Merrimack hires Jackson as coach

The Merrimack-Nashua football connection continues.

The Merrimack High School administration for the second time in the last three years has dipped into the Nashua football community for its new head coach.

The Tomahawks have named longtime Nashua South assistant Kip Jackson to take the football reins. Jackson replaces Dante Laurendi, who was on the Nashua North staff before being hired by the Tomahawks in 2013, but left Merrimack to return as the new North head coach last month.

Jackson was also a finalist for the ’Hawks job that went to Laurendi, but his second attempt was the charm.

“I’ve always said Merrimack would really be the only head coaching job I’d want,” Jackson said on Wednesday, “simply because of the location, I live in Merrimack, and the rivalry with the other schools, like South, in the area. Otherwise, I was resigned to being an assistant at South, I loved it there.”

Jackson, 49, who grew up in East Hampton, N.Y., works for a software firm in Bedford. He has been a Panthers assistant on Scott Knight’s staff for the last 12 years, handling defensive backs, linebackers and special teams. He is very familiar with the personnel at Merrimack, having coached against the ’Hawks, and also Merrimack players take part in an off-season camp with the Panthers.

Merrimack athletic director Eric Sabean said Jackson was chosen from “a very deep and talented applicant pool.”

What set Jackson apart?

“He comes to us highly recommended by his peers in the coaching world,” Sabean said in a general email announcing the move. “Not only does Coach Jackson understand the game of football, he is also a great teacher and communicator.”

Jackson, who also spent eight years as an assistant at Franklin High School, is also community-minded, which appealed to Merrimack officials. He is a board member for the Joe Yukica New Hampshire Chapter of the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame, but is also on the board of directors for The Front Door Agency, which offers support and services to individuals and families who have suffered crisis and are looking to be self sufficient.

“His platform on sportsmanship, integrity and community service fits the ideals that we have in place here at Merrimack,” Sabean wrote. “He understands the importance that sports plays in the growth and development of young people and believes in providing the best possible experience for them.”

Jackson said he wants to get the most out of his players, whether that be two wins or nine.

“I want to work with the kids to get a strong, successful program like South,” Jackson said. “You work with the talent that you have. I’m excited to get started. This was very emotional for me because of my attachment to South, some of my best friends are on that staff.”

Jackson is slated to meet with the Tomahawk players next week, and will be in the process of trying to formulate his own staff. He said he wants to have “an up-tempo, spread offense, aggressive defense and special teams.”

He told his wife, Kristin, a while back that he wanted a head job before he turns 50 in a few months; but if not, he’d stay at South. But then Jason Robie retired at North, creating a domino effect.

“I didn’t expect Coach Robie to retire,” Jackson said. “I didn’t expect any of these jobs to open up.”

But they did, Jackson got his second chance, and made the most of it.