Saturday, December 7, 2013
James MacArthur was never a football player. Growing up in California, he was a baseball player, and a pretty good one.
Now, MacArthur is a football coach, helping the semipro Mid-Coast Falcons chase a New England Football League title.
“I can take the knowledge I learned over the years, and help them, make them better,” MacArthur said.
The Falcons host the Mystic River Tigers of Medford, Mass. at 1 p.m.today at Larrabee Field in Knox. Playing in the NEFL’s A division (the league has AAA, AA, A. The more As, the tougher the competition), the Falcons went 8-0 in the regular season, outscoring opponents 233-81.
MacArthur found football when his sons found football, and now he can’t let it go. When his son, also named James, began participating in youth football in Skowhegan, the elder MacArthur followed. When the younger MacArthur, a 2011 graduate of Skowhegan Area High School, joined the Falcons, dad ended up an assistant coach.
When young James joined the Marines, old James stayed on an as assistant to head coach Rich Mills. MacArthur works primarily with the offensive and defensive lines.
“I’m not the most experienced guy, but I do all right,” MacArthur said.
MacArthur isn’t a player-coach, like many semipro teams have, but he’ll run and hit the blocking sled with the Falcons whenever necessary.
“I think, if you expect a player to do something, you’d better be able to do it yourself,” he said.
Semipro football is less glamorous than dental surgery. You play in front of crowds consisting mostly of family and friends. Most of the players are ex-high school and college players from across central Maine, with just a year or two of semipro football experience. Then there’s offensive lineman Michael Barton. According to the Falcons web page, Barton, 50, is in his 26th season of semipro football.
“(Barton) doesn’t ask to play as much, but when he goes in there, he does a good job,” MacArthur said.
What keeps MacArthur coming back is the stuff around the game. The Falcons, he said, are a family. Some of the Falcons players were there when the team was formed four years ago, and struggled. They’ve put in the sweat that helped the team go from 0-8 that first season, to 2-6, to 7-1 last year, to this season’s unbeaten squad.
The Falcons have a found a formula that works. Larrabee Field, home of the Mt. View youth football program has been a good home. The team has raised money for the Knox Booster Club to help maintain the field. The Falcons have made sure the field is lined and ready to go when the youth teams arrive to play. Falcons Eddy Rodriques and Don Resh, Jr., former Mt. View High School players, coach in the youth league.
The young players pay back the Falcons by hanging around after games, looking for autographs. During the games, the fans do the Falcon Wave.
“They wave their arms, like birds flying,” MacArthur said.
Half the team attended his wedding in June, MacArthur said. He was excited for today’s game because former player Stephen Larrabee, who was seriously injured in a car accident, was expected to attend. Once a Falcon, always a Falcon, MacArthur said. You can’t leave your family.
“I’ll stay involved as long as they want me,” MacArthur said. “My son says when he comes home, he wants to play for me.”
Football and MacArthur are a good fit. He doesn’t know how long he’ll help coach the Falcons, but MacArthur doesn’t see an end coming soon. Football found him, or he found football. Neither is letting go.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242