Fedwin Vasquez is heading into Friday night with revenge on his mind.
When the gritty offensive lineman and his Raider teammates make the two-plus hour drive to Springfield Central, vengeance will be the topic du jour.
“We’re looking for revenge for sure!” said Vasquez. “We’ve been counting down the days until this game since December. This is our, ‘get-back’ game. We want to get back at Springfield Central. We owe them two wins, not one, but Friday is a good start. Ever since they beat us in the Super Bowl two years ago, then beat us again last year, we’ve been waiting to get out there against them. We couldn’t be more excited.”
Central will kick off the 2023 season with a bang on Friday, traveling to defending Division 1 state finalist Springfield Central.
That is, the same Golden Eagles team that beat the Raiders in the 2021 Division 1 state championship game (22-15) and rolled over host Central in their 2022 season-opener (38-0).
“I feel this has definitely grown into a serious rivalry,” said Vasquez, a Methuen resident. “Ever since I took the trip down to Springfield with the varsity team as a sophomore and we came out on top in that high-scoring game (67-52), then they beat us in the Super Bowl, it’s been a rivalry. For us to be able to prove ourselves against this team would really mean a lot.”
Leading the way for Central Catholic — both on the field and off — will be Vasquez, who at just 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds will anchor the Raiders’ offensive line.
“Fedwin is a returning starter at right guard, and has been a mainstay on the offensive line for us,” said first-year Central head coach John Sexton, previously the team’s offensive coordinator. “He’s had one strong practice after another and he’s really embraced a leadership role this season. He leads by example and is consistently amongst our hardest workers. We’re expecting a big season from Fedwin.”
A native of Lawrence, before moving to Methuen, Vasquez started playing football as a freshman. A year later, he was a backup guard on Central’s Division 1 finalist squad, before taking over as starting right guard last fall for the Division 1 semifinals that averaged 28.5 points per game.
While he regularly matches up against defensive linemen 80 to 100 pounds heavier than him in the rugged MVC, Vasquez backs down to no man.
“It takes a lot of technique and taking advantage of the speed you have over those bigger guys,” he said. “As a smaller linemen, you have to focus on taking the correct steps and having your hands in the right spot. You also have to be out there with a killer mindset that, no matter the size difference, you will go out there hit someone every play.”
Now in his fourth season as a guard, Vasquez has fully fallen in love with the lineman lifestyle.
“I like that, as offensive linemen, we all have to play together as one,” he said. “Like our coaches say, ‘If four guys do their job, but one messes up, that’s a tackle for loss or a sack.’ We all have to work together to succeed. Our job is to get pancake blocks and protect the quarterback. and I feel like playing guard is the most fun position to play on the line. We do the most of the pulling, and get to the second level to hit the linebackers. What isn’t fun about that?”
NORTH ANDOVER SITS, DRACUT GAME CANCELLED
North Andover will have to wait a week to open its 2023 season.
The Scarlet Knights were scheduled to face Dracut on Friday, but that game has been cancelled, it has been announced.
The Middies nearly had to call off their season due to low numbers, but instead formed a co-op with Innovation Academy of Tyngsboro. The season-opener vs. the Knights, however, was still called off.
“Obviously it’s a bummer not being able to play in the first game of your senior season,” said North Andover’s Jake O’Neil. “But we aren’t wasting any of the extra time this week. We’ve been on the field working and getting better.”
The Scarlet Knights will now open the season next Friday, hosting Beverly (6 p.m.)
“Our guys were amped to play opening week along with the rest of the state,” said Mike McNaught. “But there isn’t a sense of disappointment in our locker room. We’re making the most of the opportunity, and we can’t wait to come out hot against Beverly next week.”
Added Zach Wolinski: “Now, our main goal is focusing on ourselves, using this week of practice to install new things and compete against each other. While we could let having no game bring us down, we’re staying together. Once this week ends, we’re onto Week 1 against a strong Beverly team. We’re very excited to compete!”
METHUEN, ANDOVER READY FOR OPENERS
After a preseason filled with hype, Methuen is pumped to finally hit the field, on Friday (7 p.m.) at a tough Lincoln-Sudbury squad.
“Our team is so excited for the season to finally be here,” said star quarterback Drew Eason. “We have almost all of our guys back now from injuries and illnesses from the past few weeks, so we feel healthy and ready to go. Lincoln-Sudbury is a good team and is one of the most successful programs in Massachusetts history, and we know that we’re going to have to give it our all to win this game.”
Andover, which has been working on retooling after graduating lots of talent, will open the season at home on Friday (7 p.m.) against a gritty Shrewsbury squad.
“The team is super excited to kick off the season against Shrewsbury,” said Golden Warrior Brian Hnat. “We felt great after scrimmaging St. John’s Prep and Xaverian. Everyone can’t wait to get back under the Friday night lights!”
Added John Enman: “We have an amazing group of guys, and we are ready for the season to start. It has been great to see all the progress the team has made during the preseason. We can’t wait to get out there.”
WINDHAM LOOKS TO REBOUND
After a difficult season-opening loss to Pinkerton (34-21), Windham will look to get back on track on Saturday (2 p.m.), hosting Massachusetts foe Malden Catholic.
“We made many mistakes that ultimately cost us the game last week,” said Jaguar Kavi Patel. “We got up early Saturday, watched film, and figured out where we messed up and where we needed to improve. We’ve been putting in a lot of work and focusing on taking down Malden Catholic. I know we all want it bad.”
The athletic director at Malden Catholic is Bill Raycraft, who was Windham’s head football coach from its debut season in 2010 through 2018, going 68-23 and winning the 2014 state title.
But the Jags are focused on the present.
“Even though this week is an out-of-state game, the team wants nothing more than to win,” said Tiger An. “Championship teams need time to gel together, just like Bedford did last year, coming into playoffs as the 10th seed and finishing as state champion. We’re going to be a very strong team this year without a doubt.”