Merger of NEC and Cape Ann Leagues Creates New Rivalries for Winthrop

As the Winthrop Vikings prepare to take the field for a new football season, their fans will have to be prepared to face some new opponents.

With the merger of the Northeastern Conference and the Cape Ann League following last year’s football season, Winthrop has been placed in a six-team league with Amesbury, Newburyport, Pentucket, Saugus and Triton Regional, all Division 3 schools in the MIAA.

“It’s going to be interesting to see the changes,” said Vikings head football coach Sean Driscoll. “There are some good programs in our new league. Pentucket has a tremendous program and has always been very good up there and Newburyport is a tough team as well.”

Driscoll also noted that Amesbury went to a Super Bowl just a few years ago and over the past few years Saugus has given Winthrop trouble in their old NEC small division.

“To be honest, this won’t be a piece of cake,” said Driscoll. “I think some people might be figuring that since we don’t have to play Gloucester and Lynn Classical and Lynn English anymore, that we’re going to all of a sudden dominate, but the fact is that we still have some challenges to overcome and be good in this league as well.”

Driscoll noted longer commuting times to games on the North Shore, additional Saturday morning games and an out of league schedule that is still quite formidable among his team’s obstacles.

“I am pleased that our history of playing teams from much larger schools has, I hope, prepared us for what we’ll face in terms of level of competition,” said Driscoll. “But we have to wait until we get on the field to find that out.”

Driscoll also noted that although the new schedule doesn’t feature longtime rivals like Gloucester, Salem or the two Lynn schools, there is some history between Winthrop and some of their new league rivals.

“We used to play some of these teams, Amesbury, Pentucket in non-league games years ago,” said Driscoll. “So there is some history there and we’ve been scrimmaging Newburyport as part of our pre-season for the last 20 years and we still get to play Saugus in the league.”

Vikings football training camp opens Monday, August 22, 2011.

The schedule for the upcoming regular season is as follows:

Friday, Sept. 9 v Danvers

Friday, Sept. 16 v Swampscott

Friday, Sept. 23 v Marblehead

Saturday, Oct. 1 @ Beverly

Thursday, Oct. 6 @ Weston (7 p.m.)

Saturday, Oct. 15 @ Saugus

Saturday, Oct. 22 @ Pentucket

Friday, Oct. 28 v Amesbury

Friday, Nov. 4 @ Triton

Friday, Nov. 11 v Newburyport

Thursday, Nov. 24 v Revere

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