Steve Jervis is a mild-mannered coach who doesn’t even use a whistle at practice.
He quietly draws passion from his athletes while inspiring them to battle even against the greatest of odds.
The crafty strategist has Trail headed for the first trip to the PIAA Class 1A final at Hersheypark Stadium. They will face District 10 champion Farrell (13-1) on Thursday at 1 p.m.
On Friday, Nov. 30, Jervis led his roster of 27 players into a clash with District 6 champion Juniata Valley.
“From the first day I started coaching at Lackawanna Trail it has been a positive experience,” Jervis said. “The kids, the families that you work with, the school and the community has such a positive vibe about it.
“The kids in this area are hard working and tough. They believe in our mission and that is when you walk on the field you represent yourself, your family, your school and your community, and I think our kids take that very seriously.”
As a player at Tunkhannock, Jervis piloted his team to the first District 2 Class 4A championship. The Tigers finished the season winning five of six games to go 7-5 overall, capping the run with a victory over Wyoming Valley West. In that game, Jervis threw for 160 yards and a touchdown to give him 1,235 yards passing and 11 touchdowns.
An all-around athlete, he also helped the baseball team at Tunkhannock reach the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinals, where it lost to Elizabethtown, 9-5.
After playing third base and pitcher at Lafayette College, Jervis returned to Tunkhannock where he was head football coach from 2002 to 2007. At his alma mater, he had a record of 23-39 with a couple of postseason berths.
He took two years away from football before being appointed the head coach at Lackawanna Trail in 2009. The Lions had a 1-9 record in 2008 after a decade of success that included seven District 2 Class 1A championships.
Jervis implemented a Wing-T offense and went 1-9 in his first season. Always the optimist, he guided the team to a 4-6 mark in his second season.
Determined to restore the roar of the Lions program, Jervis got the team to the District 2 postseason, but found getting back to the final extremely difficult.
In 2011, Lackawanna Trail rode the power running of Eric Laytos to an 8-3 mark and the District 2 Class 1A semifinal where it lost to eventual champion Old Forge, 10-7.
Lackawanna Trail lost in the semifinals to Dunmore in 2012 and 2013, and then Susquehanna in 2014.
Finally, Jervis and the Lions broke through in 2015 with a win over Holy Cross in the semifinals. They fell short in the final against a talented Old Forge team that reached the PIAA semifinals.
“During those years, when we had some growing pains, it was still so nice, because I never heard a negative word,” Jervis said. “I think the kids feed off that constant positivity from the parents, the school, the faculty, and the community.
“I just feel like it’s a real nice atmosphere to coach football. To me, it just doesn’t get much better than that.”
During that stretch, Jervis had a record of 35-21. He also became active as an officer in the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association, where he has advocated for change and promoted local players for recognition and participation in both the Big 33 Football Classic and East-West All-Star game.
Then, balancing football, teaching, and family, Jervis and the Lions returned to championship glory.
Lackawanna Trail defeated Northwest Area in the 2016 District 2 Class 1A final. A week later, the Lions defeated Jenkintown in the District 1-2 subregional final and reached the state playoffs. The season ended with a loss to Williams Valley, but Jervis earned The Times-Tribune Coach of the Year honor for the achievement of his team of 23 players.
“Coach Jervis is the most dedicated coach I know,” said Lackawanna Trail quarterback Nate Rolka, who has been the starting quarterback since 2015. “He puts so much time and effort into this and it meant the world to him. And it meant a lot to us to see him achieve the goal he had set for us and finally win that championship.”
Last season, Jervis and the Lions defended their title, but longtime rival Old Forge earned the District 2 title.
That motivated Lackawanna Trail’s seniors.
Led by Rolka and Jordan Edwards, who are four-year starters, running back Cody Moyle, tackle Robbie Davis, guard Jacob Brim and tight end Zac Cost, who are three-year starters, and the emergence of sophomore Ray Melnikoff, the Lions powered to a 9-1 record in the regular season.
However, they fell short of a Division IV title in the LFC, losing to rival Old Forge in Week 7.
Lackawanna Trail exacted revenge in the District 2 title game — its fourth straight appearance in the final — and won its ninth championship in program history.
“Playing for coach Jervis is awesome,” Rolka said. “He is always there for us on the field and making sure we are keeping up with our school work and pushing us in the offseason. He is always there supporting us in every sport we all play. He really sets everything up for us.
“It’s been an awesome four years. In my freshman year, he gave me an opportunity and he has really been there for me every step of the way.”
By defeating Bristol, Tri-Valley and Halifax, the Lions improved to 13-1 to set a school record for wins in a season.
“When you start having success it really validates all the hard work you ask the kids to put in,” Jervis said. “And I have a great coaching staff that I can’t say enough about.
“For us, we have some good players, but the
key is we have a really