For Ryan Libby, the moment came in the second quarter of his first game as Skowhegan Area High School’s head football coach. Trailing Marshwood 21-0, Libby tried to give his team a jolt, so he made the call for a fake punt on fourth down. The Indians failed to convert, but the point was made. Libby wouldn’t shy from a tough decision if he felt it could help the team.

“We were trying to get a spark,” Libby said.

Being a head coach is a job in which, no matter how prepared you are and no matter how much experience you have as an assistant, you’re still going to learn on the job. That’s particularly true in football, when many in-game decisions come down to the head coach’s judgment. This season, four first-time head coaches in central Maine are learning that no matter how ready you are, you can always be more prepared.

Jake Rogers at Nokomis, Nate Quirion at Mt. Blue, and Rick Leary at Mount View join Libby as first-year head coaches. Each has his team 1-1. Getting that first win was important, but each knows one win is a small piece of the larger picture when it comes to program-building.

“The kids kept it in perspective. They can accomplish a heck of a lot more,” Rogers said of Nokomis’ season-opening win at Hampden. “I’m usually ready to move on a minute after the win. I’m the same after a loss. After the game at MCI (a 12-0 loss for the Warriors), I was thinking about the next game against Oceanside.”

This past week, Mt. Blue earned its first win under Quirion. Like Nokomis, the Cougars defeated Hampden.


“It was huge. I was just really, really happy for our kids,” Quirion said.

Quirion, Libby and Rogers are in their 30s. Leary is 62, and thought he was done with football after serving as an assistant coach for many years at Lawrence, Winslow and Messalonskee. However, after his wife, Deborah, died late last year, Leary decided to get back into coaching. He earned his first Mount View victory on Saturday, when the Mustangs rallied for a come-from-behind 43-35 overtime win against Ellsworth.

Leary was hired at Mount View just before the two weeks hands-off period in early August. That meant he didn’t get to know his team until preseason practices began.

“I’m proud to be out here coaching. I’ve only been here three weeks, and we’re coming along,” Leary said.

Being the final say is the biggest adjustment for new coaches. Libby — who was hired as an interim head coach late in the summer after former Skowhegan coach Matt Friedman accepted a job on the Husson University coaching staff — said the transition was made easier by working with most of the same coaching staff Skowhegan has had for a few years. Assistant coach BJ Dunlop continues to work with the offense, leaving Libby to manage the defense.

“Now the info’s flowing to you. I’m still working with guys I’ve been with for five years,” Libby said.


Prior to taking the Mt. Blue job, Quirion had been an assistant coach at Lawrence and Bangor high schools, and most recently at Husson. Teaching is at the root of coaching, Quirion said, and at this stage of his time at Mt. Blue, that includes teaching assistant coaches as well as players.

“You kind of have to go through your paces together. I’ve been blessed to have some great people. They love these kids, and they love Mt. Blue,” Quirion said. “The kids have got to come first. It’s about them.”

Each of the new head coaches mentioned mentors in the profession that offered advice and encouragement along the way. For Rogers, that not only includes head coaches like John Hersom, for whom he worked at Lawrence, but other veteran assistant coaches, like Mike Mealey and Ken Lindlof.

“They’ve given me a lot of advice over the years,” Rogers said. “Kids aren’t any different, no matter what school you’re at.”

Quirion also points to Hersom as a role model, as well as Husson head coach Gabby Price.

“I think about all these men every single day. Coach Price is like family to me,” Quirion said.


Quirion, Leary and Rogers each took over teams that did not make the playoffs last season. Skowhegan did, and Libby knows the pressure of getting the team back to the postseason. By teaching the game the right way, each coach hopes the wins will add up.

“Ultimately, it is a much different responsibility,” Quirion said. “How you perform is ultimately a reflection on you. There’s a heightened sense of urgency.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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