Some quick-hit thoughts from Friday night's high school football action around Massachusetts:
1. If you haven’t seen Johnathan Thomas’ 107-yard interception return from tonight, check out this video from good friend Bruce Lerch at the Boston Herald. Simply a thing of beauty. Say what you want about the return coverage, but I've been covering high school sports in Massachusetts for a decade now, and I may go another before I see a play like that again. That is some vintage Ed Reed stuff right there. Simply awe-inspiring.
2. I feel like I'm picking on Lowell here -- and I don't mean to, because they've got a great program with its best days ahead, they made some great second-half adjustments, and they're obviously a D1 North contender -- but their loss to Leominster tonight exposed yet again one of the myths about the spread offense. It could just be that Leominster coach Dave Palazzi is that good of a game planner -- he's honestly one of the four or five best coaches in the state -- but things came undone pretty quickly on offense tonight for them. For all the exotic attraction of spread schemes, all the talk of its ability to isolate your top athletes in space, at the end of the day many are still delicate.
The zone read is all the buzz right now in high school offenses. Two years ago, the New England Patriots laid out the blueprint for stopping it when they pasted Tim Tebow's Denver Broncos in the Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs. Last fall, Stanford reminded us again of its flaws when they ended Oregon's quest for a perfect season, confusing the Ducks with "scrape exchange" techniques. Oregon's variation of the offense has trickled down to the high school level in more than one place now, which makes me wonder how long before we see the response to this "scrape exchange" technique -- the "arc block" -- come in vogue.
(Somewhere right now, Norwood coach John "Multiple Offense" Sarianides reads this and grins. Congrats John, you're starting to convert me.)
3. At the other end of the spectrum, the triple option evidently still works. Whether it's the Navy-style "flex bone" scheme deployed by Brockton, which blew by Weymouth tonight 33-22; or the more traditional style of No. 19 Westfield, which pounded West Springfield 49-20 tonight with 348 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Perhaps most impressive, 306 of Westfield's rushing yards came in the first half. Fullback Ben Geschwind is a name to remember -- he makes this dominant Bombers attack go.
4. Attleboro seems to be a team few are talking about in Division 1 South, but perhaps the Blue Bombardiers need to be after another convincing win, this one 41-12 over Dartmouth. They've averaged 38 points in their first two games, and with quarterback Tim Walsh back there, as well as tight end Luke Morrison on the edge, they show no signs of slowing down. Their size seems to be understated -- take a look at their roster, and notice the sizes of the linemen.
Keep an eye on the defensive tackles Kyle Murphy and Scott Friedlander. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Murphy, a sophomore, is an athletic tackle with plenty of upside. Friedlander is simply a load to handle on size alone, measuring at 6-foot-10 and 280 pounds. And if you think they're fudging that height and weight, check out the team photo.
5. Not sure what to make of Reading's last-second 22-21 win over Dracut tonight. Did we underestimate the Middies? Part of me likes to think that this is a Reading team that is a bit rusty, if not antsy, after enduring over a month of preseason. There are teams sitting at 3-0 after tonight, while Reading is just opening up its season. That's got to be frustrating.
6. Last season, I watched Billerica's Jordan Balarinho nearly knock off the No. 1 team in the state, totaling 394 yards of offense in a 46-33 loss to Barnstable. And while most of us projected some early growing pains for the Indians under new coach Rich McKenna, I think Balarinho's talent is understated. Billerica fell to 0-3 tonight following a 46-33 loss to Thanksgiving rival Chelmsford, but the senior threw for over 340 yards for the second time in three weeks. Balarinho typically excels in the short to intermediate passing game, and in three games this season he has thrown for a total of 842 yards and seven touchdowns.