NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. -- It’s hard to look back on a one-loss season and not feel pride, even if that one loss made all the difference.
When North Attleborough football walked off the field after a 14-7 win over border rival Attleboro on Thanksgiving Day, the team members soon learned their season had come to an end. They went into the final day of the season needing some help from Franklin pulling off a potential upset over King Philip. After dropping an earlier decision to KP, North needed a game in hand to represent the league in the Eastern Mass Division 2 playoffs.
Even as the Red Rocketeers are in the midst of two-a-days, the memory of last season is fresh. But they’ve also turned a negative into positive motivation. After all, the Hockomock League Kelley-Rex division co-champions still accomplished something major.
But it was yet another season that ended on Turkey Day, the same fashion it has since Big Red last claimed a Super Bowl title in 2002.
“Everybody counted us out last season, and no one expected us to do anything, so to come out 9-1, “ Hockomock League all-star senior lineman Eric Beckwith said, “we’re proud of our season, but we just wish we would’ve went further.”
And so Big Red returns with a great sense of urgency.
“We realize now how much one game can mean,” senior captain Harrison Carmichael said. That’s going to make us all that much hungrier to win every single game. We don’t want to have one that we look back on that we’re not proud of.”
North also returns with much the same identity, a team built on pride with a stingy defense that applies constant pressure on its opponent. However, the Red Rocketeers have something in its returning offensive line that it hasn’t often had – size.
With stalwarts Beckwith, Carmichael and Sean Peters anchoring the line, they’ll be both experienced and physically imposing.
“Usually we’re depending on our scat backs to make things happen,” North head coach Don Johnson said. “I still think we have the speed to get to the outside, but I think we have another dimension where if we’re in a situation that we need a first down, we can just pound it out.”
When talking to a group of senior leaders in between double sessions, it was striking how much energy they had. Johnson is excited for the Class of 2013, a group that is exception off the field as they are talented.
“You just have to bring energy to every practice,” inside linebacker Reid Holden said. “You have to set the tone. You bring the energy, ready to hit somebody, that carries you through and gets everybody going.”
That intensity isn’t about to wane any time soon.
North enters the season with two great challenges, playing Rhode Island powerhouse La Salle Academy in its opener before traveling to Dorchester for a date with the reigning Division 1 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl champions of BC High.
And, of course, there’s that always-daunting Hockomock League schedule.
“You have to view every game in the league the same,” senior captain Alex Jette said, “that the team who makes the fewest mistakes is probably going to be the team that wins.”
NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH AT A GLANCE
2011 record: 9-1 (Hockomock Kelley-Rex co-champions)
Head Coach: Don Johnson (4th year, 27-4)
Players to watch: Alex Jette, Sr. RB/DB, 6-0, 170; Eric Beckwith, Sr. OT/DT, 6-2 ,275; Sean Peters, Sr. OT/DT, 6-4, 225; Harrison Carmichael, Sr .G/DE, 6-2, 195; Dwayne Hunter Jr., Sr. RB/LB, 5-6, 170; Reid Holden, Sr. ILB, 5-9, 170.
Strengths: Size and physicality on line; depth at running back; experience in secondary
Weaknesses: Inexperience at quarterback; defensive depth.
Outlook: The Red Rocketeers have a position battle going on in camp worth watching with senior Ryan Perron and junior James Kummer looking to fill Spyro Varetimos’ spot under center. North is settled in the backfield, however, with the multi-talented Jette leading the rushing attack. “He’s a great all-around athlete, so our offensive coordinator can dream up a lot of things,” Johnson said. “He can run the ball, he can catch it and throw it. The only thing we haven’t figured out is how he could throw the ball to himself.” On defense, the Red Rocketeers lack depth, but can always get after the quarterback. They galvanize around inside linebacker Holden, who stepped in that role midway through last season.