by Laurie Los Lee S-T Sports Editor 12/2/23
FOXBORO — Derek Almeida’s roots in Fairhaven High football run deep. As a baby, his mother would carry him around at games. As soon as he could walk, Derek was in the stands and on the sidelines, cheering on his father, Dana, the head coach. As he got older, Derek served as the water boy for the team. Once he got to Fairhaven High, Derek played football for his father.
“I was really excited about playing here in high school, and I was able to have some fun,” said the 1998 Fairhaven High graduate, who was on the sidelines his freshman year when Fairhaven won a Super Bowl. “We had some OK teams, but nothing like this.”
On Thursday afternoon, November 30th, Derek Almeida followed in his father’s legendary footsteps, directing No. 8 Fairhaven to a 26-22 win over No. 3 Salem for the Blue Devils' first Super Bowl trophy since 2000, when Dana captured his third and final with the team. “For me, it means a little more,” said Derek Almeida, who led Falmouth to the Div. 2A Super Bowl title in 2016. “I grew up two blocks from that stadium. My mother brought me to the games when I was 1 or 2 years old. I was running around the stadium when I was 5 years old. I was the water boy.
“This is my hometown. I get choked up just thinking about it. It’s extra special growing up in town and getting to be a part of something like this. To come here to Gillette and win a state championship for the town of Fairhaven, it means a lot. It’s unbelievable.”
Watching his son win his first Super Bowl with his alma mater was a moment to remember for Dana Almeida, an assistant on Fairhaven's coaching staff. “It feels unbelievable,” he said. “With these kids, it’s just amazing. The adversity we went through in the last three weeks with three games in 12 days with our injuries, these kids are so resilient.”
When Derek Almeida took over Fairhaven football in 2020, it was a struggling program with only one winning record in 10 years. His goal was to make Blue Devil football competitive again. “There is so much that goes into running a football program and having a successful football program,” Derek said. “You’ve got to create the right culture. You’ve got to find what is the right way to do things. It takes a lot of work trying to get the program better each day. It’s the offseason stuff, it’s the weight room stuff, kids playing other sports and competing at things at a high level. The kids want to be better, and they want to have a successful program.”
Derek set the bar high, and the Blue Devils worked hard to reach it and eventually surpass it. “I have never seen someone more dedicated to their craft than he is,” said Fairhaven senior quarterback Jayce Duarte. “He’s here until 11 o’clock working to put us in the best situation to win every week. He’s so dedicated to us.” Fairhaven junior running back Justin Marques agreed. “He’s changed the whole culture," he said. "It’s a winning program he brought over here. He just has a high intensity and love for the game. He puts in so much work that goes unnoticed. He’s just changing the program for the better, and we appreciate everything he does for us.”
In four seasons under Derek Almeida, the Blue Devils have gone 33-9 overall, won three straight South Coast Conference Gold Division titles, made three straight playoff appearances and captured the program’s fourth Super Bowl in school history. “It’s great to come full circle like that,” Duarte said of Derek Almeida bringing back what his father started. “Those two have changed the whole culture here and turned this program around. They sparked a light in all of us, and without them, we wouldn’t be here.”