Boston High School: Craig Hanley

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Dennis-Yarmouth quarterback Matt Montalto strode on to the field at Gillette Stadium for his first series under center during Friday’s Shriners Eastern Mass. All-Star hoping to get the South squad’s offense churning.

During his career with the Dolphins, which he guided to a Division 2A Super Bowl championship in the fall, Montalto had a knack for the big play. So when he aired out a pass to BC High receiver Gordon McLeod on a skinny post over the middle during the second quarter, it’s no surprise it inspired awe.

Even if Montalto feels he had little to do with it.

“He [McLeod] was making me look good on that,” he said of the Eagles receivers’ diving catch on the play. “When I threw that ball, I thought I overthrew him and he came up huge. That was awesome.”

In short, Montalto made every moment count. His numbers weren’t gaudy, but were impressive considering his lack of reps. He completed two of five passes for 84 yards and touchdown and earned South’s Offensive MVP award.

Along with a stifling defense that combined for seven sacks on North quarterbacks, the South held on for a 15-12 win.

“I didn’t play the biggest role in that, the whole D-line did unbelievable job,” said North Attleborough’s Paul Norris, who earned the Defensive MVP nod with two sacks. “The whole rest of our team did great and played well. The defensive line just dominated that game. They controlled the line of scrimmage, they pushed them back. They made the QB step up in the pocket, which led to more sacks.

The North squad was led by ESPN Boston Mr. Football award winner and Everett quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso, who paced his team to a 6-0 lead in the second quarter with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Burlington’s Kyle Shields.

However, DiBiaso likely required ice bags by the end of the evening, as he was on the receiving end of six of the South side’s seven sacks.

South tied the game less than minute after the North’s opening score. Montalto lofted a pass for Franklin’s Rhett Davis at the goal line. Davis hauled in the 40-yard score while falling backward into the end zone with 4:22 to play in the first half. A fake on the point-after try gave South a 2-point lead with Catholic Memorial quarterback A.J. Doyle finding Bridgewater-Raynham’s Nick Schlatz in the corner of the end zone.

The South struck again before the half, forcing the North three-and-out on the ensuing possession with a key third-down sack from Schlatz. A 5-play, 56-yard drive culminating in a 2-yard touchdown run by King Philip’s Charles Ruffin had the South to a 15-6 lead, with a successful PAT from Whitman-Hanson’s David Colclough.

North score on the opening drive of the second half on a 5-yard touchdown run by Concord-Carlisle’s George Craan (North Offensive MVP). The Boston College-bound running back pounded out 56 of the North’s 66 yards on the drive.

The defensive line of the South was effective throughout and downright unstoppable at times.

No finer example was during the North’s final possession of the game. The South tallied sacks on three consecutive plays – from Braintree’s Mykel Lane, Stoughton’s Brandon Alves and Walpole’s Craig Hanley -- to thwart any comeback plans of the North

“I was scared [coming in] hearing about the North tackles, I heard that they were 300 pounds and stuff like that, these big, huge guys,” Norris quipped. “I was just thinking, ‘God help me in this game. Just let me walk out of it with no injuries.’”

Perhaps no player was as happy to be back on the playing field Friday as BC High running back Preston Cooper.

Cooper’s final high school football memory prior to the Shriners game was being carted off the field during the Eagles’ 35-21 loss to Everett on Oct. 22, when he dislocated his ankle.

After watching from the sidelines as his Eagle teammates won the Division 1 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl at Gillette, Cooper made his return to the gridiron on Friday in the same spot.

“It felt great,” the Wareham native said. “It’s always nice to come back, especially when everybody doubts you, that’s the main thing. I had fun out there, my leg felt great.”

Cooper will attend Curry College next year where he hopes to regain the attention of some of the New England-based Division 1 college programs that had expressed interest earlier.

Roundtable: Is Milford the new D1 softball favorite?

April, 20, 2012
In this week's edition of "Roundtable", ESPN Boston High Schools Editors Scott Barboza and Brendan Hall are joined by correspondent Bruce Lerch and Brockton Enterprise staff writer John Botelho as we discuss the best hitting lineups, the best faceoff specialist in lacrosse, and whether Milford is now the team to beat in softball.


ESPN Boston High Schools Editor Scott Barboza: In a word, yes. Shannon Smith is simply pitching out of her mind right now, but it's not as though we haven't seen this before from the University of Kentucky commit. Two years ago, Smith was named Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year after recording a 0.36 ERA. This year, she's been dominant, including a 20-strikeout performance against Shrewsbury and 17 K's against KP. Not to mention, the Scarlet Hawks haven't even been playing with their opening day lineup, after All-State catcher Taylor Archer suffered a leg injury in the first week of the season. Freshman Taylor LeBrun has done a terrific job behind the plate in the interim, but MIlford will only be that much more potent with their top battery in place. I'm certainly not ruling out KP, as anything short of a rematch between the two teams in the state final would be unexpected.

Bruce Lerch, correspondent: While there are several teams with good enough pitching to shut down the Scarlet Hawks bats, how many are strong enough offensively to hit against Milford ace Shannon Smith? The only team that really comes to mind is...King Philip. The Kentucky-bound Smith two-hit the Warriors and struck out 17 Monday afternoon, so you have to think they are the lead horse in the race right now. KP has hit Smith before, however, as a 10-1 result in the state championship game two years ago proves. Of course, Smith was but a freshman then, and having faced King Philip several times since then her knowledge of that dangerous lineup has grown considerably.

Oh yeah...KP also has Meghan Rico. I've heard she's a pretty good pitcher too...something about a reigning player of the year? If both aces are on their game, then the state championship softball game may have to be scheduled for more than one day

John Botelho, Brockton Enterprise: Even with Milford knocking off K-P, it's still hard to call anyone but the Warriors - the two-time defending state champ - the favorite to win it all. This means Milford might have closed the gap, but until someone proves Meghan Rico is possible to beat in the playoffs, the Warriors remain the class of softball in this state. Keep in mind how difficult it is to beat a good team twice, and chances are Milford will have to do just that if they're to bring home the state crown.


Scott Barboza: We might have seen a Division 2 Eastern Mass final matchup preview on Thursday when Concord-Carlisle and Hingham squared off in a Coaches Challenge Cup semifinal. The Patriots beat the Harbormen, 9-4, with Jackson Finigan, Tim Badgley and Kevin Delehey scoring two goals each. If both teams take care of business hereon out, we should expect to see both of them at Harvard Stadium. Of course, none of this makes mention of Dover-Sherborn. The Raiders fell just short of an upset over Lincoln-Sudbury before falling, 12-11, but they've proven their among the elite in Division 3.

Bruce Lerch: That team would Dover-Sherborn. Lincoln-Sudbury will enter the Division 1 tournament as one of the teams best suited to make a run at Duxbury, but betting against the Dragons has been mostly a losing proposition for the past decade. The six Div. 2 teams that participated in the tournament are perennially among the last teams standing in June, so while a state champion could come from this group, picking who it will be requires a crystal ball.

Dover-Sherborn has the talent to compete with the best teams in the state, something the Raiders proved three years running now at the Coaches Challenge Cup, and is likely going to snag one of the top four seeds in the Div. 3 tourney and will be included in the group of favorites that should also include Weston and Norwell.


ESPN Boston High Schools Editor Brendan Hall: I have seen both BC High and Lowell multiple times, and I don't think you can go wrong either way.

BC High can mash 1 through 9, but at the top is where they're especially dangerous. UConn signee Bob Melley is the Eagles' most powerful bat out of the No. 3 spot, but he's surrounded by plenty of college-ready talent in seniors Chuckie Connors, Justin Silvestro, Brian Hocking, and juniors Ryan Tufts and Dan Dougherty. I will put the Eagles' top six hitters against any team's top six in the state...

...Unless that top six is Lowell. The Red Raiders are only going to get stronger as the season goes on, but they're showing some real nice stuff through the first three weeks of the season. Rory O'Connor, Derek Reed and Andrew Marasa form what is regarded as the state's best outfield, but they can manufacture runs from the plate, too. Matt Tulley is headed to Virginia Tech for his low-90's fastball, but he's got a heavy swing from the cleanup spot too. My favorite hitter to watch in this lineup is senior Chad Gens, who can square up and plant it deep as good as anyone. After Lexington's Chris Shaw, he might be one of the better power hitters in Eastern Mass. I expect him to be near the top in extra base hits this year.

Also of note, take a look at Dighton-Rehoboth, which comes in this week at No. 18 this week. With a top of the order led by Bryan Rocha, Adam Benvie, Evan Mondor and Mike St. John, the Falcons are averaging 11 runs per game, including shellackings over Somerset (22-0) and Case (17-6). When it comes to manufacturing runs, you can't forget Walpole, between leadoff shortstop Johnny Adams, catcher Dan King, and brothers Cam and Craig Hanley.

John Botelho: Despite getting shutout by Marshfield for their first loss of the season on Thursday, the East Bridgewater Vikings offense is certainly among the best in southeastern Mass, and could be the class of the D3 South Sectional later this season. Even with the setback against the Rams, E-B is still averaging just over 10 runs per game.

In the Hockomock League both Oliver Ames has emerged as a team with an electric pitching staff, but the offense is plenty capable of flexing muscle too. With sweet swinging David MacKinnon - whose emerging as one of the best hitters in the Hock - hitting third and powerful Matt Harding hitting fourth, the Tigers have one of the best 3-4 combos going. Matt Mancini, Ryan O'Shea, Mike McMillan and Jim Sullivan help bolster a lineup that features plenty of hitting ability.


Scott Barboza: I think there's no doubt that Clay Richard of Medfield is the best true FOGO in the state, but as we saw during Wednesday's matchup against No. 1 Duxbury, Dragons midfielder Henry Narlee might be the best faceoff man in the state. Sqauring off against Richard and the Warriors, Narlee won an amazing 21 of 28 draws.

Bruce Lerch: The two best were on display Wednesday night in Duxbury as Medfield's Clay Richard went to work against the Dragons Henry Narlee. Richard more than held his own against Narlee in their individual battle, but in addition to the Duxbury junior's elite skill, he also has the advantage of having James Burke and Reilly Naton flying off the wings to grab every loose ball in sight. Not only is Narlee at winning the draws to himself, but is deadly accurate when shooting the ball into space for his two LSM's to chase it down.


Scott Barboza: Don't really know if this would count as such, but I'm calling Duxbury's take down of Garden City (N.Y.) this weekend. Looks like the Dragons' regained their top form in the last week. In softball, I have a feeling about Hudson taking down Shrewsbury this weekend.

Brendan Hall: Boston Latin has a two-game swing at the beginning of next month that could have big implications in the Dual County League: May 4 at Lincoln-Sudbury, and May 7 at Acton-Boxborough. The Wolfpack seem to be everyone's favorite little underdog in the league (no pun intended), but I wouldn't be surprised to see them take one of two here. L-S has some talent, but has been searching for that staff ace; meanwhile A-B has had a knack for the dramatic so far, twice winning one-run games, the latest a 1-0 decision over Waltham on Wednesday. Can Latin pull 1 of 2 here? It might depend on who's pitching.

Elsewhere, I've got May 10's matchup between No. 14 Burncoat and No. 3 St. John's of Shrewsbury circled on the calendar. The Patriots just lost their first game to Danvers the other day, while St. John's sits at 7-0 with a nice win over St. John's Prep. This is building into one of the best regular-season matchups in Central Mass., but I'm going to go with Burncoat in the upset.

John Botelho: On April 26, when No. 16 Barnstable comes to town, Bridgewater-Raynham will take a big step toward winning the Old Colony League by knocking them off in a pitcher's duel. The Trojans have to deal with league foe Dartmouth just two days before, and if the rotation stays the path it's on lefty Pat Chalmers will be throwing that game. That means fellow southpaw Shane Holmes, who has been piling up strikeouts and shutting offenses down, will take the mound against the Red Raiders. The lefty is one of the toughest in the area and B-R could come away with this one without needing much in the way of run support.

Recap: No. 23 Walpole 16, No. 21 Natick 13

November, 12, 2011

WALPOLE, Mass. -- Colton Mitchell is prone to nail a 40-yard field goal, sometimes 45, usually down the middle, in a practice at Walpole High. This, however, was anything but.

"I was very nervous," the No. 23 Rebels' sophomore placekicker admitted of the moments before he was set to attempt a game-winning field goal over Natick. "Everyone kept coming up to me on the sidelines, and I just had the thought of it coming through. All of them helped me get it through."

The sophomore took three steps back and to his left, then exhaled, as he lined up for a 25-yard chip shot with six seconds left in regulation. Then he grimaced as he watched it come off his right foot like a line drive, a frozen rope that sailed just six inches above the crossbar.

Mitchell is breathing easy tonight, the hero in a 16-13 last-second win over the No. 21 Red & Blue (8-2), which clinched a second straight Bay State Herget title and playoff berth for the Rebels (9-1). But boy, was fate playing with Mitchell's emotions for a few moments there.

"Very nervous," Mitchell said again, smiling, when asked about his emotions watching the kick. "I was like, 'Please, please get over'. Thankfully, it did."

Head coach Barry Greener, ever the gift for gab, offered empathy for Mitchell.

"None of us woulda wanted to have been out there trying," Greener laughed to reporters. "He's a great kid. You'll also see Mitchell as a punt returner and a wide receiver. He's a terrific player. He's been banged up -- broke his hand on a punt return in the Norwood game (in September), and we had trouble just to get him cleared to kick. Doctor didn't know you didn't need a hand for that."

So how did the game's outcome fall into the hands of a nervous 16-year-old kid? Enter Craig Hanley, a senior captain who finished the night with 107 yards and two scores on 15 carries, but saved most of his work for the second half. On the game's final drive, he had five touches for 47 yards, including a 23-yard dive up the middle in which he broke free of a shoestring tackle near the line of scrimmage to reel off another 15 yards down the left hash marks.

But on third and goal from the Natick 8 with 15 seconds to go, Hanley took a big hit at the line of scrimmage from linebacker Brian Tingley and came off the turf limping. Hanley said "it was just a dead leg" and that he'll be fine.

As for Mitchell's kick, Hanley said, "I was a little bit [nervous]. We were all holding hands on the sideline, 'Please kick it', and he got it in. We didn't know, because I saw it, and was like 'Is that wide left?'"

Winning the trenches: Behind a sound line of Gary DeVincintis, Dan Woods, Charlie Love, Rick Ordway and Dan King, the Rebels cranked out 312 yards on the ground, paving wide lanes at times for Hanley, Shane Blass and Steve Thulin with a series of dives, counters and sweeps from two-back formations.

On the other side, thanks in large part to its aggressive three-man front, which had totaled five sacks on Natick sophomore quarterback Troy Flutie, Walpole had yielded just 17 yards of Natick offense in the first half. And while the Red & Blue offense came alive in the second half, the tone had been set, with Woods at the nose and King bringing heat off the edge.

Against Natick's spread, which often deploys three and four-receiver sets, the Rebels left five in the box, but were clearly confident in their three-man front.

"We had a three-stack in [linebacker set] ready to go, which would give us a six-man box and blitz, but we never went to it," Greener said. "We worked on it a lot, but we stayed with the five-man box, we felt we could stop the run in a five-man box. Our front three are very, very good, and we go five deep. Gary DeVincintis had a heck of a game."

Tempo recognize tempo: Natick has been going no-huddle this season, with Flutie calling the plays out from the line of scrimmage, and as the game wore on they tried to speed the game up to an Oregon-like pace, sometimes getting the snap off in 15 or 20 seconds.

Asked about preparing for Natick's tempo, Walpole players and coaches merely shrugged -- and smiled.

"We've been working on that all week, we were ready for that all week," Hanley said. "We had great coaching."

What kind of coaching? Greener got colorful in describing his practice atmosphere.

"When we go to Team D after indie [individual] and group, we have two offenses running at our defense -- no rest," Greener said. "It is absolutely massive friggin' chaos out there. They don't have time to get down in their stances, we're running plays at them so fast.

"That's the way we try to practice -- uptempo, go, go, go. I honestly feel if you've got to run sprints after practice to stay in shape, you didn't practice fast enough. Basically, this was a slower pace than practice for us."

Glimpse of the future: If there's one thing we took away from Natick's performance, it's that they're going nowhere but up from here. It shouldn't surprise that inexperience shone through tonight, but that youthfulness has to have Red & Blue fans excited for the next few years.

It's hard to believe leading receiver Brian Dunlap, who caught his Bay State-best 13th touchdown pass tonight, is just a freshman. When Greener says things in the post-game like, "I told the kids it's not just Dunlap", it makes one take a step back and remember this is a kid who caught over 200 yards in his first varsity game as a 14-year-old.

Then there's Flutie, son of former Boston College and CFL star Darren, who reeled off a 53-yard touchdown run up the sidelines to knot the game at 6-6 early in the third. On an option keeper, Flutie juked a defender with a basketball-esque ball fake, slipped inside of a crackback block from Dimitri Kourtis, and outran the secondary to paydirt.

Later in the third quarter, Flutie knotted the game at 13-all with a 12-yard strike to Dunlap on a skinny post to the back of the end zone. Looks like they just might have practiced that one a few times.

"We think our pass game is pretty advanced," head coach Mark Mortarelli said. "Tonight it wasn't, but usually it is."

Said Greener of Flutie, "The thing that amazes me with him is that he calls everything from the line of scrimmage. I guess he's been doing it since he was 10."

NAT (8-2) 0 - 0 - 13 - 0 --- 13
WAL (9-1) 6 - 0 - 7 - 3 --- 16

First Quarter
W - Craig Hanley 5 run (kick failed) :07

Third Quarter
N - Troy Flutie 53 run (kick failed) 9:03
W - Hanley 4 run (Colton Mitchell kick) 5:52
N - Brian Dunlap 12 pass from Flutie (Sam Lenson kick) :27

Fourth Quarter
W - Mitchell 25 field goal :06

Recap: No. 22 Walpole 14, Norwood 0

October, 7, 2011

WALPOLE, Mass. -- Even when you thought there might be a score … POP!

Border rivals Norwood and Walpole battled to a scoreless first half Thursday night at Turco Field. But it looked as though the Rebels had finally broken the stalemate late in the third quarter on a Dave Thibault run only to be met by a thunderous, ball-jarring hit at the goal line.

Eventually, No. 22 Walpole did in fact break the scoreless tie and would go on to a 14-0 win over the Mustangs, taking a big step toward a Bay State Herget title, but that particular play was indicative of the hard-hitting, defensive struggle between the two sides.

It took more than three quarters, but when the Rebels (5-0) got going, they kept going, scoring on successive fourth-quarter drives with a pair of rushing touchdowns from Cam and Craig Hanley separated by two minutes. Coupled with a stifling defense and its ever-present, yet disciplined pass rush the Rebels were able to bottle up the Mustangs and its offense led by quarterback Tommy Munro.

“We knew we had to stop the run up front and we knew we had to contain [Munro] from running to the outside, which our ends did a great job,” Cam Hanley said. “We needed to make sure we wrapped him up.”

The Rebels’ first brush with the end zone came with 6:06 to play in the third. Walpole had terrific field position thanks to Craig Hanley’s 38-yard punt return, which set up the Rebels offense at the Mustangs’ 26-yard line. Five plays later, Thibault tried to punch in the first score of the game on a jet sweep to the right. Just as the senior was about to cross the goal line, he was met by Norwood defensive end Gus Martin. After an audible popping of the shoulder pads, the ball flung out of Thibault’s hands straight into the air, allowing linebacker Sam Anderson to corral the loose ball in the end zone.

It looked like just the break the Mustangs (4-1) needed as Norwood went on the offensive.

“We went to our no-huddle,” Norwood head coach John Sarianides said. “We had a great first play and got ourselves into a second and short. But then, we commit a penalty, we lined up off the line.”

Following the ensuing Norwood punt, Walpole embarked on the game-winning 9-play, 54-yard drive capped off by Cam Hanley’s 15-yard run.

The Rebels defensive line made its living in the Mustangs’ backfield all evening long. Paced by senior captain and defensive tackle Dan King (2 tackles for loss; 1 sack) and Cam Hanley (3 TFL), Walpole got steady pressure on Munro (4-of-11, 59 yards) and disrupted the pace of the Norwood offense.

“They did a great job with their pressure,” Sarianides said. “We threw everything at them, formation-wise, but we had some problems with their pressure.

“At halftime, we made some adjustments to our protection, we were able to solve some of it on the inside, but their edge pressure gave us a lot of problems and it really affected our ability to get our playmakers open in space to let them create. So that’s a credit to them.”

Thibault, a mainstay of both Walpole’s offensive and defensive units, left the game in the third quarter with a concussion. Thibault was helped off the field on the second play of the defensive series following the big hit on the goal-line fumble.

It was left up the younger Hanley, Cam, to pick up the slack.

“He’s a good player [Thibault], obviously,” said Hanley, who finished with 10 carries for 75 yards. “When he went down, we were struggling a little bit. They asked me to go in, so I went in and did what I could.”

Norwood (4-1) 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Walpole (5-0) 0 0 0 14 -- 14

4th quarter
Walpole Cam Hanley 15-yard run (kick failed)
Walpole Craig Hanley 5-yard run (P.J. Hayes run)