by Scott Kindberg
September 30, 2019
End Is Near
Southwestern’s Caulcrick Stepping Down After Friday’s Game
Jehuu Caulcrick was having lunch one day in 2012 at Pinehurst Golf Club in Westfield with a couple of his friends, PGC owner Nolan Swanson and Brady Deuink, when his cellphone rang.
The call was from Ted Thompson.
The general manager of the Green Bay Packers at the time, Thompson wanted Caulcrick, the former Clymer Central School and Michigan State University running back, to join the NFL team for training camp that summer.
Caulcrick, who had previously been with the New York Jets, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the San Francisco 49ers and the Buffalo Bills during a pro career that began in 2008, declined the offer.
“I had had a good run, I’d bounced around for five years, so I couldn’t complain about it,” he said.
As it has turned out, that wasn’t the toughest decision Caulcrick has ever had to make.
That came last week when he informed the Southwestern Central School administration that he was resigning as the varsity football coach in order to take a job with NFL/Xenith, based in Michigan.
That conversation was difficult enough, but then Caulcrick had to break the news to his team on Saturday morning, less than 12 hours after the Trojans, the state’s third-ranked Class C team, blanked Fredonia, 42-0, to run their record to 4-0.
“This was tougher than saying no to my NFL career,” he said. ” … “The timing definitely (stinks). We have something special going (on) here and we’re going to continue to have something going (on). We have a great staff who is going to pick up the slack. It’s rough right now, but we’ll get through this.”
Caulcrick, who will coach his last game on Friday when the Trojans entertain Lackawanna on homecoming, will be replaced by defensive coordinator and longtime friend Jake Burkholder on an interim basis. A search for a permanent head coach will be conducted after the 2019 season is completed.
“Jehuu has done an incredible job supporting the kids academically, athletically and in their families,” Superintendent Maureen Donahue said. “This is a huge loss for the district, but we have full confidence that Jake Burkholder will show tremendous leadership for us.”
Caulcrick said he initially made a connection with NFL/Xenith, which researches and develops the safety of player equipment, in February when he spoke at an NFL symposium in San Diego, and “everything just picked up the last three weeks.”
Caulcrick, who will start his new job on Oct. 7, had hoped he could delay it until after the Trojans’ season, but that wasn’t possible.
“I felt it was good for me and my family right now,” said Caulcrick, whose wife, Bryar, is a nurse. “The biggest thing is going back to the timing (of the announcement).”
The time has been really good for the program, though.
Caulcrick enters his final game this week sporting a 31-11 career record, including three straight trips to the Section VI Class C championship game since taking over in 2015 from Jay Sirianni. Sirianni compiled a 101-26 record in 12 seasons, including two state championships. Although Caulcrick was never able to get Southwestern past Cleveland Hill in those sectional title contests, he still has left his imprint on the Hunt Road campus, posting a 28-6 record in his last three-plus campaigns.
“When I talk about the big shoes of Jay Sirianni that had to be replaced, (Caulcrick’s) are just as big,” Southwestern athletic director Kevin Salisbury said, “but (Burkholder) will be fine, and he’ll do a great job for us.”
Burkholder, 31, is a Southwestern graduate (Class of 2006), and played for some very good Trojans’ teams under Sirianni. Upon his graduation, Burkholder attended Washington & Jefferson (Pennsylvania) College and continued his football career playing for Presidents coach Mike Sirianni, Jay’s older brother. Upon returning to the area, Burkholder ultimately coached one year under Jay Sirianni and then joined Caulcrick’s staff, serving as an assistant varsity coach in 2016 and as a modified coach in 2017 and 2018, before being named defensive coordinator this season.
“I think he’s going to do a tremendous job,” Caulcrick said of his friend, who he has known for more than 20 years. “We’re ‘brothers.’ He came to Michigan State for games and he went to all my college (recruiting) visits. Then he went and played here at Southwestern, so he understands the tradition … and he understands how important football is to the community and the school.”
Added Salisbury, who was an assistant coach during Sirianni’s tenure with the Trojans:
“(Burkholder) is ready. He’s got the respect of the kids, he has the respect of his coaches and he works his tail off, so he is as ready as can be.”
“The biggest thing is the family mentality,” said Burkholder, who is nearing completion of a bachelor’s degree in education from SUNY Fredonia. ” … I don’t think anybody needs to put an individual stamp on it. The idea is we’re a family, and family does things together. As a family, we’ll have success. I think that’s going to be the big focus, just to continue with that, keep the momentum going and use that as a catalyst to push us forward.”
For the remainder of this week, however, it will be Caulcrick at the helm, capped by Friday’s nonleague game against Lackawanna.
“This team is unique,” Donahue said. “It is very well-rounded … and they all play well together. It’s just a nice group of kids. We’ll wrap our arms around them and take care of them.”
Caulcrick is confident that will be the case, even though it is difficult for him to leave.
“For the last week, it’s been keeping me up at night,” he said. “It’s been difficult, especially (Friday) night. Just looking at the scoreboard (clock) count down and (thinking), man, my time here is ending as each second passed on that scoreboard.”
Salisbury said Caulcrick’s absence will be felt as much inside the school as it will on the football field.
“He’s been Southwestern through and through since the day he walked on campus,” the athletic director said. “He’s done it just because he cares about the kids.”