PORTLAND – It’s not about the X’s and O’s, goes the old coaching mantra. It’s about the Jimmies and Joes.

Or the Spencers, Peters and Zachs.

John Wolfgram denied again his legacy as the state’s master high school football coach. His play-calling had little to do with the magnitude of Cheverus’ 46-8 victory over Bangor for the Class A state championship Saturday. He used no gamesmanship or trickery.

He had simply shown the Liams, Evans and Andrews how to better use the learned skills and natural talents they had. He convinced teenagers to buy what he was selling, which is never an easy trick.

“I was fortunate to have a core group get on the same page with me,” said Wolfgram. “They stayed with me.”

Cheverus players would do more than that, said Barry Hobbins, father of do-it-all Liam. “They’d take a bullet for that man. They really would.”

Wolfgram has won championships at Madison High, Gardiner, South Portland and Cheverus. Nine football titles in all. He is the gold standard. Saturday, he said the rewards were the same. In his heart, this one may matter more.

He is 63 years old and always has been a coach and a teacher. His expectations of student-athletes don’t vary between the field and the history or English classrooms. He is intense. You don’t ever picture him kicking off his shoes and chilling.

And now he owes himself more than a moment or two to smell the dahlias he plants at his South Portland home.

“I don’t know,” Wolfgram said when someone asked if this was his last rodeo. I don’t think he was being coy. That’s not a Wolfgram trait. He will think and reflect and talk with his family. Then he’ll know.

He held onto the Gold Ball after his players left the field, at one point holding it and a grandchild in each arm. He interrupted questions to show a grandchild the trophy and explain its brightness. He laughed loudly and fully.

Over 35 years, I have never seen Wolfgram happier.

“He’s a funny guy,” said Louis DiStasio, the junior place-kicker and newly discovered pass catcher. “I mean, he made football fun.”

DiStasio never played football until this season. He was a soccer player, a member of the Cheverus basketball team that won the state championship last winter. Wolfgram saw a football player, just as he saw a leader in Peter Gwilym, the quarterback.

“He never looked at your size first,” said Moochie Davis, who played on Wolfgram’s first Gardiner team in 1975. Technique, speed, quickness and the unselfishness of being part of the team was the formula then. It’s been Wolfgram’s winning formula ever since.

Hey, a team of girls played for Wolfgram at Gardiner and won the state softball championship. He was a fill-in coach, not a program-builder. He penciled in the names on lineup cards and ran practices. You can assume much was accomplished in practice.

Saturday, as Cheverus blunted one Bangor drive after another while increasing its lead, Spencer Cooke turned to the crowd, urging more noise.

It didn’t matter to Wolfgram that Cooke had been running over and around the Bangor secondary for touchdowns. Wolfgram redirected Cooke’s attention back to the field with a gesture and a few words.

Point made.

Minutes later Wolfgram was doused with the contents from a cooler. He wasn’t happy when the cold liquid hit the back of his neck. He looked at the scoreboard. There was 20 seconds to play. Honor the game. Honor the opponent.

Yet when he walked back up the sideline past his team, it seemed he was trying to hide a grin. Maybe that was my imagination.

“I call him Coach,” said Davis who, at 52, cannot call Wolfgram by his first name. “To me he isn’t anything else.”

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

[email protected]