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Leo Pacheco has tough act to follow as he takes over as football coach at Bridgewater-Raynham

How excited is Lou Pacheco at the opportunity to coach the Bridgewater-Raynham football team? Pacheco framed the email he received when he was hired.
How excited is Lou Pacheco at the opportunity to coach the Bridgewater-Raynham football team? Pacheco framed the email sent out when he was hired.Submitted Photo

When Dan Buron announced he was retiring as as Bridgewater-Raynham’s football coach and athletic director it seemed it would take four feet to fill two shoes.

That’s now reality as Bill O’Connell takes over as athletic director and 1987 graduate Leo Pacheco assumes the reins of the football team.

Buron led the Trojans to seven Super Bowl appearances and two state championships in his 28-year tenure as football coach, following in the footsteps of Frank Almeida and Paul Urban. Pacheco played tailback and linebacker under Almeida and coached alongside all three.

“I’m a big B-R history buff,” Pacheco said. “The school has been around 60 years and 50 of those it was coached, football-wise, by three guys. That’s crazy. And all three are in the Hall of Fame.”

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Pacheco hopes to continue that lineage.

After graduating from B-R, he played two seasons at Western Connecticut State University before beginning a 30-plus year career in law enforcement. He is currently the school resource officer at B-R and the three Raynham elementary schools.

He’s also spent 20-plus years running football and running camps and coaching youth football in Raynham.

Starting in 1999, he spent four years as the Trojans freshman football coach under Buron. After six years as an assistant in Taunton, he moved on to Coyle & Cassidy until it closed its doors. Now he’s back home.

“B-R has been so good to me,” Pacheco said. “I talk about it a lot. The coaches there, and the teachers, they were so instrumental in being a big part of my life. I loved when I coached there. When I heard the job was opening and Dan was stepping down, I figured I’d put my hat in the ring and give it a shot.”

While O’Connell wasn’t part of Pacheco’s hiring process, as his own was running parallel, one thing stood out when they first met.

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“He loves, love, loves the school,” O’Connell said. “He’s got good relationships with all the families in town. He has that weight room cranking with what sounds like 35 kids a night, at least four nights a week.”

O’Connell is no stranger to the coaching ranks. After graduating from Bristol-Plymouth in 1994, playing two seasons as a safety at UMass Dartmouth, and earning a Master’s degree from Bridgewater State, he started coaching in 2005 at Coyle & Cassidy. After eight years as an assistant under Tom Pileski, he was head coach at Sandwich for four seasons, including the school’s only playoff appearance.

From there, he served as an assistant at Apponequet for two years before returning to the head coaching ranks at St. John Paul III this past season. He’s also coached Monomoy girls basketball and indoor and outdoor track at St. John Paul III.

He said it was watching Pileski work as Coyle’s AD that led him toward the profession.

“I was like ‘Wow, this job is working in high school sports all day? As a full-time job?’” O’Connell said. “I learned a lot from him. He’s one of the most respected guys in the state. He’s by the book.”

O’Connell said his initial priority is a turf replacement project at Marciano Stadium, but that his first year will feature a lot of observing and listening.

“I’m going to evaluate this first year and see where everything is at and make decisions in the best interest of our student-athletes,” he said.

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O’Connell won’t be the only AD with a new football coach this fall. Here’s a rundown of new hirings:

▪ After six seasons as head coach for Manchester Essex, Jeff Hutton is returning to Beverly, where he served as an assistant for 15 years. Hutton, who played at Boston University, will be replaced by one of his assistants at Manchester Essex, Joe Grimes.

Kahn Chace, who spent the last two years coaching Tri-County, takes over at Cardinal Spellman after two years coaching Tri-County. Longtime Spellman coach Ron St. George, who is retiring after 13 years at the school (and 40 as a head coach), will serve as an assistant to Pat Kingman at Middleboro. St. George coached Kingman at East Bridgewater.

▪ Hopkinton hired alumnus Mark Sanborn to replace Dan MacLean. Sanborn, 31, served as JV coach and varsity assistant for the Hillers the past three years. A three-sport athlete for Hopkinton, he played baseball at UMass Lowell.

▪ Former Durfee defensive coordinator Luke Bahry was hired at Diman. He previously served as co-defensive coordinator at East Providence and played linebacker for at Bryant University. Bahry replaces Neil Hitchen.

Witche Exilhomme has been elevated from defensive coordinator at Mladen, his alma mater. The 2013 graduate played at American International, where he earned two degrees while playing defensive end. He replaces Steve Freker.

As first reported by Dan Shaughnessy, Richard Barton retired as Newton North volleyball coach after more than three decades at the school. He won three Division 1 state championships with the girls’ team (2014, 2017, 2018) and is a member of the Massachusetts Girls Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He led the boys’ team to a Division 1 South title in 2019 … Archbishop Williams hired Doug Nolan to coach girls’ hockey. Nolan was selected in the 11th round of the 1994 NHL Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs out of UMass Lowell. He is currently director of hockey operations for the Boch Blazers and Charles River Blazers in Dedham. The Bishops also promoted freshman volleyball coach Kara O’Toole to helm their varsity program … St. John’s Prep hired 2007 graduate Brian Jasiak to helm the boys’ golf program, a team that went undefeated in 2020 and placed third in Division 1 in 2019 under Joe RochaWill Ortiz, who coached Framingham hockey for the past five years, will take over the boys’ program at Dexter Southfield … Central Catholic hired 2003 graduate Casey Grange, a 2003 graduate, as Assistant Director of Athletics. A two-time state championship-winning girls’ soccer coach, Grange will continue to coach the Raiders girls’ basketball team while working with new Director of Athletics and Activities Zachary BlaszakNick DiCicco will coach the Boston Latin boys’ soccer team, succeeding Jason Miller, who held the position for 11 years … Jennifer Racine is replacing Robert Harvey as girls’ soccer coach at Greater New Bedford … Manchester Essex announced the hiring of field hockey coach Courtney Brown and girls’ soccer coach Bill Baker.

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AAU basketball

Down at the Nike EYBL Peach Jam in North Carolina, Massachusetts-based Expressions Elite was 1-2 start through Thursday. Alex Karaban, a 6-foot-7-inch forward from Northborough who is transfering from New Hampton to IMG Academy, St. Thomas More’s Desmond Claude, a 6-5 point guard from New Haven, Conn., and Papa Kante, a 6-10 big man from South Kent, Conn., have excelled … BABC did not make the Peach Jam Finals, but is 2-1 in the consolation tournament entering Friday. Reid Ducharme, who is transferring from Nobles to Brewster Academy, and Northfield Mount Hermon big man Luke Hunger have impressed. … The Wally Seaver High School Invitational to Fight ALS will be played July 30-Aug. 1 and will feature 158 high school teams at multiple sites.

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Senior American Legion baseball

The double-elimination Massachusetts Senior American Legion Championship Tournament begins Saturday at Adams Field in Quincy. The day kicks off at 10 a.m. when Zone 4 champion Leominster faces District 6 winner Milton. At 1 p.m,. District 2 champ Westfield faces District 10 winner Bridgewater. Game 3, at 4:30 p.m., features District 8′s Beverly and District 9′s South Attleboro. The day concludes with a 7:30 p.m. game between Zone 5 champion Natick and host Quincy. The winner advances to the Region 1 Tournament, hosted by Shrewsbury on Aug. 4 at Holy Cross’s Fitton Field. The Region 1 winner advances to the American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C., beginning Aug. 12.

Northeast 7v7

The Northeast 7v7 Football League will play its New England Championship July 29 at Xaverian High School. In the North region, Methuen beat Milton, 19-6, on July 16 for the title. The East Championship is Saturday at 10 a.m. at Bishop Fenwick, with a field of 30. The South Championship will be held Sunday at 10 a.m. at Xaverian and features 32 teams.

MLB signings

Danvers native Shane Smith, who pitched for Governor’s Academy and Wake Forest, signed a free agent contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. He served as the Deacons’ closer in 2020 before starting two games in 2021 … Randolph’s Collin Sullivan, a former standout righthander at Cardinal Spellman and South Florida, signed a free agent contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was drafted in the 29th round of the 2016 draft by the Padres before opting to play college ball.