When Dotson passed away Sunday as a result of a heart attack, Cantrell was still calling him coach.
“If a former player calls you coach after his playing days and many years later after his playing days, then that coach has affected his life,” Cantrell, who played quarterback for Dotson from 1965 to 1968, said. “Coach Dotson is coach to me, and he always will be.”
Cantrell’s relationship with Dotson went much longer than Cantrell’s high school football career. The two were friends ever since.
“I’m a little shook,” Cantrell said at the word of Dotson’s passing.
FOR THE RECORD
Dotson started coaching the Pound Wildcats in 1964 and was at the helm of the program for 10 years, according to Pound sports statistician and historian Arvil Pilkenton.
“There is no doubt Trigg put the Wildcat football program on the map during his years at PHS,” Pilkenton said.
During his decade as head coach, Dotson’s teams amassed a record of 62-36-1.
In 1969, the Wildcats won nine games, the most wins in a single season during Dotson’s tenure.
During 1965-1970, with Cantrell calling signals for four of those years, Dotson’s teams won a minimum of six games each season.
He coached 12 first team all-district offensive players, 11 first team all-district defensive players, 13 second team all-district offensive players, 14 second team all-district defensive players and one offensive player of the year — Gerard Mullins — in the Lonesome Pine District.
COACH AND MAVERICK
One reason for Dotson’s success on the field was his willingness to do things differently.
Wise County School Board member Herb Shortt recalls getting his start on the football team after Dotson was searching for a long snapper after a couple of snappers tried and failed.
“One day at practice coach said ‘Give me someone who can snap the football.’ So I, being a 130-pound player, step in and start snapping the football, and that was my start on the football team.
“As a former player for Coach Dotson, I have lost not only ‘the coach’ but someone that I respected greatly.”
Cantrell said Dotson and his assistant coach Wayne Leftwich, who went on to become another successful head coach at Pound, implemented a system that was unheard of in the prep football ranks in the 1960s.
“In 1967, Coach Dotson and Coach Leftwich changed our offense, and we went shotgun with no backs in the backfield,” Cantrell recalled. “A lot of timeouts were called after one play. I remember (Appalachia) Coach Jim Riggs coming out on the field during a timeout and lining his players up one by one.
“Also in ’67 after a 38-32 Thursday night with J.I. Burton at Pound — with more than 1,100 yards total offense — which we won in the last minute of the game, Coach Dotson told Burton’s Coach Worrell ‘I didn’t mean to run the score up on you.’”
Dotson’s innovation stretched beyond Pound.
He was a co-founder of the Lonesome Pine District that started in 1970 and was one of the most powerful Class A districts across Virginia until falling victim to reclassification in 2013.
Dotson also helped found and chaired the Lonesome Pine District Officials Association, which consisted primarily of coaches throughout the district. The association preceded the advent of regional official associations when each district was responsible for providing its own officials.