After winning one or two championships, team strength cycles and coaches have a few rebuilding seasons before they make it back to the ‘ship. Longmeadow has won 10 Super Bowls in the last 14 years and Alex Rotsko does not plan on having a rebuilding season, and neither do any of his players.
“Some of our team goals are to go undefeated and return to the Super Bowl and hold our title against anyone,” said senior quarterback Jake Lazarus.
Last season’s only loss was a 37-8 defeat at the hands of St. John’s Shrewsbury in the second game of the season. The team’s only touchdown came in the third quarter on a Terry Norris seven yard run in the third quarter. While Lazarus threw for the extra point conversion and ultimately led his team to the Western Mass Super Bowl, the loss is not forgotten.
After a year at the helm of the Lancers offense, coach Rotsko feels more confident in Lazarus and that if the team is to be back in the running for their league and ultimately the Super Bowl, that it is crucial for Lazarus to be a more efficient colonel.
“He’s bigger, stronger, has got a full year of playing under his belt,” said Rotsko of the senior quarterback.
Rotsko is a big believer in transition time. As his players grow in age, he expects physical maturity, mental advancements and better play. This expectation year after year, in increments measured by their year and previous performance, creates a clear goal for the players to work for. A little praise for the success, firm objectives for the future.
“I think Jake did a great job of running our team last year…makes a lot of check for us on the line of scrimmage and is outstanding at that," Rotsko said. "I thought at times last year he had some inconsistency throwing the ball so we’ll be looking for more consistency there. We expect him to improve more and more.”
Lazarus said that he has been doing his part.
“During the off season I have attended multiple football camps and clinics," he said. "I have definitely become a smarter player due to that as well as hitting the weight room hard to gain as much strength and weight as I could.
“Preparation for the season doesn't start on the first day of practice but during the off season. The team coming into the season looks strong. Our expectations at Longmeadow are always very high.”
Junior two-way lineman Robert McClure, a 6-foot-1, 250-pound returning starter, feels very good about coming back as a junior and a champion, but is not content.
“I'm very confident in the team coming into this season. We've all been working hard in the weight room as well as our individual running programs this offseason,” said McClure.
Since the Lancers beat Springfield Central is in last year's Western Mass Div. I Super Bowl at Westfield State, McClure has been thinking about going back to the Bowl. The New England Patriots have opened up Foxborough for our 90 West brethren, where the Central and Western Massachusetts Division 1 Super Bowls will be held for the first time this December.
“With all the returning starters there’s no reason we can't work hard every day, and as long as we work to get better every day there is no reason we can't get to Gillette," he said.
Speaking as a veteran, with time in and time left to go, McClure lays out the blueprint for his team’s reign -- “Blood, sweat and tears are what built this dynasty up and we have to rise to the occasion," he said.
Coming behind McClure and the rest of the line is senior, three-year starter T.J. Norris. According to Rotsko, teams that planned against Norris last year will not be having an easier time this session. Even though he didn’t get to play in the last year’s playoffs, Rotsko believes that he rushed for over 2,000 yards over the last few years and that he is back in full health.
“He’s a talented player and we’re looking for him to have a big year. We’re expecting him to lead our team offensively," Rotsko said.
Norris’ speed and ability to cover receivers out of the backfield and off of the line have moved him to outside linebacker from inside backer. With a strong core at inside backer, Norris being on the outside opens up opportunities for Rotsko.
“I think he makes our team better if he can do that," Rotsko said.
LONGMEADOW AT A GLANCE
2010 record: 21-1 (Won Western Mass. Division I Super Bowl)
Coach: Alex Rotsko
Players to watch: Jake Lazarus, Sr. QB; T.J. Norris, Sr., RB/LB; Robert McClure, Jr., OL/DL, 6-1, 250; Stephen Krushnell, Jr., C/DL, 6-2, 265; Louie Claberese, Jr., OL/DL 6-1, 275
Strengths: Offensive line, running backs.
Weakness: Secondary experience.
Outlook: Rotsko is looking for growth. Super Bowl 2010 was last year, and he has a corp of young linemen back to maintain the Lancers’ dominant running game. With Norris back healthy, Lazarus back with time in the gym and training sessions, a sharper archer with room to balance out the Lancers offensive attack with a high-powered passing game. Krushnell, McClure and the line have to maintain their dominance opening up the running game for Norris, who once given space will make his way to the goal line.