By Dan Harrison
---- — PEABODY — For the third consecutive summer the Under Armour Northeast 7v7 Tournament East Regional was held at Bishop Fenwick High school this past weekend.
Once again, event coordinator and Swampscott football coach Steve Dembowski is excited to see the growth of the event as well as the increased level of play the players exhibited on Saturday.
“We had 40 teams for each of the three locations and 110 schools representing 120 spots,” said Dembowski. “You can see the level of explosion. The preparation the kids are putting in keeps getting better and better.”
Of the 40 teams at Fenwick Saturday, only two North Shore teams — Masconomet and St. John’s Prep — advanced to the 16-team playoff while Swampscott, Bishop Fenwick and the Prep will play tomorrow in the New England Championships at Bishop Fenwick.
The Eagles had the best showing of local teams, advancing all the way to the semifinals before losing 13-12 on the final play against last year’s champion Chelmsford.
“Can’t sweat losing in the semis. I’m worried about the regular season,” said Prep running back and Maryland commit Johnny Thomas, who spoke about why he likes playing in the 7v7 tournament.
“It’s a team-building experience. You get to be with your teammates in a game atmosphere. And it’s fun.”
Mike Geaslen and A.J. Carrigan both played quarterback for the Eagles Saturday and both had their moments. Geaslen only threw one incompletion in his first game and showed great touch throwing jump balls to both Jake Burt and Thomas. Thomas had a spectacular leaping grab over a defender on a 18-yard strike in the team’s quarterfinal win over Wakefield.
Burt, a volleyball and basketball player in other seasons, looks to be a serious threat at tight end for the Prep.
“He’s an absolute animal. It’s going to be hard to stop him because he’s going to get the ball at its highest point,” said Thomas, who assessed the Eagles overall day. “We had a solid day. Everybody played solid. The young guys stepped up to the plate.”
Owen Rockett, affectionately known to his teammates as “Rocky” also looked great in the passing game finding seams and making a few tough, low-to-the ground grabs. If the Eagles decide to really open things up, he could be a valuable slot receiver.
With all of the turnover at the quarterback position for North Shore teams going into this year it isn’t overly surprising only two teams emerged from pool play this weekend. Swampscott for example, was missing its starting quarterback and went 2-2 losing to Division 1 programs in SJP and Franklin.
“We were in a tough bracket and we hung for a little while,” explained Dembowski. “We were 14-14 with Franklin and they came up with a pick for a score.”
Masconoment saw three different guys step in as signal caller with Troy Bunker, Roby Deschenes and Mike MacKay all getting time behind center. Saturday’s event gave Chieftains head coach Jim Pugh a chance, as a spectator, to see where his team stacks up through the air.
“We’ve been doing these since they started in ’96 at Masco. It’s not tackle football but you can learn a lot about yourself,” said Pugh. “It’s all about competing.”
Pugh liked what he saw from a number of guys including Mackenzie Cashin, Mike Tvinis and Harry Cwik including a pick-six from Cwik. Cashin was an extremely productive runner at fullback for Masco last year and Tvinis is poised for a break-out season after being hampered by injury most of last fall.
Tvinis also talked about the opportunity the 7v7 tournament provides teams looking to roll into preseason without as little rust as possible.
“It shows what level we are at in the passing game and how it can come together,” said Tvinis. “It’s a base-point to work off of. It’s fun and it lets everyone get some playing time to see where their skills are and to get some experience.”
Ipswich, Hamilton-Wenham, Bishop Fenwick, Salem, Danvers, Gloucetser, Revere, Lynn Classical, Lynn English, Winthrop and Pingree were also among the 40 teams competing at Fenwick on Saturday; the teams were divided into eight pools of four with the top two in each bracket moving to the 16-squad playoff.
Swampscott, which advanced via the North Regional held in New Hampshire last weekend, Bishop Fenwick and SJP will be among the Massachusetts teams vying for the Under Armour 7v7 New England Championship tomorrow at Bishop Fenwick.