LONGMEADOW, Mass. -- Although Longmeadow High’s Alex Rotsko is entering his 19th season as head coach of the Lancers, this year he finds his team in unfamiliar territory. Last year, the Lancers advanced to the Division 1 Super Bowl for the 13th consecutive year, but lost to underdog West Springfield, 37-30.
“This is the first time in a long time that I can remember starting the season, and we’re not coming in as the number one team in Western Massachusetts,” Rotsko said about the upcoming year.
Previous to last season, Longmeadow had won six of the last seven Western vs. Central Mass. Super Bowls, and posted a 47-game winning streak. While most teams would consider last year’s 10-3 season a success, in Longmeadow it’s a down year.
This year’s group will have the challenge of brushing away the comparisons to the past and creating its own legacy.
“This year, we have a lot more returning starters,” Rotsko said. “So we have a chance to be better if we have the same work ethic and approach things like we did last year.”
The Lancers have a physical group of lineman on both sides of the ball led by senior co-captains Jeff Anderson and Patrick Scott. Both were selected first team All-Western Mass by The Springfield Republican last season and look for the team’s size to be a key.
“I think we have great size,” Anderson said. “If we can work hard, execute, and have proper timing, we can be the best team in the state. “
In the backfield, running backs Chris Williams and T.J. Norris return to start behind the incumbent quarterback, junior Jake Lazarus. Williams and Norris will surely ease the transition of the offense into Lazarus’ hands, as the two rushed for 1,729 yards and 25 touchdowns combined.
The players selected six senior captains (Anderson, Scott, Josh Hurwitz, Ryan Barry, Tyler Metcalf, and Joe Volk) this year, showing their confidence in their peers while taking pressure off of one of Western Massachusetts’ all-time great coaches. Rotsko has won a healthy 82.7 percent of his games while roaming the Longmeadow sidelines. And the Wing-T guru just keeps winning.
The National Football Foundation awarded Rotsko a Chapter Leader Award for the Northeast in 2009. The NFF hands out five of these awards every year to people who they think can carry out their mission of developing young leaders in the game.
“My biggest concern is that football is a good experience for the players,” Rotsko said, while reflecting on his career. “Whether a kid had great success, was accepted by his teammates or learned something from the coaching staff, I want them to take away a good experience and fond memories.”
LONGMEADOW AT A GLANCE
2009 record: 10-3, lost to West Springfield in Western Mass Super Bowl
Coach: Alex Rotsko (19th year, 163 – 34)
Players to watch: T.J. Norris, (957 yards, 11 TDs) Jr., RB/LB, 5-8, 204 lbs.; Chris Williams, (772 yards, 14 TDs) Sr., RB/LB; Jeff Anderson, Sr., LG/DT, 6-2, 255 lbs.; Pat Scott, Sr., LT/DE, 6-5, 235 lbs.; Jake Lazarus, Jr., QB, 6-3, 165 lbs.; Joe Volk, Sr., DB/RB; Josh Hurwitz, Sr., WR/DB.
Strengths: Size, running backs and depth.
Weaknesses: Inexperience, lack of consistency.
Outlook: The Lancers have definitely reloaded this offseason with a lot of young talent. On offense, Rotsko has a plethora of running backs in the backfield to execute the Wing-T offense. Three of the top four running backs return from last year, along with a strong receiving corps led by Hurwitz. Defensively, Longmeadow returns 8 of 11 starters, including All-Western Mass picks Anderson, Barry and Volk. The real challenge for the perennial ‘kings’ of Western Mass will come when they face Eastern Mass opponents Catholic Memorial and Saint John’s of Shrewsbury.