DEXTER, Maine — Dexter Regional High School is in search of new leaders for its football and softball programs in the aftermath of the recent retirements of Tim Wilson and Galen Chapman.
Wilson coached the Dexter football team for 12 years overall, including the last six seasons and an earlier six-year run during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Last year’s team finished 1-7 after being ravaged by injuries. The Tigers began the preseason with more than 40 players, but because of attrition finished the schedule with numbers in the mid-20s.
Dexter’s high-water mark during Wilson’s second tenure at the school came in 2009, when the Tigers qualified for their first trip to the LTC playoffs since 1995.
The Tigers got off to an 0-3 start that season, then won four of their last five regular season games to finish with a 4-4 record before being ousted by John Bapst of Bangor in the quarterfinals.
“Tim did a wonderful job for us,” said Dexter principal Steve Bell. “He came in at a tough time and got the team to the playoffs a couple of years ago.”
Bell, who quarterbacked Dexter to back-to-back football state championships in 1984 and 1985, believes the right candidate can build on the foundation left behind by Wilson and re-establish the school of 300 students as a competitive entity within the Class C ranks.
“It’s a pretty good situation,” he said. “We graduate very few seniors, and Tim played a lot of younger players so they’re coming back with some experience, plus the junior high team went 7-1 last year.
“There’s a lot of interest in football here right now. There have been more kids lifting during the offseason than I can remember in my 12 years here.”
Wilson’s first coaching stint at Dexter ran from 1966 through 1971, a time that included two state Class C co-championships and two LTC titles.
Chapman served with the Tigers’ softball program for the last 11 years, the first two years as an assistant before guiding Dexter to a 110-47 record during nine seasons as head coach — a tenure highlighted by last spring’s Eastern Maine Class C championship.
“It was a really hard decision,” said Chapman, a licensed plumber. “I’m self-employed, and coaching takes an awful lot of time, so I decided I’d retire on top.”
The Tigers went 17-3 during the 2011 season, edging Central of Corinth 5-4 to win the school’s first regional softball title since playing as a Class B program in 1985 before falling to Telstar of Bethel 7-0 in the state final.
“I accomplished what I wanted to do,” said Chapman, who also guided his team to the 2003 Eastern C final. “I wanted to put up a banner before I left, and we were able to do that.”
The win that secured that regional championship banner, as well as the state final that followed, were played just days after the shooting deaths of popular local schoolteacher Amy Lake and children Coty and Monica by estranged husband and father Steven Lake, who also killed himself during the incident.
The Eastern Maine final was played two days after the shooting and the state game was played the next Saturday, though that contest was moved to the evening so team members could attend the funeral for the Lakes.
“The girls really kept it together,” said Chapman. “I’m very proud of what they accomplished and how they handled themselves.”
Dexter graduated a small senior class from that championship team, and eight starters are slated to return to play for Chapman’s successor.
“It’s a good opportunity,” said Bell, who hopes to hire a softball coach soon because preseason practices for pitchers and catchers are scheduled to begin March 19. “He certainly didn’t leave the cupboard bare.”