At 6-0, Mashpee High football team is driven to succeed
His quarterback was 14, the offensive linemen protecting him were 15. Mashpee's 2013 football season may have driven coach Matt Triveri a little crazy, but his players were certainly not driving home.
This is 2014 and the memories of last fall's injury-filled 4-7 record are fading. That happens when your record is 6-0 heading into Friday's South Shore Small showdown with Cohasset (4-2, 3-0).
For Triveri, who doubles as the school's athletic director, the reason for the improvement is simple.
"First and foremost we've stayed healthy. Last year we had eight two-way starters go down with injuries," said Triveri. "This year we're healthy."
Two of those players are back and having great seasons.
Junior Deshaun Dias has run for 722 yards — including 116 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-18 win over Monomoy on Friday — and also leads the team in tackles. Last fall, he broke his leg against Carver in Week 3.
Senior Robert Andrade went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The pair played just 2½ quarters together last fall.
Mashpee suited up just 18 healthy bodies on Thanksgiving, most of whom needed a ride home after the 41-6 loss to Sandwich.
"It was trial by fire," said Triveri, whose team lost to Cohasset, 42-0, last fall. "We took our lumps."
The good news is that those kids have matured and improved. Some can even drive.
Now a sophomore, Nick Carpenter (458 yards, four TDs passing) directs an offense that is averaging 32.7 points per game. And he's doing it behind an all-junior line that is bigger, stronger, and more experienced.
"We're a lot better up front. We got older and we got better," said Triveri. "The biggest key for us is that our offensive line has been tremendous."
For the record, that's Freddy Bohnenberger, Justin Rose, Anthony Rivera, Andrew Vinitsky, Alex Monterrey, and Joey Spinola.
"They're not huge kids," said Triveri. "The key is they're good athletes. They've been great this year. That's been a big plus."
It wasn't long ago Mashpee was one of the top teams in the state. The Falcons went 13-0 in 2011, beating Cardinal Spellman, 34-8, at Gillette Stadium to win the Division 4 Super Bowl. When the MIAA changed the playoff format, Mashpee was slotted as a Division 5 school, but the school appealed and was dropped to Div. 6. Their appeal is part of a bigger challenge for the Cape Cod school.
Mashpee, located between Sandwich and the waters of Nantucket Sound, was part of a population explosion in the early '90s and, in response, Mashpee High School opened in 1996. At its high point, the school had approximately 700 students in grades 9-12 in the early 2000s. But that soon changed and today the school has just 425 students, according to Triveri.
"Our appeal [in 2013] was based on population. I wanted to play Abington and East Bridgewater and wanted to stay at that level, but you have to be realistic," said Triveri, of the South Shore Large powers. "We don't have a lot of families moving in with kids."
Mashpee was originally settled by the Wampanoag tribe. Today, close to 9 percent of the student population is Native American — including Dias and Andrade — the highest percentage of any high school in New England.
But Friday, the focus will be on football. And even if Triveri's teens can't drive on it, the road to the league title goes through Mashpee.
Monday marks the return of the Globe's undefeated bus, which debuted on these pages 80 years ago, on Oct. 29, 1934. Gene Mack, a 1908 graduate of Medford High, created the bus to honor those high school football teams that were undefeated. Today, it is drawn once again by retired Globe promotion design artist Jim Venable.
For football players of the week, go to Bostonglobe.com/schools.