By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
After dwelling on their 1-6 regular season record in 2019 for a year and a half, the Xaverian Hawks enter this unprecedented 2020-2021 football season with a chip on their shoulder. A perennial favorite to win the Catholic Conference, the Hawks will look to return to form and bring gridiron glory back to 800 Clapboardtree Street in 2021.
Leading the Hawks in 2021 will be a trio of senior co-captains: Tufts-committed quarterback, place-kicker and punter Mike Berluti, Union-committed outside linebacker and fullback Mike Gordon, and Bryant-committed tight end and middle linebacker Vince Gilchrist.
"Our goal remains the same as it does any other year, and that is to win the Catholic Conference," said Berluti when asked about his team's general mindset heading into the new season. "We want to compete day in and day out, but ultimately, we are trying to win every game we play."
Like every other high school football program across the state of Massachusetts gearing up for this unique season, the Hawks have had to overcome the difficulties of limited practice time and different-than-normal methods of training. In a normal year, the Hawks would be practicing and working out together throughout the summer months in preparation for the fall. Due to COVID, the Xaverian boys have had to limit the amount of in-person contact and meetings with one another throughout the last year and five months. The added challenge of gearing up for a football season in the dead of winter has also brought about significant adversity, but Berluti says he and his teammates could not be more ready to take the field.
"Training and preparation for the season has certainly looked different this year," said Berluti. "However, our head coach, coach [Al] Fornaro, along with the supporting cast around him of assistant coaches, have done an exceptional job thus far preparing us. We have had workout plans like every other year that he provides for us. They even took it a step further in offering Zoom meetings for us to help learn the plays and answer any questions we might have. They have really limited many of the challenges we were expected to face."
Along with Xaverian's three captains, some more names to watch for on offense for the Hawks this season are Stonehill-committed tight end Noah Canty, Mass Maritime-committed running back Thomas Garland and Franklin Pierce-committed wide out Connor Garland. A rising star in Xaverian's backfield is sophomore Michael Oates, who took over RB1 duties as a freshman last season due to injuries to upperclassmen and impressed with a two-touchdown game against Brockton. With the running game always being so paramount to Xaverian's offense, expect Oates and Thomas Garland to get their touches and put up serious numbers.
For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0.