By Ron Giofu
Forced to take a step back from coaching due to health reasons, a General Amherst coaching legend still plans to be involved in any way he can.
While Dave Scott has stepped down as the head coach of the General Amherst Bulldogs junior football team, he still aims to continue his 43-year coaching career by helping the passing games of both the junior and senior football teams.
“I’ll have to see how this goes, whether I coach track or not. I don’t know,” said Scott, who didn’t want to disclose his health publicly.
Scott has spent the better part of his life at General Amherst, including his years as a student. He began there in 1959 and was a key component of the newly created football program, founded by Jack Wilson and George Pringle in 1961. Scott, the team’s quarterback, scored the football program’s first-ever touchdown.
“I was supposed to pass but I ran it in from the ten-yard line,” Scott recalled.
The team went undefeated the next two years and General Amherst won the SWOSSAA “B” championship in 1963. Scott was the quarterback the first three years of the program and was named the school’s top male athlete in 1964, the first time that award had been given.
Scott was captain of both the football and basketball teams from 1959-64. In 1961, the junior basketball team won the ECSSA title and travelled to London for the WOSSAA championship, where they lost by one point in the final. Jerry St. Pierre was the coach, Scott said.
The General Amherst football team won the SWOSSAA “B” championship in 1963. Dave Scott is in the front row, wearing uniform #36. Scott was the quarterback and went on to have a lengthy coaching career which he still aims to continue at General Amherst. (Special to the RTT)
Scott graduated from Grade 13 in 1964, after which he enrolled at the University of Western Ontario. After obtaining an honours in physical education, he returned to General Amherst in 1968 and started his teaching and coaching career. In his first year, he coached football, basketball and started the track and field team. He became health and physical education department head in 1971.
Scott coached the senior football team to ECSSAA championships in 1972 and 1974 and began junior football in 1980. From 1980-85, Amherst won five straight junior football ECSSA championships. In 1993, the senior team had a perfect 8-0 record with the junior team winning that year as well. The juniors also won in 1999.
After retiring from teaching in 2000, Scott returned to the sidelines in 2004 and resumed coaching track and field as well. His track and field coaching credentials are impressive as well, as he led the team to 19 straight ECSSAA championships from 1971-94 with the team also winning SWOSSAA the first 16 years of that streak as well. The team has also achieved significant success at the provincial level, winning 14 gold medals at OFSAA.
“We won a medal in all of the events,” he said.
Not only did he help lead General Amherst to success on the track, he helped build the local track and football complex. In 1984, Scott formed a committee with Dave Bailey and Mike Nedin to study the feasibility of building a track and field/football complex. They worked with the town in creating Centennial Park, and received help from then-mayor Bill Gibb and administrator Tom Kilgallin in obtaining the government funding required.
“We raised $10,000 at the school,” said Scott, adding a million-dollar grant helped fund the remainder.
“It was the nicest one in Ontario,” he said of the park. “We had seating for 1,000. We filled it on game days. We also held ECSSAA for five straight years until Essex was built.”
OFSAA Regionals and SWOSSAA meets were also held in Amherstburg.
“It was a tremendous facility at the time,” he said. “It’s been let go and a lot of people are upset about that. This would only cost $1 million and it would be done.”
Recalling the staff that helped run the meets, he said those helped expose students to track and field locally and assisted him in building the teams he had.
The 1975 Amherst senior boys championship basketball team. Front row (from left): Dave Spencer, Paul Smeltzer, Dom Silvaggio, manager Dane Clark, manager Loretta Budiak, Marino Donatucci, Frank Ventura. Back row (from left): Vince Sauro, Dan Derenoski, Tony D’Alimonte, coach Dave Scott, Bob Parr, Doug Jones, Dave Parks. (Special to the RTT)
Scott is hopeful that a combined General Amherst and Western high school will be built on the property, even suggesting the former AMA Arena be used as a horticultural facility for the Western students.
“I hope that school is built there or someone takes charge and does that track or stadium,” said Scott.
On the basketball court, he coached at the senior level from 1968 until his retirement in 2000 and continued to coach juniors after his retirement. The senior boys ended a 28-year dry spell in 1975 by winning the ECSSA championship, a feat they also accomplished in 1978. Teams led by Scott also won WECSSAA “AA” and SWOSSAA “AA” titles in the late 1990’s. Scott also has an Ontario District High School championship in 1998.
Scott has also won a variety of awards during his career. He was a recipient of the Ontario Bicentennial Volunteer Award, given by then-Premier Bill Davis. He was awarded a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013, won a Watson Hallock award for contributions to General Amherst, has been recognized by the town of Amherstburg, was awarded a WECSSAA plaque in 2000 for three decades of dedication to youth in track and field and won the Honourary Bulldog Award from General Amherst in 2009. Scott also won the Labatts Award from the Kinsmen Club of Windsor as their “Sports Person of the Year” June 6, 1983.
Scott also recalled the events he helped plan, from parades and hay rides to homecoming events and dances. He said the town would shut down in the early 1970’s for some of the homecoming parades that were held.
Numerous former athletes he coached have also gone into coaching themselves over the years, he said. A number of people have assisted him over the years in basketball, football and track and field. Those he listed include Dom Silvaggio, Jerry St. Pierre, George Pringle, Dave Heath, Jack Wilson, Jim Mathieson, Mark Usher, Jim Bradburn, Doug Middleton, Kieth Ewer, Rob Oriet, Dino Rosati, Dave Bailey, Mike Nedin, Cindy Nedin, Ross Scott, Lynn Yovonvich, Stephanie Bondy, Kristy Ryan and Scott Riddell.
Scott thanked everyone who has played a role in his career, adding he always enjoyed seeing the students improve their skills and go on to have productive lives of their own.
“It was a great career. It’s not finished yet, I’m still coaching,” he said. “It’s always been a great experience. I’ve never had a bad experience.”
At Monday night’s town council meeting, the town voted to support a bid to have Scott inducted into the Windsor-Essex Sports Hall of Fame. Dave Heath, a former colleague of Scott, is spearheading the campaign and said Scott “dedicated his life to youth and sports in this town.” He added he wants to show the selection committee the bid is not just the opinion of fellow coaches.
Heath said coaches take time away from their families to pursue working with athletes. Scott has worked with at least 40 athletes who became teachers, Heath added.
Councillor Jason Lavigne said he can attest to everything Heath said, calling the Hall of Fame bid “commendable.” Councillor Rick Fryer said Scott “pushed you to the limit to make you better. That’s why he is who he is.”
Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale suggested a letter writing campaign, but Heath believed less would be more and that too many letters could be counterproductive. Mayor Aldo DiCarlo joked that despite the amount of laps both Scott and Heath made him run during his days at General Amherst, “I still support this.”