We may not produce many NFL players or Heisman candidates, but our region always seems to churn out an impressive number of scholar-athletes.
You want dumb jocks, tune into an SEC game. In these parts it’s a delightful mix of brains and brawn and an old-fashioned love of the game.
Ex-area football stalwarts are playing at Dartmouth, BC, Brown, RPI, WPI and 19 in the academically challenging New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC).
The most decorated player may be Framingham State’s punishing offensive lineman Aaron Ferreira, a four-year starting lineman from Methuen who is a pre-season third-team All-American.
The biggest has to be Anna Maria’s Bryan Goulet, the 6-9, 320-pound giant from Whittier Tech.
The fastest would have to be Maine freshman Jerickson Fedrick from Salem. They don’t call him the “Fedrick Express” for nothing.
Let’s take a look at the 147 area football players in the Eagle-Tribune’s 27th annual college football preview special.
Just 2 area big-timers
Bobby Vardaro of North Reading is starting for the third year at left guard at Boston College. The 6-5, 305-pound junior starred at Phillips Academy.
Sophomore Brian Miller of Andover, a jumbo 6-3, 241-pound wide receiver, caught four passes for 43 yards last fall. He also was one of the team’s recipients of the Athletic Director’s Award for Academic Achievement.
Redshirt freshman Nevin Cyr, a 6-3, 230-pound tight end from Pelham and Cushing Academy, is no longer playing at UMass.
Ryan earns starting spot for No. 8 Wildcats
Senior guard Sean Ryan from Londonderry has added 16 pounds and is now 6-2, 301. He played in 11 games last year when UNH made the second round of the NCAAs. He’s slated to start at left guard for the Wildcats, the preseason No. 8 team in the country.
Junior offensive lineman Alex Blane of North Andover (6-4, 281) saw action in four games in 2012. Ryan Lynch from Timberlane (5-9, 177) is a junior safety, and Harry Theodhosi of Londonderry (6-0, 215) is a sophomore linebacker.
Cody Rothwell, a 2,000-yard rusher last year at Pentucket, is a 5-10, 185-pound recruited walk-on for the Wildcats. Jesse Trottier, the former Eagle-Tribune defensive MVP for Pinkerton, is no longer with the team.
Blane and Lynch both earned Academic All-CAA honors.
Maine signed local stars Dan Burrows of Haverhill and Jerickson Fedrick of Salem. The former is a 6-4, 285-pound Eagle-Tribune All-Star offensive lineman and the latter a 5-10, 210-pound running back who was Eagle-Tribune Offensive MVP in 2011. He prepped last year at Choate.
Andoverites excel in Ivies
Dartmouth senior Jimmy Johnson of Andover, a 5-11, 205-pound free safety, broke up two passes last year and played in all 10 games.
A couple other former Golden Warriors are playing at Brown. Record-breaking receiver Will Heikkinen is a 6-1, 196-pound freshman. Sophomore 6-1, 210-pound back Andy Coke caught a 9-yard TD pass in the spring game.
Senior 6-0, 205-pound outside linebacker Zack Lattrell from West Newbury and Central Catholic is coming off an 11-tackle season for the Bears.
Reyes gets his chance
Janer Reyes, a 6-2, 290-pound bruiser out of Lawrence High who did a prep year at Vermont Academy, is a freshman offensive lineman at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Marist senior Kris Riemer of Andover (6-2, 252) was moved from the offensive line to tight end. He saw action in three games last fall.
Teammate Max Jacques of Salem was coming off an impressive sophomore season on the field (6 TDs, 89 carries, 483 yards, 5.4 average), in the classroom (first-team Academic All-District) and in the community (nominee for the Allstate Good Works team).
But he is no longer with the team. He’s apparently contemplating a transfer.
Ben Onett of Plaistow, a 6-3, 205-pound sophomore quarterback, is making a push to start for Monmouth.
He rushed for 88 yards in both scrimmages and is the hunt for the starting position.
Eagle-Tribune MVP C.J. Scarpa is a 5-9, 170-pound freshman quarterback at Elon who broke all the area single-season passing records last fall at Andover High.
Lebowitz leads St. A’s
Junior defensive lineman Andrew Lebowitz of Andover (48 tackles, 6 tackles for loss) was named St. Anselm’s Defensive Lineman of the Year last fall. Sophomore Mike Lombard of Pelham (4 catches, 22 yards one 2-point conversion) has been moved from tight end to wide receiver. T.J. Leeman is a sophomore offensive lineman from Andover.
Senior Matt Gordon (42 tackles, 1 interception) and junior Mike Harper (8 tackles, 1 blocked kick) are linebackers for the Hawks out of Methuen High.
St. A’s welcomed in two top recruits in the Barry twins from West Newbury and Central Catholic.
Mike is a wide receiver and Ryan a highly-touted offensive lineman.
Senior defensive end Cam Foster of Windham hopes to return to all-star form after missing last season due to injury.
Stonehill’s Central connection
Stonehill’s Pat Rooney (16 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 tackles for loss) is a talented senior lineman from Salem and Central Catholic. Chris Esposito (5 tackles) is a senior linebacker from Georgetown.
They’ll be joined by freshman linebacker Ryan Doherty from Methuen and Central, last year’s Eagle-Tribune defensive MVP.
Bentley has three area skill players who showed some flashes last year.
Junior running back Tyler Coppola from North Reading and St. John’s (15 carries, 49 yards, 1 TD) and sophomore running back Emmitt Smith from Pinkerton (5 kick returns, 90 yards) could be looking at increased playing time.
Unfortunately, sophomore quarterback Matt McDermott from Merrimac and Central Catholic (1 for 1, 22 yards) is expected to miss the season due to injury.
Imposing William Consavage, 6-8, 280-pound freshman offensive tackle who used to block for Smith at Pinkerton, and freshman center Andreas Christopulos of Andover are new Falcons.
Six locals at Merrimack
Sophomore tight end Nolan Dragon from Pentucket (7 appearances last fall), junior offensive lineman Jon Mounce from Londonderry and senior quarterback Anthony Moore from Pinkerton are all back for Merrimack.
The Warrior freshman class includes a pair of former Central Catholic stars, linebacker Santino Brancato from Lawrence and lineman Sean Kirchner from Pelham, as well as freshman kicker Stephen Camarro from North Reading and St. John’s Prep.
Assumption junior wide receiver Kyle Jamerson of Georgetown and Pingree School caught four passes for 50 yards and one touchdown last year.
Freshman linebacker Marionel Garcia from Lawrence and sophomore defensive lineman John Miller of North Andover also will suit up for the Greyhounds.
AIC sophomore linebacker Trae Musumarra from Methuen and Central Catholic recorded three tackles last season.
McDonnell shines on and off field at Endicott
Senior Casey McDonnell from Timberlane is a returning starting center at Endicott. The 5-11, 270-pound English major was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District first team. Other returning Gulls are senior wide receiver Nick Imprescia from North Andover and Central and junior defensive back Luke Somers out of Pinkerton.
The Gulls brought in a talented and deep group of local freshmen: defensive back Rasheed Adigun of Salem, defensive lineman Anthony Giorgio of Methuen, defensive lineman John Fortes of North Reading and receiver Cam Farnham of Andover. Fortes and Farnham were Eagle-Tribune All-Stars.
Colby’s multi-talented Buco
Few NESCAC players are as versatile as Colby junior defensive back Jason Buco of Methuen. Buco, who attended Brooks and did a post-grad year at Phillips, caught 11 passes for 207 yards and three TDs and also intercepted five passes and recorded 28 tackles. As if that weren’t enough, he recorded 239 return yards.
Connor Clancy is another versatile Mule. The junior from Andover is a returning starter at center and also played some defense, notching five tackles and a forced fumble. Other Mules looking to earn time are sophomore linebacker Brendan Paquette of Andover, sophomore defensive end Billy Parker of Methuen (2 tackles), sophomore linebacker Steve O’Grady of North Andover and freshman running back Carl Lipani, a 2,000-yard rusher last fall at North Reading.
Top receiver for Bates
Senior wide receiver Kevin Davis of North Andover and St. John’s Prep (30 catches, 366 yards, 3 TDs) led Bates in receiving last year. Junior lineman Joe DiPalma of Salem (10 tackles, 1 forced fumble) also had a strong season for the Bobcats. They’ll be joined by the Cannone brothers of Windham, junior QB Matt and freshman wide receiver Danny, as well as a couple of defensive backs out of Andover High, sophomore Jimmy Walsh and freshman Jake Flaherty.
Cyr, Trinity eye repeat
Junior Nathan Cyr of Kingston and St. John’s Prep (27 tackles, 2 sacks, team-high 8 tackles for a loss) is an honors candidate for defending NESCAC champion Trinity while Nate Hitchcock of North Andover is a freshman lineman.
Mass. Maritime features junior wide receiver Bobby Rosano of North Reading (30 catches, 310 yards, 1 TD) and freshman kicker Ryan Quinn of North Andover.
At Nichols, defensive back Connor Richard of Londonderry made eight tackles last year as a freshman and he’ll be joined by freshman running back Andrew McGrath from Whittier.
RPI quarterback Tommy Morgan (1,839 passing yards, 20 TD passes) and Tufts running back Chance Brady (2,063 rushing yards, 32 TDs), a pair of Haverhill High grads who enjoyed record-breaking seniors seasons, are freshmen to watch.
Londonderry grads Jed Sweetman (freshman offensive lineman) and Zach Capobianco (sophomore linebacker) are playing at Saint Vincent (Pa.) College.
Although just 6-0, 195 pounds, defensive end Kyle Henrick of Salem (3 tackles, 1 fumble recovery) is a key reserve at Salve Regina. Henrick, a senior, was a repeat honoree last fall on the league all-academic team. He’ll be joined by Matt St. Onge, a freshman linebacker from Pinkerton.
Body blow by Jake
Plymouth State has a pair of all-star candidates in senior defensive back Jake Matthews from Windham (47 tackles, 1 fumble recovery) and senior wide receiver Zac Iovanella of North Andover (30 catches, 361 yards, 1 TD; 225 return yards).
Iovanella and Matthews are both quad-captains.
Other area Panthers are senior returning starting offensive lineman Thor Johnson from Pinkerton, sophomore defensive back Nolan McCoy from North Andover, sophomore offensive lineman Aaron Moisan from Haverhill, sophomore linebacker Taylor Sullivan from Haverhill (2 tackles, 1 tackle for loss) and freshman lineman Jake Bernaiche from Pinkerton.
Curry’s scholarly Harrigan
Senior wide receiver Tyran Harrigan from Georgetown High and Lawrence had three catches for 11 yards last fall and repeated on the conference all-academic team.
He highlights a large group suiting up for Curry which includes sophomore cornerback Nate Chartrand of Pelham and Bishop Guertin, sophomore tight end Derek Peterson from Andover, sophomore defensive back Dylan Spence from Sanborn (4 tackles, 1 pass break-up), freshman linebacker Corey Alberico of Windham, freshman wide receiver Cody Baker of Andover and the Hyde School, freshman QB Sean Gilroy from Pinkerton and freshman defensive back Brett Stuart, an Eagle-Tribune All-Star from Pinkerton.
Spence (holder) and Peterson (long snapper) are also returning starters on special teams.
Filliger struts his stuff
Ryan Filliger from Haverhill was starting on the offensive line late last year at Worcester State. He and wide receiver Alex Estrella from Methuen and Central Catholic are both sophomores for Lancers. The incoming class include linebacker Sam Weeks of Methuen and lineman Ben Tavitian from Haverhill and Central.
Greg Brown of Andover is a sophomore offensive lineman and Merrimack transfer Mike Lorenz of Windham is a sophomore receiver at Westfield State.
Union features three Andoverites: senior defensive linemen Jake Lebowitz (30 tackles, 1 fumble), senior offensive lineman Peter Theodorou and junior wide receiver Ben McQuaide (2 catches, 22 yards).
UMass Dartmouth is home to sophomore wide receiver Kelvin Severino of Lawrence (19 carries for 66 yards, 1 TD; 7 catches for 41 yards), freshman kicker Mike DiSanto from North Reading, freshman defensive back Jaddiel Polanco from Lawrence, freshman linebacker Cam Leary from Haverhill and Central and freshman linebacker Cam Gargano from Timberlane.
Getting a kick out of Diorio
Junior Jarred Diorio from Timberlane was 8 of 13 on field goals and 30 for 33 on PATs last fall for Bridgewater State. He was named NEFC Special Teams Player of the Week when he booted a 40-yard field goal and six PATs and nailed a 55-yard punt against Coast Guard.
Senior cornerback Dimar Torres of Lawrence (12 tackles), sophomore linebacker Stephen Cox from Haverhill (3 tackles), sophomore defensive back Cam Dubiel from Whittier, freshman lineman Matt Halaby from Methuen and Central, freshman defensive back Joe Lorenz from Windham and freshman defensive back Anthony Terranova from Haverhill and Central also play for BSU.
Locals at Fitchburg State include junior defensive lineman Pedro Camilo (4 tackles) and junior offensive lineman Jeffrey Balbi, both from Greater Lawrence Tech, in addition to sophomore defensive lineman Alonso Arias from Lawrence High and freshman linebacker Josh Noel from Haverhill.
Dazzling defensive duo
Amherst, which went 6-2, could contend for the NESCAC crown. The defense is anchored by junior linebacker Ned Deane of Andover (41 tackles) and sophomore defensive back Jaymie Spears of Haverhill and St. Mark’s (18 tackles). Spears had a career game in the season finale vs. archrival Williams with 8 tackles, 2 pass break-ups and a late interception to seal a 23-20 win.
Ithaca junior QB Tom Dempsey of Andover made the Empire 8 President’s List (3.75 GPA or higher) and completed 5 of 9 passes for 107 yards with one TD and one interception last fall. John Iannone of North Andover is a sophomore running back for the Bombers.
Framingham’s fabulous Ferreira
Senior 6-1, 275-pound Aaron Ferreira of Methuen is entering his fourth year as a starter at Framingham State. Ferreira made the All-NEFC team last fall after helping lead the Rams to a 10-2 season. He’s been named a preseason third-team All-American by Beyond Sports Network.
Junior defensive back Ony Ramos of Lawrence (30 tackles, 3 interceptions, 5 pass break-ups) is another all-star candidate. Others returnees who helped the Rams to the NEFC title were senior linebacker Dino Rizzo of North Reading (20 tackles), senior defensive end Darius Timmons of Lawrence (1 sack), sophomore defensive back Michael Capomaccio of Methuen, sophomore linebacker Eddie Wallace of Methuen, sophomore linebacker Connor Tufts of Haverhill (5 tackles) and sophomore offensive lineman Jason Vella of North Reading.
They’ll be joined by freshman wide receiver Franger Baez of Lawrence.
Anna Maria’s starters
Senior defensive lineman Pat Driscoll from Lawrence and Central Catholic (14 tackles) and offensive lineman Taylor Ewen from Pinkerton are returning starters at Anna Maria.
Sophomore offensive lineman Bryan Goulet from Whittier and sophomore tight end Manuel Suarez of Lawrence and Central are other AmCat returnees.
Catholic University senior wide receiver Andrew Ouellette from Central Catholic (9 catches, 84 yards) hopes to return to his sophomore year form when he racked up 1,365 all-purpose yards.
Junior lineman Nick Burdeau of Andover (18 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss) is coming off a strong season at Middlebury.
The list goes on and on
Other local gridders include Wesleyan sophomore wide receiver Dan Laorenza of North Andover, Carthage (Wisc.) freshman wide receiver Colin Langford of Methuen, Randolph-Macon sophomore linebacker Bobby Trickett of North Andover, WPI junior wide receiver Ian McMullen of Londonderry, WPI sophomore defensive back Eric Lacroix of Methuen, Norwich senior quarterback Nick Elwell of Lawrence, Norwich sophomore defensive back Nick Festa of North Andover and Stevenson (Md.) University freshman running back Glen Smith from Sanborn.
Also, Macalester (Minn.) freshman linebacker Glen Hartford from North Andover, Mt. Ida freshman running back Josh David from Timberlane, Western Connecticut freshman kicker Jake Burke from Timberlane, Springfield freshman running back Troy Ward from Londonderry, Maine Maritime freshman wide receiver Dustin Forbes from Sanborn, Maine Maritime freshman linebacker Dominic Gigante from Salem, Dean Junior College freshman wide receiver George Urena from Lawrence and Pima (Ariz.) Community College running back Miguel Rodriguez from Lawrence.