Sports 09-10-2015

Viking football looks promising for season

by Stephen Skobeleff

September is in full swing. A month full of “backs” moves forward. Families are back from summer vacations. Students are back in school. Apples are back on the trees, ripe for the picking. And, of course, the quarterbacks, running backs, cornerbacks, and even the occasional half back option are all back as well.

In back of us, there’s September’s holiday. Yes, Labor Day might be over, but The Winthrop Vikings continue to work hard in preparation for their first home challenge at Miller Field this Saturday, September 12th, at 12:00 noon against the Falcons of Danvers. The defense of The Northeastern Conference Championship the Vikings won back in 2014 begins this weekend (note the time and date change as the game has moved from its original Friday night slot).

Leading the Viking charge on offense will be quarterback Christopher Zuffante. The junior gets the 2015 starting nod after playing understudy to last year’s stand out Dylan Driscoll, one of the 17 graduating seniors from the 2014 squad. Projected to start behind Zuffante will be fullback Matt Tarantino (Jr.)  with running backs Jon Gonzalez (Jr.) and co-captain Matt Feeley (Sr.). Expect Sophomore Jaidon Brown to break into that backfield mix as well.

The offensive line gets a starting make over from 2014 with tight ends Justin Barker (Sr.) and Joe Trenouth (Jr.) as the bookends. Juniors Derek Wasson and Andrew McGrail are predicted to be the starting tackles in the trenches with Braeden Sullivan (Jr.) and Nicholas Manfra (So.) guarding. Luigi Spinazzola (Jr.) is expected to round out the line at center.

Spinazzola is actually cast to start both offense and defense over the ball as the projected nose guard as well. In true Viking fashion, many Vikings will see double duty with work on both sides of the ball. Defensively, Coach Sean Driscoll is expected to employ a 3-4 against his opponents.

Joining Spinazolla as the the other two thirds of that front three should be Trenouth and Tarantino. Figure Feeley and Gonzalez as the featured outside linebackers with Barker and John VanDalinda (Jr.) inside.

Seniors Alex Winter and Zachary Fisher are projected to see starting action at the cornerback spots. Zuffante will get to read opposing QBs from the free safety position. Co-captain Dan Dellanno (Sr.) will round out the secondary at strong safety versus Danvers.

When contacted this week, the strong safety had some strong sentiments to convey about his entire team, projected starters and all. When prompted to point out anyone Viking fans should be on the lookout for Dellanno preached team over individual. “Honestly they (Danvers) should look for our entire team working together. We don’t have any stars that will stand out. Look for the O line to step up … and the entire defense working as a unit.”

After Dellanno assessed the Vikings, Feeley gave his take the opponent.

“Danvers is always a hard nosed football team that is strong up front and we expect them to give us their very best in a competitive game. We will work this week to make sure we are prepared both mentally and physically for the opener.”

Asked to give a full season appraisal, it’s easy to see why Feeley was named a co-captain as he added, “Danvers is definitely one of the stronger opponents we will face this year. Our first three games will be a big test for us as they are all very good teams, but we will prepare each week as if we are facing our toughest opponent.” Spoken like a true leader.

It sounds as if Coach Driscoll and the team made the correct choices on both their captains. As for the rest of the coaching staff this 2015 season, pacing the sidelines with Driscoll will be assistants Eric Mack, Jon Cadigan at defensive coordinator, Michael DeFelice as the line and special teams coordinator, and Robert Nimblett coaching defensive backs. Also expected back is long time Viking manager, Frank Fabiano. Quite a fine leadership resume roaming the Miller Field gridiron indeed. So roam on down to the field Saturday, sit back (optional) and check out this young Viking Squad as they set sight on possible back to back Northeastern Conference titles.

WHS sports roundup

Soccer looking towards a productive season

After a long but productive off season, the Winthrop Vikings Soccer team is ready to hit the pitch this September for what may be one of the most successful seasons in recent history. Led by second year head coach Kyle Gagin, the Vikings are looking strong in the early weeks of the season. “I’m really proud of the guys for all of the work they’ve put in on their own time during the offseason. They played pick-up games regularly [in a town wide, multi-generational, pick-up league dubbed the ‘Winthrop Premier League’] and did their best to come into the season ‘match fit.’”

Finishing last season with a 4-4-4 record on the Junior Varsity level in a very competitive Northeast Conference, the Vikings are fielding both Varsity and Junior Varsity teams this season. With nearly 40 players expected to join the boys’ soccer program this season, including many returning players, there was most definitely a demand for two full squads. “I am very pleased with the direction that the program is heading. This is a great sign for soccer in Winthrop and a great sign for the development of soccer on a larger scale,” said Gagin. The coverage that soccer has been receiving in mainstream media after the recent World Cup tournaments has contributed to the popularity of the sport on the High School level, Gagin further explained.

Coach Gagin has tapped into his own personal network in order to solicit further coaching and mentoring assistance to an already stacked coaching staff that includes Viking soccer alumnus David Tracy. Joining the staff this season in a volunteer role is recent Tufts University graduate and Brazilian native Pedro Jardim. “Pedro brings a wealth of knowledge to the team and has already made positive connections with many of the players,” said Gagin. According to Gagin, Jardim has been a positive influence on the team, especially with many of the international students on the Vikings roster. Jardim grew up in Sao Paolo, Brazil but also spent time in Argentina before coming to the United States where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. “It’s about being competitive, having fun, and staying focused both on the field and in the classroom,” Jardim explained. “I am excited to see what this team can accomplish.”

Senior Tri-Captains Jake LaFratta, Matthew Sennott, and Michael Norris have also set expectations high for this season. “The future of WHS soccer is very bright. We have lots of young talent and good returning players,” Norris explained. Captain Jake LaFratta referenced that there is a lot of work to do in the upcoming season explaining that the team needs to “get used to the varsity level and develop chemistry with the new players.” The challenge will be “to put it all together,” LaFratta said. Similar sentiments came from Captain Matthew Sennott as he stressed the need to “develop a strong bond as a team” in order to face the challenges that come with returning to the Varsity level.

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Golfers open 2015 WHS fall sports season

The Winthrop High golf team opened the WHS fall 2015 sports season Tuesday with a math against perennial Northeastern conference power Danvers.

Although Coach Peter Lyons’s Vikings came out on the short end of a 43.5-28.5 decision, a number of the Winthrop players turned in fine performances.

Junior captain Jack Wallace Jr., playing at number one, won his match, 5.5-3.5, as did senior Brandon Creador at No. 2, also 5.5-3.5.

Junior Patrick Stafford halved his match with his Danvers counterpart at the No. 6 slot, 4.5-4.5.

Freshman Colby Dassau at No. 7 earned 3.5 points and senior captain Harry Floyd at No. 3 won three points. Senior captain Sean McDonald won 2.5 points at No. 4, as did freshman Drew DiMento in the No. 5 slot. Freshman Alex Pesiri completed the Winthrop scoring with two points at No. 8.

“We have a lot of new faces and a young team,” said Lyons. “Danvers is always one of the top teams in the NEC, so it was a tough opening match. But the team is working hard and we’re looking forward to the season ahead.”

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