Boston High School: Chris Cacciola

No. 8 Mansfield silences No. 14 KP

October, 9, 2010

MANSFIELD, Mass. – The Hornets struck first by air, then by ground while proving, in fact, the King Philip defense is not impregnable.

A couple of touchdown passes from George Busharis to Jeff Hill in the first half followed by a pounding running game highlighted by Jamel Marshall’s 104 yards on the ground created a balanced attack as No. 8 Mansfield blanked No. 14 King Philip, 28-0.

“All around, KP has a fantastic defense,” Busharis said. “We knew they were going to attack Jamel [Marshall], so we knew that the play-action would work.”

The Warriors (4-1, 3-1) entered Friday’s action against their Hockomock League rival having not allowed a point since the fourth quarter of their Week One win over Wayland.

After the teams exchanged three-and-outs to begin the game, Mansfield (4-1, 3-0) ended the drought against KP’s defense on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Busharis to Hill in the back of the end zone.

“He ran a corner route with one-on-one coverage,” said Busharis, who completed 8 of 13 pass attempts for 101 yards and two touchdowns. “I know I can rely on Jeff [Hill] in one-on-one coverage because he’s a pretty big kid and he can get up there. He did a hell of a job.”

The Busharis to Hill connection struck again in the second quarter, that time on a 5-yard strike with 6:38 remaining in the half.

When the Hornets returned to the field, their emphasis shifted, but the result remained the same.

Marshall pounded away at the Warriors front line, eventually breaking through for a 14-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Blayne Kelley-Taylor (6 carries, 55 yards) finished things off with a 5-yard score in the fourth.

“It means a lot because it’s like a dual threat,” Marshall said of Mansfield’s balance on offense. “You have to worry about the run, but at the same time, you can’t just send all your guys, or we can hit you on the big pass plays just like we did in this game.”

Meanwhile, a swarming Hornets defense disrupted any sort of rhythm to the Warriors’ ground game and provided persistent pressure on King Philip quarterback Jake Cox. Kyle McGuire, Zach Schafer and Chris Walker each earned sacks for the Mansfield defense.

The Warriors were not without their big plays, however, as Chris Cacciola, Alec May and Abdul Sesay all registered sacks. Jim Johnston also registered several tackles for a loss.

Simply stated, for Mansfield, it came down to allowing fewer of those big plays.

“They’re a high-risk, high-reward [defense],” Mansfield head coach Mike Redding said. “They come after you with everything. We said there were going to be a lot of battles; you’ll win some, you’ll lose some. But I thought we won more than we lost.”

KP 0 0 0 0 -- 0
M 7 7 0 14 -- 28

1st quarter
M - Jeff Hill 15-yard pass from George Busharis (Dave Eberhart kick)

2nd quarter
M - Hill 5-yard pass from Busharis (Eberhart kick)

4th quarter
M - Jamel Marshall 14-yard run (Eberhart kick)
M - Blayne Kelley-Taylor 5-yard run (Jeremy Burke kick)

No. 19 KP steals Attleborough's spotlight

September, 18, 2010

ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. – So much for the welcoming party.

Attleborough High made its initial foray into Hockomock League play on Friday night, hosting No. 19 King Philip. As a rude party guest, the Warriors’ intent was to indoctrinate Attleborough to “The Hock” way.

“In the pregame, we talked about showing them what The Hock is all about,” Warriors running back Jim Johnston said.

True to form, King Philip head coach Brian Lee emptied out his cache of weapons at running back, divvying up carries between his acclaimed duo of Chris Cacciola and Charles Ruffin. But it was the less-heralded Jim Johnston who left his mark — or perhaps a bruise as it were — on the Warriors’ 14-0 win over the Bombardiers.

“In most normal circumstances, Jimmy [Johnston] is a tailback,” Lee said. “It’s just one of those things that we have a lot of backs this year.”

Johnston, a 5-11 senior, totaled 11 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown. But it was the manner in which Johnston ran in the second half, keeping the ball out of Attleborough’s hands in a tight game, which was more impressive.

After breaking off a 16-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, Johnston helped King Philip (2-0, 1-0) play keep-away from the Bombardier offense. He delivered the final blow to Attleboro’s hopes for a comeback with a key 25-yard run on the Warriors’ final drive that bled the clock dry in the fourth.

“I thought we played better defensively in the second half,” Attleboro head coach Kevin Deschenes said, “but they just held onto the ball for long stretches of time and we couldn’t get it back. When we did get it back, we went three-and-out.”

In the second half, Attleborough (1-1, 0-1) was forced to go without the services of quarterback Nate Robitaille, who was shaken up on a play just before halftime. Robitaille left the game after the big collision, which occurred while scrambling out of the pocket, but he returned to start the second half on defense. After a couple of plays, the Bombardiers training staff ruled Robitaille out for the remainder of the game.

“We erred on the side of caution, especially with concussions, you can’t mess around with that,” Deschenes said.

Junior Chris Walsh called the signals for Attleborough in the second half and didn’t fare much better than his predecessor in solving the Warriors defense. The Bombardiers managed only two yards of offense in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, King Philip kept hammering away on the ground.

Cacciola, who took in the Warriors’ first touchdown on a 13-yard run to start the second quarter, finished with 19 carries for 83 yards. Ruffin also got in the fray with 10 rushes for 71 yards.

“Cass [Cacciola] is our leader, no doubt about it,” Johnston said. “He’s played for three years now. We all listen to him when it comes down to it. And Charles [Ruffin] has the breakaway speed.”

With all the pomp and circumstance behind, Lee was focused simply on the fact that his team had secured an ever-important win on the road in the ever-competitive Hockomock.

“It’s a huge win,” Lee said. “Looking at their team on film and seeing all the team speed from the quarterback to the running back; they have a lot of playmakers. We knew it was going to be tough.

“We had a game plan. But did we expect to shut them out? Not exactly.”

Cacciola, Ruffin catalyze No. 21 KP

September, 1, 2010
WRENTHAM, Mass. -- Chris Cacciola turned at the right sideline, just before the line of scrimmage, and faced his quarterback Jake Cox with his palms open, ready to haul in the screen pass.

The King Philip running back then slipped inside of a kickout block, turned upfield, then cut up again some 15 yards downfield, reversing direction and taking it to the left sideline. He then put on the jets, only to be pushed out of bounds by a Norwood defender five yards short of the pylon, some 70 yards later.

King Philip
Brendan Hall/ESPNBoston.comChris Cacciola is revered around the Hockomock League for his hard hits and no-nonsense attitude.
"I saw the cornerback was backpedaling a little bit, so I came back and caught the ball," the senior captain said of his nifty play in this afternoon's controlled scrimmage on KP's home field. "I saw the alley opened up pretty wide, and I made a couple backs and ran for it."

Two preseasons ago, Cacciola was a lanky, wire-thin, fifth-string running back coming to grips with the fact he'd be playing limited time on the junior varsity. But following a few injuries and suspensions to the guys above him, Cacciola was thrown into the fire as a sophomore, and responded the only way he knew -- violently slamming his 170-pound frame into the teeth of the defense.

Now at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Cacciola's still got the bullishness -- reportedly, he squats over 400 pounds these days. But now, thanks to a rigorous offseason highlighted by his sprint work with the school's track and field program, he's a step quicker, which is how he's turning a simple bubble screen into a 70-yard scamper.

"He's always been tough as nails -- huge, huge heart," Warriors head coach Brian Lee said. "He is the reason why people want to coach. Everybody wants to coach Chris Cacciola. When people think, 'Hey, I want to coach football', the person they're thinking about in their mind is a kid like Cass. He'll do anything for you, he's just awesome."

Cacciola puts it plainly -- "I just did what I was told" -- but the lightning to his thunder in the backfield, junior Charles Ruffin, has stronger words.

"He's always a hard worker," Ruffin said. "He always does everything coaches have asked him to do, and more."

And now, with that extra dash of speed in tow, the Warriors are asking him to jump over the field in Brian Lee's multiple offense. One play, he'll be lining up at tailback in the I-formation; the next, he'll be split wide or in the slot as the Warriors go into shotgun; sometimes, he'll even act as the blocking back for Ruffin. Anything to keep both guys on the field at once.

Athleticism runs through Ruffin's family -- his cousin, Dartaye, is getting ready for his freshman season of basketball at Drexel -- and early in his career, Ruffin was diminutive in stature but known as one of the fastest players in the Hockomock League. Now entering his junior season, he too has filled out, and the Division 1 suitors are slowly lining up (Ruffin says Boston College has been showing interest "heavily", while Stanford, Vanderbilt and a slew of local schools are starting to come around). Ironically, he's no longer just the speedy change-of-pace guy, either. Ruffin added more than 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason to his now 5-foot-9, 185-pound frame, and is also in the 400-pound club on squats.

It's one of several changes in appearance for the Warriors. Jake Cox has moved from wideout back to quarterback with the graduation of former Hockomock MVP Brandon Howard, to go along with his cornerback duties, and has demonstrated above-average accuracy so far in the preseason -- "He's a football player first, then a quarterback...he's so versatile," Ruffin said. The Warriors are also breaking in some new offensive linemen to compensate for recent injuries, though they've looked good on the run so far. Senior tight end Alex May, a key returnee from 2009, is battling a bursar sac in the knee and shouldn't be back until the season-opener. Meanwhile, the Warriors will have to find personnel to replace linebacker Dan Dusseault, who broke his collarbone in a car accident last weekend and is likely out for a while.

Changes are abound in Wrentham. And in the backfield, it's all for the good.

8-3 (6-2 Hockomock)
Coach: Brian Lee (Sixth year, 24-30)
Players to watch: Chris Cacciola, Sr., RB/LB, 6-2, 205 lbs; Charles Ruffin, Jr., RB/LB, 5-9, 185 lbs; Jake Cox, Sr., QB/DB, 6-0, 170 lbs; Alec May, Sr., DE/TE, 6-3, 215 lbs; Jimmy Johnston, Sr., LB/FB/WR, 5-11, 215 lbs; Adam Boari, Sr., OG/DT, 6-2, 245 lbs.
Strengths: Running backs, team speed.
Weaknesses: Depth, inexperience at offensive and defensive lines.
Outlook: The versatile Jake Cox returns under center with the graduation of Brandon Howard, and he'll have plenty of targets to throw to, including Johnston, May, Cacciola and Ruffin out of the backfield. Look for Lee's offense to be very flexible in 2010; and as long as the inexperienced line holds up, the running back stable of Cacciola, Ruffin and Johnson should be able to push some extra yardage out of their carries. Defensively, the Warriors will throw a variety of looks at opponents, be it a 5-3, 4-4, 3-3 stack, or even deploying six defensive backs. Look out for the Warriors to utilize the "psycho" package made popular by the Green Bay Packers, which replaces four down linemen with four linebackers showing blitz two yards off the ball. Overall, the Warriors should excel at the run game as expected, but could surprise some defenses with Cox's playmaking ability.