LYNN — The Classical football team took a major step forward in 2017. Under new coach in Brian Vaughan, Classical turned its program around and grew into one of the more feared teams in the Northeastern Conference. The Rams finished the year at 8-3 and carry plenty of optimism into the 2018 season.
“I think the kids in our program just bought into the system we implemented on both sides of the ball, and how we were going to run the program,” Vaughan, entering his second season at Classical, said. “If you can get the kids to buy in, that always helps. The other factor was our senior leadership. Those were the two most important factors in turning our program around.”
With 25 seniors on this year’s roster, it seems as though Classical’s primed for another big season.
“It helps, especially with us (coaches) being our second year in,” Vaughan said. “A lot of guys are familiar with schemes on both sides of the ball. We got a lot of repetitions in practice because guys are familiar with a lot of the stuff we’re doing.”
Leading the core of seniors returners are quarterback Keith Ridley and safety Chase Buono. Ridley, entering his second season as Classical’s starting quarterback, threw for 1,800 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2017. Buono, one of the top defensive playmakers in the NEC, finished with 90 tackles last season.
“Chase is our quarterback on defense,” Vaughan said. “He makes all the calls, gets us lined up in the right situations. We’re excited to have him back. I feel he’s one of the better safeties in the league, let alone the state.”
Nashaun Butler returns for his senior season at receiver after tallying 88 catches for 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns last fall. Senior running backs Malcolm Best and Marcus Tucker also return to help carry the offense.
Up front, the Rams return a pair of two-way linemen in seniors Dennis Pierce and Kyle Rucker. Also returning as seniors are defensive end Terrence McGaughey, cornerback Cam Green and linebackers Bobby Sirois and David Barnard.
Ridley, Buono, Sirois and Green will serve as co-captains.
“They’re our leaders,” Vaughan said. “They’re a big part of the reason why we were able to turn the program around last year. Keith and Chase were captains last year. They set the tone in the weight room and practice. They set the tone in camp. Those are the kids that go 110 percent every day. We’re excited that they’re with us.”
Vaughan pointed to Classical’s work ethic as its strength.
“One of the biggest strengths we have is our work ethic,” Vaughan said. “Our guys have worked really hard in practice every day. It gives us an opportunity to be successful every Friday night when we play and it always helps to have a lot of guys who have varsity experience.
“For us, we just want to get better every day,” Vaughan said. “That’s something we talk about all the time. We even have it on the back of our shirts. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
Vaughan said he expects a competitive NEC this fall.
“We expect to be in battles week in and week out,” Vaughan said. “Hopefully with some hard work and more than likely a little luck, we’re hoping to have some success this year.”
The Rams open the season Friday night (6) when they travel to Medford.