Speaking with Essex North Shore head football coach Dan Connors, it's clear that stellar character plays a crucial role in his life.
As he enters his second season at the reins of the Hawks, that fundamental aspect won't be fading away anytime soon.
"We are putting a heavy emphasis on culture and creating a brotherhood," said Connors. "We have a group of parents dedicated to helping enhance our culture, with weekly guest speakers and team dinner trips. The kids are also starting to hang out with each other off the field, which we are seeing for the first time.
"We always look for high enthusiasm, effort and intensity, The first week or so is crucial in that aspect ... and things have looked excellent so far."
As for their time on the gridiron, Connors is pleased with what he's seen so far -- particularly from senior captains Mason White at inside linebacker and Chris LeVie, an offensive guard and defensive tackle.
"Chris and Nathan have taken on a huge leadership roles," said Connors. "They have this blunt style of leading that's sort of old school and refreshing -- they're verbal and will get on guys to motivate them. They know how to get under people's skin and hold them accountable."
Of course, that's not to say the other senior Hawk captains -- quarterback Vinny Brazo, fullback Manny Alves and wide receiver/cornerback Ben Condon -- haven't been as impressive. They may not be as authoritative as White and LeVie, but Connors understands where they fit in on the team.
"They've all been workhorses since I've gotten here," said Connors. "They've been after it all offseason and have gained respect from the younger guys in our program. They always know their assignments and are all the perfect examples of football players."
While the five captains will be roster cornerstones, Essex Tech also has intriguing position battles at cornerback and offensive line. Connors is still looking for a second starter to pair with Condon in the defensive secondary, as well as two additional offensive linemen to start alongside Jacob Heath, Henry Fitzgerald and Anderson Villa.
"At cornerback, it looks like its coming down to Joe LeBlanc and Jaiden Anja," revealed Connors. "They've had incredible summers, understand the defense and play it at 100 percent. I wouldn't be surprised if both of them ended up splitting time there.
"With the offensive line, we're looking at everybody and are getting a good idea of who to play with. The three guys we have now are first-year senior starters, and I think they're ready for the challenge. It's going to be a fun season."
Last year’s record: 2-9
Head coach: Dan Connors (2nd season, 2-9)
Team captains: Nathan White, Sr., ILB; Chris LeVie, Sr., DT/G; Vinny Brazzo, Sr., QB; Manny Alves, Sr., FB; Ben Condon, Sr., WR/CB
Top returning rusher: Hunter Lane (58 rushes, 506 yards, 2 TD)
Top returning passer: Vincent Brazzo (16-for-45, 308 yards, 3 TD)
Top returning receiver: Kyle Sheedy (5 catches, 59 yards)
Last league title: 2015 (Commonwealth Athletic Conference Small)
Did You Know?: Nearly half of the Hawks from last year's squad were comprised of seniors playing football for the first time.
(does not include MIAA playoff games)
Date Opponent Time
Sept. 7 Ipswich 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 Salem 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 Manchester Essex 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 at Greater Lawrence 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 at Shawsheen 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 Whittier 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Nashoba Valley 7 p.m.
Nov. 22 Northeast 10 a.m.