In four years of covering him, I’m pretty sure I never saw Stacen Doucette laugh.

I never saw a grin. I probably saw a smile now and again, but it certainly wasn’t in response to anything I said.

From a media perspective, if you didn’t know Doucette, the Oak Hill football coach who died unexpectedly Monday morning, you thought he was gruff. If you did, you knew he was just reserved.

Doucette didn’t put his focus into holding court and waxing poetic after the game. He put it into preparing his players beforehand, and then guiding them during it. And when it came to those two jobs, few did it better.

Doucette’s resume at Oak Hill — three Class D state titles, all in a row from 2013-15, and eight playoff berths in eight seasons — speaks for itself, but what perhaps spoke even louder was the reaction across social media once the news broke Monday morning. Coaches and others in the sport across the state chimed in about Doucette’s love for the game, his dedication to the Oak Hill program, and his ability to teach the sport and grow his players. Everyone had an anecdote, a story to tell, or something warm to say.

Which, in a way, was ironic. Because Doucette was never one to say too much.

In some ways, Doucette was central Maine’s Bill Belichick. Time after time, reporters would talk to him after a big game, looking for the anchor quote, and come away with little more than a few cliches and generalizations to put into our stories. If the Raiders won by 40, they “did some things well.” If they lost by 40, they “needed to get better at some things.” If they were inexperienced, a sophomore-heavy team getting handled by a team of seniors, they were “working hard, and improving.”

It was always about the team. One time I covered a 36-12 Oak Hill victory over Yarmouth, during which Cruz Poirier ran for 183 yards and two touchdowns. I asked Doucette what he thought about his star running back’s game — or, rather, I tried to. I didn’t finish the question when Doucette answered.

“We don’t say Cruz ran for 183 yards,” he said. “We say we ran for 183 yards.”

In another game, also a win over Yarmouth, Oak Hill went ahead for good on a 27-yard touchdown run by Gavin Rawstron. I tried again to get Doucette to talk about the player scoring the touchdown, and again, no dice.

“The best part of that is that there were wide receivers blocking downfield,” he said. “It’s not one person, it’s 100 percent everybody. You had 11 people working on that play.”

Doucette was eager to praise his players — you just had to know when it was coming. After a game in which receiver Darryn Bailey snagged a touchdown pass and made a couple of pretty sideline catches, I asked Doucette about him and got the normal stuff: “It wasn’t just Darryn, the whole offense played well. I think a bunch of our players played well out there.”

Sensing I wasn’t going to get any further, I put the recorder away. Doucette asked how many receiving yards Bailey had, and I told him.

“OK,” Doucette said. “It’d be nice to see him get some credit, I think he’s one of the best receivers in the state.”

He was done talking before I could get the recorder back on.

The players who inspired Doucette to open up were not the ones with the best stat lines, but the ones who never took a play off in practice, or the ones who committed themselves in the film and weight rooms. He loved a player like Ethan Richard, who was undersized at linebacker but of whom Doucette would speak glowingly about his intelligence and leadership. Or someone like Kyle Stilkey, the team’s linchpin on the offensive line. Or Rawstron, the team’s quarterback and safety who works just as hard on his defensive game as his offensive one.

Doucette loved those kinds of players because he knew what made winning teams. Under Doucette, the Raiders didn’t always start off hot. But they always, unfailingly, got better. Take the 2018 season: Oak Hill started 2-3, struggling to find consistency on both offense and defense. The Raiders didn’t have much going for them. On more than one occasion, I summed them up as being another so-so Class D team.

By November, that same team was in the D South final, fresh off of upset wins over Lisbon and Madison, both of whom beat Oak Hill during the regular season. All that was standing between the Raiders and the state final was Wells, the invincible two-time defending state champions.

“We’ll try to slay the giant,” Doucette said days before the game.

You got the sense that if his players could have put down money on themselves, they would have.

Of course, Doucette didn’t just lead underdogs and Cinderella stories. His Raiders in 2016 held the longest winning streak in the state at 24 games following the three straight titles, and his 2015 and ’14 teams were some of the best the area has seen in recent years.

Whether his rosters were deep and talented or thin and bare, though, there was always a constant. Doucette was going to get the most out of them. That was the case again this year, as Oak Hill went from having an anemic offense to being in the mix for a first-round bye.

As his team closed in on the playoffs, Doucette struck his familiar tone.

“It’s a week-to-week thing,” he said. “We’re young, as far as starters, and just getting better.”

Well said.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.