Unchained following 34 years, Thursday's Turkey Bowl is Paul Boucher's last game
A familiar face on the Gill Stadium sideline will be working the chains for the last time today.
A member of the chain gang for Manchester High Central games for 34 seasons, Paul Boucher is making the Turkey Bowl city championship between the Little Green and Trinity his farewell to high school football.
“Lot of great memories, lot of great people I got to know and work with along the way,” Boucher said. “If I missed any games, they were too few and far between for me to remember. All I know is, I enjoyed every moment of every season.”
Boucher, a 1955 graduate of Bishop Bradley (later incorporated into Trinity), said his five sons — Norm, Jeff, Mike, Paul and Brian — were the reasons he became a sideline crew official.
“My boys played football, and working the chains allowed me to be closer to the field to watch them play,” Boucher said. “I started (at the youth level) with the North Warriors, then the Manchester Vikings and finally Manchester Central. Bob Leonard was the head coach when I worked my first Central game. I actually remember watching Chip Kelly playing quarterback; that’s how far back I go.”
Kelly played his last game for the Little Green in 1980. He now patrols the sidelines himself — as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
After Leonard stepped down, Boucher worked the chains under Peter Stewart, Fred Cole, Jim Schubert (twice), Denny Richmond and the current head coach, Ryan Ray.
He’ll work his final game with longtime friend Henry Roy, Vic Vachon and Tony Belanger.
“Henry has been with me for 25 years,” Boucher said. “Sadly, I lost one of my best friends, Jim McDonald, who died recently. I worked the chains with both (McDonald) brothers, Jim and Ken, for at least 20 years. I also had Mike Kobilarcsik and John Aylward as my partners. I apologize if I left anyone out, but 34 years a long time.”
Boucher credits Nick Gabardina for allowing him to work two Harvard games (both against Brown University) and one Holy Cross game. He also was a chain-gang member for St. Anselm College for 13 seasons, concluding that run last fall.“The people and all the Central teams I saw along the way have made this enjoyable for me,” Boucher said. “Watching Central win its first state championship under Schubert with quarterback Ryan Day in 1995 was wonderful, and then shortly after they won it again in 1999, and then four straight (2001-04).
“I was thinking the other day about how many (city) athletic directors I worked under in the last 34 years. It started with Eddie Wade and Butch Joseph, all the way down to Dave Gosselin (who retired last summer). At Central, we had Dick Tilton, Joe O’Neil and Jane Clayton running the show, and they all were great.”Working the chains, Boucher noted, can be hazardous duty.
“You have to run for the hills when the play comes towards you,” he said. “I mean, if you see a player or a group of players running towards you, you’ve got to react quickly by dropping the sticks and getting out of the way.”
Fortunately, Boucher said, he’s escaped a major injury, though he has seen some people, including coaches, get injured on sideline plays.
He said he couldn’t have lasted 34 years without getting permission from his loving wife of 56 years, Carol.
“Please mention my daughter, Jennifer Ann,” he added. “When you have five sons, there’s a tendency of people forgetting we have a daughter too. I would never forget her.”
Boucher, who also expressed appreciation for the game officials he’s worked with throughout the years, is hoping for a Central victory today to close out his career.
“I have close ties with Trinity, being a Bishop Bradley grad and all, but I’ve been wearing green the last 34 years,” he said with a laugh.