FALMOUTH, Mass. – The last time Falmouth High won an Atlantic Coast League title was 1994, when Steve Femino was still a high school senior, playing as a lineman for the Clippers.
Much has changed in the last decade and a half, but not too much to notice, except for the fact that Femino is the Clippers’ new head coach.
“It’s been too long since we’ve won the league title,” he said. “I’d like to change that.”
When Falmouth tabbed Femino for the position, after former head coach Dana Almeida retired, the Clippers welcomed back a native son.
A decorated football player in his own right, the Falmouth native went on to play left tackle for Bridgewater State College where he was a New England Football Conference all-star. Last fall, he was inducted into BSC’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
After graduating, Femino continued to pursue his passion for football, playing with the semipro Middleboro Cobras for eight seasons. While with the Cobras, he was a part of four Eastern Football League championship teams under the helm of Mark Hannon, who now is the sideline boss at Taunton High. Femino worked with his former coach last year as an assistant with the Tigers.
In fact, Femino’s Clippers were supposed to tussle with Taunton on Saturday. But, with Hurricane Earl eying the Massachusetts coast, the scrimmage was postponed.
“You have to be prepared for everything,” Femino said.
In addition to his 11 years of football coaching experience, which includes stops at Falmouth as an assistant, Mashpee, BSC and Taunton, Femino is familiar with many of the Clippers standouts. He’s served an assistant to basketball head coach Paul Lundberg for the last couple of seasons.
Now, Femino’s excited to get things going on the gridiron with the No. 16 Clippers.
“It’s a great opportunity to come back to my hometown, give back to the community,” he said. “Part of my plan is to move my family here and put my kids through the school system.”
That plan also includes putting his stamp on team that went 9-2 in 2009.
“I wanted to entrench them in a philosophy that it’s OK to work hard and have fun while they’re doing it,” Femino said. “They need to enjoy what they’re doing. We want to connect with as many student athletes as we can. We want to make them want to go to school, make them feel like they’re a part of something.”
He paused for a moment and added, “Along with that, we’d like to win the league title.”
FALMOUTH AT A GLANCE
2009: 9-2 (5-1 Atlantic Coast)
Coach: Steve Femino (first year)
Players to watch: Nelson Baptiste, Jr., HB/DB, 6-0, 170 lbs.; John Lavin, Sr., TE/DE, 6-5, 215 lbs.; Bob Whelan, Sr., FB, 5-10, 190 lbs.; Alex Sodekson, Sr., RT/LB, 6-3, 200 lbs.
Strengths: Depth at running back, experience at skill positions.
Weaknesses: Lack of experience on offensive line.
Outlook: The Clippers will be carried by an explosive offensive backfield that is led by Nelson Baptiste (8 touchdowns in 2009), but will also feature halfback Jonah Olsen and fullback Bob Whelan. The struggle for Femino will plugging an offensive line where only one starter returns. “That’s going to be our challenge, how those young kids come along on the line. How well they do that is going to dictate how well our skill players can do because we do have some very talented skill people.” On defense, the Clippers will play a 3-3 stack to accentuate their athleticism at linebacker and in the secondary. Whelan, a linebacker, is the anchor of the defense and 6-foot-5 end John Lavin — who is also a main target of the passing game at tight end — can create disruption up front.