Turnover is inevitable at the high school level. Graduation always brings a somber reminder to high school sports teams that this isn't forever, the time here truly is short to take advantage and find enjoyment on the field.
This stroke of reality may hit hardest with the Peabody Football Tanners , not only losing fantastic players but great leaders who were part of the team from their 0-10 days to their invigorating playoff return a year ago.
Nevertheless, coach Bettencourt has stressed the necessity for last year to represent the basis of longterm success in the program rather than one year of stability. New year means new opportunities.
That continued stability now falls on those opportunities for new faces, which can be seen all over camp as the team prepares for their 2015 campaign. Players who didn't see varsity opportunity a year ago, first timers intrigued by the success of 2014 squad, and returning players set to see their roles increase into major contributors.
Peabody High’s new quarterback fits the first of those three categories.
Heading into just his second year of football ever, Matt D’Amato is set to fill the shoes that Class of 2015 quarterback Mike Raymond left under center. Raymond took over the role his sophomore year, new territory for a natural wide receiver, but would improve dramatically towards his senior year where he would approach high school records at that position.
At Raymond’s highest level in his senior season he provided crucial late-down throws, escaped the pocket to bring dead plays back to life, while providing a calm leadership at the head of the offense. On Friday nights D’Amato got to observe Raymond, who improved so greatly over three seasons, valuable learning that will now be put to the test.
“Mike taught me a lot last year.” D’Amato said of his former teammate. “He alway said just get the first snap out of the way…he taught me the release point, always focus on the release, and timing is key.
“I noticed he was very calm, he controlled the team very well, it’s what I want to do this year”
Beyond the physical responsibilities of playing quarterback, “to make sure the team is keeping good composure, making sure everybody is on the same page”, D’Amato stressed his desire to become a strong team leader in his new starting role:
“I want to be more of a leader…I want to have more control over everything, that'll be my goal this week (before the season opener)”
The road here was one of hard work and fast learning for D’Amato. Thrown into the starting quarterback role on junior varsity, while attending varsity games with clipboard in hand, he had to balance undertaking the extremely difficult position with simply learning how to play football.
“The hardest part was learning the offense…I had to get to know the game and the rules and all that but I adjusted pretty well” he stated, adding that last year was the first time he ever took a snap against a defense.
Quick adjustments had to be made at every turn and being thrown to the next level has D’Amato seeing more of the same challenges flying at him. Better coaching, faster and stronger athletes, and more intense competition are all factors he will have to prepare for.
Nevertheless confidence seems to be carrying the new quarterback, an important trait for that position, and he doesn't seem to see the next level as being something he can’t face:
“I’ve been working much harder” D’Amato remarked on the experience at camp this summer. “I have to get to know better receivers, work on my timing with handoffs. A little bit of everything.”
Turnover didn't just touch the quarterback position though. The entire dominant offensive line from last season graduated, as well as key contributors at the skill positions. That improbably seems to be helping the process for the new QB though, as the preseason has been an easing in period for the entire offense, not just him.
“I think were handling it pretty well right now” he said of the transition. “I mean we had a few shakes in the Bishop Fenwick scrimmage but I think its mainly just communicating and all getting to know each while playing as a team.”
The next challenge in preparation for the season is Wednesday’s scrimmage against a very talented Malden team that made the playoffs a year ago. Over a week of time remains before the season opens and for the moment D’Amato seems confident in the strides he and the team are making to prepare for that date.
“We’re thinking about the next step, which is obviously the first game, but that excitement is fueling us” he said, reminiscing of the excitement surrounding the team late last year.
The Tanners have many new faces to follow in 2015, stability will still be found from the strong leadership of Doug Santos and coach Bettencourt, but they may have a new confident guiding force in Matt D’Amato as he finally gets his opportunity in his junior year.