#CFCHSFB (ONT – WATERLOO): Panthers’ Head Coach Skovsgaard has left a lasting legacy

The junior boys Preston Panthers’ football program has been successful since the mid-90s, and John Skovsgaard has been an integral part of it.

Skovsgaard has been a part of the coaching staff with the junior team since 1993, and has been the head coach since 1996. He will be retiring after this season.

The Panthers’ junior program has maintained a winning pedigree during his time as head coach.

“Like all teams there have been ups and downs, but I am proud of my record as a head coach,” said Skovsgaard. “Since 1996, our junior team’s record is 85-31-1 (regular season) and 23-15 (playoffs). During this time we have been to four WCSSAA championship games, winning in 2012 and two “B” Division championship games, winning in 2013.”

They didn’t always have a successful football program, though. Prior to Skovsgaard’s arrival, the school’s population was lower, which impacted the junior boys.

“When I came in 1993, the program was struggling and had for several years, as our population was only about 800-900 in those days, competing with schools up to twice the size,” commented Skovsgaard. “At our peak we got to around 1250 in the early 2000s, and now are back down to about 1000 students.”

Coaching high school football has been extremely gratifying for Skovsgaard.

“Coaching has been one of the most enjoyable things I have done,” stated Skovsgaard. “Having the opportunity to establish relationships with students and fellow staff outside of the realm of the classroom has been extremely rewarding.”

There are other aspects of coaching that rewarding for him as well.

“To see some students who struggle to get along in the regular classroom situation be cooperative, hard-working, disciplined members of a football team is probably the most rewarding part of coaching,” said Skovsgaard. “I also enjoy the dynamic of a football team, which brings together all body types and students from all different backgrounds within the school. 40-50 sometimes very different kids, all pulling in the same direction is one of the great challenges and rewards of coaching football.”

There is one particular coaching memory that stands out for him, and it was when the Panthers won the 2012 WCSSAA championship game.

“Coach Rob Boug and I had been so close to winning in three previous appearances, and lost several very close semi-final games to eventual champions that we had begun to feel a little snake bitten, wondering if we would ever win one,” said Skovsgaard. “We were ahead 21-14 over Jacob Hespeler, and with 0.6 seconds left they had one last ‘Hail Mary’ attempt into the end zone. When the ball hit the ground, we had an embrace on the sideline that was caught on film by one of our former players who was taking pictures. We both have that picture hanging on our rec room walls. It meant so much for us to finally accomplish that win after working so hard for over 20 years!”

The junior team has a cohesive unit that is well prepared to continue their winning ways after Skovsgaard departs.

“The junior team currently has 38 players, and we completed our regular season with a 6-1 record,” stated Skovsgaard. “I believe we have a strong core of players ready to carry on.”

The Panthers don’t have a replacement lined up for Skovsgaard yet.

“That process won’t happen until next spring,” commented Skovsgaard. “Hopefully Principal Bell can find and hire staff that will be willing to keep our program going.”

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