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No spare change: Oxbow AD sees entire fall coaching staff turn over

  • Oxbow head football coach Jason Marsh, left, huddles up with his team during a break in play with Spaulding in Bradford, Vt., on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. Oxbow's 2019 fall varsity coaching staff will be completely changed from 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ap file — August Frank

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 8/6/2019 10:04:23 PM
Modified: 8/6/2019 10:04:17 PM

BRADFORD, Vt. — Second-year Oxbow High School athletic director Derek Cipriano figured his summer of hiring was all set when another vacancy landed on his doorstep two weeks ago.

He’ll have completely rebuilt his fall varsity coaching staff by the time practices start next week.

New football coach Chad Wescott joined the Olympians in mid-July to complete Cipriano’s work. The hire became necessary when last year’s coach, Jason Marsh, unexpectedly resigned to take a job in Alabama.

“It was very sudden,” Cipriano said last week. “We had everything in place, our coaching staff was ready to go, I thought it was all good and that popped up for him. He ended up taking it. So we ended up quickly going through things and hired Chad.”

Cipriano earlier this summer chose Andrew Fisher to take over boys soccer, Dan Thomas to assume the girls soccer coaching reins and Cassie Saikin to become cross country coach. Unlike Wescott, all three are also Oxbow High teachers.

Wescott was set to be the Olympians’ defensive coordinator this season when Marsh stepped down. In either case, it’s a return to coaching for Wescott, who grew up playing football in coastal Maine and worked with Hartford’s Minicanes youth program before taking a break from the sidelines to raise his family.

“Basically, we’re trying to start from the bottom up and build not only a winning program but a program that will sustain over time,” said Wescott, 39. “We’re just trying to get interest back in the community and the school system, get the numbers back as high as we can, and I think we’re heading in the right direction.”

Having enough healthy bodies has long been an Oxbow issue. The Olympians were forced to forfeit a late-season game to Poultney last October when faced with the prospect of having only 14 athletes available. Oxbow — which fielded only a junior varsity squad in 2017 — was one of three Vermont Division III schools that surrendered contests or ended seasons early because of low numbers.

“Last year, we ended (the schedule) with 13 kids; We have 25 or 26 that are signed up now, so we’re trending in the right direction,” Wescott said. “We’re getting more awareness out there and getting more kids involved.”

Wescott expects athletes from Thetford Academy, Rivendell Academy and Blue Mountain Union High School will also join the squad via the Vermont Principals Association’s member-to-member program, giving the O’s hope for depth in advance of their Aug. 31 opener at Mount Abraham. The returnees include senior back Harley Wescott, who isn’t related to the new coach.

“We were razzing each other through the summer each time we ran into each other,” Chad Wescott joked.

Fisher is a Texas native who moved to Vermont seven years ago and was looking to get back into coaching. He guided W.H. Adamson High boys soccer in Dallas for a year prior to his relocation.

Fisher will be teaching geography and history at Oxbow’s middle and high schools as well as coaching an Olympian program trying to find footing after a 3-12-0 campaign under Ed Scribner last fall.

“I know the team had a down year last year,” said Fisher, a goalkeeper in his high school playing days. “I know we’re competing with football (for athletes); that’s no different than in Texas. We’ve got a lot of younger players; 17 have signed up, with maybe only three or four seniors.”

Thomas, who guided the Hartford High boys junior varsity the past five years, takes over an Oxbow girls soccer team that went 13-2-1 in 2018 and reached the VPA D-III semifinals before a double-overtime loss to Vergennes. The O’s will need to replace more than 50 points of offense with the graduation of Zoe Barton (19-5-24) and the departure of younger sister Avery Barton (25-6-31) for prep school.

Positive experiences as a high school cross country runner led Saikin to secure the Oxbow XC job after she’d been hired to teach eighth- and ninth-grade science there. The Littleton High School graduate ran two seasons for the Crusaders and was manager for a third while sidelined with a knee injury.

The O’s have had some success in the sport in recent autumns, but graduation losses have left the program retrenching. Oxbow’s boys were eighth at states last year — Keelan and Tobin Durham finished 9-10 in the state D-III meet — and the girls took 12th.

“I run races all the time,” said Saikin, who competed in her first half marathon earlier this year. “I loved the experiences I had with (cross country), and I want to give that back. This is a new adventure for me; I’ve never really coached cross country, but I’m really, really excited for it.”

Cipriano said Oxbow won’t field a golf team this fall. Last year’s only two players graduated, and no one has signed up for play this season, he said.

Greg Fennell can be reached at or 603-727-3226.

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