By Bill Burt
---- — NORTH ANDOVER -- After 12 years, John Rafferty is out as the North Andover High football coach.
Rafferty, whose Scarlet Knight teams were 81-49 over his dozen years, said he was informed the North Andover High principal Carla Scuzzarella, and athletic director Jon Longley about 9 a.m. yesterday in a meeting that lasted about 45 minutes.
Rafferty was told that he didn’t follow proper protocol in two separate disciplinary incidents this past fall and that the school was “moving in a different direction.
Rafferty, 59, of Reading, was emotional via telephone about an hour after he met with the team at the school to inform them of the decision.
“I’m disappointed,” said Rafferty, who is a full-time case worker at the Billerica House of Correction. “I don’t want to say too much right now. There were a few things that happened this season and if I handled them differently, I’d probably still be coaching. At least that’s what I was told.”
Via email, Longley said that North Andover public schools do not comment on personnel matters.
Rafferty was credited with moving North Andover football in a new direction in 2001 after coming off consecutive 4-7 seasons, which came after a 1-10 season.
North Andover finished 4-6 this past season - its first as a member of the Merrimack Valley Conference. The record is deceptive, though, as four of those losses came down to the final possession and in another, to rival Andover, North Andover led 35-21 in the third quarter before losing 50-35.
One of the highlights this fall was when Rafferty’s senior back, Nick Oswald, broke an area record with 402 yards rushing a 56-28 win over Dracut.
Former North Andover Booster Club president Terry Holland, whose two sons played for Rafferty, was not happy with the reports of Rafferty’s firing.
“This isn’t right and I will let the School Committee know that at their next meeting,” said Holland, who owns Stachey’s Pizza in North Andover and Salem, N.H. “Coach Rafferty did a lot to change the image of the program after some difficult years. He brought discipline to the program. There are a lot of people who aren’t happy.”
Rafferty, a former star at Wakefield High and then a captain at Syracuse University (’75), had been an assistant for 14 years at three Middlesex League schools before getting the North Andover position.
“Honestly, it’s been so good (being the football coach here), and I had so much enjoyment that I was almost waiting for the other shoe to drop,” said Rafferty. “I had a great staff of coaches. We spent a lot of time together. I could talk all day about the kids that played for us. And the community was always there for me. They loved football and I was thankful for that.”
While Holland and others have said they will voice their complaints, Rafferty said he doesn’t want be involved in the ensuing “controversy-circus.”
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m done at North Andover,” said Rafferty. “Do I have some football left in me? Sure, I do. But it’s too early to think of the future.”
As for the support he received yesterday from parents, players and former players, Rafferty got emotional again.
“I guess it means we were doing some things right,” said Rafferty.