Eli Ruiz | Democrat
Fred Ahart in front of the trophy case at Roscoe, which he has helped fill up during his 45 years of coaching.
Coach of the Year: Fred Ahart
Story by Eli Ruiz
ROSCOE December 3, 2013 Piecing together a focused, cohesive football team with athletes from three different school districts wasn’t as tough a task for 2013 Democrat Coach of the Year Fred Ahart as you might think. After all, as he says, “I’ve got some of the best assistants you can have in Bill Hendrickson and Tom Rose and I think they deserve as much credit as anyone this season. I consider this a team award.”
But the Roscoe/Livingston Manor/Downsville coach reserves his strongest praise for his players and the three communities that supported the Blue Devils through a winning 5-4 season and a spot in the Section IX Class D championship game just a year after they finished 1-6.
“It was amazing to watch these three communities pull together and offer the support they did for us this season,”adds Ahart. “I think the communities these kids all came from deserve much of the credit for getting behind us like they did.”
The Blue Devils held eventual state runner-up Chester to 13 first-half points in the Section IX Class D championship game, eventually losing 27-0 to a team ranked third in the state at the time, and that only five weeks prior drubbed Ahart's squad 64-0.
"I give coach [Ahart] and his kids a lot of credit for their play out there today," said Chester coach Matt Stover after the game. "He [Ahart] brought them out ready to play today and it showed. That was a different team out there from earlier in the season."
"Without a doubt, we went into that game with the mind-frame that we could win," says Ahart. A lot of people didn't think we could even compete, but we as coaches and as players, we thought we could do it. We had several opportunities but they [Chester] were just a fine team. It was a tough loss."
In his 45th year of coaching football, the last 35 as the head man at Roscoe, Ahart’s become something of an expert at getting the most out of a small talent pool. After all, Ahart says, "I've always told my players the same thing, 'respect all, fear none.' I want my guys going into every game expecting to win," he adds.
“Throughout the time I’ve been here, we were always the smallest school in the state to play 11-man football,” said Ahart, who's served as athletic director and basketball coach for all 45 of those years as well. “We’ve always taken a lot of pride in being such a small program we’re proud of that.”
But that fact didn’t stop his teams from winning WSL titles in 1989 and 1990. In 1989 the Blue Devils played and won their first ever regional game against New York Military Academy (NYMA) at Dietz Stadium in Kingston. That team would lose its next game against Hancock, but the experience showed his kids that they could compete outside of their section.
“I’ll never forget how our small town team was able to pull it together and win Section IX,” recalls Ahart.
Ahart looked forward to a rematch in 1990, but instead of Hancock, the Blue Devils drew a tough, and largely favored, Delhi team in regional play. “We were supposed to lose that game too,” says Ahart, who adds, “but we came out there so prepared we beat them 30-0.”
Ahart continues, "That was a special day for Roscoe football and Section IX because at that time Section IX hadn't seen much success outside of the section. We were the only D school for a while to win a regional game. That meant so much to us and the community, being so small."
Asked for the highlight to 2013’s winning campaign, Ahart says, "I think the entire season itself was our highlight. It was the first year we had to field players from three different communities and that's one of the main reasons I believe this season turned out the way it did. These kids worked so hard and meshed as one squad. That was the key this year."
But Ahart has been here before. With dwindling numbers, starting in 2005, Roscoe began to partner with Route 17 neighbor Livingston Manor. That partnership continued through the 2011-2012 season, one in which the combined squad finished 5-5 and played in the Section IX Class D championship game as well.
"Part of what made this past season so special was watching all the kids from these communities come together," affirms Ahart. "It's just something I'll never forget. Coaching kids from not just Roscoe, but also Livingston Manor and Downsville has been one of the great experiences I've had in my entire career."
After 45 years coaching multiple sports, and serving as athletic director at Roscoe, why does Ahart continue to do it: "It's the kids," he says. "Just working with my players and enjoying the camaraderie between them. There's just no better feeling than fostering the relationships between this superb group of kids. I'd have to say it's the relationships and the idea of these kids all working together for a common goal. That's why I'm still here after 45 years."
Final record: 5-4
9/6 - Deposit/Han. 42 Roscoe 28
9/14 - Roscoe 23 Eldred 12
9/21 - Pawling 33 Roscoe 0
9/27 - Roscoe 35 Pine Plains 14
10/4 - Chester 64 Roscoe 0
10/12 - Roscoe 38 Onteora 8
10/25 - Roscoe 39 Eldred 13
10/31 - Roscoe 34 Tri-Valley 7
11/8 - Chester 27 Roscoe 0*
*Section IX Class D championship