NEWBURYPORT – As a senior, you notice these things.
“For the first day, this is the most energy that I’ve ever seen out of everyone as a whole,” said Newburyport High three-year starter Trevor Foley after practice officially began Friday evening for coach Ben Smolski’s Clippers.
The Clippers may lack in depth or experience this fall when things heat up for real in early September. They won’t hit the turf at Triton in the opener without a sense of purpose and an accompanying drive.
Not with natural born leaders like Foley, classmate Walker Bartkiewicz and junior QB Charlie Cahalane setting the tone on a regular basis.
“Football season started the day it ended last year,” said Bartkiewicz, still a bit angry the 8-0 Thanksgiving morning loss that sealed the Clippers’ second straight 5-6 campaign.
“It feels like every other year, but now I know there’s not much after it, so go hard every day. Don’t leave anything out there, and don’t have any regrets.”
Bartkiewicz wasn’t about sending messages in the early days of practice this weekend. He chose to utilize the summer vacation to let his 40-something other teammates know what is expected in this camp.
“It was just working and getting better every day,” said the tight end/defensive end/kicker. Kick every day, run every day, go to the gym every day. I just enjoy it. It’s like hanging out with my friends, nothing different. That’s nothing out of the ordinary for me.
“Honestly, I think a lot of guys may not have worked very hard (in the offseason). But now, it’s all about how hard we work during the season that matters. The hay is in the barn.”
The No. 72-rated place-kicking prospect in the nation with a game-long 40-yard field goal on his resume, Bartkiewicz has certainly set the bar high.
First, there is the college goal. He’d like to kick at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and then there is the matter of this upcoming Cape Ann League season.
“I’m thinking 30-plus tackles, 5-plus sacks, over 1,000 yards receiving, all-conference tight end,” he added. “If you shoot for the stars, you land in the sky.”
For Foley, there may not be flashy numbers, but his mates can simply gauge his success by his heart.
Standing next to Cahalane you’d be hard-pressed to figure out which one was the center and which was the quarterback. Still, this will be the third straight season with Foley toiling in the trenches, not just snapping and blocking, but drilling opposing ball-carriers from his spot at inside linebacker.
“We’ve always been small up front, but we’re all very skilled, and we’re all very smart. We know what we are doing,” said Foley.
That didn’t stop him from cranking the iron at the newly refurbished Clipper workout room often over the summer.
“I know I’m ready. It’s not a huge senior class. We’re a very young team, driven by a bunch of good juniors,” he added. “We have a lot of potential that needs to be unlocked, and I’m excited to see what we can be.”
Along with the will of a champion, Foley relies on savvy, with more starts under his belt already than most CAL linemen will rack up in a career.
“It’s really just about experience. The whole game slows down for you on the field,” Foley said. “The experience helps you most when you’re on the field playing. You’ve been there before, you know what things look like, and you can help other guys. I’m trying to share my experiences with the younger guys, make sure they feel OK for whatever is about to come.”
One of those younger guys, the one who will have most eyes on him is Cahalane, who took over the helm a year ago at QB.
“It was harder as a sophomore, I was a little more quiet, and not as confident as I am now,” said Cahalane, who went 42 for 105 with 557 yards and six totals touchdowns (two passing, four rushing) last year for the Clippers. “I could feel the energy right as I walked on the field (Friday). I just want to win a CAL championship, have a winning record and beat Amesbury on Thanksgiving. But there’s no looking past Triton first.”
A guard on the CAL championship-winner Clipper hoop team, Cahalane was plenty busy this summer.
“I was mostly focused on football, that was my mindset, but you still have to work on basketball, too.”
He’s hoping that some of that winning mojo from the hardwood could be parlayed this fall on the gridiron. He’s one Clipper who was paying attention during the title campaign.
“Basketball showed how much of a commitment you need to win,” said Cahalane. “Also, you learn how to win and how to act when you do win. It also teaches how to lose. Losing in the playoffs teaches you how to take a loss and how to rebound and be better from it.”
While success can’t be easily predicted, especially in the wild CAL ranks, Cahalane likes what he sees here and he likes the team’s chances of breaking through.
“I think we really need to jell. There’s a lot of personalities, a lot of different friend groups, we need to bond as a team,” he said. “We can definitely do that. This is just a bunch of guys getting after it, with one common goal.”
And that attitude certainly emanates from the top.