by: PHIL HAWKINS - North Marion football coach Doug Bilodeau, Tri-Valley Coach of the Yearby: PHIL HAWKINS - Gervais football coach Duane Riddell, West Valley Coach of the YearThe 2013 fall athletic season was a banner year for many teams in the area, particularly on the football field, where three local coaches were honored last week with coach of the year awards.

St. Paul’s Tony Smith, Gervais’ Duane Riddell and North Marion’s Doug Bilodeau were all picked last week as the best coaches in their conference in a vote among their league peers.

While Smith and Riddell have been here before, this is Bilodeau’s inauguration into the coach of the year club.

“This is my first,” said Bilodeau, now in his second year as coach at North Marion High School.

After finishing at the bottom of the Tri-Valley Conference last year with the Huskies, Bilodeau guided North Marion to a 4-1 record this year and a playoff berth for the first time since 2009. The quick turnaround caught the attention of Bilodeau’s fellow coaches in the Tri-Valley, particularly Gladstone’s Jon Wolf, who helped the Gladiators go undefeated in league this year.

“He said, ‘I’m going to withdraw my name from Coach of the Year because winning the league is not what it’s about,’ and he nominated me,” said Bilodeau.

The rest of the league coaches fell in line and agreed, voting Bilodeau as the 2013 Tri-Valley Coach of the Year. Bilodeau was caught off guard by the gesture but pleased to get the award. His players, on the other hand, were much more enthusiastic when they heard the news.

“They found out at the awards night,” he said. “They were very stoked.”

While the honor is a new experience for Bilodeau, St. Paul’s Smith has won the award many times and deflected all credit to the team.

“It’s a nice thing for sure, but I think it’s more a reflection of the kind of kids we have,” said Smith. “Usually that goes to the person that wins the league or wins the conference, and that’s just due to the kind of kids we have and the community support we get.”

by: PHIL HAWKINS - St. Paul football coach Tony Smith, Casco Coach of the YearSmith helped guide the Buckaroos through the Casco League for a fifth straight conference title and a trip to the 1A quarterfinals. Despite losing a number of seniors from last year’s team that reached the state finals, the Bucks rebounded for another great year to finish 4-0 in conference and ranked No. 8 overall at the end of the season.

Riddell, now in his third season with Gervais, also was quick to give credit to the athletes on his team.

“I think it says a lot for our kids,” he said. “I never gave up on them, but they never gave up either.”

Despite losing the first six games of the season, the Gervais Cougars made an improbable push for the playoffs when they beat West Valley rivals Willamina and Amity in back-to-back weeks. The Cougars finished 2-4 in the conference and won a tie-breaker with Amity and Sheridan to advance to the team’s first playoff game since 1952.

“This is a great testament to (the team). It’s all about them,” said Riddell. “They kept chugging and chugging, and they did everything I asked, and I appreciate them helping me win the award. It’s them.”

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