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Monday, October 3, 2011
What We Learned: Week 4

By ESPNBoston.com

ONE FOOT IN, ONE OUT
Could it be that the No. 1 team in the land took a step back in a win, and the state’s No. 3 team took a step forward in a loss?

That appears to be the scenario that unfolded last Saturday, as No. 1 Everett struggled early en route to an eventual 35-21 win over rising Cape power Barnstable while No. 3 BC High showed flashes of good promise in a 35-19 loss to New Jersey power St. Peter’s Prep.

For the No. 1 Crimson Tide, who took a 14-0 lead into the break before opening up the passing playbook and putting this one away, the victory came at the cost of one of their defensive stalwarts. Senior co-captain and linebacker Chris “Buck” McCarthy is lost for the season after leaving Saturday’s contest with both a dislocated ankle and broken fibia. The 5-foot-11 Stetson-bound McCarthy -– an ESPN Boston preseason All-State football selection, and an ESPN Boston baseball All-State selection last spring at catcher (which he’ll play for the Hatters) –- was the leader of a defense that was allowing just 8.3 points per game headed into the contest. Head coach John DiBiaso relied on his high football IQ and fundamentals to lead by example in a defense long on athleticism.

Barring catastrophe, the Tide figure to enter Oct. 15’s contest with Xaverian undefeated and holding on to the No. 1 spot. After Xaverian, it’s arguably the most anticipated matchup of the season, a visit from No. 3 BC High.

Simply put, the Marauders outmatched BC High everywhere, from size in the trenches to the athletic secondary, to the elite speed of West Virginia-bound quarterback Brandon Napoleon and the matchup problem posed by 6-foot-5, 240-pound Rutgers bound tight end Mike Giacone.

"This is why we play this game," Eagles head coach Jon Bartlett said. "Obviously, we're disappointed with the loss, but we want our guys to play at a different level leading up to the [Catholic] Conference. Hopefully this helps. Again, [we're] disappointed, but in the big picture, playing faster, playing stronger, playing at a different level...right now Northern New Jersey is a little ahead of Massachusetts, but this is good for us in the long run."

The St. Peter’s faithful took note of BC High quarterback Bartley Regan’s sound delivery and footwork; but while Preston Cooper, Gordon McLeod and Temple commit Jameson McShea have garnered most of the attention so far, the emergence of Lincoln Collins (6 catches, 84 yards, TD) maybe most paramount as the season progresses.

“Lincoln is developing as a real good receiver,” Bartlett said. “He has real good hands, won’t beat you long – he’s working on that – but he’s a steady receiver. He can block, too.”

Quite frankly, there isn’t a team in this state as talented as the one that visited Dorchester last Saturday. How much do you think that will pay off as the Eagles make a stretch run?

ON SECOND THOUGHT…
As each week passes, that week one score between Chelmsford and Westford seems less and less of an aberration.

The game, a 54-34 Chelmsford win, raised eyebrows both for how many points the historically-conservative Lions put up, and for how many points Westford was able to score on a vaunted Chelmsford defense led by Boston College-bound linebacker Tim Joy and a slew of versatile athletes in the front seven.

Three weeks out, two things are clear:

Chelmsford can score. The Lions had their way with upstart Lawrence on Friday at Veterans Memorial Stadium, winning 42-16 and making it look easy. They started out in a variety of power packages out of the I formation, and paved favorable holes for the quick Eddie Sheridan to burst through. But when they went to a spread scheme at the end of the half, they marched 75 yards in just four plays in 41 seconds, capped with a nifty flea-flicker to quarterback Colby Emanouil.

"We're capable of opening up, we've always been," head coach Bruce Rich said. "I know it's generally out of the I, running power, but we're able to open it up. Our quarterback is dangerous, he's got good wheels. We're able to run with him, and we've got some pretty good receivers as well. We got protection tonight [too], which I thought was good."

Alex Eaton is underrated. We’ve said it before, practically ad nauseum, and we’ll say it again: there is significant crossover between lacrosse and football (see: No. 2 Duxbury). Westford running back Alex Eaton, a Lehigh commit in lacrosse, torched Groton-Dunstable for over 330 yards and five scores in last Friday’s 33-8 win, and through four games he has 785 yards of offense.

“The best thing we do is give the ball to Alex,” remarked Westford head coach Rich McKenna, with a laugh. “He makes us look good.”

Whether he’s catching balls out of the backfield or running straight up the gut, Eaton is making people miss; and if you watch enough lacrosse, and then think back to high school lacrosse/football legends like Ryan Izzo (Walpole) and Sean Morris (Marshfield), you can make some educated guesses. The proof is in the running stride, keeping one’s hips active enough where your average defender might have difficulty squaring up.

ROCKETS SOARING AT FULL THROTTLE
And while we’re on the subject of lacrosse guys leaving their footprints all over the gridiron…how ‘bout them Needham boys?

Tight end (and lax star) Mark Riley and quarterback Drew Burnett grab the headlines for the Rockets – who debut in the polls at No. 21 this week following their upset of previous No. 6 Weymouth – but in an interview with ESPNBoston.com late last week, head coach David Duffy said he felt his athletes can hang with the Wildcats’ attention-grabbing receivers like Khary Bailey-Smith and Ozzy Colarusso.

Turns out he was right, although it was another Riley doing the damage. Senior running back Ian Riley led the way with 186 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, and also hauled in two passes for 29 yards. That was part of a 279-yard rushing effort by the Rockets, who also got crucial yardage from fullback Mike Vespa.

Nico Panepinto led the way through the air, hauling in two touchdown passes from Burnett, while Dan Pierce provided some flair in the return game.

Meanwhile, tight end Mark Riley found himself covered up most of the afternoon, which should speak to a larger point.

“He’s just clobbering everybody and we put a great athlete on him, our quarterback, which is double duty for him, so maybe that hurt a little offensively,” Weymouth head coach Kevin Mackin told ESPN Boston correspondent Matt Noonan, of Mark Riley. “Who knows, but he covered him and we had Bailey-Smith over the top. We maybe over-committed a little bit, but clearly that kid is the best tight end in the state and we [wanted] to make sure that we slowed him down, [and] unfortunately they had way too many weapons to go to other than him.”

LITTLE HOCK, BIG HOCK?
Mansfield and King Philip produced the instant classic that we though the game could be with the Hornets once again escaping with a one-score victory thanks to some late dramatics. On Friday, defensive back Kevin Makie's pass defensed on a KP 2-point conversion try for the win provided the heroics. While both head coaches looked shell-shocked after a tense 44 minutes of football, both Mansfield head Mike Redding and KP boss Brian Lee struck on one surprising trend of the early season: Could the Hockomock's little division, the Davenport, be better than the Kelley-Rex?

OK, that might sound like hyperbole, but hear us out here. First case and point, Stoughton's "shocking" 8-0 win over Mansfield in the previous week.

"I wouldn't say they shocked us," Redding said of Stoughton, "that team can play."

There's also undefeated Oliver Ames, which plays King Philip this weekend, who is coming off a win over Kelley-Rex opponent Franklin.

"You can't look past those teams," Lee said Friday night, looking ahead to the challenge ahead, "if you, they're very capable of beating you."

The rest of the Davenport's teams - Canton, Foxborough and yes, even Sharon - are all even on the season at 2-2. And they'd all love to throw a monkey wrench in any Kelley-Rex's teams postseason prospectus. Just ask the Hornets.

"It's not often that way, but it's truly wide open this year," Redding said. "Any of those smaller division teams are capable of winning. We know that firsthand, even look at Canton, they're playing well and they gave North [Attleborough] all they could handle [a 7-0 game]. You're not going to be able to sleep walk through any of those games."

LET THERE BE LIGHTS
It might not be Wrigley Field, but Thursday night's Swampscott home game versus Triton will be the first Big Blue home game held under the lights ever. Swampscott wide receiver Nick Meninno's father helped procure the lights, which are typically used for nighttime highway paving projects.

"We're very excited about it and hopefully the town is, too," Big Blue head coach Steve Dembowski said. "We'd like to make it a tradition."