Sophomore James Patterson, part of the strong young running back group
Text and photos by Steev Riccardo
2011 Record: 7-5
Key Returning Players: Akeem Belnavis, Ricky Spooner, Mia Zaky, Kelly Chisholm
Head Coach: Dane Laboissonniere
WEBSTER – In a common trend in high school football, most teams lose key players and need to rebuild, a case could be made that the Bartlett Indians have the most rebuilding to do.
Not only did the Indians lose two of the most productive backfields in Central Mass in Rocco DiStefano and DJ Kirby-Thomas (over 2500 yards and 28 touchdowns), but they also lost their best lineman in Arthur Hackenson, as well as a bunch of other solid players, fifteen seniors all together.
Despite all that and the fact that they have about 35 guys in camp, things are looking up for head coach Dane Laboissonniere and his team. The main reason would be the simple fact that they have some talented football players in the mix.
“The kids are working hard,” said Laboissonniere, who is entering his third season as the team’s coach. “We lost a big senior class but we have a big sophomore class coming up.”
Laboissonniere praised his trio of senior captains, who are all exceptional football players. “Their leadership has been tremendous, they have been outstanding. We are a better program having those guys around.”
“He is very vocal, he leads by example, he goes out and does the right thing,” said the coach about Belnavis, who was not only one of the best defensive backs in the conference last year with five interceptions, but will play a key role on offense this season as well.
Belnavis will probably be getting the ball a lot more this year and should improve on his 200 yards rushing and three touchdown totals from a year ago.
“Wherever he puts me I will play,” said Belnavis, who most definitely will be covering the best receivers opponents have to offer on the defensive side of the ball.
Belnavis’s complementary cornerback of a year ago, Kelly Chisholm, may be moving to safety this year, but will also surely make an impact in the secondary once again, as well as see significant time playing wide receiver.
“We are off to a really good start,” said Chisholm. “We are ahead of schedule compared to where we were last year at this point on offense. We know most of the plays.”
Laboissonniere also singled out senior Billy Phillips, who is one of the toughest guys on the team, evident from his play from a year ago. Along with Chisholm and Belnavis, the Indians’ secondary will definitely be strong.
A major key to the Bartlett offense will be junior quarterback Ricky “Spoonman” Spooner, who Laboissonniere said is “doing pretty well.”
Spooner likes what is happening around him. “The line has been outstanding. Last year at this time I was not as confident, I have 100% confidence in my line right now, I know they are going to block for me.”
“It was a big loss losing 15 guys, but once camp started we could see that there are guys here that are stepping up and will fill the shoes,” said Spooner.
Senior co-captain Mina Zaky, who will anchor the offensive line at center said, “We are doing good, the offensive line is stepping up, we have a lot of young guys in there. Tanner Demma is playing well; we have a lot of beef on the right side.”
Laboissonniere is also very pleased about the line play. “Our line is one of the biggest units we have had with the Demma brothers up front , Mina (Zaky) at Center, Chris Mullins, Anthony Cafferelli, Chris Vosberg, and Eddie Hackenson.
Tanner Demma, who is the younger brother of senior Justin, said, “Our line is big, we know the plays, the backs are doing great, I think we have the people that can do the job.”
Perhaps the two brightest spots in camp that people have been raving about are sophomores Anthony “The Bull” Cafferelli (left tackle) and split end Neil Flanagan. During practice last week, both sophomores looked outstanding.
“I have been lifting all summer and eating, obviously, and I attended three camps,” said Cafferelli, “At the WPI camp for linemen I attended we went over pass blocking and I think I am a lot better at blocking now.”
Cafferelli then went on to praise fellow sophomore Flanigan, who everybody was saying positive things about. “Neil is doing very good. He and I will be starting on both sides of the ball this year. It will be a step up for us being sophomores.”
Perhaps the biggest question is what will happen in the Indians backfield. Laboissonniere said that there are “five or six guys competing right now to run the ball” and he is happy with what he is getting out of those guys.
Along with Belnavis, it’s up to sophomores Harry Le and AJ Caddell to take their game to the next level, along with newcomer James Patterson, who played Pop Warner last year as a freshman.
Of the three, Le looked pretty explosive at practice and earned some praise from Spooner who says he will be a “big surprise” this year.
There could be a lot of surprises on this team. They are young and hungry and will have a real test on September 7 when they open against a very good Northbridge team on the road.
- Tuesday, 28 August 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Sports