LONDON GROVE >> Nobody out-works Avon Grove’s Eric Jackson, the Daily Local News’ Coach of the Year. And that drive and determination paid off this season with the school’s first-ever state lacrosse crown.
If you show up at an important Ches-Mont match not involving the Red Devils, chances are that Jackson would be there scouting. He did exactly that at least twice this season to watch league foe Downingtown East even though his squad had a contest later that same day. Not coincidentally, Avon Grove ended up topping the Cougars in both 2017 meetings.
“I think it’s important to scout as much as I can to do my job to help our players get ready for what they are going to face,” Jackson said. “The same goes for watching film to understand things like tendencies.
“We want to put our guys in the best position to succeed.”
His efforts were highly successful as the Devils overcame some injuries to top-notch performers to go 23-2. Along the way, Avon Grove captured sole possession of a second-straight Ches-Mont crown, made the program’s fourth District 1 Final appearance in five years, and then topped district champion Conestoga in the state title game, 5-4, in double overtime.
When asked if he allowed himself to enjoy the championship, the notoriously disciplined and focused Jackson said: “I tried.
“I wanted our players to appreciate the moment, but also to prepare for next season the right way and keeping everyone focused,” he added.
“It was nice to be able to celebrate with the team and the community. The community showed tremendous support for us all, and so did our alumni as well as the youth coaches and parents. It was great.”
A native of Annapolis, Jackson played lacrosse at West Chester from 1992-95 for head coach Bob Brinton. The program was dropped in 2003.
He later married his wife Teresa, who is the daughter of local coaching legends John and Cathy Hay. John coached track and swimming at West Chester Henderson and was inducted into the Chester County Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. Cathy is still the head swimming coach at Villa Maria, won six consecutive state titles from 2011-16, and was inducted into the CCSHOF in 2016.
“I married into an athletically-rich family,” Jackson said. “But it’s nice because my wife understands coaching and what it takes.”
It was a dream season for Avon Grove in 2017, and even though Jackson started the program from scratch 18 years ago, he credited his players and his coaching staff for the state title run. Defensive assistant, Brian Wallace, played for Jackson in the early days and went on to be a junior college All-American. Offensive assistant, Dan Deckelbaum, was formerly a standout player at Delaware.
“I still remember those first few years,” Jackson recalled. “We’ve certainly come a long way.
“I’ve always thought it was important for the team to focus on relationships, and that’s was always there right from the start.”