EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

October 24, 2013

Salem tough guy Liupakka thrilled to have Blue Devils back on track

Salem tough guy Liupakka thrilled to have Blue Devils back on track

(Continued)

“The transition going from coach Gati to any other coach would have been hard,” said Liupakka. “But we thought we had a pretty decent team and were working hard.”

The season quickly turned disastrous for Liupakka, when he suffered a broken hand during the preseason that required surgery and kept him off the field for all of September and most of October.

Liupakka healed quickly and returned to the field late in the season, claiming his starting spot at linebacker and turning in 10 tackles against Concord. But by then, it was too late to salvage the season. The Blue Devils suffered their first winless year since The Eagle-Tribune began keeping records in 1982.

“It was very hard,” he said. “We went from making the playoffs to going winless. Always hearing people say, ‘You need to do this and that’ was very tough. You go through all those struggles and still have to keep going out to practice every day and try to get better. But you are still losing. Once the season ended we started working to get ready for 2013.”

The Blue Devils faced more change when Gagne resigned as head coach to return to coach Westford Academy, and defensive coordinator Rob Pike was hired as head coach. He immediately scrapped Gagne’s spread offense and returned to the wing-T attack that Gati relied on and his father Bob Pike ran as coach at Haverhill.

“The transition to coach Pike wasn’t hard at all because we knew him and how he coached,” said Liupakka. “We were all very comfortable with him. And the whole team was excited that we were going back to the wing-T. That was the offense we all ran as kids. We felt a new confidence and there was a positive atmosphere around the team.”

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