With its brand-new, bright green field turf literally sparkling in the sunshine, Dorchester High opened its football training camp Monday morning.
The $2.8 million renovation to Roberts Field, which abuts the school, will allow Dorchester to play its first home football games in school history. The Bears, who previously played home games at White Stadium, will christen the new field Sept. 20 when they host rival Latin Academy at 6 p.m.
The upgrade to the 225,000-square-foot complex includes a new red scoreboard and stadium lights for the football, soccer, and baseball fields. There are also five rows of shiny new bleachers lining one sideline of the football field.
“The field is beautiful, it’s really a nice facility,” said Dorchester coach Rich Moran. “This is the first time in history [we will have a home game] so this is a very important year in Dorchester sports, not just football but baseball and just the whole athletic process.”
The new field comes on the heels of a dream season for Dorchester.
A year after winning only four games, the Bears went 10-1 last fall, losing to Upper Cape Cod in the school’s first Super Bowl berth since 1989.
But the first thing Moran told his players Monday was that last year was last year.
“Last year is gone,” he said. “We are done and our whole goal now is, how quickly can we become a family? How quickly can we truly become a team?
"The success last year was because of the team aspect. We are a very, very good team. The kids play well offensively and defensively and special teams. I told them this morning, how quickly can you do it?”
The Bears graduated only five or six seniors, but making a return trip to the Super Bowl will be even harder this year with the MIAA’s new statewide playoff system in place. While last year they had an automatic bid to the Division 5 Super Bowl because they won the Boston City League South, this year they would have to win two playoff games before qualifying for the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.
Senior running back Hakim Harris acknowledged that returning to the Super Bowl will be more difficult, but he said it’s a process nonetheless.
“First we have to beat our conference and then we have to win the playoffs,” he said. “Playoffs then Super Bowl. So it’s all a process.”
Harris is one of the running backs who will try to make up for losing the speed of senior running back Robinson Cyprien.
“We worked hard in the offseason, we worked very hard,” Harris said. “Speed can always be replaced. Just because one man is gone doesn’t mean we won’t be the same. We could be better, we could be the same, we could actually be worse this year, but I think we’ll be better this year.”
They will get a good indicator when they play Madison Park Sept. 13 in the season opener for both squads. Last year, Dorchester defeated Madison Park in the final regular-season game. The game was dubbed the “unofficial city championship,” since Dorchester won the South Division and the Cardinals won the North.
“That game is going to be amazing,” senior quarterback Demetrius Leary said. “The first game of the season, there are going to be butterflies. I know everyone will have butterflies because it’s the first game but as soon as the ball is kicked off, everybody will be fired up.”
The Madison Park game will be followed by Dorchester’s first-ever home opener against Latin Academy. But first Dorchester has more than 30 days to practice on its new field, which hopefully will be enough time for construction crews to remove tarps and mounds of dirt surrounding it, along with their giant yellow hydraulic excavators.
“They are going to be tired today but they are loving it,” Moran said of his players. “It’s their field. It’s an important piece to success for Dorchester. Not just for the high school but for the community.
“It’s going to be great, it’s going to be exciting. It’s what high school football is all about.”
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