They knew it was coming, but that didn’t make it any easier for the Carthage Bulldogs football team.

They were told Monday at practice that longtime Coach Dennis McLaughlin had lost his battle with cancer.

McLaughlin, or Coach Mac as the players and other coaches called him, had taught and coached at Carthage High School for 37 years.

“They took it tough,” Carthage Head Coach Scott Surratt said. “We got the news yesterday at practice. It was tough because everybody loved Coach Mac.

“He was a great man and we’re going to miss him. The community, the school, the team. Anyone who was ever involved is going to miss Coach Mac. We’re all praying for his family.”

The Bulldogs are wearing wrist bands that say they’re playing for Coach Mac, and they will have a decal on their helmets.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at First United Methodist Church with the Revs. Kevin Otto and Leah Morales officiating. A private burial will be held at Restland Memorial Park prior to the memorial service. The family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Jimerson-Lipsey Funeral Home, 1131 Texas 149 in Carthage.

Serving as honorary pallbearers will be the high school football coaching staff.

Coach Mac, 65, was an all-region guard at Panola College and later an All-American at Angelo State, where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Besides football, he also coached baseball, basketball, track, golf and tennis while at Carthage High and was a part of seven state championship teams — six football, one baseball — as well as one state runner-up and four state semifinalists.

“Coach Mac was my offensive coordinator, my eyes upstairs,” Surratt said. “He was a phenomenal coach, a player’s coach and they all loved him. He was a self-motivator and was great at motivating the kids. He was the total package.

“He was an inspiration to me and he coached me one year in high school. That’s why I kept him when I became the head coach. I knew what kind of man he was and I knew what kind of coach he was. He made a lot of great calls over the years. It’s tough to pick out just one.

“It’s been an adjustment (not having him here). He’s been at every single game I coached here except one — and that’s when he was inducted into the Hall of Honor at Angelo State.”

Memorials may be made to the Carthage Education Foundation, No. 1 Bulldog Dr., Carthage, TX 75633 or the First United Methodist Church, 201 S. Shelby, Carthage, TX 75633.