Masconomet's football opponents this fall beware: tackling the Chieftains' two captains at the end of the game in the fourth quarter will be much easier said than done.
That's because senior Jay Theriault and Bryce Wronski are thick linebackers bowling their way out of the backfield with the punishing, downhill style that the Chieftains hope will define their rushing attack this fall.
"They'll hit you when they're running that ball," fourth-year head coach Gavin Monagle said. "They're not just smashing through there, either. They'll find holes. They've had great offseasons and are both a step or two quicker than last year."
Coming off a 7-4 season that included a win in the Division 2 North quarterfinals, the Chieftains return a strong group on defense but have a lot of open jobs on the offensive side of the ball. Junior Marshall Lastes (who attempted seven passed in a backup role last year) and sophomore Alex Theriault (Jay's younger brother) are competing for the starting spot and both impressed the coaching staff early in training camp.
"To their credit, they'd both given us some positive things," Monagle said. "Marshall is a year ahead, but Alex has definitely put himself in a good spot. They're both very talented."
Masconomet graduated its top three pass catchers and will look to Nick Mangino and junior Jack Corcoran to pick up the slack. Jay Theriault ran for 441 yards and eight scores last season, and this year's squad had great 7-on-7 success over the summer, reaching the New England championships of the Northeast 7v7 tournament.
On the line, wrestling all-star Joey Perkins has looked very good at guard and Orion Stark, a defensive starter in 2017, looked primed for a strong season.
The Chieftains will still employ multiple sets, but have handed the offensive reins to former Lynnfield head coach Neil Weidman, a spread guru.
"We don't want to overload the kids with new stuff, but Neil has been great," Monagle said. "He's a great teacher and we're very happy to have him here with everything he brings to the table."
With Jay Theriault and Wronski serving as the teeth in the middle of the defense, the Chieftains should be formidable on that side of the ball. Nolan Flood is a returning starter at outside backer while Max Latam is a full-time returning starter at corner and had five interceptions last year. Seniors Danny McNamara and Dylan Ursino are also playing well in the secondary.
"They're really active kids on defense with a good sense for the game. They play hard and they're coachable kids," said Monagle, who welcomed 82 players in grades 9-12 for the start of practice. "We have a lot of seniors who don't necessarily have experience, but they've been sitting behind some really good players. They're hungry."
It figures to be a challenging start to the year for the Chieftains, since they don't play a home game until Oct. 5 against Peabody. They open at Danvers, a perennial playoff team in recent years, before heading to Malden Catholic, Pentucket and Newburyport.
"That's just how it happened and we'll have to battle through it," Monagle said. "We have a good sense that these kids will play hard and do what we ask. The biggest thing will be not making those inexperienced type mistakes because on the road, those will hurt you."
Last year's record: 7-4 (Lost in Division 2 North semifinals)
Head coach: Gavin Monagle (4th season, 17-16)
Team captains: Jay Theriault., Sr., LB/RB; Bryce Wronski, Sr., LB/RB
Top returning rusher: Jay Theriault (68 carries, 441 yards, 8 TDs)
Top returning passer: Marshall Lastes (2-for-7, 31 yards)
Top returning receiver: Nick Mangino (2 catches, 44 yards)
Last league title: 2016 (CAL Kinney co-champs)
Did you know? The Chieftains have three coaches on staff that have led programs to league championships: Head coach Gavin Monagle guided the Chieftains to the CAL Kinney crown in 2016, defensive coordinator Greg Haberland led Essex Tech to the CAC title as head coach in 2015, and new offensive coordinator Neil Weidman led Lynnfield to six straight league titles from 2012-17.
(does not include MIAA playoff dates)
Date Opponent Time
Sept. 7 at Danvers 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Malden Catholic 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Newburyport 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 at Pentucket 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 Peabody 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 North Reading 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 at Triton 1 p.m.
Nov. 22 Everett 10 a.m.