Wolverines’ toughness prompts strong start
With 4:04 remaining in the second quarter Friday night, the Westwood High School football team was trailing fellow unbeaten Millis-Hopedale, 12-0.
Lightning struck, forcing both teams off the field for a 30-minute delay. The host Wolverines emerged, re-energized.
Westwood junior Bo Berluti took a direct snap, sprinted for the sideline, dodged a pair of defenders and dove into the end zone for a 30-yard score for the Wolverines’ only touchdown in a 12-7 Tri-Valley League loss.
“I think the loss will help in the long run,’’ said Westwood quarterback Glenn Parsons, a senior captain. “They’re a team we should’ve beaten. Everyone is angry. We’re just ready to start back up again.’’
The loss was the first for the Wolverines under first-year coach Ed Mantie, a former All-American receiver at Boston University, who previously worked as the offensive coordinator at Weston High School for five seasons.
“Millis is a good team. They’re going to go far this year,’’ said Mantie, who has guided Westwood to a 5-1 start and a share of the lead in the TVL Large. “They’re perfect at what they do.’’
His Wolverines have not been perfect, but thus far, Mantie has been pleased with the progress of his defense.
“The most points we’ve given up in the second half is seven,’’ said the coach. “That’s for all six games we’ve played. We’re able to make adjustments. It comes down to the kids believing in the system. For a first-year coach, it’s important and certainly our kids do that.’’
Mantie has focused on physicality, special teams’ play, and ball security.
“We pride ourselves in being a physical football team,’’ he said. “Being big doesn’t always equal being physical.’’ For eight seasons, Mantie worked as the strength and conditioning coach for the men’s hockey team at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
Hired in March, Mantie went to work early, asking his players to hit the gym three days per week during the summer.
“Coach has us in the weight room at 6:30 a.m.,’’ said junior back Brandon Rodenbush. “It was good for us. We just had to go and get our work done. We’re a lot more physical and stronger from that.’’
Senior Matt Cannon said the work in the weight room has paid off. “When you’re in the second half and you still have energy and other teams don’t, you really see all the work you put in the off-season,’’ said Cannon, a two-way starter at tight end and defensive back.
Mantie said that Cannon “has a motor like he’s never seen before,’’ pointing to a play in a 28-7 win at Medfield, when the host Warriors were on the 5-yard line, threatening to score.
“Matt was all over the field that drive, making plays and keeping them from scoring,’’ said Mantie.
Thus far, the transition has been smooth for Parsons.
“At first I was nervous. There hasn’t really been a downside yet,’’ he said. “Learning a new offense is a lot harder for quarterback. We have more complex shifts and motion. As QB you have to know what everyone else is doing and everyone else is doing something different this year.’’
Last season, with experience and size on its offensive line, the Wolverines ran more out of the I-formation. This year, Mantie has introduced a spread attack, with a focus on passing.
Former Weston coach Bob Desaulniers said Mantie is well qualified to be a head coach.
“He loves the game of football and the kids,’’ said Desaulniers, who retired after last season.
“He has a terrific way of earning the trust of the kids. He’s all business and works hard and expects the same from his players. If I was still at Weston, I’d miss him a lot.’’
He calls Mantie the “complete package.’’
“Put football knowledge, the love of the game and ability to work with the kids together. . .,’’ Desaulniers said. “To be off to a 5-1 start is really something for a first-year coach. It shows you’ve got the team believing in what you’re preaching.’’
The Wolverines have bought in. “We try and stay confident,’’ said Parsons. “Our main goal is to win [a Super Bowl title]. We mention it every day.’’
Before every game and every practice, every player will tap a sign hanging above the door in the locker room that reads “STATE.’’
“Everyone is thinking, we’re going to be bad. We want to prove people wrong and try and get the state championship,’’ said Cannon. “I just do my job every play and things will unfold. Every single play, I go 100 percent and just hit someone as hard as I can.’’
After the loss to Millis-Hopedale, the players vowed to work even harder, scheduling a voluntary captain’s practice and lift session on Saturday morning.
“The seniors decided we needed to be faster and stronger after the loss,’’ said Cannon. “We’ll be ready to play this Friday night’’ against Medway.
Blue Hills on a roll
Blue Hills rolled to 6-0, sinking Southeastern, 44-0. Vincent Burton scored three touchdowns for the Warriors while Jordan Rotman rushed for 111 yards on six carries, including a 74-yard score. The Warriors, sitting atop the Mayflower Large, are averaging 36.0 points per game while yielding 3.7.
Pembroke is 5-0 for the first time in program history after taking down Whitman-Hanson, 26-20. Coach Bob Bancroft was a winner again at O’Brien Field, but this time for the Titans instead of his former team at W-H. Jon Hooper paced Pembroke, rushing for 138 yards on 18 carries while scoring three times. Brian Tinkham rushed for 133 yards on seven carries and had a 60-yard run in the fourth quarter to set up the score.