Boston High School: Brian Dunlap

Natick's Brian Dunlap hitting full stride

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
11:34
PM ET
There was a time earlier this summer when Natick’s football coaching staff held its collective breath. After missing the entire 2013 season with a Lisfranc fracture on his left foot, wide receiver Brian Dunlap returned to the football field.

Dunlap was primed to set the state’s all-time receiving records, with a season that made him the first ESPN Boston All-State selection as a sophmore, when he led the state with 86 catches for 1,570 yards and 21 touchdowns. Then, his junior campaign was derailed before it started. Dunlap suffered his season-ending injury during a preseason scrimmage.

His return to the field came during offseason 7-on-7 passing tournaments. Since then, the concerns have eased.

“He looks tremendous right now,” Natick head coach Mark Mortarelli said Monday. “He’s the Brian Dunlap that we all remember – just bigger and stronger.”

On the long road back, Dunlap not only managed to make himself bigger, but also faster. The recent Harvard commit spent the summer working with the crew at the Athletic Evolution training center. Before participating in several area summer football camps, Dunlap pushed his foot to the limit. When he took a timed 40-yard dash, Dunlap was a fraction of a second faster this year than last.

“There was some good that came out of it,” Dunlap said. “If I couldn’t do leg stuff, I was kind of forced to do upper body work. I wouldn’t have done that before because I was concentrated on my legs and getting faster.

“I pushed myself, but I came along at whatever came comfortable. But now, at practice, I don’t think about it anymore.”

As much as Dunlap insists the injury hasn’t affected his performance, it has changed his perspective on the game.

The last time Dunlap was suited up for game action with the Redhawks was in the final game of the 2012 season at Gillette Stadium. In a classic finish, Beverly edged Natick, 28-21, for what was then the Division 2A Super Bowl. After two Hail Mary attempts in the final seconds of the game fell incomplete, Dunlap has been left to stew over the loss for nearly two calendar years.

“The last game I played has sat with me the entire time,” Dunlap said. “There’s nothing more motivating than that. I want to win the state championship more than anything.”

Having played varsity football as a freshman, it’s just about the only accomplishment Dunlap doesn’t have to his name as a high school athlete. He gave his verbal commitment to Harvard in July.

“I know that no matter what happens, they’re going to treat me the same way,” Dunlap said of the Harvard coaching staff. “They were the only school that didn’t take me off their board after the injury. That just speaks for itself. I can’t say how much that means to me, that’s pretty special.”

It’s another way that the injury has shaped Dunlap’s purview. Not that academics weren’t taken seriously before – he’s an honors student – but he now fully understands the tenuous nature of football. And, while football remains a priority, Dunlap knows that Harvard will advance his career in many ways.

“I’ve always focused on academics because it’s important to be balanced,” he said. “You can never get too focused on one thing. With the injury, I realized that any play can be your last.

“At some point, football’s going to end. And, even if you get to continue playing, if it ends, you might be able to have an education to fall back on.”

Dunlap’s book smarts came into play in his rehab, and Mortarelli praised him for his diligent work. It’s been evident in the early going. Dunlap hasn’t been limited during the first couple of days of practice.

That’s what Dunlap proved during the summer.

“During seven-on-sevens, at the South regional … He caught a million balls and a bunch of touchdowns,” Mortarelli said. “He didn’t take any plays off. I think that was the day that we took a big exhale and said that he’s ready to go.”

The anxiety is gone, now it’s time to play.

Top 25 Countdown: Nos. 25-21

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
12:21
PM ET
On Monday, we unveiled our statewide MIAA Top 25 preseason football poll. Today, we begin our annual countdown of the poll with Nos. 25 through 21.

NO. 25 NATICK
Head Coach: Mark Mortarelli (5th season, 35-11)
2013: 10-1, lost to Barnstable in D2 South semifinal
Returning Starters: Five offensive; Six defensive.
Key Players: Jared Abbruzzese, Jr. WR/LB/DB, 5-8, 160 lbs.; T.J. Collins, Sr. LB, 5-11, 185 lbs.; Brian Dunlap, Sr. WR/CB, 6-0, 175 lbs.; Chad Kidd, Jr. RB/LB, 5-6, 190; Trenton Wright, Sr. DE/TE, 6-2, 205 lbs.; Anthony Natarelli, Sr. OL/DL; Nick Olson, Sr. QB/FS; Tommy Ranucci, Sr. WR/DB.
Strengths: Passing game; defensive secondary; linebackers.
Weaknesses: Depth and experience on offensive line; size on defense.

Outlook: Even without last year’s Mr. Football winner, Troy Flutie, the Redhawks will still be able to air it out with the best of them, as senior Nick Olson gets his first crack at playing varsity quarterback. A returning starter at safety, Natick head coach Mark Mortarelli isn’t concerned about how the first-year signal-caller will fit in. “He’s used to the spotlight,” Mortarelli said of Olson. “He started every game for us at safety. He was a tremendous safety for us, he was all-league. He’s a varsity basketball player, too, so I think all of things in combination, this isn’t the first time for him under the lights.” Olson’s transition will be advantage by the return of a healthy Brian Dunlap. The Harvard commit was forced to sit out his junior year with a Lisfranc injury, but Mortarelli is happy to report he’s back at 100 percent. While defensive coverage schemes will naturally set around Dunlap, the Redhawks should be able to expose a soft underbelly as second-year starting running back Chad Kidd can provide tough yards in between the tackles. “I think we’ll run the ball a little more [this year],” Mortarelli said. “Coach [Matt] Brenneman, our offensive coordinator, likes to the throw the ball around a little, but we have a great running back in Chad Kidd. He’s a big, strong kid; he can handle the workload.” Meanwhile, Mortarelli is counting on junior Jared Abbruzzese among others to create complementary options in the passing game. On defense, Natick’s athleticism shines again. With a ball-hawking secondary last year, the Redhawks were routinely able to win the turnover battle. Natick graduated the leader of that group – Mike Abbruzzese -- but returns a few starters in Olson and Tommy Ranucci. The strength of Natick’s defense runs up the middle, with returning all-league selection T.J. Collins quarterbacking the group. While the Redhawks will not be the biggest defense in the state, they should be able to gain consistent pressure off the edge with returning three-year starter Trenton Wright. “We’re going to need to generate some pressure up front with a four-man rush,” Mortarelli said. “We can’t be blitzing all the time, so Trenton’s going to be a big part of that. He can create some havoc; he’s a rangy kid. We’re going to rely on him a lot for that.”
-SCOTT BARBOZA

NO. 24 MARSHFIELD
Coach: Lou Silva (34th season, 205-139-7)
Last Season: 5-6 (4-2 ACL), lost in Div. 2 South Quarterfinals.
Returning starters: 16 (8 offense, 6 defense)
Key Returnees: Jack Masterson, Jr. QB, 6-1, 190 lbs.; Dan Dalton, Jr. TE/LB, 6-5, 235 lbs.; Frank Catanoso, Sr. RB/DB, 5-8, 160 lbs.; Jason Darcy, Jr. WR/DB, 6-2, 185 lbs.; Matt Armstrong, Jr. TE/DE, 6-1, 180 lbs.; Shane Leonard, Jr. C, 6-2, 230 lbs.; Pat Kielty, Jr. OL, 5-11, 200 lbs.; Ian Duffy, Jr. LB, 5-8, 160 lbs.; Chris Lunn, Jr. RB/DE, 6-0, 185 lbs.; Fred Allen, Jr. MLB, 6-1, 210 lbs.; Josh Ramos, Jr. OL/DL, 6-3, 240 lbs.
Strengths: Quarterback, tight ends, offensive line, linebackers.
Weaknesses: Pass defense, experience at running back.
Outlook: The Rams offense found their identity down the stretch of the 2013 campaign and that was largely based on the superb play of quarterback Jack Masterson. As a sophomore, Masterson broke three school passing records and has many more in his sights for his junior season. Masterson’s favorite target, Dan Dalton also returns for his junior year and will present mismatches in the passing and running game. Dalton can lineup anywhere on the field and has all the tools for a monster season with his large frame (6-foot-5, 235 pounds), sure-hands and quick speed. Protecting the junior signal caller, center Shane Leonard anchors an experienced offensive line that also returns Pat Kielty and Josh Ramos. The Rams defense had difficulty taming high-powered offenses last season, allowing 40 or more points four times. Looking to this season, the Rams will have a talented front seven returning, led by MLB Fred Allen and Dalton at defensive end, but their defensive backfield remains a question mark with the loss of a handful of defensive backs. Offensively, the Rams running game took a big hit, losing their three top tailbacks to graduation in the offseason. Junior Chris Lunn is the favorite to take the brunt of the carries this season, while the search continues to another tailback to compliment him with. It has taken two years for the Rams to climb back to their perennial power status, but their talent-laden junior class will make Marshfield a team to watch out for this season. An experienced offensive line and the ability to stretch the field will give their young running game an added boost. With the Atlantic Coast League shrinking down to five teams this season, circle their September 26th matchup at No. 12 Dennis-Yarmouth to likely decide the ACL title.
-PHIL GARCEAU

No. 23 BARNSTABLE
Coach: Chris Whidden (Fourth season, 28-8-0)
Last season: 9-2 (3-0 OCL), lost in Div. 2 South Finals.
Returning starters: 4 (2 offense, 2 defense)
Key Players: Owen Murray, Sr. OL/DL, 6-4, 250 lbs; Clyde Perry, Sr. MLB, 5-11, 225 lbs; Colton Bergal, Sr. LB, 6-1, 225 lbs; Bo Delaney, Sr. WR, 5-11, 165 lbs.
Strengths: Linebackers, offensive line, coaching staff.
Weaknesses: Overall experience, defensive secondary, offensive backfield.
Overview: The Red Raiders have many holes to fill at the skill positions on both sides of the ball after losing 30 players to graduation, but Barnstable has the tendency to reload rather than rebuild. Of the 307 points scored in Barnstable’s 2013 campaign, only 16 points hit the scoreboard from non-seniors, meaning there will be plenty of position battles when the Red Raiders open camp. Head coach Chris Whidden praised his roster, citing their work ethic and coach-abillity as strengths for the team. Senior Owen Murray will bolster the offensive line from his position at right tackle, diverting the pressure from first-year starting quarterback Griffin Burke and carving holes for the running back-by-committee system in the backfield. MLB Clyde Perry is also one of the few returning starters on the Red Raiders defense and with Murray on the defensive line, Barnstable has a strong core up the middle to build around. It will be a trail by fire for this young Red Raiders team to begin the season. The first four weeks consist of No. 12 Dennis-Yarmouth, at No. 24 Marshfield, No. 15 BC High and at top-seeded Xaverian which will put Barnstable to the test early and often. Barnstable doesn’t begin Old Colony League play until mid-October, which gives them plenty of time to get their game on-track to defend their three-consecutive OCL titles and perhaps more importantly, an automatic bid to the Div. 2 South playoffs. Entering his fourth year at the helm, Whidden has never had a losing season and has shown that he can lead his troops into battle while getting the most out of each player on the field.
-PHIL GARCEAU

NO. 22 AUBURN
Coach: Jeff Cormier (16th season, 136-43 overall)
Last Season: 8-3, lost in Division 5 Central Quarterfinals
Returning Starters: 10 (5 offense, 5 defense)
Key Returnees: Mark Wright, Sr. RB/DB, 5-8, 180 lbs.; Dillon Bruso, Sr. OL/DL, 6-2, 250 lbs.; Josh Furmanick, Sr. FB/DL, 5-8, 195 lbs.; Nick Thomas, Sr. LB, 5-6, 160 lbs.
Strengths: Running game, receivers, competitiveness in camp.
Weaknesses: Depth.
Outlook: After going 63-2 with five Super Bowl titles from 2008-12, with a 41-game win streak sandwiched in between, the Rockets were as green as any point in Cormier's tenure last fall, returning just one starter on either side of the ball. It showed early, and again late when they were one of just four home seeds in Massachusetts to lose their first round playoff game, taking one on the chin to SWCL rival Bartlett in D5 Central. But it was quite the revelation for Wright, who led CMass in carries (258), rushing yards (2,111) and rushing TDs (25) in his first year starting with the varsity. "Once we get five yards, Mark will make his one cut and explode through the hole. As long as we get some decent blocking, he'll be able to make a play," said Bruso. Still, there's a bitter taste in the Rockets' mouths about the way things ended in 2013. "Everywhere we had to hear about it. Even kids from our own town were telling us we were done," Furmanick said. The Rockets are most known for their power running scheme, deploying two-back, double-tight personnel and seeking to outweigh their opponents at the point of attack. This year, with a giant target on Wright's back and a good grouping of perimeter skill players, the Rockets may throw more. Cormier is not ready to name a starting quarterback yet, with several players in the mix, but keep an eye on sophomore Steve Saucier. The undersized signal-caller puts good zip on the ball for a player of his frame, and showed some great flashes as a freshman last fall.
-BRENDAN C. HALL

NO. 21 TEWKSBURY
Coach: Brian Alyward (17th year, 102-82-1)
2013: 13-0, Division 3 State Champions
Returning Starters: Six (2 offense, 4 defense)
Key Returnees: James Sullivan, Sr. RB/SS, 5-11’ 215 lbs; Tom Casey, Sr. FB/MLB, 5-9 190 lbs; Ryan Bednarek, Sr. S, 5-9 160 lbs; Ethan Eloi Sr. DT/NG, 5-9 226 lbs.; Alex Schelfhaudt, Sr. T/DE, 6-0 195 lbs; Brendan O’Connor Sr. WR/CB 5-7 145 lbs; Mitchell Miskell, Sr. K, 5-10 160 lbs; Jimmy Hurtle, Sr. RB/CB 5-9 167 lbs; Jimmy Doran, Sr. OG/DT, 5-11, 215 lbs; Ryan Carey, Sr. RB/DB, 5-6 143 lbs.
Strengths: Physicality, running game.
Weaknesses: Inexperience at offensive line.
Outlook: Tewksbury will never be confused for its Merrimack Valley Conference neighbors that run spread offenses and like to throw the ball all over the field. The hallmark of Tewksbury has been its continuous physicality. Its run to last year’s Division 3 state championship was predicated on (no pun intended) its ability to run the ball and outmuscle teams on both sides of the ball. While it lost some linemen to graduation, impact players like Eloi and Casey return to anchor the middle of the defense. Sullivan will play behind them at strong safety, flanked by other skilled defenders. Offensively, the team will continue its multiple-running back approach that brought it so much success last season. “We feel pretty confident in all our backs,” said Alyward. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can contribute. We’re not going to have a need for a one-man show, nor do I think that would be effective. We’re going to try to stay as multiple as we can and try to use the same format as we do every year.” The starting offensive linemen on last year’s Super Bowl-winning team were lost to graduation, leaving spots open for players to try and create running lanes for Sullivan and others. Last year’s line continuity helped the team steamroll through D3 and allowed Sullivan to score over 20 touchdowns. “We have about 10 kids that are vying of those spots that have been good kids in our program,” said Alyward. “We’ll work with them and learn more about what we can do and what we can’t with them.” John Aylward, the quarterback of that undefeated team, also graduated, so the Redmen will have someone new under center to go along with that new offensive line. Juniors Brett Morris and Steve Hamel are in the running to take over for Aylward, with Morris the early odds-on favorite to win the job. On top of all that, as a defending state champion, the team now has a target on its back. It has not lost a game since November 2012, so it will get its opponent’s best game every week as they try to dethrone the champion. How the team reacts and responds to that pressure will determine whether the Redmen can duplicate last year’s success. “I told the kids at the start of our first practice, ‘Hey guys, you had such a special experience last year and a state championship under your belt and that’s money in the bank that no one can ever take away from you,’’ said the coach. “But now you just have to put it aside and understand that doesn’t buy us anything but a little more attention than in years before. So now we’ve gotta get ready to fight.”
-ANDY SMITH
When all the chips on Brian Dunlap's shoulders add up, they could equal a steal for the Harvard Crimson.

The Natick High senior wide receiver made public his verbal commitment to Harvard for the 2015 season this afternoon, while playing with his Redhawks teammates in an Under Armour Northeast 7-on-7 Regional tournament at Oliver Ames High School (a tournament they went on to win).



The 6-foot Dunlap chose Harvard over offers from Holy Cross and New Hampshire.

"They handle everything the exact right way," Dunlap said of Harvard. "They’re world class over there, and everything they do is just the way that I want it to be done."

Early on in his high school career, Dunlap was considered the jewel of Massachusetts' 2015 recruiting class, becoming the first sophomore ever to earn ESPN Boston All-State honors in 2012 after catching 86 passes for 1,570 yards and 21 touchdowns, leading the Redhawks to the MIAA Division 2A Super Bowl. By the end of his sophomore season, working with legendary quarterback Troy Flutie (now of Boston College), Dunlap had already accumulated 35 touchdowns, 155 catches and 2,742 receiving yards.

But just as he seemed on the verge of blowing up on the recruiting trail, injuries derailed those plans. A Lisfranc fracture on his left foot last August, suffered in the first scrimmage of the preseason, wiped out his entire junior season.

Whatever Division 1 FBS interest there was had cooled over the offseason. Dunlap said he doesn't take it personally, but he doesn't forget either.

"Obviously, I understand that. I understand why schools would be nervous [about] someone who’s injured," he said. "Harvard just really showed how much they cared, and that’s pretty special. Not a lot of programs are like that.

"I don’t want to hold any grudges, but there’s obviously stuff that I keep in the back of my mind when I’m training or playing or anything like that. Obviously, I remember stuff, little things . . . I don’t want to go into it, I respect every college coach and I understand why they do what they do, but obviously I have chips on my shoulders."

As for Harvard, the interest never waned. Offensive coordinator Joel Lamb -- a Natick resident, and the son of Hall of Fame former Natick coach Tom Lamb -- kept in close contact throughout the process.

"They treat all of their players and recruits like they would treat their own sons," Dunlap said. "That means the world to me, especially [as] somebody who got hurt, I know that no matter what they’ll always be there for me and care for me even if I get hurt.

"The coaching staff over there has been unbelievable, throughout the whole recovery. Even when I was hurt, Joel Lamb, the offensive coordinator, kept in contact with me. I know he really cares for me, and that means the world to me and my parents. They have an amazing tradition over there, a winning program. I couldn’t be more excited with the opportunity."

With National Letter of Intent Signing Day still seven months away, there remains the distinct possibility some higher-profile late interest could arrive. But Dunlap says he is whole-heartedly committed to the Crimson, no matter what the future entails.

"I’m a man of my word. Harvard’s treated me so well that I would never want to do something like that to them," Dunlap said. "They don’t deserve that. They’ve treated me so well that that’s not an option."

10 Off the Top: Week 3 edition

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
11:57
PM ET
A smattering of observances, trends, anecdotes, factoids and musings collected from around Massachusetts football in the last week or so:


10. One way-too-early prediction: Marblehead is going to cause some waves in Division 3 Northeast.


9. It might still be early, but Middleborough looks to have a playmaker for some years to come in sophomore running back Eddie Hart. While not the tallest in stature (he's 5-foot-7), the shifty Hart dazzled again in Week 2 with a 52-yard punt return for a touchdown in addition to 130 rushing yards on 15 carries, with two touchdowns, in the Sachems' victory over Coyle-Cassidy.


8. It was a rough second half for Weymouth's defense against Bay State rival Natick last Thursday, but someone worth keeping an eye on is Wildcats middle linebacker James Bradley. The senior showed good instincts and sideline-to-sideline pursuit (against a fleet-footed Redhawks squad nonetheless).


7. And while we're on those Redhawks ... After a week, it looks as though Alex Hilger will be Troy Flutie's go-to target with Brian Dunlap lost for the season to injury. But while teams might soon begin giving Hilger a Dunlap-like treatment with bracketed coverage, that's only to create more space for fellow senior wide receiver Justin Robinson to work, particularly along the seems of the field, as he did with increasing frequency during later stages of Natick's win at Weymouth.


6. As in six hundred. In a wild 64-39 win over Swampscott, St. Mary's (Lynn) accumulated just shy of 600 rushing yards -- well, 570 to be exact -- but Connor Sakowich, Jordan Manthorne and Abraham Toe put on a show no one will soon forget.


5. After making his college decision on Monday, Central Catholic senior running back/defensive back D'Andre Drummond-Mayrie offered his evaluation of the Merrimack Valley Conference this year -- as well as a pet peeve about scheduling.


"Very, very good competition," he said. "Lowell's great. Andover's good. Chelmsford's always tough. Billerica looks really good, too, their quarterback [Jordan Bolarinho] is putting up crazy numbers right now."


But then, again, "We don't get to play Methuen any more though. I'm a little bummed about that. It was always a great game atmosphere."


4. And another thing about Drummond-Mayrie ... When you talk to Raiders head coach Chuck Adamopoulos about his star two-way player, the first trait he'll bring up to you is his humility. Adamopoulos added that the most difficult thing for Drummond-Mayrie in his recruiting process was informing the five other offering schools of his decision. He took the time Monday to call all of the prospective coaching staffs before announcing his commitment to local media.


3. The number of consecutive wins No. 1 Bridgewater-Raynham holds over No. 14 Xaverian entering Saturday's Game of the Week matchup.


2. Speaking of those aforementioned Trojans, here's another factoid for you. In Saturday's 13-10 win over Duxbury, B-R did not surrender an offensive touchdown. It marked the first game during Duxbury head coach Dave Maimaron's 9-year tenure in which the Dragons did not score an offensive touchdown.


1. Undoubtedly, the story of Week 2 was how B-R quarterback Matt Clement dutifully played in the midst of a chaotic day for his family.

Saturday morning, Scott Clement suffered a heart attack while running the track at B-R. He'd been training for an upcoming 5K race. If not for a couple of Good Samaritans who were also around the athletic complex at the time and called 911, Scott Clement's life could have been in even greater peril.


He was rushed to Brockton Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery to insert a stent.


With Matt by his side, Scott Clement had one final message for his son before being wheeled into the O.R.: "Focus on what's at hand."


"I couldn't believe that's what he told me," Matt told me Tuesday. "He's the one going into surgery and he's telling me to do that? I told him he needed to focus on what he was doing more."


Scott Clement, a quarterback in his days at Holbrook High, also told his son he was to play that night against the Dragons. Matt led the Trojans to their second straight road win, en route to seizing the No. 1 ranking in our Top 25 poll.


The first thing Matt did after passing through Saturday's postgame handshake line was pick up the phone.


"I was just sad that he missed it," Matt said. "It was a great game, and he loves this program. He loves football."


Scott Clement was released from the hospital Monday evening.

Recap: No. 7 Natick 35, Weymouth 14

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
1:04
AM ET


WEYMOUTH, Mass. – Alex Hilger was waiting for a game like this.

For most of the 2012 football season, all the Natick wide receiver and defensive back could do is watch from the sideline and cheer on his teammates, after a broken collarbone claimed most of his junior year. He still bears the scar of the injury, hidden underneath his shoulder pads.

The irony of the situation, in the No. 7 Redhawks’ 35-14 win over Weymouth Thursday afternoon, is that Hilger’s performance was, in part, due to the absence of one of his teammates. With ESPN Boston preseason All-State receiver Brian Dunlap lost for this season, the scene was set for Hilger to make up for lost time.

Hilger hauled in 14 catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns. He also showed up in the kicking game, connecting on each of Natick’s point-after tries and booting several kickoffs through the end zone for touchbacks.

It came to the surprise of none on the Redhawks’ sideline, who saw Hilger’s efforts as a case of promise realized.

“We’ve always known Alex is pretty dangerous,” Natick head coach Mark Mortarelli said. “We knew if our offense was going to move the ball, he was going to be the focal point. And Troy [Flutie] is so good at finding the open receiver, and Justin Robinson stepped up, and Andrew Boynton stepped up. We just had a lot of guys make plays for us.”

Hilger deflected praise when asked if he’d become Flutie’s top target, instead crediting his quarterback for reading the defense.

“They were playing way off with their safety,” Hilger said, “and we were saying, ‘Hey, let’s just keep taking these short routes.’”

Along with Hilger, fellow senior Andrew Boynton also assumed a greater load in Natick’s passing game, grabbing a 15-yard touchdown pass from Flutie to open scoring in the second quarter.

The Redhawks (1-0) clung to a 14-7 half-time lead after Wildcats quarterback Matt Long lofted a fade to the back left pylon to Ryan Ainslie for a 21-yard touchdown pass with three seconds remaining in the second.

In the second half, Natick used four Weymouth (0-1) turnovers to run away with a win that looked much more difficult than the score indicated.

“We got a little luck, when they put one on the ground, but then we had a great drive and we punched it in,” Mortarelli said. “That was really the difference, in my mind.”

After marching down the field off the opening kickoff of the second half, the Wildcats lost a fumble at Natick’s 3-yard line on a first-and-goal rush.

Fifteen plays and 97 yards later, Flutie (22 of 29, 247 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT) capped the statement drive with a 1-yard plunge over right guard.

“We talked about it in the locker room at halftime,” Hilger said, “one stop and a good drive and the game’s over.”

Oh, what a relief it is: For a few tense moments during the second quarter, Mortarelli’s stomach resided in his throat.

After running for a 5-yard gain on second and 9, Flutie pulled up lame on his left leg. The Boston College commit then sat out the next two plays and was replaced under center by junior Nick Olson, who would later go on to nab an interception.

Following the near brush with disaster, Flutie returned to the sideline in good spirits, insisting he was fine.

Aside from his contributions on game day, Flutie also assumed another role during practice this week: that of Weymouth’s multi-talented athlete David Harrison.

“You can’t simulate the speed of Harrison during practice,” Mortarelli said.

So he had the idea to use Flutie, perhaps the closest facsimile of what Harrison offers, on the scout team. Of course, that comes with perils of its own kind.

“It’s a little dangerous running your starting quarterback on scout team offense,” Mortarelli said.

A multitude of possibilities: Speaking of Harrison, a preseason All-Stater in his own right; there was the issue of exactly what form the Wildcats offense would assume. For the most part, Harrison was flexed out wide and sophomore Matt Long ran the read option at quarterback.

Long, who saw varsity snaps last year as a freshman, proved capable Thursday, making plays with his feet (a 49-yard run on Weymouth’s second play from scrimmage) and his arm (a pair of touchdowns to Ainslie, including a 55-yard play in the fourth quarter). Along with senior back Derrell Fernandez, the Wildcats have a stable of versatile athletes who can line up at multiple positions and create matchup problems for defenses.

Turnover battle: Both teams committed their share of turnovers Thursday, with the Wildcats’ four second-half giveaways factoring greatly.

The defensive secondary of both teams exhibited good ball instincts, primarily Weymouth’s Tyler O’Brien, who snagged two picks.

Natick safety Mike Abbruzzese also had an interception in addition to two fumble recoveries by the Redhawks in the second half.

A script revision for Flutie, No. 5 Natick

September, 1, 2013
9/01/13
5:00
PM ET
Stop if you’ve read this script before.

A man named Flutie, under center, tries to will his team to victory during the final minute in an improbable circumstance. It was all there in Natick’s Division 2A Super Bowl versus Beverly at Gillette Stadium last year – that is, except for the fairytale ending.

After the Redhawks lost a classic, 28-21, with Beverly capping its first-ever perfect season after two Natick Hail Mary prayers went unanswered, Troy Flutie couldn’t bring himself to think about football for about a week. Then, he picked up the game film. By his count, he watched it five times from beginning to end, picking over the finer points, noting improvements to make for his senior year.

“It’s tough to look back at this play here, or that play there that might have turned the game out differently, but it is what it is,” the Boston College commit said. “You can only get better from it, that’s all you can do.”

Flutie realizes the path to get back to Gillette has become more difficult. Now in a loaded Division 2 South field in the MIAA’s new playoff scheme, the No. 5 Redhawks will have to muster another season full of magic to reach a championship game.

Again, Natick will rely upon its spread offense, operated by Flutie, to get them there. Aside from the ESPN Boston All-State quarterback, who threw for 3,135 yards and 35 touchdowns against eight interceptions last season, the Redhawks have another All-Stater in junior wide receiver Brian Dunlap. While Dunlap’s been held out of Natick’s most recent preseason scrimmages with a lower leg injury, there’s plenty of depth behind him. Flutie reports that senior Alex Hilger, who was held out of most of 2012 due to injury, has looked great early. He also expects big things from returnees Andrew Boynton and Justin Robinson.

And then, of course, there’s the X-factor to the Natick offense: Flutie’s feet. Adept at making throws on the run, Troy, like his uncle before him, almost seems more at ease when play breaks down around him.

“Coach Mort [Mark Mortarelli] knows how I play the game and he’s 100 percent behind me,” Flutie said of his penchant for scrambling out of the pocket. “That means a lot to me. Usually, it’s our offensive coordinator, Matt Brenneman, or my dad [Darren], who’s yelling at me to stay in the pocket.”

Flutie sees room for improvement in that aspect. It’s among the takeaways he gleaned from watching last year’s Super Bowl defeat.

While he’s most likely to follow his father’s path as a wide receiver at BC, his focus is making himself the best quarterback he can be. He wants to become a more patient passer, one who feels the rush and stands his ground.

“I have to work on that myself to become a better quarterback,” he added.

But no matter which Flutie it concerns, Plan B is never a bad option.

NATICK AT A GLANCE
Coach: Mark Mortarelli (Fourth season, 25-10)
2012: 11-2, lost in Eastern Mass. Division 2A Super Bowl
Returning starters: 10 (six offensive, four defensive)
Key Returnees: Troy Flutie, Sr. QB; Brian Dunlap, Jr. WR; Alex Hilger, Sr. WR; Mike Abbruzzese, Sr. FS/WR; Justin Robinson, Sr. WR; Gus Black, Sr. RB/OLB; T.J. Collins Jr. LB.
Strengths: Returning skill players.
Weaknesses: Experience on offensive/defensive line and running back.

Outlook: While the Redhawks’ offense shouldn’t tail off much from 2012, the key position battle worth looking at is running back, where all-leaguer Nick Lee graduated. “I don’t think we could ever find another Nick Lee,” Flutie said. “He was like another quarterback back there for me. He’d help me a lot back there, checking out of plays. Now, I’m back there by myself.” A Kevin Faulk-kind of presence for Natick’s offense, Flutie lauded Lee’s blitz pick-up ability in the backfield as a key to his success. Look for sophomore Chad Kidd to pick up carries at running back in addition to senior two-way player Gus Black.

Natick’s secondary is deep and talented, with Mike Abbruzzese ready to break out after a solid junior year. Also, the linebacking corps might be a little light in game experience, but possesses play-making potential with a cast of Black, T.J. Collins, Justin Montgomery and Trenton Wright.
NATICK, Mass. – ESPN Boston preseason No. 5 Natick conducted a tri-scrimmage with Braintree and North Attleborough on Wednesday.

Here are some thoughts and observations from the three sides:

The Missing: The proceedings were in some ways marked by who wasn’t there, with each of the sides suiting up without some of their top players. Natick saw top receiver Brian Dunlap held out after he’d rolled an ankle during Saturday’s scrimmage. The injury bug also bit Braintree Saturday against Stoughton, when starting tight end and defensive end Derek Anson suffered a high ankle sprain on his final rep. Meanwhile, North Attleborough wasn’t without its own issues, as quarterback/half back Jack Blasť was limited by a hip ailment.

Full tilt: Even in Dunlap’s absence, the Redhawks looked to be near midseason form in the passing game. Troy Flutie dazzled with his trademark elusiveness in the pocket, scrambling around the backfield to make several first-down completions against Braintree’s top defensive unit. The offensive highlight of the afternoon came on Flutie’s 20-yard connection to Andrew Boynton, who made an over-the-shoulder catch on a perfect fade thrown to back right pylon in tight coverage.

Filling holes: Boynton’s score wasn’t his only contribution. He also lined up in the backfield in some two-back looks shown by the Redhawks. Natick is looking for a new feature back, following the graduation of Nick Lee. Head coach Mark Mortarelli also worked in senior Gus Black and sophomore Chad Kidd at running back on Wednesday.

It’s not the only positional battle Mortarelli was keeping an eye on. In addition to Black (also a starting OLB), he’s looking to junior T.J. Collins (5-10, 175 lbs.) to fill a hole, as well as senior Justin Montgomery, who also sat out the scrimmage because of an injury.

Working against North’s spread concepts and the double wing and Wing-T formations of Braintree, Mortarelli believes the exercise served as a good preparation for what’s to come.

“We wanted to make our kids uncomfortable,” Mortarelli said. “I wanted to see who could adjust, who could make the change playing against two different styles. I thought we did a good job overall, defensively, today.”

Step right up: North head coach Don Johnson also used Wednesday’s workout to glean a bit more information about his squad, which returns just a few starters on either side of the ball.

With Blasť limited, senior James Kummer had the majority of snaps with the first team offense at quarterback. He was working behind a new-look offensive line, which returns just one starter – senior captain Evan Sweeney, who slides over to left tackle.

The preseason snaps have been particularly important to the young line. Johnson anticipates a deep junior class to help patch the other holes on the line with Max Kroll working at right guard while Connor Ryan steps into right tackle. The battle at left guard is among the tightest in camp with Dan Kummer and Pat Munley vying for playing time.

Once the line has come together, Johnson thinks the Red Rocketeers have the elements to move the ball.

“I like what we have in the depth of our backfield and the versatility there,” Johnson said. “I think we’ll be able to show some balance and be able to throw.”

Keep your eye on … : Well, you can see him from about a mile away.

Standing 6-feet, 7-inches tall and 260 pounds, Braintree tackle Ryan Houlihan commands attention. The physical lineman made his presence felt Wednesday, particularly in the ground game. He’s not just a big frame. Also a basketball player, Houlihan has the feet to match, and he’s begun to gain the attention of college recruiters. A host of Division 2 schools have inquired about Houlihan, but Harvard has also expressed interest.

With a bruising offensive line in front of them, Connor Columbus and Mike Mahoney should find running room. Third-year Wamps head coach Brian Chamberlain is also looking for junior hoop standout Keyshaad Dixon to have an impact at receiver.

And, if all goes to plan, the Wamps – who haven’t experienced a winning season in their last nine – could break beyond their three-win total from a year ago.

Roundtable: Best players, breakout stars, sleepers

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
6:03
PM ET
Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools editor


Best QB: Cody Williams, Springfield Central
Best RB: Johnathan Thomas, St. John's Prep
Best WR: Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE: Brendan Hill, Mansfield
Best OL: Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best DL: Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best LB: C.J. Parvelus, Everett
Best DB: Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense: Natick
Best rushing offense: St. John's Prep
Best offensive line: St. John's Prep
Best defensive line: Reading
Best linebackers: Reading
Best secondary: Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Medway
Coach Dave McSweeney's affinity for power football isn't a secret, and this season he'll have two road-graders to run behind in Kevin Sheehan (6-4, 285) and Cam Smith (6-5, 290, Lafayette commit). If there's any exhibit for why we needed to change the postseason format, the most glaring sample might be the Mustangs, who went 19-3 from 2009-10 with no playoff berth. In this new playoff system, a gameplan like the Mustangs' is built for the long haul.

Lynn English
Perhaps this isn't a surprise pick so much as an affirmation. In a Division 2 North that is perceived to be wide open after heavy favorite Reading, the Bulldogs have enough talent to make a deep run. There has always been elite talent at the skill positions, but Preseason All-State selection Chris Tinkham gives them a presence in the trenches they've lacked the last few years, a rare "war daddy" type who overpowers the interior gaps. The biggest question will be where the Bulldogs put junior Jordan Javier, a 6-foot-4 transfer from Haverhill who is a matchup problem at his natural split end position but also throws one of the prettiest balls you'll see on the North Shore.

Quabbin
The Panthers struggled to a 4-7 tune last season in a weak league, but there is some promise. Quarterback Dylan Kierman is an underappreciated talent, who should get a boost from the return of slippery receiver Nick Thyden. The Panthers run a unique "Air Raid" scheme, and another year of experience with it could surprised teams in Division 4 Central.

THREE BREAKOUT ATHLETES TO WATCH

Lukas Denis, Jr. ATH, Everett
After an injury-shortened 2012 season in which he was the assumed successor to record-setting quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso, but barely saw the field, Denis is moving to the perimeter, where he will take a role similar to the hybrid slot-back role that Manny Asprilla made legendary in 2010. Defensively, he should serve as a terrific compliment in the secondary to highly-touted safety/cornerback Lubern Figaro, and has already begun to pick up some Division 1 FBS interest.

Alfred Adarkwah, Sr. WR, Doherty
Standing a long 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan, Adarkwah has an unusually large catching radius for a high school receiver. This summer in passing leagues, the Highlanders toyed with Adarkwah and Boston College-bound receiver Isaac Yiadom on the same side of 2x2 formations. Head coach Sean Mulcahy has to be excited with the possibilities that opens up -- just imagine sending those two on a post-wheel combo route. Or better yet, imagine running them on a bubble screen, taking advantage of both Yiadom's elite speed and Adarkwah's great downfield blocking skills.

Taj-Amir Torres, Jr. ATH, Amherst
Already a household name in track and field, where he was named the state's Gatorade Player of the Year last spring as a sophomore after winning New Englands in the 100-meter dash, he's about to get a whole lot more attention. Boston College, UConn and UMass have already offered Torres, who made just 24 catches last season but made some incredible feats of athleticism. Hurricanes head coach David Thompson told us earlier this month "[We're] trying to get the ball in his hands every opportunity we get", so expect bigger numbers in 2013.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS

Div. 1 - Everett
Div. 2 - Springfield Central
Div. 3 - Walpole
Div. 4 - Doherty
Div. 5 - Auburn
Div. 6 - Millis/Hopedale

***

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor

Best QB - Drew Belcher - Sr. Reading
Best RB - Johnny Thomas - Sr. St. John’s Prep
Best WR - Brian Dunlap - Jr. Natick
Best TE - Rory Donovan - Sr. Cardinal Spellman
Best OL - Jon Baker – Sr., Millis/Hopedale
Best DL – Joe Gaziano – Jr., Xaverian
Best LB – Eddie Motavu – Sr., Tewksbury
Best DB - Lubern Figaro - Sr. Everett
Best passing offense - Natick
Best rushing offense - St. John's Prep
Best offensive line – Bridgewater-Raynham
Best defensive line - Reading
Best linebackers - Leominster
Best secondary - Everett

THREE SURPRISE TEAMS

St. Mary’s (Lynn)
OK, so a team coming off an 11-2 season and a Super Bowl appearance might not exactly be a surprise, but with a couple of other Catholic Central teams garnering the buzz in the preseason, let's not forget the Spartans have another season with Jordan Collier (1,495 yards, 18 TD).

Hingham

We've heard them knocking, but can they come in? The Harbormen have whittled the gap in recent years, particularly against Patriot League nemesis Duxbury, but they're still waiting to break through. They could have an in-road in Division 3 Southwest. An early non-leaguer against Oliver Ames should be a bellweather for things to come, but the real proof will come Oct. 5, against those aforementioned Dragons.

Wakefield
The Warriors fell short of their goal of winning the Middlesex League's Freedom division last year, but should be in the mix in a wide open Division 3 Northwest race. We'll have a better impression after a visit from Lynn English in Week 2.

THREE BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETES

Joe Johnston, Sr. RB/S, King Philip
Anybody who saw Johnston's hard-nosed 157-yard, 2-touchdown performance against North Attleborough last year knows Johnston's style. He's a burden for would-be tacklers inside the box, and once he kicks it outside, he's also very hard to catch.

Grant Kramer, Sr. OT, Duxbury
The younger brother of Boston College tackle Aaron Kramer, Grant is now ready to assume the role as the next great lineman on the Dragons' line (and there have been some very good ones in recent memory). He currently holds offers from Coastal Carolina and Villanova but has also expressed interest in attending West Point.

Connor Moriarty, Sr. RB, Walpole
When Rebels starter Mike Rando went out with an ankle injury near the midway point of the regular season last year, it was Moriarty who carried the load down the stretch. Expect even bigger numbers this year.

WAY TOO EARLY CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTIONS:

D1 – St. John’s Prep
D2 – Springfield Central
D3 – Walpole
D4 – Doherty
D5 – Auburn
D6 – Millis/Hopedale

***

Josh Perry
ESPN Boston correspondent


Best QB - Drew Belcher, Reading
Best RB - Jonathan Thomas, St. John’s Prep
Best WR – Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE – Brendan Hill, Mansfield
Best OL – Jon Baker, Millis-Hopedale
Best DL – Andrew Bourque, Reading
Best LB – Kevin Bletzer, Catholic Memorial
Best DB – Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense - Natick
Best rushing offense – St. John’s Prep
Best offensive line – St. John’s Prep
Best defensive line - Reading
Best linebackers – Catholic Memorial
Best secondary - Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE:

Attleboro
A new coaching staff, the energy of a new field complex, and a strong crop of returning seniors could make the Bombardiers the surprise team of the Hockomock League. Attleboro has always been a sleeping giant and the program continues to find solid athletes, it’s now up to the new staff to build a system that fits the talent on the roster. With a couple of league rivals dealing with injuries and suspensions, Attleboro could sneak up on people.

Barnstable
Everyone assumes that there will be a significant drop off for the Red Raiders due to a big graduating class, but there is still potential to be a solid team in D2 and in the OCL. This may not be a another season with Barnstable holding the top spot in the poll, but it shouldn’t be written off either.

Stoughton
The Knights are expected to finish behind Oliver Ames in the Davenport, but don’t be surprised if they pull an upset or two and give the Tigers a run at the title. Watch out for running back Malachi Baugh, who will be getting the majority of the carries this season and is a beast to try and bring down.

THREE BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETES TO WATCH

Luke Morrison, Sr. TE/DE, Attleboro
Attleboro’s giant tight end/defensive end is a monster match-up on both sides of the ball and could be a real threat as Tim Walsh’s favorite target in the Bombardiers passing attack.

Ryan Charter, Sr. QB, Needham
Mike Panepinto has deservedly drawn praise as the star man on the Needham offense, but the senior quarterback, who has been under center for 1-1/2 seasons already, will have high expectations as the Rockets try to get back on top in the Bay State.

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
With the graduation of running backs Robbie Rapoza and Kevin Makie and the continued injury problems for wide receiver Michael Hershman the key cog for the Hornets offense will be its senior quarterback. Wisnieski’s ability to spread the ball around and pick the right options out of a still talented receiving corps that includes Brendan Hill is going to be the key for Mansfield’s run at a Hockomock title.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS:

Div. 1 – St. John’s Prep
Div. 2 - Nashoba
Div. 3 – Bishop Feehan
Div. 4 - Doherty
Div. 5 - Auburn
Div. 6 – Millis-Hopedale

***

Ryan Kilian
Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Massachusetts Prep Stars


Best QB - Drew Belcher, Reading
Best RB - Johnathan Thomas, St. John's Prep
Best WR - Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE - Rory Donovan, Cardinal Spellman
Best OL - Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best DL - Alex Quintero, Lowell
Best LB - C.J. Parvelus, Defense
Best DB - Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense - St. John's (Shrewsbury)
Best rushing offense - St. John's Prep
Best offensive line - St. John's Prep
Best defensive line - Reading
Best linebackers - Duxbury
Best secondary - Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Bedford
While Wayland and Concord-Casrlisle have earned the DCL Small Championship the past few years do not sleep on Bedford in 2013. The Bucs play one of the toughest schedules in Division 4 and the return All-DCL running back Olan Abner.

Chelmsford
While Lowell, Central and Andover are getting most of the early press in the MVC Large, the Chelmsford Lions return one of the State's top running backs in Jeff D'Auria, a seasoned young quarterback in Jack Campsmith and a nice nucleus of tough experienced defenders.

Archbishop Williams
If Archies can find early offensive balance to take some of the work load off the shoulders of star senior back Kylan Philbert-Richardson, they could make some noise in the D5 playoff hunt.

THREE BREAKOUT ATHLETES TO WATCH

Ian Kessel, Soph. RB, Haverhill
The St. John's Prep transfer saw late game carries last season as a freshman for Prep's Super Bowl Champion squad. The speedy halfback is now back home in the MVC Small, and with the graduation of work horse, All-State RB Chance Brady (Tufts), there should be plenty carries to go around.

Devin Lekan, Sr. DE/TE, Chelmsford
D'Auria and Campsmith return to lead the offense for Chelmsford's but it is the Lion defense could be the story if they stay healthy. The Lions feature the 2nd team all-MVC performer was the most impressive player in the games I saw last season.

Nick Orekoya, Jr. DB/RB Billerica
Orekoya saw a lot of playing time as a two-way starter for Billerica last season. With another year under his belt Orekoya should thrive in coach Rich McKenna's high octane offense.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS

Div. 1 - Everett
Div. 2 - Reading
Div. 3 - Tewksbury
Div. 4 - Dennis-Yarmouth
Div. 5 - Auburn
Div. 6 - Boston Cathedral

***

John Botelho
Editor-in-Chief, South Shore Sports Journal


Best QB - Troy Flutie, Natick
Best RB - Dylan Oxsen, Plymouth South
Best WR - Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE - Rory Donovan, Cardinal Spellman
Best OL - Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best DL - Steve Manning, Abington
Best LB - Kervin Jean-Claude, Brockton
Best DB - Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense - Natick
Best rushing offense - St. John's Prep
Best offensive line - St. John's Prep
Best defensive line - Auburn
Best linebackers - Brockton
Best secondary - Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Brockton
They're ranked pretty high in any poll you look at because people have just come to accept the fact that Brockton generally reloads. They graduated 18 starters from last season's Super Bowl team, including quarterback Austin Roberts, who was one of the best in school history. Roberts, Micah Morel and Joe Previte are all playing ball at prep schools this year, and Anthony Davis has moved on to Div. 1 Central Connecticut. Still, the Boxers will very solid again. They have a number of athletes and playmakers, including returning do-it-all Aaron Leclair. Transfer Jamal Williams is going to compliment him well, and sophomore Kerry Raymond is physically imposing at 6-foot-1 and 205. Aaron Monteiro's 6-foot-5, 295-pound frame gives Brockton an anchor on the offensive line. They have plenty of guys ready to step forward on the other side of the ball as well, led by Kervin Jean-Claude, Justin Ahanon and Leclair.

Abington
The Green Wave went unbeaten in their march toward a Super Bowl crown last year, but saw a slew of stars graduate. QB Brandon Cawley, TE/DE Pat Dwyer, FB Jack Malafronte, RB Babila Fonkem, DB Mike Walsh, OL Tyler Perakslis and OL Matt Diver are just some of the elite players Abington graduated. These guys won't miss a beat though, as they have a ton of talent back. Matt Kilmain broke out for more than 400 yards on 27 carries in two postseason wins last year, and he might not even be the best player back this season. Abington returns its top three tacklers from a year ago and has most of their front seven back on defense. Jim Kelliher has one of the best coaching staffs going at this point, and these guys look like they're headed back to the playoffs. (For bold prediction purposes, I'm also going to go ahead and say I think they beat Duxbury on opening night, because that's how good I think this team can be).

Stoughton
The Black Knights missed the playoffs last year because of the wrong day for a let down game, taking a tough defeat to eventual Super Bowl champ Sharon. The Knights lost some very good players, but leading running back Malachi Baugh is back in the fold and they return four starting offensive lineman, so there's no reason to think the offense won't be up to par again. The Hockomock League has proven in recent years to be one of the toughest to win, but a second guaranteed playoff berth can only help a team like Stoughton.

THREE BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETES TO WATCH

Aaron Monteiro, Jr. OL, Brockton
Monteiro has something that can't be learned, or even worked toward. His 6-foot-5, 295-pound frame is one that will draw the interest of coaches at the next level. Coach Peter Colombo is very excited about plugging the junior into his offensive line, and it's not just because of the size. Monteiro worked during the off-season to get himself stronger and is primed to be one of the best lineman in the state. He plays basketball in the winter, something that has helped him develop quick and agile feet for a guy his size.

Sam Malafronte, Jr. LB, Abington
Started at linebacker a year ago as a sophomore for the Div. 4 Super Bowl champs, and finished second on the team in tackles. A very good athlete who is a work-out warrior, Malafronte will team with Matt Whelan to lead a solid corps in the middle of the field for the Green Wave.

James Shea, Sr. WR, East Bridgewater
The Vikings have benefited from having tremendous athletes in the backfield the last few years (think Casey DeAndrade, Tim O'Brien, Andrew Benson and Kevin Lynch), but in 2013 their most dangerous player will be splitting out wide. Shea can run with just about anyone -- he finished sixth in the 100-meter dash in the South Shore League last spring -- and is going to wreak havoc pulling in passes all year.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS

Div. 1 - Everett
Div. 2 - Natick
Div. 3 - Plymouth South
Div. 4 - Doherty
Div. 5 - Abington
Div. 6 - Millis/Hopedale

ESPN Boston Preseason MIAA All-State Team

August, 19, 2013
8/19/13
8:17
AM ET
The MIAA football season officially kicks off today with the first sanctioned team practices. Below is our fourth annual ESPN Boston Preseason MIAA All-State Football Team, as well as our expansive "Watch List".

*Indicates returning All-State

OFFENSE

QB – Drew Belcher, Sr., Reading*
QB – Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick*
QB – Andrew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury)*
QB – Cody Williams, Sr., Springfield Central
RB – Johnathan Thomas, Sr., St. John’s Prep*
RB – Dylan Oxsen, Sr., Plymouth South*
RB – Mike Panepinto, Sr., Needham
RB – Brandon Gallagher, Jr., Bridgewater-Raynham
WR – Brian Dunlap, Jr., Natick*
WR – Isaac Yiadom, Sr., Doherty
WR – Jack Galvin, Sr., Lowell
WR – Ju’uan Williams, Sr., Springfield Central
TE – Rory Donovan, Sr., Cardinal Spellman
TE – Brendan Hill, Jr., Mansfield
OL – Jon Baker, Sr., Millis/Hopedale*
OL – Kent Blaeser, Sr., St. John’s Prep
OL – Shawn Whitaker, Sr., Bridgewater-Raynham
OL – Cam Smith, Sr., Medway
OL – Sean Lee, Sr., Springfield Central
ATH – Dave Harrison, Sr., Weymouth
ATH – Neil O’Connor, Sr., Leominster

DEFENSE

DL – Andrew Bourque, Sr., Reading
DL – Will Greelish, Sr., Auburn
DL – Alex Quintero, Sr., Lowell
DL – Chris Tinkham, Sr., Lynn English
LB – C.J. Parvelus, Sr., Everett
LB – Sean Smerczynski, Sr., St. John’s Prep*
LB – Brett McEvoy, Sr., King Philip
LB – Liam Kenneally, Sr., Reading
LB – Shayne Kaminski, Sr., Xaverian
LB – Tom Rodrick, Sr., Leicester
DB – Lubern Figaro, Sr., Everett
DB – Davon Jones, Jr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
DB – D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie, Sr., Central Catholic
DB – Jarell Addo, Sr., Leominster
D-ATH – Kevin Bletzer, Sr., Catholic Memorial

***

WATCH LIST

Olan Abner, Sr. RB, Bedford
Mike Abruzzese, Sr. DB, Natick
Justin Ahanon, Sr. ATH, Brockton
Shaquille Anderson, Sr. RB, Cambridge
Nick Andreas, Jr. QB, Danvers
Charlie Aylward, Sr. LB, Catholic Memorial
Jordan Balarinho, Sr. QB, Billerica
Michael Balsamo, Jr. DB, Central Catholic
Malachi Baugh, Sr. RB, Stoughton
Joe Bellomo, Jr. RB, Holliston
Aidan Beresford, Sr. OL, Marshfield
Will Blumenberg, Jr. QB, Concord-Carlisle
Will Bolster, Sr. QB, Walpole
Ommel Bonilla, Jr. DL, Andover
Ryan Boucher, Sr. OL, North Reading
Andrew Boynton, Sr. WR, Natick
Luke Brennan, Sr. QB, Doherty
Joe Brown, Sr. OL, Central Catholic
Jake Burt, Jr. TE, St. John’s Prep
Ryan Charter, Sr. QB, Needham
Max Chipouras, Sr. RB, Longmeadow
Jordan Collier, Sr. RB, St. Mary’s (Lynn)
Nick Cordopatri, Sr. OL, Walpole
Nicolau Coury, Jr. LB, Lowell
Shyheim Cullen, Jr. LB, Lowell
Jeff D’Auria, Sr. RB, Chelmsford
Kyle Dance, Sr. QB, Latin Academy
Lukas Denis, Jr. DB, Everett
Joe DeNucci, Sr. ATH, Newton North
Kevin DiBona, Sr. LB, Duxbury
Steve DiCienzo, Sr. LB, BC High
Rob DiLoreto, Sr. WR, Reading
Brian Dolan, Sr. QB, Lowell
John Donnellan, Sr. DL, Reading
Isaiah Douglas, Sr. DB, Bishop Feehan
Angel Duarte, Sr. LB, Everett
Michael Dunn, Jr. ATH, Dennis-Yarmouth
Markus Edmonds, Jr. LB, Central Catholic
Derek Estes, Sr. DB, Barnstable
Michael Fawhemini, Sr. DB, St. John’s Prep
Joey Fitton, Sr. OL/DL, Holy Name
Connor Gatto, Sr. OL, Northbridge
Joe Gaziano, Jr. DL, Xaverian
Micah Gregory, Sr. DB, Barnstable
T.J. Hairston, Jr. WR, Watertown
Jack Herlihy, Sr. OL, Duxbury
Michael Hershman, Sr. WR, Mansfield
Kejonte Hickman, Jr. QB, Boston Cathedral
Alex Hilger, Sr. WR, Natick
Sean Hoey, Sr. OL, St. John’s Prep
Jon Holdgate, Sr. LB, Nantucket
Jeff Holland, Sr. ATH, Holy Name
Dom Hooven, Sr. OL, St. John’s Prep
Jack Hubley, Sr. LB, Lincoln-Sudbury
Phoenix Huerta, Sr. QB, Somerville
Jordan Javier, Jr. ATH, Lynn English
Kervin Jean-Claude, Sr. LB, Brockton
Domingo Jenkins, Sr. RB, Taunton
Austin Jones, Sr. OL, Shepherd Hill
Anderson Jupiter, Sr. RB, Somerville
Brandon Kahari, Soph. DB, St. John’s Prep
Devon Kellner, Sr. LB, Taunton
Rory Keohane, Sr. DL, BC High
Chris Kennedy, Sr. LB, Barnstable
Dylan Kierman, Sr. QB, Quabbin
A.J. King, Sr. ATH, Xaverian
Jimmy King, Sr. DL, Reading
Grant Kramer, Sr. OL, Duxbury
Fodee Kromah, Sr. DB, Holy Name
Noah Kung, Sr. OL, Walpole
Michael Kwegyir-Attah, Sr. LB, Haverhill
Jaleel Kyles, Sr. DB, Springfield Putnam
Mitch Laferriere, Sr. LB, BC High
Keagan Latta, Sr. WR, Lowell
Aaron LeClair, Sr. RB, Brockton
Matt Long, Soph. RB, Weymouth
Wayne Lowery, Sr. DB, Springfield Putnam
Steve Manning, Sr. DL, Abington
Kenneth Marshall, Sr. LB, Springfield Central
Ryan Martin, Sr. WR, Bridgewater-Raynham
Ngaiiva Mason, Sr. RB, Lowell
Liam Matheson, Sr. RB, Dennis-Yarmouth
Eddie Matovu, Sr. LB, Tewksbury
Sean McCarthy, Sr. QB, Duxbury
Eric Mercer, Sr. LB, Melrose
Kens Morantus, Sr. LB, Waltham
Connor Moriarty, Sr. ATH, Walpole
Luke Morrison, Sr. TE, Attleboro
Hayden Murphy, Sr. ATH, Barnstable
Kevin Nunes, Sr. WR, New Bedford
Nick Orekoya, Jr. DB, Billerica
Luis Ortiz, Sr. TE/LB, Springfield Central
Derek Pacheco, Sr. DL, Barnstable
Connor Peck, Sr. OL, Catholic Memorial
Khai Perry, Sr. RB, Duxbury
Kylan Philbert-Richardson, Sr. RB, Archbishop Williams
Wes Quinzani, Sr. DB, Duxbury
Aaron Rabb, Sr. DL, Whitman-Hanson
Deion Raper, Sr. DB, Brockton
Kerry Raymond, Soph. RB, Brockton
Eddie Rivera, Jr. RB, Leominster
Justin Robinson, Sr. WR, Natick
Owen Rocket, Jr. WR, St. John’s Prep
Sergio Rodriguez, Sr. OL, Somerville
Rufus Rushins, Jr. RB/LB, Bishop Fenwick
D’Vante Sewell, Sr. DB, Springfield Commerce
Ben Sheehan, Jr. RB, Minnechaug
Tim Smith, Sr. RB, Dartmouth
Joel Sodeinde, Sr. OL, Dartmouth
Jimmy Sullivan, Sr. QB, Nauset
Jack Sylvester, Sr. RB, Andover
Thomas Tabur, Sr. OL, Northbridge
Tyrone Thornton, Sr. DB, Newton South
Nick Thyden, Sr. WR, Quabbin
Griffin Tighe, Sr. DL, Franklin
Coby Tippett, Soph. ATH, Xaverian
Taj-Amir Torres, Jr. WR/DB, Amherst
Spencer Tyler, Sr. QB, Dennis-Yarmouth
Luc Valenza, Sr. LB, Foxborough
Jason Valera, Sr. LB, Leominster
Alex Valles, Sr. DB, Danvers
Kahlil Walker, Sr. DL, Springfield Central
Casey Walsh, Sr. QB, North Andover
Isaiah White, Sr. RB, Beverly
Jamal Williams, Sr. RB, Brockton
Mayson Williams, Sr. ATH, Leominster
Raheem Wingard, Sr. QB, Everett
Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield

ESPN Boston 2012 MIAA All-State Team

December, 4, 2012
12/04/12
7:07
PM ET
OFFENSE
All-StateQB -- Nick Peabody, Sr., Barnstable
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound signal-caller led the Red Raiders to their most successful season in over a decade, claiming the Old Colony League title outright, holding the No. 1 spot in ESPNBoston.com's statewide poll for seven weeks, and falling to Everett, 20-19, in a thrilling Division 1A Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium. For the season, he threw for 2,627 yards and 34 touchdowns while also carrying the ball 73 times for 366 yards and seven more scores. He is considering several Division 1 FCS schools for college.

All-StateQB -- Drew Belcher, Jr., Reading
In two years as the Rockets' starter under center, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound dual-threat quarterback has gone 21-4, including two Middlesex League titles and a Division 2 Super Bowl championship this season. Through the air, he was very efficient, completing 107 of 169 passes for 1,710 yards, 21 touchdowns and just two interceptions. On the ground he was just as dangerous, carrying 138 times for 804 yards and 15 scores.

All-StateQB -- Troy Flutie, Jr., Natick
The son of Boston College legend Darren Flutie, the younger Flutie endured a record-setting 2012 campaign in leading the Redhawks to the Division 2A Super Bowl title game. He completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,153 yards and 35 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, and on the ground he carried 167 times for 1,075 yards and 14 more scores.

All-StateQB -- Andrew Smiley, Jr., St. John's (Shrewsbury)
Smiley took the starting job during the preseason following injuries, and in his first year running the Pioneers' "Blur" offense, he set the Central Mass. single-season record for passing yardage. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder completed nearly 62 percent of his passes for 3,123 yards and 25 touchdowns; on the ground, he carried 141 times for 1,023 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Pioneers also led the state in yards from scrimmage, averaging 442.2 yards per game.

All-StateRB -- Jonathan Thomas, Jr., St. John's Prep
The Catholic Conference's Offensive MVP established himself as one of the state's most dangerous in leading the Eagles to their first Division 1 Super Bowl title in 15 seasons. The 6-foot, 195-pound Salem resident carried 220 times for 1,794 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also added nine catches for 153 yards and three touchdowns, and defensively added 20.5 tackles and two interceptions. Thomas currently holds a scholarship offer from UMass, but more are sure to follow.

All-StateRB -- Quron Wright, Sr., Holy Name
The 5-foot-6, 165-pounder finished his career as the all-time leading rusher at both his school and in Central Mass. This fall, he totaled 3,199 yards from scrimmage and 38 touchdowns for the Naps, who made the postseason for an eighth straight year. That includes 35 rushing touchdowns and a state-best 2,254 rushing yards, as well as 806 return yards and two return touchdowns. For his career, Wright has 5,891 rushing yards and 2,659 return yards, to go along with 95 touchdowns (84 rushing, seven kickoff return, two receiving, two interception return).

All-StateRB -- Brendan Flaherty, Sr., Beverly
Considered the most dynamic back of the Panthers' vaunted three-pronged rushing attack, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Flaherty led the Panthers to the Division 2A Super Bowl title and their first undefeated season in 100 years. On the season, he carried 160 times for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns, and added 10 catches for 236 yards and four more scores.

All-StateRB -- Dylan Oxsen, Jr., Plymouth South
By far the state's most surprising breakthrough this fall, Oxsen took Eastern Mass. by storm as the Panthers qualified for postseason for the first time in the school's 30-year history. After recording just three touchdowns last fall, the 5-foot-8, 205-pounder exploded for a state-best 40 rushing touchdowns in 2012, to go along with over 2,100 yards on the ground.

All-StateWR -- Brian Dunlap, Soph., Natick
Already off to a remarkable start to his young varsity career, the 6-foot Dunlap led the state in receiving, with 86 catches for 1,570 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also had 34 carries for 301 yards and another score. In just two years of varsity, Dunlap already has record-pace receiving totals: 155 catches, 2,742 yards, 35 touchdowns.

All-StateWR -- Jakarrie Washington, Sr., Everett
The 5-foot-10, 170-pounder was as dangerous on the ground as he was through the air, as the Crimson Tide captured their third straight Super Bowl championship. He caught 33 passes for 439 yards and nine touchdowns, and on the ground had 75 carries for 697 yards and 15 more scores. Defensively, he also recorded two picks and two fumble recoveries, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

All-StateWR -- Elijah Scott, Sr., Cambridge
Scott exploded into the spotlight following the Falcons' shootout loss to Everett, and stayed there for good. On the season, he recorded 73 catches for 1,047 yards and 11 touchdowns, the latter tying a school record, as the Falcons went 7-4 for their first winning season since 2007.

All-StateWR -- Dylan Morris, Sr., Barnstable
The 6-foot, 180-pounder established himself as one of the region's best deep-ball threats, as the Red Raiders reached their first Super Bowl since 1999. On the season, he recorded 33 catches for 716 yards and 13 touchdowns. Morris signed a National Letter of Intent with UMass last month, for baseball.
All-StateWR -- Will Heikkinen, Sr., Andover
Part of one of the most dynamic receiving corps in Eastern Mass., the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder led the Golden Warriors in receptions (67) and receiving yards (1,126), to go along with nine touchdowns as the Warriors reached the Division 1 playoffs for the second time in three seasons.

All-StateTE -- Terrel Correia, Sr., Nantucket
Another one of the state's surprise breakthroughs, the 6-foot-7, 270-pounder was a matchup nightmare for the Mayflower League. On the season, he led the 4-7 Whalers with 26 catches and 372 yards for five touchdowns. Correia is verbally committed to UMass, where he plans on converting to the offensive line.

All-StateOL -- John Montelus, Sr., Everett
The Notre Dame-bound left tackle concluded his Crimson Tide career as a three-time Super Bowl champion. The 6-foot-5, 320-pounder started on each of those Everett championship teams and was a finalist, the first-ever lineman, for our Mr. Football Award. Montelus, who didn’t allow a sack in his high school career, will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January.

All-StateOL -- Rob Kosharek, Sr., Duxbury
The 6-foot-6, 270-pound road-grading tackle was a key part of a Dragons' offensive line that fueled the team to a then state-best 37-game winning streak, that only ended in a Division 2 playoff game against Mansfield. Kosharek led the team in pancake blocks with 28, nearly doubling the amount of Duxbury's second leading blocker.

All-StateOL -- Aaron Dyke, Sr., Auburn
The 6-foot-4, 295-pounder was among the state's most punishing road graders, as the Rockets won their fifth straight Central Mass. Super Bowl title. With Dyke leading the way, Auburn once again went over 3,000 mark in rushing (3,155 yards, 10.1 yards per carry, 53 TD) and accumulated 66 total scores and nearly 4,000 yards of offense. They also outscored the opposition 468-84, with four shutouts, to go 13-0 and captured the Division 3 Super Bowl title.

All-StateOL -- Matt Comerford, Sr., Reading
Reading was one of the state's most dominant offenses in capturing its second Division 2 Super Bowl title in four years, and the 6-foot-4, 270-pounder made sure the Rockets won the line of scrimmage. The Rockets were one of the best rushing attacks (2,544 yards, six yards per carry, 34 TD) and totaled 4,272 yards from scrimmge with 56 touchdowns. Comerford is also a standout goaltender on the Rockets' lacrosse team.

All-StateOL -- Joe Previte, Sr., Brockton
The 6-foot-2, 260-pounder played the interior and was a force for the Boxers, allowing them to total over 3,000 yards rushing in their newly-installed flexbone attack. Behind Previte, the Boxers averaged 255.5 rushing yards per game, among the state's best, and returned to the Division 1 Super Bowl for the first time since 2009. Previte also recorded 35 tackles and a sack as a defensive tackle.

All-StateATH -- Tedaro France, Sr., Barnstable
A true three-phase contributor, the Red Raiders receiver and defensive back was considered by his peers the MVP of Barnstable’s run at a Div. 1A Super Bowl. France tallied 41 receptions for 884 yards and 13 receiving touchdowns. He also had 682 combined return yards for 1,600 yards all-purpose yards and 19 total touchdowns.

ATH -- David Harrison, Jr., Weymouth
Quarterback, running back, wide receiver, it didn't matter which role Kevin Mackin asked the versatile Harrison to play this season. Harrison finished second in Division 1 with 21 touchdowns scored while hauling in 12 touchdown passes and throwing for eight more scores.

All-StateK -- Jackson Bockhorst, Sr., BC High
A feared weapon, not only in the kicking game but with his kickoffs, Bockhurst has earned the reputation as one of the most consistent kickers in the state during the last several seasons. In 2012, Bockhurst connected on three field goals and 17 point-after tries for 26 points.

***

DEFENSE
All-StateDL -- Maurice Hurst, Sr., Xaverian
As the Catholic Conference's Lineman of the Year, Hurst was a dominant force in the middle, recording 51 tackles (23 for loss), 11 sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception. Offensively, he also ran for 63 yards and five touchdowns as the Hawks' goal line running back. The 6-foot-3, 295-pound Hurst is the state's No. 2 overall prospect, and will be heading to Michigan next year.

All-StateDL -- Jon Baker, Jr., Millis/Hopedale
Considered one of New England's top Class of 2014 prospects, Baker dominated the Tri-Valley League once again as the Mohawks made a second straight Division 4 playoff appearance. As a defensive tackle, he registered 78 tackles with four sacks, and was named the league's Lineman of the Year for the second straight season. The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Baker currently holds offers from UMass, UConn and Boston College.

All-StateDL -- Peter Ngobidi, Sr., Catholic Memorial
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Hyde Park resident established himself as one of the state's premier edge-setting defensive athletes, despite the Knights' struggles to a 2-8 campaign. Off the edge, he led the Knights in sacks (12), ranked second in tackles (68) and recorded three forced fumbles. Ngobidi will continue his career next fall at UMass.

All-StateDL -- Jeff Soulouque, Sr., Everett
Soulouque was a feared pass-rusher coming of the edge of the Crimson Tide defense which allowed just 12.6 points per game for the three-time defending Super Bowl champions.
All-StateLB -- Marshall McCarthy, Sr., Duxbury
Perhaps the most surefire tacklers in the state, McCarthy was the fulcrum of the Dragons' defense at his inside linebacker position. The 6-foot, 195-pounder led the team in tackles with 116 (79 solo), averaging nearly 10 tackles per game, and sacks with 12.5. He also had two forced fumbles and an interception.

All-StateLB -- Sha'ki Holines, Sr., Springfield Commerce
The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder is bound for UConn next season and was capable in the pass rush and he is adept at stuffing the run. Holines also finished the season with two touchdowns on offense.
All-StateLB -- Zack Hume, Sr., Nashoba
The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder was one of the most feared linebackers across the state, as the Chieftains captured their second straight Central Mass. Division 2 Super Bowl title to extend their win streak to a state-best 26 games. Hume totaled 113.5 tackles on the season, giving him over 100 for the third straight year, with 10.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, a sack and an interception. Hume is also the two-time Defensive MVP of Mid-Wach B.

All-StateLB -- Andrew Ellis, Sr., Barnstable
Leading one of the state's most aggressive, athletic front sevens, the 5-foot-11, 230-pounder recorded over 100 tackles as the Red Raiders spent seven weeks at No. 1 in our statewide poll and reached their first Super Bowl since 1999. He had 105 tackles on the season, to go along with four interceptions and two forced fumbles.

All-StateLB -- Brad Schiff, Sr., Sharon
At just 5-foot-7 and 155 pounds, Schiff came away with the Defensive MVP award in the competitive Hockomock League. He recorded 174 tackles (17 for loss), four forced fumbles, a sack and an interception as the Eagles unexpectedly captured the Eastern Mass. Division 3 Super Bowl title in their first-ever postseason appearance. For his career, Schiff had 320 tackles (36 for loss), seven forced fumbles, three sacks and an interception.

All-StateLB -- Sean Smerczynski, Jr., St. John's Prep
The 5-foot-10, 216-pounder was an integral force for the Eagles as they captured their first Division 1 Super Bowl title in 15 seasons. On the year, he recorded 76 tackles, six tackles for loss, a sack and two fumble recoveries and was named a Catholic Conference All-Star.

All-StateDB -- Alex Moore, Sr., St. John's Prep
Earlier this week, Moore was named ESPN Boston's Mr. Football for the 2012 for his impact in all three phases of the game. On offense, he carried the ball 112 times for 857 yards and 14 touchdowns, and added a team-high 20 receptions for 455 yards and five more scores. Defensively, he recorded 67 tackles from the strong safety position, to go along with four forced fumbles, four interceptions (including a return for a TD) and five tackles for loss.

All-StateDB -- Micah Morel, Sr., Brockton
One of the top safeties in the state, Morel was also asked to play quarterback for several weeks when Austin Roberts was lost to injury for the Division 1 EMass Super Bowl finalists.
All-StateDB -- Jalen Felix, Sr., Everett
Playing lock-down corner, Felix tallied two interceptions for the three-time reigning Super Bowl champions. Felix also made his presence felt on the offensive side of the ball, leading the Crimson Tide in rushing with 684 yards for nine touchdowns. He also tallied three receiving touchdowns in addition to a kick return for a score.

All-StateDB -- Lucas Bavaro, Sr., St. John's Prep
The Dartmouth commit was one of the most hard-hitting forces in the state, playing a hybrid role of linebacker and free safety for the EMass Division 1 champion Eagles. Bavaro finished third on the Eagles with 46.5 tackles (41 solo), including five tackles for loss. He also tallied two interceptions, two forces fumbles, a fumble recovery and two punt blocks.

All-StateRET -- Cam Farnham, Sr., Andover
Always a big-play threat in the return game, Farnham was also a integral part of Andover's vaunted passing attack. The shifty speedster hauled in 11 touchdown receptions with two returns for a score.

Recap: Beverly 28, Natick 21

December, 1, 2012
12/01/12
8:06
PM ET


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It was the perfect ending to a perfect season, but Beverly High School football fans sure did have to sweat it out at the end.

Beverly completed the first unbeaten season in the program's history when it defeated Natick, 28-21, in the Division 2A Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.

Leading 28-21, Beverly looked like it was going to score a game-clinching touchdown, but quarterback David Rollins fumbled the ball on the Natick 3-yard line. Natick took over with 1:19 to play and no timeouts.

The RedhTawks moved the ball to the Beverly 46, where quarterback Troy Flutie attempted two Hail Mary passes that both fell incomplete near the goal line. Defensive back Brendan Flaherty knocked down Flutie's 34th pass attempt, which came on the game's final play.

“We were right there in the end,” Natick coach Mark Mortarelli said. “I'm proud of the way our kids played. We lost to a good team and there's no shame in that.”

Flaherty rushed for a game-high 175 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. Beverly completed its season with a 13-0 record.

“It takes a lot of effort and a lot of offseason training,” Flaherty said. “It was good for the defense to end it the way we did, because we've been focusing on the pass all week.”

Flaherty rushed for 112 yards and 15 carries in the second half.

“I thought we did a decent job on him at first, but he did what I was hoping wouldn't happen – he got stronger as the game went on,” Mortarelli said. “He's the real deal on both sides of the ball.”

Flutie tossed two touchdown passes to Brian Dunlap. Natick's other touchdown came on Nicholas Lee's 2-yard run. Samuel Lenson's third PAT kick made it a 28-21 game with 6:52 to play.

The Panthers went on a clock-killing drive on the ensuing possession, but coughed up the ball when Rollins tried to score on a quarterback sneak.

“Thank God they had [97] yards to go,” Beverly coach Dan Bauer said. “These kids made plays when it counted.”

Flutie completed 21 of 34 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns. Natick finished 11-2.

“Troy did a great job,” Mortarelli said. “He was right on the money. He had guys in his face and he was still completing passes.”

Kenny Pierce scored two first-half touchdowns for Beverly. His touchdowns came on runs of four and 27 yards. Beverly led 14-7 entering the third.

“These kids worked hard,” Bauer said. “They deserved it.”

DEFENSE DELIVERS

The Beverly defense allowed 8.6 points per game during the regular season, and came up with one of the game's biggest plays when defensive back Ryan Shipp forced a fumble midway through the second quarter.

Flutie hit receiver Justin Robinson in stride for a 27-yard pass, but Shipp knocked the ball free when he tackled Robinson on the 2-yard line. Shipp then recovered the ball in the end zone.

Beverly drove the ball 80 yards for the go-ahead touchdown on the ensuing possession. Pierce capped the drive with a 4-yard run on a fourth-and-four play that helped the Panthers build a 14-7 lead with 2:54 left in the first half.

“Huge play,” Bauer said.

The Panthers didn't allow more than 14 points in any of their 11 regular-season games, and surrendered 21 points in each of their two playoff contests.

FOOTNOTES

Flutie's second scoring pass to Dunlap was his 35th touchdown pass of the season. It was Dunlap's 18th TD catch and his 30th touchdown. Dunlap caught five passes for 60 yards in the loss. … It was Beverly's second Super Bowl victory in the last three years. The Panthers defeated Somerset 28-20 to win the Division III Super Bowl in 2010. … Flaherty's two TDs gave him 26 for the season. … Natick had a 367-347 edge in total offense. All of Beverly's yardage came on the ground. The Panthers attempted one pass in the game. … Beverly was 3-for-3 in fourth-down conversions. … Natick's Alex Hilger had eight receptions for 113 yards.

BEVERLY 28, NATICK 21
Beverly 0 14 7 7 – 28
Natick 7 0 7 7 – 21

First Quarter
N–Brian Dunlap 10 pass from Troy Flutie (Samuel Lenson kick), 5:38.

Second Quarter
B–Kenny Pierce 27 run (Harry Brown kick), 8:36.
B–Pierce 4 run (Brown kick), 2:54.

Third Quarter
B—Brendan Flaherty 3 run (Brown kick), 7:06.
N—Dunlap 6 pass from Flutie (Lenson kick), 3:24.

Fourth Quarter
B--Flaherty 4 run (Brown kick), 9:41.
N—Nicholas Lee 2 run (Lenson kick), 6:52.

Quick-hit thoughts from Thanksgiving football

November, 23, 2012
11/23/12
6:12
PM ET
1. The biggest thing that stood out to me from yesterday’s Natick-Framingham game was how efficient the Redhawks’ passing game remained despite limited touches by Brian Dunlap. The sophomore has an unheard-of 30 receiving touchdowns since his first varsity start last season, but for the first time in his career did not register a touchdown catch.

I posed this question to the Framingham defense in my pick Wednesday, and I’ll pose it again to Plymouth South -– how do you cover Brian Dunlap? But now, I’m wondering if bracketing or shading a safety to his side is even the best gameplan. The Natick coaching staff was pretty high on Alex Hilger before he missed most of the season with a broken collarbone, and yesterday we saw why. Athletically, he’s a terrific target who can stretch the field. Between Dunlap, Hilger and the recently-blooming Justin Robinson, it might be a case of "pick your poison".

Still, I think the key on Tuesday will be running back Nick Lee, who injured his ankle last month but looked solid yesterday. He told me yesterday his right ankle was “100 percent”, and anyone who watch Natick’s No. 9 win over Walpole knows that wasn’t the case.

***

2. You could make a pretty solid list of elite players sitting at home after Thanksgiving -– Xaverian’s Maurice Hurst Jr., Catholic Memorial’s Peter Ngobidi, Needham’s Mike Panepinto and Nantucket’s Terrel Correia come to mind. But the one I was really looking forward seeing was Amherst running back Kieran Presley, who ended his career yesterday with 175 rushing yards and two scores on just 10 carries in a 35-15 win over Northampton.

We profiled Presley after his ridiculous 359-yard performance in a Nov. 2 win over Chicopee, and you can argue he is playing his best ball right now. He finished with 1,009 yards on the season, but 684 of those yards have come in the last three weeks – including four scores of 56 yards or longer. Head coach David Thompson also says there is varying degrees of interest from a scattering of Division 1 FBS and FCS programs, including UConn, Albany, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and James Madison.

It looks like the Hurricanes finally got their zone-blocking scheme down midway through the season, but unfortunately they’ll be on the outside looking in. Just a hunch, Thompson has a good thing going forward with this program.

***

3. I said this on FOX 25 last night, and it bears mentioning again. For the most part, there isn’t an overwhelming favorite among any of the divisions in Eastern Mass. Out in Central Mass., Division 1 is wide open, and on paper Nashoba feels like the overwhelming favorite but this is a team that Doherty nearly upset earlier this season.

However, in Division 3 Central, it’s Auburn, Auburn, or Auburn. The Rockets are No. 9 in our statewide poll, and No. 1 in the Telegram & Gazette’s poll, for good reason. As a team, they’ve run for 2,863 yards and 44 touchdowns, with an average of 10 yards per carry, led by senior Tyler Desjardins (120 carries, 1,560 yards, 23 TD).

Much like USC’s student body right or Nebraska’s I-bone formation, there’s not a lot of trickeration to the domination – everybody knows what’s coming. The Rockets run primarily power sets with jumbo personnel, and have been blowing people off the ball all season. I’ve previously mused that in the past the Rockets have gotten by just on outweighing people at the point of attack (they average about 280 pounds across, after all), but this is a unit that seems to get more mobile every time out. All-State candidate Aaron Dyke is at the forefront of this, able to pull down and lead block on sweeps fluidly.

The rest of the field in Division 3 consists of Hudson, Tantasqua and Groton-Dunstable. To those three teams, I say good luck.

***

4. Sharon’s Dave Morse, Stoughton’s Greg Burke and Plymouth South’s Scott Fry are on many short lists for Coach of the Year, and deservedly so. But I think we should also consider Upper Cape’s Mike Hernon for any such nod. In just his second year at the helm, he has the Rams in the playoffs as Mayflower Small champs, with a 10-1 record. The Rams are one of the highest-scoring teams in Division 4A (28.1 points per game), and they have junior running back Jon Dumont to thank for that. He had an impressive start to the season (89 carries, 889 yards, 11 TD in his first five games), and is a hard north-south runner with 40 speed allegedly in the 4.5 range.

***

5. If Barnstable and Everett win out on Tuesday, then the Division 1A Super Bowl is by far the marquee game of the Gillette Stadium slate. Some of us -– myself included -– are probably wondering why that got the 3:30 p.m. slot instead of 6 p.m., which has been designated for Western Mass. Division 2. Especially considering the crowd for last year’s Western Mass. Super Bowl, an early-afternoon contest between Springfield Central and Longmeadow, was thoroughly a ghost town.

All of that considered, I might end up eating my words if Wahconah makes it. I had a conversation with noted Berkshire Eagle columnist Howard Herman the other day, and he assured me that if the Warriors make it to the Super Bowl, the town of Dalton “will shut down”. Hope he’s right.

Recap: No. 21 Natick 21, No. 5 Walpole 14

November, 10, 2012
11/10/12
2:18
AM ET


NATICK, Mass. – With a crucial Bay State Herget division game against No. 5 Walpole on Friday and coming off last week’s upset loss to Wellesley, No. 21 Natick was again confronted with a question of defense.

Yes, the Redhawks’ own defense hadn’t put forward their finest effort against the Raiders six days earlier, but the looming question headed into Friday’s matchup was whether anybody – including Natick’s potent passing attack – could score against a downright dominant Rebels defense. Walpole hadn’t allowed a single point in six weeks entering.

However, Natick quarterback Troy Flutie was again able to make plays with his arm and his legs, accounting for all three Redhawks touchdowns in a 21-14 victory over the Rebels. Sophomore wide receiver Brian Dunlap, despite being met with blanket coverage, was able to grab six catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns. And that once maligned Natick defense ratcheted up the intensity to hold off Walpole’s comeback bid in the fourth quarter.

“We came into this game, we thought we were going to score,” Dunlap said. “We weren’t worried about their record and what had happened in the past with point or whatever. We just wanted to do our thing, play our game.”

Natick now controls its own destiny in the Herget, despite last week’s hiccup. The Redhawks (9-1, 8-1) can now clinch a playoff berth with a win in their Thanksgiving Day game against Framingham.

Walpole (9-1, 8-1) was stung by early miscues, which set up both of Natick’s first half-scores.

The Rebels scored on the game’s opening drive, marching 75 yards downfield on a 13-play drive culminating in Mike Rando’s 20-yard touchdown catch from Will Bolster. But a miscue on a Walpole punt erased the advantage by the time the first quarter was out. With 15 seconds to play in the first, a high snap on a Walpole punt gave Steve Thulin no time to kick the ball away. After a last-ditch attempt to throw the ball, Natick took over at the Rebels’ 25-yard line. One play later, Flutie connected with Dunlap for their first scoring play.

Natick again forced the Rebels into a mistake with 5:35 remaining in the second. A forced fumble created by Redhawks defensive tackle Matthew Palmer was recovered by defensive end Trenton Wright. The turnover immediately paid dividends for Natick with Flutie hitting Dunlap on a 40-yard hookup for a 14-7 lead.

The ultimate statement of will by the Redhawks offense came with their first possession of the second half.

“That was the game, that first drive, obviously, in the second half, was the game,” Natick head coach Mark Mortarelli said. “That’s what we wanted to do. It was great to see our offense do that.”

The Redhawks took the ball in the second half and Flutie zipped down the field in six plays. Flutie personally accounted for 62 yards on a 70-yard drive to open the third quarter, making a statement against the Rebels’ previously impervious defense. He finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run which proved to be the game-winner.

“All of our receivers had big games, Miguel [Rodriguez], Justin [Robinson], Andrew [Boynton], and Alex Hilger, coming off an injury,” Flutie said. “I thought we ran the ball pretty well. Nick [Lee] did a good job coming back from his injury, too.”

The Rebels fought back to make it a one-possession game with 4:24 to play on Bolster’s second touchdown pass of the game – a 26-yard fade to Brad Webber. The play, which came on fourth and 11, almost was not as Natick thought it had recovered a fumble (by Flutie) on the previous play, but instead the Bolster pass to Chris Collins was deemed incomplete.

Walpole would get another three cracks at the tying score late in the fourth, but its possessions ended in a punt, an interception and a turnover on downs in succession, as Natick’s defense answered the bell. Flutie capped the defensive performance with an interception, the Redhawks’ second of the game.

“Coach Mort [Mortarelli] did a great job with our defense after that loss to Wellesley,” Flutie said. “He knew we had an embarrassing afternoon there. He knew that he wasn’t to let that happen again. I think all of us worked really hard, we put the Wellesley loss on us. So we tried as hard as we could and we just made plays out there.”

SUREING UP, UP FRONT
Walpole was able to find success in the running game, behind another big effort from junior Connor Moriarty (21 carries, 120 yards), but Natick’s defensive line was a strength. The group of Robby Beausoleil, Ross Brayman, Jack Lowell, Palmer and Wright were active in the backfield. They helped shut down Walpole’s passing attack, after being burnt by Chris Sarni and Wellesley last week, in addition to a strong night from Flutie (INT, 3 passes defended) and Mike Abbruzze.

“We wanted to keep everything in front of us and not give up a big play,” Mortarelli said. “Obviously, when [Rando] was playing, he’s pretty explosive, we didn’t want to see him take off on us. We made a couple adjustments in our defense, we rolled up our safeties.”

Walpole – 7 0 7 0 -- 14
Natick - 7 7 7 0 -- 21

First quarter
W - Mike Rando 10-yard pass from Will Bolster (Colton Mitchell kick)
N - Brian Dunlap 25-yard pass from Troy Flutie (Sam Lenson kick)

Second quarter
N - Dunlap 40-yard pass from Flutie (Lenson kick)

Third quarter
N - Flutie 1-yard run (Lenson kick)
W - Brad Webber 26-yard pass from Bolster (Mitchell kick)

ESPN Boston Week 10 football picks

November, 9, 2012
11/09/12
1:42
AM ET
NO. 5 WALPOLE (9-0) AT NO. 21 NATICK (8-1)
The Skinny: The most anticipated regular-season matchup is finally upon us. A swelling crowd is expected to turn out for this one, as the Bay State Conference’s Herget division title is on the line. Natick is looking to bounce back after coming up on the wrong side of one of the year’s biggest upsets (a 40-34 loss to Wellesley), but Troy Flutie, Brian Dunlap and co. will have to do it against one of the state’s stingiest defenses. Walpole hasn’t allowed a point since Sept. 28, and hasn’t allowed a touchdown since Week 3.

Scott Barboza: I’m shudder to think that we might not have any questions to answer during our Sunday night chat this week now that we’re finally about to give our picks on this game. Walpole, 27-21.

Brendan Hall: I’m sure the primary topic of discussion in this Sunday night’s Top 25 chat will be “What’s your prediction for Natick-Walpole in 2013?” Walpole, 20-17.

NO. 17 NAUSET (9-0) AT PLYMOUTH SOUTH (6-3)
The Skinny: Raise your hand if you thought this would be the de facto Atlantic Coast League championship back in August. South’s Dylan Oxsen leads the state in rushing touchdowns (28), doing so behind a uniquely modified pistol attack that gets the hard-charging junior downhill in a hurry. Written off a month ago, the Panthers are suddenly in prime position for their first postseason berth here, but they’ll have to find a way to neutralize all the chicanery that comes with Nauset’s single wing attack, led by running back Jimmy Sullivan.

Barboza: It’s time we start considering Oxsen as a serious candidate for our Offensive Player of the Year Award. Plymouth South, 13-7.

Hall: If you know me, you know I’m a fiend for the ground-and-pound. For that reason, can’t go wrong with either team, but I’m sticking with my preseason pick. Nauset, 28-21.

NO. 23 ABINGTON (9-0) AT EAST BRIDGEWATER (6-3)
The Skinny: Abington can clinch the South Shore League title with a win over the Vikings, and are the favorites here behind a dynamic offense led by Babila Fonkem, Pat Dwyer and Brandon Cawley. Defensively, the Green Wave are allowing just under seven points a game the last three weeks, but they figure to have their hands full trying to slow down quarterback Andrew Benson in the option game.

Barboza: I’m going to mention Brandon Cawley’s name again just because the other night on Twitter he’s said I only mention the running backs. JK guys, JK. Abington, 32-24.

Hall: If this is truly Abington coach Jim Kelliher’s last season, then you can’t find a more fitting farewell. Abington, 31-20.

SHARON (7-2) AT FOXBOROUGH (7-2)
The Skinny: Is the clock about to strike midnight on Sharon? The Eagles remain unbeaten in the Hockomock’s Davenport division, but still have two big league games on the slate. The first one is Friday night, where they will attempt to contain tailback Kiivone Howard, who leads the Hockomock in rushing yardage (1,405).

Barboza: Foxborough quarterback Mike Slaby could be the difference-maker. Foxborough, 23-17.

Hall: What would a Hockomock League berth be without a little bit of mathematics? Foxborough, 21-7.

MARBLEHEAD (8-1) AT BEVERLY (9-0)
The Skinny: The Magicians claimed the CAL/NEC Tier 2 title last season with a senior-laden team. However, Marblehead’s in the mix again, even after a surprise loss to Salem a few weeks back. Meanwhile, the Panthers can clinch the league crown with a win on Saturday. The vaunted Panthers offense (averaging 38 points per game) and its rushing attack is closing in on 3,000 combined rushing yards on the season, led by a backfield of Brendan Flaherty and Kenny Pierce. The Magicians have relied on 1,000-yard passer Ian Maag (13 touchdowns) for a bulk of their offense.

Barboza: It’s been a nice bounce back run for Marblehead in an attempt at a repeat title, but, after all, this is the #yearofthepanther. Beverly, 28-14.

Hall: We love Jim Rudloff’s mind games as much as the next guy, but the Magicians are simply overmatched here against one of the state’s best rushing attacks. Beverly, 35-21.

BISHOP FEEHAN (6-2) AT SOMERSET-BERKLEY (9-0)
The Skinny: As in each of the last three seasons, the Eastern Athletic Conference title will be determined in a matchup between the Shamrocks and Blue Raiders. Feehan came away with a decisive victory last year, but Somerset-Berkley is looking to lay claim to its second crown in the last three years. The Blue Raiders are led by a dynamic back field of Garrett Carlos and Mike Garrant, but they’ll encounter a physical Feehan front seven anchored by linemen Chris Barthe, Seamus Cuddy and Mitch Matrin.

Barboza: Nick Freitas escapes with EAC title No. 2. Somerset-Berkley, 27-20.

Hall: In terms of EAC supremacy, Feehan had the 2000’s. And now, Somerset has the 2010’s. Somerset-Berkley, 24-17.

FRANKLIN (7-2) AT MANSFIELD (6-3)
The Skinny: The Panthers get back into Hockomock Kelley-Rex play after a startling loss to Taunton two weeks ago. If Franklin is to hold out hope of hanging around in the division race, they’ll need a win at Mansfield on Saturday. The Hornets are in a similar situation having dropped a close decision to North Attleborough two weeks ago. Look for the Hornets, led by Robbie Rapoza, to pound the ball on the ground and play some ball control in trying to keep the Panthers’ spread attack on the sideline. Franklin junior quarterback Nick Zucco has been a revelation this year, but the Panthers can also run the ball behind Kyle Finamore. The Mansfield defense has been bolstered by junior linebacker Alex Ruddy, who currently leads the team in tackles.

Barboza: As predicted a couple weeks back, the Kelley-Rex picture is only obfuscated more. Expect another wild finish. And, of course, another prediction my friends in Mansfield will relish. Franklin, 38-36.

Hall: If the Hornets can establish the run game early, they can do just enough to hold off a furious Franklin rally. Mansfield, 27-24.

KING PHILIP (8-1) AT NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH (6-3)
The Skinny: Another pair of Kelley-Rex teams with one division loss meet in this rivalry game. The Red Rocketeers have cobbled together a three-game winning streak, following a three-game losing streak in the middle of the season. The better news yet for North in recent weeks its improving health, seeing several key contributors return to the field in recent weeks. Meanwhile, King Philip has rolled through Attleboro and Oliver Ames by a combined 75-21 margin since its loss to Mansfield.

Barboza: I find myself simply rooting for another chaotic finish to the Kelley-Rex division race, but I’m sticking with my preseason pick. KP, 24-21.

Hall: This is a new team with Sean Peters and Alex Jette both healthy. I’m looking at a return to early September form down the stretch for the Big Red. North, 30-23.

Game of the Week: No. 5 Walpole at No. 21 Natick

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
4:25
PM ET
NATICK, Mass. -- It's finally here.

The much-anticipated Bay State Herget clash between rivals Walpole and Natick is here and we've got you covered in this week's Massachusetts Army National Guard Game of the Week preview.

Editors Scott Barboza and Brendan Hall break down all of the week's action in addition to interviews with the Red Hawks' Brian and Mike Dunlap, quarterback Troy Flutie and head coach Mark Mortarelli.

A reminder to come by our ESPNBoston.com tent at Friday's game (7 p.m.) at Natick where we'll have giveaways and more, along with that from our friends at the Mass. Army National Guard.

(Video produced by Greg Story)

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