When training camp began back when the days were warm and the bodies were healthy, the 2013 Mashpee High School football team was not worried about Thanksgiving football. The Falcons have owned the Sandwich Blue Knights over the last few years, and their thoughts were upon winning the South Shore League small, making it to the playoffs and maybe making a run at the Super Bowl.
Then the injuries began to pile up. One after another, players that were to be relied upon to be difference makers for the Falcons fell by the wayside. Knee injuries, ankle sprains, broken legs, you name it, the Falcons have seemed to have someone suffer from it, if not several someones.
Thankfully for the Falcons, no one was added to the injury list following their second-to-last game of the year last Friday night against Nantucket High School. “Nobody got hurt, that’s a plus. That might be a first,” quipped MHS head coach Matt Triveri. “Everyone that went into the game came out of it okay.”
Unfortunately for the Falcons, none of the players that were already on the injured list will be back for the game.
Triveri has fielded a team through the second half at the varsity level that mostly was expected to be his junior varsity club for this year. While the squad has certainly suffered its share of pitfalls, several young players have gained experience on the field that they otherwise would not have. With the 2013 year becoming a “rebuilding year” once the injury issues became too big to overcome, a silver lining may have developed in that manner.
Youngsters Nick Carpenter, the team’s freshman starting quarterback, and receiver Dominic Cassel have begun to build a rapport through the air that should be a superb weapon for the Falcons over the next few seasons.
Offensively, the Falcons hope to be able to allow Carpenter to go to the air quite a bit against the Blue Knights. “Nick’s clearly a big piece of what we’re going to do, and the offensive line needs to play well,” the coach said.
Perhaps the biggest key for Mashpee will be finding a little something extra for the second half of the game. With nearly every player in the lineup having to see time on both sides of the ball, stamina has been an issue for the team. Mashpee ran out of gas against Nantucket last week, after building a 14-0 lead only to fall 17-14, and will have to dig deep against the Knights for the full four quarters to pull out a win.
Mashpee’s main goal right now, though, is finding a way to pull off a win against a somewhat resurgent Sandwich team. Mashpee has won the annual contest each of the last three years, but this season the Knights would have to be considered at least small favorites heading into the game based on their recent success.
“They have a lot of size up front, they’re 20 or 30 pounds bigger than us up front, and (Stanton), he’s a problem with his size. The quarterback is a big kid, and both of their defensive ends are big and we had trouble with them during the preseason.”
The Blue Knights have posted a 2-1 record since the start of the MIAA postseason, winning a close one over Falmouth, 13-12, losing a close one at home to Pembroke, 7-3, and then posting a convincing victory over Whitman-Hanson last week, 32-20.
Sandwich has relied on quarterback Matt Billard to get their offense going, and he’s responded of late, both with his throwing and running. The Knights’ biggest weapon, though, is probably senior receiver Johnny Stanton. The pass-catcher can go up and catch the high ones and is a physical receiver that creates match-up problems.
Turnovers have been an issue at times for the Knights over the course of the year. If the Falcons can come up with some takeaways in the game, it will go a long way toward them pulling out a big win.
On Thursday, at the Pop Warner Field in Sandwich, the Falcons and Blue Knights put a capper on the season. With both teams finishing years that they wish had been better, Coach Triveri said that the onus for his club is finishing things off strongly and having something positive to build on toward next season, especially with such a young lineup. “It’s still Thanksgiving. It gets these kids ready for next year. Any Thanksgiving game is going to be important,” he said.