(Fred Lynch) [Order this photo]
Southeast Missouri State University's five victories and Central High School's seven chased out the funeral-parlor atmosphere after mounting losses.
The recent success of both programs infused energy into the house. There's no more hiding on the lower level. The Redhawks are ranked No. 18 and No. 20 in the two national polls, while the Tigers sit at No. 9 in the latest Class 4 state poll, and the Boerboom family is playing a part in the turnaround for both programs.
Brian serves as the offensive line coach at Southeast, while Zach is a senior starting tight end and defensive lineman at Central.
"Your heart hurts when they lose, as a mom or as a wife," said Stacy Boerboom, Brian's wife and Zach's mother. "That part makes me happy that they are happy and that they're doing well."
The positive outlook is a stark change from life in the Boerboom household a year ago.
"It was at the point last October where we were pretty sure we were going to get fired," Stacy said. "The other colleges Brian has coached at, it has not been at this level where we were worried about getting fired."
Fans and boosters hated the losing at Southeast, but it didn't jeopardize their livelihood like it did the Boerbooms. The losing threatened to force Brian and Stacy to uproot their family in search of another coaching job.
"For other people that are at a game watching it, it's not their job and it's not what pays their bills," Stacy said. "For a long time, I was a stay-at-home mom, so our whole life was football. That part is always hard."
Questions surrounded Southeast coach Tony Samuel's job status after last season's team posted a 2-9 record, which led to uncertainty about Brian's job. But Southeast athletic director John Shafer decided in December to allow Samuel to coach the final year of his original five-year contract, which meant Brian's job was safe for this season.
"I do not think about it because I would make myself crazy," Stacy said about the uncertainty in the coaching profession. "I tell my kids, and everyone laughs, I live my life 15 minutes to 15 minutes, but that's the truth. I can't be all worked up about it. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen, and then we're going to deal with it."
Brian and Zach both admit they don't handle losing well, which made the last two seasons nearly unbearable. The Redhawks went 6-17, while the Tigers posted a 1-19 record during the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
"After a loss, I don't like to talk about it," Zach said. "If I come home after a loss and try to talk, I get really mad. I just close my door and go in my room."
It can be difficult to find quiet time in the Boerbooms' home since Zach is the oldest of five children. But all five know what to do when Southeast loses.
"Our best bet is just to sit downstairs in total silence," Zach said. "Minimal words possible for the rest of the day, maybe the next day."
But everything is different this year. There's more celebrating on the weekends. The weekend of Sept. 17 and 18 proved especially enjoyable because Central defeated rival Jackson on Friday, then Southeast knocked off then-No. 5 Southern Illinois on Saturday. Even Zach's younger brother Nathan won his flag football game that weekend.
"It was great," Zach said. "Everyone was happy."
The good feelings have continued since then. Southeast is riding a five-game winning streak heading into Saturday's game at Austin Peay, while the Tigers are 7-0 and never have trailed in a game entering tonight's district opener at Farmington, Mo.
The positive vibes aren't limited to home. Both Brian and Zach said there's a different attitude at practice.
"It makes the job more enjoyable to go to the office because you know things are working," Brian said. "It's a competitive drive that you're winning. It feels good. That's what you do this for. You want to win. You want to teach the kids how to win in life. They're going to listen now."
Zach said: "Kids I don't even know are coming up to me and saying 'Good luck in the next game.'"
This year's victories validate the sacrifices the Boerboom family has made for the game. Brian said the work environment at Southeast is less restricting than at other college programs, but he's still gone from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. many days during the season. Sundays are anything but a day of rest since game film must be broken down and a game plan developed for the upcoming week.
"He is gone from the first of August through the signing date in the middle of February is when we typically check him out," Stacy said. "We count him out of the family for that amount of time, then whatever he can do is great."
The sacrifice becomes even harder when the wins aren't there. Brian said his confidence that Southeast could be successful never wavered, even during some of the program's lopsided losses over the last couple of years.
"I always expect to win," Brian said. "That's just the way I was a player. That's how we were brought up at [the University of] Nebraska. You do what's right during the week -- practice is work -- but if you do it the right way, you're going to go win. That's what makes losing so disappointing."
Part of Brian's sacrifice is missing some of Zach's games. He's missed two of his son's seven games so far this season, but he works hard to keep updated on what's happening. He calls Stacy four or five times a game for updates and gets text messages from others at the game to keep up. Then he'll watch the film of the game with Zach later in the weekend.
Football always has played a prominent role in the Boerboom family. Brian and Stacy started dating while Brian played offensive line at the University of Nebraska in the early 1990s. They were married during his senior year, and he made his living as a player and now as a coach. He was the coach at a high school in Virginia when he got a call from Samuel after Samuel was hired at Southeast.
"I knew him from Nebraska, and I always kept in touch with him," Brian said. "I'd coached in some colleges before and was back in high school. I wanted to get back into colleges, and this was a great opportunity to get to a Division I school."
Brian didn't hesitate in accepting Samuel's job offer.
"I knew he understood the offensive line," Samuel said. "He'd done a fair amount of things. It probably helped that I knew him."
Brian prefers not to share with his family the many rumors about possible job openings that circulate in coaching circles. So Zach was caught off guard when his parents told him the family was moving to Cape Girardeau during the summer before his eighth-grade year.
"It was pretty weird because I didn't even know how to pronounce the name for the first month or two until a couple kids told me," Zach said. "The day we got here, we drove the U-Haul here, the next day I started football camp at the junior high. We had to dig some cleats out of a box and send me on my way."
Zach earned a starting spot on the varsity roster as a sophomore, and he's been a fixture in the Tigers' lineup since then. He's caught six passes for 91 yards and a touchdown and plays an important role in opening holes for the Tigers' potent offensive rushing attack this season.
Zach hopes to get the opportunity to continue his playing career in college next season, but that can wait. There's too much to enjoy with the success of his team and his father's team this season.
And after the multiple defeats of the last few seasons, the Boerbooms aren't going to takes wins for granted.
"It's a lot nicer," Zach said about life in the house this fall.