Crediting Stoughton High football coach Greg Burke and his coaching staff for "always [producing] a competitive program" and for treating game officials with "the utmost respect and professionalism," Burke has been named the 2012 Coach of the Year by the Association of Independent Football Officials.
"Our officials have communicated to us what a pleasure it is to officiate interscholastic contests at Stoughton High School," states a letter from Association of Independent Football Officials secretary Robert Denise to SHS Principal Julie Miller.
Burke was honored at the Association's banquet, Wednesday evening, Nov. 14 at the Braintree Moose Club in Braintree. Burke's team is 9-1 this season, currently tied for the best overall mark in the Hockomock League with King Philip.
"I'm very proud. It's great for the school. It's great for the [program]," Burke said of receiving the award.
"It's good to know that you're being recognized for something that's part of the deal. Whether I get an award or not, it doesn't matter to me. I demand respect for the officials and the game and that's the way it's going to be as long as I'm here."
Burke said he doesn't tolerate players or coaches "shooting their mouth off" to officials.
"The guys who are reffing are not out to get you," Burke said. "Everyone thinks they're the bad guys - we can't have a game without them. They're actually the good guys."
He continued, "Everything is a a tough call, one way or another. I just want to emphasize that I think it's important that we recognize it that way and play the game the way it's supposed to be played - hard, fair, and after it's all over, whatever the scoreboard says, that's the way it goes."
Respecting the officials is something Burke's players see first-hand from their coach each game.
"He deserves it 100%," senior captain Adam Leonard said of Burke receiving the award.
"Surprisingly, Coach Burke is the calmest out of all the coaches whenever a call doesn't go our way but makes sure, in a respectable manner, to find out what happened and give his opinion," Leonard wrote in an email to Stoughton Patch.
"That kind of 'respect/professionalism' I think goes a long way when a referee has to make a tough decision," Leonard continued. "He's probably going to choose the side that isn't screaming and making a scene. Some of the players and I picked up on those methods over the years to talk to the refs and try to reason instead of walking away and mumbling something we shouldn't of said. So I think it's more of his actions that have taught me over the years."
"Coach Burke is a great coach. He is the type of coach that respects everyone and gets the best work out of all his players by pushing them to their limits," senior captain Mike Connelly wrote in an email.
"Coach stresses to us each game not to talk back or say anything to the refs because he says he will handle it and everyone on the team respects that," Connelly added.
At 9-1 heading into its annual Thanksgiving matchup with Canton, Stoughton is one win away from setting a single-season record for victories (10). The Coach of the Year Award comes as Burke, in his 20th season leading the Black Knights, is having one of his most successful years at Stoughton High.
"We're having a great year, but I haven't done anything different than I did last year or the year before, so it's just one of those things," Burke said.
Burke was also recently named the New England Patriots High School Coach of the Week back in September of 2011, following a week 3 win last season at Mansfield.
Stoughton High Athletic Director Ryan Donahue lauded Burke for his demeanor on and off the field.
"Whether he's teaching phys-ed, working on a playoff proposal, coaching his team, managing his coaches, assistant coaching for winter track or spring track, he always goes with the flow, he rolls with the punches," Donahue said.
"Sometimes they may have a key player who is injured and keeping his guys motivated and keeping them set has been a great thing for this team," Donahue said. "This has been a very difficult year to say the least for them [with the tragic death of senior David Wade] and to keep them on track, to keep them focused and be the bright part of their day has been a very good thing."
Burke is assisted by Bryan Carew, Steve Woodruff, Steve Woodruff, Jr., Anthony Pirri, Billy Horan and Matt Harris.
"You want to be tough and want to be rough, and the whole thing," Burke said, "but you want to play the game the way it is supposed to be, with dignity and respect."