Throughout Pop Warner and middle school football, David Bertucci Jr. always played quarterback. But when he started playing for West Roxbury High’s varsity squad as a sophomore last year the team already had an established quarterback and Bertucci didn’t have the skills to play, well, another skill position.
“I give him a hard time for it. I tell him the only reason he plays quarterback is because he can’t catch, he can’t tackle, he can’t even punt so he plays quarterback,” his father David Bertucci Sr. said. “We have fun with it.”
Luckily, the elder Bertucci played line for West Roxbury’s 1983 Super Bowl championship team and was a volunteer coach for the his son’s team last year and was able to show his son the ropes of being a lineman.
But about halfway through the season last year, the Raiders starting quarterback, Muller Mirville, went down with an injury and the younger Bertucci stepped in and finished most of the season behind center, leading Westie to two of three of their victories last season.
And behind center is where he remains this season as the Raiders are trying to usher in a new era of West Roxbury football. Without longtime coach Leo Sybertz who is the winingest coach in city league history known for his hardnosed defense and up-the-gut run offense, first-year coach Derek Wright has tried to slowly introduce more passing into their arsenal.
“We expect to throw the ball a lot more this year and down the road,” Wright said.
But the Raiders (3-4, 2-) have struggled to open up the airways this season. But all season Bertucci has noted that they are not going to go from a run-only team to a pass-oriented offense in one season.
After several missed opportunities to score on a pass this season, West Roxbury did finally get its first touchdown pass this past Friday afternoon when Bertucci hooked up with Jovan Johnson for 29 yards in the third quarter of a 18-14 loss to Latin Academy.
“I’d rather have a win than a touchdown pass but I’m glad we finally got one,” said Bertucci, who watched in horror earlier in the game when a receiver dropped a ball with a wide open path to the end zone. “We should have had two but that’s OK.”
Nobody can blame the Raiders for relying on the run this season and riding junior running back Michael Obiangiwe. The 250-pounder has rushed for eight touchdowns this season, including three straight two-touchdown games.
“Hand the ball off to Michael and all he has to do is run eight people over and he’s in the end zone,” Bertucci said.
Obiangiwe and Bertucci have been friends since they were little kids and won a city championship together at the Irving Middle School.
“David is a person I can relate to,” Obiangiwe said. “He listens to feedback and comments and stuff. If you have something to tell him he’ll listen and try to get better at it and adjust to it.”
Obiangiwe said they both thought about trying to play for another team outside of the city this year but decided to stay when they heard Wright, who was an assistant under Sybertz, would be the coach.
“I’m glad we stuck around,” Obiangiwe said. “We wanted to stay because we heard Derek was head coach. We knew there was going to be some changes and we wanted to try it out and see what happened and see how far we would go.”
A sharper point was put on the fact that Bertucci made the right decision the day after football practice started on Aug. 20 when he learned that he might have a heart condition that would prevent him from playing football. But three days after his
Electrocardiography (or EKG) results showed an irregular heartbeat, Bertucci received word from a second doctor who cleared him to play.
After the first game of the season he called the ordeal “the scariest thing I’ve ever heard in my life” and said he “loved his teammates to death” and “there’s nobody else I’d rather play with.”
And leaving West Roxbury, of course, would mean not playing for his father’s Alma mater — although as a quarterback her certainly hopes the ball is passed a little bit more than it was when his father was a Raider.
"It's cool to play where your father did, try to do the same things he did," the younger Bertucci said. "He's always busting my chops because he played line and I play quarterback but he won a Super Bowl and that's what I'm trying to get done."
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- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
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