By Jim Sullivan
---- — For the first time in its history, the Triton football team is headed to the state tournament tonight. But to hear quarterback Brad Whitman tell it, it’s just another Friday.
“It’s good that we turned the program around,” said Whitman. “But I just want to make the most out of my senior year. I just want to leave it all out on the field.”
Leaving it all out on the field is something the 5-2 (3-2 in the CAL) Vikes have been doing ever since they torched Swampscott on the road 33-7 in Week 1. Triton will host its inaugural tournament appearance against Watertown tonight.
“It’s very exciting,” said fourth-year Vikings coach Pat Sheehan, who is marking his second playoff appearance after seeing tournament play as an assistant coach for Lynnfield in 2009. “Obviously we are beneficiaries of the new playoff season, but we earned it big-time, and we put an exclamation point on it with a big win against Masco last week. We’re all excited, and the girls soccer team is in the playoffs for the first time in their history, the boys soccer team is back in the playoffs, and the golf team finished seventh in the states. It’s a really cool time to be part of the community here.”
Starting 16 sophomores last season, the Vikes went 1-10. Now those sophomores are juniors and are joined with 10 seniors.
“This didn’t happen overnight,” said Sheehan. “(Whitman) was a very good quarterback last year on a team that was struggling and young and trying to find its way. But we knew last year that we had something special, and there isn’t a throw on the field that he can’t make. He can do things with his legs, and he is one of the toughest kids I have ever coached in my life. Starting as a freshman, he keeps getting up and he’s definitely a coach on the field. He knows the offense as well as anybody.”
The senior co-captain has put up 257 yards rushing and 1,066 passing so far this season and credits new offensive coordinator Ryan McCarthy and defensive coordinator Ted Flaherty for helping to reinvigorate the team.
“We knew we had the talent coming in from last year,” said Whitman. “We were a little bit inexperienced, but we knew that we had a lot of guys coming back. We had a feeling that we could be good, but we really weren’t sure because of our 1-10 season.”
One of the things that have made Whitman successful is his unwillingness to play favorites with his targets, spreading the wealth around to his running backs and receivers.
“In each game, a new receiver steps up,” said Whitman.”We’re not just focusing on one guy; they can’t just take one guy out of the game for us.”
“He doesn’t look for somebody,” said Sheehan. “He looks for the open guy. That’s one thing about our offense this year that makes it pretty dynamic. It’s the balance. In the Masco game, we ran for our 1,000th rushing yard and completed our 1,000th passing yard in that game, and we don’t have a No. 1 receiver.”
However it’s worked, the Vikes’ game plan will have to do against the 4-3 Red Raiders tonight.
“I think we’re confident,” said Whitman, who also gave thanks to his O-line, notably Ellsworth Rogers and Max Madden. “We really don’t know a lot about Watertown, but we have the home-field advantage here because they play on turf. We know what we need to do, and we’re looking forward to it.”
When all is said and done, Sheehan is thankful for his QB and amazed by all that he can do.
“I don’t know where he finds the time to do what he does,” Sheehan said of the National Honor Society student. “He’s a three-sport captain in basketball and baseball as well. He does two-and-a-half, three hours of homework a night and still finds time to spend time with me before school or after school watching film. He’s in the weight room during the off-season, so he must have 26 hours in his day because he gets it all done.”