year three times, in 2012, 2009 and 2006.

Over eight seasons from 2006-13, Thompson’s Laker teams went 55-27. He wrote in the Facebook post that his program typically dressed 75 players each season from grades 9-12.

Late in 2019, the Indiana Department of Education reported that the Lakeland School Corporation had a net loss of 341 students with 388 students transferring out of the school district. Lakeland closed two school buildings last year and are now down to three, Lakeland Junior/Senior High and the elementary essentially into two parts, the intermediate school for students from grades 3-6 and the primary school for students from kindergarten to second grade.

Thompson started his football coaching career in the junior high ranks at Kendallville Central in 1987, then coached the freshmen at Indianapolis Scecina in 1988. He was on Bowser’s varsity staff at Lakeland from 1989 to 2001, 2003 and 2004. He was the Lakers’ junior varsity football coach in 1989.

Thompson appreciated his 30-year run with Laker football and thanked many in his Facebook post.

“It has been a privilege to coach football at LHS,” Thompson wrote. “I had great mentors in Rex Bowser, Nick Efthimiou and Joe Schick. They taught me how (to do the) X’s and O’s, but more importantly how to be an educator on the athletic field. I am forever grateful for their tutelage and friendship.

“I have had the fortune of great assistant coaches who are great friends, and have remained loyal through the good, and the bad. I have also had the pleasure of coaching hundreds of great kids. I treasure the idea that I may have made a small positive impact on their journey to be uncommon. I am so proud of the husbands and fathers they have become.

“I step down, knowing that I did the best I could, hoping that the boys and men of Lakeland School Corporation are a little better because they put on the double L’s.”

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