ELLSWORTH — The search for a new head coach has brought the Ellsworth/Sumner football team back to the man who helped build its youth pipeline.
Beginning with a system that had to be created from scratch just more than a decade ago, Dave Svec helped develop many of the players that have gone on to be the backbone of the team at the varsity level. Now, he’ll be the one calling the shots as the Eagles play under the Friday night lights.
Svec was announced Tuesday as the Ellsworth/Sumner football team’s newest head coach. The hire makes him the second coach in the revived program’s return to the varsity fold after Duane Crawford led the team from 2012-19.
Svec coached various youth teams in the Ellsworth Football League from 2011-15. That time saw the league enjoy remarkable success in the youth ranks, including the fifth/sixth-grade team’s 7-2 finish in 2011 and the seventh/eighth-grade team’s unbeaten streak of seven games that spanned from 2013-14.
In 2016 and 2017, Svec joined Crawford’s varsity staff as a volunteer assistant coach for his son Malcolm’s sophomore and junior seasons. In 2018, Malcolm became the first player in Ellsworth Football League history to participate in the league from third grade all the way through his senior season.
“We’re a football family,” Svec said. “I was born in Ohio, and football was a very important thing there. It’s been great to see it grow like it has in this community.”
Tactically, Svec is a big believer in the power-run game. He’s particularly fond of the wishbone formation, a scheme that’s popular at the youth and high school levels because of its flexibility.
With Ellsworth/Sumner set to enter its second season of eight-man play, that formation and any others Svec might employ will have to account for fewer players. Yet that’s a challenge that all coaches playing the new code for the first time must face, and for Svec, it doesn’t change the basic principles of the game.
“It’s still football,” Svec said. “Whether you’ve got eight men or 11, it’s still about who blocks better, who tackles better and who executes better. None of that is any different.”
The Maine Principals’ Association’s decision earlier Tuesday to delay the high school sports season pushes back the earliest countable football game from Sept. 4 to Sept. 18. That will give Svec more time to prepare for a potential 2020 season.
Ellsworth Athletic Director Josh Frost cited Svec’s experience with the Ellsworth Football League and the Ellsworth/Sumner varsity team as factors in the hire. Many of the players he’ll coach in the coming years are ones he’s already helped learn the game as a youth coach.
“We felt it was really important to have somebody who’s worked a lot of those students and been in the system,” Frost said. “Dave has obviously been a big part of the Ellsworth Football League in the past, and he has a very good track record.”
Svec will now have an opportunity to build on the success of an Ellsworth/Sumner program that’s already come a long way in just of decade of play. The Eagles have won multiple games each of the past five seasons, a stretch in which they have posted a winning record (2015) and compete twice in the playoffs (2017 and 2019).
Now, Svec wants to be the man to help Ellsworth/Sumner reach a new level. With the program establishing a foothold at a time when eight-man football is changing the sport in the state, be believes the time is right for the Eagles to get there.
Every year, there are those three or four teams that really stand out,” Svec said. “I think the next step for us is to get to where we can hang with those top-tier teams, and I’m looking forward to that challenge.”