Defending champ Concord goes back to work
Rob Law, who threw for a school-record 1,623 yards last season, is back at quarterback for D-I champion Concord.
(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
Leo Sudieh, who averaged nearly 10 yards per carry last year, will be Concord's featured back this fall.
(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
Late last November, after completing the most perfect season in the 116-year history of Concord High football – a 12-0 state championship – the Crimson Tide took a brief break to celebrate the accomplishment.
Then, they went back to work.
No time for resting on laurels. Not when you’ve graduated 77 percent of your touchdown production. Not when you’ve graduated four out of five starting offensive linemen. And certainly not when you’re wearing the target of state champion on your crimson uniforms.
“I’m hoping we’re going to be ready for that,” said Concord Coach Eric Brown, who was back at work in early January preparing for the Tide’s title defense. “We know it going into it, that we have targets on our backs.
“A lot of our seniors, they played behind a really great senior class last year, but now they’re getting their opportunity.”
One player who didn’t have to bide his time last year was quarterback Rob Law, now a senior and the linchpin to Concord’s spread offense. Law was nearly flawless last fall, completing 100 of 149 passes for 1,623 yards and 17 touchdowns … and he didn’t throw a single interception. A threat running the ball, as well, Law ran for three TDs and averaged 3.5 yards per carry.
“He’s everything to our offense,” Brown said. “There are not a lot of things I can tell him; he knows our offense inside and out. … His calm temperament is good for our team. He’s as competitive as the next guy, but just the way he carries himself is good for us.”
“We’re looking pretty good so far,” said Law, one of three captains this year along with Wyatt LaBombard and Will Scharlotte. “We’re still getting to know the plays, still putting some new stuff in, but the skill positions and line are both filled pretty well and we’re looking to get better this week so we’ll be set on Friday.”
Law’s top target and his leading rusher have graduated, but he’s still got plenty of tools. Leo Sudieh, who averaged nearly 10 yards per carry as a sophomore while running for 821 yards and 11 TDs, becomes the feature back, with seniors Josh Ames and Tyler Martel the slot receivers and seniors Jacob Szulc (the veteran of the group) and Jayln Stone split out wide. Players like Kevin Condict (split end), Chris Cummings (slot back, fullback in Wing-T), Kevin Suarez and George Tarwo will all likely see time in the backfield, as well, with Jake Lewis serving as Law’s understudy at QB.
“Leo’s solid. He’s put in a lot of good work in the offseason,” Brown said. “It’s a different role for him this year, he’s got to be more the downhill guy this year. He just needs to learn to be a little more patient and confident in his line.”
That line has a whole new look, with only LaBombard returning to the starting five at left guard. He’s joined by Ben Nelson at center, Erik Harrington at left guard, Scharlotte at right guard and Jake O’Connell at right tackle on a line that averages about 230 pounds.
“We’ve got a lot of new faces on the line, but they’re picking it up pretty fast,” LaBombard said. “We’re still improving. There’s always room to get better.”
With LaBombard at defensive tackle and Kris Skinner at nose guard, the Tide returns two-thirds of its dominant defensive line, with Jon Contreras, Harrington and Tom O’Brien joining the mix opposite LaBombard.
The experience drops off in the linebacking corps, where Scharlotte, at inside linebacker, is the lone returning starter. He’s starting alongside Tarwo, a sophomore, with Nelson and Chris McAllister spelling them. Ames and Dan Lawrence will start on the outside, with O’Brien and Cummings rotating in.
“We’ve got three new kids in there,” Scharlotte said. “We were noticing there’s a lot of not knowing what we’re doing on a play. But you look at us on Day 1 and you look at us now, and it’s only three weeks later, but you can see how much we’ve improved. I think that’s it’s going to take every day in practice for us to get to where we need to be, but we certainly have smart enough kids and athletic enough kids that we’ll be okay.”
The defensive secondary is relatively untested, as well, with Sudieh and Stone at cornerback and Martel and Szulc at safety. Connor Kukla and Law will filter into that rotation, too.
Condict will be kicking again this year, with Dylan Thompson on loan from the soccer team providing a boot, as well.
“We’ve got some experience, but not a lot of it,” Brown said. “We’ve got to keep it in perspective. We’re pretty much a senior team, but we’re inexperienced. If we play together as a team and embrace the team concept defensively – everybody doing their jobs, not worrying about who’s making the tackle – we’ll be okay.”
“We have the personnel to be fine, we have the size and the strength that we need, it’s about repping it and getting it right during practice that’s going to make the difference for us,” said Scharlotte, one of at least seven players who’ll be playing significant minutes on both sides of the ball. “It’s certainly a new experience because we have to be in a lot better shape because we’re going both ways, we’re not as deep as we were. But at the same time it’s kind of encouraging us to work harder in practice because you realize you’re going to have to play both ways, and come game day it’s fun to never have to leave the field.”
The Tide was the last team on the field at the end of last season, but with so many changes, is repeating a possibility?
“We’re just taking it week by week right now. I haven’t even started thinking about that late in the season,” Law said. “Solely focusing on Goffstown. If we keep working hard, get in better shape, and we want it bad enough, then I think we’ll be able to do what we want to do this season.”
(Sandy Smith can be reached at 369-3339 or email@example.com.)