TOWNSEND — For more than a decade, the North Middlesex Regional football program has struggled to win.
The Patriots have had one winning season since 2008 and have a combined record of 43-139 since then, a far cry from the program’s glory days of the 1980s and 1990s, when NM won 121 games and six Super Bowl titles.
First-year head coach Jordan Murphy is inheriting a team that won just two games and has just four seniors. An undefeated season and trip to Foxboro is a stretch at this point, but the 31-year-old is thrilled to be a part of the program and vows to get it back to being a consistent winner.
“We are just trying to come out and have the kids buy in,” he said after Monday night’s practice. “I got the job at the very end of June and I’ve only been able to get my hands on everything for just a couple of months but so far, so good. The biggest thing for us is trying to get the numbers up and get more kids out for football. Right now we’re at 57 kids total and we only have four seniors, so we’re a really young team. We have a lot of numbers with the young guys and we’re hoping to continue to grow the program and build.”
Murphy comes from a coaching family.
His father, Shawn, coached at Ayer Shirley before going to the collegiate ranks at UMass Lowell and Northeastern. His uncle, Pat Murphy, now the offensive coordinator at the University of Rhode Island, was the head coach at Dracut High and led the Middies to a Super Bowl title in 2008. One of his star players on that team was his nephew, a tight end caught six passes for 82 yards with a touchdown in the team’s 27-0 title win over Marshfield.
“It’s a football family. I grew up as a little kid always going to dad’s practices and when my uncle was coaching, I’d go to his practices and I’d be rolling around in the bags and tackling dummies. I have just always been around the game my whole life,” said Jordan, who has six younger sisters. “My aunt (Kelly Murphy) was a volleyball coach at Saint Anselm College, so it’s just been a big coaching family. I just grew up around sports all of the time and getting coached up by my aunt, my uncle and my dad.”
Jordan played two years at Ayer Shirley and then his final two years at Dracut. From there he did a post-grad year at Bridgton Academy in Maine before receiving a football scholarship to play at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona, Fla. He played all four years, helped the team win three conference titles and make three playoff appearances, while playing against the likes of Florida State and the University of Miami.
After his playing days were over, Jordan was an assistant coach at Gardner High for a year before going back to Bethune-Cookman as a graduate assistant for two years. In 2019, he got his first crack as a head coach, back at Dracut High, finishing with a 4-7 record.
“That was a great experience. That was my first year as a head coach and playing in (the Merrimack Valley Conference) was such a challenge. Every single week was such a battle — every week you have to be on your ‘A’ game and it doesn’t matter who you are playing,” he said. “I know we have Dracut on our schedule this year, which should be good, but we have Littleton in week one and that’s our focus. Those guys have had a really good program over there for a while. They’ve had a lot of success over the years and they are definitely going to be a tough challenge.”
Murphy stepped down after the one year at Dracut, and became a middle school physical education teacher in the Fitchburg school system and was a varsity assistant coach for two years under coach Greg Graham. Then in late June, Murphy accepted a teacher’s position and the head varsity football coach’s position at NM, replacing Ryan DeMar, who coached for four seasons.
“This is a perfect fit. Just being in the high school building with the high school kids, that’s the most ideal situation,” said Murphy. “Being able to kind of have your hands on the kids during the day makes a huge difference and this is just such a great opportunity for me. North Middlesex is a great place to be, the building is amazing, the people here are great. We are a young team but I think there’s a lot of potential.”
Murphy, who will run the spread, no-huddle offense, immediately surrounded himself with experienced assistants, including former Westford Academy head coach Patrick Gendron, another former Dracut High coach Jason Rivers, as well as former North Middlesex star Omar Connor, and James Burson, a teacher in the system who was on DeMar’s staff.
“Jordan has great energy,” said NM athletic director Matt Dawson, who has more than 20 years of coaching football at the high school and collegiate level. “He is young and connects with the kids very well. He’s done a great job in putting together a staff. We are up about 15 kids from last year so he is doing a great job getting kids out for the team. I just want him to keep growing the program and doing things the right way. Wins will come with time and patience. If we have a strong foundation those things take care of itself.”