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Easthampton football: Senior captains keeping Eagles accountable

  • Easthampton quarterback Nick Pellegrini listens to instructions during practice Monday, Aug. 20, 2018 at White Brook Middle School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The Easthampton line during practice Monday, Aug. 20, 2018 at White Brook Middle School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton quarterback Nick Pellegrini, right, hands off to Ben Landry during practice Monday, Aug. 20, 2018 at White Brook Middle School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton quarterback Nick Pellegrini, right, hands off to Ben Landry during practice Aug. 20, at White Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton lineman Tallon Garelli runs a drill during practice. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton lineman Tallon Garelli runs a drill during practice Monday, Aug. 20, 2018 at White Brook Middle School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Fred Murray, of Easthampton, reaches for a pass during a drill at practice Monday, Aug. 20, 2018 at White Brook Middle School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Damien Diluzio catches during practice. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The Easthampton line during practice Monday, Aug. 20, 2018 at White Brook Middle School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton quarterback Nick Pellegrini, left, hands off to Jacob Neumann during practice Monday, Aug. 20, 2018 at White Brook Middle School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Quintin Baker-Cisero reaches for a pass during practice Monday, Aug. 20, 2018 at White Brook Middle School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ben Landry, of Easthampton, catches during practice Monday, Aug. 20, 2018 at White Brook Middle School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS



Staff writer
Friday, September 07, 2018

EASTHAMPTON — Senior quarterback Nick Pellegrini carries a football with him throughout practice whether he’s throwing it or not. Wide receiver Damien Diluzio ensures other players are clapping during stretch lines. Running back Justin Malek always confers an encouraging word during water breaks. Left tackle Tallon Garelli provides a steady example in offensive line drills.

Easthampton’s senior captains take accountability for leadership and motivation as much as making plays on the field.

“In the past our senior classes haven’t been the best at keeping the younger guys’ morale up,” Pellegrini said. “If we want to go further in the playoffs we need to keep everyone together and keep the ship moving.”

Easthampton started 4-1 last year following an opening loss at Taconic, but losses in four of its final five games kept the Eagles out of the playoffs.

“We’re going to have to eliminate that (slump) and try and peak in November as opposed to fall off the face of the Earth,” Garelli said.

Matt Bean and the Easthampton coaching staff recognized a difference in attitude and effort with the team during that losing stretch. They emphasized the importance of chemistry with the incoming captains.

“Chemistry is one of the main things and hard work and not taking anything for granted,” Bean said.

The captains took that message and those ideals to heart.

“We’ve seen what happens when we screw around for a week at practice,” Garelli said. “We can’t do that and also be successful.”

They don’t see those past mistakes resurfacing.

“The energy is different,” Diluzio said. “The mentality is different.”

The schedule, however, is the same. Easthampton plays a mirrored regular season from 2017, when the Eagles went 5-6.

“We know what we have to compete with,” Diluzio said. “Nothing’s going to be a surprise.”

Quarterback

Pellegrini enters his second season as the Eagles’ starter and fourth in the program. He has a close relationship with offensive coordinator Rick Rogalski and is intimately familiar with Easthampton’s winged-t offense.

“He’s smart. He knows the offense as well as we do,” Bean said. “He’s not only physically grown, but mentally he’s like having another coach out there.”

Running back

Easthampton graduated big production in David Helems and Sopie Pek, but the Eagles have long relied on multiple ballcarriers and options. Malek saw time in the rotation last year, while sophomores Fred Murray and Jacob Neumann are building off auditions last year.

“We’ve got sophomores that have just made leaps and bounds,” Bean said. “Last year, when we knew what we were losing, we knew we had to prepare them.”

Receivers

Quentin Baker-Cisero proved he could be a No. 1 target last year, and Pellegrini has developed chemistry with Diluzio on the other side. Easthampton also likes to throw to its backs and move receivers around the formation.

“We have a system that can take advantage of who we have here,” Bean said.

Offensive/defensive line

The line will be Easthampton’s rock. Garelli, Jacob Ross and Matt Champagne are back from a solid group last year.

“You could see it last year where they matured from the year before,” Bean said.

Garelli has started all four years for the Eagles and is firmly entrenched at left tackle.

The same players will largely make up the defensive line, though Diluzio factors in as an end. Bean likes to pick his spots with two-way players to both maximize their value on the field and not burn them out.

Linebackers

This is the group with the most holes to fill. Malek will play middle linebacker flanked by the likes of Neumann, Danny Daybek and Logan Gover.

“(Malek) has blossomed over the last couple years,” Bean said. “He’s going to be the glue that holds that group together.”

Secondary

Baker-Cisero and Ben Landry add some experience to a young defensive backfield. Bean and his staff are slightly simplifying the scheme to take advantage of their athleticism.

“I’ve got to put those guys in positions where they’ll be successful and use their strengths,” Bean said.

Special teams

Landry kicked the extra points and made a field goal last year, but he’ll face competition from Chris Kubasek. The Eagles have a plethora of options to return kicks like Baker-Cisero, Diluzio and Malek.

Easthampton

COACH: Matt Bean, fourth year

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Intercounty North/5

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 5-6

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2016, lost 58-6 to Taconic in WMass Division 3 semifinals

RETURNING STARTERS: Seniors — Quintin Baker-Cisero, WR/CB; Damien Diluzio, WR; Tallon Garelli, T; Ben Landry, RB; Justin Malek, LB; Nick Pelligrini, QB; Jacob Ross, G; Juniors — Matt Champagne, C; Sophomores — Fred Murray, LB/RB; Jacob Neumann, S/RB.

RETURNING PLAYERS Senior — Nelson Alicia, G; David Brakey, F; Logan Gover, DE; Juniors — Mac Craig, WR; Josh Norman, G; Connor Twarog, WR; Sophomores — Liam Burke, QB; Danny Dabek, DE; Mason Dennis, T; Gary Gauthier, RB/LB; Lucas Hezik, T/DT; Nathan Hogan, LB; Marcus O’Mealy, CB.

NEWCOMERS: Seniors — Trevor Waldron, WR/DE; Juniors — Chris Kubasek, G/DT; Ethan LaFlamme, C; Freshmen — Keith Cudworth, S/WR; Luke Enright, WR; Peter Hallbrook, T; Luke Kraus, CB; Jonathan Michalik, RB; Connor Mott, WR; Giancarlo Osiecki, LB/RB; Tyler Vanasse, CB; TJ Young, C.

OUTLOOK: The Eagles have their quarterback back and are aiming to return to the postseason. Pelligrini can also throw to Baker-Cisero and DiLuzio with Malek and Neumann behind him. The group is familiar with Bean’s schemes and comfortable in its league.