‘Greatest Coach’ Honored
Woodstock Dedicates Home Field to McLaughlin
Former Woodstock Union High School football coach Jim McLaughlin hugs former student Dean Corkum after the unveiling of a sign dedicating the Woodstock football field to McLaughlin on Friday. Corkum, now a gym teacher at Essex (Vt.) High , spoke at the dedicatio,n which took place at halftime of Woodstock's win over Springfield. Valley News - James M. Patterson Purchase photo reprints »
Woodstock's Zack Cole keeps his eyes up toward the next obstacle while running the ball through the Springfield line during Woodstock's 65-0 win in on Friday. Valley News - James M. Patterson Purchase photo reprints »
Woodstock — The raucous crowd grew silent. The concessions halted sales. During halftime of Friday night’s Woodstock Union High game, the Wasps’ world stood still to honor their legend.
Jim McLaughlin — who retired last year as Woodstock’s football coach after 31 seasons, nine state championships and countless memories — was honored as the field was formally dedicated as James T. McLaughlin Field.
Former player and student Dean Corkum spoke from a podium next to the east end zone, fighting back tears as the former running back and linebacker shared stories of the positive impact McLaughlin had on the team and the school.
Amassing 211 wins over his career, McLaughlin was also a science, health and physical education teacher and served two stints as athletic director at the school. After the speech, Corkum and McLaughlin pulled away fabric to reveal a rectangular sign officially naming the field for the one known affectionately as “Coach Mac.”
With his wife, Debbie, at his side and Woodstock leading Springfield, 41-0, in the third quarter, McLaughlin lingered to greet current Woodstock coach Ramsey Worrell, and to accept congratulations from supporters.
It was a unique way to spend the second half for McLaughlin, who since 1981 had animatedly roamed the sidelines while his gridiron troops executed the vaunted Delaware wing-T power offense he employed so effectively.
The Wasps won their second straight state title last fall when they concluded an undefeated season with a 38-18 win over BFA-Fairfax at South Burlington High School.
“It’s certainly different,” McLaughlin said between hugs and handshakes. “I still find myself looking at the situation on the field and telling myself what I would do. I spent just about half my life doing this, so I think I’ll always be calling the game in my head.”
Corkum, a junior during McLaughlin’s first season, said just the anticipation of McLaughlin’s arrival caused a stir in town. A Bennington, Vt., native, McLaughlin finished high school in Windham, Conn., and went on to be a backup quarterback at Southern Connecticut State University. He later was an assistant coach at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut and at several high schools in the Central Connecticut Conference, a metro league whose schools surround Hartford.
“The news spread like wildfire that we were getting a new football coach, a former college player and coach from Connecticut,” Corkum recalled at the podium. “When he arrived, he was 5-foot-something and wearing those godawful gray polyester shorts that people wore in the ’80s. But any doubts we had about him lasted about five minutes, because from the very beginning he demanded effort, excellence and execution.”
Corkum — now a P.E. teacher, assistant football coach and boys lacrosse coach at Essex (Vt.) High School — went on to read a poem he wrote title “The Greatest Coach I Ever Had” and to thank McLaughlin’s family for sharing him with the team and the school.
“I could still go out and run plays for him now, that’s much the lessons he taught me have stuck with me,” Corkum said. “I remember the wing-T to this day.”
The effort to have the field named for McLaughlin was spearheaded by Woodstock school board chair Dwight Doton, the father of former Wasps star fullback Ed Doton. The motion passed a school board vote last winter, Woodstock athletic director Jeff Thomas said.
“It was clearly the right thing to do,” said Dwight Doton, who played for McLaughlin’s predecessor, Jim Cullen, in the 1970s. “For someone to coach for that long, teaching skills and influencing so many people, it was the right thing to do.”
McLaughlin doesn’t take the honor lightly.
“I’m a native Vermonter, and to have a piece of the state with my name on it is incredibly meaningful,” he said. “My dad had three sons, but we all had daughters. There are seven girls between the three of us, so this is one way that the name will always live on.”
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3306.
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