After four years as defensive coordinator, Dan MacLean said he did not think twice when the opportunity arose to step into the head coaching role this fall.
“I love Hopkinton, I’ve always liked this program,” MacLean said. “To get to coach here the past four years has been great and there was no hesitation, I was going to go for the job.”
MacLean became head coach after Jim Girard left and took over at Lincoln-Sudbury in March. He said he likes the discipline and respect the Hopkinton players bring to the program and hopes to foster a family atmosphere with the Hillers.
“We are in this together,” he said. “I want the older kids to help the younger kids and I want them all working together to get better.”
This fall will be MacLean’s 16th straight season working with an area high school football program. Before serving as an assistant coach at Hopkinton, MacLean spent nine years as a head coach at Bellingham and Tri-County. He also spent four years as an assistant coach at Franklin.
But he said the Hopkinton players have stood out.
“These kids love the competition, they love to compete, they love to win, that’s the biggest thing for me,” MacLean said. “They are passionate about football and they come to work hard every day.”
The 2019 team brings some experience back on the defensive side of the ball, but MacLean said the Hillers will need to replace a number of players on offense.
“We are an inexperienced group this year,” he said. “The offense is new, but these kids have hit the ground running. They are ready for the challenge and I really like this team.”
Most notably, senior captain Robby Bernardin will take over as the starting quarterback, replacing the graduated Ryan Kelleher.
“He is finally getting his shot and I am expecting a lot from him this year,” MacLean said.
In addition to Bernardin, Luke MacDonald, Zachary Levy and Max LaCascia will serve as captains this season. McLean said he is expecting big things out of all of them. MacDonald will see time on the offensive line and at linebacker, Levy is a running back and linebacker and LaCascia can play wide receiver and defensive back, MacLean said.
“I think defensively we are going to be strong and we have a strong junior class as well,” the new head coach said. “We have some speciality guys that are coming to the forefront, this junior class is going to be tough and they got some playing time last year as sophomores.”
MacLean said the competition in the Tri-Valley League is going to be challenging, pointing to teams like Holliston, Ashland and Medfield as squads that will be tough to beat, among others. MacLean said the TVL Large School Division is “one of the best leagues around.”
The goals will be pretty similar to past years, MacLean said, to get into the postseason and compete for the league title. There also will be some similarities in style between MacLean and his predecessor.
“He’s a great head coach and I learned a lot from him,” MacLean said of Girard. “I am one of these motivators, I am going all the time. I don’t stop and I wear my heart on my sleeve with these kids. I want to have good kids on the field, in the classroom and in the community. I try to get the passion out of these kids the best I can.”