Bob Chaisson has enjoyed living his passion for football at stops as close as Lewiston and as far away as England, and he’s delighted it all led to what he says will be his final stop as a coach, Poland Regional High School.

An assistant on Spencer Emerson’s coaching staff during his two-year tenure as the Knights’ varsity head coach, Chaisson is stepping up to replace Emerson, who resigned to return to Bates College as an assistant coach. Poland athletic director Don King announced the hiring Monday night.

Bob Chaisson has been hired as the new coach at Poland Regional High School. Submitted photo

“Bob has been coaching for some time, two years with us, a year at Bates, and many other stops,” King wrote in an email to the Sun Journal. “We are excited to have Bob with us, and so are the players.  It was clear that in addition to having a great educational approach to coaching, our kids support him as a coach.”

“I ended up in Poland two years ago and found myself very comfortable there,” the 56-year-old Chaisson said. “I enjoy the kids and the relationships I have with everyone in the building, not just football. I think they’ve got some good things going on there, and I hope I can contribute what I have when in terms of experiences to that.”

A retired firefighter, Chaisson grew up in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and played for one of the first schools in the northeast to host Friday night games under the lights, Newburyport High School.

He joined the Air Force and, while working on- and off-base as a firefighter while stationed at Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire, England, he practiced with the Upper Heyford Sky Kings, a team that competed against other teams from air bases around Europe.

His coaching career began about 24 years ago, first as a youth coach for a decade after he left the military. His first high school job was at Concord’s Bishop Brady, where he served as defensive coordinator for seven years.

He spent a year-and-a-half coaching defensive line at a private school in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, before returning to New England. He eventually decided to try his hand at college coaching and contacted former Bates head coach Mark Harriman about an opening in his staff.

Harriman added him to the staff as slot back coach in 2017, which is when he met Emerson. He spent one season at Bates, decided college coaching wasn’t for him, then, after a season away from the game, accepted Emerson’s invitation to coach the defense at Poland.

“Spencer and I became friends right away,” Chaisson said. “I knew right away there was something special about him. I had and have huge respect for his approach to communicating with people.”

In a tweet posted after Poland announced the hiring, Emerson called it a “great move.”

“Coach Chaisson is a class act, with decades of experience,” Emerson wrote in the tweet. “He is more than a friend. He’s been a father figure to me for years and I’m grateful to know him.”

Chaisson said his coaching philosophy is one that he thinks translates across all high school athletics — establishing a positive environment for kids to learn about teamwork, success and failure while building relationships, setting expectations and holding athletes accountable to them.

In terms of Xs and Os, Chaisson said that although he’s mostly used a 4-3 scheme while at Poland, size and depth could dictate shifting to a three-man front.

Offensively, he does foresee a departure from the pass-heavy spread style favored by Emerson. The Knights have a lot of speed and are planning on putting last year’s lead running back, Joe Ringuette, at quarterback, and Chaisson hopes to take advantage of his dynamic running and throwing ability with a more balanced, ball-control attack.

“In order for you to control the clock, you need to be able to run the ball successfully and you need to be able to throw the ball when the opportunities present themselves,” said Chaisson, who served as an assistant coach for the West at last year’s Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl.

The Knights finished 3-6 in Class D South in Emerson’s first year and 1-8 in Class C South last year, losing in the regional quarterfinals each year.

The school considered joining the rising tide into the state’s eight-man football class for the upcoming season but ultimately decided to remain in 11-man football for the upcoming season. It is still unclear where the Maine Principals’ Association will put the Knights for the 2020 season. Only six schools remain in Class D, and some unofficial discussions of a reformatted class included some Class C schools moving down to fill the void. The MPA has said it does not want to undergo any reclassification until the current two-year cycle ends after the next school year.

Chaisson said numbers at Poland look good on the immediate horizon, with anywhere from 13-to-17 players expected to move up from the middle school program for next season. He’s encouraged that the program will have the numbers to continue its junior varsity program, which he said is vital to sustaining a healthy varsity.

Regardless of where Poland falls in the state’s ever-changing high school football landscape, Chaisson said he is committed to leading them into their next chapter.

“I applied for the job because I want to coach football,” he said. “(Eight-man) is football to me. Regardless of whether it’s eight-man or 11-man, I’m in it for the kids and I want them to play either way.”

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