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In the early 1980s Lonnie Powers decided he wanted to be a head coach. He accepted a job at Lone Tree High School with no idea of what he was stepping into. Now he’ll be inducted into the Iowa Football Coaches Hall of Fame.
“It really was a pleasant surprise and shocked the crap out of me,” Powers said. “I got the cellphone call at my son’s house and the phone rang and kind of teared up like, ‘you serious?’”
He said the selection was a total surprise, because he thought he had come up one game short of the criteria.
Powers was 149-79-1 during his head coaching career that spanned 1982-2007 at three Iowa high schools and one year at Iowa Wesleyan as an assistant coach. The first step was a 10-year stint at Lone Tree from 1982-1990.
In his first year as head coach at Lone Tree in 1982, the Lions won the Class A state championship with a 30-8 win over Sentral.
“In 1982, the head job at Lone Tree opened up and I thought ‘I want to be a head coach.’ I took that and I’ll be darned, I walked in to a ton of talent,” Powers said.
“Twelve weeks later (after taking the job) I’m in the UNI-Dome winning a state title.”
The Lions would go back to the state championship in 1984, but fall 13-0 to Schleswig. Powers said that was an interesting weekend because the day before the game he spent alongside his wife for the birth of one of his sons and then the finals were the next day.
After coaching at Lone Tree, Powers decided to see if he wanted to join the college football ranks. He joined an Iowa Wesleyan staff that later became famous for creating the air raid offense alongside Hal Mumme and Mike Leach. But after one season at Iowa Weselyan, he said something special about high school football drew him back.
“I just didn’t care for the college scene, something about the high school kids and camaraderie, there was something about that,” Powers said.
He spent 10 seasons at WACO from 1992 to 2001, guiding the warriors to a multitude of playoff berths. In 2001 he took the head coaching and athletic director position at Knoxville, where he stayed until 2007.
Powers said he fondly remembers his time at Lone Tree and the good people he had the opportunity to coach and work with. Lone Tree’s Sept. 21 game against WACO will honor Powers and the IFCA will honor him at their winter meeting along with three other hall of fame inductees.
Powers, now retired, lives in Iowa City with his wife Jackie.