Oct. 14—Would-be tacklers slam into Swampscott's Xaviah Bascon as if they've hit a brick wall. Before they can wrap their arms around him he's flashed to the sideline, galloping away for extra yards.
Watch this sequence unfold play after play after play, and it's impossible to believe that just a few months ago this standout running back wasn't even supposed to be getting out of bed.
A back injury late in the Fall 2 football season left Bascon, now a senior and four-year varsity player for the unbeaten Big Blue (5-0), wearing a cumbersome brace and prescribed with bed rest. A fiend in the weight room who can bench 345 pounds and has a max squat of 500 pounds, Bascon felt like he had cabin fever for most of the summer.
"It was a long summer with some hard time," he remembers. "Football's my passion and I wanted to be there with my teammates, in the weight room and at the 7-on-7's. The best thing was my teammates, keeping everything positive and helping me get through that time."
Cleared a week before the end of training camp, Bascon impressed in his first scrimmage and really hasn't looked back. His 13 total touchdowns lead both the Northeastern Conference and the North Shore at large; his 508 rushing yards are already a career high, and he's surpassed 2,000 yards from scrimmage going back to his freshman season in 2018.
"It's been a blessing," Bascon said. "Once I got back I just went all in, doing everything the coaches asked and making the most of all the opportunities my teammates set me up for."
His skills were on full display in last week's win over Peabody, a 28-21 decision that saw Bascon take over in the second half. He had close to 300 all-purpose yards (including kick returns) and had a career-best 179 yards rushing on a season-high 20 totes.
"Playing a competitive game like that was great. You could see on all our faces that we were locked in," said Bascon, who scored the game-winning TD in the fourth quarter.
He was essentially impossible to bring down on first contact, frequently shucking or evading a defensive lineman near the point of attack before using his 4.6 40-yard dash speed to beat the linebackers and safeties to the second level.
"He's been locked in," Swampscott offensive coordinator Robert Serino Jr. (son of head man Bob Serino) said. "Our offensive line was great in that second half against Peabody, too. They really came together after some key adjustments."
For Bascon, finding extra yardage where none seems to appear runs in the family. His dad, Aaron, moved to Massachusetts from Maui and had an incredible career running the football at Stoughton High, including a 300-yard game against Canton on Thanksgiving 1993. His older brother, Isaiah, led the Big Blue in rushing in both 2016 and 2017 and now plays for Bridgewater State (getting his first college interception in a win last weekend).
"I get a lot from both of them, but I think I get my vision from my dad," Xaviah said. "Sometimes, whatever happens in a play happens and I just see a spot where I can make a play."
The Big Blue's erstwhile offensive line has been a huge part of the team's success. Mainstays Jake Papazoglou and Joey Mignone are the group's leaders, while Ethan Gee and Michael Erickson are having breakout seasons. Former safety and receiver Dylan Dubiel also moved to the offense line and is collecting his share of pancakes.
"What Dylan is doing is huge for us. Michael and Ethan, too, they're smaller guys and they're going great jobs out there," Bascon said. "I look at Joey and Jake, they've been blocking for me for 10 years going back to youth football. What they do every week, leading that line, setting the tone, helping coach up the line, they're unbelievable."
Swampscott's emphasis on good blocking from receivers like Elijah Burns and Cole Hammernick doesn't hurt. Bascon also has the ideal backfield partner in quarterback Cam O'Brien, a player that defenses have to respect both as a runner (he had a 38-yard TD run last week) and a deep passing threat.
Now getting into the thick of Northeastern Conference North/Dunn Division with a game against Danvers (3-2) Friday at home, the Big Blue are determined to improve. Many of the seniors, Bascon included, played in their Division 5 Super Bowl victory in 2019; they'd love to get back to Gillette Stadium, but won't allow themselves to get caught looking ahead.
"We're all hungry," Bascon said. "Our heads aren't on anything except Danvers right now. Week by week, we want to make sure we're the best football team we can be."