Sports

English aims to establish a new identity this year

The seniors on the Lynn English varsity football team. Front (row left to right) are Milad Ishaq, Caleb Orcel, Ishmile Bangura, Miguel, Ramos, Matt Severance, Janiel Tejada. Back row (left to right) are Boan Teah, Prince Brown, Fabrice Aleankoua, Alex Brenes, James Polona, Jadiel Tejada, Jonathan Parsons, and Joan Santana. (Item Photo by Owen O'Rourke)

When the English football team reflects on last year’s 10-1 season, it’s hard not to feel content with that success.

The Bulldogs finished the regular season undefeated, reached the Division 3 North final and capped the year with a one-sided shutout win over rival Classical on Thanksgiving.

But turning the page on last year and focusing on the task at hand in preparing for this season is a challenge the Bulldogs are happy to tackle.

“Last year’s team was a really fun team to coach,” English coach Chris Carroll, entering his fourth season, said. “They were fun a team, that’s one of the best words to describe them. They were a resilient bunch, they worked hard and success followed.”

The 2018 Bulldogs, however, are 0-0 like everybody else and looking to form a new identity.

“It was a great run from the experience standpoint,” Carroll said. “We have some guys that played those big games and understood the hard work it took to get there. We had some freshmen last year who saw what it was like to make that run. This year’s team is different in many ways and it has to create its own identity to keep moving forward.”

Quarterback Matt Severance returns for his senior season. A two-way star who’s also a potent playmaker at free safety, Severance will be leaned on heavily to help lead the charge on both sides of the ball.

“Matt’s on pace to do some great things for us this year,” Carroll said. “He’s played some great football for us.”

Senior receiver Prince Brown, who led Division 3 in touchdown receptions for the majority of last season, also returns. Othey key returners include senior running back Ishmile Bangura, senior receiver/cornerback Jadiel Tejada, sophomore receiver Mathias Fowler and senior guard/defensive tackle Alex Brenes.

Newcomers projected to play key roles include sophomore receiver/cornerback Tahj Purter, sophomore middle linebacker Nick Bates and sophomore offensive/defensive lineman Ryan Dewan.

Carroll feels English’s roster includes a solid blend of experienced leaders and talented underclassmen.

“We graduated 15 senior starters but the quality of returners, when you look at Matt, Ishmile, Mathias; those guys are very talented players and good leaders. We expect a lot of them as the younger guys gain experience. They’re some of the better players in this area and I feel very confident they’ll lead the team to success once again this year.”

Offensively, the Bulldogs carry no shortage of athleticism and speed in their arsenal. They relied on their skill position players in 2017 and emerged as one of the more potent offenses in the state. Carroll said he expects similar results this year given the returning core of offensive playmakers.

“I’d say that’s our biggest strength this year, speed and athleticism at the skill positions,” Carroll said. “Those guys were all really fast players. They’re faster, stronger, a year older and they’re all back. We’re looking at a very dynamic set of athletes at the skill positions.”

Defensively, English is still working out the final tweaks and adjustments.

“I think the defense is where we really need to find our identity,” Carroll said. “Offensively I think we’ll be fast and high-paced with the returners and speed we have. Defensively, anytime you have to replace your entire front seven, there are questions that need to be answered. Defense is an area we’ve worked hard on in camp. We have a group of really talented sophomores filling in and learning quickly.

“We’re working hard,” Carroll said. “The kids are getting familiar with each other. With a lot of new faces, finding this team’s identity is what we’re trying to do right now. Through hard work, paying attention, playing physical and fast, we’re going to get to where we want to be.”

English opens the season Saturday (1) at Beverly.

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