LEBANON — You can’t have a conversation about legendary Lancaster-Lebanon League football coaches without Norbie Danz’s name coming up pretty early in the discussion.
The 1951 Lancaster Catholic grad grew up on Cabbage Hill, and he had successful stints at Lebanon Catholic, Cedar Crest and McCaskey during his coaching days.
Lancaster County fans will remember his hard-nosed Red Tornado teams; Danz skippered McCaskey from 1976 until 1985, leading the Tornado to three Section One championships and to a 54-24 record in league games over that stretch.
In that 1976 season, McCaskey beat undefeated Lancaster Catholic and undefeated York in back-to-back weeks, and both times, Tornado fans stormed the field and ripped down the goal posts.
“I was lucky,” Danz said this week. “Everywhere I went, we had good assistant coaches, we had talent, and we stuck with the fundamentals.”
After playing college football for George Washington University, and a stint in the Air Force, Danz guided Lebanon Catholic to three championships — including the first undefeated season ever by a Lebanon County gridiron squad — in the old Tri-County Conference between 1959 and 1968, guiding the Beavers to a 68-26-3 record over that clip.
Then Danz had the first of two stops at Cedar Crest, leading the Falcons to a pair of Section One titles from 1972 to 1975, in the L-L League’s infancy stages.
Danz, who called former longtime Manheim Township skipper Gene Kruis one of his biggest coaching influences, returned to Cedar Crest and guided the Falcons from 1986 to 1995; Cedar Crest won the Section One title in 1986, and went on to win 31 league games over those 10 years.
“Norbie is a name we’ve always known here,” Cedar Crest coach Rob Wildasin said. “I enjoy Norbie a lot. Since I’ve been the head coach here, he’s not afraid to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing. He’s awesome.”
Danz also has quite the family tree.
One of his sons, Chris, played quarterback under Norbie for Cedar Crest, and he went on to play QB — along with current Elizabethtown coach Andy Breault — for the now-defunct semi-pro Central Penn Piranha franchise.
And now Chris’ son, and Norbie’s grandson, Chris, is Cedar Crest's QB. And he’s having quite the junior season piloting the Falcons’ attack.
Cedar Crest will take a 6-1 record into Friday’s key Section One game at undefeated Manheim Township, and Danz has passed for 1,286 yards with 13 touchdown throws, as the Falcons are very much in line for a District Three Class 6A playoff bid. Danz has been a chip off the old block, learning the intricacies of the game from his dad and his legendary grandfather.
“It’s fun,” Chris said. “Everybody is always talking about sports. Every family party and every family get-together, it’s sports, sports, sports. I’ve heard so many great football stories. I love it.”
One of Norbie’s other grand kids is Cedar Crest boys basketball coach Tom Smith. He also played football for the Falcons before playing football for Millersville University. Smith is set for his 10th season as Cedar Crest’s boys’ hoops coach later this winter.
So if you’re at a Cedar Crest football or basketball game, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see Norbie there.
“Norbie is the godfather of Cedar Crest football,” Wildasin said. “If you don’t listen to him or if you don’t respect him, I think you’re making a mistake. Any time I can catch up with him, I enjoy it. I’ll take his wisdom any time he wants to give it to me.”
Norbie, now 86, and a member of the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, enjoys sharing wisdom with his grandson. Every Saturday morning during the season, Norbie brings donuts over to the house, and he, Chris and his dad watch game film.
“They’ll let me know if I had bad game,” Chris said. “They’ll go through it with me. Every play. We’ll go over what went well, and what I need to fix and work on the next week.”
The lessons learned and the wisdom imparted are paying off. Danz — who also plays basketball and is on the Falcons’ track and field team — is a tireless worker on the field and off, and he’s crafted himself into one of the top quarterbacks in the L-L League this season. Cedar Crest got off to a quick 5-0 start, and the Falcons will head into Friday’s clash against Manheim Township in a three-way tie for second place with Warwick and Wilson.
“I don’t really feel any pressure,” Chris said. “Nobody puts pressure on me. During the game, I know everyone is sitting up there supporting me, and I love that.”
Ditto for the next Danz; Chris’ little brother, fourth-grader Ben, is already playing QB, making his way through Cedar Crest’s pigskin pipeline. And you know he already has his grandfather in his ear.
“I’m very proud of my family,” Norbie said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”