When he was a coach on John Hersom’s football staff at Lawrence High School a dozen years ago, Wally Covell wanted to meet with Hersom each week, before the entire coaching staff held their meeting to finalize the upcoming gameplan. Hersom, never one to turn down time with a coach as experienced and accomplished as Covell, was happy to hold the one-on-one.

“I think of that meeting as mentoring,” Hersom said. “He was kind of preparing me for the week. I always enjoyed having that meeting with Coach Covell.”

This past Wednesday, while waiting for the first pitch of the New York Yankees/Boston Red Sox game, Covell died in Orono, just weeks after celebrating his 84th birthday. Along with his family, Covell left behind generations who played either football or baseball for him, and coaching colleagues who always learned from him, and still try to follow Covell’s example.

“I guess I did tell him, a couple times, he was a lot like the way I approach things. He was old school,” Hersom said. “He commanded total respect. He paid attention to detail and his work ethic was strong. I think that went a long way with our kids… Our players at the time were pretty attached to him.”

A 1955 graduate of the University of Maine, Covell made his coaching mark at the high school and collegiate level. In the 1960s, he built a juggernaut football program at Orono High School. In an eight-season span between 1961 and 1968, Covell’s Red Riots were undefeated twice, and had just one loss four other seasons. He succeeded John Winkin as head baseball coach at Colby College, coaching the Mules from 1974-1984. Covell was inducted in the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.

Covell was the head baseball coach at Lawrence for much of the time he was an assistant on Hersom’s football coaching staff.

Now a successful head boys basketball coach at Messalonskee High School, Peter McLaughlin was Covell’s catcher with the Bulldogs in 2003. McLaughlin remembered Covell as a coach who held everybody accountable, including himself.

For the most part, Covell allowed McLaughlin to call pitches. On occasion, though, Covell would signal a pitch from the dugout. Touching the brim of his cap meant Covell wanted a curveball. A tap of his nose was fastball and touching his chin was a call for a changeup. In one game, McLaughlin remembers Covell tapping his cap on an 0-2 count, so McLaughlin called for a curve.

After the pitch, Covell shouted to McLaughlin, and touched his cap again. After the second curveball, Covell called timeout and told McLaughlin he wanted a fastball. In the dugout between innings, McLaughlin asked his coach, did we change the signs? Covell immediately realized his mistake, McLaughlin said.

“He said, ‘I’m sorry, Pete. That’s on me,'” McLaughlin said.

When Hersom described Covell as old school, he meant Covell had confidence that, if he coached his players the correct way, they would have the confidence to execute what was necessary to win when they took the field. In that regard, Covell was a perfect fit with the Bulldogs, who won a state title in 2006 and a Pine Tree Conference championship in 2007.

“Let the boys go with it and get it done. We had a group of kids who understood that,” Hersom said. “You guys control it. You guys are prepared. Now go and do it.”

Covell is gone, and his place in Maine sports history is cemented. The best way to honor Covell is to continue passing on the ideals he coached for generations.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM