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Promising Prognosis on the Local Gridiron

It is only the beginning of August and the Mercury still register somewhere in the mid-80s, but, for some, it is already the beginning of August, and double sessions are right around the corner for area football teams. Both Blackstone Valley Tech and Nipmuc will bring a strong nucleus of returning players to the field for 2011.
BVT is coming off a season that saw a six victory improvement over the year before. In 2009, the Beavers were 2-9. Last year, they went 8-4 and advanced to the Central Mass play-offs before losing to Narragansett. Glenn Arnold's team will have to manage without two of its key cogs on defense, shutdown cornerback Ryan Leshinski and linebacker Dan Wojner, both of whom graduated in the spring.
Most of the Beavers offense is returning, led by a strong nucleus that includes quarterback Dan Avery. The junior will have a full year at the helm under his belt and leads on offense that is also expected to feature tailback Julian Picard, who was a staple of the BVT offense in 2010. Junior fullback Pat Durkin, wide receiver Kyle Lowther, and 6'5" tight end Attila Kara are all coming back next season. On the defensive side of the ball, safety Shawn Wilkins will likely slide over to the cornerback position to fill in for Leshinski while Durkin is a strong candidate to replace Wojner at linebacker.
Nipmuc will also benefit from having a good deal of experience. The Warriors graduated only eight seniors last spring, and have most of their 2010 starters back for 2011. Nipmuc started slowly in 2010, going 1-3 through its first four games.The Warriors rattled off four straight victories to move back into playoff contention, but ended up falling just short and finished the season 5-6.
The offense figures to be anchored by a pair of seniors, quarterback Mike Smith, and running back Joe Mespelli. Nipmuc will have to replace Joe Bergstom, who anchored in offense of wine that frequently gave Smith great protection and allowed Mespelli plenty of room with which to run. Chris Reiffarth, one of Smith's top targets, also graduated in the spring.
Phil Shiloski's offense should also get tailback James Schwenderman back after missing a good chunk of 2010 with an injury. Dillon Braile, who helped fill the void in the offensive backfield and has the ability to be a shut down corner, also returns.
The two teams provided plenty of thrills for local fans last fall, including on Thanksgiving Day, a 24-16 BVT victory. With both expected to be in the hunt for the post-season this year, 2011 should prove to be an exciting year on the gridiron.




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