Blue Knights Optimistic As Season Nears

August 31, 2018

LUNENBURG -- The Lunenburg football team’s 2017 may not have ended the way anyone on Route 2A wanted: After a 4-4 regular season, the Blue Knights sagged to the finish line with three consecutive defeats, including a close playoff loss to Nashoba Tech and a loss to new Thanksgiving Eve rival Quabbin Regional.

But a period of nine months is a long time to let a team full of offensive weapons focus on the new year.

While longtime head coach Steve Boone had to replace a little meat on the line for 2018, the Blue Knights return a great deal of the firepower that got them to the playoffs last fall.

Boone said last week that there is a great deal of optimism in Lunenburg surrounding this team, which by necessity has to cut its teeth as freshmen and sophomores.

“With all the returners? Absolutely,” he said. “We feel good with what’s coming back. Up front, you have to replace (Trey) Tibbets and (Justin) Bishop. We move some kids around with (Joseph) Nelson and (Joseph) Rivers, and (Andrew) Woods is looking good in there. He’s a big, strong sophomore. Up in front, (Jason) Reynolds and (Colby) Sprague. There’s some rebuilding, but these kids have seen a lot of varsity time.

“If you look at every small school, we all play sophomores, we all play freshmen. The numbers dictate you have to. But we have some confident freshmen and sophomores, and now they’re stepping up. So far, they’ve worked pretty hard, and they’ve had a great attitude, which is great to see. They’ve been out here flying around, studying, picking things up. It’s exciting.”

Chris Costich (78-of-144, 54 percent, 1,320 yards passing, seven TDs) returns for his third season -- his second full season -- under center as the LHS quarterback.

“The thing about Chris is that he’s a three-sport athlete,” Boone said. “He brings that to the table. He’s athletic. Three-sport athletes see the field well, they move well. He’s picking up the reads well so far, and he’s looking good so far.”

Junior Anthony Iannacci was an 1,100-yard rusher as a sophomore, and he is expected to do that and more for the Blue Knights.

“He worked out through the winter and spring and summer,” Boone said of his prized running back. “He went to a ton of college camps, and it shows. His work ethic has started to pay off. You can see him: he’s stronger, he’s confident, he’s faster. He’s always seen the field well, but now everything else is going to come into play.”

Last year, Iannacci followed the blocks of Zach Pearson. This season, Pearson is moving to the offensive line, while a trio of players -- Jacob Bremer, Cam Mackenzie, and Sprague -- will slide into the fullback roll.

“Zach’s always been decent-sized, and to his credit, (he’s the) ‘I’ll do anything for the team, Coach’ type, and he’s doing well there,” Boone praised, noting that the fullback at the moment will depend on formation.

Mackenzie made a name for himself as a sophomore as a player with great hands. He’ll see time as a defensive back for his junior season.

“He’s athletic. He’s fast, he’s quick. We do have team speed this year, which is nice to have. He’s a year older like you just said,” Boone said of Mackenzie. “We’re looking for a lot from that (junior class).”

Mackenzie will be a key in the Blue Knights’ 4-3 defense.

“Up front it will be the tackles: Nelson and Rivers. Reynolds and (Jarod) Albert replacing Tibbets and (Alex) Stillman. Linebacking corps, Pearson and Bremer. We’re going to have to look to them a lot. DBs, Infantino, Mackenzie, (Donovan) Powell -- Powell’s had a good preseason so far,” Boone said.

In order to return to the postseason, Boone admits his team needs to execute on both sides of the ball -- and that means being tough in certain situations on defense.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” he said. “If you look at our games (last year), it’s a little bit of the younger kids needing to grow up. When you’re playing the younger kids against bigger teams, it makes it difficult. But they’re growing up, they’re getting tougher, and hopefully some of the weight room work will pay off. We were in a lot of games, but at the end, we wore down: hopefully the conditioning we’re doing, the lifting that they’re doing, the maturing, the kids becoming older (will help).

“The days of having two-three deep are not here. At Lunenburg, one guy backs up four: if a lineman goes down, you have one to replace, and that’s about it.”

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