New Coach Has Big Plans for Patriots
TOWNSEND -- New North Middlesex Regional head football coach Ryan DeMar is rather cognizant of what he has inherited on Route 119. He’s obviously replacing a legend in Sandy Ruggles, and he wants to be respectful of the history behind the Patriots.
N.Middlesex football preview
And seeing as he played under a legend in high school, he’s hoping to use some of the lessons he learned as a teen to mold this group into champions.
DeMar, a 2010 Leominster High graduate, played under the legendary John Dubzinski, and now takes the reins of a storied North Middlesex team in what is his first head football coaching job. DeMar was the boys’ lacrosse coach at NM this past spring.
“My biggest thing is that I’m thankful to be able to follow (Ruggles),” DeMar said last week. “It’s clear he did a good job with the kids as far as teaching the game to them, so we’re able to use those building blocks. We’re going in a different direction than where they were last year. Those skills he taught them will transition.”
The Patriots will run multiple formations on offense in 2018, hoping to catch a few teams off-guard.
“We’re going to run some I-Wing,” DeMar said, “which is a little different. It’s foreign to teams; it’s almost like when the spread came out a few years back. Coaches wondered how to stop this. Now with the I-Wing, we have some spread looks in there. We’ve modernized it to the high school level, and to use an old Dubzinski quote, ‘We can go three yards in a cloud of dust, but then we can spread ‘em out and get our athletes in space.’”
In 2017, North Middlesex took its lumps with a mainly sophomore squad. But a year later, they’re all juniors, and they’re pumped.
Josh LeBlanc returns to helm the offense.
“He’s familiar with the offense. He’s really helped us at easing the transition,” DeMar said.
The backfield will see a rotation between Adam Fournier--who found himself sidelined for a good chunk of last year--and Derek Higgins at tailback, with Ryan McGrath and Mark Thomas at fullback.
“They’re going to have to focus on coming downhill,” DeMar explained. “We have a big offensive line, so we have to follow them--putting a hand on their backs and finding that hole. We’re not a zone team, we don’t want our running backs cutting and shifting; it’s one cut and go and find that daylight. Those guys can do that for us.”
McGrath was a lineman a year ago.
“He lost a ton of weight,” DeMar said. “That offseason work has paid off, because now he’s a fullback. In the I, he’s a guard with more speed coming at someone. And he has good hands, so he can be a threat in the passing game.”
Reed Callahan returns as tight end, with Matt Haskins, Dom Yancy, and Ty Clemetson anchoring the receiving corps.
“I understand why (NM) went spread last year,” DeMar said. “We had athletes all over the field. Now we’re focused on getting those guys to know their job. And with so many guys at wide receiver, we’re preaching ‘You’re going to get a couple shots a game, take advantage by focusing through the catch, getting yards after contact,’ and we’ll be successful in that respect.”
Defensively, North Middlesex will go from 4-3 to 4-4 at any time, and back again.
“We’re almost platooning,” DeMar said. “We’re getting lots of guys on the field. It won’t be the same 11 on offense that’s on defense. There will be a couple of guys (playing both ways). We had a great sophomore class last year, and almost all of them are back, and they have experience. You can’t coach up experience. We’re coming in with a strong junior class; they’re really the leaders out there, they’re pushing us.”