|Tri-County Regional Vocational's Steve Hogan takes part in drills Monday in preparation for today's game in Braintree against Lynn Tech for the division Super Bowl title. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)|
Strong work ethic aids Tri-County on and off field
For team: ‘No excuses’ and ‘just do your job’
Steve Hogan is a senior captain of the Tri-County Regional Vocational football team, its leading tackler, and a returning Mayflower League All-Star.
But there are weeks that he has been late to practice nearly every day. His work in the classroom is not the issue. And he is determined to be prompt. But every other week, as part of his vocational training, Hogan travels to Trethewey Brothers Inc. - a plumbing contractor in Roslindale known for its work on the television program “This Old House.’’ He earns an hourly wage remodeling bathrooms, installing water-heating systems and toilets.
Hogan loves the work. The pay is nice, and he hopes to stay on with the company next summer.
He just wishes he wasn’t missing the first half hour of practice because of his drive back to the Franklin school.
“It can kind of take away from sports sometimes,’’ said the Attleboro resident, who has racked up 94 tackles at inside linebacker this season. “But in the end it’s definitely worth it. We work hard enough at practice that we make up for it.’’
Hogan is not the only player on the Cougars with a demanding work schedule. Fellow senior starters James Veradt and Chase Mechlinski are also getting on-the-job training. They spend one week at school, then one at work, with football always waiting for them at the end of the day. Their classmates not involved in co-op programs also spend every other week in school shops, mastering their trades.
Although a few of his players have missed practice time, Tri-County coach Anthony Mazzola believes that the work ethic established in their co-op jobs translates to football. With an 8-2 record, Tri-County is back in the Vocational Super Bowl for smaller schools for the second straight year. The Cougars will take on Lynn Tech at 4:30 p.m. today at Braintree High.
“Some of them are working almost a 40-hour week and then coming to football practice after that,’’ Mazzola said. “It’s amazing the discipline these kids have, to manage both academics and shop. It’s unbelievable.’’
At Mazzola’s practices, there are two creeds that get repeated time and time again. Both are particularly apt for his players at Tri-County. The first: Just do your job. The other: No excuses.
“We probably hear those 100 times a day,’’ said senior running back Tyler Kaufman. “I think a lot of it has to do with discipline. When you’re working, you have to do what your boss or your teacher says. It’s a rough work week and you have to go to practice. It’s not always easy. But what coach says, goes.’’
A Bellingham resident who was the offensive coordinator at North Middlesex Regional, Mazzola molded a collection of players from 13 towns into a well-oiled machine. His “pistol’’ offense - quarterback in the shotgun 4 yards behind the center, and a tailback 3 yards behind the quarterback - averaged 24.5 points per game in the program’s first season in Mayflower League’s Large Division, bumped up from the circuit’s Small Division.
Kaufman, a 5-foot-7, 165-pound Franklin resident who specializes in heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning work, makes the attack go. In 10 games he racked up more than 1,400 yards and 20 touchdowns. With Hogan lining up at fullback and four returning starters on the offensive line, he often has a clear path to run.
Senior captains Ben Martin of Franklin and the 6-2, 290-pound Veradt (North Attleborough) are particularly dominant on the line.
“If everyone does their job,’’ Hogan said, Kaufman “will get into the end zone. He does his job breaking tackles and making cuts. If everyone does their job, then everything turns out the way you want it.’’
Tri-County carried the same themes into their week of practice before today’s game.
Lynn Tech features a strong running game behind senior running back Pedro Martinez, but the Cougars, and Hogan especially, will be ready. This was not a work week for Hogan, which meant he was ready to practice on time with the rest of his team as soon as classes were over.
“Thank God,’’ he said. “We need to practice more than ever right now. The Super Bowl is coming up.’’
No Super Bowl, but a good season for Minuteman
For at least 48 hours last week, players at Minuteman Career & Technical High in Lexington believed they were headed to today’s Super Bowl against Tri-County Regional.
However, after the discovery of a clerical error in tabulating team records, Lynn Tech received the berth instead.
“A mistake was made in the calculation of percentages for both Lynn Tech and Minuteman,’’ said Michele Denise, the athletic director at Blackstone Valley Regional Tech and the vocational division’s football chairman.
Minuteman did not learn that its season was officially over until Saturday afternoon - after its 18-8 Thanksgiving Day win over Mystic Valley - and a handful of players did not receive the news until Monday.
“I was sort of in disbelief,’’ said Minuteman’s superintendent, Ed Bouquillon. “Mostly because we had heard so much from the committee that this was it, ‘You’re going.’ ’’
Coach Brian Tildsley chose to reflect on the positives of the season.
Behind its captains, running back Tony Carreon of Needham and lineman Mark Martinos (Belmont), Minuteman finished with a winning record (7-3) for the first time since 2002.
“Now that the smoke has cleared,’’ Tildsley said, “we can take it as a life lesson.’’
Bouquillon told the players earlier in the season that if they made the Super Bowl, he would shave his head. On Monday, he kept his promise, allowing each of the seniors a chance with the clippers.
►Army Lieutenant Jake Murphy performed the coin toss before the Wellesley-Needham game last Thursday. A 2005 Wellesley High graduate who was a football and lacrosse captain for the Raiders, Murphy lost both legs in July because of injuries sustained while serving in Afghanistan. Murphy, a 2009 graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., was surrounded by seniors from both teams during the pregame ceremony.
Needham coach David Duffy recalled coaching Murphy in a summer football camp. “That really put things in perspective,’’ he said of Murphy’s presence. “It’s true: We live in the land of the free because of the brave.’’
► Framingham senior quarterback Greg Finley found a weakness in the middle of the Natick defense in his team’s 48-28 win. Exploiting a Red and Blue defense featuring six players in the box, the Flyers rushed up the middle. When Natick focused on the run, Finley threw over the top and hit Matt Cronin for a 15-yard touchdown pass to take a 21-7 lead in the second quarter.
► Hopkinton senior quarterback Mike Decina missed three games, and lost close to 10 pounds, because of mononucleosis in the middle of the season. But on Thanksgiving, he threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns, and was able to break the school’s all-time passing record in a 48-20 win over Ashland.
Coach Jim Girard called a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jason Dlugolecki “typical Mike,’’ as he scrambled in the face of pressure and found his third option deep down the field.
Phil Perry can be reached at email@example.com.