Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sheehan Named Viking Head Coach

Welcome to Part II of the June post. Today we'll take a look at the move of Patrick Sheehan from Pioneer Offensive Coordinator to Head Football Coach of the Triton Regional High School Vikings. 

This quote may be the appropriate place to start.

"The game of life is a lot like football. You have to tackle your problems, block your fears, and score your points when you get the opportunity." -author Lewis Grizzard.

That pretty much describes the situation for Sheehan. Some coaches wait years before they land a head coaching position, but Sheehan, at the tender age of 27 and with five years of coaching experience was presented with a golden opportunity to run his own program. But in spite of all that, it still wasn't an easy decision for the Lynnfield native and LHS graduate.

"The decision to even apply for the head job at Triton was difficult," Sheehan said. "This is a testament to how strongly I feel about the staff at Lynnfield and the situation I was leaving. I enjoyed every minute I spent at Lynnfield and learned so much from the entire staff. Coach (Neal) Weidman has been a great friend and mentor during this process, offering advice, helping me see the 'big picture' and supporting any and every decision I have made.

"Leaving my alma mater after the season we had and seeing Lynnfield be put on the map is going to be difficult to do," he continued. "Neal's wife Jenn told me that it's a good thing that I had to make this decision. She told me it would be easy to leave some place that you weren't happy but to leave somewhere that you are happy means you truly believe in your decision."

Pat was a receiver, defensive back and long snapper for the Pioneers and was co-captain of the 1999 squad.

Pat started his coaching career at Lynnfield under former Pioneer head coach Bill Adams in 2005 coaching the wide receivers amd defensive backs as well as the freshman team.

"Neal was the offensive coordinator during that time and he and I became very close as we learned and implemented the spread offense in the 2006 season," Sheehan continued. "After the 06 season, I was asked by then Triton head coach Sean McElligot to come and coach the wide receivers, defensive backs and the special teams. I accepted due to the fact that I was teaching Algebra at Triton and thought it would be good to coach and teach in the same school."

Following the 2007 season, McElligott was not asked to return at Triton and Weidman, newly named to take over the Pioneer program with Adams' retirement offered Sheehan the opportunity to come back to Lynnfield as the offensive coordinator.

"That turned out to be a great decision, obviously," Sheehan said.

On a personal note, I have known Pat since he was six years old and a proud member of the Pirates, my first tee-ball team. In fact, I coached Patrick for most of his Little League baseball career. That probably explains his aptitude for and success in football.

The situation he is taking over at Triton is muddled at best and Pat will have his hand full.

Former Pioneer assistant coach Jim O'Leary took over the Viking football program from McElligot in 2008 after the Vikings went 1-10 in 2007. O'Leary seemed to have things headed in the right direction with a 5-6 mark in 2008 and a 7-4 season last year. In fact, Triton exploded out of the gate last year going 5-0 before the Pioneers handed them their first loss 21-19 on a last second field goal by Steve Ullian.
However, O'Leary submitted his resignation following last season citing personal reasons. He told the Newburyport News that "there are a lot of obstacles over there that just don't seem like  they will work themselves out. It's a case of I just didn't feel like the total atmosphere of the school was where I wanted it to be. I tried to talk myself into going back, but I talked to the principal and said it was best for me to step away."

Sheehan is not fazed by the perceived problems at Triton.

"I have been at Triton for five year now," Sheehan said. "Every school and every athletic department has its issues and Triton's has taken its hits over the past four or five years. Coaches resigning, firings, perceived lack of administrative support are just a few of the issues. I can't speak for coach O'Leary and he has his own reasons for leaving. I have enjoyed teaching at Triton and work with some great people. I am excited to start working with all of the administration, players, boosters and other coaches in the building in order to make Triton as great as we can make it."

Pat will be taking over a program that enjoyed success last year and he looks forward to continuing that trend.

"I think that with the first head coaching job for anybody, there is an expected amount of pressure," he said. "The fact that Triton went 7-4 last year does increase expectations from the school and community. However, their expectations will not exceed our expectations as a team. Also, despite a good record, there is unfinished business as far as having the ability to compete with the teams in our league (Masco, North Andover, Wilmington and Pentucket.)

"Triton has one win against those teams in the past two years. I hope to put together a staff that is half as good as what we had at Lynnfield the past two years. Neal Weidman, Greg Haberland, John O'Brien, Mike Geary, Fern Lavoie and Gino Fodera. I believe this is as devoted and knowledgeable staff as you will find in the CAL and probably Massachusetts. I am going to miss the camraderie we had as a staff."

"Triton has a short list of head coaches in their history," Pat went on."I believe I will be the 6th or 7th  head coach in their history. I will be joining the CAL Large with coaches like Jim Pugh, John Rafferty, Ed Gaudiano and Steve Hayden. These guys have been at their respective schools since I was a freshman in high school."

Actually, those coaches go back much further than that. Pugh took over the Masco program when Patrick was entering the second grade in 1989 and Gaudiano got the head coaching job at Newburyport when Pat began first grade in 1988. Hayden was conducting his first Pentucket preseason camp in August of 1982 just around the time Jim and Donna Sheehan were bringing baby Patrick home from the hospital. So yes they have been around for a while.

"I hope to bring some consistency to a program that will see its third coach in four years," Pat summed up. "I believe that the football program is the face of athletics and hope that during my tenure, Triton can look proudly at the face of their athletics program."

Sheehan's leaving obviously leaves a hole in the Pioneer coaching staff.

"We're going to miss him," Weidman said. "But it's a great opportunity and you never know when they'll come along so you have to take advantage of them. This breaks up the great chemistry we had as a coaching staff but we'll all have to work together to pick up the slack. This will be a challenge for everyone else on the staff."

Weidman is not sure he will be able to replace Sheehan this year.

"It's a little late," he said. "If we find someone that fits then fine. If not, we have enough experience on the staff to readjust."

Please join me in wishing Pat all the luck in the world in his new endeavor at Triton.

See you on July 9th for my next post.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sheehan to Triton; Realignment for Pioneers in 2011

It's only early June but there's a lot of  big news surrounding the Pioneer football program. So much in fact, that I will be splitting the June post in two. I'll post part two of the June blog next Wednesday.

The biggest news is that Pioneer offensive coordinator Patrick Sheehan is leaving Lynnfield to take over the head coaching position at Triton. It's an impressive promotion and great opportunity for the Lynnfield native. I'll devote next week's post to Sheehan's move north.

This week we'll deal with another significant piece of news for Lynnfield football concerning realignment and I"ll also take a look at the upcoming summer activity for the Pioneers.

So let's get to it.

New League for Pioneers in 2011

Despite the defeat of the sweeping MIAA state realignment proposal, the Pioneers will be playing in a new league in 2011 after all. But this change is much more positive for Lynnfield High Football.

It was announced last week that the Northeast Conference and the Cape Ann League will merge for football beginning with the 2011 season. The 24 team super conference will be divided into four tiers of six teams each with the champion of each league earning a playoff berth.

The Pioneers will play in Tier Four with North Reading, Hamilton Wenham, Ipswich, Manchester Essex and Georgetown. The NEC/CAL Tier Four will be Division 3A the same as the current CAL Small. The difference between Tier Four and the current CAL Small is the exit of Newburyport and Amesbury, who will move up to Tier Three with Pentucket, Saugus, Triton and Winthrop. They will be replaced by Manchester Essex, who was already committed to joining the CAL in 2011.

The rest of the NEC/CAL consists of Lynn Classical, Lynn English, Masco, North Andover, Peabody and Revere in Tier One and Beverly, Danvers, Gloucester, Marblehead, Salem and Swampscott in Tier Two.

Each team will play the other five team in its division and must play a total of two crossover games with teams from the other tiers.

"The Northeast Conference had some issues and we (Cape Ann League) had some issues with Wilmington leaving and Manchester Essex joining in 2011," said Pioneer head coach/co-Athletic Director Neal Weidman. "We would have had eight small schools and four large schools (in the CAL) so something had to be done. Joining with the NEC allows for more parity by matching up schools by size. I think they did a good job lining up the divisions."

For the Pioneers, the news is all good.

Tier Four is almost a perfect placement for Lynnfield. Using the current MIAA male enrollment base (2007 numbers) LHS's 337 places them in the middle of the new league behind Manchester Essex/Rockport (371), Hamilton Wenham (347) and North Reading (346) and ahead of Ipswich (315) and Georgetown (200).

The league figures to be very competitive with the title probably not being decided until Thanksgiving Day. Since all six team are traditional rivals the Lynnfield/North Reading, H-W/Ipswich and M-E/Georgetown games on the holiday will all be league games.

"We are in the right division," Weidman continued. "Sizewise that is where we fall. And we are still with North Reading so that makes sense. Keeping the rivalries together was one thing we wanted to do."

Over the past three seasons, the Pioneers have been extremely competitive with the five teams in their new league.They have posted winning records against Ipswich (3-0), North Reading (2-1) and Hamilton Wenham (2-1) and have a 1-2 mark against Georgetown. They have yet to beat Manchester Essex having lost their only two meetings in 2007 and 2008. Overall, since 2007, the Pioneers are 8-6 against those five teams having outscored them 278-235.

As for the crossover games, Lynnfield will be looking mostly at Tier Three opponents.

"Being in Tier Four we have to go up for any crossover games," said Weidman. "Amesbury and Newburyport are logical choices since we already play them in our current league. But it's still too early to make those decisions."

The MIAA still needs to approve the realignment but since there is no request for additional playoff berths, there should be nothing holding up the approval.

All in all, good news for the Pioneers.

Summer Action

With only a couple of months to go until the opening of preseason practice, the Pioneers begin gearing up for the 2010 season with a full summer slate of 7 on 7 contests. The big Lynnfield/Swampscott Tournament at the High School on July 24 looks like a must see. Here is the complete schedule:

Sunday, June 13 @ St. Anselm's Tournament in Manchester, NH (20-25 teams participating)
Wednesday, July 7 @ Bishop Fenwick vs Bishop Fenwick and Methuen
Sunday, July 11 @Bishop Fenwick vs Swampscott
Monday, July 19 @ Reading vs Reading and Peabody
Saturday, July 24 @ Lynnfield/Swampscott Tournament at Lynnfield High (Teams committed to playing are Lynnfield, Swampscott, Wilmington, Gloucester, North Andover, Marshfield, Quincy, Masconomet, Reading, Pentucket, Lynn Classical, Georgetown, Danvers, Methuen, Winthrop, Winchester, Chelmsford, Bishop Fenwick, Salem, Lynn English, Arlington Catholic, Whittier Tech, Manchester, Pinegree, Longmeadow, Peabody, Andover, Pope John).
Sunday, August 8 @ Reading vs Methuen and Reading,

Grassi, George Hennessey in Agganis Game

One final note, graduating seniors Chris Grassi and George Hennessey will be playing in the annual Harry Agganis game to be played in July at Manning Field in Lynn.

See you next Wednesday for Part Two of the June Post.