Tech seeks to start fast, finish strong

Coach James Runner leads his team in a cheer during a huddle. (Katie Morrison)

LYNN — The Lynn Tech football team is always in the mix for a Commonwealth Athletic Conference title, and this year will be no different if everything works out how the Tigers hope.

After going 3-7 on the 2016 season and bowing out to Brighton in the first round of the Division 4 North tournament, Tech is looking to start fast and get a better draw in the tournament this season.

And if the Tigers are one thing, it’s fast. Tech is bringing back two of the best running backs in the league (and beyond) in Steffan Gravely and Keoni Gaskin.

Gravely is no stranger to the big stages. He’s been a running back on the varsity squad since he was a freshman, and Runner says the biggest thing for him is “to finish what he’s started.”

Gravely is well on his way to the 4,000-yard club for his Tech career, and has already topped Kennedy Gomes’ Tech touchdown record, with Gravely racking up 64 already. Gravely ran for almost 1,100 yards in 2016.

The Tigers got a huge boost last season with the emergence of Gaskin, who burst onto the scene, running for just over 1,000 yards after rushing for 156 during the Tigers’ Thanksgiving Eve loss to Austin Prep.

“He made some big runs, some big plays no expected,” Runner said. “He makes our offensive threat that much more dangerous.”

Runner says the offense truly runs through both of the star running backs.

“Steffan is more of a slasher, while Keoni is a bruiser,” he said. “They can both go from 0-100 real quick. They’ll get 3-4 yards here and there and then boom, they make a big run.”

But Gaskin and Gravely wouldn’t be able to do what they do without the support of a strong offensive line.

“The line moves them forward, you don’t do it on your own,” Runner said. “We’re loaded up front this year with a lot of linemen, which is a testament to our program. It’s easier for (the running backs) to not feel like they have to do it all.”

Another thing the Tigers have on their side is experience, with 17 seniors, most of whom have played all four years. Runner expects players like Kevin Aguilar, a senior captain on the offensive and defensive lines, Juan Vasquez, the starting center, and Marcus Taylor, a cornerback and senior captain, to step up and lead the team on the field and on the sidelines.

Then there’s David Barrios, the starting quarterback. Barrios has been a key part of the of the Tech offense for the past two seasons, and Runner expects him to play “an instrumental role” again this year.

Offensively, the Tigers run often, but do have some dangerous receivers, like juniors Brandon Tuoy and Elvis Gonzalez, and slot receiver Jamie James, a senior.

Tech has depth at almost every position, and if the No. 2 player has to step in at any position, Runner is confident they’ll be able to handle the task. The one area that might need work is the defensive line, where Runner says there are spots up for grabs.

Tech won’t have much trouble getting pumped up for the season, as it plays rival Chelsea in week one and conference champion Mystic Valley in week two.

“We’ll kind of know where we stand in the conference a few weeks in,” Runner said. The Tigers also play KIPP, a brand-new program in Lynn.

The goal for Runner and the Tigers is a playoff berth for the fourth-straight year, but they’re looking for more than just another trip to the postseason.

“We’re looking for a high seed, we want a home game,” Runner said. “If we can get can get ourselves a decent record, the sky’s the limit from there. But I don’t judge by wins and losses, that’s not my style. If the kids are satisfied with what they’re doing on the field, so am I.”

If there’s one thing Runner wants to get out of the season, however, it’s for the team to keep representing Lynn in the best way it can, himself included.

“I hope people don’t forget about the tough-nosed football teams in this city that come out well-prepared and ready to go,” Runner said. “The city gets talked down sometimes, and people forget a lot of hard work and time and effort goes into running a football team.”

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