Boston High School: Bridgewater-Raynham

Top 25 Countdown: Nos. 10-6

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
10:18
PM ET
On Monday, we unveiled our fifth annual statewide preseason Top 25 poll. Today, we continue our annual countdown of the poll with Nos. 10 through six.

In case you missed our earlier installments: 25-21 | 20-16 | 15-11

NO. 10 ST. JOHN’S PREP
Coach: Brian St. Pierre (First season)
2013: 6-5, lost in Division 1 North Quarterfinals.
Returning Starters: 12 (3 offensive, 8 defensive, 1 special teams)
Key Players: Jake Burt, Sr. TE, 6-5, 235 lbs.; Cody Harwood, Jr. RB, 5-7, 189 lbs.; Owen Rockett, Sr. WR/CB, 5-9, 185 lbs.; Hayden Rockett, So. CB, 5-8, 150 lbs.; Brandan Kahari, Sr. LB, 5-10, 187 lbs.; Jack Lambert, Jr. DL, 5-10, 210 lbs.
Strengths: Skill positions, secondary.
Weaknesses: Offensive line, quarterback.
Outlook: St. John’s Prep might have the toughest schedule in Division 1, as they open the season against four of the top 10 teams in our preseason polls. They’ll start the season at No. 6 Bridgewater-Raynham, at No. 9 Brockton, hosting No. 2 Central Catholic, and finishing September with a game at No. 3 Everett. With only three offensive starters returning, and a new head coach on the sidelines, the Eagles will have to learn on the fly during this brutal stretch. Oliver Eberth, a junior transfer that threw for 967 yards as the starting QB for Andover high school last season, is competing with senior A.J. Carrigan for the right to replace Mike Geaslen as the Eagles starting QB. Throwing to playmakers like Burt and Rockett will make life easier for whichever quarterback wins the starting job, as those two standouts paced the Eagles with a combined 62 receptions for 788 yards and six touchdowns last season. However, head coach Brian St. Pierre is more concerned about blocking considering sophomore James Carnevale is the only offensive lineman that is returning from the 2013 season. Both the coach and Burt insist that the line’s potential deficiencies won’t keep the future BC Eagle from splitting out as a “move” tight end, leaving the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder free to cause matchup problems for defenses across the Catholic Conference. Cody Harwood filled in admirably when All-State running back Jonathan Thomas was lost for the season early in 2013 with a knee injury, as he averaged 118 yards in 7 starts. Now a senior, Harwood will look to sustain that success in a very tough conference. Prep’s defense will be led by Kahari, and strengthened by several talented cornerbacks including sophomores Hayden Rockett and Joe Masterson. The linebacking corps will be bolstered by the addition of senior transfer Arthur Churchwell, who joins his younger brother, John, on the front seven. It will be a tough season for the Eagles, but 4 of the 5 teams in the Catholic Conference qualified for the postseason under the new format last season, and they’ll have a great chance to earn a decent seed in the D1 bracket.
-NATE WEITZER


NO. 9 BROCKTON
Head Coach: Peter Colombo (84-35, 10 seasons)
2013: 5-6
Returning Starters: 9 (3 offense, 6 defense)
Key Players: Aaron Monteiro Sr. OL/DL, 6-6, 308 lbs.; Uzziah Hilliard Sr. C, 6-0, 280 lbs.; Marcus Bullard, Jr. MLB/TE, 6-0, 215 lbs.; Dan Estrella Sr. OL/DL, 6-2, 280; Aaron Williams, Sr. QB/FS, 5-10, 160 lbs.; Kerry Raymond, Jr. RB/DL, 5-11, 215 lbs.; Jon Derolus, Sr. WR/SS, 5-10, 170 lbs.; Ben Cowart, Jr. OT, 6-4, 250 lbs.; Ryan Clifford, Jr. K;
Strengths: Offensive and defensive lines, secondary.
Weaknesses: Experience at skill positions.
Outlook: Peter Colombo’s squad looks to bounce back from a down season in 2013. The Boxers, one of the perennial powers in Massachusetts high school football, will rely on strong play along the line between Monteiro, Hilliard and Estrella. The beginning to the 2014 slate will present a difficult road for the Boxers. Colombo’s squad opens against St. John’s Prep, the first of four games against Catholic Conference opponents in the first five contests. The Boxers were solid at home in 2013, going 4-1 on its own turf. Colombo’s team will have very strong line play. Highly-touted Boston College recruit Aaron Monteiro, a hulking road grater, will lead the way on both sides of the ball. He will be the key protector for QB Aaron Williams. The offense was the biggest reason for the team’s struggle in 2013. The Boxers were shut out in four of the team’s six losses last season, including the last two games of the season. A 20-0 Thanksgiving Day loss to archrival Bridgewater-Raynham left a sour taste in the team’s mouth that has motivated them to be better in 2014.
-JEFF COX

NO. 8 SHEPHERD HILL
Coach: Chris Lindstrom Sr. (14th season, 95-65 overall)
2013: 9-2, lost in Division 4 Central Final
Returning Starters: 14 (6 offense, 8 defense)
Key Returnees: Chris Lindstrom Jr., Sr. OG/DE, 6-5, 250 lbs.; Chase Flibbert, Sr. OT/DL, 6-5, 265 lbs.; Austin Jones, Sr. C, 6-2, 300 lbs.; Cam MacDonald, Sr. OT/DL, 6-0, 245 lbs.; Gage Nutters, Sr. OG, 6-2, 220 lbs.; Drew Jean-Guillaume, Sr. QB/FS, 5-10, 195 lbs.; Brady Ravenelle, Sr. RB/LB, 6-1, 220 lbs.; Sean McKeon, Jr. TE/DE, 6-5, 220 lbs.; Dan Gilligan, Sr. TE, 6-1, 205 lbs.; Nick Ostrowski, Jr. WLB, 5-10, 180 lbs.
Strengths: Offensive line, defensive line, intelligence, size, speed at lineman positions
Weaknesses: Depth, speed at running back
Outlook: One area the Rams won't be deficient in is size, but it's the way they wield it which makes them so dangerous. Led by the Boston College-bound Lindstrom Jr., a long and wiry pulling guard with 4.9 speed, this is among the biggest and most mobile offensive lines the Bay State offers this fall. Combined with some big tight ends, a bull in Ravenelle, and a quarterback with sprinter's speed in Drew Jean-Guillaume, this should be one of the more explosive rushing attacks outside of I-495. We're a decade into the "Double Wing" offense in the Lindstrom Sr. era, but in the last few years it has diversified with some shotgun looks to better suit Jean-Guillaume. The Urban Meyer-like formations have given way to some effective screens and sweeps, but the passing game might be at its best when Jean-Guillaume is on the run, extending the pocket to the sideline. Coaches have high hopes this year for McKeon as a breakout candidate -- the junior has seen interest so far from BC, Rutgers, Harvard and Yale -- and with his long frame streaking across the field, the Rams like his chances in the passing game as well as setting the edge in the run game. Defensively, with virtually everyone back on the defensive line, the Rams will remain in a 4-3 front, with Lindstrom Jr. setting the edge. Jean-Guillaume is being recruited by Division 1 FCS schools as a safety, but last season he wasn't an every-down player in the secondary. Expect him to get a lot more snaps on defense this season.
-BRENDAN C. HALL

NO. 7 LOWELL
Coach: John Florence (4th season, 22-11)
2013: 7-4, lost in Division 1 North Semifinals.
Returning Starters: 9 (3 Offense, 6 Defense)
Key Players: Shyheim Cullen Sr. RB/ILB, 6-1, 210 lbs.; Nicolau Coury Sr. WR/ILB, 5-11, 205 lbs.; Chris Mansour Sr. QB/LB, 6-0, 180 lbs.; Theo Bryant Sr. WR/DB, 5-10, 171 lbs.; Malik Settles Jr. LB/DB, 5-8, 190 lbs.; Angelo Brito Sr. NG/OL, 5-8, 245 lbs.
Strengths: Athletic linebackers; offensive and defensive line play; running back
Weaknesses: Inexperience at quarterback and skill positions
Outlook: Lowell will come into this season with arguably the most athletic linebacking corps in the state, lead by Syracuse commit Shyheim Cullen. His bruising style at both 'backer and running back helped the Red Raiders make a run to the Division 1 North semi-finals last season. “Teams are going to start game planning for him, so other guys around him are going to have to step up and play,” said Florence. His running mate Ngaiiva Mason graduated, so it remains to be seen whether another back will step up to continue that two-headed attack or whether Cullen will shoulder more of the load this season. Nicolau Coury will return alongside Cullen to form a stud linebacking tandem, but the team is still searching for that third player to defend the short and intermediate part of the field. The team came into last season with five new starting offensive linemen, so having two returning starters there will help an offense predicated on creating time and power up front. Since Florence took over as head coach, he has had one-year starters at quarterback each season. This year is no different. Chris Mansour was the odds-on favorite to take over under center with last year’s starter Brian Dolan lost to graduation, but Florence noted the competition is wide open. “There’s some pluses and minuses,” said the coach of the quarterback competition. “There’s no clear frontrunner this year like we’ve had in the past with (R.J.) Noel, (Cam) Latta, and Dolan. This year we seem to have a little more depth than we did. There’s more competition in camp, which makes it good.” Juniors Matt Smith and Shaymus Dunn are also in the running for the job. Whoever wins the job will also have a new receivers corps since Jack Galvin graduated. Galvin terrorized Merrimack Valley Conference defenses and was one of the main cogs in Lowell’s spread offense. The team will be tested early in the schedule against Leominster in the third week of the season. After a bye in the first week of October, it will face defending Division 1 state champion Central Catholic. How the Red Raiders come out of those two games will say a lot about how their season will go. “With the playoff system and the points, you have to shoot to get every possible win you can,” said Florence. “It’s a short, short season when you look at those seven weeks. But after that, it determines the playoffs. So you can’t really have too much of an adjustment period, you have to be ready to roll that first week.” If the right pieces come together, the potential is certainly there to make a postseason splash again.
-ANDY SMITH

NO. 6 BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM
Head Coach: Dan Buron (22nd season, 161-68-2)
2013: 7-3, lost to Attleboro in Div. 1 South semifinal
Returning starters: 11 (6 on offense; 5 on defense)
Key Players: Brandon Gallagher, Sr. RB, 5-10, 185 lbs.; Connor Reagan, Sr. TE/DE, 6-2, 205 lbs.; Matt Clement, Sr. QB, 6-1, 175 lbs.; Nick Whittemore, Sr. G/DE, 6-1, 230 lbs.; Will Fuller, Sr. OL/DL, 5-11, 220 lbs.;
Strengths: Experience at skill positions.
Weaknesses: Lack of game experience at linebacker.
Outlook:You could say that this isn’t your typical Bridgewater-Raynham squad. The Trojans’ strength in their returning ranks comes more at skill positions, rather than in the trenches. But, if history has proven anything with a program that has churned out offensive lineman with consistency under Dan Buron, B-R will find a way. “I think we’ll be good around the perimeter on both sides of the ball,” Buron said. “We’re inexperienced up front, but we’ve been in this situation before, we’ll find guys. We’ve come into camp in pretty good shape, so that helps. Now we’ve just to find the right people in the right combinations.” For the Trojans, it will all start with preseason All-State running back Brendan Gallagher. But, as B-R has exhibited in recent years, they’re able to take chances downfield behind returning starting quarterback Matt Clement. Buron also said he expects tight end Connor Reagan to see a greater perecentage of targets within the passing game. The cause for concern on defense is at linebacker, where all of B-R’s four starters from last year graduated. However, as on offense, Buron is content with his mix on the perimeter. “We lost some good guys up front, but we’ve got some of the younger kids who’ve worked hard behind them,” Buron said. “We’ll be counting on them.”
-SCOTT BARBOZA
WESTWOOD, Mass. – The date doesn’t matter. Whenever Bridgewater-Raynham and Xaverian renew their ever-intensifying football rivalry – whether it be in August, like Saturday’s scrimmage, or in the regular season – there’s always a tinge of physicality.

That stuck out immediately as a smattering of Trojans and Hawks came to a head in close quarters nearly from the get-go of an exercise that was primarily a passing scrimmage. It possessed the tenor of a black-and-blue trench battle, however, with neither team able to find the end zone with regularity.

Xaverian outscored B-R, 2-1, in the nearly two-hour long scrimmage, with the Hawks’ first unit offense holding the upper hand with two passing touchdowns, while the Trojans’ second unit accounted for its lone score.

Here are some of our takeaways from a rather intense (given that the teams just began practicing in pads a few days ago) morning at the Hawk Bowl:

Choppin’ the Wood: One of the standouts on the day was Xaverian senior wide receiver/safety Damion Wood. The Coastal Carolina commit helped establish the physical tone early on defense, laying down a wallop on a B-R receiver. Wood, who’s listed at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds on Xaverian’s updated roster, looks to have bulked up in the offseason. It’s an added benefit for the Hawks, who will return nine of 11 starters from last year’s defensive corps.

Wood, who exhibited good ball skills last year in a ball-hawking secondary, is also a sure-handed tackler who carries a chip on his shoulder, befitting a player who can play up in the box.

Watch out for the big man: Is there anything Northwestern commit Joe Gaziano can’t do athletically?

While the 6-foot-4 defensive end’s future is on the gridiron, he’s a lock-down pole on the Hawks lacrosse team in the spring. But Gaziano’s palate of skills looks as though it will expand further this fall.

Gaziano was featured prominently in the Hawks’ offensive sets at tight end on Saturday. That’s nothing new, but what is is how head coach Charlie Stevenson might look to utilize him in the future. Gaziano was flexed out on several formations during the course of the scrimmage, showing a flair for the dramatic as well while making a diving catch on a crossing route at one point.

“A couple of times today we did experiment with splitting him out wide,” Stevenson said. “He did make a nice post catch. When he gets inside a cornerback, that’s a big body for that cornerback to come through. He made a nice diving catch over here on a crossing route.

“He’s a big guy who can run and catch. And, once he catches the ball, I’m not going to say he’s quick, but … Clearly, we’re going to get him more involved in our passing attack.”

Do what doesn’t come natural: Both Stevenson and Trojans head coach Dan Buron expressed the importance of Saturday’s get together in that it takes both of their teams outside of their element to a degree.

For B-R, a power-running team, that meant a diminished load for preseason All-State Brandon Gallagher and a lack of the play-action game set up off the ground game. On the flip side, Xaverian’s option game – featuring quarterback Jake Farrell’s play-making ability on foot – and running backs Noah Sorrento and Kenny Kern was all but moot.

But, for Farrell and the Hawks, Saturday proved an important building block for testing out the starter’s arm. Farrell, who missed much of hockey and baseball season with a shoulder injury, is on a “pitch count” – as Stevenson termed it – for the preseason. But for a player that’s limited in preseason snaps, Farrell looked comfortable making throws on the run, hitting timing routes and players on the run in Xaverian’s intermediate and vertical passing plays.

That all equates to a major plus for the Hawks’ incumbent starter.

“Jake’s poised and he’s throwing the ball well,” Stevenson said. “He’s chomping at the bit.”

Meanwhile, B-R senior starter Matt Clement also looked as though he’d put on some bulk in the offseason and was efficient on the Trojans’ rollout passes. Buron, who believes he has two high-grade quarterbacks in Clement, as well as also fellow senior Steve D’Emilia (who spelled Clement for a time late last season).

“He’s bigger, he’s thicker this year,” Buron said of Clement. “He’s an athlete, so we’re going to call on him to run the ball a little bit more this year.”

He continued, “We’ve got two good ones. They need to work on the fundamentals and the decision-making process, but that’s why you practice.”

Our 2014 Summer Football Primer

July, 8, 2014
Jul 8
11:52
AM ET
Don't look now, but the first day of MIAA football practices is just 40 days away. Per our tradition every summer, ESPN Boston High Schools editors Brendan C. Hall and Scott Barboza whet your appetite for the gridiron with some players on the rise, surprise teams to watch, top teams and some food for thought.

Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


FIVE PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Drew Jean-Guillaume, Sr. QB/DB, Shepherd Hill
With a powerful frame and impressive speed honed during track and field season, Jean-Guillaume is a throwback-type option quarterback, a converted running back who’s as adept at powering through defenders as he is at evading or blowing by them. The Rams will be heavy favorites in Division 4, and Jean-Guillaume will have plenty of room to work behind a reportedly heavy line led by Boston College commit Chris Lindstrom.

Mekhi Henderson, Soph. DB, Xaverian
In a defense full of household names, Henderson is one of the Hawks’ brightest young stars. Often last season, he was left on an island against an opponent’s top target, and often he held his own. With his coverage skills and raw ability, the coaching staff has a luxury to get creative in the secondary.

Shane Combs, Sr. ATH, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
It’s assumed that Combs, a Notre Dame baseball commit and ESPN Boston All-State selection during the spring, will take the reins at quarterback from last year’s Mr. Football finalist Drew Smiley. The Missouri transplant was one of the state’s most productive rushers during the playoffs, going over the century mark in all five postseason contests as the Pioneers reached the Division 2 state final.

Mike Maggipinto, Jr. RB, East Longmeadow
Somewhat quietly, the 5-foot-5 scatback eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark last year for the Spartans, running behind a great blocking scheme that continued to find unique ways to get him in space. Between Maggipinto and Plymouth North’s Christian Carr, this could be the year of the pint-sized running back.

Jahkari Carpenter, Sr. RB, Doherty
Among the area’s most elusive, Carpenter was a weekly highlight reel during the Highlanders’ run to the Division 4 state title, with runs like THIS, or THIS, or THIS. Junior Tavian Vassar is expected to have a bigger role in the backfield this year, which could make for an imposing thunder-and-lightning combination.

FIVE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Billerica
The Indians hit a home run this offseason with the hiring of Duane Sigsbury as their new head coach, though they are considered a year or two away. Still, Sigsbury is one of the area’s brightest offensive minds, with a track record of making programs relevant in a hurry (see: Boston Cathedral). Similar to his other stops, there are already some terrific talents coming up the pipe.

Boston English
The Blue and Blue made history last fall to end Brian Vaughn’s first season at the helm, beating Boston Latin for the first time since 1997. Now, with dynamic dual threat Emmanuel Almonte leading the offense, they’ll look to continue last year’s momentum.

Cambridge
Long considered a powder keg for skill talent, head coach Ryan Saulnier has tapped into it, and found a lot of success running his brand of spread offense in his first season last fall. With Marcus Collins returning under center, and a new home in the Dual County League, the Falcons ought to be one of the most entertaining teams to watch in Division 2 North.

Leominster
Blue Devils graduated one of their most talented classes ever, but this is a program built to reload, not rebuild, under a great offensive mind in Dave Palazzi. Defensive coordinator Charlie Raff left to take over at Oakmont, but in his place comes former North Middlesex coach John Margarita. It’s too early – not to mention, lofty – to make any Neil O’Connor comparisons yet, but keep an eye on sophomore Noah Gray this fall.

Springfield Central
Similar to Leominster, the Golden Eagles have many holes to fill on the heels of its most successful season in school history. But they should have a solid defense again, led by lineman Kaleb Hunter-Sams, and the coaching staff should get a boost from the addition of former Putnam head coach Bill Watson.

Hall's Preseason Top 10:

[+] EnlargeJoe Gaziano
Brendan Hall/ESPNESPN Boston's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Northwestern commit Joe Gaziano, leads a stacked Xaverian defense.
1. Xaverian
Little drama here as to who’s the top dog. With a star-studded defense that includes the likes of Northwestern commit Joe Gaziano, ESPN Boston’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2013; linebackers Noah Sorrento, Kenny Kern and D’Aundre Holmes; and defensive backs Damion Wood and Mekhi Henderson; as well as a potent running game behind UMass-bound tackle Joe Parsons, and an innovative playmaker in quarterback Jake Farrell; the Hawks figure to start the year No. 1 in many polls.

2. Everett
Crimson Tide are licking their chops after a disappointing end to 2013 season, and as usual they reload with some of the most gifted skill players in the area. The interesting question is how they’ll fit Boston College-bound cornerback Lukas Denis into the offense; originally slotted as the successor to Jonathan DiBiaso at quarterback before injuries derailed his sophomore season in 2012, Denis showed flashes of brilliance in a multitude of positions last year.

3. Central Catholic
The Raiders’ featured one of the state’s best defenses a year ago in their D1 state title run, and they’ll be held in high regard again thanks to linebacker Markus Edmunds and safety Mike Balsamo, who is fielding multiple Division 1 FCS offers at the moment. Also keep an eye on Matt Milano, who was statistically one of the state’s most productive quarterbacks in the playoffs last year.

4. Mansfield
The Hornets dramatically altered their offense on the fly late in the season following a season-ending injury to wideout Brendan Hill, and it worked out as they took the D2 state title. A fully healthy Hill and another year of running back Miguel Villar-Perez, one of last fall’s most pleasant revelations, should make the Hornets the favorite in a tough D2 South.

5. Bridgewater-Raynham
Trojans always get the benefit of the doubt for their powerful running game and their “anyone, anywhere, anytime” approach to scheduling, and they’ll be a force again with Brandon Gallagher returning at tailback. But the question is whether the Trojans can sustain momentum and avoid last year’s fate, when they reached No. 1 in our statewide poll early, only to sputter in the second half.

6. Shepherd Hill
In short, Boston College-bound offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom Jr. is a force. But the fact that he is the Rams’ most dominant, yet possibly their lightest, should tell you something about what to expect in 2014. They’re arguably Central Mass.’s most talented team this fall, and while there’s a couple other heavy hitters contending in D4 – Holliston, Dennis-Yarmouth and Wahconah, for starters – these guys are my odds-on favorite. Look for them to put up a ton of rushing yards in head coach Chris Lindstrom Sr.’s double wing scheme.

7. Lowell
The Red Raiders made one of the biggest statements of the playoffs last fall in blanking St. John’s Prep 41-0 in the first round of the D1 North tournament. Syracuse commit Shyheim Cullen was exceptional at interior gap blitzes, baiting and confusing potential blockers to create chaos up the middle, and he’ll lead a talented defense that includes linebacker Nicolau Coury and defensive back Theo Bryant.

8. St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Boston College-bound free safety Davon Jones is one of several early candidates for Defensive Player of the Year after recording 125 tackles and eight picks a year ago. Offensive coordinator Chris Moriarty is as creative as they come, and how he utilizes Jones and athlete Shane Combs in the offense will be one of the more interesting storylines of the season’s earlygoings.

9. Brockton
We’re still in wait-and-see mode after another season of unrealized expectations in Brockton, but it’s hard to deny the talent the Boxers have coming back. Keep an eye on Boston College-bound lineman Aaron Monteiro, who has some raw potential and a powerful frame at 6-foot-6 and nearly 300 pounds.

10. Dennis-Yarmouth
Division 1 recruit Michael Dunn lined up at nearly every offensive position last year for the Dolphins in their run to the D4 state final, and he may very well do it again. Defensively, this kid is a treat, regarded as one of the state’s premier shutdown corners. As usual, Paul Funk’s frenetic read option scheme will be a tall task to keep up with.

Others to Watch: Attleboro, Barnstable, BC High, Doherty, Holliston, Marblehead, Oliver Ames, Plymouth North, Pope John Paul II, St. John’s Prep, St. Peter-Marian, Tewksbury, Wahconah, Walpole

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

1. Spread offense has been the growing trend in Massachusetts over the last decade, and we’re now seeing its influence at all levels of the game. But at the other end of the spectrum, we’re seeing more and more teams dip into playbooks from decades and decades ago for some wild success in the running game. We’ve romanticized Nauset’s Single Wing offense for years. At Holy Name, Mike Pucko dug into Dutch Meyer’s World War II-era playbook and installed a fullback-less “Triple Wing” offense for the Naps’ Thanksgiving contest with Milford, a game they won 35-14. Last year’s D5 West Final featured a Pistol Flex Bone (Hoosac Valley) versus a Wishbone (Easthampton). Tewksbury, last year’s D3 state champ, calls running plays out of an encyclopedia of formations from every family of offense. Factor in all of the traditional Double Wing success stories like Shepherd Hill, Holy Name and Somerset-Berkley, too. Running offense continues to diversify in this corner of the country, and if you’re an X’s and O’s junkie like me, you are having a blast watching it.

2. LSU took some negative backlash last fall when they received a verbal commitment from a freshman early in his season after an apparently intense summer of recruitment from a number of SEC schools, but this doesn’t appear to be a trend going away any time soon. Early offers are still fairly uncommon for football prospects in this part of the country, though it’s worth noting St. Sebastian’s incoming sophomore Blake Gallagher received an offer from Nebraska last month. Beyond the concerns about pressure and bloated expectations, the biggest question I have is this: What if the recruit stops growing, or has just peaked earlier than his peers? I’m interested to see if Maryland head coach Randy Edsall’s proposals for recruiting reform gain any traction. Among other things, his plan stipulates schools can’t make a written offer until a player’s senior year, and that the offer must come with permission from the school’s admissions department.

3. I’m on record as saying I hope the true state championship format the MIAA rolled out last year is here to stay, but I’m also in favor of giving it some tweaks. First and foremost, get rid of the second automatic qualifier for leagues. Weak leagues were rewarded at the expense of teams like Medway and Pope John Paul II, teams who finished with winning records in qualification period but were pushed all the way out of the eight-team field in their respective divisions to satisfy undeserved automatic berths. Leagues should be restricted to one automatic qualifier, or two if it is a two-tier league. I also question whether a seven-game regular season is enough of a window to properly gauge a team’s strength. Expanding to an eight-game season and starting it on Labor Day Weekend could satisfy that, and could be a good gate opportunity for many schools as well.

***

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


FIVE PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Michael Balsalmo, Sr. RB/FS, Central Catholic
A standout on the Raiders’ Division 1 championship season a year ago, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder holds a couple of offers (Bryant, Wofford) entering the season. Here’s better there will be more to follow.

Christian Carr, Sr. RB, Plymouth North
For what Carr might lack in stature, he makes up for in elusiveness. A consistent 100-yard-per-game rusher in his junior season, he broke out with a 351-yard performance in the Eagles’ playoff win against Dighton-Rehoboth.

Jake Gibb, Jr. QB, Stoughton
In his first season under center, Gibb led the Knights to the Division 3 South final before falling to Plymouth South. Gibb will have them contending for the Davenport division title again.

Kyle Murphy, Jr. OL/DL, Attleboro
The two-way lineman was a driving force behind the Blue Bombardiers’ breakout season last year. It’s only a matter of time before the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder starts getting colleges’ attention.

James Sullivan, Sr. RB/S, Tewksbury
Sullivan announced himself to a statewide audience on the biggest stage last year, racking up 125 yards and three touchdowns in the Redmen’s win over Plymouth South in the Division 3 state title game. With graduations, Sullivan will take on an even bigger role this year.

FIVE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Braintree
The Bay State Carey should again be one of the more interesting races to watch across the state this year, and the Wamps might be primed to take a big step forward after last year’s 4-7 mark. One to watch is inside linebacker Derek Anson, who’s only added to his 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame.

Doherty
The Highlanders were historically good in 2013, capturing their first state title while beating Dennis-Yarmouth for the Division 4 championship. Although several key contributors have graduated, they can still make a run

Natick
It might not be the aerial display we’ve seen in recent years with Troy Flutie at quarterback, but the Redhawks will be one worth watching as Brian Dunlap returns from a season missed due to injury (Lisfranc fracture) last year.

Quincy
After a 7-4 campaign last season, are the Presidents ready to challenge for the Patriot Keenan title? With promising running back Jhave Handsom-Fields (8 TD as a sophomore) and quarterback James Lam returning, the time could be now.

Somerset-Berkley
The Raiders return a big class of juniors, including feature back Chip Wood back in the fold and Jacob Cabana rushing off the edge. Another EAC title could be in the cards.

Barboza's Preseason Top 10:

1. Xaverian
The Hawks will have some questions to answer on offense, but deserve the top spot on defense alone, with Defensive Player of the Year Joe Gaziano returning along with the state’s best secondary group.

2. Central Catholic
The Raiders peaked at precisely the right time last year, capturing the first true statewide Division 1 title. Some of their biggest playmakers have graduated, but Michael Balsamo’s primed for a breakout year.

3. Everett
The Crimson Tide are undoubtedly still smarting over last year’s home playoff loss to Central Catholic. We all know what that means.

4. Bridgewater-Raynham
Here’s betting tight end/defensive end Connor Reagan is one of next year’s breakout performers.

5. St. John’s (S)
You never know what you’re getting from the Pioneers’ offense game to game, and it’ll be intriguing to see how the group develops this season. But you have to like any group with athletes of ilk of Shane Combs and Davon Jones.

6. Lowell
I’ll take my chances with the linebacking corps the Red Raiders have returning, anchored by Shyheim Cullen and Nicolau Coury.

7. Brockton
The Boxers will not be pushed around inside the tackle box, with perhaps the biggest returning offensive line in the state, including Aaron Monteiro (6-6, 300) and Uzziah Hilliard (6-0, 280)

8. Mansfield
Mike Redding will come up with creative schemes to avoid Brendan Hill being double-teamed on both sides of the ball. Connor Finerty will also look to expand on a promising sophomore season.

9. Dennis-Yarmouth
The Dolphins fell just shy of the Div. 4 state title in a riveting matchup with Doherty. They might not be denied this year.

10. Tewksbury
The Redmen might not match the size and physicality of last year’s state championship squad, but having James Sullivan in the backfield is still enough to win.

Others to watch: Arlington, Attleboro, Billerica, BC High, Holliston, Leominster, Oliver Ames, Shepherd Hill, Stoughton, Wahconah, Walpole.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

1. The football playoff system is here to stay – well, at the very least for two more years. While there are still pockets of dissent, the sentiment across the state is that the first year determining true state champions across six divisions was a success. It even drew over some who’d been opposed to the playoff proposal originally and voted against the measure. The build up and drama of the first seven weeks leading up the start of the tournament brought a different dimension of intrigue to the season. Still, detractors remain and, as Brendan ruminated earlier in this feature, there’s still room for improvement regarding the means of automatic qualifiers and the discrepancies that exist between the respective athletic conferences’ rubrics – including, most importantly, the weight of league games. But with one year in the books, I declare the system to be a success. Now, let’s start tweaking the framework.

2. Which brings me to my next point: get rid of Thanksgiving. This is going to be a highly unpopular opinion in some neck of the woods, but it’s simply a reality of what’s put in front of us. At the end of last season, I talked to many athletic directors who complained about a diminished gate return from their Thanksgiving Day games. That’s a natural feedback of the playoff system – which in some place requires teams to “double up” with their Thankgiving rivals. In change, that has deemphasized the pomp and circumstance surrounding Turkey Day. As a result, that left some Thanksgiving Day matchups to resemble more of an exhibition game in tone – althought don’t tell that to St. John’s Prep and Xaverian, or Foxborough and Mansfield. The result is a hodgepodge of situations that follow teams into what used to be the biggest day of the regular-season football calendar: ie a non-playoff team vs. a team that’s bound for a championship game, or two teams who are playing out the string on a season that’s already ended. I counter those scenario’s are really no different than what existed in the year B.P. (Before Playoffs), but the current arrangement has only emphasized was already apparent – Thanksgiving is an exhibition. Minus the Catholic Conference or Merrimack Valley Conference duels which resulted in playoff berths in previous years, Thanksgiving largely was such. Only now have the detractors used the playoff system to highlight the faults in Thanksgiving Day that already existed. What Thanksgiving Day has always been about is the rivalry. I ventured to North Attleborough last year when the Red Rocketeers (already eliminated from the playoffs) hosted Attleboro (who were just eliminated the previous week in the sectional final). The scene was what you’d become accustomed to – with an overflow crowd at Community Field. They were all there to watch an exhibition game. Why not make that game mean something more again? Why not play the game before the first frost?

A-B boys' lax finishes season at No. 1

June, 24, 2014
Jun 24
3:57
PM ET
After capturing the program's first state title, Acton-Boxborough finishes the season in the top spot of our statewide MIAA boys' lacrosse Top 25 poll.

The Colonials finished the regular season at No. 1 and then went on to beat Duxbury, in overtime, to secure their first title.

The full poll can be accessed HERE.

CHAMPIONS REIGN: Medfield, which captured its sixth overall championship, was the highest ranking Division 2 squad, checking in at No. 3 after dispatching rival Hingham in the title game.

Cohasset, which interrupted Dover-Sherborn's run in Division 3, also hopped into the top 10, showing at No. 8.

NEW BLOOD: Five teams that made their Top 25 debuts this season made the cut in the final poll of the year, adding to the notion that parity might have finally come to Massachusetts lacrosse.

Bridgewater-Raynham makes its highest showing at No. 12 after reaching the Division 1 South quarterfinals. Shrewsbury (No. 15) and Westfield (16) both climbed into the poll -- with the Bombers making their debut in the final rankings -- after huge upsets in Division 2, coming over St. John's and last year's state champion Longmeadow, respectively.

Wakefield (24) and Melrose (25) also held it down on the back end after making their debuts in the final weeks of the regular season.

South Hadley's Fitzell takes MVP in All-American game

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
2:35
AM ET
BOSTON – Two days after the best teams in the state took to Boston University’s Nickerson Field, the best individuals took to the same field in the second annual Bostonlax.net All-American game.

Behind T.J. Fitzell’s (South Hadley) MVP performance (two goals, assist) and four goals a piece from Hunter Arnold (Acton-Boxborough) and Jay Drapeau (Westford Academy), Team Under Armour shook off the early rust and cruised to a 20-14 win over Team Cascade.

But when the final horn sounded, it wasn’t about the final score or the individual performances, but rather soaking in the environment and partaking in a great cause.

All proceeds generated from admission were donated to the Wounded Warrior project.

“It’s for a great cause, it was a great thing to be a apart of and it was at a great venue like BU,” Fitzell said. “To be able to come out and perform it’s quite exciting.”

“It’s a lot of fun, I met a lot of guys, I only knew three or four guys coming down here so I met a lot of guys from the area that have been playing lacrosse so it was a good time, I had a lot of fun.”

Team Cascade jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first quarter behind a pair of goals from James Burr (Middlesex) to go along with tallies from Danny Seibel (Belmont Hill) and Needham’s Mike Panepinto.

With 31 seconds remaining in the opening quarter, Kevin Bletzer (Catholic Memorial) scored the second Team Under Armour goal that was the front end of a 7-0 run, keeping Team Cascade off the scoreboard for nearly 12 minutes.

Bridgewater-Raynham’s Travis Reid scored back-to-back goals to end the drought and Team Cascade went into the half trailing by three.

Team Cascade cut the lead down to one with a 3-0 run on goals from Morgan Cheek (Nobles), Seibel and Panepinto but pulled away throughout the second half, and igniting an all-star game feel.

With time winding down, Drapeau scored the goal of the night going behind the back to beat Tyler Blaisdell (Thayer Academy) over his right shoulder for the score.

Arnold’s monster weekend: Hunter Arnold was one of three members of the Div. 1 Champion Acton-Boxborough Div. 1 championship team that took to the field Monday night, joining LSM Austin Wolf (Team Under Armour) and midfielder J.T. Kelly.

Arnold scored a goal in the Colonials’ 5-4 double overtime win over Duxbury and went off for another four goals Monday night on the same field.

“Overall the weekend was awesome,” Arnold recalled. “First the state championship game, there is nothing better, nothing better than beating Duxbury. Double-overtime and then today it was fun a lot of great guys out here.”

Arnold wasn’t the only one who took to the Nickerson Field again, as did Division 2 champion Medfield’s John MacLean, Brian Bissell, Blake Frasca, Matt Crowell and goalie Robert Treiber and Division 3 champion Cohasset’s LSM Tim Gillis.

Jelling together: It was the first time that many of these players had met, let alone played on the same team together. Before the game the players got a 20-minute warm-up to find their rhythm.

It didn’t take Team Cascade long to find their offensive stroke scoring four of the first five goals.

“We gelled together pretty quick after passing and catching drills we all came together,” B-R’s Reid said.

It took Team Under Armour a little longer to figure it out, but once they did, they were too much to handle.

“Well we were a little sloppy on offense so we slowed it down a little but got better shots and pumped in some goals,” Fitzell said.

Arnold added: “It was pretty easy to get along with these guys out here everyone knows how to play. We all know how to move the ball well, it was just a bit rusty to begin.”

D1 Softball Final: B-R 9, Holy Name 0

June, 14, 2014
Jun 14
11:55
PM ET
WORCESTER, Mass. -- Holy Name knew all to well the one thing it couldn't afford to do was spot Bridgewater-Raynham an early lead. Falling behind and having to face a dominant pitcher would be a formula for doom.

Somewhere along the way, the Naps lost sight of that premise. The Trojans were literally handed five runs in the first inning of Saturday night's Division 1 state final. That was certainly more than enough run support for Sarah Dawson as the B-R flamethrower took over from there.

Dawson, a 6-foot-1 junior, handcuffed Holy Name all evening long, allowing just one hit and striking out seven to help lead the Trojans to an easy 9-0 victory at Rockwood Field. The state title marks the first for B-R as it completes a remarkable 25-1 season.

"Sarah had good control by using her power today and using her change-up a lot to keep them off-balance," Trojans head coach Mike Carrozza said. "She controlled the game with her power pitches and staying in and out on them and then using her change-up.

"It was a fantastic run for us this year. I think looking back on the last three years we are something like 80-4 so that's a good three years. We had a lot of energy going into this game and a lot of confidence. We showed a lot of patients and the girls knew what they had to do to win and they did it."

In six tournament starts inside the circle, Dawson allowed only one run, as well as tossing a pair of no-hitters. Had it not been for Ama Biney's single off her in the sixth inning, Dawson would've added a third postseason no-hitter to her resume.

"I just went out there focused," said Dawson, a University of Pittsburgh commit. "You need to be focused and know what you want and we all wanted to win a state championship. To do that you've gotta be dominant. All of this probably won't sink in for another week or two. I still can't believe we won a state championship. I'm pretty shocked about that."

Following the five run first, this game was over. The Naps appeared tense to begin this tilt and it showed quickly. Four errors in the opening frame paved the way for B-R. It all started with Madison Shaw, the team's spark plug, reaching on an error. The Fordham University-bound senior hit a hard grounder to first baseman Danielle Rocheleau.

The sophomore could not field it cleanly and Shaw, sprinting down the line and finishing with a head first dive, beat Rocheleau to the base. After stealing second, Shaw came around to score the Trojans' first run on Emily Kurkul's double to centerfield.

"That first inning showed (Holy Name) that we are fighters and we will do anything it takes to get on base," Shaw said. "Getting a big lead like that in the first inning takes a lot of pressure off of Sarah and once the pressure is off she can go out there and throw her game. She does her thing inside the circle and we do our thing at the plate."

With Taylor Poulin running for Kurkul, the inning continued with a walk to Jenny Heller. Kelsey Leuenberger next hit a chopper that was mis-handled by second baseman Heather Drummond allowing Poulin to cross the plate.

The horror show for Holy Name continued one batter later with two more runs crossing the plate. Stephanie Cavallaro hit a comebacker to Naps pitcher Kelsey Saucier but the senior threw off-target to first with Cavallaro reaching safely and Heller scoring.

On the play, Rocheleau, seeing Leuenberger racing home, threw the ball to catcher Deanna DiPilato, who failed to catch it as it rolled towards the backstop fence and extending B-R's lead to 4-0. Things continued to snowball out of control for the Naps in the frame after Cavallaro came home on a Saucier wild pitch.

"Nothing went well for us tonight," said Holy Name head coach Aimee Lee, her team finishing at 22-3. "It's kind of sad because we didn't get to show (B-R) the kind of team we really are. Things seemed to fall apart after that first error and it just went downhill from there."

Except for a couple of Trojan miscues, the Nap batters continued to make a bee-line towards their dugout. Although Holy Name was making contact with some of Dawson's pitches, the majority of them were being hit directly to the defense. B-R would add a solo run off of Saucier (7 hits, 5 Ks) in the fourth on an RBI single off the bat of Kurkul.

Two innings later, the Trojans turned this into a rout. With one out Poulin and Shaw singled. Stacey Korotsky followed by laying down a bunt towards Drummond. The junior immediately came up firing to third in an attempt to nail Poulin. However, her throw sailed wide which allowed both Poulin and Shaw to cross the plate. Heller followed that up by roping a double to left to bring Korotsky in.

"We thought this would a nitty-gritty type of game right to the end," said Shaw. "The last thing on our minds was for us to get five runs in the first inning. When we started off with five runs it really calmed the rest of the team down. It felt pretty good. We feel if we put the ball in play it forces the other team to try and get us out. Sometimes teams make errors along the way and we try to take advantage of those."
WORCESTER, Mass. -- Recently-graduated Bridgewater-Raynham catcher Joe Freiday, the state's Gatorade Player of the Year in baseball, made his debut tonight for the Brockton Rox in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.

Recently-graduated high school players sprinkling rosters is an annual tradition in the Futures League. Freiday, a Virginia Tech commit, is one of several such players in the league this year, along with Scarborough (Maine) High's Ben Greenberg (Old Orchard Beach), St. Peter-Marian's Jack Riley (Worcester), Trinity (N.H.) High's Carmen Giampetruzzi (Nashua), and Salisbury (Conn.) post-graduate stars Austin DeCarr, Paul Campbell and Will Toffey, who all play for the Martha's Vineyard Sharks.

This afternoon, in a 5-2 win, Freiday went 2 for 3 with a two-run home run, and threw out a runner attempting to steal second base, as the Rox improved to a league-best 7-0 record.

Courtesy of Joe Freiday Sr., here's video highlights of the younger Freiday's Rox debut:



LOWELL, Mass. – Revere had already accomplished something by the first inning of Wednesday night’s Division 1 Eastern Mass. softball final that no other team had this postseason. The Patriots put up a run on Bridgewater-Raynham starter Sarah Dawson, after a streak of 28 consecutive scoreless playoff innings.

While the upstart Patriots came out swinging against the South champion Trojans, they were unable to sustain the momentum, as B-R busted out in a three-run third in a 3-1 to advance to Saturday’s state championship game against Central champion Holy Name.

“I had a thought that, ‘Oh, there’s the one,’ and I wasn’t letting up any more,” Dawson said.

The junior University of Pittsburgh commit settled down after surrendering her first and only run of the playoffs to date. Dawson, who threw a no-hitter in Monday’s South sectional final against North Attleborough, allowed just two base runners past the first innings. She finished with nine strikeouts on the game, while recording five of the final six outs of the game by punch out.

Revere starter Sabrina Palermo kept the Trojans off balance in the early going as well, facing just two batters over the minimum entering the fourth.

That’s when some timely hitting and opportunistic base-running paid off for B-R.

“We probably should have waited a little bit more – [we were] a little impatient,” Trojans catcher Emily Kurkul said her team’s approach at the plate. “We were going a little too quick. The second time through we were much more determined to stay back and look at pitches to get hits.”

Kurkul, who leads the state with 12 home runs on the season, boosted her slugging percentage further with a lead-off double in the fourth – B-R’s second hit off Palermo. The Trojans would then load the bases with walks by Jenny Heller and Stephanie Cavallaro.

Sophie Perez tied the score with a sacrifice fly to center, allowing courtesy runner Taylor Poulin (in Kurkul’s proxy) to score easily.

That’s when the inning took a turn. With two outs and a 1-2 count on Trojans first baseman Holly Greet, Palermo threw a wild pitch. Heller came down the line and slid into home, but the throw from the backstop went back into the infield, allowing Cavallaro to score all the way from second as well.

The run support was all Dawson would need as she closed the door on the Patriots, finishing the game by striking out the side in the seventh.

Revere scored its first-inning run with a two-out rally. Catcher Juliana Cecere singled before Kristina Stella doubled her home with a gap shot to left-center field.

It’s not how you start that counts: Although the Trojans found themselves in an unfamiliar position playing catch up, there was an awful lot of game to go.

“At that point, we’re not going into any kind of panic mode,” B-R coach Mike Carrozza said.

A big part of the reason why the Trojans weren’t about to worry was their ace. Although Dawson proved mortal in allowing her first postseason run, she wasn’t about to let the game slip away either.

“She was reaching back and she knows that she wants the game,” Carrozza said. “She knew that she was going to have to reach back a little bit and we started using the changeup a lot more in the third inning, just so they realized it was there.”

The changeup was the key component of Dawson’s arsenal on Wedesday, and B-R’s brain trust, with Kurkul behind the plate, sought to make sure the Patriots didn’t have the same kinds of swing the second time through the lineup.

“It’s a big part of the game – keeping them off balance,” Kurkul said. “You can’t just throw fastballs all the time, they’re going to hit you.”

Dawson’s changeup also came with a secondary benefit – seemingly adding velocity to an already plus-fastball. It proved an effective combination.

“I was able to spot it, put it in the dirt a couple of times,” Dawson said. “It made them swing, get them off-speed, get them off-balance.”

D1 South: B-R 7, Hopkinton 0

June, 8, 2014
Jun 8
5:23
AM ET
TAUNTON, Mass. – The trio is back.

After experimenting with hitting All-State infielder Madi Shaw in the cleanup spot, Bridgewater-Raynham softball coach Mike Carrozza went back to his regular lineup for the Trojans’ Division 1 South semi-final game with Hopkinton on Saturday. With Shaw back leading off, center fielder Stacey Korotsky hitting second and catcher Emily Kurkul following third, the Trojans’ “trio” was unstoppable.

Both Kurkul and Shaw hit home runs while beating the Hillers, 7-0, while punching their ticket to Monday’s sectional final against North Attleborough.

“When I told them I was hitting lead-off again, they were so fired up,” Shaw said of Korotsky and Kurkul. “I think even that gave them a little oomph today. It’s good to be back.”

Kurkul provided the biggest hit of the day with a three-run homer to left, her 12th home run on the season, breaking up a scoreless game in the third inning.

“I was just looking to move my runners and maybe get at least one [run],” said Kurkul, a junior Merrimack commit.

Shaw was the fulcrum. While going 3-for-3 with a walk and two stolen bases, the Fordham commit set the table effectively, including during the third. Shaw led off with a base hit before Korotsky turned a sacrifice bunt attempt into a hit as well. Kurkul followed with the blast on a Alissa Karjel fastball.

“It was a good, balanced effort,” Carrozza said. “Emily [Kurkul]set the tone early with that blast to left and then Madi, [Shaw] but the offense, we had runners on base in just about every inning.”

And then there was B-R starter Sarah Dawson. The junior Pitt commit cruised through with four strikeouts while not surrendering a walk, as she continued her streak of scoreless postseason appearances this year.

“Sarah was dominant again in the circle, hitting her spots,” Carrozza said. “When your pitcher’s dominant like that, it frustrates the offense on the other side.”

Kurkul’s homer would have been enough, but the Trojans (22-1) continued adding to their lead with Shaw’s one-out blast in the fourth before striking for three more in the fifth. Kelsey Leuenberger scored on a wild pitch and Taylor Poulin added run-scoring single before Shaw picked up her second RBI of the game on her third hit of the day.

Return to full strength: Shaw was frustrated as she missed two weeks at the end of the regular season due to injury but is rounding into form in the postseason. But after a performance like Saturday’s, Shaw’s back to normal.

“It was excruciating sitting and watching,” Shaw said. “I’m feeling more myself though.”

While Shaw has been a key cog to the Trojans’ lineup throughout her four varsity seasons, the protection in the lineup offered by Kurkul has been a key to B-R’s success this season. Although Shaw hit fourth in the Trojans’ lineup earlier this postseason, her return to the leadoff spot was welcomed by her teammates, creating the opportunities for Kurkul to drive in runs.

“She’s a threat, everybody’s afraid of her,” Shaw said.

D1 South: Wellesley 14, B-R 8

June, 4, 2014
Jun 4
1:52
AM ET
WELLESLEY, Mass. – It looked as though Wellesley was going to be in for a dog fight, as No. 5 seed Bridgewater-Raynham grabbed a second-quarter lead in the teams’ Division 1 South quarterfinal on Tuesday. But then the fourth-seeded Raiders found another gear, taking a lead in the final two minutes of the first half that they would not relinquish, en route to a 14-8 win.

“The looks were there in the first half, but we were just playing pretty sloppy,” Wellesley attack John Caraviello said. “We weren’t catching and throwing and our shooting was pretty bad. Then, we came out in the second quarter … Then, we started sharpening up and our offense started to click then.”

Caraviello scored two of his team-high four goals within a six-second span of the second quarter. The tying and go-ahead goals – which put Wellesley (16-4) ahead, 5-4 – scored at 2:14 and 2:08 of the second proved an insurmountable momentum shift from which the Trojans (17-3) would not recover.

“Coming out of the half, we felt like we can play with these guys,” B-R head coach Matt Connolly said. “There’s no doubt about that, but then they went on a little bit of a run.”

The Raiders outscored B-R 5-2 in the third quarter and then distanced themselves scoring four straight goals to start the fourth quarter.

Wellesley advances to play at Duxbury in a section semi-final, Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

In too deep: The Raiders had a more than balanced attack, as nine different players scored goals. While Caraviello and Kerry Lyne (hat trick) paced the offense, no other Wellesley player had more than one goal.

“They were sliding pretty quickly, so when I got a step, I didn’t have anywhere to go,” said Caraviello, who also dished out three assists. “I was just trying to keep my head up and look for Kerry [Lyne] and Brian [Pederson] and the kids around the crease.”

While the Raiders were undaunted in the second half, it was Caraviello’s late string of two goals in six seconds that got Wellesley heading into the break.

After tying the game, Raiders faceoff man Tucker Dietrick (1 G, 1 A) won the draw cleanly, streaking up the middle of the field before dishing off to Caraviello to the side of the cage for the goal. Dietrick went on to win 14 of 19 faceoffs on the day.

“They have a tough faceoff guy and Tucker got those two and moved the ball,” Wellesley head coach Rocky Batty said. “We had looks inside early, but we watched the ball, or we cradled once and they took it out our hands really quickly. Getting those [goals] were a big deal.”

Rahill answers the call: While the game wasn’t in doubt for most of the second half, without Tim Rahill in the cage, things might have been much different for the Raiders.

Rahill made 14 saves – the bulk of which came in the first half. Although B-R attack Travis Reid still got his, leading all scorers with six goals, Wellesley turned up the defensive intensity in front of Rahill, slowing B-R’s offense to a halt in the second half.

“We knew they had two very good players [Reid and Gavin Perry] and they played very well today,” Rahill said, “but just stuck to our slide packages and played though.”

Part of that matchup was left to Wellesley midfielder Matt Dziama, whom Batty praised for his contributions which didn’t show up on the scorehseet.

“Matt is one of the most outstanding short-stick D-middies that I’ve coached,” Batty said. “And when we say we’re going to have to focus on four or five areas of the field, he’s going to be one of those.”

Another step for program: In its sixth year of varsity competition, Connolly can say his squad accomplished many things despite bowing out of the tournament. The Trojans finished their Maritime Conference schedule undefeated for the first time in program history. They also won a tournament game for the second straight season.

“I love this group, they’ve been unbelievable to coach,” Connolly said. “It starts with our senior leadership. Obviously, Travis [Reid] and Gavin [Perry], they get their names in the paper all the time, but our senior leadership, they do all the little things.”

D1 South: B-R 9, Barnstable 7

May, 29, 2014
May 29
11:22
PM ET
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – Third time’s a charm? Maybe so. But beating a team – in any competition – three times in one season is a feat and that’s what Bridgewater-Raynham boys’ lacrosse was trying to do against archrival Barnstable in Thursday’s Division 1 South tournament game.

And, of course, there’s the rivalry angle.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s football, lacrosse, hockey – if we played frisbee, these kids would get up for it,” Trojans head coach Matt Connolly said. “Barnstable versus B-R, it doesn’t matter.”

Despite being shut out in the teams’ regular-season series, Barnstable came ready and claimed a lead as soon as the opening faceoff was taken. The Red Raiders stuck around tied the score early in the fourth quarter, but, ultimately, B-R proved a little too savvy while taking a 9-7 win.

It was a delayed start for the host Trojans (17-2), who fell behind 2-0 in the opening minutes of the first. B-R would awaken before the end of the quarter, however, as Travis Reid closed out the first with back-to-back goals to draw the Trojans even, 3-3.

“Our kids had all the motivation in the world,” Red Raiders head coach Chris Whidden said. “Our kids came out ready to play. We won a couple faceoffs and got a few quick goals, but we knew that wasn’t going to be. It might have just woken them up. We knew we were in for a real competition.”

B-R kept up the pressure in the second, getting a man-up goal from Gavin Perry (3 G) on the dish from Matt Cicalis at 11:11 of the second. The Red Raiders (12-8) got back within a goal at 5:21 on Mike McDonough’s unassisted tally before B-R closed out the half with a two-goal cushion on Perry’s second of the quarter.

The Trojans took a three-goal lead – their biggest of the game with an unassisted goal from Cicalis to start the second half, but McDonough and the Red Raiders weren’t about to go easily.

Even though they had been outscored 24-8 in the teams’ regular-season meetings, the Red Raiders had a key component Thursday which they’d lacked in their last meeting. McDonough, who’d missed a considerable part of the season with mono, showed his all-league form, willing Barnstable back into the game and tying the score, 7-7, with 10:29 remaining in the game. In fact, McDonough had scored three of his game-high five goals within a nine-minute, 37-second span of the second half – all coming with a rather deceptive under-handed delivery.

“It’s great to have somebody who wants the ball in their stick at the end of the game,” Whidden said of McDonough. “It wasn’t just him, there were a ton of guys making plays on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. That’s a loaded team. They just had too many players and made too many plays.”

With the Trojans reeling, it was left to one of their more unlikely offensive threats to step up. Senior defenseman Matt Miller grabbed a ground ball and motored up the field, untested, and got off a clean shot from 15 yards out, putting B-R back in the lead with 9:09 remaining.

Travis Reid then closed scoring with his third of the game at 5:10.

B-R advances to play Wellesley (which beat Marshfield, 17-4, on Thursday) with the date and time yet to be determined.

Run like the wind: While Miller isn’t known for his scoring prowess, his athleticism is much appreciated by his coach.

Connolly said Miller’s speed is such a factor that he personally tried to convince the golfer to go out for football in his senior season. While Miller relented and stayed on the links, Connolly had no qualms with his decision to take off with the ball.

“If he’s gets the ball, everybody get out of the way because he’s just going to fly,” Connolly said. “He’s an amazing athlete. He’s the fastest kid on the team, he’s like an antelope out there.”
FRANKLIN, Mass. -- ESPN Boston High Schools editor Brendan C. Hall and correspondent Chris Bradley share their thoughts from tonight's MIAA Division 1A "Super Eight" Tournament selection meeting, at MIAA Headquarters:



KINGSTON, Mass. – Emily Kurkul’s been on a tear.

Actually, that doesn’t even do it justice. What Bridgewater-Raynham’s junior catcher has accomplished at the plate this season is downright Ruthian. Entering Wednesday’s rematch against state No. 1 Silver Lake, Kurkul had clubbed 10 home runs through 17 games. She did it again against the Lakers, delivering the only run of the game while swatting her 11th of the season, leading off the fourth inning of the Trojans’ 1-0 win.

The loss is the Lakers’ first of the season and avenged B-R’s earlier 3-2 loss – their lone loss of the season.

“I’ve just been seeing the ball really well lately,” Kurkul said. “I’m just trying my best to hit singles and then the home runs come. I’m not aiming to hit home runs at all.”

It’s been quite a week for Kurkul, who announced her college commitment to Merrimack on Monday. Yet, despite wielding a white-hot bat, her approach at the plate has remained consistent. That plate discipline was also evident throughout B-R’s lineup as the Trojans collected nine hits against Lakers sophomore ace Madi Barone.

“You try to stay off her high fastball, that’s her out pitch,” B-R coach Mike Carrozza said of attacking Barone. “You have to stay a little more relaxed in the box. I think the first time we were a little too hyper with our swings. The mindset today was just to get the ball in play and try to advance runners.”

Meanwhile, Trojans pitcher Sarah Dawson was out to prove the early season loss to Silver Lake was an aberration. While throwing a complete-game, two-hit shutout, the Pitt commit had her full arsenal of pitches working.

“I thought she was a different pitcher today,” Silver Lake coach Tony Pina said of Dawson. “I thought she was determined to kind of prove that B-R is deserving of everything good that’s said about them and she did not disappoint. From the first inning, she was throwing smoke today.”

With a little extra mustard on the fastball, Dawson kept the Lakers off balance with a mix of changeups, screwballs and curves.

“I just wanted to be better,” Dawson said. “I didn’t want to let my team down. I wanted to do what I do well and throw the ball like I know that I can. I felt like I didn’t do that as well as I could the last game.”

While dealing with its first setback of the season, Silver Lake has two games remaining on the regular season, participating in the Peter Looney Grand Slam Tournament, hosted by Apponequet.

After splitting the season series with the state’s top two teams, there’s also a strong potential for a rubber match in a Division 1 South tournament duel. And, just like Wednesday, there’s not a whole lot that has divided the teams.

“We lost to a home run,” Pina said. “But I thought our defense played well today. They had baserunners everywhere and they were a hit or two, or an error or two away from breaking this open, so that’s what we can take from this game.”
For the first time since the conclusion of last regular season, Duxbury claims the No. 1 spot in our boys' lacrosse Top 25 poll this week.

The Dragons vaulted to the top spot following their win over former No. 1 Xaverian earlier in the week.

For this week's complete poll, click HERE.

Here's more from this week's update:

Welcome new faces: Three teams made their season debuts in this week's poll, including No. 24 Bridgewater-Raynham which makes the program's first appearance in the poll's four-year history.

Undefeated Shrewsbury (9-0) checks in at No. 18, ahead of its battle of Central Mass. unbeatens against crosstown rival, No. 8 St. John's of Shrewsbury on Sunday. Also, North Andover returns to the poll for the first time since last season, climbing to No. 21 after a momentous upset of No. 6 Lincoln-Sudbury at the Coaches Challenge Cup earlier this week.

Recap: No. 2 Silver Lake 3, No. 1 B-R 2

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
6:27
PM ET
BRIDGEWATER – With the No. 2 Silver Lake softball team clinging to a one-run lead in the bottom of the sixth against No. 1 Bridgewater-Raynham on Friday, Emily Kurkul unloaded what looked like a game-tying homer toward the centerfield fence.

Lakers centerfielder Kendra Carley sprinted toward the fence, caught the ball in a full run and collided with the fence at the same time. The force with which she hit the fence sent her headfirst over it, her feet finally disappearing behind the wall.

She slowly stood up, turning toward the field as she did so. The senior captain reached into her glove, pulling out the ball to signal she had somehow come down with it. After a minute’s discussion, the umpires ruled she caught the ball in play, signaling an out and leaving the Lakers holding the same 3-2 lead they would eventually win by.

“Kendra covers a ton of ground out there,” said SL coach Tony Pina. “If that ball is in the air, and it’s in the field, she’s going to get it. That’s the type of play a senior captain makes in a big game. She’s going to remember play. A lot of people are going to remember that catch for a long time.”

“The minute I heard that go off Emily Kurkul’s bat, I knew it was going far,” said SL pitcher Maddie Barone. “As I saw Kendra tracking it back I was just praying she could catch it. When she flipped it and kept it in her glove, that was just amazing. I could tell she caught it because our fan section (behind the centerfield fence) started jumping up in the air.”

While it was a senior leader carrying them late, it was a budding star that got things going in the Silver Lake win. After Emily Colton singled to start the game, freshman Emily Critch belted a Sarah Dawson offering for her third homer of the year for a quick 2-0 lead.

“Right from the get-go, a ball is left out over the plate and she rifles it out to left center,” said B-R coach Mike Carrozza. “Now we’re down 2-0 and playing from behind, which is difficult to do, but our girls came right back and scored a run in that inning and then we tied up the game."

B-R scored in the bottom of the first when Madi Shaw singled and came around on a throwing error for the first run scored against Silver Lake (8-0) all season. The Trojans tied the game in the third, finally scoring the first run against Barone this season.

In the fifth, Barone exacted some revenge against the Trojans (7-1), and she unloaded what would prove to be a game-winning blast deep to center field.

“After playing against (Dawson) last, and Emily plays on her club team, we know some of her pitches,” said Barone. “We also know she’s not going to walk a lot of people, so we knew it was going to be around the plate sooner or later.”

Coming of age for Critch: Critch has been tasked with replacing Barone’s older sister, Alex, who is currently playing at NCAA Div. 2 Eckerd College in Florida. No easy task, but the freshman has slid into the role without missing a beat.

Her offense is obviously impressive, as she’s already claimed the No. 2 spot in a powerful lineup for the Lakers, but her biggest impact is probably behind the plate where she’s tasked with catching one of the state’s elite pitchers in Barone.

“Maddie and Emily have a relationship and they trust one another, and I trust that relationship,” said Pina. “They work well together and I have complete faith in her calling a game and catching the kind of game we need to win.”

She certainly caught a good one on Friday, serving as Barone’s signal caller in a six strikeout, one earned run effort. Outside of Carley’s homer robbing catch, Critch may have made the play of the day for SL.

After B-R’s leadoff hitter reached on an error in the seventh inning, the Trojans attempted to sacrifice bunt the runner into scoring position. The ball popped into the air, quickly falling toward the ground. Critch dove from her crouched position, snagging the ball inches from the gravel for an out.

She rolled over and uncorked a throw to first base, doubling off the baserunner and effectively ending the B-R comeback attempt.

“Today, you saw Emily Critch, whose a freshman, grow up right in front of your eyes,” said Pina. “She gets up the plate in her first at-bat and homers, and she’s making the types of plays she’s making? You just saw a kid grow up in today’s game.”

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