Monday, September 10, 2012
What We Learned: Week 1
HOGS LEAD THE WAY The recent battles between Bridgewater-Raynham and Duxbury have become appointment viewing during the season’s opening week, even though the Dragons largely have owned play.
But after a slow offensive start to the first half, Duxbury found itself in the middle of a rock fight with the Trojans.
Not to worry.
While the Dragons defense continued to keep the Trojans at bay, their offensive line began to lower the boom. Working largely out of the spread formation, Duxbury stepped up the tempo and looked to gas the Trojans. With several sustained drives in the third quarter and into the fourth, it was as though the air was slowly being let out of B-R’s balloon.
That was largely due to the work of Duxbury’s offensive line.
“Our [offensive] pace, I think, got to them in the second half,” Duxbury head coach Dave Maimaron said Saturday after his team’s 20-7 victory. “I thought we could go as fast as we could around them, as much as we could.”
Yet, for Duxbury’s team speed, its key to success against B-R was the offensive line’s consistent ability to run at the heart of the Trojan defense. Starters Jack Hurlihy, Rob Kosharek, Grant Kramer, Rick Lippard and C.J. LoConte simply controlled the line. And their persistence paid off in the form of Jon Hurvitz’s 61- yard touchdown to break open the game in the fourth quarter on an inside zone run.
On that play, Duxbury’s line again dutifully did its job, but it was Hurvitz’s big play ability, bouncing the play outside, that dealt the knockout blow.
“Our rule on that play for our running backs is that if they decide to bounce it to the outside and if they don’t get at least four yards, they’re coming out of the game,” Maimaron said laughing. “But Jon [Hurvitz] made it happen.”
SHOCK OF THE WEEKEND Want a Week 1 upset?
You had to look no further than Austin Prep’s 22-13 victory over defending Division 4 Eastern Mass Super Bowl champion Mashpee (ranked No. 25 in our preseason poll) on Saturday.
Obviously, it’s hard to predict what will unfold on the first week of the season, especially with out-of-conference matchups filling the schedule, but this one was a bone fide surprise.
The Cougars hung around, playing to a 7-7 tie, before Nick Vitale popped off a 12-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and AP didn’t relinquish momentum.
Perhaps it was the long bus ride up to North Reading, or the 11 a.m. start that put Mashpee behind the eight ball, but the matter of fact was that AP showed up and ran straight at the Falcons with its trademark brand of football.
That’s what made for what assuredly was a particularly long trip back to the Cape.
ABROKWAH VS. WRIGHT WAS SOMETHING SPECIAL If you weren’t at Pioneer Field on Saturday afternoon in Shrewsbury, you missed a heck of a running back battle between St. John’s of Shrewsbury’s Shadrach Abrokwah and Holy Name’s Quron Wright, as St. John’s survived a 47-40 shootout that lived up to its much-hyped billing.
Quite simply, this was a marathon between two of the state’s premier rushers.
The two are former teammates in the Worcester Vikings Pop Warner program, where they partnered with 2012 graduates Fred Taylor (Auburn) and Efrain Montalvo (also of St. John’s), so this was also somewhat of a friendly rivalry as much as it was an intense Parochial showdown. This preseason we pinned Abrokwah as a breakout candidate, with a sprinter’s build and a terrific new offensive gameplan to exploit that. We’ve already told you about Wright, billing him as a member of our preseason MIAA All-State Team.
Saturday’s showdown, however, exceeded even those expectations. The two combined for 52 carries, 487 yards and seven touchdowns, with Wright leading with 282 and four scores. Neither could be stopped, and they did it in different styles. St. John’s offense, as previously mentioned, plays very uptempo, utilizing personnel in multiple positions, and the cruz of it was Abrokwah’s cutbacks in the zone read. Abrokwah was patient in following the flow of the linemen’s blocking scheme, but when he cut back he did so at full-throttle. Once he’s in space, he has superior lower-body strength to shed high tackles.
At the other end, Wright was patient and fleeting at once, too – albeit, in a different manner. Much of Holy Name’s success over the last decade is due to a vaunted “Double Wing” scheme, and so far Wright has ridden it to over 4,000 career rushing yards. Generously listed at 5-foot-7, he is a perfect fit for the scheme, difficult to identify behind the large convoys deployed and demonstrating both breakaway speed and durability.
“You can’t really see the running back, and it’s hard to tackle,” Abrokwah said. “Coach [John Andreoli] tells us not to just stand there, but take a hole and attack it. If you don’t, and you just stand there, there’s going to be four or five guys in your face.”
It might not feel like it now. But four or five weeks down the road, something tells us we’re going to truly appreciate what a matchup this was.
BLUE DEVIL PRIDE REMAINS STRONG Some local writers in the Central Mass region mused that the crowd on hand at Doyle Field for No. 7 Leominster’s monster showdown with No. 1 Everett was the largest crowd for a non-Thanksgiving/playoff game in quite some time. If you’ve ever been to spacious Doyle, where concrete bleachers stretch from goal line to goal line on both sides and extend 15 rows up, you know this is a difficult feat even for a following as rabid for the Blue Devils.
In a word, the atmosphere on hand was electric. Fans packed the house early, and swelled over.
The game itself wasn’t that bad, either. Battling injuries to their top rusher (Kenny Calaj) and their top two quarterbacks (Lukas Denis, Pat Long), the Crimson Tide looked rusty in the first half outside of a 32-yard touchdown strike from Gilly De Souza to Jakarrie Washington (De Souza’s first such score, by the way). Things got better in the second half, starting with Washington's effortless 57-yard scamper to break the game open at 15-0.
Meanwhile Leominster looked sharp offensively, ultimately doing itself in with three turnovers –including a crucial, back-breaking one at the Everett 1 yard line – but for most of the night they moved the ball up and down the field. Everett’s defense permitted the short game, and head coach Dave Palazzi took advantage, dialing up an array of screens and swing passes to let his best skill players loose in space.
Don’t be fooled. The Blue Devils may be green with all of the youth on both sides of the ball, but they are still every bit the wagon they turned into at the midway point of 2011. Their back-to-back tilts with St. John’s and Brockton next month should be riveting stuff.