Rod Wotton, shown in 2007 while coaching at St. Thomas Aquinas High in Dover, New Hampshire, has died at 82. Wotton was the head coach at Marshwood High for nearly three decades, winning 16 state championships. Portland Press Herald file photo

Rod Wotton, who retired in 2010 as the winningest football coach in New England high school history, has died. He was 82.

Wotton was a head football coach for 47 years, beginning at the former South Berwick High in 1964.

His teams won 16 state championships at Marshwood High, where he compiled a 220-33-1 record over nearly three decades. In one stretch, the Hawks won 45 consecutive games, a streak that was the best in the nation when it ended in the 1987 playoffs. He resigned as the Marshwood coach in 1992.

Wotton compiled a career record of 342-81-3, including 15 seasons at St. Thomas Aquinas High in Dover, New Hampshire.

Rich Buzzell, athletic director at Marshwood High, didn’t get to work with Wotton directly, but had the misfortune of both playing and coaching against him over the years.

Buzzell started working at Marshwood after Wotton had already moved on, but got to know him personally over the years in other ways, from conversations, connections and seeing his legacy in action.

“If there’s ever a living legend, Rod Wotton was a living legend,” Buzzell said.

Wotton, a longtime resident of York, had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for nearly two decades. News of his death was first reported by Seacoastonline.

He was described by friends and former players as an all-around great person, coach, competitor and mentor.

Mike Zamarchi, a Marshwood High School history teacher who played under Wotton from 1982-85, said his former coach was “just one of those guys that you liked to be around.” 

He had a way of reaching kids, even once he was no longer coaching. He was a father figure to many, and was able to help some kids who didn’t have great home lives, Zamarchi and Buzzell said. 

For someone with so many wins, his coaching style was really quite simple. 

Wotton only ran a handful of plays, but he was a perfectionist and ran them until the kids did it right. 

“His mode of operation was, ‘You know what we’re going to run, try to stop us.’ But nobody could stop them,” Buzzell said. 

“Football-wise he was fairly simple, but what we did, we did well,” Zamarchi agreed. “If someone messed up, he had a great way of making light of it, not in making fun of him, but making it so you didn’t want to mess up again.” 

Wotton was a great coach, who knew how to motivate kids and get the most out of them, Zamarchi said.

As Buzzell put it, the kids who played for him “lived and breathed what Rod Wotton football was.”

Wotton was never one for the limelight, always downplaying his successes. 

“He pointed it all toward the kids, but you know when you’re a 16 times state champion… you know that it’s because of what he does and what he brought to the table,” Buzzell said.

For example, Buzzell said, when Wotton started at St. Thomas Aquinas, the school wasn’t doing too well in football, “and then all of a sudden they started winning state championships… It was definitely him, but he was not a ‘me, me’ guy.”

In 2020, after five rounds of voting from readers, The Bangor Daily News crowned Wotton “Maine’s Greatest High School Coach of All Time.”  

He told the newspaper that his chemistry matched the kids’ chemistry.

“I told the kids that when they won, they weren’t as good as they thought they were and when they got beat, they weren’t as bad as they thought they were,” he said.

He also said he always tried to treat all the kids the same.

“All I asked the kids to do was give me all you’ve got. You can’t ask for anything more than that.”

Shortly after his retirement from coaching, Wotton reflected on his career in a 2011 interview with the Press Herald.

“I was lucky that I was in the right places at the right time,” he said. “My chemistry and the kids’ chemistry seemed to jell. I was fortunate to have great players wherever I was. And I always had the support of the administration. They let me do what I did.”

It wasn’t all football.

Wotton was a husband, father of three and a grandfather. He enjoyed playing golf.

The number of lives he touched, both on and off the football field, Buzzell said, could fill Gillette Stadium.

He impacted more lives over the course of 50 years than you could even imagine” he said. 

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