Longmeadow High School has one of the most tradition-rich programs in the Commonwealth.
With a record 19 Super Bowl appearances and 13 Super Bowl victories, the Lancers have storied history that seems to grow every year. This year's Lancer squad will look to get the program to its 17th consecutive Super Bowl, but with a new playoff system and 15 starters to replace, it will be a long road to Gillette for Longmeadow.
Still, returning running back Max Chipouras believes the talent, and will, is in place to improve upon last season's Division 1 Western Mass. Super Bowl loss to Springfield Central.
"We have a saying, 'Tradition doesn't graduate'," Chipouras said. "Obviously we lost a lot from last year, but I feel like we can bounce back. We've been working hard to fill all the spots that we lost, and I think we’re looking good."
One major spot on Longmeadow's offense where change is evident is the offensive line. Gone are four starters from a line that averaged nearly 270 pounds across in 2012, and in their place are smaller, more nimble players that coach Nick St. George hopes will be able to pull and trap in his Wing-T scheme.
The lone returnee on the offensive line is a good one. Senior captain Mike Scuderi moves from left tackle to right tackle this year in hopes of sparking Longmeadow's feared ground game, and he believes a smaller line could be an advantage for the Lancers.
"Last year out line was a lot bigger and those guys where experienced, they had all started since they were sophomores," Scuderi said. "But we've got some juniors stepping in, and they're great athletes that are going to step up like everybody else… Our guards are going to be all over the field, and we're going to mix some things up. It all starts with the line."
"We have some really athletic kids playing line now," coach Nick St. George said. "This offense looks a little bit different when we're smaller up front, but we think we have some guys that can really run and want to block people."
While it may start up front for Longmeadow, there is also the question of who will run behind that line in the Lancer Wing-T. Chipouras seems to have locked down one of the running back spots, but all other spots in the backfield, including the quarterback position, appear to be open.
Senior Connor Ostrander started at quarterback during last season's playoffs due to an injury to now graduated Frankie Elder, but he will be pushed by classmates Johnny Falcone and Mike Metcalf for the starting job. Whoever wins the job, the other two will be plenty busy, as Metcalf has been working in at corner and Ostrander and Falconne have each gotten to carry the ball in other capacities.
"We're going to focus really hard on putting the best 11 players on the field that we feel can help us win," St. George said. "If a player is not one of our starters at one position, he very well may be at another position. We have good athletes, and we are going to utilize them to the best of our ability."
LONGMEADOW AT A GLANCE
Coach: Nick St. George (2nd Year, 10-4 overall)
Last Season: 10-4, lost in Div.1 West Super Bowl
Returning Starters: Six (Three offense, three defense)
Key Returnees: Max Chipouras, Sr. RB/DB, Connor Ostrander, Sr. QB/DB, Mike Scuderi, Sr. OL/DL, Johnny Falcone, Sr. QB/RB,
Strengths: Athleticism on both lines and experience in the offensive backfield
Weaknesses: Inexperience, depth and size up front.
Overview: Longmeadow has long been the premier program in Western Mass, but the Lancers enter 2013 with many questions to answer and a ton to prove. If they can find a quarterback or two to run the Wing-T, and get things sorted out along with offensive line, this team has the speed and talent to make some noise. But a lack of size up front on both sides could hurt the Lancers, and coach St. George is still deciding what defensive front the team will run. With Springfield Central poised for another big year, Longmeadow enters the season in an unusual position: Flying under the radar.