Football Friday: Receiver Coleman an explosive presence for unbeaten Methuen

TIM JEAN/Staff photoKareem Coleman has delivered huge plays for unbeaten Methuen High this fall. He hopes to add more during a crucial stretch for the Rangers.

METHUEN — To Methuen’s Kareem Coleman, nothing compares to lining up at receiver, beating a defender, and hauling in a crucial catch at the perfect moment.

“I love it,” he said. “It’s my favorite part of football. A big catch can be the spark in a game. It can add energy just when a team needs it.”

The senior wideout and defensive back has delivered plenty of huge plays already this fall for the undefeated Rangers (4-0).

Coleman enters the weekend second in the area in receiving yards (289) and is tied for third the region in both catches (18) and overall touchdowns (six — three rushing, three receiving).

He will now lead Methuen into its toughest stretch of the regular season. The Rangers will host Andover on Saturday (1 p.m.), then next week travel to take on Central Catholic (3-1), scheduled for Friday (7 p.m.)

“We know that Andover is a good team with a really talented running back (Josh Ramos),” said Coleman. “We know it will be a big game. And we aren’t focusing on Central yet, but we know it’s a big week. We want to win.”

Coleman has been a key contributor to Methuen since he broke into the starting lineup last fall. But his varsity career didn’t start the way he hoped.

“I dropped my first varsity pass,” he remembered with a laugh. “It was my first varsity game (against Malden Catholic) and I was scared. But, after I caught my first touchdown against Lowell, I adjusted and started to feel really comfortable.”

Coleman finished last fall with 14 catches for 410 yards and five touchdowns, including the game-winning TD catch with 23 seconds left in a victory over Haverhill. And the 5-foot-11, 165-pounder has been even better this fall,

In the season-opener, Coleman caught a 32-yard touchdown pass and ran for a 46-yard TD. He caught two big touchdowns (50 yards and 30 yards) in Methuen’s first win over Tewksbury since 2010 and has scored single touchdowns in each of the last two Ranger wins.

“I feel like my quickness and ability to get open are my greatest strengths as a receiver,” he said. “My knowledge of the game has also grown. I’m not making the rookie mistakes I made last year.”

Against Lowell, Coleman — from his free safety position — also played a key role in limiting University of New Hampshire commit Brendan Tighe to two catches for 33 yards.

“At safety, my job is to make sure a deep pass doesn’t get behind me,” he said. “Then I’ll attack the run. Against Tighe, it was a team effort. We watched what he liked to do, what formations they ran, and did everything we could to contain him.”

Coleman and the Rangers will head into this week without injured Eagle-Tribune All-Star QB Connor Bryant. But the receiver isn’t worried.

“Not having Connor is tough, but we’re full of confidence,” he said. “We feel like (backup Joe Gangi) can do the job. He’s very smart. Everyone has to step up, and I’m trying to get as many reps with Joe as possible. We’re feeling good and we aren’t satisfied. We have set our goals very high this year.”

Bryant out a month

Eagle-Tribune All-Star Methuen quarterback Connor Bryant is expecting to miss 4-6 weeks due to a fractured bone in his left foot, he reports. The Ranger senior will undergo surgery, but hopes to return before Thanksgiving. He left last Saturday’s win over Haverhill due to the injury.

So far this fall, Bryant has thrown for 438 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 375 yards and five TDs. As a junior he threw for 1,543 yards and 14 touchdowns and ran for 887 yards and 13 TDs.

Joe Gangi is expected to start in Bryant’s place.

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