BILLERICA – The Shawsheen Tech Football team had put in all the work, installed their game plans and were ready for what was to be their home opener last Friday night against Triton Regional, hoping to avenge a season opening loss to Bedford the week before.
But unfortunately for the Rams, they never got that chance, with the announcement last Thursday morning, that Triton had been forced to cancel the game due to a medical condition.
In today’s world of high school sports, every team knows that there is a possibility of such a scenario every week. But that did not make it any easier for Rams coach Al Costabile and his coaching staff to let his team know that all of their hard work during the week had been for naught, and that they would not be hosting their non-league rivals for their home opener.
“It was a tough thing to do,” Costabile said of having to let his team know of the cancellation. “We found out and we knew we had to tell them bad news. You could see how disappointed they were. But there wasn’t much we could do, except start getting ready for next week (against Whittier).”
With this week’s game being canceled, the Rams coaching staff will be counting more than ever on their senior leadership help their team remain focused on the task before them with this Thursday night’s Whittier game looming.
While the future of the Rams certainly appears bright thanks to the presence of so many talented young players, the present can’t be overlooked, thanks mainly to a great core group of seniors, starting with their five senior captains, four of whom are from Wilmington.
Wilmington residents Aydan Churchill, Shane Costello, Ryan Dusablon and Dylan Timmons, along with Xavier Santiago of Billerica will be relied on heavily this season. Costabile is confident in the large group of captains leading his team this season.
“We will really be counting on these five guys to really help ensure the senior leadership of this team,” Costabile said. “Your team is only as good as you seniors. Your seniors are the heartbeat of your team. These guys will ensure that that is the case moving forward, which will be a huge plus for us. I really have confidence that they will be the heartbeat of our program.”
That heartbeat will begin with Timmons, who has yet to play this season due to injury, but should be returning the lineup soon, giving the Rams an immediate lift in all three phases of the game when he does. The running back/defensive back/kick return specialist has been a member of the varsity squad since his freshman year.
“Dylan is honestly one of the more talented players I have ever coached. He has tremendous field vision and thar is what makes him a great kick returner,” Costabile said. “He has great natural ability for playing football in open spaces. He can be successful in any aspect of the game. He has been playing varsity football since his freshman year, and there is a reason for that.”
Churchill, meanwhile, who will be looking to make an impact from his linebacker position this season, while also seeing some time at running back. Churchill might not be the biggest player on the Rams roster, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he plays.
“Aydan gets the most out of his ability, Costabile said. “People might think he is undersized to be a linebacker, but we are all so proud of him and the player he has become. He gives everything he’s got every time he is on the field. He is a great captain. He is very unselfish and is a great leader, just as Dylan is.”
Dusablon and Costello have also proven themselves to be great leaders willing to do whatever it takes to help the team. With the Rams having a need on the offensive line heading into this season, both players volunteered to switch their positions from the offensive backfield to the offensive line, while still playing defense, with Dusablon at linebacker and Costello at defensive end.
“Ryan is another player who has gotten the most out of his ability, just like Aydan,” Costabile said. “He did his time on JV, progressed his skills and jumped in wherever anyone was needed. He did whatever he could as a freshman and a sophomore to get on the radar. He will do anything for the team. He just wants to be involved. We couldn’t be prouder of the progress he has made.”
Costello has also impressed Costabile in much the same way with his willingness to do whatever it takes to help the Rams.
“When we needed help on the offensive line, he just said if that is his chance to get on the field, then he will do it,” Costabile said. “He is a hard hitter. He lines up every play and will smack with anybody. He is a great defensive player, but he also wants to be on the field to help offensively. He is very unselfish and we are very grateful for his contributions to the team. He is a great example for the younger kids and is a great captain.”
Santiago, meanwhile will be a big presence for the Rams on both the offensive and defensive lines at center and defensive tackle.
“Xavier is an emotional player and a vocal player, which is very important. Every now and then you need someone to pick things up and we are counting on X to do that for us. The offensive center is really the leader of the offensive line and we really need that this year with some young and inexperienced players on the line. We are counting on him to set the tone for us and to use his experience to guide us up front.”
Whittier up next
The Rams home opener will have to wait until next week, but they will be back on the field this Thursday night at 6:00 pm, when they travel to Haverhill to take on CAC rival Whittier in their league opener. Whittier will bring a 2-0 record into the contest, having opened their season with a 28-14 win over Medford and then following that up with a 26-7 win over Malden.
These two teams have staged some epic battles over the years, including in this past April’s “Fall 2” matchup when Whittier pulled out a 20-14 overtime victory at Cassidy Field.
“Whittier, like us, has a good mixture of youth and experience, and like us they have some great senior leadership,” Costabile said. “They are 2-0, so they will be fired up. I am sure they are feeling pretty good about themselves, and they should be. We will see what happens. I know we will be ready to play.”