For the last four years, Mark Killinger has coached in one of the toughest pound-for-pound high school football leagues in the state while at Norwell High.
The South Shore League sent five teams to the Super Bowls at Gillette Stadium in the fall.
Before landing a spot at Norwell, Killinger spent a season at Holbrook / Avon, and the Bulldogs snapped a 20-game losing streak during his tenure.
Now, his latest challenge will be building the Silver Lake football program into a winner while going head-to-head with some of the state’s best programs in the Patriot League’s Keenan Division.
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“I think this is by far one of the best football leagues in the whole state,” said Killinger of his new home. “(We told 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 we want to face your top competition in the area. With Duxbury and Marshfield, Hingham and Whitman-Hanson, they’re well-established programs (but) we feel that we can come in there and hopefully build our identity and get an opportunity to play with them. ”
Along with the new coaching home, Killinger will move over to Silver Lake Middle School to become a health and wellness teacher. While coaching at Norwell, he was a teacher in Holbrook. Killinger said that played a big role in the decision to leave Norwell.
“It was certainly a tough decision to make,” said Killinger. “I think spending the past four seasons over there at Norwell trying to build that program up, it became a very important chapter in my life and my coaching career. When this opportunity came to go to Silver Lake, a lot of it had to do with the fact that I was going to be able to land a teaching job in the same district that I’d be able to coach in. It was a good opportunity for myself, my family. ”
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During four seasons with the Clippers, Killinger’s teams compiled a record of 15-21, which doesn’t tell the full story.
Norwell made trips to the postseason in three of those seasons. The 2020 season, which was played from February-April in what was called Fall II, there was no postseason held.
In 2019 under the old playoff format, the No. 8-seeded Clippers pulled a stunner by upsetting top-seeded 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 despite falling behind 15-0 with a 22-15 loss.
“It hadn’t really happened down in the Southeastern area,” said Killinger of a No. No. 8 seed knocking off a No. 1. “That was a great memory with a large senior class who certainly devoted a lot to the program and helped to build the identity of what we wanted.
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“That little playoff run with that group is one of my all-time memories.”
Killinger got a first-hand look at the Lakers last season. The teams met in November in a non-playoff game that Silver Lake won 29-6.
Killinger will replace Jim Winters, who accepted the head-coaching job 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,'” said Killinger. “We try 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 also coached at Hanover High as an assistant for a year.
Killinger comes from the Kenny Owen 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 that Owen tree, plus countless assistant coaches.
“We can all point back to our big mentor in Kenny Owen and just knowing what he did for us in our life and our profession and what football meant to us,” said Killinger. “Having that mentor, you always want to give back for what he did for us.”
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After going head-to-head against his alma mater in the South Shore League, Killinger isn’t quite done with the Bulldogs yet. The Lakers are scheduled to host Rockland, which won the Div. 6 Super Bowl, on Sept. 16 in a non-league game.
“We can’t get away from each other yet,” joked Killinger.
Killinger will bring a familiar staff with him to Kingston. Paul Scarpelli (defensive coordinator), Jared Lordi and Kevin Clark are all following the head coach from Norwell to Silver Lake.
“These are guys I’ve known my whole life,” said Killinger, “and I’ve coached with side-by-side. I think it shows their willingness to make the move and come over with me is a sign that they’re ready, they’re bought into the family and they’re excited to get going as well. ”
Killinger said he’s in the process of getting to know his new players but mentioned Ryan Carroll, Bailey Hooper, Seth Wakefield and Johnny Dickinson as players that jump out early in his film study.
Carroll was an honorable All-Scholastic mention last fall. The 6-4, 240-pound defensive end / tight end wreaked havoc in the backfield with 10 sacks and was a solid contributor on offense as a run-blocker and hauled in three touchdowns.
Hooper is a nose tackle and offensive lineman while Wakefield is a good athlete. Johnny Dickinson looks to be one of the leaders on defense from his outside linebacker spot.
“We like to try to spread some teams out and we like to be aggressive,” said Killinger. “We like to try to spread out the field a little bit more and use different tempos when needed. “Defensively, we try to get after you and be that tough, physical group that plays hard and fights for each other.”
It was a bittersweet decision for Killinger to leave Norwell.
“I’m very thankful for all the kids did and the administration that gave me the opportunity,” said Killinger. “Norwell will always be a special to me for what they gave me over those four years.”
But now, he’ll embark on a new challenge that begins in August.
“Through our conversations throughout this process and making this move was the ability to get into a district and be a teacher and coach in the same area,” said Killinger. “When you’re not in school, it’s hard to kind of get yourself caught up. This is something where we can hopefully get in there and get set up and hopefully really start building for the future and see where we can take it. ”