DERRY, N.H. — It was 35 years ago when Brian O’Reilly made the most of an opportunity which would have overwhelmed nearly anyone else in the same situation.
It also launched one of the legendary coaching careers in Granite State history.
Pinkerton head coach Roger Dube purchased a business late in what was going to be his final season. So he resigned and headmaster Brad Ek appointed O’Reilly, a fourth-year history teacher/assistant coach, the interim head football coach.
“I don’t know if, in a normal situation, you let a 25-year-old be coach,” said O’Reilly. “It was me or Donny Coller.”
It turns out, those were two young coaches destined for big things. Coller went on to coach for 12 years at Purdue and is nearing his 100th win as a high school coach in Indiana.
O’Reilly, naturally, didn’t change a thing.
Except the entire offense!
“We lost to Laconia (in the first game),” he said. “I had one week to prove myself. I did what you’re probably not supposed to do. I changed the offense to the Wing-T. We went to play Division 1 Dover and won 14-7.”
Eagle-Tribune All-Star offensive lineman Don Hazelton and standout linebackers Wayne Hill and Mike Boyle led the way for the Division 2 Astros, when the school was only a fraction of its current massive enrollment of about 3,200 students.
O’Reilly said, “It was a big win. I don’t remember it anymore. It was like a different life.”
It has been a different life since as he’s earned a reputation as a rare two-sport legend. That win must have clinched the deal as Ek and AD Wes Root later gave him the full-time job.
He’s now the second winningest coach in state history with a brilliant 264-103 record and 10 Division 1 titles. Plymouth’s Chuck Lenahan, who is retiring after this season, leads with a 350-69-1 record.