Pavel Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe
The post Leo Sybertz-era of West Roxbury football was supposed to be filled with frequent flyer miles for the Raiders. But it was clear after the Raiders' 20-12 season-opening loss to Ashland Friday afternoon that its flight is not ready for takeoff.
The home loss was also the first game without the venerable Sybertz at the helm in two years. The 74-year-old coach, who retired after the 2007 season only to return for the 2010 and 2011, seasons was replaced by his assistant coach, Derek Wright.
Wright has vowed to open things up more in the Raiders’ offense but miscues in the passing game early on forced Westie to ride 250-pound running back Michael Obiangwe, especially after they went down, 20-0, early in the game.
“We do have a lot more work to do on our passing game,” senior quarterback David Bertucci said, “but you can’t just go from a run first offense to a pass first offense. It’s just not going to happen without a lot of practice and that’s obviously what we need is a lot of practice.”
While Westie’s passing game wasn’t clicking early on, Ashland (2-0) couldn’t miss. Junior quarterback David Morrison tossed three TD passes in the first half, including two to senior David Lynch for 3 yards and 60 yards respectively. He also threw a TD pass to Joe Byrnes for 15 yards to go up, 20-0.
Westie (0-1) finally got on the board with 22 seconds left in the half. With Obiangwe carrying the ball on almost every play, the drive ended with his 8-yard TD run. Ashland junior Alex Christensen picked off and returned the 2-point conversion pass, but it was called back on a penalty.
“Coming into the season I knew a lot of the burden was going to be on my shoulders so I didn’t mind,”said Obiangwe, a junior. “Coming into the half coach told me he was going to put a lot on my shoulders. I expected that and I wanted that. I’m the type of guy that will carry the team.
“Although we didn’t win, we did put on a show and that’s what I was expecting.”
The highlight of that show came at the start of the second half. After Westie stalled a long Ashland drive on the 10, senior wide receiver Jovan Johnson scored on a 60-yard run down the left side of the field. The 2-point conversion run failed, leaving Westie down, 20-12.
“We got great blockers,” Johnson said. “As long as we had the blocks I knew I could score. They executed very well and kept that whole left side open for me and made it very easy for me.
“We thought it was a start and we were happy with it but we didn’t want to get too happy. You want to get happy when you’re on par with the other team and the score is actually the same or you’re ahead.”
Westie stopped Ashland on the next drive as well, even thwarting a fake punt on the 45. But in the fourth quarter Westie couldn’t muster any more points. Another overthrown pass to a wide open Johnson late in the game hurt the Raiders.
“The only thing we can do now is work on the passing game because whenever I’m in the backfield the other team knows I’m going to get the ball so the only thing we can do is work on the passing game,” Obiangwe said. “I don’t mind because I’m going to let them think one thing and do the other. I’m going to mess with their head a little bit. Although the ball comes to me every time I still make the best of it.”
Westie’s strong run game was not the only tip of the cap to Sybertz. The back of the game program had a picture of Sybertz in his trademark green mesh jersey with the caption reading, “Thank you ‘Coach Sy for more than three decades of winning football and growing young men.”
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