It may be Week 2 of the high school football season, but many teams are playing their opener, including Lawrence, which is one of several programs that have been forced to move game times around due to the EEE virus threat.
Lawrence will open its season at home against Burlington Saturday at 1 p.m, one year after gas explosions shook the Merrimack Valley, causing fires to occur in as many as 40 homes, forcing some 30,000 residents to evacuate their homes, and claiming the life of 18-year-old Leonel Rondon, a former student at Lawrence High.
“It’s a very unfortunate tragedy and so many people were affected,” said Lawrence coach Rhandy Audate. “Leonel Rondon had many friends on our team and the kids were impacted by that tragedy. Many of our players had to move to new places and the impact is still felt today.”
“Adversity hits all the time and we have to rise above so we don’t drown in it.”
Lawrence athletic director Brendan Neilon said there will be a public announcement prior to the came thanking first responders and members of neighboring towns such as Andover and North Andover for their help during the crisis. A moment of silence will follow to honor the Rondon family and those impacted.
“This is something the community can rally around,” said Audate. “We’re looking forward to the opportunity to get better, but also to bring a win to that community. Sports isn’t the biggest deal in that sense, but it’s a good way to pay homage.”
Marblehead at North Andover: With just five starters returning on either side of the ball, the defending D2 state champion Scarlet Knights hope to use an extra week of practice to start strong. But Declan Rudloff and the Magicians defense pose a serious threat to North Andover’s state-best 13-game winning streak. Pick: Marblehead.
Natick at Walpole: After thrashing Needham, 42-0, in their home opener, the Redhawks look to handle another Bay State Conference foe. Will Jarvis and Walpole will look to keep pace. Pick: Natick.
Hopkinton at Wayland: New coach Dan MacLean aims to start his career with Hopkinton on a high note, but Wayland returns 33 upperclassmen under 19-year coach Scott Parseghian. Warriors QB Mason Bolivar and Parseghian’s sons, Dante and Damien, are a few players to watch. Pick: Wayland.
Xaverian at Everett: Both of these perennial powers dropped their opener for the first time in recent memory. Will the Tide bounce back at home? Or will Xaverian add to Everett’s newfound misfortune? Pick: Everett.
St. John’s High at Catholic Memorial: After Springfield Central crushed Everett last Friday, St. John’s has the potential to earn a statement win on Baker Street. CM will be ready for the challenge. Pick: Catholic Memorial.
Lincoln-Sudbury at Reading: It took an 80-yard Hail Mary with 11 seconds remaining for L-S to get past Reading in the D2 North semifinals last November. Those Rockets still on the roster have not forgot the sting of that loss. Pick: Reading.
Bridgewater-Raynham at Duxbury: The Dragons hung with Brockton for three quarters before falling late and the Trojans did the same at defending D1 state champion St. John’s Prep. We’ll find out which team learned more from their Week 1 loss in this nonconference showdown. Pick: Duxbury.
Cohasset at Rockland: The Bulldogs steamrolled a solid Nantucket squad in their opener, while the Skippers defeated rival Norwell. Now two of the top teams in the South Shore League square off in a potential postseason preview. Pick: Rockland.
Lynn English at Swampscott: With senior quarterback Graham Inzana back at the helm, the Big Blue is the consensus favorite in D5 North. Facing a perennial D3 North contender in Lynn English should provide a good litmus test to open the season. Pick: Lynn English.
Springfield Central at Central Catholic: After the Golden Eagles stunned Everett last Friday, the Raiders should be fully aware of the monumental challenge they’ll face in their opener. With the game postponed due to the EEE threat, these teams will take center stage on Saturday (4 p.m.) at Lawrence Veterans Stadium. Pick: Springfield Central.