DEXTER - Dexter High School officials will begin advertising this weekend for a football coaching staff, likely marking the end of Haggie Pratt's 12-year run as the Tigers' head coach.
Pratt has guided Dexter to a 35-74 record since taking over in 1994, including a 2-7 finish last fall. "There's been a certain level of frustration in the community with the lack of wins and the lack of playoff appearances," said Dexter assistant principal and athletic administrator Steve Bell.
Bell said Pratt has been encouraged to reapply for a coaching position, but added "the feeling is this may a good time to see if there are other interested candidates out there because there are a lot of teaching positions open in the district right now."
Bell, who quarterbacked Dexter to back-to-back Class D state titles in 1984 and 1985 and will become principal at his alma mater after the current school year, did say Pratt has had to compete on an uneven playing field with his LTC coaching peers in some areas.
For example, Dexter has just two paid assistant coaches for football, compared with three at most conference schools. In addition, Dexter has had no practice football field in recent years, meaning the Tigers must practice and play games on the same field. That and the use the same field gets by football teams at the younger levels in the community has taken its toll on the facility, Bell added.
"There's a lot more to it than just the coaching side of it," Bell said. "Haggie has worked extremely hard, and he's gotten the number of kids playing in the 30s, the mid-30s and up as high as the 40s. He's done a lot of things I've been pleased with."
The recent struggles of the football program at Dexter - a school with an enrollment of approximately 380 - have coincided with a thriving boys soccer team at the school that has won Eastern Maine Class C championships two of the last three years.
"We've got some good kids in the program, but facts are facts," Bell said. "We're a small school, and the soccer program is outstanding. Most of the athletes right now are playing soccer."
Bell informed Pratt of the decision to seek new candidates for the football staff late last week. "I'm disappointed," said Pratt, a 1974 Dexter graduate who played tight end and wide receiver for the Tigers. "But when I sat down with the athletic director he said he was happy with what I've done for him."
Pratt started coaching at his alma mater in 1985, and was part of the staff under David Evans that guided the Tigers to the 1985 Class D crown and three subsequent appearances in the Class C state final in 1987, 1988 and 1989 - winning the title in 1987.
Soon after Pratt became head coach, he nearly saw football eliminated at Dexter. The program was cut from the school budget in April 1995, but ultimately was restored. Pratt led the Tigers to a 6-4 record and a berth in the LTC semifinals that year, but player numbers remained low for the next few years and Dexter went a combined 2-25 from 1996 through 1998 before finishing 5-4 in 1999.
Dexter's also finished 5-4 in 2001, the team's most recent winning season. "It's a been a combination of issues over the last few years," Pratt said. "I knew there were some unhappy people around the program, but in meeting with the athletic director after each season we made an effort to come up with some of the answers to get the program back to where it used to be."
Pratt, who is employed by the school district, did not indicate if he would reapply for a position on the staff.
"My feelings are hurt right now, but I want the best man to coach Dexter football," Pratt said.
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