It would have been nice if the football pundits around Massachusetts had slept on the Mashpee High football team just a little bit. That’s not the case, though.
Even though the Falcons lost three of the top players in the program’s history, in Devaun Ford, Xavier Gonsalves and Camron Kergo, the Falcons are still be being picked by many across Massachusetts to be the top team in Division 7.
Coach Matt Triveri shrugs off other people’s expectations. He’s concerned more about getting his team ready to face Nantucket today on Friday, September 13, in the first game of the 2019 season for the Falcons. His focus is on the immediate, not the future.
“That comes with the territory,” he said. “When you’ve had success then you get a reputation, and a lot of that stuff is based on reputation. We’re not thinking about that stuff at all.”
Talent-wise, Mashpee should be just fine. The team has quality football players all over the roster and some up-and-comers that will be turning heads in the not-too-distant future.
The biggest issue that the Falcons face is the same one that they always seem to be challenged by: depth. Even though the Falcons have won four state titles since 2011, and might have won another last year had injuries not hit them at the worst possible time in the state playoffs, the Falcons are thin in terms of overall numbers. When the team is healthy and has everyone available the roster sits around 30. During the days leading up to the opener they had 26 men at practice.
MHS did have an extra week to get ready because Coach Triveri had a hard time putting his schedule together this year. The Falcons have won so consistently this decade that many schools simply won’t return phone calls or come up with excuses when the Mashpee coach calls to find games. That leaves this year’s team playing a very aggressive slate of games, with four of the first five games that the team will play coming against squads that made deep runs in last year’s playoffs.
Mashpee opens with Nantucket, a D7 south semifinalist, and then plays Coyle and Cassidy, a D8 regional finalist. League foe Abington, which went to the D7 south finals, is next. St. Mary’s, last year’s D7 champions, and Cohasset, the runners-up, also loom ahead.
“It’s frustrating, personally, because no one wants to play us,” Triveri said. “We had four opponents that had no reason not to play us back out. Three of those were Division 6 opponents. It’s very, very frustrating. We shouldn’t have to look up playing Division 4 or 5 teams. We can’t find games around here... I don’t think anyone in the state is playing against as high a winning percentage as we are.”
So, the Falcons are playing a tough schedule. How will they do against it?
Triveri said that he expects the team to be very competitive, as long as the squad stays relatively healthy. He isn’t thinking in terms of record, though. It will take a .500 record at least, he believes, to make the playoffs. He believes that the talent is there to make that happen.
“We don’t really goal set. It’s more week to week and day to day,” he said. “Goal number one is to stay healthy. If we’re healthy we’ll be competitive. The goals change as you go on. Our kids know what we are. We’ve looked good in scrimmages. It comes down to execution.”
For the Falcons to compete like they want to they will have to win at the point of attack. Three-fifths of the starting offensive line are returning seniors that were starters a year ago, which is a good place to begin. Senior Samson Brooks is back at center, all-star Nolan Lyons is back at right guard, and Nathaniel Miller is back at left tackle.”
The other side of the O-Line is young, but should be good. The left tackle spot is competed for by junior Shea Eaton and sophomore Brett Hickey. Chis Distillio, a sophomore, is currently out with an injury but could win that job when he returns.
The left guard is Daniel Stewart, a powerful junior.
Junior Matt Bowen, who played on the offensive line last year, will be the new tight end. Bowen, a six-three, 215-pound athlete, is highly regarded and brings athleticism to that spot. He will help in both the running game, as a blocker, and as a pass catcher.
Junior Ryan Hendricks will begin the season as the starting quarterback. Senior Ian Miller started last year, but an arm injury suffered late in the season kept him from being ready for the start of the season. Hendricks has risen to the occasion and impressed during the preseason. Coach Triveri said that Hendricks history as a point guard in basketball has translated to the gridiron. “He’s had a good preseason. He’s been tremendous,” the coach said. “He sees the field, he’s calm and he doesn’t get flustered.”
Miller will be able to play receiver for the Falcons in the meantime. Triveri said that the team is better just by having that type of an athlete available to play.
Devon Hughes, a senior, is the leading pass catcher for the Falcons. Hughes dealt with turf toe all last year, and that painful injury prevented him from reaching the levels that he is capable of. Now healed, Triveri said that Hughes’ athleticism and route-running abilities will make him a big producer in the MHS offense.
Joining Hughes and Miller as receivers will be Cyrus Hendricks and Nick Santos. Cyrus Hendricks is a “twitchy,” quick receiver that can make big plays. Santos, a junior, is a big target.
Kendall Rose has the job of taking over for Ford at running back. While no one could be expected to fill those shoes by himself, Rose is a very capable back that can turn in big plays in the offense. If Rose can stay healthy for an entire season he will be a productive player on both sides of the football for the Falcons.
Santos, Caesar Hendricks and Bryce Talpin will all see snaps at running back as well. Jack Vinitsky, back from a knee injury,
Stopping the opposition will be paramount for the Falcons to have a strong season. The team’s 4-4 defense will be led by a strong group of returning players.
Up front on the line, the ends of Bowen and Nathaniel Miller both have a chance to be difference makers. They’re capable of getting to the quarterback and closing off the edges. Danny Mitchell and and Erich Menke will serve as backups at those spots.
The defensive tackles for MHS should hold up their end of the bargain as well. Nolan Lyons and Daniel Stewart will be the first ones out with Bret Hickey, Eaton and Distillio all seeing backup time.
Playing outside linebacker for Mashpee are Rose, Santos and Sweeney. The inside backers are Vinitsky, Brooks, Sweeney and Mitchell.
Hughes and Ryan Hendricks will start on the corners for the Falcons. Cyrus Hendricks and AJ Govoni will see time as well.
The free safety at the back of the defense is junior Jared Barr. The physical former linebacker takes over maybe the most important job in the Mashpee defensive scheme, as he adds run support and will have to help shut down the pass.
Nantucket is coming into the first game having suffered a lopsided loss in their opener last weekend. Rockland tore through the Whalers by a 42-0 score, but the islanders were without the services of their top two running backs, Toran Burton and Devante Usher. The duo are two of the more talented runners in southeastern Massachusetts. Triveri said that he expects them to play.
“They’re frightening to face,” the Mashpee coach said. “We need to bottle them up at level one, because there won’t be stopping them at the second or third levels. The front eight needs to take care of business.
The game will mark the sixth time that Mashpee and Nantucket have faced off all-time. Mashpee owns a 3-2 edge in the lifetime series, winning the last two meetings in a row. MHS won last year 36-7 on the island and took a 25-0 decision in 2017. Nantucket defeated Mashpee last on October 14 of 2016, 31-26.
Game time is slated for 4:45 PM on Friday afternoon.