Eagles face football season with confidence, optimism

Joe Stafford '18, Sports Editor

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Applause.

Thunderous applause.

The roar of the crowd is invigorating, motivating.

Home field advantage, the ability to play on your own field, in front of your own fans, is one of the most important aspects of football. A true luxury, one that was not afforded to the BC High football team in last year’s playoff loss against Xaverian. The team suffered a heartbreaking 17-0   shutout in Westwood, bringing what originally appeared to be a championship caliber season to a close.

To make matters worse, the team also lost its annual Thanksgiving rivalry game against Catholic Memorial, with a score of 41-27. The team left the gridiron disappointed, and with a cloud over their heads.

But last season is history.

The team is looking to punish its opponents this season and, specifically, exact vengeance on their rivals in the Catholic Conference after going just 1-3 in league play last season. The team is confident, and not shying away from expectations.

Expectations are nothing new for this team, and certainly not new for long-tenured Head Coach John Bartlett. He had a few words to say on the team’s outlook for this season.

“In the big picture for BC High Football or any sport at BC High, our goal should be that we want to be the best … we strive to be the best in the state,” said Bartlett.

Forget the state, how about the country? Sports Illustrated ranked BC High’s athletic programs as the 10th best in the nation in 2007. This team is held to those standards every time they take the field

As the season beings, Senior Mukky Obukwelu (brother of former Harvard Defensive Tackle and BC High Alum Nnamdi Obukwelu) shared his opinion of where the team is headed, “I think the team is going in a great direction. We have a lot of chemistry and returning starters from last year’s team, so expect a lot from us.”

A sense of confidence is swirling around this squad. Most of that confidence stems from the fact that this team has one of the state’s top running backs in Senior Danny Abraham.

Abraham was the electricity that powered the BC High offense last season, with performances that amazed scouts and fans alike. In fact, the 1300-yard rusher impressed to such a degree that he has recently committed to  Harvard University to continue his excellence both on the football field and in the classroom.

However, as spectacular as Danny was last year, it did not translate in the team’s final playoff game against Xaverian. Abraham finished the game with twelve rushing attempts and gathered just four yards of offense. Coach Bartlett was quick to address this.

“For the returning players, the loss taught them one of two things: ‘What do we need to do next?’ … [we should be saying to ourselves] ‘Xaverian just did this, what are we going to do about it?’ It also taught us we need to get stronger in the trenches. [Xaverian] controlled the line of scrimmage last year and that’s why Danny’s stats and numbers were like that,” said Bartlett.

The battle in the trenches will be a bit more competitive this year as the team has beefed up its front five. Coach Bartlett raved about his new offensive line.

“We’ll have some new starters on the offensive line. I like how they’re coming along and where they have improved. I think overall from a strength perspective we’ve improved, we’re stronger inside,” said Bartlett.

Projected starters on the offensive line include left tackle Tommy Aicardi, left guard Evan Ohahbanwa, center Casey Roberts, right guard Sayvion Jones, and right tackle Jack Shanley.

Any football coach, player, or fan will tell you: games are won at the line of scrimmage. Whoever controls the line of scrimmage controls the scoreboard.

In the playoff loss against Xaverian, and also the regular season loss against St. John’s Prep, the team fell behind by a sizable amount. This is another reason Danny’s numbers were significantly less than his season averages.

As the clock ticks away in a football game, especially when a team is down, the losing team tends to stray from its comfort zone offensively in an attempt to spark a comeback.

Coach Bartlett understood this, and admittedly succumbed to that strategy in both games. “Danny’s carries were lower in those games and that was because we fell behind by multiple touchdowns. In those situations you have to air it out … you tend to get out of your offense in those situations,” he said.

Another perspective to look through in that game is why they were down by multiple touchdowns in the first place. Is the defense to blame?

Coach Bartlett doesn’t think so, saying, “I think against both of those teams and in those games our defense was on the field too long, and that was the result of our offense not getting things going … Those games were lost late in the game and that was because they were on the field too long”.

In both games the defense was suffocating from the lack of rest it received. It is unfair and unjustified to blame those losses solely on the defense because they were simply on the field too often. If for some reason there is concern around this team defensively, after you see this roster, that fear should be put to rest.

The defense is headlined by intimidating and aggressive players Franny Dooley (DE), Elijah Miranda (DE), Mukky Obukwelu (DL), Nate Stewart (S), Bobby DeMeo (CB), Luke Murphy (CB), Charlie Pyne (DT), Will Bowen (LB), and Eamon Walsh (LB).

All of these players had a role in last year’s defense, which helped solidify their knowledge in the system and made them that much more prepared for this season.

Coach Bartlett has confidence in his defense and is impressed with their progress from last season, “I think our speed defensively has improved and that’s going to help us win ball games.” Defense wins championships, and this defense has the means to help this team to a state title.

While most of the defense returns starters, a position on the offensive side of the ball does not—quarterback.

This position was slotted for Senior Matt Sullivan. However, Matt sustained a back injury that has left him in a brace and unable to practice or train most of the summer. Coach Bartlett commented on Matt’s injury.

“If somebody is out anytime I consider it serious whether it be one day, or weeks, or months. Right now it’s serious enough that [Matt] is out for the summer and the start of the season. Injuries happen in football, and I feel bad for Matt as a student athlete going into his senior year … we have to move forward, and the beauty of football is that the backups must be ready to play.”

That backup is Thomas Grandon, who started playing for BC High in the seventh grade.

“At this point, it’s so far so good.  Obviously [Grandon] doesn’t have game experience, but I think this preseason has been very important in getting him reps in scrimmages … We like what we see so far,” said Bartlett.

Of Grandon, Obukwelu said, “Grandon is quick, man. He doesn’t have that top speed that Cady had, but he can definitely get the job done.” Coach Bartlett also emphasized the need for a mobile quarterback in his system and feels that Grandon has that potential. “Tom can run, he’s proven it in practices and scrimmages … we like this offense, so we do need a quarterback who can run and pass.”

Coach Bartlett also hinted at possibly running Wildcat packages to help aid Grandon in his relief of Sullivan.

The road to Foxboro is not set. Each team must pave their way to glory. This program knows what it takes, having won the state title three times since 2000.

Nonetheless, Coach Bartlett remains grounded in his coaching. “To get to [Foxboro] you need to focus on the day-to-day and the little things … Focusing on getting better every day,” he said.

The team began it’s season against Andover this past Friday, and set the tone for the season. BC High beat Andover 34-7 in a rout that featured the team running for more than 400 yards.

Needless to say, support the squad has never been stronger. As fans, There’s just one thing for us to do. On September 15th, BC High opens it’s first home game of the season against Marshfield.

Be supportive, be prepared, and as our team runs onto the field, flood Viola Stadium with the only thing we can.

Applause.

Thunderous applause.

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Eagles face football season with confidence, optimism