FAIRVIEW — No. 100 didn’t come easy for Heath Sexton. Scott Cash’s Fairview Rebels saw to that.
But, in the end, it came.
Oneida Middle’s 12-6 win at Fairview on Thursday was the 100th of Sexton’s decade-long career at his alma mater.
It’s hard to pinpoint the most impressive thing about the milestone. Perhaps its the fact that Sexton — who makes his home in West Oneida with wife, Rebecca, who is also a teacher at Oneida — was strapping on the pads at Oneida himself not so terribly long ago. The 35-year-old started coaching almost as soon as he got out of college.
Perhaps it is that he has stuck around long enough to even get 100 wins at a level where coaches come and go with regularity. Long noted by his peers in the coaching profession as one of the best in the area, Sexton could have moved on to a high school head coaching job by now, but he’s chosen to stick it out with the team he inherited over a decade ago, in the town where he grew up.
Sexton isn’t the first middle school coach in Scott County to win 100 games. But he might be the youngest and shortest-tenured to ever do it — at least in a good many years.
He’s soft-spoken off the field; some might even say quiet. But, on the field, Sexton is a fiery competitor. His voice reverbrates throughout the stands at Dr. M.E. Thompson Field or wherever else the Indians happen to be playing. Sometimes, when things get particularly rough, Sexton gets particularly loud. That’s why Thursday, at Fairview, he could be held well across Clois Strunk Memorial Field as his team fumbled the ball away five times against a stout Rebels defense.
“Fairview is very good and well-coached,” Sexton said. “We won behind Matt Hood’s running, very good defense, and an offensive line that took over.”
In an era where even middle school teams are tossing the ball around the field with an increasing frequency, Sexton has preferred to remain old school. Frustrated by a lack of depth at the quarterback position a few years ago, Sexton went with a throwback approach by installing a single wing offense that most teams abandoned a half-century ago. It worked, and Sexton’s single-wing offense has won six consecutive Area II championships..
“To simply put it, he is the modern-day old-school coach that demands and earns your respect,” said Daniel King, who coached with Sexton several seasons.
Incredibly, the Indians have appeared in eight of the last 10 Area II championship games.
Sexton shies away from publicity. His team is about the school and the players, he says, not about himself. In fact, when asked about his 100th win by the Independent Herald, his request was that it not be mentioned at all.
“I have been blessed with great players who have worked extremely hard and great assistant coaches,” Sexton said. “We have gotten some breaks and we have made our own breaks over the years with hard work from a lot of people.”