WESTFORD, Mass. -- The pieces are fitting together.
Whether it is the no-huddle offense, his team’s skill set or just the right equation of players, Westford Academy head coach Rich McKenna is achieving great success to start off his tenure with the Grey Ghosts.
Last year, McKenna took over the team after the departure of long-time coach Mike Parent and led the Grey Ghosts to an 8-4 season and a playoff berth. Although Westford lost to Gloucester in the first round of the Division 1A playoffs, the team’s statistics were impressive.
Before the season, McKenna evaluated the personnel he had at Westford, and decided that running an audible-based offense would benefit his players.
"I looked at the other sports here, and how successful the skill-sports were," McKenna said of the switch. "...I knew we had a lot of skill, so I thought we could play an up-tempo style of football here."
Quarterback Patrick Dugan had 25 passing touchdowns to go along with 12 rushing touchdowns last season. Dugan mastered the art of the no-huddle and was exactly what McKenna needed in a quarterback.
"Basically the quarterback makes sure everybody is on the same page," McKenna said of Dugan. "It all stems off of him, and he’s pretty much the straw that stirs the drink."
Dugan has a variety of weapons to choose from at Westford. Whether it is his favorite target Mark Cornelius at wide receiver, or returning running backs John Hennessy or Mark Ingalls out of the backfield, Dugan spreads the ball well.
"I love [the no-huddle offense]," Dugan said of the playbook. "It gives us a chance to tire our opponents out, score fast and put up a lot of points per game."
While it does not appear that he has the speed to be a top wide receiver, Cornelius is still very quick, and at 6-foot-3 has phenomenal hands. Last year, he and Dugan two hooked up for 17 touchdowns through the air; and with all the hype and excitement since, week one can’t come soon enough.
"We have our set plays that we can go to, but I can always look out to [Cornelius] and give him a variety of different options," Dugan said of the chemistry he has with his wide receiver. "We can always tell what the defense is in so he knows what I’m going to call and we’re always clicking."
Said Cornelius, "We have a pretty good chemistry. He knows when I’m open to throw me the ball, and he yells at me, I yell at him, but we’re good."
WESTFORD AT A GLANCE
2009 record: 8-4 (lost to Gloucester in the first round of playoffs)
Coach: Rich McKenna (Second year, 8-4)
Players to watch: Patrick Dugan, Sr., QB, 6-0, 200 lbs., (25 passing TDs, 12 rushing TDs) ; Zack Ingalls, Sr., WR/RB/LB, 5-11, 210 lbs. (23 all-purpose TDs); Mark Cornelius, Sr., WR, 6-3, 190 lbs. (17 TDs); Mark Hennessy, Sr., RB/LB, 6-0, 200 lbs.; Joe Donnelly, Jr., NT, 5-7, 210 lbs.; Mike Doran, Jr., S, 5-10, 165 lbs.; Mike Mizzoni, Sr., OG/DT, 6-0, 240 lbs.; Ralph Barisano, Sr., LB, 6-3, 200 lbs.
Strengths: Up-tempo offense, skill positions.
Weaknesses: Size, physicality.
Outlook: This year the Grey Ghosts have a lot of positions to fill at the offensive line. While the lineman they have now fit McKenna’s system, they are definitely inexperienced. However that may go unnoticed if Dugan can keep up the chemistry with his offensive options. The quarterback is one of the best in the DCL, and has a lot of talent around him. On defense, Westford is again lacking in lineman but experienced at linebacker and in the secondary.