WILMINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) In Whitingham and nearby Wilmington, everyone knows Jacko Roche, the manager of the Twin Valley High School's boys soccer team.
Buddy Hayford, the team's coach, says their relationship started 33 years ago when some players came to him about a special person. "They came running over one afternoon and said, 'We have this greatest guy that just has to be our manager," Hayford said.
He was skeptical until he met Jacko. "I just loved him from first sight, it was awesome," Hayford said.
Over those years the love and mutual respect has just grown. "He's brought a lot of laughter to my life, and that's good medicine," Hayford said.
On this day the duo have a lot on their minds -- a semi-final championship seven miles away at their home field in Willimgton. They're playing Rivendell Academy to see who will go to the finals, and the locker room is abuzz as Jacko leads the charge.
Jacko came to Vermont with his mother but was raised in New York. "And I had to go to a special school because my learning abilities wasn't very good," he said.
But he's become an excellent teacher -- just asks the players.
"Outside of soccer, he brings a lot of comfort, happiness, laughs and everything like that. A lot of life lessons could be taught from him," said Lucas Messing, a senior on the team.
Learning by example. Jacko has missed just a few of the games and practices. "Always to be counted on, reliable. He's as reliable as they come," Hayford said.
Twin Valley is favored to win. "When we score a goal I'm going to go, Ta da da da, da da! Charge!" Jacko tells the team. And it doesn't take long for Jacko to lead a charge.
He's part coach, part manager, part cheerleader. "Come on guys!" he shouts. "That goal keeper isn't very happy right now."
But it's only a game. The reality is Jacko, now 74, is starting to slow down. The players though, have his back.
"Seeing the kids help him out, I think there's a lot of life lessons there. It's pretty cool," Hayford said.
The final -- 3 to 1. Twin Valley and Jacko are off to the big game.
"That's for you Jacko, you Super Senior!" says one player.
A win, but so much more. "He's an amazing guy, how can you not love him," Hayford said.