St. John's Eagles Football '07

From left, Brandon Coppola, 14, his triplet brother, Tyler, older brother Derek, 17, and other triplet Jared, will all be attending St. John's Prep this year and playing in the football program. Derek Coppola is one of the captains for the varsity team for the fall season of 2007.  » Kristen Olson, Staff Photographer

A Family Affair

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Thursday, September, 06 By Bill Kipouras
Staff writer

St. John's Prep football star Derek Coppola of North Reading has often babysat his three brothers, Tyler, Jared and Brandon.

Now he's chauffeuring them to conditioning drills at the school in preparation for the official start of preseason practice, Monday, Aug. 20. The youngsters are still yawning when Coppola reaches the Danvers parochial school at 6:20 a.m., 10 minutes before his reporting time for conditioning drills.

It's only natural that Coppola, a senior tailback who rushed for 1328 yards and 13 TDs last fall, will want to keep an eye on his brothers every day.

But they're not around the football team to have fun and kill a school vacation day or to keep their big brother company.

The siblings happen to be 14-year-old triplets who are freshmen and enrolled in the Eagles' football program. Brandon is the oldest by a minute. Then come Tyler and Jared in that order. Tyler was the heaviest at birth, 4-14; Brandon was 4-11, and Jared 4-5.

Tyler's a tailback, Brandon a wide receiver and Jared's a fullback. The trio also plays baseball, where Tyler's a catcher, Brandon a centerfielder and Jared a corner outfielder.

"They're really good athletes," Derek said, "and easy going kids who like to have fun. They especially like going to the park to play some ball. Jared's outgoing. He has a lot of energy. Brandon's the quiet one. Tyler can be outgoing. He also can be quiet and shy."

Tyler's best sport is baseball, Derek said.

"There probably isn't a (high) school in the country that can match this situation," Prep coach Jim O'Leary said. Stoneham was perhaps the last state high school to feature the Seabury triplets, who were hockey standouts.

Not only are there four Coppola brothers in the Prep program, but a sister, Brittani, 15, is on the scene every day, working as a counselor at Camp Christopher Columbus. She's a soccer and softball athlete at North Reading High. "Imagine, we can look forward to having five children in college at the same time. That can be crazy," Dawn Coppola, the mother, reacted about prospective educational expenses. Four students at the Prep would seem to be somewhat of a financial challenge.

"I've just gone back to work full-time as a systems analyst at Fidelity," Mrs. Coppola revealed. Her husband, Skip, is director of the Finance Art Technology Group in Cambridge. "I was stunned when I learned I was having triplets. I knew when I was 11 weeks pregnant," Mrs. Coppola said. "I found out during pregnancy that I was having three boys. The triplets and Brittani are only 13 months apart." The proud mother said it is a joy for the triplets to be attending the Prep with Derek.

"They're very excited. They love Derek. He's their role model, their hero. He drives them to school and they stay the afternoon, usually watching football films, until Derek's day is over as a counselor at 4:30," she said. Whoever has to wait for a ride generally studies film, Mrs. Coppola said.

The trio has competed in youth football and baseball in North Reading.

Derek said it wouldn't surprise him if the triplets were candidates for varsity playing time as sophomores. "The guys on the team are giving me the business about the four of us in the football program. They say, 'All we're going to be hearing around here for a long time is Coppola, Coppola, Coppola,'" Derek said.

Derek said he'll be glad to spend this next calendar school year at home with his brothers, since he'll be away at college for the four years after that.

The Catholic Conference all-star carries a 3.2 GPA and is talking to UMass Amherst, Hofstra, Delaware, UNH and Brown. "I'd like my family to be able to come see me play," he said. UMass Amherst appears to be his No. 1 choice.

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