MALDEN– They talked about it long enough, did they not?
The talk finally turned into action and the powers-that-be went ahead, pulled the trigger and blew up the nearly 70-year-old conference known as the Greater Boston League.
The four teams that remained as the last ones standing in the crumbling GBL were fully absorbed into the longstanding Northeastern Conference (NEC) beginning this past spring, making it the largest league in the state, with 16 teams.
What’s new this fall is three former GBLers: Malden, Medford and Somerville, playing as full-fledged members of the NEC as the football season officially opens Friday night. Everett, the defending Division 1 Super Bowl Champion, also jumped from the sunken GBL to the NEC, but in all sports but football, where it will play an independent achedule.
What is also new this season, particularly for Malden and Medford, is a dramatic remake of their football rosters, featuring so many new players in key positions that the roster sheet is a “must read” on Opening Night this weekend.
Gone from the camps of the Malden Golden Tornadoes and Medford Mustangs are some of the most prolific offensive performers of last season, leaving in their places a bevy of untested, but eager players hoping to make their own name for themselves and their teams this fall.
Second-year Malden High head coach Bill Manchester leads the Golden Tornado squad into the season and home opener Friday night at Eddie Melanson Field at Macdonald Stadium (7) against highly-touted Methuen.
Manchester said he likes what he has seen from his team so far, despite some question marks he and his staff hope to iron out sooner than later as the non-league matchup with the Rangers looms.
“We had to fill a lot of shoes heading into camp this year but we are excited at how these guys have come together as a team,” Manchester said, “What better way to open the season than against a solid opponent like Methuen. We know they’ll bring it right at us (Friday) and we are preparing to match it.”
After the season opener, it becomes steady diet of NEC opponents, including Classical next week. Manchester, still fairly new to Malden in his second year at the helm, is well familiar with the NEC, having spent nine seasons as head coach at Marblehead.
“No nights off in the NEC, I am well aware of that,” the Malden coach said.
Methuen brings an experienced quarterback in 6-3,170 Jordan Perdomo, as well as some big, experienced linemen and linebackers.
Malden will counter with first-year starting quarterback Jose Monteiro, a 6-1, 170 senior speedster whom Manchester calls a “pure athlete”. “We are very pleased with how Jose (Monteiro) has developed in a very short time. He has a lot of skills he’s been a quick study with our offensive sets.
“He’s (Monteiro) a competitor and has demonstrated the ability to make a gamebreaking play in the several scrimmages we’ve had in the preseason,” Manchester added. “Jose will be a real leader on both sides of the ball for us.”
While Manchester said he’s expecting big seasons from Monteiro and fellow seniors Junior Pericles, a 6-0, 270 two-way lineman and Eddy Vincent (5-11, 265) another two-way lineman, he said the team overall is on the younger side.
Want evidence? Two of the five team captains are Vincent and versatile senior split end Edouard “Miami” Bazile, but three other captains all hail from the junior class, two-way 6-3, 200 end Rashaud Moore, 5-11.190 linebacker Kamerin Williams and 6-2, 350 enter Tyler Martineau.
“We have a lot of spirit on our team and those juniors have already shown they can lead, we are going to need everyone pitching in this year and our kids know that,” Manchester said.
Bazile, who was lightning in a solid scrimmage against Winthrop Friday night with a pair of long touchdown catch-and-runs, leads a solid receiving corps which includes a pair of talented sophomores, Reggie Charles and Wes Pierre and another sophomore out of the backfield, Thierre Siede. Charles, Pierre and Siede are all transfers from St. Clement School, which closed this past June.
Like most high school football coaches staring Opening Night square in the face, Manchester says depth, particularly lack of it, keeps him awake at night the most. “We are ready to start the season and we intend on winning our home opener, but we also know we have to have other guys ready to jump in,” Manchester said. “We will work on that and we can’t wait to play Friday.”