Menapace has 'filled void' left by Burke
By Sean Jacquet/ Sports Correspondent
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Entering Year 2 of the rebuilding project, the Holliston football team figured to be strong at every position. The only position to be filled was at running back, where Daily News all-star and 1,400-yard rusher John Burke had left a huge hole when he took his game to Curry College.
A number of candidates would compete for the job, but the eventual starter was still a question mark.
Consider it a question mark no longer.
After spending last season as a backup receiver and a part-time kicker, junior tailback Dave Menapace has emerged as the feature back, becoming one of the most productive players on one of the Tri-Valley League's most prolific offenses.
Starting alongside the likes of Tyler Parrino, Chris Valiant, Zach Rodgers, and Mike Shilalie, all of whom will likey be TVL all-star selections, Menapace has provided the steady ground game the Panthers weren't sure they could count on.
"He's definitely filled a large void," says Holliston coach Todd Kiley. "With John leaving we weren't sure whether he'd be able to replace him, and we knew it would be unreasonable to ask him to do that, but he's definitely exceeded expectations."
And if not for an injuries to various players during training camp, Menapace would never have been given the opportunity.
"All this feels good, considering that I wouldn't even have been asked if a couple kids hadn't gotten hurt in camp," says Menapace. "If not for that, I'd still be a backup receiver."
But it' not as though he hasn't earned the starting job. The junior has proven he'l gladly do what it takes to win. Over the summer, Menapace was a fixture in the weight room, packing on 15 pounds of muscle. So deep is his commitment to winning that he developed frostbite from over-icing while rehabbing an ankle injury. But all that means is that he wasn' 100 percent.
"He was the hardest worker in the offseason," says Kiley. "He was running and lifting religiously, and as time went on, his confidence grew."
Looking at his numbers, it' not hard to see why.
Menapace has crested the century mark three times this year, and is averaging nearly 100 yards a game. Overall, he has scored seven touchdowns, which would put him on pace for 13 touchdowns and just over 1,000 yards.
And to think he may have spent time languishing as a backup.
Combining speed, quickness, and vision, Menapace has become the ideal back for Kiley's high-octane offense. Luckily for the Panthers, Menapace and the tailback position have become the perfect match.
"He has great vision," says Kiley. "It's pretty clear that running back is a good fit for him. He's a natural and he's improving with each carry. He's only going to get better. Sometimes as a coach, you don't know if a player is going to work out, but he's definitely done the job."
Considered by Kiley to be the "consummate team player", Menapace is quick to credit his teammates, particularly bruising fullback and classmate Zach Rodgers. Together, they comprise one of the TVL's most productive backfield tandems.
"Only once or twice has a hole been clogged by a linebacker or lineman," says Menapace. "There are always huge holes and the blocks are always where they're supposed to be. And Zach Rodgers is the best blocker on the team. Half, if not all, my touchdowns are because of him."
And the Panthers will need the Menapace-Rodgers connection to be working at full tilt heading into Friday night's showdown with unbeaten Medfield. The Warriors are 6-0 (4-0 TVL), and are lodged in a three-way tie at the top of the TVL with Westwood and Holliston. For Menapace and Kiley, this is unquestionably the most important game of their Panther tenure, and the importance is certainly not lost on Menapace.
"We have the best teams in the league coming up with Medfield, Dover-Sherborn and Westwood," explains Menapace. "We want to win those games, and I'm going to do everything I can to make that happen."
Which also includes subjugating his role in the offense. In the Panthers' 34-21 win over Hopkinton (Holliston first over the Hillers since 1990), Menapace shuffled between receiver and tailback, serving more as a decoy than a feature back. The move not only highlighted his versatility, but also his unselfishness.
And if you needed further confirmation regarding Menapace's team-first attitude, you need only to listen to his coach.
"He's definitely a team guy," says Kiley. "And he'll gladly stick to the game plan even if it means getting fewer touches. He's wants it bad and he'll do everything it takes to win."
The only question here: Can Menapace and the Panthers do what it takes to beat the Warriors Friday night?