The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 11, 2009

CCHS football team breaks three-decade drought to seize championship

“This was a really fun year,” says Concord-Carlisle Patriots Coach Mike Robichaud of his first season as varsity football head coach. “The most gratifying piece was to see day after day, week after week, the players come together as a team.” The Patriots this year were Dual County League Divisional champions for the first time since 1978 (losing in the first round playoffs against Masconomet on December 1.) Robichaud points to hard work and self-confidence as the keys to the team’s knocking down seven wins in a row after starting the season with losses in three of their first four games. Carlisle seniors on the team included Eric DeBruzzi, Kevin Learned, Dillon Mariano and David Reed.

Concord-Carlisle wins the Thanksgiving game against Bedford, 25-7, and captures the Dual County League Small Divisional championship. Patriot’s quarterback Peter George is #12. (Photo by Eric Johnson)

The Patriots began the year with only two returning starters and no high expectation of a championship. Robichaud established three goals early on: to recognize “We are a team and work together;” to work to improve; and to “be competitive in every area, not only in games, but in the weight room and in school.” He believed that if the team attended to those goals, winning would take care of itself.

“Early in the season our lack of experience got in the way of stringing wins,” says the coach. The three early losses were by a total of only seven points, so, “There was always the feeling we could have won.” He adds, “We weren’t quite ready, but we weren’t throwing in the towel.”

Ironically, the season’s turning point may have been a disappointing loss. When Acton-Boxboro pulled out a 14 to 13 win against CCHS in the final minute, the Patriots were downcast but not discouraged. “Acton-Boxboro is the gold standard as far as we’re concerned,” says Robichaud. Coming so close against this powerhouse, “The players knew, we can do this.” This was followed by a win against Westford in the last minute, and together, “these were huge confidence boosts.”

Robichaud’s pride in his team is evident as he describes the turnaround. The early tough competitions allowed the players to become “battle tested pretty quickly,“ he says. “There were plays we’d have liked to have back and calls I made I’d like to do differently.” But along the way, the team and their coach had learned and developed.

Senior football players and cheerleaders were honored on Thanksgiving Eve. Football players, all seniors from Carlisle, are (left to right) Kevin Learned, David Reed, Eric DeBruzzi and Dillon Mariano. Senior Cheerleaders from Carlisle are Nikki Howard (left) and Julie Manganella. (Missing is Katie Samargya.) (Photo by Ellen Huber)

He credits the leadership of the seniors, particularly captains John Bumpus and Andy Mangin. “They kept the team focused on what was important,” says Robichaud. “It was great to see that focus and hard work pay off.”

Although this is his first year as head coach, Robichaud has been on the CCHS athletic staff for nine years in various capacities, including freshman and JV football coach. Beyond that, he has a long history with the Patriots. His father, Al Robichaud, coached the team from 1972 to 1990, leading CCHS to their only Super Bowl championship in 1978. Mike played for the Patriots during his father’s coaching years and graduated from CCHS in 1982.

Looking forward, Robichaud is optimistic about prospects for 2010. “We have ten returning starters, five times as many as last year. We have the pieces we can build on, and that’s really encouraging.”

He notes that this year’s graduating seniors comprise the first class of kids to have gone through the whole Pop Warner program, started in 2004. “They’ve played together since they were 11 or 12. That’s a huge, huge benefit” compared to the days when some members of the freshman team “hadn’t ever put a helmet on before.”

The 15 departing seniors will leave their mark. “They passed on their work ethic to the younger guys,” says Robichaud. “They did a good job leading the team, and everyone made a great contribution.”

Carlisle senior David Reed agrees, “We put in a lot of hard work in the off season, and acted as a team. That was a great part of our success.” ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito