Friday, February 1, 2013

Senior Salute

Welcome to my February post. Another month off the calendar and another month closer to the start of the 2013 season.

There'll be plenty of time to talk about that later. For now, let's take another look back at the 2012 season.

If you are a regular reader of the blog or my articles in the Villager, you know that head coach Neal Weidman is reluctant to single out players during his post game analyses. He stresses team over individuals, rightly so. However, at the team's Awards Banquet, the coach always takes the time to talk about each of his outgoing seniors, especially those that might be less publicized than others.

Front Row (L to r) Captain D. J. DeGeorge, A. J. Gallo, Alex Rugato, Alex Roper, Michael Bonafine, Joey Andrade, Zach Panzini and Captain Tyler Palumbo. Back Row l to r) Mike Soden, Nick O'Brien, Coach Chris Sakelakos, Coach Gino Fodera, Anthony Mancini, Head Coach Neal Weidman, Captain Alex Pascucci, Corey Ragusa, Coach Jon DeMarco Connor Lordan, Coach Fern Lavoie, Giulio Pellegrini, Captain Andrew Kibarian, Captain Mike Karavetsos, Coach John O'Brien, Coach Vinnie Calderone
Today I thought I would recount what Weidman had to say about the 17 seniors that were part of the championship season and who will now be moving on. Here are some excerpts from the coach's comments on each of them.
Joe Andrade – "Joe didn’t get to finish out his senior year because of injury and that was actually a big loss for the team. He was playing on all of our special teams and was starting to get some play at linebacker for us. He played as a freshman and didn’t play as sophomore or junior but decided to come back as a senior which I’m glad he did. I wish he had played all four years."

Alex Roper – "He grew as a player and as a person over the four years. He took advantage of his opportunities to play the last two years. I’m extremely happy for his success this year. I'm very proud of his efforts. Alex was named all league linebacker this year. He’s in the record books for his kicking efforts. Alex was a very tough player. He played posititions that were really meant for someone bigger than him. And he played very well."

Anthony Mancini – "I was very happy with the player that Anthony became. Unfortunately, he battled injuries the last two years. I never saw anyone dislocate both kneecaps – one this year and one last year. And he came back both times and played well. He had a fantastic year for us both as wide receiver and defensive back. He’s one of the smartest players I’ve coached. When we watch film, if I ask a question – and it doesn’t matter what position I ask about – the first person that knows the answer a lot of times before the kid who is actually playing the position - is Anthony. He’s a real student of the game. He was named Honorable Mention All League."

Mike Soden – "Mike was a four year player and made himself better each year. He became a very good player for us both offensively and defensively. We moved him to the defensive line from outside linebacker and we weren’t sure how it was going to go, but we probably should have done it two years earlier because he ended up being a fantastic defensive lineman. Maybe more impressive than his improvement as a football player was his consistency in the classroom. Mike was able to find a way to balance football and four AP classes. Mike was given Honorable Mention for All League. Had he not had AK and DJ on the same defensive line, he probably would have heard about him a lot more."

Nick O’Brien – "It was nice to get Nick on the team. He transferred from another school. It can’t be easy to transfer your senior year. Nick found a way to handle it well. I have a ton of respect for him for that. I think if he had been in the program for four year and knew our system, he would have gotten even more playing time than he did. He did play on special teams. He was there at depth at linebacker. For him to come over for one year and to fit in as well as he did speaks well of Nick."

Alex Pascucci – "We’re obviously going to miss Alex as a football player. He was great. To look at Alex you wouldn’t think he was quite as tough as he was but what we are going to miss most is his toughness. The second thing we’re going to miss most about him is his versatility. He was a captain,  played outside linebacker, defensive back, wide receiver, kick returner and he was also the holder for extra points and field goals. And my guess is he did several other things that I can’t remember. He literally did everything for us at one point or another. What an all around great, versatile player. We’re going to miss him. Alex was also named All League defensive back."

AJ. Gallo – "He had a great senior year. He came back from private school. I wish he came back earlier. He probably would have had an even better junior year than he had. He ended up playing a lot as a junior and had a great senior year. He was fantastic for us both as a wide receiver and outside linebacker and punter. We kind of stumbled on that. One day he picked up a ball and punted it after practice and we said ‘you’re a punter now.’ That’s sometimes the way it works for us. He played receiver and was a big play threat for us. Had we not had the guys we had up front and the running game we had, we probably would have had some receivers with a lot bigger numbers than the actually had. This was probably the least amount that we’ve thrown since I’ve been here. That was just a result of how our team was built. Probably the most impressive thing about him was when we realized we weren’t going to be throwing a lot he turned himself into a very good perimeter blocker which we ask our receivers to do. They are like linemen in open space a lot of times. They have to block just as everyone else does. He was also named All League wide receiver this year."

Tyler Palumbo – "Tyler came to Lynnfield as a freshman. Most kids get a chance to make friends in Middle School. They get to know all their teammates before they become freshmen. Tyler didn’t have that luxury but it didn’t stop him from fitting in immediately with these guys. He showed up the summer before freshman year. He came running out with his helmet on and went over with the linemen. I wanted someone to let him know he was only 115 pounds. He figured it out and ended up with the running backs eventually. He did a great job fitting in. Again that can’t be easy. I think it’s telling how well he fit in by being voted in as captain for his senior year. That’s really saying something. The amount of tackles he made was staggering. It was really impressive. Tyler was named to the All League team as linebacker."

Michael Bonafine – "Mike wasn’t a captain but he was a senior leader. One of the most respected kids by his peers and by his coaches. His leadership was fantastic. He showed up every day and did whatever we asked of him. He was on most of our special teams. He was depth at outside linebacking position. On different teams he probably starts there. Most impressive about him as a senior was that he worked on the scout team for us. Not that we asked him. He just did it. The reason why I think he went out and did it was because he knew it was going to help us win and that’s what he cared about most. Teams that have success always have players like Mike Bonafine. I thank him for that and he will be greatly missed."

Mike Karavetsos – "Mike was a two year starter and senior captain. His improvement from his freshman year to his senior year was amazing. Freshman year he was another one of those guys that if the wind blew too hard he was going to get blown over. He really made himself into a very, very good player. One thing that you can’t coach that he always did have was speed. That something that you either you have or you don’t have and thankfully he had it. Two years in a row he was recognized as All League team at quarterback. And his improvement didn’t just happen. He worked at it. He doesn’t necessarily look like it, but pound for pound, Mike is one strong kid. In terms of weights and how much he could lift he was one of the stronger kids we had. He turned himself into that because he worked at it and he didn’t miss any workouts. He was there every morning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays before school all winter and all spring. He truly improved throughout the four years and I thank him for all his efforts."

Alex Rugato – "Alex was with the varsity for the last two years. After a slow start his junior year, he definitely started to improve as a player. Alex didn’t play before his junior year and that’s not always easy to do. By the end of his senior year he really started to gain some confidence as a player and it showed. When he got a chance to play in a few games he actually made some nice runs. I wish he had been able to play for all four years but he didn’t and that’s fine. I’m just really glad that he decided to come out and play. He was another one of those kids you just love having on the team and he was a great kid."

Connor Lordan – Connor was a four year player. The best thing about him as a football player is the understanding he brought to his position. He knew exactly what was going on. Offensive line wise he picked up a lot of stuff. They make a ton of calls and he was the quickest at being able to pick up stuff on the field and yell it out to make sure we had the right call on the offensive line. He always made the right call and many times it was at the last second depending on where the defense lined up. He’s a really smart player. He’s very consistent. Again like Mike Soden on the defensive side, if he wasn’t on the line that was quite so dominant with a couple of other players he probably would have gotten a lot more recognition. We could always count on him to keep the mood light throughout the season. He will be missed and I enjoyed coaching him very much."

Corey Ragusa – "Corey played on a lot of our special teams and was a defensive lineman who got quite a bit of playing time. Corey did a nice job when he was called upon to play. We play with three defensive linemen in the scheme that we use and we had some really good ones this year which made it difficult for him to get in. Corey’s best attribute as a player was his all-out quickness. He was able to get off the ball. He was super quick. Had he been on some other teams he probably would have played more than he did. His quickness was very disruptive to other teams. He was constantly in the backfield. He had a wonderful senior year and we’re going to miss Corey as well."

Andrew Kibarian – "AK was one of the most dominant players in the league. His play on the offensive and defensive lines was outstanding. We rushed for over 2000 yards this year and he was in the middle of it. We asked him to snap the ball. Everybody knows what a great player he was. The most impressive thing about him was that he was a good person. The first time I met him he was an eighth grader. And until now he’s never been anything but polite and been appreciative of anything me or any of the coaches have done for him. Those are the reasons he’s a success. AK was named MVP of the league."

Zach Panzini – "Zach was an on and off starter for us on the defensive line which is really impressive considering a couple of things. One, the guys we had playing that position and two, the fact that he never played football ever until he was a freshman. He improved a ton his freshman and sophomore years. For him to improve that much and become a starter as an upperclassmen was really fantastic. He played on a lot of our special teams as well. His improvement those two years really translated into him playing as a junior and senior. Congratulations to Zach."

D. J. DeGeorge – "D. J. was also one of the more dominant players in the league. His play on the offensive and defensive lines was fantastic. Everybody knows that D.J. was a great player. He’s been well recognized. He was named Lineman of the Year for the league and a Lynn Item All Star and has plenty of colleges looking at him to play football. But most of all, what is impressive about D. J,. is his ability to stay humble. He’s always been quick to stay 'Thanks, Coach' and 'Is there anything else I can do to help?' Those are the qualities I think will make him successful at the next level and we’re going to miss him."

Giulio Pellegrini – "Giulio was a true pleasure to have on the team. He gave us outstanding special teams play. And had he not been behind some really good really good players he probably would have been a starter at least one way if not both. He was right there in the mix all along. He had a ton of special teams tackles for us. He did get a chance to start one game and he played a great game, picked off a pass and I was really happy for him on that. He was a true asset to the team. He’ll be greatly missed."

Thanks and good luck to all the seniors as they finish out their high school years. They certainly helped provide a great season for the Pioneers.

That's it for now. Check back on March 1 for my next post.