Former Thornton Academy football head coach Bob Cote, right, on the sidelines with the Golden Trojans in 1983. The legendary coach who died in July at the age of 88 will be honored prior to Thornton’s game against Marshwood on Saturday.

SACO — Hill Stadium will feature a showdown between state champions on Saturday when Marshwood travels to Saco to take on Thornton Academy — and it will be the perfect setting to honor legendary coach Bob Cote.

“He made a great impact on the school. He was known, the term I’ve seen used is a gentleman’s gentleman,” said Thornton Academy Athletic Director Gary Stevens. “He was an outstanding classroom teacher, highly respected, but also a real gentleman on the football field. He was highly respected by his players, his opponents and by basically the entire southern Maine community.”

Cote, who passed away in July at the age of 88, will be honored before the game with a moment of silence and a joint performance by the St. Louis Alumni Band and the Thornton Academy pep band.

In addition to his time spent at Thornton Academy, Bob Cote also coached at St. Louis High School in Biddeford. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Cote, who was a three-sport star at St. Louis High School in Biddeford and played football at Boston College, returned to coach at St. Louis from 1957 until the school closed in 1970. In that time he would lead the Saints to five state championships. 

He would then move across town to Thornton Academy where he coached football from 1970 until 1984 and was a teacher until the early 1990s. Cote finished with an impressive 173-74-8 career record as a high school football coach.

“My father always said that he worked at two great institutions, St. Louis High School and Thornton Academy,” said Bob’s youngest son Chuck Cote. “I’m glad they are doing that because he loved Thornton Academy very much. It’s good to see because he’s been gone from Thornton Academy from coaching since 1984, for teaching the early 90s and they still remember and still appreciate what he did for Thornton Academy.”

Growing up with Coach Cote

Chuck was 5-years-old when St. Louis High School closed in 1970 — and that forced the Cote kids to pick between going to Biddeford High School or going with their dad to Thornton.

“I ended growing up a Thornton fan, but the thing is we lived in Biddeford. The four boys (Mickey, John, Donald and Chuck) all went to Thornton Academy, and the two girls, my sister Mary and my sister Anne, went to Biddeford High School,” Chuck recalled.

Being Thornton Academy fans — and eventually student-athletes for the Trojans — meant the Cote boys would hear it from their neighbors in Biddeford.

“Growing up we were always harassed in Biddeford. I would always wear my Thornton Academy hat all over the place,” Chuck said.

One of the things Chuck recalls fondly is getting a chance to hang out with his dad and the Thornton football team.

“The nice thing is right from the third grade, I’d go to practice for double sessions. I was always going with him, and the nice thing too was I got to ride the bus going to games,” Chuck said. “I was always on the sidelines just like my brothers were. You know, you run out and get the kickoff tee and that was a big deal. He would always encourage us. He always wanted us to come. He never said ‘oh, you can’t come.’ (Thornton) would play on a Saturday, so he went scouting on a Friday and I’d tag along.”

Even in the summers, the Cote kids would get a chance to hang out with their dad.

“The nice thing was him being a teacher and a coach, we all did, we got to spend a lot of time. Then in the summers, he worked at the May Field on May Street, so we’d all go with him to work and play at May Field,” Chuck recalled. “With six kids, it gave my mother a break, too.”

A patient leader

One quality any coach or teacher needs in order to succeed while working with young people is patience — and Bob Cote certainly had it.

“The thing is my father had an extraordinary amount of patience and that patience was the same at home as it was in the classroom as it was on the football field. It was amazing how much patience he had especially when you’re working with young people all the time,” Chuck said.

Coach Cote, who is a member of the Biddeford, Thornton and Maine Hall of Fames, also never let his frustration show, according to Chuck.

“He never got angry at kids. He never lost his cool or his composure. He never showed it to us. I’m sure he got frustrated all the time, but we wouldn’t see that,” Chuck said.

Chuck, who played quarterback for his dad at TA, also recalls coach Cote instilling confidence in his players.

“He also gave a lot of confidence to the kids. I played quarterback, and as with all his quarterbacks from St. Louis and Thornton Academy, he allowed as you got comfortable to call your own plays, which is unheard of today,” Chuck recalled.

Saturday’s celebration

Stevens said the celebration of the longtime coach will start with the 2019 TA team coming onto the field with the St. Louis and TA bands performing “When the Saints Go Marching In,” which was the fight song for the St. Louis Saints before they play the TA fight song.

During pre-game warmups, the public address announcer will read a biography of coach Cote, and finally, a moment of silence will be held right before the start of the game.

“There are a lot (Cote) family members here in Saco. His son (John) is a local baseball umpire who works a lot of games for us here at TA. His granddaughter, Kaitlyn, coached cheerleading for us for a number of years,” said Stevens, who is expecting nearly 30 members of the Cote family to attend Saturday’s game. “The Cote family has been very much rooted in the Saco-Biddeford area for years and we thought it was a small gesture we could do to recognize that legacy of service and excellence here in Thornton and as well at St. Louis High School.”

Pat McDonald is a former Sports Editor at the Journal Tribune. He is currently the Managing Editor at the Morning Times in Sayre, Pennsylvania. He can be reached at [email protected]

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