Player of the Week: Fenwick's Rufus Rushins

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
PEABODY, Mass. -- Bishop Fenwick senior running back Rufus Rushins has already carved out a niche among the program and the state's most prolific rushers.

Already over the 1,000-yard mark for the season, Rushins is within sight of Crusaders legend Bobby Tarr and his program record for rushing yards in a career. Rushins inched closer to that mark with 273 yards in a 22-0 win over Catholic Central rival St. Mary's (Lynn), along with three touchdowns on Friday night.

ESPN Boston High Schools editor Brendan C. Hall caught up with our Player of the Week, presented by New England Dairy, for this interview on Monday:


Emmanuel Almonte, Sr. QB, Boston English - Compiled more than 300 yards of all-purpose offense, throwing for 172 yards with two TD, while rushing for 156 yards in a 46-12 win over West Roxbury.

Mike Buffoni, Sr. RB, Monument Mountain - Needed just seven carries to rack up 202 yards (28.8 yards per carry average), including two touchdowns in a 34-0 win over Drury.

Jeff Costello, Jr. QB, Lexington - Threw for 362 yards and four TD while completing 23 of 30 pass attempts in a 42-28 win over Winchester.

Brian Dunlap, Sr. WR, Natick - Tallied 122 receiving yards and two touchdowns to run his career total to 56, breaking the school's all-time scoring record in a 28-7 win over Milton.

Rufus Rushins, Sr. RB, Bishop Fenwick - Ran for 273 yards and three TD in the Crusaders' 22-0 win over St. Mary's (Lynn).

Three teams debut in Top 25 football poll

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
We updated our statewide Top 25 football poll this morning. To view it, CLICK HERE.

This is the last week of play before MIAA playoffs begin on Oct. 31. The final regular season Top 25 poll will be published on Monday, Oct. 27.

As a policy, does not update polls while a sport's state tournament is in progress. Following next Monday's poll, we will release one more final 2014 poll on Dec. 8.

A few notes and observations about this week's poll:

Top 15 shuffle: With Tewksbury taking a surprise 10-0 loss to Haverhill on Saturday, the Redman fall out of the Top 10 for the first time in a month, stumbling seven spots to No. 14. That creates a bit of a shuffle on the back end of the Top 10, with Marblehead moving into the No. 7 spot followed by Walpole (8), Natick (9) and Marshfield (10).

Meanwhile, with previously-ranked St. John's of Shrewsbury (12) and Lowell (13) taking surprise upsets from unranked squads, that makes room for Leominster (11), Shepherd Hill (12) and Bridgewater-Raynham (13) to all climb three spots. Also, King Philip jumps up nine spots, to No. 15, follow its first win over Mansfield since 2000.

Xaverian still the one: The Hawks of Xaverian High maintain the top spot in the land, as they have all year, following a throttling of Malden Catholic on Friday night. The top five remains unchanged, with Everett (2), St. John's Prep (3), Central Catholic (4) and Brockton (5) all holding on to their spots.

Debuts and returns: Following an impressive two-score victory over previously-ranked Middlesex League rival Arlington, Woburn makes a splash into the poll this week at No. 19. Elsewhere, Quincy makes its season debut at No. 23, off to an historic 6-0 start, while Haverhill slides into the final spot at No. 25 following its upset of Tewksbury that earned them their first Merrimack Valley Conference title since 2001. Meanwhile, Springfield Central returns to the poll at No. 24 following a one-month hiatus.

As always, here's how the poll breaks down by league affiliation and divisional alignment:

Merrimack Valley - 3
AA - 2
Bay State - 2
Catholic Central - 2
Catholic Conference - 2
Hockomock - 2
Southern Worcester County - 2
Atlantic Coast - 1
Berkshire County - 1
Big Three - 1
Greater Boston - 1
Middlesex - 1
Mid-Wach A - 1
Northeastern - 1
Old Colony - 1
Patriot - 1
Tri-Valley - 1

Division 1 - 6
Division 2 - 8
Division 3 - 5
Division 4 - 3
Division 5 - 2
Division 6 - 1
Last year, Needham's Cliff Kurker became a national phenomenon with his zig-zagging 70-yard punt return, which was featured as the No. 1 play on SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays.

Well, Kurker's done it again.

Check out this video of the Needham senior's latest epic punt return, this time from 64 yards out, for a score from the Rockets' 42-7 win over Brookline on Friday night:

(Video courtesy of Will Sumner, Steve Schernecker and Hudl)

In case you needed a refresher, here's a look at Kurker's epic 70-yard return from a year ago:

(Video courtesy of The Needham Channel)

Sunday night chat: Week 7 in review

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
Week 7 of the high school football season is in the books. Join's Brendan C. Hall and Scott Barboza for our review of the weekend and get a sneak preview of our new Top 25, to be released Monday. We'll start at 8 p.m.

Video: Gameday at St. John's Prep

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
DANVERS, Mass. -- Before a Homecoming crowd, St. John's Prep's in-house television network put on another "High School Gameday" production. Among the guests were Prep athletic director Jim O'Leary; 2006 graduate Andrew Frates, brother of Peter Frates; Boston Herald reporter Bruce Lerch; and ESPN Boston's Brendan C. Hall and Mike Uva.

(Video by Greg Story)

St. John's Prep High School Gameday from ESPN Boston on Vimeo.



Recap: No. 3 St. John's Prep 33, BC High 14

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18

DANVERS, Mass. – The raucous environment surrounding Cronin Stadium in the lead up to Homecoming Day at St. John’s Prep did little to translate to the Eagles’ start on the field. In Saturday’s battle with BC High, No. 3 Prep came out a little flat, allowing its Catholic Conference rival to claim an early lead. BC High also took a 14-10 lead to the half as well.

The second half was a different matter, as Prep scored 23 unanswered points during the final two quarters to capture a 33-14 win.

“We had a little bit of a slow start, but we came out flying in the second half,” Prep senior quarterback Ollie Eberth said. “Our offense started clicking. We changed up a few blocking assignments and our receivers came up big making plays. Cody Harwood and [Dillon] Preston, you can’t say much more about them. They’re bouncing off tackles left and right.”

The host Eagles (6-1, 3-0 Catholic Conf.) displayed a balanced offense, with Ebert throwing for 128 yards and three touchdowns on 11 of 16 passing, while senior running back Cody Harwood used 21 carries to run for 129 yards.

Prep’s defense was a major factor in building the second-half lead. It tallied eight points, forcing a safety before Owen Rockett’s 84-yard interception return for a touchdown.

“Our defense really stood up in the second half,” Prep head coach Brian St. Pierre said. “They played a great game. There were a couple turns of momentum, that’s when we kind of started to take over the game.”

BC High (3-3, 1-1) drew first blood on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Sean Holleran (6 of 8, 87 yards) to Nick Gill (4 catches, 74 yards). It was the first of two first-half scoring plays for the duo, which also lifted BC High to a 14-10 lead at the half.

Prep tied the game, 7-7, on Eberth’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Jake Burt, before a Justin Foley 33-yard field goal with 27 seconds remaining in the second quarter. BC High sophomore Connor Cady returned the ensuing kickoff 79 yards to give his team on last crack at the end zone before the half.

On the next play, Holleran hit Gill on a fade for an 11-yard touchdown in the final seconds.

That’s when St. Pierre reminded his team of what was ahead of them in the second half.

“He made a point to us that we were playing flat, and that’s not the way that we play the game,” Harwood said. “He just made it a point that we had to leave everything on the field for the next 24 minutes.”

Prep entered the third quarter reinvigorated, as Eberth led a 7-play, 75-yard drive to start the half, capped by 36-yard throw to James DiBenedetto.

Eberth had his third scoring pass of the game on Prep’s next possession, hitting Rockett on a 4-yard play on the first play of the fourth quarter.

On BC High’s ensuing possession, backed up in its own end at the 4-yard line, Prep defensive lineman Hunter Brown made a tackle in the end zone for a safety and a 26-14 lead.

Miscues would again haunt BC High when Rockett turned in his second touchdown of the game, turning an interception into an 84-yard return for a touchdown.

“When you get a couple of turnovers like that, that really changes the complexion of the game,” St. Pierre said.

Next man up: Rockett has been a steady contributor to Prep’s aerial attack throughout the season. But even as the two-way starter was hobbled while being tackled on a jet sweep in the first quarter, Eberth still have plenty of weapons at his command.

“It was great, Owen goes down for a series or two and we don’t even blink,” Eberth said. James [DiBenedetto], we have great trust in. He’s got great size and great speed. And I throw it up, he pulls a little Megatron and brings it down. And Michael Calascibetta was making plays. The depth is great. When one guy goes down, we have a substitute right there.”

Of course, Eberth also has a security blanket of sorts in Jake Burt. Despite facing consistent double-teams and bracketed coverage throughout the year, the Boston College-bound tight end has remained undaunted.

“He’s a mismatch every week and you have to account for that,” St. Pierre said. “They did a great job defensively, but we just kept plugging away. We just kept doing our stuff and we believe in our system and our guys.”

Rockett returned to the game after a couple of missed series, and he left his imprint with both an offensive and a defensive touchdown. It’s something the Eagles have come to rely on.

Just as Harwood has contributed in the ground game as well. The stout running back is a burden to tackle and has made it habit of turning in 100-yard rushing performances this year.

“Everybody knows what kind of guy he is,” St. Pierre said. “Owen [Rockett] and Jake [Burt] get a lot of the headlines and [Eberth] get a lot of the headlines – and rightfully so – but I’ll take Cody on my team any day. He knows that. He’s so tough. He plays the game the right way.”

Video: Breaking down BC High vs. St. John's Prep

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18
DANVERS, Mass. -- St. John's Prep scored 23 unanswered points in the second half to win going away, 33-14, over Catholic Conference rival BC High in our Game of the Week on Saturday.

ESPN Boston High School editors Scott Barboza and Brendan C. Hall break down the action:

(Video by Greg Story)

Video: BC High vs. St. John's Prep highlights

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18
DANVERS, Mass. -- No. 3 St. John's Prep kept pace in the Catholic Conference race with a 33-14 win over BC High on Homecoming Day on Saturday.

ESPN Boston correspondent Mike Uva has the highlights from Cronin Stadium:

(Video by Greg Story)

Recap: Haverhill 10, No. 7 Tewksbury 0

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18
HAVERHILL, Mass. -- Only a handful of minutes had passed following one of the biggest victories in Tim O'Connor's five year tenure as head coach at Haverhill.

Yet instead of opening the discussion talking about how well his Hillies played on both sides of the football after blanking Merrimack Valley League Small Division rival and No. 7 Tewksbury 10-0, Saturday at Trinity Stadium, O'Connor wanted to verbalize about team character, and how important it has been for his team to represent the Haverhill brand in a positive fashion both on and off the field.

"These kids work hard all year in school and many are taking upper-level classes," said O'Connor. "Many of these kids get all A's in class and are very smart and they work very hard. What you saw out here today was commitment to the weight room, intelligent kids in the classroom and on the field, kids who are dedicated and kids that are able to persevere."

With this important triumph, the Hillies (5-1, 4-0) have moved themselves into the driver's seat in securing a high seed in the forthcoming Division 2 North playoff picture. Last season, Haverhill reached the semifinal round before going down to Lincoln-Sudbury.

But make no mistake about it, this was a statement win for Haverhill, particularly on the defensive side. The Hillies limited the Redmen (4-2, 3-1) to just 178 yards of offense _ 79 of it coming during the opening half.

"Last year we had a very good defense and this year we replaced several pieces," O'Connor said. "Early on in the year we were playing around with some younger kids and things didn't go so well in Week 2 against Central Catholic (a 40-0 loss). We met as a staff and felt we would win primarily with our seniors, so it was important for us to keep them on the field. Today we had six kids who never came off the field. Quite honestly, I'm a true platoon guy but I knew for us to win this game today, I needed my seniors to play both ways and they did and played very well."

Haverhill stood behind a stable ground game to get its point across against the defending Division 3 state champions. Ball control and time consumption were key elements in the Hillies' plan of attack. Running instinctively out of the double-wing, Haverhill finished with 236 yards, with 210 of it coming on the ground. Haverhill was keyed by senior fullback Samie Al-Ziab, who churned out 117 yards on 20 carries and one touchdown.

Sophomore back Pedro Santiago was equally as forceful, gaining 70 yards on 15 attempts.

As expected, this was not a game between high-scoring offenses. After the Redmen missed out on a golden chance to get on the board first by failing to convert on fourth and goal from the Hillies 7 early in the second quarter, Haverhill took over and marched forward.

The Hillies drove nearly the entire length of the field before settling on a Patrick Yale 29 yard field goal with 2:15 left before halftime to lead 3-0. Tewksbury's offense endured great-difficulty trying to get out of first gear. Its running game was nearly in-effective throughout and junior quarterback Brett Morris (7 of 17, 107 yards) was intercepted three times, twice by defensive back Dan Surette.

"I told the team before the game if we could keep it to within a touchdown at the half then we'll win," said O'Connor. "It's just a special time for us right now. This is a special group of kids in the way they act in the locker room and the way they nurture the underclassmen. It's been five years in the making and every year we have gotten better. I'm hoping this win takes this program to the next level. Our motto from the start has been one team, one goal, MVC title."

Still anyone's game to begin the second half, Haverhill left no doubts on its first possession of the third quarter. Feeding off of Surette's first pick, the Hillies drove 63 yards, highlighted by an Al-Ziab 59 yard scramble which would set up his own 4 yard run into the end zone with just under five minutes to go in the quarter and stake the Hillies out to a 10-point lead.

"Even as a freshman I knew we had something special with all of these seniors we have on this team right now," Al-Ziab said. "Beating Tewksbury and knowing the importance of it is like having a weight lifted off of your shoulders. It's kind of surreal right now. It was big play game and we made big plays. Today our defense won the turnover battle and that is what you need to do to win big games like this."

On the Redmen's next possession following Al-Ziab's touchdown, they were able to reach the Haverhill 20 before Surette, once again, got in the way of a Morris pass attempt on the final play of the quarter. From there, the Hillies defense took total control, limiting Tewksbury to a mere 14 yards over the final quarter.

"They are a good team," Redmen coach Brian Aylward said. "We knew that coming in. They have a lot of big kids who are athletic. We have been happy with the way we have played up to this point. But today, Haverhill played to their strengths and it proved effective. But we'll continue to fight on and see what happens."


Player of the Game: St. John's Prep's Cody Harwood

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18
DANVERS, Mass. -- It was a Catholic Conference clash in our Game of the Week this week, as No. 3 St. John's Prep scored 23 unanswered points to notch a 33-14 win over rival BC High.

Prep senior running back Cody Harwood again eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark, with 129 yards on 21 carries in the win.

ESPN Boston High Schools editor Scott Barboza caught up with our Player of the Game, presented by New England Dairy, for this interview:

(Video by Greg Story)

Saturday Football Scoreboard

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18
TOP 25

No. 3 St. John's Prep 33, BC High 14
No. 4 Central Catholic 34, Billerica 18
No. 5 Brockton 42, Durfee 0
Haverhill 10, No. 7 Tewksbury 0
No. 9 Walpole 33, Norwood 14
Wachusett 35, No. 12 St. John's (Shrewsbury) 25
No. 15 Shepherd Hill 20, St. Peter-Marian 13
No. 19 Stoughton 35, Sharon 0
No. 22 Pope John Paul II 41, Cape Cod Tech 22

Bartlett 42, Blackstone-Millville 13
BB&N 42, St. George's (R.I.) 28
Belmont Hill 1, Thayer Academy 0 (Forfeit)
Beverly 37, Lynn English 24
Dexter 29, Hebron Academy (Maine) 28 (OT)
Governor's Academy 25, Brooks 6
Lawrence Academy 35, Noble & Greenough 7
Loomis Chafee (Conn.) 32, Cushing Academy 0
Lunenburg 35, Ayer-Shirley 6
Lynnfield 35, Hamilton-Wenham 0
Milton Academy 43, St. Paul's (N.H.) 12
Nantucket 45, Old Colony 0
New Hampton (N.H.) 69, Pingree 21
Nipmuc 28, Tantasqua 14
Rivers 32, Groton 7
Roxbury Latin 49, Middlesex 26
St. Sebastian's 38, St. Mark's 7
Tyngsborough 49, Oakmont 7
Uxbridge 27, Leicester 13
Waltham 38, Newton South 35
Wellesley 41, Dedham 7
West Bridgewater 32, South Shore Voke 0
Whittier 49, Greater Lowell 12
Worcester South 26, Burncoat 12


Recap: No. 24 KP 42, No. 21 Mansfield 21

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18

MANSFIELD, Mass. – The details didn’t much matter for Brian Lee and the King Philip Warriors. During his 10-year tenure as KP’s head coach, the Warriors had never beaten Hockomock League rival Mansfield. He’s enjoyed success, even league titles, but still no KP team had beaten the Hornets since the 2000 season.

So it only seemed appropriate, in a year in which the league’s Kelley-Rex division has undergone weekly upheaval, that this would be the year that KP finally shook its Mansfield curse.

“To play and beat a program that we have been admiring for so long and trying to build ourselves to emulate and to replicate, it’s very satisfying,” Lee said, holding his daughter in his arms, swarmed in the middle of KP’s student body, which had emptied onto the field after the Warriors’ 42-21 win over the Hornets, Friday night.

He added, “We could’ve played on the moon, I would’ve been happy. You take them when you can get them. Of course it’s special.”

The 24th-ranked Warriors (6-0, 4-0 Kelley-Rex) quickly responded after the Hornets (3-2, 2-2) staked a 7-0 lead on their first possession. On KP’s first offensive snap, senior running back Mark Glebus (27 carries, 155 yards) took in his first of four touchdowns on the night with a 61-yard run.

Glebus’ and the Warriors’ momentum swelled in the second quarter, when a 5-yard touchdown from the fire hydrant of a back paced KP to a 13-7 lead. The Warriors then took advantage of excellent field position after a punt block by K.C. Webster set up a drive at the Mansfield 23-yard line. Somewhat predictably, five plays later, Glebus rolled into the end zone with his third touchdown of the half for a 19-7 lead with 3:34 remaining in the second quarter.

The Hornets made it a one-possession game after, after forcing KP to a three-and-out on its first possession of the second half. After two long passing plays from Matt Carafa to Michael Boen (27 and 35 yards, respectively), Brian Lynch took in a 2-yard run for a score. However, KP was quick to answer again with a 45-yard touchdown pass from John DeLuca to Kyle Loewen on a fly route down the left sideline.

KP would take advantage of another short field, after the Warriors recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Glebus scored his fourth touchdown of the game on a 4-yard run off a jet sweep.

Steve Eaton added the Warriors’ final score on a 2-yard run in the fourth quarter.

“It’s tough, we over-played him and he did a great job with the cut-back,” Hornets head coach Mike Redding said of Glebus. “Overall, other then that first play of the game, when they ran a new formation, ran a new play, then we scored early to get some momentum and they got it right back.”

One-sided no more: Some of sports’ greatest rivalries have been, dare we say, one-sided. Bruins-Canadiens, or Red Sox-Yankees aren’t the same in the 21st Century compared to what they were for most the last.

But there always was intrigue.

“It’s been weird because we’re won 13 in a row coming in, but it has not been one-sided,” Redding said. “It’s been battle after battle after battle and we’ve managed to win, but there’s been some unbelievable games where they came up short. And sooner or later, they were going to come back and get you.”

On the flip side, that kind of frustration filters down through the years. KP’s 13-year drought wasn’t lost on its players. Glebus made mention of the “13 year” itch in during a postgame interview.

As for Lee, he couldn’t quite put on a finger on the volume. But he was all too self-aware of the gravity of the moment.

“All I know is that, since I’ve been here, we’ve lost every year,” he said.

That was before Friday.

And, now, the Warriors have taken control of the Kelley-Rex race, which also might mean a top seed in the upcoming Division 2 South playoffs.

That’s quite a night indeed.

“We just had to play our game and worry about ourselves,” Lee said.

Surgery ends season for Mansfield's Hill

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18
MANSFIELD, Mass. – After a 42-21 loss to Hockomock League rival King Philip, Mansfield head coach Mike Redding revealed another loss in the end to the season of senior tight end/defensive end Brendan Hill.

Hill, an ESPN Boston All-State selection last year for the Division 2 state champions, underwent surgery on Friday to repair a partial tear to his right ACL, as well as loose cartilage in his knee.

“He had surgery today, but all the reports are good,” Redding said. “He’s done for the football season and I think he’s highly uncertain for basketball.”

Redding added that Hill is “back at square one” with his rehab, after he suffered a full tear of the ACL in the same knee during Mansfield’s Thanksgiving Day game against Foxborough last year.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound standout was rated as the 14th best prospect in Massachusetts entering the year by ESPN’s Recruiting Nation rankings. Hill is uncommitted but holds an offer from UMass and has received interest from Boston College, UConn and UNH.

“It’s just heartbreaking, we’ve had seven surgeries [on the football team] this year,” Redding said of his injury-ravaged team. “It’s heartbreaking – good players, hard-working seniors – Brendan and Joe Moreshead and Curtis Boisvert, those are all-league players. We still keep fighting, but we’re just running out of bodies at this point and we’re hanging around.”
WOBURN, Mass. -- On his 70th birthday tonight, Woburn head coach Rocky Nelson earned his biggest win of the season, upsetting No. 18 Arlington before a packed crowd.

In the locker room after the game, the team greeted Nelson with a special birthday song:



It was an emotional week for the Attleboro community. Nineteen-year-old former Attleboro High student Chris Hutcheon passed away last night, six days after he was critically injured in an automobile crash on Interstate 495 in Mansfield.

Tonight, the Blue Bombardiers doubled up Hockomock League foe Taunton, 42-21, to return to .500 and keep themselves in contention for a playoff spot. With Hutcheon in mind, the football team paid tribute with this oversized banner:

(Photo courtesy of Attleboro High principal Bill Runey)