The names Casey DeAndrade and Tim O’Brien were synonymous with the success of the East Bridgewater squad last fall.
In the Vikings’ 10-1 run, DeAndrade scored 22 touchdowns and racked up 146 points, the second-highest point total in Division 4 before accepting a scholarship to the University of New Hampshire. Starting at quarterback, O’Brien ran for 17 TDs and added five more through the air before heading off to Springfield College.
This season, after much thought and time, coach Shawn Tarpey placed the ball in the hands of senior Andrew Benson and he has been more than competent at quarterback.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Benson has been a dual threat for the 6-3 Vikings (4-1 South Shore League), passing for 709 passing yards and nine touchdowns, while rushing for 1,092 yards and 14 more scores — not bad for a first-year starter.
With the graduation of O’Brien, Tarpey began to scout younger players with good arms. As the season approached, he decided on Benson, a running back, knowing that either way, he had a playmaker.
“We started him off as running back,” said Tarpey. “After a couple weeks with a couple younger guys there, it was apparent to me that we needed an older guy there, so we went to Andrew and at first I don’t think he loved the idea, but I think now he likes to have the ball in his hands.”
Benson did have some experience in the position, making it easier for him to transition than some teammates and coaches expected.
“I played quarterback my sophomore year for JV,” said Benson. “It wasn’t too bad, just different.”
Despite the belief that he has taken on the responsibilities of both O’Brien and DeAndrade offensively, Benson doesn’t compare himself to his former teammates.
“We have different running styles,” said Benson. “We’re just different overall.”
But like DeAndrade, he has attracted the interest of the University of New Hampshire, according to Tarpey.
“I expect more schools, a lot of schools, are going to be interested in his size, speed, and athleticism,” said Tarpey.
Benson was not the only player that accepted a new role. Senior captain Mike Gomes has emerged as a force at linebacker.
“He started for three years on the O line,” said Tarpey.
“I didn’t think he had the speed to play linebacker, but what we learned is that he’s so instinctual. He’s able to make up for some of that speed on inside linebacker and he’s now our best defensive player.”
One player that Tarpey and his team knew they could count on was senior captain Kevin Lynch , a running back/linebacker.
“Going into the season not knowing Andrew was going to be as dynamic as he’s been at quarterback, in many ways he was our guy,” Tarpey said of Lynch. “He’s a big, tough, fast kid, probably our best two-way player on offense and defense.”
Unfortunately, Week 4, Lynch broke his arm during the first quarter of a 20-14 loss to Mashpee. He played the rest of the way without stopping, or knowing it was broken, and rushed 22 yards in the third quarter for a touchdown. The next day, X-rays revealed the break.
Entering Friday night’s crucial South Shore League game against visiting Abington, the 6-foot 190-pound offensive/defensive leader has been cleared to play.
“It will mean everything,” said Gomes of the return of Lynch, who missed five weeks of play.
“I can’t wait for him to be back. He’s been going crazy the past few weeks not being able to play and obviously he’s a key player for us.”
The Vikings have won without Lynch, but his ability to block can only strengthen the team, especially against Abington and its star back, Babila Fonkem.
“He’s a very, very hard worker, so that was tough to fill,” said Tarpey of replacing Lynch. “I don’t think we ever really filled that role. Having him back this week will help us round out our defense.”
Abington (9-0) and East Bridgewater have had close games in Tarpey’s eight-year tenure. Last season, the Vikings pulled out a 25-22 win in a game in which DeAndrade and O’Brien combined for over 300 yards of total offense.
The question now is whether or not they can repeat a win without last year’s offensive weapons.
“Last year we had O’Brien and DeAndrade, but we’ve adjusted real well,” said Lynch. We made our own identity and we’ve figured out the run game, too. Overall we’ve transitioned well.”
What’s most important to Tarpey is that the Vikings still have an opportunity to make the playoffs.
“Whenever you have a chance at the league championship it’s the best thing you can ask for,” said Tarpey. “We’re fortunate to be in a position to make a run at playoffs.”
Here and there
Weymouth (7-2, 6-2 Bay State Carey) held on for a 23-13 win over Brookline to retain the top spot in the Carey Division. David Harrison legged out 184 yards rushing and scored two of his three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. He also had an interception in the final 30 seconds. Harrison is third in the Division 1 scoring race (15 TDs, 92 points) behind Chelmsford’s Jeff d’Auria and Needham’s Mike Panepinto . The Wildcats can clinch the Carey title with a win over Framingham (5-4, 5-3). . . .
Brockton is no stranger to injury. The Boxers lost quarterback Austin Roberts for a few games this season to a back injury and during Friday’s game against Catholic Memorial they watched senior running back Luis Jimenez being carried off the field on a stretcher. Jimenez quite literally jumped into the end zone, scoring the first touchdown of the 41-6 game, but stayed on the ground while his teammates cheered, suffering a broken femur. Jimenez won’t be on the field against Big Three foe New Bedford this weekend, but the Boxers are optimistic.
“We’re going to miss Luis,” said coach Peter Colombo. “There’s no doubt about it. He’s a senior having a nice year, but the kids rallied after he went down in the first series and we went on to play very well. We’re going to play and be inspired by him against New Bedford.”
Coryn Doncaster can be reached at email@example.com.