By Joshua Boyd/Wicked Local Swampscott
Several football players, especially those around the Northeast-10 Conference, have more grass and turf stains on their jerseys now because of Nahant's Jon Poth.
Poth is the leading defensive player for Stonehill College's football team this season, registering 44 solo tackles and 37 assists for 81 total. And this is all coming from a 6-foot-2-inch, 190-pound sophomore who cut his teeth from 2005 through 2008 with the Swampscott High Big Blue.
"I think it's exciting," said Poth, a one-time Northeastern Conference All-Star as a linebacker. "I'm really happy to get an opportunity like this."
"Jon was an excellent player, a three-year starter in our system," said Swampscott football coach Steve Dembowski. "He only picked up football in high school, but every year, he got better."
Poth is second overall in the Northeast-10 in defense. He has certainly made the adjustment from being a high school defensive star two years ago.
"First of all, I'm going from being one of the biggest people on the field to now being one of the smallest," said Poth, who registered a career-high 20 tackles against Merrimack College on Sept. 24. "Also, the speed of the game has changed. The plays come at you quicker, and what the team runs is more complex."
"He was a big part of our 2007 Super Bowl team and a big part of our 2008 team that went back to the playoffs and won back-to-back Northeastern Conference championships," said Dembowski. "Even as a senior, I knew he'd have a bigger upside. The more he plays, the better he'll get. He's a great kid from a great family, so it's no surprise to me that he's doing well."
His athleticism was certainly a big help in preparing him for the college game. Being in good shape allowed him to spend most of his time amid the transition to the college game with learning the new plays.
"In high school, we'd run cover-2, cover-3, and you might have certain drops and other responsibilities," he said. "Now, we have multiple defenses and different disguises and blitzes. During preseason, I'd really try to go to bed early, but I kept going to bed late because I'd be up reading the playbook."
Poth added that this year has represented a big change from his 2009 season, when he was on the practice squad. Experience goes a long way.
"In freshman year, my head was everywhere," Poth added. "I didn't know where to line up or where my responsibility was. There's so much to learn."
The Stonehill Skyhawks are 4-4 so far this year, with just two remaining regular season games (Nov. 6 at home vs. Assumption College; Nov. 13 at Bentley University). Poth said that every game is circled — no team is taken lightly. If he had to pick a rival, he would say Bentley fits that bill.
"We hoped to have a better record by now, but we're doing all we can and trying to win every weekend," said Poth.
Dembowski was a big help to Poth during the recruitment process.
"Stonehill thought he wanted to be an offensive player, and I had to call their coach [Robert Talley] and tell him 'You've got to look at this kid on defense.' I think they're pretty happy they made the decision to bring him in as a linebacker."
He said that the recruitment process was fairly easy. Poth visited the campus while still at Swampscott High and liked what Stonehill offered, academically.
"I'm a business major and they have a really strong business department here. I'm kind of drawn to finance right now," said Poth. "I'm hoping to pursue [a job in the finance field] for the summer. There are a good amount of guys in business on the team — the older guys can tell you what teachers to get, and what teachers not to get."
Another reason that Poth chose the school, besides Stonehill's business offerings, is the institution's location — though it's on the South Shore, in North Easton, it's only "about an hour" from Nahant.
Because of his own football schedule, Poth doesn't expect to see his alma mater in action until Thanksgiving Day at Swampscott.
"It's far enough away, but if I need to get home, I can," said Poth. "I've been following Swampscott High football. They're doing really well. I keep in touch with Chris Cameron, who was the quarterback in my senior year, and is now the quarterback coach for Swampscott High."
He still keeps up those old connections to the school where he got his start pushing guys down into the dirt.
Leaving lacrosse behind
At Stonehill, Jon Poth had to make the tough choice to leave his lacrosse career behind. Stonehill only runs a women's lacrosse program.
While at Swampscott High School, Poth was a four-year letterwinner in lacrosse. He was a three-time All-Star in the Northeastern Conference for the Big Blue. He captained the squad for two years, and was a Boston Globe All-Scholastic All-Star in lacrosse in his senior year of 2009.