GROTON -- Few schools in Central Mass can say they have made the play-offs the last four years, let alone done it in the first four years of their existence like Groton-Dunstable has. In order to make it five in a row, coach Derek Asadorian will have his work cut out for him as a cast of new faces will be counted upon to contribute right away.
"We had a lot of losses due to graduation and some kids that were expected to play are not around this year, so we have a lot of new players stepping into roles this year," said Asadorian. "But we have a solid group of kids who are all working hard every day. The potential is there for us to continue the success that we have built over the past four years."
Leading the Crusaders into battle with be captains Matt Manning and Quinton Forbes, who will both line up in the backfield on offense. Manning, a senior, will also man the middle linebacker position while Forbes, a junior will play cornerback.
"Matt is a great leader who is a force on both sides of the ball be it at fullback or linebacker," said Asadorian. "He is strong and an extremely big hitter on defense while being explosive on offense. Matt is very dependable and will always make the right decision. He is battling some injury concerns right now, but we hope he will be ready for the start of the season.
"Quinton has been a starter for three years on the varsity level and had really made a leap as a player over the past off-season. His work ethic has
Joining the captains in the backfield is junior quarterback Mack Eberhardt. "Last year, Mack picked up some valuable experience on the varsity level and is familiar with our offense," said Asadorian. "He has a good arm and has increased his speed running the ball. So far, Mack has done an excellent job with his reads in the option game and has really started to grow into the position. We are very pleased with what we have seen so far."
A three-way battle is brewing for the two receiver spots as senior Coleman Hill and sophomores Drew Moore and Ben Butler are trying to state their cases. "Coleman will be a starter on the defensive side of the ball in the secondary and has shown some good athleticism on both sides of the ball and possesses good hands," said Asadorian. "Drew and Ben both have good speed and have done a nice job of blocking. We have confidence in all three and know we will get production no matter who we have line up at the receiver spot."
Tight end is a two-man battle as juniors Alex Dhionis and Joey Stewart are both seeing time. "Alex is going to start at defensive end for us and has great size and is a nice target at tight end," said Asadorian. "Joey has good hands and is putting in the work to improve their blocking. Neither Alex or Joey has a ton of experience, so they are learning on the fly and both have worked hard so far."
On the left side of the line, seniors Matt Plausse and Charles Hill are both making the move from tight end to offensive line. "Matt will start at left tackle and defensive end and has been a pleasant surprise for us," said Asadorian. "He is athletic and has displayed good footwork in his move to the tackle position. Charles will play safety as well as right guard and is very strong and has done a nice job of being aggressive with his blocking. Both Matt and Charles have embraced their move to the line in an effort to help the team and their attitudes have been outstanding."
Sophomore Ronnie Peck and senior Sam Yeadon will play right guard and right tackle respectively. "Ronnie played some fullback last year and has stepped into fulfill a need for us," said Asadorian. "He has been a bright spot for far and while he is still learning the position, the potential is there. Sam really put in a lot of work in the off-season and is a smart player who has shown an ability to get the job done."
At center, juniors Ben Lutkevich and Alex Marken will both see time. "Ben is the only offensive lineman coming back with experience from last year and will also line-up at defensive tackle," said Asadorian. "He is going to see time at a lot of different spots on the line and is very versatile. Ben is a hard worker who brings a toughness to the field. Alex is very businesslike on the field and does a great job of being in the right spot. He is steady and aggressive and will be a key for us on the line."
Filling out the starters on defense are sophomores David Fei (defensive tackle) and Joey Orlando (linebacker), senior Alex Mann (cornerback) while seniors Peter Stark and Brady McEvoy battle for the start at the other safety position. "David is very athletic for his size and will also play some offensive line for us," said Asadorian. "He is strong and still learning the sport. Joey will line up in the backfield as well and is a powerful runner and a solid tackler at the linebacker spot. Alex is strong and fast and so far has done a nice job of stepping up to the varsity level. Peter is a smart player who makes good reads while Brady is a strong hitter who plays very physical."
Also contributing this year will be junior Tristan Lynch and senior Troy Jenkins. "Tristan will play some wide receiver and cornerback and is a dependable player that possesses excellent speed," said Asadorian. "Troy will line up at all three linebacker spots and will contribute on defense throughout the year."
Can Groton-Dunstable make it five years in a row in the post-season? "I think we have a shot to make a run at the post-season, but our success will depend on how quickly we come together as a team," said Asadorian. "We have a lot of new faces that we need to step up and contribute right away. We are cautiously optimistic that we will be competitive against our schedule. The potential is definitely there to continue the success that the program has had since it was established."