Scott Hunter resigned as the boys varsity soccer coach at Caribou High School this week after leading the Vikings to their first regional championship in program history last fall.
The 55-year-old Hunter, a local attorney and a former multisport athlete at Caribou High School and Colby College in Waterville, cited family and health reasons for his decision to leave a job he started in 2011.
Hunter wants to watch his son Hayden, a senior midfielder on the 2019 Caribou soccer team, pursue the same sport at Husson University in Bangor beginning next fall.
He also is five years removed from suffering a stroke. Yet after taking the 2015 season off during his recuperation, he returned to the sidelines a year later and found the resumption of competition therapeutic.
“Being able to get back out on the field and coach was a great goal for me and helped in my rehab,” said Hunter, who began coaching at the youth levels in his hometown more than two decades ago. “I felt like I was returning to normal.
“Of course, my wife and family were scared to death because I’m pretty competitive and they wanted me to stay calm, so I kind of made a promise to my wife that if I could get back and do this and the doctor was OK with it I’d like to see it out at least through my son’s graduation.
Hunter said following through with the promise of his resignation was hard, but ultimately is the right decision.
Hunter comes from a family steeped in sporting tradition.
His father Dwight was Caribou’s athletic director for 36 years until his retirement in 2001. Uncle Gene Hunter is the only schoolboy basketball coach in Maine history to have won state titles in two different states, capturing gold balls at Morse of Bath and South Portland as well as at Portsmouth High School in New Hampshire among his 417 coaching victories.
Hunter also cites his former coaches at Colby College, Mark Serdjenian (soccer) and Dick Whitmore (basketball), as major influences.
“For me it’s kind of in my blood,” said Hunter, who is poised to remain as Caribou’s baseball coach for the third year this spring — though that is on hold at least until late April due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Hunter’s coaching longevity in soccer may have been a victim of his own success. During the last two years the work began with the school’s summer soccer program and continued through deep postseason runs that last fall ended Nov. 9 in the Class B state championship game.
Caribou finished atop the final Class B North Heal Points in 2018 and advanced to the regional semifinals. Last fall, the Vikings went undefeated (12-0-2) while returning to the No. 1 spot in the final regular-season standings en route to their first regional title.
The Vikings went a combined 28-3-3 in 2018 and 2019.
“One of the things with brain injuries has to do with fatigue and focus,” Hunter said. “Because of when I work, most of our practices would be after 5 p.m., so when I went there I’d feel like I was dragging, but as soon as I got there it was like a switch was flipped and I was just energized by being around the guys.
“The last couple of seasons have been longer seasons, which is a good thing, but by the end of it I was really drained and my doctor was thinking the benefits weren’t outweighing the risk factors any more,” he said.
Hunter’s coaching tenure has coincided with a historic period in boys sports at Caribou. It has included back-to-back Class B basketball state championships in 2019 and 2020, the 2018 Class B tennis and Class C outdoor track state titles and the soccer team’s regional crown.
Senior back Parker Deprey, a key part of the Vikings’ recent success in soccer, basketball and tennis, was named All-New England in soccer last fall and joined classmates Cullen Caverhill and Alex Bouchard on the 2019 Northern Maine State Team as selected by the Maine Soccer Coaches Association.
“I think this group has rekindled the spirit and awakened the community to something they obviously had been waiting for for a long time,” said Hunter, who was part of a previous run of strong Caribou teams as a student during the early 1980s. That effort peaked when the Vikings won the 1983 Eastern Maine Class A basketball championship.
“They’re good kids, they’re smart kids, they have their priorities straight and they know what it takes to win. It takes that special ‘it’ factor to win championships and boy, this group has it. They’ve made us coaches look awfully good.”