LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE BAY STATE
It isn't the be-all, end-all of the debate, but two Massachusetts teams came away with big victories over two out-of-state No. 1's.
No, we're not here to trumpet that Massachusetts is better than any other New England state because the top teams of New Hampshire and Rhode Island fell to Bay State foes, however, both games were telling.
The Granite State's top team, Pinkerton Academy, a juggernaut of a football team by all intents, was knocked off by a down, but feisty Brockton team. In one feel swoop, the Boxers showed that they shouldn't be written off so easily, while the Astros failed to dispatch what was considered a lesser opponent.
Similarly, the reigning No. 1 Ocean State team, La Salle Academy, took on a Top 10 Massachusetts-based opponent in Bridgewater-Raynham. The Trojans also knocked off their out-of-state guests.
Again, this isn't to take anything away from the Astros or the Rams; they're both fine football teams. However, we've heard a lot of buzz about Pinkerton in particular as being deserving of the top spot in our New England Top 10 poll.
While both the Astros and Rams have more than held their own against in-state competition, in matters of stacking up the states again each other, the Bay State takes this round.
A NOT-SO BALLYHOOED ACHIEVEMENT
Winning 200 games is much a credit to consistency as it is simply being good. So it came as no surprise when we heard that Dighton-Rehoboth head coach Dave Driscoll recorded his 200th career football in a rather ugly 7-0 win over South Coast Conference foe Wareham, that the Falcons' boss wasn't exactly overjoyed.
"I don't know if I can get any more white hair,"Driscoll told David Carty of The Sun Chronicle. "We're 3-0 in the league and that's what I remember."
It's a typical reaction from a coach who expects a lot out of his teams and rightfully so, as the Falcons are coming off a playoff appearance last year.
Again, the benchmark is a testament to the type of program Driscoll has built, not only in football in his 31 years, but also with D-R softball (a perennial D-1 state powerhouse). And, while Driscoll might not have been thrilled with his team's latest performance, that's something worth celebrating.
WELCOME TO THE 400 CLUB
St. Bernard’s running back Cody Titus is the latest Massachusetts back to join the elusive 400-Yard Club, after rushing for a state-record 436 yards and five touchdowns on 34 carries, as the Bernardians pulled back to .500 in a 33-14 win over Littleton.
That breaks the mark of 425 set back in 2001 by Lynn English’s Brandon Guy, and also does one better of the other running back to break 400 this season; Springfield Putnam’s Melquawn Pinkney ran for a Western Mass-record 421 yards in a 66-0 rout of Agawam back in Week 3.
Unlike the sleek Pinkney, who beats you with shifty jukes and deceptive breakaway speed, Titus embraces contact, and is at his best pounding it between the hashes in spite of his skinny frame.
“Honestly, Cody loves to run, he’s a North-South guy,” said head coach Tom Bingham (who by the way, as a former lineman at UMaine, can tell you a thing or two about toughness). “Very rarely do you see him stop and move. Everything he does is going forward. For not a big back, he really…he would prefer to run between the tackles than to toss the ball outside.”
Even more staggering are his midseason totals: 180 carries, 1,465 yards, 16 rushing touchdowns. That’s an average of 8.1 yards per carry; but even moreso, the senior is on track to carry the ball well over 300 times. A few weeks ago, Titus recorded 51 carries. To compensate, they’ve relieved him of his “Rover” duties on defense, only inserting him into Prevent packages.
Worries about wear and tear? In the words of the legendary Bum Philips, “Why? He ain’t that heavy.”
“We truly went in with the game plan to spread it around a little more,” Bingham laughed of last weekend’s gameplan. “But it’s very hard not to give him the ball when you feel like he can break one at any time.”
As for the defense, Bingham continued, “His carries have made us make a decision there. You know honestly he’s the type of kid – I know you hear this sometimes – but the more he gets the ball…you look at his runs early versus later in the game, the more he gets the ball, the more he finds a groove.”
CENTRAL BACK ON THE MAP
Springfield Central’s Valdamar Brower has to be on any short list for Coach of the Year.
Based largely on the near-Super Bowl champion success of last season with a young team, and the return of preseason All-State tailback Sacoy Malone, the Golden Eagles came into the preseason ranked No. 20 in our statewide MIAA poll. But they stumbled early out of the gates, dropping a 20-13 decision to Putnam and Mr. Football contender Melquawn Pinkney in Week 1, followed by a 42-13 drubbing by No. 1 Everett the next week.
Several seniors, including incumbent quarterback Tyler Dowd, had quit after the Putnam loss. This was once again a young team looking for direction. But before long, the Eagles were revved up again, capped last Saturday night with a thrilling 21-20 upset of Longmeadow, snapping the Lancers’ 52-game conference winning streak.
Leading the way was Malone, with 194 yards on the ground and two scores, and planting the winning points was sophomore quarterback Cody Williams, who struck a nine-yard touchdown pass to Richard Williams in the third quarter. For their efforts, the Eagles come in this week at No. 18, back in the poll for the first time since the preseason.
Never one to get too high on emotion, the former UMass All-Conference defensive end played it close to the chest in his post-game comments.
“There’s a lot of emotions around here,” Brower told ESPNBoston correspondent Michael Wood. “It’s very great for our school and our program to have a win against the great program Longmeadow has been building over the years. Last season was tough. So there’s a lot of emotions, but we’re very lucky and we beat a really great program tonight.”
Let’s hope these two teams meet again in the Division 1 Western Mass playoffs.
Maybe Rene Rancourt’s national anthem had something to do with it.
“Did you see me doing the double-pump with him?” Everett head coach John DiBiaso gleamed of hearing the long-time Bruins anthem singer showed up for the Crimson Tide’s homecoming game, a 42-21 decision over Xaverian.
After preening and prodding for six weeks, this is the breakout the Tide were looking for: 565 total yards of offense, including 308 from his quarterback and son Jonathan, and a career-high 203 yards from running back Vondell Langston.
Even more importantly, the Tide have found another go-to receiver to take pressure off of hard-hitting junior Kenny Calaj. Junior Jalen Felix caught 10 passes for 145 yards and a score, making defenders miss left and right with an arsenal of hip shakes and cut-backs.
Even the elder DiBiaso had to concede this was a good day.
"We had a couple of bumps in the road, but I thought we did a good job,” he said. “They're a good team. The way I said it, we were maybe two holding penalties and an interception away from scoring 60 points.
"That -- how can you complain? How can you, like, say 'Jeez, you know, we're not playing'...We're like three plays away from 60 points against a real good team. We're hitting all cylinders, getting better and better at it. The one thing we were able to do was balance out the plays now."
Linebacker Buck McCarthy is lost for the season, after having surgery last week to place three screws and a plate in his broken left fibula. And while he’s irreplaceable as the mike and the defensive captain, you have to like the way the Tide are rolling headed into Saturday’s monster matchup with BC High.
(Spoiler Alert: This may or may not be our game of the week. Tune in later in the week for a special treat)