Months after concluding their 2018 campaign with a 26-6 setback to rival Dedham High School, the Norwood High School football team returned to campus last month eager to start a new chapter of the program under first-year coach Manny Lopes.
Lopes, who competed and won a Super Bowl as a student-athlete with Norwood in 2000, is excited for his initial season with the Mustangs, who will visit Walpole High School on Friday, September 6th for a 7 p.m. kick-off.
“It’s exciting,” said Lopes of his team’s first contest of the 2019 season. “Its a respectful rivalry, but we have lost to them long enough, so it will be nice to put some teams out there to compete with them, and we’re excited to get out there (this Friday).”
Walpole topped Norwood, 27-0, last fall, which provided coach Chris Sullivan, a former assistant, and student-athlete with the Rebels with his initial win as the program’s head coach.
Lopes says he is excited to start his “own little rivalry” with Sullivan, who he described as a “great guy.”
Similar to Lopes, his players, including quarterback Jason Denehy are excited for their first game against the Rebels – the Mustangs’ signal-caller says he “takes pride in being a part of” the Norwood-Walpole rivalry.
“It goes back a long time and it means a lot to me from youth and especially now in high school,” said Denehy, who is eager to guide the Mustangs’ offense up and down the field this fall.
Denehy considers Walpole “one of the (stronger) opponents” Norwood will face this fall, so scoring an opening day win over the Rebels would certainly provide the squad with some momentum heading into their second season in the Tri-Valley League (TVL).
Norwood concluded its first season in the TVL with a 2-9 mark – their lone conference win came against Medfield High School last October – but from speaking with a few players last Friday during the squad’s ‘Media Day,’ they certainly seem prepared to face the conference’s large divisional foes again this season.
Said senior tri-captain Aidan Prior, “A lot of these Tri-Valley League teams I never played before (until last season), but there were two teams we have been playing for years (growing up through youth sports) in Dedham and Westwood, so it is good to know coming back a second year what these teams are all about.”
The Mustangs will play two conference games this month against Medway and Westwood before visiting Hopkinton and Holliston in the first two weeks of October. Medfield and Ashland will visit Norwood during the final two weeks of October before the Mustangs compete in either a postseason or non-postseason clash.
Norwood will conclude November with a visit to Dedham on Thanksgiving Day with kickoff scheduled for 10 a.m.
Getting to Know the 2019 Norwood High School Mustangs
Norwood’s first season in the Tri-Valley League (TVL): The Mustangs concluded their initial season in the Tri-Valley League with a 2-9 record. Their lone conference win came against Medfield when the Mustangs defeated the Warriors last October by a score of 21-2.
Familiar Foes: Norwood will see the same seven teams they competed against last season, including all six conference foes. They were competitive against Medway and Westwood but struggled against Ashland, Holliston, and Hopkinton.
But as senior tri-captain Teddy Willet said, “We got to watch these teams on film but never saw them on the field, we never played with them before, but the way I look at it is they have never seen us before and they have to come to stop us.”
Norwood’s first conference game is Saturday, September 21st against Medway, which defeated the Mustangs last fall, 34-18.
A new potential rival for Norwood: While Norwood will continue its rivalry with Dedham and Walpole this fall – the Marauders are also part of the Tri-Valley League, too – it seems a new rivalry is taking shape with its next-door neighbors.
Norwood and Westwood are slowly becoming rivals – the two towns don’t have the same history as Norwood-Dedham or Norwood-Walpole, but as coach Manny Lopes said, “Westwood is starting to be a little rivalry.”
One of Lopes’ coordinators said he considers Norwood-Westwood a “great rivalry,” especially after last year’s contest, which saw the Wolverines edge the Mustangs, 7-6.
Said Lopes, “Walpole and Dedham are the big ones. The Westwood one is growing, there have been some close games in the past couple of years, but it is really Walpole and Dedham.”
Norwood and Westwood will square-off Saturday, September 28th at 1 p.m.
Norwood’s Captains: The Mustangs named three student-athletes captains this season: Teddy Willett, who will play halfback and outside linebacker, Aidan Prior, who will be spotted at offensive guard and defensive tackle, and Connor Sheehan, who will play offensive guard and middle linebacker.
The offensive plan: Lopes said he and his staff have implemented a new offense for the upcoming season, which will be a mix of run-pass. Lopes seems eager to watch Denehy quarterback an offense that may not feature too many designed plays but will allow the junior signal-caller to run the ball, too.
Norwood returns three starters on the offensive line, according to Lopes, including Prior and Sheehan.
Getting to know Norwood’s defense: While Prior, Sheehan, and Willett will be tasked with leading the Mustangs’ defense, there are some holes Lopes and his staff must fill heading into their first game on Friday.
Lopes doesn’t seem too concerned about filling the graduation gaps – he has faith in his seniors to step-up and make plays. “We’ll be fine,” said Lopes.
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The Belmont Marauders seem optimistic about their 2019 campaign with hopes of returning to the MIAA D3 North playoffs and going a bit further than last year. (PHOTO: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports.com)
By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports
Coach Yann Kumin seems content about his team’s preseason practices thus far.
“It’s been a good preseason so far,” said Kumin, who is excited to coach the Belmont Marauders this fall.
Kumin’s crew mustered just three wins in seven regular-season contests last fall but still managed to secure a spot in the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) Division 3 North playoffs. Belmont fell to Danvers in the quarterfinals but erased memories of their postseason setback to the Falcons with a thrilling come-from-behind Thanksgiving Day win over Watertown.
Perhaps their exciting win against the Raiders is a sign of things to come this fall for a Marauders squad that returns a slew of talent on both sides of the ball, especially at wide receiver.
According to Kumin, this year’s wide receivers are “probably one of the more talented” groups he has coached since being named the sideline boss of the Marauders prior to the 2014 season.
Additionally, Kumin is excited for his defense, too – he and his staff welcomed back a slew of talent at the skill positions, but currently, the coaching staff is trying to find replacements for the four seniors that were spotted up-front one year ago.
“We’ve got to fill those gaps up-front,” said Kumin, “and those big guys are the ones that motor the team and make the offense go and make the defense stout, so that has been our focus of camp to get that unit operating and working at the level we want it.”
Whoever is spotted up-front on defense will certainly need to be extra prepared as Belmont competes against some of the state’s best talent in the Middlesex League, a conference Kumin considers one of the “best leagues in the state.”
Said Kumin, “I love being a Middlesex League coach. I was a defensive coordinator with Stoneham, so I got an early taste (of the league) there, (but) you have to play your best game week-to-week in the league in order to win. So, that’s kind of our focus in these first two weeks and the scrimmage weeks is quality of execution. That is something that is really important to us, going out and getting quality reps and execution (while) staying out of negative plays.”
For Belmont to enjoy a successful season, they will need to lean on their five captains, Avery Arno (quarterback), Ryan Santoro (fullback/inside linebacker), Justin Rocha (cornerback/wide receiver), Zachary Hubbard (wide receiver), and Ryan Hoffman (center/interior tackle) to guide the squad, both in and outside conference play.
Kumin spoke highly of his five captains prior to Monday’s practice – he considers them all great leaders for the program.
“We take leadership really seriously in this program,” said Kumin. “One of the things we say is that being a captain and leadership, in general, is the first to serve and the last to be served … all five of (our captains) have been primed and taught by the guys who came before them and that is what the mantle of leadership and responsibility means in this program.”
Additionally, Kumin commended his other seniors and upperclassmen for their leadership and commitment to the program. “I have always kind of had that here (in Belmont) – I am really lucky to have it,” he said.
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Needham High School football coach Doug Kopsco directs his players through a practice drill. (PHOTO: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports.com)
By Matt Noonan | @MattyNoonz11
For Doug Kopsco, his first season as the head coach of the Needham High School football team seemed to go pretty well.
Kopsco’s Rockets posted a winning record of 7-4 last fall, which included a postseason win over Newton North in the quarterfinals of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) D1 South playoffs and an exciting one-point victory over archrival Wellesley on Thanksgiving Day.
Heading into his second season with his alma mater’s football program, Kopsco appears more relaxed. In fact, he seems to be enjoying his new role with the Rockets, who are expected to once again contend for a Bay State Conference (BSC) Herget title this fall.
“Really at the end of the day, it isn’t about x’s and o’s. It is about the culture, it is about the kids and it is about the family enviornment,” said Kopsco, who was previously a coordinator for the Rockets football program before taking over for coach Dave Duffy last season.
“It’s one thing to preach it and talk about it, but it is another thing to invite that environment and share that environment, and get the kids involved with creating that culture. And I think these guys did a great job of that this year.”
Kopsco says what has made this season’s preseason so much fun has been the competition – there seems to be multiple positions up for grabs due to some graduation losses, especially on the offense.
“We have a ton of competition this year,” said Kopsco.
“Last year, I think we knew (who our starters would be), and that’s both gratifying and exciting … but this year, all spots are open, so everyone is working hard, everyone is pushing each other and there is no kind of gimme spots.”
Needham’s 2019 Football Season Outlook
Needham’s 2018 Season: The Rockets enjoyed a successful first season under coach Doug Kopsco, winning five of seven regular-season contests along with one postseason game, too.
Their run toward an MIAA D1 South championship concluded in the semifinals with a 35-32 loss to Catholic Memorial, but Needham would close the season on a high note by defeating Wellesley, 14-13, on Thanksgiving Day.
Key Depatures: The Rockets graduated some key pieces from last year’s offense, including tight end Matt Smith, who will be competing for Duke University this fall.
Jack Murmes, who was also a tight end, will be playing for Assumption College this season, while quarterback Charlie Ogletree will be suiting up for Bentley University.
Players to Watch: Tyler Reid returns for his final season – the senior tri-captain will be spotted in the backfield at halfback and is someone Kopsco will certainly rely on this season.
Odahri Hibberts returns for his final season – he will be lining up in the slot and at cornerback on defense.
Ryan Villa is back for his final season with the Rockets and will be playing offensive tackle and guard.
Filling the holes on defense: With just two student-athletes returning on defense with starting experience, Kopsco and his staff will be looking for some new additions this fall to fill all three levels.
“We have on defense have two kids coming back that have starting experience, so it is all wide open,” said Kopsco, “but we have (had holes to fill on defense from previous seasons) and honestly, we ended up with some of our better defenses.”
Upcoming Scrimmage: Needham will compete against Wayland (the game will be held at Weston) on Friday, August 30th. Kopsco is excited for his team to compete against another squad prior to their initial game of the 2019 season on Friday, September 6th at Natick.
Said Kopsco, “They are always super well-prepared, great coaching staff, and it is a wonderful time to test out where we are at this point of the season … it is a wonderful opportunity to see how much we have taken in so far.”
A challenging opening month: Needham will certainly be tested in the first few weeks of the season when they compete against Natick (week one) and Tewksbury (week two) and Newton North (week three).
Tewksbury advanced to the MIAA D3 Super Bowl – they lost to Springfield Central at Gillette Stadium – but are expected to once again be a team to beat in Merrimack Valley Conference (MVC).
“We’re excited (about our upcoming games),” said Kopsco. “Natick’s awesome, great coaches and super-well prepared. This is going to be a super-competitive game. We won last year, but they won the year before, so I think it is a good chance to see how we can come out of the gates as a team and a family, and hopefully, we come out on top.
“(Tewksbury) is a great team. This is just a great team. They are very versatile on offense, they give you a lot of different looks, they can do a lot of different things to you, so we just need to (make sure) we’re prepared, ask good questions during the week and we need to make sure everyone knows their assignments.”
Coach Dave Duffy returns to the sidelines: After announcing his retirement last summer following a very impressive 19-years of coaching the Rockets, coach Dave Duffy has returned to Needham to help his former squad continue its recent success.
Kopsco is very excited to have his former coach back on the sidelines – he is certainly eager to learn more from him as the season progresses.
“We were very fortunate this year” to have coach Duffy back, explained Kopsco, who played fullback and linebacker for the Rockets before returning to the program as a defensive coordinator.
“I didn’t want to hound him too much, but I really always wanted to work with Roy Johan and Dave Duffy. I am still learning from both of them, (but) they are amazing coaches with 35 years of varsity experience between the two of them alone, so we’re really going to lean on them heavily this year to make sure we’re headed in the right direction.”
Needham’s 2019 Schedule
Friday, September 6th – at Natick, 6 p.m.
Friday, September 13th – vs. Tewksbury, 6 p.m.
Friday, September 20th – vs. Newton North, 6 p.m.
Friday, September 27th – at Weymouth, 7 p.m.
Friday, October 4th – at Braintree, 7 p.m.
Friday, October 18th – vs. Milton, 6 p.m.
Friday, October 25th – vs. Walpole, 6 p.m.
Thursday, November 28th – at Wellesley, 10 a.m.
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The Somerville Highlanders will play a trio of regular-season games at Dilboy Stadium this fall. (PHOTO: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports.com)
By Matt Noonan | @MattyNoonz11
The Somerville High School football team’s schedule for the 2019 season has been released with the Highlanders scheduled to host a trio of regular-season contests, including their season-opener against Falmouth on Saturday, September 14th with kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m.
Six days after hosting the Clippers the Highlanders will entertain Malden on Friday, September 20th for their initial Greater Boston League (GBL) meeting before visiting the defending Division I champions St. John’s Prep (Danvers) one week later.
The Highlanders will commence October with a visit from Ipswich on Saturday, October 5th before embarking on a three-game road trip with visits to Concord-Carlisle, Everett, and Medford.
Somerville will spend the month of November competing in postseason or non-postseason contests before capping the month with their annual pre-Thanksgiving Day meeting with Cambridge to compete for the Picket Fence. Somerville captured the Picket Fence last season, thanks to a late fourth-quarter touchdown run by quarterback Louis Montina.
The Highlanders concluded 2018 with a 4-7 record – they snapped their seven-game losing streak with a trio of non-postseason wins against Wilmington, Wakefield, and North Readingbefore edging Cambridge, 23-19.
2019 will mark the first time since in three years that Somerville will compete in the GBL after competing the past two seasons in the Northeastern Conference (NEC).
Coach Makonnen Fenton will welcome back some key pieces from last year’s squad, including Montina, halfback Fred Castin and wide receiver Miyard Joseph.
Somerville High School 2019 Schedule
Saturday, August 31st – Jamboree at Everett High School (3 p.m.)
Saturday, September 14th – Falmouth at Somerville (12 p.m.)
Friday, September 20th – Malden at Somerville (7 p.m.)
Friday, September 27th – Somerville at St. John’s Prep (7 p.m.)
Saturday, October 5th – Ipswich at Somerville (2 p.m.)
Friday, October 11th – Somerville at Concord-Carlisle (7 p.m.)
Friday, October 18th – Somerville at Everett (7 p.m.)
Friday, October 25th – Somerville at Medford (7 p.m.)
Wednesday, November 27th – Somerville at Cambridge (6 p.m.)
Stay connected with our Massachusetts high school sports coverage on Twitter by following @Noontime_HS.