DUXBURY, Mass. -- The old baseball adage goes that you build a team through its core; a strong center of the field from the catcher out to center field is the ticket to success.
Similarly constructed is the defense of No. 2 Duxbury football. The Dragons return all but two defensive starters from last year's Eastern Mass. Division 2A Super Bowl championship team.
That includes a host of three-year starters who patrol the middle of the field with middle linebacker Max Randall and safeties James Burke and Reilly Naton. The trio has much in common. First off, their all tackling machines. Burke (106) and Randall (102) both broke the school's record for tackles in a season as sophomores, breaking the century mark in takedowns. Another kinship the three share -- like a great number of Duxbury football players -- is that they're all members of the Dragons state championship lacrosse team. Burke (Penn State), Randall (Dartmouth) and Naton (Yale) are all D1 college lacrosse recruits.
Plus, they do everything they do with speed.
"They can really fly to the ball," Duxbury head coach Dave Maimaron said.
Sometimes even to their own detriment.
"Sometimes [Randall] is almost too quick in his reads and he'll over-pursue," Maimaron added. "If I had one criticism of him, it's that. He's able to anticipate to that extent. But he's the leader of that group with Burkey and Reilly [Naton] behind him. That's what makes the middle of our defense is just so strong."
The speed at which they play the game is a testament to the deep lines of communication shared by a defense that is confident each of its members is precisely where they need to be. It's a comfort of having played together as long as they have and it all starts with their defensive quarterback, Randall.
"It's nice to make one call and be confident everybody's going to be in the right place," the 5-foot-10 linebacker said. "Obviously, you check it over, that's your job, but deep down you know that everyone knows what they're doing."
That's made life difficult for opponents looking to run or finding passing lanes in the middle of the field. It also bears secondary benefits for the the Dragon's pass-rushers up front.
"The coverage has been pretty solid and sometimes that allows our defensive tackles to really get upfield," Burke said.
To which Naton added, "It's not like they need much time anyways. We have trust in them that they can beat their guy and get to the quarterback."
Despite all the experience and fresh off a Super Bowl season, the group realizes there's room for improvement. A Saturday morning scrimmage against No. 4 Catholic Memorial was an eye-opener, even for a defense that's seen it all. Deep down, the group still possesses a desire to improve -- even on a Super season.
"It's our third year together and we've had some good chemistry," Naton, the strong safety, said. "We have a couple new guys in the defense, but they're picking it up pretty quickly.
"Ninety-five percent of the time, I feel like we're in the right places, but it's that five percent that kills us. We have to correct that."
And, with that, they hope those adjustments will have them vying for a repeat championship come December.
"Our goals are to win our non-league games, then win our division and get back to Gillette," Burke said. "But we go play-by-play. We pride ourselves on three-and-outs and helping our team win football games. That's what we're there to do."
DUXBURY AT A GLANCE
2010 record: 13-0 (Won Eastern Mass Div. 2A Super Bowl over Concord-Carlisle)
Coach: Dave Maimaron (7h year, 63-20)
Players to watch: Matt O’Keefe, Sr. QB, 6-4, 195 lbs.; Don Webber, Sr. WR/DE, 5-11, 190; Max Randall, Sr. LB, 5-10, 195; James Burke, Sr. WR/FS, 6-0, 175; Reilly Naton, Sr. WR/SS, 6-1, 180; Gordon Acha, Sr. OG/DT, 6-4, 255; Rob Kosharek, Jr. OT/DT, 6-6, 250; Henry Buonagurio, Sr. RB/LB, 5-8, 180;
Strengths: Experience, skill on both offense and defense.
Weakness: Inexperience at running back.
Outlook: There's hard to find many glaring areas of need throughout Duxbury's roster. From returning quarterback Matt O'Keefe, to a D1-caliber wideout in Don Webber, to hulking linemen Gordon Acha and Rob Kosharek, the offense looks like it will remain on track despite losing co-starting quarterback Kane Haffey to graduation. One of area of concern, however, has developed on the injury front, as starting running back and Drexel lacrosse commit Henry Buonagurio will miss the start of the season due to a back injury. "There's no timetable set yet," Maimaron said, adding that Buonagurio's return could take some time. The opportunity will be ripe for junior Jon Hurvitz and sophomore Khai Perry to show their skills in the backfield. Hurvitz will also start at corner. Returning starting defensive end and Duke lacrosse commit Seamus Connelly adds depth to a senior-laden defense and provides a pass-rushing presence.