If you liked week three of the city soccer season it will only get better as we look ahead to this week, and maybe with sunny skies.
No. 1. Latin Academy at East Boston, 3:30 p.m., Thursday.
Despite having a young team, East Boston is playing with confidence. Even coach Lorenzo Di Benedetto thought they’d have trouble Saturday beating suburban Malden, a team full of Greater Boston League-tested seniors. Although the Jets are young they clearly have great skill, as they came out victorious, 1-0.
They aren’t undefeated, but Latin Academy also gets stronger by the week. The Dragons tied O’Bryant Tuesday but defeated South Boston, 5-1, Thursday and even Dedham, 5-1, Saturday.
The competition will be fierce with Latin Academy looking to end East Boston’s flawless record.
No. 2 O’Bryant at Madison Park, 3:30 p.m., Tuesday.
O’Bryant also continues to conquer, even outside of the city. They tied Latin Academy 2-2 Tuesday, shut out Snowden, 3-0, Thursday and blanked Revere, 3-0, Saturday. Coach Ian Doreian commented that his forwards played hard all week and that won't change Tuesday.
Madison Park has been the team to beat for the past three years. Since they’re undefeated this season, it looks like things haven’t changed much. With O’Bryant on a winning streak, however, it just might.
No. 3 C.A.S.H. at Randolph, 3:30 p.m., Wednesday.
C.A.S.H. has one loss this season, its first match against Latin Academy. Since then they’ve improved with two wins this week, 4-1 on Tuesday against South Boston and 2-1 on Thursday against Charlestown.
Randolph has three losses, but suburban teams are known to be competitive. We'll see if C.A.S.H. can pull off another win outside of the city, like O’Bryant and East Boston did this week.
No. 1 New Mission vs. Latin Academy at Reservation Field at 3:30 p.m., Monday.
New Mission continues to thrive in the city. Although both contenders played hard they were no match for New Mission. New Mission beat Burke Wednesday 3-0 and Brighton Thursday, 2-0.
Latin Academy also has been doing well in the city, but things changed when they played in the suburbs. The Dragons lost to North Quincy, 8-0, on Wednesday, but shut out Snowden, 7-0, the day before.
Latin Academy definitely learned from their disappointing experience with North Quincy. It’s likely they’ll have a few new tricks for New Mission on Monday.
No. 2 C.A.S.H at East Boston at 3:30 p.m., Monday.
East Boston shut out Charlestown, 5-0, on Tuesday and Dorchester 3-0 on Friday, but suffered a tough loss to Everett Wednesday.
C.A.S.H. has been having a rocky season, but shut out Madison Park on Wednesday, 6-0. Coach Amy Offret is confident the team will channel their new-found confidence in Monday’s match against the Jets. C.A.S.H. could be a new team to watch with a win over the Jets.
No. 3 Brighton at Madison Park, 3:30 p.m., Friday.
Brighton was on a winning streak in the past week, but undefeated New Mission put an end to it this week, 2-0. It was a tough loss for Brighton, as they were looking to retrieve their former title as the strongest girls team in the city league.
Madison Park had a disappointing week as well. They lost to C.A.S.H, 6-0, on Wednesday, but coach Adelina Da Silva still thinks her team has what it takes to beat Brighton. We’ll see if the recent losses affect their play this week.
It was another strong week in BPS soccer, with impressive plays for the both boys and girls teams.
Latin Academy played South Boston on a soggy Saturday and freshman forward Vilder Joachim played a big role in its 5-1 win. In the second half, Joachim picked up the ball on the right corner and powerfully struck it into the left corner, low to the ground.
“I’ve been begging them to keep the ball low,” coach Dennis Allen said. “This was one of those [plays] where the execution was what I had been asking them to do.”
O’Bryant had a great week. They dominated Revere, 3-0, Saturday, beat Snowden, 3-0, Thursday and tied Latin Academy Tuesday. Sophomore David Lopera had two goals this week, but one, coach Ian Doreian says, was exceptional.
“He shot from 18 yards down,” he said, “and just absolutely buried it.”
Brighton played only one match this week, Tuesday against Burke, but coach Adrian Kawuba called it the most exciting of the season.
By the end of the first half, Brighton was down, 3-1. Their confidence didn’t waiver in the second half however, as Rossel Cacho scored from a powerful cross from senior forward Gustavo Silva. Cacho added a second goal later.
“It was the best goal I’ve seen in awhile,” Kawuba said. “He headed the ball in. I don’t know how he managed to get the ball into the corner. It was unbelievable.”
Sophomore Vinicus Cordeiro also had a fantastic goal from 35 yards out off a free kick that ended up being the game-winner for Brighton, 4-3.
Last Friday East Boston went to the suburbs in a match against Malden. They won 1-0 in a game that coach Lorenzo Di Benedetto called “clean and well matched,” But one play stuck out.
Freshman forward Sebastian Toro scored the only goal after picking up the ball 30 yards out. He passed all of the defenders and rushed the goalie, who saved the ball at his first attempt. He went in for the rebound and tucked in a beautiful goal.
Madison Park shut out Burke, 6-0, Friday thanks to many fantastic plays. Senior forward Heidymara Gomes executed a beautiful goal from the middle of the field after an assist from senior forward Dulcelina Tavares.
“They’ve played together for a while, since they were freshmen,” coach Adelina Da Silva said, “So they know each other well and make beautiful plays.”
Even a defender had a goal against Burke. Senior Ashley Chavez recovered the ball from Gomes and scored all the way from Madison’s side of the field.
Even though Dorchester lost to O’Bryant, 7-2, coach Allison Cohn is proud of the way her team played. The first goal was by senior forward Mirlande Philogene, after recovering the ball with her head. She then dribbled up past the defenders and scored in an impressive shot to the right corner.
This week East Boston’s power was in its underclassmen. Forward Mariah Roberts showed great skill in Tuesday’s 5-0 shut out against Charlestown – and she’s only a freshman. She had an impressive goal in the second half after she passed two defenders, as well as a gorgeous assist to sophomore midfielder Ruth Rivas.
Although Charlestown lost East Boston, sophomore forward Sara Centeio was the most dedicated player on the field. Despite being down by 5 with no subs at the end of the second half, she powered down the field and passed every defender. She couldn’t execute however, as East Boston’s sophomore keeper Brittany Blancato blocked her shot.
Brighton High had a tough time in practice this week and an even tougher time with Greater Lawrence on Friday night.
Several Brighton offensive lineman and senior running back Ricardo Edwards were banged up heading into the 41-12 loss that was moved from White Stadium to Madison Park because of the rain. The Bengals, who moved the ball with ease in a 45-38 loss to Martha’s Vineyard last week, struggled to establish their run game against Greater Lawrence.
“We really had a poor week of practice and it showed in the field,” Brighton coach Randolph Abraham said. “Hopefully we’ll come together and put this behind us and play the kind of football we know we can play.”
Greater Lawrence coach Tony Sarkis said he made sure to focus on stopping Edwards after he saw that that the bruising running back scorched the Vineyard for a 90-yard kickoff return and a 45-yard TD run last week.
“We just wanted to make sure we kept their offense off the field and we grinded it out,” Sarkis said. “They have a lot of good athletes and they run the ball well. We wanted to make sure we kept them off the field and we accomplished that today.”
Edwards, who had 143 yards on nine carries last week, bruised his hand during practice this week and sprained his ankle during the second quarter on Friday night.
“And so he was playing timid the whole time,” Abraham said. “They brought everything on us, they stopped the run.”
The Bengals (1-2) struggled even more to stop Greater Lawrence’s ground game. Senior tailback Cristian Rivera scored three touchdowns for Greater Lawrence (3-1), including a a 25-yard TD to take a quick 7-0 lead.
“He’s one of the better running backs in the state,” Sarkis said. “That’s my opinion, and he showed it today.”
Greater Lawrence senior quarterback Marcus Ortiz ran in two touchdowns, including a 75-yard romp to go up 27-0 late in the first half.
Just before halftime, Brighton got on the board after a 34-yard TD pass from junior Jalen Apperwhite to senior wide receiver Damian Robinson. The duo hooked up again for a 40-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Brighton’s second TD pass came after Apperwhite threw his third interception of the night, which Jeremy Torres returned 43 yards to put Greater Lawrence up, 41-6.
Nevertheless, Apperwhite managed to keep his head up.
“We were getting killed out there,” Apperwhite said. “As the quarterback you gotta let the guys know to stay calm and stay in it. Damian and I connected on two touchdowns, we kept the team together, we’re starting to come together.
“The first two weeks we came into it thinking we'll do it; people were missing practice and stuff was happening. We finally see it’s time for us to wake up, we need to come together. And by me and my other teammates staying together and not yelling at each other, we managed to go out as brothers.”
Pavel Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe
The rain poured and the wind howled Friday afternoon during the Boston English and South Boston football game, but both teams played hard.
English shut out Southie, 14-0, with all the scoring coming in the first half.
“We lacked on defense and that really hurt us,” South Boston coach Sean Guthrie said.
“The guys were a little overconfident and they were shooting down the field instead of buckling down.”
English started fast with freshman running back Stanley Vargas aiming to score on the opening drive. He rushed for 46 yards on the opening drive and capped it off with a 23 yard touchdown run.
Junior quarterback Dhe’Jour Relerford had a successful 2-point conversion in a run from 2 yards out.
South Boston fumbled the ball on its first possession and English recovered.
At the beginning of the second quarter, South Boston attempted to punt from their 27-yard-line but was blocked and English's Francis Okoyo recovered it on the 11. The senior running back went on to score a touchdown on a 6-yard run, although his 2-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
Both shared multiple three and outs as the defenses held strong for both teams in the second half.
Although South Boston came out unsuccessful, South Boston junior linebacker Sean Hunter had a strong performance.
Even with the shutout, English coach Chris Boswell believes his team still has room to improve.
“We got the shutout and we’re getting better,” he said. “But we still have a lot to do.”
If you didn’t already know, the Dorchester Bears are legitimate in 2012 — and so is senior rusher Robinson Cyprien.
Dorchester, with a convincing 36-24 win over Latin Academy (2-2) in Thursday’s fifth annual Mason Cup played at White Stadium, took over first place in the Boston South league.
Late in the third quarter, as Cyprien peeled off a 75-yard touchdown rush, Latin Academy junior guard Thomas Mano sustained a hit to the chest and had concussion-like symptoms, according to on-field medical staff.
He was attended by paramedics on the field and taken by ambulance to the hospital for precautionary reasons.
Cyprien missed all of last season because of injuries, but the senior rushed for a career-high 279 yards and two touchdowns, including TD runs of 65 and 75 yards.
“I didn’t get to touch the field at all [last year] so I came out and did what the team needed me to,” said Cyprien.
“He just has great moves and is a really talented kid,” said coach Richard Moran. “That’s just a gift [his ability to run], I don’t coach that.”
The Bears (4-0) are undefeated for the first time under Moran and in the driver’s seat in the Boston South with two league wins.
Moran, who is 2-3 all-time in the Mason Cup (named in honor of longtime Dorchester coach Joseph Mason), was happy to be taking the cup back to the school for the first time in three years.
“I’ll take it,” Moran said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
The rain has forced two Boston schools football games to be moved from White Stadium this afternoon and has canceled all boys' and girls' soccer games slated to be in the city this afternoon as well.
O’Bryant and Burke will now play at Reservation Field in Hyde Park at 3 p.m. while Greater Lawrence and Brighton will now play at Madison Park at 6:30 p.m.
The Boston International at Randolph and the East Boston at Malden Boys soccer games will still be played as scheduled.
Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
Photo courtesy of America Scores Boston
The South End was abuzz with soccer enthusiasts of all ages to celebrate at the 2012 SCORES Celebration Thursday night with special guest, U.S. women’s national soccer team star Heather O’Reilly. Students, athletes and Boston public school supporters gathered at the high-energy gala at Cyclorama for a night of soccer activities, poetry performances and food from local restaurants.
The faces of Boston public school athletes lit up as they received pointers from O'Reilly in the kid's clinic that kicked off the event. The olympic gold champion enthusiastically assisted each player in shooting and passing drills and coached them in a scrimmage.
“I've been involved for close to seven years," O'Reilly said. "I fell in love with the program and its uniqueness. I was an education major in college so it sort of blended together everything I find important. When I heard America SCORES was [in Boston] I jumped at the opportunity to help.”
O'Reilly also spoke about competing in the London olympics, signed autographs and posed for photos.
O’Reilly, New England Revolution team President Brian Bilello and New England Revolution broadcaster Brad Feldman spoke about their love of America SCORES and the impact it’s making on students.
“It’s a great organization,” Bilello said. “The fact that they’re combining soccer and education is great. It’s made a lot of sense for a long time for the Revs to be involved.”
After the soccer events, Lael Watson, a fifth-grader at Orchard Gardens K-8 School in Roxbury, made a poetry performance.
“My poem ‘I Am’ is about where I’m from and who I am,” Watson said. “I’m nervous, but I have a lot of confidence. I’m really happy I was chosen.”
Coach Mark Salzillo was thrilled and grateful that SCORES invited the Orchard Garden School.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to meet professional soccer players and create the idea of soccer at a bigger level for them, because they’re all beginners,” Salzillo said.
The celebration was provided by America SCORES Boston, a non-profit organization dedicated to help urban youth attain life skills, literacy, and health through soccer.
“America SCORES is a very special organization because it gives kids the platform to believe in themselves,” O’Reilly said. “Keep it up America SCORES because you’re doing fantastic things.”
No. 1 Greater Lawrence (2-1) vs. Brighton (1-1) at White Stadium at 6:30 p.m. Friday
After giving up a 16-0 lead last week before losing to Martha’s Vineyard, 45-38, Brighton looks to bounce back against another strong non-conference opponent in Greater Lawrence.
The Bengals have proven that they can score at will with their run game and pass game, but now they have to prove they can buckle down on defense.
That will be easier said than done against a Greater Lawrence team that beat Pope John 49-22 in the first week of the season before losing 38-27 to Cambridge. Last week Greater Lawrence beat Chelsea 41-6.
No. 2 West Roxbury (1-1) vs. Madison Park (1-1) at Madison Park at 3:30 p.m. Friday
One way or the other this game will break up a log jam at the top of the Boston North standings. West Roxbury, Brighton and Madison Park are all tied atop of the division at 1-1 apiece.
Madison Park is coming off a 14-0 win against Minuteman and is still sore over losing its season-opener to Latin Academy, 22-20, on the final play of the game. This will be the Cardinals' chance to make some waves in the City League.
West Roxbury’s only win is against Charlestown, so this will also be the Raiders' chance to draw a line in the sand within the City League.
No. 3 Boston English (1-1) vs. South Boston (0-3) at Saunders Stadium at 4 p.m. Friday
Boston English will be riding the momentum from its first non-forfeit game in two years last week against New Mission, while South Boston is surprisingly still searching for its first victory of the 2012 campaign.
Southie came up short in overtime in Week 1 against Latin Academy and had a huge offensive letdown the following week against Dorchester. Last week the Knights ran up against a formidable Wayland squad, so this week they will be looking to take out their frustrations on English.
But now that English has found some success they shouldn’t be a pushover.
The East Boston boys' soccer team showed Wednesday that it is headed for the city championships and won't settle for anything less. In an intense and often physical battle with Boston English, the Jets came out on top, 9-1.
The goals for East Boston, which improved to 6-0, started the second the whistle blew. Within five minutes, senior captain and midfielder Elmer Ventura scored the first goal. His second strike came in the second half via a powerful kick at the 30 yard-line. He also assisted on senior forward Juan Restrepo’s goal, also in the second half.
“Everybody on the team played very good,” Ventura said. “This game was a good experience and we want to get better. Every game we try our best. Every time, every second, and next game we also hope to win.”
East Boston senior forward Marvin Melgar also was at his best, scoring two goals in the first half and another in the second, despite temporarily coming out after a collision with English freshman Rafael Matos.
The Jets were ahead, 5-0, after dominating the first half.
Winless English’s effort was admirable, however. Sophomore midfielder Armandio Ferreira had three great chances, but none of the shots was successful. With only 15 minutes left, senior forward Michael Johnson scored English’s only goal.
“I’m proud of how my boys did, at least we got my goal,” Johnson said.
English junior goalkeeper Mohamma Avais did a commendable job, with 14 saves.
“It didn’t go our way, [but] we played against a really strong team,” English coach Edmar Varela said. “[East Boston is] probably top two in the city, I’ve heard. We’re going to keep on trying, we have seven games to go, and hopefully we can get some wins.”
East Boston coach Lorenzo Di Benedetto is only looking for his team to get even better. To him, that means coming out victorious against teams outside of the city.
“This was a great game because it gave us the opportunity to play everybody and try everybody in their positions,” Di Benedetto said. “It’s a great warmup for Friday because we’re playing Malden and they’re a top team. It’s going to be a good challenge for us and a good bar to set for the upcoming games in October.”
The Charlestown girls team has yet to win its first soccer game, while East Boston has already won three. It was hard to predict both teams’ records by watching Tuesday’s game, however.
Despite East Boston’s 5-0 win, the skills of each team were even for most of the match.
The game had a slow start, with constant fighting over the ball in the middle of the field. East Boston coach Richard La Cara was not pleased, sending in six subs within the first 10 minutes.
“The first half was sluggish,” said La Cara. “We started off flat-footed. We definitely came in here unprepared, which is my fault, I didn’t get the team pumped up enough for the game. But I pulled some players out and put some others in.”
East Boston was up by three at the end of the first half, but gained more momentum in the second, especially with the help of freshman forward Mariah Roberts.
She had great control of the ball, and once powered down the field, passed two defenders, and scored. Roberts also had a gorgeous assist to sophomore midfielder Ruth Rivas in another strong run.
Roberts refused to take individual credit, saying it was a team effort.
“We worked as a team,” she said. “We played with a lot of teamwork and we communicated with each other.”
With only 10 players, Charlestown played hard, which the score does not reflect. Sophomore forward Sara Centeio was a strong force and utilized great footwork to get around East Boston defenders. She took many shots on goal, including one penalty kick, but none were successful.
East Boston sophomore goalkeeper Brittany Brancato provided the shutout.
“They responded in the second half pretty well,” La Cara said. “We worked on a couple things in practice this whole week and it showed in the game. When they tried, we took control of the game. I’m happy with that. It’s a nice building block to go off of.
Robert E. Klein / For the Boston Globe
Two tumultuous seasons for the Blue & Blue under coach Chris Boswell came to a screeching halt Friday when the team finally experienced victory on the football field with a culture-changing 14-6 win over New Mission.
For the seniors who have played under Boswell the past two seasons, winning the game was bitter-sweet, inducing memories of a time when winning a game while donning a Boston English jersey seemed light years away.
Some of those seniors could be heard after the game preaching to the younger players that the days of losing at English had come to a close. One of those seniors stood in the middle of the players, imploring “The days of losing 50-0 are over,” referring to last season’s Thanksgiving finale in which the Blue & Blue got battered by Boston Latin.
Tom Lamb, the former Natick High football coach, has been offensive coordinator for Boswell the past two seasons and backed up his elder player's chants for some push-back saying, “There’s more coming from us, we’re taking a step up guys.”
As for the memory of last season’s harsh defeat at the hands of Latin, Boswell doesn’t expect his players to soon forget it.
“That memory’s not erased, but it’s good to see our practice paying off,” said Boswell, who believes the team benefited from tough defeats like the one on Thanksgiving and have only been better for it. “We got to just keep doing what we’re doing. We got the right recipe to win, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Brighton made it clear Friday night that they were itching to get out and play some football.
A week after winning a game on a forfeit, Brighton scored 16 points in the first 30 seconds of a 45-38 loss to Martha’s Vineyard at White Stadium.
On the opening kickoff, Bengals’ senior running back Ricardo Edwards scored on a 90-yard return before running in the 2-point conversion to go up 8-0. After Vineyard punted on its first possession, Edwards added a 45-yard TD run on the second play of the Bengals drive. Jalen Apperwhite hit Malique Holley on the 2-point conversion pass to go up 16-0 with 7:30 left in the first quarter.
“We worked hard to play the way we played in the first quarter,” Edwards said of the fast start before describing the kickoff return. “It felt good. I just got the ball and ran with it and I knew I could do it. I did what I did.”
But first-year Brighton coach Randolph Abraham said after they went up 16-0 he could tell his players thought the game was in the bag.
“They weren’t really focused and I was trying to find a way to get them to refocus,” he said. “That’s why I take that blame because I couldn’t find a way to motivate them to find that focus and win the game.”
Rookie head coach
After beating Brighton, Martha’s Vineyard coach Donald Herman said the outcome could have been different if it wasn’t Brighton’s first game.
But Brighton's Abraham wasn't so sure. Abraham initially said no because he has been the Bengals’ assistant since 2004 before taking the head job. On second thought, however, Abraham said the game could have gone differently if he had more head coaching experience.
“[Herman] found our weaknesses and exposed them,” he said. “I put them in the right place but they found the open receivers. So his experience proved [to pay off] so I guess so.”
Pannel Davis returned to football practice in August from a summer of climbing rocks and hiking the Wyoming wilderness in far better physical shape than he came into South Boston’s training camp a year earlier.
But more important than the fact that the junior wide receiver could make it through conditioning drills called gassers without, well ... being totally gassed, was that his summer in Wyoming got his mind into the best condition of his life.
“Toward the end of the program we’d go off by ourselves and stay there two or three hours and reflect on what happened on the trip,” Davis, who went backpacking in Wyoming’s backcountry as part of a 12-week program for at-risk youth called Summer
Search, said just after the first practice of the season last month.
“That’s when I realized everything.”
Beyond sending inner-city high school students on experimental trips around the world, Summer Search also provides mentoring for the students with the goal of giving them the life skills they need to succeed in college.
The program has been eye-opening for the 16-year-old. Davis never stayed in one place long growing up as his mother moved him and his siblings back and forth from the Northeast and the South several times during his childhood. They were even displaced once by a hurricane in Florida when Davis was 8 years old.
Davis said the last couple years he has spent too much time “partying” and “slacking off” and was even suspended from school for having a knife on him.
But removed from the city and all his problems this summer, Davis got a chance to reflect on his life in a way he had never done before. Among other things, Davis, who now lives with his father in Dorchester, said he realized he was taking his mother for granted and not visiting her enough.
“I appreciate her more [now],” he said. “I thought about coming back, getting a job and staying focused on football.”
And while the Knights (0-3) are off to a rough start this season, Davis is more equipped to handle the bumps in the road than ever before. That’s because he literally had to deal with a lot more than just bumps in the road on Wyoming’s most rugged stretch of the Rocky Mountains.
“It was crazy the first couple weeks,” said Davis, who has eight receptions for 185 yards this season, including one touchdown, as well as six carries for 50 yards. “I was going crazy. I’d never been out in the woods. I’d never been out in nature.”
A social worker at South Boston High recommended Davis for the program, which he knew about because two former South Boston players, Andres Mejia and Joseph Francois participated in the program. Francois, Southie’s former team captain who is now at the University of Rhode Island, did the Wyoming trip two summers ago.
“He did the same program and came back chiseled,” Southie coach Sean Guthrie said. “That did a lot for his game. He was cut big time so hopefully we’ll get some of the same results [with Davis].”
And while most coaches would want keep their players under their thumbs and in football camps and in weight rooms all summer, Guthrie is glad to let his players gain new experiences in Summer Search, especially when they are getting a workout at the same time.
“I think sports are going back to the origins of training, where it’s multifunctional,” Guthrie said. “People are throwing tires around and swinging sledge hammers, getting back to that full body basic workout, things people did on farms to get their bodies naturally strong and I think there’s a certain strength missed in the weight room than when you use your whole body.
“Basically [in the weight room] you’re trying to simulate real work. I think stuff like mountain climbing is awesome. How else could I hit muscles in the shoulders and legs and back all at the same time? I think it’s awesome, Summer Search.”
Davis did more bouldering (shorter climbs without ropes) and hiking up mountains than hardcore Sylvester Stallone-style cliffhanging on the Wind River Mountain Range. But that in no way discounts the physical and emotional toll of trekking across the trail that stretches more than 100 miles and has 35 named peaks more than 13,000 feet high, include Wyoming’s highest, Gannett Peak (13,804 feet).
Seven of the largest glaciers in the Rocky Mountains are also located in the Wind River Range.
Davis said it was so cold on the first day of the trip when they set out for a four-mile hike at 5 a.m. that they had to wear four layers and do pushups to stay warm. The 57-pound backpack he had to haul up the side of mountains for seven to eight hours a day was also a gut check.
“I definitely took it lightly when it was explained to me. I thought I was athletic. I felt like I was good,” Davis said. “But times got really hard out there. I was thinking about things I never would think about, it really showed who I was out there.”
Davis learned how to read a map, pitch a tent and cook on a campfire.
“I cooked pizza, we cooked macaroni, that was a frequent dish,” he said.
And since the 6-foot, 170-pounder was bigger than most of the other 11 students on his trip, he often had to help carry the load for others.
The hikes increase to more than nine miles at a stretch but quitting was not an option.
“I’d break down and say ‘I want to give up’ but you would always think ‘I can’t quit’ because if you quit it’s called an ‘evacuation’ and you’d have to hike back all the way back to where you started. That’s what you have to think about, ‘Damn, I don’t want to hike it all the way back’ so you have to push it through.”
Returning to Boston was almost as hard as hiking the trails.
Beyond sheer exhaustion, (he slept his entire first day back), Davis said it was difficult for friends and family to understand how his trip changed him and why he all of a sudden wants to try so hard to do the right things in life.
“It was crazy, I had to get a lot of things straight with my family,” he said. “When I came back everything felt so weird. The first three days I didn’t even know what to do; I just came back and chilled in the house for like three days straight.”
Stepping back onto the football field was the most comforting foothold that made Davis feel like he was back on solid ground and in familiar terrain.
“It really is a new beginning, especially with football,” Davis said. “Last year I was kind of slacking a little bit and I’d just do what I needed to get by. I feel like now, since everyone is looking at me as a captain and a leader and someone whose supposed to step up to the plate, I feel like I will step up to the plate
“I feel like I just want to do everything times two now. I want to have double the touchdowns, double the yards. I feel like I’m ready for everything. I think this is going to be a real fun season for me, like it’s my time to shine.”
Week two was an exciting one in city soccer with surprising wins and losses.
For the boys:
The first surprise came from the Brighton vs. Madison Park boys' match last Monday. Even though Madison Park is the top contender in the league, their 4-1 win over Brighton came as a shock.
Brighton has been going hard this season, beating all other teams by a landslide. On the 14th they beat Snowden, 10-0, and last Thursday they dominated English, 7-3. Their only other loss was their first game against Latin Academy, which they had to forfeit due to paperwork issues. Kawuba and his boys worked hard from the start of the season to challenge Madison, but clearly they’re going to have to work harder.
Snowden was an even greater surprise last Friday in their win over Charlestown. Before Friday, the team had lost every match this fall, losing by 10 to Brighton and 9 to Dorchester.
It’s as if a different team took the field Friday, as they dominated against the usually powerful Charlestown. Not only were four goals scored, but they also managed to shut out Charlestown, finishing the game on the winning end, 4-0.
Another unexpected win came about this past week from O’Bryant.
It’s common knowledge that suburban teams usually come out on top against city league teams, but O’Bryant didn’t let this mess with their game. O'Bryant came out victorious against D1 Revere in a thrilling match Saturday, winning, 3-0.
“Our win relied on the short passes on the ground,” O’Bryant coach Ian Doreian said. “We also had five players in the midfield so we really controlled the middle of the field. Revere’s a really strong team so it was a big deal and a big win.”
And the girls:
East Boston played outside the city Tuesday, facing North Quincy, and it did not end pretty.
“The good news is that no one got struck by lighting during the game,” East Boston coach Richard La Cara said of the loss, “but we got smoked.”
Despite East Boston’s best efforts, it just wasn’t enough, as the Jets lost, 7-0.
La Cara knew that it wouldn’t be an easy game, however, and looks at the loss as a learning experience.
“They’re a really good team for the suburbs,” he said. “I like to bring in some competition to know there’s something to strive for. The girls tried and never gave up.”
Another surprise this week was O’Bryant’s 10-0 win over CASH.
Before last Tuesday, the team had not scored one goal this season, playing to a scooreless tie agaisnt Latin Academy. While CASH wasn’t much competition, O’Bryant’s goals came rapidly as if they had been playing for months.
Dorchester and Boston English haven’t had a great start to the season. Both teams had lost every match thus far, but that changed for Dorchester Friday.
The two went head-to-head in the thrilling match, but Dorchester came out on top, 3-2. The teams performed equally, with Dorchester senior Mirlande Philogene providing the game-winning goal in the middle of the second half.
“We have definitely come a long way since our first game,” Dorchester coach Allison Cohn said. “We’ve been working a lot better as a team so we had our act together. We were pretty fairly matched but we had more subs so that worked in our favor.”
For the boys:
East Boston at Malden at 3:45 p.m, Friday.
East Boston just gets stronger by the week. The undefeated Jets have dominated every match this season, most recently shutting out South Boston, 8-0. Freshman keeper Edwin Avelar has only surrendered one goal thus far, to Boston International.
East Boston’s rein may be over on Friday, however, as they are playing outside of the city. Malden also has a strong team with only one loss against Somerville.
West Roxbury vs. Boston English at Ceylon at 3:30 p.m, Monday.
Neither West Roxbury nor Boston English are off to a strong start this season, as both are still in search of their first victory. West Roxbury struggled against CASH in the one game they’ve played so far, losing 10-1.
English has played three matches and at least had three goals against mighty Brighton last week. It looks like English has this one set, but West Roxbury will definitely put up a fight.
Snowden vs. O’Bryant at Madison Park at 3:30 p.m., Thursday.
Snowden has had a weak presence in the league so far, but you wouldn’t know it by the way they played last Friday. The team dominated the usually strong Charlestown, winning the match, 4-0. This was the team’s first win of the season, and it’s likely they’ll keep that momentum going this week.
O’Bryant has also had a successful week, even after playing outside the city. They shut out CASH, 6-0, as well as Revere, 3-0, on Saturday.
Coming out of two equally nice wins, the match on Thursday is sure to be a thriller.
For the girls:
New Mission vs. Brighton at Portsmouth field at 3:30 p.m., Monday.
This will be the best girls game of the week by far. New Mission is this season’s team to watch and Brighton is trying to recover that title.
New Mission is still undefeated while Brighton lost their first game against Latin Academy 6-0. Brighton won both games against South Boston and Snowden and there is no way they’re going down again without a fight.
O’Bryant vs. Dorchester at Franklin Field #2 at 3:30 p.m., Monday.
Both O’Bryant and Dorchester have lost just once thus far, and both teams will do what they can to ensure they come out victorious.
O’Bryant had a stellar week, shutting out CASH, 10-0, and Burke, 4-0. It’s likely that they’ll be using this game against Dorchester to get them ready for Mt. Alverania on Tuesday.
Although the game is slightly in O’Bryant’s favor, Dorchester shouldn’t be counted out. They’re coming from Friday’s thrilling 3-2 win over Boston English and will be sure to provide a high-energy match.
East Boston at Charlestown at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday.
Charlestown is not happy with its tie against South Boston last Wednesday. The team has yet to win a match, but if their first win is against East Boston they are definitely a team to watch.
East Boston lost 7-0 to North Quincy Tuesday but came back victorious against West Roxbury on Friday, winning 7-2. If they come into the game against Charlestown with the spirits of Friday, it’s likely they’ll be the winners.
It's football time with tailgates, coin tosses, game faces, and spectators screaming for their favorite player. During the game the players tackle each other, each defending their turf and hoping their opponent doesn’t score. We all witness with our own eyes players fighting to win, bodies colliding and helmets hitting each other making loud noises.
Throughout a football game players fall and get back up, some even stay down for little while to recover. Until recently we all thought this was just part of the game; however studies now show that more and younger athletes are suffering concussions from high impact sports. With the high school football season already underway, and with the middle school football games starting Tuesday, it’s a good time to pause and think about player safety.
What is a concussion? A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works. What are some symptoms an athlete may experience?
• Blurry Vision
• Memory Loss
• Light Sensitivity
• Sluggish and Goofy
According to the Youth Sports Safety Alliance (YSSA):
• Around 8,000 children are treated in emergency rooms each day for sports injuries.
• 15.8 percent of football players who sustain a concussion severe enough to cause loss of consciousness return to play the same day.
• It has been reported that there are as many as 100,000 - 300,000 sports- related concussions per year in the U.S. where the athlete loses consciousness. However, loss of consciousness occurs in as little as 1 out of 10 athletes.
• Concussion symptoms like headaches and disorientation may disappear in 15 minutes, but 75 percent of those tested 36 hours later still had problems with memory and cognition.
• 62 percent of injuries in team sports occur during practices.
• There are five times as many catastrophic football injuries among high school athletes compared to college athletes.
If athletes have any symptoms of a concussion, coaches should remove them immediately from the game and not let them return until they have been checked out by a health care professional. Athletes are going to want to continue to play, so it is up to coaches and parents to protect them. Remember you can’t see a concussion and some athletes may not experience and/or report symptoms until hours or days after the injury. Most people with a concussion will recover quickly and fully. But for some people, signs and symptoms of concussion can last for days, weeks, or longer.
The Center for Disease Control’s Concussion in Youth Sports recommends the following ways to play it safe:
Every sport is different, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
• Follow your coach’s rules for safety and the rules of the sport.
• Practice good sportsmanship at all times.
• Use the proper sports equipment, including personal protective equipment (such as helmets, padding, shin guards, and eye and mouth guards). In order for equipment to protect you, it must be 1). the right equipment for the game, position, or activity; 2). worn correctly and fit well; 3). used every time you play.
We all have a responsibility to play it safe.
Robert E. Klein / For the Boston Globe
Boston English coach Chris Boswell took his first ever blue Gatorade shower after the team’s emotional 14-6 win over New Mission Friday afternoon at Reservation Field in Hyde Park.
The end of the game was the Blue & Blue’s first official non-forfeit win since Boswell took over in 2010. They improve to 1-1.
“It feels outstanding to get this win,” said Boswell. “I’m very proud they did it. I tell them all the time to talk with their play, and they went out and executed.
Boswell had only two wins under his belt since taking over the program, both forfeits.
"This win just shows you that hard work pays off,” he said.
And although New Mission (0-2) is still winless it’s first year as a football program, the Titans asserted themselves as junior quarterback Soch Nzerem tossed the first touchdown pass in school history to senior tight end Isshiah Coleman late in the fourth quarter. The 16-yard connection didn’t win the game for New Mission, but first-year coach Michael Pittman Formancq knew the 6 points it put up transcended the result.
“Hopefully [the touchdown] means we can start moving and doing things we know we can do as a team,” said Forman, whose team lost, 36-0, to Dorchester in the opener.
“The touchdown was special. We’re going to have to take that ball and put it in a trophy case at the school."
For a team that only scored three offensive touchdowns all last season, it didn’t take long for the Blue & Blue to put some points up, scoring their first touchdown of the year just three plays into the game. Sophomore Keylin McCray did the honors, rushing it in from 8 yards out to put English up, 6-0.
On the subsequent drive, New Mission fumbled on the first play from scrimmage, handing the ball back to English’s offense.
The Blue & Blue’s 13-play drive started in the first quarter and was capped in the second when Dhe’Jour Releford linked up with Ruben Pena-Sanchez from 25 yards out. Senior Francis Okoyo rushed in the 2-point conversion for a 14-0 lead. The Titans offense began to jell, but their final drive of the half fell short when Nzerem was picked off in the end zone by McCray.
When the game was over, as players and coaches from both teams kneeled together at midfield in prayer (some English players in tears), Pittman Forman looked over to Boswell and congratulated him.
Then he looked down at his players with a smile while pointing towards the English players and said, “New Mission, that’s our mission: to get that first win.”
Pavel Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe
For the second straight Friday night White Stadium had a thriller underneath its lights.
Brighton and Martha’s Vineyard put on a show a week after Latin Academy and Madison Park scored a combined four TDs in the last two minutes before the Dragons scored with no time on the clock to win, 22-20.
This time, Martha's Vineyard snatched a 45-38 victory out of Brighton’s hands after scoring with no time left in the third quarter to tie the game at 30. Then the Vineyard scored two more times in the final quarter to take the win back to its island.
“Brighton is a very athletic team, a very talented team,” Martha’s Vineyard coach Donald Herman said. “I can’t help but think if this were not their first game, the outcome might be a bit different. This is our third game, this is their first." The Bengals, 1-1, won on a forfeit last week.
“They came out of the blocks early. I knew they were going to and we talked about trying to match their intensity and we didn’t in the first quarter in particular. But we responded. We got the job done. Big win,” Herman said.
After trailing, 22-8 at the half, the Vineyarders (2-1) capped a 22-point third quarter with a 34-yard TD pass from senior quarterback Alec Tattersall (7 of 14 passing for 113 yards) to Brandon Watkins to tie the game at 30. Then the Vineyard opened the Tattersall’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Stuart Hersh to go up 7 points.
Brighton responded with a 27-yard TD pass from junior Jalen Apperwhite to senior Malique Holley. Holley caught the 2-point conversion pass too for a 38-37 lead with 5:49 left in the game.
“There wasn’t any communication on the field,” Holley said of the defensive letdown after his go-ahead TD. “We had to stick together and we didn’t stick together.”
A facemask penalty on the start of the Vineyard’s next drive hurt Brighton. The nine-play drive ended with Tattersall’s QB keeper with 1:56 left, which turned out to be the winner because the Vineyard recovered the onside kick at the Brighton 41.
“It’s just really a team effort, we really work together,” said Doug Andrade, who recovered the onside kick for the Vineyard and also scored a touchdown on a 49-yard run to make it 22-15 in the third quarter. “It’s not the small plays, it’s the big plays that count; a few big plays make the difference.”
Brighton had plenty of big plays of its own.
Senior running back Ricardo Edwards returned the game's opening kickoff 90 yards before running in the 2-point conversion to go up, 8-0.
After Vineyard punted on its first possession, Edwards added a 45-yard TD run on the second play of the Bengals' drive. Apperwhite hit Holley on the 2-point conversion pass to go up, 16-0, with 7:30 left in the first quarter.
“We started slacking on defense,” said Edwards, who finished the game with three touchdowns and 143 yards on nine carries. “The offensive line was doing good and everything making the plays work. It’s just defense. We gotta work harder.
“It’s really tough because this is our first game and when your first game is a loss it makes you feel like you didn’t work hard enough to be successful.”
It was also first-year Brighton coach Randolph Abraham’s first time on the sideline as the head man.
“I feel like we were out-coached,” Abraham said. “I just didn’t have any answers for Martha’s Vineyard’s offense. That’s a great coach over there and we respect them. We tried to put the kids in the right place, but they just kept finding the open guy. We tried to put pressure up front because we were missing so many tackles and they always found the open guys.
“I told the kids I’ll take that loss.”
Pavel Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe
After West Roxbury lost the season opener, 20-12, to Ashland, coach Derek Wright and his team wanted to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. Their hard work showed as they beat Charlestown, 26-0, on Friday afternoon.
Eight minutes into the first quarter, the Raiders offense scored on their first drive of the game on a 1-yard quarterback sneak by senior David Bertucci.
Junior running back Michael Obiangwe had a stellar game, finishing with 214 yards rushing.
“I worked hard for it at practice,” he said of his performance. “I expected better than that though. All I want to do is beat coach’s record. I’m still working on that.”
The second score came in the form of a 25-yard breakaway run by Obiangwe during the second quarter.
Right before the end of the first half, Obiangwe had another touchdown run of 33 yards.
Obiangwe showcased his talents on both sides of the ball playing defense and offense, providing a sack during the second quarter.
“We played a whole lot harder [this game,]” Obiangwe said. “The defense stepped up and we just did a whole lot better than last week. We have to keep working on it and getting better, especially since we’re playing Madison next week.”
After a scoreless third quarter, the game ended with a 3-yard run by senior running back Franzy Joseph.
The Raiders’ defense was at their best, creating constant pressure on Charlestown junior quarterback Ibrihama Diallo, sacking him three times.
Junior right back Marcelo Holliday had a strong defensive game, contributing multiple tackles.
“We did okay,” he said. “We tried our hardest but we could have done better. We’re going to work on running and being more aggressive [for next game.]
Even the victorious Raiders believe they have work to do.
“We played well, we still made more mistakes than we wanted to,” Wright said, “but we played well enough to win. It was a good first win for the guys. We’ll work harder this week to get better, but I don’t think it’s going to be easy. With hard work and dedication, we will [make it to the finals.]”
Despite the loss, Charlestown coach George Munroe looks at it as a learning experience.
“They learned a lot about themselves which is good,” he said. “We knew we were outgunned coming into this. But I want guys who are not going to quit, and they fought every single play. That’s what I want, I want guys who are going to fight. We’re rebuilding, and that’s in their minds. But even in rebuilding, you still have to fight.''
An announcement was made this week that Boston English’s current field has been deemed unplayable - but action is already being taken.
The Boston Parks and Recreation Department and the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services are holding a meeting regarding the artificial turf replacement at Boston English High School in Jamaica Plain.
The meeting is open to the public and will be the first of many.
The meeting will include a discussion on replacing the existing turf with new turf on the multipurpose field.
The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 15 in the Curtis Hall Community Center Senior room.
East Boston is unstoppable this season and has no plans of slowing down. The team continues their undefeated season after shutting down South Boston Thursday afternoon, 8-0.
“I’m not concerned about our record,” East Boston coach Lorenzo Di Benedetto said before the win. “I’m concerned about how we’re going to play.”
There was no need for Di Benedetto to be concerned, as the scoring started within the first minute of the game. Senior forward Marvin Melgar rushed the field as soon as the whistle blew, scoring within the first minute.
One goal wasn’t enough for Melgar, who scored again from the center of the field at the end of the first half. Ten minutes later, he passed three defenders and scored his third goal.
The score was 5-0 at the end of the first half, but the second played out differently. South Boston stepped up their defense, with both teams fighting over the ball for the majority of the second half.
Melgar managed to take over 25 minutes into the game however, and scored his third goal. During the last five minutes, the forward sped past defenders on the right side of the field. He shot and hit the left goal post, but senior forward Sanuel Zavala received possession of the ball immediately and scored.
East Boston freshman goalkeeper Edwin Avelar could not be defeated, providing the shut out.
“We played a really good game,” Melgar said. “We have to work more as a team though, less individually. [The play offs] is our goal. Hopefully we’ll be champions, but as coach says, lets worry about one game at a time.”
Despite the high score, South Boston junior keeper Alex Araujo played well with 14 saves.
“This is my first year as a goalie, I’ve played three games now,” he said. “We did okay, we could do better. We need more defense to push the ball up for our strikers to score.”
While South Boston coach Nate Houghton agrees that the team has room for improvement, he is proud of the way they played.
“This is the best game we’ve played all season,” he said. “We were more organized and [the players] are getting more experience.”
Even after their win, Di Benedetto also believes his team needs improvement.
“We need to better team chemistry and moving without the ball,” he said. “I’m also trying to incorporate more confidence and physicality in freshmen.”
Di Benedetto is working hard to get his team ready for teams like Madison Park and Brighton.
“We’re a young team and we’ve done well so far,” he said. “But the middle of the season will be the eye of the storm.”
One way or the other, history will probably be made in this matchup.
While New Mission is looking for the first victory in program history, third-year Boston English coach Chris Boswell looks for his first non-forfeit victory since taking over the program.
Boswell is also looking not to forfeit another game himself as English forfeited its first game of the season to Brighton last week because they didn’t have enough players. But they are expected to have about 15 players Friday.
New Mission lost its only game, 36-0, to Dorchester in the first week of the season. They were off last week.
Spicing things up even more is the fact New Mission used to send its players to English the last few years since they didn’t have a team of their own. About four or five players who played for English last year are now playing for New Mission.
No. 2 Martha’s Vineyard (1-1) vs. Brighton (1-0) at White Stadium at 5:30 p.m. Friday
In the last meeting between these two teams the Vineyard beat the Bengals, 8-0, in what was the 2010 season opener for the Bengals. Brighton is hoping to repeat some of their magic from the 2010 season, in which the Bengals made it all the way to the Division 4A Super Bowl before losing, 38-14, to Northeast Regional.
The Vineyard needed a game-winning drive in the final minutes of its game last week to beat Bristol-Plymouth, 28-26.
Brighton won on a forfeit last week because Boston English didn’t have enough players.
No. 3 Charlestown (0-1) at West Roxbury (0-1) 3:30 p.m. Friday
Charlestown will look to get back on track after forfeiting its game against Burke last week because they didn’t have enough players. West Roxbury is coming off a 20-12 loss against Ashland in which they gave up 20 points before finally getting on the board and making it a game.
Besides looking for its first win, West Roxbury will also look to get its passing game on track. The Raiders missed several opportunities in the air against Ashland last week.
Pavel Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe
The state of Boston English’s football/soccer field has been grim for some time, but the school hoped to get at least one more year of use. The Boston public school athletic department, however, announced Monday that the torn up field has been deemed unplayable for high school games for the rest of the season but can still be used for practices.
The field is a public park that is also used heavily for youth and adult soccer leagues, ultimate Frisbee, flag football and semipro football.
“The field can be used for practices but not games,” said Jacquelyn Goddard of Boston Parks and Recreation Department. “We have begun the design process for replacement and are talking to the City of Boston Budget Office about the need to advance the construction schedule.”
The current turf will be replaced by new turf, costing approximately $1.5 million dollars for its construction and design. Fencing, bleachers and additional features will not be replaced.
“We hope that construction can begin in spring 2013,” said Goddard.
Moakley Field in South Boston was recently replaced for free because it was still under warranty. The warranty for the field at English, however, can't be honored because the original construction company that built the field went bankrupt, according to Goddard.
Goddard said a new contractor said that the field is past the point of repair.
For the remainder of the fall, English will use other fields, such as Ceylon Field, Franklin Field and Moakley Field.
English's Oct. 5 home game against O'Bryant will be played at 7 p.m. at Madison Park while its Oct. 12 game against Charlestown has been moved to 3:30 p.m. at South Boston. Their Oct. 26 game against Burke will also be played at South Boston at 3:30 p.m. and their Nov. 2 game against Latin Academy will be played at 5 p.m. at East Boston Stadium.
Finally, Burke and New Mission's Thanksgiving game slated for English High will now be played at Reservation field in Hyde Park.
Billy Owens / For the Boston Globe
Adrian Kawuba is determined to make a difference – and he’s starting with the Brighton boys soccer team. The former professional soccer player, entrepreneur and new coach will stop at nothing to make sure his players get to college, whether they’re playing soccer or not.
“I’m trying to help these guys look beyond a city championship, but college,” he said. “I want to increase the number [of players] that go to college. Not just soccer, the entire athletic department. I want to change their outlook. No more just, ‘after high school I may go to college.’ I want them to say ‘where am I going to go?’”
The 23-year-old’s passion for soccer and academics is evident from his background. The Uganda native would play from morning until night, and that didn’t stop when he moved to the US at the age of 12. He continued to play at his high school, Lexington Christian Academy and earned a scholarship to play for Drew University. He received many awards during his time at Drew and assisted the team in winning two championships. From there, he signed with the New Jersey Rangers, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Uganda’s Under-23 national league, and finally, with Boston, to play for Mass United.
“For me it’s always been more than soccer,” he said. “It’s been my outlet to keep out of trouble. It was my safe haven. I loved being on the soccer field. With some of the boys it’s somewhat of a similar situation where they’re really trying to use soccer as a platform, whether it’s aspirations for college or whatever else they have in my mind.”
While Kawuba graduated with a degree in finance and even secured a job in the field, he quickly determined that he couldn’t stray from the sport and the players. Utilizing his coaching and athletic experience, he started his own company, AK Sportgroups. The company organizes camps and clinics for boys and girls of all ages in various sports. Many players in the Boston public schools league trained with AK Sportsgroups this past summer.
He also created Mix Up Video Productions, a sports video company that produces recruitment videos for kids that want to play in college. This venture was designed especially for city players, who don’t get as much coverage as public school athletes.
“I want to provide structured programs for these guys and make chances for them to play in college,” he said. “That shouldn’t just be limited to kids in prep schools.”
Making sure that city students get the chance to show off their talent to colleges is what lead Kawuba to coach for Brighton.
“I saw that I would give more value to Brighton than prep schools that already have these programs,” he said. “I’m already talking to [the players] about college. A lot of them ask about college. I hope to help them make it happen.”
Kawuba also sees a bit of himself in the boys, making his transition to the Boston public school system even smoother.
“I feel that some of these boys connect with me,” he said. “I didn’t come from a wealthy family at all but I had a passion for sports. I want to play any part in helping them achieve their goals. Having gone through high school and college playing the same sport, I think I can make a difference.”
The difference is already evident. The team plays cohesively. The players support each other after each play, even if it’s unsuccessful. Their rapport with each other and Kawuba is positive and upbeat.
They chant “family” before taking the field.
“It’s my first year playing,” junior Lizandro Noqueira said. “He motivated me and helped me out since the first day. He’s a great coach and a great person.”
Kawuba’s coaching approach even benefits the players off the field.
“Generally the guys are very skillful players,” he said, “but they need to be fit. Core work and stretching, even nutrition. Little things like that, educating these guys on being a better athlete has benefits. They’ll say ‘coach I had a burger today, is that OK with training?’”
It’s obvious by looking at the team that the players look up to Kawuba and want his approval just as much as he wants theirs.
“I love my coach,” sophomore Wilson Sousa said. “He’s the best [coach] I’ve ever had. He’s disciplined and experienced. He’s always trying to get me to improve and do my best.”
While Kawuba would be thrilled if Brighton made it to the playoffs, it isn’t his biggest concern.
“I want to make a difference with something they can relate to,” he said. “My goal is to inspire the boys and show them that you can do what you love doing.”
Two teams played with equal strength Tuesday afternoon, but their strength was in opposite positions. Latin Academy's defense was outstanding while Dorchester’s offense was impeccable. Despite the intensely close nature of the match, Dorchester came out on top, winning 1-0.
Dorchester started out aggressive, dominating the ball in the first 10 minutes. During this time four shots were taken but only one was successful. The single goal of the match was set up beautifully – Dorchester junior midfielder Steevenson Jean-Francois carried the ball past three defenders and made a swift pass to junior forward Warren Exceus. The forward passed the ball back immediately after going through the last defender to set up Jean-Francois’ goal.
“I think we were a little afraid of them and that showed in the first half,” Latin Academy coach Dennis Allen said. “In the second half I think we played with a little more intensity, but it wasn’t controlled enough. With the size of the team we have, we have to pass the ball around. I don’t think we did as good of a job as we’re capable of doing, but the results were only 1-0. I think the team will improve and I’m really hoping to get to the play-offs.”
Tensions ran high for the rest of the game, with Latin Academy determined not to give up another goal. They were successful, thanks to Latin Academy junior defender Kevin O’Neil. He strategically covered his opponents by driving them away from the goal and sending the ball back up the field.
O’Neil was taken out of the game at the end of the first half due to a knee injury.
“We can play better, but we tried,” O’Neil said. “The city league is never easy to play in. It’s rough and tough, but we’ll bounce back. It’s not the end of the world.”
Latin Academy goalkeeper Nicolas Duenas was also a huge factor in keeping Dorchester from scoring a second time. He played smart and garnered 16 saves.
“I think my team played really well defensively,” he said.
While few shots were made by Latin Academy, freshman keeper Aldair Francois played flawlessly, providing the shut out for Dorchester.
The second half brought an even more intense and aggressive game, with both teams competing equally. Neither Latin Academy nor Dorchester was able to successfully possess the ball, ending the game 1-0.
“I think it was a tough game, certainly,” Dorchester coach Tim Lavin said. “Latin Academy played very well and made things difficult for us. Overall, defensively, we played well and kept their chances to only a few.”
While Lavin is thrilled with the win, he’s hoping his team will do even better in their game against Snowden, Wednesday, at White Stadium at 3:30 p.m.
Latin Academy’s next game is against Boston International on Thursday at White Stadium at 3:30 p.m.
“We’ll continue to just work as a team, try and improve on passing and finishing,” Lavin said. “In BPS there’s 3 games a week and you always get an opportunity to try again.”
Even though West Roxbury lost its season-opening game to Ashland on Friday afternoon, junior quarterback David Bertucci was just glad to be playing.
The day after football practice started on Aug. 20, Bertucci learned that he might have a heart condition that would prevent him from playing football.
“I had an abnormal EKG and it was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” Bertucci said after the 20-12 loss to Ashland. “I’m just happy I can be out here with my team and play with these guys because I love them to death.
“There’s nobody else I’d rather play with.”
Three days after his Electrocardiography (or EKG) results showed an irregular heartbeat, Bertucci received word from a second doctor who cleared him to play.
“It was horrible,” he said of the three-day wait. “I couldn’t go to practice.”
Bertucci said the incident gave him a new outlook on his football career.
“You can’t take anything for granted,” he said. “You have to win as a team, lose as a team. Some people have the gifts but it’s up to you to go out and use them. You gotta use them the right way.”
West Roxbury started off the game rough, spotting Ashland a three-touchdown lead before they made a comeback that ultimately fell short.
“We did the same thing against Ashland last year,” Bertucci said. “Ashland went up 21 nothing, we were trailing 21-0 at half and we bounced back and lost by a score. This game we went down three scores but I knew we could battle back because I know we have a good team. We lost but it’s alright. It’s the first game of the season. They already have a game under their belt, and I’m just happy we could get out here and finally play a game.”
West Roxbury’s season opener was also coach Derek Wright’s first as a head coach.
Wright replaced Leo Sybertz, who retired after the 2007 season only to return for the 2010 and 2011, seasons. Wright served as Sybertz’s assistant the last two seasons.
“It was good to get the first game out of the way,” Wright said. “I wish it ended in a ‘W’ but we’ll go back to the drawing board. We’ll be OK.”
Wright said he was proud of the effort his team put into their comeback, even though they fell short 20-12 against Ashland.
“I mean we could’ve easily hung our heads when we were down 20-0 and guys stepped up,” he said. “We made it a game. We gave ourselves chances.”
A third first
Saturday morning marked the first start of the season for South Boston junior quarterback Sean Hunter.
Hunter was benched in Southie’s season-opening overtime loss to Latin Academy for disciplinary reasons.
“Yeah, I let [my team] down in a way because everybody was depending on me to play and step up and when that happens I have to try to make it up to my team,” Hunter said after a 6-0 loss to Dorchester on Saturday.
Hunter’s backup, Hakeine Walcott, passed for 111 yards in the Knights 26-20 OT loss to Latin Academy two weeks ago.
Hunter said he thinks he could’ve helped the Knights beat Latin Academy.
“It was hard, it was really hard,” he said of watching the game. “I saw a lot of things I could’ve done if I was playing. I know if I was in there it could have been a different outcome on defense and offense. It was real hard. I couldn’t watch half the plays going on.
“I’m really trying to make it up because I know it could have been a different outcome.”
But Hunter only completed one pass against Dorchester’s ferocious pass rush on Saturday.
“Every time I dropped back there was someone in my face,” Hunter said.
After Walcott led the Knight’s 20-point fourth quarter surge by throwing a 60-yard TD pass and returning an interception 80 yards for a touchdown, South Boston coach Sean Guthrie said he was unsure who he would start against Dorchester. After the Dorchester game, Guthrie said he planned to get Walcott involved in the offense more but failed to do so.
“In the heat of battle, the plan of getting him in there more went to the back burner,” Guthrie said.
Hunter said he thinks the Knights' offense would be more potent if he played quarterback in the shotgun formation and Walcott played quarterback under center.
“And have me at Z receiver,” Hunter said. “I think if we just focus more in practice [we’ll be fine] because in practice some people are lost on what we are doing. … If we get everything down we should be fine.”
U.S. Women’s National Soccer star and three-time Olympic gold medalist Heather O’Reilly will appear at America SCORES Boston’s “SCORES Celebration event” on Thursday, Sept. 27. The gala event that will feature soccer activities and live poetry performances, will present O’Reilly with an award for her athleticism and support of the program. Guests will also get the opportunity to meet the Olympic champion.
The event will be held from 6-8:30 p.m. at Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts located at 539 Tremont Street.
This past summer, O’Reilly helped the U.S. Women’s team win the gold medal in London. She also competed in 2004 in Athens and 2008 in Beijing. In addition to the US National team, O’Reilly also plays for the Boston Breakers in the WPSL Elite League.
For more information on the event or America SCORES Boston, contact Carl Pett at (617) 553-4709 or email@example.com.
The stars made their debut as the Boston public school soccer season got underway.
For the boys
Rossel Cacho, Brighton: The captain and senior forward had two gorgeous assists as well as two goals in Brighton’s 10-0 shut out of Snowden. His intense speed and fancy footwork did not go unnoticed.
Elmar Ventura, East Boston: The senior midfielder is on fire so far with one goal and one assist in the team’s first win against Dorchester, 2-0. He scored again in the Jets’ second win against Boston International, 2-1.
Kevin O’Neill, Latin Academy: While Latin Academy lost 6-0 against Dedham, coach Dennis Allen believes the score does not reflect his players effort. O’Neill, a forward who played multiple positions in the game, is one of them. Even in defeat the sophomore excelled and put a stop to many opposing players.
Stanley Gourge, Snowden: Even though Snowden was dominated by Brighton 10-0 last week, the Quincy Upper keeper helped hold the team together. A newcomer to the sport, he had 11 saves in the game.
And the girls
Keena Nicholas, O’Bryant: The forward is only a freshman but was the star of the show in O’Bryant’s 6-0 shut out of Charlestown. She scored one goal in each half in her varsity debut.
Emma Lama, Brighton: The senior midfielder scored the two goals in the Bengals' first win of the season against West Roxbury, 2-1.
Lyne Justal, CASH:Coach Amy Offret nominated Justal for “pulling the team together” this past week. Due to this, the forward was chosen as team captain.
Ruth Rivas, East Boston:The sophomore forward had two goals in the Jets’ first win, a 4-0 blanking of Madison Park.
Play Ball! foundation fast facts:
• Boston’s youth have one-third the opportunities to participate in sports as their suburban counterparts.
• In the Fall of 2009 and Spring of 2010 Play Ball! funded the first new sports through the Boston public middle school students since 2003.
• 81 percent of the students from the four Play Ball! Football league school schools are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. (Some of our schools average 90 percent.) The state average is 29 percent.
• In the three years Play Ball! been working with Boston schools they have put more than 1200 students on the field and on the court through baseball, football, volleyball and a competitive double dutch program.
Source: Play Ball! foundation
Photo courtesy of Play Ball Foundation
If Dexter Newsome never played football for the Rogers Middle School, his standing South Boston High's JV football team might be a little different.
“It will help me a lot because if I didn’t know anything I think I would probably be the water boy,” the South Boston freshman from Hyde Park said of having two years of football experience at the Rogers under his belt before entering high school football.
Four years after the Play Ball! foundation was started to fund middle school football in the city, its first crop of players with two and three years of experience is finally trickling into high school programs across the city.
Prior to Play Ball! stepping in to fund football in the city's middle schools, Boston public schools only offered basketball and track for its students to play inter-scholastically.
“It makes your job a little easier because they know the basics and they are already ahead of the other kids in terms of some of the drills that you run and just when you call plays,” said first-year West Roxbury varsity coach Derek Wright, who served as an assistant coach at Westie for the last two years.
The middle school football program began in 2009 with four teams: The Irving, Rogers, Edwards and Gavin (now Up Academy) middle schools. The program had 84 players when it started.
The league’s fourth season kicks off with six more teams then when it started and a total of 350 players.
“From year to year the kids knowing how to play [is a huge advantage],” Play Ball board member Pat Arcand said. “Even from the beginning of the season to the end of the season, because we start with a fair amount of kids who have never played organized sports.”
For years, incoming freshmen football players would show up on the first day of football practice or on the fist day of school with no previous football experience. Many play Pop Warner but those teams have no formal connection to the school district and Pop Warner also has a weight restriction, making it hard for larger students to participate.
Wright, the West Roxbury head varsity coach, said he has three or four players this year who graduated from the middle school program. He said they stand out from the players who have never played before.
“That gives them experience coming in and it puts them ahead of the other kids who are just raw coming out,” Wright said.
For the first time this year Play Ball! provided the high school coaches with the names of their former football players entering the ninth grade.
"We have anecdotal feedback that is positive because [the coaches] are thrilled to have them come and the kids come and they know how to play," Arcand said.
The program still has a ways to go, however, before it really starts beefing up varsity football teams, which used to carry 60 to 80 players in the 1980s and 1990s. These days the district is filled with an increasingly large immigrant population that didn’t grow up playing or watching football.
Boston schools athletic director Ken Still said the district's football teams hover around an average of 25 players per team.
“Our numbers are so low at the high school level we’re still fighting an uphill battle as far as the population we’re dealing with,” Still said. “I have [varsity] football teams operating at a level between 15 and 20 players; I’m trying to figure out what I can do and how I can do it. How I piece that together to get numbers.”
Still said that while the middle school program hasn’t beefed up his high school football numbers just yet, he’s still glad that it is there and in a position to grow. He said high school coaches need to go to the middle school teams and sell their programs to the players.
“Having that [middle school program grow] is going to be amazing, how we keep a check on it and how we develop it is another story,” Still said. “We've got students playing football. We've got coaches who are teaching them football. I hope that that translates, that it means that the high schools are getting more numbers and become a little bit more trained at football ahead of time. And for us, [we can] continue to play football and have fun.”
Middle school football schedule:
Tues., Sept. 25 -- Rogers at LGF, 3:30; UP Academy at Dever-McCormack, 3:30.
Wed., Sept. 26 -- Irving vs. Timilty (Marcella), 3:30.
Thur.,Sept. 27 -- Murphy at Mildred, 3:30; Orchard Gardens vs. Edwards (CHS), 3:30.
Tue., Oct. 2 -- Murphy at DMC, 3:30; Timilty vs. Rogers (Marcella), 3:30.
Wed., Oct. 3 -- UP Academy vs. Orchard Gardens (DMC), 3:30
Thur., Oct. 4 -- Irving at Mildred, 3:30; LGF vs. Edwards (CHS), 3:30.
Tues., Oct. 9 -- Irving at DMC, 3:30.
Wed., Oct. 10 -- Rogers at Mildred, 3:30; Orchard Park vs. Murphy at Ross, 3:30
Thur. Oct. 11 -- Timilty at LGF, 3:30; UP Academy vs. Edwards (CHS), 3:30
Tue., Oct. 16 -- Rogers vs. Irving (Ross), 3:30
Wed., Oct. 17 -- Orchard Park at DMC, 3:30; Mildred at LGF, 3:30
Thur., Oct 18 -- UP Academy vs. Timilty (Mildred), 3:30; Murphy vs. Edwards (CHS), 3:30
Tue., Oct. 23 -- Murphy vs. UP Academy (DMC), 3:30
Wed., Oct. 24 -- Edwards at DMC, 3:30
Thur., Oct. 25 -- Irving at LGF. 3:30; Timilty at Mildred, 3:30; Orchard Gardens vs. Rogers (Ross), 3:30.
Quarterfinals -- Oct. 30 and Nov. 1
Semifinals -- Nov. 7
Final -- Nov. 13
Here are the three games to watch in boys’ city soccer this week.
No. 1 -- Brighton vs. Madison Park at Madison Park, Monday, 3:30 p.m.
With two of the strongest teams in the league going head to head, this match may leave viewers on the edge of their seats. Madison Park is determined for a three-peat this season and Brighton is determined to put a stop to that.
Brighton forfeited their first game but dominated Snowden, 10-0, last week, proving to the rest of the league that they’re a team to watch.
No. 2 -- Snowden vs. Dorchester at White Stadium, Wednesday, 3:30 p.m.
After losing to East Boston in their first game, Dorchester’s confidence was lifted when they shut out C.A.S.H. 7-0 last Wednesday.
What looks like an easy win for Dorchester may just be the opposite. While Snowden was dominated by Brighton last Friday, 10-0, coach Joao Barros is determined for his team to make a come back.
No. 3 -- East Boston vs. South Boston at South Boston, Thursday, 3:30 p.m.
East Boston is on fire and has yet to be put out. The Jets beat Dorchester, 2-0, on Monday as well as Boston International, 2-1, on Thursday, proving that they’re a top contender in the league.
Meanwhile, South Boston did not play their first game but won a close match to Boston English, 4-3. It will be interesting to see whether the team will be defeated or put an end the Jets winning streak.
Here are the three games to watch for girls’ city soccer this week.
No. 1 -- Brighton vs. South Boston at South Boston #2, Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.
It seems the mighty have fallen. Last Tuesday Brighton suffered a devastating loss to Latin Academy, 6-0, in the season opener. However the team rose again on Thursday against West Roxbur,y 2-1, in an attempt to prove that they’re still a team to be reckoned with.
We’ll see whether the usual champions can make a comeback on their third game -- or surrender to Southie.
No. 2 -- Charlestown vs. New Mission at Reservation, Monday, 3:30 p.m.
New Mission is another team that has yet to be defeated. Their first win ended 2-1 in a close match against East Boston last Tuesday. The second was not so close -- they shut out Dorchester, 5-0, last Thursday.
Charlestown suffered a disappointing loss on their season opener to O’Bryant, 6-0, and are looking for vengeance. A win against the so far unstoppable New Mission could make for a complete turnaround for Charlestown.
No. 3 -- East Boston vs. Boston English at Boston English, Monday, 3:30 p.m.
Boston English forfeited the season opener to Madison Park last Monday and lost to Dedham, 6-0, last Friday. The underdogs are looking for a comeback. A win against a team like East Boston will show the league that they’re a team that shouldn’t be counted out.
East Boston is just as determined to win with one loss already under their belt. The team has a better outlook after shutting out Madison Park, 4-0, last Friday.
With both teams fiercely depending on this win, it’s a definite toss up.
Despite having amazing field position most of the morning, Dorchester couldn’t punch the ball in against South Boston in the first half of Saturday's tilt at White Stadium.
Dorchester started its first three possessions of the game from South Boston’s 17, 24 and back at the 24, but could not muster anything offensively. It took a botched reverse, turned into a 70-yard TD run, for the Bears (2-0) to finally get on the board with 5:19 left in the third quarter — the only score in Dorchester’s 6-0 victory.
“I was motioning my wingman and I guess the left tackle, he bumped into the wingman,” junior quarterback Demetrius Leary said of his TD run that helped improve his team to 2-0. “I decided with my skills to run to the outside and the blocking scheme was nice so there was open space.
“It was just all determination. Without the blocking I would have never scored.”
South Boston (0-2), which lost to Latin Academy 26-20 in overtime last week after scoring all of its points in the fourth quarter, responded by driving to Dorchester’s 10-yard line on their next possession.
But on 4th-and-10, a pass to junior wide receiver Pannell Davis went through his hands as he fell backwards into the end zone. After forcing punts on Dorchester's next two drives, South Boston fumbled the ball away on two consecutive fourth downs. First on Dorchester's 22 and then on Southie’s final drive of the game as junior quarterback Sean Hunter was sacked.
South Boston, which was so deadly with its deep threat against Latin Academy last week, completed only one pass against the Dorchester on Saturday. The biggest bright spot for Southie was its 225 yards rushing, led by senior running back Bless Anedoadzi's 142 yards.
“It was weird, we couldn’t click on all cylinders,” South Boston coach Sean Guthrie said. “I think the blitzing threw them off. Stuff that was working all week, we weren’t executing properly; [there were] a lot of dropped balls.
“We missed a lot of opportunities. We had the ball in their red zone many times. We put ourselves in bad spots with punts and the defense held them, held them, held them and then gave up that one run. We had the yards we just couldn’t punch it in when we needed to.”
Dorchester did a good job of shutting down Southie’s normally potent pass attack. The Bears head coach Rich Moran said they focused on stopping the pass after they saw Southie posted 111 yards passing against Latin Academy.
“Because of what happened with Latin Academy last week, we covered it very well, we played a lot of man so our kids are doing well,” Moran said. “We were aware they were going to pass. We had to stop that. They went trips one side and were sweeping it. We weren't gonna give that up.”
Dorchester had no passing game of its own to speak of because Leary had an injured finger. The Bears only threw once all morning and at times used backup quarterback Marvin Sylvain.
“On the snap, the exchange wasn’t that good, it wasn’t clean,” Moran said. “We went back to him though, he toughened it out.”
The win was also a good test for a young Dorchester squad, who defeated New Mission 36-0 last week. But that game was New Mission's first ever in program history.
“I knew this would be a tough game and I knew the defense had to win it for us and I’m proud that the defense won it for us,” junior linebacker Leon Sealy said. “I believe in us. We are a family. We came together.”
To view more photos of Dorchester's football team visit the school's Flickr page.
Pavel Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe
The Latin Academy football team knows how to win in style.
Kyle Dance threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Alex Guerrer with no time on the clock and ran in the 2-point conversion to lift Latin Academy to a wild 22-20 win over Madison Park Friday at White Stadium.
It was the second straight improbable win for the Dragons (2-0), who beat South Boston in overtime on Dance’s touchdown run last week. In Friday’s contest, both teams saved their best for last, combining for four touchdowns in the final two minutes.
Madison Park quarterback Traequon Duncan put the Cardinals ahead, 12-8, on a 1-yard run with two minutes left.
The Dragons answered quickly, with Dance capping a 77-yard drive with a 50-yard TD pass to Guerrer on a perfectly run post pattern.
Up, 14-12, with just over a minute to play, the Dragons were stunned again by Duncan. On his only completion of the game, he hit Kalvin Jones with a 63-yard Hail Mary to the 1-yard line. Duncan ran it in on the next play to give the Cardinals a 20-14 lead with 33 seconds to play.
Latin Academy defensive coordinator Anthony Beronazzani likened the game’s final two minutes to those played at home with a remote control in your hand.
“It was like a video game,” said Beronazzani. “It was like playing Madden out there.”
But Dance and Guerrer — with a little help from Madison Park — came up huge when it mattered most.
The Dragons drove to the Madison Park 35 with 2.5 seconds left. Madison Park’s two safeties were playing back in the end zone, but Dance had no choice but to throw it high toward Guerrer. The pass was batted down, but so was Guerrer, resulting in a pass interference call. Time expired, but the penalty gave Latin Academy one final play.
The 10-yard penalty was assessed and the Dragons got one last shot from 25. Dance dropped back, was chased out of the pocket, then hit Guerrer on a slant to the center of the field. Guerrer barely made it as he dived into the end zone with a hand on his shoulder pads. Dance, who finished with 279 passing yards and two touchdowns (he also ran for one) finished the win with a 2-point conversion.
Guerrer hauled in nine catches for 195 yards and two scores. He missed the Southie game with a knee injury but it didn’t prevent him from having a career game Friday.
“It was tough watching on the sideline last week,” said Guerrer. “I’ve never experienced something like this before. To get the winning touchdown was special. Kyle did it last week, so he had to share.”
Latin Academy coach Rocco Zizza said the Dance-Guerrer combination is tough to stop.
“Catching the ball is fairly easy, but catching the ball running the middle of the field when you know you’re going to get hit takes someone special,” Said Zizza. “Kyle has a great temperament. He’s always calm in the huddle and never gets rattled. The way Kyle and Alex communicate on the field is almost like it’s telepathic.”
Senior running back Alex Santiago rushed for 95 yards on 16 carries for Madison Park (0-1).
The Brighton boys' soccer team rolled over Snowden on Thursday and made it look easy. The Bengals defeated the Cougars, 10-0, after a match that mainly took place on Snowden’s side of the field.
Brighton senior captain Rossel Cacho was often in possession of the ball, putting his speed and skilled footwork to constant use.
“Thank God we won,” Cacho said. “Last game we forfeited because we didn’t have enough paperwork, so unfortunately we lost. From now on we’re going to work hard to win the season.”
He set up the ball for sophomore center midfielder Vinicius Cordervo to score within the first four minutes of the game. Ten minutes later, he had a beautiful assist to freshman right midfielder Gerson Lopez from the left side of the goal.
Lopez and Gerson each secured another goal, as well as one for senior midfielder Gustavo Silva and freshman midfielder Jairo Gomez.
By halftime, the score was 7-0.
Cacho was at his best in the second half. While Snowden had possession of the ball for the first five minutes of the game, Cacho was able to secure the ball in the middle of the field and took off toward the goal. He made his way around three defenders and scored.
Within the last 10 minutes of the game, Cacho sent the ball soaring into the right corner of the net from a corner kick.
“I thought we played well for our first game,” said new Brighton coach, Adrian Kawuba. “We really stuck to the game plan today. We came out with high energy. We can still improve, but overall we played well. We want to translate that in the next game, where we definitely need to play well.”
While the Cougars clearly struggled against the Bengals, goalkeeper Stanley Gourge had 11 saves. The Quincy Upper senior was a longtime football player and this is only his second year playing soccer.
Even though the team was defeated, the keeper believes Snowden is becoming a team to watch.
“I think we did a little better than last year,” he said. “Our defense improved, we just need to work harder so we get better and better. Most of us are freshmen and they’re doing even better than seniors last year.”
Snowden coach, Joao Barros, agrees that while his team isn’t at their prime, they’re getting there.
“I’m proud of my team and they way they played,” he said. “They played hard and we had no subs. It’s a work in progress – there’s about seven or eight of them that are playing organized sports for the first time. We’re looking to make this one of the top programs as years go by. Long-term, I feel really good about this team.”
Brighton will be hosted by two-time city champions, Madison Park on Monday at 3:30 p.m. while Snowden returns to the field on Wednesday against Dorchester at 3:30 p.m. at White Stadium.
Pavel Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe
The post Leo Sybertz-era of West Roxbury football was supposed to be filled with frequent flyer miles for the Raiders. But it was clear after the Raiders' 20-12 season-opening loss to Ashland Friday afternoon that its flight is not ready for takeoff.
The home loss was also the first game without the venerable Sybertz at the helm in two years. The 74-year-old coach, who retired after the 2007 season only to return for the 2010 and 2011, seasons was replaced by his assistant coach, Derek Wright.
Wright has vowed to open things up more in the Raiders’ offense but miscues in the passing game early on forced Westie to ride 250-pound running back Michael Obiangwe, especially after they went down, 20-0, early in the game.
“We do have a lot more work to do on our passing game,” senior quarterback David Bertucci said, “but you can’t just go from a run first offense to a pass first offense. It’s just not going to happen without a lot of practice and that’s obviously what we need is a lot of practice.”
While Westie’s passing game wasn’t clicking early on, Ashland (2-0) couldn’t miss. Junior quarterback David Morrison tossed three TD passes in the first half, including two to senior David Lynch for 3 yards and 60 yards respectively. He also threw a TD pass to Joe Byrnes for 15 yards to go up, 20-0.
Westie (0-1) finally got on the board with 22 seconds left in the half. With Obiangwe carrying the ball on almost every play, the drive ended with his 8-yard TD run. Ashland junior Alex Christensen picked off and returned the 2-point conversion pass, but it was called back on a penalty.
“Coming into the season I knew a lot of the burden was going to be on my shoulders so I didn’t mind,”said Obiangwe, a junior. “Coming into the half coach told me he was going to put a lot on my shoulders. I expected that and I wanted that. I’m the type of guy that will carry the team.
“Although we didn’t win, we did put on a show and that’s what I was expecting.”
The highlight of that show came at the start of the second half. After Westie stalled a long Ashland drive on the 10, senior wide receiver Jovan Johnson scored on a 60-yard run down the left side of the field. The 2-point conversion run failed, leaving Westie down, 20-12.
“We got great blockers,” Johnson said. “As long as we had the blocks I knew I could score. They executed very well and kept that whole left side open for me and made it very easy for me.
“We thought it was a start and we were happy with it but we didn’t want to get too happy. You want to get happy when you’re on par with the other team and the score is actually the same or you’re ahead.”
Westie stopped Ashland on the next drive as well, even thwarting a fake punt on the 45. But in the fourth quarter Westie couldn’t muster any more points. Another overthrown pass to a wide open Johnson late in the game hurt the Raiders.
“The only thing we can do now is work on the passing game because whenever I’m in the backfield the other team knows I’m going to get the ball so the only thing we can do is work on the passing game,” Obiangwe said. “I don’t mind because I’m going to let them think one thing and do the other. I’m going to mess with their head a little bit. Although the ball comes to me every time I still make the best of it.”
Westie’s strong run game was not the only tip of the cap to Sybertz. The back of the game program had a picture of Sybertz in his trademark green mesh jersey with the caption reading, “Thank you ‘Coach Sy for more than three decades of winning football and growing young men.”
Boston English and Charlestown have forfeited their football games scheduled for Friday.
Both Brighton (vs. English) and Burke (vs. Charlestown) will be credited for the victories while English and Charlestown take the loses because they did not have enough eligible players under the state’s new concussion policy.
Many city league teams are struggling to field teams this fall because they are having a hard time filing paperwork mandated by the state's concussion policy.
“The nurses have to be the ones to clear the [players on the] concussion [piece] and the eligibility,” Boston schools’ athletic director Ken Still said Friday morning. “They stepped up in some instances but some of them haven’t been able do it on time.Some nurses are ill and haven’t been in the building.”
This is the second year of a new law regarding concussion safety and awareness, specifically for the handling and reporting of concussions that all MIAA schools must follow. Players must file a head injury history form and parents must watch a concussion video or undergo a brief concussion training, usually online.
Players, parents, coaches, and athletic directors must certify they've taken the education course, and the student can't play until they file the forms.
On Tuesday, only two of the seven scheduled soccer games were actually played. Most of the other games were canceled due to paperwork not being filed on time.
Still said earlier this week he would consider starting the soccer season a week later next fall but he said football has to start at the same time statewide.
Some soccer coaches expressed concern about starting a week later while others liked the idea.
“That’s exactly what I face,” Still said. “There’s not a right or wrong answer sometimes when you’re dealing with over 14 and 15 people, They will have to come into a meeting during the post season and have to sit down and make some judgment calls.
“I’m more inclined to push it back.”
Here's the second of our weekly blog posts highlighting three football games to watch in the Boston City League.
No. 1 Madison Park vs. Latin Academy at White Stadium, Friday 3 p.m.:
Looking to win its first North title since 2010, Madison Park will have to first deal with defending South champs, Latin Academy.
The Cardinals roster will be younger this year with first-year starters Hector Villar and Alexis Santiago in the backfield, but nothing will change about its wing-T offense. That will probably be a relief for Latin Academy after they gave up a 60-yard TD pass against Southie last week that sent the game into OT.
The Dragons outlasted South Boston, 26-20, in overtime.
No. 2 Burke at Charlestown, Friday 6 p.m.:
It’s no secret that both programs are trying desperately to turn things around. So playing each other in the season opener for both squads could be just what the doctor ordered. Second-year Burke coach Byron Beaman is looking for his first victory, as is first-year Charlestown coach George Munroe.
Burke could be the Townie’s best opportunity for an early victory as they play in a tough Boston North division.
The same could be said for Burke, which ran an I-formation last year, and will debut its option offense against Charlestown on Friday night. Despite not winning a game last year, Beaman managed to keep his players together and upbeat.
No. 3 South Boston vs. Dorchester at White Stadium, Saturday 10 a.m.:
Dorchester is coming off a 36-0 victory against New Mission. But that was New Mission's first game in program history. Saturday’s matchup against South Boston will be an entirely different story. South Boston will be hungry for a victory after losing to Latin Academy in overtime last week.
Backup quarterback Hakeine Walcott led the Knights in a 20-point fourth-quarter comeback against Latin Academy last week so it will be interesting to see if head coach Sean Guthrie stays with his backup or hands the ball to his starter, Sean Hunter.
The O’Bryant girls' soccer team got off to an impressive start Wednesday afternoon by dominating Charlestown, 6-0, in the season opener for both squads.
O'Bryant's victory was lopsided before it started, as Charlestown only fielded eight players compared to the Tigers' 25.
Freshman forward Keena Nicholas scored twice for the Tigers, once in the middle of the first half and another after a cluttered fight over the ball in the middle of the field in the middle of the second half.
“It feels good, great actually,” Nicholas said. “I never got two goals in a game before.”
Junior midfielder Yonetta Harris was the first to score after a run from the middle of the field to help the Tigers take a 4-0 halftime lead.
Charlestown gave up just two more goals in the second half. The Townies' keeper, senior Keila Goncalves, had 14 saves in her first game.
“I could have done better but I was able to defend a couple,” said Goncalves. “I think my team did good, especially the defense. They did their best.”
O’Bryant’s Nicholas agreed that Charlestown’s strength was in the defense.
“They had good defense,” she said,” but we stuck with it.”
Charlestown had few shots in the match, but speedy freshman forward Nisa Holley had an impressive run up the field in the final 20 minutes of the game.
Charlestown’s new coach, Conor Treacy, said that even though they lost their first game, they’ll be prepared for the next.
“We’re upset with the loss but we can learn a lot from it,” he said. “We’ll keep improving and pick up better results for next time. We only had eight players and they worked hard the whole game, so that’s something positive.”
O’Bryant coach Jason Joseph hopes his team can keep it up the good work.
“This was an encouraging start to the season for us,” he said.
Dorchester will host New Mission at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday at Franklin Field while O’Bryant will play Latin Academy at 3:30 p.m. on Friday at Madison Park.
“That will be a barometer for how we stand,” Joseph said about Latin Academy. “They’re built to be one of the top teams in the league.”
Pavel Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe
A few weeks before school started at Boston English High this fall, a group of incoming freshmen girls made their way through their school’s new gymnasium during volleyball practice.
“Our volleyball team is the best,” school registrar Maria Colon-Brown boasted while leading the tour group. “This is our third time as city champs so we have one of the best teams with one of the best coaches in the city.”
“And we have fun,” coach Hardy Mondesier added in a gentle recruiting effort.
But the fourth-year coach — who went 54-3 in his first three seasons at English, including those three city titles — might have to learn how to have fun without a pile of victories this season. After graduating six seniors from last year’s 17-1 squad — including Yabriela Perez, who will play for Suffolk University this year — the Blue & Blue return just one starter this year in senior Nelsy Barreiro, who is only in her second season of volleyball.
And everyone else in the city league is counting on English having a down year, especially Latin Academy, which won seven straight city championships before English edged them out the last three years — including beating them twice in the finals.
“There are other teams too, O’Bryant is in there too, but it is an opportunity and even thought we don’t have the hitting as strong as we’d like, we always have a chance to win the city,” said fourth-year Latin Academy coach Phuong Cao. “We were way up there with them but we lost. Yes it is an opportunity and hopefully we can come through this year.”
At least one coach in the league, however, said English won’t miss a beat this season because of Mondesier’s strong leadership and knowledge of the game.
“I think he’s a good enough coach,” Dorchester coach Amie Capodanno said. “Yes, I think if he can recruit and he builds enough confidence in those girls he’ll have a very successful team. I don’t doubt it. He’s a pretty amazing coach.”
For its own part, English doesn’t seem to be stressing about this season. They say it’s not like they had a powerhouse program when Mondesier first saw the team play about four years ago.
“When we started [with Mondesier] it was awful,” said outgoing senior Johanly Garcia, who is an assistant coach this year and is attending Newbury College. “I’m sorry, we weren’t really good but we won. That means they are better than we were so they can win.”
When he first saw the team play, Mondesier’s wife was a guidance counselor at the school and he had been working as an accountant for State Street Bank for 11 years.
English’s old volleyball coach happened to be retiring, and Mondesier, who was a Globe All-Scholastic volleyball player for Cambridge Rindge & Latin in 1991 before playing for UMass Lowell, was looking to shift gears. (He has also been the boys’ coach at BC High the last four years.)
“I called them to a higher standard,” Mondesier said. “I don’t know if it was a calling the year before I picked up coaching. … I knew automatically it wasn’t going to be the typical bump, bump, bump. I want to teach. I want offense. I wanted to see bump, set, spike.
“There’s a level for everybody and you have to call them to their best potential. If you haven’t played at a high level it’s hard to call them to a higher standard.”
Just as amazing as the high standards that the team was reaching on the court was the high standards the team reached in the classroom. When Mondesier took over the team the school implemented higher academic eligibility requirements for its athletes, starting with a 2.0 GPA three years ago, a 2.2 two years ago and finally a 2.5 last year.
During that three year period, not a single member of the girls’ volleyball team failed off the squad.
This year, the school’s new headmaster is bringing the eligibility standard for the school’s athletes back to the district-wide standard of a 1.67 in an effort to boost participation in athletics school wide. But in a school that’s struggling to change the culture around academics and athletics, there’s no doubt that the volleyball team has become the gold standard on both counts.
“I’m establishing a culture, not just typical gym volleyball, recreational volleyball but I’m calling it to a true varsity sport,” Mondesier said.
On the court, at least, this season will be the true test of how sturdy of a foundation the outgoing players from the last three years have left.
“If we work and we work as a team we can win like we did last year,” Barreiro, the team’s only returning senior and only returning starter, said. “I think it’s not a problem that we can get to the finals and fight for another championship.”
The outgoing players have also rubbed off on Barreiro’s younger sister, Heidy, a junior outside hitter.
“First they taught me that volleyball is passion,” she said. “It’s what you do, you have control of the game and it's you being there playing. It’s an overwhelming feeling you don’t know how to describe.
Coach: Gladys Perez-Byrd 175-131 (20-plus)
Last year’s record: 13-5
The Cardinals should have a strong core of returning players that should be a cohesive and aggressive unit. They also have considerable height with only one of their returning starters measuring below 5-foot-6 inches while junior middle hitter/blocker Reti Johnson tops the group off at 5-foot-11 inches.
Madison Park, however, might not be in top shape coming into the start of the season and it might take them a few games to catch their stride.
The Cardinals remain positive and ready for the season. They also have five returning starters who are taller than 5-6, including 5-11 junior middle hitter/blocker Reti Johnson.
Senior middle hitter/blocker Krystal Edwards, 5-8
Senior outside hitter/blocker Amber Edwards, 5-8
Junior middle hitter/blocker Reti Johnson. 5-11
Senior defensive specialist/hitter Dayma Santana, 5-6
Junior hitter Nalitza Valentin, 5-7
Senior setter Keichla Aponte, 5-2
Coach Joanne Lee Nieves (Off and on for 27 years)
Last year’s record: 11-5
The Burke returns a strong group of seniors this fall, including four players who are playing for their fourth straight year. The Bulldogs also serve and spike the ball well.
Keeping a full roster all season long is always tough for the Burke. Last year the team started the season with 25 players and ended it with just eight.
The Burke just missed the city playoffs last year as their only losses came at the hands of English and O’Bryant. English could have a down year this season so the Burke could find itself in the city playoffs at season's end if all goes well.
“They’ve improved over the last three years,” Lee Nieves said of her seniors. “This year, if we don’t [make Cities] it’s a whole new crew after that. I’m hoping this year will be a good year for them.”
Senior setter Brenda Calderon, 4-11
Senior outside hitter Cassandra Tenuf, 5-10
Senior outsider hitter/insider hitter Kirina Laryea, 5-11
Senior defensive specialist/ setter Diana Arguello, 5-5
Senior backline Whanellely Guerrero, 5-5
Senior defensive specialist Jussara, Pontes, 5-5
Senior outside hitter Bianca Martinez, 5-9
Coach: Venessa Bigby (fourth year)
Last year's record: 9-7
The Jets will put a strong defense on the court this season while sophomore spiker Natalia Pretiado should prove to be a potent weapon on offense. The team is also hungry to get back on the court.
Even though they have a strong squad, East Boston is still young, with many of its members only playing for the second year.
The Jets only had two returning players and last year was a rebuilding year for East Boston, but they still managed nine victories. But last year was the first time in four years the team did not make the city playoffs and this year they are looking to change the trend.
“I think we will do that, I think we will make the cities and the states this year, that’s what I’m looking forward to and that’s what I think we are going to do,” Bigby said. “I’ve been watching them during the year, during gym class playing volleyball. I think we are really going to go far this year.
“I think we got a lot stronger with our serving, that’s a piece I put into play and not just sending the ball over the net with one hit. I really drilled that into their heads the last year at the end of the year.”
Senior hitter Carolina Londono, 5-4
Sophomore setter Juliana Grillo, 5-2
Senior hitter Lesley Rodriguez, 5-7
Senior hitter Aliyah Clark, 5-3
Sophomore Spiker Natalia Pretiado, 5-9
junior setter Clarita Prudncio. 5-0
Coach: Jenny Bello (First year)
The Raiders have some experience and are good at hitting the ball and staying in a rally. The team also has leadership with five seniors on its roster. Westie also has strong numbers with 13 returning players.
Graduating four seniors, Westie is thin in some areas and also struggles at spiking the ball.
First-year coach, Jenny Bello played volleyball in her native Columbia and is eager to start this season.
“Hopefully the 11th and the 12th graders will be the new leaders of the team,” Bello said. “Hopefully, I think we will have a good season. I’m positive about that.”
Coach: Mary Linehan (21st year)
Last year’s record: 6-9
South Boston boasts four returning starters who are 5-foot-6-inches or taller.
None at this time, maybe during the season.
To play to the best of their abilities and make it to the playoffs.
Junior setting Sara Padgett, 5-7
Senior blocker Alina Rivera, 5-6
Senior hitter Stanasa Dowdye, 5-10
Junior setter Natalia Reyes , 5-6
Coach: Amie Capodanno (third year)
Last year’s record: 2-10
Despite being made up of mostly sophomores and freshman, the team has a passion for the sport and a willingness to learn. The team only graduated two seniors last year.
The team has no seniors and only three juniors. Besides being young, Dorchester struggles at practice because they don’t have a proper net system to train with.
In her third year since replacing John Evans, who coached the team for 42 years, Amie Capodanno is finally catching her stride and looking to put together some victories this season.
She is excited about the passion her players have exhibited for the sport.
“I think that their love of the game and being really connected to it is probably our major strength,” she said. “Their willingness to learn and play true volleyball is there.”
Capodanno will also have help this season from former Emmanuel player Jacob DeLouise.
“He’s young, just excited to coach,” she said. “He’s a teacher at Tech Boston Academy for sixth grade and is really excited to get into it. It’s going to be an exciting year. We got a lot of energy and enthusiasm.
“I think it’s going to be a team to watch.”
Sophomore outside hitter, Radisha Vassel
Sophomore defensive specialist Tatyana Adams
Sophomore setter Edilili Rosario-Taveras
Sophomore outside hitter Jasmine Sudhu
Coach: Phuong Cao (fourth season)
Last year’s record: 18-4
Latin Academy plays good defense and passes the ball well.
The Dragons graduated four seniors last year and only return two seniors. Hitting and setting are trouble areas for the Dragons.
The gold standard in volleyball programs in the city, Latin Academy won seven straight city championships before Boston English won the last three. With English in a bit of a rebuilding mode the Dragons will be gunning to get back to the top spot.
Fourth-year coach Phuong Cao has yet to win a city championship as head coach.
“My first goal is always to get to Cities because last year we lost in the semis and two years before that we lost in final,” he said. “So our first goal is to get back to cities and hopefully we’ll do better than the second round of the states.”
Junior Libero Christina Wong, 5-2
Sophomore Outside hitter Victoria Thong, 5-5
Sophomore Middle outside hitter Alex Wilson, 5-7
Senior libero Kathy Tran, 5-1
Senior setter Nicole Hartford, 5-6
Sophomore middle hitter Anna Nguyen, 5-7
Coach: Hardy Mondesier (fourth season, 54-3)
Last year’s record: 17-1
Even though it’s a rebuilding year for the Blue & Blue, they have the confidence of coming off three straight city championships.
Boston English will only return one starter this year after graduating six seniors, including Yabriela Perez, who will play for Suffolk University this year. The Blue & Blue also lack height this season.
Everyone is going to be gunning for Boston English this season after they dominated the city league for three straight years. But Mondesier is one of the best in the city and he did not have much to build off when he took over the program three years ago.
“It’s going to be tough to repeat what we’ve done in our league,” he said. “We are definitely going to make a run for a championship or at least second [place].”
Senior Nelsy Barreiro is the team’s only senior and only returning starter. The 4-foot-5 defensive specialist has a tall order this season.
“This year she will probably be more of a setter then just having a back role,” Mondesier said. “When she’s in front she’ll probably be one of our main setters. Nelsy was a walk-on varsity starter. Basically she came to watch her sister last year and I had to drag her on the court and she became my starter. It’s amazing. She became that defensive leader I was looking for.”
Senior defensive specialist Nelsy Barreiro, 4-5
Coach: Modesto Gomez (sixth year)
Last year’s record: 10-8
Boston International has solid numbers in its program since it is one of the only programs in the city that fields a JV squad in addition to its varsity team. So some of the team’s younger players should be ready to contribute right away this season. The team has also qualified for states four out of the last six seasons.
The team graduated eight seniors and it’s unclear if this year’s seniors will but up for the task of leading the squad. Boston International also only boasts two returning starters.
Boston International is an experienced team that will rely on the leadership of sophomore setter, Jasmin Soto.
“She’s the real deal,” Gomez said. ‘She came from Puerto Rico last year. She is that good. She played very competitive volleyball in Puerto Rico. She’s helped out the other girls a lot. It’s a little frustrating for her that not all the other girls are up to her level. In Puerto Rico it’s a different world, it’s for real. She played for her club team in Puerto Rico.
“Things can get frustrating for her but she helps out the other girls as much as possible.”
Sophomore setter Jasmin Soto
Senior outside hitter Patricia Bello
Boston schools athletic director Ken Still said Tuesday he is considering starting the fall season about a week later next year because this fall so many teams struggled to file paperwork mandated by the state's new concussion policy.
On Tuesday, only two of the seven scheduled soccer games were actually played. Most of the other games were canceled due to paperwork not being filed on time.
"My office has to regroup to try to push back our start time in the fall," Still said during a telephone interview on Tuesday morning. "For us, it is a very difficult period because there's so much paperwork ... we need to revamp all our paperwork to see if we can streamline it in a little better way. But you never want to streamline anything and end up with liability.
"An extra week [before the season starts] would definitely almost help,” he said. “That’s an extra five kids you got signed up and would come forward; [it would] especially [help] with soccer programs and volleyball."
This is the second straight fall that the state is enforcing a new law regarding concussion safety and awareness, specifically for the handling and reporting of concussions that all MIAA schools must follow. Players must file a head injury history form and parents must watch a concussion video or undergo a brief concussion training, usually online.
Players, parents, coaches, and athletic directors must certify they've taken the education course, and the student can't play until they file the forms.
But this is the first year that the Boston City League has truly enforced the new rules.
Tuesday was the second day of the city league soccer season, but O’Bryant-South Boston, Boston English-Madison Park, Burke-Snowden and Boston International-Charlestown were all canceled.
For the girls, Burke-West Roxbury was cancelled while Brighton-Latin Academy and East Boston-New Mission played as scheduled.
First-year Charlestown boys' soccer coach TIm Meho agreed with Still that it would be good to start the season a week week later because it’s difficult for the players to return all of their paperwork by the first week of school.
But Boston International boys soccer coach Djon Ramos thinks that it is mainly only a problem with new coaches.
“With veteran coaches, they know what to do and know to get physicals," he said. "New coaches, like in my case, only see students in school so it’s very hard for kids to give me information. I was ready though and definitely will be ready next year.”
O’Bryant boys soccer coach Ian Doreian doesn’t think the league would benefit from a later start date. He said that starting the league a week late may hurt the teams because it would be difficult to fit in all 16 games. Instead, he thinks that the problem could be fixed simply by organization.
“I think ultimately what would make it easier is if we had dedicated paperwork days so everyone gets their paperwork done early,” he said. “For coaches it’s tough because we don’t have access to report cards and physicals so a lot of times we’re caught unprepared.”
Paperwork and low participation is also an issue in football. New Mission almost had to cancel its season opener against Dorchester on Friday because it almost didn't have the paperwork in for enough of its players.
Part of the problem, according to Madison Park football coach Roosevelt Robinson, is that even after a new football player is cleared to play they have to wait three days before they can collect their equipment.
"[If a player] came in senior year and didn't play any prior sports and said 'You know what coach, I thought about it, I want to play football,' Robinson said, "because he doesn't have any prior experience, I have to put him on hold until he gets cleared by the school. Never mind what his doctor says.
"So that's a big holdup."
The city is looking at how it can boost participation in athletics across the board.
"I wish there was so much more our office could do to help," Still said.
Coach: Edmar Varela (first year)
The Blue & Blue have extremely dedicated players who don’t miss practice, don’t get down on one another and are open minded.
Numbers will be a problem for English.
First-year coach Edmar Varela will have no problem relating to his new players.
He was a 2005 graduate from Burke, where he played soccer before he continued to play for Westbury Community College. Now in addition to coaching, he is enrolled at Northeastern and pursuing his graduate degree.
“I want to give the boys a good experience,” he said. “Learn different ways to play, learn the field and of course, win as many games as possible and make it to the city championship.”
Senior forward Cyril Quave
Senior midfielder Lauber Quitunba
Junior midfielder Irlanbo Gonsalves
Junior forward Ilbo Bires
Sophomore defender Amanbio Ferreira
Sophomore defender Maumaq Bhembi
Coach: Joao Barros (second season)
Offense, a sense of teamwork and the players have each other’s backs.
Most of the team’s contributors from last season graduated. The team could also use a volunteer assistant coach.
After fielding a team of only 13 players last year, Joao Barros is looking for at least 22 players this year. The team also draws players from Fenway High and the Josiah Quincy Upper School.
“As long as we have a decent amount of players, this will be a really good season,” he said. “One goal is to win as many games as possible,” he said. “Our biggest goal is to make this the top program in the city, and qualify for playoffs.”
Senior forward German Bustamante
Senior forward Wilton Zuo
Senior keeper Stanley Gourge
Junior defender Ronaldo Anerade
Junior defender Muhammed Muntasser
Sophomore midfielder Yoines Mejia
Sophomore defender Brian Martinez
Sophomore midfielder Hernan Escobar
Coach: Tim Meho (first year)
Keeping the players on the team with focus on academic eligiblity.
First-year coach Tim Meho is looking to teach his players about soccer and teamwork.
“I want to learn as much as I can about the kids, and help them work together, exercise and have fun,” he said.
Last year’s record: 6-9-1
Coach: Nathaniel Houghton (first year)
The team has plenty of skill
Nathaniel Houghton takes over the program after previously coaching at Boston Latin from 2005 to 2008. He is also a physics teacher at South Boston High.
“[South Boston] is an upcoming team that’s doing great,” he said. “Hopefully we can continue it.”
From what he’s seen at tryouts, Houghton said that the team is very skillful; they just “need to keep organized.”
Houghton predicted that his team will have a successful season that ends in an MIAA tournament berth.
“We want to have a good time, kick the ball around and give the other teams some competition,” he said.
Last year’s record: 12-4-2
Coach: Lorenzo DiBenedetto (20 plus years)
A strong midfield
The defense is entirely new, including the goalie.
Coming off a season in which longtime coach Lorenzo DiBenedetto collected his 200th victory, East Boston is not starting all over.
“My concerns depend on how weak the other teams are,” DiBenedetto said. “We have to rebuild our whole defense and get a new goalie. This is a rebuilding year, we lost about 13 players. A lot of players are coming in that don’t know my system … We’re starting from scratch.”
Despite having so many new players, DiBenedetto still believes the team has what it takes to get to the finals, despite the loss of All-Scholastic Carlos Ruiz.
“We want to be able to be part of the top teams in Boston, get to the finals and qualify for state tournament. We set high goals every year and the team will shape up.”
Midfielder Elmar Ventura
Midfielder Marvin Melgar
Last year’s record: 4-8-3
Coach: Dennis Allen (six years)
Possibility of the team becoming fragmented and the lack of participation in pre-season workouts.
Latin Academy will field a strong mix of high school and middle school students this season.
“Our school is not nine through twelve, it’s seven through twelve,” Allen said. “I am depending on the seniors to encourage and support the young players.”
Despite the turnout at practices, Allen is looking at the season positively.
“Ideally, I want to get to the playoffs this season,” he said. “I think we have a good chance at achieving that. I’m hoping the captains will do their part and help the team succeed.”
Midfielder Diego Vimlefuere
Midfielder Khang Do
Defender Nikiendber Pemeri
Defender Erwin Fuentes
Forward Finnerty Aidam
Coach: Adrian Kawuba (first year)
Being able to compete with the league’s top teams.
Brighton’s new coach Adrian Kawuba has a strong pedigree. He played soccer in college at the University of New Jersey in Madison and on the under 23 national team in Uganda, and after college he signed with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. In addition to coaching for Brighton, he started a sports program, AK sportsgroup, that organizes camps and clinics.
Kawuba described Brighton as a “young team,” which he believes has both positive and negative aspects.
“We lost a lot of seniors last year that played a big role [in the team,] Kawuba said. “We need players to step up, and I think they will. There’s a lot of senior leadership, I’ve seen them step up in regards to how training is going.”
Although the upperclassmen are leading the way for the younger players, he has concerns about the competition.
“We’re playing against teams like Madison that are returning pretty much their whole team,” he said. “It will be hard, but I expect these guys to develop at a faster rate because they will be playing against upperclassmen for the majority of the time.”
Despite the skills of the other city teams, Kawuba believes Brighton and all of the city teams have what it takes to get to the city championship.
“I think everyone has a fair shot going into the season,” he said. “I think our team has a chance of winning it all. I’m confident that my team will end up in the play offs, but we’re going to take it one day at a time.”
Senior midfielder Russell Cacho
Senior midfielder Joshua Depina
Senior midfielder Ralph Lopes
Senior midfielder Gustavo Lupiano
Forward Seth Phillistin
Last year’s record: 8-7-1
Coach: Ian Doreian (sixth year, 46-30-5)
The team has strong defense and a goalie with great hands.
The team graduated three of its best players last year
With one of the more veteran and dynamic coaches in the league, Ian Doreian, O’Bryant is poised to have a great year. They also return a ton of players from last year.
“With a returning goalie, and a solidified back line, we have confidence in building the attack from our half of the field.”
Doreian’s strategy this year is all about teamwork.
“Last year, we graduated three of the strongest attacking players to ever wear the O'Bryant uniform,” he said. “We need to concentrate on making controlled passes rather than relying on individual skill to score goals.”
-Senior forward Arlix Maldonado
Senior forward Marjo Salillari
Senior midfielder Patrick Powell
Senior midfielder Mendel Moise
Senior midfielder Ibrahim Kallon
Senior midfielder Abdel Gaid
Senior defender Guy Francois
Junior defender Victor Hernandez
Junior goal keeper Greg Morrison
Sophomore forward Junior Depina
Last year’s record: 8-6-2
Coach: Tim Lavin has been the Dorchester boys' soccer coach for seven years.
Several experienced returning players
The loss of talented seniors from last year and integrating new players into the system.
Coach Tim Lavin said he believes his team will be stronger than ever this season.
“I’m hoping to build on the past two seasons where the Bears qualified for the state tournament,” Lavin said. “[I want to] continue to develop as a team and be competitive in the Boston City League. If younger players and reserve players from last year can step up and contribute as starters, I believe the Bears can have a successful season.”
Junior defender Guy Charlot Destin
Junior defender Heroldy Limage
Junior midfielder Jeffery Valbrun
Junior forward Warren Exceus
Junior midfielder Roberson Jacques
Sophomore defender Richardson Valbrun
Coach: Djon Ramos (first year)
Keeping midfielders healthy
As long as Boston International can stay healthy in the midfield they have as good a shot at returning to the city finals as anyone. Last year they lost to Madison Park in the championship game.
“Stefan Teixeira, a skilled midfielder, is injured,” Ramos said. “Hopefully he will get better but I don’t think he will be able to play the first couple games. It all depends on how he feels by next practice.”
What Ramos isn’t worried about is making it to the city finals.
“They’ve been making the four best of the city finals most years,” he said. “It’s hard to predict because some senior left, but hopefully we’ll have new players.”
Coach: Daniel McDonald (first year)
Several returning players
The current group of players have only been together for one full season.
While West Roxbury has a new coach in physics teacher, Daniel McDonald, they return several players from last year.
“Our strength this season will be the returning players, we’re a young team,” said McDonald, who played soccer in high school and college and has coached at the youth and club level in Weymouth. “It’s their second year together as a group.”
McDonald hopes to improve immensely this season and help the team get more wins.
“I think we’re going to improve compared to last year from one win,” he said. “I’m pretty positive because of the returning players just getting back together as a team.”
Coach: Adelina Dasilva (23d season)
Surface: Artificial turf
Madison Park has excellent forwards and defensive players.
The team’s lack of preseason practices.
Madison Park lost in the city semifinals the last two seasons and is looking for a breakthrough this year.
Dasilva has a positive outlook on the upcoming season, explaining that the program only gets better every year.
“[Since she started] the program has improved tremendously,” she said. “We have had a lot of help from the athletic department and will continue to get better.”
As for her players, she believes the team has skilled athletes, but wants to recruit even more talent for her program.
“I hope to find some freshmen and work hard to get them ready, fast,” she said. “We’ve done it before, and I am sure we will do it again. That’s what we call MP Spirit and MP Pride.”
Senior defender Ashley Chavez
Senior forward Heidymara Gomes
Senior midfielder Dulcelina Taveras
Senior keeper Olga Manjvar
Junior midfielder Sedny Alves
Junior striker Berlizea Brito.
Last year’s record: 16-2
Coach: Bridget Driscoll (first year)
The back-to-back city champions have a strong junior class.
Handling the pressure of being the team to beat will be tough for a team that only has one senior as a returning starter.
First-year coach Bridget Driscoll has plenty of experience. She was the assistant varsity coach for three years at Lynn English, where she also coached indoor/outdoor track. She took a break from coaching when she moved to the Boston public schools, but is very enthusiastic to return to coaching soccer.
“I am very optimistic about the upcoming season,” she said. “[I] can't wait to get on the field and see the returning talent that I have inherited and also the new players that will be joining us!”
Senior midfielder Emma Lama
Senior defender Ducas Love Awah
Junior midfielder/forward Yaritza Landaverde
Junior defender Meybel Lopez Flores
Junior defender/midfielder Christy Cruz
Junior midfielder Jalitza Perez
Sophomore keeper and forward Stephanie Fernandes
Last year’s record: 14-3
Coach: Richard La Cara (12th year)
Surface: Artificial turf
The Jets return a ton of starters, including four seniors.
Four of the team’s returning starters, however, are only sophomores and still have to learn the ropes.
La Cara believes the midfielders will lead his team to the championships this season.
“They’re older and more mature when it comes to soccer,” he said. “They possess the ball and are able to scope the field and see where to go. They’re not afraid to dribble in and out, and they have skills to get past [the opposing players.]”
But it will be tough since the team lost a ton of seniors.
“We lost about six great seniors last year that regrouped the team when the going got tough,” he said. “So replacing their leadership is a concern. Throughout the season there will be a couple of hurdles, so we’ll see how they handle it.”
La Cara is all about pushing his team to their potential and having a good time.
“I want them to have fun and by winning, that breeds having fun,” he said. “If we do the best we can, we can make it to the playoffs. I don’t know what to expect, so we’ll give it our best shot.”
Senior forward Maria Vargas,
Senior forward Hannah Lunetta
Senior defender Vanessa Pineda
Senior defender Wendy Campos
Sophomore forward Ana Gonzalez,
Sophomore defender Theresa Buenrospro,
Sophomore forward Maria Serrano,
Junior midfielder Nicole Lopez
Junior midfielder Marta Chacon
Sophomore keeper Brittany Brancato.
Last year’s record: 3-8-1
Coaches: Allison Cohn and Jenna White (both first year)
A new crop of excited and energetic players.
The team doesn’t have any returning seniors. Working together could be an issue as the players will be a combination of kids from Dorchester Academy as well as Tech Boston.
Dorchester will need its returning starters to play a huge leadership role since the team has so many new players.
“We have a lot of new girls coming in that are excited and energetic,” Cohn said. “They have a lot of speed, are quick to pick up the game and eager to do well.”
She added that she also hopes returning players will set a good example and step up as leaders.
“As first-year coaches, we just want to make sure that we can come together as a team,” she said. “There’s a wide range of ages, so bringing everyone together is something we will have to work on for the rest of the year.”
Although Dorchester wasn’t a top team last season, Cohn believes that may change this year.
“I think we have a lot to look forward to,” she said. “It may be unexpected for us, but I think we’ll have a good time and a good season.”
Sophomore forward Kaylin Thomas,
Sophomore defender and midfielder Kyra Stapleton,
Junior forward/midfielder Alandra Burns
Coach: Conor Treacy (first year)
The team boasts a lot of returning starters
Keeping the enthusiasm level high throughout the season.
In June, first-year coach Conor Treacy moved to Boston from Ireland, where he played soccer at a semi-professional level. While he has never coached in the US, he was head coach of a local U-13 team in Ireland just a year before he moved.
“It was something that I really enjoyed,” he said, “and I am looking forward to another positive experience this time around.”
Charlestown has a lot of girls on its team this year.
"And they all are showing great enthusiasm, which is very good,” Treacy said. “It will be my job this year to keep that enthusiasm level and positive energy high and hopefully the girls can all really enjoy this soccer season.”
Ayan Abdi, midfield
Sara Centeio, midfield
Keila Goncalves, defense
Angie Auguste, forward
Sarah Williams, defense.
Ailine Barbosa, defense.
Coach: Kerry Haczyk (second season) and Christine Kennedy
The team trusts one another and has strong communication.
Moving from Mission Hill to Hyde Park this year is a big transition.
Haczyk will co-coach the team with Christine Kennedy, due to New Mission’s merger with Boston Community Leadership Academy in Hyde Park. The BCLA players used to play for Brighton, but will now be joining New Mission’s squad.
“Despite putting two teams together, we are going to have a strong cohesive group of girls,” Haczyk said. “Our strongest players are in every position, scattered throughout.”
Haczyk is positive that the team will play well together.
“I think we’re going to have a great season, work hard as a team and end with a strong record.”
Senior defender Nicole Sandell
Senior forward Fantazia Hinds
Senior midfielder Bonnie Ramos
Junior sweeper Perla Lara
Junior midfielder Nikesha Maado
Junior forward Amarielis Morales
Junior midfielder Alison Davey.
Coach: Luis Barbosa (first season)
English is starting new with a new style and a positive outlook.
It’s unclear how the team will respond to a new coach.
This season is a clean slate for the Blue & Blue.
“That’s how I like to start,” Barbosa said. “Even if they had a horrible season, even if it was great.”
He also stressed his passion for helping the girls get into college, which he feels is most important.
“I want to help them with college applications, especially if they’re not being told to get moving,” he said. “I’m not sure if they’re even thinking about it, but I will emphasize it. I’m going to be that constant reminder.”
He also has one mandatory rule for his girls.
“If you can’t smile,” he said, “you can’t be here.”
Last year’s record: 8-7
Coach: Jason Joseph (third season, 22-11)
The girls won the city championships three years ago during his first year as coach.
The Tigers have a plethora of returning players.
The team’s ability to come together as a unit is a concern since the team is so large.
This year third-year coach Jason Joseph is looking to grab another city championship, which he won in his rookie season at O’Bryant.
“We have a lot of experienced girls from last year,” he said. “We had a young team last year. But we also have a lot of freshmen.”
But he’s worried about the team player as a cohesive unit.
“My concern is playing together well, and integrating new players,” Joseph said. “Also finding playing time for everybody. We’ve had about 30 girls show up to tryouts this year.”
Ultimately, whether the team’s strengths lie in numbers has yet to be seen.
“I am hoping that we will compete in the play offs this season,” Joseph said. “Hopefully we’ll make it to the city championships.”
Senior keeper Aiyanna Jones
Senior defender Marilyn Pineda
Senior forward Gabrielle Martinez
Junior midfielder Yonette Harris.
Last year’s record: 4-11-1
Coach: Nicholas Kamberidis (fifth year)
The team boasts a strong midfield, including its sweepers, stoppers and center mid.
Playing as a cohesive unit could be a problem but it hasn’t been in issue in the preseason.
Despite a rough record last year, Latin Academy believes it can win the city championship.
“Our goal is to be city champs and make the state tournament,” Kimberidis said.
Senior forward Virginia McCaughey,
Junior forward Morgan Wheeler
Junior midfielder Farma Hussein
Freshman midfielder Anna Kopp
Senior midfielder Samantha Powell
Senior defender Jillian Eweka
Sophomore defender Alexandra Medina
Last year’s record: 4-9
Coach: Wade Wall (seven years)
Snowden’s strongest players can be found on defense.
The team has to travel to South Boston to practice and their field is in poor shape.
Despite going 4-9 last year, coach Wade Wall has high hopes for his team this season.
“I just want to win these first 10 games,” he said. “I think this will be our best year.”
Midfielder Cheyene Sulfaro,
Junior defender Dianah Loazio
Junior defender Stephanie Morales
Junior midfielder Noele Rodrigez
Junior midfielder Victoria Reinos
Sophomore midfielders Gaella Etiene
Sophomore midfielder Jarleisa Lewis
Junior forward Bianca Glover.
Coach: Edmar Cayemite (five years)
Player attendance and a lack of goalie.
Enthusiastic team captains
Cayemite’s hopes for this season mostly have to do with his players’ development on the field.
“I love teaching soccer,” he said, “and hope I can help the kids learn the foundations [of the game].”
Senior striker Elizabeth Lewis
Senior midfielder Tatiana Pierie
Senior defender Mackayla McPherson
Junior midfielder Roberte Francois
Junior defender Monique McPherson
Coach: Marc Loiselle (first year)
South Boston went to the city championships last year and snagged third place.
Speed and intelligence
Numbers are an issue for the Knights.
Coming off a trip to the city championships last year, South Boston is looking to take a step to the next level by winning the city title. But first they have to adjust to a new coach.
“They’re picking up the game very quickly and developing their skills,” Loiselle said. “They’re learning tactical strategies within the game and how to play smart.”
Like many other city teams, his concerns aren’t about the players he has, but the ones he’s missing.
“My only concern is numbers,” he said. “I just want to have enough kids.”
Still, Loiselle thinks South Boston has what it takes to go far in the league and beyond.
“I plan on getting back to the city championship and MIAA tournament,” he said. “I want them to utilize the skills they’re developing, catch the eye of college coaches and get themselves on a college team or partial scholarship.”
South Boston might have a quarterback controversy on its hands this week.
After starting quarterback Sean Hunter was benched for Friday afternoon’s season opener against Latin Academy for disciplinary reasons, backup quarterback Hakeine Walcott led the Knights (0-1) to a fourth-quarter comeback to send the game in overtime.
South Boston ultimately lost, 26-20, to the Dragons but coach Sean Guthrie said Walcott may have earned the starting gig for this Saturday’s game against Dorchester (10 a.m. at White Stadium).
“Hakeine did such a great job it will probably be a decision I make the day before the game based on practice,” Southie coach Sean Guthrie said via email. “But we definitely want both guys on the field so we may have Sean at [running back].”
After scoring 20 points in the final quarter, South Boston lost in overtime when Kyle Dance scored on a 10-yard quarterback keeper up the middle.
Walcott, who threw a costly interception in the first half, finished the game with 111 yards passing, including a 60-yard pass to junior wide receiver Pannell Davis (109 yards receiving) to tie the game 20-20 at the end of the final quarter.
He also returned an interception 80 yards to put his team down 20-14 with about 7:50 left in the game.
“Wow that’s a run, that’s a crazy run,” Walcott said after the game. “My coach always tells me follow your blockers and trust your team and guess what I did. I did it. I’m excited I got that 80-yard TD. That pumped up the team and showed what I can do.”
After the game, the senior who never played football before high school said he would have no problem giving Hunter his starting job back against Dorchester. Hunter is also a senior.
“Sean will come back and he will be the leader,” Walcott said.
After all, Walcott did show his inexperience at the most crucial point of the game on Friday. South Boston had the first possession in overtime but it ended when Walcott fumbled the exchange with his center. Latin Academy jumped on the ball and only needed one possession to win the game.
“It’s one of those things we try to get him as much reps as we can but the center-quarterback exchange is always going to suffer a little bit because he’s just not used to it,” Guthrie said. “He’s a senior, he’s a young guy in that position but it’s just growing pains, that’s all.
“I’m proud of my guys for stepping up in some key roles. We’re going to learn from this and get better from here.”
Super Bowl shuffle
Coming off losses to two Super Bowl teams from last year, Easton Boston and O’Bryant will both be looking for their first win of the season when they meet on Friday night.
Easton Boston lost to defending Division 4A Super Bowl champs Blue Hills, 24-6, on Friday while O’Bryant lost, 28-0, Saturday to Cathedral, the team that lost to Blue Hills in the Super Bowl on an excessive celebration call. The call sparked a national controversy after Cathedral's quarterback briefly raised his arm before scoring.
Eastie and O’Bryant will play at 5 p.m. this Friday at Madison Park.
“O’Bryant is the exact opposite of Blue Hills offensively,” Eastie Coach John Parziale said. “They are speedy and they throw a lot. We’re going to have to try and get a good pass rush. … Blue Hills will pound the ball at you and OB will air it out so we’ll have to change gears as a team going up against O’Bryant.”
Last year O’Bryant lost to Cathedral in the opening game, 30-8, before losing to East Boston in the second game, 26-0. Then the Tigers rebounded to win seven of their last eight games, including finishing the season on a five-game winning streak.
“So we're still very optimistic that we’ll be fine,” O’Bryant coach Kevin Gadson said. “We just need to get better and not make as many mistakes, that’s all.”
East Boston opened last season with a 24-0 loss to Blue Hills before losing to them again 25-22 in the playoffs.
“If we can compete in these games, and then win some city games, hopefully we can make it back to the playoffs,” Parziale said.
Grasping the game
Prior to losing to the defending Division 4A Super Bowl champion Blue Hills Warriors 24-6 in Friday afternoon’s season opener, Vincent Lepore had never taken a snap at the varsity level at Easton Boston.
The Jets’ junior quarterback went 0-for-4 on his first half pass attempts, mostly due to the lack of blocking upfront by the young offensive line. So it was no surprise when they trailed 24-0 at half.
By the third quarter, however, both Lepore and the Jets started to show why they are defending Boston North Champions.
The team’s defense held Blue Hills to zero second half points and the offense got on the board behind a 60-yard hookup between Lepore and receiver Connor Henry.
Lepore finished the game 4-of-11 passing for 93 yards, a touchdown and an interception. And that’s why Eastie coach John Parziale plans to air it out a bit more this season.
“He’s going to get better every game,” Parziale said of his young quarterback. “He’s an honor roll student and a tough kid. It was his first game and he was a little nervous but I believe he will continue to improve.”
Here are the three games to watch in boys' city soccer this week.
No. 1 -- Brighton vs. Snowden at Portsmouth, Monday, 3:30 p.m.:
Everyone is eager to see what Brighton can do this year with former professional soccer player Adrian Kawuba (he played for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds) taking over the reins as coach, you can bet the Bengals have been working hard this summer.
Although they weren’t the city champs last year, Snowden shouldn’t be ruled out. The team has a lot of new blood this season, with players from Fenway High and Quincy Upper.
No. 2 -- East Boston v. Dorchester at East Boston, Monday, 3:30 p.m.:
With East Boston’s great record last season (12-4-2,) this team is bound to play an exciting match. Coach Lorenzo Di Benedetto also trained a new goalie this summer, who could be the next new city star.
Dorchester has six returning starters in key positions, so these guys will know exactly what to do on the field.
No. 3 -- West Roxbury vs. Latin Academy at Millennium, Wednesday, 3:30 p.m.:
Everyone loves the story of the underdog, and this game will provide just that. With only one win last year, West Roxbury's new coach Daniel McDonald is determined for a better record this season. Latin Academy didn’t have the best record last season either with just four wins, but this year the team has a lot of new players.
Coach Dennis Allen is looking to his seniors to help the younger players learn the ropes.
Here are the three games to watch for girls' city soccer this week.
No 1. -- Brighton vs. Latin Academy at Hynes, Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.:
It’s almost guaranteed that even with a new coach, Brighton is going to perform well this year. The defending city champs went 16-2 last year and have been working hard all summer. They will showcase seven returning starters.
Latin Academy, however, has seven returning starters as well. Although they only had four wins last season, coach Nicolas Kamberidis said that key positions of the field (sweepers, stoppers, center mids) have the most strength on his team this season.
No. 2 -- East Boston vs. New Mission at Reservation, Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.:
East Boston is expected to be on fire this year with 10 returning starters, four of them skilled senior captains. One of them, Maria Vargas, has been training all summer in the women’s soccer league in Chelsea as well as scrimmaging with boys. The team lost by one goal to the undefeated Brighton last fall, so if anyone’s looking for revenge, it’s the Jets.
New Mission is expected to be at their best this season, having garnered some players from Boston Community Leadership Academy, which played for last year's city championship Brighton squad. This year BCLA is housed in the former Hyde Park Education Complex and is playing with New Mission.
No. 3 -- Madison Park vs. Boston English at Boston English, Monday, 3:30 p.m.:
Madison Park is looking for revenge this season, having gone to the semifinals but lost to O’Bryant. Coach Adelina Da Silva not only shared that she has many talented returning starters, but was also attempting to recruit as many players as she can. With the skilled Olga Manjvar in goal, it may difficult for English to score.
As for Boston English, the team has a new coach who has played soccer his entire life, a sport that is his passion stemming from his native country, Angola. It will be interesting to see if English has what it takes to defeat Madison Park.
Soccer season begins Monday in the city with teams across Boston ready to put practice behind them and begin the chase for a city title.
But while half the boys teams in the Boston City League can hardly wait for that first kickoff, the other half are more worried about just trying to start something from scratch.
Seven of the league’s 15 teams have new coaches this season. including Edmar Verela (Boston English,) Tim Meho (Charlestown,) Nathaniel Houghton (South Boston,) Adrian Kawuba (Brighton,) Djon Ramos (Boston International), and Daniel McDonald (West Roxbury.)
And as of last week it was unclear who back-to-back city champion Madison Park's coach will be this season.
The lack of consistency is no doubt hard for the league’s growth, but Boston schools athletic director Ken Still said it’s difficult to keep coaches in one spot for a long time.
“There are a lot of reasons why coaches leave,” Still said. “Some get pregnant and don’t want to coach anymore. Some get advancements in their job and do not have the time anymore. Some move onto other schools, making it hard for them to travel. There’s a variety of reasons.”
East Boston boys’ soccer coach Lorenzo Di Benedetto, who has been coaching for more than 20 years, agrees with Still.
“Most coaches leave because they’re not teaching there anymore,” he said. “If you don’t teach within the school it’s difficult because you don’t know the kids and you don’t have that special bond. Some of the younger coaches have kids and cannot make that 6, 7 o’clock commitment.”
Although players for half the league are just getting used to their coaches, Meho said the new presence isn’t necessarily a negative thing because students can benefit from new coaches with new ideas.
“I think we bring a new perspective to the league and give it a new direction,” Charlestown’s first-year coach said. “Everything has been going great. The kids are great and I’m happy to work with them.”
Kawuba, Brighton’s new coach, brings loads of experience to the table. He has played soccer at a professional level with the Under-23 national team in Uganda as well as the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. He also runs sports camps and clinics with his organization, AK sports group.
“I have a passion for coaching,” he said. “I would love to share my experiences and lessons I’ve learned along the way and pass it on to these guys. They want to play in college too and my experience could help them. Coaching is the best thing I could do.
"I'm a former player myself, I actually played professionally and in college. I would definitely love to share some of my experiences and lessons I’ve learned on the way and pass it on to these guys. I love soccer."
While many of the new coaches are young, with physical abilities that allow them to participate during practices, Still said good coaching transcends age.
“Young, old, there’s no difference,” Still said of the new coaches. “If you can coach, are into the kids and it’s a passion of yours, the new coaches are a good thing.”
Former South Boston coach Andrew Hamilton declined to say why he left, but believes that the new coaches are a good thing if they have intentions to stick around.
“If they are good at coaching and enthusiastic and have good relationships with the kids then it's obviously good,” he said. “That being said, I think a best case scenario would be for there to be good enthusiastic coaches who have a tenure that spans for an extended period of time.”
Di Benedetto agrees that the success of the team is all about consistency.
“In the long run it’s good for [the team] because [the coaches] bring new enthusiasm and new input, but it’s all about consistency,” he said. “If they only stay for one year, it’s not good for the program. If they’re around for two or three years it’s great for the kids and great for the league.”
Meho has no plans to leave after his first year and hopes the same goes for the rest of the coaches
“Hopefully all of the coaches stick around,” he said. “I’m sure that they’re professional enough to be able to.”
CANTON – Friday's game at Blue Hills featured two champions from a season ago: The Jets, Boston North league champs, and Blue Hills, Division 4A Super Bowl champions.
But only one team played like it.
In a rematch from last year’s nail-biting playoff game – which Blue Hills won 25-22 on an unsuspecting field goal in the fourth quarter from tight end David Neil – the Jets' went down big early in the first half and eventually lost 24-6 in the season opener.
With a stable of runners at their disposal, the Warriors showcased their signature rushing attack. And once it got going, they never looked back.
The usual suspect, two-time player of the year Vincent Burton (27 carries, 158 yards, touchdown), shined and piled up both the carries and the yards – as he tends to do.
But it was the play of two newcomers to the Warriors Wing-T offense, Brandon Gordon and Daryon Calhoun (10 carries, 85 yards) that came as a surprise. And it was a pleasant one for head coach Ed Catabia.
“We’ll use all three backs [this season],” said Catabia. “It’ll probably take the pressure off Vincent a little bit and add a little bit of dimension to our offense and make it more difficult for the defenses to say 'OK who’s going to carry the ball in the offense?'
“When you have three good running backs, as we do this year and as we did last year, it’s pretty difficult. You can’t cover everybody.”
East Boston tried to do just that, but it did not work. Fake hand-offs to Burton in the inside led to big rushes from Gordon and Calhoun. And When East Boston tried to focus on the new guys, Blue Hills pounded it down the middle with Burton. It was a tough situation which put the Jets’ defense on their heels – and even their backsides – most of the game.
But let’s mention Gordon just one more time.
The junior, in just his second year in the program, had never started a varsity game. But looked a lot like he’s been there before, racking up 134 yards on just seven carries, including TD burst of 11-yards and 63-yards in the first half. The relative unknown in the Warriors backfield may have made a name for himself.
“I feel unbelievable. It was unbelievable. I never thought I’d get this chance,” said Gordon, as teammates flocked around him waving high fives and pats on the back. “This is Vincent’s team. I thought I’d get my couple rushes in every once in a while, but I had no idea I’d get this chance. So I just played my best.”
It looked a lot like Gordon’s best just might have made it his team too.
And although the Jets did not play like the champs they may have found a hidden gem themselves in first-year starting quarterback Vincent Lepore.
The junior had his incomplete passes, and even an intercepted pass (Steve Doroni) in the third quarter, but he showed he can pass the ball with accuracy while taking a licking from the Blue Hills defensive line. His lone touchdown pass, a 60-yarder aimed perfectly through traffic to Connor Henry, highlighted the potential he has at the position if his offensive line can help keep him upright.
Stan Litchman / For the Boston Globe
The New Mission Titans lost to the Dorchester Bears Friday night at White Stadium, 36-0. New Mission is a new team in the City League and this game was their debut.
“They played a great game and I want to congratulate them,” Dorchester coach Richard Moran said.
New Mission sophomore running back, Steven Thomas was also proud of his team.
“We didn’t have the numbers and not everyone from our roster played,” he said. “But we tried our best and I’m happy with what we did.”
In the first quarter Dorchester's Ki Harris recovered a fumble by New Mission but the Titans' defense kept the Bears from taking advantage.
Dorchester got two first-half touchdowns from Hakim Harris, who scored from the 13-yard and 5-yard lines, and Dale Cooper, who scored from the 1.
“I think I did good, but my line was excellent,” Hakim Harris said. “They block and I run.”
Dorchester junior quarterback Demetrius Leary, returned the third quarter kickoff 60 yards to bring the score to 28-0, and Ki Harris finished off the scoring with a 10-yard rush in the fourth quarter.
Even with Dorchester’s big win, New Mission is keeping a positive attitude for the rest of the season.
“The game was a little young and immaturity showed up in some plays,” New Mission coach Michael Pittman said. “We’ll be better as the season goes on.”
Pavel Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe
With its two best wide receivers out with injuries, Latin Academy’s junior quarterback Kyle Dance was forced to take matters into his own hands against South Boston at Saunders Stadium on Friday afternoon.
After Latin Academy gave up 20 fourth-quarter points, Dance scored a 10-yard touchdown run to give the Dragons the 26-20 overtime victory.
And Dance had a bloody lip to show for it.
“My helmet came off and they came up and hit me,” Dance, who finished the game 2 of 7 passing for 82 yards, said of his winning touchdown run. “We had a good start in the first half and then we came out slow in the second half which wasn’t very good. We kind of gave up points that we shouldn’t have.”
The Knights (0-1), who were led by backup quarterback Hakeine Walcott’s 111-passing yards, had the first opportunity in the extra session but fumbled the ball away. Walcott also returned an interception 80 yards for a touchdown to put his team down a 20-14 with 7:05 to play in the game.
After the Walcott's interception, Latin Academy (1-0) drove the ball all the way down to the South Boston 15 before losing the ball on downs.
Then, South Boston junior wide receiver Pannell Davis (109 yards receiving) made up for an earlier pass he dropped in the end zone by converting a 60-yard touchdown pass from Walcott. The score tied the game at 20.
“I was nervous, I was scared I was not going to do good but I kept my mind in the game,” said Walcott, who was given the nod under center earlier in the day because starting quarterback Sean Hunter was benched for disciplinary reasons.
“It’s a hard loss. Very hard loss but we’ll get there.”
Dance, who finished with 56 yards rushing, took the ball into his own hands at the end of the first half too, ripping off a 30-yard run that took the Dragons down to the South Boston 13-yard-line. Four plays later he powered his way into the end zone on a 1-yard run. Dance also ran in the 2-point conversion to give his squad an 8-0 lead with 1:10 left in the opening half.
In the opening drive of the second half, the Dragons got what seemed like a security touchdown on a 24-yard screen pass to go up 14-0. After a 12-yard pass from Dance to Kellough was called back on a penalty, the duo hooked up on the next play for a 28-yard pass that brought the Dragons down to South Boston’s 24.
The screen pass came on the next play but at first it looked like a nonstarter. Kellough leaped and bobbled the high pass before romping for the 24-yard score.
The Dragons took a 20-0 lead after Kellough (107 yards rushing) ran for a 60 yard touchdown.
The Knights fourth-quarter comeback started with Bless Anedoadzi’s 32 touchdown run. Walcott ran in the two point conversion to put his team down 20-8.
“Truthfully, that’s the way we’ve been practicing, at times we have great practices and at times we have let downs,” Latin Academy Coach Rocco Zizza said of the final quarter. “We looked great for the first three quarters and we had a letdown for the fourth. So again, we practice like we play.”
In the end, Dance was the difference.
“He’s a dangerous kid,” Zizza said, “and I’m glad he’s playing for us.”
Here's the first of our weekly blog posts highlighting three games to watch in the Boston City League.
No. 1 New Mission vs. Dorchester at White Stadium, Friday, 3:30 p.m.:
Many are eager to see how the Titans will look as they officially kick off their football program on Friday afternoon at White Stadium. Even though New Mission’s halls are roaming with athletes, they aren’t necessarily football players yet. But coach Michael Foreman Pittman coached for years at Cathedral High and is poised to build something special.
Still, the Titans will likely have their hands full against a Dorchester team looking to rebound from a 4-5 season last year.
No. 2 East Boston at Blue Hills, 4:30 p.m.:
The defending Boston North champions have a shot at the a tough Blue Hills squad since star running back Vincent Burton might not be at 100 percent following an off-season injury. Burton scored three touchdowns in Blue Hills’ 24-0 victory against East Boston last year.
But the Jets have a young offense, including a first-time varsity quarterback, Vincent Lepore, splitting time behind center with Stan Harris.
No. 3 Latin Academy at South Boston, 4 p.m.:
This one could be a shootout. While Latin Academy returns all of its skill players from last year, including quarterback Kyle Dance and running back Ernest Kellough, South Boston features the dynamic duo of Pannel Davis and Sean Hunter.
Davis and Hunter, who between them play almost every skill position, have a tall order ahead of them this season in trying to fill the void of the Knight’s former all-star running back James Toles, who accounted for 70 percent of the team’s offense last year.
Latin Academy’s skill players have a tough road of their own this since the Knights have an entirely new offensive line.
Boston Latin School's girls’ volleyball team tempered the pain of going back to school on Thursday with a victory against rival Boston Latin Academy.
The Dragons (0-1) haven’t slayed the Wolfpack (2-0) in two years but Latin School coach Kai Yuen said Latin Academy is always a tough test.
“It’s always a good rivalry,” Yuen said after the 3-1 road victory. “Even though the first set wasn’t close, they came right back in the second one. Nothing is a given in this rivalry.”
The Wolfpack ripped off a 14-point run in the first set before taking it, 25-9.
The Dragons tied it at a set apiece after pulling out a tight second game, 25-21. Latin Academy took its first lead of the day at 13-12 in the second set before going up, 21-16. Latin School got within two, 22-20, but Latin Academy scored three of the last four points to close out the game, 25-21.
“I think we weren’t focusing and we were making really careless mistakes,” said Latin junior middle hitter Maggie Mulligan, who finished the day with 23 kills. “But we came back and got them.”
Latin took the last two sets, 25-13 and 25-18.
“Sometimes we start slow and that second set helped us,” Latin Academy coach Phuong Cao said. “In the first set and the third set we started slow. We fell down right away by a lot of points. We’re going to improve on that.
“It’s encouraging that we were hanging in there until the fourth set. The fourth set was close too. We were right in there until the last few points.”
In the final game, Latin Academy trailed, 18-13, before coming back to cut the score to 22-17. Latin Academy held out home at 24-17 when Latin School junior outside hitter Emerson Boone hit a spike that flew past the baseline. On the next play, however, Boone’s spike nailed the baseline and secured the victory.
“We had trouble getting our spikes down too, they weren’t going down,” Mulligan said. “But after we got them down and it was pretty easy.”
Both teams graduated strong senior classes last year and each team only has two seniors this year.
“So last year we heard they were going to lose a lot of their players, a lot of them were seniors and since they graduated we had a lot of hope in ourselves that we could win,” said Latin Academy sophomore outside hitter Victoria Thong, noting that the Dragons are still rebuilding. "We were hoping the same happened to them, but they have a good coach and their players are really good so we have to catch up to them.
“We were really hoping we would win and since we lost we're like ‘We gotta get them next time.’ Beating BLS is a dream. We beat them a couple years ago and we want to bring [our level] back up because our seniors graduated as well.”
The two teams will play again in the third to last match of the season at 3:45 p.m. Oct. 22 at Latin School.
"They are always a tough team and I expect a tough match toward the end of the season,” Yuen said.
Cao said the Dragons will be fired up next time.
“Now that we know what they are and what we can do,” he said, “hopefully we can give them a better game.”
Maria Vargas will do whatever it takes to get to this year’s city league soccer championship, even if it means doggedly training all year long.
The East Boston High senior has been preparing for the season all summer by playing in the women’s soccer league in Chelsea, working with a personal trainer and even scrimmaging with boys and grown men.
“I don’t want them to show any mercy,” the Jets’ captain said of playing in the women’s league every Sunday night. “I don’t let them hold themselves back because I want to get stronger. I’ve gotten so much quicker because it’s been challenging.
“I never doubt myself anymore.”
You can also find the midfielder at Airport Field in East Boston every night after work, where she scrimmages boys from East Boston. She credits much of her skill to these boys who motivate her to play when she’s tired and are patient with her when she needs help.
“It’s definitely tough,” she said. “Some guys there are 40 years old, some play AAU club soccer…They’re amazing. Once I get by them, I feel so accomplished. They scream ‘Oh you just got messed by a girl.’ ”
But scrimmaging with the boys isn't enough for Vargas. That's where the women's soccer league comes into play. The league does not have an age limit, consisting of older and more talented girls from all over the city, which Vargas believes has contributed to her growth as a player. However, she didn’t enter the league as confident as she is now.
“At first, I was intimidated,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh man, these girls are doing this in college ... they’re so much better than me.’ Then when I started playing with them, it was like playing with people my own age. If you work hard, it just becomes easy.”
Through the league, she also got experience in positions she wouldn’t normally play, such as defense. Since she will start the season as center midfielder, a position she has always strived to play, she is grateful for the defensive experience.
The byproduct of her hard work on the field is clear after getting chosen to play in a tournament at Bunker Hill, one of only three girls. She was surprised and proud that she was one of them.
East Boston coach Richard La Cara, however, was not surprised.
“She plays any position,” he said. “She likes center mid, but sometimes I need her on defense, even as goalie a couple times, and she always does a great job.”
Vargas hopes that her hard work will get her scouted by UMASS Amherst into their Division 1 soccer program. She also plans to try out for a Women’s Premier Soccer League team Aztec MA, which plays all over New England.
Despite all of her work and aspirations, she believes she’s at her best with her high school team.
“As much as I love playing in the summer, it doesn’t compare to my city team,” she said. "We've been the same team since freshman year, really, so we’ve been playing together for a long time. We communicate so well and made a lot of progress last season. My coach is amazing and supportive, too.”
Vargas is determined to help the Jets to make it to the Boston City League championships this year and finally defeat their rival, Brighton.
“They’ve always been our rivals,” she said. “In the last final though, we thought they’d dominate us, but they only made one goal. We lost 1-0, but it was a game to remember. We did lose a lot of seniors, but so did Brighton. The competition will be fierce this season but it’s nothing we can’t overcome.”
Vargas and her four other co-captains are already getting their team prepared for this season. They got teammates to attend the boys’ scrimmages, which she said helps with their kick and form.
“She’s the heart and soul of the team, always trying to make other players better, not just herself, which is why I chose her as a captain,” La Cara said. “I’d like my daughter to be like Maria. She goes to church, works in the community, gets excellent grades, and is just a great leader.”
Vargas also creates work outs for the team practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and runs on the beach on Fridays. She will continue to recruit as many girls as she can to play for the Jets, as long as they are committed, and take the team seriously.
“Getting to the city league championship is going to take a lot of practice and a lot of time. But we have time; we just need to be patient,” Vargas said. “If we’re all committed, we’ll be able to win.”
Here's a look at the top quarterbacks in the city of Boston to keep an eye on this season:
- Latin Academy junior quarterback Kyle Dance carried the Dragons to the Division 5 Super Bowl with 19 total touchdowns last year – their first time in the big dance since 1993. While they lost 35-7 to Nantucket, Dance was stellar with three TDs (2 passing, 1 rushing) and 155 yards rushing on 10 carries.
- Brighton junior Jalen Apperwhite is a 6-2, 180-pund quarterback with varsity experience and a huge arm. Apperwhite has huge shoes to fill after Jonathan Marrero graduated, but his coach is confident that he will dominate as the team installs the spread offense.
- Boston English junior Dhe’Jour Relerford started at QB the last four games last year. He’s very athletic, doubling as a basketball player in the winter.
- South Boston junior Sean Hunter is the fastest and most versatile players on his team. The 5-11, 175-pound quarterback throws with speed and likes contact. His coach Sean Guthrie expects him to step up this season.
- West Roxbury junior quarterback David Bertucci is 5-11, 193 pounds. His father played at West Roxbury and is an assistant coach. He became the team’s starting quarterback midway through the season last year. While West Roxbury focused on the run last year, the Raiders have a new coach and are looking to pass more. But they also have senior Jovan Johnson. He’s a skilled quarterback that led the team last season.
The good news for the Latin Academy football team is that they are returning all of their skill position players just one season after they made their first Super Bowl appearance in 19 years.
The bad news is that the Dragons — who went 7-3 last year before losing to Nantucket 35-7 in the Division 5 Super Bowl — graduated every single offensive lineman, tackle to tackle.
“That’s one of our big losses this year is our line,” quarterback Kyle Dance said. “We need the young guys to step up from JV and work hard in practice. In practice, everybody is on the lineman and the wide receivers. We keep each other in check, work hard and look out for each other.”
Fifth-year Latin Academy coach Rocco Zizza said he never worried about losing his entire line because he would rather have speed over size. He said it’s easier to teach players to block than it is to teach them how to handle the ball.
“There’s a difference between blocking and shielding,” Zizza said. “We have speed guys so they don’t necessarily have to hold the block as long, so it will help us that way. Again, I’ll take speed over size. If you lose speed it’s tough to make up speed. There’s no substitute for speed but there is a substitute for size.”
It also helps that the offensive line will be blocking for senior running back Ernest Kellough, who led the division with nine touchdowns last year.
And Dance, who scored 19 total touchdowns last season, said losing to Nantucket in last year’s Super Bowl was an invaluable experience that they can build on for this season.
“It was a good experience, especially facing a good team like Nantucket, I learned a lot from that game,” said Dance, who added that attending a 7-on-7 passing league at Reading High this summer helped him improve his mechanics and ability to read defenses.
“I improved a lot this summer so hopefully it will show in my game.”
Losing its line was not the only major loss for the Dragons this year. They also lost their practice field, Playstead Park in Dorchester, which is being renovated. Instead, the team has to be bused to Garvey Park about five or six miles from the school.
“We have to start practice later because it takes half hour to 45 minutes to get to practice,” Zizza said. “Once we’re there there’s no facilities, no water, no storage, no bathrooms. Other than being a field there’s actually nothing else there. It is going to be difficult for us.”
Dance said it’s actually not so bad because most of the players live closer to the new field.
“Getting there, it’s easier for some people and harder for some so it’s not that bad,” said the West Roxbury resident.
Learning how to block on the new practice field, however, won’t be any easier or harder for the new lineman.
And Zizza said the incoming linemen are at least as talented as the outgoing linemen.
“The difference between a good line and a great line is work ethic so that’s a key issue,” Zizza said. “The seniors from last year were great, they weren’t a truly athletic class but what they did, they figured out the three keys to be successful, hard work, hard work and hard work. They showed up with a good attitude. They were consistently there and they were never late.”
If they can fill the missing piece to their puzzle, Latin Academy has a shot at making it back to the Super Bowl this fall.
“It was a building block, it wasn’t the end of something,” Zizza said of going to the Super Bowl. “Hopefully it is the beginning of something else.”
Standing in a circle on the first day of football practice at Ross Field on Aug. 20, the first-ever football players at New Mission High learned the difference between jumping jacks and Titan Jacks.
“No, no, that’s so soft now, when we say it, say it like you mean it,” screamed assistant coach Jeff Anderson, interrupting the drill moments after head coach Michael Pittman Forman explained how to spell out T-I-T-A-N-S while doing jumping jacks in sync.
“Come on fellas, this sets the tone, you are the first team from this school, let them know.”
The 13-players in the circle didn’t get past ‘I’ when Anderson interrupted again.
"This is the foundation of what we do,” Anderson said before the players tried and failed once more before finally getting it down.
Learning how to do jumping jacks in unison might not seem like much. But it truly was the seeds of a high school football program for the 14-year-old pilot school that is no stranger to starting from scratch.
This fall, the school moved from its old building in Mission Hill to the former Hyde Park Education Complex.
“We try to give a total high school experience at New Mission High School and for some reason it doesn’t have same the same feel unless you have a football team," New Mission athletic director and basketball coach Cory McCarthy said. "And when you have a football team you have kids buying into a system; football is not an individual sport so everyone has to play a part.
“It’s actually one of our biggest accomplishments to put a football team on the field. It signifies that a small school, even though we’re going to be combined with [Boston Community Leadership Academy] can get anything done if you have the right kids to commit to it.”
Since he started the school’s basketball program 11 years ago, McCarthy has won one state championship in girls’ basketball and two with the boys’ team.
“My thing is have a lot of patience, don’t listen to what other people are saying because they are the people saying we may not win a game for six years, those things fuel what we do,” McCarthy said. “I was told by people in BPS ‘Why should we get a basketball team, you may not ever win anything’ and look what happened.”
McCarthy said fifth-year headmaster, Naia Wilson, has been ‘instrumental’ in securing the team and said she is a ‘visionary’ when it comes to the school’s athletic department.
Pittman Forman said the school’s basketball culture will help nurture the football program.
“You need a total sports school; totally sports crazy, fanatical,” Pittman Forman said. "Working with Cory has been a pleasure … The thing he told me is if you build it they will come. It will take time, but it will come. Me and my staff are looking forward to the challenge of building the program from scratch.”
Pittman Forman is no stranger to building a football program in Boston.
He was the head coach at Cathedral High for five seasons but did not coach the team last year when the team's go-ahead touchdown was called back in the final minutes of the Division 4A Super Bowl due to a controversial excessive celebration call. The team's quarterback briefly raised his arm before scoring and a national controversy ensued after Cathedral lost the game.
“It was in rebuilding stages, not that great,” Pittman Foreman said of the condition of the Cathedral program when he took it over. “I had to make some changes. I made some changes for good. Last year, they were in the Super Bowl.”
Pittman Forman said he learned many lessons during his tenure at Cathedral that he can draw on in building the New Mission program.
“The big difference is you have no idea what you’re going to have for athletes even though you hear trickling’s of this that and the other,” said Pittman Foreman, who spent last season as Newton South’s defensive coordinator. “The practice facility, equipment, new uniforms, everything is in baby stages, everything is like a newborn. You have to nurture a newborn.”
Not everyone on Pittman Forman’s new team is a football newbie though. Boston Community Leadership Academy, which was part of Brighton's team last year, is now housed in the Hyde Park Education Complex and will contribute players to New Mission’s team.
And for the last few years New Mission has sent players to Boston English’s football team. At least four of the former English players are now playing for their own school.
“It helps because we’re going to be able to teach them, make them better, we have more experiences then most of them,” said junior fullback and linebacker Marcus Watson, who played for English last year. “We can help them get to the place we are and help them build on each other.”
Senior quarterback Darien Amado, who played for English the last two years, said he does feel bad about leaving his former English teammates.
“Those are also my brothers who I played with and fought in the trenches with them,” he said. “And the coaches, they propped me up and helped me become the football player I am. So I do owe them a lot of things but when we face them I’m going to have to use what they taught me against them.”
Coaches around the league, however, are saying that New Mission could be good out of the gate, given their coaching experience and the athletic culture at the school.
Pittman Foreman, who has about 26 players heading into the season, isn't buying into any hearsay until his team steps onto the field for the first time against Dorchester at 3:30 p.m. on Friday at White Stadium.
But that doesn't mean he never thinks about what it would feel like to win four or five games this season.
“It would be special,” he said. “And that’s what our expectations are. But once again, it depends on who and what and where we are.”
Keith Parker, John Sousa, James Phillip and Leo Sybertz combined to coach 109 seasons as head football coaches in the Boston City League, including 17 Super Bowls appearances.
Parker and Sousa retired in 2009 after 30 and 15 years at the helm of Boston English and East Boston respectively while Phillip and Sybertz coached their final games last season after 30 and 34 seasons at Brighton High and West Roxbury respectively.
With the old guard gone, the city league is truly entering a new era as an infusion of youthful and energetic coaches are finally getting their shot at reviving football in the city. They will not only attempt to bring city football into the 21st century, they are also trying to cast the city’s Friday night lights across the entire community.
Four first-year coaches (West Roxbury’s Derek Wright, 44, Brighton’s Randolph Abraham, 30, Charlestown’s George Munroe, 40, and New Mission’s Michael Pittman Forman, 51) enter the league this season on the heels of six other energetic coaches who took over programs within the last six seasons — including Burke’s Byron Beamon, 43, Boston English’s Chris Boswell, 43, O’Bryant’s Kevin Gadson, 50, Latin Academy’s Rocco Zizza, 48, East Boston’s John Parziale, 44, and South Boston’s Sean Guthrie, 33.
“They have a little bit more energy, they have a lot more friends in Pop Warner that they can reach out to,” Boston schools Athletic Director Ken Still said of the new coaches.
“You’re going to have to have a lot more volunteers. You need more hands to fetch youngsters that want to play football.”
Still said the days of drawing 75 to 80 players on a city football team simply by posting flyers in the hallways are long gone. He said these days it takes a lot more work to draw football players from a pool of students that are mostly immigrants that are unfamiliar with the game.
“Now you gotta be out there watching Pop Warner games, you gotta be out there at the camps and going to some of the middle school football games and talking about your promise and what your school has to offer,” Still said. “So there’s a chase on to get the bodies because the bodies aren’t’ there [like they used to be].”
One of the biggest ways the new coaches are attracting players is through more exciting styles of play such as the spread offense that involve more passing than the city league is traditionally used to.
“We’re bringing the new style of football, we’re able to relate to the players a little bit more,” said Abraham, who played for Brighton until 2000 and became an assistant coach there after graduating from Nichol’s College in 2004. “I’m 30-years-old, I’m not that much older than they are. I can relate to them. My assistants are 25 and 27 so they can relate to them as well. We’re able to teach them the new styles and techniques as well as the spread game, the wildcat, the things that are happening that kids want to do.”
Still, it takes more than an updated playbook to attract young players in an Internet age filled with YouTube videos and Facebook and Twitter. Young athletes in the city are more distracted than ever today. Many athletes live in violent neighborhoods, have to help take care of younger siblings and work part-time jobs to help single-parents pay bills.
None of these issues are new for the new crop of head coaches, many of whom have served as assistants in the city for years. Some have even played in the city league themselves.
“These are football guys and they know what these kids need,” said Burke's Beaman, who played with and against many of the new crop of coaches in semipro leagues. “They are guys from the community, they have an understanding of it, as frustrating as it might be at times — not having numbers, money, resources — remaining committed is a beautiful thing to watch and I’m excited to see what happens this year.”
Today’s city league coaches also have to surmount mountains of paperwork that is more easily handled if the coach is technologically savvy. Texting and tweeting also helps them communicate with players too.
But even the most savvy coach can struggle to relay complicated football tactics to players learning the game for the first time, especially if there’s a language barrier.
“I thought we were going to be OK because I know a lot of football, but it’s what the kids know not what I know,” said Boswell, whose only victory in his first two seasons at English came on a forfeit.
Boswell said “a light went off” in his head during a recent coaching clinic at Gillette Stadium where he learned how to reach players who learn visually and verbally. He learned tactics such as using different color markers while drawing up plays and developing a metric system to measure his team’s success in first downs and “explosive plays” rather than in points and victories.
“I want to compete,” he said. “We need to compete and then once we can compete then we’re going to start taking it to victories. I’m not so much worried about victories if we’re not lining up right.”
Coaching in the city today requires coaches to be creative off the field too.
“It’s tough because we don’t have community schools, you’re pulling kids from Hyde Park and Dorchester,” Guthrie said. “One creative way I’ve been trying to get guys connected to our school is with symbolism: What is a Knight, a Knight has pride; connect them to our logo is what it’s about rather than South Boston since they are not even from South Boston.”
Other ideas the coaches are talking about is holding weekly pep rallies at school since many of the student bodies don’t support their football teams.
Another shared goal among the coaches is to get more fans out to White Stadium on Friday nights and maybe even instituting an annual All-Star game there.
“If the community is excited about it, the more the athletes will stay excited about it, and it makes our job easier,” Beaman said. “It is hard to get excited when you look at the stands and see five people in this big wonderful stadium we have.”
The second-year coach at Burke, who is known for his fashion-forward dress, also made sure his players got updated uniforms this year and he wants to start a booster club at his school.
“It’s one of those things that’s not difficult, it’s not rocket science, it’s just a matter of being committed to do it,” Beamon said. “A lot of times, first-year guys don’t have time do all those things because they are taking care of everything else.”
Nobody knows what it’s like to be a young coach better than the new patriarch of the league, Madison Park’s Roosevelt Robinson, 50, who has been a head coach since he was 28.
“A lot of the old guard — which I respect, they put in their time — has left and they have left a lot,” said Robinson, who has been a head coach for 22 years. “They have left some good impressions and some bad impressions, but this group really has to understand that the message is that this can cease at any time. This is the traditional warrior sport but not necessarily the toughest boys are playing anymore, it’s just developing an athlete.”
While Robinson said he thinks the new coaches will stick around for a while, most of the coaches in the league say the days of one coach being in the same position for 30 years are gone. Some of the younger coaches, such as Southie’s Guthrie, say they do want to coach for another 20 years or so. The 33-year-old said he has already noticed a bigger generation gap between himself and his players than when he first started coaching six years ago.
“That’s my worst fear, is being that guy trying to be cool when he’s older,” said Guthrie, who replaced long-time South Boston coach Robert Lerro six years ago after his own playing career at Boston College ended in 2000.
Charlestown’s first-year coach, Munroe, doesn’t worry about relating to players.
“I have kids of my own and for the most part no matter where you go teenagers are teenagers from one school to the next,” said Munroe, a former quarterback at Burke who graduated in 1991. “It’s how you work with them and how you develop and build expectations. So you let them know what’s expected for them.”
Remaining a constant in the players’ lives but continuing to engage them in fresh ways will be another challenge. But as excited as the new generation of coaches is to finally get to do things their own way, they aren’t forgetting the lessons they learned from their predecessors.
“What I take away from older generation, guys like Leo [Sybertz] and [James Phillip] is just the class, just the professionalism, the long term thinking,” Guthrie said. “Because as a young coach you’re so concerned with winning and establishing yourself that you lose sight o what’s really important: These are 14-year-old, 18-year-old young men developing themselves down the line.”
Here's a look at the top running backs in the city of Boston for the upcoming football season:
- Latin Academy senior running back Ernest Kellough tied with teammate Kyle Dance for the most touchdown (nine) in the Boston South division last season. He's a speedy player worth watching.
- East Boston senior running back Matthew Robinson fills the void of departed teammate Andre Rickerson. Between the two, the Jets had a powerful running attack last season. Robinson is expected to do well as the feature back now.
- Brighton senior running back Ricardo Edwards, a Division 1 and 2 prospect, is looking to make a big impact on the field. The 5-10, 195-pound running back is known to be a great receiver, but everyone knows where he’ll do his damage.
- Latin Academy junior Chenedu Ighokue was a quarterback last year, but will be in the backfield for the Dragons in the fall. According to coach Rocco Zizza, he worked hard all summer and was also an outstanding defensive back at the camps he attended.
- New Mission junior Marcus Watson played for Boston English last season because the Titans did not field a team. He was a starter for the Bulldogs and will continue as a starter for New Mission this season. But New Mission also has junior Cordell Harris to rely on. Harris doubles as a quarterback, but can play anywhere on the field.
Here's a look at some of the top linebackers returning to the field this fall in the city of Boston:
- Latin Academy senior Ralph Cesar is 5-10, 160 pounds and was a running back last year, but will be an outside linebacker this season. Coach Rocco Zizza says that he has gotten much bigger this summer and expects great things.
- West Roxbury linebacker Sedeeq Rheddick is a junior who was chosen for the first All-City football team. He also led the team in tackles last year.
- Latin Academy sophomore Brian McCarthy was injured as a freshman, but according to coach Rocco Zizza he will be back on top this season. He is a strong player who is known for his skills on both sides of the ball.
- Sophomore Steven Thomas made a splash running the ball for Boston English as just a freshman. He played well at the Thanksgiving game against Boston Latin and will be playing for New Mission this season at linebacker. He’s very talented and is sure to be a promising college prospect.
- West Roxbury junior Michael Obianigwe is 6-0, 250. Coach Derek Wright describes him as a “workhorse.” He’s strong and has good speed.
Here's a look at some of the top wide receivers returning to action in the city of Boston:
- Latin Academy senior Alex Guerrier is a starting wide receiver that excels at catching the ball, even with heavy traffic over the middle of the field.
- Brighton Senior Chris Desanero is small but very quick and powerful. The wide receiver does a lot with his touches during games and he is a team captain.
- South Boston junior Pannel Davis is one of the team’s best players. No matter where the ball goes, you can guarantee the 6-foot, 170-pound Pannel will be there. He tends to make his quarterback look good.
- Latin Academy junior Devaughn Riley is both a star football and basketball player. He is overcoming a serious knee injury but his coach believes he is still a big threat.
- Boston English senior Francis Okoyo is 6-1, 175 pounds. He has made incredible improvement since he first started playing three years ago.
Here's a look at some of the top defensive backs to pay attention to this fall in the city of Boston:
- South Boston senior Adrian Shelton is a three-year starter who has a knack for finding the ball, whether it is an interception or a fumble. Coach Sean Guthrie calls him the team’s best defensive back with the most experience. He does an impressive job at quarterbacking the defense as the “coach” on the field.
- South Boston senior defensive back Kenneil Toney can play well at any position – and coach Sean Guthrie says he “can fit anywhere you need him.”
- West Roxbury junior Raymond Tejeda is 5-8, 165 pounds. He also plays as a wide receiver. He’s a hardworker on the field, and possesses extreme speed.
Here's a look at the top defensive linemen in the city of Boston to keep your eyes on this season:
- Latin Academy senior Brendan Hariette is moving over to the defensive line this season as an end after playing on the offensive line last year. He’s very fast and very strong with quick feet, according to coach Rocco Zizza. Zizza added that he worked very hard this summer.
- Boston English senior defensive lineman Colin Thomson is 5-10, 260 pounds. As captain last year, he was a smart player and great on defense, said English coach Chris Boswell.
- South Boston senior Derron Stone, a defensive end and tight end, is 6-2, 315 pounds. He’s also a basketball player which coach Sean Guthrie believes helps him as a football player. “He’s a really good pass rusher, and a good target. He can get up on the ball like he does on the basketball court.”
- Nick Davis was injured last season but you can expect a big comeback from the Latin Academy sophomore. He’s skilled at playing both sides of the ball, coach Rocco Zizza said.
- Boston English senior Jordan Carter is 5-10 and 200 pounds. He’s in his third year and a captain for the Bulldogs, having played on both sides of the ball while showing good leadership, coach Chris Boswell said.
- Brighton senior TE/DE Prince Unaegbu is a three-year starter and a Division 1 prospect. The 6-5, 225-pound team captain is an anchor for the Bengals. He is coming back from a wrist injury last season and has been in the gym all the summer looking to make up for lost time, said coach Randolph Abraham.
- Brighton sophomore right guard Patroy Thompson is a massive 6-2, 315 pounds and is looking to make an impact on the offensive and defensive lines.
Editor's note: This is the first in a series on the top players to watch in high school football this season for Boston Public Schools.
Here is a look at the top offensive linemen in the city of Boston to keep your eyes on for the high school football season:
- Burke senior Demetrius Richards won the most improved award by the Boston City League and Boston Scholar Athlete program last season.
- South Boston sophomore Troy Williams is a massive 6-foot-3, 250 pounds. The offensive lineman improved immensely over last season and coach Sean Guthrie expects him to be a key player.
- Dorchester senior Darius Patterson is a strong figure on the team at a massive 6-1, 213 pounds.
- East Boston junior Xavier Wooten is a fantastic run blocker, says Jets coach John Parziale. He’ll help East Boston try and improve on its 7-4 record last year.
- South Boston senior Kingsley Okoye is the biggest player on the team at a powerful 285 pounds while standing 6 feet tall. Coach Sean Guthrie calls him “a strong stopper with good movement on the line.”