SOUTH BERWICK — Every coach will tell you, players win games.

But at Marshwood High, the Hawks wearing the purple-and-white know it doesn’t hurt having a head coach with a championship-studded resume.

Undefeated Marshwood (11-0) will face Skowhegan (7-3) in Saturday’s Class B championship at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium. For the seniors who have been involved with the program all four years, it will be their third championship game.

For Coach Alex Rotsko, it will be his 19th high school championship game – and fourth in his six seasons at Marshwood.

“We can’t be oblivious to the fact that we have (one of the best) coaches in the state and great core of assistant coaches,” said senior captain Kyle Glidden, who was a two-way starter as a sophomore on the 2015 title team.

“It definitely starts with the coach,” said senior Matt Goodwin, a two-year starter who played on the 2015 squad. “You can have the best players in the world but if you don’t have a coach, you don’t have very much.”


The once-proud Hawks had been grounded before Rotsko’s arrival in 2012. The glory days of winning 16 state titles between 1966-89 – one in D, 13 in C, one in B, and finally one in Class A – were a distant memory. Marshwood was coming off three straight 2-6 nonplayoff seasons.

“And that first year he probably had less to work with than the (2011) team and he took them to the state championship game and was a fumble away from winning it,” said Rich Buzzell, Marshwood’s athletic director.

In six seasons under Rotsko, Marshwood is 57-11 and won back-to-back Class B championships in 2014 and 2015.

Buzzell said Rotsko has a knack for keeping direction simple and sticks to a routine that allows players and parents to know exactly the expectations.

“He just gets the kids to focus,” Buzzell said. “The big thing I’ve noticed at his practices is every single kid on that team gets repetitions. He maximizes participation.”

Of course, a cynic could say Rotsko is actually underperforming at Marshwood, having made the state championship game “only” two-thirds of the time.


After all, at his previous gig, Rotsko led Longmeadow High to 15 straight Western Massachusetts “Super Bowl” games from 1997-2011, winning nine Division I titles after two Division II crowns started the streak. His 184-39 career record included a 47-game win streak.

“He’s had success through all the years and he just makes it simple,” said senior Seth Aumann, the center and a captain. “He teaches fundamentals and we do the fundamentals.”

Before taking the Longmeadow job in 1993, Rotsko was a head coach at American International College in Springfield for 10 seasons (52-46-3 record) after being a college assistant at Ithaca and AIC.

It was at Ithaca, a Division III program in New York, that a young Alex Rotsko learned an important coaching lesson. The year was 1979.

Ithaca had a regular-season game against a strong Division II team from Pennsylvania. The players were “crazy” with excitement. Rotsko was convinced the team would play great but veteran coach Jim Butterfield was worried.

“He kept saying, ‘we’re not ready,’ and I remember thinking this old guy didn’t know what he was talking about. We ended up losing the game,” Rotsko said.


Ithaca went on to win the Division III championship that season. Two days before the NCAA semifinal game, Butterfield’s brother, former University of Maine baseball coach Jack Butterfield, died in a car accident. The mood on the flight to Iowa, and again on game day was somber.

“I remember thinking nobody’s ready to play, no one’s excited,” Rotsko said. “We went out and played like a machine. We did nothing wrong. I learned my lesson.

“When kids are on the bus laughing and screwing around, you know you’re in trouble. If they’re quiet, you know they’re thinking about the game.”

That’s why Rotsko focuses on what he can control, things like the practice schedule, constant repetition of the core plays, scouting, offseason preparation, and his play-calling.

“He knows his job is to get us ready and make sure we’re as prepared as we can be and leaves the getting pumped up to the players,” Glidden said.

When the players take care of the motivation and regulate themselves, it works better, Rotsko said, and this year’s squad is “absolutely” in charge of its own destiny.


Rotsko’s constant evaluation helps sharpen players’ self-motivation, said assistant coach Alan Robertshaw.

Every day a new depth chart is posted in the team locker room, based on the previous day’s practice performance.

“If you’re not motivated you go down but you also know that if you go out and do things right, you’ll get a chance to play,” Robertshaw said.

“He brings out players’ best and he puts players in the right spot where they need to be playing,” Goodwin said.

Aumann said there’s a bit of Bill Belichick in Rotsko’s approach. He’s there to teach and prepare. He will challenge players to improve. But he’s not going to turn to histrionics in a futile attempt to affect performance.

“And it’s a case where, we’ve played one game, that’s behind us, and we’re on to the next,” Aumann said.

Now the next is a championship game, familiar territory for the Hawks and especially Rotsko.

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