Boston High School: Cal Carroll

MVC quarterbacks throttle North to win

June, 18, 2011
6/18/11
1:36
AM ET



FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It was the first time since last Thanksgiving's rivalry game since Dracut's Matt Silva and Methuen's Cal Carroll had been on the same gridiron together. But their good friendship off the field didn't prevent ribbing these past two weeks of practice leading up to the Shriners All-Star Game.

"He [Carroll] kept telling me they won 16-12, and I had to remind him we won 19-12 all week," Silva laughed.

Opposite one another, they completed one of the more thrilling second halves from last Thanksgiving morning's slate of historic rivalry games. Together, they were up to the same old freelancing that made them two of the Merrimack Valley's most exciting quarterbacks to watch last fall, all part of a winning effort in the North's last-minute 17-14 win over the South.

En route to the MVC's Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2010, Carroll ran Pat Graham's power-based spread scheme with a chip on his shoulder, often calling his own number on inside zone options and bursting his way through the middle. So it should come as no surprise that with the ball just a few feet short of the goal line with under two minutes to go, Carroll followed Beverly's 310-pound center George Kallas into the end zone on a sneak.

Just like they used to draw it up on Ranger Road, only under center rather than their customary end zone dives out of Tebow-ish formations.

But then again, Carroll noted, "who wouldn't want to be under center when you've got George Kallas in front of you? He's 6-5, 300 pounds or something like that. That whole line wanted nothing more than for the ball to be on the ground."

Carroll, who will play baseball at Stonehill next year, finished with 70 yards on 8 of 12 passing, with two touchdowns. In the first half, he connected with Merrimack-bound running back Anthony Arcari on a screen pass for the team's first touchdown.

"We really put the game in the offensive line's hands on that drive, pounded the ball at the South, pretty much the whole drive" Carroll said. "[We] nickel and dimed it when we had to, with pass plays, and then set up a screen for Anthony Arcari. He has great wheels, maybe the fastest guy in Massachusetts. I didn't make a great pass, but he came down with it and walked into the end zone."

The North's offensive MVP honors went to Revere running back Trae Weathers, but the ebb and flow of the MVC's signal-callers made this all the more fun, between Carroll's toughness between the tackles and Silva's scrambling.

"I thought Carroll and Silva did a great job tonight," North head coach Al Costabile, also of Shawsheen Tech, said. "Our quarterbacks played very composed, our quarterbacks played very well all night, they also ran the ball well tonight. They came up with some timely runs to mix in and keep our offense going. Our kids gave up, and I'm so proud of them."

NO REGRETS FOR SULLIVAN

Jim Sullivan called it a career as head coach of Norwell following the Clippers' Thanksgiving loss to Hanover. In this last season coaching at the Shriners, he was made head coach of the South squad for this final go-around.

And for Sullivan, he couldn't be going out any happier.

"The game's about the kids, always, every game that I'm around in," Sullivan said. "Can't say enough of the heart of our guys. The kids played very well."
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With about five minutes remaining in Friday’s Shriners All-Star football game at Gillette Stadium, Tyllor MacDonald knew his team need a big play. The North squad was trailing the South, 14-10, and driving into North territory.

That’s when the Lynn English standout laid a wicked hit on North Attleborough’s Dan Johnson, prying the ball free. MacDonald capped the play by falling on the loose ball and gaining possession for the North.

North quarterback Cal Carroll of Methuen took care of the rest, leading the team on a 13-play drive to victory that he capped with a 1-yard touchdown run to the North a 17-14 victory.

“As saw [Johnson] coming across the middle and I hit him as hard as I could,” MacDonald said of his game-changing play. “I just knew that I had to. I had to pick my team up.”

With the ball back in his hands, Carroll led North downfield, completing two key pass attempts for 37 yards on the drive. The Rangers’ signal-caller found Everett’s Matt Costello, ESPN Boston’s inaugural Mr. Football Award winner, for a 22-yard connection on third and 16. Two plays later, Carroll hit BB&N’s Peter Savarese with a 15-yard pass to give North a first down and goal at the South 5-yard line.

Carroll then punched in the game-winning score with 1:33 remaining.

“I think once we connected on that third and long, I think we really felt like we were going to pull through in the red zone,” Carroll said.

Trae Weathers provided the counterpunch to North’s aerial attack, which was quarterbacked by both Carroll and Dracut’s Matt Silva. The bruising Revere running back was named the North’s Offensive MVP following his 12-carry, 70-yard performance, forming part of a talented backfield alongside Gloucester’s Jordan Shairs.

“We saw the ISO was working,” Weathers said. “We were just trying to pound it in. It’d been working all game, so we just stuck with it.”

Not to be overlooked was North’s defense, which racked up five sacks including three consecutive sacks of Holliston’s Sean Mayo to negate South’s final drive of the game, sealing the win.

The Dexter School’s Jake Giovanucci capped the performance with two sacks in the final minute. Billerica’s Justin Hood, Lynn Classical’s Daniel Omorgie and Gloucester’s Chris Unis collected sacks for North.

“We really came together as a unit the last two weeks in practice,” Giovanucci said. “We had a lot of really skilled guys. It’s tough to block four skilled pass rushers. Someone might get the sack, but the other guys were taking up blockers.”

South opened scoring with Mayo connecting on a 10-yard touchdown pass to Attleboro’s Nate Robitaille with 6:49 remaining in the first quarter.

Carroll came back to tie the game with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Tewksbury’s Anthony Acari with 9:25 to play in the second. Costello added the extra point to tie the game, 7-7.

North would take the lead into the locker room at halftime following James Brao’s 24-yard field goal with 5:01 remaining.

South reclaimed the lead four minutes into the third quarter with Scituate’s Tyler Park connecting with Cohasset’s Jack Carrier on a 15-yard touchdown pass.

Shriners Football Classic rosters announced

May, 5, 2011
5/05/11
10:32
AM ET
The North-South game of the 33rd Annual Shriners Football Classic kicks off this June 17 at 7 p.m., and for the second year in a row the contest will be held at Gillette Stadium. Below are the rosters for both squads participating in the game:

NORTH
Ryan Adams, Northeast, DE
James Aloisio, Masconoment, OT
Eric Apgar, Acton-Boxborough, RB
Anthony Arcari, Tewksbury, RB
Manny Asprilla, Everett, WR
Derek Bent, Shawsheen, TE
Brian Bourque, Reading, DB
James Brao, Hamilton-Wenham, LB
Cal Carroll, Methuen, QB
Brendan Casey, Boston Latin, DT
Thomas Chub, Masconomet, OL
Mitchell Colley, Arlington, LB
Sean Connolly, Tewksbury, FS
Tyler Coppola, St. John's Prep, RB
Matt Costello, Everett, WR
Anthony Courtouis, Lowell, WR
Jeff Covitz, Reading, OL
Nate Cyr, St. John's Prep, OL
Ned Deane, Andover, LB
Ryan Delisle, St. John's Prep, TE
Jake Giovanucci, Dexter, DE
Mike Grassa, BB&N, DB
Will Guinee, Malden Catholic, OL
Mike Harper, Methuen, LB
Zach Hayes, Chelmsford, S
Justin Hood, Billerica, DE
Brian Hurley, Wilmington
Zach Ingalls, Westford, DB
George Kallas, Beverly, OT
Ben Koopman, Marblehead, C
Chris Malonis, Dracut, WR
Tyllor MacDonald, Lynn English, DB
Tom Meade, Malden Catholic, LB
Trae Musumarra, Central Catholic, LB
Zach Nardone, Bishop Fenwick, DT
Paul Nwokeji, Thayer Academy, OL
John O'Connell, Northeast, DL
Daniel Omorgie, Lynn Classical, DE
Xavier Peralta, Central Catholic, DB
Ony Ramos, Lawrence, DB
Peter Savarese, BB&N, RB
Jordan Shairs, Gloucester, RB
Matt Silva, Dracut, QB
Bradley Skeffington, Salem, DB
Zach Smerlas, Lincoln-Sudbury, DL
Brian Strachan, St. Sebastian's, WR
Dave Summiel, Shawsheen, DT
Chris Unis, Gloucester, DE
Trae Weathers, Revere, RB
Sean Whittaker, Methuen, OL
Peter Yasi, Swampscott, DE

SOUTH
Matt Allen, Pembroke, SE
Ryan Barrett, Holliston, TE
Rob Barrus, Weymouth, LB
Adam Boari, King Philip, OL
Blaise Branch, Cardinal Spellman, RB
Lance Burlingame, New Bedford, OL
Jack Carrier, Cohasset, SE
Dylan Colarusso, Weymouth, RB
Joe Colton, Xaverian, DB
Tom Condon, Whitman-Hanson, OL
David Conroy, Walpole, SE
Nate Crary, Dennis-Yarmouth, DL
Seth DeMello, Somerset, RB
Mike Devin, Bridgewater-Raynham, OL
Mike Driscoll, Rockland, FB
Connor Fraser, Abington, DL
Jake Golden, Hingham, OL
Mitchell Graziano, Silver Lake, DB
William Greene, Oliver Ames, DE
Ernest Guy, Foxborough, OL
Joseph Hak, East Bridgewater, OL
Matt Hallisey, Duxbury, SE
Brian Harrington, Rockland, DE
Jordan Henderson, Barnstable, WR
D.J. Jamieson, West Bridgewater, RB
Randall Jette, Martha's Vineyard, DB
Dan Johnson, North Attleboro, SE
Andrew Kestenbaum, Dartmouth, OL
Matt Lockwood, Seekonk, RB
Albert Louis-Jean, Brockton, SE
Denis Maguire, Duxbury, LB
Jamel Marshall, Mansfield, RB
Zach Martin, Mashpee, RB
Alec May, King Philip, TE
Sean Mayo, Holliston, QB
Paul McCarthy, North Attleboro, DB
Kyle McGuire, Mansfield, OL
Dave McSweeney, Medway, OL
Obum Obukwelu, BC High, OL
Trevon Offley, Brockton, RB
Jon Page, Bourne, RB
Tyler Park, Scituate, QB
Liam Porter, Natick, OL
Ethan Rayner, Holliston, OL
Nate Robitaille, Attleboro, DB
Andrew Siden, Natick, TE
Kevin Stanton, Cardinal Spellman, LB
Jeff Synan, Plymouth North, OL
Chris Tamasi, Xaverian, LB
Ryan Vaughn, Norwell, OL


Tags:

Football, Albert Louis-Jean, St. John's Prep, Andrew Kestenbaum, Liam Porter, Lynn English, Chelmsford, Swampscott, Gloucester, Tyllor MacDonald, Lincoln-Sudbury, Plymouth North, Manny Asprilla, Matt Costello, Central Catholic, Obum Obukwelu, Barnstable, Bridgewater-Raynham, Paul Nwokeji, Zach Smerlas, Andrew Siden, Matt Silva, Matt Hallisey, Acton-Boxborough, Eric Apgar, Chris Malonis, Lance Burlingame, Joe Colton, Chris Tamasi, Trevon Offley, Oliver Ames, Ryan Barrett, Ethan Rayner, Paul McCarthy, Dan Johnson, Trae Musumarra, Xavier Peralta, King Philip, Adam Boari, Mike Devin, Tyler Coppola, Ryan Delisle, Brian Bourque, Jeff Covitz, Zach Hayes, Jordan Henderson, Zach Ingalls, Cal Carroll, Mike Harper, Sean Whittaker, Justin Hood, Chris Unis, Jake Giovanucci, Jamel Marshall, Kyle McGuire, Malden Catholic, Will Guinee, Dennis-Yarmouth, Nate Crary, Jordan Shairs, Anthony Arcari, Sean Connolly, Cardinal Spellman, Blaise Branch, Peter Savarese, Connor Fraser, Silver Lake, Seth DeMello, Trae Weathers, Lynn Classical, Martha's Vineyard, Randall Jette, New Bedford, Rob Barrus, Dave McSweeney, St. Sebastian's, Brian Strachan, Peter Yasi, Mike Driscoll, Brian Harrington, Whitman-Hanson, Bishop Fenwick, Masconomet, Jeff Synan, East Bridgewater, Boston Latin, David Conroy, Foxborough, Hamilton-Wenham, West Bridgewater, Derek Bent, George Kallas, Tyler Park, D.J. Jamieson, James Brao, Ryan Adams, Denis Maguire, Thayer Academy, Marblehead, Ben Koopman, Wilmington, Brian Hurley, Shriners Football Classic, James Aloisio, Brendan Casey, Thomas Chub, Mitchell Colley, Anthony Courtouis, Mike Grassa, Zach Nardone, John O'Connell, Daniel Omorgie, Bradley Skeffington, Dave Summiel, Matt Allen, Jack Carrier, Tom Condon, Jake Golden, Mitchell Graziano, William Greene, Ernest Guy, Joseph Hak, North Attleboro, Matt Lockwood, Zach Martin, Kevin Stanton, Ryan Vaughn

Thanksgiving football leftovers

November, 27, 2010
11/27/10
7:00
PM ET
WHALERS' ACES IN THE HOLE
No. 21 New Bedford's worst fears were realized in the first quarter against Durfee. Although mired in a scoreless tie, the Hilltoppers carried play early behind their Wing-T attack and running back Keith Omosefunmi. Things only got worse when Whalers offensive and defensive lineman Lance Burlingame when down with a meniscus injury on a defensive play in the first quarter. Durfee later scored the first touchdown of the game, but New Bedford got it right back on the ensuing kickoff with Nate Lewis' 72-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Although the Whalers had to mix and match their line, New Bedford was more efficient on offense in the second half. The line provided ample time for junior quarterback Myles Medeiros to throw and created the lanes in which running back Phito Gondre could run. Darian Sousa-Bizarro moved over from guard to left tackle in Burlingame's absence and Tyler Ollivierre filled in at left guard, showcasing New Bedford's depth on the line. Ollivierre was also instrumental in clogging up the middle at defensive tackle.

"The way Coach [Dennis Golden] runs practices, all the linemen get time to practice," Medeiros told Scott Barboza on Thursday, "so when somebody goes down we have the confidence that the next guy can get the job done."

However, the Whalers might miss Burlingame more on the defensive side of the ball when it comes to Tuesday's Division I semifinal playoff game against St. John's Prep. Burlingame was dominant in New Bedford's Big Three win over Brockton in neutralizing Boxers running back Trevon Offley. The same could be said for the Eagles' physicla offensive line and speedy running back Tyler Coppola.

"We're just taking it one game at a time and one day at a time," Medeiros said. "We got to where we wanted to be. We're Big Three champions. Now, we'll focus on what comes next."


IT IS NOT A THIN LINE

The St. John’s Prep offensive line is becoming somewhat legendary. Besides from opening up holes, they also escort their running backs down the field for touchdowns.

“Those are the plays that you get pumped for,” said Dan Culkeen, a 5’11’’, 252-pound senior. “As a lineman, you don’t get much glory, but those are the plays that people will see. I’m out there leading my best friend Tyler, and he does his thing. I get one block and he’s gone.”

The quarterback draws worked well for St. John’s, running them through almost every hole on the line, to the point that it seemed that Tommy Gaudet was just looking to run through an open space, but that wasn’t the case.

“We’re not a read team,” Gaudet said. “On the option we are, but mostly we’re running where we’re blocking. We try to move it up and down the line...get them to where they’re not comfortable in their defense. We were just trying to make it hard for them.”

“Every lineman on our team is All-Conference,” lauded Gaudet. “No matter what hole we run to, it’s the same. They’re all unbelievable at what they do.”

MIDDIES UP TO TASK
Dracut turned in one of its best defensive performances of the season during Thursday’s 19-12 triumph over No. 6 Methuen, which entered the contest averaging 31.6 points per game.

The Middies held the Rangers to 268 yards of total offense, but 105 of those 268 yards came on two plays – a 58-yard pass from quarterback Cal Carroll to Eric Lacroix, and Ryan Savastano’s 47-yard run.

“They got a couple of big plays, but they didn’t really drive the ball against us,” Dracut head coach Jason Houston said. “We wanted to stop the run. We felt that was the key, and we did a pretty good job of doing that.”

Dracut came up with three turnovers, including two interceptions in the second half.

Savastano, who entered the game with 1,225 yards rushing, was held to 75 yards on eight carries. The Middies (8-3) had surrendered at least 21 points in six of their other 10 games.

“It was one of the better defensive efforts I’ve seen in a while,” Houston said.

The victory gave Dracut a 26-19-3 edge in its series with Methuen, which dates back to 1963.

BIG PLUNGE FOR 'BIG A'

Malden senior Aaron Samano, the team's captain and a humanitarian (literally) off the field, was rewarded for his dedication on Thanksgiving morning in a unique way only befitting for a 6-foot-1, 300-pound nose tackle -- with the rock.

On the Golden Tornadoes' opening drive of their 29-0 win over storied archrival Medford, with the ball at the Mustangs' one yard line, head coach Joe Pappagallo called for a "tackle right", one of their standard plays, only with Samano as the ballcarrier. Samano admitted he was nervous at first when quarterback Kevin Valley came into the huddle with the call.

"It was almost like, I can't believe he's actually calling this right now," said the humble lineman, affectionately called "Big A" by his teammates. "I never thought it would come so early in the game, that we'd open up with it. I didn't want to let anyone down, so I held the ball as tight as I could."

Samano followed his blockers left, then took a reverse pivot and plunged right for the one-yard score, and then celebrated his score with a LaDainian Tomlinson-style flip of the ball and jumping around with his teammates.

"I was excited, I was fired up," Samano said. "It felt great to actually score a touchdown, after four years of blocking, then to actually run one in, it just feels great."

After a slew of preseason hype, the 2010 season was a disappointing one for the Tornadoes, who finished 5-5 and 3-1 in the Greater Boston League. But things are just heating up for Samano, who is being recruited by several Division 1 schools, including Harvard and Duke.

TWO JARRING COINCIDENCES

Flashback #1: It was two years ago, when Longmeadow traveled to East Longmeadow riding a state-best 47-game win streak into Thanksgiving Day weekend 2008. Longmeadow was trailing 16-13 but rallied behind junior quarterback Conor Hobert on a drive in the final minutes.

The game came down to a Longmeadow fourth down with 19 seconds left, when Hobert lobbed up a pass from around 20-yards out to Niko Sierra. Sierra dove for the ball but was covered well by East Longmeadow’s Dave Fraboni. Fraboni swatted the ball down in the end zone, and EL upset Longmeadow in thrilling fashion.

2010 implications: Sophomore Austin Sierra, younger brother of Niko, recovered a fumble in the end zone to upend the Spartans 13-7 in overtime on Thanksgiving. The fumble was recovered in about the same spot in the end zone (in front of the right side goal post) where Fraboni knocked down Hobert’s pass in 2008.

The fumble recovery won the AA conference title for the Lancers.

“I just saw it drop and all I was thinking was, ‘jump on it!’” Austin laughed about after the game. “I think it was great, kind of a hard game and we just came out with the win.

“Defensively we did great, offensively, well -- we had a couple of fumbles.”

The Lancers did have several fumbles but only one was recovered by East Longmeadow. It’s safe to say that the Lancers will be alright if Austin keeps picking up the mistakes like he did on Thanksgiving.

Flashback #2: Longmeadow had not lost a home game since 2004, and to lose to East Longmeadow would compound the pain. The Lancers had gone up 21-19 over the Spartans on Thanksgiving but were crossing their fingers on a 45-yard field goal that could win the game for EL.

EL’s Ray Holloway was well short on the field goal (which was pushed back after an intentional grounding call on the previous play) and took the brunt of the blame for the loss after time expired.

2010 implications: Holloway had a chance at redemption. After his team cut up the Longmeadow defense in the fourth quarter. EL was looking to take the lead 10-7 with 18 seconds left. Instead of going for the end zone though, coach Scott Raymond wanted to play it safer with a field goal attempt. He called a timeout, and the team ran a belly to the left to center the ball between the hashes.

Raymond then called another timeout and after a Longmeadow timeout, Holloway stepped up to the plate again. It is hard to imagine that in a rivalry so close and intense, a circumstance would present itself in such similar circumstances two years in a row.

The crowd hushed as Holloway’s kick was pushed well right and short of the goal posts, and Longmeadow survived an epic defensive collapse. The Lancers then seized momentum stopping EL first in overtime and then scoring afterwards.

After the game, it was a tough scene as Holloway and his co-captains let their emotions show on the field. When the fans cleared from East Longmeadow High School, almost 10 minutes had gone by and Holloway was still going over the kick in his mind standing in the same spot.

“You hate to lose the way we lost at the end here, but what are you going to do?” Raymond said after the game.

“I hate to see them hurt. I hate to see them hurt as bad as they are right now,” “Especially a kid like Ray…its an awful lot to put that pressure on a kid two years in a row.”

No one can blame Raymond for the call. No one can blame Holloway for the kick.

Holloway played his heart out on Thanksgiving even if the numbers didn’t show it. He was an integral part of a defense that shut down the number one offense in Western Mass, and a top-15 offense in the state.

Holloway is a stud running back, emotional leader, and certainly in contention for the Daegenais, Bertelli and ESPNBoston.com WMass Player of the Year Award.

COACHING DUEL

Longmeadow coach Alex Rotsko and East Longmeadow coach Scott Raymond both run the Wing-T offense. Both coaches are sticklers for leverage, positioning, timing and execution, and around Western Mass, anyone can tell you that neither call “sexy” plays.

However their bland running styles took a turn on Thanksgiving and both debuted some new additions. In fact, both even showed off an inside shovel pass -- which is uncharacteristic of the Wing-T disciples. East Longmeadow actually brought out a Wildcat set, early in the second half, and used an empty backfield to spread the field on their fourth quarter drive.

“We were trying some different things, but its just that they played so tough,” Raymond said. “…it was pretty good football.”

“I don’t think you could ask for two more evenly matched teams at this point,” Raymond said. “Both teams are the best in Western Mass and they’re so competitive -- you can’t deny that it’s been exciting.”

“Our defense played really well -- except for the last series of the game,” Longmeadow senior Jeff Anderson said. “Our teams run identical offense so we know the insides and outs of them. So we knew basically it was going to come down to who was going to make plays.”

“We couldn’t establish anything with the inside run game or the outside run game,” Rotsko said. “They were just pressing the line of scrimmage.”

Both coaches will have to rally their teams back into shape quickly. The first playoff game is set for Tuesday and both teams are hoping for super bowls this year. After the game Rotsko’s team was very somber during the post game speech listening to the coach intently.

However when asked about the speech Rotsko paused, and then answered: “I actually don’t remember what I said,” Rotsko said with a laugh.

Coaches, players and families were caught up in the emotion across the state on Thanksgiving Day 2010, and it was surely one for the ages.

Super Silva clinches playoffs for Dracut

November, 25, 2010
11/25/10
4:38
PM ET
METHUEN, Mass. -- No one contributed more to Dracut’s 19-12 triumph over Methuen on Thanksgiving Day than senior quarterback Matt Silva.

Silva threw two touchdown passes, ran for another, made an extra-point attempt and delivered a 71-yard punt late in the fourth quarter, when the Middies were protecting a seven-point lead.

The victory improved Dracut’s record to 8-3 and earned the Middies a Division 2 playoff berth. Dracut will face Reading, champion of the Middlesex League, on Tuesday night. Reading earned a Super Bowl berth by beating Dracut 20-6 in the playoffs last season.

“This feels great,” Silva said “Everyone was doubting us, saying we didn’t have a lot coming back and that Methuen was at the top of the league this year. We showed we have the players and the coaches. We’re going back to the playoffs.”

It was a 12-12 game until Silva scored on a 2-yard run with 8:22 to play. The TD was set up by a 47-yard pass from Silva to Keith Hamel down the left sideline and came two plays after Dracut’s Greg Brody intercepted a Cal Carroll pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage.

Dracut trailed 12-6 at halftime, but tied the game on a broken play on its first second-half possession. Silva picked up a bad snap and was nearly sacked before he tossed the ball to Chris Malonis near the right sideline. Malonis outran the Methuen defense for a 57-yard TD.

“We didn’t really expect it to go like that,” Malonis said. “I was supposed to get the ball a lot earlier. It worked out, so it’s all good.”

Malonis, who also caught a 60-yard TD pass in the first quarter, has 20 touchdown receptions this season.

Methuen, which was seeking its first Merrimack Valley Conference championship since 1992, completed its season with a 9-2 record.

“Obviously the kid Silva made some plays,” Methuen coach Pat Graham said. “We didn’t move the ball great offensively today and we ended up with three turnovers – that hurt us. Give them some credit too. They do some pretty good things on defense.

“I thought we should have made a lot of plays earlier that we didn’t. We didn’t play well on special teams today and we had a couple breakdowns (defensively) that shouldn’t have happened.”

“It’s a special group of kids and I feel bad for them that they didn’t get this win today. They had extremely good character, they played hard and they had a great season. It’s just a shame that we couldn’t get it done today and go to the playoffs.”

Methuen made it a 6-6 game when Ryan Savastano scored on a 47-yard run with 6:01 left in the second quarter.

The Rangers took a 12-6 lead when Carroll completed a 58-yard TD pass to Eric Lacroix with 1:12 left in the half. It was his 19th touchdown pass of the season.

“I felt OK at halftime,” Dracut coach Jason Houston said. “We just had to start playing Dracut football.”

Silva completed nine of 16 passes for 216 yards in the victory, which earned Dracut its third straight Merrimack Valley Conference title. He has thrown 24 touchdown passes and run for 12 more scores this season.

“He’s a playmaker, and he made some plays today,” Houston said. “Haven’t had a chance to see a lot of Reading this year, but we’re looking forward to it.”

DRACUT 19, NO. 6 METHUEN 12

DRA 6 0 6 7 --- 19
MET 0 12 0 0 --- 12

1st quarter
D – Chris Malonis 60 pass from Matt Silva (kick blocked)

2nd quarter
M – Ryan Savastano 47 run (kick failed)
M – Eric Lacroix 58 pass from Cal Carroll (kick failed)

3rd quarter
D – Malonis 57 pass from Silva (kick blocked)

4th quarter
D – Silva 2 run (Silva kick)

Power, pizzazz in the trenches at Methuen

November, 24, 2010
11/24/10
10:54
PM ET
METHUEN, Mass. -- Together, they call themselves simply "The Core". Separate, they go by an assortment of names, from Big Steve to Zaz to Stapes or just plain old Big Ugly.

Separate, they are a broad spectrum of personalities around the Methuen High locker room. Some, like brothers Sean and Matt Whittaker, are economic with their words and sit quietly in the moments before kickoff. Others, like 6-foot-4 senior left tackle Steve DiZazzo, are colorful with their language, and are running around the locker room banging heads.

DiZazzo on his pregame routine: "I'm reminding everyone it's 44 minutes of Ranger football, and nobody else's. I'm jumping around, making sure everybody's into it. This is what I live for."

On his liberal application of eye-blackener: "Black paint all over...I do the Ray Lewis, all around."

On this week's atmosphere, leading up to tomorrow's showdown with Dracut for the Merrimack Valley Small title: "I have every Al Bundy coming up to me this week. My dad always tells me, I'm living every high school football player's dream."

Still others, like 6-foot-4, 300-pound senior left guard Dan Cormier, are known to channel their inner Tom Dempsey. After a Methuen touchdown, Cormier hops over to the sideline to switch his right foot into a vintage, solid-black cleat with the toe squared off. The former soccer player then rumbles straightforward on the ensuing kickoff and blasts the ball with a toe kick, with plenty of air, usually all the way into the end zone.

"I must have been dying out there in soccer," Cormier jokes. "But my parents found this online, ordered it, and I've been using it ever since...Because I kick straight on, this works better than a regular curve."

Together, though, they are the biggest reason for the Rangers' 9-1 record headed into the winner-take-all showdown with their archrival. All but one, center Matt Whittaker, are seniors and two-year starters in the trenches; and with former Lowell High coach Al Pare now on head coach Pat Graham's staff, the Rangers have perfected a zone-blocking scheme that emphasizes double-teams and chip blocks to get diminutive junior running back Ryan Savastano up to the second level. With Sean Whittaker and Tyler Bolduc on the right, along with Cormier and DiZazzo on the left and tight end James Staples providing extra coverage in the run game, it's been a flawless run so far.

So much so, even star quarterback Cal Carroll (19 total touchdowns) admits, "Sometimes I feel like me and Ryan are just products of them."

The master stroke may have come in week five, against a Chelmsford squad that to that point in the season had allowed a mere seven points. Much preseason hype had been made of the Lions' linebacking corps led by Zach Hayes and Tim Joy; but with a no-huddle tempo, and flawless technique up front, the Rangers accumulated over 300 yards on the ground. Those linebackers often found a defensive lineman planted right into them, and Carroll -- with his left (non-throwing) thumb in a cast -- called inside zone runs to him and Savastano almost exclusively. Methuen won, 31-21; so far, only No. 25 Plymouth North has been the only team to not only defeat them, but hold the Rangers to a touchdown.

"I keep telling them week after week, you don't go anywhere unless we move the football," Pare said. "It's great to be around these kids. They're tough kids."

And Pare, who thinks this may be his last year coaching after 40 years around the area, keeps it just as light-hearted. Every week, a bone with a chain attached is handed out to the best performing lineman -- "I call it my dead grandmother's thigh," he jokes -- and the award, among other things, is fully embraced.

"I think it's good to have such personalities," said head coach Pat Graham, himself a former lineman at Central Connecticut State. "Usually they're underappreciated, but they take alot of pride in what they do. Their leadership is unbelievable. They've always been in the weight room, always been lifting since freshman year, and it's not like they're rah-rah in practice. They're focused, they're a tight group, they support each other, and I think the best quality about them is their work ethic."

Two years ago, on their home grass at Nicholson Stadium, the Rangers saw their program take a turn for the better when they upset the heavily-favored Dracut Middies on Thanksgiving. The Middies, led by Gatorade Player of the Year Matt Grimard, went on to win the Division 1A Super Bowl in dominant fashion. Now, with as many as 8,000 expected to show at Nicholson, The Core can be the first Methuen squad since 1992 to be playing in the postseason.

Think they're fired up?

"Two years ago, playing on this field, it was just nuts," Sean Whittaker said. "I can't wait for another experience like that. It's going to be crazy, I can't wait."

Carroll leads No. 7 Methuen to 8th straight 'W'

November, 6, 2010
11/06/10
1:21
AM ET
LAWRENCE, Mass. -- Against Central Catholic, Cal Carroll found yet another way to impact a game. And this time, Methuen’s dual-threat quarterback wasn’t even on the field.

With eight and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter, Central Catholic scored on a two-yard touchdown run by quarterback Matt McDermott and trailed, 17-16. Conventional wisdom would have told Raiders coach Chuck Adamopoulos to tie the game with an extra point. But across the field, on the opposing sideline, Carroll loomed.

"I wanted to go for two because I thought our best chance to win the game was to win in regulation," Adamopoulos said. "I didn’t want to have to defend Carroll in overtime."

The Raiders’ two-point try failed and left them trying to catch up for the remainder of a wild fourth quarter that ended with Methuen taking its eighth straight win, 24-22.

"It’s awesome," said Carroll. "Methuen hasn’t been 8-0 in the [Merrimack Valley Conference] in a long time…To be on top feels great."

After Central Catholic’s failed conversion, Carroll made the Raiders’ comeback climb even tougher. He capped a 67-yard drive by hitting Bobby Cole on a 35-yard touchdown pass to make the score 24-16.

Down eight, Central Catholic had one last scoring drive left in them. The second half of the Raiders’ two-headed quarterback attack, Ben Onett (5-11, 65 yards), found Xavier Peralta (4 rec., 86 yards) in the end zone for a 23-yard score with 1:55 left.

Facing a two-point deficit, Adamopoulos was forced to go for two points again. The second try was similarly unsuccessful as the snap sailed over the head of running back Santino Brancato, forcing Brancato (10 carries, 45 yards) to fall on the ball for a loss.

Cole recovered the ensuing Central Catholic onside kick attempt to seal the Methuen victory.

It was a dramatic end to a firework-filled fourth quarter dominated by Carroll. He finished the game with a touchdown and 123 yards rushing on 28 carries, and 6-15 passing for 101 yards and two touchdowns. Both his touchdown passes came in the fourth quarter, and came with the Rangers’ leading receiver, Raudy Minaya, out of the game. Minaya left with a right knee injury suffered on a punt return late in the second quarter. He did not return.

Before Carroll’s touchdown pass to Cole, he started the fourth quarter by rolling out to his right to find Corey Shepherd for a 42-yard score. Shepherd was one of four Rangers receivers to catch a pass.

"Down the stretch everyone’s taking away our run," said Methuen coach Patrick Graham, who also watched his running back Ryan Savastano rush for 123 yards on 16 carries. "So we’re going to have to throw and [Carroll] has done a good job."

Methuen went into the half with a 10-0 lead after a Carroll one-yard touchdown plunge and an Eric Lacroix 29-yard field goal, but Central Catholic got those points back in the third quarter thanks to Cam Walsh.

Walsh kicked a 30-yard field goal to bring the Raiders within a touchdown of Methuen. Just over three minutes later, on Central Catholic’s next drive, Walsh (4 carries, 87 yards) took a handoff, burst through the line of scrimmage and sprinted 78 yards for the game-tying score.

Methuen answered with Shepherd’s touchdown catch and Central Catholic was left to catch up from there after McDermott (5-10, 58 yards passing) scored from two yards out and the following two-point try failed.

"It’s big," said Graham of the win. "There’s a lot of Methuen kids [on Central Catholic]. They grew up with those kids. They grew up playing with them in Pop Warner and other sports. When you lose to someone you don’t know, it doesn’t hurt as bad as when you lose to someone you do know."

Other notes:

- Methuen called up sophomore junior varsity center Dicky Aziz to play in place of starter Matt Whittaker, who missed the game with an injury. He fit into the Rangers zone blocking scheme just fine, helping to pave the way for 268 yards rushing. He also was on point with his shotgun snaps, as the Rangers’ offense almost exclusively uses the shotgun.

“[Aziz] did an excellent job,” said Carroll. “His snaps were all on target, and most of all he did a great job double teaming with our guards. That’s great to see we can trust him.”

- Methuen was unsure if Minaya would miss future games because of his injury. He was on crutches on the sidelines for the entire second half.

- This was Methuen’s third straight win over Central Catholic.

- Central Catholic continued to platoon quarterbacks as McDermott and Onett took the snaps on every other series.

- The national anthem was performed by six-year-old Olivia DiFiore, daughter of Raiders assistant coach Ernie DiFiore.


METHUEN 24, CENTRAL CATHOLIC 22

MET (8-1) 0 10 0 14 --- 24
CEN (6-3) 0 0 10 12 –-- 22

Second quarter
M – Lacroix 29 kick
M – Carroll 1 run (Lacroix kick)

Third quarter
C – Walsh 30 kick
C – Walsh 78 run (Walsh kick)

Fourth quarter
M – Carroll 42 pass to Shepard (Lacroix kick)
C – McDermott 2 run (run failed)
M – Carroll 35 pass to Cole (Lacroix kick)
C – Onett 23 pass to Peralta (run failed)

What We Learned: Week 5

October, 11, 2010
10/11/10
2:14
PM ET





Another Monday, another wrap up of another stellar week of football. Here's a look back at the weekend that was, and what we've learned...

METHUEN'S OFFENSIVE LINE IS GOOD. LIKE, '97 BRONCOS GOOD.
"Best offensive line in the state," repeated Ryan Savastano to reporters, after marching his Methuen Rangers teammates to a 31-21 win over Chelmsford, to the tune of 223 yards on 32 carries.

Sometimes the o-line shoutouts can be a forced axiom grilled into a kid's head from the coaching staff -- mention the line, mention the line! -- but in Methuen's case, these are far from canned quotes.

With quarterback Cal Carroll treading carefully with a hairline fracture on his left (non-throwing) thumb, the Rangers dialed up inside zone runs almost exclusively against their Merrimack Valley Large counterparts. The gameplan was methodical and pretty simplistic -- Savastano zone left, Savastano zone right, Carroll keeper, vertical pass, rinse and repeat -- and yet Chelmsford's vaunted defense, hailed by some as one of the state's best, struggled all night to put a helmet on the ball carrier on running plays.

Led by Steve DiZazzo and Dan Cormier on the left, and Sean Whittaker on the right, the senior-laden line has excelled in a zone-blocking scheme. With a linebacking corps as active at Chelmsford's, led by Zach Hayes and monster middleman Tim Joy, the Rangers often chipped off double-team blocks and accelerated downhill to drive the outside shoulder of a linebacker or defensive back away from the play. Sometimes, though, they simply pushed back the defensive linemen right into linebackers.

"I thought the o-line got some great push," Methuen head coach Pat Graham said. "It was probably tough for Tim (Joy), with the d-linemen getting knocked back into him a little bit, I'm sure it was tough for him to try and find the running back. Ryan's just a little guy, he's behind all those big guys, it's just tough to find him sometimes. But the big thing is our o-line got a great push up front."

Graham, one of the area's best coaching minds, has kept his quotes pretty vanilla and straightforward so far this season, to keep his players grounded and focused. But after a win as impressive as last Friday's, even Graham has to let out a sigh and a smile.

"Chelmsford's one of the best teams, year in and year out, in the state," he beamed. "It's a great feeling."

...ALL OF WHICH MAKES PLYMOUTH NORTH'S WEEK ONE WIN OVER THE RANGERS THAT MUCH MORE IMPRESSIVE
The Eagles, led by ice-in-his-veins running back Matt Walsh, are essentially a muffed two-point conversion attempt from being 4-1 and an ESPNBoston Top 25 team. In Week One, North held the Rangers to just one touchdown, and escaped with a 13-7 win thanks to a 70-yard Walsh touchdown run with four minutes and change to go.

Last Friday, it was Cody Merritt providing the spark, scoring three times (two rushing, one receiving) to lead the Eagles to an impressive 20-7 win over Bridgewater-Raynham.

Week by week, as the Rangers continue to pound away at the MVC's best and brightest, that is looking more and more intriguing.

JUST HOW GOOD IS ST. JOHN'S OF SHREWSBURY?
The No. 3 Pioneers lambasted cross-town rival Shrewsbury High, 52-7, their second straight week hanging half-a-hundred on the opposition. That brings their scoring margin through five games to 221-34, with a state-best average of 44.2 points per game.

A quick look inside the numbers:
  • Yards per game: 372.6
  • Yards allowed per game: 243
  • Points allowed per game: 6.8
  • Dan Light, Sr. QB: 48 carries, 426 yards, 8 TD; 44 of 77 passing, 935 yards, 15 TD, 3 INT
  • Richard Rodgers, Sr. WR/DE: 18 catches, 372 yards, 7 TD; 5 sacks

In Week Two, the Pioneers pasted Longmeadow, 37-8; the Lancers visited Catholic Memorial last Friday and beat them on a last-second field goal, 27-26. Two weeks ago, St. John's clobbered Fitchburg, 56-12, in the rain; last Friday, the Red Raiders almost beat Brockton, faltering in the fourth quarter.

We'll see just how good the Pioneers are this Saturday, when they travel to St. John's Prep to take on the No. 16 Eagles, and on October 30, when they host No. 1 Xaverian.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Akin to Aretha Franklin, or that old Adam Sandler album skit, Norton is just asking for a little of it these days.

"We didn’t get shown much respect in our league and everyone thought Westwood was going to beat us," Lancers junior running back Zach Schweiger told correspondent Phil Perry on Friday. "Everyone thought their big running back [Sean Amaru] was going to do a whole bunch against us but we shut him down and executed on offense."

With a convincing 28-6 win over Westwood, the Lancers have certainly earned it, sitting at 5-0 and the prohibitive favorites to win the Tri-Valley League.

Norton stands a game ahead of Holliston, Medway and Westwood (all 4-1). Perhaps, more importantly, the Lancers now have recorded wins over Medway and Westwood with only an Oct. 22 date with the Panthers remaining on their slate.

ROUGH AND TUMBLE SOUTH SHORE
Speaking of potential Division IIIA playoff scenarios, it’s anybody’s guess which team will survive what has shaped up to be a very tough South Shore League.

Cohasset (5-0) remained unbeaten against another formerly unbeaten squad in an upstart East Bridgewater team Friday night behind Thomas Flibotte’s 101 yards on 18 carries. Meanwhile, Rockland (28-0 win over Hull) and Abington (34-0 whitewashing of Carver) also improved to 5-0.

However, things at the top could sort themselves out pretty quickly as the Skippers host Rockland this weekend (Friday, 6 p.m.) and the Green Wave travels for a tough road game at Masphee (4-1, 1-1) Friday at 7 p.m.

All will be appointment viewing.

DOUBLE DRAGONS
The play of Duxbury quarterbacks Matt O’Keefe and Kane Haffey puts head coach Dave Maimaron in an enviable position every weekend.

Typically, O’Keefe and Haffey split time under center. They have combined for a .567 completion percentage and have both had success moving the ball down the field. On the season, O’Keefe has completed 31 of 48 pass attempts for 449 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception. Haffey has gone 37-of-72 for 490 yards, five touchdowns and one pick.

But Maimaron’s depth at quarterback only helps when the injury bug comes calling.

When it became apparent Haffey wasn’t going to be able to go in Friday’s game at Quincy, there was no sweat calling upon O’Keefe to carry the load. The junior responded with a 242-passing yard performance and accounting for all of the Dragons’ five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing).

HEAD OF THE CLASS
VALVOLINE PEAK PERFORMER OF THE WEEK: TYLER COPPOLA, SR. RB/DB, ST. JOHN'S PREP

What else is there to say after a performance as dynamic as Coppola's? Last Saturday against visiting Mount St. Joseph of Baltimore, the senior carried 19 times for 338 yards and five touchdowns, with all five of his scores coming on runs of 42 yards or more. Adding in return yardage, he finished the day with 473 all-purpose yards and a long ride home for the visiting Gaels. Yep, not a whole lot of hyperbole needed after this one, but with a day like that, credit is due to the Eagles' offensive line led by Nathan Cyr.

THE CLASSMATES
Brian Bourque, Sr. QB, Reading - He totaled 183 yards of offense (135 passing) and four touchdowns as the Rockets cruised to a 42-0 beatdown of Wakefield.

Jonathan DiBiaso, Jr. QB, Everett - The coach's son threw for six touchdown passes in the first half of a 42-7 win over Taunton, breaking two school records in the process -- passing touchdowns in a game and one half (himself, two weeks ago against Barnstable), and career touchdown passes (now at 34, breaking Matt Nuzzo's mark of 31 set earlier this millennium).

Chris Coady, Jr. RB/LB, BB&N - Coady was omnipresent in the Knights' 33-28 win over Governor's Academy. He carried the ball 18 times for 86 yards and a score; caught three passes for 63 yards and a second score; made seven tackles on defense; and returned an interception to the house for a third and final score.

Dylan Colarusso, Sr. RB, Weymouth - The hard-nosed Colarusso bulldozed his way to 220 rushing yards and two touchdowns as the Wildcats rolled to a 43-0 shutout of Dedham.

Alex Furtado, Sr. RB, Archbishop Williams - Furtado led the Bishops with 236 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries in a 32-22 win over Whittier Tech.

Matt O'Keefe, Jr. QB, Duxbury - With injured quarterback Kane Haffey on the mend, O'Keefe stepped up and threw for 237 yards and five scores (four passing, one rushing) in the Green Dragons' 35-7 win over Quincy.

Trevon Offley, Sr. RB, Brockton - The hard-running Offley ran for 217 yards and two scores in the Boxers' 27-20 win over regional rival Fitchburg.

Nate Robitaille, Sr. QB, Attleboro - Another week, more heroics. This time, he carried the ball seven times for 132 yards and a score; and completed 10 of 26 passes for 178 yards and two scores, including the game-winner with time expired, as the Blue Bombardiers downed Foxborough, 26-24.

Ryan Savastano, Jr. RB, Methuen - The diminutive Savastano carried the ball 32 times for 223 yards and two touchdowns in the Rangers' 31-21 win over Chelmsford.

Matt Silva, Sr. QB, Dracut - In yet another shootout, this time a 45-35 win over Lowell and old coach Jeff Moore, Silva threw for 171 yards and two scores, and ran for 213 more and a third score.

Kenny Woods and Troy Salvatore, Sr. RB's, Walpole - The two combined for 325 yards rushing and five touchdowns in the Rebels' 34-21 win over Braintree.

Statement night for Carroll, Savastano

October, 9, 2010
10/09/10
12:21
AM ET



METHUEN, Mass. -- Cal Carroll checked in with Dr. David St. Pierre at his Danvers office last Monday and got the OK to lead his No. 11 Methuen Rangers tonight at home against No. 10 Chelmsford. It was a hairline fracture to his left thumb (non-throwing), suffered in Saturday's win over Lowell, but if he treaded carefully with his heavily-wrapped cast, he'd be healed in three weeks.

Thumbs up or down, though, St. Pierre could probably guess what the reaction would have been.

"God, you'd have to chain him inside his house to keep him from playing," running back Ryan Savastano said of Carroll. "He plays hurt, he plays whenever he can...he loves this sport. Nothing can keep him away from it."

Yet not even Chelmsford's stalwart defense, led by a trio of fierce linebackers and allowing just seven points a game, could keep these guys chained down -- least not tonight. The gameplan didn't deviate an inch in spite of the injury, the Rangers line plowed away, and Carroll kept it steady all night -- inside zone left, inside zone right, keeper here or there -- as they took down the Lions, 31-21, before a capacity crowd at Nicholson Stadium.

"They caught on, I thought they were going to shut us down fast," said Savastano (32 carries, 221 yards, TD) of the game plan. "But we still put it to them. We drove it right up the hole."

The diminutive Savastano ended up shouldering the bulk of the load, repeatedly taking zone read handoffs from Carroll and darting between and around his linemen as they repeatedly drove Chelmsford linemen off the ball -- sometimes straght into their linebackers -- with a surgical zone-blocking scheme. But Methuen head coach Pat Graham insists that wasn't by design.

"I think if the reads were there, he (Carroll) would have kept it," Graham said. "He wanted to run the ball. He's not that type of kid. At the end of the game, we told him to hold the ball, to hand the ball off, and he didn't want to do that. He's not that type of guy, if the read's there, he's not a selfish kid but he wants the ball in his hand."

Carroll admitted there was little pain tonight, despite the repeated dives through the middle of the line and ensuing pile-ups.

"Throwing passes, I kinda have to fiddle with the ball a little more, try to find the right grip with this thing (cast) on," said Carroll, who had a seven-yard touchdown pass to his favorite target Raudy Minaya in the third quarter. "Running up the middle, I actually had to use this (right) hand to cover it up, usually I like to use my left to stiff-arm."

He then added, laughing, "I didn't fumble tonight, so that's a plus."

After a scoreless first quarter that saw Chelmsford feature back Joe Gennaro leave the game following a collision with Methuen linebacker Mike Harper (he returned in the second half), the Rangers (4-1, 3-0 MVC) took the initial lead when Carroll plunged in from three yards out and Eric LaCroix split the uprights on the point after. Savastano shouldered most of the load on the drive, carrying four times for 24 yards, and that became a reoccurring theme throughout the night.

Methuen's next scoring drive was more of the same, with Savastano eating up most of the yards of shifty scampers up the middle and Carroll scoring from a yard out on fourth and goal on the second half's opening drive. But the Lions responded immediately with an 85-yard pass from A.J. Rotella (14 of 24, 269 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT) to Colby Emanouil. A muffed kickoff return gave Chelmsford (4-1, 2-1) a starting drive at their own 11, but on the second play Rotella found Emanouil with an underthrown deep ball in double coverage. But Emanouil, facing his quarterback, faked with his shoulder to his left and burst to his right, going unscathed the final 60 yards to paydirt.

In the final minutes of the third, the Methuen defense came alive. First, LaCroix came up with his second pick of the night on Rotella, setting up Carroll's seven-yard touchdown pass to Minaya. On Chelmsford's next possession, junior linebacker Kevin Nickerson ripped the ball out of Gennaro's hands as the senior pushed the pile for extra yardage, setting up a 22-yard LaCroix field goal. Savastano then made it 31-14 with a 12-yard scamper into the end zone, preceded by a 30-yard strike from Carroll to Kevin Higgins.

"We knew we wanted to be physical with them," said LaCroix, who also picked off Rotella to end the first half. "People have said the secondary was our weakness, and we've been using that as momentum all year. I'm glad the secondary stepped up tonight. Hopefully they start realizing we're not a weakness, that we're a strength."

METHUEN 31, CHELMSFORD 21

CHE 0 6 8 7 --- 21
MET 0 7 14 10 --- 31

Second Quarter
M - Cal Carroll 3 run (Eric LaCroix kick) 6:46
C - Anthony Andre 18 pass from AJ Rotella (kick blocked) 4:12

Third Quarter
M - Carroll 1 run (LaCroix kick) 8:25
C - Colby Emanouil 85 pass from Rotella (Pat McLaughlin pass from Rotella) 7:12
M - Raudy Minaya 7 pass from Carroll (LaCroix kick) 3:28

Fourth Quarter
M - LaCroix 22 field goal 7:41
M - Savastano 12 run (LaCroix kick) 5:29
C - Eddie Sheridan 90 kickoff return (Charlie Calenda kick) 5:13

A view from No. 11 Methuen

October, 7, 2010
10/07/10
8:16
PM ET
Correspondent Neil Carroll talked to Methuen quarterback Cal Carroll about Friday's matchup with No. 10 Chelmsford:



Methuen head coach Pat Graham broke down the game with Carroll:



Brendan Hall caught up with lineman Steve DiZazzo:



Carroll talked X's and O's with lineman Sean Whitaker:

Carroll, o-line comes full-circle in upset

September, 25, 2010
9/25/10
1:34
AM ET
BILLERICA, Mass. -- Cal Carroll was just looking to move the chains, bring up a new set of downs, and run out the last 40 seconds on this clock to let the celebration begin. With third down and a few yards to go, his team up 29-26, the Methuen quarterback took a direct snap, churned up the right side and -- perhaps in a sign of how much his hogs in front had worn down the Billerica defense in the second half -- sprung loose for a 55-yard touchdown, the last 45 or so unscathed.

And so, on a night already on its way to being a pleasant surprise, the Rangers got some unexpected insurance in the first of what ought to be a handful of "hype games" in the Merrimack Valley Conference. Down 26-20 with under five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, No. 17 the Rangers rallied with 14 unanswered points to take down the No. 9 Indians, 36-26, for the program's first win over Billerica since 2000.

"I just can't believe it. This is the best win in program history," said Carroll, who racked up 290 yards of offense and four touchdowns in leading the Rangers to victory. "We haven't beaten Billerica in 10 years. This is just a great win for us...We wanted it so bad all week, we were hungry for it. You could tell. I think we proved it on both sides of the ball."

For wideout Raudy Minaya, whose basketball skills have translated well in the open field on the gridiron these last two seasons, tonight's win justifies that decision four years ago to come out for the freshman football team and put on a pair of shoulder pads for the first time in his life.

"It's amazing, it's amazing. Coming into high school, I didn't think I was going to play football," said an ecstatic Minaya, who had four catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns. "I tried it out, and now look where I am. It's just the greatest feeling in the world right now."

Carroll and Minaya, best friends off the court and running mates on the hardwood, had their MVC coming-out party before a packed crowd at Marshall Middle School. But the Rangers won this game by buckling down in the trenches, moving the ball steadily with a series of zone-read options behind the guards and tackles. Led by seniors Steve DiZazzo and Dan Cormier on the left side, the Rangers paved their way to well over 200 yards on the ground with Carroll's 113 and another 98 from Ryan Savastano.

"Our line just got after it every play," Carroll said. "They never took a play off. Our tempo was really fast again (no-huddle), like it was last week. We really wore down there defense, and again that's because of our offensive line just taking it to them every play and not giving up."

All-everything quarterback Nick LaSpada (21 carries, 94 yards, TD; 19 of 34 passing, 240 yards, 3 TD) gave the Indians (2-1) a 26-20 lead with a 56-yard strike to Matt Clifford with 4:58 to go in the game (the point-after pass failed). Methuen (2-1) responded with a 10-play, 69-yard scoring drive that took just over three minutes to complete. Minaya put the gears in motion by hauling in a 20-yard pass from Carroll in single-coverage on the third play, and the Rangers finished it off with a steady dose of Savastano draws and Carroll keepers. Carroll punched it in from three yards out on first and goal to give the Rangers a 29-26 lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, Clifford fielded a booming Cormier boot at his own five and brought it all the way down to the Ranger 37, bursting up a seam at the left hashmark before being dragged down near the left sideline. But the Indians stalled immediately.

Methuen head coach Pat Graham called for seven defenders to drop into coverage against LaSpada's precision arm, but the one rusher from the back seven -- linebacker Mike Harper -- caused a whole lot of havoc. Three times he exploded up the A-gap, and three times he created turmoil around LaSpada, first dropping him for a six-yard loss; then hurrying him into a throw out of bounds; and finally hurrying him to scramble up the middle on fourth down, where he was met forcefully by Jeff Sadezwicz and Gio Rivera and turned the ball over on downs with less than a minute to go.

"I didn't want to lose. We had a bad kick return (coverage), and I knew I had to make up for it," said Harper, who earlier in the second half blocked an extra point kick and returned it for two points. "(This win) definitely puts us on the map, but we're not done. We're not done at all. We've got alot of work to do."

A few more observations:

-- Minaya's two scores came on the long ball. His first, a 51-yarder in the second quarter, came off a slant from wide left coming over the deep middle, where he easily shed an arm tackle and marched unscathed to paydirt. His second came in similar fashion, beating his man off the blocks off a go route.

It seemed like whenever the Indians left Minaya in single-coverage with no help over the top, the Rangers were going to make them pay for it.

"Me and Cal have that connection, and we just know when...our coaches have the perfect play calls," said Minaya, who now has five touchdown receptions on the season. "They're just perfect plays at the right time, you know? And that's what opens me up. I just run routes."

-- Graham put together a pretty diverse gameplan for stopping LaSpada, the defending Gatorade Player of the Year and an ESPNU 150 recruit for the Class of 2012. The Rangers came out in a 3-3-5 stack look defensively all night, and threw in a few stunts. Graham's assessment?

"We had all kinds of plans to stop him, and we used them all, and I don't think any of them really stopped him," Graham said. "But I think we threw him different looks, and we did alot of different things to him, sometimes we contained him and sometimes we didn't. He's obviously a very special player."

No. 17 Methuen 36, No. 9 Billerica 26

MHS 6 7 9 14 --- 36
BHS 7 7 6 6 --- 26

B - Matt Clifford 18 pass from Nick LaSpada (Steve Trask kick)
M - Ryan Savastano 5 run (kick failed)
M - Raudy Minaya 51 pass from Cal Carroll (Eric LaCroix kick)
B - Ryan Donohoe 8 pass from LaSpada (Trask kick)
B - LaSpada 9 run (Mike Harper blocked kick return)
M - Minaya 61 pass from Carroll (LaCroix kick)
B - Clifford 56 pass from LaSpada (pass failed)
M - Carroll 3 run (LaCroix kick)
M - Carroll 55 run (LaCroix kick)

What we learned: 9/20 edition

September, 20, 2010
9/20/10
11:27
AM ET
Now that the dust has settled on Week 2 of the MIAA football schedule, here’s what we learned from this weekend’s action:

The Atlantic Coast League race is going to be a lot closer than we thought
No. 15 Falmouth and defending Super Bowl champ Marshfield were the figurative favorites in the ACL headed into the 2010 season, but the picture just got a whole lot more crowded.

After a surprise upset of Methuen in Week One, Plymouth North almost pulled off another shocker last Friday against No. 24 Duxbury. Matt Walsh – he of the heroic 77-yard winning touchdown in week one – hauled in a 5-yard pass from Cody Merritt with no time left on the clock, to make it 14-12 Duxbury. The ensuing two-point conversion pass was intercepted and returned 100 yards for the 16-12 final, but a point has been firmly made in year one of the Dwayne Follette era.

Meanwhile, Dennis-Yarmouth – fresh off a 41-38 upset of Barnstable – is averaging 42 points per game, led by junior dual-threat quarterback Matt Montalto. The Dolphins run the spread and like to throw the ball, but a closer look at their program shows they’re not some pass-happy outfit. Led by the hulking 6-foot-5, 319-pound Nate Crary at left tackle, the Dolphins are physical at the point of attack, and maintain a nice balance on their zone read behind running backs like Joe Furness and Damion Johnson.

“If you ever needed a big play in any sport, he’s the one who’s going to do it,” D-Y head coach Paul Funk said of Montalto, who also plays hockey and baseball at the school. “That’s him, that’s his makeup. I’d take that kid anywhere.”

As for toughness?

“(I’d rate him) at the top,” Funk said. “That’s what makes him so great. When your quarterback’s as tough as everybody else, everybody else tows the line.”

Burlington can score in a hurry
Down 28-14 to Arlington in the fourth quarter, the Red Devils bounced back in a hurry, scoring a whopping 29 points over the final few minutes of the contest to take a 43-28 win going away. Freshman Marcus Odiah hauled in a 25-yard Greg Sheridan pass, then recovered a fumble moments later and scored from three yards out. He then ran in the two-point conversion for a 29-28 lead with 1:15 left.

Seconds later, Kyle Shields intercepted a pass, and Odiah ran it in from 40 yards out to make it 36-28. Anthony Cruz then put the clamps on the win with a 52-yard pick-six on an Arlington Hail Mary heave.

One thing is for certain as Middlesex League play begins next week: The Red Devils are a wild card.

Dan Light is a tough guy to wrap up
Last season, we saw glimpses of Dan Light’s ability as a running quarterback for St. John’s (Shrewsbury), when he took direct snaps lined up next to quarterback Griffin Murphy as the Pioneers’ ball-carrier in Wildcat formations. And now that Light, a senior, has made the full transition from tight end to signal-caller, we’re seeing that in full force.

With the No. 4 Pioneers’ 37-8 defeat of Longmeadow yesterday, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound lefty has accumulated over 600 yards of offense and 10 touchdowns through two games. On the ground, he is averaging 11.1 yards a carry, and has hooked up with Cal-bound receiver Richard Rodgers for four touchdowns.

At times, Light has shown Tebow-esque abilities carrying the ball. But it’s the vision he’s developed over the last few weeks that has made him that much more difficult to stop.

“If I looked at him over the last three weeks, he has become a very smart quarterback,” St. John’s head coach John Andreoli said of Light. “Our offense is really designed around looking at the defense and taking advantage of what the defense gives you, and I see Danny taking more ownership of those calls.

“He’s been able to deliver the ball on the long balls, but on the short balls, you know, you see his feet moving around in the pocket and he’s very comfortable. And all of that, when you pull people out of the box and give him the ability to run the ball, he’s a very dangerous player. That’s really the point where we want to get.”

Tewksbury’s visit to Methuen on Oct. 29 will go a long way to deciding the MVC Small crown
With Lawrence’s surprise upset of Lynn English and Tewksbury’s surgical handling of Lincoln-Sudbury on opening weekend, the two teams’ meeting in Tewksbury last Saturday had the potential for greatness. The Redmen, however, wanted none of that, going up 28-6 on Lawrence at the half en route to an easy 35-6 win.

Sean Connolly led the way for Tewskbury with 101 yards on the ground and 105 through the air, totaling two scores, but watch out for tailback Anthony Arcari. He may be one of the more underrated speedsters in the league.

“The whole team likes to play as a family,” Arcari told ESPNBoston’s Neil Carroll. “We talked about that all year and on that one drive the offensive line did their job, the quarterback did his job, we ran the ball well and it demonstrated all that Tewksbury can do.”

Meanwhile over in Methuen, the two-man game of Cal Carroll and Raudy Minaya that works so well during basketball season has finally broken out again on the gridiron. Carroll (11 of 15, 146 yards) easily dispatched much-hyped Malden on Friday night with a strong second half, finishing with five scores through the air – including three to his good buddy – and another on the ground.

This was the Methuen that so many coaches had raved about during preseason.

“We have some of the toughest lineman around,” Carroll told ESPNBoston correspondent Phil Perry. “Steve DiZazzo, Sean Whittaker, they do all the dirty work inside. They watch so much film and work so hard, my success is because of what they can do.”

This week is a brutal one for the MVC Small’s front runners, with Methuen traveling to Billerica, Dracut hosting Central Catholic and Tewksbury visiting Andover. But based on the early returns, we suggest circling October 29 on your calendars.

Not the Raiders of old
Central Catholic proved more than just the point that they could hang with St. John’s Prep in this weekend’s game. The Raiders offensive identity has been altered from years past to incorporate the passing game more.

Although head coach Chuck Adamopoulos said in the preseason he hadn’t seen a definitive No. 1 quaterback emerge, it looks as though Central Catholic has some able bodies at the position. Transfer student Ben Onett was impressive and accurate in his Massachusetts debut against Marlborough a week ago.

But it was junior Matt McDermott who seemed to take hold of the Raiders’ offense this week at St. John’s Prep. Adamopoulos again split time between his quarterbacks on Saturday, but McDermott looked as though he might have a hand up on the competition. He was on the field for each of the Raiders’ scoring drives and seems to have developed a good rapport with his top target, receiver Xavier Peralta.

It was also telling that McDermott was on the field for the Central Catholic’s final drive in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. The Raiders’ chance for a comeback was thwarted by an interception in the game’s waning moments, but it bears watching how the quarterback situation in Lawrence develops in the coming weeks.

No. 1 Brockton and No. 2 Xaverian have been flawless so far, setting up Saturday’s showdown to be one for … well, really, do we need to explain?
Saturday. 1 p.m. Clapboardtree Street, Westwood.

No. 1 versus No. 2.

Public vs. Private.

Need we say more?

HEAD OF THE CLASS, WEEK 2
Taking a look at the weekend’s top performers:
  • Isaiah Jones, Mahar: Tallied 311 yards of total offense and five touchdowns during just the first half in a 46-14 win over Dean Tech. Jones had two rushing scores, two punt returns for a touchdown and an interception return. Mahar ran just 4 plays in first half and was up 46-8 at half.
  • Ryan Vultaggio, Groton-Dunstable: Vultaggio picked up 279 yards on the ground on just 12 carries to go along with four touchdowns in a 52-34 over West Boylston.
  • Nick LaSpada, Billerica: The junior quarterback was stellar once again, completing 15 of 23 pass attempts for 318 yards and one touchdown against Woburn. LaSpada also ran for three touchdowns.
  • Cal Carroll, Methuen: See Phil Perry’s story.
  • Charlie Blackett, Lexington: The senior defensive tackle set up camp in Concord-Carlisle’s backfield to the tune of five sacks and was in on a countless number of other plays.
  • Dan Light, St. John’s (S): The quarterback was superb with 296 yards of offense and five touchdowns in a 37-8 win over Western Mass. power Longmeadow.
  • John Pieterse, Worcester Academy: In his third career start, Pieterse was 16 of 18 for 322 yards and five touchdowns in a 41-14 victory over Blair Academy.

No. 20 Methuen takes it to Malden

September, 18, 2010
9/18/10
1:24
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METHUEN, Mass. — Cal Carroll couldn’t help but smile after beating Malden in the Rangers’ home-opener. Methuen’s senior co-captain and quarterback was behind the steering wheel of an offense that drove up and down the field on the Golden Tornados like a high-performance sports car.

Carroll (11-15, 146 yards) had six touchdowns— one rushing and five through the air — to lead the No. 20 Rangers over Malden, 42-12.

“We knew we could be a team that was in fifth gear instead of third gear like we’ve been,” said Carroll, whose team was upset last week by Plymouth North. “We felt really disgusted with ourselves after last week, but we had three hard days of practice and that led to this.”

Coming out of halftime with a 14-12 lead, Methuen (1-1) really got on the gas. With its first possession out of the locker room, Carroll broke through multiple would-be Malden tacklers for a 23-yard touchdown scamper to cap a two and a half minute, 70-yard drive.

Less than a minute later, after Methuen recovered the ball on a strip sack by senior Matt Delmonte, Carroll hooked up with his favorite target Raudy Minaya for a wide open 30-yard touchdown strike. With the score 28-12 with 7:29 left in the third quarter, Methuen effectively had the Golden Tornados (1-1) in their rearview.

Minaya (five receptions, 72 yards) is a strong 6-foot-2 receiver with good leaping ability and he often sees double coverage. But not on Friday. He made the most of it, hauling in three touchdowns.

“If I’m double covered, I know my teammates can make some plays,” said Minaya. “But if I’m single covered, I want the ball.”

Carroll also threw touchdown passes to seniors James Staples in the second quarter and Kevin Higgins in the fourth, but Methuen ran a balanced attack. Junior running back Ryan Savastano, amassed 100 yards on 19 carries while Carroll finished with 94 yards on the ground.

“We got a real good push up front,” said Rangers coach Patrick Graham. “I think we wore them down a little bit. They have a lot of guys who play both ways and we really don’t have guys who do that so I think that helped us.”

Malden suffered injuries to Jamie McInerney (ACL) and Chris Miller (ACL) in the preseason and now employs players like linemen Aaron Samano and Vernon Sanvil on both sides of the ball.

Another all-around player for Malden, Jo Jo Randolph (nine carries, 58 yards; one catch 28 yards), rushed for Malden’s first touchdown of the night on a 16-yard sweep in the first quarter, but he was then forced from the game in the second half with a broken forearm.

“We have some injuries right now that are making us play guys a lot,” said Malden coach Joe Pappagallo. “It’s fatiguing them mentally and physically. But, ultimately, we lost this game because [Methuen] was more physical at the point of attack and they just plain out-played us.”

Malden did get a touchdown from its playmaker, Frankie Dunn (six catches, 35 yards; five rushes, 24 yards) mid-way through the second quarter, but it was the Golden Tornados’ last burst of offense.

Methuen dominated after Carroll’s touchdown to Staples at the end of the first half. The Rangers scored touchdowns on each of their second-half possessions, except for their final possession when backups were called on to run out the clock in the fourth quarter.

“It’s nice to come back after last week,” said Graham. “We obviously didn’t play our best football last week. We knew we had things to improve on as a team. We talked a lot about how important it is to get off to a good start to the season, and 0-2 wouldn’t have been a good start.”

Other observations:
  • Carroll credited his experienced offensive line with giving him enough time to throw for five scores. “We have some of the toughest lineman around,” he said. “Steve DiZazzo, Sean Whittaker, they do all the dirty work inside. They watch so much film and work so hard, my success is because of what they can do.
  • Carroll to Minaya seems to be a connection for all seasons. The two play as forwards for Methuen’s basketball team in the winter. “We know how to hook up on the court, too,” said Carroll, laughing. “He’s one of our best scorers…He’s so athletic he can make plays whenever he wants to.”
  • Malden’s Kenny Mettelus was tackled hard in the fourth quarter and remained on the ground for several minutes before coming off the field on the stretcher. The injury wasn’t as serious as it appeared, according to Pappagallo, who said Mattelus suffered a lower-back contusion. He was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure. “I’ve never had so many gosh darned severe injuries,” said Pappagallo. “But what can you do? You have to keep plugging, you know?”

No. 11 Methuen no longer an underdog

September, 7, 2010
9/07/10
1:26
AM ET
METHUEN, Mass. -- Here in this blue-collar city, nestled on the New Hampshire border, lies a certain reputation -- an identity, if you will -- that has come to be embraced.

Some call it toughness, others a chip on the shoulder. At Methuen High, it's a pathos of never initiating, but never relenting.

"It's like our swag, you know. It's kind of a Methuen thing," said Rangers quarterback Cal Carroll. "Kids around school have it, too, not just the football players...I wouldn't say 'cocky', but we never back down. That's a good way to put it."

Says head coach Pat Graham, "We've been known as a tough, scrappy group, which I think is a pretty good description of us. We're usually alot smaller than other teams, but we tend to just play really hard. I think last year, what happened is we won alot of games we weren't expected to win, and this year people have given us more credit."

In a relatively short time, Graham turned the Rangers from the Merrimack Valley Conference's welcome mat (33 straight losses before his hiring in 2007) to a lunch-pail gang capable of pulling the upset on anyone (see: Dracut, Thanksgiving 2008; Andover, Central Catholic, 2009). So try as they might, after quietly going 15-7 over the last two seasons, the Rangers are no longer perceived as the little engine that could.

Spearheading that change of winds is Carroll. The Rangers favor a zone-read look on offense, and without a consistent running game in 2009, the 6-foot, 180-pound signal-caller took matters into his own hands, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark in rushing and passing and totaling 26 touchdowns (15 rushing). Lacking the speed of an outside runner and the size to handle continuous punishment up the middle, Carroll merely bulls his neck and plows ahead without regard for his safety -- "I'm here to play, not here to worry about bumps and bruises," he said.

"I'm always trying to crawl for the extra yards," he continued. "Even if it's just a spin move or that extra half-yard, I'll get that. No matter what it takes, I'll get that."

So perhaps it makes sense that Carroll dons the No. 16 in honor of a former Ranger player, wideout Dave Koerner -- "6-3, jumped through the roof," Carroll recalled of Koerner, who currently plays at Coastal Carolina. Carroll fondly recalls Koerner breaking his ankle midway through the 2007 season, and arriving Thanksgiving morning in full gear, taping his ankle "max, as if he was going to try to walk out there and play". He didn't, but two captains carried him out to midfield for the coin toss.

Graham, whose coaching career has taken him extensively through the college ranks before Methuen, doesn't hesitate to call Carroll one of the most competitive players he's ever coached.

"It's just one of those things, I know people like to make the joke, but he's the type of kid that would dive on the ground scraping, no matter what you were playing," Graham said. "His wanting to win, his overachieving, you can just see it. He just practices really hard every day, diving to get that extra inch in practice. Just a very serious kid who's driven and wants to win."

Helping relieve the load this year is senior Raudy Minaya, a close friend and basketball teammate of Carroll's. The two go back quite a ways, and their chemistry pays off on their timed routes. Able to jab-step and turn his hips on a corner route just as well as he can break a tackle, the Rangers will be putting the ball in Minaya's hands in a variety of ways after seeing him get pressed in double-coverage late last season.

With these newfound declarations of respect, of course, come the voices of reason hammering down egos with the stick of humility. But sometimes, you can't help but let that swagger leak through a little bit. Asked about their preseason together so far, Carroll grins about the touchdowns he's connected with his buddy in three scrimmages.

"Five times, right?" Carroll asked Minaya, with a bump of the fists.

It's a Methuen thing.

METHUEN AT A GLANCE
2009:
8-3 (6-3 MVC)
Coach: Pat Graham (fourth year, 17-16)
Players to watch: Cal Carroll, Sr., QB/S, 6-0, 170 lbs (1,058 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns; 1,035 passing yards, 11 touchdowns); Raudy Minaya, Sr., WR/DB, 6-2, 195 lbs; Mike Harper, Sr., LB/RB, 5-10, 200 lbs; Jason Doyle, Sr., OL/DE, 6-0, 195 lbs; Ryan Savastano, Jr., RB/DB, 5-9, 170 lbs; Tyler Bolduc, Sr., OT/DE, 6-1, 190 lbs; Sean Whittaker, Sr., OT/DL, 6-1, 265 lbs; Matt Whittaker, Jr., OG/DL, 6-0, 215 lbs; Dan Cormier, Sr., OL/DL, 6-4, 300 lbs; Steve Dizazzo, Sr., OL/DL, 6-3, 250 lbs; Kevin Higgins, Sr., WR/DB, 6-2, 165 lbs; Jimmy Staples, Sr., TE/DB, 6-2, 200 lbs; Jeff McAndrew, Sr., WR/DB, 5-11, 175 lbs; Eric LaCroix, Jr., DB, 6-2, 170 lbs; Matt Delmonte, Sr., LB/RB, 5-9, 200 lbs.
Strengths: Offensive experience, offensive line.
Weaknesses: Inexperience on defense, secondary.
Outlook: The Rangers will be looking for more balance in their offensive gameplan after leaving Carroll to shoulder most of the load as a dual-threat quarterback. Savastano has emerged as the front-runner at running back, but look for Minaya to get involved in a variety of ways, including taking handoffs out of the backfield and -- for the first time -- returning kicks. "He's a special kid as far as making plays and doing big things," Graham said. The experienced offensive line, led by the Whittaker brothers, will be counted upon to open up running lanes again, and match up favorably at the point of attack. Defensively, it will be tough to replace last year's MVC Small Co-Defensive Player of the Year, John McCarthy, and the Rangers may experiment with a three-man front at times. But they will remain a blitz-oriented squad, perhaps even up to 50 percent of the time.

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