When Matt Marshall first took the job as St. John Paul II football coach three years ago, he had his eye on this current group of seniors when they were fledgling players.
Now, as they approach their final season of football, he is expecting some big things from his experienced upperclassmen.
“I’ve been waiting for three years now for this group since I had them,” he said. “I knew they were a special group. I’m hoping they can take us to another level this season.”
Since instituting football during the fall of 2011, the Lions have never experienced a losing season and have gone to the playoffs the past three years.
Last year, St. John Paul closed another successful season at 7-4, despite a first-round playoff loss to Coyle & Cassidy 27–18.
However, the pre-season has been abounding with optimism and enthusiasm with a hard-working group, top-heavy in seniors.
“These seniors are outstanding across the board,” said Marshall. “They’re very hard workers. Every single one of them will have a leadership role on this team. That’s how we’re going to be successful.”
As of this date, there is competition at quarterback between sophomores Mike Spadaro and Sean Downs, and senior Aaron Cole, a baseball standout who is out for football for the first time.
“It’s still open to competition,” said Marshall. “Mike did very well last year in a game against Upper Cape. He was very poised, and his arm strength and mechanics are very good; he’s starting to get it.”
Senior Brendan Hyde is back from an early-season injury last year and is the team’s most experienced wide receiver and corner back.
Will Coty, a two-time captain, is moving from center to wide receiver, and may also see time at running back or tight end.
“He’s really worked hard in the off-season. He’s gotten a lot faster and really worked on his foot speed,” said Marshall. “We feel it’s more of a strength to have him at a skill position.”
Also expecting to see time at running back are seniors Curtis Webber and Curtis Raggio.
“It’s their time to shine. Raggio is a speed guy, and Webber is more of a bull that we’ll use for short yardage,” he said.
There is a bevy of enthusiastic candidates in the receiving corps led by senior Matt Chapin at slot receiver, junior wide receiver Richie Marchand, a speedster who has moved to football from the cross-country team, split end John Fowler, junior slot receiver Quinton Farrell, and freshmen Mike Hyde and Vinny Castano.
“We have a lot of new guys at the skill positions, so we’ll see what happens,” said Marshall. “They’re athletes so we’re hoping they will step right in.”
The offensive line is comprised of an experienced group designed to open wide holes for the runners, as well as allow the quarterbacks time to find their receivers.
Back-up center and senior Jake Garrett has earned a starting slot, while on the right side will be seniors guard Sean Roycroft and tackle Mark Coakley. The left guard is returning senior Joe Grygent while seniors Lucas Boyle and Mike McEntee have the inside track. Sophomore Henry Mosychuck is a back-up center and tackle.
Ryan Monast, a transfer from Sturgis, will also see time on the defensive line and at linebacker, along with returner, D. J. Marrs and Roycroft.
At the present time, the squad numbers nearly 35, which is a jump from about 28 to finish last season.
Marshall is also enthusiastic about the number of underclassmen that he hopes will also step up and find a spot within the program.
In addition, he returns the coaching staff, which includes receivers and defensive backs coach Nick Christian, quarterback coach and offensive coordinator Bill Coty and defensive coach John Napoleon.
The team held a four-way scrimmage recently with Nauset, Old Colony and Nantucket and are looking forward to their first game on Sept. 6 at West Bridgewater.
“I’ve had a lot of these guys for three years now,” he said. “I feel it’s their time to step up. We’ve worked a lot with them on the fundamentals. It’s a great group of guys.”