Jun. 12—Jeff Hutton, an assistant coach in the Beverly High football program for 15 seasons before leaving to lead the program at Manchester Essex Regional, has returned to the Garden City as the Panthers’ new varsity football coach.
“I’m very excited to be back,” said the 43-year-old Hutton, who lives in Beverly with his wife Robin and their two daughters, Marisa (10) and Molly (7) and their son Alexander, who will turn 2 this summer. “I didn’t think this job would open up when it did, but am very happy to come back to where I began my coaching career.”
Hutton, a 2000 Boston University graduate, got a teaching job at Beverly High in August 2000 and joined Roger Rosinski’s football staff in the latter’s final season. He stayed on coaching the BHS freshman team with Dave Wilbur for two seasons under John Boughner, then returned to the varsity when Dan Bauer became head coach in 2003, a position he held until 2014.
He now takes over as head coach from Andrew Morency, who guided his alma mater for five seasons beginning in 2016. Morency chose not to reapply for the job when it was opened up in early May. His teams went a combined 26-26, including a 3-4 mark earlier this spring in the ‘Fall 2’ season.
A seven-person search committee ultimately interviewed five candidates for the job, said Beverly High athletic director Dan Keefe..
“I’m very excited about Jeff coming in,” said Keefe. “His experience as a head coach and his knowledge of Beverly football will be extremely helpful and beneficial to everyone involved. It’s a great combination of the old and the new.”
Culture of the program
Hutton joked with the search committee that he “didn’t want to leave coaching in Beverly” and only did so at Bauer’s urging to pursue the head coaching position at Manchester Essex.
“He said it’d be the perfect place for me to cut my teeth as a head coach … and Dan was right,” Hutton said.
Manchester Essex went 30-28 in Hutton’s six seasons, including a run to the Division 7 North title game in 2019, when the Hornets finished 8-2. Numbers were often an issue — the school, which co-ops with Rockport High for football, suited up just 16 players on Thanksgiving Day 2018 — and there was at one time a push to end the football program. But the players persevered, and Hutton said he benefitted.
“You learn quickly the need to be versatile and coach kids at multiple positions,” said Hutton, who noted the Hornets had more than 30 players on both his 2019 and Fall 2 2021 teams. “It’s like Bill Belichick says: it’s more versatility than your ability when numbers are low. That mentality of learning how to teach the game in a new way really helped me become a better coach.
“The administration (at Manchester Essex) has been great,” he added. “(Principal) Patricia Puglisi and (then-AD) Paul Murphy wouldn’t let them cancel the football program and were always supportive. Jordan Edgett, the current athletic director, he’s been great, too. A lot of people involved there in athletics were, and for that I’m thankful.”
Numbers shouldn’t be an issue for Hutton in Beverly, and the mere suggestion of disbanding the football program would cause a citywide uproar.
Instead, he’s being tasked with returning the Panthers to the top of the Northeastern Conference. He was part of two Super Bowl championship teams in Orange-and-Black (2010 and the unbeaten 2012 club) and knows what it takes on and off the field to achieve that kind of success.
“It all starts with the culture of the program,” said Hutton, a health and wellness teacher at North Andover High School for the last 13 years. “The kids have to buy in to what you’re doing, to trust that what you’re doing makes sense and they understand it. As head coach it’s my job to find that happy medium of what the players understand what we’re teaching them. When that happens, success will follow.
“It’s also about community involvement. Dan (Bauer) made it such a big part of the program, getting us all involved in community projects, getting to know and work with the players at the younger levels,” Hutton added. “That’s your feeder program. It’s about keeping kids in Beverly instead of them leaving for (St. John’s) Prep or other places. You have to be seen, they have to know who you are, and have you have be involved with them.”
Hutton plans on running the Wing-T, which served the Panthers very well during his previous time there. They’ll combine the power run and wing aspects of the offense with some basic spread concepts, using up to four and five receivers at times, while the quarterback lines up in a pistol formation.
“Some kids hear ‘Wing T’ and think all we’ll do is run the ball, but that’s not true. I’m not looking to go strictly one receiver and one tight end only,” said Hutton. “It’s a great high school offense. We like to spread it around; on our 2018 (Manchester Essex) team we ran for almost 2,700 yards but also passed for 1,200. With all the capable athletes we have in Beverly, we’ll want to spread it around. Defenders won’t be able to cover them all.”
Defensively the Panthers will employ a stack 3-5-3, which can be effective in going up against spread offenses.
A native of Millville, N.J. — home of Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout — Hutton played football as well as track and field in high school before going to BU on a full football scholarship. He started at left tackle for the Terriers as a freshman but was hurt as a sophomore and missed the entire season; the school then disbanded the program. He graduated with a degree in Human Movement with a concentration in Education.
His three paid assistants from Manchester Essex willbe joining Hutton in Beverly: offensive line/linebackers coach and de facto defensive coordinator John McMillan, his college roommate and teammate; running backs/defensive line coach Nick Maurais, a teacher at Northshore Education Consortium in Beverly (and an assistant boys lacrosse coach at Bishop Fenwick), and wide receivers/defensive backs coach KaShawn Little. Wilbur will also return to his long-time role heading up the Panther freshmen.
“I’m eager to get the ball rolling,” said Hutton, who will meet with his new players on Monday. “We’ll figure out quickly when and where we can start our workout program, will be part of a 7-on-7 summer league, go to some skills/team camps I’m committed to, and there’s a Wing-T clinic that Northeast Regional coach Don Ayers is running, too, that we’ll be at. So we’ll have plenty of opportunities to catch up before the season begins in late August.”