Boston High School: Matt Davidson

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

February, 18, 2012
2/18/12
9:46
AM ET
First-time head football coach Adam Gagne would not describe the man he succeeds at Division I Salem High as a Granite State grid legend.

New Hampshire“In my mind, and many other minds, he's not just a New Hampshire coaching legend,” Gagne said of Jack Gati, who retired Dec. 5 after lengthy stints at Manchester's Trinity High (1978-85), Concord High (1986-93) and Salem (1994-2011). “I put him in the New England coaching legends. The states are tied together. They're so close.”

Great answer from the former offensive coordinator for Westford (Mass.) Academy. The 31-year-old takes over for a coach with the third-best win total in state history.

Gati's 37 years calling the shots led to a 221-138 career record, eight championship appearances and four state titles. He won 121 games in his 18 years guiding Salem. Two of those wins, in 1995 and 2009, clinched crowns for the Blue Devils.

Expectations, thanks largely to Gati, are high at 44 Geremonty Drive.

“I put pressure on myself to succeed,” said Gagne, who will continue teaching in Westford Academy's business department. “I wasn't going after any old coaching job. I did my research. It was absolutely the type of program I was seeking for my first job as a head coach.”

Now, the task is to make his mark on the program. Salem's offensive system seems like the logical place to start.

Gagne, a former three-sport athlete at Haverhill (Mass.) High, spent the past three seasons as an assistant head coach and offensive coordinator for the Dual County League's Grey Ghosts.

Prior to joining Rich McKenna's coaching staff at Westford Academy, Gagne spent six seasons as an assistant at Merrimack College. The resident of Haverhill, a neighboring town of Salem, was a three-year starting wide receiver at Bentley University.

Gagne's arrival means this much: fans longing for Salem to attack through the air with greater frequency should get their wish.

“'Spread offense' is such a generic term. It's a form of the spread,” Gagne said of his system. “I don't know if I have a specific name for it. It's probably going to be called the 'Blue Devil system.'”

Whatever its name, Gagne's system is far different from the one Gati preferred.

Almost exclusively relying on the ground game was always a staple of Gati-led teams.

“He's the godfather of the off-tackle. Jack hangs his hat on the running game,” former Concord head coach Bob Camirand, Gati's successor with the Crimson Tide, said when his friend of 40 years retired.

Increased focus on the the passing game certainly separates Gagne from Gati. But, the new coach insists his predecessor, who still teaches at the high school, has a place with the team.

“I see him as a big stakeholder in the program,” Gagne said. “In no way do I want to completely separate myself from that dynamic.”

Retaining two of Gati's former assistants, Dan Kelleher and Robert Pike, proves Gagne's point.

“All of us,” Gagne said, “are going to have our hands dirty in the program.”

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