By Ellen Oliver
On Sunday January 20, the Nashoba Chieftains held their annual football banquet to recognize the accomplishments of the 2012 team and bid farewell to the graduating seniors. This banquet also served as the forum for longtime Head Coach Ken Tucker to announce his retirement as the Chieftain’s coach.
There was no confetti or Gatorade bath for Tucker, but the theme of “going out on top” couldn’t be more obvious, as the Chieftains ended the 2012 season with a second consecutive Super Bowl victory, capping a second consecutive undefeated season.
Tucker said it’s been nice for him to hear from so many people, especially former players, wishing him well on his retirement. “People have been supportive and it’s nice to hear that many didn’t want me to go. Better than the other way to go,” laughed the now former coach. “It’s nice to hear from former Nashoba players. It says to me that their time at Nashoba was important to them. They also say they hope they hire a good replacement.”
Tucker said part of the reason he chose this year to retire is so his replacement can have a team with potential. “I wanted to leave when the program is in good shape. Hopefully, I’ve done that.” Tucker voiced support for his assistant coaches, saying he hopes they will be considered for the head job. “We say in football, ‘you can’t do it alone’ and I haven’t either,” he said.
The coach said the highlight reel of his time coaching will feature faces, not awards. “Trophies are great, but they only remind me of the kids and coaches. It’s the relationships I’ll remember. Obviously success is nice and we made history. We made great memories and hopefully we build on that and make good people. If I’ve had a little part of doing that, that’s what feels good.”
As an educator first, Tucker said shaping the lives of his players has always been a key component of his game plan. “At practice, we teach then to rely on one another, that it pays dividends later,” said the coach. “We believe that with each other and decent talent, we should be successful.”
Under Tucker’s 25 year reign, “successful” is a bit of an understatement. His combined record as head coach is 180 wins, 94 losses, 1 tie. The team made nine league championships, plus eight Super Bowls visits and won three victories (1999, 2011, 2012).
In addition to celebrating a second Super Bowl victory at the banquet, the coaches handed out awards. The MVPs were Brady Schartner (overall), John Ojukwu (Offense) and Zack Hume (Defense). “Brady was the obvious choice, he was central to all parts of the game and Zack has been the key to our defense, the centerpiece really,” praised the coach. “John was John. But even when he had an off-day, which isn’t off for other players, he was still a key player because the other teams still had to account for him.”
Among the varsity award recipients from Stow were Cameron Rothfuss as Outstanding Contributor/Defensive Lineman, Mike d’Entremont for Rookie of the Year (along with Drew Schartner), Jake Denaro, who won the Unsung Hero award along with Chuck Phaneuf. The Special Teams Player of the Year was kicker Drew Korn.
Honors also went to Greg Gothie for JV Offensive player of the Year and to Egan Bachtell for the Eric Dudley Award/ Freshman Offensive Player of the Year.
“Kids still call me and wish me luck,” said Tucker. “They still feel part of the program. We say ‘Once a Chieftain, always a Chieftain’ and they take that to heart. They feel welcomed back.” Now moving from current coach into a place of honor in Nashoba history, Coach Tucker will always be welcomed back. Look for him at games in the fall, just this time in the stands, not on the sideline.