By Phil Stacey
---- — There is speed, there is strength, there is depth, there is experience — and there are very definitely high expectations.
Well stocked across the board, the Masconomet football team doesn’t want to just qualify for the playoffs this fall; they want to win the Cape Ann League and have a long run throughout the postseason. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the pieces certainly seem to be in place to make those goals realistic.
“I think we could be stronger than last year,” said Jim Pugh, by far the longest tenured football coach (25 years) in Masconomet history. His Chieftains captured the hybrid Northeastern Conference/Cape Ann League Tier 1 crown a year ago. “We’ve got a lot of guys returning, our offensive line will be strong and we’re quick.
“At the same time, you have no idea how strong the other teams in your league are. In this new playoff format, you’ve got to be ready to step up and deliver every single week.”
Four running backs should all be capable of carrying the mail for Masconomet. Senior Mike Tivinis, who rushed for 415 yards despite missing all or parts of seven games last season, is healthy and recently ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at the Mass. High School Football Coaches Association combine. He was a CAL all-star as a sophomore and is looking for his best season this fall.
Mackenzie Cashin, another senior, will line up at fullback. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder who squats over 400 pounds is, like Tivinis, healthy (after missing Thanksgiving and the playoffs with an injury) and ready to step up his production. Pugh feels both could be All-League players.
Mackenzie’s twin, Austin Cashin, filled in for his brother the final two games of 2012 and will also be counted on in the backfield mix. So too will junior Gavin Monagle, who is bigger and stronger than this time last year.
Junior Corey Tines, who caught 14 passes and four touchdowns as a sophomore, returns at wide receiver alongside seniors Harry Cwik, Sam Antczak and Drew Steinberg, as well as senior tight end Nolan Rice.
Up front, there’s an excellent mix of seniors and juniors whose bulk doesn’t hurt their athleticism. Seniors Kevin Zegel (6-5, 240 lbs.) and guard Will Lawrence join juniors such as Steve O’Reilly (240 lbs.), Jack Butt (240 lbs.), Kyle Taggart (250 lbs.), Louis Saladino (200 lbs.) and Mike Pascuccio to give the Chieftains plenty of fresh bodies to rotate in.
The only question mark would be at quarterback, where senior Troy Bunker (a converted wide receiver who also kicks off and attempts extra points) and junior Roby Deschenes (the grandson of former Beverly High legend Robbie Robinson) are vying for the starter’s job.
On defense, senior Logan Thompson and Monagle will rotate between outside linebacker and safety, showing their versatility. Senior David Drigo is another outside linebacker, with fellow senior Mike MacKay and O’Reilly manning the inside spots. Pascuccio, Zegel, Taggart, Butt, Austin Cashin and seniors Mike Gallagher and Ben Rosenbaum will all see time on the defensive line, along with newcomers Kyle Kowalski (a junior) and Jalen Aho (a senior). Cwik, Bunker, Tines, Monagle, Thompson and Tivinis will patrol the defensive backfield.