LYNN — It’s not often that an incoming freshman walks onto a football team and impresses his coaches enough to emerge as the starting quarterback. But when Matt Severance joined the English team as a freshman three years ago, that’s exactly what happened. Bulldogs coach Chris Carroll leaned on Severance to be English’s starting quarterback and the decision turned into a great success.
“It didn’t surprise me,” Carroll said of Severance’s early prowess. “I got to know Matt a lot as a freshman. I’ve coached him for four years, it’s pretty cool. Matt has a confidence about him. Not only is he athletic and has a great I.Q., but he’s very confident on the field. He asks a lot of questions. He’s a student of the game. He prepares well and that’s why he plays well.”
Three years later, Severance has grown into one of the best quarterbacks in the Northeastern Conference. He helped lead English to a 10-1 season last fall as a junior and a trip to the Division 3 North final. The Bulldogs fell to Tewksbury, 22-18, but bounced back with a 38-0 win over crosstown rival Classical on Thanksgiving to close the season.
Now the expectations are turned up a notch for Severance, a two-way star who also plays free safety, as he enters his senior season.
“As a freshman Matt was a 135-140-pound kid. Now he’s 175-180-pounds,” Carroll said. “He went from a freshman handing the ball off a lot to now being the quarterback of a very potent offense. I see the player and his ability to run the ball, throw the ball. Having someone from freshman year to senior year, it’s pretty cool to see.
“Matt had a tremendous junior year both offensively and defensively. He’s a great quarterback, but in my opinion, he’s the best free safety in the area. He’s a two-way leader with high expectations, but they’re well deserved high expectations.”
Severance will captain the Bulldogs this fall, his second season under the leadership role. Serving as a team captain carries no shortage of responsibilities, but Severance said he enjoys having the opportunity to lead his team by example.
“It’s a really high honor,” Severance said. “In my opinion, it’s everyone’s dream to be captain for a football team or whatever sport you play. It’s a really big role, but I like the challenge.”
What does English have in store for an encore? Severance said the team’s goal for the 2018 season is clear.
“Coming off a 10-1 season last year, everyone expects us to be at least as good, if not better,” he said. “We’re just building off that. We’re always coming into each season with a state championship in mind, so that’s what we’re going for.”
But before English can wrap its mind around the state tournament, the Bulldogs have to take care of their seven-game regular season schedule. The Bulldogs commenced preseason practices a week and a half ago and Severance said the early impression has been a positive one.
“I think we look good,” Severance said. “We definitely need to continue building our chemistry but that comes with playing with each other. We look good, we look young and fast. I love this team.
“We’re taking it one day at a time. Each day’s a new opportunity. We’ll take it one practice at a time, and so on and so forth.”
Severance and the Bulldogs had a jumpstart on the new season with strong showings in 7v7 tournaments during the summer. English won a 7v7 tournament at Framingham State, the Marblehead League, and reached the semifinals of the Northeast 7v7 East Regional. The Bulldogs took 7v7 mainstay Buckingham Browne and Nichols to the brink before falling short in the closing minutes of the semifinal game.
“Playing in 7v7 helps a lot coming into the season,” Severance said. “I built a lot chemistry with different routes and receivers. Especially with a young group of guys, confidence is always good. If you keep rolling with that, it’ll only get better from there.”
Although Severance makes plenty of noise as English’s signal-caller, his impact at free safety doesn’t fly under the radar. Opposing coaches have taken note of Severance’s abilities on the defensive side of the game as well.
“Every opposing coach we play mentions him on defense, how fast he plays on defense,” Carroll said. “He has great instincts. He studies very well, he retains information very well, his instincts to the ball are very good. He’s a good tackler. He’s the quarterback of the defense, getting guys lined up and recognizing opposing teams’ tendencies. It’s very impressive.”
With English’s September 8 season opener at Beverly quickly looming, Severance and his teammates are excited to kick off a new season.
“We’re ready,” Severance said. “The season’s coming fast but we want it to come fast. We want to stay on top of what we’re doing and we want to get into it.”