|Quarterback Patrick Finn led Silver Lake Regional High School against Minnechaug Regional last weekend. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)|
Aveni takes charge at Silver Lake High
New head coaches ring in the season
Shoulder to shoulder with his players dressed in red jerseys, grey pants, and black cleats, and fellow coaches in matching white polos and khakis stood Mike Aveni, ready for his first game in charge of the football team at Silver Lake Regional on Saturday afternoon.
Equipped with a headset and clipboard, Aveni was a picture of calm, and remained positive as he watched his team fall behind visiting Minnechaug Regional of Wilbraham during a 33-12 loss.
“My goal was to become a head coach,’’ said Aveni, one of five new head coaches in the area to kick off the season last weekend, joining Matt Luccarelli (Norwell), Brian Chamberlain (Braintree), Dave Flynn (Dedham), and Mike Driscoll (Whitman-Hanson). “I got the position at Silver Lake, so I decided to stay.’’
The last five seasons, including last season’s 7-4 campaign, he was an assistant on Dana Battista’s coaching staff at Silver Lake, serving as the offensive coordinator. When Battista resigned in June to become athletic director at Pembroke High, Aveni applied for the head coaching position.
Although Silver Lake dropped its opener, Aveni remains optimistic.
“The guys were battling and working hard out there,’’ he said. “Minnechaug is a senior-laden team. It was a good experience for them. I’m proud of the kids for hanging in there.’’
His goal as head coach is to develop a strong program, starting with younger players.
“It’s nice to work at the program levels of freshman, JV, and varsity,’’ said Aveni. “As head coach, I’m in charge of the entire program, not just offense anymore.’’
Aveni said he plans to focus on retaining as many players from one year to the next.
“I’m going to focus on the younger guys, even starting at the youth programs. We want to be losing less guys throughout the years, having strong players return year to year,’’ he said.
His strategy: Be more aggressive both offensively and defensively. With the graduation of 20 seniors, Aveni has only two returning starters.
One of the returnees, senior captain Jackie Hurley, said he is glad that Aveni stayed on.
“He brought a whole new attitude,’’ said the 5-foot-9, 160-pound Hurley, a two-way starter (back/wide receiver on offense; safety on defense) who is also the team’s kicker. “Now there’s a team-first attitude.’’
With a tough nonleague schedule, Aveni said he is hoping “we can stay healthy and make a run at it in the end, come playoff time,’’ in the Patriot League’s Keenan Division.
Luccarelli, offensive coordinator at Norwell for seven seasons, succeeded his uncle, 23-year veteran coach Jim Sullivan.
“Although I have taken on more responsibility, the transition has been pretty smooth,’’ said Luccarelli, after his team opened the season with a 21-20 win over Archbishop Williams. “Being an assistant and interim head coach has prepared me very well for this position.’’
Luccarelli served as the interim coach in 2009, when Sullivan took a medical leave.
Luccarelli has made a few changes, most notably in offense, switching from the Wing-T to a multiple set using the I-formation.
Norwell’s senior captain Joe Riccutti said all the players trust Luccarelli.
“Our sophomore year he took over and did unbelievable,’’ said the 5-11, 185-pound defensive tackle. “We never question any of his calls. We know he’ll do the right thing. We knew this year would be a special year.’’
The Clippers have already matched last year’s win total in a 1-10 season.
“Last year we only had one win so it was the best feeling coming off the field Friday,’’ said Riccutti.
Luccarelli said his team still needs a lot of work.
“I was very pleased with how we played [Friday],’’ he said. “We played a complete game, which we needed to do to win.’’
Chamberlain said he has had a smooth transition from Sharon to Braintree.
“Our biggest goal is to compete for four quarters,’’ said Chamberlain. “We want the guys to be able to play hard for 48 minutes and discipline themselves to get less penalties.’’
The Wamps fell 40-21 to defending Herget Division champion Walpole in their opener.
Chamberlain has made a switch on offensive, shifting to the double wing.
“Braintree used to run pro sets and spread sets,’’ said Chamberlain. “It’s a whole new animal for the kids.’’
Senior captain Mike Crowley said it was hard getting used to Chamberlain.
“It was difficult at first, I’ve been used to [former coach] Dave Flynn for the past three years,’’ said Crowley. “The fact that he’s a disciplinarian is good. He makes everyone have a strict work ethic.’’
Rando leads Walpole Walpole coach Barry Greener said he was pleased with his team’s 40-21 victory over Braintree.
“Braintree put up a good fight,’’ said Greener, “but in the end we just had better players.’’
Walpole junior Mike Rando piled up 196 yards on 13 carries, including three touchdown runs.
“Rando had an amazing game,’’ said Greener. “It was no surprise to us that he had a huge day. He’s really emerged.’’
Last year Rando was voted the Rebels’ offensive rookie of the year.
Dome win for Mansfield Mansfield coach Mike Redding and his Hornets opened the season in Syracuse’s Carrier Dome, clipping Christian Brothers Academy of Syracuse, 31-26, at the 2011 Kickoff Classic.
Colleen Casey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.