By Dan Guttenplan
---- — He’s one of the best Little League baseball players in Amesbury history, and now he’s the lead running back for The Governor’s Academy football team.
Amesbury resident Brandon Lopez has at least a portion of the weight of the Govs’ 20-game winning streak on his shoulders heading into Saturday night’s game at St. Sebastian’s (1-1).
“It’s a lot of pressure, but I try not to think about it,” Lopez said. “I have a great team behind me and a great line in front of me. I like filling big shoes.”
Lopez, a junior, started filling big shoes as early as his Little League days in Amesbury, when, as a 12-year-old, he batted .960 with a .980 on-base percentage. His 70 mph fastball overmatched his opponents, as he allowed only two hits on the entire season before representing Amesbury as a 12-year-old All-Star in the Williamsport Tournament.
“He was one of the best Little League kids we’ve ever had in Amesbury,” said Governor’s Academy football coach Jim O’Leary, an Amesbury resident. “He must have thrown 70 miles per hour. He’s still a great pitcher here.”
Lopez started on the Govs baseball team as a freshman, splitting his time between the pitching mound and centerfield. He saw occasional action at the varsity level in football, playing special teams. By his sophomore year, Lopez was an All-Independent School League pitcher as well as a part-time starter at strong safety in football. He has played two years of junior varity basketball.
“He’s always been a great student, so he was a great match here academically,” O’Leary said. “As a three-sport guy, he came through the admissions office, interviewed, and everything matched up.”
Adding to Lopez’s comfort level on the Byfield campus was O’Leary’s hire as head football coach in 2011. Lopez played under O’Leary with the Amesbury Jets as a fourth-grader.
“I knew Coach O’Leary was a great coach,” Lopez said. “That kind of drew me here. It was pretty amazing to be a part of that first undefeated season. Then, we kept it going last year. Now, there’s pressure to repeat, and we’ve done well so far.”
With Lopez starting at strong safety and running back, the Govs are off to a 2-0 start, outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 51-0. Lopez has averaged over 7.0 yards per carry with two touchdowns, and also has an interception on defense.
“He’s always had a knack for the game,” O’Leary said. “He’s a hard-nosed kid. He’s aggressive, not afraid of anybody. He was bigger for his age when he was younger, but it kind of leveled off. Pound for pound, he’s tough as nails.”
At 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, Lopez believes his athletic career at the college level will play out on a baseball field. He has been invited to several prospect camps, and the Governor’s Academy day-student plans on attending a few next spring and summer.
“I haven’t had any scholarship offers yet, but I’ve had a lot of emails inviting me to prospect camps,” Lopez said. “I’ll do some of that for baseball to get some more looks.”
The Lopez File
Name: Brandon Lopez
School: Governor’s Academy
Position: Tailback/Strong safety
*Stats: 20 carries, 145 yards, 2 TD
* Estimated by coach Jim O’Leary