WATERBORO – As the 2012 high school football season drew to a close, John Morin sat in his coach’s office at Massabesic High school one afternoon, talking about how the culture of sports had changed over the years, and how he was adapting.
Asked how long he thought he would continue to coach the Mustangs, Morin hesitated for a moment, then said, “I spoke to guys like Mike Landry and Mike Bailey and Pete Cooper about that. They all told me, ‘John, when it’s time, you’ll know.’ “
On Jan. 22, Morin resigned as Massabesic High’s football coach, ending a 16-year stint that saw the Mustangs qualify for the playoffs 11 times, advance to the regional finals three times and win one Class A state championship, with a perfect 12-0 season in 2000.
His overall record was 78-70, but his impact went much further than that.
“John’s a great coach, a great man,” said Kevin Kezal, the coach at Thornton Academy. “This is a big loss for our league.
“He cares deeply about football. Not just Massabesic football, but football in the state of Maine.”
Recently Morin spoke about his resignation – and where he goes from here.
“Part of me is scared,” he said, sitting in his assistant principals’ office at Massabesic. “What am I going to do come Aug. 19 next year? I shouldn’t even know the season starts Aug. 19 next year, but I do.
“When I was 10 years old, I walked on a football field in August. I have done that for the last 45 years. And if things remain the way they are now, I will not. I’m okay with that now, but part of me is worried about how am I going to feel that first night in September on opening night. Part of me wonders about that.”
Morin’s resignation did not come as a surprise to Massabesic Athletic Director Brendan Scully, nor was it an easy decision for Morin to make.
But, Morin said, “Over the last four years, the program has not been going in the direction we would like to see it go. When I came here, it was not in a good place, we worked and got it in a good place.
“We took a little dip and then we fixed it and then had another good run. It started to dip again and this time I haven’t been able to fix it. So some things need to change and I think right now the best way for that change to happen is from the top. Is that an easy thing to say? Is that an easy thing to swallow? No. But it’s the best thing right now for the athletes and the people involved in football in this district.”
He dismisses the assumption that his resignation wasn’t his idea.
“I’ve been fortunate that I was able to run the program under my own terms,” he said. “And I was able to leave under my own terms.”
He doesn’t know what the future will hold. Maybe, he said, he’ll simply spend time with his wife, Louise, and “watch the leaves change. Usually they’re green and then I have to vacuum them when they’re on the ground. I don’t know what happened in between.”
He knows Louise and their children (Brianna, Alayna and Tyler) sacrificed much. “Maybe it’s time for me to make the sacrifice,” he said.
He may get back into football, but it would have to be the perfect situation. It’s hard to put something away completely when it’s been part of your life for so long. His first coach was his father, John Sr. Morin played at Edward Little High in Auburn under Doc Hersom, then at the University of Maine under Jack Bicknell.
He was an assistant at Edward Little for five years (one under Hersom, four under Bob Fallon) then for another 12 at Thornton Academy in Saco (under Dick Agreste).
He owes much to them. They instilled the coach-player relationship in him that he tried to follow at Massabesic. He was demanding, often emotional, but always tried to teach life lessons.
“He was intense, passionate and he got the most out of you,” said senior back Casey Nava. “I faced his wrath at times. It pushed me and, in the end, made me a better player.”
The Mustangs had a 2-6 record last fall. In fact, they were only 6-18 his last three years. But that’s not why Morin stepped way.
“If you go back to the real reason I wanted to be a head coach, the question became was I still positively affecting young men in that coach-player role development,” he said. “To be honest, not to the extent that I had previously. If I knew (why), it wouldn’t have happened.
“But I don’t think I’m reaching the number of young men I did.”
The 12-0 Class A state championship team, in just his fourth year at the school, was the high point, obviously. But Morin said there were many highlights, many players who had a hand in his success.
But one memory does stand out. Until recently, Morin had a photo in his office. It was one of the iconic photos in NFL history: Vince Lombardi being carried off the field on the shoulders of his players after winning a championship for the Green Bay Packers.
What made the photo perfect, said Morin, was the look of joy on the face of Jerry Kramer, one of the players holding Lombardi.
When the Mustangs won the championship in 2000, Morin was likewise carried on the shoulders of his players. And he saw the same joy in their faces.
“That was it,” he said. “I lived my dream. For 16 years, the people in this school district, the principals, the athletic directors, the parents, the players, they all allowed me to come here and live my dream.
“Not many people can say that.”
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: