WESTWOOD, Mass. -- Brockton coach Peter Colombo had one message for his team following its impressive showing in a scrimmage with Central Massachusetts powerhouse St. John’s of Shrewsbury, at Xaverian High.
“Keep this in perspective. It was a scrimmage,” said the coach of the preseason No. 5 team in the state. “I think we know that the sky is the limit this year.”
It certainly looked that way Saturday.
Brockton’s offense scored twice in its four plays and -- from the first string to the end of the depth chart -- the Boxers found the end zone at least once on every possession. The Pioneers moved the ball well in spots but found the end zone just once. While keeping score in a first scrimmage can be taken with a grain of salt, strictly first team against first team, Brockton led, 20-6, and overall it was 42-6. Each team went for two-point conversions after every score.
“You keep it in perspective,” Colombo said. “(The Pioneers) have been real good the last two years, and maybe a little inexperienced this year, which I thought we exploited. But I’m very happy with being in pads two days; the execution was very good. People’s attitudes, we’ve got people people in different positions adjusting. And (our) defense is young but I liked the way they ran to the ball. I thought the hitting was excellent for first day.”
“All around good game: offense; defense. It was just a good game,” said senior Jesse Monteiro, a wide receiver and cornerback. “Everybody stepped it up from the sophomores and the juniors and the seniors. Played as a team, and that’s what you have to do to make it.”
The players seemed to absorb Colombo’s message well.
“Stay humble,” Monteiro said. “Don’t let it get to our heads because we have a lot more work to do. It’s a long journey.”
The first step wasn’t too shabby.
Some other observations:
-- Brockton quarterback Paul Mroz looked superb. At this time last year, the signal-caller wasn’t nearly as patient with his reads and was prone to scrambling before the play fully developed. The senior, who received a waiver earlier this month to return to the team and is on track to graduate in January, went through his progressions and found the open receiver, spreading the ball around evenly to his weapons.
“The offensive line did a great job,” Mroz said. “They gave me confidence and if they give me time to throw I think I can make the throws happen.
“All offseason I’ve been working with these (receivers) so I got to adjust to their speeds and the timing on the routes. They do a great job running them.”
His first pass was around a 50-yard completion to Jerrod Shelby to set up a touchdown run by Josh Brewster. After a first-down strike to Monteiro, Mroz kept the ball on a zone read, found the sideline and scored a 60-yard touchdown that was aided by a thunderous block by Shelby on a trailing Pioneer defensive back.
“It was a basic read, read the end,” Mroz said. “He came in, he went with Brewster, so I just went around the whole team and I had good lead blocking on the way there. I saw Bubba (Shelby) the whole way. The defender didn’t even see that one coming.
-- Brewster looks like a capable replacement for departed All-State tailback Trevon Offley, now doing a post-graduate year at Suffield Academy. Brewster, a senior, runs downhill with decisive cuts and has soft hands coming out of the backfield. He finished with two touchdown runs and caught a two-point conversion on a nicely-designed and executed weakside throwback.
“I think Josh could be in the tradition of Brockton High running backs,” Colombo said. “We’ve got to make sure we get the ball in his hands enough because we want to spread it around, be balanced. But still, he’s a weapon that we want to exploit.”
Backups John Gomes and Moise Eduard scored on touchdown drives led by junior quarterbacks Austin Roberts (who also played outside linebacker and slot receiver) and Micah Morel, respectively. Junior Josh Laboard also had a rushing touchdown.
-- Defensively, the Boxers are young and inexperienced, but there is talent. Despite missing starting cornerbacks D.J. Brown and Devante Cartwright for much of the scrimmage, the Boxers made good plays on the ball and only let up one long reception. Morel came up and filled the running lanes well at safety. An all-junior linebacking corps of Eduard, Johashy Cornely, Ryan Kelley and Roberts was stout inside the tackle box with Eduard coming up with one of the biggest hits of the day on a third-and-short at midfield. Juniors Jeff Celestin, Malik Cooley-Walker, Anthony Davis and senior Giovanni Hyppolite held their own against a big and physical St. John’s offensive line. The backups also played well up front, as junior defensive tackle Rodney Thomas swallowed up a play in the backfield on the last defensive series.
-- For St. John’s, an always-good offensive line got better when senior Ethan Borchelt came out for football for the first time and won the starting left tackle job. At 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, the Pioneers found good yardage running to his side. Borchelt, who rows crew and plays basketball, has room to fill out his long frame and shows good technique for a first-year varsity player. The offensive line will be even better once junior Michael Marto (6-3, 280) returns to the lineup.
“It was the first full contact (Borchelt’s) had other than in a controlled camp-type structure and practice,” said St. John’s coach John Andreoli. “But just in terms of getting his body where it needed to be and keeping his lower half down lot and walling guys off, he did a pretty good job. We were very pleased with what he did and I think he’s going to keep getting better. So he’s going to be somebody to watch.”
-- St. John's senior captain Brendan Melanson, a returning starter at center, has transitioned well into taking over an inside linebacker spot.
“I kind of had some butterflies going into this game, how I was going to do,” he said. “Basically it was an easy move. I feel like coach ‘A’ is great to learn from. He’s got so much knowledge. So I feel like it’s been an easy switch. I think I did pretty well today but I definitely have something to move on from and learn from.”
-- The battle for the Pioneers' starting quarterback job is between junior Connor Kurtz and sophomore Andrew Smiley. Kurtz led the Pioneers on their only touchdown drive with a nice pass down the seam to Drew Ortone for a big gain that helped set up a short touchdown run by senior Sean Wilson. No matter who wins the job, he will have a deep and talented group of runners to hand the ball to. Efrain Montalvo is a speedy slot receiver who picked up good yardage on jet sweeps, while junior Shadrack Abrokwah and freshmen Devon Jones and Taquar Stewart also had nice long gains.
“Sean Wilson just ran with a lot of pop today,” Andreoli said. “He was delivering blows and making nice cuts. Efrain Montalvo: he’s a 4.4 guy legitimately and he has some really nice hips and can get in the open field really quick...And those freshmen - Devan and Taquar - they’ve got a fourth and fifth gear. They have a natural ability to run the ball and get to the open area. Those were a couple hit-and-spins that were pretty impressive today.
“We’ve got a lot to do. But we saw some really good things today.”