DORCHESTER, Mass. -– Thoughts and observations from tonight’s scrimmage between No. 2 BC High and No. 19 Mansfield, in which Mansfield’s varsity score three times to just one from the Eagles:
Matinee screening: Mansfield struggled on its opening drive, thanks to pressure applied in interior defensive line from an assorted combination of Jack McDonald, Jaleel Johnson, Mark McGuire and Billy Breen. That prompted the Hornets to go to their screen game in their next three varsity offensive series, yielding favorable results.
When the scrimmage went to “situational” play in the third and fourth varsity series (i.e., chain markers were brought in), seniors Roger Rapoza and Kevin Makie had big gains out of the backfield off screen passes to the flats from Kyle Wisniewski.
Makie was particularly efficient. In the third series, he took a screen in the left flat, shot up a seam and went untouched 32 yards down the sideline for a score. Makie also had a nice 45-yard reception in stride off a play-action pass, running a wheel through zone coverage up the right sideline to set up a touchdown plunge from three yards out.
“They came at us hard, and we had a little trouble protecting,” Mansfield head coach Mike Redding said. “They did a good job pounding us. But what I like is how we got some spunk and got things going when the chains got up and we got to some down and distance. We at least walked out of here with some confidence.”
BC High head coach Joe Gaff’s explanation for how the defense got exploited on those screens was simple – poor execution.
“No idea, that’s all we talk about around here is screens,” he said. “We just didn’t do a good job on screens. It was just clear as that. We didn’t read where they were coming from, our D-linemen went upfield too much, and we just didn’t hug the backs like we’re supposed to.”
Key injuries: Another Preseason ESPN Boston All-Stater took to the trainer’s table this evening, when BC High senior middle linebacker Luke Catarius left the field in the first defensive series with an injury to his right ankle, and did not return. Catarius, a Sandwich resident, made ESPN Boston’s All-State Team a year ago and is a likely candidate for both our Mr. Football and Defensive Player of the Year awards.
It’s worth wondering if Catarius’ absence helped contribute to the Eagles’ breakdown in pass defense, as the 6-foot, 215-pounder is the face (and quarterback) of the defense.
An early prognosis was not available.
“I think it’s just a little sprain, that’s all I’m hoping for,” Gaff said. “He’s a beast.”
Owens poised for breakout? Last weekend, we wrote about Xaverian junior defensive end Elijah Jolly as a potential breakout player in the Catholic Conference this fall. BC High’s Brandon Owens is my pick for the conference’s breakout player, and I would have said that two weeks ago. But the way he ran tonight made me feel safe about my conviction.
Though Owens only platooned part-time at linebacker last season, he still garnered enough attention from Division 1 FCS schools to make a verbal commitment to Bryant University last month, as a safety. This season, the 6-foot, 190-pounder figures to be the feature back in Gaff’s pro-style offense, and looks capable of taking 20 to 25 carries a game.
On BC High’s first offensive play of the night, Owens followed Catarius up the gut into the second level, bursting off for a 35-yard gain. Several times he took toss sweeps out of one and two-back formations, and turned the corner for gains of 8 to 12 yards. He can also bring some pop – on his final carry of the night, a dive, he lowered his shoulders and easily trucked a 250-pound Mansfield lineman and fell forward.
Owens also had the Eagles’ lone varsity score, a short plunge in the second series.
There is little twist in Owens’ arsenal. He is a one-cut, north-south runner with good first-step explosion that allows him to burst through the line of scrimmage at full speed. As an outside linebacker, he demonstrated good hands, shedding would-be blockers in run support.
“He runs hard,” Gaff said. “He’ll lose a few more pounds and get in better game shape. It’s hard to knock him down for a loss, he goes forward. I thought he did a real nice job tonight.”
Craven proving sufficient: Brendan Craven enters his senior year at BC High having never started a varsity game at quarterback, yet he holds various Division 1 interest and even a scholarship offer, from FCS school Valparaiso University. How did this happen?
For starters, Craven was a fixture at camps, keeping his name afloat on the recruiting radar as he waited patiently the last two seasons behind current Stonehill College freshman Bartley Regan. The 6-foot-2 Craven has proven himself as a good rhythm passer over the summer, to go with sharp footwork and scrambling ability.
Physically, he’s done all he can. The mental part will have to wait until the Eagles strap it up for real at Brockton on September 7, so for now we’re left with glimpses of what could become.
And there were some good glimpses. Craven and Villanova-bound wideout Lincoln Collins, a preseason ESPN Boston All-State selection, looked like they were on the same page for most of the night. In the second series, Craven hit the 6-foot-4 Collins on a bubble screen for 15 yards, then three plays later connected for a 30-yard strike after faking a counter handoff up the middle.
There’s still work to be done. Craven threw a pick-six in the third series saw repeated pressure from Hornets senior linemen Ollie Erickson, Jon Lawlor, Jamie Comer and Antonio Medeiros as the game wore on. But as he was repeatedly flushed out of the pocket by pressure in those third and fourth series, he demonstrated his pocket presence, to buy himself an extra second in the pocket with his footwork or breaking off for a run.
“He’s done everything except game time, which is why situations like this are good,” Gaff said. “It’s good to have situations like this, with getting pressure, getting pressure. We’ll clean this offensive line up, there’s no question about it. That’s our priority tomorrow, cleaning it up.”