EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 7, 2013

Raff is back for Knights

NORTH ANDOVER — John Rafferty, the North Andover High School football coach who was fired nearly two weeks ago, has been reinstated, according to multiple sources who spoke to The Eagle-Tribune on the condition of not being identified.

An official announcement is expected this morning. Rafferty spoke to Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson on Tuesday and was offered his job back yesterday by Principal Carla Scuzzarella, according to the sources.

Rafferty, who led the Scarlet Knights football program for 12 years, did not return telephone messages. Hutchinson said he could “not comment on rumors” — but urged The Eagle-Tribune to show up at Scuzzarella’s office at 10 a.m. today.

Rafferty was told by Scuzzarella and athletics director John Longley he was not being rehired as coach. The news was greeted by a firestorm of protest that culminated in more than 200 parents as well as current and former NAHS football players attending Monday night’s School Committee meeting.

At least 20 people spoke passionately in favor of keeping Rafferty on the job. A petition supporting Rafferty that was signed by 700 people was presented to the committee.

Thomas Stabile, one of the team’s tri-captains for next season, said of the Rafferty decision, “It hurt real bad. Everyone’s upset about it.” Stabile said Rafferty taught “kids how to be men.”

Ben Holm, an assistant coach for the freshman football team, told how devastated he was when post-concussion syndrome ended his playing career several years ago. Rather than forget about him, Rafferty bolstered him with “words of encouragement” and told Holm he was still part of the team, he said.

Eventually, Holm returned to the gridiron as an assistant coach.

“John Rafferty is a life changer,” Holm said.

Many speakers credited Rafferty with rebuilding a program that was in disarray. Some recalled the Thanksgiving Day 2000 game with Masconomet Regional High School that ended with a brawl between players.

“You’ll never find a replacement for him,” former School Committee member Daniel Murphy said.

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