While everyone else in the Massachusetts high school football world plays their first game on Friday, Old Colony football will still be planning. Typically, the Cougars have their bye in the middle of the season, but this year, things somehow shook out where they’re just starting their season one week after everyone else.
There are pros and cons to the odd scheduling, but Old Colony head coach Brandon Mendez is focused on the positives at this point. Though he’s not getting hung up on his guys being fresher than Holbrook, who the Cougars face in Week 2, Mendez’s focus is on the fact that the Cougars will be able to spend a little extra time on technique.
“It’s not the worst thing in the world,” Mendez said. “We have a veteran team, so it allows us to get a little bit more in before that first real game.
“I feel OK because we scrimmaged up quite a bit,” he continued. “We went and scrimmaged a very good Nauset team, Nantucket, and we treated the whole jamboree against Fairhaven like a real game. As far as being game-ready, with a veteran team, I don’t worry as much. It’s going to give us an opportunity to focus on technique a little more. We don’t have to rush through things.”
Old Colony is returning eight players on the offensive side of the ball and nine on defense, some of which can play both sides of the ball, like Matt Bumpus. Among those returning are Bumpus, Kyle Scholz, Phil Proctor, Ryan Rego, NoahVertigo, Elijah Smith, Ben Kingsbury,and Blake Dennison.
With so many players returning from last year’s roster, Old Colony doesn’t need to spend as much time on the scheme or the general concepts. This group already knows how things work in the program. Instead, the Cougars are trying to refine the little things so they can gain an edge against any opponent.
“We’re certainly more advanced at this point than we were last year,” Mendez said. “It really gives us a chance to focus on technique more and improve the little things a bit more. Where in the past we’ve had to make sure certain coverages are in, the coverages are there. It’s nothing new.
“I think the thing that stands out more this year is the kids are asking more valuable questions of the coaches about the scheme than we ever have in the past,” Mendez continued. “It just proves that they get it. They know and they’re hungry to get the right answers and want more out of it, which is great for us.”
Last year, the Cougars’ defensive was lockdown. No team was going to light up the scoreboard against Old Colony – on the road, or at home. The Cougars offense, however, wasn’t able to match the defense’s consistency.
But now the Cougars have defined Bumpus’ role as the team’s play-caller, and someone who will be on the field at all times, even when Scholz is lining up at quarterback. Between the two, Mendez fully expects Old Colony to improve off of last year.
“[Scholz] hit the gym hard this offseason. He’s fully committed,” Mendez said. “He’s looked much more comfortable this pre-season than he did last year. Last year, he got a little worked up. He seemed a little tense. We’d try to slow him down. He’s been very composed this preseason, which is where he needs to be.
“[Bumpus is] the leader. He’s the guy. He’s calling out the plays in the huddle. … He’s the one who brings the composure. His leadership ability this year has really stood out for us. It’s been outstanding.”
High School Sports Update
By Nick Friar