Gonk Knocks Returning for 2nd Season This Weekend

Last year, as an incoming freshman at Algonquin, my high school, I produced a Hard Knocks-style series about the Algonquin Tomahawks, known as Gonk Knocks.  I attended several practices and scrimmages, covering the team throughout the preseason.  Now, as I head into my sophomore year, I will be bringing the series back for a 2nd straight year.

Feel free to check out all six episodes from last year:

Gonk Knocks: Training Camp with the Algonquin Tomahawks

Season 1

I also be added links for this year’s episodes as they came out:

Gonk Knocks: Training Camp with the Algonquin Tomahawks

Season 2

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Featured on WCVB Boston’s A+ Segment

Recently, I was featured in a news segment known as the “A+ Report” on WCVB, Boston’s ABC affiliate:

The A+ Report is a segment about students in New England doing exceptional things in and out of school.

WCVB picked up my story after watching my Keynote speech at the Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN) Visions of Community conference.

At the conference, I told the story of how I got into sportscasting and overcame adversity after being diagnosed as autistic.

You can see some clips of the speech below:

Since the feature on WCVB, Stitch has also picked up my story.  They included a shortened version of my A+ segment as well as an article about me and my story.

I’d like to thank Kristin LaRose and FCSN, Antoinette Antonio and WCVB, and Stitch for allowing me to share my story.  I look forward to more opportunities to share my story in the future.

Gonk Knocks S2 E3 – Offense Leads the Way, Defense wins Games

In Episode 1, I showcased highlights from the pre-practice meeting on Day 1 that opened up the 2019 Algonquin Tomahawks preseason.  In Episodes 2 and 3, I focused on what happened out on the practice field.  Check out Episode 3 below:

After some defensive drills early in practice, it was time for some 7 on 7 football.

Today, most of everything clicked for the offense. All 3 QBs, senior Riley Greenwald, junior Jeff Valentine, and sophomore Coleman Hostage, had some big moments. Captain Rio Ferguson anchored the backfield with help from Ryan Connelly, Pedro Ribeiro, Ray Del Re, and others. Many receivers, both on the outside and in the slot, had great moments, including Nick Alessi, Tom Geoffrion, Jason Levin, and Derek Blanchard.

Last year, Blanchard was primarily a tight end, as he played in 2 TE sets with Chris Pacios, who has since transferred.

This year, he not only got work at tight end, but also as a wide receiver and defensive back.

Blanchard especially shined as a route runner and pass catcher.

Before practice, Blanchard was voted the third captain by his teammates.

Rafael Gutierrez also had a great catch.  As a sophomore, he has already stood out in the slot and made a name for himself, so his future with the team is bright.

As Coach said, this offense looked pretty good today. But the way to win football games is with good blocking, good tackling, and good defense, skills the team will continue to work at throughout camp.

I caught up with Coach Taylor Allen once more after practice.

It was a strong practice for the T-Hawks, but this is only the beginning. Tomorrow morning, the team will have to get there early for practice and team photos before a day of rest on Sunday.

Gonk Knocks: Training Camp with the Algonquin Tomahawks

Season 2

Upcoming Key Dates for the Tomahawks Football Team

  • Monday, 8/19 @ 6 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #3
  • Tuesday, 8/20 @ 6 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #4
  • Wednesday, 8/21 @ 1 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #5
  • Thursday, 8/22 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #6 (First in full pads)
  • Friday, 8/23 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #7
  • Saturday, 8/24 @ 10 a.m.: Scrimmage #1 @Clinton High School vs. Clinton
  • Monday, 8/26 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #8
  • Friday, 8/30 @ 6 p.m.: Scrimmage #2 at Home vs. Franklin
  • Friday, 9/13 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #1 @Doherty
  • Friday, 9/20 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #2 at Home vs. Shepherd Hill

Gonk Knocks S2 E2 – Our Season Starts Today

In Episode 1, I showcased highlights from the pre-practice meeting on Day 1 that opened up the 2019 Algonquin Tomahawks preseason.  In Episodes 2 and 3, I focused on what happened out on the practice field.  Check out Episode 2 below:

 

After an important meeting that got the whole team on the same page and gave them some knowledge about the modified playbook, it was time to get out on the practice field.

The team started practice all together, rotating between six stations with different basic drills.

After this, they split up into defensive positional groups, and the freshman team went off to the side for their own practice.

Today was the first time freshmen picked up an Algonquin Playbook, so it took time for them to learn the basic plays.

However, once they caught on, they looked pretty impressive.

Similarly, the defensive backs took time to succeed, as many people moved to the position as a result of Sam Crain’s departure and the slightly modified defense Algonquin’s implementing. With Crain leaving, there’s an important starting job open, and the next man up will have to earn it.

Another 2019 graduate, Jack Branson, showed up to practice to give the players a pep talk.

While the DBs kept working, the rest of the defense got together to practice some of the different blitzes in the playbook.

It wasn’t easy to get used to the different plays, but the linemen caught on quickly, and line coach Andy Brooks likes what he saw after returning to coaching for the first time in 3 years.

The linebackers shined in their own drills as well.

While the linemen stuck together, the team began some 7 on 7 plays.

Gonk Knocks: Training Camp with the Algonquin Tomahawks

Season 2

Upcoming Key Dates for the Tomahawks Football Team

  • Monday, 8/19 @ 6 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #3
  • Tuesday, 8/20 @ 6 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #4
  • Wednesday, 8/21 @ 1 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #5
  • Thursday, 8/22 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #6 (First in full pads)
  • Friday, 8/23 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #7
  • Saturday, 8/24 @ 10 a.m.: Scrimmage #1 @Clinton High School vs. Clinton
  • Monday, 8/26 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #8
  • Friday, 8/30 @ 6 p.m.: Scrimmage #2 at Home vs. Franklin
  • Friday, 9/13 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #1 @Doherty
  • Friday, 9/20 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #2 at Home vs. Shepherd Hill

Gonk Knocks S2 E1 – We All We Got, We All We Need

I know, it’s been a while.  Since I last posted, I’ve received a variety of experiences thanks to John Rooke and the Dean College sportscasting camp, including an appearance on Patriots.com radio.  I was living the busy life of a sportscaster, so I didn’t have much time to post on here.  Last week, I was recovering from wisdom tooth surgery.  But now, I’m back, and so is Algonquin football.

It all began yesterday with a team meeting and the first official practice of the preseason.  Check out the best moments from the meeting and more in the first Season 2 episode of Gonk Knocks:

Football is back, and here at Algonquin, it all started today. The Algonquin Tomahawks had a busy day ahead of them, including team meetings and the first official practice of the 2019 preseason.

Before the meeting, I caught up with Head Coach Taylor Allen. He filled me in about some things to watch for at practice and the team’s goals and motto for the season.

Two of this year’s captains, senior slot receiver and strong safety Nick Alessi, and junior linebacker and full back Rio Ferguson, were selected in advance by Coach Allen. It’s rare to see a junior as the team captain, but Coach Allen trusts Rio, who’s been here since freshman year, to help lead the team.

Rio proved Coach Allen right, leading the way in blitzes and for the run game.

Alessi also shined in multiple roles. He had a great catch in 7 on 7s, beating out Eli Khasabo on his route as he played the slot. He also tried his hand at playing running back.

The final captain would be selected by the team before practice.

Coach Allen started off the meeting by making the team’s goals clear and uniting the team around these goals.

After this, he went over the offensive formula for success and philosophy.

Later on, he handed it over to his brother, DC Mark Allen for some defensive stats, values, and key plays.  Mark emphasizes controlled aggression when coaching.

After this, it was time to get to work.

Upcoming Key Dates for the Tomahawks Football Team

  • Monday, 8/19 @ 6 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #3
  • Tuesday, 8/20 @ 6 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #4
  • Wednesday, 8/21 @ 1 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #5
  • Thursday, 8/22 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #6 (First in full pads)
  • Friday, 8/23 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #7
  • Saturday, 8/24 @ 10 a.m.: Scrimmage #1 @Clinton High School vs. Clinton
  • Monday, 8/26 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #8
  • Friday, 8/30 @ 6 p.m.: Scrimmage #2 at Home vs. Franklin
  • Friday, 9/13 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #1 @Doherty
  • Friday, 9/20 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #2 at Home vs. Shepherd Hill

 

2019 NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC West Edition

Training camp is here, and it’s time for my final batch of NFL Draft Report Cards.  Last time, I reviewed the AFC South, where several teams struggled.  But the AFC West had some teams with much better draft classes.  Who are they?  Keep reading to see my grade for each pick as well as my final grades.  As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.

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NFL Draft Report Cards 2019

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

  Denver Broncos

Overall Grade: A-

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

The Broncos put together one of the league’s best draft classes. The trade down in Round 1 was very smart, as Fant fills a huge need and was an amazing fit. They added a tackle (Risner) in Round 2, and if he can make a successful move to guard, he could really help the team. Lock was a bargain as well, and Dre’Mont Jones will fill another big need for Denver. The Broncos could’ve added more secondary help and another WR, but every pick had a purpose, and with just six picks, they filled a good amount of needs.

 Los Angeles Chargers

Overall Grade: B+

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

The Chargers started this draft off very strong.  But they made some confusing choices later on.  They didn’t have too many needs to fill, and they filled them early.  Tillery and Adderley were great adds, and Pipkins was a reach but should still compete for a tackle job and have success.  Later on though, they reached a bit on several picks.  It was smart to take a QB, but Round 5 is too early for Stick.  They also reached for Tranquill, Broughton, and Egbule.  Still, LA filled their needs earlier and more efficiently than any other team, making for a strong draft class where the later rounds didn’t matter nearly as much.

 Kansas City Chiefs

Overall Grade: B-

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

The Chiefs reaches on a handful of these selections, but they did filled a decent amount of needs.  They boosted the interior o-line.  They drafted extra RB and WR help.  They even added a safety with their first pick.  But even with Frank Clark on the roster, the Chiefs’ biggest need for an edge rusher, and that need has yet to be filled.  That fact, alongside the lack of interior o-line depth and the numerous reaches the Chiefs made, brings down KC’s grade.

  Oakland Raiders

Overall Grade: B-

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

The Raiders went into this draft with a handful of defensive holes and a few offensive holes as well.  They filled most of these, but they took players that they could’ve drafted in later rounds.  If they had traded down a couple times, they would likely have more help at guard and defensive tackle than they got, and they’d get some of their targets at better values.  Clelin Ferrell could’ve been taken at #24 or #27.  They took him at #4.  The Raiders did have some really good picks as well though.  I liked the choices of Trayvon Mullen, Foster Moreau, and Hunter Renfrow.  But they could have done a better job at managing their draft picks and focused more on value.


 

That’s all for my 2019 NFL Draft Report Cards.  Stay tuned for more NFL coverage as the regular season looms.

Sox Treat Me to Behind the Scenes Day at Fenway

On Tuesday July 16th, the Red Sox invited me to job shadow the Red Sox public relations (PR) team before the game for a behind the scenes Fenway experience.  I was able to interact with several members of the PR staff for the Red Sox.  The PR staff is in charge of connecting the media to their sources: players, coaches, general managers, and more.  As an aspiring professional sports reporter, shadowing the PR staff gave me an interesting point of view.  The PR team is involved with nearly everything around the ballpark.

When I arrived at Fenway, I ran into NESN sideline reporter Jahmai Webster:

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Abby Murphy, a member of the PR staff who was key to making my visit possible, met me and my dad at Gate D.  Abby introduced me to Kevin Doyle, who passes out game notes across the park.  Kevin gives them to the media for their broadcasts and articles.  He also delivers them to the coaches and players for game preparation.  He even is responsible for delivering them to the suites of team owners and President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski.

Today he brought me along as he passed these out.  First, we went to the NESN studio outside Fenway, where I met Tom Caron of NESN.  He had walked up to the Fenway gates to save Kevin a trip.

After that, we visited the Red Sox and Blue Jays clubhouses.  Kevin dropped off a few in the locker room and quickly stopped by the managers’ offices to drop one off.  I learned later that the quick drop off is intentional as the PR staff tries to avoid disrupting clubhouse activity.  They also allow players privacy by avoiding photo and video during certain hours.  It was cool to stop by there though, as I had never even seen the clubhouse doors before.

Next stop after a quick elevator ride was Fenway’s baseball operations offices.  Dave Dombrowski’s suite was next to these offices, closest to the field.  Dombrowski was busy but Kevin dropped the game notes off at his door in case he needed them later.  Kevin and I also went inside Sam Kennedy’s suite to drop off game notes for the team owners.  Kennedy wasn’t there but the door was open and a member of the Red Sox staff was preparing food already for Kennedy and his guests.

Kevin and I also stopped by the legends suite where one former Red Sox player is hosted every night.  For this game, it was two time AL pennant winner and former outfielder Fred Lynn that would be hosted.

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The last stop was the press box where game notes were printed and lineups had just been released.  This was only the beginning of my experience though.  After spending some time with Kevin, I headed downstairs and joined Kyle Montemagno for Alex Cora’s pregame press conference.

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Cora discussed Cashner’s debut, Chris Sale’s struggles, and the status of injured players Nathan Eovaldi, Mitch Moreland, and Brian Johnson among other things.  To see the press conference live and sit with all the members of the press was surreal.  Until today, I watched the coverage on NESN but this made me feel like an official press member.

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Once the Cora press conference was over Kyle took me out on the field to watch batting practice.   Though a lot of media members showed up for the press conference, many went back up to the press box to write pregame articles based on Cora’s comments as opposed to going outside for batting practice.  That allowed me to have a great view near home plate to watch the Sox players.

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I spent a little bit of time at the credential pick-up booth during peak pick-up time.  Credentials reserved passes for the game for media members as well as friends of players and staff.  The Blue Jays had just announced that Jacob Waguespack would be called up to start, so at the last minute, several members of the Waguespack family hurried over to the game.  Many people who didn’t have reserved passes came to the credential booth thinking they could pick up tickets there.  They told me this happens many times throughout the day.

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Towards the end of my afternoon, I joined Kyle to take a closer look at the game notes, which he helped create, and then we stopped by the press box to join the rest of the Red Sox media.

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Check out this short video from outside the press box where I had the opportunity to do a live Fenway “stand-up” to recap my experience:

After this incredible afternoon, the Red Sox made sure I was able to enjoy the game with my entire family, including my cousins and grandparents who had just flown up from Florida on game day.

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I’d like to thank Abby Murphy, Chris Cotillo, Kevin Doyle, Felicia Rutigliano, Kevin Hausmann, Kyle Montemagno, and the rest of the Red Sox public relations staff for helping set up this unbelievable experience for me, one I will never forget!

 

MLB Midseason Report: Power Rankings, Home Run Derby Picks

The All Star Break is here, and we’re about halfway through baseball season.  Today, the All Star festivities begin with the Home Run Derby, where 8 HR hitters go head to head in a single elimination bracket.  Christian Yelich was pulled out due to an injury, but Matt Chapman will be replacing him.  Check out my picks below:

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I have Peter Alonso winning it all.  The rookie has hit 30 HR and has an OPS over 1.000, putting together a strong campaign for the NL Rookie of the Year.  I think he will face promising AL rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the final, who will upset Matt Chapman and Alex Bregman in the Derby.

I’ve also included my mid-season power rankings.  Check them out:

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Biggest Jump: Oakland Athletics (+15)

Biggest Drop: New York Mets (-9)

Stay tuned for more MLB articles soon, and enjoy the All Star Week.