With the game ball already in hand, Stacen Doucette got another reward for his first victory as a varsity head coach at Oak Hill, a shower under the Gatorade bucket.
"That's it," Doucette told his players. "I only want one more."
The implication being that the next one can come if and when the Raiders win their last game in November. Suddenly, after a 33-7 rout of two-time defending Class C champion Yarmouth, a much colder shower at Fitzpatrick Stadium isn't out of the question.
Three exits down the Turnpike in Gray, Jim Hersom's Gray-New Gloucester Patriots celebrated a new era of their own on Friday night. Their 22-17 win over Falmouth, sent its own shock waves through not only the Campbell Conference, but all of Western Maine.
One of the great things about high school football is it wastes little time reminding us just how volatile it is from one year to the next. I've been covering it for 13 years, and I've got a streak of 13 opening nights in a row where I've walked into the newsroom and been greeted by someone with at lease one final score that has made me say "Wow."
I had that reaction several times last Friday night — reading a tweet with the Mountain Valley/Westbrook halftime score, someone telling me the Gray-New Gloucester final in the newsroom, watching the highlights of Jared Jensen running all over Bangor.
No doubt it will happen multiple times over this weekend. It will also become a little more clear this weekend whether the Week 1 upsets were truly upsets or if they were signaling sea changes.
In the cases of Oak Hill and Gray-New Gloucester, the biggest change is obvious.
A new coach can take a program that's been mired in mediocrity or worse and infuse it with optimism and enthusiasm. He can also instill discipline and accountability and fill any of the other voids that will bring out the character in his players.
Yes, it's ultimately up to the players to embrace the new coach's philosophy and vision. But not every coach is capable of communicating his vision to the players in a way that makes them buy into it, that makes them want to spend a couple of hours a day in the weight room in July.
It helps when some of the foundation has already been laid. Doucette and Hersom's predecessors did that. Doucette showed how much he respected what the previous regime at Oak Hill led by Dave Wing had done by retaining Geoff Wright and Chad Stowell from Dave Wing's staff.
Inheriting a team with senior leadership doesn't hurt, either. Oak Hill had 13 seniors suited up last Saturday (compared to two for Yarmouth). The offensive and defensive lines that dominated the Clippers consisted largely of seniors. Seniors were keys to Gray-New Gloucester's win, too. Running back Josh Greenleaf scored all three touchdowns and linebacker Aaron Chapman had two key interceptions.
But all of that experience would be wasted if the players weren't put in a position to succeed. Putting in new offensive and defensive schemes and/or shuffling players to different positions are pointless if one can't recognize what each individual has to offer a team, where their talents, abilities, skills, what have you, fit into the overall plan. It's one of the biggest challenges facing a new coach.
Even more challenging, and what often separates the great from the good coaches, is identifying intangible qualities of the players and having a finger on the pulse of the team. Finding the leaders, whether they are the vocal or the by example type, and giving them the opportunity to lead. Knowing when to lean on a player and when to give him a break. Sensing when the team needs the rah-rah speech and when only a simple, "Go get 'em," will suffice.
Calling Doucette and Hersom well-schooled in coaching is an understatement. While he was playing and coaching at Lisbon, Doucette learned from the master, Dick Mynahan. Hersom learned from a legend, his father, Lawrence "Doc" Hersom. As folks in Livermore Falls, Auburn and Turner can attest, the apple must not have fallen far from the tree.
Whether last weekend was the start of two of the biggest turnarounds in Maine high school football remains to be seen. But folks in Wales and Gray can be pretty confident of one thing. There may have been more talented football teams to pass through their towns, but when all is said and done, there won't have been any that got more out of the talent they had.