Boston High School: Mike Dubzinski

In Arlington, another Dubzinski family affair brewing

October, 17, 2012
Arlington football coach John Dubzinski Jr.Brendan Hall/ESPNBoston.comArlington head coach John Dubzinski Jr. is looking to build up the Spy Ponders program alongside his father John Sr., who won five Super Bowls over three decades at Leominster High.
ARLINGTON, Mass. -- Growing up in a football enviornment was there any doubt as to whether or not John Dubzinski, Jr. would become a football coach and take his spot in the family coaching legacy?

After serving as an assistant coach at Leominster, Everett and Medford, Dubzinski knew he had the proper credentials and resume to run his own program.

That dream was fulfilled two years ago when he was handed the keys to the Arlington High School football program. Upon accepting the position, one of the first decisions he made was bring his father, John Dubzinski Sr., on board as an assistant.

Dubzinski Sr. is a Massachusetts football coaching legend, having spent the last 25 years guiding a highly-successful Leominster High squad. He cemented a solid record of 181-92-2, which included five Super Bowl titles.

Prior to his time with the Blue Devils, Dubzinski Sr. ran the show at Fitchburg High for five seasons. His list of accomplishements earned him induction into the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006, going in with his brother, Walt Dubzinski Jr., who has been the front man at Gardner High School since 1986. Walt Dubzinski Jr’s grandfather, Walt Dubzinski Sr., is another legendary figure, having served as the head coach at Gardner from 1945-1965. He, like his sons, is also Hall of Famer member, inducted in 1970.

Two of John Dubzinski Jr’s cousins, Michael and Steven, hold their spots in the family coaching tree. Michael is head coach at Wachusett Regional High. Steven assists his father Walter in Gardner, and is also the varsity boys' basketball coach at Leominster High.

Not a bad pedigree for Dubzinski to grow up in.

When John Dubzinski Sr. was not retained as the Blue Devils coach two years ago, it happened to coincide around the same time of his son's hiring. These events immediately began the process for the younger Dubzinski to bring his father into the fold at Arlington.

“For me, it's huge having him here,” Dubzinski Jr. said. “I am a history teacher at Everett so I don’t get practices here until 3 o’clock. My dad gets here around 2 o’clock and already has the kids on the field and the practice schedule is up. Everything is ready to go by the time I get here and it’s one less thing I have to worry about.”

The thought of father and son coaching together had always lingered in the back of Dubzinski Sr's mind. However, he admits he wasn't sure if it would ever come to fruition.

“I always had that notion in the back of my head,” he said. “I felt what a great way for me to finish up my coaching career. John worked with me for one year at Leominster, and I really enjoyed that. With him getting the Arlington job last year I felt it was close enough for me (a 50-minute drive from his home in Leominster) to get down here in the afternoons. Fortunately, I had retired from teaching and had some time on my hands. It’s really been a great experience for me here and I am truly enjoying every minute of this.”

Growing up in a football household, Dubzinski Jr. tried to accumulate as much knowledge as he could about football and coaching styles and philosphies. Now with his No. 1 confidant working alongside him, Dubzinski Jr. says there will always be a spot for his father for as long as he wants to continue coaching.

“At the time I was always going for a head coaching job and my father was still coaching in Leominster,” said Dubzinski Jr., who played his college ball at Bates. “If we were ever able to coach together at some point I said to myself if it happens, it happens and if it doesn’t then it doesn’t. But deep down I knew someday he would help me out. As it turned out things fell into place perfectly and it has worked out well for both of us.”

Playing under the tutelage of his father at Leominster is where Dubzinski Jr. developed his ambition to someday become a head football coach. For him, it never was just about running a program, it was about wanting to follow in the footsteps of his father. He says the primary factor behind it all was an opportunity for him to teach kids not only about the game of football, but life lessons as well. It is those values and principles he says he attained from his father.

“I feel the difference a coach can make in someone’s life and the impact that you can make will last a lifetime,” he said. “The main reason I wanted to get into coaching was to try and be a positive influence on kids. I want to try and give these kids the skills in helping them become good fathers, good husbands and good members of the community. If I, as well as my coaches, can do that here at Arlington then we’ve done our jobs. If we win a few games along the way then that's an added bonus."

Dubzinski Jr. goes on to say, “through my father and my family I learned about hard work, discipline,working in a team environment towards one goal, dealing with winning and dealing with losing. All of those things remain with you throughout your entire life. Playing football at Leominster I feel has made me who I am today. It really shaped my personality. It’s pretty cool growing up in football family like I have.

"All of them, my father, my grandfather, my uncle and my cousins, have all helped me develop my philosophies in how to handle kids, etc. I listened to all of them and just soaked it all in like a sponge. I have my own personality but it is the lessons I learned from all of them, as well as (Everett head coach) John DiBiaso, that have helped me become who and what I am today.”

Even though he retired as a teacher, Dubzinski Sr knew he was not ready to step away from football just yet. The unforseen circumstances regarding his termination at Leominster are in the past now. The bitterness from it has since subsided and he now considers it a closed chapter of his life. In retrospect, the chance to coach with his son played an intracle part in the healing process and has rejuvenated his passion to coach.

“I’m very proud of him,” said the elder Dubzinski of his son. “He’s doing a wonderful job here. He’s a very good coach. If you read what he wrote in his high school yearbook, he said he wanted to coach, he wanted to teach and he wanted to be just like his father. He has accomplished those goals. He has taken over a rebuilding project here. It’s a difficult job yet it’s also a very rewarding job to try and get this program on the right track.

"The kids and other coaches here have all been wonderful. The parents and the community have also been great. I’m having a lot of fun here. My wife (Donna) said to me ‘You would go out of your mind if you weren’t coaching.’ She was right. She is very happy that our son is doing what he wants to do and she is happy for me that I’m still doing what I want to do. I think when you work with young people you, yourself, tend to think younger too. You aren’t an old man when you are around and working with these young people everyday.”

Dubzinski Jr says Spy Ponder players refer to Dubzinski Sr, age 64, as "Daddy Dubs." His responsibilities here are coaching the offensive line and assisting on the defensive side of the ball.

“Anytime you have someone who has coached as long as my father has you always want to lean on him regarding various situations and strategies especially when you might be unsure about something,” Dubzinski Jr. said. “He has been such a valuable resource to me. It is truly great having him here with me."

No. 8 St. John's (S) rolls over No. 16 Wachusett

November, 6, 2010
HOLDEN, Mass. -- With three minutes, 14 seconds left in the fourth quarter, No. 8 St. John’s of Shrewsbury led 35-14, and could have simply run the clock down and taken a 21-point win over No. 16 Wachusett Regional High School.

Instead, the St. John’s defense intercepted a Matt LeBlanc pass on the Wachusett 32-yard line, and Pioneers head coach John Andreoli did not let up. Andreoli called a wide receiver reverse-pass that put the ball on the 3-yard line, and then scored on a John Vassar 3-yard touchdown run.

Though the score ultimately gave the Mountaineers another possession that ended up in a touchdown, Andreoli stuck with his aggressive play-calling.

“We are playing a 7-1 team and we’re playing them for 44 minutes,” stated Andreoli about the final few minutes of the game.

“They can score at any point in the ball game…so our goal was to come out here and to keep the pedal to the metal for 44 minutes -- offensively, defensively, and special teams -- and that’s what our goal was, and that’s what we did.”

St. John’s (8-1, 4-0 1A) won by a score of 42-21 in the end, and left Wachusett (6-2, 3-1 1A) hurting after a physical game.

“That was a smash mouth, toe-to-toe type of football game,” Andreoli said.

“It always gets chippy with Wachusett,” said St. John’s wide receiver Richard Rodgers. “We wanted to make a statement and make sure they know who’s the best.”

Wachusett’s Eric Darko led both teams in rushing in the game, as he finished the contest with 16 carries for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Darko led a bruising Mountaineers offense that tried to run down the clock and keep the ball away from St. John’s offense.

The game plan was an excellent idea, but a tough one to execute.

“They are able to get yardage -- big chunks -- in a very short bit of time,” Wachusett head coach Mike Dubzinski said, “…part of our gameplan was to take the ball [away] and have our best defense, be our offense.”

The strategy scared the St. John’s coaching staff initially, as Wachusett scored on a 15-play drive that not only took seven minutes, 37 seconds off the clock in the first quarter, but also spanned 80 yards.

The Pioneers scored on six of nine offensive possessions and held the Wachusett offense to 14 points through the first 42 minutes of the game.

“The last two years they beat us, so we had to come out and leave no doubt that we were the better team,” St. John’s quarterback Dan Light said.

“We lost to Xaverian last week and we felt that we should have won that game,” Rodgers added. “I think we were all pretty mad about that and came out and used our anger from that game -- and the past two losses to Wachusett -- and took it to them.”

For St. John's it was the usual crew. Rodgers finished the game with five catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns, and Light completed 7 of 17 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns. Light also ran the ball 11 times for 76 yards and two touchdowns.

Although the St. John’s offense was overpowering at times, Wachusett never laid down.

“It was 42-14 and we could have gone three-and-out real quick, but we didn’t,” Dubzinski said. “The kids came to the sideline and we said, ‘Let’s keep going, let’s play Wachusett football’ and that’s what we did.”

Wachusett’s Matt McMillen was the focal point of the offense in the first half, piling up 45 yards on 11 carries. However, the St. John’s defense adjusted and limited McMillen to 15 yards on seven carries in the second half.

The Mountaineers opened up the second half with a 13-play drive of 77 yards and ended in a McMillen touchdown.

“To come up here and be playing on the road in this ball park, and play a team like this we had to play our best game,” Andreoli said. “And I think we played one of our better games tonight.”

“It feels good,” said Vassar (10 carries, 89 yards, one TD) about beating St. John’s biggest regional rival. “We still have to go through the rest of the year but we might see them again and they’re probably going to come out hard again.”

SJ - 14 7 0 21 -- 42
W - 7 0 7 7 -- 21

First quarter

SJ - Rodgers 67 catch from Light (Rodgers kick)
W - Darko 3 run (Connor McDavitt kick)
SJ - Light 5 run (Rodgers kick)

Second quarter
SJ - Rodgers 25 catch from Light (Rodgers kick)

Third quarter
W - McMillen 2 run (McDavitt kick)

Fourth quarter
SJ - Drew Ortone 12 catch from Light (Rodgers kick)
SJ - Light 35 run (Rodgers kick)
SJ - Vassar 3 run (Rodgers kick)
W - Darko 10 run (McDavitt kick)