The Hingham High football team had their toughest game of the season against Chelmsford in the first round of the MIAA Division 2 playoffs.
But Harbormen head coach at the time, Mark Nutley, wasn’t prowling the sidelines with a helmet. He was watching from a hospital chair, helping his wife, Becky, who has been battling cancer since 2014.
That’s when he knew he had to retire from training.
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“That morning, I’ll never forget, she called me around 10 a.m. and she was like, ‘I’m not feeling well. We have to go to the hospital,'” Nutley said. “We’re sitting in the emergency room at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and I’m watching the playoff game and I’m like, ‘I can’t keep doing this.'”
Hingham ended up losing that game, 30-19. Nutley announced his departure to his team a few weeks later.
“It killed me that the team got together with them on Monday” after the end of the season, Nutley said after informing his team of his departure.
Nutley had been the Harbormen’s head coach since 2019, going 22-16 in his four seasons. He coached at North Quincy from 2013 to 2017, then served as Hingham’s defensive coordinator in 2018 before being promoted the following season when Jim Connor stepped down.
Hingham finished 8-3 in 2019, losing the Division 3 South final to Duxbury under the old playoff format. The Harbormen were 2-3 in Fall Season 2 that moved to Spring 2021, then went 6-5 each of the past two seasons, losing in the first round of the playoffs each time.
During his tenure, Nutley coached several players who went on to play at the next level.
“Cole Finney, who plays at Duke. Spencer Cassell plays at Harvard. Trevor Smith to Bryant,” Nutley said, rattling off the names of some of his former stars. “We had some really good Division I (college) players. Not too many Division I players that you coach in your life and I had three initially. Then we had Jon O’Connor who played at Syracuse.”
Although he never won a league or state title, Nutley still went out and achieved the goals he set for himself at the start of each season.
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“Unfortunately we never had a real championship,” Nutley said. “But our goal was to win our first game, which we’ve done every year and build from that and make the playoffs.”
He may have taught his players to block, catch and throw better, but he also made them better young men. In the process, Nutley received life lessons from the teens he coached on Friday nights in the fall.
“They just showed me that hard work really pays off,” Nutley said. “These kids wanted to be trained. It forces my staff to work harder. Everything we threw at them, they accepted.
Nutley lives in Marshfield, but he has received love and support from the community he resides in and the community in which he coached. Whenever a difficult time came for him, there were always open arms, and for that he was grateful.
“My son, who’s going to be in ninth grade, had double knee surgery, and the (Hingham football) captains showed up at my house with a huge basket of all the junk food you can think of saying, ‘We want Adam to be as comfortable as possible,” recalls Nutley. Her son’s reaction to the gift: “He was in heaven.
His son is expected to play at Marshfield High next year under Chris Arouca and his fast attack. Now the father who yelled at his players from the touchline will yell from the stands.
“I’m lucky to be that angry parent in the stands,” Nutley said with a laugh. “I’ve already spoken to Coach Arouca and told him: ‘You’re going to hear a lot of shouting from me. “”
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For now, Nutley will take things day to day, spending time with family just in time for the holiday season.
“Right now I want to spend as much time as possible with the family,” Nutley said. “Because we don’t know how long we have. We don’t know the end result.
But don’t expect this to be the last time you see the old Harbormen in the field. The passion he has for football and for young top players will never leave him.
“Obviously later on I’d like to come back to practice,” Nutley said.