The summer months may be dominated by baseball on Cape Cod, but that doesn’t stop local football teams from working on their craft ahead of the fall.
Across three different locations every Wednesday, 12 teams gather for two-hand touch passing leagues. On Wednesday, July 17, Mashpee, Old Rochester and two Barnstable teams squared off for seven-on-seven drills at the Quashnet Elementary School in Mashpee. At DeConto Stadium at Sandwich High, the Blue Knights hosted Falmouth, Bourne and St. John Paul II. And Monomoy played host to Nauset, Dennis-Yarmouth and Cape Cod Tech in Harwich.
Seven of these 12 teams will be part of the newly reformed Cape & Islands League. For the purpose of football, Falmouth, Barnstable, Nauset and Dennis-Yarmouth will compete in the C&I Large Division while Sandwich, Monomoy and St. John Paul II will be in the Small Division. Mashpee (South Shore League), Bourne and Old Rochester (South Coast Conference) and UCT and CCT (Mayflower Athletic Conference) will remain in their respective leagues this season.
Below is a notebook recapping some of the highlights of the passing league as they pertains to Bourne, Falmouth, Mashpee and Sandwich.
Little by little, the young Canalmen team are getting better with each passing camp. With graduated senior James Cahoon leading the Bourne seven-on-seven squad this off-season, the team is working in a new potential starter at quarterback in sophomore Michael Carrara.
“We have a good chance to get to know him and [Carrara] gets to know us here,” junior wideout Andrew Murphy said.
The lefty signal caller split time at quarterback with Shawn McDonough, who was listed as Bourne’s backup last year. Cahoon, who quarterbacked the Canalmen to the Division 7 South playoffs last year, regularly worked with both Carrara and McDonough on progressions, leading receivers and being mindful of not telegraphing throws.
Whoever gets the starting nod at the quarterback position will have the help of a loaded backfield with Jaimon Scott, Josh Gonzalez and Ryan O’Connor all set to see regular playing time. Bourne may have graduated most of its size from the offensive and defensive lines, but return a solid core from last year in addition to infusing youth. Getting everyone on the same page in terms of the team’s offensive and defensive skill players is the main priority of the Canalmen during this passing league.
“We’re improving every week,” wideout and outside linebacker Brady Fitzpatrick said. “The first week we didn’t even score once. Now we’re scoring a little more each week. [Last year’s class] taught us a lot and we’re looking to build off that into this year.”
The Clippers boasted arguably the highest numbers at DeConto Stadium with more than 11 players present. Cam Rowell, David Drew, Chris Dorsh, Dre Williams, Nate Gaboury, Ty Halpin, Taylor Frye, Steven Pierre, Jared Lopes, Dougie Rose and Kyle Connolly were all there dedicated to bettering themselves not only as individuals, but as a team as well.
While the offense typically dominates the attention at these passing camps, Falmouth, which operates a run-heavy offense, is focusing on the defensive side of the ball.
“What we takeaway the most are the flaws in our defensive secondary,” Connolly said. “Sometimes we get caught off guard with the long ball. Sometimes we have no one covering the post and the middle of the field is open. We can kind of improvise in these situations and hopefully figure some things out.”
But the team does find value in working on continuity among the offense.
“I think the routes and playing against different coverages will help the most during the regular season,” Rose said.
Working against the Barnstable red squad, the Falcons got a look at their two backup quarterbacks with last year’s starter Ian Miller still rehabbing a right shoulder injury.
Ryan Hendricks completed 4-of-5 passes including a touchdown to tight end Matthew Bowen on a skinny post route. His lone incompletion came on a fullback swing pass to the right side, intended for Jack Vinitsky. His other three completions were all to Devon Hughes, who ran very similar short curl routes. Hughes regularly found space underneath and created good separation, resembling a young Julian Edelman with his ability to find the soft spots of the defense.
Brady Johnston, the younger brother of Jake, went 4-of-6 passing the ball with a touchdown to Hughes on Mashpee’s final offensive snap. He appeared at his best operating out of the shotgun with a bunched trips formation, completing passes to both Hughes and Bowen.
Sandwich Blue Knights
There are potentially four players who will have the opportunity to replace graduated senior Cam Lopes under center for second-year head coach Matt MacLean. Last year’s backup, junior Nick Brown, saw some time under center and will be fighting to take control of the position over incoming freshman Tim Bengston, who led the Sandwich Bulldogs Pop Warner team to a state title last year, among others.
Brown sees the weekly passing league as a chance for fellow teammates to band together while also bonding with other local teams before the season kicks off.
“I think this is a great way for our team to get together in a more organized way than just throwing the ball around,” Brown said.
And, much like the Canalmen, Brown has seen the progression of his team’s continuity grow with each passing week. But, at the end of the day, the league is just fun.
“Sevens is a great way to bond. We have the passing tree we’re working on and we get everyone out here. It’s fun,” he said. “It’s a good before everything ramps up at Mashpee camp in August when we get the pads on.”