READING, Mass. -- Suffice it to say it might take a few years for Reading High to replicate its magnificent run through 2009. The Rockets put on quite the display on both sides of the ball, outscoring the opposition 441-101 in their 13-0 Super Bowl championship run, with talent like Stan Andre, Tino Perrina and James Collins leading the charges.
So how do you follow that up? Don't think about it -- "We only have to worry about Cambridge (in week one) right now," head coach John Fiore said -- but follow their lead.
And this year's bunch was certainly taking notes in the summer of 2009, when players routinely worked out twice a day and always stayed on the field as long as they can, getting their route running and timing down as much as they could before the sun set. Senior quarterback Brian Bourque, for one, isn't resting on his laurels.
"You could always find someone to throw with on the field (last season)," Bourque said. "So this past season, we tried to do the same thing. We had a great turnout in the weight room, but we just need to keep it going, see where the season lies."
Says senior right tackle Jeff Covitz, a returning Middlesex All-Star, "Nothing's handed to us around here. We've got to earn it. You've got to work hard to get there."
If the Rockets sound a little bit cliche these days, don't take it personally. That's just the M.O. around Reading these days -- one day at a time, one game at a time, with every day another chance to improve -- and they're determined to prove to the rest of the Middlesex League that there won't be any dramatic drop-off from the glory of '09.
"I think there's a tremendous amount of pride," Fiore said. "I guess here's the distinction...the kids have alot of pride, and they want to retain the championship level. But, we also have to do that by having a realistic set of goals we've got to meet along the way, and then if we take care of that business early and at each stage, and build each stage, we should end up successful in some measurement."
In Bourque, the Rockets stand a good chance of replicating some of that success. The senior is in his first season under center, running the spread, after all these years backing up the bulldozing Andre (now a freshman linebacker at UMass). The rangy, 6-foot-4 Bourque played a key role in last year's offense as a wide receiver and defensive back, and he's still got the zip around the corner to complement a surprisingly fluid and tight throwing ability. Not only can he find his spots, he can turn a loss into a first down with his speed around the edges.
"He'll run between the tackles, but we'll put him out on the edge, too," Fiore said.
READING AT A GLANCE
2009: 13-0 (9-0 Middlesex), won Division 2 Super Bowl
Coach: John Fiore (seventh year, 43-24 overall)
Players to watch: Jeff Covitz, Sr., OL/DL, 6-2, 253 lbs; Brian Bourque, Sr., QB/CB, 6-4, 177 lbs; Sean Gildea, Sr., WR/SS, 6-1, 195 lbs; Nick Scali, Sr., WR/S, 5-9, 164 lbs; Anthony Fodera, Sr., OL/DL, 5-10, 224 lbs; Zack Bates, Jr., RB/LB, 5-6, 183 lbs; Brian Kelly, Sr., TE/DL, 5-11, 192 lbs.
Strengths: Skill position players, team speed.
Weaknesses: Inexperience at offensive and defensive lines.
Outlook: The Rockets figure to slow down a bit after graduating one its most prolific offenses in years, but the philosophy remains the same. Whereas the bullish Stan Andre could get you five or six yards up the middle, newly-converted quarterback Brian Bourque is more of a classic dual-threat, able to put a soft touch on throws underneath and scramble around the corner when pressured. There's new faces in the trenches, but Fodera and Middlesex all-star Covitz are still anchoring the right side of the line and should be efficient once again. Defensively, the Rockets will remain an even front, but once again with all the new faces they will look to dictate with speed.