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July 9, 2010

Former coach Sheridan remembered by his players

Walt Sheridan came to the Newburyport football program as a 26-year-old World War II veteran in 1951. The Holy Cross graduate needed a transfer from the Kelley Elementary School to earn his first coaching opportunity as a varsity assistant.

But more than anything, Sheridan needed a new car.

"My first memory of Walt was that he received the transfer from the Kelley School, and we all had to help push his old, broken-down car up the hill to the high school," said Paul Riley, the first quarterback to play under Sheridan from 1952 to 1954.

Many more memories of Sheridan are likely to be shared this weekend, as he will be remembered with calling hours and a funeral following his death Wednesday at the age of 85. The Twomey, LeBlanc and Conte Funeral Home will host calling hours today from 4 to 8 p.m. The funeral Mass will be held at Immaculate Conception Parish tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.

Sheridan served as an assistant for one year at Newburyport before serving as the head coach from 1952 to 1957. He is largely credited for a quick restoration of the Newburyport football program following its lowest point as a program from 1943 to 1951. That low point included nine straight losses to Amesbury on Thanksgiving Day, the last of which will forever be remembered for its 93-point margin of defeat (99-6 in 1951).

Sheridan's teams improved quickly; his first team suffered the 10th consecutive Thanksgiving loss to Amesbury, albeit an easier one to stomach with a 15-12 score. The following season, Newburyport ended the streak with a 42-13 victory, the first of four in a row for Newburyport over Amesbury. Since Sheridan left Newburyport in 1957, the Clippers have posted a 34-19 record against Amesbury on Thanksgiving.

Sheridan commented to The Daily News in 2006 about what he felt was the turning point in the history of the Newburyport football program.

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