LAWRENCE — Nick Boes freely admits that he was crushed when, a season ago, he lost the battle for the Central Catholic starting quarterback job.
“I was devastated,” said Boes. “(Offensive coordinator John) Sexton pulled me aside before practice after a scrimmage and told me. It was devastating.”
He could have quit the team, like so many have. He could have remained and become a distraction, causing controversy and dividing the locker room of a contending team.
But not Nick Boes.
Instead, the Methuen resident remade himself. He’s now a 6-foot-1, 222-pound inside linebacker who has emerged this season as a top linebacker with 50 tackles for the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 1 champion Raiders. Central (6-1) will open playoff play tonight in the Division 1 North quarterfinals when it hosts Lexington (3-4), weather permitting.
“Nick dedicated himself to winning a job this season, he did everything he could and he has played a major role for us,” said Raiders head coach Chuck Adamopoulos. “He has very good instincts, he is very intelligent and his attitude never wavered. We live in a world where, if things don’t go right for people individually, the team ends up second. So I have a lot of respect for everything he has done.”
Boes, who began playing football in the second grade, actually grew up playing tight end. But, as a freshman, he moved to quarterback out of necessity — and immediately fell in love.
“(Freshman) coaches (Sully) Grella and (Tom) Canto put me in and I just loved it right away,” he said. “We threw the ball all the time. I guess I have a pretty strong arm and I loved throwing as much as possible. I also liked to run the ball, even though I am not as fast as most quarterbacks.”
Boes started at QB for the freshman team then as a sophomore started for the JVs, splitting time with a freshman named Mike Milano.
The following season, with the graduation of Eagle-Tribune All-Star Matt McDermott, Boes and Milano entered camp in a battle for the job.
“I don’t know if I thought I was the favorite,” said Boes.
“But I knew Mike and I were going to battle the whole preseason for the job. We split time in 7-on-7s and in the scrimmages. But eventually he pulled away from me and took it.”
The Raiders’ coaching staff knew the news would be a rough blow.
“Nick is a competitor,” said Adamopoulos.
“I’m sure he felt like he should have been the guy. It was an open competition and we decided we were going to have a decision by the end of camp, and we went with Mike. But to Nick’s credit, he didn’t let that stop him. We live in a me-first world but his attitude was excellent. He did all of the right things.”
Last year Boes was a backup quarterback and played on kickoffs and kick returns.
Boes said, “I knew that, even though I was a junior, there was still time to earn my place and earn playing time. I worked a lot with coach (Jay) Fielding and fought to get bigger and stronger. I wanted to play.”
That spot he focused on was linebacker, which was technically his defensive position since freshman year, but he rarely played it.
“We felt like Nick was going to be in the hunt,” said Adamopoulos.
“We saw how hard he worked and that he paid the price in the weight room. And he’s always been a smart football player. When it came time for the season, he came in in the best shape he could be in.”
It wasn’t long before Boes showed his talent, and by the end of the preseason he had entrenched himself as a staring inside linebacker alongside Markus Edmunds.
“I always loved to hit people,” said Boes, who hopes to play football in college, with the leader Westfield State. “Even when I was running the ball as a quarterback I loved hitting people. In a lot of ways I feel like the quarterback of the defense along with Markus. We are calling the motions and formations and you have to know the coverages.”
Heading into the playoffs, Boes has registered 50 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
He now hopes to continue that success as the Raiders head to the postseason for the first time since 2006, in pursuit of their first Super Bowl title since 1998.
“We’re ready,” said Boes, who also is a basketball and volleyball player.
“They are a tough team that does a lot of things. But we feel like we are prepared and can’t wait to play. As a defense we shut out Haverhill, shut down Andover and even played St. John’s Prep well. We feel like we can compete with anyone.”
Jaguars black out cancer
Windham will host Sanborn tonight in the school’s second annual “Blackout Cancer” game.
The players have received permission from the NHIAA and will wear alternative blackout uniforms, featuring black jerseys and pants with neon green lettering. The neon green is used to represent all cancers. The t-shirts being sold will be similar neon green on black design.
Last year’s game against St. Thomas drew a big crowd and raised $3,500 to the American Cancer Society.
Hillies host Lynn tonight
Haverhill High School will host Lynn English tonight in the first round of the MIAA Playoffs. Kick-off is slated for 7:00 PM at Trinity Stadium.
Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students & seniors. Regular season passes are not valid and only MIAA Tournament passes will be honored. The Hillies are the No. 1 seed in the tournament after finishing the regular season with a 5-2 mark.