Tech has a tough act to follow

The Lynn Tech football team huddles around head coach James Runner. (Item Photo by Spenser R. Hasak)

The Lynn Tech football team had an absolute banner season in 2017. An undefeated regular season, a Commonwealth Athletic Conference title, a run to the MIAA Division 8 North final and a Massachusetts Vocational Athletic Directors Association state championship were the team highlights, while one half of the Tigers’ dynamic backfield duo set a number of rushing records.

Coming into 2018, there are a number of changes for Tech. First thing’s first, the running back duo of Steffan Gravely and Keoni Gaskin has moved on to college football, with Gravely heading off to UMass Dartmouth and Gaskin leaving for Franklin Pierce. There’s no way the loss of these two backs won’t change things for the Tigers, as the run-heavy Tech offense relied on Gravely and Gaskin in a major way.

“It’s a great testament to our program that we can send kids off to go play in college, so we’re very happy about that,” Tech head coach James Runner said. “But we’re ready to hit the gas and start moving on this season now. We’ve been working really hard in the offseason, and we just have a different vibe this year.”

In addition to the loss of Gravely and Gaskin, the Tigers lost 15 other seniors to graduation, including cornerback Marcus Taylor and receiver Jamie James. Such a mass exodus would hurt any team, but Tech is fortunate in that the Tigers have 15 seniors coming back to the team this season. And those seniors have a championship pedigree now.

“While last year there was a lot of emphasis on individual players like Steffan and Keoni, this year it’s a little different in that we have a group of athletes who are going to be successful and who teams will have to pay attention to,” Runner said.

Some of the players expected to make a big impact this season include senior quarterback David Barrios, who is ready to take more of the offense into his hands in addition to making an impact at safety. Senior Chance Buono finally gets his chance to shine at running back this season after getting limited playing time behind Gravely and Gaskin for the past couple of seasons. Seniors Elvin Gonzalez and Rartha Thatch are projected to be big-time targets at receiver this year, and they’re bringing a whole bunch of speed to the field. Runner noted that during offseason workouts, Gonzalez was pegged at a 4.3 40-yard dash time, while Thatch ran a 4.4.

Defensively, senior linebacker Emerson Ramirez returns as the leader in the middle for the unit, while seniors Ali Bdaiwi and Rob Wallace help make up what is projected to be one of Tech’s best defensive line groups ever. Barrios and Gonzalez will hold down the fort at safety and cornerback, respectively. As a matter of fact, Runner pointed out that as important as Barrios and Gonzalez are to the Tigers’ offensive success, both are actually being recruited by colleges as defensive players.

And so, needless to say after last season, the Tigers are expecting big things in 2018. But Runner knows that it’s going to take a lot of work to get back to where they were.

“I think the key about having success as a team is that you have to remember all the things you did to get to that success, so we’ve started from scratch this year,” Runner said. “We were hitting the ground hard, reminding ourselves that we were down for a long time before we got up. And all the guys have taken it to heart, so we’re ready to get it going.”

The Tigers open up the season Saturday night (7) at Manning Field against Nashoba Valley in a rematch of last year’s MVADA title game.

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