What We Learned: Week 5

October, 10, 2011
10/10/11
10:52
PM ET
LONG LIVE THE ROCKETS…?
Call it a fluke, a trap game, or just plain bad night for special teams coverage. However you choose to draw it up, the nation’s third-longest active win streak was snapped last Friday night at 41 games.

Unranked Shepherd Hill played foil to SWCL rival No. 5 Auburn, upsetting them 32-22, thanks to a series of long runs. Kenny Mardirosian returned a kickoff 85 yards to the house in the third quarter, and then Brad Picard broke through for a 60-yard touchdown scamper to start the fourth quarter with a 26-7 lead. When the Rockets responded with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Drew Goodrich to Connor Fuller, the Rams immediately fired back with a 51-yard run by Anthony Wilga, for a 32-13 lead and essentially the game.

Aberration? Of course. This is a stout Rockets defense that is sturdy in the trenches and, quite frankly, doesn’t give up many long gains.

Shocker? You bet. The Rams are always a tough out, with their vaunted Double-Wing scheme, but few predicted this (including us).

It’s a period, not a comma, in the Rockets’ storied history under coach Jeff Cormier; but it’s hardly the end. The Rockets face Leicester and Tantasqua the next two weeks, followed by a tough three-game road swing against Northbridge, Grafton then Westborough, before the Thanksgiving matchup with Oxford/Sutton.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
[+] EnlargeMaurice Hurst
Brendan Hall for ESPN.comXaverian's Maurice Hurst Jr. is establishing himself as one of the state's premier interior defensive linemen.
The picture on the front page of the Boston Globe’s high school section says it all: yes, that’s Maurice Hurst Jr. –- all 6-foot-2, 275 pounds of him –- chasing down Duxbury wide receiver Reilly Naton all the way downfield after a big gain.

Few defensive linemen in Eastern Mass. have asserted themselves the way this junior three-technique has. In Saturday’s showdown with No. 2 Duxbury, Hurst fought through double-teams all game to make quarterback Matt O’Keefe’s life tough in the pocket, sacking him twice.

“He played a hell of a game,” Naton noted. “He was in our face all day, getting double-teamed and making plays.”

For those familiar with the Parcells-era Patriots, Hurst’s father, Maurice Sr., manned the right cornerback spot for New England for seven seasons, making 102 starts and 27 interceptions; he was named to the team’s All-1990s squad for his efforts.

A quick glance at these highlights from 2011 (so far) indicate the speed is in the blood. His backside pursuit is exemplary, with a strong bull rush to boot. In other words, keep this kid on your radar.

UNDERRATED? DIAL 4-1-3
Three weeks ago, in an interview with ESPN Boston, Putnam’s Melquawn Pinkney declared the Springfield area “very underrated” for football, saying “I guess they don’t think our players are as good or as talented, but we’ve got some good players coming out of here, and they’ll soon see…I went to a lot of showcases over the summertime, and I’ll hang with the best of them.”

The reason for us coming out to Springfield, of course, was to honor the 5-foot-9 senior with our Player of the Week honors after rushing for a Western Mass record 421 yards and six scores on just 17 carries, in a 66-0 win over Agawam (four yards off the state record, too). No matter how you cut, 421 yards is pretty darn impressive.

Last season, Pinkney spelled his cousin Lavaughnte Lowe in a terrific season for the Beavers. Both went for over 1,000 yards, as Putnam accumulated over 2,600 on the ground and lost to South Hadley in the Division 2 Western Mass Super Bowl. This season, Pinkney has exploded as the Beavers’ feature back, leading all rushers statewide with 1,229 yards and 19 touchdowns. In the last three games alone, he’s racked up 1,035 yards.

Combined with Longmeadow’s T.J. Norris (101 yards last week) and Springfield Central’s Sacoy Malone (141), that’s a trio that would make the short list on any All-Star team in Central or Eastern Mass.

Give these guys some credit –- it’s long overdue.

DRAGONS DOMINEERING UP FRONT
A look down the Duxbury roster shows senior left tackle Gordon Acha at 6-foot-4, 255 pounds; and junior left guard Rob Kosharek, at 6-foot-6, 250 pounds.

A quick glance across the line tells us two things about them: 1. Those listed heights and weights are no stretch, and 2. These two kids are pretty athletic.

[+] EnlargeDuxbury Linemen
Brendan Hall for ESPN.comDuxbury's Rob Kosharerk (72) and Gordon Acha (69) are both potential Division 1 line prospects.
“They’re beasts,” senior wide receiver Reilly Naton said following the team’s win over Xaverian. “That was a huge game for Gordon, he wants to go play college football, and he proved he can play against the great players like that.

“Kosharek, the kid’s amazing. He’s gonna be the heart and soul of the team next year on the line, and that’s just a great way for them to go out in this game –- on top.”

At the end of the day, this might be one of the state’s best guard-tackle combinations; the two demonstrated fluid footwork in the passing game, and sturdy leg power in run-blocking. The two matched up with Maurice Hurst Jr. at different times, sometimes combining for double-teams, traps and chips.

Aaron Kramer, a redshirt-freshman left tackle for Boston College, is the measuring stick by which linemen inevitably get judged by in Duxbury. The 6-foot-7, 296-pounder transferred back home from BC High before his junior year, and immediately made his impact felt, helping lead the Dragons to a rout of Gloucester in the 2008 Division 2A Super Bowl and bulling them back to the playoffs a season later.

Asked if he sees shades of Kramer in Kosharek, Naton quickly concurred.

“For sure, he’s definitely proven to be one of the best linemen to come through this program in a long time,” Naton said. “I mean, the kid’s still growing. He’s huge. Kid gets bigger every day.”

Head coach Dave Maimaron sees the comparison as well.

“Junior year, comparing him to Aaron, I mean yeah, there’s definitely some crossover there in their skill level,” Maimaron said. “They’re both very athletic for their size. Aaron kept getting better, and as long as Rob keeps improving, yeah he could be a D1 kid.”

The same could be said for Acha, who like Kramer, plays center for the school’s basketball team. Like Kosharek -– and like Kramer before them –- Acha wears a long, lean frame with high athleticism and projectability. BC and Maryland are among the Division 1 feelers who have expressed interest in his services.

“Gordon also has great size and he’s really progressing,” Maimaron said. “He’s real athletic. He has great feet, very similar to Aaron Kramer’s, and he has the size.”

THROWN FOR A LOSS
You knew something was off. As D.J. Crook, Barnstable quarterback, split out wide in a formation, you expected some kind of trick play, maybe some sort of double pass.

However, that was the last time Crook was on the field during the Red Raiders' game at New Bedford. What at first head coach Chris Whidden thought was an elbow problem, later thought to be a thumb dislocation, turned out to be a fracture of the thumb on his throwing hand.

While Crook's prospect of return is questionable (his father said he hopes to return to game form in 3 to 4 weeks) the injury seemingly will affect his assault at the state's career touchdown pass record; Crook is five off from Tommy Colombo's record of 79 touchdown passes. But more than that, Crook could be absent for the Red Raiders' Old Colony League schedule, which starts this Friday against Dartmouth.

While some on the Cape might be fearful that a promising season might have been lost on a twist of fate, fear not. We're here to provide Red Raider nation with three reasons why 2-3 Barnstable could still pull out an OCL championship sans-Crook.

  1. Barnstable is more than a passing attack: A quick observation of the Red Raiders' opening drive against Whalers shows that the Red Raiders' attack is built on more than just their talented signal-caller. Running back Theo France nearly single-handedly cut through the Whalers' defense, capped off by a 44-yard touchdown run to give Barnstable a 7-0 lead.
  2. An extension of pont No. 1 ... This defense is pretty darned good: Not every Barnstable win needs to be a track meet anymore. Ask any coach who's played against the Red Raiders about junior linebacker Andrew Ellis and they'll throw praise at the 5-11, 215-pounder and free safety Kevin Hardy is perhaps the grittiest player we've seen all year.
  3. There are solutions at QB: Junior Nick Peabody filled in for Crook (promising sophomore Hayden Murphy also took a couple snaps) down the stretch. While the final score didn't exemplify a close game that was in doubt until its final moments, Peabody led the Red Raiders downfield on a couple of promising drives that were cut short by blocking penalties (including a potential game-tying score erased). While Peabody, Barnstable's top receiver, will subtract by being pulled to another position, the Red Raiders still have a deep receiving corps with Dylan Morris and Tedaro France.

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