Boston High School: Aaron Williams

D1 South: BC High 10, Brockton 0

November, 1, 2014
Nov 1

BROCKTON, Mass. – It had been a lot of the same story of late for the BC High Eagles of late. They’d play well enough to win, but simply find a way not to win as they finished the regular season losing three out of their last four.

But the postseason breathed new life into the Eagles. After playing non-league rival and No. 3 seed Brockton for the second time in less than a month’s time in a Division 1 South first-round playoff game on Halloween night, BC High did what it had not been able to do often in during the last month – finish.

Not only did the Eagles finish, they flipped the tables on the Boxers, avenging a 31-17 loss in the teams’ regular season meeting by shutting them out, 10-0.

The sixth-seeded Eagles advance to play the winner of today’s first-round matchup between Newton North and New Bedford in a sectional semifinal next weekend.

“Especially after last week against Xaverian, we knew we had it in us,” junior running back Steve Timmins said. “We’re peaking just at the right time and just going to keep grinding and keep grinding.”

With two of the most prolific rushing offenses in the state squaring off, it was apparent ball control would be a fulcrum. BC High (4-4) won the point of attack on both sides of the ball, out rushing the Boxers (5-3) by a margin of 218 yards to 82.

“That was the key to the game – stopping their run game,” Eagles head coach Jon Bartlett said. “[Kerry] Raymond is a heck of a back, he’s really good and we knew coming in that we had to stop him. And basically they have a four-headed monster with the four guys who can run the ball, but our guys did a nice job.”

BC High broke up a first-half stalemate and took a 3-0 lead into the half on Jarod Mockus’ 27-yard field goal with 1:31 remaining in the second quarter.

While the Eagles continued to play a one-sided possession game in the second half, scores were not easy to come by. But with a 14-play, 67-yard drive which encapsulated nearly eight minutes of game clock, spanning the third and fourth quarters, the Eagles finally found paydirt. On a fourth-and-1 from the Boxers’ 2-yard line, junior fullback Matt Johnson (8 carries, 64 yards) finally found the end zone with 6:56 remaining in the game.

“My favorite part about football is just hitting,” Johnson said. “We wanted to bring the power running game back to BC High and I think it just proved it right there.”

From there, the Eagles’ defense took over, pocketing interceptions on back-to-back Brockton drives. First, safety James Hussey picked off an Aaron Williams pass near the goal line. After an Eagles punt, Brockton had another chance to get with a possession, but Timmins undercut a route to the flat and make an acrobatic, top-tapping catch on the sideline to all but dash Brockton’s hopes with 2:32 remaining.

Belief in self, belief in the run: For Bartlett and his players, there’s never been a self-doubt about their ability this year. Instead, the Eagles’ success (or what was more often than not in the course of the last month) has come down to what’s between the ears.

“They’ve been focused and they’ve been playing physical all year,” Bartlett said. “The biggest thing was the mental part of it. We can’t be satisfied playing well and losing. We had to finish ball games.

“What I took from the Xaverian loss was that every single one, to a man, was upset that we lost that game.”

At not point of Friday’s game was point of emphasis more evident than the Eagles’ breath-taking march across the third and fourth quarters. While none of the Eagles’ running backs put up overpowering numbers – their leading rusher was Timmins, who ran for 67 yards on 17 carries – they were consistently able to move the chains.

“We just needed to push the ball down their throat,” Johnson said. “Just like last week in Xaverian, we just didn’t finish, that’s why we were coming out with the loss. Now, just put the mentality in that we have to finish games.”

He added, “Something just clicked this week. We really bonded this week.”

For most of the game, BC High ran a version of the Maryland power I-formation, with three running backs lined up behind quarterback Sean Holleran, consisting mainly of Johnson, Sam Freidman (21 carries, 45 yards) and Timmins in succession.

“It’s awesome,” Timmins said of running out of the formation. “Running behind the big guys like that is awesome. Everybody does great up front. Matt [Johnson] and Sam [Frieman] blocking creates huge holes and Coach Barlett’s game plan is always changing. He’s always making the right calls.”

Recap: No. 5 Brockton 28, New Bedford 21

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
BROCKTON, Mass. -– Whoever coined the phrase “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” must have had Brockton High in mind.

On a frigid Friday night, the No. 5 Boxers avenged last year’s 21-19 loss to New Bedford by spearing the Whalers, 28-21, behind the running of junior Kerry Raymond.

“We talked about it and the kids remember last year ... the disappointment of losing after we had a lead on them,” said Brockton coach Peter Colombo after his team clinched the Big 3 championship. “Today was a little eerily similar when we got a two-touchdown lead and they got back in the game.

“But we expect a battle every time we play. There aren’t any easy games with the schedule we play. We talk to the kids about adversity and playing through it. (New Bedford) came back and got a lead on us but we put a great drive together to win the football game.”

The drive Colombo referred to commenced late in the third quarter after the Whalers had snared a 21-20 lead on a 47-yard touchdown pass from Chandler Debrosse to Hunter Fluegel with Debrosse kicking the PAT.

Ignition: Jon Derolus kick-started what proved to be that game-winning drive when he returned the ensuing kickoff 43 yards to New Bedford’s 47.

Then, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Raymond broke three tackles as he bulled his way into the end zone for his fourth touchdown of the game and surprise starting quarterback Mike Kilroy tossed a two-point conversion pass to Greg Augustine.

Altogether, Raymond gained 188 yards on 24 carries and at times was virtually unstoppable.

“Kerry Raymond, and with Jayden Cellucci in front of him, is a great one-two punch,” said Colombo. “Kerry is our horse.”

While Brockton rode Raymond to victory, Kilroy cracked the whip, so to speak.

Brockton lost starting quarterback Aaron Williams to an injury during last week’s 42-0 romp over Durfee, which forced Colombo to give Kilroy his first varsity start.

“We didn’t have our starting quarterback and Mike Kilroy is a kid who just works hard every day,” said Colombo. “He did a very, very nice job under the situation.

“Obviously, just direct the offense and don’t make mistakes. When he threw the ball he was very efficient throwing it (Kilroy completed 3-of-4 passes for 75 yards). He’s a great kid and I’ll go to battle with Mike every time.”

Landing the first punches: Brockton fired the first “shots” of the battle in the first quarter which ended with the Boxers leading 12-0.

In fact, Brockton only needed four plays after the opening kickoff to score when Raymond burst 28 yards through the right side.

Then, after New Bedford went three and out, Kilroy completed a 32-yard pass to Derolus which set up a nine-yard touchdown run by Raymond.

New Bedford countered with a five-play, 63-yard drive which culminated in a nine-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Moraes.

But the Boxers answered with a drive of their own, marching 55 yards in six plays with Raymond busting seven yards off left tackle for a 20-7 lead.

The Whalers then stunned the Brockton fans when Quinsy Aosa recovered a Raymond fumble at Brockton’s 47 with 22 seconds left in the half.

That turnover led to a six-yard touchdown pass from Chandler Debrosse to Andrew Rapoza which pulled New Bedford within 20-14 at intermission.

Then, the teams exchanged scores with Raymond notching the aforementioned game-winning touchdown.

“It’s sweet,” said Colombo. “We wanted the Big 3 championship back and we got it tonight. We played good, efficient football on offense. (New Bedford) is a good offensive team, as you saw.

“We knew they were going to answer but we answered back. I’m proud of the kids.”


Brockton 28, New Bedford 21
NB (0-1, 4-4) 0-14-7-0 - 21
BR (2-0, 5-2) 12-8-0-8 - 28

First quarter
BR – Kerry Raymond 28 run (run failed)
BR – Raymond 9 run (run failed)

Second quarter
NB- Jonathan Moraes 9 run (Chandler Debrosse kick)
BR – Raymond 7 run (Raymond run)
NB – Andrew Rapoza 6 pass from Debrosse (Debrosse kick)

Third quarter
NB – Hunter Fluegel 47 pass from Debrosse (Debrosse kick)

Fourth quarter
BR – Raymond 6 run (Greg Augastine pass from Mike Kilroy)

Recap: No. 1 Xaverian 34, No. 6 Brockton 14

October, 11, 2014
Oct 11

BROCKTON, Mass. – It not as though No. 1 Xaverian football hasn’t been operating on all cylinders. The Hawks were undefeated entering Friday night’s action against Division 1 South rival No. 6 Brockton.

But you could argue Xaverian had yet to encounter an opponent as big and physical as the Boxers. It was a matchup of strength against strength, with two of the state’s most prolific rushing attacks showcased.

The Hawks won the rushing battle and the game, pulling away in a 34-14 victory while rushing for nearly 300 yards.

“It was a ground-and-pound affair, like I think everybody anticipated that it might be,” Xaverian head coach Charlie Stevenson deadpanned. “They’re tough and they really put a lot of guys at the line of scrimmage. And they made it tough on us to do what we like to do, but we were fortunate we were still able to do it.”

Brockton (3-2) scored on its opening possession, with a 36-yard pass play from Aaron Williams to Jonathan Deroulus setting up Kerry Raymond’s 18-yard touchdown run.

However, the Hawks (5-0) also produced a touchdown drive on their first touch and never looked back.

Xaverian senior quarterback Jake Farrell ran for 150 yards on nine carries with two touchdowns, including his 74-yard run on the Hawks’ second play from scrimmage. The Hawks took a 14-7 lead into the half following Farrell’s 6-yard touchdown run, capping a 73-yard, 16-play drive with 1:10 to go in the half.

“Jake’s been making big plays all year long,” Stevenson said. “I thought he ran the offense well tonight. He kept moving the chains and getting us down the field.”

In the second half, the Hawks leaned on fullback Kenny Kern to gain a bulk of the yards. Kern (20 carries, 73 yards) churned out tough yards. It paid dividends in the form of back-to-back scores – of 1 and 3 yards, respectively – and lifting the Hawks to a 27-14 lead after a Williams’ touchdown run had made it a one-possession game in the third.

The third prong of Xaverian’s rushing attack was Noah Sorrento (17 carries, 71 yards), who capped scoring with a 3-yard touchdown run inside of the two-minute warning.

“We had all of our running backs running well tonight and our line clearly, under very difficult circumstances, did what I asked them to do,” Stevenson said. “There’ve been plenty of times we’ve come to Brockton and they’ve lined up like that and we were not able to block them.”

Selling the dive: A crucial element of Xaverian’s ground game, both in Friday’s win and throughout the season, has hinged on Farrell’s ability to sell the inside run in the Hawks’ zone read game.

Kern, a bulldozing two-way wrecking ball of a fullback and linebacker, typically lines up as the up back in the Hawks’ I-formation. His presence requires defenses to respect the inside fullback dive.

Meanwhile, Farrell’s read is either to give Kern the ball on the inside give, or pull the ball back, if he senses running room to the outside.

It was run to near perfection on Friday. And it was evident on Farrell’s impressive 74-yard score, which he broke to the outside, before slashing back along the hash marks to go untouched into the end zone.

“That’s been a huge play for us this year,” said Farrell, a senior captain. “Kenny [Kern] and I, once again, going back three years, we’ve been doing it every single day in practice. So it works well for us.”

The play only has a great effect when coupled with the running ability of Sorrento. On Friday, the Hawks incorporated all three elements of their rushing game seamlessly.

“It’s a great show of what we are as a team, with Kenny, Noah, myself, Gaz [Joe Gaziano], receivers catching the ball, we can execute,” Farrell said. “And when you have backs like Kenny, when they think he’s getting the ball all the time and then me with the fakes and whatnot, they don’t get tackled on the first tackle. They keep fighting with every single play.”

Black and blue: The physical contest was not without its struggles.

Raymond (14 carries, 102 yards) eclipsed the 100-yard mark for a third straight game. But the Hawks did well to contain Deroulus’ big-play ability running to the outside.

“We knew when Raymond got the ball, he was going to be running hard – north, south – because he gets that ball and he goes straight,” said Kern, a middle linebacker. “So nobody wants to go straight head-to-head on him, so we gang tackled and grabbed him and drive him back. We knew the whole squad needed to be on him all night.

“And when [Deroulus] had the ball, he’s quick laterally, so we were just trying to run him to the sidelines.”

With big hits doled out on both sides, there were a couple of key injuries incurred during action.

Brockton’s preseason All-State selection Aaron Monteiro, a Boston College commit, suffered an arm injury before the half and did not return. Xaverian’s Mehki Henderson (interception) was hobbled after making a tackle during the second half, while Boxers safety Darien Keith also had to be helped off after making a touchdown-saving effort on Xaverian’s final drive.

BROCKTON, Mass. – Friday night’s duel between Division 1 South powers No. 6 Brockton and No. 19 BC High looked like a “Clash of the Titans” coming in.

No, it wasn’t the goofy sci-fi remake flick of the same name. This was the real deal. Two of the biggest, baddest offensive and defensive lines, respectively, going at it.

In all probability, there could be a rematch along the way in the section playoffs, but score Round 1 as a decision for the Boxers. Brockton controlled the point of attack on offense, allowing junior running back Kerry Raymond to run for 169 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown in a 31-17 win over the Eagles.

“I think the last two weeks – both weeks – I like the way we’re playing,” Boxers head coach Peter Colombo said. “We’re controlling the line of scrimmage and you saw Kerry, he’s a kid that’s just really learning how to run the football. He’s a horse and we’re going to ride him.”

BC High (2-2) claimed an early 3-0 lead on a 34-yard field goal by Jared Mockus. The lead would be the Eagles’ last and it was short-lived, however, as Raymond broke off a 50-yard touchdown run on the Boxers’ second play from scrimmage.

The long running plays kept coming for Brockton (3-1) in the second quarter, when Jonathan Deroulus took a sweep 69 yards for a score and a 14-3 lead with 6:33 to play in the half.

“Those were the frustrating plays, those long runs,” Eagles head coach Jon Bartlett said. “I’m proud of the guys for responding back, but still, we couldn’t get that stop when we needed it.”

BC High would get the seven points back before the half, as Sean Holleran (12 of 20, 142 yards) hit Nick Gill on a 43-yard scoring play just inside the 2-minute warning to make the score 14-10 at the half.

The Boxers’ running game again showed its big-play ability, as Brockton started the second half with the ball. A 52-yard run off a counter by Raymond set up quarterback Aaron Williams’ 1-yard touchdown on the fourth play from scrimmage.

On the ensuing Eagles’ drive, an Aaron Monteiro fumble recovery returned possession to the Boxers. And, once again, after taking over at the BC High 23-yard line, Brockton wasted no time scoring, but forced to settle for a Ryan Clifford 31-yard field goal.

The Eagles again made it a one-possession game, with fullback Stephen Timmins (9 carries, 72 yards) bruising his in for a 24-yard touchdown run, carrying several Boxers defensive backs with him across the goal line.

On Brockton’s ensuing drive, the Boxers turned in their big-play offense for a more plodding, methodical philosophy. It was equally successful on a 9-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in Williams’ second touchdown of the half, a 2-yarder with 8:45 remaining.

Putting up a front: While Brockton’s offensive line paved the way for another 100-yard game by Raymond, the Boxers’ defensive front was just as impressive.

Playing a deep rotation of situational run-stuffers and pass-rushers, Brockton kept it motor high in the face of a physical Eagles’ line.

“I’ve got great coaches on defense with Bob O’Neill and his crew,” Colombo said. “[Jason] Mosely and Chris Brennan coaches that D-line and those kids are well-coached. We get a rotation in there and that helps.”

Monteiro, the two-way lineman and Boston College commit, was a handful on the interior defensive line, while Ben Cowart, Jean Gelin (pass defended) and Dan Estrella (sack) all provided pressure in pursuit.

“We were flying around all game,” Monteiro said. “We did everything the coaches tell us to do – keep making contact, push forward, keep making bull rushes.”

On the flip side, the matchup also presented the tallest challenge for BC High. The Eagles, which boasts one of the state’s biggest offensive lines, were itching to see how they stacked up against another of the Commonwealth’s best units.

“This was a big game for us,” Bartlett said. “We want to get this program back on top and so this is a great way to do it. We’re disappointed because we lost. We thought how we played up front, we were able to handle them at times, they handled us at times. It was back-and-forth, but overall, we’ve got to get back up and respond next week.”

Top 25 countdown: Nos. 20-16

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
On Monday, we unveiled our statewide MIAA Top 25 preseason football poll. Today, we continue our annual countdown of the poll with Nos. 20 through 16.

ICYMI: 25-21

Coach: Sean Mulcahy (24th season, 112-141)
2013: 12-1, Division 4 State Champions
Returning Starters: 10 (5 offense, 5 defense)
Key Returnees: Jahkari Carpenter, Sr. RB/DB, 5-7, 160 lbs.; Javon Watkins, Sr. WR/RB/DB, 5-9, 170 lbs.; Eric Vecsey, Sr. QB/S, 5-10, 175 lbs.; Rickey Webster, Jr. DB/RB, 5-8, 160 lbs.; Dominique Lee, Sr. DB/RB, 5-9, 165 lbs.; Tavian Vassar, Jr. RB/DT, 6-1, 230 lbs.; James Shaugnessy, Sr. LB/WR, 5-11, 185 lbs.; Fitzroy Spencer, Sr. OL/DL, 6-2, 240 lbs.; Sean Moran, Sr. OL/DL/LB, 6-0, 240 lbs.; Manny Obisui, Sr. OL/DL, 6-2, 260 lbs.; Tariq Massenberg, Jr. DB/WR, 6-0, 160 lbs.; Aaron Adu, Jr. DB/WR, 5-11, 160 lbs.; Jack McGrail, Sr. DE/LB/TE, 6-1, 160lbs.
Strengths: Athleticism, offensive line, defensive line, senior leadership
Weaknesses: Inexperience at skill positions, inexperience at LB and DB
Outlook: Repeating as state champions is never easy, nor is replacing a pair of Division 1 athletes and arguably the best quarterback in school history. That is the challenge Doherty is faced with in 2014, with Isaac Yiadom now playing for BC, Alfred Adarkwah off to UMass and Luke Brennan pitching for Franklin Pierce. Still, the Highlanders should be right in the thick of things in D4 Central thanks to one of the state's most experienced and athletic offensive lines, and the versatility of speedy running back Jahkari Carpenter. Consistent targets will need to emerge for senior quarterback Eric Vecsey, but the Highlanders never seem to lack for athletes. Doherty is stacked up front on defense, where junior Tavian Vassar's quickness and the power of both Fitzroy Spencer and Manny Obisui should provide some cover for a back seven looking to replace six starters. Some talented options are available in the secondary, where juniors Rickey Webster and Aaron Adu will fight for playing time against classmate Tariq Massenberg, who started at corner last year when Adarkwah was nicked up. The linebacker corps will be totally overhauled, but the move of star guard Sean Moran to MLB should make things a little easier, and the return of James Shaugnessy from injury is certainly a welcome site for defensive coordinator and Associate Head Coach Steve Bucciatlia. This year's group isn't quite as talented or experienced as last year's title team, but sleeping on Doherty would be foolish for anyone in Central Mass.

Head Coach: Kevin Cobban (3rd season, 11-10)
2013: 8-3, lost to Plymouth South in Div. 3 Southeast final
Returning Starters: Eight returning starters on offense; six returning starters on defense.
Key Players: Christian Carr, Sr. RB; Cullin Cosgrove, Sr. QB; Jack Gallagher, Sr. OL; Gavin Johnson, Sr. C/G; Justin Cabral, Jr. OL; Brian Proctor, Jr. OL; Ryan Boudreau, Sr. S/CB;
Strengths: Rushing game; experience on the offensive line and defensive secondary.
Weaknesses: Depth on defensive line; special teams.
Outlook: There was no secret to Plymouth North’s formula for turnaround success last season: give it to Christian Carr. “That was our forte last year,” Eagles head coach Kevin Cobbin said. “Everybody in the stadium knew what we were going to do, but we just kept doing it.” The ground game will again be the bread and butter for North, with Carr coming off a season in which he broke the school’s single-seasons rushing record. The Eagles return four starters on the offensive line, including Jack Gallager, who was lost after the second game of the season last year but Cobban says “might have been our best lineman.” However, Cobban also sees the Eagles airing it out a bit more in 2014 behind incumbent three-starting quarterback Cullin Cosgrove. The Eagles also have an abundance of experience in their defensive secondary, where they return a full corps of three-year starters. While North lacks the same kind of experience along the defensive line, Cobban is confident the Eagles will be able to win the point of attack on either side of the ball. “The kids have bought into offseason workouts and we’re bigger and stronger than we’ve been,” Cobban said. This year also marks the Eagles’ first year in the Patriot League, moving from the Atlantic Coast League. The shift means North will be establishing some new rivalries and reigniting some lost in time. “It doesn’t matter that we’re moving into a new league, we’re just excited to play,” Cobban said.

Coach: Mike Strachan (Second Year, 9-2)
2013 Record: 9-2 (6-1), lost to Xaverian in Division 1 South sectional final
Returning Starters: 12 (6 offensive, 6 defensive)
Key Players: Kyle Murphy, Jr. OL/DL 6-3, 235 lbs.; Brenden Massey, Sr. WR/DB, 6-0, 170 lbs.; Thomas Belin, Sr. RB, 5-11, 170 lbs.; Matt Elliot, Sr. WR/DB, 5-9, 190 lbs.; Nick Desmaris, Sr. WR/DB, 6-1, 160 lbs.; Tim Christensen, Sr. OL/DL, 6-2, 235 lbs.; Ross Killion, Sr. QB, 6-3, 185 lbs.; Tyler McGovern, So. QB, 6-1, 140 lbs.
Strengths: Offensive and defensive line
Weaknesses: Inexperience at quarterback and skill positions
Outlook: Last season was one to remember for the Bombardiers with a change of leadership under new head coach Mike Strachan and his staff and a trip to the Division 1 South final. Now the test for the Bombardiers is to build off the success of last season and prove that they can be a perennial threat in the Hockomock League. That will be a difficult task without star quarterback Tim Walsh, whose dynamic ability to make plays with his feet and his arm aren’t easily replicated, which head coach Mike Strachan admitted at the league’s recent Media Day. While Attleboro may not have a settled quarterback position heading into camp, with Ross Killion being the senior but a lot of people close to the program talking about the talent of sophomore Tyler McGovern, the Bombardiers can rely on strength in the trenches. Senior Tim Christensen and junior Kyle Murphy, who is receiving interest from Clemson University after a breakout sophomore season, will anchor the offensive and defensive line and try to open holes for running back Thomas Belin. The senior did not see action until the fourth game of 2013, but he will be the focal point of the offense this year and his breakaway speed will be crucial. If teams bunch the line of scrimmage, then Attleboro can also look downfield to senior wideout Brenden Massey, who made several remarkable catches last season and was named to the 2014 Preseason All-State team. Every team has to deal with the loss of great players to graduation and Strachan is expecting his players to step up in camp to prove that 2013 was not a fluke. “I think if we’re going to build our program long term than we need to be like the Mansfields, North Attleboroughs, and KPs, and continue that level of player from year to year,” he said. “We expect a lot of competition in camp.”

Coach: Valdamar Brower 6th season (45-16)
Last Year: 10-2. Beat Longmeadow 35-12 in WMass Divison 2 semifinal. Beat Westfield 44-20 in WMass Division 2 final. Lost to St. John's (S) 37-32 in Division 2 state semifinal
Returning Starters: 10 (5 offense, 5 defense)
Key Returnees: Antoine Williams, Jr., RB/WR/S, Justin Bolden, Sr.,RB/MLB, Nate Smith, Sr, WR/S/KR, Issac Morales, Jr., WR/DB, Kaleb Hunter-Sams, Sr., OL/DL, Aaron Williams, Sr., QB/S; Tysean Williams, Sr., WR 5-11, 170; Tyreque Estrada-Crapps, Jr., RB/CB, 5-8, 170; Daryl Wiggins, Sr., OL/DL, 6-0, 340; Noah Mayberry, Sr., C, 5-11, 248.
Strengths: Offensive line, team unity
Weaknesses: Inexperience
Outlook: The Golden Eagles have a major task ahead of them as they try to replenish their arsenal following the graduation of several key contributors from last year's highly-successful season. This will most-likely be felt on the offensive side of the ball. Cody Williams, the brilliant duel-threat quarterback, now playing for Monmouth University (NJ), was a three-year starter, having passed for 5,290 yards and 59 TDs during his remarkable tenure here. On the ground, Williams had a career rushing mark of 801 yards, scoring 19 times. Last season he threw for 2,214 yards and 24 TDs, while rushing for 578 yards and 12 TDs. Also gone are WR/CB/K Ju'an Williams, who finished last year with 823 receiving yards and 7 TDs, WR/CB Malik Johnson (595 receiving yds, 7 TDs), HB/S Troy Morrow (986 rushing yds, 4 TDs) and RB/SS DaQuan Clemons (536 rushing yds, 4 TDs). That group was the primarily nucleus in guiding the Golden Eagles to within a game of playing in the Division 2 Super Bowl before losing to St. John's of Shrewsbury in the state semifinal round last November. Without question, it was a very gifted and uniquely talented group of seniors _ all of whom will be sorely missed. However, as Brower is quick to point out, this is not the time to reflect on the past.The focus now turns to him and his staff attempting to developed a young squad, many of whom are considered to be untested and unproven, in preparation for this season.
"We are returning just three guys that started on offense and four that started on defense so right now we have a lot of inexperience and a lot of unseasoned guys," Brower said. "A lot of these kids will need to step up to the challenges that lie ahead of us this season. We will be able to evaluate throughout the preseason and especially after our first game to see where we are at and make the necessary adjustments along the way. Hopefully some of our younger guys took a few mental and physical notes by watching how those kids from last year conducted themselves, not only in games, but on the practice field and inside the locker room as well. But now it is their time. We continue to have high expectations for this program. No matter how we do, we still need to weather any storm that comes our way and continue to get better and not beat ourselves up when things go bad. There are many other teams that have younger players too so, for us, we just need to keep getting better everyday and not stop working until someone tells us our season is over."
Despite the number of departures, Central still has be considered one of the favorites to win the highly-competitive AA Conference mostly because Brower and his staff, as proven, are well-versed in getting the most out of their players. Last season, the Golden Eagles finished 7-0 in conference play, but are expected to face some fierce competition this season particularly from the likes of Westfield, East Longmeadow, Longmeadow as well as much-improved Holyoke and West Springfield squads. Central opens its season with a home date against powerful Everett on Sept. 5 -- marking the fourth consecutive year these two clubs have squared off against one another. The Crimson Tide hold a 3-0 lead in the series. "We love playing against Everett and it is my hope that this series will continue," said Brower. "Obviously they are a great team with a great tradition and are well-coached. We really enjoy playing them. For us, we want to continue to play the top programs in the state. That's how you get better as a team." As far as returners go, Crapps gives Central a solid two-way threat as a rusher and receiver out of the back field. He is a talented downhill runner who saw limited action last year due to the emergence of Morrow and Clemons. Bolden and Antoine Williams will also get their fair share of the work load as well. Tysean Williams should be the Golden Eagles' top receiving threat. The fleet-footed wide out hauled in four touchdowns a year ago. But it will be difficult for opposing teams to double up on him with Smith and Morales also on the field. Look for Mayberry to anchor a strong offensive line from his center position. And obviously, with Aaron Williams taking over the signal-calling duties, he will have some big shoes to fill however no one is questioning his pure athleticism to excel at the position. Defensively, Wiggins, at 6-foot, 340-pounds, is a beast with unlimited potential to be a sure-fire gap stopper. He will also be counted on heavily to keep constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks. One of the biggest question marks surrounds Hunter-Sams. At 6-2, 280, Hunter-Sams has shown traces of developing into a solid two-way lineman, but does he have the high motor to go along with it? Only time will tell as the skill level seems to be there. One intangible in the Golden Eagles' favor is the addition of Bill Watson, the former Putnam Voc head coach. Watson, who enjoyed a successful two-year stint holding down the reins with the Beavers, decided to leave the position at the conclusion of last season, moving across town to join Brower's staff and will serve as defensive coordinator. Watson's particular attention to detail, ability to motivate players and calling out the proper defensive packages on the fly will certainly be a major asset for Central moving forward. "He's a great addition," Brower said. "We've coached against one another and have gotten to know each other very well. He and I have always talked about working together someday. It didn't seem like it would be a reality until this last spring when things just happened to pan out. All of us here are ready to accept him with open arms. We both have similar philosophies and we both have a strong passion for the game. It is going to be exciting to have him with us."

Coach: Dave Palazzi (Fourth season, 29-8)
2013: 10-1, lost in Division 2 Central Final
Returning Starters: Five (2 offensive, 3 defensive)
Key Returnees: Nate Lambert, Sr. OG, 5-11, 195 lbs.; James Gurley, Sr. RB/CB, 5-9, 190 lbs.; Kevin Beran, Sr. DL; Hector Aponte, Sr. DL
Strengths: Size, defensive line.
Weaknesses: Inexperience
Outlook: After a dominant three-year stretch that included back-to-back Super Bowl titles, an historic shutout of long-time rival Brockton and a district final appearance, the Blue Devils are hitting the reset button. Gone are All-State safety Jarell Addo and last year’s Gatorade Player of the Year, Neil O’Connor. In their places are a whole lot of fresh faces, from linemen Alex Bourgeois and Jared McDonald; to skill guys like tight end Carlos Santana and receivers D’Andre Addo, Shane Crayton and Mike Lovewell; to a promising sophomore class led by Anthony Dandini, Dylan Tanner and 6-foot-4 athlete Noah Gray. “To be honest with you, I’m more excited than ever to coach this year,” Palazzi said. “We know what we have this year, but we don’t know what we have because there’s no experience. So, it makes it more exciting, to see kids grow. It might be painful, it might be frustrating, but you know, that’s why I love coaching.” Defensive coordinator Charlie Raff has taken over at Oakmont, and in his place Palazzi promoted line coach and long-time compatriot Kevin Murphy, and also added former North Middlesex head coach John Margarita to the defensive staff. The Blue Devils under Palazzi have never blown you away with size, but they’ll have more of it this year with the new blood. Still, the newbies are going to have to grow up quick this fall. They open with three preseason Top 10 opponents (at No. 5 St. John’s, Sept. 13; vs. No. 7 Lowell, Sept. 19; vs. No. 8 Shepherd Hill, Sept. 26), then host No. 20 Doherty on Oct. 10. That’s a brutal stretch for even the most experienced team, never mind one as green as the Devils.

Northeast 7v7: St. Paul (Conn.) takes South title

July, 22, 2013
EASTON, Mass. -- It's been an eventful offseason in the recruiting department for St. Paul Catholic (Conn.) quarterback Logan Marchi, who saw his childhood dream come true late last month with a verbal commitment to UConn.

Winning? Not so much. Since appearing the CIAC Class MM playoffs in 2009, the Falcons have won just six games in three years. If they're to get back to their winning ways, they're going to need another big season out of Marchi, a 6-foot-1 gunslinger with plenty of zip out of his unorthodox three-quarter arm slot.

Could today's events at Oliver Ames High, site of the Under Armour Northeast 7-on-7 South Regional Tournament, be the start? Marchi led the Falcons through a forest of quality competition, knocking off Massachusetts heavyweight Mansfield in the finals, 35-29, to become the first team from Connecticut to capture a regional title in tournament history.

St. Paul and Mansfield qualified for July 30's New England Championship, at Bishop Fenwick High in Peabody.

"It feels good," said Marchi, a Winsted, Conn., resident, who also played safety today on defense. "The past three seasons have been losing for us. We've been young, we've had freshmen starting on the varsity. Coming out here, seeing smiles on faces, seeing everybody happy winning is good. It's a fun experience."

After going unbeaten through a pool of Framingham, Braintree, Whitman-Hanson and Middleborough, the Falcons took out Dighton-Rehoboth and East Bridgewater to advance to the Final Four. There, St. Paul matched up with Cardinal Spellman, led by one of the Bay State's top targets in 6-foot-6 tight end Rory Donovan, before advancing to the final against Mansfield.

"For his height he runs good routes," Marchi said of Donovan, who currently holds offers from UMass and UNH. "He's fast, he's quick, he's got good feet -- I like that. I tried playing some press man on him, but he blew right by me. He's got good hands, he's a good kid. I like him."

Marchi did a good job most of the afternoon spreading the ball around to his targets -- junior Eli Parks, junior Brendan Carroll, senior Reid Morin and his brother, sophomore Austin -- and in the finals against the Hornets, Marchi impressed the crowd on hand with his throws both short and long.

Utilizing crossing patterns over the middle, Marchi threaded some lasers through the middle for quick first downs. Their most successful maneuver involved switching vertical routes deep down the right sideline; with the Mansfield safety often locked along the hash marks, that left inside slot receiver Austin Morin open for several terrific over-the-shoulder grabs at the pylons.

Marchi, pleased with the results, is optimistic about the potential momentum today's action carrying into the season.

"We're excited, we're ready to compete," he said. "We're ready to show our offense to people, we're ready to show we have a better defense, and we want to win some games."

Flair for the Dramatic: Mansfield, Sunday's runner-up, advanced to the final with a little bit of karma on its side perhaps.

The Hornets were spurred on the road to the championship game by a couple of last-ditch passing attempts. After winning an early-round game on a Hail Mary, Mansfield won its semi-final matchup with Catholic Memorial via a full-field heave from quarterback Kyle Wisnieski to Kyle Hurley with no time remaining. Hurley, who was all over the field for the Hornets, working a complement of short and intermediate routes, grabbed a hold of the tipped ball in the end zone to earn the come-from-behind victory over CM.

For Mansfield, a Division 2 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl participant in 2012, it's about carrying last season's momentum into a new campaign.

"We have a lot of juniors from last year returning this year, so it's a pretty tight family," Hurley said. "We just came in here trying to compete. We knew there were a lot of good teams coming in. We thought we could hold our own, obviously making it to the championship game and played a great team."

Sunday was a fine showcase for Mansfield's aerial attack, which figures to feature more spread looks in the upcoming season to maximize the strengths of its personnel. And, although the Hornets were without two of their top targets -- Brendan Hill (AAU basketball Nationals) and Mike Hershman (rehabbing injury) -- they still showed plenty of sting behind Brendan Keady and Hurley.

"We're able to make some connections with Kyle [Wisnieski] throwing to a couple different receivers," Hurley said. "I feel like there are things we can get out of it, we can communicate and try to make improvements -- it's July, it's early obviously. It's just great to get out here and compete."

Donovan gets his share: One of the most-anticipated individual matchups of the day went down early in the afternoon in Pool G, where Springfield Central's Ju'uan Williams manned up the 6-foot-6 Donovan in a battle between two players who could potentially see themselves on ESPN Boston's Preseason All-State Team next month.

The 5-foot-8 Williams, who currently holds an offer from Division 2 American International College, gave up 10 inches and nearly 25 pounds to Donovan. He mostly played eight to 10 yards off the line of scrimmage against Donovan, but he showed off his athleticism early, crashing to the pylon on a fade and out-leaping Donovan to break up a would-be touchdown. On plays that Williams marked Donovan, the tight end was targeted three times, with two catches and a score.

"He's a good player and he's really aggressive. He's physical," Donovan said of Williams. "He's fast, he's quick, he knows what he's doing ou there, absolutely. He's not a scrub."

In addition to UMass and UNH offers, Donovan has also heard from Temple, James Madison, Towson, UConn and Maryland.

Albany offers Cody Williams: Central's biggest star, quarterback Cody Williams, was not available for today's tournament. He was on a visit to the University of Albany, where he received his third scholarship offer from the Division 1 FCS ranks to go along with Monmouth (N.J.) and Central Connecticut State.

With Cody out, two of his cousins -- sophomore Aaron, and the aforementioned Ju'uan -- saw time under center. Ju'uan filled in for Cody in two games last season, and was quite impressive, most significantly throwing for two touchdowns and running in the game-winning score in a highly-anticipated October showdown with rival Longmeadow. Today Ju'uan aired it out, with two deep completions down the right sideline to senior Malik Johnson.

Blitz for Bletzer: One of the most intriguing commitments of Steve Addazio's historic first recruiting class at Boston College is Catholic Memorial athlete Kevin Bletzer, who saw time at nearly every position in the back seven last year as one of the team's leading tacklers. At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, the Medfield resident will likely fit at outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Don Brown's scheme, which prioritizes speed and versatility. Bletzer also captains the Knights' hockey and lacrosse teams, which are traditionally among the state's best.

And in turn, it's likely that Bletzer will stay closer to the line of scrimmage on defense this year for the Knights.

"I've kinda always loved to play linebacker," Bletzer said. "They had me at safety the last three years, but they put me up in the box, so I've had a little taste for linebacker in my past years. The only difference is, I'm going to be stuck there [now], and have to deal with a lot more lineman. But I look forward to it."

Ball Hawks: Remember earlier this month, when we mused that suggestions of Barnstable's demise, after graduating one of its best senior classes in school history, may have been exaggerated?

Look, there's a reason the Red Raiders dropped futile Durfee from their schedule and added Catholic Conference juggernauts BC High and Xaverian, one year after spending seven weeks as the state's No. 1 team and taking Everett to the brink in the Division 1A Super Bowl. Under head coach Chris Whidden, Barnstable has been among the state's best in pass coverage -- and we saw that again today.

The Raiders didn't survive pool play, going 2-2 in a pool that included Nauset and BB&N, but suffice to say their safety play was among the day's most impressive performances. In the final two games, senior Derek Estes came up with seven interceptions, including four against Silver Lake. In the Silver Lake battle, senior Micah Gregory made one of the day's most impressive athletic plays, breaking on a ball at the opposite sideline from the far hash marks and making a one-handed snatch of a would-be first down.

Walloping Whalers: Nantucket might have been the only team in the country last season with bookend tackles tipping the scales at 180 pounds, but a Division 1-bound tight end measuring 6-foot-7 and 275 pounds (ESPN Boston All-Stater Terrel Correia). But it looks like the Whalers will have some more meat in the trenches this fall.

Juniors Mykal Ludford (6-4, 305) and Matt Correia (6-3, 250, younger brother of Terrel) were out running routes today with the Whalers' skill, and a third lineman Taylor Gulley (6-3, 275) should give them further bulk. That should help out senior linebacker Jon Holdgate, who is expected to shoulder a big load.