WESTFIELD -- John T. Allen left a legacy nearly impossible to follow.
When the Mount Greylock football coach stepped down following the 2002 season, the next man to lead the Mounties was going to forever be compared to the legendary coach.
The Mounties were just two years removed from back-to-back Central/Western Massa chusetts Division II Super Bowl championships. Forget the other 39 years Allen was in charge. The Mounties were winners now and anything less than a championship would be scrutinized.
Ten years into Shawn Flaherty's tenure as the fourth Mount Greylock head football coach, the Mounties are still winners.
In fact, the team is winning like no team in Berkshire County has ever won. Forget the historic 33-game winning streak that ran from 2009 to earlier this season. When the Mounties won their third straight Western Massa chusetts Division III Super Bowl on Saturday, they become the first Berkshire County team to accomplish that since the format began in 1972.
"I'm really proud of how far he has come and what he has really done for this program," Allen said. "I mean what he has done ... it is really something. I really do think everything starts with the head coach, he has a great philosophy."
If it all starts with the head coach, then it all started with Allen. Flaherty played fullback and linebacker for Allen in the 1980's, and the team's current lineman coach, Brian Gill, was his quarterback. Flaherty joined the coaching staff in 1990, two years after graduating from Greylock. He started as the running backs and linebackers coach, and eventually became the team's first assistant coach.
He never thought he would have the success he has had to date. Even the coach in which the football field is named for didn't accomplish some of the things Flaherty has willed his teams to do over the past 10 seasons.
"It was something I was going to try do," Flaherty said of winning three consecutive Super Bowls. "I wanted to always compete for a Berkshire County championship. I've been fortunate to have some really special athletes that have come out onto the football field.
"I couldn't ask for more. It's a great school, the student body is just awesome with the support we have. It's truly been a pleasure to coach here as long as I have."
Flaherty has led the Mounties to four Super Bowl appearances in his 10 seasons. He has done it with the help of Paul Barrett and Gill. The trio has worked together on the Mount Greylock sideline for 17 seasons.
No matter how many players he has on the field, he always seems to get the most out of them.
"He's a pure motivator. When you see that guy yelling on the sideline you know you need to do your job. Otherwise, he'll probably beat you up, he's just very intense and focused," senior running back Ethan Ryan said laughing after the game.
It's that focus that has allowed the coach to prepare his teams the way he has. Flaherty began his coaching career when teams were not allowed to video tape games. Any and all scouting had to be done at the game. He was charged with taking notes on every play in an effort to give his team an advantage come game day.
Now schools are allowed to video tape the opposition. If his Mounties aren't in action, Flaherty can be found at a Berkshire County game usually with his father, taping and watching for a competitive edge. While video taping now allows coaches to watch the same play over and over again, Flaherty remains a focused first-hand scouter.
"Coach Flaherty just puts so much time towards scouting teams and things like that," former Mount Greylock standout Jason Pilot said. "He has binders upon binders of cards and stuff about opposing teams and what they like to do. It helps the team so much because they have already seen the play and seen what the team is doing when they take the field."
Pilot rushed for over 1,800 yards in 2010. He was the first back to break the mark for Flaherty and Ryan did it this year. Ryan set new milestones for the Mounties, racking up 2,060 yards and 35 touchdowns this year.
Both backs are quick to pass the credit off for their remarkable seasons. While they know they couldn't do it without the offensive line, they also credit the coach and his staff for helping them reach those milestones.
The coach spent Thanks giving Day scouting Green field, the team's semifinal opponent. The trip clearly paid off as the Mounties routed Greenfield 62-0. Flaherty called it one of the more lopsided victories of his career.
"Coach Flaherty is the best coach to ever coach in Berkshire County," Ryan said. "He tells you exactly what you have to do to win and you have to just go out and execute."
It hasn't always been this glamorous for Flaherty and the Mounties, however. Things went south after losing the 2006 Super Bowl things went south. In 2007, the Mounties were 1-9. 2008 was only marginally better with a 2-8 mark.
Some might say that is what defines a coach.
"He had some really tough years and that is when you find out what your made of," Allen said. "Anyone can be a good winner. Shawn really kept that program afloat and when he got the talent he won with it.
"Even when the team was losing, Shawn never changed as a coach or as a person."
Flaherty and his coaching staff spent some time trying to make practices fun and keep the athletes engaged during those difficult seasons. The focus turned to fundamentals.
The team focused on learning how to properly block and learned the basics of the game. Flaherty calls himself a field position coach, and during those difficult seasons put even more emphasis on winning the field position battle.
For five of Flaherty's 10 seasons, he had the same player playing tight end and defensive end. Tyler Picard joined the team when he was an eighth-grader and has been a starter on both sides of the ball ever since. No player can speak of their head coach with the knowledge Picard can.
He was a member of the 2-8 team and he saw the turnaround happen first-hand.
"He's meant the world to us," Picard said. "All three years that we have won the Super Bowl, he's really had us prepared. Week in and week out he puts so much time and effort into this job. He really loves the game of football.
"I love him. He's the greatest coach I've ever had."
The defensive focus began to show when the Mounties became the most dominant team in Berkshire County in 2010. They have recorded 15 shutouts since the beginning 2010 season. The Super Bowl win in 2011 was also a shutout, over Lee 16-0.
This year they posted five shutouts, including two in the postseason. Despite the streak being snapped, this might have been one of the better defensive units for the Mounties.
"I feel like there might be some critics out there that might be tough on us and say well we lost a game, so the defense wasn't as good as it has been," Flaherty said. "I think the defense has been phenomenal this year. I'm a field position coach and defense is the number one priority. It's the pride of our team."
While Flaherty's career on the sideline is far from over, there is no telling what his teams will accomplish in the future. He has already etched the Mount Greylock football program into the history books and one thing is for sure: He's going to make sure he enjoys this one for a little while before he turns his attention to the 2013 season.
"We heard that blip about no one had done it before, so it feels good to have that," the coach said standing on his sideline at Westfield State University. "I think it's been a real historic season. It's unfortunate the streak ended. I always thought it was just a bonus. It's still a mark that is going to hold for a bit, and just getting this far ... It's always hard to describe, but I'm absolutely happy that we did something that hadn't been done before."