new quarterbacks, super bowl hopefuls
Local high school teams were eager to receive their pads and helmets on Friday for the official start of another football season.
Atlantis Charter/Bishop Connolly/Westport, Joseph Case, Diman, Durfee and Somerset Berkley have each taken to the training grounds with the aim of making it to the Super Bowl.
The Cardinals posted the best record in the region last year, while the Raiders and Bengals each finished with four wins.
The Herald News dives into the top questions that are on the minds of fans as we head into an all-new season.
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10. Will COVID-19 protocols return at any time?
Last fall, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was mostly lifted for high school outdoor sports. Indoor sports like volleyball required the wearing of masks, as did bus rides and changing room trips – but that was basically it for the restrictions. This school year, athletic directors, coaches, and players are excited to not have to worry about the COVID-19 changes.
9. What else do we have to worry about in the world?
Do you remember eastern equine encephalitis? Yes, mosquitoes were a bother in the fall of 2019, which led to some teams changing their schedules and moving games from Friday night to Saturday morning, to avoid the threat from the EEA and West Nile. Hopefully those worries are allayed so that coaches and players can focus on the game and not on what’s flying through the air other than a soccer ball.
8. Will the new MIAA playoff system hold up?
Last year, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) adopted a new playoff system for most high school sports. Section winners are long gone as a statewide format is born. Some complained about the new system, but for the most part, most DAs, coaches and players liked the overall new playoff format. For now, the current MIAA playoff system is here to stay.
7. Do we have enough referees?
In May, Herald News reported that local sports teams were struggling to find referees. We spoke with Joe Argo of Fall River, who is a longtime softball, basketball (both gender) and softball umpire and an official field hockey and softball event assignor. “People don’t seem to have the fire in their stomachs,” he said. “I don’t know what the future is.” So finding enough people to fill the other jobs that make high school sports happen is worth watching.
6. Will we have all 8 Super Bowls at Gillette Stadium?
Gillette Stadium hosted the high school Super Bowls for the 14th time last fall in Foxborough. And for the fourth time, Gillette hosted all state championship games – although stadium operators had to get a little creative to do so. So is there a way to guarantee an eight-game weekend? Friday and Saturday? The good news is that the Patriots host the Bills on Thursday, Dec. 1, before they sit out for 11 days.
5. Can the teams survive their difficult schedules?
Five Fall River teams finished with just 17 wins in 50 games (.340 winning percentage) combined. With the formula of the new MIAA playoff format rewarding teams for playing tougher schedules, have football teams deliberately bolstered their rosters this fall? Durfee are the only team in the difficult bracket of Division 1. Next at the top of the list is Somerset Berkley. The other three teams play in Division IV or lower.
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4. Who will surprise us this season?
The graduation had an impact on several local teams. Case and Durfee each lost 14 players upon graduation while SBR lost 13 players. But new young talent could be waiting in the wings. Diman may be the sleeper of the pack, losing just seven players at graduation.
Herald News’ top three players of 2021 – Diman’s Jayden Massey, Somerset Berkley’s Dylan Rodriguez and Case’s Brady Thiboutot – have all graduated. Who will fill his cleats?
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3. New callers for local teams?
Quarterbacks are the heart and soul of any football team and power the offense. Case, Diman and Durfee each got their best signalman starting in 2021. They will turn to their bench and establish a quarterback before the season begins. Somerset Berkley’s Owen Meehan is the only returning veteran.
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2. Will veteran coaches make a difference?
The sidelines will be different this season at Atlantis Charter. The Atlantis/Connolly/Westport cooperative football team will have a new head coach. Charles Phillips resigned after last season. But the coaches of Joseph Case (Anthony Palladino), Diman (Luke Bahry), Durfee (Taylor Brown) and Somerset Berkley (Nick Freitas) all remain the same and will draw on their experience to lead their teams.
1. Can all teams in the Fall River area win a Super Bowl?
The last time a Fall River area football team made it to the Super Bowl was at Somerset Berkley in 2010. Coached by current head coach Nick Freitas, the Raiders entered Gillette Stadium with a perfect 12-0 record. SBR’s thrilling run ended with a 28-20 loss to Beverly. None of the local teams earned tickets to last season’s state tournament. Could this be the year? Which team is ready to break the 12-year drought?
With reporting from the Metrowest Daily News.
Steven Sanchez, sports editor of the Herald News and the Taunton Daily Gazette, can be contacted at [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter at @Chezsports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Herald News today.