WATERVILLE — You get a feeling about big decisions. When it’s time, you know it’s time.

Before the start of this past high school football season, Frank Knight knew it was time. The 2013 season would be his 24th and last as head coach at Waterville Senior High School.

His younger son, Luke, was going to be a senior on the Waterville football team this season. When Luke was done, Frank was done. The season ended with Waterville’s loss to Winslow in the Eastern C championship game. In his last season, Knight’s team was 8-2.

“I think a few years ago, I started thinking about it,” Knight said. “The natural threshold was when my son graduated.”

Knight’s retirement wasn’t the secret of the century around Waterville. He told friends and colleagues, but at Monday’s team dinner, he made it official.

With that, central Maine lost another great high school coach. Knight was a coach who was adept at knowing which players needed a pat on the back, and which needed to be pushed.

“When I was in high school, we needed a kick in the butt,” former Waterville quarterback Kyle Bishop said. “Coach Knight was great for the school for so long.”

Football is a big piece of Knight’s life. Considering he didn’t start playing the sport until his junior year of high school, that’s incredible. Knight’s teams worked hard because he did.

“I think there’s only been two years since I was a junior in high school that I haven’t played or coached football,” Knight said.

Despite being a relative newcomer to football, Knight earned a spot on the University of Maine roster. An all-purpose defensive lineman, Knight lettered for the Black Bears in 1978. When he was a student teacher at Old Town High School, Knight coached the linemen for coach Ed Paul.

Walt Abbott and Jack Bicknell, two of Knight’s coaches at Maine, were influences.

“Maine was just a great fit for me,” Knight said.

When Bishop was a senior in the fall of 2010, the Purple Panthers went as a team to Orono to see Maine play Albany. Before the team got off the bus at Alfond Stadium, Knight gave his team a history lesson on the Maine Stein Song. He told them when to sing it, what it meant to him and the school.

“He showed me the pictures in his office of when he played at Maine,” Bishop said. “I know he’s proud of playing football at Maine.”

Knight is equally proud of his accomplishments at Waterville, even if the one that got away still stings, 19 years later.

Knight coached Waterville to back-to-back Pine Tree Conference Class A titles in 1993 and 1994, In ‘94, the Panthers lost to Biddeford after the Tigers scored a pair of touchdowns late in the fourth quarter to tie the game, including a 75-yard punt return with 34 seconds left. The Tigers then took the win in overtime.

“That still haunts me a little bit,” Knight said.

Let that be a blip on an otherwise outstanding career. There are too many good memories to let one bad one take center stage.

“I have a lot, which is a great thing to say. It’s the relationships I’ll remember. All the great coaches I had on my staff, and the players,” Knight said. “The greatest thing about this job is the outstanding young men I’ve met.”

The game has changed since Knight started coaching. The high school game became more wide open, and Knight thanked longtime offensive coordinator Ken Lindlof for keeping the Panthers up with the changes. Still, he has a soft spot in his heart for the Wing-T offense and the 5-2 defensive alignment.

“That stuff worked, and it still works. Look at John Wolfgram (Cheverus’ head coach). A Wing-T and a 5-2 defense, and he wins,” Knight said.

The demands of the job changed, too. Coaching any sport in high school is a year-round commitment now. When the football season ends, there’s an offseason workout program to manage. In the summer, there are camps to attend. Teams compete in the 7 on 7 summer passing leagues now.

“It’s getting more demanding,” Knight said. “It’s a high energy, young man’s job.”

Knight will continue teaching physical education at Waterville Senior High School. He didn’t come to his decision easily, or lightly. But when you know it’s time, it’s time.

For Knight, it’s time. It’s Waterville’s, and Maine high school football’s, loss.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242[email protected]Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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