NICK MASSA will return to the fold for the Kennett football team. Matt Perloff. (click for larger version)
August 27, 2012NORTH CONWAY — Having a bruising feature back like Nick Massa returning to the fold would make any football coach sleep easier at night.
And Mike Holderman knows that for a fact.
Despite the fact that the Kennett football team lost most of its offensive line and its starting quarterback to graduation, the Eagle mentor feels a bit more relaxed knowing that Massa will be in the backfield on opening night.
"That takes a lot of the pressure off," Holderman said. "Having one of the top runners back makes you sleep easier at night."
Massa, who was voted a team captain, will again be asked to carry the load for the Eagles and will also be counted on to make the job a bit easier for the team's freshman quarterback, Will Pollard.
Holderman and the coaching staff had a battle on their hands for the quarterback job throughout the preseason and they let that battle play out on the field. Pollard and sophomore Nick Graziano both had good moments and neither was able to move further ahead of the other, so the coaching staff had to make the decision and went with the freshman.
"We let it play out, let them take equal reps," Holderman said. "And they were pretty equal."
Holderman felt comfortable going with Pollard in part due to the fact that the stable of backs the team has would be the envy of just about any coach.
In addition to Massa, Tommy Donovan, Jordan Stocker, Chris Krug and Christian Rivers all saw time at the varsity level last year and will once again be counted on to catch and run the ball. Holderman notes that Krug probably has the best hands on the team. Jon Saxby also returns to the team and will see time at tight end. Newcomer Devon Bynoe also joins the group of backs and has made the adjustment to varsity in fine fashion.
"We are so happy and surprised to have a whole stable of backs that we feel comfortable giving the ball to," Holderman said. "We knew we'd have to replace so many linemen, so we're happy we've got playmakers at other positions. It makes the line's job easier."
On the offensive line, Adam Suprenard, who will also be a captain, has stepped up and fellow senior Jonny Hoyt, who was injured last season, has made strides in his return to the field. Sophomores Jake Cameron and Tyler Eaton will also see time and senior Steve Cotton returns after a year off. Tyler Eldridge and Caleb Suprenard will fill in as necessary.
The same group of guys are also likely to see time on the defensive line, with Saxby working in at defensive end and freshman Theo Scarlett manning the other defensive end. Nate Lautenschlager will also see some time on the defensive line.
While the defensive line is gong through a makeover, the linebackers and defensive backs are a solid bunch of mostly returning players.
"Our linebackers and defensive backs are deep and young and very athletic," Holderman said.
Senior captain Conor McDonald will lead the way for the defense at linebacker.
"Conor's healthy, so everything revolves around Conor," Holderman said. "He's the backbone of our defense."
Joining McDonald in the linebacking corps are Rivers and sophomores Nate Arnold, Casey Sandman and Campbell Wales.
The defensive backfield sees three starters returning, with Krug, serving as a team captain, and Stocker at cornerback and Grant Meserve as safety. Graziano and Donovan will also see time in the backfield.
On special teams, David Dirigo entered the season as the punter and kicker, but an injury gave senior newcomer Caine Warren a chance to try some place kicking and he excelled, so Holderman will have a couple of options as needed.
The Eagles will have a unique start to the season, as they will be seeing a team they have never seen before in St. Thomas.
The Saints are moving up from Division V, where they won the championship last year and went undefeated. While not completely familiar with what they do, Holderman is eager for the challenge of knocking off the champions.
"They haven't lost a game in over a year, so we've done our homework," the Eagle coach said. "We know they like a fast-paced, no huddle offense, so we'll have our hands full."
With the Saints and Windham Jaguars moving up to Division IV, replacing Merrimack Valley and Monadnock, Holderman said Division IV is just getting tougher and tougher.
"But we welcome the challenge," the Eagle coach said.
The Eagles will be on the road for the first game of the season against the Saints, playing at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 1, in Dover. The first home game of the season will be a battle with rival Plymouth, set for Friday, Sept. 7, at 7 p.m. at Gary Millen Stadium.
"Those first two weeks, we're going to see where we fit in," Holderman stated.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at email@example.com or 569-3126