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Bingham Still in a Learning Mode

February 18, 2019

When you’ve won a state title and you pretty much have the book on the Delaware Wing-T offense mastered, what do you do? You go to class and master it a little more.

Local notebook

That’s what Tom Bingham and his St. Bernard’s football staff did in January, as they attended the National Wing-T Clinic in Pittsburgh.

“It is a fantastic clinic,” Bingham said during halftime of the St. Bernard’s-Sutton girls’ basketball game last Monday. “It’s all high school coaches, not college or pro guys. It’s great to listen to them or hear their stories, and we make great friends from Mississippi, Ohio, Texas, Florida.

“We get together with guys from similar-sized schools as us. How do they practice? What are they experiencing? We go through everything, and a lot of it is the shotgun Wing-T. You need that, you need that to be a little more dynamic. We want to get all the athletes in the school intrigued and playing football.

“You take the buck sweep, it’s a staple play (of the Wing T). There are guys who run it differently, and (we learn) how they adjust to different defensive fronts. How do they adjust during the game?”

Bingham noted the Bernies have “dabbled” with the shotgun Wing-T in recent years, but with the offensive options expected to return to Harvard Street next fall, it may be something the Blue and Gold utilizes a little more.

“Although we’ve run it for four years or so, I feel we haven’t even begun to really explore it,” he said.

And while at the clinic, Bingham noted how some staffs will all get together in one room and diagram plays on a whiteboard.

“Someone will say, ‘This gave us a hard time this year, has anyone seen this?’ They’d get up and show how they do it, and that sparks another conversation,” he said. “And frankly, you’re there talking to people about specifically what we run as an offense, and everyone checks their ego and pride at the door. You go there to learn, and we get so much out of it every year.”

Bingham said he’ll be speaking on the Wing-T at Gillette Stadium next month.

* By the way, how many Division 8 coaches in Massachusetts felt dread reading the words, “we haven’t even begun to really explore it”? Just throw out a number.

* And speaking of winning championships, both groups of young men from St. Bernard’s and Nashoba received their Super Bowl championship rings this past week.

* With the release of this fall’s grid schedules last Tuesday, let’s shed some light on some hard local football truths this morning.

When one thinks about it and looks at it from a much deeper perspective than simply “tradition,” the switches to Lunenburg-Oakmont and Gardner-Quabbin -- “The Big Cat Brawl” -- for Thanksgiving makes loads of sense.

First, we can be truthful without being disrespectful: Oakmont-Gardner hasn’t been competitive for five years.

It just hasn’t; look at the last two years’ box scores for evidence of that. And sure, one can say the Wildcats come out fired up, make a go of it for a couple of series ... but once the Spartans get going, it turns into a rout rather quickly.

On the flip side of things, Lunenburg and Oakmont are not only competitive on the gridiron, but they are also rather competitive in every other sport the schools play against each other.

The Lunenburg-Oakmont rivalry, in my eyes, is the second-most important rivalry in Northern Worcester County -- yes, even more important than Fitchburg-North Middlesex, which isn’t even a rivalry any longer.

Meanwhile, Gardner and Quabbin are schools with similar numbers in both school population and in roster size, and having witnessed a couple of classic Gardner-Quabbin games over the last few years -- those Quabbin kids just rise to the occasion during “Gardner Week” -- those are games that could go either way.

While some may scream of “tradition!,” let’s remember something: Gardner and Oakmont have only been playing football on Thanksgiving since 1980.

That’s only 38 meetings.

Now, I was more worried about chewing the ends off my Crayolas in early 1980, so I don’t know who convinced who to switch -- nor do I really care -- but remember that Oakmont and Lunenburg had played on Thanksgiving for some time before that. Before 1980, Gardner had been the technical vagabond: Wachusett from 1976-79, Clinton in 1974-75, Keene and Nashua ... heck, even Shrewsbury.

And yes, even Leominster -- in 1895, the year before the great granddaddy started.

Gardner-Oakmont essentially turned Lunenburg into vagabonds: remember the games against North Middlesex before the Patriots played Nashoba, before Lunenburg connected with St. Bernard’s?

Gardner-Oakmont used to be good on the gridiron, and while there are still really good Gardner-Oakmont games in other sports -- hey, I covered a really good one nearly a month ago -- there are just as many really good Quabbin-Gardner games in those sports, too.

To me, these two matchups make much more sense, and make for much more palatable games.

And for those of you bleating on about Thanksgiving tradition, let’s be truthful while we’re being truthful, and shed some light on a rather touchy subject that no one wants to hear: Thanksgiving is meaningless now. Absolutely, positively, meaningless; the reporters know it, the coaches know it. And outside of moving those games into the regular season -- I spoke with one semi-local grid coach who suggested this week that Fitchburg-Leominster should be your week one matchup; one local police officer who wore red suggested week eight to me, while I think Columbus Day Weekend would be appropriate, since all the college kids come home -- how do you go about making them meaningful on the fourth Thursday in November? Seriously, you can’t: The playoff system is not going away, as it makes the MIAA way too much money.

If you’re a straggler to that theory, regardless if you put on a helmet and pads or not, you might as well start subscribing to it.

* Some extraneous sporting thoughts on the week gone by....

Took a little bit of a deeper look in the football schedules on Tuesday, and we noticed that there is no Lunenburg-Ayer Shirley matchup this fall; if the Blue Knights didn’t have the Spartans for Thanksgiving, I wouldn’t say no to a Route 2A Turkey matchup. And looking at Lunenburg’s October home games when it comes to Homecoming and the parade: Maynard (5), Littleton (6), and Clinton (8). The Knights have played Littleton on Homecoming in the last decade, but I’m kind of hoping for the school to hold off until the Clinton game. A better game for Lunenburg, and an old rival, to boot.

Is it wrong that I’m subliminally pencilling myself in for Tantasqua at Fitchburg for week two? One of my favorite covers when I was in Southbridge going up against my alma mater? Really? Is this a dream? But I haven’t decided if I’m going to Westfield or West Springfield in week one. Week four, Fitchburg at Marlboro? Extreme possibility.

There really were no other large surprises in Central Mass. schedules -- except Southbridge is taking a little trip during week two: the Pioneers have to take the ferry to go play Martha’s Vineyard. That should be a fun trip for Frank Koumanelis and his staff.

State football associations can explore instant replay in the playoffs? USA Today reported it Tuesday. My thoughts? The only stadium it could work is at Gillette, and even then it might have to have the Super Bowl games expanded to Sunday: two Friday, five Saturday, and one Sunday, seeing as that Saturday schedule is pretty tight with six games. Pats can play on the road on the first Sunday in December, right? Just as long as it isn’t in Miami.

Baseball season approacheth: Leominster’s American Legion Post 151 announced it will play in two tournaments this season: the Cranston (Rhode Island) Classic from June 20-23, as well as a tournament in Nashua at historic Holman Stadium. A great experience to play there, and not too far: Route 13 to Route 130 and you’re practically there.

The yin and yang of February: No Clark Tournament for our teams this year saddens me. The fact the Revolution and Red Sox are in Florida for preseason/spring training at the same time excites me.

* We want to send a shout-out and congratulations to 2017 Lunenburg grad Tristan Deschenes, who will be interning with the New Hampshire FisherCats’ Baseball Operations department this summer. The FisherCats are the Toronto Blue Jays’ Double A affiliate in Manchester.

Deschenes, who played soccer, basketball, and baseball at Lunenburg High, is now studying communications at Emerson College. Last fall, he was able to cover Boston College football, and he even gave the paper of record a hand when all of those Thanksgiving games got moved to Wednesday night.

Good work, kid. Knock it outta the park.