SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

August 24, 2010

Bill of Goods

Hamor took reins at a crucial time in Panther football history — and delivered

Billy Hamor took over the Beverly High football team at a critical time in the program's history.

That may sound like a grand statement, but it's true.

It was 1978 and Beverly Panthers football was in a drought. A former Beverly High player himself, Hamor was hungry to succeed the great Roy Norden in 1975. But school officials were infatuated with Nate Cunningham, who had been a graduate assistant at the University of Indiana.

"I applied for the job," recalled Hamor. "We had a good group of kids and I would've liked to step in after Roy (Norden) left. To me it was a matter of continuity."

The Cunningham hire was a disaster. From 1975-77, when Cunningham was the head coach, Beverly went 7-22-1. Solid assistant coaches, who had been assigned odd tasks during the season, left Cunningham's program and looked elsewhere for jobs.

The Beverly program, so proud and consistent decade after decade under Charlie Walsh (109-38-9 from 1944-58) and Norden (87-54-4 from 1959-74), needed a serious makeover by the time Hamor finally received his chance amidst the post-Cunningham debris.

Hamor gave himself a timetable and then attacked it.

"You aren't worth your weight as a coach if you don't think you can turn a program around in three years," said Hamor, 70, who still lives just a stone's throw away from Hurd Stadium in Beverly. "We had these great kids and they just needed a chance to become competitive. I thought we could do it quicker than we did, but it took exactly three years."

Hamor's first two seasons, 1978 and 1979, weren't exactly a roaring success, with the Panthers compiling records of 3-7 and 4-6, respectively. But Beverly did beat arch rival Salem (13-9) in his first year and would've had a .500 record in his second season were it not for a late Jim LeBlanc touchdown that gave Salem a 21-20 victory over the Panthers.

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