The first week of the 2019 high school football preseason is officially in the books. Practices across the state opened last Friday and teams spent the past week beating the heat as they gear up for the new year.
Area teams will have plenty of storylines to offer this fall. Some begin new eras after graduating key players. Some had terrific seasons in 2018 and hope to pick up where they left off. Some hope this is the season they match their expectations.
In Lynn, Classical, English and Tech fall into the first category. For the first time in four years, English’s offense will be led by someone other than Matt Severance. Over on O’Callaghan Way, the Rams no longer have Keith Ridley leading the huddle. Tech begins a new chapter without David Barrios under center. Fenwick also begins a new chapter. The Crusaders graduated their all-time leading passer, Cory Bright. All four were Item All-Stars and Severance was the Edward H. Cahill Item Player of the Year.
St. Mary’s hopes to build on last season’s success after falling one win short of the Division 7 state championship. The Spartans just couldn’t get their offense going in the 18-0 loss to Blackstone Valley at Gillette Stadium.
St. John’s Prep, on the other hand, left Gillette with positive memories on Super Saturday. The Eagles defeated Catholic Memorial 40-22 for the Division 1 state title. They graduated crucial pieces from last season’s team, but the goal remains the same.
Also looking back on a stellar 2018 season are the Swampscott Big Blue. Led by a junior-heavy roster, Swampscott reached the Division 5 state semifinal last fall. The majority of that junior class returns for its senior campaign in 2019. That’s a good sign for the Big Blue.
Saugus welcomes first-year coach Steve Cummings. The former head coach at Wakefield, Cummings takes over a Sachems team that has no shortage of talent and promise. Returning for their second seasons are Winthrop’s Jonathan Cadigan and Lynnfield’s Pat Lamusta. Both teams struggled at times last year but progressed as their seasons went on. Quarterbacks Clayton Marengi (Lynnfield) and Bobby Hubert (Winthrop) are two players to keep an eye on.
Marblehead made quick work of the NEC last fall, going 8-1 in conference play. Coach Jim Rudloff always has his players ready to go. And Marblehead always has a group of players ready to fill the vacancies left by the previous season’s seniors.
Peabody snuck into the Division 2 North postseason bracket as the No. 6 seed last year, but inconsistency kept the Tanners from playing to their potential. They’d like to change that narrative in 2019.
Revere’s Rayan Riazzi was a fun story to follow in 2018. Riazzi, originally a soccer player, joined the Patriots as a sophomore and booted a handful of crucial field goals. It’ll be interesting to see what he has in store for his junior season.
KIPP Academy has continued to take steps in the right direction since the program started in 2017. The Panthers were on the doorstep of a postseason bid in Division 8 North last fall. Perhaps the third season’s the charm at KIPP.
The season openers for each team are as follows: September 5 — Manchester Essex at KIPP (7); September 6 — Greater Lowell at Tech (6), Classical at Catholic Memorial (7), Stoneham at Fenwick (7), Beverly at Winthrop (7); September 7 — Bridgewater-Raynham at St. John’s (12); September 12 — Boston English at St. Mary’s (7:30); September 13 — Gloucester at Revere (6:30), English at Swampscott (7), Marblehead at North Andover (7), Saugus at Bedford (7), Salem at Peabody (7), Newburyport at Lynnfield (7).