Starting fresh, Oliver Ames turns heads

PEABODY, Mass. -- The Northeast 7v7 -- or the Swampscott/Lynnfield Shootout as it was formerly known -- has annually hosted some of the top football programs in Massachusetts.

The event typically garners a deep field of talented teams and the programs represented year after year are usually those familiar with the postseason (think Gloucester, Longmeadow et al).

But this year's competition held at Bishop Fenwick High School saw a newcomer ruffle some feathers.

Oliver Ames made its first appearance Saturday as part of the event's biggest-ever field, featuring 48 teams in total. The Tigers might have flown under the radar some as they're coming off a 4-6 season in the Hockomock League's Davenport (Small) division.

While the Tigers simply didn't have enough to overcome Chelmsford -- which won its second title in the last three years at the event -- in the championship game, they showed they could hang. Albeit, it wasn't the down and dirty, 11 on 11 play that they'll experience a little more than a month from now, but it was a positive building block for a team looking for a little positive momentum.

"We haven't won anything, but it shows that we can compete," senior offensive and defensive lineman Alex Tepper said. "You can definitely take something from it. We were the second best team out of the 48 teams here. We're happy about that."

The Tigers have also performed well in their own passing league, which hosts several other Hockomock teams in addition to a smattering of other schools around the Easton area. Their senior leaders have taken up the task of righting their ship: building on small successes in the offseason so they might be better prepared to meet their regular season goals. And those goals are big ones.

"We want to win the Hockomock Small, win a playoff game and get to Gillette," Tepper added.

They realize that will not be easy, as rising senior Nick Hutchinson put it about playing in the Hock, "You can't take anybody lightly. Anybody can be anybody on any given night."

Still, for a program looking to get back to playing above .500 football, it can't hurt to shoot the moon.

"We didn't know what to expect today," rising senior quarterback Jared Schneider said. "We just wanted to show people what we can do. We played well and we got to the finals, so it was a good experience for us."

And they certainly captured everyone's attention in the process.