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The Yankee Express

Fall football outlook is positive

The 2021 football season has started on all levels - NFL, college, and high school. Thank you Bill Belichick, New England Patriots football coach for naming Mac Jones as the starting quarterback this season. Tom Brady should have never left the Patriots and it was because of Belichick that he did, but let’s move forward with rookie Mac Jones. 
Good Luck to the Nichols College Bisons and coach Dale Olmsted who begins his 7th  season at Dudley Hill. Olmsted has a career record of 21-39 at Nichols and has improved the program in many intangible areas since his arrival in 2016. He is the only right guy for this job and is a favorite of legendary coach Mike Vendetti’s former players. Olmsted has kept Vendetti’s golden era coaches Ed Kunkel and Rene Langevin and former players part of the current Bison program with annual golf tournaments and naming awards after former great players. 
This relationship between Vendetti’s era and Olmsted’s rebuild has been a positive experience as the years unfold.Prior to Olmsted’s arrival at Nichols, the once well respected football program was on life support and an ultimate death walk due to the administrative powers closing both their eyes on the program.  It was that bad, but Olmsted has revived the program and has generated life and enthusiasm into the great tradition up on Dudley Hill. Nichols will be back to championship form soon. They are the dark horse in the CCC in 2021. The Bison have been picked to finish 3rd in the Commonwealth Coast Conference this year. 
Welcome to Bartlett
The Mike Harpin era has begun at Bartlett High School as the new football coach and the word on the new Indians coach is that the kids have already taken to the new playbook with much enthusiasm. Harpin has been around the football block and has brought over 25 years of Division One Central Mass high school football and semi-pro offense and defense to the Bartlett locker room in the way of Xs and Os. 
Bartlett has scrapped the single wing antique offense for a brand new Corvette. Sounds great, but the Corvette is only good as good as the driver meaning the Indians personnel has to fit Harpin’s Xs and Os. Bartlett needs a shot in the arm and Harpin is the right guy for the Indians. As always on this level, the Indians have to stay injury free. 
MIAA changes
The MIAA has a new realignment for your high school 2021 football season. This space has been opposed to the alignments of the MIAA since the mid 2000s and was actually on the original Central Mass. committee for an eventual statewide divisional champion. It was a bad idea and I respectively excused myself from the committee because of the Eastern Mass. bully mentality. 
Well, after a decade of a playoff format that assassinated Thanksgiving football, the MIAA is keeping the seven game regular season schedule and November playoffs the same. The only change is they realigned the bigger schools in Central Mass. to Division One instead of being in Division 3. St. John’s, Shrewsbury, and Wachusett move up to Division One and get to compete for a Division One statewide Super Bowl. That’s the only worthy crumb Central Mass. got in this whole playoff nightmare. 
Remember this is high school football in Massachusetts not Texas, Ohio, or Florida. Massachusetts is all about Thanksgiving football, not getting full scholarships to football factories. Can we say Chris Lindstrom and Sean McKeon and Alec Lindstrom? The first two made the NFL, the younger Lindstrom is on track for the same. Enjoy those three now because it is highly improbable that we will never see that scenario ever again. It is special. Becoming an NFL player from these parts is like winning the lottery. Nothing against our athletes, it just never happens. Ask any local parent who pays to send their son to any high end football team, think AAU, and if they are honest those parents will tell you their son can compete with the big boys, but realistically there are no Division One offers or a shot at the NFL In the future. Competing with the best players in the country doesn’t mean you can play consistently everyday at their level. Plain and simple. Our kids are tough and hard nosed, but the John Fitzgeralds of Southbridge, the Lindstroms and Sean McKeon are few and far between. Even the great Mark LeBlanc of Southbridge, the best high school football player in these parts in the 70s until Chris Lindstrom came along, didn’t play in the NFL. LeBlanc went to Notre Dame on a full scholarship. He uses that education today in fine fashion. That’s what it is all about. 
It was great to hear from so many readers regarding the piece on the history of Shepherd Hill coaches and former players. There was no doubt that Eddie Jarosz was the unanimous choice for being the most important football player in Shepherd Hill’s close to 50 year history. Remember the key thing to this: Shepherd Hill never was a first year football program because of Jarosz. Jarosz was the first quarterback for the Rams. Not only was he the QB but he was a charismatic leader. The Pied Piper. Eddie also had the same effect as a basketball and baseball player in the Rams’ early years. Don’t get the wrong message here about Jarosz please. His supporting cast alongside of him in those early years deserve a lot of credit. 
The coaches and players who were part of those upstart years at SH were also instrumental in the successful start. The best way to recognize everyone who was part of the beginning is to start a Hall of Fame. The recent “French River” story by close friend Rusty Oleszewski certainly made Shepherd Hill worthy of having a Hall of Fame. Come on all you Rams alumni, you deserve a Hall of Fame. Your tradition deserves better and a Hall of Fame would seal that deal.