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Seniors will drive Salem this season

SALEM — Salem football coach Matt Bouchard is entering his “senior” year of coaching with his senior Witches.

Bouchard is starting up his fourth season with the program, and he’s very excited to get things going on Friday night (7) at Austin Prep.

“I think that one of the things that I’m very fortunate to have and the team at Salem High School is fortunate to have is a group of seniors that I’ve had the pleasure of coaching for four years,” Bouchard said. “From an expectation standpoint, these guys get it and having them has really helped us bring the young guys on the team along. We had some vacant slots that we needed to fill with the seniors graduating, and the guys have done that. ”

Bouchard said that Aneudy Espinal would be manning the quarterback position for the Witches. The senior saw action first as a sophomore, but he has been hampered by injuries in 2015 and 2016. The coach said he’s all set to go this year, and has worked hard to get prepared for a memorable senior season.

“Anuedy is very familiar with the offense, and I think he can really have a breakout season this year,” Bouchard said.  

“I think on the offensive side of the ball we’re a little lean, but the guys that we will put out there have varsity experience. I think that having those guys out there will help us a lot, especially in the running game,” Bouchard said. “In the backfield we have experience coming back, we have Espinal, Jeffrey Rodriguez and Vinny Gaskins back there. Both Rodriguez and Gaskins were dynamic, explosive backs for us last year.”

Espinal will look to the guys on the offensive line such as Joseph Diaz, Felix Cruz, Melkin Bautista, Jayco Pena, Trey DeFranco and Jonathan Rodriguez to give him time when he’s looking to pass to Jaydrian Garcia, Randy Luna or Jomar Mercedes. Gaskins and Rodriguez will be looking for big holes up front when they carry the ball.

“On defense, we’ve had a lot of competition to fill the spots at defensive back, the guys have all been fighting every day to earn a spot,” the coach said. “I think inside the box, at linebacker and D-line we should be fairly strong at those positions.”

After opening night against the Cougars, Salem will play their home opener on Friday, Sept. 15, against the Rams from Essex Tech. Salem will play three straight at home, welcoming Saugus and Swampscott to Bertram Field after the Essex Tech game.

“We’re excited to travel to Austin Prep Friday night, in my coaching career I’ve had opportunities to coach against Austin Prep, whether it was at St. Mary’s or more recently at Bishop Fenwick,” Bouchard said. “Regardless of who those guys put out on the field, the kids always play hard, it’s always a street fight when you play against Austin Prep, they’re always tough.”

“Our guys are focused and we are very excited to get the season going,” Bouchard said.

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