By Jean DePlacido
The Salem News
---- — When St. John’s Prep opens its 2013 football season this afternoon at Cronin Stadium against Bridgewater-Raynham (1:30 p.m.), there will be a new quarterback calling the signals.
Senior Michael Geaslen has been playing the backup role and waiting for his turn to take over. He saw action in the second half of many games last fall after the Eagles had built a healthy lead — but not in situations where he threw the ball.
“He took every snap in practice the week before the playoff game with Andover last year,” said St. John’s Prep coach Jim O’Leary. “If (then-starting QB) Jack Sharrio couldn’t go (because of an injury), we had complete confidence in Geaslen. He knows the system and is well prepared. That wasn’t the case two years ago when (returning starter) Tommy Gaudet was injured in the first game of the season and Sharrio had to step in unexpectedly.”
The wide receivers Geaslen will be throwing to have looked very impressive in preseason; they are some big targets in an offense that intends to put the ball in the air more than in previous years to force teams out of the box. Opponents know senior tailback Johnathan Thomas, who gained over 1,800 yards a year ago and is regarded as the best back in the state by many, is always a threat to break loose.
Junior tight end Jake Burt (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) and senior wide receiver Logan Mahoney (6-2, 200) have looked good early on. O’Leary said Burt will be a Division 1 player and had a great summer in 7-on-7 action.
Junior receiver Owen Rockett (5-8, 150) is a real speedster with good hands — and a perfect football name. Rockett could also see action at cornerback while his younger brother Hayden Rockett is a freshman defensive back.
The Eagles are ranked No. 1 in the state in most polls, but their schedule is filled with top 10 teams week after week. Expectations are high coming off last year’s Super Bowl championship season, especially with Thomas back in the fold. However, the Eagles’ defense will have an entirely new look with almost all the players from last year gone. How quickly it comes together could determine how well the Prep does.
“We believe in the system; take a kid and work him hard,” said O’Leary. “Give him the technique he needs to succeed, then let him do the job. That’s going to be especially true on defense.”
For their terrific work during the preseason, two Ipswich High seniors will join Derek Chamberlain as captains on the football team this fall: two-way lineman John Kallas and wide receiver/defensive back Nate Glaster. The Tigers open their season at Jack Welch Stadium next Friday against visiting North Reading (7 p.m.).
When Rebecca Beaulieu broke the Salem High javelin record last spring it didn’t take long to bring back memories of another great javelin thrower for the Witches from the 1970s.
Diane Mielcarz was outstanding in the event, setting the school record at 105 feet 1 inch, but since that time the javelin has evolved into a completely different implement. Veteran Salem coach Rich Stafford did the research and came up with some interesting information.
“Women today throw a 600 gram javelin,” said Stafford, who has coached the Salem girls for 18 years. “The javelin has more specifications that any other throwing implement. In 1991 the national and international governing bodies modified the contour of the (javelin) tail, and in 1999 further changed the implement by moving the grip forward. These changes were not adopted by high schools until 2002.
“Since the implement from the date in 1971 that Diane Mielcarz used to establish the school record has changed, the record will remain from the date girls’ track begin in Salem until 2002. Rebecca’s credited with the modern record, currently at 86 feet 3 inches and counting.”
Stafford is thrilled that Mielcarz will receive the deserved recognition for her accomplishment. She threw 102-2 in a meet against Hamilton-Wenham in the spring of 1971, and bettered her own mark by recording 105-1 at the state meet that same year.
When Stafford began coaching, the NEC did not have the javelin event; that changed six years ago after a short pilot period. When Salem competed in the old Essex County League at the time the girls’ track program first began in the 1970s, one of the events was the javelin.
Friday the 13th may be considered an unlucky day by many, but that’s not the case for Danvers National Little Leaguer Jacoby Catanzaro. He and his dad, David, will have great seats at the Red Sox-Yankees game next Friday night at Fenway Park thanks to the generosity of season ticket holder Richard Bettencourt of Danvers, who grew up in Peabody and played baseball for the Tanners and later at UNH.
Catanzaro, who made the big leap from the Challenger program to play for a team in the regular Danvers Little League, was an all-star on the 8-9-year-old team. He loves baseball and especially the Red Sox so much that the sport is like a medicine for him. The youngster plans to wear his full Red Sox uniform to the game and will have the thrill of seeing his name up on the Jumbotron (arranged by Bettencourt).
Bettencourt brought his wife and daughter up to meet the Catanzaro family at their home in Gloucester. He asked Jacoby, who has dealt with severe medical conditions his entire life, to send him a picture from the game. He also promised to give him tickets to one game every year as long as he keeps having fun and working hard.
Bettencourt has lived in Danvers for the past eight years and helped coach his daughter’s Little League and softball teams. He played competitive baseball for many years before giving it up four years ago.
“I saw first hand what the Challenger League does, and couldn’t be more proud of our town for making hundreds of dreams come true each and every year,” Bettencourt said.
A year ago, doctors and nurses at Children’s Hospital where Jacoby has been treated gave him tickets to his first Red Sox game on his birthday. It was also against the Yankees, and the Sox prevailed, 4-3 on a big hit by his favorite player, Jacoby Ellsbury. Maybe the hot-hitting center fielder can come up big once again next Friday.
Jean DePlacido is a part-time writer and columnist for The Salem News. Contact her at email@example.com and follower her on Twitter @JeanDePlacidoSN.