The Lincoln Pius X community has known only two football coaches since the school opened in 1955. The team's third coach will take over next fall.

Tim Aylward announced Monday that he would step down as the Thunderbolts' football coach after 31 years. Aylward posted a 204-111 record at Pius X (a .647 winning percentage) and had a career record of 208-133. He guided the Bolts to state championships in 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2004.

He succeeded Vince Aldrich, the man he played for during his high school career.

"I've been so lucky. I played for Vince and then went to UNK, which was Kearney State back then," Aylward said. "Al Zikmund was there, and then Claire Boroff took over. Terry Renner was my defensive coordinator and then I got to coach with Riley Harris at Kearney. I've had some outstanding mentors."

Longtime assistant Jim Hansen said Aylward's announcement was a surprise.

"It was kind of a shocker for us. We had our end-of-the season banquet last night and he didn't mention anything about it," Hansen said. "Then, we got a note today before he met with the team. He didn't want the fanfare to be about him."

Aylward, who will remain the school's athletic director, said several factors went into his decision.

"I felt like it was time. We had a good year and there are some good kids coming back," said Aylward, whose team went 7-4 this year, losing in the playoff quarterfinals to Omaha Skutt last week. "There are some things I want to do as athletic director."

He said what he will remember from his coaching days are the relationships with players and coaches.

"I'll miss the day-to-day working with the guys and the coaches I've had work with me and against me," he said. "You get to be pretty good friends. You go to coaches clinics, talk to coaches, trade ideas and get to be friends.

"When I took the job at Pius, Vince had established the tradition there. I remember thinking, 'I just don't want to screw it up.' In the '90s, we ran through a really good bunch of players. I think we were 48-4 from '95 through '98."

Hansen said working with Aylward helped him as a coach. Hansen was also the Pius X baseball coach for several years.

"He wanted to be a coach that parents would say they wanted their sons to play for. I feel lucky that my three sons got a chance to play for him," Hansen said. "I always thought of Tim as a real statesman, always the face of the program and the whole athletic department. He was a great mentor when I was doing baseball. I tried to do it the way he did football.

"But I wouldn't want to play poker against him because you couldn't read him."

Aylward said his approach to coaching football was simple.

"We based our offensive philosophy to fit it to the talent of the players. Years we had a good throwing quarterback, we might be a little more wide-open. When we had good runners, we went with a strong running game. We adjusted based on what guys could do.

"I've always believed there are no magic plays or formations. It's the Jimmys and Joes. You have to have the players and we had some very good ones at Pius."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7314 or rhambleton@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJS_RJHambleton.

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A Scottsbluff native, Ryly Jane graduated from UNL and worked at the Journal Star.

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