CANTON, March 29 – You can sense the excitement in Paul Philippon’s voice. The long-time high school football coach is ready to begin teaching and building a winning football program at Canton High.
Philippon met with players, parents and interested members of the Canton community in the high school auditorium in a meeting hosted by Friends of Canton Football, the parent-run booster club that funds the football and girls lacrosse programs at Canton High.
Earlier this month, Philippon was selected to be the 11th football coach in school history. He replaces Roger Pearl, who stepped down in January after four seasons (11-30). Canton had one winning season under Pearl and was 0-10 last fall, playing primarily sophomores and juniors.
“It is an understatement to say that I am excited,” Philippon said.
Philippon was an assistant for 15 years at Conard High in West Hartford, where he played in the 1980s. He got his first head coaching job at Bristol Eastern and coached four seasons, winning a pair of CCC South championships in 2007 and 2008. The Lancers were 31-19-2 in his tenure. He is a special education teacher at the school today.
However, frustrated by some of the eligibility rules surrounding athletes, he stepped down. “Bristol Eastern had policies in place that hurt the kids and hurt the program,” he said. “When I went there, I thought I would be there for 20 years. I didn’t stay because they didn’t let us take the program as high as it could.”
He was an assistant coach in Glastonbury in 2009 and 2010 helping the Tomahawks go to the state playoffs in both seasons. He was a candidate for the head coach position but wasn’t selected when Glastonbury chose a teacher that works in the school system. Philippon was also a finalist for Southington High’s recent opening for a head coach. Last fall, he was a defensive backfield coach at Trinity College in Hartford.
The man is thrilled to be in Canton. He implored the athletes in the room of the need to spend 20 minutes a day lifting weights after their baseball, track or lacrosse practices.
“Everyone wants to be great,” he said, talking to the players in the audience. “Do you want to work hard to be great? I want 20 minutes a day. Every day we are not lifting is a day that our opponents are. This will not impact their performance. It is about fitness and it is what all (football) programs do at the highest levels.”
Players won’t be lifting weights on days they pitch, run in a key meet or have a game. And the workouts are open to all athletes in the high school.
Philippon continually stressed technique in weight lifting, practice and games. When he spoke of Glastonbury losing to Xavier in a state playoff game, he spoke of fumbles that were caused by Glastonbury players holding the ball incorrectly, allowing Xavier players to knock it free.
He told the players of a four-week clinic being hosted by the Canton Park and Recreation Department in April. On Tuesday nights, the skill players attend and on Thursday nights, linemen can attend. There won’t be any hitting. The course is about agility and technique.
Preseason scrimmages with Bristol Central and Bristol Eastern in late August will be heavy on teaching technique. And Philippon suggested that the team arrange a time to attend a summer camp at Central Connecticut State together to work on technique and installation of the potential offense and defense that Canton could run in the fall.
“There is no five-year plan,” he said. “There is now. Our plan is to win a lot of football games. We have to get to work now.”
Canton plays in the Pequot Conference’s Uncas Division with eight of the 10 largest schools in the league on their schedule. But that doesn’t faze Philippon, who has spent his high school career in large schools.
“I don’t coach for the big stadium or pretty field. It’s not about the name on the jersey,” he said as he looked at the two rows of players sitting in auditorium. “They can only put 11 players on the field. And so can we. We will be conditioned and more disciplined. And we’ll do our talking with our pads.”
Paul Philippon At A Glance
- Currently teaches special education at Bristol Eastern HS
- Cornerback coach, Trinity College, 2011
- Assistant coach, Glastonbury HS, 2009-10
- Head coach, Bristol Eastern High, 2005-08
- Assistant coach, Conard High
- Career record of 31-19-2 at Bristol Eastern
- Won two CCC South championships in 2007 and 2008.