Lynnfield football has long been an integral part of Jack Ford’s life.
After playing quarterback at the youth level, the 6-foot-1-inch Ford broke onto the varsity as a sophomore receiver with 115 receiving yards and tied a program record with three touchdowns in a 29-22 win over Wakefield in November 2018.
As a junior, Ford continued to smash records with 15 touchdown receptions and 908 receiving yards, the second-highest total in the state during the 2019 season.
The reigning Cape Ann League Player of the Year is at it again in the Fall II season, with 17 receptions for 361 yards and seven touchdowns, leading undefeated Lynnfield (4-0) into Friday’s showdown against Ipswich (3-0) for CAL supremacy.
Ford spent countless hours advocating for his own recruitment during the early months of the pandemic, eventually landing an offer to play at Bentley this fall for coach Bill Kavanaugh.
Determined, with a clear focus, he has achieved on the field and the classroom, despite a very unnerving personal situation. His father, Jaime, has been in and out of the criminal justice system since 2015 for larceny, home improvement fraud, and tax evasion, and other charges. According to the The Salem News, he was sentenced Jan 11, 2018, to 2-2½years in state prison.
“I think [Ford] leaned on us as coaches and his teammates, especially when he was a younger player,” said third-year Lynnfield coach Patrick Lamusta (’08), a history teacher at the high school and former standout at Framingham State.
“The captains were all looking out for him, and they set an example for what an ideal teammate should be. But I think he has a lot of inward motivation. He’s a self-driven student-athlete. He can give a ton of credit to himself. I know he’s had ups and downs and it’s been an emotional ride, but he’s helped us steer the ship, and now that he’s a senior captain, he’s a great role model for the younger guys.”
Ford’s record-setting junior year is made even more impressive by the fact that he battled a shoulder injury all fall, and was forced to sit out during a 21-19 loss to North Reading on Thanksgiving Day in 2019.
Now fully healthy, Ford has been deployed as a safety, and already produced 12 tackles and two fumble recoveries, including a 96-yard fumble return for a touchdown in last Saturday’s 29-0 win at Manchester-Essex.
“With Jack, early on we realized we had to be all hands on deck to find ways to get him in the lineup and get him the ball,” said Lamusta. “This year, we knew we had to be on both sides of the ball, because he’s such a great athlete. Whether the ball is on the ground or in the air, Jack Ford is going to try and track it down.”
Ford said he wasn’t always sure if he was going to attend Lynnfield High. His father played quarterback and starred on the baseball diamond at Malden Catholic; he also considered attending St. John’s Prep in an effort to pursue his dream of playing Division I college football.
But he decided to stick with his hometown friends at Lynnfield High, where he’s excelled on the basketball court and football field. This year, Ford has formed a fearsome tandem with senior quarterback Austin Sutera, who backed up Globe All-Scholastic Clayton Marengi last season. Sutera set program records in the season opener against Triton with 369 passing yards and six touchdowns, with Ford hauling in three of those scores.
“Ever since [Ford] was a sophomore, and he would get called up to varsity to play on the scout team, he would dominate,” Sutera recalled. “That’s how competitive he’s always been in all sports. He’s determined to beat the guy he lines up across. I’m just glad we get to work together now. I’ve been waiting to do this for years.”
Now on probation, Jaime Ford lives in Saugus and commutes to watch his son play. For most of his early career, Ford didn’t have what he called “a second coach” screaming instructions from the sidelines, but he still found the motivation to succeed.
“Obviously it hurt, but so many other people are going through worse things,” Ford said of his father’s imprisonment. “I was still with my mom [Christine], who is the perfect role model for me. It was a sad time, but sports definitely got me through it.”
“If there’s one thing I learned, it’s to stay close to the people you know are real. You can’t lose people like that. I like to keep my circle small. I need people who always have my back, and I’ll always have theirs. One call, and I know they’ll be there. My family, friends, and coaches, their support has meant the world to me.”
Ford added that his father has always supported his athletic pursuits and has been his biggest fan. With limited spectators allowed during the pandemic, the senior said that the voices of his father and other parents seem louder this spring, and can distract at times.
“He’s back and supporting just like always,” Ford said of his father. “He never stopped supporting me or anyone in the family. He was gone but still there at the same time. Even if he wasn’t at the games, I knew he was still cheering for me.”
But the ultra-competitive wideout is solely focused on taking down Ipswich to move one step closer towards the goal of an undefeated season.
“This, to me, is the biggest game of the season,” said Ford. “I don’t know what to call it. It’s not a playoff game, but it’s almost literally to win the league. We want to be the first Lynnfield team to go undefeated, and during quarantine that would be a season to remember.”
“There is a lot of emotion being put into this one and I’ll let it show through my game.”