Back to work for Tomahawks

For Kip Jackson, it’s been about adjustments.

The first-year coach of the Merrimack High School football team has been around long enough to know that it would be different becoming a head coach after many years as an assistant. But knowing and doing are two separate things.

"I’ve had real close relationships with head coaches before, but until you’re in that situation (you don’t know)," Jackson said. "You’re juggling a lot of balls as well as coaching. It’s just challenging, but it’s something I enjoy."

Jackson has also liked how players have gotten along with each other in the first week of practice, and how they’re working with an entirely new coaching staff.

"The kids and coaches are doing a great job," he said. "The first three days were hard practices. I’m pretty impressed how the kids and coaches are getting along and developing relationships."

While the numbers are lower than what Jackson was used to at Nashua South, there are about 70 kids on the practice field, and he expects to pick up a few more as the preseason moves forward.

But although the numbers are good, there senior class is small with just four.

"We’re about right for a smaller school in Division I," he said. "The senior class is small, but it can be a great thing if we can get younger players up into the program."

BEDFORD

Perhaps the biggest surprise for Derek Stank has been that there really hasn’t been one.

In his first year as head coach of the Bedford High School football team, Stank feels he’s been around long enough to know what to except, even though he’s never run his own program before.

"You’d think you’d be surprised by the time, but being an assistant coach as long as I’ve been, and playing at a Division I (college) program, you know how much time goes into it," Stank said. "It’s still a little shocking, but for the most part it’s a lot of what I expected. I’m enjoying it."

It hasn’t hurt that Stank, unlike many other first-time head coaches, was able to keep all of his Bulldogs gear. Stank was promoted during the offseason after serving as an assistant coach to Kurt Hines since the program started.

And as the head coach, he’s been able to fully see what his players were doing throughout the offseason.

"Taking over as the head coach, I took on more of a role with the offseason training," Stank said. "To be here and know what we put in so far, and then to be out here and see it come into light, it’s exciting.

"We’re looking at all summer long, four days a week, we had 60 to 70, some times 80, athletes here training or in seven-on-sevens. We had a really good turnout. The guys who are here are committed to the program. It’s been a great turnout."

BISHOP GUERTIN

Jeff Moore was fired up, sprinting from one station to another while screaming motivational words to his players.

There was an upbeat attitude on the first day that football teams could officially practice in New Hampshire, especially on the Bishop Guertin High School practice field in Nashua.

Moore is borrowing a few pages out of a familiar playbook and implementing an uptempo, read-option offense with his Cardinals. In doing so, his practices must take on that same hurry-up style.

"We’re just teaching them how to practice," the first-year BG coach said. "Right now, they just didn’t know how to practice. They’ll learn. They’re learning fast. We’re coaching them hard and we’ve got a good group of guys that have worked hard since I got here in March and started the weight room."

Moore is fired up about getting his first season at BG underway, and he’s expecting a lot from a group that lacks some depth as practice begins.

"I’m very optimistic," he said. "We think it’s a pretty good group of seniors. It’s a pretty good group overall.

"Depth and health are concerns. We only have 46 varsity players, so we’ve got to stay healthy. We’ve got to stay healthy, try and keep guys safe as best we can, and keep teaching them football in our uptempo philosophy."

Even with those concerns, don’t expect Moore to go easy on his players.

"I have high standards," he said, "for myself and my team. I expect to be competitive in every game. I wouldn’t expect anything different. I expect to go into every game thinking we’re going to win the game. I wouldn’t want to do it any other way."

Even with an entirely new offense and defense being taught, Moore is setting the bar high. He’s anticipating his players will have no problem clearing that bar.

The smarts are there, according to the coach. The Cardinals’ success rests solely on his players’ physical health.

"I think if we stay healthy and they pick up the scheme as quickly as I think they can – it’s a bright group of kids – we should be OK," he said.