Norwood Lines Hold Key to Successful Season
By Christopher Tremblay
Legendary Green Bay Packers Football Coach Vince Lombardi said, “Football is a game of inches and inches make the champion.” The phrase ‘life is a game of inches’ refers to the reality that life can change dramatically based on things that are determined by the narrowest of margins. In terms of the football analogy, it also means that the people who are willing to fight for those extra couple of inches will usually come out ahead.
While many believe that football is won or lost on the scoreboard, it all begins with the offensive and defensive lines. If those lines don’t perform to their ability, the game is most likely in jeopardy. The Norwood Mustangs are relying on their lines on both side of the ball to do their job, allowing the rest to fall into place.
“The lines are the heart and soul of our team,” Norwood Football Coach Manny Lopes said. “These guys play with a physical attitude up front, and everything begins with the two lines.”
Playing in the Fall II season, Norwood opened their schedule five months late, but with impressive results. The Mustangs defeated Medfield 20-7, where the offense ran for 277 yards, a testament to the offensive line opening holes. Defensively, Norwood held Medfield to 73 yards of total offensive, 74 yards coming on one play.
Quarterbacks typically receive all the accolades for their play on the field, but Norwood has a talented group of linemen on both sides of the ball looking to bring the team success.
“Their play is literally everything to this team and we run the offensive behind them; as they go so does the team,” Norwood QB Jason Denehy said. “Everyone in the backfield is confident playing behind them. I’m so confident in their ability that when I need to throw, I usually have all day, but our running game has been so good behind them I don’t really need to throw all that much.”
In front of Denehy, the offensive line has continued to do their job giving him the time to throw if he so decides. Senior Justin Ring, the biggest player on the team at 6’5” and 300 lbs., is a force for the Mustangs at left tackle with senior Ryan Hsu next to him at left Guard. On the other side is right guard and senior captain Daniel Oloyde, who leads the backs through the hole, and sophomore right tackle Brady Earl. Offensive tackle is in Earl’s blood as his father also played the position. As a sophomore, Coach Lopes is very excited to see how he develops over the next two years.
In the middle of the offensive line is center Sean Quinn, whom his Coach calls the perfect center.
“He makes every line call and tells the offensive line what they are doing,” the Norwood Coach said. “He is a phenomenal athlete and a really likeable kid.”
While it is the offense that usually does the majority of the scoring on the field, it is the defense that is continuously putting the offense in the best position to do just that. Leading the defensive side of the line is Oloyde, who Lopes believes is one of the best defensive linemen in the area and has been playing like a potential ‘defensive player of the year’ candidate.
“Olo is an unbelievable athlete and literally doesn’t take a play off throughout the game; by the end he is totally gassed but gave everything he had,” Lopes said. “Defensively, he can get to the quarterback better than anyone. He’s so good at getting through their line we don’t really have to blitz all that much.”
At defensive tackle, Norwood has seniors Hsu and Michael Gasparro patrolling the field looking for unsuspecting offensive opponents.
“Gasparro is a big boy that demands a double team on just about every play and in the opposing team doing so, frees up out linebackers,” the Mustang Coach said. “Hsu, an All-World wrestler, does an unbelievable job with his hand fighting. He has definitely bought into what Defensive Line Coach Bartucca is teaching. He gets off the ball and his hands are already on the offensive player.”
Using his wrestling skills to his advantage, Hsu has been able to get into the oppositions backfield and made a great number of plays for the Norwood defense.
Rounding out the defensive is junior Matt Alves, who like Gasparro, only plays on the defensive side of the ball. Alves plays defensive tackle for the Mustangs and according to his Coach, has a motor similar to Oloyde.
“He’s very fast and can track down a player from the backside quickly,” Lopes said. “He’s a very athletic individual.”
If Norwood is to go out and finish the season on a high note, the two lines need to continue to play to their best ability.
“The guys are older and more mature, while the sophomore have stepped in to be key players,” the Mustangs quarterback said. “They’ve done a lot of work in the weight room during the off season and I firmly believe that we can rival anyone in the state. These guys have been solid, and we can rely on their each and every play.”
In what began as an unorthodox season under covid guidelines could turn out to be a very successful one for the Norwood football team.