EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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February 5, 2013

Team Raff turns out in force to back fired coach

People call for reinstatement of North Andover football leader

NORTH ANDOVER – Coach John Rafferty was the winner last night by a blowout score of 20-0. But he still doesn’t have his job.

At least 20 people, including current and former Scarlet Knight football players as well as parents, spoke out against the decision to dismiss North Andover High School’s head football coach.

No one present expressed support for Rafferty’s departure. More than 200 people attended the School Committee meeting in the high school library – and it seemed clear they were all there to back the man they call Coach Raff.

Several wore T-shirts with Team Raff on the front and “R - respect, A-accountability, F- fortitude, F-fairness” on the back. They gave sustained applause to each speaker – as if he’d made a good block or tackle, or even scored a touchdown.

The committee did not take any action last night. School Committee Chairwoman Laurie Burzlaff pointed out that under state law, the hiring or firing of a coach is in the hands of the principal and athletics director.

School Committee member Christine Allen, however, told Rafferty’s legion of supporters that while closure on the issue was not going to happen last night, comments from citizens can “influence us.”

High school Principal Carla Scuzzarella and Athletics Director John Longley told Rafferty two weeks ago that he would not be rehired. Rafferty led North Andover High’s football teams for a dozen years.

Robert Trickett, who graduated from North Andover High last year and now attends Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, said Rafferty does not know why he was let go.

“Why did this have to happen?” asked Trickett, who played under Rafferty and will be a linebacker for Division 3 Randolph-Macon next year.

“We can’t comment on personnel decisions,” Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson said.

“It he (Rafferty) doesn’t understand, then who does?” asked Thomas Stabile, one of the Scarlet Knights’ tri-captains last season.

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