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December 21. 2012 7:38PM

Merrimack High School football coach, 0-11 last season, resigns

Joe Battista said he's sure he'll be coaching football in the fall, but it won't be at Merrimack High School.

Battista's five-year tenure as Merrimack's head coach ended earlier this week when he submitted his letter of resignation. The Tomahawks have a 15-40 record during the last five seasons.

"I feel I gave Merrimack everything I had," Battista said. "A lot of kids gave me a lot. I just couldn't turn the program into a consistent winner.

"I started thinking about it (resigning) toward the end of the season. I thought it would be best to see what else is out there for me. I'm energized and motivated. I'm really looking forward to seeing what's next. I will be coaching somewhere next year."

The high point of Battista's five years with the program came in 2010, when the Tomahawks finished 7-4 and were one victory shy of making the Division II playoffs. Merrimack will compete in Division I next season, when the NHIAA will move away from a six-division format and place its 57 football teams into three divisions.

Merrimack was 0-11 last season, a season that ended with a 41-14 loss to Souhegan of Amherst on Thanksgiving. Battista, a 42-year-old Manchester resident, wasn't on the Merrimack sideline on Thanksgiving for reasons that remain unclear.

"No comment on that," Battista said. "Not going to go there.

"I left Merrimack on good terms. There are no bitter feelings."

Battista is also a member of the NHIAA football committee. He has one year left in his current term, and said he expects to remain on the committee. He was also an assistant coach for the New Hampshire team that beat Vermont, 62-24, in last summer's Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl.

Battista spent five seasons as an assistant coach at Souhegan before he became Merrimack's head coach. He said he has already begun to explore coaching opportunities for next season. Alvirne of Hudson, Hollis/Brookline and Souhegan are among the schools currently searching for a head coach.

"If the right opportunity as a head coach presents itself I'd definitely take a look at it," Battista said. "Head coach or assistant - I don't have a preference at this point.

"I'd just like to move on and take another challenge. I'm very eager to get a group of football players and coach them up again."

rbrown@unionleader.com

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