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Coach who led Mustangs to 1978 title was nearly fired

Jason Nascimento (center) was named interim head football coach at Medford High after Rico Dello Iacono was let go earlier this season.

Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

Jason Nascimento (center) was named interim head football coach at Medford High after Rico Dello Iacono was let go earlier this season.

Editor’s note: The following was published Dec. 3, 1978, in The Boston Globe after Medford beat Walpole, 29-8, in the Division 1 Super Bowl. In contrast to the expanded playoff format now in place, in those days only four postseason games were played to determine the Eastern Mass. champions.

Hundreds of Medford followers stood in unison, waving and chanting, “Armand . . . Armand . . . Armand.”

It was their way of paying tribute to coach Armand Caraviello moments after his Medford team left the field with a stunning 29-8 triumph over Walpole in yesterday’s Division 1 Super Bowl championship showdown before 12,000 at Harvard Stadium.

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“Where were these same people a couple of years ago when you really needed them?” someone asked Caraviello as he turned toward the crowd to accept the accolades, and tip his hat.

“Let’s forget about that,” urged a gracious Caraviello. “All I know is that I never lost faith in myself. I’ve always thought that success is nothing but failure being turned around.”

Two years ago, Caraviello was nearly fired as the Medford football coach. He was the target of typical political infighting that prevails in a high school athletic system. When Caraviello’s contract expired after the 1976 season, his coaching position was thrown open to applicants. However, after a long, dragged out hassle, Caraviello gained enough support to retain his job.

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“I just hope that what has happened here today to me will be an inspiration for anyone else who faces adversity,” Caraviello said. “But then again, I’ve always been a positive thinker.”

Caraviello, who has guided Medford to its first unbeaten season since 1967, was literally in a daze. He walked an endless circle after accepting a congratulatory handshake from John Lee, the fallen Walpole coach. Caraviello displayed an egg-sized lump over his right ear, which caused some unappreciated distress during this precious time he described as “the greatest moment in my coaching life.”

The injury to Caraviello occurred in the first quarter. Buddy MacLean, the Medford quarterback, ran out of bounds while attempting a pass. His momentum sent him crashing into his coach.

“The impact of MacLean running into me was a little too much,” Caraviello said sheepishly. “I lost my balance, and fell backwards, hitting my head on a railing. I think I’ll have a doctor look at it when I get home.”

As for the game, Caraviello simply felt that Medford, with due respect to Walpole, “just had the better people. We were able to do anything we wanted to do. We were just awesome.”

Caraviello agreed with the general consensus that Craig Martorana’s 80-yard return of an intercepted pass thrown by Walpole quarterback John Bergamo with 37 seconds remaining in the first half was the play that broke Walpole’s spirit.

At the last moment, Martorana cut in front of the intended Walpole receiver, Chris Smith, picked off the pass, and fled unmolested for the touchdown. It gave Medford a 15-0 lead. It appeared that Smith, clear in the left flat, might have the necessary daylight to go all the way for a Walpole score. Instead, Martorana turned the entire complexion of the game around.

Ironically, Martorana is a transfer student from Austin Prep of Reading. He received immediate eligibility clearance to play for Medford from the Headmasters Assn. because his family ran into financial enrollment difficulty at Austin Prep. His father, Guy Martorana, played on the 1953 Medford team, and was awarded a football scholarship to LSU.

John Lee, in defeat as he always had in victory, showed class. He offered no alibis.

“Medford was physically too strong,” Lee said. “They beat us badly up front. We just couldn’t keep them out of our backfield. We never had enough time to turn around to do anything.”

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