Training camp for the 2011 Winthrop Viking football team only began on Monday, but head coach Sean Driscoll and his staff already have an idea of the types of players they have and despite having just a handful of senior players with real game experience, Driscoll said he and his staff are excited about the potential they have in their seasoned underclassmen, many of whom saw significant playing time last year, by way of injury and exceptional play.
Due the paucity of seniors on this yearâ€™s roster, Driscoll said that he has decided to refrain from naming captains from the outset this year, and will instead wait to see who emerges from training camp as the leaders of the team.
Nonetheless, Driscoll said that he is excited by the number of players that have come out for the team this year – there were 52 players in camp on Monday, including 21 freshman – and the level of energy and experience that his sophomore and junior classes have brought to the mix.
â€œComing in we have a lot of younger players who saw a lot of playing time last year and they are coming into this season with a lot of excitement and understanding of what we are trying to do,â€ said Driscoll. â€œItâ€™s been really good to see them grow up right before our eyes.â€
Beginning with the seniors, Driscoll highlighted the five veteran players who are expected to make the biggest impacts and contributions this season.
â€œObviously, we have Jimmy Barker, our returning starter at quarterback and linebacker, who we are expecting to make a huge contribution this year,â€ said Driscoll. â€œHe will be a third year starter on defense and he has a year of experience under his belt as our quarterback, so weâ€™re hoping to build on that.â€
Matthew Stasio is a returning player at linebacker and offensive line and someone who Driscoll expects to contribute to the teamâ€™s attitude. â€œDuring the off season Matthew has been very intense and very motivated to become ready for a bigger role this season, heâ€™s really turned himself into a solid football player.â€
Running back and defensive back Phil LoCigno started to see some regular snaps at the end of last season when starter Nick McCarthy missed time due to injury. â€œPhil is another player that has really worked hard this year to improve and it is showing on the practice field, he is someone we are counting on to be a key to our offensive backfield,â€ added the coach.
Also figuring into the mix in the offensive backfield will be Mitchell Paulson, who showed great promise as a ball carrying fullback late last season. â€œMitchell is a solid athlete across the board, heâ€™s a good ball carrier and heâ€™ll also see time as a linebacker on defense. Heâ€™s another one of our senior leaders, who we hope will get the team prepared during the season and lead by example.â€
Senior Mark Baxter is â€œworking his way into a spot where he can contribute for us on a regular basis and have a role this year,â€ said Driscoll. â€œWe love his energy and heâ€™s been working hard.â€
The teamâ€™s sixth senior will be basketball standout Quinton Dale, who played as a freshman, but chose not to play the last two seasons.
â€œQuinton is an exceptional athlete,â€ said Driscoll. â€œHeâ€™s been working hard in practice and he is someone, because of his athleticism, that we think weâ€™re going to be able to work into a role as a tight end or receiver and take advantage of some of the things that he can do athletically.â€
Football games, many people say, are won in the trenches, and if that is the case, then the junior class will make quite an impression on this yearâ€™s Vikings.
â€œWe have quite a core group of players that have seen a lot of playing time along the offensive and defensive lines,â€ said Driscoll. â€œDan Feeley (tackle), Tom Lund (tackle), David Gallo (guard) and Luke Hodgkins (center) make the core of our experience, especially along the offensive line. A lot of these guys saw playing time last year because of injury, but this year they will be the keys for us, as we try to compete in a new league.
Driscoll also mentioned junior tight ends Jake McKinnon and Dave Capone as potential impact players this year.
â€œThey are two juniors that have shown promise at the tight ends spots,â€ said Driscoll.
Among the sophomores Justin Casilla a running back and defensive back and Jordan Corbett-Frank, also a running back and defensive back have made an impression on the coaching staff.
â€œTheyâ€™ll be pushing some of the older kids for playing time and maybe even starting jobs,â€ said Driscoll. â€œThey really worked last year (as freshmen) and have shown improvement already this year in camp.â€
The Vikings open their scrimmage season this Saturday, August 27 at former NEC rival Gloucester. On Wednesday, August 31, will be at home against East Boston high in a special teams and passing scrimmage at Miller Field at 1:30 p.m.
In their final tune-up before the regular season, the Vikings will again be at home against Greater Boston League foe Malden High School.