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Oft-Traveled Mascoma Assistant Comes Home

  • Mascoma assistant coach Josh Kershaw positions the Royals on the field during practice on Wednesday. Kershaw, the son of Mascoma head coach Ray Kershaw, also plays semi-pro football.<br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Mascoma assistant coach Josh Kershaw positions the Royals on the field during practice on Wednesday. Kershaw, the son of Mascoma head coach Ray Kershaw, also plays semi-pro football.

    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mascoma players warm up in chilly weather on Wednesday.<br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Mascoma players warm up in chilly weather on Wednesday.

    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mascoma assistant coach Josh Kershaw positions the Royals on the field during practice on Wednesday. Kershaw, the son of Mascoma head coach Ray Kershaw, also plays semi-pro football.<br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Mascoma players warm up in chilly weather on Wednesday.<br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

West Canaan — In a been-there-done-that world, Josh Kershaw has been there and done that in triplicate.

Kershaw, a first-year assistant coach to his father, Ray, with the Mascoma High football team, played three different offensive systems at three different schools during his four-year collegiate career. A spring graduate from Plymouth State, Kershaw kept his playing career alive last summer by joining the semi-pro New Hampshire Wolfpack, which only exposed the center to more ways of playing the game.

So when Kershaw tells the Royals how to do something, they can take it to the bank that the person doing the telling knows what he’s saying.

“It’s fun for me now as a coach because I’ve seen three different college systems, played for three different coaches,” Kershaw said on Tuesday as the Royals continued preparations for tomorrow’s NHIAA Division VI championship game with Franklin. “I’ve seen things that I would take as a coach, things I wouldn’t take as a coach. It’s been more of a learning experience for me that way, because it’s easier to take and translate that on this field with our boys.”

It’s been imperative for Mascoma to build a solid line to make its run-heavy double-wing offense work. That’s where the younger Kershaw has stepped into the mix.

Money — or the lack of it — forced Kershaw into a nomadic existence in college football. He started out at St. Anselm, moved to Framingham (Mass.) State after two years, then to Plymouth State as a senior, reduced tuition being the motivating factor in each move.

Kershaw played in a wide variety of systems between the three schools, and those lessons are coming to bear in his first campaign as a high school coach.

“Plymouth State was more under center, power football,” Kershaw said. “Framingham State was mostly spread with zone (blocking), and at St. A’s, when I first started, they ran no-huddle zone. The no-huddle aspect was awesome because that’s what we run here, so I can kind of connect the two.”

Kershaw hasn’t limited his education to his college days. He and fellow Mascoma assistant Kyle Colburn took a week last spring to attend a clinic at a prominent Florida high school, where the two learned techniques to apply to their coaching.

“The thing is, I won’t tell them to do it until I know that it works,” Kershaw said. “(The Florida coach) was telling me the best ways to be a coach and giving pointers that way, and I learned more things technique-wise to do with the offensive line. I knew I had the semi-pro stuff this summer, so I decided to use it to see if it works. If it worked really well, I knew I’d bring it down to our guys and teach it to them.”

Playing for the Wolfpack helped Kershaw’s learning and teaching curves.

At 5-foot-11 and 260 pounds, he is one of the smaller offensive linemen in the New England Football League, the 20-team confederation in which the Wolfpack plays. New Hampshire head coach Jim Harmon seemingly threw a different system in each week, so Kershaw had to be able to handle ever-changing responsibilities.

But it also provided an interesting means of getting his message through to the Royals. Harmon hosted the Mascoma team as guests at a Wolfpack game over the summer, where the Royals got to see their offensive line coach do the things he would teach them later.

“Because of his age and because he’s still playing and taking the kids down to see one of his games, the kids earned so much respect for him, watching him play,” Ray Kershaw said. “So now, when he tells them to do something, it’s, ‘Absolutely, Coach,’ because they’ve seen him do it and they know that it works.”

Two characteristics reflect Mascoma’s improvement as a football program this year: belief in the system and commitment off the field. The 22-year-old Kershaw, along with Colburn and assistant Wayne Lacaillade, drilled into the Royals that success in the game follows those who put in the time in the weight room.

As a result, Mascoma’s massive line — tight ends Chris Sanborn and Shane Pierce, tackles Walt Hammond and Nick Farnsworth, guards John Daley and Noah Richer and center Sam Jones — have been able to dominate foes over a six-game winning streak entering tomorrow’s championship game.

“They’re sustaining blocks, getting downfield, playing with heart and not being lazy,” Kershaw said. “Our guys are not lazy anymore. Before, they would make one block and watch the runner go right by. Now, we’ve gotten to instill in our guys that if you make a block, go make a second one, a third one, a fourth one, get down the field.”

He’s been there and done that. Now Kershaw’s getting the Royals to follow his lead.

“I’ve always wanted to be a coach,” he said. “I thought about it in high school (at Proctor Academy), then when I played in college, I thought to myself, ‘How can I enjoy the game still?’ The coaching is the closest thing to playing, which is what I love to do.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.