February 9, 2013

Steve Solloway: The end of seeking end zones for Descoteaux

Scott Descoteaux was 8 years old when he put on a Biddeford orange-and-black football helmet and tugged on its facemask to make sure it felt right. He took it off this week, 31 years later.

click image to enlarge

Scott Descoteaux had his dream job when he was named the Biddeford High football coach. But things aren’t as they were 20 years ago, when the Tigers were annual contenders, and now a new coach will have to try and figure out the way to change things.

2012 Press Herald file/Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Descoteaux resigned his position as head coach of the Biddeford High football program. It's time to give back some of the many hours he took away from his wife and two young sons, he said Friday. Time to open a new door as an educator.

He said it was his decision and it felt right, which is very different from feeling good. Descoteaux is crying inside. His effort to restore Biddeford football to a semblance of its last glory days of the early 1990s is over.

"Hoisting the Gold Ball was the plan," he said. "It really was."

Biddeford won its last football state title in 1994. The tough team from the gritty small Maine city won four state championships in five seasons.

Descoteaux was part of that success as a player for Coach Mike Landry.

Landry stepped down shortly after. Brian Curit, an assistant, took over. Descoteaux succeeded Curit six years ago.

Biddeford hasn't been back to the state championship game in nearly 20 years.

In 2010, Descoteaux coached the team to a 7-1 record and the playoffs. The next season Biddeford didn't win a game and lost to rival Thornton Academy, 33-0. The record improved to 3-5 in 2012 but Biddeford missed the playoffs. Thornton Academy won the state title.

In a new reclassification by the Maine Principals' Association using enrollment as its primary criteria, Biddeford and its declining student population was dropped to Class B.

Some thought that was proper. Others didn't and their voices carried the argument. Biddeford petitioned to remain in Class A.

"Let me make it crystal clear," said Descoteaux. "I support that."

At age 39 he is still a child of Biddeford.

"I adored playing for Mike Landry. He yelled at me, sometimes for things I didn't think I did. But I understood. He was making me a better player."

After college, Descoteaux joined the staff of Gabby Price at Bangor High and John Suttie at Noble High, and finally Curit at Biddeford. Three men who temper their coaching approach with a certain compassion. When Curit, who was an usher in Descoteaux's wedding, resigned, Descoteaux felt he was ready.

But Biddeford had changed, Descoteaux said, without explaining. Times had changed. "We live in a day and age where it's all about Facebook and texting. It has little to do with me talking to you directly."

Descoteaux didn't say it, but maybe playing Biddeford football wasn't as important to today's kids as it was to an 8-year-old Descoteaux. Maybe not enough of the community was willing to roll up its sleeves and make a commitment to support football.

Near the end of the winless season in 2011, I drew the Biddeford-Thornton Academy game for an assignment and stood on the Biddeford sideline.

Descoteaux coached as if it was a playoff game, knowing his team could win few of the personnel matchups on the field. His players, many of them undersized in comparison to Thornton Academy's talented mix of seniors and juniors, played as if it was a playoff game.

"We didn't win a game that season and we didn't score a point in our last game, but those kids didn't quit. You go nowhere in this world when you quit."

You might say Descoteaux quit after six years as head coach. That wouldn't be fair or accurate.

He gave Biddeford his best, couldn't achieve what everyone wanted and saw the crossroads. He resigned now, he said, to give Athletic Director Dennis Walton time to find a good candidate.

Becoming the Biddeford head coach was Descoteaux's dream. Twenty years ago it was the dream job. Now it's the dream challenge.

"I had a great staff. I'll miss those relationships," said Descoteaux. "We coached our players to play hard and show respect. We didn't win as much as I wished. I'm sad for that."

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

Twitter: SteveSolloway

 

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