Football is a proud tradition in North Attleboro.
For decades, families have bonded over the sport, starting with practices on humid August evenings and capped by Friday night games in the chilly autumn air under the lights at Community Field.
Those who have enjoyed the tradition can thank Robert L. “Bob” Guthrie, who died last week at age 79, for launching it.
A member of the North Attleboro High School Class of 1961, Guthrie took over the Red Rocketeer program in the late 1960s. Joining him was a classmate, Ray Beaupre, who would carry on the tradition to such a high degree that the school later named its football field in his honor.
“North football was kind of bleak when we took over, and it took three or four years to change things around,” Beaupre told veteran Sun Chronicle sportswriter Peter Gobis years later.
First, the Red Rocketeers had to get past their Thanksgiving Day rivals, Attleboro High School. Guthrie was on the Community Field sidelines on Nov. 22, 1973, when, as Gobis would later write, “the modern era of North Attleboro High School football was chaperoned into the limelight.”
North Attleboro trailed 12-7 that day with seconds ticking down and the ball far from the end.
“But when Paul LaCasse snared a 52-yard touchdown toss from Jackie Rioux on the final play of the game … North Attleboro High football arrived as a powerhouse, not just against the Bombardiers, not just in Southeastern Massachusetts, but in the commonwealth,” Gobis wrote.
With that game, the Red Rocketeers took over the lead in the rivalry, 24-23-6. They now lead, 62-30-8.
When Massachusetts began high school football Super Bowls shortly after, North Attleboro won the first two, defeating Greater Lawrence 33-6 and routing Pope John 48-0. More Super Bowl success would follow under Beaupre, Paul Sullivan and Don Johnson.
But it was Guthrie’s leadership that launched the tradition.
Coaching was hardly the only thing on Guthrie’s resume.
For decades, he operated the World War II Memorial Swimming Pool, where thousands of North Attleboro youngsters were able to enjoy safe summer days.
And he was the public address announcer at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, working the 1981 “longest game ever played,” a 33-inning contest between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings.
In 2019, he told North TV he wanted to be remembered as “a guy who loved teaching, loved coaching.”
North Attleboro should thank that guy whose love of teaching and coaching launched a lasting tradition.