Thursday, April 5, 2018

Zukauskas Steps Down at Lawrence Academy, Changing Local Football Landscape

Lawrence Academy has enjoyed immense recent success under the now departing coach Zukauskas.
By Brendan C. Hall (@BHallUFA)

On Wednesday afternoon, the Massachusetts high school football landscape was sent a shockwave when Paul Zukauskas announced he’s stepping down as the head coach at ISL powerhouse Lawrence Academy.

“It was extremely difficult,” Zukauskas told The Boston Globe of his decision. “Any time you’re part of something that’s had lotta success, and you’ve done a lot of hard work on the coaches’ side, on the players’ side, and all that hard work has paid off…To leave that is really difficult. Especially some of the kids that are going to be back next year, that’s where it gets difficult.”

Zukauskas, who leaves the Groton-based campus having guided the Spartans to three straight NEPSAC Bowl titles and four straight ISL titles, is leaving coaching altogether. He’s co-founded a startup that holds its offices in the Boston-based Sports Innovation Lab, across from TD Garden.

“It’s gained a lot of traction, we’re really excited,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of people behind it. Really, it’s pursuing an opportunity that’s different, I think that’s really the reason [behind the departure].”

With this move, some have also wondered if the local recruiting landscape is in for a tilt.

As a “Double Eagle” who starred at BC High before moving on to an All-American career with Boston College, and a half-decade in the NFL, it’s no secret the pipeline from Lawrence to Chestnut Hill has only strengthened since Zukauskas took the reigns in 2011.

Most significantly, during the 2017 recruiting cycle, BC got a gift when LA running back A.J. Dillon flipped his commitment from Michigan to the Eagles less than two months before signing day. That’s paid nothing but dividends at The Heights since, as Dillon exploded onto the scene as a true freshman in 2017, earning First Team All-ACC honors, and he’s sure to get his share of Heisman buzz as his career continues to grow.

This fall, three former Spartans will join BC, as tight end/linebacker Joey Luchetti and linemen Finn Dirstine and Ryan Betro all chose the Eagles after receiving recruiting interest from across the country.

Zukauskas downplayed his role in BC's recent recruiting success at LA, and emphasized that it has more to do with the Eagles’ own performance of late.

“I think one of the great things about BC right now, they had a great season last year and they’re a really great young team,” he said. “That’s what helps with recruiting locally more than my relationship, or Lawrence Academy’s relationship with BC football. It’s more about the current status. BC looks really great right now, they’ve got one of the best players in country [Dillon] and a lot of returning starters coming back. That’s going to really help with them recruiting locally.”

As for the next great one coming up the Spartans’ ladder? Keep an eye on Class of 2021 tailback Anthony Muse.

The West Haven, Conn., native captivated in his first year with LA, capped with an eye-opening performance in the Spartans’ NEPSAC Bowl rout of Phillips Andover, where the freshman speedster ran for six touchdowns and a school-record 373 yards.

If Dillon brought the boom, Muse most definitely brings the zip.

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