For the past four years, Mark Killinger has coached at Norwell High in one of the toughest high school football leagues in the state.
The South Shore League sent five teams to the Super Bowls at Gillette Stadium in the fall.
Before landing a berth at Norwell, Killinger spent a season with Holbrook/Avon, and the Bulldogs suffered a 20-game losing streak during his tenure.
Now his latest challenge will be to make Silver Lake’s football program a winner while taking on some of the state’s best programs in the Keenan Division of the Patriot League.
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“I think this is by far one of the best football leagues in the state,” Killinger said of his new home. “(We said to the kids), ‘We’re going to have our challenges,’ and if we want to be great, we want to make a name for ourselves and take on your top competition in the region. With Duxbury and Marshfield, Hingham and Whitman-Hanson, they’re well-established programs (but) we feel like we’re going to get in there and hopefully build our identity and get the opportunity to play with them.”
Along with the new coaching home, Killinger will transfer to Silver Lake Middle School to become a health and wellness instructor. While training at Norwell, he was a teacher at Holbrook. Killinger said that played a big part in the decision to leave Norwell.
“It was certainly a difficult decision,” said Killinger. “I think spending the last four seasons over there at Norwell trying to build that program has become a very important chapter in my life and coaching career. When this opportunity came up to go to Silver Lake, it had a lot to do with my being able to get a teaching job in the same district where I could be a coach. It was a good opportunity for me, my family.”
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During four seasons with the Clippers, Killinger’s teams compiled a 15-21 record that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Norwell made postseason trips in three of those seasons. In the 2020 season, which was played from February to April in the so-called Fall II, there was no post-season.
In 2019 in the old playoff format, the No. 8 Clippers caused a stir by upsetting top seed and undefeated Cardinal Spellman in the first round of the Division 6 South Sectionals. That group threatened another upset against Old Rochester Regional in the semifinals, although they fell 15-0 with a 22-15 loss.
“It hadn’t really happened down in the Southeast,” Killinger said of a No. 8 seed knocking off a No. 1. “It was a great memory with a great senior class that certainly gave a lot to the program and helped build the identity of what we wanted.
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“That little playoff run with that group is one of my forever memories.”
Killinger got a first-hand look at the Lakers last season. The teams met in a non-playoff game in November, which Silver Lake won 29-6.
Killinger will replace Jim Winters, who has accepted the job as head coach at Attleboro High. During his two seasons at the helm, the Lakers went 7-11.
“One of the big phrases we try to use is ‘build a family,'” Killinger said. “We’re trying to build that culture and just be a tough, physical team.”
Before coaching at Holbrook/Avon, Killinger was an assistant coach at Rockland High for eight years, where he also played as a standout running back. He played at Endicott College and trained for a year as an assistant at Hanover High.
Killinger comes from Kenny Owen’s coaching tree. Owen coached the Bulldogs for 29 seasons, winning 193 games and three Super Bowl titles. There are three other head coaches (Brian Chamberlain at Southeastern, Nick Liquori at Rockland, and Tom Ryan at Metheun) from this Owen tree, as well as countless assistant coaches.
“We can all look back on our great mentor Kenny Owen and just know what he has done for us in our lives and in our jobs and what football has meant to us,” said Killinger. “With this mentor you always want to give something back for what he has done for us.”
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After facing off against his alma mater in the South Shore League, Killinger isn’t quite done with the Bulldogs. The Lakers are scheduled to host Rockland, which won the div. 6 Super Bowl, on September 16 in a non-league game.
“We can’t get away from each other yet,” Killinger joked.
Killinger will bring a familiar staff to Kingston. Paul Scarpelli (defensive coordinator), Jared Lordi and Kevin Clark all follow the Norwell head coach to Silver Lake.
“These are guys I’ve known my whole life,” Killinger said, “and I’ve trained side-by-side with them. I think it shows their willingness to take the step and come with me is a sign that they are ready, they are bought into the family and they are looking forward to getting started too.
Killinger said he was in the process of meeting his new players, but did mention Ryan Carroll, Bailey Hooper, Seth Wakefield and Johnny Dickinson as players jumping out early in his film study.
Carroll received an All-Scholastic Honorable Mention last fall. The 6-4, 240-pound defensive end/tight end wreaked havoc in the backfield with 10 sacks and made a solid contribution on offense as a run-blocker, scoring three touchdowns.
Hooper is a nose tackle and offensive lineman while Wakefield is a good athlete. Johnny Dickinson seems to be one of the leaders in defending his place at full-back.
“We like to try to disperse some teams and we like to be aggressive,” Killinger said. “We like to try to spread the field a little further and use different tempos when necessary. “Defensively we’re trying to get behind you and be this tough, physical group that’s playing hard and fighting for each other.”
It was a bittersweet decision for Killinger to leave Norwell.
“I am very grateful for all the children and the administration that gave me the opportunity,” said Killinger. “Norwell will always be special to me for what they have given me over these four years.”
But now he will face a new challenge that starts in August.
“Through our conversations during this process and this step, we were able to get into a district and be a teacher and coach there,” said Killinger. “When you’re not in school, it’s hard to catch up with yourself. Hopefully that’s where we can step in and settle in and hopefully really start building for the future and see where we can take it.”