BRAINTREE, Mass. -- Expectations for the 2012 season are high down in Braintree as Thayer Academy returns all but five players from last year’s team, including exciting and talented skilled position players led by senior wide receiver and defensive back Bryan Vieira and senior running back and defensive back Aaron Gilmer.
“All the players who scored touchdowns for us from last year are back,” head coach Jeff Toussaint said. “The five players we lost from last year’s team were very talented players but we return all of our skilled position players and we have a lot of offensive diversity.”
Vieira returns for his senior season as one of four quad-Captains along with Gilmer, offensive lineman Bryan Shoyer and tight end Ikenna Nwokeji. The talented wide receiver had 33 catches last season for 544 yards and seven touchdowns and Toussaint expects big things from his returning captain and all-ISL standout.
“He is not just fast but he has the ability to get up and grab the ball,” Toussaint said of Vieira. “He was a 6-8 high jumper last spring in track and he is also an excellent basketball player. He may be 6-foot-2 but he plays like he is 6-foot-8 out there. He is also one of the most competitive kids I have ever coached and his work ethic is contagious at practice.”
Competition in practice has been at an all-time high this fall as Thayer prepares for their first regular season game at Governor’s Academy this Saturday afternoon.
“There are a few positions up for grabs and the guys also want to get on the field so they have been competing. “It makes everyone better and gives them that edge out there. We have to actually temper it at times because we do not want to get anybody hurt.”
The player in charge of distributing the ball to the talented Thayer skill position players is junior quarterback Jack Becker. Becker completed 55 of 100 pass attempts last season for 844 yards and eight touchdowns. The 5-foot-10 inch signal caller from Hingham, Mass. drew the praise from his head coach as a leader who can make all the throws.
“He has an unbelievable field presence,” Toussaint said. “He has great command on the field and he is totally in charge of our offense. He knows how to change to get us out of stuff and adjust to defenses and on top of all that he has a great arm and is extremely accurate.”
THAYER ACADEMY AT A GLANCE
Coach: Jeff Toussaint (9th season, 32-32-1)
Key Returnees: Bryan Vieira, Sr. WR/DB, 6-2, 190 lbs.; Aaron Gilmer, Sr. RB/DB, 6-0, 185 lbs.; Bryan Shoyer, Sr. OL/DL, 6-1, 215 lbs.; Ikenna Nwokeji, Sr. TE/DE, 6-6, 245 lbs.; Jack Becker, Jr. QB, 5-10, 170 lbs.; Archi Jerome, Sr. WR/DB, 5-10, 175lbs.; Quentin Hall, Jr. OL/DL, 6-5, 285 lbs.; Brendan Ford, Jr. WR/DB, 6-0, 185lbs.
Strengths: Skill positions, team speed, and leadership.
Weaknesses: Experience at linebacker.
Outlook: Thayer, which last won the New England Championship and went to a Bowl game in 2005 under Toussaint, may have one of their most talented teams in recent memory. Along with the speed of Vieira, Gilmer, Jerome and others, Toussaint has a unique allotment of big and talented tight ends at his disposal in Nwokeji, junior Conor O’Brien (6-5, 185 bs,) and sophomore Brendan Muldoon (6-4, 200lbs.). “It gives us a lot of options offensively,” Toussaint said. “We can go to three or four wide and spread the field but we also can go with three tights and one wide receiver. It gives us all kinds of options, which is a nice luxury to have.” Thayer also returns all but one offensive lineman from last year’s team with junior Quentin Hall anchoring the group. “He has been starting for us since he was a freshman and I do not think you can find a better lineman in the league.” The strength and balance of the ISL this year is also something that Toussaint stressed when forecasting the 2012 season. “The league is so balanced this year that I think the winner could finish with a record of 6-2. Governor’s is at the top of that list after running the table last year and they have a lot of those kids coming back led by their incredible quarterback (Tate Jozokos). I think that we will be one of those teams in the mix if we can stay healthy.” Hard work, leadership and health are all major factors that have benefited the Thayer Academy pre-season as they prepare for regular season play this week. “The kids have played well in the pre-season and we are healthy, which is always important.” Toussaint said. “They have been incredibly dedicated this year in the offseason in the weight room, and organizing captains practices and camps. This group has done a great job in the pre-season practices and scrimmages and we are looking forward to the season.” Toussaint said.