Bartlett and Shepherd Hill welcome new football coaches
Here’s a Bartlett welcome to Mike Harpin, the newest Indian head football coach. Harpin, 56, takes over for Dane Laboissonniere, who led Bartlett to a 56-60 record over 11 seasons.
Laboissonniere leaves the football position as a nice guy who cared for his players’ well being and will continue teaching at Bartlett. Bartlett’s numbers were on life support over the past 6-7 years, trending with the sign-of-the-times for all small town teams across Central Mass.
The Pop Warner/ Youth Football league should have never left Webster and it was the demise and downfall for the football program at Bartlett. Webster Pop Warner football was owned by Webster as far back as the 1960s. It fed Bartlett football healthy portions of new talent every year. Bartlett’s numbers dropped in drastic measures when the youth program moved to Dudley within the past ten years. Laboissonniere did make the Southbridge game on Thanksgiving morning the number one priority during his 11-year tenure even though the MIAA playoff format took November football out of the picture for most teams. Waiting a full month just to play on Thanksgiving was the death march for all high school football programs across the state.
The MIAA disrespected the traditional high school Thanksgiving football games in favor of creating an eight division playoff format across the Commonwealth and favoring eastern Mass. football programs over central and western schools, completely a disaster for any program trying to reload, reset, or rebuild. Bartlett seemed to be under water with their numbers for the past half decade.
Enter Mike Harpin into the Bartlett football locker room. Harpin has been a teacher in Webster’s Middle School for the past 12 years and does not need mapquest to get to his new job. Harpin had a lengthy interview at Shepherd Hill this summer as he applied for the SH football position and was excited that the interview lasted as long as it did. Harpin has been around the football block and went 26-39 at Algonquin as the head coach from 1994-2000. He currently is the defensive coordinator for the Marlboro Shamrocks, a semi-pro football team who won the national semi- pro title last year. Harpin will continue his duties with the Shamrocks this season and coach Bartlett at the same time. Harpin already hired two Bartlett alumns in Scott Kunkel and Nate Stawiecki to assist in the upcoming season which begins later this month. Harpin and his staff are on the giddy up with a lot of work to do in a short time. His experience will be a key as he needs to get at least 25 players to start the preseason.
Bartlett beat Southbridge in their last game in the spring of 2021 due to the COVID rescheduling from the cancellation of the 2020 season. Bartlett fans should know that every high school football program is fighting an uphill battle as everyone has issues entering next month’s season opener. Here’s hoping the local teams can persevere their own issues and give the kids a good experience. Low numbers, lack of skilled players, and a tough schedule are the football gossip this summer.
The Bartlett Gridiron Club is welcoming all sponsors for the upcoming football season. You can contact Ray and Lori Patterson at 508-943-7501 to secure your business or personal ad that includes a business card or personal photo for a individual fan club ad for your favorite player. The program book will be available at all the home Bartlett football games this season.
Welcome Dave Buchanan as the new head football coach at Shepherd Hill. Buchanan succeeds Ryan Dugan who was a former SH player, assistant coach, and the head coach since 2017-2021. Dugan has a four year head coaching record of a respectable 21-17 in the strongest league in Central Mass, the Mid Wach A. Dugan was an important cog in the SH football program especially during his assistant years dating back to the early 2000s. His fingerprints and dedication were all over the Ram football blueprints. Credit Dugan for being the glue to the Ram program as he held things together as a very loyal assistant in so many ways. A lot of guys have played and coached at SH, but one thing is for sure and that is Ryan Dugan has seen it all and has been there through every situation for the maroon and gold.
This address only knows Dugan from a distance, but it is clear that he made the right impressions with people who are respected here. Dugan’s football acumen is excellent and he continued to be a student of the game at all times. Because of Dugan, SH made the transition from the SWCL to the Mid Wach A league. His SH goal was the only success for the program. His situation at SH was unique as his stepfather is Chris Lindstrom, who played at Boston University and then the NFL. Dugan’s brothers are Chris and Alec Lindstrom. With all that in Dugan’s life, he is seen here as the leaning post and sounding board for his close-knit family. That entire mentioned group are truly loyal to each other, who supports each other in every aspect of life. All their records and accomplishments are outstanding, but their family beliefs are the deepest in support. Here’s wishing Dugan the best in the future. His mark on Shepherd Hill football was a successful one.
Here is a brief look back on the SH history over the last four and a half decades.
The Shepherd Hill football brand has marketed itself well over the past ten years. Although they have appeared in four Super Bowls over 48 years of playing football, they have been well respected since 1973 in the eyes of every opposing coaching staff. 2012 was their last appearance in a Super Bowl and their only bus ride to Gillette Stadium. They won a Division 2 Super Bowl in 2000 and 2007. Both the 2007 and 2012 teams were coached by Chris Lindstrom who had a record of 96-43 at Shepherd Hill and a 16-28 record previously at Tantasqua. To Lindstrom’s credit, he put Shepherd football on the map as he developed the programs reputation as being tough and well coached. Lindstrom made the weight room important to being successful on game day. The weight room became a culture change in Dudley under Lindstrom. A former pro player, Lindstrom was a humble coach who never liked the limelight. His players played hard and his assistant coaches coached hard. His teams began to dominate the SWCL on the early 2000s when he stopped the Auburn win streak at 41 wins-in-a-row, which was a state record at the time and he dominated Northbridge to the point of Northbridge saying “no mas.” Northbridge couldn’t figure out the SH double wing offense and ended the series. Right about that time Shepherd Hill’s calling card of being physical in the interior lines caused concern in the SWCL.
Leo Biron was the original and first football coach at Shepherd Hill and his 2000 team went to a Super Bowl. He leads the Shepherd Hill program with 100 wins and is the soul of the football program. Biron had three stints as the head coach at SH. The 1973 was the first Ram team under Biron and he coached the first eight years of the program and then came back for one year in 1985 and had one last stint from 1993-2000. Biron is the program leader in wins at exactly 100. He was an assistant at Milford before getting the Shepherd Hill job that included being the schools first Athletic Director and taught in the physical education department. Biron went to Bartlett and is responsible for Bartlett’s biggest upset on Thanksgiving Day when he quarterbacked the Indians to a 44-12 victory over undefeated Southbridge in Webster.
Biron’s Shepherd Hill teams competed in the old Border Conference before their move to the SWCL ten years ago. Biron remained loyal to the Rams football program and was the freshmen coach under Lindstrom. John Hickman coached the first Super Bowl team in 1987 where the Rams lost a 3-0 heartbreaker to Worcester South at WPI. Hickman coached for six seasons. The other Shepherd Hill head football coaches were Jim Hackenson two seasons and Bob Bradley and Bob Galante each coached one season.
Here are a few SH tidbits:
The Rams best player ever is current Atlanta Falcons starting right guard and their number one draft pick Chris Lindstrom who started for four years at Boston College. The Rams’ most important football player of all time is the late Eddie Jarosz, who quarterbacked the very first Ram team and never let SH be a start up program. Jarosz led SH like it was a seasoned long standing football program. Eddie had ice water in his veins. The Rams beat Bartlett right away in their very first year with Jarosz and the football program was competitive because of Jarosz’ leadership from the beginning. He had first year football players surrounding him. Only Marty Paglione had football experience then. Jarosz was “the guy” back then and he would be the guy today. He was charismatic on the playing fields. The true definition of a competitor.
Amazing. Another pearl is that quarterback Drew Ravenelle is the all time victory leader with 24 quarterback wins at SH. He is the only Ram quarterback to start a game at Gillette Stadium in 2012. Ravenelle credits his teammates and coaches for all those 24 wins. By the way, those 24 wins hold a state standard and could be close to the state record for high school quarterbacks.