Thursday, November 25, 2010
In swan song, Tighe 'Couldn't ask for anything better'
By Brendan Hall
LEXINGTON, Mass. -- Two carries, two scores, and it was all she wrote. But the relative ease in which he made his first two carries of the game look aside, did Connor Murray think he'd be forever etched into history quite like this, as the final scorer of the Bill Tighe era?
"It’s incredible," the Lexington High junior quarterback blushed sheepishly. "It hasn’t really hit me yet, actually. It probably won’t hit me for, like, a few days. I’ve got to soak it in right now, it’s kind of, you know, just a good experience, can’t ask for anything better."
And so on a morning that was all in the name of the octogenarian long-time Lexington head coach, who at 86 years old and the nation's oldest active high school football coach was calling it a career today, Murray made sure the old man's wishes of going "one for five" came through as the Minutemen (6-5) shut out Burlington, 14-0, in his swan song of what has been a decorated career. Throughout the days leading up to Thanksgiving, Tighe, in his trademark dry humor, reminded players, assistants, fans and media alike that he had lost in his final games as a high-schooler at Ashland; as a running back at Boston University; and at his two previous stops at Wakefield and Malden.
Tighe finished his career 268-233-13.
"I said I want it, one for five, and I’d appreciate everything you can do to bring it about," Tighe cackled when asked about his pregame speech. "So that’s what I left them with, that was the message."
And man, oh man, were the 2,200-plus on hand ready to give all of that love back with open, outstretched arms. Signs featuring some famous "Tighe-isms" littered the fencing along the home side bleachers, from the pedestrian "Films don't lie" or "Get out of the fog!" to gut-busters like "You look like Mickey the Dunce out there!" or "You block like a marshmallow!"
The words "TIGHE 514", the number standing for how many games he's coached, were stenciled in dixie cups along the fence behind the end zone facing Worthen Road.
In a halftime ceremony on the field, long-time public address announcer Chuck Shaw took to a podium and emceed nearly an hour's worth of speeches, and readings of letters from everyone from former players, to local coaches to even U.S. Senator Scott Brown. After the jersey number 36 (representing how many years he coached) was officially retired by the athletic department, all former players in attendance -- from his first team in 1975, to the present day -- came on the field and joined the team in one last pregame-style breakdown. And then to top it all off, a half-dozen men dressed as Revolutionary War soldiers fired off muskets.
Oh yeah, there was a game somewhere in this bonanza, too. The Minutemen defense was rock-solid to start, racking up three sacks on the first drive and finishing with five on the day. Senior defensive tackle Charlie Blackett, who memorably came up with an eye-opening seven sacks in a Week 2 win over Concord-Carlisle (Tighe at the time downplayed it to about five), gave the Red Devil (6-5) guards headaches all morning with his quick first-step explosion shooting up the inside gaps.
Blackett, who finished with just one sack on the day, joked that he had "set high expectations" for this one.
"Everyone’s usually motivated on Thanksgiving anyways, but this year there was just so much more motivation, because we’re coach Tighe’s last group," he said. "After all these years, we were going to put him out with a bang, so that motivated all of us. We practiced harder, and we just came out with a different attitude than we have all year. We brought it."
All the while, Tighe was having his fun too. Known for his infectious laugh, the old man was dishing out plenty of it, as former players snuck onto the sidelines to give him a quick pat on the back throughout the game. But of course, he kept it real, too, giving junior running back Nick Murray an earful over the last few minutes after he almost drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
"Well, I've screamed before many times," he cracked when reminded by a reporter that it was his last time raising his voice. "No, the kids played a good game, but we made some foolish mistakes in the first half. But we played very good defense, and defense is the name of the game."
He added with a smile, "They don't score, we don't lose."
Long after the crowd had dispersed (by the fourth quarter, half the well-wishers had already left for home), long after the slew of television cameras called it a wrap, and long after the hundreds of photo-ops had come and gone, Tighe stayed on the field, soaking in these last moments on the grass with the dozen or so still around, still yucking it up.
"It’s a special day. I couldn’t ask for anything better," Tighe spoke softly. "Anything after this is anticlimactic, and I mean it. To see all our ex-players back here, it’s an absolute miracle as far as I’m concerned. It’s a special day, and I’ll never forget it. Those are things you never see too often, but having seen them is a treasure I’ll never forget. It’s a great memory, and I’m so pleased to see all of my ex-players."
This time, there was no famous cackle to punctuate his point. And frankly, no need.
LEXINGTON 14, BURLINGTON 0
BUR 0 0 0 0 --- 0
LEX 14 0 0 0 --- 14
L - Connor Murray 17 run (Steve Jung kick) 7:20
L - Murray 38 run (Jung kick) 2:40