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New London remembers Papa Marsh

New London football player Preston Krueger observes a moment of silence in memory of Randy Marsh Sept. 15. Marsh, who passed away in July, spent 35 seasons as a head or assistant coach with the Bulldogs. Greg Seubert Photo

Late coach honored at football game

By Greg Seubert

Randy Marsh wore a lot of hats in his 32 years at New London High School.

He started as a physical education and health teacher in 1973 and went on to serve as athletic director, assistant principal and principal.

However, his biggest impact came as a football coach.

That impact was evident Sept. 15 at Bulldog Stadium, as the community showed up to honor Marsh at the Papa Marsh Memorial Game.

Marsh, who passed away July 10 at age 73 following a 15-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, spent 35 years with the Bulldogs’ football program, including 16 seasons as head coach and 19 as an assistant.

Football meant a lot to Marsh, according to his son, Marc.

“Football – especially Bulldog football – was his life,” said Marc, a former New London assistant and head football coach who now spends his time at home games on the sidelines as a member of the team’s chain gang. “He absolutely loved playing it, he loved watching it and had a great love for coaching. That’s what he did until he couldn’t anymore.”

Randy spent his entire teaching, administrative and coaching career at New London High School. He started as a physical education and health teacher in 1973 and later moved into administration, serving as athletic director (1989-94), assistant principal (1994-97) and principal until retiring in 2005.

“It was the first job he had out of college,” Marc said. “My mom and him moved to town and I think they were the first house on the block. It felt natural and felt like home. Once he put that red on and wore it, that’s what he wanted to do. He had a lot of Bulldog pride for football, for this community, for the school and all sports.”

Marc said his father had the ability to connect with kids, whether they played football or didn’t participate in athletics.

“With football players, he could get the most out of anybody,” he said. “He was tough, he was intense, he was hard-nosed, he was disciplined. He taught fundamentals and the kids bought into it. He had an energy and a passion for football and kids could see that passion. He found a way to make people perform at a higher level.”

Randy joined the football team as an assistant coach from 1973-78 before being named head coach in 1979, a position he held for 16 seasons.

He took three teams to the WIAA playoffs, including the 1984 squad that finished the regular season 9-0 before falling to DeForest 16-12 in a Division 2 state semifinal game.

“I remember everything,” Marc said. “I had been on the football field since I was 5 years old and I was a manager on that team. I knew it was a tough, scrappy group that loved football and that’s what my dad liked. We finished out the regular season at West De Pere, winning 7-0.”

Marc said people in the community respected his father not only as a coach, but also as a teacher and administrator.

“They understand the love, passion and knowledge that he had and his ability to connect to people,” he said. “It even goes beyond that. Obviously, he loved football and he loved athletics, but there was so much more to him. He was able to connect especially with kids if athletics wasn’t for them. Put yourself out there, have a chance to be around people, work with people, life skills, become a leader, those are things that he preached through and through.”

Seven years after stepping down as coach, Randy was back on a different football field after joining the St. Norbert College coaching staff in De Pere. He coached the Green Knights’ defensive line from 2001-04 and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2005, but resigned that year due to health concerns.

“He retired as head coach in 1994, the fall of my senior year, and got into administration that kind of took him out of the football picture for a while,” Marc said. “I think he really missed football. Before he retired (as principal), he started at St. Norbert College.

“He was forced to resign there and came back here,” he said. “I was a co-assistant with him from 2006 to 2012. I was named head coach in 2013 and he stayed on. It was awesome. We were always bouncing ideas off of each other. He was pretty old-school. I like old-school and I like to adapt to some new things, too. He didn’t like to throw the ball a lot, so he’d get in my ear sometimes that I’m throwing the ball too much.

“He coached for as long as he could until 2018,” he added. “It became more difficult for him to be out there. It was a tough call, but he knew it was in the best interest of the team and for the safety and health of our players and himself, too. That didn’t stop him from coming to the games, though. Old players were taking him to games and he was here, a Bulldog supporter through and through.”

So what would Randy think of a night in his honor?

“He was a pretty humble dude,” Marc said. “I don’t know if he’d want this much attention, but to see all the red, the community pride and the Bulldog pride, that’s right up his alley.”

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