Football camp hadn’t even started yet, and the Saugus Centurions were dealt a gut-wrenching blow: starting quarterback Brayden Giraldo tore his ACL over the summer and will miss the 2019 season.
While it was an unexpected and unpleasant surprise, the Centurions didn’t flinch. At Saugus, it’s all about the next-man-up mentality, and junior-to-be Colton Fitzgerald is ready to take the reins of the starting quarterback position.
“It’s always next man up at every position,” said Saugus head coach Jason Bornn. “In terms of the quarterback position, both Brayden and Colton have unique skill sets, they both have their strengths. With Brayden’s season-ending injury we’re now going to focus on developing Colton and utilizing his strengths.”
“With this sport and all the contact you have, it’s one play away and unfortunately Brayden got injured,” Fitzgerald said, “but I’ll step up for him and play for him this year and we’ll have a fun ride this season.”
According to Bornn, this year’s offensive line is one of the most balanced units he’s ever coached.
That will bode well for Fitzgerald, who can drop back and let it rip, but also has the ability to use his feet to escape pressure.
“This line is a great line, they all work hard. I see them in the weight room working hard every day,” Fitzgerald said. “We have a lot of guys who are experienced and I know I can trust them.”
“I think the line in general is really important and our line works extra hard knowing how hard the people in the backfield work for us,” said lineman Seth Edwards. “We don’t want them to get injured and I know they don’t want us to get injured, and knowing how hard they work every day just makes us want to work harder and they really appreciate what we do.”
Several skill players from last season graduated, but Saugus has a deep well of talent at the running back and wide receiver positions.
The Centurions will utilize a three-headed monster in the backfield consisting of Josh Bond, Julian Bornn and Cameron Warr, but other players could have opportunities to tote the rock.
All three of those running backs played on varsity last year, combining for 634 yards on 96 carries, though Bornn and Warr missed several games.
“Having guys with previous playing experience is always helpful, but it’s not a necessity,” Bornn said. “That’s part of why we do what we do as coaches, to assure that we get those guys caught up to speed regardless if they have actual game experience or not. We expect the same intensity and fundamentally sound and solid guys that we do every year.”
Fitzgerald will have several weapons out wide and in the slot to get the ball to, including two returners from last year, Azariah Beaugard and Cade Gallagher.
Both Beaugard and Gallagher will also be featured on the other side of the ball as defensive backs, a position they both played last year.
“We rely on our defense heavily, we all trust each other from left to right, everyone does their job,” Gallagher said. “We want to get off the field as much as we can so the offense can go out and do their thing.”
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Last season Beaugard logged 182 receiving yards on 11 receptions, but will look to put up bigger numbers this year as last season’s top three receivers graduated.
The soon-to-be senior slot receiver knows how significant his role on the team will be this season, but stressed the importance of a team-first attitude.
“I can help out, but it’s more of a team effort,” Beaugard said. “I’ll be there to help the younger kids know what they’re doing, but it’s a total team effort, not just me.”
Those team-first characteristics embody what Saugus football is all about, so when unfortunate injuries do occur, the Cents aren’t phased.
It’s just the next man up.
“Our second string is just as good our first string and our third string is working hard to be just as good as our second string,” Edwards said. “Everyone is ready to go.”