Recap: Governor's 28, Lawrence Academy 20

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
GROTON, Mass. -- The level of frustration displaced by Brandon Lopez was clearly evident. The Governor's Academy running back slapped his helmet and began to wonder if he had just let his team down.

With the Govs ahead by eight points late, the running back, who played solid throughout, busted into the secondary in attempt to run out the remaining time on the clock. But the Amesbury senior lost his grip of the ball after taking a hard hit from behind and fumbled it away with under two minutes remaining in Saturday's ISL opener against Lawrence Academy.

Once defensive back Tim Preston fell on it, the Spartans quickly realized there still was a chance. Setting up shop on its own 30 yard line, there was still enough time for LA to execute a drive and move the ball downfield in attempt to tie the contest.

But as we have come to expect, redemption can be a major benefactor. With the Spartans facing 2nd-and-20 from their own 42, quarterback Jake Cassidy heaved a pass down the middle of the field that was intercepted by, who else, Lopez allowing Governor's to escape with a 28-20 victory.

"Obviously I wasn't happy fumbling the ball away," said Lopez. "But playing on defense I knew I had to get the ball back for our team."

The three-time defending ISL champions (they were co-champs with St. Sebastian's last season) start the year off in the win column and are now 27-1 in their last 28 games. This victory marks the fourth consecutive against LA.

But unlike previous years, this one was far from easy. With the game deadlocked 14-14 at the half, Governor's running back Cam Macri turned the complexion of this tilt entirely around. Just three minutes into the third quarter, the Chapel Hill, N.C. native broke free for a 59-yard scoring jaunt to give the Govs the lead for good at 21-14. Getting the ball back after a Spartans punt, Macri got the call again, this time finding the end zone from 2 yards away to cap off a 10 play, 58 yard march and extend the advantage to 14 points with 2:15 still remaining in the quarter.

LA appeared flustered all afternoon due to its inability to stop the run. For the game, Governor's rolled off 333 yards as compared to the Spartans' 207. Marci and Lopez each rushed for 107 yards on 8 and 17 carries, respectively. Quarterback Seth Harrell completed 7 of 10 passes for 92 yards.

"Hands down we have one of the best offensive lines in the league," Lopez said. "Without them I wouldn't have gotten 107 yards today. Cam and I are like a one-two punch out there. When I get a little tired he comes in fresh and vice versa. We knew Lawrence would be coming out gunning for us. We knew they would be strong but we came out a little stronger today. It's a good win and a great start for us."

With less than three minutes to go, LA mounted a comeback. A 20 yard pass completion from Cassidy (12 of 26, 137 yards) to Preston was followed-up by a Cassidy 1 yard dive over the goal line, making it a one score game. However, the PAT attempt failed resulting in the Spartans needing eight points and a miracle to tie matters.

Following Lopez's fumble, a miracle was still in the offering. But it came to a perilous finish thanks to Lopez holding down the fort from his centerfield position and snagging Cassidy's pass attempt.

The Govs wasted little time jumping on the board first. On their initial possession, they drove 77 yards before junior back Ryan Day (Hampstead, NH) darted through a hole instigated by his solid offensive line, and proceeded to rumble 14 yards into the end zone. Governor's offensive line, consisting of Tyler Harrington, Brian Fraga, Matt Peart, Brandon Smith, Jacob Palmer and tight end Daniel Healey made life miserable for the Spartans defensive front all afternoon as they continuously pushed them backwards.

"We've got some big boys up front who work together as one," Governor's head coach Jim O'Leary said. "They never give up. They just keep going and going. That was a damn good team we played today and they are well-coached. But I think our guys just wanted it a little bit more. We've got some guys that you just can't stop. The running backs get all the credit but it is the line up front really starts everything."

On its second possession, LA used a bit a trickery. Wide receiver Dimitri Jackson, taking an end around handoff, bolted 50 yards down the left sideline to knot things at 7-7 with 3:33 showing in the opening quarter. Jackson, a junior, would later be inserted at running back due to the ineffectiveness of AJ Dillon (8 carries for minus 3 yards). Jackson finished with 79 yards on 4 attempts.

Late in the second quarter, Governor's regained the lead on a Lopez 4 yard carry. But with under a minute remaining before the half, LA stormed back yet again. A Chris Garrison 36 yard return on the ensuing kickoff gave LA the ball on its own 44.

Facing a fourth-and-3 at the Govs 15 yard line with time ticking down, Preston was left uncovered at his wide out position. Before Governor's realized the blown coverage and call a timeout, Cassidy took the snap and tossed a pass to the wide-open senior and send the Spartans into the break all knotted up.

"It was a really hard-fought game," LA head coach Paul Zukauskas said. "They are a tough team but I think we are as well and we're going to win a lot of football games. We continued to battle back in this one and we'll battle back from this game. We're a better football team than we were a year ago but today was certainly disappointing. We'll just keep fighting. We have a close-knit group here that isn't going to back down."

The momentum seized by the Spartans following Preston's score failed to carry over the final 24 minutes. The Spartans mustered just 101 yards in the second half. Macri's scoring run, coming at 9:10 of the third, was a backbreaker and took the wind right out of LA's sails.

"Cam made an unbelievable run and gave us that lift we needed," said O'Leary. "I thought we gave (LA) a gift late in that first half when we didn't see (Preston) lined up to the outside. It was a mistake on our part but a good play by them. Macri gave us that lift and Lopez was just as good. When you have a dual threat in your backfield like that, it is tough to stop."

Sanctions lifted: For the first time in three years, LA is eligible to participate in a NEPSAC bowl. In 2011, the program received a three-year bowl ban and was stripped of its 2009 and 2010 championships by the ISL. Violations centering around student-athletes being funded beyond demonstrated need instead of merit-based, as well as illegal off-season practices, had been discovered under then-head coach Michael Taylor forcing the ISL to hand down sanctions. Zukauskas, who starred at BC High, was an All-American at Boston College and played four years with the Cleveland Browns, was hired following the resignation of Taylor in February of 2011. Zukauskas has been nothing short of spectacular in bringing the Spartans back to prominence.


DANVERS, Mass. – From an outsider’s perspective, things can’t be much better than they’ve been at the start for No. 8 St. John’s Prep.

The Eagles have now collected three straight wins against Top 10-ranked opponents to start the season, following Saturday’s 27-12 win over defending Division 1 state champion No. 2 Central Catholic.

But Eagles first-year head coach Brian St. Pierre sees it a little differently.

“We’ve majored in making it difficult,” the Prep alum said after his team’s home opener.

After a relatively lackluster first half, the second half provided crescendos and dips in momentum in just about each play.

The Eagles (3-0) defense was the fulcrum for the victory, forcing five Central turnovers in the second half, including three interceptions.

“We were giving up yards early, but they just kept playing and they kept getting the ball for us,” St. Pierre said of his defense.

After Prep tallied the first score of the game on a 74-yard touchdown run by Cody Harwood (14 carries, 149 yards), the Raiders (2-1) responded before the first half was out with a resounding 10-play, 63-yard drive. Michael Milano hit Steven Jackson on an inside slant for a 6-yard touchdown with 13 seconds to play in the half.

Central parlayed the offensive momentum into their opening possession of the second half. Milano (14 of 26, 158 yards; 12 carries, 83 yards) willed the Raiders downfield with several well-executed inside draw plays, including a 32-yard touchdown run with 7:54 remaining in the third. A botched snap on the ensuing two-point attempt kept the Raiders’ lead at 12-7.

After going three-and-out on its ensuing possession, Prep leaned on its defense to get the ball back and, perhaps, reignite the offense.

Sophomore corner Hayden Rockett undercut a route for the first of four Eagles’ picks in the second half with 4:48 to play in the third. Two plays later, Prep regained the lead on Oliver Eberth’s 11-yard out to tight end Jake Burt. Another failed two-point conversion kept the Eagles’ lead at a single point.

Eagles senior safety Art Churchwell provided the next spark, pocketing his first of two takeaways in the game. Churchwell’s interception set up another Prep touchdown drive, coming on another Eberth touchdown pass to Owen Rockett – this time from 57 yards out – for a 20-12 lead at 10:47 of the fourth quarter.

Churchwell was at it again on the next Central possession, recovering a fumble.

While the Eagles were unable to cash on their third straight takeaway, they’d soon have the ball back again with 6:35 remaining in the game on a John Churchwell interception. Prep then salted away any Central comeback bid with a plodding 10-play drive (with a punt and another fumble recovery mixed in the middle), capped with Harwood’s second touchdown run of the day from 22 yards out.

“I think that was one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever coached in because the turnovers just killed us,” Central head coach Chuck Adamopoulos said.

Fearsome twosome: When Eberth transferred to St. John’s Prep, he inherited a pretty good surrounding cast. The Eagles offensive line has been steady throughout the early season in both pass protection and in run support. Harwood has continued producing.

And, of course, there are his top targets: wide receiver Owen Rockett and tight end Jake Burt.

“It’s amazing, defenses are playing us to pass. They’re playing our guys Owen [Rockett] and Jake Burt right now,” St. Pierre said. “They’re putting guys on them, they’re accounting for them, so we’re picking our spots.”

The combination has pushed opposing defenses to pick their poison. In the early going, both Bridgewater-Raynham and Brockton chose to key on Burt – the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Boston College commit. That’s translated to fewer pass targets for Burt – who’s receiving bracketed coverage for the most part – but great opportunity for Rockett to work in space, both underneath and on intermediate and long routes along the boundary.

“Teams key on [Burt], so that opens things up for other players – Rockett, Michael Calascibetta and James DiBenedetto,” Eberth said. “[On the touchdown] and on that fourth down, he’s old reliable. He can go up and get the ball, he can go down and get the ball. He can do anything.”

On Saturday, Prep fans saw perhaps the most balanced offensive attack the Eagles have shown to date. Eberth was more than efficient, completing 8 of 14 for 114 yards. Rockett and Burt had balls delegated to them with balance, with the wideout and tight end hauling in four catches for 84 yards and three catches for 29 yards, respectively.

“The last few weeks I think they’ve game-planned for me a little more, drawing a little extra attention to me,” Burt said. “And then Cody Harwood has stepped up and made plays.”

But what Burt adds to Prep's offense is more than just a big target.

"What goes maybe not seen [but] is obvious is what he does for us in the run game," St. Pierre said. "There’s not a better tight end blocking in the run game in Massachusetts, hands down. He does a tremendous job for us. He is just a great player. He’s very unselfish, does what the team asks him to do. People are keying him – and they should, he’s a very good player."

Harwood once again eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark as well, creating further balance in St. Pierre’s offense.

It’s a question that opposing defensive coordinators will have to consider as the Eagles go screaming toward a playoff berth.

It’s also something that Central, at least on Saturday, couldn’t overcome.

“What’s hard this year is because of the inexperience in our secondary with two new starters it makes it hard for us to just take one guy and put him on someone,” Adamopoulos said. “Last year, we could do something like that, but I think that’s harder this year.”

For Prep's Rockett, a pleasant evolution

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
DANVERS, Mass. -– The play called for Owen Rockett to run a "go" route, his favorite pattern, and instantly his eyes widened.

Then, the St. John’s Prep receiver read man coverage from the Central Catholic defense, with no safety help. And when you see that, as the senior explains it, "That’s when you start licking your chops."

[+] EnlargeOwen Rockett
Brendan Hall/ESPNSt. John's Prep receiver Owen Rockett (4 catches, 83 yards, TD) has emerged as the Eagles' most dangerous scoring threat.
Rockett came across the face of his defender playing off the line of scrimmage, spun 180 degrees and backpedaled as he hauled in Ollie Eberth’s high-arching pass some 25 yards downfield. Then he spun back around, planted his outside foot, cut across his defender’s face, then did it once more to the another defender for good measure, sprinting out the last 25 yards for the 57-yard touchdown and back-breaking 20-12 lead over the No. 2 Raiders with 10 minutes to go.

Just like he drew up countless times this summer with his father, on the turf at Marblehead Middle School.

"I don’t really do any drills or anything, I just run routes," Rockett, a Marblehead resident, said. "In a game situation, you’re not gonna be running ladders."

On the day, Rockett finished with four catches for 84 yards and a score as the Eagles knocked off their third straight Top 10 team in as many weeks, an unprecedented start even by Prep standards.

A year ago, he was just working his way into the lineup, his first year at the wide receiver position after showing some sure-handed promise during 7-on-7 season. There were flashes of brilliance, but often they were sandwiched with inconsistency.

After a rugged offseason out on the field, Rockett is playing with a lot more confidence in 2014. One of the most eye-opening plays of the season’s opening weekend was at Bridgewater-Raynham, when Rockett snared a dangerous swing pass in the flat and evaded three Trojans defenders up the sideline for a 35-yard catch-and-run TD. These types of plays are becoming more of the routine than the exception.

"My biggest problem last year was overthinking, so I’m trying to simplify, have trust in myself and Ollie," Rockett said. "Ollie’s been outstanding, and Coach Saint [head coach Brian St. Pierre] has given us a great platform, obviously. Everything is just set up well."

Prep tight end Jake Burt, a burly Boston College commit, calls Rockett "the best route runner I’ve ever seen."

"He’s got really strong hands," Burt said. "It just makes it easy for me when I’m lined up on his side, because they should be paying attention to him –- not me. He’s the better pass catcher.

"He’s got great footwork. His deception in and out of routes...I mean, our corners never know what to do in practice, and you can see that in the game, they don’t know what to do either."

By disentangling the clutter, and broadening his muscle memory, Rockett has become Prep’s go-to threat in the crunch. St. Pierre chalked up the maturity to a natural procession from fitting into a new position.

"Any time you’re learning a new position, it takes a while. But he’s so athletic, and so smooth," St. Pierre said. "He’s a great kid to coach, and like a lot of our guys he works hard. He applies his trade during the week and shows up ready to go."

But at a pedestrian 5-foot-10 and 184 pounds, a player of his stature is often type-cast as a "slot" receiver, running short routes along the perimeter designed to get him in space with a full head of steam. Rockett wants you to know it’s not that simple.

"The eight [post] or nine [fade], anything going deep, if we’ve got time, I love it. One-on-one, nothing better," he said. "The biggest thing about a receiver, if you can’t get anything inside, try and break it deep and over the top."

Highlights: No. 2 Central vs. No. 8 St. John's Prep

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
DANVERS, Mass. -- No. 8 St. John's Prep notched its third straight win over a Top 10 opponent to start the season with a 27-12 victory over No. 2 Central Catholic in the Eagles' home opener Saturday at Cronin Field.

ESPN Boston High Schools editor Scott Barboza has the highlights from the battle between the Division 1 North heavyweights:

(Video produced by Greg Story)

Recap: St. Sebastian's 28, Milton Academy 0

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
NEEDHAM, Mass. – Their season may have begun later than most teams in the state, but St. Sebastian’s football didn’t waste much time once the Arrows got on the field.

On the Arrows’ first offensive play of the season, senior quarterback Geoff Wade hit sophomore Tommy Seidl on a deep in route, and the versatile playmaker broke it for a 64-yard touchdown.

“I didn’t even know if I was going to start today,” Seidl said after the game. “But coach called a great play at the start and we executed it.”

Milton Academy didn’t overreact. The Mustangs moved the ball effectively throughout the first half thanks to an effective read option-based offense. Junior quarterback James Fadule and junior back Michael Silva each carried the ball eight times, and combined to tally 101 rushing yards as the visitors kept the score manageable heading into the break.

However, the beginning of the second half may have seemed awfully familiar to Milton’s players. This time, the Arrows broke a huge play on second down when Wade hit sophomore Jack Frisoli on a shallow out route. Seidl sprung his classmate with a crushing crack back block, and the speedy Frisoli took it 78 yards down the sideline to greet a throng of enthusiastic Sebastian’s students in the back of the end zone.

“They were in man coverage,” Seidl said, “and I saw that the guy that was covering me was running over to get Frisoli. I did what I had to do to stop him, that’s our team. We do what we have to do.”

St. Sebastian’s head coach Bob Souza credited his outstanding wide receivers after the game.

“We have some great athletes on the perimeter, and it’s very tough to matchup with us. Our best players stepped up and made plays on both sides of the ball, and Milton made a few mistakes that kind of opened the door for us.”

Frisoli’s long touchdown seemed to be worth more than six points since it clearly invigorated the St. Sebastian’s sidelines, and got the home crowd into the game. On Milton’s next possession, junior Domenic Cozier lost the football in a crowd, and Arrows captain Tyson Reed recovered the fumble to set the offense up with a short field. Senior back Edosa Onaiwu (10 carries, 55 yards) punched in a 13-yard touchdown three plays later, and St. Sebastian’s suddenly led 21-0 four minutes into the second half.

Things continued to go awry for the Mustangs on their next drive when the long snapper sailed the ball over the head of ESPN Boston’s No. 1 Massachusetts-based prospect, Justin Yoon, and the senior kicker was forced to fall on the pigskin at his team’s 20-yard line.

By the time Wade threw his third touchdown pass of the afternoon, Milton seemed prepared to get out of town without suffering any season-altering injuries, and Yoon was not seen again with the punting unit.

The final score was decidedly lopsided, but Souza maintains “yards did not come easy for us. It was a real physical game, which is how these rivalry games have gone over the years. This is a big win for us, and hopefully something we can build on going into next week.”

A True Every Down Player: Milton Academy sophomore Michael Silva played every single down of their season opener. He rushed 12 times for 67 yards, picked off Geoff Wade twice as a defensive back, and even filled-in capably as a punter when Yoon was removed from the game.

Fadule and Silva will be an exciting backfield tandem to watch this season.

Adjusting On The Fly: The Arrows gave up 110 yards on the ground in the first half, but held Milton to just 21 rushing yards over the Mustangs’ first four drives in the second half.

The biggest difference seems to have been St. Sebastian’s ability to contain the read option that Fadule and Milton Academy featured so prominently throughout the first half.

“We’ve been playing [Milton] for a long time so we knew it was coming, but we have a lot of new starters that hadn’t seen it live,” Souza said. “We talked to them throughout the game about staying home, not getting too far up field, and we were able to do a better job stopping it in the second half.”

In the first half, Fadule carried the ball five times for 31 yards out of read option looks, but was held to -1 yards on three such carries in the second half. Along with Tyson Reed, linebackers Blake Gallagher and Tyler Wilk helped the Arrows defense contain the Mustangs’ rushing attack by employing the necessary adjustments.

“That’s how we teach it,” said Souza. “It’s built into the kids that we’re going to adjust as a defensive unit. Even if we encounter something we’ve never seen, we have calls to adjust to that, so we feel like we’re always going to be sound defensively no matter what the opponent shows up in.”

St. Sebastian’s 28, Milton Academy 0
STS 7 0 14 7 --- 28
M.A. 0 0 0 0 --- 0

First Quarter
S – Tommy Seidl 64 pass from Geoff Wade (PAT good) 7:35

Third Quarter
S – Jack Frisoli 78 pass from Geoff Wade (PAT good) 10:55
S – Edosa Onaiwu 13 run (PAT good) 7:54

Fourth Quarter
S – Matt Daniel 25 pass from Geoff Wade (PAT good) 7:27

Saturday Football Scoreboard

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
TOP 25

No. 8 St. John's Prep 26, No. 2 Central Catholic 12 | Highlights
Catholic Memorial 10, No. 5 St. John's (Shrewsbury) 3
No. 7 Shepherd Hill 28, Gardner 14
No. 25 Pope John Paul II 46, Boston Cathedral 6

Abington 26, Sandwich 7
Austin Prep 39, Monument Mountain 14
Belmont Hill 17, BB&N 14
Bishop Connolly 10, West Bridgewater 7
Blackstone Valley Tech 38, Assabet 12
Braintree 14, Hingham 12
Deerfield Academy 17, Cushing Academy 14
Easthampton 38, Mahar 12
Franklin County Tech 12, Palmer 6
Governor's Academy 28, Lawrence Academy 20
Hoosac Valley 36, Mt. Greylock 0
Hyde (Conn.) 18, Dexter 0
Lee 30, Taconic 6
Newton South 49, Boston Latin 20
North Reading 21, Hamilton-Wenham 13
Northbridge 49, Tantasqua 26
Pentucket 36, Amesbury 7
St. Bernard's 42, Worcester South 22
St. Mark's 28, Middlesex 21
St. Peter-Marian 22, Grafton 12
St. Sebastian's 28, Milton Academy 0
Winthrop 28, Swampscott 12


Video: Prep presents game ball to Pete Frates

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
DANVERS, Mass. -- After claiming a 27-12 win over No. 2 Central Catholic, St. John's Prep football was greeted in their postgame huddle by a special visitor -- esteemed alumnus and former Eagle, Pete Frates.

As the No. 8 Eagles knocked off a Top 10 opponent for the third straight week, first-year head coach Brian St. Pierre, also a Prep alum, bestowed Frates with the game ball from the victory in his team's home opener. Frates, who played safety during his high school career, also visited Eagles practice earlier in the week.

Correspondent Greg Story captured the moment here:

Highlights: No. 1 Xaverian vs. No. 9 B-R

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- No. 9 Bridgewater-Raynham looked to upset No. 1 Xaverian, getting on the board first in our Game of the Week matchup Friday night. But the Hawks took over from there, scoring 28 unanswered points en route to a 28-6 win.

Correspondant Joe Parello has the highlights here:

Recap: No. 1 Xaverian 28, No. 9 B-R 6

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – Through the first quarter of Friday’s matchup against No. 1 Xaverian, No. 9 Bridgewater-Raynham looked capable of pulling off an early-season upset to remember. After forcing a fumble on the Hawks’ opening drive, the Trojans capitalized on a short field and punched in the first score of the game before the quarter was out.

Xaverian quickly bucked that trend. On their ensuing drive, the Hawks marched the ball 75 yards downfield on seven plays. They’d never look back from that 7-6 lead, as the Hawks scored the final four scores of the game and blanked the Trojans’ offense over the last three quarters in a 28-6 win.

“From that point on, I thought our defense played outstanding,” Xaverian head coach Charlie Stevenson said. “They had a couple of plays here and there, but for all intents and purposes, we controlled the tempo of the game.”

After B-R quarterback Matt Clement hit Connor Regan on the rollout for a 4-yard touchdown at 2:05 of the first, the Hawks (2-0) imposed their will.

The Hawks muscled the ball downfield with fullback Kenny Kern knocking in his first of two 1-yard scoring runs.

Then, the Hawks’ defense got after it. Xaverian was set up at the Trojans’ 13-yard line after a strip-sack from reigning ESPN Boston Defensive Player of the Year Joe Gaziano. Senior running back Noah Sorrento (17 carries, 131 yards) promptly followed with a 13-yard touchdown run on the next play.

Xaverian extended its lead to two scores in the final minute of the half with Kern finding the end zone again, capping an eight-play, 63-yard drive.

The Hawks capped scoring in the third quarter with Jake Farrell pulling back an option give and motoring 13 yards in for a score.

Point of attack, emphasis: Through its first two games, Xaverian has been dominant on the lines and at the point of attack.

“I’m really proud of the way we controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball,” Stevenson said. “That’s where the game is won.”

Further proof came in the Hawks’ ability win the battle of the ground game by a large margin on Friday night. Xaverian’s ball carriers averaged greater than seven yards per carry. On the flip side, the Hawks held B-R to just 63 yards on 21 carries for the evening – helping to take away the Trojans’ bread and butter, as well as their play-action capability.

Gaziano, a preseason Mr. Football candidate, was dominant with two sacks, three pressures and three quarterback hits, despite being double-teamed for most of the game. Along with consistent pressure on the interior line from defensive tackle Elijah Pierre, the Hawks held B-R (1-2) to just 111 yards of combined offense.

“Even when we tried to block them, we couldn’t block them,” B-R head coach Dan Buron said. “That’s the best defensive team I’ve seen in a long time. They’re not only big and strong, they’re quick.”

Recap: No. 6 Lowell 14, Leominster 10

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
LEOMINSTER, Mass. –- A year ago this week, the Lowell Red Raiders played host to Leominster, looking to make a statement against the perennial power. Yet they were virtually wiped off their own turf by haltime, their defense caught off-guard by a surprise “Double Wing” scheme, their Chip Kelly-influenced offense kept off the field for nearly an hour in real time.

It goes without saying, then, that vengeance was at the top of the list for Lowell tonight in its trip up to Doyle Field. And did the Raiders ever return the favor, turning in a terrific defensive performance to shut out the Blue Devils in the second half en route to a 14-10 victory.

“We’ve been working hard all week. We didn’t want what happened last year to happen again,” said Syracuse-bound linebacker Shyheim Cullen, who also led Lowell in rushing with 24 carries for 108 yards. “So we really worked hard tonight.”

Said Raiders head coach John Florence, “It feels good. It was ugly, lot of turnovers, but our defense played well.”

Lowell (3-0) took the opening kickoff and grinded out a 15-play, 76-yard scoring drive that lasted nearly six minutes. After setting up first and 10 in the red zone with a 31-yard strike to Lucky Sesay (two catches, 83 yards, TD), junior quarterback Shaymus Dunn nearly saw his drive halted when Leominster’s Keith Jackson thwarted him for a pick-six, making a beautiful jump on a deep skinny post and returning it 95 yards the other way. The interception was negated by a roughing the passer call, however, bringing up a new set of downs at the Blue Devils’ 7.

Four plays later, on fourth and goal from the 15, Dunn found Egan Ojunga behind coverage, and the senior slipped to the turf as he hauled in the pass in the end zone for the early 7-0 lead.

Leominster went three-and-out on its ensuing drive, but recovered a muffed punt at the Lowell 32 to get new life again. They made the most of it, tying it up on fourth and goal from the Lowell 1 when Noah Gray hit tight end Connor Skinner on a play action pass rolling to his right, for a 7-7 score early in the second.

Derek Franks made his first of two picks of Dunn later in the second to set up the next Leominster score, jumping in front of a route at the sideline and returning it across midfield. The five-play drive ended with a 30-yard Alex Rivera field goal for a 10-7 lead with 4:23 left in the first half.

Leominster’s lead lasted less than two minutes. Three plays into the ensuing Lowell drive, Dunn hooked up with Sesay on a deep post for an easy-looking 52-yard score and 14-10 lead, a deficit Leominster was never able to recover from.

In the second half, led by senior linebacker Nicolau Coury, Leominster was only able to convert one third down, by virtue of a pass interference call, and totaled roughly 100 yards of offense. Twice they were thwarted in the red zone, including a 30-yard field goal attempt that sailed just wide left.

Still, the game was not yet in hand until the final minute, when senior safety Chris Cesar pounced on an overthrown ball down the right sideline for the Raiders’ third and final pick of Gray.

“He’s very consistent, just makes big plays,” Florence said of Coury. “His speed is just….He’s so athletic. And he had a ton of big plays again tonight.”

Gurley goes down: There was a bit of a scary moment late in the game when Blue Devils running back/defensive back James Gurley (20 carries, 76 yards) was taken off the field in a golf cart after taking a cleat to his chest trying to make a tackle.

“I think he just got a heel to the sternum or something. I don’t know, just precautionary. He was pretty banged up,” Leominster head coach Dave Palazzi said. “We’ll see. He’s having trouble breathing a little bit, but hopefully he’ll be alright.”

Losing Gurley for any length of time would be a big blow to the Blue Devils’ offense. Gurley was the Devils’ leading rusher a year ago, and the compact, tough-nosed senior is their feature back again this fall.

Turning up the pressure: In the Raiders’ 3-5-3 defensive scheme, their signature has typically been the way they play inside backers Cullen and Coury over the interior “A” and “B” gaps, utilizing plenty of pre-snap movement and often feigning blitzes on either side to confuse linemen.

But in the second half, it was pressure off edge where they had most success, with Cesar and Josh Villanueva sometimes hurrying Gray into throwing the ball away. One of Lowell’s most crucial defensive plays came midway through the fourth quarter, when Coury forced a third and 24 after shooting up the playside “B” gap and body slamming Gray to the turf 14 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

“All week just saw what we had to accomplish – watching the line, from guards to fullback,” Coury said. “I just had to get in there and make the play.”

Coury, who currently holds a scholarship offer from Central Connecticut State and a walk-on offer from Duke, is praised in Lowell for his consistency. With Cullen attracting so much attention in the middle, it’s almost pick-your-poison at times.

“The last two teams we faced [Dracut and Chelmsford] play real tight inside, so that limited Shy a little bit,” Florence said. “I think teams are probably going to go away from the middle, so that benefits Nic – especially in passing situations, where an offensive tackle has trouble with foot speed keeping up with him.”

Growth spurt: Dunn, a junior, came into training camp splitting snaps under center, but injuries have forced him into a full-time role. The amount of maturation he’s made since the preseason was not lost on anyone following Friday’s win.

“Going into the season, we didn’t even think that he was going to start,” Cullen said. “But he stepped up tremendously. I believed in the kid, but I honestly didn’t think he’d turn out like this.

Just how much has Dunn matured in a short amount of time? Look no further than the veteran throw the rookie QB made with three minutes left in the game to nearly sew up the win. Facing third and six from their own 19, the Raiders lined up in a shotgun formation with Cullen, the tailback, motioning across. After the snap, Cullen swung to the flat for a wheel screen, Dunn pump-faked to him once and then turned his eyes upfield, where Ojunga hauled in a 47-yard pass.

“It was amazing, I couldn’t believe it,” Cullen said of the play. “I was in awe."


Video: No. 1 Xaverian vs. No. 9 B-R

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- No. 1 Xaverian improved to 2-0 with its second straight win over top 10 opponent as well in a 28-6 win over No. 9 Bridgewater-Raynham in our Game of the Week.

ESPN Boston High Schools editor Scott Barboza joined correspondent Joe Parello in breaking down the Hawks' dominant performance:

(Video by Joe Parello)

Recap: No. 18 Central 32, East Longmeadow 8

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
SPRINGFIELD, Mass -- Throughout the week, many of the locals clung to a belief that East Longmeadow, fresh off a pair of one-sided victories and climbing up the area polls at a rapid pace, would give reigning two-time AA Conference champion Springfield Central a serious run for its money and, in the process, positioned itself as a major divisional contender.

As a result, following Friday night's 32-8 setback to the Golden Eagles at Berte Field, the Spartans continued to demonstrate an ineptness to strike while the iron is hot.

For the fourth consecutive year, Central has laid claim to victory over its rival in dominant fashion. With this latest triumph, the Golden Eagles have now out-scored the Spartans 157-51 during that stretch.

The one thing East Longmeadow could not do in order to have any kind of success was to not turn the ball over. Unfortunately the Spartans (2-1) did just that, losing a pair of fumbles and throwing an interception in the first half which parlayed into 19 Golden Eagle points and a 26-8 first half lead. After a season-opening defeat to Everett two weeks ago, Central (1-1) appears to be back on track, proving yet again, it is the team to beat in this highly-competitive conference.

"This was huge for us," said senior linebacker Francis Frimpong, who returned a fumble 84 yards for a score late in the opening half that put Central ahead 26-0. "We proved some things tonight but there is still much-more for us to improve upon. We have some players that still need to step up. If that happens I feel we can be a better team than we were tonight."

The Golden Eagles didn't need to rely heavily on their offense because of the contributions put forth by the defense. They did manage 181 yards spearheaded by junior running back Tyreque Estrada-Crapps, who gained 91 of it on 14 attempts.

The Spartans did have one silver lining as they were once again paced by stellar running back Mike Maggipinto (183 yards on 36 carries). As a team, they finished with 272 yards. Maggipinto, who rushed for 2,022 yards a year ago, seems destined to reach or eclipse that mark this season. The junior now has 598 yards on the ground.

"Turning the ball over against a good team like Central is not the way you can play a team like that," Maggipinto said. "It shows we still have a lot of work left to do. We win as a team and lose as a team. Tonight Central capitalized on all of our mistakes.They played excellent football and we didn't."

The Golden Eagles set the tone early in this one. With the Spartans driving down field on their initial possession, quarterback Tyler Maloney threw a swing pass out to his left that was picked off by senior defensive back Nate Smith, who returned it 55 yards untouched making it 6-0.

On East Longmeadow's second chance, running back Aidan Kennedy coughed up the ball that was recovered by Central. With a short field in front of them, the Golden Eagles drove 37 yards capped off by quarterback Aaron Williams' 1 yard dive into the end zone upping the lead to 13-0 with four minutes left in the first quarter.

Early in the second frame, Central initiated a 48 yard march with running back Antoine Williams getting the nod, taking it into the end zone from 4 yards out and a 20-0 advantage. Just four minutes later, on yet another Spartans sustained drive, Central linebacker Jastice Bolden blasted Maloney on a roll out. The senior signal-caller was separated from the ball, and in turn, was scooped up by Frimpong, who sprinted the other direction unscathed for another Golden Eagles score.

Right before the half, East Longmeadow finally was able to get on the board, albeit barely. Given the ball at the Central 1 yard line, Maggipinto lost the handle. However, Kennedy was there to pick it up and roll across the goal line.

But the early deficit proved too much for East Longmeadow to climb back from. Following a scoreless third, the Golden Eagles started the fourth with Antoine Williams dashing into the end zone from 6 yards out thus padding the lead. The scoring drive was set up nicely after Central's defense pinned East Longmeadow deep into their own territory. A short punt ensued to give Central the ball in Spartan territory. For the remainder of this contest, the Golden Eagles defense continued to stymie East Longmeadow, keeping the Spartans at bay.

"We've got to see the film to see if we made any improvements from the first week," Central head coach Valdamar Brower said. "It's too early to tell. (Defensive coordinator) Bill Watson has everything to do with our defense. I'm just here to support him. I love my coaching staff and our guys and I trust all of them. Nobody pointed fingers after the Everett loss and we all stuck together. That is what we will continue to do and just keep getting better everyday and work together."


Recap: Scituate 56, No. 11 D-Y 20

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
SCITUATE, Mass. – With No. 11 Dennis-Yarmouth coming into town, Scituate coach Herb Devine knew that he had a chance to put his team on the map. And he took that opportunity literally.

During the week, he had over 500 shirts printed with “Scituate Football” scrawled across the top; a map of Massachusetts in the middle with a small star placed over the town of Scituate and handed them out to the student section in attendance Friday night.

When the final seconds ticked off the clock, and the Sailors posting an eye-opening 56-20 victory over the Dolphins, the Scituate football program had successfully put itself on the map.

“We talked about it all week, I said they this was a ‘map game’ and the kids had no idea what I was talking about,” said Devine. “I said look, you win a game like this, it will put you on the map, but now they have to work harder because every team now wants to knock you off.”

Not only did Sailors put themselves on the map, but quarterback Christian Brady became a household name in Scituate with a career night. Brady exposed the Dolphins defense for 190 yards and four scores on the ground on 11 carries, and another 64 yards through the air and two more touchdowns.

“Brady is a special player, he’s an unheralded player and his name is starting to get out there,” Devine said. “He is one of the better players I’ve ever seen dynamically as a quarterback who can run and throw and make decisions. We put the ball in his hands as much as we can.

Brady dealt the Dolphins blow-after-blow in the opening quarter and the early blows amounted to the knockout punch early in the second quarter.

Brady called his own number from eight yards out to cap the Sailors first offensive drive, and a quarterback sneak on the subsequent drive gave Scituate a 14-0 lead less than eight minutes into the game.

With the Dolphins already on their heels, the situation quickly degraded as the ensuing kickoff was muffed at the Dolphins 11-yard line and recovered by the Sailors. Two plays later Brady made them pay, registering his third score of the game when he hooked up with Fran Donovan for an eight-yard score and a 21-0 lead.

Shutdown defense: Scituate began the game with an intensity that the Dolphins just couldn’t match. In the first quarter, the Scituate defense held the potent D-Y offense to just nine plays, negative one yard, three punts and no first downs.

“It gave us all the momentum we needed, three three-and-outs in a row, after that, all we had to do was get the ball into the end zone and it helped us tremendously,” Brady said of his defense.

With the Dolphins moving to the air in the second half trailing by three scores, the Sailor defense beautifully adapted the Bill Belichick “bend-don’t break” defense.

D-Y only had two second-half possessions, but killed off nearly 10 minutes of clock on their own and had no points to show after both their drives stalled out deep in Scituate territory.

Brady runs wild: The first D-Y first down didn’t come until eight minutes to go in the second quarter and the Dolphins were staring uphill at a 28-0 deficit.

Midway through the second quarter, the Dolphins broke onto the scoreboard when Ian Crosby hit Andrew Jamiel for a 13-yard score, but the defense had no answer for Brady.

On the first play from scrimmage following the Dolphins score, Brady fumbled the snap, but scooped the ball and went untouched for 65-yards to restore the 28 point lead.

The Dolphins orchestrated another scoring drive, marching 57-yards on four plays with senior Michael Dunn busting a rush outside the tackles for a 13-yard score but Brady again put any hope of a comeback on hold.

On Scituate’s second play from scrimmage after the D-Y score, Brady broke through the line with a full head of steam, rushing 56 yards to paydirt and giving Scituate a 42-14 lead.

“We respected them greatly, they are a great team we just knew we had to come out and prove ourselves,” Brady said. “We came out in the first half and shocked them and they didn’t know how to respond.”

Opening the holes: The front five of the Scituate line opened lanes large enough for a tracker-trailer all game long. Brady averaged over 17 yards-per-carry while Chris Bearce and Colin May each rushed over 85 yards.

Chris Sharry, Brian Cochran, Noah Bucher, Jake O’Donoghue and Mark Gentile deserve a fair share of the credit for the win with the way they manhandled the Dolphins defensive line.

“In the trenches we thought we could be a physical team I think people underestimate how physical we are up front,” Devine said. “We were creating holes even in the second half when we went to more of a double wing. They did a great job of being physical.

Brady was just as quick to credit the big men up front for the win, “The offensive line, you have to give them credit, they took control up front and everything worked to a charm.

“They are hard workers, last week against Cohasset it was chippy and didnt work as well but this week they really stepped it up, like wow, our offensive line is looking good and it makes my job a lot easier.”

Problematic Dolphins: D-Y couldn’t catch a break. Three times they’re kickoff return unit couldn’t jump on the short kickoffs, giving possession right back to the Sailors.

“We didn’t do anything well in any phases of the game,” said D-Y coach Paul Funk. “I give them credit they were good and we just did not play well.

The injury bug continues to linger for the Dolphins, with Michael Dunn limping off the field in the second quarter and not returning to action.

The Dolphins are already without L.K. Metz, who has been sidelined with a wrist injury, D-Y is seeing their injuries mount with Marshfield on the horizon next week.

Scituate 56, Dennis-Yarmouth 20
D-Y 0 20 0 0 -- 20
S 21 21 0 14 -- 56

First Quarter:
S-Christian Brady 8 rush (Fran Donovan kick), 5:53.
S-Brady 1 rush (Donovan kick), 3:12.
S-Donovan 8 pass from Brady (Donovan kick), 1:49.

Second Quarter:
S-Colin May 37 pass from Brady (Donovan kick), 9:05.
DY-Andrew Jamiel 13 pas from Ian Crosby (Crosby run), 5:45.
S-Brady 65 rush (Donovan kick), 5:10.
DY-Michael Dunn 14 rush (pass fail), 3:23.
S-Brady 56 rush (Donovan kick), 2:27.
DY-Jamiel 12 pass from Crosby (pass fail), 0:00.

Fourth quarter:
S-May 19 rush (Donovan kick), 10:50.
S-May 42 rush (Donovan kick), 10:40.

Recap: No. 3 Everett 21, No. 15 Tewksbury 20

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
EVERETT, Mass. –- Visiting Tewksbury gave Everett all it could handle in its home opener, but the Crimson Tide managed to overcome a slow start, and come away with the victory on the strength of Lukas Denis’ 29-yard touchdown reception late in the third quarter.

Everett was on the ropes early in this matchup between high school football heavyweights. The Crimson Tide went 3-and-out on their first two possessions, while reigning Merrimack Valley Conference Player of the Year James Sullivan led a seemingly unstoppable Tewksbury rushing attack down the field for a touchdown on their opening drive.

But that’s when the tide started to turn.

Everett recovered a muffed punt near midfield, and a few plays later, Billerica transfer Nick Orekoya burst through the line on fourth and 2, blazing past defenders on his way to a 47-yard touchdown that evened the score.

The fact that the Crimson Tide converted on the point after touchdown seemed relatively insignificant at the time, but like so many evenly matched contests, this game came down to the minutiae.

Everett was down 20-14 after an exhilarating first half, and scheduled to kick off to start the third quarter, but coach John DiBiasio decided to let his team make their own breaks. The Crimson Tide surprised Tewksbury with a creative onside kick, and while it didn’t directly lead to a score, the advantage of excellent field position allowed sophomore quarterback Jordan McAfee (12-26 for 113 yards) to hit Denis on a post route from 29 yards the next time Everett got the ball.

“I thought we hung in there in the second half,” DiBiasio said. “Our defense played much better, and special teams won the game for us. The three extra points, the onside kick to start the half that gave us good field position. The bad snap on the punt [that junior Omar Herrera ran for a first down to set up Everett’s second quarter touchdown]. We really lucked out on Special Teams”

Having a difference maker like Denis (five catches, 74 yards, TD) doesn’t hurt either.

“You can count on Lukas to make the big plays,” DiBiaso said of the senior.

Tewskbury head coach Brian Aylward shared a similar sentiment about the Boston College Commit, saying, “[Denis] made a couple of big plays on some broken plays, and those were the ones that really hurt us.”

It was tough for the visiting coach to explain why the powerful Redmen rushing attack failed to produce any points in the second half, but a couple of fumbles (all recovered) clearly set Tewksbury back in terms of down and distance.

“I thought we mixed it up enough to move the ball,” Aylward said, “but a couple small mistakes kind of put us off schedule to continue to make some first downs, and that was pretty frustrating overall."

Misdirection By Design: All eyes were on James Sullivan when Tewksbury had the ball, and rightfully so considering the senior back ran for 1,285 yards and scored 23 total touchdowns last season. Yet after using the thunderous Sullivan to run it down Everett’s throat to start the game, Aylward called for senior James Hirtle to provide some lightning quickness, as he took a toss around the edge for a 22-yard touchdown.

That trickery was just a warmup considering what the Redmen executed on their next drive. Junior quarterback Brett Morris (12-16 for 169 yards and 2 TD) looked left all the way on third and seven, even pumping to sell a screen to that side. But when the scrambling Everett defense rushed to prevent a first down, Morris executed a beautifully designed play by hitting a wide open Sullivan on the right sideline, and the standout back did the rest on a 30-yard touchdown reception.

“We worked on those screens, and knew we could try them in the right spot, but Coach DiBiaso is a guy that’s been around for a very long time and has been successful, so I knew that he would make the right adjustments, and he did,” Aylward said.

However, he was able to get Sullivan (six catches, 105 yards, 2 TD) into space on the backside of a few more plays, including a 27-yard score that put Tewksbury up 20-14 right before halftime.

Improving Every Week: Everett played without five defensive starters for the second straight week, and had their troubles stopping Tewksbury just as they struggled against Xaverian’s rushing attack in Week 2.

“We’re put together with Band-Aids and tape right now,” DiBiaso admitted. “Hopefully we get a couple of those guys back within the next couple weeks. We’ve got a rough stretch coming up starting with St. John’s [Prep] next week, and we need to get healthy.”

The Crimson Tide will also need more consistent play out of McAfee, their extremely talented sophomore quarterback. He completed 3 of 4 passes for 27 yards and brought Everett to the 1-yard line with an 11 yard rush to set up a second quarter score, and made three professional-caliber throws to Denis on what turned out to be the game-winning drive.

Yet only three of McAfee’s 14 incompletions were dropped, indicating that he’s still getting a grasp on timing in Everett’s spread offense.

“It’s one day at a time, one chapter at a time,” said DiBiaso. “We’re very pleased with his progress so far, and we hope he can continue to improve each week.”

Everett 21, Tewksbury 20

EVR 7 7 7 0 --- 21
TEW 13 7 0 0 --- 20

First Quarter
T – James Hirtle 22 run (Try failed) 5:41
E – Nick Orekoya 47 run (PAT good) 3:15
T – James Sullivan 30 pass from Brett Morris (PAT good) 1:22

Second Quarter
E – Nick Orekoya 1 run (PAT good) 5:25
T – James Sullivan 27 pass from Brett Morris (PAT good) 1:27

Third Quarter
E – Lukas Denis 29 pass from Jordan McAfee (PAT good) 2:17


Player of the Game: Xaverian's Noah Sorrento

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- Xaverian running back Noah Sorrento and the Hawks' offensive line have been unstoppable through two weeks.

The senior, who also plays linebacker, turned in his second straight 100-yard rushing performance in the top-ranked Hawks' 28-6 win over No. 9 Bridgewater-Raynham. Sorrento ran for 131 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown while being named our Player of the Game in our Game of the Week, presented by the New England Dairy Council.

ESPN Boston High Schools editor Scott Barboza caught up with Sorrento for this post game interview:

(Video by Joe Parello)