The high-powered Deering football program has a new head coach.
Jon Gallant, an assistant with the program for several years, and the Southern Maine Activities Association’s Assistant Coach of the Year in 2010, will replace Greg Stilphen (who stepped down earlier this year).
Gallant played offensive and defensive line for Stilphen at Massabesic, graduating in 1994. He went on to play defensive tackle at the University of Maine, then immediately began coaching as a defensive coordinator for Deering in 1999. After six years with the Rams, Gallant went to Massabesic for two seasons, before returning to Deering in 2008.
“I’m excited,” said Gallant. “There were a lot of things that appealed to me, but first and foremost is the connection I have to the student-athletes. It’s a great group of young men. I’ve put a lot of time into that program and keeping it strong is a challenge I’m looking forward to.
“The (players’) support has been great. I’m excited to start working. I plan to meet with them next week.”
Deering High athletic director Bill LeRoy said that he had a solid pool of candidates from which to select, but that Gallant “rose to the top.”
“I feel good that (Jon) was interested in continuing with Deering,” LeRoy said. “He has a good knowledge of the game, a strong work ethic and ability to prepare. He knows the kids and they know and respect him. I feel very good about the program going forward.”
The Rams went 8-3 in 2010, losing an epic 35-34 regional final to eventual state champion Cheverus. Standout quarterback Jamie Ross (Deering’s 2010 Fall Male Athlete of the Year) and several other key contributors will graduate, but the Rams expect to remain a top contender in 2011.
“There won’t be much change,” Gallant said. “Defensively, I love what we do. Offensively, the switch we made to the spread takes full advantage of the athletes we have. (The players and I) know each other and they know what to expect from me. It’s going to be a learning curve for players and for me as well, but it’s a great group. It’s an easy first job in that regard.”
Stilphen went 83-52 and led Deering to the 2003 Class A championship during his tenure.
Gallant stressed that Stilphen’s influence on his life has been monumental.
“Our relationship is really special, from coach-player to coach-assistant coach to best friends,” said Gallant. “I’ve seen the way he organizes practice and prepares for games and looks at film. He’s been a huge influence on my life. Not just in coaching.”
Gallant lives in Old Orchard Beach with his wife and two young sons. He teaches physical education and health at Freeport High School.
Deering opens the Gallant Era at Noble on Sept. 2.