TEWKSBURY – Last year as a junior, Antonio Capelo saw some time as an offensive lineman. He was part of a large rotation of players, who saw action at different parts of games, or who came in to gives guys a rest or to replace someone who was injured.
After being a part of the team that advanced to the Super Bowl, Capelo, one of the five captains on this year's team, thought he may be better suited in another position.
"Last year I played tackle and this year I thought it would be best for the team if I switched over to play center," he said. "I just thought it would be a good switch for me, and for the team, especially with my size. I'm glad I did it, I had a fun year."
At 5-foot-6, 245 pounds, it would be tough for Capelo to take on the opposing big guys on the defensive front. Although he's still doing that now as the team's center before heading out to make blocks on linebackers, the new position has suited him well – but admittedly it took a few games.
In the team's second game of the season against Methuen, he had a few snaps that sailed high for chunks of loss yardage during some critical parts of the game.
"That was a tough game," he said. "I had a little bit of a banged up thumb. It was just a tough game. It was hot out. I had my thumb wrapped up and it just really didn't help me but the next game against BC High, I felt fine. Throughout that entire week (of practice leading up to the BC High game), it was crazy. I was taking so many snaps throughout every day and it got better. Once I got it down, I was fine."
Indeed he has been. In fact, he hasn't had a bad snap since, and has played remarkably well as part of a strong offensive line unit.
"Antonio is in a tough spot with snapping the ball and then trying to get up to the linebackers and stuff," said Aylward. "He's been a kid who has been a real leader in the weightroom. He worked really hard on the lifting piece and he is probably one of, if not, our strongest kid in the weight room. His big thing was to improve on his footspeed in order to get out there on the field. He did enough of that to get out there on the field and contribute for us this season.
"We put a lot on his shoulders. We have to get the guys adjusted to whatever we are seeing up front and he's had to take a leadership role that way and Robbie Kimtis also does a lot of that, but Antonio has gotten better with that and being more vocal."
Capelo has been a part of that offensive line – helping the offense score 275 points in 11 games and total almost 3,100 total yards of offense – with fellow captains Kimtis and Mike Woodford, as well as Kyle Scrooc, Anthony DeSisto, Dylan Chandler and Owen Gilligan to name a few, who are in this year's rotation.
"Most of the guys (on the offensive line) are seniors and junior Stephen Arsenault jumps in there sometimes, but we all grew up playing together," said Capelo. "We're all friends outside of football so it's good to look over (on the line) and talk to somebody who you have known for six or seven years."
Those close buddies have not only helped Capelo improve and develop as a player, but come together to win regular season and playoff victories – nine of them to be exact.
"At the beginning of the season, I just had the mentality of let's take it one game at a time and see where the season goes, but after the Methuen loss, it was really tough. We did bounce back against a really good BC High team and we just got rolling after that and got some momentum going as we got into the playoffs.
"This year, I just have a lot of memories and I think it's been a great season. I am really proud of the team. I'm thankful to the coaches and to my family at home and it was just a really good season overall."
His family at home includes his two sisters, Olivia, who is a sophomore cheerleader and lacrosse player at the high school, and eighth grader Sophia. They will be on-hand to watch his final game of his football career come Thursday, when Tewksbury hosts Wilmington for the final game at Doucette Field.
"It's a big rivalry and it should be a good game out here on Thursday," said Capelo. "I can't wait. It's going to be fun and I can't wait. It's going to be an emotional day for me. It's most likely my last game ever and it's also going to be the last game here on Doucette Field. There's going to be a lot of people here."
Those people in the stands will be watching No. 66, a kid who put his team before his own self.
"Antonio's another plugger and has worked real hard for us," said Aylward. "He's a good kid, who cares about the program, cares about his teammates and he's a good loyal kid to have in the program."