By Dan Guttenplan
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Ed Gaudiano must be wondering if it was something he said.
The Newburyport football coach opened preseason workouts for his 26th season yesterday, only he did it for the first time without longtime assistant Bob Clark. Gaudiano’s right-hand-man and defensive coordinator, Clark, recently accepted the athletic director job at Newburyport. Further adding to the turnover on Gaudiano’s staff this offseason, longtime offensive coordinator Ryan McCarthy left to take the same job at Triton after serving as the Vikings’ head baseball coach last spring.
“It was good to get back out there, but we had some changes and a bunch of new kids,” Gaudiano said. “It’s a little different; we’re trying some new things.”
Gaudiano plans to call his own offensive plays, and along with taking on the additional title of offensive coordinator, he will oversee a philosophical change on that side of the ball. For the past seven years, McCarthy directed a pass-heavy offense when Clipper quarterbacks Joe Clancy (2006-08) and Connor Wile (2010-12) rewrote the school’s record books for passing statistics.
Gaudiano will shift from a pro-style attack to the option, which he first implemented when he called offensive plays in his first 10 years at Newburyport.
“Originally, I was a defensive guy,” Gaudiano said. “Then I came up to Newburyport and did the offense with varying degrees of success for about 10 years until (now Amesbury head coach) Thom Connors became our offensive coordinator. I’m an option guy, so that’s probably what we’ll do.”
Part of that has to do with the personnel on this year’s team. Wile graduated last spring, leaving sophomore Michael Shay and junior J.J. Bajko to compete for the starting job at quarterback.
“I kind of like the change,” Gaudiano said. “It was going to happen anyway with Connor graduating. He was a pure drop-back passer. Both Michael and J.J. — Michael to a greater extent — have the pass-run threat going. We’ll be back under center for the most part. Michael is a little more diverse in what he can offer offensively.”
On the defensive side, Newburyport alumnus Michael Smolski will look to model his style and philosophy after Clark, his former coach.
Smolski played on the Newburyport Super Bowl championship team in 1998. He led the team back to the Super Bowl as a senior in 1999, although the Clippers fell short in their bid to repeat.
He then played four years at middle linebacker for St. Anselm College.
Smolski returned to coaching with the Clippers for a year after college, before taking two years away from football to focus on his full-time profession.
He is now a sergeant with the Essex County Sheriff’s Department. He also served as the Clippers defensive line coach for the last two years.
“Being coached by (Clark) and then coaching with him, I’m going to do a lot of the same things,” Smolski said. “It’s going to be an aggressive approach. We’ll have the same principles that have been successful in the past. I don’t see any reason to deviate from that.”
Like many defensive coordinators on the high school football scene these days, Smolski will be tasked with finding ways to stop the spread offense.
“Like any other offense, when you’re playing against it, you have to play with the same disciplined responsibilities,” Smolski said. “It forces you to put more athletic guys in the secondary and at linebacker.”
Smolski, who works the midnight shift with the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, hopes to establish a reputation similar to that of Clark, who was renowned for slowing down the North Shore’s highest-scoring offenses.
“He’d been coaching for so long, there was nothing he hadn’t seen,” Smolski said. “He was a very good game-planner. He has a feel for the flow of the game. Regardless of whether it was 1990 or 2012, he got kids to play for him. That’s something I took from him.”
2013 Newburyport Schedule
Date Time Opponent
Saturday, Sept. 14 11 a.m. Lynnfield
Friday, Sept. 20 7 p.m. IPSWICH
Friday, Sept. 27 7 p.m. NORTH READING
Friday, Oct. 4 7 p.m. PENTUCKET
Friday, Oct. 11 7 p.m. Triton
Friday, Oct. 18 7 p.m. MASCONOMET
Saturday, Oct. 26 11 a.m. Saugus
Thursday, Nov. 28 10 a.m. AMESBURY
*Home games in bold
** MIAA playoffs will run Nov. 1 to 15
Football Preview Schedule