Frank Roche did everything in his power to clinch Arlington’s first playoff berth in nearly two decades over the weekend. The junior running back rushed for 171 yards and a pair of touchdowns before finishing his night with a 94-yard kickoff return. But his most important contribution may have come after an injury to four-year starting quarterback Seth Coiley in the first quarter.
With Coiley out, Roche slid under center and tossed for 73 yards and a touchdown, guiding the Spy Ponders to a 40-6 triumph over Woburn on Friday. The poise and athleticism put on display by Roche may have been a shock to the Arlington faithful, but third year coach John Dubzinski Jr. said this is a side of Roche his staff is very familiar with.
“I’m going to tell you how tough this kid is,” said Dubzinski. “Last year he was our starting free safety, and we weren’t playing well. Our defense wasn’t as strong as it is this year and a lot of the runs were getting to the secondary. He was making every hit, every hit, every hit. This was on Friday night against Woburn and Reading. He’d wake up the next morning about seven in the morning, and he’d be the junior varsity quarterback running option, running option, running option.
“We knew this is a special, special human being right here. The coaching staff, day to day, was just amazed by his mentality. It’s very infectious to the other players, too.”
In this week’s First & 10, Roche talks about the win over Woburn, the upcoming World Series, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Arlington defeated Woburn for the Middlesex Liberty title this past weekend. Take me through how you went from starting running back to starting under center in one of the biggest games of your life?
“I think it was about the eighth play of the game and Seth [Coiley] had a tough run and came up limping. I knew that was a time I could step in and play quarterback. I’m willing to play any position. When the time comes, I’m willing to step up.”
Was quarterback a position you had played before? Or were you just the one most familiar with the offense?
I’ve been a quarterback since Pop Warner, but during practice I practice with the quarterbacks and the running backs, so I know both sets.
With such positive results under center, have you been teasing Coiley about coming for his job?
“[Laughs] Not really. I kind of feel bad for him because he had to miss out on that. He’s a real gamer and we hope to have him back soon.”
You said you’ve been playing quarterback since Pop Warner. Do you like playing quarterback or are you more akin to playing running back?
“I like playing quarterback a lot, but this year I’m starting to get use to running back more. I really like running the ball and the contact, too.”
What’s the relationship like between you and Coach John Dubzinski?
“It’s great. I guess it’s like a father-son relationship. He’s always looking out for his players and we try and do our best for him.”
Could you tell me the last time Arlington was in the playoffs before this season?
“Was it 1995?”
It was. And what year were you born?
So you weren’t even alive the last time Arlington was in the playoffs. Does that kind of put this run you guys are on into perspective?
“Definitely. I think one of the goals we had with this program was trying to get it back on the map. We’ve struggled in the last, and we just want to get Arlington football back to where it was.”
How have your classmates reacted to your success?
“A lot of the kids are shocked. It use to be that the team was the laughingstock of the school, but now it’s just great the support we’ve gotten. It’s awesome.”
Coach Dubzinski comes along with a great coach in his own right, Coach John Dubzinski Sr. (25 years as Leominster head coach), who is now an assistant coach on the team. Which John Dubzinski are you more afraid of? Who’s bad side do you not want to get on?
“[Laughs] I’d like to say Coach Dubz Jr. I think Poppa Dubz, as we like to call Coach Dubz Sr., has softened a little bit with age.”
You know he’s going to be reading this and you’ll be doing laps around the track, right?
(“The other guy is a softie,” added the younger Dubzinski, in jest. “When he coached me, forget it. Water? Water is for the weak. Now he’s a grandfather, so he’s softened up a little bit.”)
How did you fall in love with the game of football?
“I had two older siblings that played football – my brothers Jim (minor league baseball player for the New York Mets) and John (rugby player at Providence). I looked up to them a lot, so I took after their example.”
The World Series is obviously a big topic around these parts. How do you see it playing out?
“I think the Sox have it. It’s kind of like they’re a team of destiny, and they definitely have some great players. Let’s say Sox in six.”
If you had to guess, whom would you peg as Most Valuable Player?
“Koji [Uehara]. I think he’s going to keep it rolling.”
What do you do for fun outside of football, outside of sports?
“I like hanging out with my brothers. I like playing video games with them and just messing around.”
What video game causes the most conflict?
“[Laughs] NHL probably. NHL or FIFA.”
What’s your favorite TV show?
“I don’t watch TV that often, but I’d have to say Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Will Smith is hilarious, but the most underrated character is DJ Jazzy Jeff.”
Have you given any thought to playing in college?
“Actually, I have. I sent an email to some colleges over the weekend, and hopefully that can get the ball rolling a little bit.”
Any idea what you’d like to major in?
“No idea. [Laughs] I’m a pretty indecisive kid.”
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 fall correspondents:
- Anthony Gulizia | @gulizia_a | Div. 1 football
- Eric Russo | @erusso22 | Div. 2 football
- Stephen Sellner | @stephen_sellner | Div. 3 football
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Div. 4 football
- Greg Joyce | @GJoyce9 | Div. 5 football
- Lorenzo Recupero | @LorenzoRecupero | Div. 6 football
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls volleyball
To reach the high school sports department, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.