A traditional power in the Boston City League, East Boston's football team has struggled this year.
But after losing three of its first four games this season, including getting shut out by Latin Academy in the season opener and by rival Madison Park last week, the Jets (2-3) finally got back on track Friday night with a tough 38-16 win against Charlestown at East Boston Stadium.
“We had a great week of practice after last week’s loss, so we’ll have to step up again next week and it’s great to set the tone in this one,” said East Boston senior running back Connor Henry, who rushed for 117 yards and four touchdowns.
“The seniors, we’re all stepping up now, the whole team is getting better and we just have to keep it up the rest of the season. We can’t get too riled up from it. We have to keep calm and play Westie next week.“
The victory didn’t come easily however. After the Jets took a 24-0 lead into the locker room at halftime, Charlestown (1-3) got two rushing touchdowns in the third quarter from Donnell Dunn, who finished with 122 yards rushing.
After Dunn’s first touchdown cut the lead to 24-8 with 6:17 to play in the third quarter, Charlestown's 6-foot-4-inch sophomore lineman Brandon Scott blocked East Boston’s punt to give his team the ball on the 11 with 3:54 left in the third quarter.
Dunn scored his second touchdown on the next play to make the score 24-16.
“We changed back to an offensive alignment that we knew was going to work,” Charlestown coach George Munroe said. “[Dunne] is our leader for a reason.”
“Yeah we all know as a team so we’re OK.”
On its next drive, East Boston was called offsides and recovered its own fumble twice before it found itself with a fourth and 2 on the Charlestown 36. That’s when junior tight end Jose Harry came up with two huge yards on a handoff up the middle for the first down.
“If we don’t get that, it’s a one touchdown game at that point and it could go either way,” East Boston coach John Parziale said. “It was big to get that and go down and score.
“A win is a win is a win. We needed it bad. Charlestown gave us some fits there, they came back in the second half, I think we fell asleep for awhile and good for Charlestown. They gave it to us, but we came back a little bit in the end.”
Four plays later Henry scored his fourth touchdown on a 20-yard run.
Orlindo Grey, who rushed for 161 yards for the Jets, iced the game with a 91-yard TD run with 3:35 left.
“I was really anxious during the game,” he said. “I had a big break and once I relied on my team I really gave it all. I did it for them. “
Charlestown freshman quarterback Frammy llevaria went down with a neck injury in the final play of the game and was taken to the hospital, but he was moving his feet and talking.
"He'll be OK," Munroe said.
If anyone knows losing isn't easy, it’s senior captain Sean O’Halloran who has been goalkeeper for the East Boston Jets hockey team since he was a freshman. Last year was tough as the Jets finished their season with only four wins and 16 losses. What’s even worse, says O’Halloran, is that many of the losses were by one goal.
“I’d rather lose by ten goals than one,” O’Halloran said. “When it’s that one, you keep thinking about it, trying to figure out how you can get it back.
“It haunts you.”
Last season the Jets lost 1-0 to Nashoba Valley Tech, Trinity Catholic and Latin Academy – all in a row. They lost by one again, 3-2, to Cape Cod Tech, Mystic Valley and Fenway.
Those close losses weren’t easy for O’Halloran, who believes that he was responsible for the single goals that determined the losses.
“When we versed Fenway I had 50 saves but all I could think about is that I wish I had 51,” he said. “ I just wanted to play those teams again and prove we could beat them.”
Now that O’Halloran is a senior, he wants revenge for his last year on the ice. The Jets are 1-2, leaving plenty of time for improvement. O’Halloran believes there is no time to waste, however, and has already started making changes.
“To get more wins we need to improve on goal scoring, defense, offense, everything,” he said. “Also as a captain I make sure to keep the boys in line in school and on the ice.
He said another reason the Jets had a tough season last year was because many players weren’t doing well in school. This year, he’s making sure it doesn’t happen again.
“I make sure they’re always in class keeping their grades up and getting to practice on time.”
In addition to keeping the team in line, he’s also making sure his goaltending skills are top notch.
“I’m working hard on rebound control and just pushing myself every day to do better in practice,” O’Halloran said. “My coach isn’t too hard on me because he knows I’m hard on myself.”
In addition to longtime coach Robert Anthony, East Boston has also recruited David Hunt, manager of the Eastie rink, to ensure the Jets have their best season yet. He said both coaches help the team improve simply by going over the basics, working on systems and breakouts.
“When he’s focused. he plays like gangbusters,” Anthony said. “When he steps his game up, the other boys capitalize on that.
“The strength of the team is from goaltending on out.”
It’s especially important for O’Halloran to improve and finish his career on a good note because of the hockey culture in his hometown, Charlestown.
“Growing up in Charlestown, you’re pretty much pushed to play hockey,” said O’Halloran, who has been playing since he was seven years old. “Everyone knows each other in the hockey community and kids only two years older than me are getting drafted into the NHL.
“It pushes me to work hard to succeed every day.”
After graduation, O’Halloran hopes to attend a college where he can play in the highest division possible. He knows that a successful season this year could get him closer to his ultimate goal.
“I think one thing every game: I might never get to do this again,” he said of being a goalkeeper. “I’m going to push my team every day and make it clear that winning is our goal.
“This season, instead of losing by one, we’re going to win by one.”
There was a lot on the line for the South Boston and East Boston football teams at their 95th Thanksgiving Day game Thursday at White Stadium. The rivalry was as intense as ever because East Boston recently gave up the Boston North title to Madison Park, while South Boston was seeking its first Thanksgiving win since 2008.
East Boston emerged with a 22-14 victory.
“It’s been going on for practically 100 years, so it feels really good to win with past players watching,” East Boston senior running back Matthew Robinson said. “It’s my senior year and we’ve won the past 4 years I’ve been in school, so it means a lot.”
East Boston (4-5) junior quarterback Vincent Lepore scored on a quarterback sneak at the goal line to give the Jets a 6-0 lead.
East Boston continued to dominate using its running game. Two minutes into the second quarter, senior running back Matthew Robinson scored on a 2-yard run to make it 14-0.
South Boston (3-7) made it onto the scoreboard with 15 seconds left before halftime.
After three incomplete passes in row, quarterback Hakine Walcott completed a 22-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Demario Taylor on fourth down.
Walcott then sent a 7-yard pass to junior running back Pannell Davis for a touchdown to cut East Boston's lead to 14-8.
“In the beginning we thought we had the game,” Robinson said. “When they got that pass it messed with us, but we just stayed focused and kept doing what we were doing.”
East Boston responded on its first drive in the third quarter. Robinson scored again on a 38-yard run up the middle to give East Boston a 22-8 lead.
Then South Boston's Sean Hunter decided to take some action. The Knights marched down the field, led by running backs Davis and Hunter. Hunter ran it in at the goal line for a touchdown to cut East Boston's lead to 22-14.
South Boston got the ball back with about a minute left, but couldn’t manage to get past the Jets’ defense.
“Eastie came out strong and moved the ball pretty easily,” South Boston coach Sean Guthrie said. “I’m proud of the overall effort, but mistakes hurt us in the end.”
East Boston coach John Parziale knew his team had its work cut out.
“They fought back and we had a lapse of coverage,” East Boston coach John Parziale said. “South Boston is tough and we throw records out the window on Thanksgiving.”
It was East Boston's fourth Thanksgiving win in a row.
“For a lot of years South Boston was on top, but now we are," Parziale said. “We want to keep it like that.”
Following is the first in a series of Thanksgiving football previews.
To football coaches Sean Guthrie of South Boston and John Parziale of East Boston, Thanksgiving is the most important day of the season. Forget records and championships – it’s all about victory on the 22nd.
“It’s a big day and everyone knows no matter where you are,” said Guthrie. “I was in Connecticut and someone came up to me and asked, ‘Did you beat Eastie?”
“Southie has a lot of followers and they don’t want to know your record. They want to know if you beat Eastie.”
The biggest city rivals are going head-to-head again on Thursday at 10 a.m. at White Stadium in a tradition that dates back to 1901.
“Every Thanksgiving we’re the first game at 9:30,” said Parziale. “It’s a great tradition for the city and very important to our community and those who have played for East Boston.”
“It’s near and dear to their hearts to get a win against South Boston.”
Even though the Knights (3-7) haven’t defeated the Jets (4-5) since 2008, both know that this season it’s anybody’s game.
South Boston is known for its strong defense and speed with star wide receiver junior Pannel Davis, junior quarterback Sean Hunter and senior lineman Kingsley Okoye.
Guthrie noted it will be a tough game but that the Knights are on a three-game winning streak.
In order to prepare for the Jets, Guthrie thinks it’s all about sticking to their original plan.
“It’s something we’ve been planning for forever,” he said, “and the same thing we always do; get the guys prepared for East Boston’s offensive attack and prepare them for defensive looks.”
Unlike the Knights, the Jets’ season ended on a disappointing note.
East Boston lost to Madison Park earlier this month and gave up the Boston North title, making a Thanksgiving victory more desirable than ever.
The Jets plan to redeem themselves with their strong attack lead by star junior running back Juan Bonilla and senior center Lyndry Green.
“We didn’t have a game last week, we’ve just been practicing,” Parziale said. “We’re trying to get ourselves a little better after that tough loss against Madison Park.”
“We only had an okay year so we’re going to work extra hard to get the victory.”
Both Guthrie and Parziale stressed the importance of the Thanksgiving game win not only for the team, but the community.
“We’re going to bring alumni back to inspire them and let them know about the tradition,” Guthrie said. “It has an emotional impact because they know those guys are looking at them.”
Parziale agreed that he wants the win for alumni and East Boston supporters.
“Everyone knows the tradition,” said Parziale. “Most kids have brothers, uncles and fathers that played years ago.
“A lot of people come out for the game to cheer us on and South Boston is very similar in that way.”
With the Jets entering the game for redemption and the Knights looking to get their first win since 2008, this is bound to be the biggest Thanksgiving game in the city league.
Coming off a 4-0 win over Brighton Saturday, the East Boston boys' soccer team stepped onto the field Tuesday in high spirits to face Masconomet – the No. 1 team in the state. But the Jets could not keep up with the Chieftains and were blanked, 3-0, in the second round of the MIAA Division 1 North tournament.
The Jets were stunned soon after the whistle blew, as Masconomet senior striker Keyon Olia scored into the high right corner in the first minute.
“I definitely felt challenged,” said East Boston junior defender Ben Lara. “[Masconomet’s] forwards and midfielders ran together and I wasn’t used to so much pressure.”
Realizing just how strong a team it was facing, East Boston stepped it up a notch
and brought the ball to the Chieftains side of the field. The Jets got off four impressive shots, but were all blocked by junior goalkeeper William Stewart.
Masconomet junior striker Edison Forbes scored toward the end of the first half, bringing the score to 2-0 at halftime.
In the second half, East Boston worked hard to move the ball up the field and get on the scoreboard. With intense pressure from Masconomet not letting up, the Jets instead excelled in defense, led by junior defenders Ben Buenorostro and Lara.
With 10 minutes left, it looked as though East Boston would finally make it onto the scoreboard as Lara took a free kick at the 18-yard line. He fired a powerful shot to the upper middle of the goal, but Stewart blocked it.
With eight minutes left, after a crowded fight for the ball in the goal box, Chieftains junior midfielder Adam Grammer scored again.
So the tournament ends with a 3-0 loss for East Boston, but the Jets are proud of their season and the fact that they made it to the second round.
“It was nice to pass the first round,” Lara said. “It was my first time and everyone else’s. We haven’t made it this far in six years.”
While coach Lorenzo Di Benedetto was disappointed by the Jets’ performance against the Chieftains, he is happy with the success of the season.
“We didn’t perform as well as I thought we would,” he said, “but this was a really good season, especially because we replaced 10 seniors from last year. We’ve had a great run and they’re just great kids.”
Di Benedetto said he will lose nine seniors next year, and that the team will most likely be led by underclassmen.
“We’ve had this program for two years and everybody just gets stronger,” he said. “Brighton, Dorchester, Boston International – we all keep moving ahead. It could be anybody's game and it keeps everybody on their toes.”
Masconomet will proceed to the semifinals against St. John’s Prep at Manning Field in Lynn at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
The first round of the North Division 1 MIAA state soccer tournament on Saturday started with two city teams, East Boston and Brighton. Both were missing four star seniors due to the SATS, making it difficult to predict which team would move on to the quarterfinals.
Despite being shut out 5-0 by Brighton earlier in the season, East Boston came out on top today, 4-0.
“We were missing a lot of seniors and didn’t expect the win,” Jets senior forward Juan Restrepo said. “It was definitely a tough game, but we kept our heads high and came out with a victory.”
Meanwhile Bengals coach Adrian Kawuba did not foresee the loss, but said that it had to do with the absence of some senior players.
“Not having seniors affected us a lot today,” Brighton coach Adrian Kawuba said. “Especially in the back.”
Defense is definitely what the Bengals lacked today, as East Boston scored all four goals in a 20-minute span.
The four goals came as a surprise after the first half went scoreless. The first 10 minutes of the second half started the same way, until Jets sophomore midfielder Bernard Xhullima tucked the ball into the lower left corner.
Xhullima also had an assist to senior forward Marvin Melgar ten minutes later.
With Brighton realizing East Boston was not planning on letting up, the game started to get tense and increasingly physical. Even with the usually indestructible Bengals senior forward Rossel Cacho, the team did not manage to score.
“We lost 5-0 to them last time and I felt like we got mugged,” East Boston coach Lorenzo Di Benedetto said. “This time we opened the field used our speed and maneuvered the ball to secure a win.”
The Bengals didn’t expect the loss and became emotional as the final whistle blew.
“Wins and losses are going to happen, not just in the game but in life,” Kawuba said to console his team. “You’ll lose a lot and win a lot but never regret losses, no one can take away your heart.”
Cacho was disappointed with the final score, but believes he received something better than wins this season.
“We didn’t make it to the finals, but we made a family,” he said. “That’s what’s important.”
East Boston will continue to the quarterfinals to battle Masconomet at 2pm on Tuesday.
It’s well known that when city girls' soccer teams battle against the suburbs, the suburbs usually come out on top. This theory will be put to the test in this weekend’s MIAA state soccer tournament, where top girls and boys teams in the city league will compete against suburban teams with the goal of a state title.
The boys' soccer teams shouldn’t be worried, as the top teams ventured outside the city and did well. Boston International beat Randolph, 3-2, and East Boston beat Malden,1-0, and Medford, 3-2, this season.
It’s the girls who have been having trouble, most evident in last year’s tournament.
Brighton and East Boston, the only teams that competed, both lost in the first round; Brighton, 9-0, against Acton-Boxboro, and East Boston, 5-0, to Medford.
The same effect happened when top girls teams like Latin Academy and East Boston ventured outside the city.
Latin Academy lost its three games to Ursuline, Dedham, and North Quincy. East Boston lost its three games to North Quincy, Everett, and Minuteman.
Despite the losses, coach Richard La Cara pointed to the suburban experience as a crucial element of the Jets’ city league victory on Thursday.
By looking at the Jets’ record, La Cara’s point is clear. The Jets started out with a 7-0 loss to North Quincy, followed by a a 5-0 loss to Everett and a 1-0 loss to Minuteman.
Since then the Jets have come a long way, and freshman forward Mariah Roberts believes they will shake things up in the tournament.
“I think we’ll change the negative stereotype of the city league,” Roberts said. “We just have to make sure we keep playing as a team and have lots of communication.”
While East Boston coach Richard La Cara believes that he has a group of gifted players, proven by their city championship victory, he knows that a tournament win will require a bit of luck.
“We’re playing the number nine team in the state,” he said of Saturday’s match against Westford. “We’re going to give it our all but honestly, we know it very well could be our last game.
“We played out of the league three times this season and it’s more strenuous [than the city league,] to say the least. We’ve got our work cut out for us but we’ll let the chips fall where they may.”
What should give the city league hope is the variety of teams competing in the tournament. While last year only Brighton and East Boston challenged the suburbs, this year East Boston, Madison Park, Latin Academy, New Mission and O’Bryant will all compete.
Latin Academy junior defender Jillian Eweka said that Latin Academy’s performance in the tournament shouldn’t fall into the city stereotype, since it’s the Dragons’ first year in the league.
“We weren’t a team last year so maybe we’ll change things for the city league,” she said. “We’re going to practice and do our best and hopefully pull out a win.
“I think we have a good chance at getting far in the tournament.”
Dragons coach Nick Kamberidis thinks his girls have what it takes to at least make it past the first round – but they’ll need to work for it.
“We’re going to spend all of tomorrow trying to adapt to [Bishop Fenwick’s] style and challenge their years of experience.
“It’s definitely going to be our most challenging game of the year.”
Since the East Boston girls soccer team lost to Brighton in last year's Boston City League championship, it wanted revenge. On Thursday afternoon, the third-place Jets beat first-place Latin Academy, 1-0, to win this year’s championship, its first since 2006.
To senior captain and forward Maria Vargas, the underdogs’ win did not come as much of a surprise. The Jets were eyeing the trophy before the season started.
“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,” she said in August. “If we’re all committed, we’ll be able to win.”
Vargas’ prediction was correct. Unlike his captain, East Boston coach Richard La Cara wasn’t so sure his team would be the champion.
“We’re nervous, but excited,” La Cara said prior to the game. "We’ve made it to the finals a couple times, but haven’t won in six years. We’re relying on our defense and goalie.”
Most of the first half was a tug-of-war between both teams, each equally possessing the ball and exhibiting strong defense.
Then speedy freshman forward Mariah Roberts made a long run with the ball and Latin Academy’s defense failed to keep up. Roberts scored in the lower left corner in the 25th minute.
“I felt relieved when I scored the first goal,” Roberts said. “I was so happy. I thought they would come back, but we just communicated, worked together and had great defense.”
Latin Academy tried to rally. Senior forward Virginia McCaughey, senior midfielder Tianna Johnson, and even junior defender Jillian Eweka all had shots on goal, but they could not beat goalkeeper Brittany Brancato.
“I think we did really well,” Eweka said. “We had the ball on their side for most of the second half. We have nothing to be ashamed of, we’re just sad.”
This was Latin Academy’s first season competing in the City League, and Eweka and coach Nick Kamberidis said they were proud they made it to the final.
“We just couldn’t score,” Kamberidis said. “They played excellent defense and buried our chances. Hats off to [East Boston,] they deserve it.”
Despite getting a bucket of water dumped on his head in the chilly weather after the win, La Cara still looked like he was in disbelief.
“When we started in August,” he said, “I never thought this would have happened. With Latin Academy and New Mission in the league, we knew the season would be very difficult.”
“But I just have a great group of girls, and today we avenged our loss.”
East Boston and Latin Academy will compete in the state tournament this weekend.
East Boston will take on Westford at East Boston Stadium on Saturday at 3 p.m. and Latin Academy will face Bishop Fenwick at Reservation Road on Saturday at 2 p.m.
First place Latin Academy (11-2-0) downed fourth place O’Bryant (10-3-2) while second place New Mission (10-1-1) was upended by third place East Boston (10-1-1) on penalty kicks in the Boston City League girls soccer semifinals.
Both games ended 1-0, showing the parity in the leading heading into the championship game Thursday at Madison Park, said Latin Academy coach Nick Kamberidis.
“We’re all within a goal from each other,” Kamberidis said.
O'Bryant forwards Aleena Hill-Da Costa, Yonetta Harris and Keena Nicholas all attacked the goal and exhibited great skill, but were unable to score.
At the end of the first half it looked like the game would go in O’Bryant’s favor after the team was granted a penalty kick, but it was unsuccessful.
With fifteen minutes left in the second half, Latin Academy forward Morgan Wheeler sent a swift pass to senior Virginia McCaughey. McCaughey went on to score what would be the only goal of the game.
“We were nervous towards the end,” Wheeler said. “[O’Bryant] picked it up, but we have an amazing goalie and defense so we got lucky. For tomorrow, we’re just going to get a long night of sleep in, come in and do it again.”
East Boston and New Mission proved to be an even matchup as well, going a scoreless 90 minutes before being decided by shootout.
East Boston senior Maria Vargas and freshmen Pamela Sepulveda and Vanessa Figgueroa attacked the New Mission goalie tenaciously throughout the game, but were unable to make good on any of their scoring chances. Neither were New Mission senior forwards Fantazia Hinds and Bonnie Ramos as well as sophomore Qiyamah Abburrashid.
Both teams were aggressive and showcased a strong defense, resulting in a 0-0 tie.
“Our whole team was nervous today,” East Boston junior defender Hannah Lunetta said. “We knew it’d be tough but we came through. We were confident at the end though. We knew our goalie could make those saves.”
Lunetta's confidence was spot on, as East Boston keeper Brittany Brancato helped bring the girls to victory. She faced four shots from New Mission and blocked three, while Titans junior keeper Amarelis Morales faced four of East Boston’s shots and blocked one.
“We performed pretty well,” East Boston coach Richard La Cara said. “We’re a defensive minded team, we set the defense first. We have the best goalie and the best defense. If it went to penalty kicks, we knew we’d get it.”
East Boston will face Latin Academy 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Madison Park for the city title.
East Boston Zone facilitator Dave Arinella has helped many athletes succeed in academics over the years. But none, he says, like senior Jonathan Perez.
Because of Perez's hard work and character, Arinella nominated him for Boston Scholar Athlete’s October Player of the Month, and Perez became the first from East Boston to win the award.
“He’s very outgoing, well-liked, and respected by teachers and his peers,” Arinella said. “He’s also a very talented soccer player and has been playing for a long time.
"When I was asked two weeks back to nominate a player of the week, there were several, but he was one of the most outstanding choices.”
The energetic Perez has been working hard since the first day of school and was thrilled to be chosen.
“I was so happy when I found out,” Perez said. “It showed me that all my hard work actually pays off.”
Perez works with Arinella at The Zone, a quiet place for athletes to study. His dedication to improving his GPA shows in his flawless attendance.
“Third period, every day,” he said. “I get help with calculus and English, those are the two subjects I struggle with. The work I put in [at the Zone] really shows on my progress reports.”
He also credited Arinella, swim coach of 33 years and Zone facilitator, for a big part of his improvement.
“Coach Dave has helped me so that I don’t need to worry too much about my work and I can just focus on soccer,” he said. “He motivates me and comes to all of my games.”
This is Perez’s first year receiving assistance from Arinella in the Zone, and he wishes he had known about it earlier. He decided to get help this year to improve his GPA to make sure he was eligible to play soccer this season and get accepted to college.
“I sat down with him last year and said, 'If you plan on college, you need to do better,' ” said boys' soccer coach Lorenzo Di Benedetto. “Since Day One, he’s gone in to get help with Coach Dave. He loves school, attends every day, and does all of his work. It shows academically and on the field.”
Perez hasn’t had to worry about eligibility this season, since he now has a GPA of 3.0. Di Benedetto looks at his academic success as a blessing, as Perez is one of the strongest players on offense.
“He’s scored key goals in the last couple weeks, nine total,” said the coach. “He helps pick up on offense. He’s a go-getter with initiative. He has really improved, and his teammates noticed, too.”
Both Di Benedetto and Arinella foresee a bright future for Perez, who would like to attend either Merrimack College or UMass-Amherst to study architecture next year.
“A lot of kids that come out of East Boston, all they need is an opportunity,” Di Benedetto said. “He’s making his own.”
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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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