Another new era in the storied history of the football program began with the first day of conditioning for the players on Monday.
Gone is an overall Tri-Valley League champion.
Gone is the controversial TVL championship tournament.
In their place this fall, the Tri-Valley League will be split up into two divisions with each division champion earning a berth in the MIAA playoffs.
Norton will be a member of the Small School Division along with Millis/Hopedale, Dover-Sherborn, Ashland and Bellingham. The Large School Division will consist of Holliston, Hopkinton, Medfield, Medway and Westwood.
The league will have two representatives in the playoffs. The Large School Division champion will go to the Division 3 Playoffs, while the Small School titlist will head to the Division 4 Playoffs.
“I love when football starts,” said Ted Currle, who began his third season as Lancer head coach on Monday. “It is the start of a new year. We have a new team and new captains and we will try to win as many games as possible this year.”
In the Tri-Valley League’s final season as a full league a year ago, Norton finished in third place with an 8-3 record. Holliston won the TVL crown with a 10-1 mark, while Medway was second at 9-2. After Norton, Westwood placed fourth with a 7-4 record.
Unfortunately, Norton’s postseason chances for this season have already been dealt a bit of a blow when standout running back Zach Schwieger decided to transfer to Attleboro High School for his senior season. Schwieger was a first team All-TVL selection a year ago, gaining 1,014 yards and scoring 15 touchdowns. He was also named the team’s defensive MVP during the Lancers’ victory on Thanksgiving Day in Bellingham.
For Schwieger, it is his third stop in as many years. He attended Bishop Feehan High in Attleboro during his freshman and sophomore years before transferring to Norton High last summer. He is now headed to Attleboro High for the upcoming academic year.
But a blend of 50 older and younger players, led by senior captains Tyler Durocher and Nick Jenkins, began to make their impressions on the Lancer coaching staff on Monday. “That number is a little down,” said Currle, who had 60 players in the program last fall. “Ideally I would like to have 75, but you only need 11 players on the field at one time. We don’t cut anyone. We keep everyone and I’m happy with the players we have.”
The players will have three days of conditioning work this week before starting full practices on Thursday, when the rest of the high school teams can begin practice.
“This week we are looking for the kids to get into football shape,” said Currle. “We want to define the roles they are going to be playing during the season. We want the kids to work on the skills they will need to play their specific positions. We also want to correct all the mistakes that will be made this week.”
The build towards the new season actually began last Friday night when the players picked up their equipment at the high school and then had a meet and greet at the Everett Leonard Complex.
“I told the kids on Friday night to come ready to work on Monday,” said Currle. “I told them that the next three weeks will be difficult, but that is what football camp is all about. I also told them to take care of their bodies.”
Norton will play South Coast Conference member Dighton-Rehoboth in a scrimmage on Saturday at 10 a.m. at the high school. The Lancers will play a second scrimmage on Friday, September 2 against Bristol-Plymouth in Taunton at 6 p.m.
Norton will open the 2011 regular season Friday, Sept. 9 by hosting Falmouth in a non-league game at Adams Field at 7 p.m. The Lancers will then travel to Reading to face Austin Prep in another non-league contest on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 11 a.m. before opening their TVL Small School Division slate by entertaining the combined team from Millis and Hopedale on Friday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. at Adams Field.