Boston High School: Player Perspective

Player Perspective: Lynn English's Ben Bowden

April, 11, 2013
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LYNN, Mass. -- A cold, windy early April afternoon turned out to be as good a day as any for Lynn English lefthander Ben Bowden to make his debut for the 2013 season. The Vanderbilt-bound senior struck out 15 batters and allowed just two hits and an unearned run as the Bulldogs eased by Salem, 7-1, in their season-opener at Fraser Field.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Bowden has been one of the most highly-touted pitchers in the state since the beginning of the 2012 season, when he threw a perfect game against Marblehead in his first start of the season. Bowden earned a spot in the "Starting Rotation" of ESPNBoston.com's All-State Team by season's end, with six wins to go with 82 strikeouts in 51.2 innings. He will be a name to watch this spring as he gets into a groove -- in front of a half-dozen Major League scouts today, he topped out at 89 miles per hour on the radar guns, hitting the 85-86 range with regularity.

[+] EnlargeBowden
Brendan Hall/ESPNBen Bowden struck out 15 in his season debut Wednesday afternoon.
Bowden spoke with ESPNBoston.com following the win to talk about his vastly-improved conditioning, the new pitches he's added to his repertoire, and what baseball means in the pride-filled city of Lynn.

Q: Take me through your game day routine, during the day and then leading up to the game.
A:
"During the day obviously we have school, so I'm pretty amped up during the school day. But today, I felt kinda crappy. I've had a stomach bug the last few days, and it's pretty bad, but I get pretty amped up during school, I try to forget about it as much as I can until I get out. And then I get out, get dressed, get down to the field as fast as I can and start stretching. I stretched today for about a good 40 minutes or so, and then I was ready to rock."

Q: You're obviously pretty geared up for this first start. What do you do in a situation like that, with an illness?
A:
"I had a feeling I was going to get it -- my dad got it, my sister got it, so I had a pretty good feeling I was going to get it. I just hoped it would come soon, and it would be gone for today. But I was just praying it would go away, I felt pretty crappy last night and today I felt OK as the day went along. I started feeling it again, but it will be gone tomorrow."

Q: A few weeks ago when we spoke, you said you feel the best you've ever felt going into a baseball season. What contributed to that?
A:
"I honestly think basketball and conditioning helped, but I was also throwing on the sides a lot more than I ever have before. Definitely, the throwing helped a lot. I kept a consistent schedule, probably twice a week, and kept a light pace -- you know, not blowing it up. That's definitely helped.

Q: Was there anything you were looking to tweak with those throwing sessions, from last year's performance?
A:
"I developed a slider over the off-season, and that needs a ton of work. I tend to lose my legs towards the end of the game, and I just got to do a better job conditioning, working my legs more, staying compact to the plate throughout the game, keeping my front side in and not flying open."

Q: I understand you've lost a lot of weight from last year.
A:
"I'm probably 40 pounds [lighter] now. I was pretty heavy at the end of August. I did a lot of working out, stopped eating junk food, started eating the right stuff. I feel a lot lighter on the mound, I feel like I can run a lot easier, pulls aren't as bad as they were last year. It's all beneficial.

"Right now, I'm fluctuating between 215 and 220 [pounds]. I was 252 [by the end of last August]. A lot of fast food, on the road alot, out in Long Beach for the Area Code Games. But I'm happy I got it off, and I'm in the best shape I've been in a while."

Q: You get attention for your velocity, but you work in your changeup and curve nicely.
A:
"I'm not exactly happy with my velocity yet. I want to be a lot higher at the end of the season. Obviously, first start, you know, after coming off this nice little sickness, [and] I haven't thrown a pen in seven days, so this is kinda my pen and the start.

"But my changeup, I've always had a pretty good changeup, I'm actually still developing it. I'm developing a straight change, as well as a circle -- I've always had a circle. My slider today, I felt that a few of them were pretty good, and a few them weren't that good, I was a little disappointed in myself on that. I wasn't getting through them as well as I should have."

Q: How does it feel when you ring a guy up on high heat?
A:
"I love ringing guys up on fastballs. You get to hear the pop of the glove, and the whiff -- hopefully, they whiff. Looking is OK, too. Coach Phibbs called a great game today, I got all the trust in the world in him. And then our catcher Drew [Gentile] did a great job behind the plate."

Q: What do you feel you are representing when you put that jersey on?
A:
"A city of a lot of sports fanatics, and it's pretty cool because my coach and teachers all know when my games are, they're always asking when I'm starting. So, I had a few teachers out here today, so that's pretty cool. A lot of people I've known, like [assistant coach Bill] Dutch, he's been here in Lynn since he was a little kid. He was brought up a Bulldog, he went to school at English. I feel like when I go out there and do a job and get the win, I feel like I'm getting a win for everyone, especially coach Dutch. He does a lot of unbelievable things for the kids in Lynn. It's a cool feeling."

Q: What's it like throwing in front of Major League scouts like today?
A:
"Last summer when I was throwing in Syracuse, Georgia, Long Beach, I kinda got used to it. Not that you ever get too used to it, you still get the extra jitters, but it's an honor to be recognized by those guys and have them come out and look. It's a cool feeling. You get a little extra fired up, because you see those guys with the guns back there, but you just got to remain calm and just do your thing and not try and get too amped up, you know?"

Q: Where do you think you need to improve the most this year?
A:
"I absolutely have to improve on my slider, but I've also got to improve on spotting up and keeping the ball low. You can't do that [leaving the ball up in the zone] at the next level, those are some of the top hitters in the country, so I've got to work on spotting up."

Player Perspective: CM's Liam Coughlin

January, 11, 2013
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Simply stated, Catholic Memorial senior center Liam Coughlin is tearing it up this season.

The left-handed-shooting South Boston native leads Division 1 skaters and is tied for the statewide scoring lead with 31 points (20 goals, 11 assists), according to the stats kept by masshshockey.com.

[+] EnlargeLiam Coughlin
Scott Barboza/ESPNBoston.comCatholic Memorial senior center and South Boston native Liam Coughlin is tied for the statewide lead in points with 31 (20 G, 11 A).
Coughlin, who began playing with the Knights for his sophomore season after a year in juniors, has showed flashes of brilliance in the last two seasons, but the captain has broken out in 2012-13. And what has made Coughlin’s season so dynamic is not only his ability to put the puck in the back of the net, he’s made his linemates better in the process

“If you’re from Southie, everybody learns how to have everyone’s back,” CM head coach Bill Hanson said. “That’s one of Liam’s greatest qualities, he has everyone’s back on the team. That’s a characteristic that all Southie hockey players, or athletes for that matter, share.”

We caught up with Coughlin on Friday for this Q-and-A:

Q: What ultimately led you to CM after going the junior route?

A: “I was used to the high intensity and the hard work that I needed to do to play at a high level. It made me a better player, but I wanted to go to a Super 8 and play for Coach Hanson.”

Q: Coach Hanson told me earlier in the year that something clicked for you in the offseason. What has been the difference this year?

A: “I was a lot more confident coming in. I worked a lot harder in the offseason this year than I have in the past. I worked with my cousins [former college hockey players] Tommy Regan and Sean [Regan]. I’d work out with them at Motivated Fitness in Boston. Sometimes we’d do circuit running and swimming at the beach in the summer.”

Q: Coach also told me you have interesting pre-game routine.

A: “Yeah, pregame’s I’ll mix in running and some yoga. I like yoga, it’s peaceful when you’re in the postures. It helps relax me before games.”

Q: You’ve been playing alongside Jack O’Hear for most of your time at CM and Kevin Hock worked into the mix on your line last year as an eighth-grader. How have your linemates contributed to your success so far this season?

A: “They both work hard, they get me the puck, and they give it back. We’re unselfish with the puck. We do things right in practice and it pays off. We try to play both ways, too. When you play well defensively, the goals will come. You have to take care of things in your own end.”

Q: This team has struggled to score in the last couple seasons and has missed the tournament as a result. Is it a matter of the team playing with more confidence this season?

A: “We started popping them in early, in our game-scrimmages and then once we started the regular season. It’s been a bunch of people scoring. We had a couple people with eight goals, six goals, a ton of people with two goals. Everybody’s doing their part.”

Q: You’re a pretty quiet guy off the ice, but do Southie guys play the game any differently? Is there a chip you carry on your shoulder into the rink?

A: “Definitely … (Pauses) Just like Coach Hanson. (Hanson, in the background starts laughing.) … I like to play physical, mean. My attitude completely changes when I’m on the ice.”

Player Perspective: BC High's Jameilen Jones

January, 10, 2013
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A sculpted 6-foot-4 senior guard with skill and gifted athleticism, Jameilen Jones has emerged as one of the MIAA’s best players after he was selected to ESPNBoston.com's preseason Super Team, after making its second annual All-State Team last March. His BC High squad took a quick exit from last year’s Division 1 South tournament, falling to Franklin in the opening round, but the Eagles have come back with one of their strongest teams in recent memory.

A Dorchester native, Jones has led BC High back to statewide prominence -- just as they were two years ago when they were led by his friend Bryan Hurley, now a point guard at Bowdoin College. The Eagles sit at 5-2 overall and No. 9 in our top 25 poll, with their only losses coming to No. 7 St. John’s Prep and No. 5 Mansfield. As one of the state’s best pure scorers, it will be up to Jones to bring a Division 1 South title back to BC High, and so far, he’s looked up to the task.

We sat down with him to talk about what he learned as a sophomore playing with Hurley, his off-season workout, his gameday superstitions, and plans for next year.

[+] EnlargeJamelian Jones
Brendan Hall/ESPNBoston.comBC High's Jameilen Jones, a preseason Super Team selection, has the Eagles looking sharp in the first half of the season.
Q: After you guys lost to St. John’s Prep, what did you take away from it?
A:
“After that game we had to adjust a little because they figured us out. They basically spread the floor on us and had shooters all over the floor. So what we’re going to do to counter that is to mix in some man instead of playing zone the whole game. But they just shot the lights out on us, honestly.

“We went more man-to-man against West Roxbury (the game following St. John’s Prep). Lately teams have been picking me up at halfcourt and pressuring me with the ball, so what coach did is now we’re going to run a few different plays, I’m going to go in the post and get the ball in the post a little more, we’ll mix in man-to-man a little more too, so that other teams don’t get comfortable with the defense we’re in. Last year we were a little big longer and taller, so this year we have to do things a little differently.”

Q: You often physically overpower opponents with your strength, what kind of workouts do you do in the summer time?
A:
“I didn’t really touch weights this summer, I tried to do more calisthenic stuff like push-ups, things with body weight. With my AAU team, Metro Boston, we do a lot of up-fake, rip through, pull up, and mid-range shooting drills. I like to get my shot around the mid-range area, and we do a lot of drills like that. When we do our drills, they’re very physical, we have people grabbing, hacking, all that stuff. For my high school team...Coach will give us medicine balls, and we have to try to touch the backboard with the medicine balls 10 times...stuff like that.”

Q: What aspects of your game did you focus on this past offseason?
A:
“There were two things. My left hand had to get a lot better, in terms of full court. My left is pretty good in the half court when things aren’t full speed, but I really had to work on my left the full length of the court. Because I have to help Charles [Collins, point guard] bring the ball up when teams press us. The other thing was that I wanted to get my shots more consistent, I felt like last year one game I’d be shooting well, then the next game nothing would drop. I had to get more shots up, take different kinds of shots besides just a set shot, and add some lift to it too.”

Q: You mention Charles, your backcourt mate. How does your close relationship with him help you guys on the court?
A:
"It helps us communicate a lot better than if we weren’t so close. We know where the other one wants the ball, we know when we should take initiative, things like that. He knows when I’m out he has to step up, and when I’m out he has to step up. In a way we kind of rely on each other differently from how we rely on the other players on our team because of the close relationship we have."

Q: You’ve already played against many of the state’s best. Who would you say are some of the toughest players you’ve seen this year?
A:
“For Charlestown, I thought Allijah [Robinson] was very good. Brockton’s guard, Jaylen Blakely was really tough. St. John’s [Prep] had that lefty who shot the ball really well, Ben Judson. Honestly though, the toughest player that we played against, that we had to help off a little more and focus on a little more was Markus Neale from West Roxbury.”

Q: What did you guys talk about at the beginning of the year, in terms of having goals and winning games? How do you as a leader keep your team motivated?
A:
“Our coach, he gameplans for every game the same...At the end of the day, it’s all about getting a W. It’s not so much me encouraging our team, I’ll tell them we have to get our hands up or we need to play better defensively, but coach is really focused on winning every game. He believes we can win every game we play as well.”

Q: What kind of habits or routines do you have for gameday?
A:
“The day before a game, I always try to have a lot of fluids and eat a lot of good food. The day of the game, I stretch a little extra. I also like to think I’m going to do good things, and hope it transpires on the court. I like to think positive. The mental aspect makes a big difference, when you believe and you envision it, I think I have a little bit of a superstition that it helps out.”

Q: What have you been able to learn from your teammates, and who, whether it be family or coaches, has really helped you get to where you are now?
A:
“The first person I think of who helped me a lot is Bryan Hurley, who I played with two years ago. Brian is the best point guard I’ve played with. His leadership is really, really good. He always encouraged his teammates, and kept us in good spirits. As far as other people, my family always encourages me and tries to go to as many of my games as they can, they always want to know when I’m playing. The people around Dorchester always want to know too, so they can come see me play a game. So in terms of players, Brian Hurley really helped prepare me for where I am now, and my family and friends have helped me out a lot.”

Q: Your high school coach, Bill Loughnane, has been around a long time. What kinds of things have you learned from him?
A:
“Definitely discipline. There has never been a player who has lashed out at him, or has done anything that was bad. He keeps us very disciplined, he listens to us, but nobody on this team acts out of line. We try to reflect what we want to produce as a school: good character, being a man for others, and things like that.“

Q: Division 2 schools have shown interest in you, but you have yet to get a scholarship offer. What are you thinking in terms of plans for next year?
A:
“About a month ago, [Worcester Academy guard] Rene Castro told Coach [Jamie] Sullivan at Worcester Academy about me. I spoke to Coach Sullivan, and actually this Friday I’m going to finish the application to hopefully go there. Rene gave me a schedule so I can get to a game, and Coach Sullivan told me to finish the application and what not. I would really like to play at Worcester...It would be really fun. I believe I’m a scholarship player, but I know I have a lot to work on. If I was more consistent, I would have the scholarships right now. I just need to keep working, and it all will work out.”

Player Perspective: KUA's Nick Roberto

December, 18, 2012
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Kimball Union Academy hockey wrapped up its first-ever Flood-Marr Holiday Tournament championship on Sunday with a 4-2 win over Westminster School. The Wildcats were led by senior forward Nick Roberto, who earned the tournament’s David Rogerson Trophy as its MVP.

Roberto, a Maine commit and Wakefield, Mass. native, also became the first KUA player to take home MVP honors since 1975.

Considered one of the top prep hockey teams in New England entering the 2012-13 season, the Wildcats are in the hunt for another NEPSAC championship this year.

We caught up with Roberto, who started his high school hockey career at Malden Catholic, in between games on Friday:

Q: You have some pretty skilled players beside you on your line with Casey Miller and J.D. Dudek. How do your skills complement each other?

A: “We’re always on the same page. We’re not selfish players, we’re always looking for each other. I like Casey because I’ve been playing with him for two years now. He’s a pass-first and shoot-second kind of player. He’s always looking. Dudek came over [transfer from Pinkerton Academy] and he’s just a hell of a player, he’s going to [Boston College], that says a lot. He brings a lot of skill to the line. I’m more of a grind-it-out player, but Casey and him, it’s all skill. That goal, my first goal [on Friday] was all Dudek, Casey drove the net and I was high and Dudek just made a nice pass. I was lucky to get it underneath the crossbar. And then, at the end of the game … At first, I thought it was going to be a little bit scary, but we got it. Casey just found a little hole on the ice and I tipped [the shot] up and batted it out of midair.”

Q: The tournament started a little tough for you guys, but you took over the third period of your first game against Salisbury with your two goals, including the game-tier and the game-winner. What was the difference?

A: “I think I played the worst two periods of my life, then the third period, Coach [Mike Levine] just told everybody to relax. I was a little snake-bitten with my stick and then I just came alive in the third. But it was a team effort.”

Q: You have a very talented roster and, as a result, there’s high expectations again for this team this year. What do you expect of yourselves as a team?

A: “I think today [Friday] really showed what we’re made out of as a team. It was the first time we’ve been losing for two periods and we fought back. No one gave up. Everybody was really positive on the bench, and that helps a lot. Coach wasn’t negative. He’s always helping us, encouraging us. We just starting playing hard, getting shots to the net and good things happened.”

Q: You have a couple of your old Malden Catholic teammates – Connor Evangelista and Brendan White – playing with you. What’s it like having been around those guys for so long?

A: “Well, Connor and I have been best friends since we were about three years old. We’ve gone to every school together: preschool, elementary school, middle school, MC and now here. We were roommates last year. Brendan came along this year, and I’m roommates with [Providence College commit] Niko Rufo this year, but I think Whitey’s in our room more than we are. It’s just fun up there with those two because we’ve been friends for such a long time.”

Q: You’re still a couple years away from Maine, but what are your hockey plans from here?

A: “I went up there a couple of weeks ago, I saw them play BC and we talked after the game. They said they don’t have that many openings for 2013, so then I can play a year of juniors and step right in and play. I’m fine with that, they’re really supportive of me – whatever helps. I’m not looking to go to college right now with the economy being what it is. I might as well live the dream some more and I’ll get there when I get there.”

Catching up with Tyler Horan

July, 14, 2012
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Tyler HoranBrendan Hall/ESPN BostonMiddleborough native Tyler Horan won three state titles at BC High before taking his talents to Virginia Tech, where he led the team this year in home runs and RBI. He's off to a great first half in the Cape Cod League this summer.
Middleborough native Tyler Horan built his reputation as a winner during his time at Boston College High, helping the Eagles capture back-to-back state titles in baseball (2008-09) and leading them to a Division 1 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl title in 2008. After a redshirt season with Virginia Tech in 2010, he's been demonstrating more of that explosive power out of the batter's box he showed as a raw 16-year-old.

This past spring, Horan hit .282/.400/.585 totals in 54 games in left field for the Hokies, ranking fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in on-base percentage. He led the Hokies in RBI (41) and home runs (15) and ranked second in total bases (110).

After participating in the Home Run Derby at the last month's College World Series in Omaha, Horan has been tearing it up a mere 25 minutes down the road for the Cape Cod League's Wareham Gatemen. He's currently hitting .329/.391/.633 with an OPS of 1.024, leading the Gatemen in average and sitting tied for fourth in the league with six home runs.

Horan spoke with ESPNBoston.com before batting practice at Spillane Field on Thursday afternoon, before the Gatmen took an 8-1 loss to Hyannis.

Q: You took batting practice with the team at Fenway on Wednesday. How did that feel?
A:
"It was definitely different. You grow up watching them and everything, you're watching all your favorite players out there, and you never expect to be out there hitting in the same place they are. On TV, the field looks big, but then when you're on the field and you crush a ball...for me, as a lefty, I crush a ball to right field, and I'm like 'Wow, these guys are hitting shots'. It's definitely a cool experience being able to play on the same field that they do."

Q: When you cracked one to right, did you envision Papi at all?
A:
"A little bit. Definitely since he was my idol, especially coming out of BC High when I was a DH until my senior year. I'm a big, left-handed DH, and then obviously Papi is a huge left-handed DH. It just kinda fit to be watching him."

Q: You were in the College Home Run Derby last month, and you have six home runs right now. What's the adjustment typically like going from college to this level?
A:
"For me, I don't think it was quite as bad, because our college is sponsored by Easton bats. We get Easton bats, and they have a black bat they call their 'speed bat', and a white bat their 'mass bat'. I use the white one, so it's already top-heavy, similar to the wood bats we use. So, the adjustment for me, I don't feel is quite so different. But then as far as pitching goes, maybe for the mid-weeks you're going to see a lot better pitching than you would in our mid-week games, but the ACC pitchers are also very good.

"You come here, and you're gonna see everybody's best pitcher. Whether that's a mid-week game or not, it's going to be their best starter, their best closer. You're always seeing the best of the best."

Q: Do you recall the first time you watched Cape League?
A:
"I caught a couple games when I was real young, but a lot of times Little League would interfere, especially in our town. So I didn't catch too many games, but I've always been hearing about it. And then you see the movie 'Summer Catch' and you'll hear about it and go, 'Oh, that's right down the street from me, that'd be cool to play there some day'.

Q: Do you think about the Major Leaguers that have come through here, and the allure of the league?
A:
"A lot of people say this is the last step before you make it to the minors for a lot of people. So thinking about it that way, it's really cool. It puts a lot of pressure on you, though, to try and...It's a scout's league, so you have to do your best, and just show off what you've basically. But at the same time, stay within yourself, and not let all the pressure get to you. Joe Carter at the Home Run Derby, he probably gave me the best advice -- to make it to the next level, everything's mental, because everybody has similar talents at this level, so it's all in your head."

Q: Building on that, talk about your experience in Omaha at the Home Run Derby.
A:
"Oh, they treated us awesome, I couldn't have expected anything more. I had a king size bed, I had a jaccuzzi in my room and everything. It was an unbelievable experience, they were real nice to everybody. The fans loved it. Omaha just lives for baseball. I think there were 22,400 fans -- that's a rough number, but it was around that -- easily the biggest crowd that I've ever played in front of.

"It's also different because, instead of having the whole team out there, and thinking they're probably watching someone else -- no, all 22,400 are staring at you. And you don't have the safety of the turtle or anything, it's just completely different out there hitting. It's a rush. You get those butterflies, and for me once I got that first ball out, it's almost like, now I can loosen up and get it going."

Q: What was more rewarding for you at BC High -- winning two state championships in baseball, or winning a Super Bowl in football?
A:
"That's a tough one. I don't know if I can separate the two. Honestly, I might have to say football because it was only the second or third time in school history that it's ever been done. In baseball, we were expected to go pretty far, and football it wasn't seen quite the same way. And then the hype for the football games, it builds up all to that one game. I can't really say, because either way all that dedication, all of your work goes into all three of those championships."

Q: Peter Hughes redshirted you for your first year at Virginia Tech. Was it just getting acclimated to year-round baseball?
A:
"Yeah, it was that, and like you were talking about with the football question, I was very raw. My sophomore year of high school, I thought I was going to play football, so I didn't play summer baseball at all. I just worked on hitting the weight room, getting as big as I could as fast as I could, and it helped me in football but made me a raw but natural talent for baseball. When I got to college, after seeing pitching here -- Northern pitching isn't as good as Southern, because they can do everything all year round.

"Especially the year I came in, we had Jesse Hahn, Matt Price and Justin Wright -- all guys that can throw over 90. I remember the first time I got in the box, it was Jesse Hahn, and [whooshing noise] like that, it must have been 95 and I was like 'Oh man' [laughs]. It was definitely a good thing, I'm glad I redshirted. Once you get to this time, I have an extra year of eligibility, so I have negotiation in the draft. I definitely needed that year to adjust. I learned so much from baseball that year. Even when they traveled on the weekends, I'd go to the hitting building and work on all that stuff. I definitely worked really hard that year, but it paid off."

Q: What did you need to improve upon most?
A:
"I had to adjust to the speed of the game at that point. It was just purely adjusting to the speed of the game -- the pitching, the speed, knowing different things on the basepaths, what to look for as an outfielder, what to look for in counts, where I should be playing. After I got that down, now I'm working on cutting down on my strikeouts, adjusting my swing a little bit, trying not to be so jumpy at the plate. My power numbers have always been good, I haven't been worried about those. I wanted to get my average up, because if my average goes up, my power numbers also go up because it's just running into more balls and eventually they go out."

Q: You're good friends with Eddie Campbell [a Bridgewater-Raynham alum and Horan's Virginia Tech teammate, currently playing for the Harwich Mariners]. How is the banter? Any smack talk?
A:
"Eddie's dealing right now [laughs]. Me and Eddie, it's not too much, you always wish each other the best. My roommate who is also on Harwich, Clark Labitan, me and him got a little crap talk going back and forth. The thing with him is always, I live with three pitchers [at Virginia Tech] and I haven't gotten a hit off him or any or my other roommates yet. So, he'll go on Twitter and be like 'The hitless streak continues' and tag all of my other roommates in it. I can't wait until I get that hit, I'm going to be all over him. It's all friendly smack talk, but it's good."

Q: What lessons did you take from BC High that you still hold with you in college and the Cape League?
A:
"I'd probably say their whole thing of men for others is their big thing, just helping with the community. My coach Peter Hughes, he went to BC High, so he played under Norm Walsh also. He follows those too. We have this program called '19 Ways', which every year we try to do 19 things to help the community. It all falls in line. Treat everyone the way you want to be treated.

"You see little kids come up to you for autographs, you make their day and just sign it. Live for the day, I guess."

Q: For a kid who aspires to play in the Cape League one day, what's the life like?
A:
"Stressful at times, definitely. You could be playing every day, you get tweaks here and there. I'd say it's stressful, but at the same time you've got to keep your head up. You've got to be good to fail at baseball, because if you're average, you're .333. I'm batting .333 right now, but that means two out of every three times I'm failing. You've always got to keep your head up and have a short term memory to be a good baseball player."

Player Perspective: Zach Karalis

January, 18, 2012
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NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. -- Still sleeping on the Knights?

Time to wake up. Thought by several media outlets -- including us -- to be a dark horse in a competitive MIAA Division 2 field this season, North Andover is quickly eroding that perception as the wins continue to pile up. Contender might be the more appropriate term after the Knights knocked off East Boston tonight after trailing by double-digits in the first half.

At the heart of it all is senior captain Zach Karalis, an even-keeled scorer with a sweet stroke from deep, who is currently averaging 17 points, six rebounds and four assists. The WPI commit gave the Knights the lead for good with a three-pointer that made it 45-41 with three minutes to go in the game. After the exciting win, Karalis talked to ESPNBoston.com about some of his favorite plays to run, his improving big men, and what it's like facing arguably the best shot-blocker in the country.

Q: In the preseason, some of us were calling you guys sleepers in Division 2. What kind of goals did you guys set for yourselves?
A: "We came out and wanted to win the [Greater Lawrence] Christmas Tournament. We didn't do that, we had a tough loss to Lawrence, but we thought that made us stronger as a team. And then we definitely wanted to go undefeated, but didn't keep that. But we wanted to beat East Boston tonight, and prove to everyone that we can play."

Q: You've got a nice stroke from long range. How many shots do you put up in a typical day?
A: "Usually before practice, I'll do some form shooting. Then after practice, I'll take like 100-200 shots from the three-point line."

Q: Do you practice outside of your scheduled time?
A: "Yeah, I play basketball year-round, so basically every day."

Q: By that I mean, do you go back home and hit the driveway?
A: "Oh yeah, I've got myself a nice driveway, so I do it like every day."

Q: What's the sense of school pride with you guys this year?
A: "Yeah, our school has a good history, a lot of great teams. We've been in the [MIAA] tournament like 46, 47 years in a row, so we just want to keep it going as long as we can."

Q: Not a lot of teams in the MIAA have size this year, but you've got several nice post players to work with, that seem to move well around the floor.
A: "Mike Moroney and Isaiah Nelsen have been playing great for us. John [Miller] coming off the bench, has played great minutes for us, too. They're just getting stronger physically, and better. They've played really well so far."

Q: What's your favorite play to run?
A: "I like 'Gonzaga'. It's like, a double-screen for a three. I like it because I get to shoot at three, so..[laughter]."

Q: Who are some of the best players you've faced in your high school career?
A: "In AAU [with the New England Storm] I faced Nerlens Noel, I faced all those guys. Basically, anyone on BABC that I faced, Nerlens Noel especially."

Q: Since you mentioned Nerlens, I don't know if you caught some of the news over the weekend, but people are starting to compare him to NBA-caliber shot blockers -- Ewing, Mourning, etc. Where does he rank as far as players you've faced?
A: "He's definitely No. 1. I remember he blocked my shot pretty badly one time [laughter]."

Q: Do you think the comparisons are fair?
A: "Definitely. He's a great player."

Q: Take me through your pre-game routine on game day.
A: "Usually, I go home, I get a bite to eat, usually pasta and noodles. Then I come real early to the gym, usually get shots up on this hoop right here (points to opposite end of court). That's at probably 4, and the game's at 7, so usually I go upstairs and jump rope. Then I relax with the team, and go over the game plan with coach."

Q: Your team in one word.
A: "I don't want to say underrated anymore. I just want to say very good. Talented."

Player Perspective: SJP's Steve Haladyna

December, 16, 2011
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DANVERS, Mass. -- With the graduation of one of the MIAA's all-time greats in Pat Connaughton, the St. John's Prep boys' basketball team is adopting a new identity in its Division 1 state title defense. Leading the charges has been senior Steve Haladyna, who last year toiled as the second banana to Connaughton (now a freshman at Notre Dame), there to pick up the scoring slack when things got stagnant, and good enough to earn a place on ESPNBoston's inaugural MIAA All-State Team.

And with all that said, teams have wasted no time going for the Eagles' jugular in the 2011-12 season. The Eagles opened the season Tuesday night avoiding a scare from the most unexpected of places, eking out a 78-76 overtime win over Division 4 St. Mary's of Lynn, thanks to Haladyna's 38 points and 20 rebounds. Thursday night against Lynn Classical, a 61-42 win, the South Hamilton resident scored 17 points and five rebounds, putting him 24 points away from 1,000 for his career.

The road doesn't get easier. Prep has a week off before starting a tough four-game stretch in Everett, defending D2 state champ New Mission, and two games in the BABC Holiday Classic, at Chelsea High School. With a fundamentally sound group of seniors guiding a talented underclass that is expected to play big minutes, can they keep last year's momentum going? Haladyna spoke with ESPNBoston.com following last night's win to talk about his elevated role, the art of the Euro step, and how he gets prepared on game day.

Q: How have the expectations changed this year? Maybe you're not as dynamic as you were last year with Pat Connaughton, obviously, but what kind of expectations have you put on yourself?
A: "I've put a lot of expectations on myself to score more. Teams are going to be scouting my tendencies more, as well as the rest of the team's key tendencies, so we have to work on our weaknesses, and we have to execute our offense. It's going to be more about our team, and picking up the scoring slack for Pat."

Q: How does the motivation change as a defending state champion?
A: "Every night, we know the other team is going to come out and give it their all. St. Mary's the other day, they came out like it was their Super Bowl game. Tonight, Classical played hard. Every team, we're going to get their best effort, so we have to be ready for every game."

Q: How do you prepare for a game? Some guys like to get loose, others more intense. Take me through game day.
A: "I'm calm, I'm rather loose about it. Me and a couple friends on the team, we go out to eat before every game. We just relax, get a bite to eat, come into the gym early and listen to some music and focus...We go to the Ninety-Nine sometimes, it varies, sometimes we go to T.G.I. Friday's, it depends. Music, right now, I'm always on Eminem, Lil Wayne, Drake."

Q: One thing that sticks out about the team is how even you guys are all-around in your game. How much focus goes to fundamentals in practice?
A: "A lot. I think we work harder than any other team in practice. We watch so much film -- after every game, we watch film and look at the fundamentals we need to work on, and then in practice we work on it. The game against St. Mary's, we needed to work on our defense, our close-outs, stuff like that. So we emphasized that in practice the last couple of days."

Q: We keep alluding to the St. Mary's game. I think everyone south of here looked at that score and gasped. What happened?
A: "They came out fired up. They hit a lot of shots, they scouted us well, we had a lot of young guys playing their first varsity game, and at that 25 minutes. It was a tough task for them, but we gutted it out and won in overtime."

Q: We talked a little bit last year about the Euro-step. You seem to have an affinity for it, based on tonight. How much do you practice it?
A: "We actually practice it in practice, coach has us doing it in drills. It's been my move for a while, since days of elementary school I've always done it. I modeled it after Manu Ginobili."

Q: How much do you have to work on that move? You got called for a traveling violation tonight. It's a tough move for a high school kid to pull off.
A: "It is, it's tough because it looks like a travel to some refs. My legs are long, and I take long strides, so I gotta make sure I do quick steps rather than slow steps so it doesn't look like a travel."

Q: What about body control? How much goes into that?
A: "Yeah, it takes a lot of body control. You have to be strong. If the defender steps in and bumps, you have to stay strong on your feet, because you're only going off of one foot. You have to be pretty strong."

Q: What is your favorite play to run on the court?
A: "Individually, it's definitely the Euro-step, on the fast break. I like to get out on the break and run. Team, I like this play 'Blue', which is an isolation play for me. You get the ball at the top of the key, and if there is a mismatch you go one-on-one with him, try to take him."

Q: Who's the best high school player you've had to defend?
A: "Probably Anthony Davis, for a little bit, in the game in Springfield last year [at the Hoophall Classic, against the Kentucky freshman's Perspectives Charter (Ill.) School]. I remember my sophomore year, I had to defend Allen Harris from Catholic Memorial, who's now at St. Anselm. He was great."

Q: Between the other seniors -- Freddy Shove, Mike Carbone, Owen Marchetti -- what makes you guys click so well?
A: "Our chemistry. I mean, we've only been playing together for two or three years now, but we work so hard in practice on our offensive chemistry, so I think we get along well. We're all kind of long slashers, so I think we work well together."

Q: What do you think will be the biggest keys for you guys throughout the season?
A: "We're going to need our younger guys to step up, all year. So far, they've done that. We're mainly going to have to play good team defense, every game. Just rotating, playing good team defense."

Player Perspective: James Toles

November, 23, 2011
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SOUTH BOSTON, Mass. -- Former Boston College star and NFL veteran Sean Guthrie has slowly turned the South Boston Knights into one of the Boston City League's most formidable opponents. Now in his fifth year at the helm, he has his kids staring down a potential playoff berth in tomorrow's Thanksgiving showdown with archrival East Boston. Both teams sit at 4-0 in the Boston North.

[+] EnlargeJames Toles
Brendan Hall/ESPNBoston.comSouth Boston's James Toles (14 TDs) has established himself as one of the city's premier running backs and hopes to lead the Knights past East Boston and into the playoffs.
If they are to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since 1998, it will be by way of senior running back James Toles, a bruising runner at 5-foot-10 and 193 pounds who has learned to harness his speed under Guthrie's Wing-T scheme. Considered by some to be one of the city's best backs, he has thrived for the Knights since transferring from Newton North and leaving the METCO program following his sophomore year. He has 14 rushing touchdowns in 10 games, averaging over 100 yards per game.

Toles spoke with ESPNBoston.com following a Wednesday afternoon walkthrough at Southie's gymnasium, to talk about his running style, Guthrie's life lessons, and the importance of the Eastie-Southie rivalry.

Q: Traditionally, the football culture at city schools hasn't been as strong as it has in the past.
A: "No, not at all. It's a big change. Newton North wasn't as big either, but I played at a top level with all these Division 1 athletes in Pop Warner, and going to a Boston public school I just want to make it as best as I could."

Q: What has coach Sean Guthrie built here?
A: "I'd say that, every year he tries to build for the next year going on. It's not always about that year right there. He loves the kids, so it's not like he's just gonna pick favorites, make a team that's gonna win a championship. He always wants to build. He works with the freshmen all the time, the sophomores all the time, he's just an amazing guy. He's one of my big role models."

Q: What are some of the biggest lessons you've learned from him?
A: "I have a lot of energy. Like when I'm in practice...when I make a big play, you'll see me screaming. The one big lesson he told me was to use my excitement in a positive way. Sometimes I'm kind of a dirty player with my talking, not physically, but he's like 'You know what, don't boost up the other team with that excitement and energy you have; use that to push up your team, keep your team up'. I think that's the biggest lesson I've gotten from Guthrie."

Q: You guys have found a lot of success with the Wing-T. How much fun is it?
A: "I believe at my position, it has to be the best formation ever that you can run. Every running back doesn't want to be touched. If they can go clean into the end zone, they want to go clean into the end zone. The Wing-T gives you a head start with the motion. That motion, I believe that's cheating (laughs). I've played football for a long time, and motion just seems like the most cheap way to get around that corner. It's like, once you're out there, you're free, do whatever you want. It's not up the middle -- I'm usually a smash mouth football kind of guy -- but I easily adjusted to the Wing-T."

Q: How many times do you guys call 'Jet Sweep' in a game?
A: "Alright, each week we try to do something new, use a new package that we learned in practice. If it comes down to lack of discipline with our team, not remembering our assignments, anything like that, we just always go back to the jet. We're a running team, so we just go back to what we know, and do what Southie does with their Wing-T."

Q: When the call comes in to the huddle, what is your reaction? Based on your film, that play is obviously in your wheelhouse.
A: "Actually, I'm a quiet guy in the huddle. The funny thing is, it's actually my linemen [that get fired up]. Something doesn't go right, they're always like '27 Jet, next play we're gonna get back into this game'. That's how we get our motivation, we get a 27 Jet and we're gonna get some yardage, and then that's how we get the ball rolling. Twenty-seven Jet, 28 Jet, that Wing-T, I love that play. That's one of my favorites."

Q: For those that haven't seen you play, describe your running style.
A: "When I came to South Boston, I changed up my running style. I've always been a power back, I love contact, I play for guys helmets. Just, the whole running people over. But the Wing-T, it took me out of that, the smash mouth football ethic I've used. I believe that with the speed I also have, it helps me out with the Wing-T. But Guthrie has seen that, if we run up the ball, it is a dangerous sight. So we have gone to the I-formation, a little power back, 70 up the middle, or hit me with a lead around the end and cutting in. We've been going back to my ethic, and that's smash mouth football. That's what I've grown up on. That's what I love to play."

Q: So your favorite move?
A: "I love the shoulder. There's a thing that's going around Southie, everybody yells it, it's called "Everybody gets the shoulder". Say, a big play, if we have a one-on-one, we're abusing that one-on-one, and we're gonna expose the kid in front of us. That's how we play."

Q: The talent overall in the city, do you think it's underrated?
A: "I believe it is. A lot of the kids don't get to showcase their skills as much, because the lack of dedication that the other kids have in this league. It's about discipline, and a lot of kids aren't disciplined in the city. You come to one practice and there's 27 kids there, next practice there might be 15. So it's like, some people are here to wear the jersey. It's a big thing, because all of the Boston Public Schools are such small schools, that it's very hard to pick out athletes. A lot of the top-ranked schools, they have kids to pick out of that are big, or they have tryouts, stuff like that. It's really hard in the city to get these kids in practice, and to keep their grades up.

"Playing football with these kids...I adjusted to it, I used some of the Newton North, Division 1A ethic. Everybody's coming to practice, everyone's a big football fan in the city, I mean I try to get our school to do the best we can with the kids we have."

Q: Southie-Eastie -- I don't think we need to explain too much. What's the climate been like this week?
A: "All week, I've been out and about, shopping, on the train going home, and everybody is just, they see you and they're like 'Southie? You guys gonna beat Eastie, right?' I've heard it about 100 times in the past week. I've talked to the alumni, and they're so psyched about the players that we have this year, and the chance we have to go really far. I'm gonna take this seriously, because nobody's promised to the next level. I'm not a cocky player, I'm not gonna say I'm going on to the next level, I'm not one of those kids that are like 'I'm going D1'. I'm playing every game like it's my last, and I definitely don't want this to be my last one."

Q: You look at the banners here, and you see all the Division 1 state championship basketball banners. When you think South Boston athletics, the first two names that come to mind are Monty Mack and Jonathan Depina. What would it mean to put a football banner up there?
A: "(exhaling deep) That would mean everything to me. I swear, ever since I came to South Boston, I've always wanted to be about this school. Since I didn't really get to build a connection with the kids at Newton North, and I ended up leaving, it's like, alright two years left, I've got to make the best of this. I came to South Boston, one of the things I used to do is sit in those bleachers (points to benches behind the baseline) to do my homework, and I'd look up at those banners, like 'Wow, there's no football banners up there'. (He's reminded there's just one) Alright, there's one, but you know what I mean? Just to graduate with a jacket, or a banner, do something for my school. I've got to do something for my school, because this wall needs some life."

Q: How much sleep do you think you'll get tonight, thinking about this game?
A: "I don't know. I'm gonna try my hardest to sleep, I promised my coach I'd get some sleep tonight with the game ball, and hope that this weather is not going to do anything to this ball. That's what we're gonna work on tomorrow, and that's why I'm going to sleep with it tonight. It's going to be slippery out there. We want to play hard, smash mouth football, with no fumbles. A lot of people joke about one of the wet games I had, where I racked up a lot of yards but also had four fumbles. That's something I don't want to do again, so I'm going to sleep tonight, sleep with my game ball, play some ball, beat Eastie."

Player Perspective: Masuk's Casey Cochran

November, 6, 2011
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His name is Casey Cochran, and he's the most prolific quarterback who's ever played high school football in Connecticut.

Cochran, who's in his senior season at Masuk High School in Monroe, owns the state record for career passing yards (9,797), career completions (573) and career touchdowns (104). He passed the century mark in touchdown passes when he threw for five touchdowns in a 55-6 victory over New Milford on Oct. 28.

Cochran guided New London High School to Connecticut's Class SS title in 2008 before he transferred to Masuk. His father, Jack, coached that New London team. It's one of eight teams Jack has guided to a CIAC state title (he's tied with New Canaan's Lou Marinelli for most state titles by a Connecticut head coach).

Cochran helped Masuk win the Class L title last season, when he passed for 3,345 yards and 40 touchdowns (seven interceptions). Following his junior season he was named Connectcut's Gatorade Player of the Year. Cochran has completed 88 of 111 passes for 2,097 yards and 29 touchdowns in eight games (all victories) this season. Masuk extended the program's winning streak to 21 games by beating Pomperaug 49-3 on Saturday night.

Cochran recently spoke with ESPNBoston.com and was asked him about his passing records, his decision to attend the University of Connecticut and the possibility of winning another state championship this season:

Q: You've set quite a few records this season. Are you proudest of one more than the others?

[+] EnlargeCasey Cochran
Christopher Beauchamp/ESPNHSMasuk (Conn.) QB Casey Cochran recently eclipsed the 100-touchdown-pass plateau for his career and is the state's all-time leader in scoring passes.
A: "Not necessarily. Coming into the year I had heard that there were a couple records coming up, but I tried to keep my mind away from them. I've found that not looking at the stats and just going out and playing, going out and winning games, you'll eventually get there. So my mindset has kind of shifted. Early in my career it was all about getting the best stats, the awards and everything. Quarterbacks are measured too much about their stats. I feel like wins are a lot more important than how many yards you threw for … how many touchdowns you threw. Completion percentage is also very important. There are a lot of guys who go out and throw 50 touchdowns, but they might have only completed 50 percent of their balls. I think a high completion percentage and winning percentage are the true stats people should look at."

Q: What do you consider your strength to be as a quarterback?

A: "I believe accuracy, and I believe reading coverages. That's what it's come down to the past two years – reading coverages and putting the ball where it needs to be. Getting my offense out of plays that can't work versus a defense pre-snap, and getting it to the right receiver post-snap."

Q: What was it like to play for your father and how much has he contributed to your success growing up as a football player and as a quarterback?

A: "It was a great experience playing for my father. Not many kids get to play for their father at a high level in high school. He instilled a great work ethic in me and that really carried through into my years in high school. He's taught me to have a great work ethic in everything I do -- not just in sports. If you're gonna do something, do it right. That's really rubbed off on me. I've taken that stuff to heart, and I really think that all my accomplishments have come down to hard work. He's really helped me a lot in both aspects – work ethic as well as learning the game."

Q: Are you still on pace to graduate from high school in December?

A: "Yes, and I'm supposed to start up in Storrs in January as well."

Q: What were some of the things that sold you on Connecticut as a college and a football program?

A: "First of all, it's the home-state team. It's really an honor to play for your home state. The coaching change (Connecticut hired Paul Pasqualoni to replace Randy Edsall when Edsall became Maryland's head coach). I believe Coach Pasqualoni is a very good coach. I really like the coaching staff and everyone on it. I got closer with them during the offseason, so it was a very easy choice once the [scholarship] offer came."

Q: Are you concerned at all with all of the conference reshuffling? Is that troublesome to you at all?

A: "No. I've been trying not to worry about it too much during the season. I made a commitment to Coach Pasqualoni and the UConn football team. I trust that the athletic director, the UConn president as well as the Big East commissioner will put UConn and entire Big East in a great position."

Q: Is this year's team the best team you've played on.

A: "I think every year has been a little different. I think this year we're very tight-knit as an offense. We have a lot of timing. We've done a lot of work together. Being able to do passing leagues in the winters and the summers and just the work we've put in in the offseason has contributed to us being a great offense this year. Our running back, Colin Markus, is a great runner, and he sets up a lot of our passes. The play action is when he's running so hard and the defense tends to come up a little bit. That's when we can get over the top. Our O line, coming into the year they were a pretty young O line, but they've stepped it up. As an offense together we really work together well and a lot of hard work is paying off for all of us."

Player Perspective: Vincent Burton

November, 2, 2011
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Vincent BurtonScott Barboza/ESPNBoston.comBlue Hills junior Vincent Burton has made a name for himself with 48 rushing touchdowns since the start of the 2010 season.


CANTON, Mass. -- After rushing for a school-record 30 touchdowns a season ago as a sophomore, Blue Hills running back Vincent Burton has become a name to behold among the lower divisions in Eastern Massachusetts. In spite of his lean frame, he packs a powerful punch, and it shows on the stat sheet with a total of 48 touchdowns to his name since the start of the 2010 season.

He was a catalyst behind the Warriors' 10-2 campaign a year ago, which ended in a loss to Shawsheen Tech in the Division 4 Super Bowl, and is the driving force behind the explosive offense this season for Blue Hills, which sits at 8-0 and atop the Mayflower Large headed into Saturday's pivotal showdown with league rival Tri-County. The Warriors are averaging nearly 35 points per game, have pitched shutouts in all but three contests, and have yet to lose a regular-season game since dropping a season-opening decision to West Bridgewater in 2010.

Still only 16 years old, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Randolph native still has his best days ahead of him. Tuesday afternoon, after head coach Ed Catabia was awarded as the Patriots Coach of the Week, Burton sat down with ESPNBoston.com to discuss his success on the gridiron so far.

Q: You've had 48 touchdowns since the start of your sophomore year (2010), and you've yet to lose a regular-season game in two years. What do you credit for your success?
A: "I credit the offensive line for my success. They do a great job blocking for me, giving me great holes, and I've just got to use them."

Q: Describe your running style for us.
A: "Basically, I try to get as low as possible, and use my power. It's probably my best asset, that's basically it. I use my power to run through the holes. I hit it hard every time."

Q: How hard do you go in workouts?
A: "I go pretty hard, the whole team does. We do the basics, sprint exercises, stuff like that. The coach really tries to push us past the comfort zone, he always says. We do a lot of up-downs, like when we do cadence if we go offsides."

Q: In general, the Mayflower League is pretty run-heavy. How important is line play?
A: "It's very important. It's definitely a very run-based league, so without a line, the team's not very successful. Last year, we had a great line, and the same thing again this year, it's why we have so much success."

Q: Do you see a lot of teams loading up the box on you?
A: "Yeah, especially the last couple games. It's kind of slowing me down. I know sometimes they're putting all 11 in the box now, so it's hard. I've only scored two touchdowns in the last two games, and usually I'm getting like three [per game]. It's something I'm not used to, but as long as we're winning, you know? If that's what happens, then it's alright."

Q: Who's the best player you've faced so far?
A: "Probably James Toles from South Boston. He's a very electrifying player. Power, speed, everything. He has the whole package."

Q: What about best team you've faced?
A: "Probably Shawsheen, from last year in the Super Bowl. They were a defensive powerhouse. I mean, that was something else playing them. It definitely taught us that we had a good team going in, but we just have to work that much harder, and go the extra mile, to win the whole thing."

Q: You've got three games left in the regular season. What's the most important thing you've got to take care of down the stretch here?
A: "We've got to win the league first. We've got Tri-County coming up this week, and Bristol-Plymouth on Thanksgiving. If we don't win those league games, then we're not going to the playoffs, so we have to take care of that. Then Greater Lawrence (Nov. 10), I think it's going to be a testing game, we'll be pushed to our limits. If we can win that game, that would be great for us and our mentality going into the playoffs, considering they're in a higher division."

Q: Where do you see yourself needing improvement most?
A: "Definitely my speed. I know I might not look that big, but I've got the power down. I don't know how, I just do. I think it's basic mechanics from Pop Warner that I learned in the past years. But definitely my speed, I plan on working out a lot and doing a lot of speed exercises in the offseason to get faster."

Q: You mention about your power as a function of your mechanics from Pop Warner. Can you specify?
A: "Basically, running speed, determination, all things I picked up. I played with Albert Louis-Jean from BC (former Brockton star and ESPN Boston All-Stater) during Pop Warner, he played for Randolph. I've played with kids all in higher divisions, Josh Brewster from Brockton, lots of kids like that. Playing with them makes me more successful here, I think."

Player Perspective: Nauset's Brendan Battles

October, 26, 2011
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NORTH EASTHAM, Mass. -- You wouldn't be quick to confuse Nauset Regional High with the term "powerhouse" any time soon. But the Warriors, off to a 4-3 start, boast arguably one of New England's most unheralded prospects in fullback/linebacker Brendan Battles.

A series of leg injuries kept the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Eastham native from getting noticed too much on the gridiron. But luckily, he had his decorated wrestling career to fall back on. He picked up the sport as a freshman, and last winter won Division 1 and All-State in the 215-pound divsion, and fell in the New England finals to Virginia-bound Patrick Gillen of Shelton, Conn.

We've heard about the overlap between wrestling and football before (Stephen Neal anyone?), and that paid off when he arrived at football camps at Boston College, UConn and South Florida. Without seeing film, both the Huskies and Bulls offered scholarships, and Battles committed to UConn last June, joining Grafton's Obi Melifonwu and Tabor Academy's Jason Sylva (whom he almost teamed with this fall) on the list of in-state commitments.

We caught up with Battles before practice Tuesday afternoon at Nauset, and as you'll see, he had a lot to say.

Q: I asked this to Mike DeVito a year ago. Do you guys hate the tourists?
A: "Being with the workforce and working my entire life, I appreciate it to a degree with the tourists – but I can’t wait ‘til they leave (laughs)."

Q: What do you mean by workforce?
A: "I’m a landscaper, and I also did shucking oysters and clams over at a raw bar in P-Town (Provincetown). You make good money while they’re here. It’s fun, I guess you could say, but it’s also crazy. I mean, traffic-wise, just the amount of people goes from, like…you’re here in the winter time, and there’s maybe a car or two on the road, and then if you come here in the summertime, Jesus, the road’s packed."

Q: How long have you been doing that kind of work, and how much does that go into building your strength?
A: "My father owns his company, so I’ve been landscaping probably since I was like between 6 and 8. I’ve been doing that throughout my whole life. Shucking oysters was actually this one summer type thing. I had to find a different job because we had morning workouts here (at the school) at 6 in the morning, whereas before I was used to doing workouts on my own with my dad at 5:30 and then being at work at 7:30. But we didn’t get out of here until 8:30, so I had to find a different job, one of my friends’ dad’s up in P-Town was a seafood restaurant, so I just learned how to shuck."

Q: Sometimes you hear about, say, folks in places Gloucester training on the beach in the summer time. How much do you guys use the natural resources in your training?
A: "For football, we just use the field most of the time. I know I’ve gone down to the beach and used the sand for different types of workouts between my wrestling and whatnot. But we never really did it for football. I don’t know if it was just more convenient to go out here (to the school) because we had all the stuff we needed.":

Q: What would you use the sand for in your wrestling training?
A: "Sprints, lotta sprints, building up the ankles. We did a little bit of footwork. And then, of course, at some beaches you’ve got – for instance, down here [the high school is a mile from the Cape Cod National Seashore and the Nauset Light], or this beach where I used to live, you’d have an incline up until the stairway, and then you’d have a stairway that’s a good 25 yards, so you could sprint the whole thing."

Q: That must get tiring.
A: Hell yeah, Hell yeah. It sucks (laughs).

Q: When you committed to UConn, I think the question some people had was ‘Who is this kid?’ How did it end up coming about?
A: "Funny story, actually. Long story short, I’ve played football my entire life, but the past four years I’ve had some type of injury. Sophomore year, I broke my left fibula. Junior year, I broke my right fibula. The year before that [sophomore year], I had a hematoma on my arm. Et cetera, et cetera. So that was my high school football experience, to really put it in a sum. So I didn’t really get my name out there in the football aspect, loved the game though.

"I really made my name in wrestling. I started freshman year. Most kids who are in nationals start in wrestling when they’re six or eight years old, and in the state they’ll probably start around sixth grade. So I was behind, but even then my freshman year I still went 23-7. My sophomore year, I ended up taking state finalist [in the 215-pound division], fifth in All-State, fifth in New England, and then that summer I won nationals for the first time. Last year, I won state, won All-State, took second in New England, took third in the country.

"I got a lot of offers. But I knew going into wrestling, the more I grew into my friends I trained with, who were in college. That’s how I got so good, wrestling with college wrestlers. And every time I talked to them they’d be like ‘Dude, this isn’t the sport for you, you’re an amazing athlete and you need to focus on football, because you could end up having your whole college education paid for.’ And also, the door’s there, go to it. That stuck in the back of mind, and you get to a certain point in wrestling where after two seasons of cutting 25 pounds a week, it gets to you, it really does. I’d be about 240, 245 and I’d have to cut to 215 once or twice a week. I mean, if I did it twice a week, it’d be Wednesday and Saturday, I’d be back to 240 by the end of the night that I weighed in. That sucks, like Hell – you’re talking to a big boy, I like to eat, I’ll eat all day. Telling me I can only eat one meal a day to get to a certain weight? (laughs)

"There was talk of me going to a prep school, I was supposed to go to Tabor (Academy, in Marion). Then there was talk of me possibly, if I got an offer – I went to BC camp, UConn camp and USF (South Florida) camp – if I got an offer, I would stay here, no prep school. But if I didn’t, I’d go to prep school, because I was really looking more into the football side of things.

"I went to BC, got a little discouraged because I thought they were going to offer. I talked to the coaches there, and they said, ‘We’ve got nothing for you’. At the same time, I was also playing middle linebacker and fullback, which I’m more of a tight end/defensive end type of guy, as UConn and USF said. That sat in my system for a while, and I think it gave me more motivation. I’m a very negative-driven person, I guess you could say, so that pissed me off for the next two weeks of training. Then I went to UConn, and I want to say the first day [defensive coordinator] Don Brown noticed me. From then on, it was like ‘Oh, we want to try you over here’, or ‘We want to try you over there’. I started off with the middle linebackers, then fullbacks, then next thing you know they’re like ‘Screw it, let’s try you at end’."

Q: Don tends to do that.
A: "Yeah (laughs). He put me over at end, and of course I’m like, hey, if he wants to see me , I don’t care, I’ll go wherever you want me to go. If you want me at wideout or kicker, I’ll try that as well. I mean, man, I’m just that type of kid, I want to get looked at, you know? Who doesn’t? So, he put me with [defensive line coach Hank] Hughes, I think I did the same drill over and over and over. Literally, there was five drills, but I had to stay with him, and he stayed at that one drill. So I only did the one drill for the day, then pretty much at the end of camp coach P [head coach Paul Pasqualoni], I got off-campus and he gave me the offer and I committed. It was a no-brainer for me. Good program, beautiful facilities, good school."

Q: But Nauset isn’t exactly a traditional power. How did you get exposed?
A: "(Pauses) I don’t know how to answer that one (laughs). I think it was just going to the camps, really. I got my name out in the wrestling, like I said. Because I went down to USF, Skip Holtz, I mean that’s all he was looking at me for. None of these guys looked at my tape – UConn, they never asked me for tape before I committed, they were just like ‘Aw, he’s a great wrestler and a great athlete’ when they looked at the drills I did, and that’s what they took me off of. They didn’t ask for tape. I think that’s what got my name out and more exposed, me selling myself on my wrestling and my athletic ability by going to these camps. Other than that, I have no idea. Guess I just got lucky (laughs)."

Q: You hear every now and then about the overlap between wrestling and being a lineman. How much did wrestling help you with your technique as a defensive lineman?
A: "It helped a lot. You wouldn’t notice it, but when I wrestle and play football in the same season…the beginning of the season, I stopped, it must have been for the first week or second week, and I was like, ‘I’m just going to focus on football’. And then you notice you’re out of breath faster, you don’t open your hips up as much as you could on some moves, your hands aren’t as aggressive as they should be. So, wrestling to me, I play a lot of sports and it’s the hardest one I play. Endurance-wise, when I’m wrestling, a two-hour practice at least once a week, the football game is a joke to me. It’s all about hands, wrestling is all about your hand control, the way you open your hips up, so if I’m trying to pass an elbow by you have to open up your hips – same with football, if someone’s trying to reach block me, you can open your hips up and do the same thing as wrestling. You can apply a lot of wrestling moves, and the aggression I guess you could say, the same way you would apply defensive line."

Q: You mentioned at the beginning about injuries. Are you OK this season?
A: "Yeah, nothing big, just minor problems, but for the most part pretty healthy."

Q: You guys had a couple lean years earlier this century (from 2005 to 2009, the Warriors went 4-46), and you’re off to a pretty nice start this season (4-3, 1-1 ACL). What’s been the key?
A: "A lot of things. One, coach [Keith] Kenyon, one of the best coaches, he’s like a God-given gift to us. We had coaches before who’d say you should lift, or you should do this, but it wasn’t really, you know, ‘You have to do this or else’. It was a should of. You’re talking about a bunch of kids on Cape Cod in the summertime. I mean, let’s face it, there’s much more to do than ‘shoulda lifting’, you know? (laughs) For me, I’ve been lifting since I was 11 years old with my father – my father is a marine – I’d lift with him every morning at 4:30. To me, I was like, if my team doesn’t want to lift, I’m here but if they don’t want to lift then whatever. But when coach Kenyon came here, we had lifts at 6, we’d do an hour of lift and an hour of conditioning. That helped out huge.

"Then it’s also what we run as well. We used to run a spread, but we never really had a quarterback for it. It’s kinda like your backyard quarterback who can throw, but doesn’t know when to throw it, one of those type deals. Blocking was a big part, there was a lot of parts we didn’t have. But then when he brought in the Single Wing, I thought it was the best thing in high school football. I was like, ‘This is sick’, I’m not even getting the ball and this is fun, you know? And as we lift, the linemen get stronger, whether it’s Eric Marston at 150 pounds at center, or Ben Ering and Jordan Fowler who are 300 pounds. So I mean, everyone’s getting stronger, our running backs are great. As much as we depend on the blocking, the running backs can make do if something does break down. So I think basically what it comes down to is the coaching and all the players putting in the work. Those 6 o’clock workouts pay off.

Q: I understand the weight room is pretty remarkable here.
A: "I love the place, it’s really nice. If you’re in a gym class here, you’re more apt to watch TV on the plasma screens, ESPN, it’s nice. It’s funny, I’d go to my gym with my dad, I pay 30 bucks a month for that. You come here, it’s free and they got three plasmas bigger than any TV you’ve got paying 30 bucks a month over there. Like, you gotta be kidding me, I’m coming over here! (laughs) I might watch Sunday Night Football on the plasma at the school, come on now (laughs). As much as we trash it by the end of the lift, we definitely take care of it. I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s like having a nice car, you want to go back in it. We’re definitely blessed to have that, that’s for sure."

Q: You seem like you’re in pretty good shape. How intense do you go in workouts? What’s a typical workout?
A: "It changes, it all depends on what season it is…I’m actually kinda out of shape right now. I had to take a week off for high blood pressure, that was basically related to all my stress that’s going on. I’m currently not staying at home, I’ve been out of the house for like three months now. I’ve been staying with one of my friends. So basically, stress-related. Soon as I learned how to calm down by myself…it’s funny, I went from 110 to 130 to 160 to 190, then I was like, alright, I need to calm down. I shut everything off, my phone, my computer, just played ball and came home to do studies, next day I was 110. It was nothing big, but I had to take the week off. But the week off – whew, I ate the wrong things (laughs).

"[As for most intense workout], it’d have to be my functional workouts. Those things suck, oh my God. Functional workout would basically be, you’ve got your tire, then you have a sled that you pull, sledgehammer that you use against the tire, ladders, you’d always have a hill. And then, either you get the choice of pushing the lawnmower on a nice day – and this is a commercial mower, so that’s about 1500 [pounds] – or I’d push my mom’s SUV. Those days definitely sucked. And it was always a Sunday, because that’s the only day I got to really use everything, because it’s ‘Family Day’, which is really like ‘Hell Day’ because everyone’s at the house.

"It’s just one of those days you wake up and you’re like [expletive], today’s Sunday. My dad’s got all the tools ready, because you’ve got to take the hydraulics off the mower and whatnot. It’s fun. It sucked though, it definitely sucked."

Q: You seem like the type of guy who gets amped before games. Am I guessing right?
A: "Oh yeah."

Q: Take me through your pregame routine.
A: "It’s changed a little bit, but not too much. I stay really calm for the most part. People sometimes go nuts and want to be intensely focused, going through their packets and whatnot. Me, you know, I’ll read my packet on, say, Thursday. Friday, I won’t think anything about it. Nothing about the game, I stay calm, put my mind in other places, don’t want to stress out about it. And then come probably after lunch, that’s when I start almost visualizing, you might say. I’ve always been big on visualizing, I completely believe in it. We do our run through, I try to stay calm, 50 percent, just run through it. Nothing hard. I’m always the last person to put my equipment on, I don’t know why. It’s just something that’s been in high school. I just sit there, I’m relaxed and then it’s like, oh, people are lining up? I’ve got to put my stuff on (laughs). Between the adrenaline getting my stuff on and not wanting to be the last in line, by the time we’re lined up I’m ready to go off.

"It’s just one of those things where you flip the switch, really. As soon as I put the helmet on and walk up the stairs, or if it’s an away game, soon as we get out on in line to take the field, I’m just amped. I go nuts. I’m just waiting for someone to say something so I can go off."

Q: So what’s that first hit of the game like for you? Some people say they get butterflies, and then that first hit unwinds them.
A: Yeah, I definitely get nervous, it doesn’t matter how big or small they are. I’m just like, you get that nervous feeling, your heart is almost in your throat. It’s a little anxious, but soon as that first hit happens, doesn’t matter if you lay them on their ass, or they lay you on your ass, you’re like ‘Let’s just do this now’. It’s fun after that, but that first hit is always very key. I’m too anxious, oh man.

Q: Some have wondered if the Atlantic Coast League could come down to the Thanksgiving matchup with Dennis-Yarmouth. What do you guys need to take care of the rest of the way?
A: "We just need to take it one game at a time. I think we get too ahead of ourselves as any team would, as soon as you have a little bit of success. Take it one game at a time, and keep improving. Do what you can to make yourself better, your team better. Focus on the game, win the next game, then it’s on to the next one.

"Then when the Thanksgiving game comes…I mean, may the best man win. I think they’re very good, obviously. Not much for trash-talking, but I’m ready to hit someone (laughs). There’s something about D-Y, I don’t know if it’s losing to them the last three years, or haven’t been able to get revenge because any other school in the ACL has a wrestling team, I don’t have that with D-Y. They had me on that big kid (6-foot-4, 300-pound tackle Nate Crary) the last two years, and I hate that he’s gone (Crary graduated) because I’d love to see him again this year. I’m excited for the game. It’s hard, like I said, to stay focused on the game, and very hard when the season’s halfway done and you’ve got D-Y done. And it’s at their house, so you know it’s gonna be packed."

Player Perspective: Peabody's Hayley Dowd

October, 25, 2011
10/25/11
3:33
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It didn’t take all that long for Peabody girls’ soccer forward Hayley Dowd to capture the Tanners’ record as all-time leading goal scorer. The junior notched her 92nd career goal earlier this month in a 6-0 win over Salem, breaking Justine Hartigan’s career record in a little more than two seasons’ time.

The BC commit still has plenty of games ahead of her and the dynamic striker doesn’t plan on slowing down as the No. 6 Tanners look ahead to a deep postseason run.

We caught up with Dowd after a recent match in Swampscott to talk about her record, a recent trip to England and what the deal with this “Biddy” pride is all about.

Q: Did you know that you were closing on the school record?

A: “I knew I was close, but a couple people called from the local newspapers and they told me when it happened. They called me before I got to record asking about it. It’s great. It’s a great record to have.”

Q: Was it a goal to set the record this year?

A: “It’s a different year. We lost two of our best midfielders from last year and we have a couple of forwards who have taken on a different role. As long as the win the game, I don’t really think about scoring. I’m just happy that we’re coming out on top in a lot of these games.”

Q: How have your teammates helped you along in setting that record?

A: “They’ve been great. Especially in the last couple of years, I haven’t had to run after the ball, they’re able to win the ball and get it to me, which is great. I credit a lot of it to them because I wouldn’t have those goals without them. I think it starts with the defense. A person that’s stuck out in my mind has been Bianca Muscato. She stops everything that comes to her. One girl who used to play on the outside, Katie Brunelle, has stepped in great in the middle. She wins everything that comes her way and she works hard. Also, my other forward, Victoria Digiacomo, working with her has been great this year. We set up each other a lot, it’s been fun.”

Q: With those changes to the lineup, how do you feel the team is coming along?

A: “We had a little bit of rough start earlier in the season and we weren’t playing that well. But we’ve come together as a team more. We’re playing great as a team defensively and then the transition game to the forwards has been really good.”

Q: You played in England with your club team against some of the UK’s best club teams. What was that experience like?

A: “I play for Stars Mass and the league that I play in invited me and [Corey Persson] from Danvers to go and play. I’ve always wanted to go to a foreign country and England was a place that I really wanted to visit, so I really wanted to go there. We got to see a game over there, so that was cool. It’s just great that they’re men’s teams have women’s teams now. We went to Chelsea and they have like 30-plus fields at their facility, it was wicked nice -- unbelievable.”

Q: You made your commitment to BC last year. What went into making that decision?

A: “I thought at first that I wanted to go far away, California or someplace like that, but I started thinking about it and realized I wanted to be closer to home. My family comes to a lot of my games, my mom, my dad, my grandparents, so I thought it would be nice so that they can come and watch me. That made it pretty easy. It’s a half hour away from our house, so it’s far enough to stay away, but it’s close enough to come home. The success they’ve had definitely helps, too. There are three girls now from Massachusetts who play for Stars that are older than me that are there and two girls on my club team who are also going there, so it’s great.”

Q: What are the team goals for the rest of the season?

A: “Well, we wanted to make the tournament and we already qualified, so that’s good. We want to win the league and do well in the tournament. We had a bit of rough tournament last year, so hopefully we’ll get past the second round this year.”

Q: What’s the story behind these “Biddy” t-shirts everybody’s wearing? (Dowd was wearing a “Biddy Soccer” t-shirt at the time)

A: “We’re kind of crazy. That’s what we call ourselves. I don’t know when it started, but a couple years ago, it just kind of stuck. It comes from when people say Peabody, it’s the ‘Biddy’ at the end. So we just kind of cut it down and it becomes ‘Biddy.’ I know it’s crazy.”

Q: That makes sense.

A: “Yeah, kinda.”

Player Perspective: George Craan

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
11:13
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George CraanRyan Kilian for ESPNBoston.comSenior running back George Craan (700 rushing yards, 11 TDs) has No. 8 Concord-Carlisle off to a 6-0 start and averaging 39.8 points per game.


CONCORD, Mass. -- Concord-Carlisle senior running back George Craan has been on a mission ever since losing in the Division 2A Super Bowl last season to Duxbury at Gillette Stadium.

Craan has put on 20 pounds since last season (up to 210) to go along with his 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash. He is also determined as ever to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory, albeit taking each week “one game at a time”.

The returning Dual County League Small Offensive Player of the Year has run for nearly 700 yards and 11 touchdowns this season through the first six games of the season for the No. 8 Patriots (6-0). Craan, who ran for 1,914 yards and 24 touchdowns last season, has shared carries in a talented and balanced backfield along with senior Tyquan Culbreath and junior Tim Badgley.

Craan and the Patriots have outscored their opponents by a score of 239-56 to date, with the majority of the scoring coming before the halftime whistle has blown.

The Patriots face their biggest test to date this Friday when they host Acton-Boxborough. The Colonials (4-2) have had the better of Concord-Carlisle for past 30-plus year,s as C-C has not defeated A-B since 1987. Both teams played to a tie in 1992, and despite many close games over the recent years, A-B has maintained their dominance. In last year’s game, A-B defeated C-C, 14-7, at Leary Field in Acton.

We caught up with Craan this week to discuss the season and the big game Friday night in Concord.

Q: Can you talk a little about the 6-0 start of the season?
A: “It has been a total team effort as we have taken each game week to week. Our running backs, offensive line, and defense have all prepared hard each week. The coaching staff has prepared us well and pushed us each week and that has been a big factor. Practices have been competitive and the completion at each practice has made us all better.”

Q: With the balanced attack you guys have this year and the big scores that you have put up it has resulted in less carries than last season. Can you talk about how you feel physically at the mid-point in the season?
A: “I am feeling fresh. I have been working hard when I get the ball and working hard when I don’t have the ball. Whether I am called on to block or carry out a fake I make sure to go 110 percent. The other backs have been ready and the line has been ready and it has made teams have to focus on all of us.”

Q: Your offensive line has played great this year. What are your thoughts on the unsung group in front of you?
A: “Our line is tremendous. They are big, athletic and they go out to get people. Center Andrew VanderWilden is the anchor. He is a senior and has put in a lot of work in the offseason to get better. Tom Gregory, Thomas Kleyn, Trevor Castrichini, and Owen Guattaduaro have all stepped up as seniors. They have executed, focused and not quit on any play. They make us running backs look good when they do their job.”

Q: You put on some good weight heading into your senior season bulking up to 210 lbs. What was your off-season conditioning like?
A: “During the winter season I trained indoors at Katz Training at Acton indoor. I trained intensely for about four hours a day after school. Along with Katz this summer, I also did a lot of track work every day and a lot of football specific workouts. The training has a done a great job preparing me as I feel a lot stronger more mature and have gained a lot from the work.”

Q: You guys have done a great job coming out early in games and getting up early. On teams Can you talk about your execution early in some of your wins?
A: “Before the game Coach Robichaud gives us a pre-game talk that gets us fired up and we get ourselves fired up. We want to come out on the field, make that first hit or make that first play from the opening kickoff. We want to set the tone.”

Q: Acton-Boxborough is coming up this Friday. They have had a lot of success against Concord-Carlisle over the years. Can you talk about A-B and the games you have been in over the last few years with them?
A: “This has been a game I have wanted to win since freshman year. They beat us as freshman on freshman football by one point, my sophomore year we lost by a point and last year we lost by a touchdown. It has been frustrating and we will be prepared for Friday night. They will be ready and we will be ready.”

Q: What has the preparation been like for this week’s game with A-B?
A: “We have treated it like every other game where we have been going hard all week. Nothing has really been different but we know that this game will be intense and we will be prepared.”

Q: What are your thoughts on schools for next year?
A: “I am focusing on high school right now. I want to make sure my grades keep improving and that I continue to do well. Coach has been talking to a bunch of coaches but I am not sure yet on plans. I want to keep focusing on my school work and doors will open up.”

Q: What are your favorite subjects in school?
A: “I enjoy English and Math. I like the challenge in Math of problem solving. It is sort of like the football field where you have to do a lot of repetitions to get it right.”

Q: What do you like to do off the field and outside of school?
A: “I like to eat and I like to hang out with my friends.”

Q: What does the typical pre-game meal consist of?
A: “We always get together as a team. We go to VanderWilden’s house and usually get a pasta and meatballs going with a Gatorade.”

Player Perspective: Casey DeAndrade

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
5:19
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EAST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- A year ago, East Bridgewater's Casey DeAndrade burst onto the scene by scoring in a variety of ways. His 23 touchdowns for the 9-2 Vikings broke down like this: 10 rushing, four receiving, one passing and eight returns (four interceptions, one fumble, one kickoff, two punts). And from that, seven of those scores were for 70 yards or more.

So with versatility and home-run ability like that, how does one follow up in his swan song campaign? So far, the UNH commit has done his damage mostly on the ground, with 11 of his Division 4-best 12 touchdowns coming by way of the run (he also had an 85-yard kickoff return for a score).

[+] EnlargeCasey DeAndrade
Brendan Hall/ESPNBoston.comAfter scoring 23 touchdowns in seven ways last season, East Bridgewater's Casey DeAndrade has 12 scores and 578 rushing yards through five games in 2011.
Through five games this season for the No. 23 Vikings, he has 578 rushing yards. Something tells us it's only a matter of time before he really, truly explodes (even though he's already on track to match last year's season total). Moments before East Bridgewater head coach Shawn Tarpey was honored as the New England Patriots Coach of the Week, DeAndrade talked with ESPNBoston.com about his running style, how he stays loose, and community pride in the South Shore League.

Q: Notice you've grown your hair out a little bit. What's the story with that?
A: "Me and my brother [Justin DeAndrade] both decided to do it. He plays football for Worcester State. We both decided to let it grow out, we have a bet going to see who can grow it the longest. Just a little thing in the family."

Q: So who's winning the bet, and what does the winner get?
A: "Mostly bragging rights. I think I'm winning right now, mine's a little bit longer, but we'll see. We'll keep it going, I dunno (laughs)."

Q: Last season, you were taking the ball in so many ways, and you scored in a variety of methods. It looks like you're more in the backfield so far this season.
A: "Yeah, well just at the beginning of the year, we're trying to get more people around. But I still have one pick I brought back, and then a couple of punts, and I'm mostly in the backfield, yeah, but last week we started to venture out with it. We'll see how it goes from here on."

Q: You've obviously got some elite speed. Talk about your running style, and how you've developed that.
A: "It's a lot of cuts. It's all, like, shifty stuff. I don't really know, you can't really describe how you do it. You just have to be doing it, know what I mean? I just do it. Just gotta do it, run away from the person that's trying to tackle you."

Q: It's not often that a kid playing in the South Shore League gets Division 1 interest. How did you go about getting exposed?
A: "I don't know, I just worked hard. Everyone says, 'Oh, you should go to B-R [Bridgewater-Raynham]', or 'You should go to these schools because you'll get looked at more', but I don't believe that. I believe that if you have talent, they're going to find you. I just worked hard. I worked hard in the offseason, worked hard everywhere else, and it just paid off."

Q: So how did they find you?
A: "I went to BC camp a couple times, then I went to other camps like the UNH camp and the UConn camp. I don't know, coach Tarp [Shawn Tarpey] does a real good job exposing me and Tim [O'Brien] to everyone. He does a real good job with that."

Q: Looking back on your career so far, what's the best touchdown you've scored so far?
A: "I'd probably say last year against Abington (a 22-12 win on November 5). It was just a regular play, and I just broke it out and we sealed the deal on that touchdown. It was just a zone left, I think, and I took it on the outside. I beat one kid through a stiffarm, and just beat him all the way out. I'd say it was about 60 yards. It was against one of our biggest rivals, too, a big league game, so it was huge."

Q: What is your favorite play to run?
A: "I'd probably say our zone. It's our bread and butter, it's easy."

Q: You mention the importance of playing Abington, and most of these South Shore League teams seem to have a good rivalry with one another. What do you think makes this league so special?
A: "Everyone's always competitive. You can't overlook someone, because, I mean, last week Hull beat Rockland and no one could ever see that coming. We only beat Hull 28-7, and then we came and beat Cohasset, but you can't overlook anybody. They'll come out and just beat you. I can't really explain it. Everyone's just so competitive."

Q: Who is the best player you've faced so far in high school?
A: "I'd say Christian Lapointe from Abington, my sophomore year. He was probably the best. He was just so quick, and he was a good leader, too. You could tell he was the big dog on their team and everything. He was just so quick, a lot of shifty moves and everything. He was really good."

Q: As a defensive back, some guys like to bump and some like to play off. Obviously that's dictated by the coverage, but what is your mentality out there?
A: "When I play corner, I like to play bump and run, because I think my speed will be able to catch up with people. But I play safety now, and it's a lot of reading people and I have to read the tight end, whether he blocks down or whatever. I just kinda use my speed and go out and run people down. I don't try to make a bad angle, I just try to run people down with my speed, really."

Q: How do you get prepared for the game?
A: "In the morning, me and a couple friends go to a breakfast place up the street, Johnny D's. It's really good. Then after school, we go to Subway, we do the same thing every week. Then we come to the locker room and hang out with the guys, just get ready."

Q: Are you a guy that likes to get loose before games?
A: "Yeah, I don't get pumped up or anything. I just always laugh and giggle. I just do my own thing, I don't like to get pumped up."

Q: How do you go about relaxing?
A: "I just kinda listen to music, hang out with the guys. People are dancing in the locker room, doing whatever they gotta do, I just kinda hang out."

Q: What are the five bands playing most on your iPod right now?
A: "I'm on Pandora a lot, so I'd probably say Tyler the Creator -- he's pretty good -- Lil Wayne, Drake, all those guys, just playing on repeat. A lot of people on the team like him [Tyler], so I got kinda introduced to him. It's weird, I dunno, he's kinda funny to listen to (laughs)."

Q: What do you guys need to work on the rest of the season?
A: Just taking one game at a time, not overlooking anybody really. Just doing our own thing. Not trying to get too pumped up or anything, just play every week like it's our last and keep going."

Player Perspective: Noah Vonleh

August, 3, 2011
8/03/11
7:04
PM ET
HAVERHILL, Mass. -- When last checked in with Haverhill's Noah Vonleh, he was just a shy, unassuming kid with Bird-like intrinsic motivation, practicing his dribble on the living room floorboards in the middle of the night.

That was before the 6-foot-7 swingman blew up this summer running with the Mass. Rivals AAU club. In a profile on Vonleh last December, his AAU coach Vin Pastore said "He's got a God-given talent". Last March, Vonleh was named to ESPNBoston's inaugural MIAA All-State Team. Earlier this week, ESPN's Joel Francisco said Vonleh "belongs in the discussion for being among the top players in the Class of 2014".

In other words, there's no looking back now, even as he transfers to New Hampton (N.H.) Prep, where he will repeat his sophomore season. This week, Vonleh and Georges Niang were back in the Merrimack Valley, helping run an annual youth basketball clinic put on by Utah Jazz scout Jeff Nelson at the Cedardale Athletic Club. Following this afternoon's session of week-long camp, which ends Friday, Vonleh talked to ESPNBoston.com about his explosive summer, and the future.

Q: What goals did you make for yourself going into the summer?
A:
"Trying to prove I was one of the top players in the country for the Class of 2014, and I think I proved it. I wanted to develop a pull-up game, mid-range game, and make my handle a lot better."

Q: What do you think was your breakout performance this summer?
A:
"My second game in Cali [the Double Pump Best of Summer Showcase, in Anaheim], I think we were playing D-One Sports [N.C.], and I went off on them for something like 27 points I think. A lot of the ESPN writers, the Rivals writers, were there, and a lot of college coaches came out to see me."

Q: Who was the best player you faced this summer?
A:
"Probably Andre Drummond. He's a beast. He's so big, and there's no one to cover him. He can handle the ball, he can do everything, step out and shoot, all that."

Q: You've been under a microscope for a little bit now, going back to Haverhill. How has it been handling all the attention?
A:
"It's pretty hard to handle. You've got a lot of people calling you, coming at you, saying all this stuff, what they can do for you. You've just got to listen to it, but don't pay much attention to it. Just get better each and every day, stay in the gym every day."

Q: What are you looking forward to most this year at New Hampton?
A:
"To get my shot better, and to be a leader on the team. Zach Auguste is up there already, I know him. Jared Terrell's going to be up there, as well as Mike Auger, and the point guard Olivier Hanlon from Canada. We should have a pretty good team."

Q: What's your favorite move on the court?
A:
"Probably isolate on one side, go between the legs twice and then come back at the defender with an in-and-out and go by, and try to dunk it."

Q: Who are the players you try to model your game after?
A:
"Kevin Durant. He's my favorite player. I like Harrison Barnes from UNC, too. One of the assistants at UNC told me he's going to send me some tape of Harrison Barnes for me to watch, so I can try to add some of his stuff into my game."

Q: What's your daily routine right now?
A:
"I start out with ballhandling, then I work my way to some shooting stuff, and then do some movement, working on my pull-up. I take a lot of free throws -- my free throws were not good in the high school season. I missed a lot. I practice at the Rockingham Athletic Club [in Salem, N.H.] with Scott Hazelton and Vinny Pastore. I'm in the gym probably 20 hours a week."

Q: What's the biggest motivating factor for you going forward?
A:
"I want to be the best player in my class."

Q: What do you think you need to do to get there?
A:
"Develop a pull-up, like I said. Make everything in my game better -- my handle, get better defensively, get quicker to be able to cover quicker guards. Stuff like that."

Q: From what I understand, you're a fan of old-school rap. What are your favorite artists and songs?
A:
"I like 2Pac, Biggie, I kinda like Wiz Khalifa and Rick Ross right now too. My favorite song right now would probably be "By Any Means", by Rick Ross."

Q: What's the top five in your iPod right now?
A:
"Rick Ross, Wiz Khalifa, Lil Wayne, 2Pac and Biggie. And of course Nas is in there a little bit, too."

Q: Where do you go hang out back in Haverhill?
A:
"Nothing really, I'm just always at the gym. If I'm not doing that, I'll just chill with friends, play video games or something, or go to the mall. That's about it."

Q: One word to describe this upcoming season at New Hampton.
A:
"Experience. It will be an experience. I'll be going against kids bigger than me, stronger than me, so experience is probably the right word."

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