BREWER, Maine — Don Farnham, who guided Brewer High School through a series of transitions within Maine’s high school football landscape during the last eight years, has stepped down as the Witches’ head coach.
“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” said Farnham. “I’ve just come to a time when some personal things have come up and there’s a lot of stresses involved, and in talking this through with my family this seemed to be the right time to do this.”
Farnham informed his team of his decision Tuesday.
“It’s been two hours of total sadness since then,” he said later in the day. “I’m just getting over it now, but I know it’s the right decision.”
Farnham’s second tenure as Brewer’s head coach — he also guided the Witches from 1993 to 1997 — nearly coincided with the program’s reclassification from Class B to Class A in 2007, a challenging four-year move that produced just four victories and threatened the program’s existence.
Brewer was reclassified back to Class B in 2011 and secured back-to-back playoff appearances, but the statewide shift to a four-class system last fall resulted in many longtime Class A powers joining the Witches in a revised and highly competitive Class B.
Brewer, the second-smallest school in the new-look Eastern B with just over 700 students, finished its 2013 campaign with a 1-7 record — the only victory coming against Gardiner, the lone school in the division with a smaller enrollment.
“That was one of the big stresses, for sure,” he said. “In those four years in Class A we really struggled and it just about killed the program, and even where we are now is very tough. But at Brewer the (enrollment) numbers are just what they are.”
A 1983 Brewer High graduate who gained all-state and All-Pine Tree Conference accolades for the Witches as an offensive center during his football playing days. Farnham began his coaching career in 1985 as an undergraduate assistant at the University of Maine under former Black Bears coach Buddy Teevens.
He later followed Teevens to Dartmouth College, where he spent four years as an assistant coach and freshman head coach before returning to Brewer, where he was instrumental in starting a youth football program in the city as well as becoming the Witches’ head coach in 1993.
Brewer went 16-21 in four seasons of Class B competition under Farnham during that initial tenure before an 0-9 campaign upon Brewer’s return to Class A in 1997.
Farnham resigned from the job after the 1997 season due to increased responsibilities at his family’s business, Getchell Bros. Inc., but he remained involved in local youth football activities.
Farnham returned as Brewer’s varsity head coach in 2006, the year after the Witches won the Class B state championship.
The Witches went 3-5 in Class B in 2006, then were moved up by enrollment a year later to Class A where they went 4-28 over four seasons until being reclassified back to Class B.
The Witches finished 6-3 and 5-4 the next two seasons, qualifying for the Eastern B quarterfinals in both 2011 and 2012.
When the Maine Principals’ Association opted to return to a four-class format last fall for the first time in 27 years, Brewer remained in Eastern B but much of what had been Eastern A in recent years joined it.
Lawrence of Fairfield, Brunswick, Cony of Augusta, Messalonskee of Oakland and Skowhegan all dropped to a new Eastern B that was considered so strong and deep it was dubbed the “NFC East” by several regional football observers. Cony went on to win the 2013 Class B state title.
Farnham says he envisions returning to the sport in another coaching capacity someday.
“I just don’t know when,” he said. “But I don’t think I want to be a head coach again.”