, Salem, MA


August 27, 2010

Risky Business

Swampscott's Dembowski took a huge chance on a new offense — and has watched it pay off big time

When Steve Dembowski was hired as head football coach at Swampscott High in February 1999, he felt like there were some big shoes to fill in following the legendary Stan Bondelevitch and the man who'd coached him, Bill Bush.

"I'll have to go out and buy some size 18s," the then 28-year-old Dembowski told The News.

After 11 seasons, Dembowski hasn't just filled those shoes. The Big Blue's head coach has literally broken the mold for high school football in the 21st century on the North Shore.

Best known for essentially reinventing the way local teams view their offense after installing the vaunted spread passing attack at Swampscott High in 2001, Dembowski's teams have gone a combined 84-42, won four NEC titles and took home a Super Bowl title in 2007, the program's first in 35 years. The Big Blue have averaged 25.3 points per game under Dembowski and have been shut out just twice.

In the nine years since Dembowski took a chance on a brand new offensive system, his Big Blue have evolved into the envy of the area in terms of yardage and touchdowns.

"It took a lot of guts to do what he did, changing the whole system around," said Kyle Beatrice, the Massachusetts record holder in touchdown passes who played for the Big Blue from 2000-02. "He never had any doubts that it would work; we definitely wouldn't have gone as far as we did without it."

Indeed, the signature coaching move of Dembowski's career didn't come on the sidelines or during a timeout. It was during the offseason in 2000. After a 4-7 showing, he decided to go for broke and throw the ball 30 times per game. It was unheard of at the time, and even after some early success folks wondered what the Big Blue would do in bad weather.

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