By Alex Lippa
Nine students from Whittier Regional High will go on to play college football — the most Wildcats to do so in years.
"This is one of the most successful classes we have had in years and now they are moving on to the next level," said Kevin Bradley, head football coach and athletic director.
The class of 2012's biggest highlight was winning the Division 4 Super Bowl in 2009, when this year's seniors were sophomores. Whittier defeated East Boston 14-12 that year to bring home the title.
Here are the Whittier players and the colleges they are going on to:
Nicholas Mazzone, Division 1-AA Stetson University
Shane Surette and Cameron Dubiel, Bridgewater State College
Mike Melling, Western New England University
Pat Lawlor, Massachusetts Maritime Academy
Andrew McGrath, Nichols College
Victor Munoz, Holland College in Canada
Bryan Goulet, Anna Maria College
Rudy Ortiz, Dean College
Mazzone was recruited by several schools as a long snapper. He learned the specialty late in his junior year and performed it well enough to earn the opportunity to play at Stetson, which has a new football program. Mazzone will redshirt his first year before playing in the 2013 season.
"He worked hard and was able to get everything he wanted," Bradley said. "He's going to be flying all over the country playing football."
"I know I wanted to play in Florida somewhere and I found Stetson, which was great academically," Mazzone said. "It's going to be great playing for a new program, instead of building on tradition. I am going to help create it."
Surette was a three-sport athlete at Whittier and will play baseball and football at Bridgewater State. He moved from wide receiver to quarterback in his senior year.
"He was our most versatile player," Bradley said. "When we needed someone to play a certain position, Shane was always the guy we called on. He's a multi-talented player. Ideally he's a wide receiver, but he can play everywhere on the field."
"When I went and visited Bridgewater, everything was just really nice," Surette said. "The athletic fields really stuck out at me."
Dubiel was a rock defensively for the Wildcats. playing safety alongside Surette. He will play a combination of linebacker and safety at Bridgewater State.
"He was our Rodney Harrison of the team with the way he can hit," said Bradley, referring to the former New England Patriots great. "He also has good speed and he'll end up having a good college career."
"I talked to the coach at Bridgewater and he was very nice to me," Dubiel said. "The football field also really stood out to me."
Melling played quarterback sparsely during his career at Whittier, but moved to wide receiver and will play that position at Western New England.
"He is one of the fastest kids in the school," Bradley said. "He's an example of why you just don't learn one position. The more you know, the more opportunities you get."
"My cousin played football at Western New England and that really drew me there," Melling said. "It also had a great campus and academics."
Lawlor was a stalwart on both the offensive and defensive lines for the Wildcats. He was sorely missed by the team in a couple of tough games against Shawsheen and Greater Lawrence.
"He's been one of the best linemen we've had here," Bradley said. "A lot of teams say you have one person they can't afford to lose. We couldn't have afforded to lose Pat Lawlor, and it cost us last year."
"They were one of the only schools I looked at that had the major I wanted (marine engineering) and also provided an opportunity to play football," Lawlor said of Massachusetts Maritime.
McGrath had a stellar year at running back for the Wildcats, highlighted by a performance against Lynn Tech when he ran for 146 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries. McGrath plans to go into sports management at Nichols.
"Andrew is a very skilled athlete who can do multiple things," Bradley said. "He will find his way on the field some way on the offense. He was our big-play person. He's a tough player who will run through the middle of the line. He can also return kicks and play receiver."
"It's a great business school," McGrath said of Nichols. "I enjoyed the campus and it will be a great place for me to further my career."
Munoz is heading north of the border to play for Holland College in Canada. He will play by Canadian football rules. Many Canadian schools are recruiting students from the United States.
"Victor just loves to play football," Bradley said. "He's got a great pair of hands for a running back. He can just go out to the flats and catch the ball."
"They seemed really interested in me from the start," Munoz said of the Canadian college. "I checked it out ... and I really enjoyed it."
Goulet towers over most players, standing 6 feet, 8 inches tall and weighing 295 pounds. He was looked at by Division 1 schools, but will attend Anna Maria next year.
"He's a real big kid," Bradley said. "He started playing football his junior year, so his best years are still in front of him."
Ortiz was also looked at by Canadian schools, but will be going to Dean after receiving a better financial offer from them.
"He's a tough, fast, strong player," Bradley said. "He's going to look great on the defensive line there as he can really rush the passer."
"I feel like Dean is a good fit for me," Ortiz said. "I took a trip down there and it just felt right to me."
The nine seniors will graduate from Whittier on May 31.
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