ANDOVER — Ellicen Pena never strayed from the ultimate prize.
Chances to play defense or receiver or anywhere other than quarterback just never interested him.
“Everyone knows the starting quarterback, you see in the movies, the varsity starting quarterback is the most popular guy in school,” said Pena, the Greater Lawrence Tech senior. “These days, I get people coming to me, talking to me all the time, people that I don’t even know. So yeah, I would say it’s been my dream.”
Pena, who leads the Reggies into Saturday morning’s Commonwealth Conference showdown with rival Whittier Tech, certainly took the long route to reach that dream, and now according to his coach, Tony Sarkis, he’s looking to make the most of it.
“It’s certainly been a hard road for Ellicen,” said Sarkis. “I’m not sure we saw this from him as a freshman, but here’s a kid who never stopped working. He did everything we asked of him and more.”
So much more that Sarkis revamped his pro style and went to the wide-open spread.
“That, I was a little surprised by,” said Pena, who started on the freshmen team then spent two seasons as the JV starter behind Marcos Ortiz.
There was no panic on the pine, either, from Pena. He didn’t stray to another spot to try and break into the lineup. He just learned from Ortiz.
“He did his thing on varsity, and I just did mine at JV,” said Pena. “We both had pretty good seasons.”
He spent the summer, basically with his teammates, getting acquainted with the news offense. So far, the Reggies are off to a 1-2 start as they hit league play. And Pena has taken charge on the offense.
The 6-foot, 190-pounder has come a long way in four years, longer than he’d ever have believed.
“I had never played football before high school, so I figured I’d try it as a freshman, to see what it was like and mainly just stay in shape for basketball,” he said.
But a strange thing happened between September and hoop season.
“I didn’t expect this at all. I thought I’d just quit this game,” said Pena. “Football isn’t easy. It takes a lot out of you. I thought I’d leave, but at some point it became a lot of fun.”
While he still comes off the bench for the Reggies in hoop and plays baseball in the spring, Pena has gone so far to include football in his future.
Studying in the HVAC shop, he’ll be looking for an apprentice type job this spring, but he’s also plotting his way through the college process, centering around Fitchburg State.
“Like my teachers have told me, if I put college together with the trade, it can be worth a lot of money,” said Pena. “You look at them. They have big houses with big yards and two cars. It’s nice. So, I’d like to do both and play football.”
First, Pena and the Reggies have some business to tend to, starting with Whittier this week.
“That’s a real good team, and they’re going to be tough too,” said Pena. “But we’ve got some great athletes here, and I like our chances.”
SHOWDOWN SATURDAY The Commonwealth Conference picture locally could clear up early as the Reggies of Greater Lawrence Tech (1-2) host 2-1 Whittier Tech Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Gleason Field. These two rivals will play for a second time on Thanksgiving eve, but in this case, Saturday's game carries so much more weight, due to the new Mass. playoff system.