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Strecker retires after 25 seasons at Waterford, the last six as head football coach

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has been a revelation for many as they've learned to adapt to the times.

John Strecker had one of those epiphanies this past fall when he wasn't coaching high school football for the first time in 25 years.

"The pandemic proved to me something I wouldn't have believed in the first place — I didn't have real football and I didn't die," Strecker said with a laugh. "Prior to Dec. 2019 I would've told you that would be fatal to me, but I lived through it."

Strecker announced Thursday that he was retiring as head coach at Waterford High School. He had been the head coach for six seasons and led the Lancers to their most successful season ever in 2019, highlighted by their first win in the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference playoffs.

"I knew going into (2020) that this would be my last season with my daughter (Aislinn) going into her junior year (at New London's Science and Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut) and some of the other obligations that I have," Strecker said, who is married and works for Frontier. "All that (time) adds up.

"Then the CIAC canceled (the 2020 fall season) and kept pushing it back and maybe we'd play in the spring. And I didn't think it was time to do it (before knowing if there'd be an abbreviated spring season), then come spring the new guy doesn't have much time to get going."

Waterford rapidly ascended during Strecker's final season (2019) after it finished 0-10 in 2017 and 3-7 in 2018.

The Lancers finished the 2019 regular season 9-1 and won the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II championship. The ninth win was a thrilling, 35-34 come-from-behind overtime win over East Lyme on Thanksgiving Day and earned them the number two seed in the Class M playoffs, the program's fourth playoff appearance and first since 2011.

Waterford beat the Granby/Canton co-op in the quarterfinals, 10-6. It lost to a fellow ECC school Killingly in the semifinals (35-7).

"His leadership over the years has been commendable," Waterford athletic director Chris Landry said in a release. "He led us to the only playoff victory in school history. His commitment to promote a safe practice environment with no live tackling in practice has been a great addition for our athletes. We thank him for his commitment to Lancer Nation and wish him the best."

Landry said the search for Strecker's successor will begin immediately.

Waterford's Class of 2021 also factored into Strecker waiting to retire until football was officially canceled this school year.

"I had some seniors that had a very good junior year, and I was looking forward to seeing them on the field — that's the other reason I didn't want to announce (my retirement earlier)," Strecker said. "I wanted to coach them one more time, but they're not going to get a shot at it.

"It's a little weird now (retiring) and it's going to be really weird in August (when practices begin)."

Among the things Strecker is looking forward to is having more time to spend with Aislinn and watch her play lacrosse.

"She's going to college in two years, so that was another consideration in my decision," John Strecker said. "I'd like to have the time to visit her and spend a little time with her."

Strecker said he'd consider being a Waterford assistant again provided it was an unpaid position that didn't take up as much time.

"I'll be down there (at Waterford) and be at every game for sure," Strecker said. "I have so much time in and can't give (high school football) up cold turkey."

n.griffen@theday.com

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