BYFIELD, Mass. -- Third year head coach Jim O’Leary and the storied Governor’s Academy football team are riding an 18-game undefeated streak as they prepare to start the 2013 ISL football season.
Gov’s went a perfect 9-0, for the second consecutive year under O’Leary, and completed the perfect season with a 42-27 victory over Cheshire School (Conn.) in the Tom Flaherty Bowl Championship.
“These kids have the streak going and everyone is going to be gunning for them,” O’Leary said. “We are excited to begin the season.”
O’Leary knows that he will have a tall task ahead of him in replacing a veteran group from last season that included three-year staring quarterback and New England Player of the Year Tate Jozokos. The dual-threat quarterback and three-sport star is now a member of the University of North Carolina lacrosse team.
“Tate is a player that is hard to replace,” O’Leary said. “As a coach, you don’t experience many athletes at his level throughout your career.”
The job of following Jozokos as the next quarterback of Gov’s will be between senior Tommy Vailas and sophomore Seth Harrell. Vaillas saw time in the backfield last season for Gov’s, while Harrell was just a freshman backup in 2012.
“Those two guys are still battling it out for plying time,” O’Leary said. “They both throw the ball very well so I think our passing game may actually be a bigger weapon for us this year than it has been in the past.”
O’Leary will also have the task of replacing All-ISL performers Eli Morrissey (RB), Ryan Macri (OL/LB), and Colin Smith (TE/K).
“Those guys were all such important parts of our team last year,” O’Leary said. “We are certainly inexperienced at certain positions but I like our team speed and defense coming back.”
O’Leary is excited to return a number of veterans, led by three-year defensive starters, and pre-season All-ISL nominees Andrew “Bug” Carper and Jesse Gwozdz.
Both co-captains are Division 1 lacrosse commits, with Carper headed to University of North Carolina and Gwozdz headed to play at Fairfield University.
“Both of those kids are as good as anybody around,” O’Leary said. “They are kind of like our book ends, one on each side. They are both so athletic, fast, and tough and people notice them right away when they are in the game.”
Lineman James Leary is another co-captain and University of Vermont lacrosse commit. Leary and fellow co-captain OL/DL Mark Hoffman will also be counted on to provide senior leadership and to provide production in the middle of the field.
“James is a four-year starter for us and he provides a lot of experience on both sides of the ball,” O’Leary said. “Mark is another kid who came on real strong last year for us and we are looking for real big things from him.”
Gov’s continues to get great gridiron production from their lacrosse talent at the school. This season will be no different as Carper, Gwozdz, Vailas and Leary will team with WR Larsen Bidstrup and WR / DB Teddy Bettencourt to represent one of the top teams in New England lax.
“I think Tate (Jozokos) would the first to tell you that the reason why he was so great at lacrosse is that he played three sports,” O’Leary said. “We need to continue to do a better job at getting the multi-sport athletes, as that is where the big-time athletes come from. They compete each and every season and the type of speed an athleticism translates from sport to sport.”
GOVERNOR’S ACADEMY AT A GLANCE
2012: 9-0 (ISL Champions, Tom Flaherty Bowl Champions)
Coach: Jim O’Leary (3rd season, 18-0)
Returning Starters: 12 (5 offense, 7 defense)
Key Returnees: Andrew “Bug” Carper, Sr. RB/LB, 6-0, 196 lbs.; Jesse Gwozdz, Sr. RB/DB, 5-11, 193 lbs.; James Leary, Sr. OL/LB, 5-10, 190 lbs.; Thomas Vailas, Sr. QB/DB, 6-0, 182 lbs.; Mark Hoffman, Sr. OL/DL, 6-0, 210 lbs.; Tyler Harrington, Jr. OL/DE, 6-3, 240lbs.; Brandon Lopez, Jr. RB/DB 5-10, 160 lbs.; Seth Harrell, So. RB/DB, 5-11, 182 lbs.
Key Newcomers: Connor DeSantis, Jr. DT, 6-2, 330 lbs., Zack Coffey, So. WR, 6-3, 194 lbs.
Strengths: Team Speed on Defense.
Weaknesses: Inexperienced at offensive skill positions.
Outlook: Carper and Gwozdz will be counted on to lead a veteran defense but the two will also be fixtures in the offensive backfield where they will both play the running back position. Replacing All-ISL running back Eli Morrissey (Boston University lacrosse) will be no easy task but both veterans will look to share the duty. Second-year OL/DL Tyler Harrington, from Haverhill, is being recruited by a number of Division 1 teams, according to O’Leary, and could be a standout this season. O’Leary highlighted newcomer Connor DeSantis, who is a 6-foot-2, 330 DT as someone to watch. “He came to us this year from another school and we feel like he will make a big impact, right away,” O’Leary said. “Every game in the ISL is a tough game,” O’Leary stressed. “I do not care if you play a team that has no wins yet o their schedule, they will still give you some trouble. Lawrence Academy is the pick by some to win the league this year. They certainly have great talent. LA’s Chris Garrison (Tight End) is one of the best athletes in this league. I think he may have scored a touchdown every possible way last year.”