SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

August 23, 2010

The Master From Maine

Perrone restored the pride to Salem to become one of the Witches' all-time greats

It was one of the greatest three-game stretches in Northeastern Conference history. At the same time, it marked the end of one of the greatest coaching careers on the North Shore.

The year was 1994 and a dark cloud loomed over the proud city of Salem as the teachers marched on the sidewalks in response to the school system's first-ever strike. Right smack dab in the middle of the picket line was Salem High head football coach Ken Perrone and his assistants, who had been ordered to refrain from coaching during the strike by superintendent Edward Curtin and mayor Neil Harrington. This was happening as the Witches were getting set to crash helmets with host Swampscott in a November battle of NEC unbeatens.

Knowing full well the repercussions that lay ahead and with the blessing of the Salem Teachers' Union (their contracts as coaches were not tied into their contracts as teachers), Perrone and his assistants decided to ignore the mandate and coach their players.

"For us, there was no decision. They said the game was on, so we were going to coach," said Tim Marcoulier, one of Perrone's assistants for all 22 years the latter was at Salem. "We were not going to let the kids go out there without proper coaching. If the game was on, for the health and welfare of the kids, we were going to coach."

Perrone's loyalty to the team was reciprocated by his players who, as a team, decided they would sit out the Swampscott game if Perrone and the assistants were forced off the sidelines.

Salem's quarterback at the time, Sean Stellato, can still remember the electric atmosphere at Blocksidge Field the day of the game.

"Going to the game we had a police escort. The stands were filled to the brim. It was like something out of a movie," said Stellato.

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