Sports Spotlight: Mike Heller, Derek Russell, and Lucas Walker

By Denebola
Published: November 2008

By Mark Garrity

The countdown on the scoreboard hits zero, and the fans sit anxiously in the bleachers waiting for the game to start.¯ It is another big game for the Lions. They are 4-6 (2-2 in the DCL) and trying to make South history by winning the DCL conference.¯

The referees at midfield signal for the captains, and three players on the Newton South football team emerge, hand in hand, to introduce themselves to the opposing team’s captains.

One of these people is senior Derek Russell. By this point in the season, every coach in the DCL knows about him.

Russell has been on the Newton South varsity football team ever since his sophomore year in high school. He had a solid season last year, but he has found even more success in his senior year, playing both starting quarterback and safety for the team.¯

In ten games this season Russell has put up some astounding numbers: 18 touchdown passes and seven touchdown runs. He credits all the success to the hard work he put in during the off-season. “I think any success comes from a lot of hard work over the summer at camps and in the weight room, Russell said.

Head Coach Ted Dalicandro has also helped Russell thrive during his career at South. “Coach has helped me learn more about the game.¯I have learned a lot about strategies and how to recognize coverages, he said.

A star on the team, Russell maintains respect for his teammates and appreciates the effort that they are putting in. “I definitely have to thank my teammates, because nobody can do it on their own. The offensive line does a great job pass blocking, the receivers catch every ball I throw at them, and when the running backs are doing well, it creates more openings for passes to be thrown.

Russell plans to play football in college, but is unsure where. One thing is for sure, if he keeps putting up these big numbers, he will definitely have some good opportunities in the future.

Beside Russell at midfield is senior Mike Heller. Although he has been injured for a great deal of his career at South, he has always been productive on the field, both as an effective player and leader on the team.

Before coming to South, Heller played on the Newton Mustangs Pop Warner football team along with teammates Russell and senior Evan Goldberg.

Heller became a varsity starter his sophomore year but tore his ACL in the second game of the season. He had surgery and recovered for his junior year, but after that season a doctor informed him that he had been playing with another torn ACL and had to get surgery yet again.

Even when sidelined with injuries, Heller has been a great role model for everyone on the team and says that South football has helped him develop as a player.

“I have become bigger, faster, and stronger since I have been at South. I have also become a smarter football player, he said. “I understand situations better and I know how to react to them. I have also developed my skills as a leader this year as a captain of the team.

Heller is unsure about his football future in college. He has not decided whether he will play varsity football at a smaller school or club football at a larger school.

There are several opportunities for him to play at some smaller Division III schools in the northeast, such as Middlebury, Bowdoin, and Wesleyan.¯ Wherever he goes to college, however, Heller wants to continue to play football. “I love the game too much for this to be the end for me.

The last captain at midfield is Lucas Walker. He is only a junior, but he is a solid offensive and defensive lineman.

The Walker family is well known to South football. Older brother Noah Walker was a star on the football team a few years ago, and now Lucas, the only junior captain, is following in his footsteps.

Walker plays right guard when the team is on offense, and defensive end on defense.¯ He has been on the varsity team ever since freshman year and has done very well throughout his career.

Walker’s favorite memory from the season was the team’s double-overtime win over Westford Academy, 27-21.¯ “They are a real powerhouse in the conference, and for us to beat them shows that we have come a long way, he said.¯

With one more year remaining in his high school career, he hopes that the team “builds on what they have accomplished this year and continue to get better.¯ Walker said that fellow junior Tevin Osborne will be a key player for the Lions next year because “he’s only going to get better.¯¯

On this day the Lions rolled over Boston Latin, although Heller did not play, Walker played a solid game on both the offensive and defensive lines, and Russell had another magnificent game.¯ He threw three touchdowns, two to junior Willie Allen and one to junior Kwame Francis-John, and also ran one in himself.

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