Natick High’s Atwood Will Keep Aiming For A Super Bowl

Ken Hamwey, Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
December, 2018
Article Body: 

Josh Atwood’s goals at the start of the football season were for Natick High to win the Carey Division title, qualify for the playoffs, get to the Super Bowl and win it.
Two of those objectives were achieved this season but the 6-foot-2, 320-pound nose tackle will have to wait for his senior campaign to fulfill his Super Bowl dream.
Atwood is one of Natick High’s premier linemen who can play both offense and defense and even move to tight end when needed. He’s already been a Bay State Conference all-star — not only in football, but also in lacrosse and wrestling. Atwood won the Sectional title as a heavyweight wrestler as a freshman, then last year earned BSC honors as an all-star in football and as an attackman in lacrosse.
His football coach, Mark Mortarelli, rates the junior as one of the best linemen he’s coached.
“Josh is the most athletic lineman we’ve had at Natick in a long time,’’ Mortarelli said. “Kids his size simply don’t move the way he does. He has tremendously quick feet and strong hands and he demands a double-team on every play. He had two straight games where he made at least 10 tackles and had two sacks, which is unheard of for a defensive lineman.’’
Atwood was disappointed after Natick was eliminated from Super Bowl contention when it lost to King Philip Regional.
“Losing to KP was difficult and it was sad to let our seniors down,’’ he said. “King Philip is well-coached and they’ve been Super Bowl champs for the last two years. The loss will keep me motivated to try to get to the Bowl next year and win it. To be Super Bowl champs next season would be a great way to finish up my career at Natick.’’
What makes Atwood, who started on defense as a freshman, such a dynamic gridder are a variety of strengths. His lateral moves are quick, he’s technically sound, instinctive, mentally tough and he has a high football IQ. “Where I can improve is on pass rushing,’’ Atwood said. “I can get stronger and faster in that area.’’
Some of Atwood’s best games came against Walpole, Braintree and Wellesley. His top thrill, however, was his first game, as a freshman against Weymouth. “I started and was very nervous,’’ he recalled. “But, I made tackles on the first two plays and that helped settle me down. Then I forced a fumble. That game is still my top thrill .’’
His 10 tackles and two sacks came against Braintree and Wellesley this year. “All of the guys worked hard in practice and were well-prepared for both teams,’’ he said. “I worked extra hard and we had good scouting reports, thanks to linebacker coach Nick DiAntonio. We had lost our first two games, but the wins against Braintree and Wellesley showed we were back on track.’’
Against Walpole last year, Atwood had a game to remember. He had six tackles, 2½ of which went for losses, had one sack and a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown. “I read the line and knew a screen pass was coming,’’ he recalled. “I dropped back and picked off the pass. That was exciting and we won, 28-3.’’
Atwood is quick to laud his teammates and coaches for the Redhawks’ consistency this season. Two players he admires — linebacker Hunter Ferrera and tackle Jakobi Holiday — have been top-notch contributors. “Hunter is a captain and our only returnee at linebacker,’’ Atwood noted. “He’s very motivated and he leads the team in production points (sacks, tackles, forced fumbles, etc.). Jakobi stepped up his game and has been consistent. He’s skilled and blocks well.’’
A native of Natick, the 17-year-old Atwood also is bullish on Mortarelli. “He’s a coach who is helpful and also respected,’’ he emphasized. “A terrific motivator, coach Mortarelli is also a great guy who’s easy to talk to.’’
Pleased with the way the Redhawks rallied after an 0-2 start, Atwood viewed that bump in the road as “a wake-up call.’’ Natick’s conquerors were Needham and Brockton. “Both teams provided tough competition,’’ he said. “But, I felt strongly that we’d bounce back.’’
Part of the solution to overcoming Natick’s slow start can be traced to Atwood’s style and passion for football and his competitive philosophy. He’s aggressive and he firmly believes in improving daily.
“Preparation is important and it helps to study your upcoming opponent,’’ he said. “The key to success is understanding the game, knowing the playbook, remaining coachable and refining your execution. Reaching my potential is the prime focus of my philosophy. If my teammates and I succeed in that aspect, then winning likely will follow.’’
Football and lacrosse (he no longer wrestles) have taught Atwood some valuable life lessons that no doubt will be a plus in other venues. Four are very evident. “I’ve learned leadership skills, discipline, how to be resilient and how to overcome mistakes,’’ he said.
A good student, Atwood hopes to major in either engineering or architecture in college and he wants to continue to play football at that level. So far, he’s undecided on what school he’ll attend.
Preferring defense over offense “because I can hit and pursue the opposition,’’ Atwood’s favorite pro athlete is former Patriot Vince Wilfork. “I always admired his effort and ability,’’ he said. “His nature was to work hard and that’s what impressed me.’’
Josh Atwood’s intense work ethic is what has impressed Natick’s coaches and has made him a breed apart.