By Matt Taylor, Contributing Writer
Northborough/Southborough – “Compete Each Day.” That's what it says on the back of all the coaches” shirts as they conduct an early season practice. It's the motto of new head coach Justin McKay as he attempts to build a winning football program at Algonquin Regional High School.
“We want all our players to compete in all aspects of their life: family, school, and football,” McKay said.
It won's be an easy task for McKay and his staff to turn around the Algonquin football program. The Tomahawks are coming off a season in which they finished 1-10, and haven's had a winning season since 1997.? McKay is also putting in a new option offense that his players will have to learn quickly.
McKay does have a history of helping guide a winning football program. He spent eight years as an assistant to Wachusett Regional High School coach Mike Dubzinski, and was part of three Super Bowl championship teams. On Friday, Sept. 14, McKay will face his mentor as the Tomahawks take on Wachusett during Applefest weekend in Northborough.
“It was a privilege and an honor to learn under coach Dubzinski. Wachusett is a perennial powerhouse and a great program. I owe everything I know to coach Dubzinski, and it was a pleasure to work for him. But more importantly, he is a great friend,” McKay said.
McKay invited some former players at Wachusett to join his staff, which adds to the intrigue of this matchup.? Sean Quinlivan (2009), Anthony Boss (2008), and Matt Ross (2007) will all be standing opposite their former coach and team.
McKay sang the praises of his entire staff as they prepared for the start of the season.
“We have a phenomenal staff here,” he said. “Each coach has been doing extra work at the end of practices to make our team better and to help our players improve each day.”
McKay could not comment on specific strategies for the Wachusett game because the Tomahawks were preparing for a game against Burncoat High School first. He did talk about the strength of his team to start the season.
“Our strength is our enthusiasm. We believe in positive reinforcement to keep our players working hard each day. Every day these kids come to practice wanting to work hard and improve. We also want to make it fun, otherwise the players won's be engaged. We really believe positive reinforcement helps players improve on the field, in the classroom, and in the community.”
Enthusiasm is evident not only in the coaching methods of McKay and his staff, but in the speed of their practices. Preparation is intense, but always positive as players continue to work together and learn McKay's system.
“We preach the idea of teaching not only good players, but good kids as well,” McKay said.
He will no doubt rely on the leadership of his captains as well. Seniors Brendan Dagle and Mike Halloran have shown great leadership and strong play through some difficult seasons at Algonquin and will be great captains for McKay's squad.
“I have full confidence in my two captains to lead their team on and off the field. We will be adding a third captain within the week, and we'sl also designate a different game captain each week,” McKay said. “Practicing and competing on the field and in the community – that's what will build a winning program and a strong relationship with our community.”
The team's progress has also impressed Athletic Director Fran Whitten.
“Justin has done a great job keeping the team's frame of mind and enthusiasm at a high level,” Whitten said.
The Wachusett High School football program has played at a high level for the last decade, and Algonquin would like to follow in those footsteps. The game on Friday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. at Algonquin, could be a great opportunity for the Tomahawks to take that first step. With Coach McKay's experience at Wachusett and his ability to motivate players to compete each day, that winning season may come sooner rather than later.