By Dan Harrison
---- — Bodies won’t be a problem for the Swampscott football team; the Big Blue have over 40 players in the junior and senior classes.
The issue will be finding out who can contribute where, how much and how soon.
Considering Swampscott’s move to the Northeastern Conference North (i.e., upper division) and the fact that every game counts toward the playoffs, the puzzle pieces have to come together quickly.
But veteran head coach Steve Dembowski is confident things will fall into place. After all, Swampscott has already established its starting quarterback in captain Brendan McDonald, and the men in front of him are deep and talented.
“Right now, our O-line and our depth have been key for us offensively,” explained Dembowski. “We’ve been able to establish a run game in our scrimmages, which has allowed us to throw the ball and be balanced — which is I think something we haven’t had.”
McDonald is a dual-threat quarterback who understands what is expected of him in Dembowski’s system. He will be backed up by junior Devon Conroy and sophomore Devon Wall.
Captains Toby Hale and Justin Nasser are two of four offensive linemen who have started in the past, along with Jesse Haynes-Lewis and Justin Chasse. Austin Hamilton, Ryan Bradley Tyler Scaglione and Barry Tevrow will all compete for time in the trenches.
Depth is a big theme for this year’s Big Blue.
“The overall depth of the team should allow flexibility in the schemes and the ability to overcome adversity,” said Dembowski. “The junior and senior classes, a lot of them are up to speed with what we’re doing. We’ve been deeper than the teams we’ve been scrimmaging. Our 2’s have been a lot stronger than other people’s 2’s, and that’s allowed us to wear people down.”
The running back and wide receiver positions are still up for grabs, but there’s no shortage of candidates. Mike Faia, Maleek Newsome, Jordan James and senior transfer Desmond Wilhelmsen are the top four guys in the backfield; Dembowski expects all to see carries in the regular season.
Swampscott needs guys to step up at receiver. Besides captain and returning starter Ben Faulkner, the wide receiver positions are open with senior Tim Costin, Ryan Cresta, Greg Collier, Jeremy Epstein, Cam Frary, Mark Irvine, Trevor Kelly, Christian Llorente, Alex Petras and Anthony Rizzo all vying for playing time.
Defensively, the Big Blue will also be strong with experience at the line of scrimmage; however, there are still questions surrounding the secondary. Hale, Haynes-Lewis, Mark Rittiboon, Mike McCuish and Scaglione are all expected contributors.
The linebacking core returns Nathan Raustad and James in the middle and Kelly, Llorente, Wilhelmsen and Faia on the outside.
“We’ve been aggressive defensively,” Dembowski said, “especially in the front seven.
The Big Blue will need to lean on its strengths early with tough Division 4 opponents Triton and Winthrop on the docket in the first three weeks of the season. A loss to either could prove detrimental to Swampscott’s playoff hopes.