HEBRON, Maine –- Football has played a significant role in Nick Arthers’ upbringing.
His father, Butch, led a renaissance in the sport at Belfast Area High School during the 1990s and 2000s, guiding the Lions to three Class B state championships and six Eastern Maine titles before retiring after the 2007 season.
Nick Arthers played for his dad’s 2003 state championship team as a senior at Belfast and subsequently was a semifinalist for the Fitzpatrick Trophy symbolic of the state’s best high school player before going on to focus on baseball at the University of Maine and Husson University, where he graduated in 2009.
All along there was little doubt that a head coaching job also would be part of the younger Arthers’ career path, a goal realized recently when he was hired as the varsity football coach and physical education teacher at Old Town High School.
“It’s a great opportunity for me,” said Arthers, who is at Hebron Academy this week as part of the coaching staff for the 23rd annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic all-star game to be played Saturday at Waterhouse Field in Biddeford.
“Things fell into place, they offered me the job and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve been up there for two years [as an educational technician] and it’s a real good school system, the football team’s on the rise and it’s a great opportunity and something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Arthers replaces Steve Calande, who stepped down this spring after two seasons to take a teaching and coaching post in Connecticut. Calande led the Coyotes to a 6-3 record in the LTC Class C in 2010, the program’s first winning season since 1997. Old Town moved back up by enrollment to the Pine Tree Conference Class B ranks last fall and finished 2-6.
Arthers was named to the post six days after Old Town’s first choice, Nat Clark of Bangor, opted to decline the job offer, and he sees considerable potential for growth within the Coyotes’ program.
“The attitude has changed tremendously,” said Arthers, who was an assistant football coach in Belfast in 2009 and 2011 as well as an assistant baseball coach at both Old Town and Belfast and head coach of the Hampden American Legion baseball team for the last three summers.
“It’s a team that’s working to get back to where it was in the early 1990s. The community’s really excited about football. The kids in school are excited, and the whole school community is excited for them.”
One initial point of emphasis for Arthers will be to improve the team defensively, for while Old Town was one of Class B’s higher scoring programs last fall at 34 points per game, it yielded an average of 43.5 points per contest.
“I really want to focus on getting better on the defensive side of the ball,” he said. “I want to get these kids out there and have them be able to keep teams from scoring a bunch of points on them. From talking with them they realize that defensively they need help and they’re to go to work to get better.”
Old Town’s offense under Calande was based on the run-oriented double-wing formation, and while Arthers may employ elements of that attack he’s likely to rely more heavily on other formations.
“I’m going to stick with what I know, a lot of what we ran in Belfast,” said Arthers. “We’ll keep some double wing in there, but mostly it will be a lot of I-formation and split backs.”
Arthers expects to have between 40 and 50 players in attendance when preseason camp for the Coyotes begins in mid-August, a significant increase from just a few years ago when Old Town dropped voluntarily from Class B to Class C for three seasons in an effort to save what was a struggling program with perilously low participation numbers.
“A lot of kids seem interested, and hopefully we’ll get a few more to come out,” he said. “There are a lot of guys excited about the season.”
Arthers is looking forward to ascending from the role of assistant football coach to running his own program.
“The big thing is just the time I’m going to have to put into it,” he said. “From talking with my dad he’s told me there’s going to be a big difference between standing on the sideline and helping a coach out and being the guy everybody’s looking to for answers. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s going to be a fun challenge.”
Arthers also will benefit on occasion from his father’s input in a role the new head coach describes as team advisor.
“He’s always told me that whenever I got a coaching job somewhere that he’d be right there to help me out,” said Arthers, “so I’m looking forward to that.”