St. John's Eagles Football '07

Prep-Peabody: Round 3

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Friday, September, 07 By Matt Jenkins
Staff writer

The talk surrounding the Peabody High football team throughout the offseason has been unusually positive for a team that suffered one of its most disappointing seasons in program history last fall.

The hiring of Peabody High teacher Dick Woodbury | after the resignation of two-year coach Paul Uva last winter | was met with immediate excitement, mainly because the 62-year-old math teacher had the backing of the players. Woodbury's decision to assemble a coaching staff built entirely with former Peabody coaches and players only solidified the sentiment of joy.

Athletes not only signed up for football, but also hit the field with a willingness to learn and a thirst for improvement.

Peabody's preseason hopes will be pressed into action tonight in the first game of the Dick Woodbury era, and it will be an arduous undertaking with Division 1 power St. John's Prep invading Coley Lee Field (7 p.m.).

St. John's enters the season with proven skill players and a huge reputation.

"We've been preparing. We've seen a couple of their scrimmages and we've got films on them from previous years," Woodbury said. "We've prepared as best as you can on paper. Now the kids have to execute the game plan."

Any game plan Peabody employs will have to focus on slowing down Derek Coppola and Scott Darby, St. John's Prep's most productive offensive players. Coppola ran for 1,371 yards last season and Darby completed 65-of-126 passes for 939 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Preparing for Peabody, on the other hand, is a little less obvious.

Entering the season with a new coach can be difficult on a team because it has to learn an entirely new system. But a short preseason also leaves very little time for opposing coaches to pick up tendencies.

"We don't have film on them. We're going in kind of blind," Prep coach Jim O'Leary said. "Their advantage is that we'll be doing what we do. We've only seen them in a scrimmage. They know us pretty well, which is a disadvantage for us."

It has been made clear, however, that Peabody wants to get back to the style of football that made it a strong program in the first place. The emphasis in Tanner-town will be on controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and establishing the run.

Peabody has been testing many different ball carriers in the preseason, but a player to watch in the backfield is senior Scott Diefenbach, who is making a transition from quarterback to running back. Junior Tom Ciulla, meanwhile, will take over the signal-calling duties after tossing four touchdown passes in limited action last year.

"That is a big issue," Woodbury said about the war in the trenches. "We're still very young with a lot of juniors starting. They did get a lot of action last year, but we have to get the young guys to play up to their potential." If there is a potential weakness with St. John's, it can be found on the offensive and defensive lines.

O'Leary isn't about to say his team is weak on either line, but he knows the new players filling holes on the lines are untested.

"Our skill is ahead of our line at this point, but I think everybody is like that," O'Leary said. "It's typical of our program. We graduate lots of kids every year. Then, the next group comes along."

Peabody's biggest problem heading into the season opener may have nothing to do with the Prep.

"The kids need to learn that they can win," Woodbury said. "We've had a couple tough seasons and I think there is some confidence missing. When they get the first win they will say, 'Okay, we can do this.' We have to get them to that point, and beating the Prep would be huge. Absolutely huge."

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