SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 9, 2012

Jean DePlacido column: Local linemen key turn around for Kenyon College

Jean DePlacido
The Salem News

---- — What a turn around for the Kenyon College football team this season with two local players leading the offensive line. In the second week of the season the Lords attracted quite a bit of media attention when they faced Earlham College because both teams hadn’t won a game in a long, long time.

The Lords ended their 24 game winless streak that day, and went on to win five more and sit atop the North Coast Athletic Conference tied with two other teams. Last week they came from behind to beat the College of Wooster and increase their win total to 6 which matches the number recorded in the past five seasons combined (6-3 overall, 5-1 in the league). Trailing by three points with less than five minutes remaining the Lords drove 88 yards and scored the winning TD with 10 seconds left on the clock.

The offensive line has been a big factor in Kenyon’s success, and the reason the team is near the top of the conference in rushing yards and points scored. Senior Patrick Maher of Marblehead, who played at Phillips Andover, is the starting center, and fellow senior Cam Ashe of Wakefield, who played for St. John’s Prep, is a guard/tackle.

“We have a new coaching staff, and they’ve made us believe we could win,” said Maher, who is 6-2, 265 pounds. “Coach (Chris) Monfiletto was hired before last spring practice, and he has changed the attitude. Offensively we’ve been doing really well, especially running the ball. Our quarterback Dan Shannon, who is my roommate, is having a great year.

“Our goal is to win our conference, and if we beat Denison Saturday we will clinch at least a tie for the championship. Our conference has an at large bid to the NCAA’s, but there are a lot of tiebreakers involved that might not go in our favor. It would be the first conference championship since the late ‘80’s when Kenyon was co-champs one year.”

Maher, who is an English major, said everybody is very excited about the team, and there are a lot more fans at the games now.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Maher, who has always been a center since he started playing in the third grade. “You never want the kind of attention we got when we had lost 24 and Earlham had a 21 game losing streak, but we ended the streak by winning. My freshman year we only won three games and the next two years didn’t win any. That’s discouraging, and some of the kids didn’t come back for the next season. Our numbers were down, but coach says it’s all about getting the right guys on the bus. He wants the ones that are totally committed.”

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Nate Buttrick and his family loved Hawaii where they vacationed after he had a very successful Ironman at the World Championship event in Kona finishing 52nd overall and the 13th American racer. That’s pretty impressive, especially considering it was the first full Ironman the former Beverly High track star had ever done after several strong finishes in half Ironmen events.

“I’ll take that given it was supposedly one of the most competitive fields ever at Kona,” said Buttrick, who is planning to turn pro soon. “I still have a lot of work to do to accomplish my goals, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

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Peabody High cross country coach Joe Rocha hoped to keep Heather MacLean a secret a little longer, but in her first cross country season the middle distance runner stunned the field at the Northeastern Conference Meet with a second place finish behind teammate Catarina Rocha to help Peabody win the league championship.

MacLean, who usually runs the 300 indoors or 400 in spring track, has made great strides and turned in her best performance. She comes from a famous Peabody track family, and her uncle is Dave MacLean, who still holds school records.

“She’s a natural talent,” said Rocha. “Heather is a runner, and I knew at some point in her career she’d have to move up to longer distances so she’ll probably do the 800 in the spring. She does anything I ask her to, and her strong finish didn’t surprise me.

“She’s a great kid, and I’ve been telling college coaches about her. Hopefully, one will invest in her. I held her back at Northfield a couple of weeks ago because that course wasn’t conducive for her. She’s a mentally tough young lady and very coachable. She listens to everything we ask her to do. You get somebody like her every once in a while.”

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Peabody resident Kerry Phelan has done it again, leading Merrimack to a 9th place finish out of 28 teams at the NCAA Regional. Phelan, a former Hamilton-Wenham star, set a new school record on the 6K course at Nashua, NH and was 14th overall (22:22). The freshman was named NE-10 Rookie of the Week for the second time this season, and also garnered league Rookie of the Year honors.

For the Merrimack men, freshman Nick Christensen (53rd) and captain John Lawrence (72nd), both former Peabody High standouts, helped the team finish 10th.

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Malden Catholic’s Tim Guinee of Topsfield blocked the final St. John’s Prep extra point attempt last Friday night in the Eagles 41-0 victory. Guinee’s older brother Will is a former Lancer captain, who now plays for Dartmouth. It is interesting to note that the meeting between the Prep and BC High this week marks the 35th anniversary of the 32-32 tie between the two teams.

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Former Patriot players Patrick Pass, Jermaine Wiggins, Vernon Crawford, and Max Lane will all be part of the newly formed professional Boston Freedom Fighters coaching staff. Co-owner of the Freedom Fighters is Sean Stellato. The staff will evaluate talent on Sunday, Nov. 11 at the Malden High School football field with registration beginning at 7:30 a.m. for the National Spring Football League.

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Jean DePlacido is a longtime correspondent for The Salem News. You can contact her at JMDeplacido@aol.com.