Boston High School: James Kummer

Recap: Attleboro 34, North Attleborough 19

November, 28, 2013
11/28/13
9:54
PM ET
NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. – Hilda has left the building.

For all the accolades heaped upon Attleboro football this season, pulling itself from the depths of more than a few sub-.500 seasons in recent years, the truest bellwether to a successful season by the Blue Bombardiers is how they fared against border rival North Attleborough.

The Thanksgiving Day rivals, and Hockomock League foes, already had met in the regular season –the result of the MIAA’s new playoff scheduling plan. Attleboro won Round 1, but still, the Division 1 South tournament finalists wouldn’t have found true redemption without a Thanksgiving win over the Red Rocketeers.

Attleboro capped its statement season with a 34-19 win over Big Red in the 93rd edition of the holiday classic. The victory marked the second straight season the Blue Bombardiers took the “Hilda” trophy home to Attleboro and ends the season at 9-2, having made a playoff run which ended just one win shy of a Gillette Stadium appearance.

“It’s a new era in Attleboro,” senior defensive and tight end Luke Morrison said. “It’s going to be strong.”

Morrison helped the Blue Bombardiers to a fast start. Attleboro claimed a 13-0 lead before North (6-5) even touched the ball.

Following a 69-yard opening drive with quarterback Tim Walsh running for a 34-yard touchdown, the Blue Bombardiers recovered the ensuing kickoff. Set up on the plus-side of the 50-yard line, Attleboro again moved methodically down the field in 11 plays. Walsh (13 carries, 74 yards) had his second score in as many drives with a 1-yard plunge over center.

Nearly eight minutes had elapsed before the Red Rocketeers set up shop on their first drive. It was a brief one, however, as Morrison set up shop in the backfield, registering three straight tackles for loss, including two sacks of quarterback James Kummer (10 of 19 passing, 124 yards, TD).

“As a defense, we’re a whole team, not an individual,” Morrison said. “We all contributed.”

Morrison finished with four sacks and five tackles for loss. Attleboro’s Ryan Bowen was named Defensive Player of the Game while junior running back Damon Belin (96 yards, 2 TD) was awarded the honor on offense.

Despite threatening to run away with the game early, North clawed its way back to tie the game at 13-all behind two rushing touchdowns from Chris Hunter.

Yet, Attleboro was still able to regain the lead before the first half was out, with Belin running for his first score of the game (from 5 yards out) with 23 seconds remaining.

“I think everybody now sees that he can play,” said Walsh of Belin, who shockingly started the season on Attleboro’s J.V. squad.

The Blue Bombardiers parlayed the momentum into the second half, with Tommy Burns providing the capstone to a 9-play scoring drive with a 1-yard run with 5:16 to go in the third.

North had one last rebuttal, as Kummer hit Jake Lang on a slant for a 31-yard touchdown with 7:44 remaining in the fourth quarter, before Attleboro put it out of reach on an 8-yard run from Belin.

“We went down with a seven-game losing streak last year and we just wanted to up our work ethic,” Walsh said. “We hadn’t had a great season in a long time. And somehow beating North twice? That’s just amazing.

“I just feel like pride in the town is back.”

D3 Southwest: Oliver Ames 27, North Attleborough 13

November, 9, 2013
11/09/13
12:38
AM ET
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – The Oliver Ames football program is having an historic season. The Tigers already completed their first undefeated regular season since 1964, and, on Friday night at Muscato Stadium, OA added its first victory over North Attleborough since 1994.

Oliver Ames outscored the Rocketeers 20-6 after halftime and behind a punishing defensive line claimed a 27-13 victory that sends the Tigers to the Division 3 Southwest final.

OA head coach Jim Artz knew that his team was in uncharted waters at this stage of the season and was taking on a team that had dominated the overall series record. He expected his team to battle nerves early on and said that if the team was close after a quarter, then the Tigers would be alright.

He noted, “With their team speed and the way that they attack, we knew that the first quarter was really going to be tough. If we felt comfortable with where we were at and okay at the end of the first quarter then we’d be fine.”

He added, “We just had to wear them down a little bit because I think that we’re bigger and stronger and I think that we showed that.”

The Tigers (9-0) dominated the North offensive line from the first series, although on the second possession Rocketeers quarterback James Kummer somehow stood in the pocket and took a huge hit to complete a 32-yard pass to Dan Moore. North (5-4) took advantage of the big play and finished the drive with Jack Blasť running it in from five yards out to make it 7-0.

The Oliver Ames offense has been explosive this season and it was a big play by running back Matt Berksza (17 carries, 135 yards) that got the Tigers going at the end of the second quarter. His 45-yard run as the first quarter ended put OA at the North 11. Two plays later he finished the drive with a one-yard dive to tie the score.

Oliver Ames had the chance to take the lead before the break, but Nick Sanborn’s 43-yard field goal attempt, into the wind, came up short.

In the second half, the Oliver Ames offense started to click into gear behind senior quarterback Nick Cidado. Facing third and 11 at midfield on the opening possession, Cidado picked out senior wide receiver Reid Starr down the center of the field for a 50-yard, go-ahead touchdown. The North defender tried to jump in front for the interception but could not get there in time.

North head coach Don Johnson remarked, “We had good coverage, but he just misplayed the ball and it turned into a big play; caught us on the man-to-man blitz.”

Artz praised his senior quarterback for his ability to run the offense with both his arm and his legs.

“I’ve been touting him all season long. We used him a little more leg-wise tonight because they were doing a lot of slanting and trying to take away zone with Matt [Berksza] and we said if you’re going to slant that way then we’ll run back this way.”

North tried to get back on its next possession, but after reaching the OA one-yard-line, Kummer fumbled on a play that looked like his knee may have been down. The Tigers could not take advantage.

The Rocketeers forced a Berksza fumble and took over on the Tigers 22. Five plays later, Mike Lambert took a sweep to the right for six yards and a touchdown. A penalty forced the extra point back five yards and Connor Flynn missed wide left to keep OA on top, 14-13.

The Tigers responded immediately. OA went 69 yards in eight plays to extend the lead back to eight points with 9:57 remaining in the game. Cidado and Berksza rushed for 68 of the yards on the drive and junior Joey Tepper took it the final yard into the end zone.

On its next possession, the Tigers appeared to be trying to run down the clock. Instead, on second and eight, Artz took a chance and called for a play-action pass. Cidado threw a 31-yard strike to sophomore Sam Kelly (four receptions, 88 yards) to make it 27-13.

When asked about the play, Artz explained, “As long as they kept two high safeties, then we were going to run but we saw them creeping down and creeping down and they still had timeouts to burn. We could either play it safe or be aggressive and I thought it was the appropriate time to be a little bit aggressive and go for it.”

He added, “Sam Kelly is an outstanding young receiver and Cid put it right where it needed to be. It gave us a lot more breathing room and a whole different comfort level.”

Johnson was disappointed that his team was surprised by the call. He reflected, “It shouldn’t have [surprised us]; we know that is something that they like to do. It was just a poor play on defense.”

Down by two scores, North was forced to start looking downfield in the passing game, but Kummer was constantly under pressure from the OA defensive line. Chris Duggan, Josh Briggs, and Pat McNeeley each had shots on Kummer in the fourth quarter, as well as linebacker Tepper. It was a problem for which North had no answer.

Johnson admitted, “We didn’t do a good job protecting him to give him a chance. They’ve got some good, fast, strong players up front that overpowered us tonight.”

The win sets up an all-Hockomock League D3 Southwest final with Oliver Ames hosting rival Stoughton in a rematch of the Tigers' 35-7 win from earlier this season.

D3 Southwest: North Attleborough 35, Walpole 7

November, 2, 2013
11/02/13
12:20
AM ET
NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. – James Kummer and Jack Blasť each accounted for three touchdowns for North Attleborough, as the Rocketeers rolled 35-7 over Walpole in a Division 3 Southwest first-round game on Friday night at Community Field.

North Attleborough scored on five of its seven possessions and did not give up a touchdown until the final five minutes of the game. However, the result could have been very different, but for a huge defensive play early in the first half.

On the first play of the second quarter, trailing 7-0, Walpole was just two yards away from tying the game. The Rocketeers defense needed to make a play and it was senior linebacker Kyle Rodriguez that provided it.

As sophomore running back Steve Cuqua crossed the line of scrimmage, Rodriguez put two hands on the ball and ripped it away. North took over at the one and proceeded to march 99 yards on seven plays for a touchdown, which made it 14-0 and took all momentum away from the Rebels.

“It was a big momentum changer,” said Rodriguez, who also recovered a fumble on the opening Walpole possession. “Down on the one-yard-line, if they score then it changes the game. He had the ball in front of him a little bit and I just knew that I had to make a play.”

Head coach Don Johnson admitted that the North defense needed those turnovers, as the Rocketeers were struggling to contain Cuqua.

“It was really important at the time because I don’t think you can say we stopped them much in the first half. That’s actually something that we work on – getting takeaways. We haven’t gotten too many this season, but we had two big ones tonight.”

The North offense took advantage of the Walpole turnovers thanks in large part to the Rocketeers offensive line creating huge running lanes. North racked up 286 yards on the ground led by quarterback James Kummer (13 carries, 74 yards) and tailback Chris Hunter (13 carries, 118 yards).

The play of the line also helped North in the passing game with the Rocketeers line opening a huge hole up the middle for a shovel pass from Kummer to Blasť for a 22-yard touchdown that capped the 99-yard drive.

The Kummer to Blasť combination had a big first half with five completions for 78 yards. In the final minute of the second quarter, they hooked up for a 25-yard reception on fourth and 18 from the Walpole 35. The play kept the drive going and Kummer would finish it off with a one-yard sneak, which made it 21-0 at the break.

Johnson credited the experience of playing against the strong teams in the Hockomock League for developing his young offensive line. He remarked that the offense is starting to click and the Rocketeers were able to put together three long scoring drives.

He explained, “We knew it was going to take time and then the one senior that we had in there, [Evan] Sweeney, got hurt playing those three monster teams in the Hock. So, we finally got all our guys back and we’ve just continued to get better every week; it really showed it tonight.”

Walpole had an opportunity to get back into the game early in the third quarter after a Hunter fumble, which junior Jack Lavanchy recovered. But the Rebels went three and out and North took its next drive 72 yards in 14 plays, which ran out the clock in the third quarter. Kummer’s second one-yard touchdown of the game put North ahead 28-0.

Walpole head coach Barry Greener was blunt about his team’s performance. He said, “They beat us every which way to Sunday. They just took it to us; we just had no answers.”

Greener added, “We looked good in practice all week. They didn’t run anything that we didn’t work on; we’re just not very tough on defense. If our offense isn’t rolling, we have serious issues.”

Blasť finished off a strong day with a 31-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Cuqua broke one long run for Walpole on its final possession to pass 100 yards for the night (14 carries, 106 yards). The drive was finished by backup quarterback Brendan Chaisson to avoid the shutout.

Johnson noted that the game plan for the Rocketeers to was to try and make Walpole quarterback Will Bolster beat them in the passing game. Bolster finished 5-10 for just 38 yards.

“We felt like we had to stop the run first and put them in a position where they had to throw the ball,” said Johnson. “I think we did a fairly decent job of controlling their run game.”

Rodriguez added, “In the film, they were running all over teams; we knew they had a good offense. We knew that we had to have out best defensive game of the year and we did today.”

The Rocketeers advance to play fellow Hockomock League team Oliver Ames in the second round.

Recap: No. 2 Mansfield 35, North Attleborough 14

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
11:30
PM ET


MANSFIELD, Mass. – Mansfield coach Mike Redding is like a kid in a toy store.

But unlike a kid who has an abundance of toys from which to choose, Redding has an abundance of offensive weapons that are designed to dissect the opposition.

That was the case – again – Friday night as the defending Hockomock League champion and No. 2-ranked Hornets began league play by belting North Attleborough, 35-14.

“Miguel (Villar-Perez) is very valuable,” Redding said of one of his weapons. “He’s a good receiver and a really good runner.

“With Mike Hershman and Brendan Hill out there to cover, you have to line up your defense to take away the pass and it opens up things for Miguel, Chris Buchanan and Matt Bukuras. We really have five good skill kids out there. It’s kind of a rare treat for a coach to be able to call plays for five different guys and they all can make plays. We’re developing some nice balance with all five skill guys contributing.”

After opening their Kelley-Rex division slate with a win, Redding talked about the Hornets’ intent to become a more diversified offense.

“That’s what it takes in this league,” Redding said. “If you try to get the ball to one guy too much you’re going to end up getting beat sooner or later. We have the five guys and we’re trying to spread it around.”

Bombs away: The only Hornet not mentioned above was senior quarterback Kyle Wisnieski, who completed 11-of-16 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns (sans interceptions).

Wisnieski and Hershman were never better than on two plays, one near the end of the second quarter and the other midway through the fourth.

Mansfield was leading 14-7 when Wisnieski guided an eight-play, 81-yard drive that culminated with him throwing a 28-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Hershman.

Then, with Mansfield up 21-7 and facing a third-and-nine on the Rocketeers 23, Wisnieski unloaded a pass to Hershman who was so wide-open in the end zone he had time to write a term paper before snaring the ball.

“It was a combination of a lot of things,” Wisnieski said while explaining why Hershman was so wide-open. “They were coming with a lot of heat all night. They were blitzing linebackers. The line did a great job of picking up the blitzes and that’s where it started.

“We got lucky. With Brendan out there, he’s obviously going to draw a lot of attention. On the first touchdown they tried to man-up Mike and that’s going to be a tough match-up for anyone to cover Mike one-on-one. He was able to beat them on the inside. On the second touchdown, they were all over Brendan and Mike just came free.”

“Wis’ does a great job running the show,” Redding said. “He’s smart. He’s poised. He handles pressure and does a lot of great things for us. I thought the big one was when they scored and we were able to answer at the end of the half (i.e. the 28-yard TD pass to Hershman). That was the drive that kind of kept them at arms’ length.”

Moving the pile: One Green Hornet who drove through North Attleborough’s defense all night was Villar-Perez, who gained 114 yards and scored twice on 14 carries.

Villar-Perez, in fact, scored Mansfield’s first touchdown when he capped a six-play, 70-yard drive by taking a pitchout and sprinting 15 yards to the end zone.

Then, late in that first quarter, Mansfield capitalized on a short North Attleborough punt and Villar-Perez wedged into the end zone from the 2 for a 14-0 lead.

The Rocketeers countered with a four-yard touchdown pass from James Kummer to Mike Lambert.

But Wisnieski’s 28-yarder to Hershman gave Mansfield that 21-7 lead at the half.

After Wisnieski and Hershman hooked up for that 23-yard touchdown pass, Mansfield closed out the scoring late in the fourth when Buchanan busted 16 yards off right tackle to make it 35-7.

Despite the impressive victory, Redding echoed a note of caution.

“It’s only a beginning,” he said. “Next week we have to go to an Attleboro team that’s probably going to be 3-0. It’s a battle. We’re getting healthier and we’re getting better. But it’s a long road here in the Kelly-Rex.”

MANSFIELD 35, NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH 14
NA (2-1, 0-1) 0-7-0-7 - 14
MAN (3-0, 1-0)

First quarter
M – Miguel Villar-Perez 15 run (Alex Thompson kick)
M – Villar-Perez 2 run (Thompson kick)

Second quarter
N – Mike Lambert 4 pass from James Kummer (Connor Flynn kick)
M – Mike Hershman 28 pass from Kyle Wisnieski (Thompson kick)

Fourth quarter
M – Hershman 23 pass from Wisnieski (Thompson kick)
M – Chris Buchanan 16 run (Thompson kick)
N – Lambert 12 pass from Justin Gallagher (Flynn kick)

Recap: North Attleborough 20, No. 19 BC High 12

September, 7, 2013
9/07/13
12:52
AM ET
NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. – BC High had one more chance.

Down by eight points and with the clock closing in on 30 seconds remaining in Friday night’s season opener at Community Field, the Eagles faced a fourth-and-13 from the North Attleborough 31-yard-line. BC High had gotten the ball as close as the 24, but a bad snap had pushed the ball back.

Junior quarterback Sean Heffernan took the shotgun snap and was immediately under pressure from a North blitz. He rolled out to his right and decided to keep it, but his eight-yard carry was five yards short of the marker and turned the ball back over to the Rocketeers, who took a knee and ran out the clock on a season-opening 20-12 upset.

It was the Eagles’ sixth drive of the game that ended in North territory without garnering any points. Following the game, head coach Joe Gaff rued the team’s mistakes and missed opportunities.

“We’ve got to finish,” he explained. “We’ve got to make plays and we just didn’t do that tonight. Some of that is on North Attleborough. They were fast; they blitzed us a lot. It was a little bit of that and a little bit of us making mistakes.”

It was a game filled with turning points. On the opening drive of the game, the Eagles (0-1) took just three plays to get into the red zone junior running back Brendan Smith fumbled as he was headed toward the end zone and North (1-0) recovered for a touchback.

The Rocketeers would promptly march 80 yards on eight plays for the go-ahead score. Senior quarterback James Kummer, making his first career start, was 3 of 3 for 62 yards on the opening possession and found Jack Blasť on a play-action bootleg pass for the seven-yard touchdown to make it 7-0.

“We just can’t come down on the opening drive, third play, and fumble in the end zone,” reflected Gaff after the game. “Especially a young team, it took a long time to rebound. I thought we did really well tonight, just every time we needed something – we made a mistake.”

Kummer would finish the game with an efficient line of 10 of 13 for 131 yards and drew praise from head coach Don Johnson after his composed performance, but Johnson also noted the importance of developing a balanced attack.

“He’s got to be a dual threat for us,” Johnson said. “He’s got to be able to run and throw the ball and we have to put him in a good position. He’s not a guy that can just drop back; he can’t see a thing if he drops back, so we got to play action them. But that’s only going to work if the run game is effective, so I thought the run game was key.”

It was a North misstep that got BC High back into the game in the second quarter. On a Rocketeers’ punt, the snap sailed way over the head of Kyle Rodriguez, who chased it down on the edge of the goal line. Starting the drive mere feet away from the end zone, the Eagles would only need one play to score. Fullback Steve DiCienzo powered in for the one-yard TD, but the extra point was missed keeping it 7-6.

The Rocketeers responded immediately. Senior captain Matt D’Attilio returned the kick-off 43 yards to the 49-yard-line. Six plays later, he took the ball into the end zone from nine yards out to build the lead to 13-6. D’Attilio finished with 69 yards on nine carries and had three sacks and a forced fumble on defense.

With 4:29 left in the third quarter, following a fumble by Heffernan, North Attleborough had a chance to pull away, but Mike Lambert fumbled as he was about to cross the goal line. The Eagles recovered in the end zone and turned to workhorse senior running back Robert Harnois to try and get back into the game.

After 84 yards in the first half, Harnois would take over the Eagles offense in the second. After the Lambert fumble, BC High marched 80 yards on six plays, all of them carries by Harnois. He would finish the drive with a three-yard score but the attempted two-point conversion was stopped, which kept the Rocketeers up by a single point at 13-12.

Johnson could only marvel at the struggles that his team had with Harnois, who finished with 217 yards on 26 carries.

“I didn’t have an answer for it,” said Johnson. “They’re running that counter play. They ran it weak, they ran it strong, and you think that you have it shut down and he cuts it back to the other side of the field. We really didn’t have an answer for him.”

With momentum on the visitors’ side, North responded again. The Rocketeers moved the ball inside the BC High 10-yard-line, but the drive was in danger of stalling. On fourth-and-goal from the 10, Kummer rolled out and hit senior split end Dan Moore at the front pylon. It was right on the edge of the end zone and the official on the line signaled touchdown.

BC High would have two more possessions and both ended in North Attleboro territory, but the Rocketeers defense held both times. North’s linebackers and safeties blitzed relentlessly in the second half and Heffernan struggled to find open targets. He would complete only 3-10 (his first seven passes were incomplete) and two completions were for negative yards.

Gaff insisted, “I’m proud of my guys, you know, they kept fighting back. We just couldn’t get over that edge. We just couldn’t catch up with them.”

As the crowd and players streamed onto the field following the final whistle, there was a palpable feeling that North had proved the doubters wrong. Johnson hopes that his young team will not allow one impressive win to impact the focus for the next game.

He remarked, “We’re a young, inexperienced game with a lot of guys playing their first varsity game, so you hope that this gives them the confidence to propel. The danger with a young, inexperienced team is that they overreact to this one and they come out and flop in the next one.”

BC High will have a quick turnaround with a game next Thursday against Andover. North Attleborough will have its bye week before a rivalry game against Bishop Feehan on Sept. 20.
NATICK, Mass. – ESPN Boston preseason No. 5 Natick conducted a tri-scrimmage with Braintree and North Attleborough on Wednesday.

Here are some thoughts and observations from the three sides:

The Missing: The proceedings were in some ways marked by who wasn’t there, with each of the sides suiting up without some of their top players. Natick saw top receiver Brian Dunlap held out after he’d rolled an ankle during Saturday’s scrimmage. The injury bug also bit Braintree Saturday against Stoughton, when starting tight end and defensive end Derek Anson suffered a high ankle sprain on his final rep. Meanwhile, North Attleborough wasn’t without its own issues, as quarterback/half back Jack Blasť was limited by a hip ailment.

Full tilt: Even in Dunlap’s absence, the Redhawks looked to be near midseason form in the passing game. Troy Flutie dazzled with his trademark elusiveness in the pocket, scrambling around the backfield to make several first-down completions against Braintree’s top defensive unit. The offensive highlight of the afternoon came on Flutie’s 20-yard connection to Andrew Boynton, who made an over-the-shoulder catch on a perfect fade thrown to back right pylon in tight coverage.

Filling holes: Boynton’s score wasn’t his only contribution. He also lined up in the backfield in some two-back looks shown by the Redhawks. Natick is looking for a new feature back, following the graduation of Nick Lee. Head coach Mark Mortarelli also worked in senior Gus Black and sophomore Chad Kidd at running back on Wednesday.

It’s not the only positional battle Mortarelli was keeping an eye on. In addition to Black (also a starting OLB), he’s looking to junior T.J. Collins (5-10, 175 lbs.) to fill a hole, as well as senior Justin Montgomery, who also sat out the scrimmage because of an injury.

Working against North’s spread concepts and the double wing and Wing-T formations of Braintree, Mortarelli believes the exercise served as a good preparation for what’s to come.

“We wanted to make our kids uncomfortable,” Mortarelli said. “I wanted to see who could adjust, who could make the change playing against two different styles. I thought we did a good job overall, defensively, today.”

Step right up: North head coach Don Johnson also used Wednesday’s workout to glean a bit more information about his squad, which returns just a few starters on either side of the ball.

With Blasť limited, senior James Kummer had the majority of snaps with the first team offense at quarterback. He was working behind a new-look offensive line, which returns just one starter – senior captain Evan Sweeney, who slides over to left tackle.

The preseason snaps have been particularly important to the young line. Johnson anticipates a deep junior class to help patch the other holes on the line with Max Kroll working at right guard while Connor Ryan steps into right tackle. The battle at left guard is among the tightest in camp with Dan Kummer and Pat Munley vying for playing time.

Once the line has come together, Johnson thinks the Red Rocketeers have the elements to move the ball.

“I like what we have in the depth of our backfield and the versatility there,” Johnson said. “I think we’ll be able to show some balance and be able to throw.”

Keep your eye on … : Well, you can see him from about a mile away.

Standing 6-feet, 7-inches tall and 260 pounds, Braintree tackle Ryan Houlihan commands attention. The physical lineman made his presence felt Wednesday, particularly in the ground game. He’s not just a big frame. Also a basketball player, Houlihan has the feet to match, and he’s begun to gain the attention of college recruiters. A host of Division 2 schools have inquired about Houlihan, but Harvard has also expressed interest.

With a bruising offensive line in front of them, Connor Columbus and Mike Mahoney should find running room. Third-year Wamps head coach Brian Chamberlain is also looking for junior hoop standout Keyshaad Dixon to have an impact at receiver.

And, if all goes to plan, the Wamps – who haven’t experienced a winning season in their last nine – could break beyond their three-win total from a year ago.

No. 16 North strives to be one better

August, 25, 2012
8/25/12
1:15
AM ET
NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. -- It’s hard to look back on a one-loss season and not feel pride, even if that one loss made all the difference.

When North Attleborough football walked off the field after a 14-7 win over border rival Attleboro on Thanksgiving Day, the team members soon learned their season had come to an end. They went into the final day of the season needing some help from Franklin pulling off a potential upset over King Philip. After dropping an earlier decision to KP, North needed a game in hand to represent the league in the Eastern Mass Division 2 playoffs.

Even as the Red Rocketeers are in the midst of two-a-days, the memory of last season is fresh. But they’ve also turned a negative into positive motivation. After all, the Hockomock League Kelley-Rex division co-champions still accomplished something major.

But it was yet another season that ended on Turkey Day, the same fashion it has since Big Red last claimed a Super Bowl title in 2002.

“Everybody counted us out last season, and no one expected us to do anything, so to come out 9-1, “ Hockomock League all-star senior lineman Eric Beckwith said, “we’re proud of our season, but we just wish we would’ve went further.”

And so Big Red returns with a great sense of urgency.

“We realize now how much one game can mean,” senior captain Harrison Carmichael said. That’s going to make us all that much hungrier to win every single game. We don’t want to have one that we look back on that we’re not proud of.”

North also returns with much the same identity, a team built on pride with a stingy defense that applies constant pressure on its opponent. However, the Red Rocketeers have something in its returning offensive line that it hasn’t often had – size.

With stalwarts Beckwith, Carmichael and Sean Peters anchoring the line, they’ll be both experienced and physically imposing.

“Usually we’re depending on our scat backs to make things happen,” North head coach Don Johnson said. “I still think we have the speed to get to the outside, but I think we have another dimension where if we’re in a situation that we need a first down, we can just pound it out.”

When talking to a group of senior leaders in between double sessions, it was striking how much energy they had. Johnson is excited for the Class of 2013, a group that is exception off the field as they are talented.

“You just have to bring energy to every practice,” inside linebacker Reid Holden said. “You have to set the tone. You bring the energy, ready to hit somebody, that carries you through and gets everybody going.”

That intensity isn’t about to wane any time soon.

North enters the season with two great challenges, playing Rhode Island powerhouse La Salle Academy in its opener before traveling to Dorchester for a date with the reigning Division 1 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl champions of BC High.

And, of course, there’s that always-daunting Hockomock League schedule.

“You have to view every game in the league the same,” senior captain Alex Jette said, “that the team who makes the fewest mistakes is probably going to be the team that wins.”

NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH AT A GLANCE
2011 record: 9-1 (Hockomock Kelley-Rex co-champions)
Head Coach: Don Johnson (4th year, 27-4)
Players to watch: Alex Jette, Sr. RB/DB, 6-0, 170; Eric Beckwith, Sr. OT/DT, 6-2 ,275; Sean Peters, Sr. OT/DT, 6-4, 225; Harrison Carmichael, Sr .G/DE, 6-2, 195; Dwayne Hunter Jr., Sr. RB/LB, 5-6, 170; Reid Holden, Sr. ILB, 5-9, 170.
Strengths: Size and physicality on line; depth at running back; experience in secondary
Weaknesses: Inexperience at quarterback; defensive depth.

Outlook: The Red Rocketeers have a position battle going on in camp worth watching with senior Ryan Perron and junior James Kummer looking to fill Spyro Varetimos’ spot under center. North is settled in the backfield, however, with the multi-talented Jette leading the rushing attack. “He’s a great all-around athlete, so our offensive coordinator can dream up a lot of things,” Johnson said. “He can run the ball, he can catch it and throw it. The only thing we haven’t figured out is how he could throw the ball to himself.” On defense, the Red Rocketeers lack depth, but can always get after the quarterback. They galvanize around inside linebacker Holden, who stepped in that role midway through last season.

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