Giving thanks for top-notch football coaches

So, in our first year of picking high school football games here in the region, the “Big Fella” turns in a solid, if not thoroughly unspectacular 58-22 mark, a .725 win percentage, which sinks below the Brees Line – as in Drew Brees’ current record-setting completion rate (.769) with the New Orleans Saints.

In this week of giving thanks, we would like to toss a note to the big nine, our area’s football coaches, who took all of the Big Fella’s attempts at humor with the grain of salt they deserved. They all understood this is first and foremost about fun.

So without further ado:

Big props to Amherst’s Scott Knight, the head man at Nashua South, for all the help during the year, not just with his team but with his son, Trevor, who just finished up an amazing career at UNH.

Scott must be the most even-keeled football coach I’ve ever seen, because when he got dealt a nasty hand on the field one drizzly-then-sunny afternoon in Goffstown, the guy oozed dignity. It’s one of those personal lessons this 50-something won’t forget.

Moving up an exit, we slide to North where Dante Laurendi had his Titans again on the cusp of the playoffs. Dante deals mainly with Tom King here Telegraph-wise, and why wouldn’t he? The man has his own bobble-head doll.

Still, anytime it is needed, Dante delivers, and availability, as Bill Belichick has pointed out, is an absolute must in the game of football.

Another guy on “Tom’s Team” is Bishop Guertin’s John Trisciani.

I got to see the Cards once, heading into a Merrimack meat-grinder at midseason.

Trisciani’s troops gave us all a lesson in resilience. They were 1-3 at the time, but the Cards played like they were in a playoff chase. The class, spirit and grit oozing from the BG sideline smacked of future success. You heard it here first, Guertin football is on the come. I could tell that night.

The aforementioned Tomahawks enjoyed a heck of a year, reaching the state semifinals under Kip Jackson.

KJ might be the humblest football man in the region, and that’s so darn refreshing. He lets his kids and his coaches do their thing. I thank him for teaching that there is a time to step back and assess and a time to step up as a taskmaster.

I also thank him for totally befuddling this corner when it comes to figuring out the fate of his football team. Merrimack remains a mystery to me to this very day.

Dropping into Division II, I honestly feel indebted to the four area head coaches for an amazing fall.

Alvirne’s Tarek Rothe, Hollis Brookline’s Chris Lones, Milford’s Keith Jones and Souhegan’s Robin Bowkett are all pretty unique in an era of more and more “cookie-cutter” coaches.

Rothe’s run to the finals in his first season as the head coach for the Broncos was truly a ton of fun.

After seeing Alvirne play six times previous to Saturday’s state final, another reporter asked me “What kind of football team?” the Broncos were.

I was stymied. There really is no simple answer.

The ultimate response was “The kind of high school football team you love to root for.”

Rothe’s guys are tough, respectful and simply never quit. They kept coming back, right to the very end. They played, as he said so often, “with heart.”

Lones’ crew missed the playoffs, typically in this wild fall, by an inch or two.

I know for a fact that I never once heard Lones gripe about some truly bad breaks along the way, injuries, a tough call, a bad loss by another team to miss the playoffs.

Lones has always made this reporter welcome in the “The Swamp,” and he’s considered a friend.

But I learned a lot more about Lones through his son, Jeremiah, this season. The kid broke his wrist and simply wouldn’t be told that he couldn’t play. A senior center, he played his final games with a soft cast/club on his hand. It was inspirational, and that comes from his dad/coach.

Milford’s Jones is the veteran of the DII group and deserves that respect.

Not sure who the coaches are thinking about coach of the year, and sure “Riverboat Rothe” will get serious looks too, but Jones took a group that went 2-6 a year ago and returned eight seniors to the playoffs.

The No.1 reason: Character, and the demand for it in the program.

Jones and his kids check all the boxes on and off the field. The tradition of the team and its program working with senior citizens in town on a weekly basis is legendary.

Success is no secret.

Bowkett coaches Milford’s top foe, and he, in just a couple seasons, has re-kindled the rivalry.

He coaches like a player, as in, “I won’t tell you to do something I wouldn’t do or haven’t done myself,” and it’s so evident the Sabers have bought in.

In a word, there is an enthusiasm surrounding Bowkett, one that is there in summer 7-on-7s and continues shining right through the playoffs.

Watching that playoff upset at Bow was certainly a highlight for me, one that will not soon be forgotten in Amherst for a while. In fact, expect the Sabers to rally around it as a jumping-off point for 2019.

And finally, there is Glen Costello, who in his first season at Campbell, came within a whisker of a state title, falling on a final-play field goal by Monadnock Saturday.

Like myself, Costello has Merrimack Valley Conference roots (in Massachusetts). His team had a Valley look, playing without its MVP Saturday and nearly pulling off the shocker.

I know I can’t explain it to outsiders but the “Valley look” is a major compliment, trust me.

And it will be bad news for Cougar opponents, you can bank on that.

Hector Longo can be reached at 594-1253 or