Rivera: It’s time to warm up the gridiron

Keith Ridley will be a mainstay for Classical this season. (File Photo)

As high school football teams across the state opened preseason camps and tryouts Friday, the wait for the new season is almost over. We’re getting close to the start of the 2018 season and North Shore area fans have plenty to be excited about.

First and foremost, from my own selfish perspective, I’m excited to kick off my first high school football season as sports editor at The Item. I’ve covered two football seasons so far and both were great. But there was a sense of excitement making its way around our coverage area last fall with so many teams qualifying for the state tournament that truly made it a pleasure to cover football. It’s way too early to predict what’s in store for an encore but I’m thrilled that we’re getting close to finding out.

The upcoming season carries no shortage of story lines. In Lynn, we have two outstanding senior quarterbacks, Classical’s Keith Ridley and English’s Matt Severance, who’ll be hungrier than ever to close their high school careers on a high note.

And let’s not forget about David Barrios at Tech, another senior signal-caller who quietly emerged as one of the area’s best last fall. Gone are the talents of running backs Steffan Gravely and Keoni Gaskins at Tech, meaning Barrios will likely take an elevated role this season.

Speaking of running backs who’ve left their teams to graduation, Peabody loses the duo of Noah Freedman and Eric DeMayo, who’s now at Division I Wagner. St. Mary’s graduated the pair of James Brumfield, one of the speedier backs in the Catholic Central League, and Marlon Scott. Swampscott graduated Isaiah Bascon and quarterback Colin Frary. It’ll be interesting to see how Tech coach James Runner, Peabody’s Mark Bettencourt, Swampscott’s Robert Serino and new St. Mary’s coach Sean Driscoll adjust/run their offenses this season.

Driscoll comes to St. Mary’s after a lengthy tenure at Winthrop. His replacement at Winthrop is former defensive coordinator Jonathan Cadigan, who spent 10 seasons calling plays for the Vikings’ defense.

Cadigan’s a former Winthrop football player who’s eager to get the Vikings on the right track. Also entering a new role as a head coach this fall is Pat Lamusta in Lynnfield, replacing Neal Weidman. Lamusta, a former Pioneer football player, hopes to continue the success Weidman built during his tenure. Best of luck this fall to Driscoll, Cadigan and Lamusta.

Hoping to have bounce-back seasons are St. John’s Prep, Saugus, Revere and Bishop Fenwick.

The Eagles qualified for the postseason last fall but were bounced in the Division 1 North quarterfinal by eventual champ Everett. St. John’s returns Item all-star Aise Pream, one of five team captains this fall. Saugus, under first-year coach Anthony Nalen, finished the 2017 season at 4-7. The positive is the Sachems finished 4-2 after starting 0-5 and two of those first five defeats were by three points or less (a 22-19 loss to Salem and a 26-25 loss to Gloucester).

Revere went 3-8 last year but ended the season with a Thanksgiving Day victory over rival Winthrop and the Patriots return sophomore Calvin Boudreau at quarterback.

Fenwick finished 4-7 and came minutes away from pulling a huge upset over St. Mary’s in its season finale on Thanksgiving eve. The Crusaders will get a huge boost in quarterback Cory Bright, who returns after missing the majority of the 2017 season with an injury. Bright played well during the summer in 7v7 tournaments, helping Fenwick make noise in the Northeast Regional. Fenwick will look to carry some of that momentum over to the start of the season.

English also played very well in 7v7 this summer. The Bulldogs won a tournament at Framingham State, won the Marblehead League and gave Buckingham Browne & Nichols a run for its money in the East Regional semifinal. BB&N won the game in the closing seconds and went on to win the East Regional championship game over Milton. Speed was a huge strength for English last fall, so if Severance and his receivers are already clicking the Bulldogs’ offense could be dangerous once again.

And let’s not forget about the KIPP Academy Panthers, who’ll begin their second season. KIPP, in its inaugural season last fall, won three games and finished at 3-8. Although the record isn’t indicative of a great season, winning three games isn’t an easy feat for a first-year team. In my opinion, all they had to do to consider the 2017 season a successful one was simply show up and play hard. They did that and much more, and they earned three hard-fought victories along the way.

Jim Rabbitt does a great job at KIPP and I’m sure the Panthers will continue moving in the right direction this year.

Marblehead’s a team that has moved in the right direction for the past seasons, in which the Magicians reached the Division 2A Super Bowl in 2016 and the Division 4 final in 2017. The expectations in Marblehead are probably high but the Magicians know how to win under the bright lights.

So here’s to another great football season in the making. Good luck to those gearing up to take the field this fall. It’ll be an absolute privilege penning your stories.

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