By Cary Shuman
The city of Lynn now has five high school football programs.
KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate High School, a charter school located on High Rock Street, will field a varsity football team for the first time this fall and compete in the Commonwealth Athletic Conference (CAC) Small Division.
KIPP joins Lynn Classical, Lynn English, Lynn Tech, and St. Mary’s in the varsity football arena. KIPP will play a conference game against Tech this season.
KIPP’s varsity football program coincides with the school becoming a member of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA). However, KIPP’s ten other varsity sports teams will continue to participate in the Massachusetts Charter School League (MCSL).
KIPP Director of Athletics Anthony Grimaldi said the consensus was that the CAC would be the best fit for its new football program.
“We talked with several people and they said it was a good league for us to join and it’s a local league so we figured we’d be a perfect fit for it,” said Grimaldi.
Grimaldi said that in addition to the crosstown game against Tech, the KIPP Panthers will play Atlantis Charter School of Fall River, Minuteman, Nashoba, Mystic Valley, Chelsea, Greater Lowell, and Milford (in a Thanksgiving game at Milford). KIPP and Nashoba are first-year members of the CAC while Atlantis and Milford are non-conference games.
If KIPP makes the playoffs, it would compete in Division 8 North (formerly Division 4A).
The first football game in KIPP history will be Saturday, Sept. 9 versus Atlantis Charter at Manning Field. The team will practice at the Lynn Tech field (McManus Field).
Grimaldi said 50 students showed up an organizational meeting for the new team. Several players have begun strength and conditioning workouts at the Lynn YMCA.
The head coach of the KIPP football team is James Rabbitt, who has previously coached at Minuteman, Marian, and Arlington Catholic. Rabbitt played wide receiver at Framingham State University, earning his degree in Education in 2007. He played high school football at Arlington Catholic.
The KIPP assistant coaching staff includes Grimaldi, DanO’Connor, Joseph Jacobi, and Melvin Lark Jr., a former Tech football star.
KIPP will have former players from the East Lynn and West Lynn Pop Warner organizations and the Lynn Chargers organization on its first-year team.
“We’ll have a young team but it’s a very good mix from all four classes,” said Grimaldi. “It’s predominately sophomores and juniors.”
Can the KIPP team make a run for the title right away?
“I think we will be competitive,” said Rabbitt. “We have a lot to learn as a new program. A lot of kids have to learn the actual sport of high school football. It’s going to be a learning curve for everyone.”
The team, which will wear the school colors of black and blue, has already a preseason scrimmage against Bishop Fenwick.
The first football team fundraiser is scheduled for July 8 at Nahant Golf Club.
“We’re very excited to start a football team and be a new member of the MIAA,” said Grimaldi. “We feel the MIAA is extremely competitive and it’s going to be great for our kids and our school culture. We’re going to start with football in the MIAA and focus on that, and if we feel like it’s a good switch down the road, we’ll absolutely consider moving our other teams in to the MIAA.”
Grimaldi said he’s also happy that KIPP is now a part of the Lynn football community.
“One of the biggest aspects of this decision is that we’re very excited to be a part of the rich football culture in Lynn. This is a football city so being able to be a part of that is huge and we’re very proud of that.”