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It was 2002 and then Superintendent Elaine Espindle knew she needed to find a new football coach.

The program had been struggling, community support disappearing, and some wondered if Dracut was over its head playing in the Merrimack Valley Conference. Perhaps the small school competition of Cape Ann League would be more realistic for little, old Dracut High.

Espindle knew the football program was important beyond what happens on the field, and she understood making the competition easier wasn’t the answer.

Pat Murphy became Dracut High’s new head football coach and since the day he came to town, everything changed. He started weight-lifting and conditioning programs for players and managed to get the kids to believe they could compete in the MVC. He brought in a defensive coach by the name of Jeff Moore, and instituted a new offense that confused many of the opponents.

Dracut High went from a losing program to co-champs in the league in five years.

In 2007, the coach announced that nonleague games had been arranged with Brockton and Everett, two of the states largest and most successful programs.

What was he thinking? Hey, it wasn’t long ago when people around here wanted to send this team to play in the little leagues. But this coach had a vision of challenging these kids to play at an even higher level.

Now “Murph” is gone, off to coach at the college level, but coach Moore is the same kind of guy and is challenging these players to think big.

What’s amazing is how quickly the excitement is back in the community. All of the sports pages now cover Dracut High football. School pride has made a huge comeback. When was the last time you saw 1,000 Dracut football fans show up for an away game? That’s how many Dracut folks went to Everett to watch their Middies take on the state’s No. 1 team.

And speaking of winning it all, I understand the team spaghetti suppers are back.

In 1989, when the team last played in an Eastern Mass. Super Bowl, I remember Michelle Desmarais, whose son, Jamie, played on that team came by every Friday for a case of milk for the team spaghetti suppers.

Lots of very active parents supported that team and as one that attended that Super Bowl, I can tell you community pride was at an all-time high. This team has that kind of potential.

They can have the kind of memories that guys named Desmarais, Dehney, Wagner, Roth and Halko carry with them every day.

One last thought.

I hope if the team makes it to the big game they send a very special invitation to now citizen Elaine Espindle. Were it not for her, they might be playing today in the Cape Ann League.