Fall is back, and training camp is over. Not even the brisk breeze coming from the harbor onto our practice field in Dorchester (Mass.) could slow us down. Opening day had finally arrived, and the hype stretched about as far as local Boston newspapers could possibly bring it. Number eight-ranked BC High pays a visit to perennial powerhouse and third-ranked Brockton High last Friday the 10th. A game featuring nearly a half dozen division 1 recruits, two of Massachusetts most legendary coaches (Jim Cotter of BC High and Armond Colombo of Brockton), and a rivalry which had existed some half century now.
School had started at the beginning of the week, but it was as if no one had even noticed. The culmination of winter & spring track, a full two-month summer of lifting and speed work, and a three week period of camp would all add up for this one game; a game which would prove to be a test of will, of heart, and most of all a test of mistake-free football.
Opening day has never been a display of immaculate football, but instead a day where the team with the least mistakes, most luck, and most drive seemed to always arise as the victor. So first things first, all week long we prepared our mindsets: one free from fear and thick with intimidation, one short of nervousness but loaded with anxiety, and one rid of the publicity but instead playing to prove ourselves. A sound mind compiled with days upon days of practice and film-watching had us ready to initiate the 2004 football season, which is the last of my high school career.
Just a few after breaking in a new quarterback, 6'5" 230 lb Jack Shields (a 2006 prospect as a TE/WR), two massive offensive tackles, and a "workhorse" backfield consisting of two hard-nose junior runners from Cape Cod, I led my team to battle. The intimidating Marciano Stadium in Brockton (Mass.) stood strong packed with a few thousand fans (the majority being from the home team). This being my third career game at the place, I knew the battle to come was surely one that we were capable of winning.
Walking out by myself for the coin toss, I noticed many familiar faces standing as the other captains: RB Richard Johnson, OG Arthur Dias, OLB Sam Besong, DE Jason Vega. These were the same kids I'd seen at Boston College, Rutgers, and many times on the internet via TheInsiders.com. From that point on I knew it was time to do battle, and this time it would be fun.
I chose to receive, and in no time the opening kick had been delivered. The drive began steadily, with a few pounding runs, and one catch by myself. However, no sooner than it had begun, it had stopped, and we were forced to punt. The Brockton offense featured no better luck - a few solid runs, but no endzone. Back and forth this went for nearly the entire first half. Until late in the half when Brockton RB Lamont Penn caught a pass in the flats and ran it in from about fifteen yards out. The missed extra point left Brockton with a 6-0 lead at the half.
With new fire and an altered gameplan, we took the field for the second half. Brockton received and had a good run back into our territory. On the first play from scrimmage, RB Richard Johnson scampered all the way for the score on an outside trap. The play was crushing to our morale, and our anxiousness at half cost us to forget our keys on the line. The two-point conversion was stuffed, so the game continued 12-0 Brockton.
This time it was business. The BC High offense rolled down the field and looked dead ahead at a first and goal from the one-yardline; a nearly impossible situation to squander, or so we thought. On two fumbled snaps, one botched play, and one gain of a few inches, the Brockton defense had stuffed us. We had to execute far better if we wanted any chance at winning this game.
The defense held tough as usual, forcing many three and outs by Brockton and giving the offense multiple chances to score. Eventually, we did reach paydirt on a 50-yard strike from Shields to WR Kafhi De Jean Baptiste. We then caught the defense off-guard with some conversion trickery to send the score to 12-8.
The fourth quarter had commenced and our goal seemed suddenly realistic, but time and time again the monstrous inner line of Brockton dominated the rush attack. The same was true for our defense; penalties, injuries (to first string back Johnson and second string back Penn) and big plays all kept Brockton from striking for the third time. On one crucial 3rd and 10, Brockton's quarterback rolled out to rush and I was there to punch the ball loose. I had a feeling that this was going to be it.
But with nearly half our team starting and playing both ways, we could find no way to score on the speedy Brockton defense. The final buzzer soon rang, and the scoreboard showed 12-8 in Brockton's favor. The hype was true; Brockton is definitely one of the most dangerous teams in Massachusetts. We also proved ourselves well, although a victory would have been far more gratifying. Brockton's Johnson played exceptionally well in the backfield, and senior OLB Besong was outstanding against the run all night long. I finished with one catch for 11 yards, six tackles, and one forced fumble from my TE/DT positions.
The game was one for the papers, but more so one from which to learn. Either way, we have flushed the loss, and are readying for our battle next Friday against another dynasty, Bridgewater-Raynham High School. The season is long, and the conference games haven't begun yet, but we take each week one-by-one. We have one of the most challenging schedules in the state, too. So back to the drawing board and the practice field until next week, when hopefully our troubles will earn us a check in the win column.
Chris Marinelli is a 6'7" offensive tackle recruit in the 2005 class who verbally committed to Stanford in July. He is writing a weekly series this fall to deliver Cardinal fans insight into the triumphs and travails of his senior season at Boston College High School.
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