Millis/Hopedale officially announced the promotion of Dana Olson to head football coach yesterday afternoon, giving the long-time Bay State high school coaching veteran his first crack at a head job in his two decades of experience.
Olson, 39, got his start as a 19-year-old assistant under Paul Carroll at Medway High in 1994, and was promoted to offensive coordinator a year later. Since that first gig in Medway, Olson had stops at Bellingham and Framingham before joining Dale Olmsted's staff at M-H four years ago. Over his span, he has coached some of the finest schoolboy athletes to come through the Bay State in the last two decades, including Ricky Santos (Bellingham), Danny Guadagnoli (Framingham) and future Boston College Eagle Jon Baker these past four years at M-H.
Olson takes over for Dale Olmsted, who accepted the head coach job at Nichols College after turning around a dormant Mohawks program and went 43-47 in eight seasons at the helm. This past season, the Mohawks went 9-2, reaching the MIAA Division 6 South Final in the first year of the new state championship format.
To say he is excited to take over the Mohawks is putting it diplomatically. Olson was full of energy when he spoke to ESPNBoston.com yesterday afternoon about the new job:
Biggest thing he's learned in his two decades as an assistant: "The biggest thing I've learned over the years is the recruiting process for these kids, how to handle a kid of that magnitude on the recruiting scene, keeping them humble, keeping them hungry. Those three kids right there [Santos, Guadagnoli, Baker] were outstanding kids, outstanding student-athletes, outstanding human benings. It was easy to coach those guys, and I obviously had a lot of fun doing it."
On the returning talent, including 9 starters on both sides of the ball: "We chuckled, especially when you guys came out with your preseason poll and had us No. 25 in the state. A lot of people looked at Jon Baker and said Millis is gonna be very good, but we knew as a staff we were gonna be very young. We graduated 17 seniors the year before, we had three returning starters on both sides of the ball. We knew we'd struggle a bit, we thought we were a year away from being really, really good again. But the kids expected to win.
"Our running back Matt Fogarty, who is Chris Ahl’s backup, would’ve started at a lot of schools. We've four of five starters returning on the offensive line. We’ve got a 6-foot-3 freshman from Hopedale [Brian Espanet] who's gonna be the next big talent, he started every game at corner for us at 14 years old. We started two sophomores against Cohasset at the three and one techniques that are both 260 pounds [Tommy O'Brien and Jay Wenzel]. Looking at Josh Pierre-Charles starting at safety as a sophomore, looking at the backers and we got one senior out of the backers, the rest are sophomores and juniors...In a nutshell, we got a ton coming back. We're not gonna be small."
On the offensive philosophy going forward: "I'm a big proponent of, if it's not broken don’t fix it. I'm not getting handed the keys to a jalopy here -- this is a sports car. We’ll keep doing what we're doing. Everyone wants to add their own flares, but that's gonna be the biggest thing as head coach -- we don’t need to change. We've been successful at who we are, we've got big uglies up front, we get downhill and get after teams defensively. We're probably going to average 260 across the line with a good tailback coming back, we're gonna run the football at you.
"I'm a spread guy by heart. I ran the spread at Framingham, I ran the spread toward the end of Ricky’s career. We're gonna stick to what we know, but you might see us more wide open at times. We will line up in the I and come at you, we're going to have to win ball games 21-7 and play good defense."
Biggest personal reward as a coach: "To see guys be successful in life -- not just the BC's, UNH's or Bentley's of the world, but sending kids off to play at Nichols, Bridgewater State. That means you did something right, because they're still hungry and still want to play a game they're passionate about. When you've got 16 graduating and not one goes on to play football, then you wonder a little bit. We've got a kid at Bryant right now, Springfield College, Framingham State, Jon [Baker] is off to play at BC, we've got kids going off now to play college football. To me that bodes well, it says you're doing the right thing."