MacLean takes over at Sandwich

Matt MacLean said he was in unfamiliar territory as an assistant football coach at Sandwich last season.

“Being there last year was my first losing season,” MacLean said.

MacLean, a health and wellness teacher at Sandwich, will get the opportunity to turn that around as he has been named Sandwich’s head football coach, the school confirmed Wednesday.

He replaces Bill O’Connell, who resigned in December after the Blue Knights finished 3-8. O’Connell went 13-31 in four seasons, despite leading the Blue Knights to the playoffs in his first year.

MacLean, 29, becomes Sandwich’s fourth head coach since the program began varsity play in 1999.

It will be his first varsity head coaching job.

As a player, MacLean led Abington to an Eastern Mass. Division 3 Super Bowl in 2005. From 2008 to 2010, he was a three-year starter at defensive lineman at Division III Plymouth State in New Hampshire.

After that he assisted Abington, which won the Eastern Mass. Div. 4 title in 2012, and the Div. 5 state title in 2014.

Now he’s tasked with turning around a program that has seen league foes Falmouth, Dennis-Yarmouth and Marshfield win state titles in recent years.

“The tradition isn’t there yet,” said MacLean, who also coaches Sandwich’s boys freshman basketball team. “These kids haven’t really tasted victory in that sense. I’ve been on both sides of the fence to see what works and what doesn’t.”

MacLean said his primary goal is to increase his players’ preparedness for games.

“I want our kids to be confident going into every game,” MacLean said. “Last year it didn’t seem like our guys were mentally or physically capable of competing at the level they need to. We have to work that much harder to be able to compete.”

Since becoming a teacher at Sandwich this year, MacLean has implemented a strength and conditioning program not just for football players, but for all student-athletes.

He wants to turn it into a yearlong commitment.

He’s also focused on increasing the roster size, which in recent years has dipped below 40, as well as reaching out

“Biggest thing is we didn’t get enough kids in the weight room,” MacLean said. “Other programs, they live in the weight room, and you can see it on the field.”

Sandwich athletic director Neil Murphy said he first heard of MacLean through friends and colleagues who live in Abington. Murphy told MacLean about the open teaching job, but it turns out he also brought in his next head football coach.

“People I know and trust at Abington had nothing but nice things to say about him,” Murphy said. “Anybody who knows high school football specifically, knows the value of building the program within. He understands there’s a lot of work to do.”