Published: 7/23/2022 9:39:41 PM
Modified: 7/23/2022 9:39:40 PM
WEST CANAAN — John Daley has a new set of marching orders.
The one-time Army rifleman, who entered the military after his 2013 graduation from Mascoma High, has signed on as the Royals’ next football coach. Daley, 28, succeeds Kyle Colburn, who guided the program the past four seasons before resigning in search of a life change.
“I’m taking over a team earlier than I had envisioned, but I couldn’t ignore the chance,” Daley said. “It’s not often that someone can take over the team they played for. The opportunity was too sweet to pass up.”
Daley was part of a ground-pounding Mascoma team that reached the 2012 NHIAA Division VI title game. A two-way lineman, he earned an invitation to the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl all-star game and an offer to play football at Norwich University, but rejected both chances and proceeded directly to boot camp at Georgia’s Fort Benning.
“I was young and dumb,” Daley said.
Daley served an Army tour in Afghanistan and discovered he enjoyed teaching, even if it was about subjects such as navigation and field sanitation. After an honorable discharge, he earned a Plymouth State University degree and a teaching certificate and worked as a Colby-Sawyer College security officer and Claremont Middle School teacher.
Daley worked as a paid Mascoma football assistant in 2018 and 2019 before serving as a program volunteer the past two seasons. He stayed home for much of the past year to take care of his newborn son, Liam, the first child for him and his wife, Megan. Recently hired as a Mascoma special education teacher, Daley has been running summer sessions for his team.
“I have optimism for the season,” he said. “Even if we’re only drawing eight or nine guys.”
Low numbers have always been the rub for the Royals, who have 22 players signed up for the start of official practice next month. Even during the glory days a decade back, Mascoma’s roster rarely pushed 30. It’s a spread-out district with roughly 350 high school students, some of whom live half an hour’s drive from campus.
“Guys are on the bus at 6:30 am and don’t get home until 8 or 9 at night,” said Colburn, a 33-year-old Lebanon High graduate and now the head junior varsity coach at Maine’s South Portland High. “It’s hard for the kids and hard for the parents, and it deters some families from having their sons play.”
A small roster means more athletes playing offense and defense, which requires them to be in outstanding physical condition. Ray Kershaw, the Royals’ coach during their best seasons, drove his troops hard and rarely passed, using a ball-control attack to keep opponents’ offenses on the sideline.
“You’ve got to find that balance where you don’t run the kids into the ground early,” Colburn said.
“Educating them on how to take care of their bodies is crucial. You don’t want to get injuries and wind up with your freshmen going up against the other team’s big, experienced guys.”
Daley isn’t an overly emotional person, but his voice gains emotion when he discusses the Royals’ chances this fall and the proposition of returning them to state prominence.
“I absolutely believe it can be done,” he said. “I’ve told the team that I don’t believe in rebuilding years and the seniors that we’re not going to pull the carpet from underneath them.
“I’m making changes, but they relate to what the kids already know. My goals are to get this team to where it can compete aggressively but with character. You have to learn to lose with dignity as well as how to win.”
Mascoma opens its 2022 season Sept. 10 at Newport.
Tris Wykes can be reached at [email protected]