Before Nolan Rice began high school at Masconomet Regional, he played many different positions on the football field.
It wasn’t until his freshman year, however, that he found his niche at tight end and middle linebacker. Two years later after perfecting his craft, he was starting for the Chieftains.
Now in his last football game of his high school career, Rice has become one of quarterback Roby Deschenes’ most reliable targets as Masconomet hosts North Andover (10 a.m.) in their annual Thanksgiving battle tomorrow in Topsfield.
”Nolan isn’t our leading receiver, but he’s an excellent blocker and runs great routes,” said Masconomet head coach Jim Pugh, whose team takes a 6-4 mark into the holiday clash. “He’s made some circus catches over last two years for us.
“He’s a quiet leader who’s well liked and respected by teammates and coaches. Nolan brings a quiet intensity to every game.”
While he isn’t exactly sure of his plans next year, the 17-year-old Rice plans on pursuing the high jump when he gets to college. He’s also thought about taking a year off from school and join AmeriCorps.
”I had a history teacher who recommended it,” said the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Rice. “The Peace Corps is very competitive, but Americorps accepts more younger kids and it’s also domestic. I haven’t made my decision just yet.”
Over the past few weeks Rice has made the move defensively to outside linebacker, which he finds a lot quicker but has made the necessary adjustments.
Since Masconomet’s leading rushers Mike Tivinis (501) and Mackenzie Cashin (299) went down with injuries earlier this fall, the Chieftains have stepped up their passing game with Rice (9 catches, 129 yards) blocking the way.
”It’s hard when your leaders go down,” noted Rice. “At that point it was about the camaraderie and coming together with all of the coaches. It’s almost helped make us closer because we had to work things out together.”
Rice has also been a great support system for Deschenes, the team’s newly-appointed quarterback. He’s proven to be a safety net for Deschenes in the way that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is for QB Tom Brady.
”It’s been a little different,” Rice said of the quarterback change. “Roby’s had to adjust, but he can throw a nice ball. He’s got a very good football IQ. There’s not much I’m doing different physically; I just try to support him.”
That’s the type of player and person Rice is: unselfish and caring more about what he can do for his team than individual stats.
Rice is also looking forward to tomorrow’s Thanksgiving Day matchup against North Andover.
”They definitely have a big line, and I’m excited about that,” added Rice. “I love playing tight end and making big blocks. I’ll go games without a pass, but I love blocking.”
One of nine senior starters, Rice and his teammates want to walk out of Bunker Stadium victorious. “Everyone is excited to prove what we’ve worked on all season,” he said. “I think it’s a pride thing.”
OFFENSE No. Name Yr. Pos. 28 Harry Cwik Sr. FL 86 Nolan Rice Sr. TE 77 Kevin Zegel Sr. LT 52 Will Lawrence Sr. LG 55 Steve O'Reily Jr. C 54 Louis Saladino Jr. RG 70 Jack Butt Jr. RT 12 Corey Tines Jr. SE 4 Roby Deschenes Jr. QB 1 Austin Cashin Sr. FB 14 Troy Bunker Sr. HB 9 Gavin Monagle Jr. RB DEFENSE No. Name Yr. Pos. 82 Michael Jesi Sr. DE 72 Ben Rosenbaum Sr. DT 75 Kyle Taggart Jr. DT 1 Austin Cashin Sr. DE 9 Gavin Moagle Jr. OLB 55 Steve O'Reily Jr. ILB 24 Michael Veno Sr. ILB 86 Nolan Rice Sr. OLB 28 Harry Cwik Sr. CB 12 Corey Tines Jr. CB 14 Troy Bunker Sr. S