Prep coach Bill Tighe retires at 86

Updated: November 26, 2010, 1:24 AM ET
By Brendan Hall | ESPNBoston.com

LEXINGTON, Mass. -- Longtime Lexington High football coach and octogenarian Bill Tighe retired after the Minutemen shut out Burlington 14-0 on Thursday.

The 86-year-old was the nation's oldest prep football coach. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, Tighe, with his trademark dry humor, reminded players, assistants, fans and media that he had lost in his final games in high school player at Ashland, as a running back at Boston University and at his two previous coaching stops at Wakefield and Malden.

Tighe finished his high school coaching career 268-233-13.

"I said I want it, 1-for-5 [in final games], and I'd appreciate everything you can do to bring it about," said Tighe, when asked about his pregame speech. "So that's what I left them with, that was the message."

Signs featuring some famous "Tighe-isms" littered the fencing along the home side's bleachers with phrases such as "Films don't lie", "Get out of the fog!", "You look like Mickey the Dunce out there!" and "You block like a marshmallow!"

The words "TIGHE 514", the number of games he's coached, were stenciled in styrofoam cups along the fence behind the end zone.

In a halftime ceremony on the field, longtime public address announcer Chuck Shaw emceed nearly an hour's worth of speeches and letters from from former players to local coaches to U.S. Senator Scott Brown. After jersey No. 36 (representing how many years Tighe coached) was officially retired, all former players in attendance came on the field and joined in one last pregame-style breakdown. And then to top it all off, a half-dozen men dressed as Revolutionary War soliders fired off muskets.

Tighe, known for his infectious laugh, had several former players sneak onto the sidelines to give him a quick pat on the back during the game. But of course Tighe coached to the end, 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 said 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 of 2,200 had dispersed and a slew of television cameras called it a wrap,Tighe stayed on the field, soaking in these last moments on the grass.

"It's a special day. I couldn't ask for anything better," Tighe said. "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."

Brendan Hall is a reporter for ESPNBoston.com.

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