WESTWOOD -- It was like déjà vu for the Xaverian Brothers football team. The team's first day of football practices looked just like it did when they won the Division 1 Super Bowl -- a 29-0 victory over Everett at Gillette Stadium Dec. 5, 2009. It was absolutely miserable that day thanks to the rain and snow. Luckily for the Hawks (and this reporter), there was no snow in Westwood to complain about. But for everyone on the team, then and now, there was nothing but cheer and good natured fun playing on the football field.
The Hawks were my first stop on my training camp tour in Eastern Massachusetts. Xaverian finished last season 13-0 and as the No. 1 team in the Globe Top 20. The Hawks lost a number of key players to graduation but head coach Charlie Stevenson has retained a core group of players that should put the team in contention for another title run. They've got both of their wide receivers and tailbacks back, their entire secondary, two of their top three linebackers, two offensive lineman and one defensive lineman (four-year starter Kevin Ihlefeld). And this year, the team has refocused on being the top dog. They know they have a bull's eye on their backs, so they've adapted accordingly. Instead of worrying about beating one opponent in particular, as Stevenson put it, they're worrying about winning the Catholic Conference first and foremost.
"We're going to have our biggest games in the Catholic Conference," Stevenson contended. "(BC High), Malden Catholic and St. John's Prep are all huge games. So winning the conference is our first goal."
And there are big shoes to fill to get the job done. Xaverian was led last year by the stellar play of quarterback Alex Phelan, who was the Globe Division 1 player of the year and is now a freshman at Brown University. He'll be replaced by his backup, junior Chris Calvanese.
Calvanese, whom Stevenson called a good athlete, got some action in some of Xaverian's earlier games last season when the team had built up sizeable leads. He also led the junior varsity to a 9-1 record.
"He's ready to step up," Stevenson said. "He knows that position is very important to our team and he's excited."
On top of that, the team is filled with sophomores that coach Stevenson believes will be able to contribute this year. Veterans of the team, like senior running back and defensive back Joe Colton, like what they see around them and the team's chances.
"We're definitely a good enough of a team to be as good as we were last year," Colton said. "We have a lot of talent. (There are) a lot of kids that can step in and play."
We'll check in from another school tomorrow to keep giving you the rundown on how this fall season is going to look.
Several reporters and editors contribute updates, news and analysis to the High School Sports Blog.
- Bob Holmes: A Reading resident (Go Rockets!) and Boston College graduate, Holmes is the Boston Globe High School Sports Editor. We remind you now that his weekly picks are often made in jest so everyone just calm down when he picks against Everett for 11 straight weeks. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHolmes.
- Craig Larson: A native of West Springfield (Leo Durocher anyone? Tim Daggett?) and Curry College graduate (a proud Colonel!), Larson is the sports editor for the Globe's regional sections: South, West and North, as well as a frequent contributor on the college beat. Abington to Xaverian: it all starts with the schools. Have a compelling story idea? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeLars.
- Zuri Berry: Berry attended the same high school as sports legends O.J. Simpson and Joe DiMaggio. (Guess which one is his hero.) He's a South Boston resident (formerly of Eastie) and the editor of the High School Sports blog as well as the go-to-guy for everything high school sports on Boston.com. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GlobeSchools for all of the latest updates.
Then there are our winter correspondents:
- Emily McCarthy | @EmilyMcCahthy | BPS correspondent
- Jake Fischer | @GlobeFischer | Boys basketball
- Michelle Fenelon | @michfenelon | Girls basketball
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Boys hockey
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls hockey
To reach the high school sports department, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.