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City league gets back to football

Posted by Justin Rice  August 20, 2012 05:17 PM

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Billy Owens / For the Boston Globe

Brighton linebacker Torry Johnson runs through drills on the first day of football practice on Monday in Cleveland Circle.

Football is back in Boston.

And Monday's opening day of training camp marked major new beginnings at several city league programs.

Besides being the first day of practice for new coaches at Brighton High, Charlestown High and West Roxbury High, Monday was the first ever football practice for New Mission High.

New Mission secured a football program after it was announced last school year that the school would move from Mission Hill to the former Hyde Park Education Complex.

About 13 New Mission students participated in practice at Ross Field on Monday.

“This is surreal,” said New Mission coach Michael Pittman Forman, who used to coach at Cathedral High in the South End. ”I’ve been in Boston for a while and I’ve wanted to get into the city [league] and coach. It feels surreal and I’m happy for the turnout we have right now. It’s a little low but we should be getting more guys.”

Known for their formidable basketball teams, the Titans looked athletic as they ran through conditioning drills on Monday morning.

“Once we start running with helmets and shoulder pads we’ll see if they are football players,” Pittman Forman said. “I have a feeling it’s going to be great. Everything starts with baby steps and we’re taking baby steps right now. We’ll see how it goes from this point on.”

Over in West Roxbury, another new era of football started as Derek Wright was in place as head coach instead of Leo Sybertz. The 74-year-old retired after the 2007 season only to return for the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

Wright served as Sybertz' assistant for two seasons.

“It was a restless night, the anxiety, now it’s all on my shoulders to be the head guy,” Wright said.

The Raiders junior quarterback David Bertucci said it was strange without Sybertz at practice on Monday.

“But I’ve been with these coaches since I was a freshman and I love them all to death,” he said. “But you can’t really replace a coach Sy, it’s always tough. Coach Wright coached me since JV year so I’ve been under his tutelage. It’s always good working with a coach you’ve worked with before. It makes everything easier. I’m happy they made Coach Wright head coach, I wouldn’t want anyone else to be head coach.”

Bertucci also said it’s a little tough coming back to practice and conditioning because it means summer is over and school is about to start.

“But the football helps to remove that pit [in your stomach] and makes everything better,” said Buertucci, whose father played at Westie in the 1980s and is an assistant for the Raiders. “I’m just happy to be back. I’ve been waiting for this since the last game of the year last year against Brighton. We finished off strong and we have a good group of guys here and we’re hoping to go deep in the playoffs.”

At Brighton’s camp in Cleveland Circle on Monday, longtime Bengals’ assistant Randolph Abraham officially took over the reins from James “Timo” Philip, who retired last year after coaching the Bengals for 30 years.

Abraham played for Philip until 2000 and became his assistant coach after graduating from Nichole’s College in 2004.

“It feels awesome, this is a dream of mine, I’ve wanted to do since I was a student here,” he said. “It’s going to be a grind but I think we’ve got great coaching.”

Last week Abraham joked that he wouldn’t be surprised if Philip turned up at the first day of practice. While Philip was a no show on Monday, Abraham joked that Philip would "hate" how organized practice is.

“He likes to roll with it,” Abraham said of Philip. “Me, I’m the opposite. We’re very organized and precise as you can see. We’re getting a lot done today. It feels like we’ve been here for four hours but we’ve only been here for two. They’re working.”

During the first week of Brighton’s practice last year, Brighton's star tight end Prince Unaegbu suffered a dislocating wrist and played most of the season with a cast on his forearm.

“It feels good, I’ve been waiting all year for this," the 6-foot-6, 240-pounder said. "When I came in today it felt like I was getting ready for a game or something.”

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

About Boston Public Schools Sports Blog

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Several reporters, editors and correspondents contribute updates, news and features to the BPS Sports Blog:
  • Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
  • Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at butler.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.
Also expect updates from Boston.com High School sports editor Zuri Berry and the Globe staff.
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