Ex-BHS Star Kent Now Martha’s Vineyard Grid Coach
Jan 02, 2018 09:46AM ● Published by Kenneth Hamwey
Ryan Kent, Martha's Vineyard Varsity Football Coach
Where Are They Now?Ryan Kent’s football career at Bellingham High was ultra successful during his three seasons as a center, guard and defensive end. Now, after his first season as the Martha’s Vineyard varsity coach, he’s experienced adversity — lots of it — in his maiden voyage on the job.
The 33-year-old Kent, whose squad had only 14 players available for the Vineyarders’ final two games last November, canceled those contests, including the Thanksgiving Day game against arch-rival Nantucket. His team finished with a 1-7 record before the two forfeits.
“Safety comes first; it’s my paramount concern,’’ Kent said. “I met with Athletic Director Mark McCarthy and Principal Sara Dingledy, but in the end the decision was mine. Football is fun but you have to be safe. We started the season with about 37 players, but our numbers decreased because of injuries and kids quitting or leaving because of disciplinary reasons.’’
When it comes to extreme situations, Kent has seen both sides of the coin. As a 6-foot, 185-pounder in 2000 and 2001, Kent played on two of Bellingham’s triumphant Super Bowl teams and was also the Lineman of the Year in the Tri Valley League as a senior. A three-year starter, his primary job at center was to get the ball into the hands of quarterback Ricky Santos, who rewrote the record books at Bellingham and the University of New Hampshire. Santos also played in the pros, with the Montreal Alouettes in Canada.
“I actually was on three Super Bowl teams at Bellingham,’’ Kent noted. “As a freshman, I had played jayvee football. I didn’t get into the Bowl game against South Boston in 1998 but I was on the roster. What I’ll always remember about Bellingham was the commitment we had in athletics and academics. I also competed in track and we won Tri Valley League titles.’’
Acutely aware that numbers are down for many football programs throughout the Commonwealth because parents are concerned about injuries, Kent hopes to reinvigorate the sport next fall and get Martha’s Vineyard back on track. “Our numbers are down because we have no Pop Warner program at the youth level,’’ Kent said. “There’s strictly flag football for youths. At the junior high level, we have football but there’s no main feeder system.’’
Kent hopes to promote interest in football by employing six-on-six or eight-on-eight games at the youth level within the island. New equipment and apparel have been purchased and he’s working with local businesses to spark interest.
“My goal for the next season is to have a winning record,’’ he said, “but my goal for the program is to improve daily and return to a prominent position in Division 6 football.’’
Playing at BHS, Kent helped to lead the Blackhawks to prominence. “Winning a pair of Super Bowls was a tremendous team achievement,’’ he said. “Being chosen top lineman in the TVL was a nice individual accomplishment and just being linked to Rick’s success story is special because he’s done great things.’’
Kent’s rise to becoming a top-notch lineman got off to a rocky start. He fractured his wrist in his last game as a freshman in 1998, playing for the jayvees. As a sophomore, he started at guard but was switched to center. On defense, he was a mainstay at end.
Snapping the ball effectively to Santos during his junior and senior campaigns led to Super Bowl victories over Martha’s Vineyard and Tyngsboro.
“The chemistry we developed didn’t happen in a year or two,’’ Kent emphasized. “Rick and I and players like Kyle Pendlebury, Rob Costello, and Mike Bissen started playing Pop Warner football when we were eight. Our timing was smooth but it was developed over a long period, and having linemen like Steven Prior, Ryan Fortier, Scott Barry and Matt Manning made playing center easier. I could focus on the snap because they did their job blocking.’’
Kent recalled the Westwood game his senior year and rates it his best effort on defense. “We trailed but I recovered a fumble and we were able to win it,’’ he said. “We lost only once that year, to Millis, and ended with an 11-1 record after winning the bowl game.’’
A superb student, Kent enrolled at Wagner College on Staten Island after accepting an academic scholarship. He played one year of football before transferring to Assumption, where he majored in English and graduated in 2006. Working as a teacher after graduation in New Hampshire, he eventually settled in at Martha’s Vineyard in 2012. He has a Master’s degree in education and at Martha’s Vineyard teaches phys-ed and special education.
Kent enjoyed playing for a variety of coaches. At BHS, he admired assistants like the late Ed Beland, Ted Rigney, John Pendlebury and Jeff LaRose. “John helped me so much at the youth level,’’ Kent noted. “He was a great mentor and my favorite coach.’’
Some day, after his coaching career ends, Kent likely will be praised by former players. What he did by canceling his football team’s final two games speaks volumes about his genuine concern for player safety.