Whiting sets Titan tone as North preps for Salem semifinal
NASHUA – Heart and soul.
That’s what Nashua High School football coach Dante Laurendi says senior Spencer Whiting is to the Titans.
That’s saying a lot, as North has all sorts of standouts, including headline grabbers Curtis Harris-Lopez, Jayden Espinal, Max Ackerman, etc.
But Whiting, the coaches feel, is the silent engine that makes the Titan machine run. He’ll be one of the big keys on both sides of the ball for North in Saturday’s 1 p.m. Division I semifinal vs. Salem at Stellos Stadium.
“The kid has just been about as solid as you can be,” Laurendi said. “We brought him up as a freshman, thought he’d be good. But I don’t think he’s come off the field since his sophomore year.”
How does that heart and soul reputation make Whiting feel? He smiled broadly.
“It feels great,” he said. “But I’m not one to gloat or anything.”
No, not even close. Instead, he wants to set a competitive tone for his team.
“I want to make sure we come out swinging every time,” Whiting said. “I just try to get the guys hyped up. We’ve got a great group of guys here who are always ready to go.”
He plays linebacker and guard for the Titans. But the best thing about Whiting: He’s seen and not really heard.
“Underspoken, really, because he doesn’t talk a lot,” Laurendi said. “But he has this quiet leadership ability, who completely gets everything you’re trying to do, both offensively and defensively. A kid who not only asks good questions but is able to tell everybody around him what they’re doing – but in this completely calm and understated voice.”
In fact, Laurendi said, if you go to a North practice, you wouldn’t hear Whiting’s voice.
“He has this quiet leadership,” Laurendi said. “Everybody knows how he’s going about his leadership, and when he talks to you – and I mean talk,because he doesn’t yell – everybody gets it.
“He doesn’t play a role. When he has something to say, the kids know it’s important, because he doesn’t say much.”
Whiting does the intangibles on a football field that often don’t show up in the state sheet. But trained eyes can see it.
“It’s not glitzy,” Laurendi said. “He’s one of those kids where he may not have 15 tackles in a game. But when you go back and look at the film, you can see he was the reason somebody else did.
“He did his job. He took on a lead back. He bounced something out to somebody else. It’s a very understated, overlooked aspect of our team.”
Whiting is an average sized high school lineman, and defensively is what Laurendi calls “a throwback linebacker.”
“He’s got good size to him, where a lot of guys inside are undersized,” Laurendi said. “He can certainly run, but he can tackle, plays his assignment. … He does his job.”
Whiting says he likes both positions. He enjoys running around and making tackles/hits as a linebacker. He watches the guards, “and if you see the guard pulling, we know where (the play) is going. And you watch the running back.”
As a lineman, he enjoys beating a player one on one, and the touchdown celebration.
“The other way, it’s a great feeling, running into the end zone with guys, celebrating,” he said. “There’s nothing like it.”
How does Whiting see his role?
“Just lead by example, just do my job, teach the younger guys what they’ve got to do,” he said.
And he knows that because he studies the game. He watches a lot of film of opponents, maybe two or three hours a week, and now more that the playoffs are here.
Whiting has been a great fit because he’s been with his teammates for awhile. He and the other upperclassmen have played together since their seventh and eighth grade PAL days, winning two championships together at that level.
“We’ve got good chemistry all around,” he said. “We know each other.”
Whiting started late, but wanted to be with his friends so he began playing football in the seventh grade. His parents held him back when he was younger.
But they couldn’t do it forever. He played soccer when he was really young and basketball. Football, though, had more of an appeal. He wrestles during the winter for the Titans.
“I always felt this was the game for me,” he said, adding he’d like to play in college but will explore that down the road, as well as studying engineering.
Meanwhile, he keeps doing what he does best – compete.
“A kid who is always in great shape, but is always banged up to hell because he plays so hard,” Laurendi said. “He’s just so consistent in everything he does, it’s really hard to take him off the field.
“This year we have more depth so we can take him off some special teams. But it wasn’t that way in the past. It’s almost like his punishment for being so steady, and consistent and good was ‘You have to stay on the field, we can’t get you rest.'”
But he helps his coaches rest, in a way. What Whiting gives Laurendi and the coaching staff is peace of mind.
“I guess the best thing I can say is trust,” Laurendi said. “From a coaching perspective, myself, both coordinators and all his position coaches, there’s a sense of trust with him that doesn’t happen often at the high school level with kids.
“It’s going to get done, and if it doesn’t, it’s not for a lack of effort. And he’s going to make sure everyone around him is going to do their best.”
Laurendi said when Whiting came to the program as a freshman, he took the coaches by surprise. They didn’t know him, but his quiet demeanor and work ethic stood out.
“We were like, ‘This kid as a freshman, he’s pretty strong, athletic, and kind of gets it,'” Laurendi said.
And he’s been a mainstay ever since.
“You feel better,” Laurendi said, “when he’s on the field.”