Mike Balsamo, Cody Demers , and D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie are returning Merrimack Valley Conference All-Stars in the secondary at Central Catholic.
But a communication breakdown can be costly, no matter the pedigree.
In the first quarter of Friday night’s season opener against Lawrence, the defensive backs bit on a bubble screen. The miscue allowed quarterback Nelson Valerio to connect with a wide-open Justin Rivera on a 63-yard touchdown pass.
“Just bad communication with myself and the cornerback, Gavin Anderson,” said Balsamo, a safety. “We both called different coverages and we basically didn’t hear each other.”
The Central offense, fortunately, was on target in a 39-27 season-opening win and Balsamo and Anderson — a first-time starter — stepped up with an interception apiece. But miscommunication was prevalent throughout the night on defense.
Valerio capitalized, firing four touchdowns, three of which exceeded 45 yards.
Central coach Chuck Adamopoulos believes the mental lapses are understandable early on, particularly in Week 1, and they are certainly fixable. His main concern defensively is focusing on his relatively inexperienced front seven, which has only one returning lineman.
“In the line positions, both offensively and defensively, that right now is our major concern; how those kids develop that will determine how good we can be this year,” said the 13-year head coach.
With the inexperience, the leadership will fall on linebacker Markus Edmunds , a returning conference all-star, along with the entire secondary unit to anchor a defense that will be integral for a Central squad that finished 9-2 last fall, tying for first place in the MVC with Andover and Lowell.
Adamopoulos made a position switch in the offseason, moving Drummond-Mayrie from corner to safety to play alongside the 6-foot-2 Balsamo.
At corner, opposing teams were throwing away from the 6-foot, 207-pound Drummond-Mayrie.
“When you’re stuck out at corner, the ball can be on the other side of the field a lot because you’re not a factor,” said Adamopoulos.
“So by putting him in the middle of the field, it makes that less of a problem.”
Now Drummond-Mayrie, also the team’s top back, can be a factor on nearly every play at safety.
The senior cocaptain has received offers from six Football Championship Subdivision Division 1 programs, though he does not feel rushed to make a decision. His focus is on the current season.
“When I got my first offer [from Bryant in May], I was very excited and I couldn’t really believe it because it had always been a dream of mine,” said Drummond-Mayrie, also one of the top hurdlers in the MVC.
“But I don’t really talk about it much. I still play for Central, so I’m just focused on my season now.”
That state of mind sits well with Adamopoulus, who quickly shifted his own focus to the next opponent, Haverhill, which last Saturday put an end to Beverly’s 14-game winning streak.
Back Ian Kessel, who rushed for 135 yards in the Haverhill win, will test Central’s front seven. Adamopoulos said he expects his offensive line, which features no returning starters, to be challenged as well.
“Offensively we have to play very aggressive with our offensive line because their defensive front is pretty physical,” he said. “They’re a very good defensive team and they played very well in their first game.”
The Hillies (8-3 in 2012) will again be a factor in the conference race, senior cocaptain Demers acknowledges.
“There’s always going to be a lot of good teams in the MVC,” said the corner, who also stars at receiver. “But I like our chances this year and I think we’ll stack up pretty good against them.”
Gloucester launches new field with victory
Playing on the New Balance Track and Field surface at Newell Stadium for the first time, in the program’s first home game since 2011, Gloucester High kicked off the season with a thrilling 15-14 win over Lynn Classical Friday night.
Prior to the game, Mayor Carolyn Kirk cut a ribbon signifying the opening of the new facility, and Fisherman athletes paraded around the track in front of a few thousand members of the community.
Kicker Eli Horne booted a 24-yard game-winning field goal with 2:20 left in the third — the team’s first successful attempt since 2008.
“It was just a great night,” said Gloucester coach Tony Zerilli.
“The whole city came out and it was really exciting for the kids because they had been looking forward to it all week long.”
According to the third-year head coach, the old grass field was fairly unsafe — there was very little traction in bad weather. But he’ll always have a soft spot for it.
“I’ll always love the old facility. I played there, my brothers played there; but you get a turf field like this, and it’s tremendous to play on.”
St. John’s Prep falls after weak first half
St. John’s Prep, the reigning Division 1 Super Bowl champion, watched Bridgewater-Raynham surge to a 20-0 halftime cushion before holding on for a 20-14 victory Saturday afternoon.
“We had too many penalties, didn’t convert on third downs, didn’t have enough big plays,” said coach Jim O’Leary of his team’s first-half performance.
Saturday, they will face an even tougher foe: Brockton, which has not played a game since the Eagles defeated the Boxers in last year’s EMass. Division 1 Super Bowl.
“You could say we have an advantage having one game under our belt,” O’Leary said. “But on the other hand, they were in the stands at the game, so they got to see us play.”
Medford ends losing streak with 12-8 win
Xavier Gibson returned the season-opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown in a promising start for a Medford team that snapped its 18-game losing streak Friday night against North Quincy with a 12-8 victtory.
“It was a great win for the kids, for the community, and for the staff,” said Jason Nascemento , in his first full year as head coach. “Eighteen games is a long time and we couldn’t have started it off any better.”
With Medford trailing 8-6 late in the fourth quarter, the Red Raiders center snapped the ball over the punter’s head, and Medford recovered the ball near the 20-yard line. Gibson then finished off the go-ahead drive, scoring from 6 yards out with less than two minutes remaining on the clock.