Thursday, October 4, 2012
Roundtable: Big statements, bigger production
1. WHAT IS THE BIGGEST STATEMENT YOU GOT OUT OF BARNSTABLE'S UPSET OF EVERETT?
Scott Barboza, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: Aside from the defense, which was phenomenal by all accounts, the manner in which the Red Raiders were able to pull off the upset was impressive, meaning that the offense was firing on all cylinders for most of the game. In other words, Barnstable can win ugly. When you hear about the offense and all the things the Red Raiders can do on offense, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the fundamentals. They can do all the things that constitute a potentially successful playoff team in that they can run the ball when called upon, get the back stop when required and they don’t turn the ball over. When you have one of the top quarterbacks in the state like Nick Peabody, that’s all you need to win. And, if Hayden Murphy runs the ball as he can and the defense, led by Andrew Ellis, is on, Barnstable is difficult to beat, no matter the conditions.
Brendan Hall, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: For me, more than anything, it was a throwback statement. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how much Division 1-caliber talent you've stockpiled, how heavy your line is, or how many of your skill players run a 4.5. All that matters is who puts themselves in the best position to win -- period. Barnstable demonstrated that to a T on Friday night.
Of course, this Red Raiders team isn't an underdog. They came into the game at No. 3 in our statewide poll, and I think the general consensus was that this would be a one-score type of affair. Nick Peabody is in a quarterbacking class of his own through the first month of the season, Dylan Morris is beginning to enter Matt Costello territory in terms of production, and the Raiders' linebacking corps is one of the two or three best in the state.
Barnstable coach Chris Whidden dialed up a great defensive gameplan in the pouring rain, playing outside contain on the Crimson Tide's gifted receivers, and getting great push in the trenches with a deceivingly athletic front four that fired quickly off the ball. These guys were not as big, but they certainly were fast, and above all else they hit with a level of abandon replicated by very few teams in the state.
At the end of the day, it was a pleasant reminder that things haven't gotten soft in the game of football. At the end of the day, the overarching theme remains -- if you come out complacent, someone's going to knock you around.
Adam Kurkjian, ESPN Boston correspondent: Year after year, while Everett always seems to have its share of explosive skill players, the foundation of its success is consistent and dominant line play on both sides of the ball.
The biggest statement Barnstable made Friday night was that it can go toe-to-toe with Everett's front and get the better of the exchange. That is rare, and it speaks to the level of offseason commitment the Red Raiders have made the past few seasons. While Barnstable may have the reputation as a finesse team because of the amount of times it puts the ball in the air, it looks like the Red Raiders shattered that notion last week.
Bruce Lerch, ESPN Boston correspondent: Defense, defense, defense. Staring at Everett's offensive line with 300-pounders across the board is daunting for any opposition but the Raiders didn't seem intimidated at all. In fact, they set the tone and managed to stuff the Tide twice on fourth-down tries from the one-yard line.
All 11 starters, plus the others that rotate in made plays. Jason Frieh and the defensive line held their own Everett's blockers, linebackers Brian Hardy, Andrew Ellis, Terrence Mudie and Robbie Stuart made tackles all over the field. Safeties Ryan Litchman and Kevin Hardy were tremendous in support against the run and corners Tedaro France and Derek Estes won their matchups with Everett's speed merchants at the receiver positions.
John Botelho, Editor-in-Chief, South Shore Sports Journal: Nick Peabody and the offense have been well publicized -- and deservedly so -- all season. Going into the Everett game, they had scored an astounding 145 points in three games. But the biggest statement made while snapping Everett's 28-game win streak was that the Red Raiders' defense is just as good as their powerful offense. Division 1A should be real fun to watch come December.
Everett and Barnstable Round II is already a Super Bowl many people are excitedly calling for, but neither has an easy path to get there. Everett is likely headed for a first-round playoff game with Lincoln-Sudbury, and Barnstable has to worry about beating Bridgewater-Raynham during the regular season just to reach the playoffs.
2. NAME YOUR FIVE BEST WIDE RECEIVERS IN THE STATE
Barboza: 1. Brian Dunlap, Natick – Might not be No. 1 on any other list, but come his senior season, he's going to be right there on the top of all the volume stats list.
2. Jalen Felix, Everett – Seeing, in person, the catch he made during last year’s BC High game at Memorial Stadium is something I’ll likely never forget. It’s the same feeling I had watching Randy Moss make impossible catches.
3. Jakarrie Washington, Everett – One of the best route runners around since those Asprilla and Costello kids were the go-to targets in Everett.
4. Dylan Morris, Barnstable – Hard to argue with Morris’ production thus far this season with his eight touchdown catches.
5. Will Heikkinen, Andover – Spies tell me Xaverian had Heikkinen blanketed with double coverage throughout most of last week’s game. That’s the ultimate compliment paid to a wideout.
1. Dylan Morris, Barnstable - You'll be hard-pressed to duplicate his five-catch, 207-yard performance in Week 2, and right now he's on track for 20 touchdown receptions and over 1,000 yards receiving. Bar none, best wideout in the state right now. And to think, some have mused he may be a better baseball player.
2. Jakarrie Washington, Everett - You could rotate this spot with Jalen Felix, who had an explosive performance against Springfield Central, but right now you've got to with Washington based on game-breaking ability. Against Leominster and St. John's Prep, he turned the game on its heels seemingly on a dime with one back-breaking catch or run.
3. Brian Dunlap, Natick - A versatile route-runner, he's got crunch-time knack (see his game-winning catch against Norwood with 10 seconds to go) and makes the most of his touches (17.25 yards per catch, 6 TD).
4. David Harrison, Weymouth - Has seven receiving touchdowns, and in the last two games running a pistol offense at quarterback, has thrown for six. He's just plain productive.
5. Sam Blake, East Longmeadow - Doesn't get a lot of touches in the Spartans' system, but in terms of athleticism I've heard some pretty crazy stories. In his last two games, he has 232 receiving yards and four touchdowns on just seven catches.
Tough to say for me because most of the games I have been to have featured mainly run-oriented teams.
That said, looking around the state, Lincoln Collins of BC High needs to be mentioned for his size and improved speed.
Jakarrie Washington of Everett may be the fastest receiver out there right now.
Speaking of guys that can motor, Andover's Cam Farnham has been pure lightning all season as well.
As far as pure production goes, there aren't many who do more on a week-to-week basis than Natick's Brian Dunlap.
If anyone can outdo Dunlap in that department, though, how about Shawsheen receiver Devonn Pratt? One of the top wrestlers in the state, Pratt has 11 touchdown receptions already, including five in a ridiculous, 15-catch, 268-yard performance against Cambridge two weeks ago.
1. Dylan Morris, Barnstable - Seems to have a tremendous mind meld going on with quarterback Nick Peabody. Has eight TD receptions on the season, including two clutch catches in the 13-7, double OT win over Everett.
2. Jalen Felix/Jakarrie Washington, Everett - I'm cheating a little by putting both in, but it's hard to argue against the fact that these speedsters are two of the biggest gamebreakers in Massachusetts.
3. Bryan Vieira, Thayer Academy - Eight receptions for 200 yards and a TD in the opener (along with an interception return for a score) and six more catches for 179 yards and three TDs in week two. The top receiver in the ISL.
4. Brian Dunlap, Natick - Just a sophomore, Dunlap continues to team up with QB Troy Flutie to put up big numbers week after week. I may be underrating him because of his age, but all signs point toward Dunlap someday taking over at the top of this list. Maybe sooner rather than later.
5. David Harrison/Tyler O'Brien, Weymouth - It's a cheat day for me in the roundtable as I'm going with a duo once again. The Wildcats receivers have combined to catch 13 TD passes and O'Brien seems to be Harrison's favored target when he switches under center as Weymouth's quarterback.
1. Dylan Morris, Barnstable: This is sort of a chicken and egg thing. Is Nick Peabody such a good quarterback because he has Morris to throw to, or is Morris the beneficiary of a standout QB. I think the answer is Peabody is a tremendous QB and Morris an elite receiver, and the results have indicated that so far.
2. Lincoln Collins, BC High: Collins might not have the gaudy stats some his peers do (he's caught just one TD this year) but he's a D-1 scholarship athlete going to Villanova for a reason. The Eagles have been the victims of bad luck and bad timing this season, dealing with some of the toughest teams in this state - and New Jersey - while figuring out how to replace injured stars like Brendan Craven and Luke Catarius.
3. Brian Dunlap, Natick - Like Morris, Dunlap has a premier QB throwing him the ball. He's pulled in 6 TD from Troy Flutie, and is one of the biggest reasons Natick is scoring more than 30 points per game.
4. Dondre James, Whitman-Hanson - James single-handedly changes game plans of opposing teams, often drawing more than one defender on passing plays. He's spread out defenses all season, allowing QB Tom Sapienza to throw 8 TD already. James' speed and athleticism are clear with one looks at the Panthers on offense, but what he contributes away from the ball might be even more impressive. James has sprung more than one ball carrier this year with a big block.
5. Rory Donovan, Cardinal Spellman - The Cardinals aren't matching their regular season success from the last two years, but Donovan is among the toughest receivers for defenses to match-up with. At 6-5 and with an impressive vertical, not many defenders can go up and get a jump ball against him. He's averaging a touchdown a game right now and could get better as Spellman's line matures this season.
3. WHO IS THE BEST QUARTERBACK FROM A SMALL SCHOOL?
Barboza: Right now, I’m looking at Hopkinton’s Hank Rudden. The Hillers have been off and running in the Tri-Valley League, averaging more than 34 points per game through four weeks. Whether the Hillers can keep it going into the meat of their TVL schedule is another thing, but the 6-foot-1 senior is a dependable pocket presence.
Hall: Hard to argue with the production of Northbridge's Matt Phelan. Head coach Ken LaChapelle (who won his 300th career game last weekend) is famously inclined towards the pass -- and a passing pioneer for this state, really -- but through the first four games of the 2012 Phelan has been arguably better on his feet (41 carries, 448 yards, 12 TD) than through the air (42 of 50, 514 yards, 2 TD). LaChapelle has joked that he would like to once coach a game where he doesn't call a running play, but he tends to yield some freelancing to his quarterbacks when he feels they're up for it. And understand, for LaChapelle to loosen the reigns, you have to be a special player.
Kurkjian: Let's go into the Boston City South Division where Latin Academy junior Kyle Dance is putting together a fantastic season through four games.
To this point, Dance has had a hand in 13 touchdowns (nine passing, four rushing). You want to know how many touchdowns the Dragons have as a team? Fourteen. In other words, Dance is doing it all for this team, and it will be exciting to see how the rest of his season and career develops.
Lerch: Since taking over in week two, Shawsheen's Mike O'Hearn has produced eye-popping numbers and ranks fourth in the state with 11 touchdown passes, including a six-TD performance against Cambridge. With the 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior at the helm, the Rams have put up 98 points in their last two games.
Botelho: Assuming "small" school means any outside of Div 1, 1A, 2 or 2A, the best small school QB might be Dan Eckler at Stoughton. They're a run-first offense with tons of weapons, but he's been the point man for all of their success this year.
Hanover's Ryan Bennett and Middleborough's Troy Rossi both have big arms and ideal QB size and have been fun to watch early on.
Abington's Brandon Cawley has all of the tools to run the offense for the Green Wave. He's tall, has a cannon of an arm and can tuck it and run if need be. Andrew Benson also comes to mind in the South Shore League. After sliding over from RB to QB when the Vikings didn't have an obvious heir apparent to Tim O'Brien, Benson has handled the transition well. He's very athletic and gives EB a similar look on offense they had a year ago.
4. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE CATHOLIC CONFERENCE?
Barboza: (Disclaimer: None of this argument has to do with St. John’s Prep right now.) Honestly, I’m not trying to make excuses here, and this has happened a couple of times during the last couple seasons, but it’s not as though the teams are playing easy schedules. On the other hand though, I think the rest of the state has caught up with the parochials a little bit. Some inside the Catholic Conference used to scoff at the idea of a Hockomock team (North Attleborough anybody?) hanging with one of those teams. Use this weekend’s Xaverian vs. Duxbury matchup as another proof positive. I think the Hawks will find out that last year’s win by the Dragons at the Hawk Bowl was no fluke. And, while most of the state still cannot match the numbers the Catholics have on their sidelines, there’s plenty of talent to be had.
Hall: With St. John's Prep, nothing. With the rest of the conference (a combined 4-12 heading into this weekend's games), where do you start?
Expectations weren't high on Malden Catholic or Catholic Memorial coming into the season, but the way BC High and Xaverian (preseason Nos. 2 and 3, respectively) have stumbled out of the gates is concerning. Then again, they've endured brutal schedules, and few teams in Massachusetts would come out of September with better than their 1-3 records. Still, the way in which they've lost is not convincing, between BC High getting dominated from scrimmage by North Attleborough and Xaverian laying eggs against Brockton and Andover. Bottom line, BC High and Xaverian so far haven't lived up to the preseason hype.
Something tells me they'll turn it around. BC High will be getting All-State linebacker Luke Catarius (ankle) back this month, and quarterback Brendan Craven (knee) sometime soon, and you can't say enough how much that could change things quickly. Xaverian finally showed signs of life in the second half of the Andover upset, and Mike Brennan has been bringing steady production to what has been an otherwise stale offense.
How quickly does Xaverian turn it around? Jury's out, because the rest of the Hawks' 2012 schedule, in order, goes like this: Duxbury, Everett, Bridgewater-Raynham, St. John's (Shrewsbury), BC High, Catholic Memorial, St. John's Prep. Talk about skating uphill.
Kurkjian: Well, there's not much wrong with St. John's Prep right now, as they've looked outstanding in their three wins and only have one loss to Everett in a game many observers thought could have gone the other way with a few breaks.
As for the rest? BC High has been decimated by injuries, but the Eagles are starting to heal up and it would not be a total shock to see them make a run at the league title once everyone is back.
Xaverian does not have nearly the amount of team speed it usually does and has not looked physical at all on the lines.
Catholic Memorial has, as expected, struggled on offense, and you simply don't improve when graduation takes away as much talent as it did for the Knights.
Malden Catholic is this year what it has been nearly every year, which is the fifth-best team in the league.
Lerch: The coaches won't make excuses but we can. Injuries have absolutely decimated BC High while graduation hit both Xaverian and Catholic Memorial pretty hard. Not to mention that these teams all play among the toughest schedules in the state. That said, St. John's Prep is still a top-three team in Massachusetts and don't think for a second that the aforementioned trio won't put it together by the time league play rolls around. Anyone who counts these teams out when we're not even halfway through the season is making a big mistake.
Botelho: BC High and Xaverian has certainly underachieved, but their schedules have been absolutely brutal. BC is also dealing with a whole mess load of injuries. That said, what looked like the best league in the state before the season needs a turnaround in the second half to avoid an overall disappointing year. If things continue like they are, St. John's Prep will coast to a league title behind Jonathan Thomas and Alex Moore. The Prep, in my mind, is probably the favorite to win the Div. 1 Super Bowl right now (I still love Brockton, but missing Austin Roberts is going to hurt them in a big way).
5. THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF SHOOTOUTS IN THE FIRST TWO WEEKS OF ISL PLAY. WHICH IS THE BEST OFFENSE?
Barboza: I think this was supposed to be Thayer’s year to shine behind wide receiver Aaron Gilmer and the Tigers haven’t disappointed, putting up 76 points in their two games. But they still have nothing to show for it, losing two close barn-burners against Governor’s and Roxbury Latin. But it’s hard to ignore the defending ISL champions at Governor’s. We’ve extolled about Tate Jozokos’ two-sport excellence for a couple years now, but running back Eli Morrissey has been a true revelation in the early going. Gov’s should face a test this weekend against BB&N, but with 103 points scored in two games, it’s hard to pick against anything short of a repeat performance of 2011.
Hall: If what Duxbury's been doing the last couple of years doesn't tell you enough about the value of lacrosse skill in football, then Governor's senior quarterback Tate Jozokos will. The UNC lacrosse commit led a renaissance last fall, leading the Governors to the ISL championship, and is off to a quality start this season. He is as a true a dual-threat quarterback as you will find in Massachusetts.
Running back Eli Morrissey has been just as productive (5 TDs), and is arguably one of the best backs in the ISL -- not the biggest, but definitely one of the most complete, and a tough runner. Overall, the Governors have averaged 51.5 points per game in their first two contest. Hard to argue with a number like that.
Kurkjian: Tough to say with such a small sample size, but it's hard to go against what Governor's Academy has accomplished in the first two weeks. With 103 points in two games, the Governors are simply running past, over, around and through everyone in their way.
We will see whether or not that continues this weekend as they travel to Cambridge to face an always-tough BB&N squad.
Lerch: When in doubt, I always say go with the team led by the lacrosse guy. Governor's is stacked with talent on offense with quarterback/dynamo/North Carolina lacrosse commit Tate Jozokos leading the charge. Along with standout running back Elijah Morrissey, the duo has combined to score nine rushing TDs in the first two games. Until some team finds a way to slow these two guys down, the Red Dogs will keep piling on the points.