UPDATED: A Sophomore Quarterback Mature Beyond His Years
Swampscott's Jake Cassidy will play in the biggest football game of his life on Saturday when St. Mary's plays for the league championship. *Check below to see how St. Mary's did in Saturday's match-up.
He picks up yellow penalty flags thrown to the turf by refs and is the first one to check on the well being of an injured player — regardless of whether the player is on his or the opposing team.
It's not surprising that the polite soft-spoken sophomore quarterback for the St. Mary's Spartans High School football team in Lynn has interest in becoming a doctor some day.
And 16-year-old, 160-pound Jake Cassidy of Swampscott has football dreams, too — playing Div. 1 college football.
"I think any dream is possible," he says.
Whether the dream is to help sick people get well or to enjoy success leading the team on the football field, the high school sophomore realizes you do not do those things alone.
They happen through hard work and by supporting and being supported by others.
Jake is sitting at the dining room table at home with his dad, Tim, a Swampscott police officer.
In the adjoining living room sits his mom, Brenda, a Swampscott elementary school teacher. An Ohio University/Bowling Green football game plays on the television.
Right now Jake and his teammates are enjoying the reality of playing for the league championship. On Saturday, St. Mary's will square off against Archbishop Williams at Manning Field in Lynn.
Jake's mom and dad will be in the stands watching and nervous. Tim will be nervous for Jake because he knows Jake wants to do well. Brenda will be nervous because she knows football is a physical game and she does not want her son to get hurt.
Jake will be relaxed on the field.
He and his teammates have worked hard and enjoy togetherness built on shared lunches, hanging out and daily practices, he says.
It can be a challenge for a younger player to be accepted in a leadership position such as quarterback on a varsity team. But Jake says the team enjoys a family like atmosphere.
"They really treat me like I am one of their brothers," he said. "I don't know what I'd do without them."
If the team is made up of brothers, then offensive linemen Rodolpho Jimenez, a 6-foot 3-inch, 245-pound tackle, and like-sized offensive guard Andres Rodriguez are Jake's protective big brothers.
"We call them the 'Big Boys,'" he said.
The coach, Matt Durgin, calls his players his sons, because he doesn't have any sons, Jake said.
The coach gets the team fired up before the game.
"We all love him," he said.
When Jake is not at school or practice or doing homework, he likes to go downstairs at home and get inspired by watching football videos.
He watches highlights and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis giving high-energy pregame speeches to teammates.
Before St. Mary's games, while fellow teammates are listening to music, Jake will be watching Ray videos on his cell phone.
He has other pregame rituals, too.
He tapes his wrists and writes the intials P.C. on the tape. Those are the initials of his aunt, Patty Cassidy, who died of breast cancer when Jake was six.
He also writes messages, whatever he is feeling. Things like "Believe."
Empathy and politeness aren't the first things that come to mind when you think of the tough, domination-minded game of football.
But they are and have, since his Pop Warner days, been part of Jake Cassidy's make-up, says his mom.
And those are two qualities she wants to remain.
"Don't change," she says to Jake.
*Editor's Note: St. Mary's ended up winning their game, 32-6, against Archbishop Williams at Manning Field in Lynn on Saturday. This is believed to be the football team's first CCL championship since 1977. They then beat Shawsheen Tech 36-8 in the playoffs at Manning Field, advancing to the Super Bowl against Abington. The EMass championship is Saturday at 10 a.m. at Curry College.