The football team is heading into the season knowing that two of its key cogs on offense needs to be replaced, and probably replaced in a timely manner.
Gone are Ben Clark and Isaiah Penn to graduation, and those two talented offensive players accounted for most of the production for the Tigers in a 5-6 season last year.
“They were the key part of it last year,” said head coach Peter Capodilupo. “They were two kid with breakaway speed. They both played both ways. Ben Clark was one of the best football players that we’ve ever had here. Isaiah was a track kid who translated his skills very well to football."
“They both were captains and they both left a mark here on the program. Everybody replaced kids because they leave, and I think we have some kids who will become as important as those kids were. We aren’t there yet by a mile,” Capodilupo added.
Nate Menninger and T.J. Cleary will have to forge their way to the top of the pack as replacements for the old dynamic duo behind an offensive line spearheaded by Mike Bradley.
Ryan Byrne is back as the quarterback, a position he gained some experience last season.
“We are trying to get to a point where our offensive line can kind of carry us,” said Capodilupo. “ We feel if we can run the ball then we can own the clock. If we can own the clock then their best athletes aren’t touching the ball and the game becomes shorter in that way for them to score.”
The Tigers open up in Waltham tonight at 7 p.m. in Waltham, and for Capodilupo, he looks at the first week of the season as a chance to start anew.
“It’s always exciting, because the team is always trying to create its identity for better or for worse,” he said. “You get to see which kids step up, which kids walk away, which kids understand how hard the thing is."
“The team starts to get an identity. It starts to get a heart and soul. On paper it’s a list of names, but all of a sudden from the pressure, from the stress, the individuals become less ‘me’ and more ‘us’. That’s always exciting to see as a coach and it usually starts with the first game,” Capodilupo added.
But there's more than just a starting record riding on tonight's game. Newton Mayor Setti Warren and Waltham Mayor Jeanette McCarthy have placed a wager on the winner.
According to a press release issued by the mayor's office Thursday, the wager on the line is lunch or dinner at or The Chateau Italian Restaurant in Waltham.
This is the first match between Newton North and Waltham in more than 20 years.
“It’s great that this rivalry in being renewed after so many years,” Warren said in the press release. “Earlier today Mayor McCarthy and I had a spirited discussion, exchanged a few gifts and placed a friendly wager on the game. As a Newton North graduate, I am confident that the Tigers will pull out a win, and I look forward to my dinner at The Chateau.”