This one's for the coach

Some remember him as a sandpaper-rough coach, un-afraid to step on his football players toes, nudging his fist into their stomach while he chewed them out.

Others remember him pacing the sidelines, bending to rip out grass and munching on it as the game rolled on.

In the same breath that they talk about his impenetrable shell, everyone who talks about the late Charles “Chuck” Semancik, Bremerton/ West Bremerton/Bremerton High football coach from 1948 to 1984, mentions his warmth.

He touched thousands of lives, according to his long-time assistant coach Lanny Dowell.

Semancik was dedicated to the young men of Bremerton, pulling them off the streets into his football team, and pushing them like a bulldozer towards their goals.

And in doing so, he earned people’s respect.

When he died in 1999, a group of his friends and ex-players formed the non-profit Chuck Semancik Memorial Foundation, with the aim of helping the type of kid that Semancik helped — the one struggling with adversity.

So far they have given away $5,000 in scholarships for graduating Knights to continue their education.

For the past two years the group has been working with school district officials and grounds crews to construct a permanent park near the entrance to Bremerton High School’s Memorial Stadium, so Semancik’s legacy will look over football players in the future — and serve as a reminder of how successful the Blue and Gold can be.

In his 36 years leading the Knights, Semancik amassed a record of 210-114-18, and was one of the first inaugurated into the Washington State High School Football Coaches Hall of fame.

Although Chuck Semancik Victory Park celebrates the famous coach and his football legacy, it also offers a place for many other fond memories of Bremerton.

So far, former Semancik players, alumni and the parents of swimmers, basketball players and cross country stars have purchased and engraved 120 tiles with different messages.

Someone even purchased a tile in memory of a music class they took years ago, according to Dowell.

Three granite stones sit in the center of the park which is located along the path leading to the stadium grandstand. The center stone hosts a bronze plaque with Semancik’s mug, and some words about his career.

Dowell hopes the center stone will become a piece of good luck charm similar to Howard’s Rock at Clemson, which players run by and touch before every game.

The school’s victory bell, which was rung after each touchdown will be be temporarily mounted to the top of another boulder during home football games. When not in use, the bell will be kept indoors to prevent vandalism.

Flowering plum trees, which were Semancik’s favorite, surround the stones.

The site will be maintained by Bremerton High School’s grounds keeping staff who have constructed the site.

“We’ve really done a lot of work out there,” head landscaper Lance McCoy said.

When McCoy attended Bremerton High from 1970-1973, he had Semancik for a physical education instructor, and as a golf coach too.

“I got to see a side of Chuck away from the football field,” he said. Once, while out on the greens, he asked Semancik why he had coached for so long.

“I just enjoy helping the kids,” Semancik answered.

McCoy remembers Chuck as a humble man, even though his win total nearly doubled his losses.

“Those were the magic years,” McCoy remembers. In 1971, the sophomore attended a football game against rival Central Kitsap, where he remembers 5,000 people lining the banks of the field.

Bremerton football was huge, and Semancik was the man to play for.

“Everyone that was an athlete turned out for football, they wanted to be accepted by him,” McCoy said.

Semancik pushed every player, and even his coaches.

Dowell served as his assistant from 1968 to 1978.

“I remember the first few days around him thinking ‘What the hell is up with this guy?’” Dowell said.

When Dowell visited Semancik before he died, they recalled the heydey of Bremerton football.

“Boy we were really tough Lanny,” Semancik told his old friend.

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