Mt. Blue High School football coach Jim Aylward is retiring, athletic director Chad Brackett confirmed Friday.

The 55-year-old Aylward is stepping down after three seasons at the helm of the Cougars, a stint that followed an illustrious career at Mountain Valley. According to Brackett, the decision was a personal one.

“He told me if he was 30 years younger, he would love to stay at Mt. Blue,” Brackett said. “But dynamics changed in his life, and he mentioned spending more time with his family and having grandkids. He thought it was time to move away from coaching.”

A call to Aylward Friday night was not returned.

Brackett said Aylward first indicated what his plans were in an email two weeks ago while Brackett was on vacation, and that the two got together last Thursday. Brackett said Aylward told him his decision then.

“He let me know that he was retiring from coaching, that he wasn’t making a move to another school, and that he intended to maintain teaching and working at Mountain Valley High School, where he has worked,” Brackett said.

Brackett said Mt. Blue posted an opening for the head coaching job the next day, but didn’t make an official announcement regarding Aylward’s retirement.

“Out of respect for coach, I just let him handle it his way,” Brackett said. “I knew people would figure it out sooner or later.”

Before heading to Mt. Blue in 2014, Aylward coached at Mountain Valley for more than two decades and turned the Falcons into a juggernaut in Class B. Mountain Valley went to 17 regional championship games and eight state finals, winning championships in 2004, ’06, ’08 and ’10.

After taking over at Mt. Blue, he took the Cougars to the playoffs his first two seasons, reaching the B North semifinals in 2015. He had a medical scare in 2015 when he experienced chest pains while teaching at Mountain Valley, missed a game and was hospitalized with a collapsed lung, but Brackett said Aylward didn’t point to his health as a reason for retiring.

“He didn’t indicate that to me,” he said. “He did indicate that it takes a lot to run a program, especially a program like Mt. Blue’s, and he just felt like it was a time for him to step away from it.”

Brackett said the school hasn’t picked a replacement and is still in the early stages of finding its next coach, but said that Aylward left a mark in his time on the sidelines.

“The way that he treats his student-athletes and the people around him is unbelievable,” Brackett said. “He’s an intense coach, but … he’s a coaching legend. He was before he got to Mt. Blue, and the imprint that he has put on Mt. Blue will be there forever.”

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