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.”
The two-day event features eight teams with a combined 20-9 record competing in two separate divisions, with each crowning a champion on Sunday.
Small School Division
Game 1, Noon - Winchester (2-2) vs. Whittier Tech (3-1)
Game 2, 1:30 p.m. - Arlington Catholic (3-0) vs. St. Clement (4-0)
Large School Division
Game 3, 3 p.m. - Brookline (2-2) vs. Belmont (0-3)
Game 4, 4:30 p.m.- Malden Catholic (3-1) vs. Salem (3-0)
Game 5, noon- Small School Division
Game 6, 1:30 p.m. - Large School Division
Game 7, 3 p.m.- Small School Division
Game 8, 4:30 p.m.- Large School Division
All proceeds will benefit the IAABO 27 Referees for Cancer initiative, which has raised nearly $13,000 for cancer research in 2012.
Malden Catholic is located at 99 Crystal Street in Malden.
With bulldozers set to rip up the field affectionately dubbed the "Arlington Catholic Pit” parked along the sidelines, the Cougars' boys lacrosse team sent their field out in a fitting manner Monday night with a rain-soaked, 9-8, overtime victory over Austin Prep.
Zach Blanch’s overtime strike, set up by a 75-yard pass from Billy Cooke, gave Arlington Catholic a one-goal edge they’d never relinquish in the extra period as the Cougars improved to 11-4 on the season.
The win – made possible by 12 saves from netminder Andrew Uglietto – is the third straight for Arlington Catholic, whose grass field, known to most as "The Pit," will be replaced by tuft in the coming weeks.
“I couldn’t believe [the referees] actually let us play out the entire game on that field, in all that water,” said Arlington Catholic coach Dan Brothers. “But It was a great way to close out the Pit."
When Arlington high school wrestling coach Kevin Cummings began the school’s program in 1996, he had eight wrestlers.
Now, 16 seasons later, Cummings and his team of 30 wrestlers are celebrating the program’s and its coach’s 200th win after host Arlington defeated Melrose, 39-38.
“We started off slow, and then we built it up every year,” said Cummings.
In his first year of coaching, Cummings and his eight wrestlers went 1-2. His captain, and first wrestler, Mike Covel, is now one of his assistant coaches, along with Sam Cafferson. Cummings credited his success to his assistants' help.
“They have been absolutely fabulous. I cannot say enough about how much they have helped this program develop,” said Cummings. Covel and Cafferson have been on the staff for 13 years.
Over that span, the team has not had a losing season. Two years ago, it finished 20-3, the most victories in a season. Last year Arlington was the Dual-County League champion, and Cummings was the Sectional Coach of the Year.
Cummings though, was quick to credit the contributions of others.
“We have had tremendous support from the administration, the parents, and the alumni,” the coach said.
If nothing else, Arlington's newest football coach sure has the name for the job.
The Spy Ponders have appointed John Dubzinski head coach, a position that generations of Dubzinkis have enjoyed great success at.
Dubzinski replaces Dan Hirsch after a 3-8 season.
“Being a head coach has always been a dream of mine,” said Dubzinski. “Arlington has all the ingredients for a great football program.”
Dubzinski comes from a long line of prestigious Central Massachusetts coaches, including his grandfather Walter, his uncle Walter, and his father John who are all members of the Massachusetts State Football Coaches Hall of Fame. His cousin Michael has led Wachusett to a plethora of wins over the past few seasons.
Dubzinski started out as an assistant coach for Everett before spending the last two years under coach Rico Dello Iacono at Medford, which went winless last year. He knows that football is about much more than wins and losses.
“The impact a coach can have on a kid can go on for years,” he said. “Hard work, discipline, working with a team towards a single goal.”
Dubzinski expressed anxiousness to get the ball rolling at Arlington, starting with building a coaching staff, meeting the players, and building connections with the community. His dealings at Medford gave him the patience that a rebuilding program needs, while his Everett experience gave him a feel for the hard work necessary to sustain a winning program both on and off the field.
So should the Massachusetts State Football Coaches Hall of Fame start clearing space for another Dubzinski?
“Let's try to make it through the first year,” he said. “Then we can see where we are at.”
With 6:09 remaining in the first half, the Arlington Catholic Cougars were staring at an 18-point deficit, and their hope of playing for the Division 2 state championship was fading.
But AC (20-6) went on a 13-0 run to end the half and used the momentum to down Hopkinton (19-6) 65-57 to win the Division 2 Eastern Massachusetts finals at the TD Garden last night.
“We have to get punched in the nose to wake up and start playing,” AC coach David Brady said. “The girls did a tremendous job at doing that. They kept playing and getting tougher and tougher. I think Hopkinton was going so crazy that they wore themselves out and we took advantage of that.”
Junior Emma Roberson, who finished with 25 points, sparked the run when she hit two free throws with 2:30 to play, making it 31-19.
“At the beginning of the game, we weren’t attacking their zone,” Roberson said. “But being able to penetrate and open up our shooters on the outside definitely changed the game.”
The McNiece Pavilion at BC High was buzzing with excitement after one quarter of basketball when unranked Arlington Catholic led 13-7 over MVC heavyweight Central Catholic. But the No. 2 Raiders snapped out of their slump in the second quarter and took home a 55-47 win in the first round of the Comcast Tournament.
Sophomore Casey McLaughlin (20 points, 12 rebounds) was limited to just 2 points in the first quarter but scored 6 in less than 2 minutes to start the second. Kayla Awizsus added 2 for the Cougars following McLaughlin's first layup to widen the gap to 15-9, but two more field goals from McLaughlin and a Tori Brillaud jumper tied the score 15-15 with four and a half minutes left in the second quarter. Central outscored Arlington Catholic 16-4 in the second.
Central coach Susan Downer said after struggling in the first quarter, her team needed anything to happen to help break through.
"She's our leader in everything so she really got us going," Downer said.
Arlington Catholic's defense limited McLaughlin and Central Catholic to nine points in the third, but the Cougars couldn't come up with more than seven points themselves and headed into the final 8 minutes trailing 32-24.
After making 1 of 2 from the line to start the fourth, Arlington Catholic junior Nicole Catizone nailed a 3-pointer, reducing the deficit to five points, but Central Catholic senior Gabi Polce answered with a field goal to start an 8-0 run which sealed the game.
"I think it was pretty evident that we haven't played in 10 days," Downer said of her team. "I don't think we played a good game at all. We won, we'll take it but we certainly have to play better tomorrow."
Central Catholic plays No. 5 Newton South Sunday in the championship game at 2:30 p.m. Newton South (19-0, 16-0) took down Newton North 63-45 in the first round.
When the Arlington Catholic and Archbishop Williams boys hockey teams took to the ice at Veteran's Memorial Skating Rink, it wasn't surprising that the Catholic Central rivals saw some familiar faces.
That's because Saturday night's season opener for both teams was a rematch of last year's Division 1 state championship, which the Cougars took by a 5-0 score. And once again, the Arlington Catholic Cougars would emerge from its season opener victorious over their foes, this time by a 3-2 decision.
The Cougars (14-7-4 last year), were tied with the Bishops at two apiece, until senior Dan Graham, one of AC's captains, broke the draw when he scored with 2:07 remaining in the third period. Sophomore blueliner William Cook also added two assists.
No. 10-ranked AC will hope to continue to add to their early 1-0 record when they resume play on Wednesday against St. Mary’s in Lynn.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association's Board of Directors voted unanimously today to allow Arlington to leave the Dual County League and join the Middlesex League starting in the fall on 2011.
The vote was the first of its kind in almost 15 years according to MIAA Executive Director Dick Neal and came after the District B committee voted 4-4 last month on Arlington's proposal to switch leagues. The tie vote meant the move was denied, forcing Arlington to appeal to the Board of Directors.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.