Make no mistake about it. Rusty Blackington has a way with children. A positive, life-changing way.

The 48-year-old Blackington, a 1989 Medomak Valley High School graduate, saw his family unit swell from four to nine — overnight — and has seen his extended family, in ways, grow further as he has coached in southern Maine for more than a decade.

Now, Blackington finally will get his opportunity in the varsity ranks as he has been tabbed as the girls varsity soccer coach at Massabesic High School.

Blackington has coached all seven of his children in different sports over the years — most often soccer — and has coached several travel teams before beginning an eight-year stint coaching in the MHS ranks. He spent six years coaching the Mustang boys junior varsity before taking on dual roles as the girls varsity and junior varsity assistant posts the past two seasons.

He applied for the boys and girls varsity positions before, both times being passed over by a coach with superior college coaching credentials.

Blackington, who also is a town selectmen for the town of Lyman and owns Done Right Builders, is a youth soccer referee and an assignor/board member for the Massabesic United Soccer Club.

In true Maine fashion, Blackington said he is “wicked excited” about the opportunity.

“I know all these kids, and all these kids know me,” he said. “Every time we go anywhere, I’m either coach or I’m ref to everybody in the community. And everybody knows my [purple] truck. It just stands out like an absolute sore thumb.”

With a license plate that says PURRRR no less.

History at Samoset Resort

Blackington worked at the Samoset Resort 12 years, mostly as convention services manager, before he, his wife, Melissa, and children, Dylan and Julia, picked up and moved south, eventually settling in Lyman.

Lyman is in the Massabesic school district, as are the towns of Alfred, Limerick, Newfield, Shapleigh and Waterboro

“Massabesic is so identical to Medomak Valley,” said Blackington. “It’s made up of five or six towns and it’s the same kind of atmosphere.”

Blackington was on the track team and played soccer for Medomak Valley, but, at the time, saw soccer as more of a means to stay in shape for track season.

“I liked [soccer] because I was really good at running,” he said. “Running was my thing so soccer kind of fit into it. But I didn’t appreciate the sport of soccer I guess when I played it the way I do now. I really hadn’t been exposed to the game.”

Blackington coached a boys travel team for four years until early 2011.

That is when “The Merge” took place.

"The Merge"

In addition to their two biological children, the Blackington’s have five — count them, five — adopted children.

“The whole situation is very strange,” he said.

Blackington and his wife have two children of their own — Dylan, 22, and Julia, 19 — and five adopted children: Chad, 22, Surafel, 21, Neal, 20, Leah, 17, and Aman, 15. These are the Zunser children.

They are the adopted children of Gloria Zunser, a successful orthodontist who, at age 59, lost her battle with cancer on the final day of 2010.

The Blackington and Zunser families had grown close over the years, particularly as Blackington coached Dylan, Chad, Surafel and Neal on the same travel soccer team.

“Dylan and Chad were best friends since kindergarten,” Blackington said.

A dying friend in need

Then, Gloria was diagnosed with breast cancer, though she continued to fight it with treatment. Then, things progressed further when she was diagnosed with liver cancer.

Slowly, the elephant in the room became: What would happen to the Zunser children?

Blackington said, at one point, Gloria had five different families lined up for all five children, with Chad set to go with the Blackingtons.

“Melissa and I and Julia and Dylan were on vacation and I got a call while we were down there. She said, ‘I really have to talk to you.’ ”

Some of the adoptive homes had fallen through and she was now asking them to take three kids, not just one.

“She adopted two brothers together near the end, the two from Ethiopia,” said Blackington. “And she had found a home for those two to stay together and she was looking to keep the other three together. And so we said, ‘Holy cow we have to think about this.’ We talked about it and we said, ‘OK we’ll do it.’ Our problem was, we couldn’t house them.”

With that, Gloria had arranged for her home, once she passed, to be willed to the Blackington family.

Then, the two brothers, Surafel and Aman, began to ask, ‘Why can’t we stay with them too?’”

Rusty and Melissa then came to the same conclusion. “Let’s just take all five.”

“She [Gloria] just broke down and freaked out,” he said. “She was so excited that they’re all going to get to stay in the same home, they’ll all get to stay together. It was going to make it the easiest transition possible for a group of kids about to lose their mother. It was the right thing to do.”

Gloria had long told Rusty “that she loved that I was a hands-on dad.”

And, somehow poetically, Gloria passed away on Dec. 31, 2010.

And on Jan. 1, 2011, the Blackington/Zunser family was born. A new beginning for a new family at the start of a new year.

Soccer common bond

Currently, Dylan, Chad and Julia — all of whom played soccer in high school — are in college. Some of which even played on the pitch collegiately.

Leah tried soccer for a year, “but it wasn’t her thing so now she’s doing field hockey.” Aman is also playing soccer.

As far as what the family unit looks like now?

“Depends on the time of year,” he said with a laugh.”Sometimes there’s 10 cars in the parking lot.”

“Everyone is telling me I should write a book. It’s a nightmare.”

Prior to Gloria’s passing, Blackington coached Dylan, Chad, Surafel and Neal on a U14 travel team.

“We played indoors, outdoors, we played soccer 24/7/365 for like four solid years,” he said. “And then after they aged out because U14 is the highest for travel, I dropped back and took on a U11 girls team.”

And, along the way, Blackington began to pick up more knowledge. And, as his confidence as a coach rose, so did his assurance that he could handle a varsity coaching job.

“My whole world was soccer,” he said. “And I got to see so many premier coaches and their styles and the way that they do things that I was able to just pull little things here and there that I liked that they did. I just felt like I gained enough experience and enough knowledge that I felt like I could do it.”

After being turned down twice for varsity soccer posts at Massabesic, Blackington was wary to apply a third time. Particularly after friend and jayvee girls coach Megan Collupy applied for the position.

However, his stance changed when she urged him to apply as well.

“I said, ‘I don’t want to step on your toes, you applied for it.’ And she said, ‘I think you can get this job and I’d rather have it be one of us than somebody else, because this program is going in the right direction.’ ”

Blackington admitted his program currently is “in the dungeon.” Last season, the Mustangs finished 2-12 and 16th among 17 teams in Class A South.

But, his optimism for the future — as it was when he faced the prospects of a growing family — was high.

“We can only get better,” he said.