Boston High School: D.J. Crook

Recruiting Notes: Interest for Newsome building

December, 30, 2012
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Ansonia (Conn.) High School running back Arkeel Newsome is used to being pursued. If opposing defensive players aren't after him, then it's college football coaches who are trying to chase him down.

Newsome, who completed his junior season by leading Ansonia to the Class S state championship Dec. 8, may be the most sought-after recruit in New England next season. He received scholarship offers from the University of Connecticut and the University of Massachusetts last summer, and that list of offers will certainly grow.

“In the last week Rutgers, Penn State and Syracuse have been in,” Ansonia coach Tom Brockett said the week before Christmas. “He's even getting some interest in the state of Florida -– Florida and Florida State. I would guess between now and May he'll have another 15-20 [offers].

“Almost everyone wants him to carry the ball as a tailback. He has the whole skill-set that great backs have: speed, vision and hands. He'd be a great receiver if he wasn't a tailback. Some college is going to be very fortunate to have him in uniform.”

Newsome made plenty of headlines as a sophomore, when he set Connecticut's single-season rushing record by gaining 3,763 yards. Some media outlets listed him as the nation's leading rusher. Others had him at No. 2.

He gained 2,245 yards and and 34 touchdowns on 227 carries as a junior, when Ansonia stretched the program's winning streak to 28 games by beating North Branford 59-26 in the Class S championship game. He set the state record for career rushing touchdowns in the Class S semifinals, and will enter his senior season with 119 rushing TDs.

Newsome said Boston College, Connecticut, Florida, Miami, Penn State, Pittsburgh, South Florida and Syracuse are the schools he hears from the most.

“I like making people miss,” he said. “It's a little early to say anything about recruiting. I'm happy with the two offers I have right now. UConn was the first school to offer. I can definitely see myself there.

“I don't know too much about UMass. I haven't seen them play.”

If there's a knock against Newsome it may be his size (5-foot-8, 180 pounds). Brockett insists colleges aren't concerned.

“Not one college who has seen him in person has expressed concern with his size,” Brockett said. “He carries his weight very well.

“He's a physical back. He's a tough, durable back who doesn't come off the field. “

Newsome, who also plays defensive back, isn't lacking speed. He said his best time in the 40-yard dash is 4.49 seconds.

Still, Brockett said Newsome's vision and ability to change direction is what separates him from most backs.

“You have a lot of kids with speed, but those players who can cut on a dime are hard to find,” he said. “Arkeel is humble, he's a hard-worker and he's a great weight room kid. Just by talking to him you'd never know he's the best player in Connecticut.”

MORRIS LIKES THE LOOK OF BROWN
LaSalle Academy (Bristol, R.I.) running back Josh Morris ended his recruitment last week, when he decided to play Ivy League football at Brown. Morris also had offers from Yale, Bryant, Monmouth and Valparaiso. In addition, he had a preferred walk-on option at Northwestern.

Morris said remaining close to home was among the factors that weighed in Brown's favor.

“At Brown I'm going to be able to get in the weight room right away, get in the meetings right away and meet all the players right away,” he said. “By the time camp comes in the summer I'll be tuning my craft rather that learning it.

“By me going to Brown it carried many great perks. The coaching staff is the best staff I've met. They're ready to make me the best player I could possibly be. Not all of us can go to the NFL. If I'm fortunate enough to then that's great, but if I don't I'll have a Brown University degree. And to me that's priceless.

Morris was Rhode Island's Gatorade Player of the Year in 2011, when he rushed for 1,278 yards and 16 touchdowns on 134 carries. He also caught nine passes for 175 yards, and averaged 39.8 yards per kickoff return.

He was bothered by an ankle injury for much of last season, but still rushed for 1,442 yards (8.1 yards per carry). Morris injured his ankle during a victory over South Kingstown on Oct. 5, but scored three touchdowns in a 41-24 triumph over Bridgewater-Raynam the following week.

QUARTERBACK OPTIONS
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien turned to New England to fill his quarterback shortage. Salisbury (Conn.) School QB Austin Whipple and Worcester Academy quarterback D.J. Crook were each offered – and accepted – preferred walk-on positions in mid-December.

Crook threw for 8,126 yards and 77 touchdowns at Barnstable High School before he enrolled at Worcester Academy last fall.

“He's a hard-worker and he wanted to play at the highest level he could,” Worcester Academy coach Tony Johnson said. “He ran the ball in my system more than he's used to, but he really improved his release. I think they have only four quarterbacks, so he'll get evaluated.”

Whipple's father Mark was the head coach at the University of Massachusetts when the Minutemen won the Division I-AA national championship in 1998. O'Brien was the inside linebackers coach at Brown in 1994, Mark Whipple's first year as the head coach there. He is currently the quarterbacks coach for the Cleveland Browns.

Whipple led Salisbury to a 29-26 victory over a Jonathan DiBiaso-led Phillips Exeter team in the Jack Etter Bowl last November. DiBiaso, who played at Everett High School, will suit up for Dartmouth next season.

Crook ran for two TDs in a 27-21 loss to Salisbury last season.

BOWL SEASON
Everett offensive tackle John Montelus, the top-ranked recruit from Massachusetts in the Class of 2013, will begin practice for Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Monday. The game will be played at the Alamodome in San Antonio and can be seen on NBC.

Montelus has committed to Notre Dame.

Xaverian defensive tackle Maurice Hurst Jr. can be seen in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl one day earlier. The Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl will be played Friday at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., and will be televised by the NFL Network.

Hurst, the No. 2 recruit in Massachusetts, has committed to Michigan.

Recruiting information about high school or prep school players in New England can be sent to Roger Brown at rbrown@nhfootballreport.com.

Barnstable's Crook to walk-on at Penn State

December, 18, 2012
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Former Barnstable High quarterback D.J. Crook has accepted a preferred walk-on spot at Penn State, he confirmed to ESPNBoston.com this afternoon.

[+] EnlargeDJ Crook
Eric Adler for ESPNBoston.comFormer Barnstable quarterback D.J. Crook will be walking on at Penn State this spring.
Crook, a West Barnstable resident, did a post-graduate semester this past fall at Worcester Academy, after a record-setting career as a four-year starter at Barnstable. He was initially offered a walk-on spot two weeks ago by head coach Bill O'Brien, but had to wait until he was officially accepted into the University yesterday before making his decision.

During his tenure at Barnstbale, Crook took two unofficial visits to the State College, Penn. campus. He visited again last month, attending the Nittany Lions' overtime win over Wisconsin on Nov. 24. Crook also had interest from Albany, Villanova and Penn before deciding on Penn State.

Crook will enroll at Penn State on Jan. 5. As things currently stand, he will be one of four Lions quarerbacks headed into the spring, and the only Massachusetts native on the roster.

"I was kinda speechless I guess," Crook said. "It's been a long road, and I'm just glad it's over, but I'm also glad I'm at the place I want to be."

In four years at Barnstable, Crook made 38 starts under center, throwing for 77 touchdown passes and a state record 8,126 yards. He fractured his thumb in Week 5 of the 2011 season, and split time the rest of the way with Nick Peabody, who wound up being named ESPN Boston's 2012 Offensive Player of the Year and committed to Princeton last week. The Red Raiders ended a 10-year playoff drought in Crook's senior year.

Recruiting Notes: La Salle's Morris Yale-bound?

October, 23, 2012
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La Salle Academy (R.I.) running back Josh Morris has been nursing a sprained ankle for much of the season, but it hasn't hampered his recruiting situation.

MaineYale head coach Tony Reno recently told Morris he'd like him to join the Yale program next season.

“I started to build a good relationship with Yale last spring,” Morris said. “I visited and camped there last summer. The Yale head coach kept calling me every week during the season to make sure I was still interested and letting me know he was still interested in me.

“Last Thursday he told me: You have an offer from Yale.”

[+] EnlargeJosh Morris
Courtesy Josh MorrisYale is the latest school to offer La Salle Academy (R.I.) running back Josh Morris, who was the Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior.
Morris, who was the Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior, has offers from four other FCS schools: Brown, Bryant, Monmouth and Valparaiso.

Morris is being recruited primarily as a running back, but he could also play slot receiver or defensive back for Yale. Morris said he'd prefer to play offense in college.

“I like the ball in my hands,” he said. “Yale offered me as an athlete – that's what [Reno] said. They would probably put me at a position based on whatever else they get in their class.

“I really do like the Ivy League. It's hard to pass up an Ivy League education, but I'm keeping my options open to see what else might be out there.”

Morris injured his ankle during a victory over South Kingstown on Oct. 5. He scored three touchdowns in a 41-24 triumph over Bridgewater-Raynham the following week, but said he's been playing at less than 100 percent since the injury.

“I haven't missed any games, but it's been lingering,” Morris said.

Morris rushed for 1,278 yards and 16 touchdowns on 134 carries last season. He also caught nine passes for 175 yards, and averaged 39.8 yards per kickoff return.

He's run for 613 yards and 11 touchdowns in six games this year.

New Hampshire may be the next school to offer Morris, who has generated interest from several Patriot League and Colonial Athletic Association schools.

“A lot of schools are on the cusp [of making a scholarship offer] right now,” Morris said. “My senior film could determine whether schools pull the trigger [on an offer] or not.”

Decision time: Tabor Academy's Tevin Montgomery, a 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive lineman, said he will announce his college choice on Dec. 1 at his school. He has narrowed his choices to Boston College, Vanderbilt and Virginia.

“But I don't know if I'm going to make a big scene,” Montgomery said. “I might just call the school and let them know.”

Montgomery, a three-star recruit, is the top-ranked uncommitted player from Massachusetts in the Class of 2013. He also has offers from Temple, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rutgers, Maryland and Missouri.

Catching a Crook: Worcester Academy quarterback D.J. Crook is generating plenty of interest, but is still waiting for his first scholarship offer, according to Worcester Academy coach Tony Johnson.

“He's got interest from Holy Cross, Princeton, Dartmouth and a few others from the Patriot League – Lafayette and Colgate,” Johnson said. “And there are a few schools interested from the MAC, like Akron and Massachusetts.

“You know how it works. He's gotta get that one offer, and then a few more come in quickly. I think he's done enough.”

Crook played a Barnstable High School before choosing to spend a postgraduate year at Worcester Academy. He missed four games because of a fractured thumb during his senior season.

Big man not on campus: Four-star offensive lineman John Montelus was scheduled to take his official visit to Notre Dame last Saturday, but had to postpone the trip when Everett High School's game against BC High was postponed from Friday night to Saturday because of heavy rain.

Montelus, the No. 1 prospect from Massachusetts in the Class of 2013, said he will reschedule the trip. Montelus committed to Notre Dame following the team's spring game in April. He is the only New England player ranked in the ESPN 300 (No. 292).

Back in motion: Ansonia (Conn) High School running back Arkeel Newsome has gained 884 yards through six games this season.

Newsome, a junior who has scholarship offers from Connecticut and Massachusetts, led the nation in rushing last year, when he set a Connecticut record by gaining 3,763 yards.

Newsome's playing time has been limited this year because Ansonia is 6-0 and has won all six games by at least 28 points. Ansonia has scored at least 35 points in each of its six games.

Recruiting information regarding high school or prep school players in New England can be sent to Roger Brown at rbrown@nhfootballreport.com.

Nastasi's 'Nasty' competitive streak paces Barnstable

April, 25, 2012
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HYANNIS, Mass. -– In the very first at-bat of his first career varsity start for Barnstable High, Willie Nastasi did something that most high school baseball players can only dream about.

He stepped to the plate, dug in, took a big swing and sent a two-run shot over the right field fence at Attleboro High, propelling the Red Raiders to a 10-3 victory over the Bombardiers.

It was a surprising smash from the freshman catcher, who had been called up from the JV just a few days earlier. And it was an impressive one, which not only caught the attention of his coaches, his teammates and the opposing players, but a Chicago White Sox scout who happened to be at the park that day.

Three years later, Nastasi is still raising eyebrows, only now he does it with a ball in his hands instead of a bat.

The star senior righty, who signed with UConn last November, has been the ace of the Barnstable staff since converting from catcher to pitcher his junior year. Last spring, he was named co-pitcher of the year in the Old Colony League, and this season he's off to a strong 3-0 start with 28 strikeouts in 21 innings.

[+] EnlargeWille Nastasi
Eric Adler for ESPNBoston.comBarnstable righty and UConn commit Willie Nastasi is off to a strong start, fanning 16 batters in Tuesday's win over Taunton.
"Willie looked great behind the plate his freshman and sophomore years, but with his strength and his 6-foot-3 frame, he was destined to be a pitcher," said Barnstable coach Joe DeMartino. "After he put that one out against Attleboro, the White Sox scout came up to me and wanted to know all about him. I knew back then that Willie was going to eventually become a pitcher, but it goes to show just how much of a natural athlete he is."

He's also a cutthroat competitor.

By his own admission, Nastasi lives off his four-seam, two-seam and cut fastball, but he's also got a tricky circle change-up and sharp 12-6 curveball to boot. With a wide range of weaponry, he sees himself as the dealer and the house, and has the percentages on his side. All he has to do is use the cruel odds of the game to torment hitters.

"Every team I face I want to dominate," said Nastasi. "When I'm on the mound, I always have a good confident feeling. I know what I'm doing out there and I trust that my team has my back. I have the mindset that I'm the best on the field and I'm going to do whatever I can to win."

A pair of teams in the Atlantic Coast League can certainly attest to Nastasi's ironclad confidence.

In his season debut a few weeks ago, he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against Falmouth and finished with four strikeouts in Barnstable's 8-4 win over the Clippers. He followed that with an 8 K, four-hit effort as the Red Raiders downed Dennis-Yarmouth, 5-3.

Nastasi's ability to throw good pitches, mix them up and hit his spots have been the keys to his success. But many times, he has batters beat long before the ball leaves his hand thanks to a deliberate delivery that's predicated on rhythm and tempo.

He begins his throwing motion holding the ball with both hands at his waist, then raises both arms high over his head (and a little behind it), kicks up his right leg, reaches back and fires away. It's almost as though he's pitching on a metronome.

"It's a little bit of funky, old-school motion yet he hides the ball real well," said DeMartino. "When the ball comes out of his hand, it sneaks up on you. He's throwing in the mid-80's, but the way he hides it, it looks like it's coming at you ever harder than that."

What's more, Nasasti's experience as a backstop has given him a distinct advantage on the bump. Said DeMartino, "He can read hitters, and he has a good feel of what pitches hitters are expecting and when to throw them. He's got a little more knowledge of the game than the average pitcher."

Nastasi's immense skill set was on display Tuesday when he struck out a career-high 16 batters in a complete-game, nine-inning victory to lead Barnstable (6-1) to a 3-1 victory over Taunton in the OCL opener for both teams.

Simply put, Nastasi was nasty.

He tied the Tigers in knots, allowing just three hits, three walks and one unearned run while throwing a career-high 155 pitches. It was even more amazing considering it had been 15 days since he pitched in a live game.

"This was one of Willie's more gutsy performances," said DeMartino. "He got behind in a lot of counts, but he battled back, and when he need a strike on a 3-2 count, he got it. We didn't have a hit after the fourth inning, so this was all Willie today. He obviously threw a lot of pitches, and had the game gone into extras we would have taken him out, but he put the team on his back and carried us."

Nastasi set the tone from the start, striking out the side in order in the first. He fanned four in the second inning after a batter reached on a passed ball, and he struck out the side in the fourth and the ninth.

"After that long layoff, I wondered how I was going to do, but as soon as I started throwing, my arm felt really good and loose, and I kind of knew it was going to be a good day," said Nastasi. "Nine innings is a lot to throw, but I knew I had it in me to finish the game. My arm felt great so I knew I could keep going."

His endurance aside, Nastasi also proved how well he fields his position. After Taunton capitalized on two Barnstable errors to plate a run in the fifth, the Tigers threatened for more with two runners on, but Nastasi knocked down a hard shot hit back to him and fired to first for the third out. In the seventh, he teamed up with first baseman D.J. Crook to record a rare 3-1 double play.

Barnstable got all the runs they would need in the third thanks to an RBI single by Dylan Morris, who stole second and scored on Mark Brodd's triple to deep center. The Red Raiders padded their lead in the eighth when Taunton botched a pick-off play.

Barnstable's 3-1 lead came in jeopardy in the ninth after Deitrich Wahl drew a two-out walk and Zach Grady reached on an error to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. But Nastasi showed tremendous poise and punched out Travis Ritchie to secure the win.

"My dad has been my main pitching coach all my life and he instilled in me that when you get on the mound, nothing else matters," said Nastasi. "I try to focus, relax, be nice and smooth with my mechanics and throw strikes. That's how you get people out."

Nastasi will bring that same approach with him when he suits up for UConn next year. He said his goals are to lead the Huskies to the College World Series, and they came awfully close last year, making it to the Super Regionals before falling to defending and eventual champion South Carolina.

Nastasi's other dream is to play in the Cape League. When he was in middle school, he was a bat boy for the Cotuit Kettleers, and his freshman and sophomore years, he was the team's bullpen catcher. His family has also hosted players for the past 13 years.

"Playing in the Cape League would be the Holy Grail, because Cape League baseball is as good as it gets," he said.

But for now, the main focus is leading the Red Raiders to the promised land.

"At the end of last year, all of the incoming seniors and myself talked about how we knew we were going to have a good team this year and how we're aiming for a state championship and nothing less," he said. "Every team talks about that, but we feel this is our best shot. We feel like we can do it."

Recap: Lincoln-Sudbury 14, Barnstable 13

November, 29, 2011
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TAUNTON, Mass. -- Any resemblance between the Lincoln-Sudbury team in the second half of Tuesday’s Eastern Mass. Division IA semifinal game versus Barnstable and the Lincoln-Sudbury team in the first half was pure coincidence.

The Warriors were dead in the water in the first half as the Red Raiders built a 13-0 lead. But Lincoln-Sudbury rallied behind quarterback Matt Cahill and edged Barnstable, 14-13 – with all of the Warriors' points coming in the fourth quarter.

[+] EnlargeJack Harris
Eric Adler for ESPN.comJack Harris sparked the L-S comeback with several big grabs, including this one-hander.
Barnstable (7-5) was clinging to a 13-7 lead late in the fourth when it went for a first down on fourth-and-two from the Warriors’ 6. But the Warriors slammed Hayden Murphy for a three-yard loss.

What transpired next was the stuff of legends as Cahill guided a 71-yard drive which culminated when he threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jack Harris with 2:19 remaining.

Will Twyman then kicked the second of his two PATs for what proved to be the winning point.

“Matt Cahill rebounded from a never-mind-the-first half and played a great second half,” Warriors coach Tom Lopez said. “He’s a great leader.”

All Cahill did in the second half was complete 9-of-11 passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

Barnstable bolted to a 13-0 lead at halftime thanks to a 28-yard run by quarterback D.J. Crook late in the first quarter and a 30-yard touchdown pass by Crook to James Burke on the first play of the second.

“We thought we were making mistakes and that’s why they were successful,” Lopez said. “We thought we’d cut down on our mistakes. Having said that, we didn’t play very well in the first half.”

Lopez felt what was a momentum-shifter occurred in the third quarter.

“I think the key was when they stuffed us on fourth-and-two,” Lopez said. “They went three-and-out and that gave us some confidence. All of a sudden the momentum changed.”

Good point.

After Barnstable punted, the Warriors (11-1) reeled off a 93-yard drive that ended with Cahill’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Harris.

What made the Warriors victory even more impressive was the fact the played all but a few minutes without one of their top players, Brian Carroll.

“We lost Brian Carroll on the second series (with a shoulder injury),” Lopez said. “He’s basically been our whole offense. He had eight interceptions on defense and 800 yards rushing on offense.

“He’s not in and Dan Cellucci, Greg Roder and Henry Guild all did a great job filling in. I couldn’t be more proud of our kids.”

LINCOLN-SUDBURY 14, BARNSTABLE 13
L-S (11-1) 0-0-0-14 - 14
Barnstable (7-5) 6-7-0-0 – 13




First quarter
B – D.J. Crook 28 run (kick failed)

Second quarter
B – James Burke 30 pass from Crook (Tom Mullen kick)

Fourth quarter
LS – Jack Harris 11 pass from Matt Cahill (Will Twyman kick)
LS - Harris 13 pass from Cahill (Twyman kick)

Barnstable QB Crook lands first offer

November, 28, 2011
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ESPN's Roger Brown is reporting that Barnstable High senior quarterback D.J. Crook picked up his first scholarship offer, from Holy Cross, the day before Thanksgiving. Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore spent two hours at Crook's house Sunday, and Crook said he will take an official visit to the Worcester campus later this month.

Crook missed four games with a fractured right thumb this season, but completed 10 of 14 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-15 victory over Falmouth on Thanksgiving.

This season, Crook has completed 95 of 159 passes for 1,233 yards and 12 touchdowns. His 76 career touchdown passes rank fifth in state history, and second among active players (Everett's Jonathan DiBiaso currenty has 101).

The View from Barnstable

November, 3, 2011
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HYANNIS, Mass. -- In what is rumored to be the final year of the Old Colony League, can the Barnstable Red Raiders end No. 3 Bridgewater-Raynham's streak of league titles?

Two years ago, it was a coin flip at a Friendly's on the Cape that ended the Raiders' playoff hopes. Last fall, the Raiders traveled up to Bridgewater and were promptly handed a 50-14 beating, as the Trojans went on to the Div. 1A Super Bowl title game. Needless to say, not a lot needs to be said.


Recap: No. 11 Mansfield 34, Barnstable 33 (OT)

October, 29, 2011
10/29/11
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MANSFIELD, Mass. – For a time, Mansfield’s second-stringers lined up against Barnstable’s first-teamers in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s game.

Then, what Hornets head coach Mike Redding aptly called “a playoff game with no implications” turned into exactly that after the Red Raiders put up 17 unanswered fourth-quarter points to tie the game 27-27.

In the end, No. 11 Mansfield survived with a 34-33 victory in overtime, running their record to 7-1. It was more of the usual from perhaps the state’s most entertaining team.

“Well, we hadn’t done overtime yet this season,” Redding commented on the Hornets’ rash of close shaves this year. “It’s always something.”

The Hornets held a three-score lead as late as the three minute mark of the fourth quarter.

But Barnstable junior quarterback Nick Peabody engineered two quick touchdown drives, both culminating in passing scores to Tedaro France. After Terrence Mudie’s recovery of an on-side kick, the Red Raiders (4-4) moved the ball down the field once more, setting up Tom Mullen’s 26-yard field goal, tying the game with 31 seconds remaining.

Peabody kept the momentum rolling into overtime, punching in a 10-yard touchdown on the first play of the extra session. Playing for the win, Peabody rolled right on a bootleg on the ensuing 2-point try, but Mansfield defensive back Matt Barsomian batted down the pass.

“In our minds, they had missed the two PATs early, so we thought they were going for two anyway,” Barnstable head coach Chris Whidden said of the decision to go for two. “We thought our best chance to win was to go for two, but they made a play.”

Greg Donahue scored on a 5-yard run to tie the score once again and Matt Bukuras chipped in the point-after try for the win.

“The good thing is that we found a way to hang in there and win in the end,” Redding said. “The bad is all those little things that let them hang around and come back and haunt you.”

TWO TEAMS LOOKING AHEAD
No doubt both sides played their hardest, but both sides realized there’s more to the season than the non-league matchup. So Friday’s battle could serve well for both teams chances as they face critical league challenges in the coming weeks.

Barnstable, for one, has a penultimate Old Colony League contest with No. 3 Bridgewater-Raynham next week. And Mansfield hopes to close out a Hockomock large division title with two more victories.

“We wanted to get our kids out and gear up for Franklin and North [Attleborough],” Redding said, “but that backfired.”

Nonetheless, Barnstable can take with it the confidence of hanging with one of the state’s premiere programs year after year while building confidence in Peabody, who’s filled in admirably in D.J. Crook’s absence. After a slow start in the first half, when Barnstable had just 18 offensive snaps, Peabody was able to move the chains when it counted most.

“He’s proved that he’s a high quality quarterback,” Whidden said of Peabody. “That’s one position that we knew, coming into the year, that we had a lot of depth. But we just weren’t aware how good he could be and we didn’t realize we were going to have to use him.”

VIVE LA FRANCE
Whether its Theo France in the running game or Tedaro France streaking down field to snatch a pass, the Red Raider brothers pose matchup problems for opposing defenses.

On Friday night, it was the younger France stealing the show.

“Tedaro’s a playmaker and he wants the ball in his hands,” Whidden said. “He’s proven that he’s a kid that we have to find a way to get the ball into his hands. Nick [Peabody] was a receiver before he became our quarterback, so he developed the rapport before he played that position and know it’s paid off.”

GUTTING IT OUT
Although they had problems containing the Hornets rushing duo of Donahue and Blayne Taylor at times, the Red Raider defense made some significant plays down the stretch that shouldn’t be ignored.

Defensive lineman Jason Freih (2 sacks) was a disruptive force throughout and recovered a fumble that set up Barnstable’s second touchdown of the fourth quarter.

Barnstable (4-4) 0 3 7 17 6 -- 33
Mansfield (7-1) 6 6 8 7 7 -- 34


1st quarter
M - Greg Donahue 2-yard run (kick failed)

2nd quarter
B - Tom Mullen 25-yard field goal
M - Mike Blackman 11-yard pass from George Busharis (kick failed)

3rd quarter
M - Zach Schafer 22-yard pass from Busharis (Dan Gilmore pass from George Busharis)
B - Hayden Murphy 23-yard run (Mullen kick)

4th quarter
M - Mike Farrell 6-yard run (Matt Bukuras kick)
B - Tedaro France 49-yard pass from Nick Peabody (Mullen kick)
B - Tedaro France 28-yard pass from Peabody (Mullen kick)
B - Mullen 26-yard field goal

OT
B - Peabody 10-yard run (pass failed)
M - Donahue 5-yard run (Matt Bukuras kick)

What We Learned: Week 5

October, 10, 2011
10/10/11
10:52
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LONG LIVE THE ROCKETS…?
Call it a fluke, a trap game, or just plain bad night for special teams coverage. However you choose to draw it up, the nation’s third-longest active win streak was snapped last Friday night at 41 games.

Unranked Shepherd Hill played foil to SWCL rival No. 5 Auburn, upsetting them 32-22, thanks to a series of long runs. Kenny Mardirosian returned a kickoff 85 yards to the house in the third quarter, and then Brad Picard broke through for a 60-yard touchdown scamper to start the fourth quarter with a 26-7 lead. When the Rockets responded with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Drew Goodrich to Connor Fuller, the Rams immediately fired back with a 51-yard run by Anthony Wilga, for a 32-13 lead and essentially the game.

Aberration? Of course. This is a stout Rockets defense that is sturdy in the trenches and, quite frankly, doesn’t give up many long gains.

Shocker? You bet. The Rams are always a tough out, with their vaunted Double-Wing scheme, but few predicted this (including us).

It’s a period, not a comma, in the Rockets’ storied history under coach Jeff Cormier; but it’s hardly the end. The Rockets face Leicester and Tantasqua the next two weeks, followed by a tough three-game road swing against Northbridge, Grafton then Westborough, before the Thanksgiving matchup with Oxford/Sutton.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
[+] EnlargeMaurice Hurst
Brendan Hall for ESPN.comXaverian's Maurice Hurst Jr. is establishing himself as one of the state's premier interior defensive linemen.
The picture on the front page of the Boston Globe’s high school section says it all: yes, that’s Maurice Hurst Jr. –- all 6-foot-2, 275 pounds of him –- chasing down Duxbury wide receiver Reilly Naton all the way downfield after a big gain.

Few defensive linemen in Eastern Mass. have asserted themselves the way this junior three-technique has. In Saturday’s showdown with No. 2 Duxbury, Hurst fought through double-teams all game to make quarterback Matt O’Keefe’s life tough in the pocket, sacking him twice.

“He played a hell of a game,” Naton noted. “He was in our face all day, getting double-teamed and making plays.”

For those familiar with the Parcells-era Patriots, Hurst’s father, Maurice Sr., manned the right cornerback spot for New England for seven seasons, making 102 starts and 27 interceptions; he was named to the team’s All-1990s squad for his efforts.

A quick glance at these highlights from 2011 (so far) indicate the speed is in the blood. His backside pursuit is exemplary, with a strong bull rush to boot. In other words, keep this kid on your radar.

UNDERRATED? DIAL 4-1-3
Three weeks ago, in an interview with ESPN Boston, Putnam’s Melquawn Pinkney declared the Springfield area “very underrated” for football, saying “I guess they don’t think our players are as good or as talented, but we’ve got some good players coming out of here, and they’ll soon see…I went to a lot of showcases over the summertime, and I’ll hang with the best of them.”

The reason for us coming out to Springfield, of course, was to honor the 5-foot-9 senior with our Player of the Week honors after rushing for a Western Mass record 421 yards and six scores on just 17 carries, in a 66-0 win over Agawam (four yards off the state record, too). No matter how you cut, 421 yards is pretty darn impressive.

Last season, Pinkney spelled his cousin Lavaughnte Lowe in a terrific season for the Beavers. Both went for over 1,000 yards, as Putnam accumulated over 2,600 on the ground and lost to South Hadley in the Division 2 Western Mass Super Bowl. This season, Pinkney has exploded as the Beavers’ feature back, leading all rushers statewide with 1,229 yards and 19 touchdowns. In the last three games alone, he’s racked up 1,035 yards.

Combined with Longmeadow’s T.J. Norris (101 yards last week) and Springfield Central’s Sacoy Malone (141), that’s a trio that would make the short list on any All-Star team in Central or Eastern Mass.

Give these guys some credit –- it’s long overdue.

DRAGONS DOMINEERING UP FRONT
A look down the Duxbury roster shows senior left tackle Gordon Acha at 6-foot-4, 255 pounds; and junior left guard Rob Kosharek, at 6-foot-6, 250 pounds.

A quick glance across the line tells us two things about them: 1. Those listed heights and weights are no stretch, and 2. These two kids are pretty athletic.

[+] EnlargeDuxbury Linemen
Brendan Hall for ESPN.comDuxbury's Rob Kosharerk (72) and Gordon Acha (69) are both potential Division 1 line prospects.
“They’re beasts,” senior wide receiver Reilly Naton said following the team’s win over Xaverian. “That was a huge game for Gordon, he wants to go play college football, and he proved he can play against the great players like that.

“Kosharek, the kid’s amazing. He’s gonna be the heart and soul of the team next year on the line, and that’s just a great way for them to go out in this game –- on top.”

At the end of the day, this might be one of the state’s best guard-tackle combinations; the two demonstrated fluid footwork in the passing game, and sturdy leg power in run-blocking. The two matched up with Maurice Hurst Jr. at different times, sometimes combining for double-teams, traps and chips.

Aaron Kramer, a redshirt-freshman left tackle for Boston College, is the measuring stick by which linemen inevitably get judged by in Duxbury. The 6-foot-7, 296-pounder transferred back home from BC High before his junior year, and immediately made his impact felt, helping lead the Dragons to a rout of Gloucester in the 2008 Division 2A Super Bowl and bulling them back to the playoffs a season later.

Asked if he sees shades of Kramer in Kosharek, Naton quickly concurred.

“For sure, he’s definitely proven to be one of the best linemen to come through this program in a long time,” Naton said. “I mean, the kid’s still growing. He’s huge. Kid gets bigger every day.”

Head coach Dave Maimaron sees the comparison as well.

“Junior year, comparing him to Aaron, I mean yeah, there’s definitely some crossover there in their skill level,” Maimaron said. “They’re both very athletic for their size. Aaron kept getting better, and as long as Rob keeps improving, yeah he could be a D1 kid.”

The same could be said for Acha, who like Kramer, plays center for the school’s basketball team. Like Kosharek -– and like Kramer before them –- Acha wears a long, lean frame with high athleticism and projectability. BC and Maryland are among the Division 1 feelers who have expressed interest in his services.

“Gordon also has great size and he’s really progressing,” Maimaron said. “He’s real athletic. He has great feet, very similar to Aaron Kramer’s, and he has the size.”

THROWN FOR A LOSS
You knew something was off. As D.J. Crook, Barnstable quarterback, split out wide in a formation, you expected some kind of trick play, maybe some sort of double pass.

However, that was the last time Crook was on the field during the Red Raiders' game at New Bedford. What at first head coach Chris Whidden thought was an elbow problem, later thought to be a thumb dislocation, turned out to be a fracture of the thumb on his throwing hand.

While Crook's prospect of return is questionable (his father said he hopes to return to game form in 3 to 4 weeks) the injury seemingly will affect his assault at the state's career touchdown pass record; Crook is five off from Tommy Colombo's record of 79 touchdown passes. But more than that, Crook could be absent for the Red Raiders' Old Colony League schedule, which starts this Friday against Dartmouth.

While some on the Cape might be fearful that a promising season might have been lost on a twist of fate, fear not. We're here to provide Red Raider nation with three reasons why 2-3 Barnstable could still pull out an OCL championship sans-Crook.

  1. Barnstable is more than a passing attack: A quick observation of the Red Raiders' opening drive against Whalers shows that the Red Raiders' attack is built on more than just their talented signal-caller. Running back Theo France nearly single-handedly cut through the Whalers' defense, capped off by a 44-yard touchdown run to give Barnstable a 7-0 lead.
  2. An extension of pont No. 1 ... This defense is pretty darned good: Not every Barnstable win needs to be a track meet anymore. Ask any coach who's played against the Red Raiders about junior linebacker Andrew Ellis and they'll throw praise at the 5-11, 215-pounder and free safety Kevin Hardy is perhaps the grittiest player we've seen all year.
  3. There are solutions at QB: Junior Nick Peabody filled in for Crook (promising sophomore Hayden Murphy also took a couple snaps) down the stretch. While the final score didn't exemplify a close game that was in doubt until its final moments, Peabody led the Red Raiders downfield on a couple of promising drives that were cut short by blocking penalties (including a potential game-tying score erased). While Peabody, Barnstable's top receiver, will subtract by being pulled to another position, the Red Raiders still have a deep receiving corps with Dylan Morris and Tedaro France.

Mr. Football Watch: Week 6

October, 10, 2011
10/10/11
12:24
PM ET
HOW THE CONTENDERS FARED

George Craan, Sr. RB, Concord-Carlisle - Easy week for him in the Patriots' 35-7 rout of Boston Latin. He had just five carries for 135 yards and two scores.
D.J. Crook, Sr. QB, Barnstable - Looks he won't be appearing on this list for a few weeks. He fractured the thumb on his throwing hand in the second half of a 31-17 loss to New Bedford last Friday, meaning he'll be sitting at 74 career touchdown passes for a while. He did managed to throw for 135 yards on 13 of 19 passing.
Casey DeAndrade, Sr. RB, East Bridgewater - The UNH commit ran for two touchdowns in the Vikings' 36-12 win over Cohasset, bringing season season total to 12.
Jonathan DiBiaso, Sr. QB, Everett - Threw five touchdown passes in the No. 1 Crimson Tide's 41-8 rout of Taunton, bringing his career total to 79. It's a very real possibility he'll break Tom Colombo's state record of 85 sometime over the next two weeks.
Nick LaSpada, Sr. QB, Billerica - Threw for 209 yards and two scores in the Indians' 20-14 win over Tewksbury.
Sacoy Malone, Sr. RB, Springfield Central - Carried 16 times for 141 yards in the Golden Eagles' 36-15 win over East Longmeadow.
Matt Montalto, Sr. QB, Dennis-Yarmouth - In the Dolphins' 27-18 win over Plymouth North, he completed 7 of 13 passes for 236 yards and added 71 yards on seven carries on the ground, totaling three scores.
T.J. Norris, Sr. RB, Longmeadow - Carried 14 times for 101 yards and two scores in the Lancers' 34-7 win over Holyoke.
Matt O'Keefe, Sr. QB, Duxbury - Another brilliant performance for the Johns Hopkins lacrosse commit, in a big 31-14 win over Xaverian. He was 16 of 22 passing for 230 yards and two scores, and added 76 yards on the ground on 14 carries.
Melquawn Pinkney, Sr. RB, Putnam - Carried 23 times for 352 yards and six scores in the Cybercats' 54-22 win over Chicopee Comp. In the last three weeks, he's carried 68 times for 1,035 yards and 16 touchdowns. That's an average of 15.2 yards per carry.
Armani Reeves, Sr. RB, Catholic Memorial - The Penn State commit had rushing touchdowns in the first and fourth quarters to seal the Knights' 35-14 win over Hingham.
Michael Walsh. Sr. QB, Swampscott - Threw for three touchdowns in the Big Blue's 24-23 comeback win over Triton.

ON THE RISE

Chris Bettano, Sr. RB, Tewksbury - Ran for 122 yards on 15 carries in the 20-14 loss to Billerica.
Matt Clifford, Jr. WR/KR, Billerica - Amassed nearly 300 all-purpose yards in the Indians' 20-14 win over Tewksbury, hauling in both of Nick LaSpada's touchdown passes and returning a kickoff 91 yards for the game-winning score.
Alex Eaton, Sr. RB, Westford - In the Grey Ghosts' 48-14 stomping of Newton South, carried 16 times for 139 yards and two scores, and added a 90-yard kickoff return for a third score.
Geeavontie Griffith, Sr. RB, Boston Cathedral - Carried 10 times for 180 yards and all four of the Panthers' scores in a 32-0 win over Charlestown. On the year, he has 917 rushing yards on 62 carries, for 11 touchdowns.
Myles Medeiros, Sr. QB, New Bedford - In the 31-17 win over Barnstable, was 17 of 26 passing for 227 yards and a touchdown. He also carried six times for 53 yards.
Reilly Naton, Sr. WR/DB, Duxbury - The Yale lacrosse commit asserted himself at the most crucial point of the Dragons' 31-14 comeback win over Xaverian. He had back to back receiving touchdowns to give them the lead for good, and sealed the game late with an interception.
R.J. Noel, Sr. QB, Lowell - In the Raiders' 35-20 win over Dracut, he ran for 127 yards and a score on the ground, and added 96 yards and two scores through the air.
Ian Riley, Jr. RB, Needham - Ran for 162 yards and three scores in the Rockets' 34-0 shutout of Weymouth, giving him six rushing touchdowns in the last two weeks.

Barnstable QB D.J. Crook has fractured thumb

October, 8, 2011
10/08/11
9:45
AM ET
AdlerESPNBoston.comBarnstable quarterback D.J. Crook, who is 11 touchdown passes off the state record, fractured the thumb on his throwing hand last night
In an email to various media members this morning, Barnstable quarterback D.J. Crook's father, Doug Sr., confirmed that his son has a transverse fracture on the thumb of his throwing hand.

D.J. attempted just one pass in the second half of last night's 31-17 loss to New Bedford, and told ESPNBoston's Scott Barboza following the game that he dislocated his thumb on a carry in the third quarter.

"DJ suffered what was initially thought to be dislocation turned out to be a transverse fracture of his thumb," the elder Crook wrote. "It is on his throwing hand. The thumb was set last night by Hand Surgeon Dr. Peter Bentivegna of Cape Cod Hand Surgeons and will be MRI'd this weekend to make sure there is no other damage. He hopes to be back on the field in 3 to 4 weeks in some capacity but the timetable to return as quarterback can not be determined at this time."

Either way, this comes as a blow to both the Red Raiders' offense and D.J.'s quest for the state all-time touchdown pass record. He is currently 11 scoring strikes away from the mark of 85 set by Brockton great Tom Colombo. On the season, D.J. has completed 58 percent of his passes for 922 yards and nine touchdowns to just one interception.

Recap: New Bedford 31, Barnstable 17

October, 8, 2011
10/08/11
1:10
AM ET


NEW BEDFORD, Mass. -- It seemed as though the Barnstable defense was not going to let New Bedford running back Marcel DePina beat them by himself. The shifty Whaler back was limited to just 11 yards on 10 carries through the greater portion of three quarters in Friday night’s game.

But, with New Bedford trailing 17-15, DePina broke loose in the passing game. His 48-yard connection from Myles Medeiros was a Barry Sanders-like highlight to the Whalers’ 31-17 comeback win over the Red Raiders.

“It was a broken play,” DePina said of the game-winning score. “My quarterback [Medeiros] got it off and we got good blocking and then I just found the right spots on the field and got to the end zone.”

There were a multitude of issues at play as New Bedford (3-2) scored 24 unanswered fourth-quarter points.

First off was a risky maneuver on the behalf of Whalers head coach Dennis Golden. Trailing 17-7, Golden rolled the dice on a fake field goal pass play with the capable Mike Rapoza running on the bootleg left and hitting Nathan Ojuri in the back of the end zone with a 3-yard touchdown pass.

“It came from the fact that they’d blocked the first one,” Golden said of the play call. “It was a good opportunity for us.”

Next, the Whalers forced the potent Barnstable (3-2) offense three-and-out with quarterback D.J. Crook (13 of 19 for 135 yards) throwing his only pass attempt of the second half. Crook later confirmed to ESPN Boston that he dislocated the thumb of his throwing hand, apparently coming on a carry in the third quarter.

Junior Nick Peabody finished the game at quarterback for Barnstable.

“We didn’t know what was wrong with D.J. to start with,” Red Raiders head coach Chris Whidden said. “At first we thought there was something wrong with his elbow and then we realized it was his thumb.”

New Bedford continued their onslaught behind a highly efficient game from Medeiros, who finished 17 of 26 for 227 yards and one touchdown to go along with 53 rushing yards on six carries.

Medeiros put the icing on the Whalers’ victory with a perfectly placed 15-yard touchdown pass to Jaraud Wood, putting up a jump ball that only the rangy receiver could pluck.

SCREEN GAME
The Red Raiders offense was prodigious in the first half and beyond in its screen game. Running back Theo France (11 carries, 81 yards, TD) found big holes underneath on the New Bedford defense with wide receiver Dylan Morris catching everything in sight in the flat.

It looked as though Barnstable had gotten yet another big play with a bubble screen on what would’ve been a 68-yard touchdown by France to tie the score. However, the play was called back on an illegal block penalty. The Red Raiders had yet another huge play whistled dead two plays later.

After those opportunities fell by the wayside, the Red Raiders were done in.

MOVING FORWARD
This Barnstable-New Bedford series has yielded some classics in recent memory with games in each of the last four years being decided in the fourth quarter, along with a couple on the game’s final play.

In the bigger picture, this was a potential season-shifting win for the Whalers. After getting roughed up by Top 10 opponents in Duxbury and Bridgewater-Raynham in the last two weeks, New Bedford was eager to snap a two-game losing skid.

“This gets our wheels turning,” junior end Tyler Arena said. “It boosts our morale and maybe next week we keep on rolling.”

As for Barnstable, the question surely to follow the Red Raiders in the coming weeks is the health of Crook. While Peabody, a natural wide receiver, showed that they’re in capable hands indeed if Crook cannot play, the loss of one of the top quarterbacks in the state would surely hurt.

SHAKE ‘N’ BAKE
As Golden puts it, DePina can simply do things on a football field many cannot.

“That’s what Marcel does best,” Golden said, commenting on DePina’s 48-yard score. “We don’t have anybody who can change directions like him; he can do it with the best of them. We’re fortunate he’s on our team.”

On the play, DePina shook no fewer than three Red Raiders defenders clear out of their boots on the way to rumbling upfield for the game-winning score. He’d also turned in a key 28-yard gain on a screen from Medeiros several plays earlier to set up the score.

While Barnstable, with talented junior linebacker Andrew Ellis, showed that DePina, if contained to running in between the tackles, can be slowed, there’s simply nothing a defense can do when he hits the open field. Coupled with the hard-nosed running of Rapoza (9 carries, 60 yards), that makes the Whalers that much more difficult to stop.

Barnstable (3-2) 7 3 7 0 -- 17
New Bedford (3-2) 7 0 0 24 -- 31




1st quarter
Barnstable Theo France 44-yard run (Tom Mullen kick)
New Bedford Mike Rapoza 7-yard run (Mike Rapoza kick)

2nd quarter
Barnstable Tom Mullen 35-yard field goal

3rd quarter
Barnstable Hayden Murphy 29-yard run (Mullen kick)

4th quarter
New Bedford Nathan Ojuri 3-yard pass from Rapoza (Tyler Arena pass from Rapoza)
New Bedford Marcel DePina 48-yard pass from Myles Medeiros (Jaraud Wood pass from Medeiros)
New Bedford Wood 15-yard pass from Medeiros (DePina pass from Medeiros)

Mr. Football Watch: Week 5

October, 3, 2011
10/03/11
12:22
PM ET
HOW THE CONTENDERS FARED

Khary Bailey-Smith, Sr. WR, Weymouth - Caught two touchdown passes in the Wildcats' 45-28 loss to Needham, bringing his season total to a Division 1-best seven.
Jonathan DiBiaso, Sr. QB, Everett - Completed 26 of 38 passes for 227 yards and four touchdowns in the Crimson Tide's 35-21 win over Barnstable.
Damion Johnson, Sr. WR/DB, Dennis-Yarmouth - It was a limited night through the air, save one big catch, but he was part of a defensive effort that held Falmouth to 41 first-half yards in the 41-8 win, and returned a punt 85 yards to the house in the third quarter to seal the win.
Nick LaSpada, Sr. QB, Billerica - Completed 14 of 23 passes for 239 yards and totaled three scores in a 40-14 win over Dracut.
Obi Melifonwu, Sr. RB/DB, Grafton - The UConn-bound Melifonwu ran for three touchdowns and a career-high 320 yards in a 34-18 win over Leicester.
Matt Montalto, Sr. QB, Dennis-Yarmouth - Attempted just five passes, completing two, while adding 97 rushing yards and a score on six carries, in a 41-8 rout of Falmouth.
T.J. Norris, Sr. RB, Longmeadow - Ran for 228 yards and four touchdowns in the Lancers' 41-27 win over West Springfield.
Matt O'Keefe, Sr. QB, Duxbury - The Johns Hopkins lacrosse commit was 14 of 18 passing for 230 yards and four touchdowns in a 37-0 shutout of Whitman-Hanson.
Melquawn Pinkney, Sr. RB, Putnam - Carried 28 times for 262 yards and four scores in a 34-6 win over Westfield. In the last two weeks, he has ran for 683 yards and 10 touchdowns on just 45 carries, for an average of 15.1 yards per carry.
Armani Reeves, Sr. ATH, Catholic Memorial - Throttled the Knights to a 42-0 beatdown of New Hampshire power Bishop Guertin with three touchdowns. He caught an eight-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive, and had touchdown runs of 41 and 69 yards -- his only two carries of the night. In the last five quarters, the Penn State commit has six touchdowns.
Brandon Walsh, Sr. QB, North Andover - Threw for 125 yards and ran for another 88, totaling four scores, in a 34-7 win over Newburyport.
Michael Walsh, Sr. QB, Swampscott - Accounted for 296 yards of offense and totaled four scores, while adding six tackles on defense, in a 33-19 win over Lynn English.

ON THE RISE

Chris Bettano, Sr. RB, Tewksbury - Ran for 130 yards and a score in the Redmen's 21-6 win over Central Catholic.
D.J. Crook, Sr. QB, Barnstable - Completed 31 of 57 passes for 294 yards and three scores in a 35-21 loss to No. 1 Everett.
Alex Eaton, Sr. RB, Westford - The Lehigh-bound lacrosse star went for a school-record 330 yards and five touchdowns in a 33-8 win over Groton-Dunstable. It's his third game of the season going over 200 yards of offense; through the first month he has 785 yards of offense.
Troy Flutie, Soph. QB, Natick - Accounted for 247 yards of offense and four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing) in a 34-12 win over Newton North.
Geeavontie Griffith, Sr. RB, Boston Cathedral - Off to an explosive first month of the season, he ran for 240 yards and two scores on 19 carries in an 18-16 win over Pope John Paul II. Through four games he has 52 carries for 737 yards and six touchdowns, with an average of 14.9 yards per carry.
Connor Kurtz, Jr. QB, St. John's (Shrewsbury) - Completed 10 of 17 passes for 267 yards and two scores in the Pioneers' 21-7 win over Wachusett.
Sacoy Malone, Sr. RB, Springfield Central - Ran for 168 yards and a score in a 41-12 win over Chicopee.
Marcus Odiah, Jr. RB, Burlington - Ran for 213 yards and four scores on 19 carries in a 34-26 win over Woburn. Through four games, the 3-1 Red Devils are averaging 39 points per game.
Bartley Regan, Sr. QB, BC High - Showed poise and promise in the Eagles' 35-19 loss to St. Peter's Prep (N.J.), completing 13 of 24 passes for 204 yards and two scores.
Charles Ruffin, Sr. RB, King Philip - Carried 21 times for 158 yards, and totaled three scores, in a 27-26 loss to Mansfield.

What We Learned: Week 2

September, 19, 2011
9/19/11
5:57
PM ET
D-Y, JOHNSON ARE FOR REAL
In the moments following Dennis-Yarmouth’s thrilling 28-27 win over Cape rival Barnstable, neither team could do enough evangelizing about the talent on display before them just minutes earlier.

Of D-Y wideout Damion Johnson, first-year Barnstable head coach Chris Whidden said, “If I'm a college coach and I'm anywhere near Cape Cod recruiting, I'm all over Damion Johnson. He's a hell of a football player.”

Of the duel between D-Y quarterback Matt Montalto and Barnstable quarterback D.J. Crook (who is inching closer to the state all-time touchdown pass record), Dolphins head coach Paul Funk sung high praises.

“You just saw three of the best players in the state, I don’t care where they’re from,” he told a group of reporters. “Montalto, Crook and Johnson. Those guys can play anywhere in the country, I’ll tell you that right now. They’re as good as anyone around.”

Minutes later outside the D-Y locker room, Montatlo was asked about Johnson’s jump-ball ability, and the senior put it bluntly: “Best one I’ve ever seen in high school. I’ll put it down, I think he’s the best wide receiver in high school football right now. That’s what I’ll say about him, yeah.”

All the talk is justified, though. The 6-foot-2 Johnson, with his seven catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns, showed what makes him one of the region’s more difficult players to defend with his adjustments in the game. Early on, the Red Raiders pressed Johnson heavily and brought safeties over the top; Johnson merely muscled his way to jump balls on deep fades. When they backed off the line of scrimmage, Johnson beat them with crisp comeback routes on the sideline.

“That’s what’s so difficult about Damion," Montalto said. "When you press him, right away I saw him getting off the press – he’s so good with his hands, his feet, everything – he got off the press and got over the top of them, when we’re giving him fades. And then they finally loosened up, so we came back to our crossing routes, same thing, he’s just as good at that as he is with the deep ball.”

Said Johnson, “They kinda loosened up on me a bit, but me and Matt have had our timing down since the summer. We worked on it all summer, preseason, everything.”

LINE KEEPS ROLLING ALONG
Coming into this season, questions surrounded New Bedford and how the Whalers would get along without Lance Burlingame anchoring their offensive and defensive lines. While you can never hope to replace a player like that, the Whalers have shown they'll be just fine this season. Without bookends Burlingame and Janny DosReis, guard Darian Sousa-Bizarro has moved over to tackle and provides senior leadership on the offensive side of the ball.

On defense, New Bedford showed they have multiple players ready to step up and make up for the pass rush Burlingame accounted for. In Saturday's 41-20 win over Silver Lake, the Whalers' big men put on a show with Carl Santos picking up three sacks, while Ricky Moraes had two of his own. Junior Tyler Arena is also a player worth keeping tabs on and was disruptive force against both the running and the passing rhythym of the Lakers' offense.

“They’re doing well,” Whalers head coach Dennis Golden said of the group. “Coach [Nick] Salmon and Coach [Marc] Hayes are doing a great job with them every day. They’re giving a good effort in practice. The kids are coming and playing hard consistently. It’s a good thing, it’s a good situation.”

TANNERS SHUT DOWN BILLERICA
While the number of true upsets in Week 2 paled in comparison to the wild Week 1 slate, among the more suprising results of the young season was Woburn's 12-7 triumph over Billerica.

After suffering a 25-point loss to Acton-Boxborough in Week 1, the Tanners bounced back, particuarly on defense to shut down the Indians.

While Billerica quarterback Nick LaSpada got his share of yards through the air and the ground, hovering near 200 all-purpose yards, here's betting Woburn head coach Rocky Nelson would take that result all day, every day. In addition, the Tanners got the big play on offense they need early on with Chucky Ortiz, a legitimate Mr. Football Award candidate, flashing his speed on a 71-yard run that set up his 2-yard touchdown run in the first.

From there, all the Tanners had to do was dig in.

“We tried to change up our fronts and our coverages and send people to try to confuse [LaSpada],” Nelson said of Woburn's defensive game plan. “We were in his face and he didn’t take a broken play and take it to the house. We contained him. We were sending our outside linebackers sometimes right from the line, sometimes inside. We had some line stunts that we put in that kept pressure on and we didn’t let him scramble and beat us like he did a year ago.”

ONE AMAZING CATCH
Skip to the 30-second mark of this highlight package from Friday night’s Mansfield-Needham game, and tell us Mark Riley isn’t one of the most underrated tight ends around.



"That's one of the nicest catches I've ever seen, that I can remember," Needham head coach David Duffy said. "That was tremendous. He's very fast and instinctive, he's more of an Aaron Hernandez type of tight end, we'll split him out wide sometimes. He's a matchup nightmare for teams, but he can also block."

Needham has sent just one player to a Division 1 school in three decades – Eric Johnson, former Yale tight end and seven-year NFL veteran (and also new beau of Jessica Simpson). For sake of technical terms, we’re not counting current Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka, who played soccer at Needham then Middlebury before walking on to North Carolina State as a grad student.

But in this year’s Needham squad – an underrated one based on the run it gave Mansfield on Friday – they might have two. Quarterback Drew Burnett already claims an offer from Bryant, while Riley (brother of WEEI announcer Mike Riley, a good friend of ours here at ESPNBoston) has been seeing interest anywhere from the Ivy and Patriot Leagues down to the NESCAC. He's also a returning All-American in lacrosse, and may head down that route for college.

A few more catches like that, and maybe this story changes.

And by the way, Duffy isn't afraid to make the comparison to the future Mr. Jessica Simpson.

"He reminds me of Eric Johnson -- he could do anything," Duffy said of Riley. "The kid can catch, receive, run, catch a block, anything you ask of him to do he can do it."

FROM THE BIZARRE FILE...
Maybe there’s just a proverbial rain cloud hanging over Baker Street, or maybe Catholic Memorial is just encountering bad luck. Either way, this was hardly the start they expected after coming in as the preseason No. 4 in our statewide MIAA poll.

One week after suffering a surprise shutout upset at the hands of unranked Marshfield, the Knights took a 14-0 second-quarter lead over Connecticut Class LL runner-up Trumbull, only to have two of the four lights go out at the stadium. The two teams hit the locker room early for halftime, on the suggestion from officials that they shut all four lights off and try to reboot from there.

And as luck would have it, the lights never came back on, and Trumbull made the three-hour trek back to Connecticut. Reached Monday morning, CM head coach and athletic director said a decision hasn’t been made on how this game will go down in the books.

Three weeks, one game. Here’s the good news: the Knights will be playing a Saturday afternoon game in Shrewsbury against St. John’s. And like every other week, they stand a good chance of probably coming away victorious.

Then again, nothing has gone as planned so far.

WEEK 2 CHAMPIONSHIP
It's hard to tab a second-week game as having playoff implications, but Saturday's South Coast Conference battle between Dighton-Rehoboth and Apponequet is about as close as you'll get. The Falcons and Lakers were the co-champions of the SCC last season, but Apponequet is looking to return to the postseason for the first time since 2008.

The teams were very much evenly matched and resemble each other in many ways with both teams featuring a dual threat at running back with D-R's Adam Benvie and Bryan Rocha and Apponequet's Nate Michael and Zach Nanfelt.

So did D-R take a step closer to their third straight postseason appearance with a 21-7 win?

“I guess this is what they’d say is the first big game in the league,” D-R head coach Dave Driscoll told correspondent Adam Kurkjian. “The way the schedule’s been it’s happened early the last three years. As a result, you get a little bit of a leg up if you win the game. It certainly doesn’t mean anything other than you have a win because you have to play the whole season, but it’s nice to win.

Mr. Football Watch: Week 3

September, 19, 2011
9/19/11
12:11
PM ET
Here's how things played out this past weekend in the ESPN Boston Mr. Football race:

HOW THE CONTENDERS FARED

Andrew Coke, Sr. RB, Andover - Ran for three touchdowns in the Golden Warriors' 33-14 win over Gloucester.
Jonathan DiBiaso, Everett - Threw for 211 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-13 win over Springfield Central.
Damion Johnson, Sr. WR, Dennis-Yarmouth - Caught seven passes for 125 yards and three touchdowns in the Dolphins' 28-27 thriller over Barnstable.
Tim Joy, Sr. LB, Chelmsford - Recorded 10 tackles in the Lions' 26-0 shutout of Acton-Boxborough
Jordan Knowles, Sr. DE, St. Peter-Marian - Recorded eight tackles in the Guardians' 27-20 win over Shepherd Hill.
Matt Montalto, Sr. QB, Dennis-Yarmouth - Threw for 200 yards and totaled three scores, including the go-ahead goal line dive in the fourth quarter, as the Dolphins downed Barnstable 28-27.
Matt O'Keefe, Sr. QB, Duxbury - Threw for 234 yards and totaled three scores in a 35-21 win over Plymouth North.
Karl Sery, Sr. RB, Hudson - Carried 22 times for 109 yards and a score in the Hawks' 27-6 win over Leominster.
Mike Walsh, Sr. QB, Swampscott - Had his second straight game with 300 all-purpose yards, throwing for 194 yards, running for another 111, and totaling five scores in the Big Blue's 34-14 win over Winthrop. Walsh was also 20 of 24 passing, and recorded six tackles.

ON THE RISE

Malcolm Brown, Sr. WR, Pope John XXIII - Recorded a school record six touchdowns in the 62-38 win over Pope John Paul II of Hyannis. He caught four, returned an interception, and ran back an 82-yard kickoff return.
Vincent Burton, Sr. RB, Blue Hills - Tied a career-high with five touchdowns as he ran for 276 yards in a 34-13 win over Case.
D.J. Crook, Sr. QB, Barnstable - In the heartbreaking loss to rival D-Y, he threw for 273 yards and two touchdowns, putting him within 16 touchdown passes of the state all-time record.
P.J. Dorsey, Sr. RB, Lynn English - Ran for 188 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-6 win over Wakefield.
Obi Melifonwu, Sr. RB, Grafton - The UConn commit ran for 201 yards and had five total touchdowns in the Indians' 44-13 win over Uxbridge.
Paul Mroz, Sr. QB, Brockton - Threw for 150 yards and three scores in a 27-7 win over Taunton.
R.J. Noel, Sr. QB, Lowell - Vaulted himself into the conversation with a school-record 500 passing yards and 114 rushing yards, totaling five scores, in a 44-41 loss to Nashua South.
Marcus Odiah, Jr. RB, Burlington - Ran for 179 yards and three scores in a 48-6 win over Arlington.
Charles Ruffin, Sr. RB, King Philip - Ran for three touchdowns in the Warriors' 42-7 rout of Medfield.
Don Webber, Sr. WR, Duxbury - Caught seven passes for 134 yards in a 35-21 win over Plymouth North.

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