PORTLAND — The term “coaching legend” is often overused or misapplied, but not as it pertains to John Wolfgram.
If anything, “legend” understates the gigantic stature ascribed to Wolfgram, who is preparing his Cheverus squad for a Class A football state title defense.
In Wolfgram’s case, you would make it “yet another” of one those.
You see in nearly 35 years as a high school head coach, the rail thin English teacher (by day) with the hacksaw voice has led four different schools (Gardiner, Madison, South Portland, Cheverus) to a total of nine Maine state football titles.
Oh, and there was that softball state championship at Gardiner back in 1980.
That was Wolfgram’s team, too.
One suspects that it wouldn’t matter what sport was in play — hockey, cricket, roller derby — that Wolfgram would push his players into championship contention.
Even these days, when the old school, “my way or the highway” falls on deaf young ears, Wolfgram’s fiery message is still revving teenagers up for a greater good.
“John is just John,” said Kennebunk football coach Joe Rafferty, himself a legendary football fixture with a 33-year sideline tenure. “He is what he is, and he gets the kids to believe in what he’s trying to tell them.”
Rafferty, whose team had just been handed a 36-6 exhibition tilt thumping by Cheverus, gestured to the Boulos Stadium, where the Stags were still doing wind sprints nearly half an hour after the game.
“Who else could get them to do that?,” he marveled.
As for the secret of his success, Wolfgram, who is as adept as anyone at using language to communicate, is quick to toss all first person pronouns out of his vocabulary.
“I think it’s the kids,” he said. “We have a lot of good kids who like to work hard.”
If it was only that simple, then everyone would win championships.
Then again, there is only one John Wolfgram.
A legend if there is one.
Veteran sportswriter Dan Hickling has covered sports from preps to the pros throughout Maine and beyond. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org