Fall sports preview: Easthampton football starting fresh

  • Easthampton coach Matt Bean, right, talks to Kyle Dragon, his special teams coordinator, during practice, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019 at White Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Lineman Mason Donnis runs a drill during Easthampton High School practice, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019 at White Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton coach Matt Bean watches his team during Easthampton High School practice, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019 at White Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Bennett Kelly runs a drill during Easthampton High School practice, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019 at White Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Fred Murray passes during Easthampton practice. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton High School assistant coach Kyle Dragon, who is the special teams coordinator, instructs his team during practice, Aug. 21 at White Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Liam Burke passes during practice. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Nate Hoagn carries the ball during Easthampton High School practice, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019 at White Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Liam Burke begins a pass during Easthampton High School practice, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019 at White Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Nate Hogan, left, makes a play for the ball as Bennett Kelly carries during Easthampton High School practice, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019 at White Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ethan LaFlamme, center, prepares to hike the ball to James Buckley, the offensive coordinator, during Easthampton High School practice, Aug. 21 at White Brook Middle School. Evan Carmody is on the left. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/6/2019 1:00:24 PM
Modified: 9/6/2019 1:00:12 PM

EASTHAMPTON — There’s a clean slate at White Brook Middle School.

The Easthampton football team graduated a large and impactful class of 11 seniors following last season. Longtime offensive coordinator Rick Rogalski joined Joe Kocot’s staff in Northampton, and Easthampton coach Matt Bean brought in James Buckley from South Hadley.

“On the field it’s going to be a new look, new team,” Easthampton junior Mason Donnis said. “It’s going to be something new and fresh.”

But not something unfamiliar. The winged-T offense South Hadley runs is very similar to Easthampton’s offense. The Eagles will use new terminology, but the plays will largely be the same.

“It’s been a smooth transition,” Easthampton coach Matt Bean said. “He’s been a really positive addition.”

Easthampton’s junior class will bear a lot of the responsibility to produce. Bean told them after last season that they would functionally be seniors for two years because of how much they’d need to take on both on the field and in leadership roles.

“We’re putting a lot on them,” he said.

They’re ready to don the mantle. Easthampton participated in a variety of camps in the offseason and competed in 7-on-7 passing leagues.

“We’re looking to hold our own,” junior Fred Murray said.

With all of the turnover, this convocation of Eagles is hoping to build its own identity. They are unburdened from prior season’s expectations and are focused on their own effort.

“I think it’s freeing to not have to live up to something,” Donnis said. “We can be our own team and not what people are expecting from last year. It’s definitely a new look.”

Quarterback

Two-year starter Nick Pellegrini is gone, and Murray and fellow junior Liam Burke are in an open competition for the job.

“Liam is more of a dropback, kind of like Pellegrini, can run if he needs to,” Bean said. “Fred is an athlete. He runs hard, he throws hard.”

Bean and Buckley will make the determination based on performance in scrimmages and knowledge of the offense.

Skill positions

There’s a large crop of players that could slide into either running back or wide receiver roles.

Jacob Neumann is the constant, steadying presence in the backfield. He ran for more than 1,300 yards as sophomore then spent his summer attending camps and clinics, including one at Penn State.

“He got the bug. As good as he was, I think he’s going to surprise people this year,” Bean said. “He’s just worked really hard. You’re gonna see a dramatic improvement in him.”

Bennett Kelly and Alex Tilton came out for the first time as seniors.

BB Jean Jaques moved from where? into Easthampton, while Marcus O’Meally. and Keith Cudworth return.

Gary Gauthier will spell Neumann running downhill.

Nate Hogan is standing at tight end.

“I think we’re loaded at the skill positions,” Bean said “We’ve got a lot to choose from.”

Offensive/defensive line

Buckley has a rebuilding job to do. Longtime anchor Tallon Garelli is playing for Williams this year. Donnis returns as a starter and will lead a young group with some promise.

“This year is going to be a rebuild on the line,” Dean said. “I’m confident we’ve got some young kids doing some good things.”

Linebacker

Bean is excited about his linebacking core.

Murray, Hogan, Kelly, Gauthier and Alex Stiller form an athletic group.

“You gotta stop the run in high school football,” Bean said.

Secondary

Luke Kraus started at corner as a freshman but will likely move to safety. O’Meally has experience, and many of the skill position players will round out the group.

Special teams

After kicker Ben Landry graduated, Easthampton is trying out multiple players to see if they have anyone capable of kicking on this year’s roster.

Easthampton

CO-OP: Hampshire Regional

COACH: Matt Bean, fifth 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: Juniors — Danny Dabek, DE; Mason Donnis, OT; Fred Murray, QB/LB; Jacob Neumann, RB; Marcus O’Meally, WR; Sophomore — Luke Kraus, CB;

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Mac Craig, WR; Ethan LaFlamm, C; Josh Morin, G; Connor Twarog, WR; Juniors — Liam Burke, QB; Matt Champagne, DL/TE; Gary Gauthier, RB; Nate Hogan, LB/TE; Sophomores — Keith Cudworth, CB; Peter Holbrook, OT; Jonathan Michalick, RB; Connor Mott, WR; Giancarlo, Oslek, LB;

NEWCOMERS: Seniors — Bennett Kelly, RB/LB; Alex Tilton, RB/LB; Juniors — Colin Noel, DT; Freshmen — Evan Carmody, C; Nate DeLucca, LB; Sean Healey, QB; BB Jean Jaques, RB; Finn Radowitz, DE; Matt McCoy, OL; Angel Moody, DE; Angel Rubio, OT;

OUTLOOK: Eagles lost a large senior class, including leading passer, receiver and running back. New offensive coordinator James Buckley brings a similar scheme and a fresh attitude to Easthampton’s offense. The line will be very young. Juniors expected to carry a lot of the weight.




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