WALES — To Oak Hill football coach Geoff Wright and many of the family, friends and coaches gathered Saturday morning for the dedication of the high school’s football field in honor of Stacen Doucette, the field was Doucette’s long before his name was officially ascribed to it.

“For us, I think (the dedication) is a little bit more of a formality,” Wright said. “This really for me isn’t any different because for the past almost year, every time I look out this way (to the field), that’s the first thing I think of is Stacen. This is his place. This is his home.”

Doucette died unexpectedly last December at age 45, not long after his eighth season as the Raiders’ varsity football coach. He is the program’s all-time winningest coach with a 58-25 record (including 16-5 in the playoffs), and led them to the playoffs all eight seasons, highlighted by three consecutive Class D state championships in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

In order to stay in compliance with state gathering guidelines and allow as many people to take part as possible, Oak Hill athletic director Jim Palmer held two dedication ceremonies on Saturday for what will henceforth be known as Stacen Doucette Memorial Field. At 1:30 p.m., the Raiders’ traditional Saturday kickoff time, current and former players gathered for the second ceremony.

Coaches unveiled a sign that will be placed on top of the scoreboard. The school has also planted a memorial garden with a plaque to Doucette near the home bleachers and created a scholarship in his name. But those aren’t the only things that mark his impact on the program, school and community.

“He was a major motivator in putting a snack shack in, all of the signs that you see, the new scoreboard, most of the stuff that is here is here because of what he was trying to build,” Wright said. “For us, or for me anyway, it’s more confirmation of what should happen anyway.”

“I think if you asked any of them who it should be named after, that’s the first name that comes to mind,” he said.

Danielle Doucette, Stacen’s widow, called the occasion bittersweet for her and daughter Valerie.

A bag for brownie-flavored M&Ms and a bottle of Mountain Dew lean against a granite marker during the dedication of the Stacen Doucette Memorial Field on Saturday at Oak Hill High School in Wales. The two items were some of the late football coach’s favorites. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Stacen Doucette, an alum of Oak Hill’s biggest rival, Lisbon, came to Oak Hill for his first varsity head coaching job after serving as an assistant at his alma mater for two decades. The early stages of his tenure were bumpy because of the rivalry, Danielle said. But he immersed himself in the school and the community and turned the Raiders around in his first season.

“From the time he came in, he just took it as his own and created a sense of community with everyone,” she said. “He just went straight into it, heart and soul, completely, and made it his own. And he was welcomed in by the community here and got everybody involved as much as he could. He was all about that. Not just the kids. He included the families and the other community members and made sure everyone was involved and made sure everyone felt a part of the whole season.”

Many of Doucette’s coaching peers from Lisbon attended the morning dedication.

“It’s still a rivalry, but it’s friendly now. It’s respectful,” Palmer said. “It could have gone the other way. But he knew he could make it happen.”

A half-full glass of water and a book that Palmer gave to him, “Find a Way” by former NFL player Merrill Hoge, were placed in a seat for Doucette at the ceremony.

“Stacen not only taught players how to play the game of football but he also taught them the importance of what it meant to be on a team,” said Palmer, a close friend of Doucette’s in addition to being his AD. “Coach Doucette’s football teams were characterized as tough, well-prepared and hard-working teams that didn’t recognize individual games but rather team accomplishments.”

Matthew Strout, who played on the state championship teams, recalled Doucette making sure he had a presence at the school even though he wasn’t a teacher.

“Extreme dedication, that’s what everyone will remember about him,” Strout said. “Like how he was always at school and nobody knew why. At 9 o’clock he’d show up and it was, like, ‘Why are you here?’ When he got done working at Shaw’s, he would come to the school, then go home or go eat with Jim (Palmer) and then come back again.”

Doucette set a high standard for his players, as Strout recalled a practice following a win over Mountain Valley.

“We won, but we didn’t win by enough,” Strout said. “We had to run victory laps the next practice and he told us to wear sneakers. He didn’t tell us how much we were going to run. We thought we were going to stop after, like, 10 because the laps were around the whole football field.”

“He was like, ‘We’re going to run a lap for every point they scored,'” Strout added. “They’d scored 20-something points. And then, after that, some people were ready to stop, and he said, ‘Now we run for every penalty we had. Now we run for every fumble.’ And he was in his golf cart riding next to us yelling.”

Gordon Strout, Matthew’s father as well as an assistant coach and Oak Hill alumnus, believes Doucette could have driven state officials into submission, too.

“If he were still alive, there would be football in Maine this year. He would have spent every second he had to make it happen,” he said.

With 11-man tackle football banned for 2020, Oak Hill and Lisbon played a 7-on-7 flag football game on Friday. Dedicating the field in Doucette’s honor during a “normal” football season would have brought more to honor him, but probably wouldn’t have happened without a protest from the man himself, Wright said.

“We would feel like it’s more appropriate to how it should be done, but Stacen wouldn’t have even wanted this,” he said.

“He always said it was the team that deserved everything and not one individual person,” Danielle said. “But he definitely would be honored.”


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