Saturday marks the Autumnal Equinox, or the official transition from summer to fall.
Appropriately enough, two schools will make their own transitions when their football teams meet on the gridiron that afternoon.
Monomoy — a regional school combining Harwich and Chatham — and St. Joseph’s Prep — which integrated Trinity Catholic with Mount Saint Joseph Academy — will each be making their varsity debuts when they meet at Victory Field in Watertown for a 3 p.m. kickoff.
And while the game between No. 1-ranked Everett and No. 2 St. John’s Prep may be Saturday’s heavyweight battle, there’s something unique about the first game for two new schools.
For Monomoy, the premiere comes two years before the school even opens its doors.
Per the MIAA’s blessing, Harwich and Chatham coupled their athletic programs this year, with the construction of the $64.7 million school expected to be completed in 2014.
The Sharks — a nickname voted on by the students — are led by Paul “Spanky” Demanche, the former Barnstable coach who guided the Red Raiders to two Super Bowl titles in 19 seasons.
After helping jump-start the football program at Pope John Paul II, Demanche landed at Harwich in 2010.
“The culture of football is not quite here yet, but that’s our job to develop that,” Demanche said. “It’s not the Friday night lights that I had been a part of for so long.”
Demanche joined Harwich after its cooperative program with Cape Cod Tech was disbanded, leaving the Rough Riders to start anew.
After a 5-1 JV campaign two years ago, Harwich played 2011 at the varsity level because 17 of its 22 players were seniors.
This season, the team has only five returning players. The Sharks will play five contests at the JV level and two at the varsity level.
Junior quarterback Matt Cook, who led Harwich in rushing and scoring last season, is the “do-it-all playmaker” for the Sharks, according to Demanche.
He will team with classmates Josh Ford and Riley Darling in the backfield, with junior Josh Rosen and sophomore Dalton Nickerson anchoring the line.
“You take satisfaction different ways,” Demanche said. “The focus is developing kids and getting better. We’re realistic and optimistic.”
At St. Joseph’s, a pair of longtime football minds have teamed to lead the Phoenix, a mascot also chosen by the students.
Jim Von Euw — who was previously the athletic director at Oliver Ames and spent time coaching at Natick and Westwood — is the school’s athletic director, while Mike DelGrosso, who spent more than two decades coaching at Abington, is the head coach. Both came out of retirement to take over their respective positions.
“I still had some gas left in the tank and this opened up and I thought it would be great fit for me,” Von Euw said.
Though Trinity Catholic struggled last season with a winless record, DelGrosso believes his group is trending upward.
“We’ve added some talent this year that I think will surprise some people,” he said. “They’re a great group of kids who have hung in there. The transition has been better than expected.”
The squad will rely on its four senior captains: Running back Michael Antonelli, center Ryan Wainwright, guard Ryan Fullam, and tackle Jan Michael Ponti.
Sophomore Brendan Frelan assumes quarterback duties for the 23-man roster.
“If we play as a team, minimize mistakes, and play aggressive, good things will happen,” DelGrosso said.”
Top of the pops
The latest installment of No. 1 vs. No. 2 unfolds Saturday at Everett Memorial Stadium as top-ranked Everett welcomes St. John’s Prep in a nonconference battle.
The Crimson Tide have won 27 consecutive games, second only to Duxbury’s 28 straight.
Last fall, the Crimson beat St. John’s, 35-0, but that was with record-setting quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso.
Now led by Gilly DeSouza, Everett is 2-0 after beating Leominster and Springfield Central.
St. Johns’s Prep, also 2-0, has wins over Dracut and Central Catholic.
Turn back the clock
Speaking of No. 1 vs. No. 2, it was two years ago that Xaverian and Brockton met in Westwood in such a billing, with the Hawks topping the Boxers in double overtime. This season, No. 4 Xaverian travels to No. 12 Brockton . . . On Saturday, the ISL gets its season underway with a full slate of eight games. Governor’s Academy won the league last year with an 8-0 mark and claimed the Jack Etter Bowl.
Patrick McHugh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.