Published July 26. 2012 4:00AM
Jeff Larson, who led New London High School to three straight football playoff appearances, has accepted a job as an assistant principal at Classical Magnet in Hartford.
Larson begins his new job Aug. 6.
New London principal Tommy Thompson also announced that Duane Maranda, head coach at Bacon Academy for six seasons, has been hired to replace Larson.
"This was a very, very difficult decision," Larson said Wednesday. "I'm going to miss the kids. The assistant coaches. Friday nights. The absolute, utter support of the community. But at the same time, it's a chance to move closer to my family and take the next step professionally."
Larson coached, taught and served as athletic director for three years, leading the Whalers to a 29-5 record in three seasons with three straight trips to the state playoffs. New London made it as far as the Class M championship game in 2010, losing to Hillhouse of New Haven.
Larson also sent numerous players to college, leading what he believed was a vital academic component to the program. He was also instrumental in making principal Tommy Thompson's "Ninth Grade Academy" work. Ninth Grade Academy, essentially, allows ninth graders to interact only with each other for a portion of the day to better adjust to high school life.
"When we as a staff began, we looked at how many kids were registered for the (NCAA) Clearinghouse (required to play in college) and nearly threw up in our mouths," Larson said. "It wasn't just me. We had tremendous help. People like Connie Fields and Mrs. (Karen) Fischer (wife of superintendent Nick Fischer).
"We realized that as important as it is to win in New London. Getting these kids ready for life after New London is even more vital."
Thompson, in a statement released Wednesday night, said, "We congratulate Coach Larson on his appointment and are confident that he will bring the same passion and professionalism to his new post. Coach Larson has done a fantastic job for the students at NLHS and we wish him the best."
Larson succeeded Jack Cochran as New London's coach. He studied football under Maryland (and former UConn) coach Randy Edsall and Coast Guard coach Bill George, among others. His enthusiasm was the same at UConn as his days roaming the New London sideline wearing his trademark green and gold tie.
"I can still remember the days in Memorial Stadium when the last game those kids painted 'Larson' across their chest and the chant for him to go in the game … and we put him in the game," Edsall said of Larson once. "Just to see his enthusiasm and his passion … that's what's really unique."
Larson graduated from South Windsor High in 1996. His uncle John is U.S. Rep. John B. Larson. His uncle Tim is state representative Timothy D. Larson. His father, Dan, built both houses the family occupied, ran an insurance company, worked at Pratt & Whitney and now is the head of facilities at Goodwin College in East Hartford.
"New London is a special place," Larson said. "It's hard to leave. But New London has always been fine and always will be."