By Matt Williams
---- — IPSWICH — It’s a new year and a new offensive system this fall for the Ipswich High football team. But that doesn’t mean the Tigers plan to change anything about their trademark toughness and intensity.
It’s a good thing, too, because the Tigers open by hosting a North Reading team that’s always up for some smashmouth football tomorrow night at Jack Welch Stadium (7 p.m.).
“When you go against North Reading, it’s always about who is the tougher team,” said senior linebacker/running back Derek Chamberlain, one of three IHS captains. “Ipswich was known for old school football. We know we won’t be the bigger team against North Reading — but we’re hoping to show we’re the tougher team.”
It’ll be the first game as head coach for Ipswich’s Greg Brotherton, who took over the program after the Tigers went 2-9 last fall. The Hornets went 8-2 and came within a touchdown of the playoffs when they lost to rival Lynnfield on Thanksgiving. Last year’s records don’t tell the entire story of how these teams stack up, however: Ipswich battled North Reading all the way in a 15-13 setback a year ago.
In fact, each of Ipswich’s last three games last year were losses by five points or fewer. That, and a summer spent working out, has the returning players optimistic and excited to get on the field in games that count.
“It’s really opening my eyes the way all the guys have been working and flying around,” said Nate Glaster, another senior captain. “Everyone’s up beat this year. We’re loving it out here (in practice).”
The challenge for Ipswich will be containing North Reading’s single wing rushing attack, a rarity in modern football. The Hornets graduated their lead back, Carl Lipani (31 TDs a year ago) but expect to have plenty of ballcarriers to fill the void.
“It looks like the same play, then they hit you with a counter. You have to keep yourself honest and you can’t cheat on it,” said Chamberlain, who rushed for 788 yards and 8 TDs last fall.
Curtis Levasseur is a junior linebacker that, along with Chamberlain, will be a key to stopping the run. “He’s 100 miles an hour, 100 percent of the time. He’s a throwback-type player,” Brotherton said of Levasseur.
Physically, captain John Kallas and junior Aleks Kuljic are two of the players Ipswich is counting on to match North Reading’s intensity.
“North Reading is tough, they’re always in the right place and they don’t make many mistakes on offense. It’s a well-oiled machine,” said Brotherton. “We need to keep our eyes out of the backfield and stay on keys so we’re in the right spot to make plays.”
On offense, Ipswich is opening things up with a spread formation. Quarterback Kyle Blomster (484 yards, 4 TDs last year) has plenty of targets in Glaster as well as emerging juniors Robbie Glavin and Vinny Martineau.
“It takes some getting used to, but it’s faster and we have a lot of athletes,” said Blomster. “We want to use our speed and athleticism to get around the field and hopefully score some points.”
Ipswich had four scrimmages, including one against Wakefield, to prepare for tomorrow’s opener. They look to be in good shape physically, and that’ll be important against coach Jeff Wall’s Hornets.
“We’ve seen a lot of different things and feel pretty good about how things have gone so far,” said Brotherton, who served as defensive coordinator at Lynn English, including a trip to the playoffs in 2011, before taking over at his alma mater.
“We’ll find out tomorrow night what all that really means.”