Warriors have a new head coach, seek same old success
Published in the September 10, 2015 edition.
By JIM SOUTHMAYD
WAKEFIELD — Anyone who hasn’t seen the Wakefield Memorial High football team in any of its scrimmages really isn’t quite sure what to expect this season from the Warriors with a new head coach.
That’s just the way they like it.
Wakefield starts a new era with Steve Cummings as the head coach and Cummings wants to continue the great success the Warrior program has enjoyed over the past two decades with the now retired Mike Boyages.
The 2014 season wasn’t one of Wakefield’s finer campaigns as the Warriors posted a losing 5-6 record (3-2 record in the Middlesex League Freedom division) for one of the rare times over the past 20 years that the program didn’t have a winning record. Still, the Warriors were a competitive group and were involved in some close games a year ago.
“We got off to a slow start but we played well in October and went 4-3 in the regular season,” said Cummings, who was the defensive coordinator on last year’s team. “We were hit with the injury bug and we probably let some games go. We did a lot of good things and we have a lot of guys that have come back.”
The Warriors will be led by senior co-captains Tighe Beck and Matt Mercurio.
Beck returns at wide receiver and safety this fall. Last year, Beck had 14 receptions for 366 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a kickoff return for a touchdown. On defense, Beck led the team in tackles with 80 and had an interception and fumble recovery.
“Beck had only 14 catches. We need to go to him more and get him more involved in the offense,” said Cummings.
Mercurio was the team’s center a year ago but he is moving to left tackle to take advantage of his athleticism. The senior is a two-way lineman and will also play on defense where had seven tackles a year ago.
On offense, Wakefield has some key positions to fill with the graduation of QB Anthony Cecere, RB Luke Martin and wide receivers Brian Dickey and Chris Calnan. Still Cummings feel that the Warriors will be strong as the skill positions with the players they have.
Ned Buckley, a senior, appears to have won the starting job over junior Kobe Nadeau as the two have handled the majority of the snaps over the course of the preseason.
“Ned has the best grasp of the offense of the quarterbacks we have,” said Cummings. “I think we are going to benefit with the strength of the players we have in the backfield. We have downhill runners with speed and we have big backs to pound the ball.”
The two main running backs will be seniors Paul McGunigle and Zack Kane. McGunigle gained 101 yards on 15 carries with two touchdowns before going down with an injury against Lynn English in the second game which caused him to miss most of the season. Kane gained 69 yards on 21 carries with a TD a year ago.
Cummings expects both will have a big year if they can stay healthy. All the running backs will have big shoes to fill with the graduation of Luke Martin (817 yards on 122 carries with 10 touchdowns). Martin most likely would have rushed for over 1,000 yards had he not missed the final three games due to a torn ACL suffered in the quarterfinal playoff loss to Melrose.
In addition, Wakefield has junior Will Shea, junior PJ Iannuzzi, senior Alex Jancsy, senior Kevin Russo and junior Carmen Sorrentino to turn to as well to run the football. Sorrentino will be out this week for the Beverly game with an ankle injury suffered in the Methuen scrimmage.
The receivers Wakefield have besides Beck to throw the ball to will include junior Alex McKenna and senior Eric Smith. Smith in particular has impressed during the preseason. First year senior Ben Yandell will provide another target. Listed on the roster as a tight end, Yandell will have to fill the vacancy left by Dylan Brady who the led team with 20 receptions for 279 yards a year ago.
Mercurio will be joined on the offensive line by senior Evan Gourville and junior Joe Connell. Both Gourville and Connell are interchangeable at either guard or center.
Logan Dunn, a senior, will be at guard and he will be joined by senior Nick Nice. Other linemen include seniors Jared Regan and Mike Hakioglu at tackle. Evan McMaster, a sophomore, and CJ Wixon are two more linemen that Cummings can turn to. McMaster can play center and Wixon can line up at either guard or tackle.
“We go eight or nine deep on the line,” said Cummings.
That will help the Warriors since many of the linemen will play both on offense and defense. Tom Hayes, a junior, will play on the defensive line along with Dunn, Connell and Mercurio.
“There are seven to eight guys we can rotate to keep players fresh on both sides of the ball,” said Cummings. “We have younger players with talent but they aren’t ready (for varsity football). If it takes until week five for them to be ready, so be it. We’re not going to rush them in there. Depth wise, I think we have a great rotation at every position. That will help keep players fresh for all four quarters.”
Wakefield will still institute the 3-4 alignment on defense under new defensive coordinator Chris Tolios.
Kane and Gourville will play the middle linebacker positions while Jancsy and Mike Moran, a senior, are the outside linebackers.
In the defensive backfield, Wakefield will play more of a Cover 2 defense to be able to allow the safeties and cornerbacks to cover more ground. Beck, Buckley and Shea are candidates to play safety while Sorrentino, McKenna and Smith will play cornerback.
“I think we’ll be strong on the back end of our defense and make big plays,” said Cummings.
Russo will handle the punting duties while McGunigle will handle the placekicking duties. Alex Joly, a sophomore, is another candidate who could handle the placekicking duties, too.
“Melrose is always good, Burlington will be tough to beat. They have all their guys back. Watertown continues to get better each year,” said Cummings. “Wilmington and Stoneham run the Wing-T and they pound the football at you. There are no easy games. Playing teams from the Middlesex League makes our entire league better. I’d put us up against anybody.
“We’re so deep that I think we are going to be tough to scout,” added Cummings. “It will be tough for other teams to emulate what we do in practice. They’ll have a hard time with their scout team being us. We’ll run different sets and packages and I think that will be to our advantage. I’m very optimistic.”
Before playing team in the M.L. Freedom division, Wakefield has non-league games against Beverly and Abington.
“We have two non-conference games. If we are successful that will gives us a lot of playoff points,” said Cummings. “We have only three homes games scheduled. If we want more then we have to work hard to put ourselves in a position to earn two or three more homes games. We control our own destiny.”
The Warriors open up the regular season tomorrow night at 7 p.m. when they host Beverly in a non-league game at Landrigan Field.