BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- A difficult 2012 schedule made for a tough season for the No. 10 Bridgewater-Raynham football team a year ago.
The Trojans not only missed the playoffs for the second straight campaign -- after reaching the Div. 1A Super Bowl each of the two years before that -- but they endured their first losing season since 2008.
B-R took losses against Div. 1 Super Bowl champ St. John’s Prep, as well as MIAA playoff teams Duxbury and Brockton. They also lost to an impressive Stoughton team that just missed the postseason, annual Catholic Conference power Xaverian, and La Salle Academy -- a team ranked No. 1 in Rhode Island at the time.
It was a season that certainly didn’t go as planned for the perennial power, a program that won Super Bowls in 1998 and 2000 and is regularly a favorite in the Old Colony League. The results of last year, though, will not be forgotten by this year’s squad.
“These guys all remember how that felt last year,” said coach Dan Buron. “Guys here were frustrated by that. We know the schedule doesn’t get any easier this time around, so guys have worked really hard to make sure they don’t go through that again.”
In 2013, they open with No. 1 St. John’s Prep, No. 11 Duxbury and No. 15 Xaverian, so how do they avoid a repeat of a season ago?
It starts with a formula in the backfield that combines two impressive running backs, junior Brandon Gallagher and senior Arcel Armstead.
Gallagher, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound back who emerged as the top runner last season, will be paired with the speedy Armstead, who missed the second half of last year.
“Brandon had a fantastic year last year and he’s worked really hard in the offseason,” Buron said. “He looks great so far. Arcel had a very good offseason to, and he looks great as well.”
The two-headed monster has already been proven succesful by the Trojans’ week one opponents.
“Everyone saw how effective St. John’s Prep was with Alex Moore and Jon Thomas in a two-back system last year,” Buron said. “It made them very difficult to stop, because if you keyed on stopping one guy, the other could be used as a huge offensive weapon. It will be my job to find ways to get both of these guys the ball so they can make plays for us.”
Helping Buron’s two star running backs to make plays will be an experienced, and sizeable offensive line.
“It’s always nice to have at least one guy back who knows all calls to anchor our offensive line,” Buron said. “We have three of those guys this year.”
Shawn Whitaker, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound left tackle, returns to the Trojans trenches again this season. He’s joined by fellow returning-starters right tackle Nick Falconeri (6-2, 280) and center Evan Shockley (6-1, 230).
On the other side of the ball, the Trojans return a lot of guys who saw significant action a year ago.
Anthony Sullivan and Connor Regan with hold down the defensive end spots, while Will Fuller and Nick Whittemore will bolster the defensive line at the tackle positions. Devin Morris is back to lead the charge at linebacker, where he’ll be joined by Armstead for B-R.
“We have a lot of talent and a lot of depth up front, and we should be pretty strong there,” Buron said. “We do have some holes to fill in the secondary, but we have a lot of good players ready to fill those voids.”
2012 may have been a tough year that was tougher to forget, but with so many guys back in the fold for B-R, the Trojans are hoping to create a much more memorable 2013.
BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM AT A GLANCE
Coach: Dan Buron (21st season, 154-65-2)
Strengths: Offensive line, running back, defensive line
Weaknesses: Quarterback experience, secondary
Key Returnees: Brandon Gallagher, Jr. RB, 5-10, 185 lbs; Arcel Armstead, Sr. RB, 5-10, 175 lbs; Shawn Whitaker, Sr. LT, 6-5, 270 lbs; Nick Falconeri, Sr. RT, 6-3, 280 lbs.
Outlook: The Trojans are probably the preseason favorite to win the OCL, and should be among the favorites in Div. 1 South. Their schedule will be unkind again this year, but with a two-headed backfield as talented as theirs they should compete with anyone. Brandon Gallagher and Arcel Armstead will have to emerge as one of the best running back tandems in the state if this team is to compete for a Super Bowl. With that duo, plus an impressive offensive line lead by Shawn Whitaker, junior QB Matt Clement has all the tools around him to have a solid first year at starter.