LINCOLN, Maine — Pat House has a strong appreciation for Mattanawcook Academy football.
He’s been part of it for the better part of two decades, first as a player for the Lynx under Ken Libbey during the mid-1990s, and more recently as an assistant coach since 2005.
Now House will get the chance to shape the program’s future as Mattanawcook’s new head coach.
“I’m pretty excited about it, obviously,” said the 36-year-old House, a Lincoln resident who works as the postmaster in Millinocket. “With my ties to Mattanawcook Academy for the last few years and playing there as well, I’m very excited to be part of this and the tradition we’ve had. We’ve always had tough kids who play football the right way.”
House replaces Billy McCarthy, who stepped down this spring and recently was named to the new position of district athletic director for RSU 67 with responsibilities at both the junior high and high school levels.
McCarthy guided the Lynx to a 14-6 record and two playoff appearances in his two seasons as head coach. Mattanawcook went 9-2 and advanced to the LTC Eastern Maine Class D championship game in 2013, then returned to the conference semifinals last fall and finished with a 5-4 record.
“He’s going to do a good job,” said McCarthy of House. “He knows the program, and he’s an energetic guy.”
McCarthy’s tenure marked a rebound for the program, which won its last LTC and state championships in 1999 and remained a consistent contender through the mid-2000s before a brief downturn that preceded his hiring in 2013.
House, who served as defensive coordinator as well as offensive and defensive line coach under McCarthy, aspires to maintain the program’s current upswing in a manner that reflects well on the team and the community.
“We want to leave it all on the field,” he said. “We want to be hard-nosed, we want to be tough. Our kids have always been physical, and I believe in that as well. We want to play the game the right way between the lines, play as hard as we can and whatever the outcome, respect our opponents, respect our teammates and always be willing to support each other.
“That’s one of the biggest things I believe in, that our kids support each other and be the best teammates possible to go where we want to go. You don’t always achieve the ultimate goal, but you have to be willing to stand beside each other throughout the battle,” he said.
House has had about 35 players involved in the team’s summer program, and he anticipates a roster of about 45 when preseason practices begin Aug. 17.
“We’ve got a lot of talent returning, we have some talented athletes,” he said. “This senior class has gained a lot of experience since their sophomore year, they’ve played in a lot of games and have been working really hard.
“The incoming junior class, some of them got good experience the last two years when we made playoff runs, and hopefully that translates this year into understanding what it takes to get back to the playoffs,” he said.
Mattanawcook will have to reconfigure its offensive and defensive lines after significant graduation losses.
“We had some really veteran kids up front who played a lot of minutes the last couple years that we lost to graduation, but it’s that saying, ‘Next man in.’ We’ve got some kids working hard, and we’ll find spots for kids, for sure, and be able to piece together enough experienced players with some new faces who are learning new positions to get the job done,” House said.
“If you have kids who are willing to put the work in, you can find a place for them on the field,” he added.
House is optimistic that the Lynx will remain competitive within the LTC.
“I think you have to have high expectations. You have to go into it hoping to win every game and continuing to improve each week,” he said. “The game of football isn’t all about Xs and Os. It plays out with a lot of passion and commitment to each other and commitment to your team, and we hope to gain on that week in and week out, and hopefully at the end of the season have a shot to be in the playoffs and see what happens from there.”