Boston High School: Chuck Adamopoulos

LAWRENCE, Mass. -- Stoic and stone-faced as he greeted reporters following a marathon of an MIAA Division 1 North quarterfinal against his archrivals, Central Catholic two-way star Mike Balsamo channeled his inner Kevin Garnett in characterizing the 28-21 win over bordering Andover.

"We hate them, and they hate us. It was a bar fight tonight," Balsamo said, drawing on one of the legendary former Boston Celtic's most memorable quips. "And we came to play for sure."

Oh, the Raiders were in for a fight, especially early.

On Andover’s second play from scrimmage, sophomore quarterback E.J. Perry IV (13 of 26, 263 yards, 2 TD) connected on a 67-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Christopher Nicholas, the option deep downfield on a zone read play that also motioned Andrew Soucy around the back of the formation for a wheel-screen option. In the first eight minutes of play, Andover had nine offensive plays go for a combined 158 yards.

After the Warriors went up 14-6 late in the first quarter, a 44-yard strike to tight end Alex Marshall setting up a 16-yard Kevin Chen scamper up the middle, the Raiders seemed to buckle down defensively. Of particular note, they stalled the Warriors in the red zone on consecutive attempts to close out the first half, one a turnover on downs and the other a missed 30-yard field goal attempt.

"It was more just doing the things we prepared for, to do," Central head coach Chuck Adamopoulos said. "Where they motion guys out of the backfield, our kids that were supposed to be covering them all of a sudden –- after doing it all week in practice –- weren’t doing it in the first series or two there. We just [had to] relax, and then the kids started doing what they were supposed to do.

"We kinda brought more pressure as the game went on, too. We weren’t blitzing early, we did a lot more as the game went on, and I think it ended up being effective."

Off of Chen's first-quarter score, the Raiders marched 60 yards in four plays on the ensuing drive, a 54-yard middle screen to Balsamo (109 offensive yards, TD) setting up a two-yard Markus Edmunds (10 carries, 71 yards, 2 TD) plunge. Edmunds' successful two-point rush was negated by a holding call, leading to a failed pass attempt that kept Andover ahead 14-12.

But things took another fortuitous bounce quickly when Andover, on the very first play of its ensuing series, fumbled the ball away at its own 44. The Raiders scored three plays later, on the first play of the second quarter, when quarterback Mike Milano (11 of 18 passing, 198 yards, TD; 16 carries, 46 yards) found sophomore tight end Carlos Cabrera down the seam for a 15-yard strike. Edmunds then ran in the two-point try for a 20-14 advantage.

After Edmunds made it a two-score game early in the fourth with a five-yard sweep, punctuated with a jump pass from Milano to Cabrera on the two-point try for a 28-14 advantage, the Warriors responded with a 10-play, 90-yard scoring drive. Two plays after Nicholas dropped a sure-fire touchdown pass at the back line on first and 10 from the Central 21, Perry called his number again on the same play, lofting one that dropped softly into the senior's bread basket as he dragged his feet falling out of bounds.

Central recovered the ensuing onside kick, and was able to run out the final three minutes thanks to a gutsy call on fourth eight from the Warriors' 38, offensive coordinator John Sexton dialing up a reverse to Balsamo that paid off for 20 yards.

"Coach Sexton is a brilliant play-caller. He’s one of the best in New England, I really believe," Balsamo said. "I got a great block from Mike Milano and I turned on the jets."

Warriors lose Chen: Putting a damper in the Warriors' running game was the loss of Chen in the first quarter. On the drive following his first-quarter touchdown run, the 5-foot-8 senior left the game limping, favoring what appeared to be his right knee. He did not return, finishing the night with three carries for 26 yards and a score.

Going into the game, Chen was the Warriors' leading rusher, with 121 carries for 1,029 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was on a personal streak of five straight games with at least 100 yards on the ground. In the previous two games alone he had taken on a heavy workload, totaling 62 carries for 496 yards and six scores in wins over Billerica and Lowell.

Moose Crossing: In the first meeting between these two teams this fall, a 49-35 Central win on Sept. 26, the Warriors were able to burn the Raiders several times with a massive mismatch on the perimeter. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound Marshall -- who plays a "flex" tight end role in the Warriors' run-and-gun offense, mostly detached from the offensive line -- finished with four catches for 102 yards and two scores in that game, getting the best of Balsamo at times with quick releases to the inside from the slot.

Balsamo was once again saddled with the duty of marking Marshall tonight, in what was a must-see battle between two Division 1 recruits (Balsamo committed to New Hampshire earlier this week; the junior Marshall, who previously committed to North Carolina for lacrosse, received his first FBS offer from UMass last month). Marshall proved to be a formidable matchup once again, catching five passes for 89 yards, drawing two pass interference calls and a defensive holding call from Balsamo to boot. On several occasions, Marshall even found himself triple-teamed.

Penalties aside, this was a pretty good game for Balsamo, a midseason ESPN Boston All-State selection who has been a calm, steadying influence for the Raiders' highly-regarded defense all season.

"He’s a moose, he’s a very strong kid, getting looks at D-1A colleges," Balsamo said of Marshall. "I tip my hat off to him. We fought all game. I definitely respect him."

Marshall has been particularly dangerous as a "pop" option in the Warriors' zone read, making a quick move inside off the line of scrimmage and flashing his hands near the first down marker. The Raiders combated this in several ways, including bracketing and bump-and-run coverage. One of their most successful methods involved backpedaling Balsamo off the line of scrimmage before the snap, then moving a linebacker over to cut off his inside passage.

"He’s a really good player," Adamopoulos said of Marshall. "We told the kids don’t get inside releases -- I think that’s where the kid is most effective, on those slants -- but he runs really good. He gets up the seam and he’s tough to cover. He’s gonna hurt you, but I thought we did OK with him."

Just how difficult is it to replicate a 6-foot-7 perimeter player with lacrosse-bred athleticism during a week's practice?

"We take a tall kid that can run a little bit and try to do it –- no one calls interference in practice, so that doesn’t help," Adamopoulos laughed. "It’s hard to replicate. They’re good. They’re big, their skill guys are physical. That’s why I’m saying it’s a good win."

UNH offers Central Catholic's Balsamo

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
Central Catholic senior running back/safety Mike Balsamo received his third Division 1 FCS offer today, from the University of New Hampshire, according to Central head coach Chuck Adamopoulos.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Balsamo has previously received offers from Wofford and Bryant. Balsamo was an All-Merrimack Valley Conference selection at defensive back last season, as the Raiders won the inaugural MIAA Division 1 State Championship, the program's first bowl victory since 1998.

DANVERS, Mass. – From an outsider’s perspective, things can’t be much better than they’ve been at the start for No. 8 St. John’s Prep.

The Eagles have now collected three straight wins against Top 10-ranked opponents to start the season, following Saturday’s 27-12 win over defending Division 1 state champion No. 2 Central Catholic.

But Eagles first-year head coach Brian St. Pierre sees it a little differently.

“We’ve majored in making it difficult,” the Prep alum said after his team’s home opener.

After a relatively lackluster first half, the second half provided crescendos and dips in momentum in just about each play.

The Eagles (3-0) defense was the fulcrum for the victory, forcing five Central turnovers in the second half, including three interceptions.

“We were giving up yards early, but they just kept playing and they kept getting the ball for us,” St. Pierre said of his defense.

After Prep tallied the first score of the game on a 74-yard touchdown run by Cody Harwood (14 carries, 149 yards), the Raiders (2-1) responded before the first half was out with a resounding 10-play, 63-yard drive. Michael Milano hit Steven Jackson on an inside slant for a 6-yard touchdown with 13 seconds to play in the half.

Central parlayed the offensive momentum into their opening possession of the second half. Milano (14 of 26, 158 yards; 12 carries, 83 yards) willed the Raiders downfield with several well-executed inside draw plays, including a 32-yard touchdown run with 7:54 remaining in the third. A botched snap on the ensuing two-point attempt kept the Raiders’ lead at 12-7.

After going three-and-out on its ensuing possession, Prep leaned on its defense to get the ball back and, perhaps, reignite the offense.

Sophomore corner Hayden Rockett undercut a route for the first of four Eagles’ picks in the second half with 4:48 to play in the third. Two plays later, Prep regained the lead on Oliver Eberth’s 11-yard out to tight end Jake Burt. Another failed two-point conversion kept the Eagles’ lead at a single point.

Eagles senior safety Art Churchwell provided the next spark, pocketing his first of two takeaways in the game. Churchwell’s interception set up another Prep touchdown drive, coming on another Eberth touchdown pass to Owen Rockett – this time from 57 yards out – for a 20-12 lead at 10:47 of the fourth quarter.

Churchwell was at it again on the next Central possession, recovering a fumble.

While the Eagles were unable to cash on their third straight takeaway, they’d soon have the ball back again with 6:35 remaining in the game on a John Churchwell interception. Prep then salted away any Central comeback bid with a plodding 10-play drive (with a punt and another fumble recovery mixed in the middle), capped with Harwood’s second touchdown run of the day from 22 yards out.

“I think that was one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever coached in because the turnovers just killed us,” Central head coach Chuck Adamopoulos said.

Fearsome twosome: When Eberth transferred to St. John’s Prep, he inherited a pretty good surrounding cast. The Eagles offensive line has been steady throughout the early season in both pass protection and in run support. Harwood has continued producing.

And, of course, there are his top targets: wide receiver Owen Rockett and tight end Jake Burt.

“It’s amazing, defenses are playing us to pass. They’re playing our guys Owen [Rockett] and Jake Burt right now,” St. Pierre said. “They’re putting guys on them, they’re accounting for them, so we’re picking our spots.”

The combination has pushed opposing defenses to pick their poison. In the early going, both Bridgewater-Raynham and Brockton chose to key on Burt – the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Boston College commit. That’s translated to fewer pass targets for Burt – who’s receiving bracketed coverage for the most part – but great opportunity for Rockett to work in space, both underneath and on intermediate and long routes along the boundary.

“Teams key on [Burt], so that opens things up for other players – Rockett, Michael Calascibetta and James DiBenedetto,” Eberth said. “[On the touchdown] and on that fourth down, he’s old reliable. He can go up and get the ball, he can go down and get the ball. He can do anything.”

On Saturday, Prep fans saw perhaps the most balanced offensive attack the Eagles have shown to date. Eberth was more than efficient, completing 8 of 14 for 114 yards. Rockett and Burt had balls delegated to them with balance, with the wideout and tight end hauling in four catches for 84 yards and three catches for 29 yards, respectively.

“The last few weeks I think they’ve game-planned for me a little more, drawing a little extra attention to me,” Burt said. “And then Cody Harwood has stepped up and made plays.”

But what Burt adds to Prep's offense is more than just a big target.

"What goes maybe not seen [but] is obvious is what he does for us in the run game," St. Pierre said. "There’s not a better tight end blocking in the run game in Massachusetts, hands down. He does a tremendous job for us. He is just a great player. He’s very unselfish, does what the team asks him to do. People are keying him – and they should, he’s a very good player."

Harwood once again eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark as well, creating further balance in St. Pierre’s offense.

It’s a question that opposing defensive coordinators will have to consider as the Eagles go screaming toward a playoff berth.

It’s also something that Central, at least on Saturday, couldn’t overcome.

“What’s hard this year is because of the inexperience in our secondary with two new starters it makes it hard for us to just take one guy and put him on someone,” Adamopoulos said. “Last year, we could do something like that, but I think that’s harder this year.”

Any defending champion has troubles it must face while trying to remain on top. Central Catholic football can’t hide from anybody following their win over Xaverian at Gillette Stadium in last December’s Division 1 state championship game. Everybody from their Merrimack Valley Conference rivals to any potential playoff opponent in Division 1 North will be looking to be the team to knock off the Raiders, every week.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

Yet, for all the pressures real or perceived that Central’s players might feel this season, nothing will compare to the feeling of loss in the pit of their stomachs they’ll feel. They’re missing a brother.

Rising senior defensive back Will Wheeler was looking forward to another season with his teammates when he died suddenly in his sleep the Saturday before Massachusetts high school football teams started their preseason practice sessions. The 17-year-old resident of Atkinson, N.H. and three-sport athlete at Central had no apparent health problems at the time of his death.

The Raiders began practicing the Monday following Wheeler’s death.

“It was an emotional roller coaster,” Central head coach Chuck Adamopoulos said.

The day of Wheeler’s funeral coincided with the first day that two-a-day practice sessions were allowed by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. It began with a 6:30 a.m. practice, followed by a bus ride to New Hampshire for the services. On the ride back to Lawrence, Adamopoulos gave his team two options: either they could call it a day or get back on the field for another practice.

There was no dissent among the ranks in their reply.

“It’s an escape for all us, to keep our heads out of that tragic, tragic situation,” senior captain and ESPN Boston preseason All-State selection Michael Balsamo said. “We just rallied together and went to work.”

The second session – as Adamopoulos termed it – wasn’t their best. But he learned a lot from the trying circumstances his team faced that day.

“We were cooked at the end of that day, and that goes for the kids and me and the coaching staff,” Adamopoulos said. “But we were there for each other.”

A backup at safety primarily and a special teams contributor last season for Cental, Wheeler would likely have enjoyed a greater role on the defense this season. His younger brother, Shawn, is a sophomore at Central who’s also on the football team.

Greater than that, Wheeler’s personality is what his friend and teammate Jorge Elias misses about his presence at practice.

“There were times when he’d mess up coverage on a play, and he’d just laugh,” the senior captain said. “He just had that personality that made everybody relax.”

He added, “We’re here, as a team, for his family. We want to make sure that they know that we’re here for them. We’re doing this for them. They’re always in our minds, always in our hearts; we’ll never forget about them and we’ll never forget about Will.”

Central returns 11 of its 22 starters from last year’s championship team. The Raiders also have the advantage of returning starters at several key positions, including quarterback Michael Milano and inside linebacker Markus Edmunds, as well as Balsmo (running back/safety) and Elias (guard/defensive tackle).

“We know what we can do,” Balsamo said of the expectations place on this year’s squad. “We’ve got great coaches that work us really, really hard during practice and we have the talent to make those plays on the field. The standard is really, really high.”

That’s the challenge the Raiders face: keep winning despite grieving. It’s something Elias and his fellow seniors have taken to heart.

“During the summer we worked so hard because we know what it took from last season – the hard work and the leadership and everybody that stood up last year was incredible,” Elias said. “Now, we just have to get our boys together and step up and fill in the spots where we lost our key players.”

It’s found in the character of their actions. They’re a family, gathered around the sport of football. It’s something they’ll never forget, just as they’ll never forget their teammate.

“We just needed to get away from those emotions for a while and let them drain out,” Elias said of the decision to practice on the day of Wheeler’s funeral. “I think we were all unstable, but then you have to let it go. To get back to football, you’re on the gridiron, you have to focus on your teammates and what’s at hand.

“Life goes on, unfortunately, you’ve just got to work because the season’s coming up and that’s what Will would have wanted from us.”

Central opens its title defense tonight (7 p.m.) against cross-city rival Lawrence.
WESTWOOD, Mass. – After meeting in a preseason scrimmage before last season, Central Catholic and Xaverian exchanged pleasantries before departing. Many of the players, while cycling through the handshake line offered sentiment of good luck with the idea that the teams would meet in the Division 1 state championship game. Both teams got their wish as the Raiders met the Hawks in the first Div. 1 state title at Gillette Stadium.

The teams partook in their annual preseason meeting on Tuesday, but unlike the last meeting at Gillette, Xaverian held the upper hand, looking a step quicker and crisper than the defending champions.

Here are a couple of takeaways from today’s two-hour long work session at the Hawl Bowl:

Tinkering continues: As in their prior scrimmage Saturday against Bridgewater-Raynham, Xaverian continued to sprinkle in some different faces into their spread formations. Reigning ESPN Boston Defensive Player of the Year Joe Gaziano was again seen split out wide in a four-receiver set which also featured starting inside linebacker D’Aundre Holmes seeing snaps in the slot.

The Hawks already have a deep corps of receivers, including returning contributors like Princewell Iwejuo, Ernest Simon, Peter Thorbahn, Coby Tippett and Damion Wood. But the big bodies out wide give Xaverian a different look while presenting matchup problems for undersized defensive backs.

On Tuesday, the Hawks again had to be impressed by senior quarterback Jake Farrell, who has turned in efficient performances in both of the team’s scrimmages.

“I was happy with the way our skills players matched up with them today,” Hawks head coach Charlie Stevenson said.

Xaverian had success moving the ball through the air throughout against a Central Catholic secondary that is still rounding into form. After losing a couple of All-Staters from the group in Cody Demers and D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie, Raiders head coach Chuck Adamopoulos is using the preseason period to test out a host of competitors in a couple of positions.

“Reading didn’t really throw the ball downfield in our last scrimmage,” Adamopoulos said. “And we’re really young in the secondary, so we need to figure out who’s going to play there. Today, with Xaverian, they threw the ball downfield, they threw the ball in the flat with quick hits, so we got a chance to look at our secondary kids.”

Round 2 adjustments: Both squads came in with agendas different from their Saturday debuts.

For one, Xaverian incorporated the running game – after having a pass only scrimmage with B-R. While the Hawks still do not have their full complement of backs, as John Dean continues to be held out with an injury, they look more themselves with Noah Sorrento and sophomore Devon Piccinin pounding Central’s front seven.

“I think when we’re able to throw him into our offensive mix, we’re a lot better team,” Stevenson said of Sorrento.

Meanwhile, the Raiders countered with some different blitz packages and defensive looks, with inside linebacker Markus Edmunds making a strong showing.

“It’s an opportunity to see some different things,” Stevenson said. “With their 3-on-2 blitz packages, any time they did that they caught us off guard. There’s stuff in there that we haven’t practiced.”

Here and there: While the intensity was nowhere near that of last December, the pace of Tuesday’s scrimmage was brisk and the competition was spirited. “There was a lot of bad blood out there still from the championship game, so it was good for us to grind it out,” Central senior running back/ safety Michael Balsamo said. “We saw them last year this time in the preseason and we all told them if they made it we’d see them in the playoffs.” … Injuries curtailed a couple of key players from participating or staying in the scrimmage. Xaverian right tackle and UMass commit Joe Parsons was held out and is listed as day-to-day. Also, Central lineman Jorge Elias missed the last half of the proceedings after having a Hawks player fall on his ankle. … How do you improve on a Super Bowl season? For Central four-year returning starting quarterback Michael Milano, that means an increased leadership role. “He always was a leader, but he’s taken that to a new level this year,” Adamopoulos said. “It’s really impressive. He did it all for us last season.” … Reflecting on his team’s progress through the first week-plus of the preseason, Adamopoulos had this to offer about the top-ranked Hawks: “They deserve to be ranked where they are; we don’t.” The No. 2 Raiders have another tuneup scheduled Friday at Mansfield. “Last year, at this time, we weren’t what we were at the end of last year,” Adamopoulos said. “There’s a long way to go.”

Top 25 Countdown: Nos. 5-1

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
Last Monday, we unveiled our fifth annual statewide preseason Top 25 poll. Today, we continue our annual countdown of the poll with our final installment, featuring our top five teams.

In case you missed our earlier installments: 25-21 | 20-16 | 15-11 | 10-6

Coach: John Andreoli (11th year, 92-31)
Last season: Division 2 state finalists, lost 28-14 to Mansfield
Returning starters: 11 (4 offense, 7 defense)
Key returners: Davon Jones, Sr., RB/DB, 5-10, 185 lbs; Sam Norton, Sr., DT, 5-9, 210 lbs, Nick Calvano, Sr., WR/DB, 5-7, 175 lbs; Shane Combs, Sr., QB/RB/DB, 6-1, 210 lbs.
Strengths: Defense, physical strength
Weaknesses: Experience
Outlook: Another year, another deep and talented starting lineup boasted by the Pioneers, last year’s Central Mass. Division 2 champion. The Pioneers lost some major contributors off of last year’s team, including all-state quarterback Andrew Smiley, but coach John Andreoli is confident especially in the ability Combs, Jones, and Calvano to make big plays on the offensive side of the ball. Currently, Combs is splitting equal reps at quarterback with Tim Cassidy. “The jury is still out,” Andreoli said on the quarterback decision, “Both he and Tim Cassidy are taking equal snaps. They both have very different’s a different look when each one of them is in there.” Jones, a hard-hitting Boston College-committed safety, has proven to be one of the state’s top players over the past couple of years, but it’s his on the field leadership that is standing out so far this fall. Jones is the only four-year starter in the history of the program. “The thing that impresses me most about him is that he's really assumed a leadership position, with the way he conducts himself on the field, and the way he takes control of the defense,” Andreoli said, “And offensively the level of maturity that he has brought takes him to the next level.” Several players have found a way to make a name for themselves early on in camp, partly too because of the work they put in over the offseason. Andreoli said that this year’s team has the most physical strength collectively of any squad that he’s coached at St. John’s: “The amount of guys that we had were able to bench 185 for multiple reps was the most we ever had here. That's kind of been the foundation as the first thing. On the defensive side of the ball, our secondary has really shown a tremendous amount of speed, athleticism, and physicality in our first week.” Keep a close eye on Marc-Eddy Paul, Michael Corinna, Mitch Earley, and Sam Kloczkowski – all of whom have made a big early impact early on in practice.

Coach: Michael Redding (27th, 217-66-4)
2013 Record: 13-0, Division 2 State Champions
Returning Starters: 11 (5 offensive, 6 defensive)
Key Players: Brendan Hill, Sr. TE/SE 6-5, 228 lbs; Mike Carpino, Sr. OL/DL 5-9, 210 lbs; Tyler Smith, Sr. OL 6-1, 205 lbs; Andrew Horstmann, Sr. OL 6-2, 225 lbs; Curtis Boisvert, Sr. RB/DB 5-8, 180 lbs; Joe Moreshead, Sr. LB 5-10, 180 lbs; Q'ra Guichard, Sr. LB 5-8, 195 lbs; Connor Finerty, Jr. LB 5-11, 195 lbs; Nick Borsari, Sr. DL 6-2, 270 lbs; C.J. Daniel, Sr. LB 5-11, 170 lbs.
Strengths: Offensive line, linebackers, defensive line, running backs/receivers
Weaknesses: Inexperience in the secondary, adapting offense to personnel
Outlook: The Hornets completed their own version of a revenge tour last year, turning a loss in the 2012 D2 EMass Finals into an undefeated 2013 season and winning the first ever Division 2 State Championship. The biggest concern for the Hornets will come on offense and finding the pieces to replace quarterback Kyle Wisnieski, receivers Michael Hershman and Kyle Hurley and the elusive Miguel Villar-Perez. But to counter that, Mansfield possesses one of the most talented tight ends in the entire state in Brendan Hill, a member of the ESPNBoston Preseason All-State Team. Hill, who has received interest from multiple D1 programs, will likely garner the majority of attention from defenses so Mansfield will need to develop other options. Matt Carafa will likely step in and be QB1 for the Hornets while Curtis Boisvert will see a good amount of carries out of the backfield. Last year, Michael Redding talked about having some inexperience on the offensive line but this year they return three starters – Carpino, Smith, and Horstmann – and will rely on their line to help carry the offense. Defensively, the front seven is very strong led by linebackers Q'Ra Guichard and Joe Moreshead, arguably two of the more underrated players in the Hockomock League. They also return linebackers Connor Finerty and CJ Daniel as well as Brendan Hill and Nick Borsari, who will both be on the defensive line. The question on defense will be about replacing the strong defensive backs they had a season ago, led by Mike Barresi and Aurien Dawkins. Boisvert will likely be called on to be the anchor of that group. It won't be an easy start either for Mansfield as they begin the season on the road in New York against powerhouse Archbishop Stepinac.

Head Coach: John DiBiaso (23rd season at Everett, 271-66-1 overall)
2013: 8-2, lost Division 1 North final to Central Catholic
Returning starters: 13 (6 offense, 7 defense)
Key Players: Lukas Denis, Sr. Ath./DB, 6-0, 175 lbs.; Nick Orekoya, Sr. RB, 5-10, 200 lbs.; J.J. Colimon, Jr. TE/DL, 6-4, 250 lbs.; Erick Browne, Sr. OT/DT, 6-3, 270 lbs.; Mark Cardwell, Sr. 6-0, 225 lbs.; Jordan McAfee, Soph. QB.
Strengths: Athleticism in offensive and defensive backfield; size and physicality on offensive line.
Weaknesses: Lack of game experience at key positions.
Outlook: Perhaps more than any Everett team in recent memory, this year’s edition of the Tide is full of X-factors. The hype is abundant, but there are lingering questions. The athletic potential is apparent, but there’s a lack of on-field experience together. The one surefire thing the Crimson Tide do have returning is Lukas Denis, who joined the long lineage of Everett defensive backs to give their commitment to Boston College. Denis, who’s on-ball coverage skills are unparalleled in the region, will again be relied upon heavily as a hybrid back/wide receiver. Of course, that too depends on which form Everett’s offense will take. There are big things predicted for sophomore signal-caller Jordan McAfee whose yet to make a start. Meanwhile, Billerica transfer Nick Orekoya provides a stout presence at running back – one that can both break tackles and out-run hits. On defense, the Crimson Tide are short on game experience at linebacker, but should be able to generate on the pass rush with senior Mark Cardwell.

Head Coach: Chuck Adamopoulos (18th season, 123-62)
2013: 11-1, won Division 1 State championship
Returning starters: 11 (5 offense, 6 defense)
Key Players: Michael Milano, Sr. QB, 6-1, 170 lbs.; Michael Balsamo, Sr. RB/S, 6-1, 202 lbs.; Markus Edmunds, Sr. RB/ILB, 5-11, 210 lbs.; Jorge Elias, Sr. G/DT, 6-0, 215 lbs.; Pat Dziedzic, Sr. OT/DT, 6-1, 220 lbs.; Dan MacDonald, Sr. OT/DT, 6-3, 260 lbs.; Justin Landry, Sr. C/ NG, 5-11, 270 lbs.
Strengths: Experience at quarterback, inside linebacker and safety; defensive front seven; big game experience.
Weaknesses: Lack of game experience at wide receiver and outside linebacker; kicking game.
Outlook:The Raiders rolled through Everett and Xaverian on the Road to Gillette and snuck up on some observers – we’re included – en route to the state’s first true state championship in Division 1. This year, they’ll be the targeted team, with a good mix of returning key contributors from last year’s title team. The added good news for Central is that many of its returning starters are back at its most important positions. That includes senior four-year starting quarterback Michael Milano, who was among the statistical statewide leaders in just about every category during last year’s playoffs. “He led our team in rushing last year and, I think for the people that followed us every week, that while [Cody] Demers made a lot of the big plays, Michael [Milano] did a lot of the things that made us successful, making such a big jump from his sophomore to his junior season.” The Raiders also return a few key members of its vaunted 3-4 defense, including free safety Michael Balsamo and inside linebacker Markus Edmunds. Edmunds, who led the team in tackles last year while eclipsing the century mark, will be working beside a new-look linebacking corps, but “I don’t know if he’s going to have a better year statistically this year because he was so good last year, but he’s going to have a lot more on his shoulders. We had two seniors at outside linebacker last year, who were both pretty smart kids as football players and they helped him make calls. So he’s got a little bit more on him in a leadership role.”

Coach: Charlie Stevenson (21st season, 172-62-1)
2013: 10-2, lost in Division 1 State Championship
Returning Starters: 15 (6 offense, 9 defense)
Key Returnees: Joe Gaziano, Sr. TE/DE, 6-4, 242 lbs.; Damion Wood, Sr. WR/FS, 5-11, 200 lbs.; Joe Parsons, Sr. OT/DT, 6-5, 285 lbs.; Jake Farrell, Sr. QB, 6-3, 185 lbs.; Noah Sorrento, Sr. RB/OLB, 5-9, 185 lbs.; Kenny Kern, Sr. FB/MLB, 6-0, 227 lbs.; Elijah Pierre, Jr. OL/NG, 6-0, 260 lbs.; Mekhi Henderson, Soph. CB, 5-9, 175 lbs.; D'Aundre Holmes, Jr. RB/FB/OLB, 5-11, 205 lbs.; Coby Tippett, Jr. WR/CB, 5-9, 165 lbs.; Ernest Simon, Sr. WR/CB, 5-9, 180 lbs.; Nick Allsop, Jr. C/DT, 6-3, 248 lbs.
Strengths: Defense, experience at quarterback, skill position depth
Weaknesses: Experience at offensive line.
Outlook: There’s no hiding it, and there’s no way the coaching staff can sandbag it: This defense is going to be pretty good. Led by the Northwestern-bound Gaziano, the reigning ESPN Boston Defensive Player of the Year, the Hawks return virtually everyone defensively, and are solid at just about every position in the front seven. The strength of the defense may lay in the secondary, where the Coastal Carolina-bound Wood has been playing with a violent chip so far this preseason, and the quick-twitched Henderson figures to be the top draw at corner after a promising freshman campaign. "He’s a fierce competitor," Stevenson said of Wood. "He likes to make plays against the opponent, and I think he’s serious about that. He’s playing hard when he’s out there, that’s a good thing to have." Offensively, the Hawks have a few holes to fill, but on the right side they should be fine with the UMass-bound Parsons returning at right tackle. Gaziano was mostly used in-line for run support last season, but the Hawks have so far experimented with him in a "flex" role, lining him up in the slot or splitting him out wide. He made a few dazzling grabs in Saturday’s scrimmage with B-R, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the traditionally conservative Hawks don’t get him more involved in the passing game this fall. "When he gets inside a cornerback, that’s a big body for the cornerback to come through," Stevenson said. "He’s a big guy who can run and catch, and once he catches the ball –- I’m not gonna say he’s quick –- but he brings a pretty good load with him. Clearly, we’re going to get him more involved in our pass attack." Farrell, a baseball star during the spring, is entering his second year under center and demonstrates above-average arm strength. He won’t be depended upon to run the ball, with the entire backfield back, but his improvisational skills are noteworthy.
Central Catholic junior safety Mike Balsamo received his second Division 1 FCS offer, from Wofford College, head coach Chuck Adamopoulos told this afternoon.

The Terriers are the second FCS program this week to offer the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Balsamo, one of the Bay State's top defensive back prospects for the 2015 class. Balsamo was an All-Merrimack Valley Conference selection at defensive back, as the Raiders won the inaugural MIAA Division 1 State Championship, the program's first bowl victory since 1998.

Balsamo visited the Spartanburg, S.C. campus yesterday.

"They loved his film, and indicated it would be worth it to go down there for one day," Adamopoulous said.

Central Catholic LBs pull their weight

December, 7, 2013

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Even without Shayne Kaminski, Xaverian's rushing attack was still strong enough to pose massive problems for Central Catholic in last night's Division 1 title game.

Insert Central linebackers Nick Boes and Markus Edmunds: Xaverian's problem.

Edmunds and Boes combined for 10 1/2 tackles and played a major role in shutting down Noah Sorrento and holding the Hawks to 122 total rushing yards.

“We practiced they're plays all week so we knew what they were going to run,” Boes said. “We knew they were a good team but we knew we'd have to keep battling. The defensive tackles set the edge along with our outside linebackers. They kept them inside and we made plays.”

After Sorrento scored in the second quarter to cut the Central lead to 13-7, the tandem buckled down. Sorrento was held to only 48 yards on the night. Boes and Edmunds also both got through to hassle Xaverian quarterback Jake Farrell.

“Our unsung guy is Nick Boes,” Central coach Chuck Adamopoulos said. “He's inside their with Markus and he's been consistent all season for us. They played well today.”

Central won the battle of wills by game's end, but Xaverian pressed the physicality throughout. It took a few key stops in the fourth quarter by Central to close out the game.

“The lineman hit very hard; the running backs hit very hard, obviously,” Edmunds said. “They're an excellent all-around football team.”

The on-field chemistry is a byproduct of the close relationship Boes and Edmunds have off the field. Boes and Edmunds have played together dating back to their time on the J.V. squad in 2011.

“Nick and I are best friends,” Edmunds said. “We know each other very well.”

Edmunds pitched in on the offensive side of the ball as well. The junior rushed the ball five times for 64 yards, including runs of 22 and 26 yards that led to the touchdown that clinched Central's win.

“I love being able to contribute to the team any way I can,” Edmunds said. “The blocking on the perimeter was great.”

As far as winning Central's first state title in 15 years, Edmunds and Boes said that this was dream and capturing it was sweet.

“Before the season this was the ultimate, but we knew it would be tough,” Edmunds said. “We knew we'd have to buckle down to win the game. The feeling's indescribable.”

“This is one of the greatest feelings I've ever experienced in my life,” Boes said.

D1 final: Central Catholic 34, Xaverian 17

December, 7, 2013

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie rushed for 119 yards and three touchdowns to lead Central Catholic to its third Super Bowl title and first since 1998. The Raiders held off Xaverian, 34-17, in the Division I championship game at Gillette Stadium.

Central Catholic head coach Chuck Adamopoulos noted that his team has the belief that it can beat anyone in the state and showed that it can by beating Everett in the DI North final and then Xaverian on Saturday.

“They just keep pulling out games and they’ve gotten better as the year has gone on,” explained Adamopoulos. “They have a lot of confidence and they believe that they can play with anyone. We had to beat two really good programs to win this; two of the marquee programs in the state.”

The Raiders jumped out to a great start, scoring on their first two possessions. Junior quarterback Michael Milano (6 of 13, 81 yards, 2 TD) capped a 10-play, 64-yard drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Manning.

Central Catholic forced a second three and out on the next Hawks possession and Blades Shields raced into the backfield to block the punt, which set up the Raiders at the Xaverian 24. Two plays later, Drummond-Mayrie scored the first of his touchdowns on an eight-yard run.

“That was huge … at that point it was definitely a huge factor to getting that two touchdown lead,” said Adamopoulos. “Letting us play with the lead was big.”

Xaverian’s offense kicked into gear on its next possession with an 11-play, 71-yard drive that ended in a Noah Sorrento touchdown that made it 13-7, but the Raiders did not allow the Hawks to have momentum for long.

Drummond-Mayrie, a University of New Hampshire-commit, took off on a 52-yard touchdown run that restored a two-score lead for Central Catholic.

“There was a huge hole and then I just saw the corner come up one-on-one and I knew if I made a move that I would get tackled,” described the senior. “I got yelled at earlier this season for putting a move on, so I just ran him over and looked at the screen to see how close they were and just sprinted.”

His head coach admitted that he is going to miss the running back both on the field as a presence in the locker room.

“He’s one of my favorite kids that I’ve ever coached,” remarked Adamopoulos. “I said to him that this was going to be his day and he responded on offense, on defense…UNH is getting a great player.”

A Joe Gaziano 30-yard field goal made the score 20-10 at the half. Xaverian then made a stop on the Raiders opening possession, but a Hawks player unnecessarily tried to cover the punt and the Raiders grabbed the loose ball to regain possession at the Xaverian 32. Three snaps later, Drummond-Mayrie scored again and made it 27-10.

At the start of the fourth quarter, Xaverian looked like it may have some more magic like it had in the second half comeback against Attleboro in the semifinal. An interception by D’Aundre Holmes gave the Hawks the ball at the Raiders 22. On the next play, Jake Farrell (6-19, 80 yards, 10 carries for 47 yards) hit A.J. King for a touchdown to bring them back within 10 points.

Xaverian would get the ball back, but the Raiders defense made several key plays to force another three and out. The Hawks offense, playing without stars D.J. Sperzel and Shayne Kaminski, could not sustain drives and struggled against the hard-hitting Raiders.

“Well, I would’ve liked to have an offensive turnaround right there,” said Xaverian head coach Charlie Stevenson about the fourth quarter sequence. “The clock was kind of against us and, you know, we give them credit. They made the plays on both sides of the ball when they needed to.”

He added, “I thought they were a good football team; they outplayed us. I congratulate them; they deserved to win the game tonight. We had a hard time matching up with them all over the board.”

Central Catholic wrapped up the victory with a highlight-reel catch by senior wide receiver Cody Demers for a 19-yard touchdown with just 2:33 remaining.

Drummond-Mayrie noted, “We’re kind of used to it but we kind of like it - being the underdog, coming from behind, picking everybody off one-by-one and it just makes the win that much better.”

Recap: Central Catholic 44, Andover 18

November, 28, 2013
LAWRENCE, Mass. – Central Catholic’s Cody Demers earned his turkey, all of the sides, and two slices of pie.

The senior scored a pair of touchdowns, racked up 266 total yards, including an 86-yard interception return that salted the game away, as Central Catholic rolled past Andover 44-18 in front 2,500 people at Lawrence Stadium.

“A lot of the newspapers thought we were going to look past Andover so we wanted to come out early and definitely win this game,” Demers said. “We didn't want to look past this team. Nothing would satisfy them more than to beat us on our field on Thanksgiving.”

Demers' interception came after he read a screen pass perfectly out of E.J. Perry's hands, scooped it off the ground and sprinted down the sideline. Perry forced Demers out of bounds at the two.

“I saw someone coming out in the flat, he overthrew him and I picked it off,” Demers said. “I got into the footrace with the quarterback. Huge momentum change for our team especially when they're driving like that. I'm not going to lie, I started cramping towards the end.”

Andover put together a 98-yard drive for a touchdown to score first, but after that it was all Raiders. Central scored three touchdowns and controlled the line of scrimmage to take a 24-6 lead into the half.

Demers stole the show, reeling in a 36-yard touchdown pass from Mike Milano and running 80 yards on a sweep for another score.

“He's a big-play guy,” Central head coach Chuck Adamopoulos said of Demers. “When we needed a little giddy up on offense he came through with a big play. The kid's love him. He's a scraper; he's a tough little bugger.”

Milano was economical with his passes, but each one played a key role in Central's win. Milano only completed six balls but two of those were for touchdowns and three others went for first downs.

Milano also added a winding 30-yard touchdown run.

“He's just a gutsy, clutch kid,” Adamopoulos said of Milano. “He's just a junior. I'm happy we've got him back next year.”

After Andover's touchdown in the first quarter the Raider defense locked down. The running attack of Oliver Eberth and Jack Sylvester could not get through Central's front seven until late in the game when Adamopoulos had benched his starters.

Adamopoulos said that holding contain was the key and that his team did that.

“Discipline on defense on your backside pursuit has to stay along the line of scrimmage,” Adamopoulos said. “The wind was a factor; when you were against it it was hard to throw the ball.

“The key was control the third quarter and we did that. The kids did a good job. Our defense has continued to play well.”

Even in the postgame celebrations the word “Xaverian” was rarely heard as the Raiders wanted to savor beating their archrival.

“It's the seniors last time on this field,” Demers said. “We wanted to leave our mark.”

D1 North Final: Central Cath. 20, Everett 14

November, 16, 2013
EVERETT, Mass. -- Cody Demers started this one in the hurt locker. He ended it on cloud nine.

His 24-yard touchdown catch with two minutes to go, against one of the state's most intimidating and highly-regarded defensive backs, will go down forever in Central Catholic folklore as one of the program's all-time defining moments, a 20-14 stunner over juggernaut Everett for the inaugural MIAA Division 1 North title and trip to Gillette Stadium for next month's first-ever true state championship.

"We've been coming out from lifting, to practicing, to two-a-days, everything, we've just been coming out full of heart," said Demers. "Anything can happen, and we wanted to make our stand and come back as a team."

[+] EnlargeCody Demers
Jim Valente for ESPNBoston.comCody Demers was shaken up early, but made the game-winning touchdown catch late as Central Catholic shocked Everett.
It was how it got to that point, however, that might have been the most impressive. Demers took a beating at wide receiver and kick returner, taking on a series of brutal blows, none more violent than the one laid on him by Crimson Tide linebacker C.J. Parvelus up the middle returning a kickoff in the second quarter. A feeling of weightlessness overcame him for a brief moment as he lay face down in the turf.

"Honestly, it was a shot. I was running the ball, I thought I was gonna get a block, I forget who it was, but he just popped me, and my whole body went flat," Demers explained. "Like I dunno, I can’t even explain it. It was an incredible hit. I tried getting up, but I got up too quick and I was dizzy."

Demers was sidelined for five plays, before returning to the field and later helping the Raiders in their winning rally.

It started late in the third quarter, when quarterback Mike Milano pulled off a perfectly-executed veer, put the ball in the belly of University of New Hampshire commit D'Andre Drummond-Mayrie for the dive, then pulling it and racing 60 yards off the edge up the middle of the field, for the touchdown and 14-7 lead with :54 to go in the stanza.

"We knew the whole game, they were crashing [linebacker Josh Palmer] off the edge hard," Milano said. "D'Andre told me before the play, 'You know that kid's gonna crash, so make sure you make the right read'. So I made the right read, pulled it, and then it was one-on-one with [Parvelus]. D'Andre made a great fake, everybody flowed to him, and it was one-on-one."

Everett responded with a 12-play, 70-yard drive that was kept alive with a huge break on third and 12 from the Raiders 37. Quarterback Raheem Wingard's pass to Joe D'Onofrio was initially tipped by Raiders linebacker Jon Parsons, but sailed over his head into D'Onofrio's bread basket for a 20-yard gain. Four plays later, Marquis Holman rumbled in from a yard out, then the Tide converted a swinging gate play on the point after for the 15-14 lead with 7:12 to go.

Central had a chance to go ahead on its next drive, when Milano completed a 56-yard screen pass to Markus Edmunds, giving them first and goal at the five after a tacked-on facemask call. But on the very next play, Palmer stripped the ball from Drummond-Mayrie and fell on it. A quick three-and-out and shanked punt, however, gave the Raiders another fortunate bounce, with starting field position at the Tide 36.

This time, they capitalized.

Three plays into the drive, on third and five, Drummond fumbled, but the ball rolled seven yards forward, and lineman Brad Marggraf pounced on it to keep the drive alive. Two plays later, Demers gave them the lead for good.

Isolated to the left, in a formation newly installed this week, Demers ran a "sluggo" (slant-and-go) route against Everett's Lubern Figaro, bouncing to the outside and leaning into the highly-touted Wisconsin commit as he tried to jam him to the sideline. At the near pylon, Demers came across Figaro's face and slipped underneath his hands, drawing pass interference as he laid out for the diving touchdown catch.

"That's our big home run play," Demers said. "When that play was called, I couldn't wait."

Everett stalled on its potential game-winning drive at midfield, a last-ditch attempt at a pass landing at Lukas Denis for a 20-yard gain as time expired, as the Central side went into a frenzy.

Drummond-Mayrie was asked about the most important defensive techniques against the Tide's offense, and like the Milano 60-yard score, he veered off. He didn't bite his tongue when he played the tried and true "no respect" card that has become commonplace in these increasingly-heated playoff games, and let it rip.

"We knew it was going to be a scrappy game, when we met the captains [at midfield, for the coin toss], they were eyeing us down," he said. "They didn't have respect for us. We knew we had to come out here and earn their respect...They didn't think we belonged here."

Asked if there was conversation headed into the game that indicated this sentiment from Everett, Drummond-Mayrie said, "No, it was all in their body language."

"It makes it that much sweeter, that much better. I have so much respect for their program, I have no hard feelings at the end of the game. It was a scrappy game, that's how football is. Great team, with great players, but the better team won today. I took some hits, but we gave some hits too."

By now, Demers' gritty performances have become customary around the Central program.

"That's just the type of kid he is," Raiders head coach Chuck Adamopoulos said. "That's his personality, he's thinks he should be able to beat anyone on a pass. He's just a playmaker, a spunky kid."

Said Drummond-Mayrie, "He's the toughest kid I know. He's small, but he packs a punch. That's why he's the best player on this team. That's why I look up to him so much. He's just a great person."


CC --- 0 - 0 - 14 - 6 --- 20
EV --- 0 - 7 - 0 - 8 --- 14

Second Quarter
E - Marquis Holman 1 run (Matheus Varela kick) 6:06

Third Quarter
C - D'Andre Drummond-Mayrie 1 run (Paul Karamourtopoulos kick) 3:24
C - Mike Milano 60 run (Karamantopoulos kick) :54

Fourth Quarter
E - Holman 1 run (James Hunt run) 7:12
C - Cody Demers 24 pass from Milano (pass failed) 2:10

D1 North: Central Catholic 35, A-B 0

November, 9, 2013
LAWRENCE, Mass. -– In last night's Division 1 North semifinal between Central Catholic and Acton-Boxborough both teams turned the ball over four times. Central was the only one who capitalized.

The Raiders turned a pair of A-B turnovers into 14 points and stomped the Colonials 35-0 to earn a berth in next weekend's D1 North final against Everett.

The Raiders fumbled the ball five times and lost four, the defense stepped up and held A-B each time. The Colonials were unable to break into Central's red zone until the last possession of the game and that ended with a Hunter Arnold pass getting intercepted in the end zone by Nick Boes. It was Boes' second interception of the game and fourth of the playoffs.

Boes and Markus Edmunds led the Central attack from the middle and turned Acton's rock-hard offense into a gravel pit. The Raiders held the Colonials to 143 yards.

“Normally five fumbles spells doom,” Central coach Chuck Adamopoulos said. “Each time we turned the ball over the defense picked us up and did the job.

“[Markus is] one of the best linebackers around; he really is. Every week we does what you saw tonight. He's our leader, but Nick Boes has played really well. The guys up front have been doing the job. We rotate guys in at defensive line and our nose guard, George Elias, has really come on. To shut out a team like that the defense played really well.”

Central quarterback Mike Milano had a rough game early, fumbling the ball away twice in just over 11 minutes, but he buckled down and piloted the offense to 341 yards. Milano went 8-for-12 for 161 yards. His 57-yard touchdown pass to Dan Wilson early in the third quarter put the Raiders up 28-0 and salted the game away.

Milano also rushed for 75 yards and Central's third touchdown, just before the half.

“I had a lot of misreads, and fumbles, today, and my teammates picked me right back up,” Milano said. “We just kept our composure, stayed confident and played hard.”

In the trenches you have to get dirty, and Central's line did just that. The Raiders' line was able to open hole and the bevy of tailbacks to get into the secondary untouched.

Their shining moment came when they opened up a nearly five-yard hole for D'Andre Drummond-Mayrie, who ran 50 yards, untouched, for his second touchdown.

“If look at those touchdowns [there were] huge gaping holes,” Drummond-Mayrie said. “They had a huge game.”

Keyed by senior Joe Brown, the line on both sides staked their claim to the real estate early and never sold.

“Our offensive line, the last few weeks, has really played well,” Adamopoulos said. “I think they're starting to come into their own.”

The MIAA this season has been lucky enough to have seen it's share of spectacular kick returns, and Cody Demers added one of his own in the second quarter.

Demers fielded the ball at his own 40-yard line, run over the near hash, stuttered and cut in the middle of a pack of defenders, and ran all the way home. The score broke a scoreless deadlock early in the second quarter.

“I caught the ball and went up to the middle of the field, and I had so many good blocks I kind of froze up,” Demers said. “I wanted to make a move somewhere and I just saw daylight and went for it. Incredibly momentum booster for our team.”

Demers also intercepted a pass in the second quarter, and reeled in three balls for 44 yards receiving.

Everett. In the world of MIAA football everyone knows it as a synonym for dominance and success. The Crimson Tide are up next for Central Catholic, and the Raiders said they are ready to embrace the challenge.

Adamopoulos said that playing such a formidable schedule thus far, even going back to include scrimmages against Reading, Xaverian, and Mansfield, will help his team next weekend.

“We've got a huge test next week,” Adamopoulos said. “They're a great program, and it's going to be exciting to play them.”

“They've had a history of being great,” Demers said. “If you want to be the king you've got to be the king."

Recap: No. 12 Central Catholic 14, No. 16 Lowell 12

October, 12, 2013

LAWRENCE, Mass. –- Defense was the story on Friday night as Central Catholic and Lowell locked horns in a battle of Merrimack Valley Conference Division 1 powers.

Both teams proved that the MVC is more than just high-powered offenses as Central Catholic outlasted Lowell 14-12 to remain in first place in the MVC D1 and also maintain favorable position in the Division 1 playoff picture.

“Both defenses played awesome tonight,” Central Catholic coach Chuck Adamopoulos said after the game. “It was a hard-hitting game and the kids came up with the plays when we needed them.”

With both squads coming off bye weeks the preparation on both sidelines was evident. Early in the game the battle for field position was crucial, as three-and-outs and defensive stands were becoming increasingly popular.

“It was a weird game,” Adamopoulos said. “The atmosphere was strange at times. Both teams were just treading water back and forth.”

After a scoreless first quarter both teams would find the end zone in the second as Central Catholic quarterback Mike Milano, who was 12-of-23 for 175 yards passing, and two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing), would cap off the only scoring drive for Central in the first half, when he took it in from 10 yards out to give Central a 7-0 lead.

Milano’s touchdown with 5:43 remaining in the first half was answered by Lowell as quarterback Brian Dolan would hit wide receiver Jack Galvin on a deep slant, over the middle, for a 27-yard touchdown strike on third-and-20 with 3:08 remaining in the half. A failed extra point attempt would preserve Central’s 7-6 lead.

“We made some big defensive stands,” Adamopoulos said. “I thought in the first quarter that they had the field position the whole time and our defense came up really huge at the beginning of the game and set the tone.”

Central Catholic wide receiver and return man Cody Demers would provide the necessary lift in the first half as he hauled in 97 of his game-high 127 receiving yards in the opening half, to go with some big returns and an important touchdown-drive-preserving fumble recovery.

The second half of play was eerily similar to the first as both teams played to a scoreless third quarter, with many of the same penalties and field position dilemmas repeating themselves again for both teams.

The scoreless second half would end when Milano found running back D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie on a big touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter.

The University of New Hampshire commit made one of the plays of the game as he leaped to haul in Milano’s pass, spun away from a would-be tackler, and split two more to find the end zone on a 32-yard touchdown reception to give Central a 14-6 lead with 8:29 remaining in the game.

Lowell would answer back again on the following possession as running back Ngaiiva Mason (80 yards rushing) would take it in from 20 yards out to cut the lead to 14-12. A failed conversion attempt would leave the score at 14-12.

The Punt: One of the biggest plays of the game occurred in the final minutes of the game as Central Catholic punter Dan Wilson blasted a punt that netted 66 yards and was downed on the Lowell 4-yard line. The punt helped Central Catholic flip the field with time running out in the game.

“Danny is an awesome kid and that is his biggest punt of the season,” Adamopoulos said. “It could not have come at a better time. We were punting from our end and they have a great player at kick returner. The punt was big and the coverage got down to down it. It made defense a lot easier for that last minute.

Sealing the Win: After Wilson’s punt Central Catholic came up with their final defensive stand as defensive back Mike Balsamo made the game-sealing interception to preserve the victory.

“Mike Balsamo came up with a huge interception and Gavin Anderson, on that same play I thought, gave us some great coverage,” Adamopoulos said. “Mike came over from his safety spot in good position and made the pick.”

Balsmo’s play capped off a nice night for the junior as he continued to produce on both sides of the ball all game long.

“I saw him rolling out and just read the quarterback and played the ball,” Balsamo said. “It all comes down to practice and we worked real hard these two weeks to prepare.”

Lowell received strong games from linebacker Shy Cullen (2 Sacks) and Galvin (Seven catches, 141 yards).

“They are tough,” Adamopoulos said of Lowell. “There is a real good chance we will play each other again in a few weeks.”

Central was led defensively by the strong inebacker play of Markus Edmunds and Cam Manning.
LAWRENCE, Mass. -- Bragging rights and an inside track to the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 1 crown are on the line Friday in this week's Game of the Week.

No. 16 Lowell travels to No. 12 Central Catholic and we're ramping up the ante, unveiling a new feature in our Week 6 preview, brought to you by Sports Authority and the Bay State Games.

Scott Barboza and Brendan Hall break down all this week's action, with a little help from the "BHallestrator" -- taking a look at several key matchups for Friday's game.

That and much more in this week's view from Central Catholic, including interviews with the Raiders' Joe Brown, Cody Demers, D'Andre Drummond-Mayrie, and head coach Chuck Adamopoulos:

(Produced by Greg Story)

Recap: No. 14 Central Catholic 26, Andover 7

September, 28, 2013
ANDOVER, Mass. – “Nice bounce back win,” Central Catholic head coach Chuck Adamopoulos told his team after the game.

After dropping a 40-21 contest to St. John’s Prep last week, No. 14 Central Catholic (3-1) rebounded on Friday night with a 26-7 win over Merrimack Valley Conference rival and traditional Thanksgiving Day foe Andover (1-2).

“Last week we ran into a great running back,” Adamopoulos said after the game. “He did not make us look good but we have played pretty good defense all season.”

St. John’s Prep running back Johnny Thomas ran for 228 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s win over Central. Adamopoulos praised his defense’s effort in focusing all week in practice and holding Andover’s offense in check on Friday.

“We pride ourselves in our defense,” Adamopoulos said. “We have played three very good teams so far this season.”

Central held Andover to just 56 yards of total offense in the first half and shut the Golden Warriors out until the 1:45 mark of the fourth quarter.

Central was led by running back D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie, who gained 57 yards on 13 carries and did the majority of his work in the first half. Drummond-Mayrie also added a rushing touchdown and was a force on defense from his safety position. The Univ. of New Hampshire-bound senior had a fumble recovery and interception to go with a strong game playing against the run.

“He played well,” Adamopulus said. “I liked his run support today. He was coming up well against the run.”

Central also received a strong two-way effort from junior running back Markus Edmunds (8 rushes for 46 yards), who scored the first touchdown of the game on a 4-yard off tackle run, to start the second quarter.

“It was nice to get started early,” Edmunds said. “We worked hard all week and came in ready to play from the start.”

Complementing his work on the ground Edmunds stood tall from his linebacker position, leading a Central unit that did not budge on the line of scrimmage all night.

In a game of field position, Central Catholic took advantage of the short fields to help them mount four successful finishing drives.

“I thought our punt coverage was awesome,” Adamopoulos noted. “We played on their side of the field all game, which is a good thing. Our punter Danny Wilson also came up with big punts for us when we needed them.”

Mike Balsamo also played well for Central as he controlled a big fourth-quarter drive with his work on the ground, capped off with a 21-yard touchdown run.

Senior linebackers Will Eikenberry and John Oteri had strong games leading the Andover defense on the night, while freshman quarterback E.J. Perry hit Christopher Nicholas from three yards out for the only Andover score.

Milano bounces back strong: Junior quarterback Mike Milano dusted off some early-game rust and an early injury as he came back in to settled down and lead the Central offense.

“He is a tough competitor,” Adamopoulos said of his veteran signal-caller.

Milano would hit wide receiver Cam Manning for a 42-yard strike in the second quarter that set up a Drummond-Mayrie 5-yard touchdown run that gave Central a 14-0 lead.

Milano also hooked up with senior Cody Demers on a 35-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, as Demers would catch a sideline route and outrun the Andover defense to the end-zone.

Loss of Sylvester: Andover running back and return-man Jack Sylvester led the Golden Warriors offense on the night, despite being ejected in the third quarter after receiving his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of the game.

The controversial ejection, which occurred after a discussion with the official, took place at a tough time for the Golden Warriors as they were beginning to mount a drive against the stingy Central defense.

Sylvester gained 44 yards from scrimmage for Andover on the night and did a nice job in the return game.