The Salem News
---- — Going to nationals has become a yearly ritual for North Shore Flag Football League coach Jonathan Rivera and his assistant, Danny Batista.
The pair, who have been friends since childhood and always coach together, have taken all-star teams to the nationals three years in a row and came very close to winning it all recently.
“The first time we didn’t win a game; last year we won one,” said Rivera. “This year we went all the way to the championship game. We knew this was a special team, with kids from a lot of different cities and towns.”
The 11- and 12-year-old NSFFL Patriots won the New York Jets Regional last December to earn a berth at the nationals in Dallas, Texas. Team members included Ryan Barror of Beverly; Cameron Loizides, Jared Ridley and Johnny Ranieri of Peabody; Mathieu Severance of Lynn; Jake Willcox and Gabriel DeSouza of Everett and Mike Sainstrill of Malden.
“They were all very good players and we had a great quarterback in Jake Willcox, who also plays for Everett Pop Warner. With him throwing the ball we knew we had a very good chance to go far,” said Rivera. “At nationals the kids have to call their own plays; coaches can’t do it. Willcox was our offensive leader and called great plays.”
The two captains, Loizides and Severance, were on last year’s team and were able to tell their teammates what was in store for them at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
“It’s an amazing place,” said Rivera. “They put the kids through the tunnel like the NFL teams, and they came out in the end zone. They have that huge screen showing fans what’s going on, and for the first seven minutes of our first game the boys were just happy to be there. Then they started to focus and play our game.
“(Former Patriots linebacker) Rosevelt Colvin was there representing the NFL and our guys had interviews with him. He has a youth flag football league in Indianapolis, and he showed the kids his Super Bowl ring. They loved meeting somebody who had played for the Patriots.”
The Patriots came out of pool play with a 1-2 record. They beat the Arizona Cardinals, 21-6, and lost close games to the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans. In the playoff round, the locals defeated the Oakland Raiders, 26-21, and Texans, 7-6, to advance to the finals against Baltimore before falling, 21-13.
Highlights of the national tournament will be shown on ESPN next month and the North Shore team should be featured.
Peabody High hockey captain Mike Vadala has decided to spend a post-graduate year at New Hampton (N.H.) Prep, where he’ll play hockey and lacrosse.
Vadala has been selected to play in the Shriners All-Star hockey game in Worcester this weekend. He is a four-year varsity lacrosse player and captain in both hockey and lacrosse.
“I visited and really liked the campus,” said Vadala, a first cousin of Fenwick football and track standout Charlie Maistrellis, as well as former Tanner lacrosse great Bryan Molk. “They put together a really great package for me and I’ll be able to have my car there, so I can come home any time I want. It’s only an hour from Peabody, which is perfect for me.
“I really wanted to play both sports, and I’ll be able to get my grades up there. Plus, I’ll get exposure for hockey; that’s the hardest sport to play in college coming directly out of high school. I’m also excited to be picked for the all-star game and getting the opportunity to play with the best in the state.”
Vadala has been a midfielder in lacrosse, but will play attack for Peabody this spring while still taking faceoffs.
Stan McKeen has thrown his name into the ring for the Peabody High girls’ varsity basketball job. McKeen has coached the Tanner freshmen girls for the past 17 years, including unbeaten seasons the last four years.
McKeen is the only member of the staff who appears to be interested in taking over for Jane Heil, who announced her retirement after the season ended. He is also the head coach for the Peabody boys’ soccer team.
Nicole Woods is one of the nominees for the Hood Sportsmanship Scholarship. The Beverly High three-sport star in field hockey, ice hockey and lacrosse hopes to be among the 10 student-athletes from Massachusetts with the most votes who will be invited to come in for an interview. After that three will be selected for awards.
People can vote for the same person every day until April 18. More information can be found at www.hood.com/promo/scholarship.
Jean DePlacido is a part-time writer and columnist for The Salem News. Contact her at email@example.com.