Windham High has hired a very familiar face to lead its football program.

Jack Byrne, the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator since the program’s inception in 2009, has been officially announced as the second head coach in Windham football history.

“It’s very exciting,” said Byrne. “It’s exciting to know that I’ll be coaching Windham football for as long as I can. This is where I want to be for the long haul, and it’s great to know that we as a staff can continue working with the kids at Windham.”

Byrne, 36, replaces Bill Raycraft, who stepped down as football coach and athletic director in March after holding both positions since the school opened. Raycraft was hired as Malden Catholic athletic director in May.

“I cannot think of a more qualified and dedicated individual to take over the football program,” said Raycraft. “Jack has put in a great deal of time to make himself an outstanding coach. ... Windham football is in good hands with Jack at the helm.”

Byrne — an award-winning physical education teacher at Windham — has long been considered one of the premier assistant coaches in New Hampshire football. During his time as Raycraft’s right-hand man, the Jaguars delivered a 68-23 record and won the 2014 Division 2 state title.

A former Tewksbury High (class of 2001) and Tufts (class of 2005) football standout, Byrne began his coaching career with singles seasons at Bedford (Mass.) and Tewksbury. He then moved to Colorado and coached for two seasons at Summit High School.

In 2009, Byrne joined Windham’s first football coaching staff as defensive coordinator. He is also an assistant wrestling coach.

When Raycraft announced his resignation three months ago, Byrne began to peruse the football job.

“After a few days of being sad that Bill was leaving, I knew I would apply,” said Byrne. “It was a complex situation with Bill leaving, so it was a deliberate process. I wanted to do everything I could to stay here. And once the dust cleared and we knew it was official, it was exciting.”

Byrne admits the situation is bittersweet as Raycraft exits.

“I would have worked under Bill Raycraft for the next 20 or 30 years,” said Byrne, a Litchfield resident. “Bill has been tremendously supportive of myself and my family. Losing a coach and person like Bill is tough. We love him here. He built this program.”

With the football preseason now just two months away, Byrne said he and his staff will get right to work preparing for the fall, the Jags’ second in Division 1.

“It’s going to be a sprint into the season,” he said. “The advantage of (the hiring) coming so late is we can use that adrenaline and keep rolling into the season. It’s not far away.”

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Contact David Willis at @DWillisET or DWillis@eagletribune.com.

 

Coaching praise

Newly-hired Windham head football coach Jack Byrne has a big fan in one of the area’s most successful football coaches.

Tom Ryan, who is heading into his seventh season as Methuen football head coach, was an assistant at Tewksbury during Byrne’s one season (2006) on the Redmen staff. Ryan joined the staff one season after Byrne graduated from Tewksbury (2001).

“Jack was always very inquisitive,” said Ryan. “He wanted to know how and why we did things. I could tell he was eventually going to be a head guy one day.” 

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