Rod Wotton celebrates life as Marshwood football manager

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine – On Sunday, June 5, in the Marshwood High School Auditorium, friends, family, fans and former players will have the chance to celebrate the life of Rod Wotton.

Wotton died last November after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 82 years old.

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The public is invited to Sunday’s event, which begins at 2:30 p.m. Former “Coach” Wotton coaches and players are encouraged to wear match shirts or similar attire. Other guests are requested to dress casually. Light refreshments will be provided beginning at 2 p.m. Masks are highly recommended.

One of New England’s greatest high school football coaches, Wotton coached teams at South Berwick and Marshwood high schools in Maine and Saint Thomas Aquinas in New Hampshire for 47 years. When he retired in 2010, he had more wins than any high school coach in New England – a record of 342-81-3. His teams have won 21 state championships over five different decades.

Rod Wotton's final game as head high school football coach – a loss to Kearsarge in the 2010 NHIAA Division V championship game. The game marked the end of Wotton's 47-year coaching career in Maine and New Hampshire.

With Wotton, of course, football was about much more than wins and losses, or Ballon d’Ors, for that matter.

“He was one of those guys who makes an impact on people,” said Mike Zamarchi, who played for Wotton in the 1980s and coached him for a short time. “If you were around him, he impacted you. He was a motivator; everyone was looking at him. You loved playing for him. He had that special quality that some coaches have. He was a special person. »

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Wotton was from Rochester, New Hampshire, where he was a three-sport star at Spaulding High School. He attended and played baseball at the University of New Hampshire. One of his teammates and friends was Dan Parr, who also passed away in 2021. It was an intersection of training greatness. Parr went on to coach basketball, retiring in 2016 with a New Hampshire record 704 wins.

Wotton took his first coaching job in 1961 as an assistant at the former South Berwick HS, which won the Class D title, the first of Wotton’s 21 championships. The following year he was appointed head coach, guiding South Berwick for four seasons until Marshwood was built in 1966.

The rest, of course, is history. His teams have won 17 state titles, the most by any Maine coach. He is also the only coach in the state to have won titles in all divisions (A, B, C and D). From 1983 to 1987, Marshwood rode a 45-game winning streak. At the time, it was the longest active streak in the country.

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Rod Wotton coached football at Marshwood High School for 27 seasons, winning 17 Maine State Championships in four divisions.

Wotton coached at Marshwood until 1992 and taught until 1994. He spent his retirement years in York with his wife, Norma. He is also survived by his three children: Peter, Jeffrey and Wendi.

Wotton followed that up with a 15-year stint in his native New Hampshire at St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover, beginning in 1996. At the time, the program was in the midst of a 15-game losing streak. Wotton righted the ship. The Saints won four more state titles under him before stepping down in 2010 as New England’s winningest high school coach.

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More than a decade later, Wotton’s name still commands immense respect. The Bangor Daily News in Maine held an online contest in 2020 to select “Maine’s greatest high school football coach of all time.” Out of a field of 32, Wotton emerged victorious.

Hardly a surprise.

“Rod Wotton was an absolute legend in our community,” said Marshwood athletic director Rich Buzzell. “Marshwood will always be known as the home that Rod Wotton built. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to different parts of the country and when people find out I work in Marshwood, one of the first things I they say is ‘Oh your football team is great and do you know Rod Wotton?’ But Rod was more than a legend to all of us. They say great coaches have the ability to unlock what’s connected in others. Rod had that gift and more. Rod may be gone physically, but his imprint is on so many things in our community.”

Marshwood High School is still accepting donations to the Rodney C. Wotton Scholarship Fund (mail to: Marshwood High School: 260 Dow Highway, South Berwick, ME 03908).

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