Boston High School: East Bridgewater

East Bridgewater exploded for an 11-run rally over Dennis-Yarmouth in Division 3 South action today. And with it, long-time head coach Pat Cronin won his 400th career game.

Athletic Director Tom Kenney passed along this photo of the occasion:



Kenney also passed along some more detailed information on Cronin's career:



Pat Cronin won his 400th game as the varsity baseball coach at East Bridgewater High School as EB defeated Dennis Yarmouth in the first round of the MIAA State Tournament Saturday afternoon. After serving as junior varsity coach at Cardinal Spellman with Pete Ambrose for 3 years and another 5 years at East Bridgewater High School where he was an English teacher, Coach Cronin took over the varsity baseball program at East Bridgewater in the spring of 1981.

Under his direction, East Bridgewater teams have now appeared in the state tourney a total of 25 times, reaching the South Sectional Finals 5 times , the Eastern Mass Finals twice , and a State Final. EB won the Division 2 South Sectional and Eastern Mass. Championships in 1993, as well as the Division 3 South Sectional Championship in 2012. His teams also have won back-to-back South Shore League Championships in 2013 and this year.

Elected to the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2012, Coach Cronin’s teams have often been complimented by umpires and opposing coaches alike for the way they play and respect the game of baseball.

Coach Cronin’s 2008 baseball team presented him with the game ball for his 300th win against Mashpee on April 30, and since then his teams have gone 100-38. David Pierce and Brian Sullivan were members of that 2008 team, and this year their brothers, Jacob Pierce and Connor Sullivan, were among those who presented Coach Cronin with the game ball for his 400th win. Coach Cronin is very proud of all of the young men who have played for him over the years . He gives all the credit for the 400 victories to them for loving the game of baseball and working hard each day to get a little bit better.


Roundtable: Predicting MIAA Football District Champs

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
4:21
PM ET
EDITOR'S NOTE: Picks for Western Mass. are omitted, as the district concludes its final week of regular season this weekend)

Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


Division 1 North: Everett
Plain and simple, I just don’t see John DiBiaso getting outcoached in this field.

Division 1 South: Attleboro
One of several surprise picks I’m going to lay down here. The Blue Bombardiers’ program has long been a sleeping giant, and they’ve finally awoken this fall with a slew of skilled athletes, including quarterback Tim Walsh, tight end Luke Morrison, receiver Brenden Massey and promising young two-way lineman Kyle Murphy. The key may be junior Damon Belin, a speedy pass-catching running back who is elusive in space.

Division 2 North: Haverhill
Hard to think just two years after an 0-11 campaign, the Hillies are the No. 1 seed in a playoff tournament. Sophomore running back Ian Kessel, one of the area’s leaders in yards from scrimmage, has been at the forefront of the renaissance, and I expect him to have a breakout campaign this next month.

Division 2 South: Natick
If there is one player capable of carrying his team on his back, it is quarterback Troy Flutie, who has put up video game numbers yet again (2,500-plus yards, 35 TD) with an assortment of supporting cast members.

Division 2 Central: Leominster
This is the most talented team of Dave Palazzi’s tenure, and it may be his best coaching job yet. They are not the most physically intimidating team, but they are one of the most disciplined, and they squeeze every inch out of their talents, led by dual threat QB Neil O’Connor. The Blue Devils brought the biggest crowd ever to Gillette Stadium two years ago. I can only imagine what kind of caravan from this football-mad city would show up this year.

Division 3 Northeast: Tewksbury
There may be some bumps in the road in this field, but at the end of the day there isn’t a team as deep as the Redmen in this field. They were the most dominant team in the MVC this season, and with a stable of running backs led by James Sullivan and Eddie Matovu, along with a scheme that draws formations from seemingly every family of offense throughout history, I just don’t see how anyone knocks these guys off.

Division 3 Northwest: Arlington
Two Dubzinskis are better than one, and the father-son duo of head coach John Jr. and his father John Sr. as defensive coordinator has taken the Middlesex by storm this fall after showing promise a year ago. I don’t know what direction this bracket is headed in, but the Spy Ponders are a safe pick.

Division 3 Southeast: Plymouth South
As long as Dylan Oxsen is carrying the rock, I don’t see anyone but the Panthers taking this bracket. It’s a different story after that, though.

Division 3 Southwest: Walpole
The Rebels’ ground game has come along well, after hitting a few bumps. As long as the defense can hold up, their multi-dimensional stable of backs can do the rest.

Division 4 North: Bedford
Another field that can go in an assortment of directions, the ground game dictated by Olan Abner could be the difference.

Division 4 South: Dennis-Yarmouth
The Dolphins typically hit their stride in the second half of the season, and the way this offense is clicking, it’s going to take a flawless defensive performance to shut down Spencer Tyler, Michael Dunn and company.

Division 4 Central: Doherty
Twitter follower and familiar 98.5 The Sports Hub caller “Aidan From Worcester” guarantees Shepherd Hill beats Doherty in this bracket. The Rams are a dangerous bunch, but the Highlanders have arguably the best grouping of pure athletes statewide across Division 4, so I'm sticking to my gut.

Division 5 North: Bishop Fenwick
Rufus Rushins gets much of the glory in this dominant run for the Crusaders, and deservedly so, but quarterback Nick Bona is the catalyst of this offense, and will be the difference in a close game somewhere down the line.

Division 5 South: Abington
The Green Wave lost some key bodies to start the year, but have been rolling ever since, capped with a convincing 36-7 rout of East Bridgewater. The versatile backfield of Al Freeman, Jason Halpin, quarterback Bryan Dwyer and promising sophomore Shawn Donovan will wear front sevens down.

Division 5 Central: Leicester
Tom Rodrick has been the driving force on both sides of the ball, but quarterback Drew Mazzeo puts the Wolverines over the top.

Division 6 North: Latin Academy
There are trendier picks in this field, such as Boston Cathedral, but the Dragons have one of the better overall athletes in this field in quarterback/safety Kyle Dance. He will be the difference.

Division 6 South: Upper Cape
Mike Hernon has done a fantastic job with this program, and while the Rams are a low seed headed into this wide-open field, Jon Dumont is a dangerous asset to this triple-option scheme who can take them deep.

Division 6 Central: Blackstone Valley Tech
Nic Wojnar is as elusive with his feet as he is throwing the ball in the Beavers’ read option scheme. Expect big numbers from the senior this postseason.

***

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


DIVISION 1 NORTH: Lowell
I’ve gone on record since the summertime months saying the Red Raiders are making an appearance at Gillette Stadium this year. Lowell has a tough road there, staring with a first-round road game at St. John’s Prep in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 swing matchup, but I’ve like the strides this defense has made behind Alex Quintero and Shyheim Cullen.

DIVISION 2 NORTH: Haverhill
One of the tougher races to project in Eastern Mass., the Hillies enter as the No. 1 seed. Preseason favorite Reading, a buzz worthy Waltham team and old stalwarts Lincoln-Sudbury could all claim the prize, but I’m going with the upstart Hillies, vindication for the terrific job Tim O’Connor has done since taking over the program.

DIVISION 3 NORTHEAST: Tewksbury
Marblehead might have the best athlete in the field with two-sport standout Brooks Tyrrell, but Tewksbury proves too much to handle, with a three-headed rushing attack and a stout defense.

DIVISION 3 NORTHWEST: Melrose
The Red Raiders lone loss of the regular season came against Middlesex Freedom division rival Wakefield, coming on a late field goal, but I like Melrose the second time around. The teams couldn’t meet until the sectional final and who wouldn’t love ensuring a third meeting of the season by Thanksgiving rivals.

DIVISION 4 NORTH: Watertown
Perhaps a surprise pick coming out of the division, the Red Raiders have some athletes on the boundaries with T.J. Hairston. I think Bedford might be the team to watch here, but just playing a hunch.

DIVISION 5 NORTH: Bishop Fenwick
Pick the Crusaders to go all the way, on a tear through Gillette. They haven’t just beaten teams, they’ve annihilated the CCL’s best, including St. Mary’s (first-round opponent) and Austin Prep, which they both will/can see down the road.

DIVISION 6 NORTH: Cathedral
Another North-based team I have running the field. As I mentioned earlier in the state championship Roundtable, I think the Panthers are just hitting their stride now. This could be the second championship of more to come.

DIVISION 1 SOUTH: Xaverian
Almost wanted to pull the trigger and go with Bridgewater-Raynham here, but I think the Hawks’ defense, which has carried them through the regular season, continues to be the story in the postseason, leading them to Gillette.

DIVISION 2 SOUTH: Mansfield
If this were the World Cup, this would be referred to as the “Group of Death.” Seriously, whichever team survives this gauntlet will be battle-tested. Ever since Week 1, it seems as though Mansfield’s been a team of destiny; they follow through.

DIVISION 3 SOUTHEAST: Plymouth South
An intriguing bracket, littered with some of the Atlantic Coast League’s finest, so look no further than the Panthers, the league’s playoff representative from last season. Nauset and Plymouth North are lurking, but also don’t look past an underrated rivalry game between Somerset-Berkley and Dighton-Rehoboth as a first-round appetizer.

DIVISION 3 SOUTHWEST: Oliver Ames
Another division strongly influenced by the presence of one particular league, in this case the Hockomock. OA and Stoughton drew the top two seeds, but let’s not sleep on No. 4 seed North Attleborough, which plays up in the Kelley-Rex division. Whichever team emerges from the Red Rocketeers’ first-round duel with Walpole could be a dark horse for the sectional title.

DIVISION 4 SOUTH: Westwood
Tons of Tri-Valley League talent to go around here, but I’m sticking with the regular-season champion. It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if Dennis-Yarmouth wears the sectional crown, but the Wolverines are a team that simply seems to get it done when the chips are on the table, led by dynamic senior quarterback Bo Berluti.

DIVISION 5 SOUTH: Cardinal Spellman
Old Rochester Regional enters the tournament with the No. 1 seeding, having posted some gaudy offensive numbers throughout the year behind running back Richie Phillips. I picked the Cardinals to win the state title from the start of the season, and while I like Fenwick a little more in terms of the state championship, I still envision Spellman returning to Gillette.

DIVISION 6 SOUTH: Millis/Hopedale
Perhaps no injury will have a greater impact on the outlook of the division than that of the Mohawks and lineman Jon Baker. Granted, I still like M/H’s chances emerging from a wide-open field, thanks to running back Chris Ahl. That being said, the Mohawks’ first-round date with Mashpee could determine the sectional champion.

DIVISION 2 CENTRAL: Leominster
I like the Blue Devils to advance to Gillette, but the sectional field is fraught with peril, too. Marlborough and St. John’s (Shrewsbury) can score with the best of them, but I don’t think anything short of an act of god slows down the Leominster caravan.

DIVISION 4 CENTRAL: Doherty
From season’s start, I’ve tabbed the Highlanders as my statewide Division 4 championship favorite. However, the toughest matchup in the path might very well in their first-round test against No. 6 seed Quabbin.

DIVISION 5 CENTRAL: Leicester
Coming into the season, it would have been easy to project Auburn running away with another championship of sorts, but I’m going with the No. 1-seeded Wolverines, led by linebacker Tom Rodrick – a strong Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

DIVISION 6 CENTRAL: West Boylston
This is a case of what have you done for me lately? While No. 1 seed Littleton rolled through its Mid-Wach schedule undefeated, scoring at a clip of nearly 43 points per game, West Boylston notched a thorough win over previously mentioned Leicester two weeks ago. Granted, the Lions’ lone loss of the season came at the hands of Littleton, but after a one-possession loss in Week 1, I’m banking on the second meeting having a different outcome.

Recap: East Bridgewater 28, No. 25 Millis/Hopedale 21

September, 15, 2013
9/15/13
12:11
AM ET
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- When the Millis-Hopedale football team played against East Bridgewater at Bridgewater Raynham on Saturday, just about every player looked ready for a knockdown, drag out kind of tussle, in which they peppered each other with jab after jab looking for the eventual win.

East Bridgewater's Owen Harrington looked more the part of a prize fighter with knockout power as the Vikings slipped past the Mohawks, 28-21.

The Mohawks landed the first blow, marching nine plays in just under five minutes to score on the opening drive. After Chris Ahl opened the game with a 24-yard return, Millis/Hopedale used a steady running attack to grind down the field. Quarterback Sean Heffernan threw his first pass of the day on a third-and-goal from the three, connecting with Joe Caretta for a touchdown.

East Bridgewater didn't need nearly the time of possession, nor total plays to tie things up, because Harrington took the ensuing kickoff 83 yards straight up the middle of the field for the game-tying score.

"That was an absolute backbreaker for us," said Mohawks coach Dale Olmstead. "We had a great drive moving down the field to score, and we really thought we had punched them a bit, but he punched right back."

M/H used the remainder of of the first quarter to set up its next score, as they put together another marathon drive, finishing the quarter still with the ball - meaning EB didn't run an offensive play in the first.

Heffernan connected with Sager Dasai for a 24-yard touchdown pass to open the second quarter, on the 10th play of the drive.

After a touchback, EB quarterback Mike Kelly authored an impressive response for the Vikings. For the next 8:30, the Vikings matriculated the ball toward the other end, finally hitting pay-dirt on a 2-yard dive to cap a 15-play drive.

Kelly finished the day with 50 rushing yards on seven carries, and was a perfect 2-for-2 passing, including an impressive 16-yard heave to Jake Pierce with just two minutes to go on a long third down.

"Mike ran the offense very well, I'm very happy with him," EB head coach Shawn Tarpey said. "He did just what I wanted him to do - take what they give you, make a couple plays in the pass game, get north and south and don't try to do much. He did all of that today."

The Mohawks maneuvered the ball back into the Vikings' red zone before halftime, falling short of a score when the drive halted at the 9-yard line. When the teams reached the locker room, the score was knotted at 13 and M/H had out-gained EB, 188-70, on offense.

Harrington made the yardage look a lot more even, while unevening the scoreboard on just the second play of the second half. He took a handoff toward the right hash mark, and by the time he hit the line of a scrimmage a big hole had formed. He plunged through and never looked back, racing 61 yards for a score.

Even the heavy hitting of Harrington couldn't knock off M/H right there, and the Mohawks followed with another impressive and lengthy drive that culminated in a score by Ahl. A 2-point conversion was successful, and M/H grabbed a 21-20 lead.

After the kickoff, Harrington needed just one play to remind everyone what he was capable of. He dashed 63 yards to the Vikings back ahead, this time for good. A 2-point conversion made it a seven point game.

"We've had some stud players, and maybe Owen is going to be one of those guys," Tarpey said. "I'm not going to anoint him that just yet, but he had a great game. The thing is, he's worked his butt off and he's really wanted this. I can't say enough about him."

EB sealed the win in the final minute when Sean Pierce, who had a game-high nine tackles, intercepted a pass just past midfield. A knee by Kelly ran the remaining seconds off the clock.

Harrington finished with 166 rushing yards on 16 carries, and had 100 return yards to go with his three scores in the win against a team led by Jon Baker, a supremely talented lineman headed for Boston College next year.

"Our O-line was pretty amazing, especially on how they handled Baker. I just saw big holes and went right through," Harrington said. "I'll definitely be thanking the offensive line for what they did out there."

Roundtable: Best players, breakout stars, sleepers

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
6:03
PM ET
Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools editor


Best QB: Cody Williams, Springfield Central
Best RB: Johnathan Thomas, St. John's Prep
Best WR: Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE: Brendan Hill, Mansfield
Best OL: Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best DL: Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best LB: C.J. Parvelus, Everett
Best DB: Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense: Natick
Best rushing offense: St. John's Prep
Best offensive line: St. John's Prep
Best defensive line: Reading
Best linebackers: Reading
Best secondary: Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Medway
Coach Dave McSweeney's affinity for power football isn't a secret, and this season he'll have two road-graders to run behind in Kevin Sheehan (6-4, 285) and Cam Smith (6-5, 290, Lafayette commit). If there's any exhibit for why we needed to change the postseason format, the most glaring sample might be the Mustangs, who went 19-3 from 2009-10 with no playoff berth. In this new playoff system, a gameplan like the Mustangs' is built for the long haul.

Lynn English
Perhaps this isn't a surprise pick so much as an affirmation. In a Division 2 North that is perceived to be wide open after heavy favorite Reading, the Bulldogs have enough talent to make a deep run. There has always been elite talent at the skill positions, but Preseason All-State selection Chris Tinkham gives them a presence in the trenches they've lacked the last few years, a rare "war daddy" type who overpowers the interior gaps. The biggest question will be where the Bulldogs put junior Jordan Javier, a 6-foot-4 transfer from Haverhill who is a matchup problem at his natural split end position but also throws one of the prettiest balls you'll see on the North Shore.

Quabbin
The Panthers struggled to a 4-7 tune last season in a weak league, but there is some promise. Quarterback Dylan Kierman is an underappreciated talent, who should get a boost from the return of slippery receiver Nick Thyden. The Panthers run a unique "Air Raid" scheme, and another year of experience with it could surprised teams in Division 4 Central.

THREE BREAKOUT ATHLETES TO WATCH

Lukas Denis, Jr. ATH, Everett
After an injury-shortened 2012 season in which he was the assumed successor to record-setting quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso, but barely saw the field, Denis is moving to the perimeter, where he will take a role similar to the hybrid slot-back role that Manny Asprilla made legendary in 2010. Defensively, he should serve as a terrific compliment in the secondary to highly-touted safety/cornerback Lubern Figaro, and has already begun to pick up some Division 1 FBS interest.

Alfred Adarkwah, Sr. WR, Doherty
Standing a long 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan, Adarkwah has an unusually large catching radius for a high school receiver. This summer in passing leagues, the Highlanders toyed with Adarkwah and Boston College-bound receiver Isaac Yiadom on the same side of 2x2 formations. Head coach Sean Mulcahy has to be excited with the possibilities that opens up -- just imagine sending those two on a post-wheel combo route. Or better yet, imagine running them on a bubble screen, taking advantage of both Yiadom's elite speed and Adarkwah's great downfield blocking skills.

Taj-Amir Torres, Jr. ATH, Amherst
Already a household name in track and field, where he was named the state's Gatorade Player of the Year last spring as a sophomore after winning New Englands in the 100-meter dash, he's about to get a whole lot more attention. Boston College, UConn and UMass have already offered Torres, who made just 24 catches last season but made some incredible feats of athleticism. Hurricanes head coach David Thompson told us earlier this month "[We're] trying to get the ball in his hands every opportunity we get", so expect bigger numbers in 2013.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS

Div. 1 - Everett
Div. 2 - Springfield Central
Div. 3 - Walpole
Div. 4 - Doherty
Div. 5 - Auburn
Div. 6 - Millis/Hopedale

***

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor

Best QB - Drew Belcher - Sr. Reading
Best RB - Johnny Thomas - Sr. St. John’s Prep
Best WR - Brian Dunlap - Jr. Natick
Best TE - Rory Donovan - Sr. Cardinal Spellman
Best OL - Jon Baker – Sr., Millis/Hopedale
Best DL – Joe Gaziano – Jr., Xaverian
Best LB – Eddie Motavu – Sr., Tewksbury
Best DB - Lubern Figaro - Sr. Everett
Best passing offense - Natick
Best rushing offense - St. John's Prep
Best offensive line – Bridgewater-Raynham
Best defensive line - Reading
Best linebackers - Leominster
Best secondary - Everett

THREE SURPRISE TEAMS

St. Mary’s (Lynn)
OK, so a team coming off an 11-2 season and a Super Bowl appearance might not exactly be a surprise, but with a couple of other Catholic Central teams garnering the buzz in the preseason, let's not forget the Spartans have another season with Jordan Collier (1,495 yards, 18 TD).

Hingham

We've heard them knocking, but can they come in? The Harbormen have whittled the gap in recent years, particularly against Patriot League nemesis Duxbury, but they're still waiting to break through. They could have an in-road in Division 3 Southwest. An early non-leaguer against Oliver Ames should be a bellweather for things to come, but the real proof will come Oct. 5, against those aforementioned Dragons.

Wakefield
The Warriors fell short of their goal of winning the Middlesex League's Freedom division last year, but should be in the mix in a wide open Division 3 Northwest race. We'll have a better impression after a visit from Lynn English in Week 2.

THREE BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETES

Joe Johnston, Sr. RB/S, King Philip
Anybody who saw Johnston's hard-nosed 157-yard, 2-touchdown performance against North Attleborough last year knows Johnston's style. He's a burden for would-be tacklers inside the box, and once he kicks it outside, he's also very hard to catch.

Grant Kramer, Sr. OT, Duxbury
The younger brother of Boston College tackle Aaron Kramer, Grant is now ready to assume the role as the next great lineman on the Dragons' line (and there have been some very good ones in recent memory). He currently holds offers from Coastal Carolina and Villanova but has also expressed interest in attending West Point.

Connor Moriarty, Sr. RB, Walpole
When Rebels starter Mike Rando went out with an ankle injury near the midway point of the regular season last year, it was Moriarty who carried the load down the stretch. Expect even bigger numbers this year.

WAY TOO EARLY CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTIONS:

D1 – St. John’s Prep
D2 – Springfield Central
D3 – Walpole
D4 – Doherty
D5 – Auburn
D6 – Millis/Hopedale

***

Josh Perry
ESPN Boston correspondent


Best QB - Drew Belcher, Reading
Best RB - Jonathan Thomas, St. John’s Prep
Best WR – Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE – Brendan Hill, Mansfield
Best OL – Jon Baker, Millis-Hopedale
Best DL – Andrew Bourque, Reading
Best LB – Kevin Bletzer, Catholic Memorial
Best DB – Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense - Natick
Best rushing offense – St. John’s Prep
Best offensive line – St. John’s Prep
Best defensive line - Reading
Best linebackers – Catholic Memorial
Best secondary - Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE:

Attleboro
A new coaching staff, the energy of a new field complex, and a strong crop of returning seniors could make the Bombardiers the surprise team of the Hockomock League. Attleboro has always been a sleeping giant and the program continues to find solid athletes, it’s now up to the new staff to build a system that fits the talent on the roster. With a couple of league rivals dealing with injuries and suspensions, Attleboro could sneak up on people.

Barnstable
Everyone assumes that there will be a significant drop off for the Red Raiders due to a big graduating class, but there is still potential to be a solid team in D2 and in the OCL. This may not be a another season with Barnstable holding the top spot in the poll, but it shouldn’t be written off either.

Stoughton
The Knights are expected to finish behind Oliver Ames in the Davenport, but don’t be surprised if they pull an upset or two and give the Tigers a run at the title. Watch out for running back Malachi Baugh, who will be getting the majority of the carries this season and is a beast to try and bring down.

THREE BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETES TO WATCH

Luke Morrison, Sr. TE/DE, Attleboro
Attleboro’s giant tight end/defensive end is a monster match-up on both sides of the ball and could be a real threat as Tim Walsh’s favorite target in the Bombardiers passing attack.

Ryan Charter, Sr. QB, Needham
Mike Panepinto has deservedly drawn praise as the star man on the Needham offense, but the senior quarterback, who has been under center for 1-1/2 seasons already, will have high expectations as the Rockets try to get back on top in the Bay State.

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
With the graduation of running backs Robbie Rapoza and Kevin Makie and the continued injury problems for wide receiver Michael Hershman the key cog for the Hornets offense will be its senior quarterback. Wisnieski’s ability to spread the ball around and pick the right options out of a still talented receiving corps that includes Brendan Hill is going to be the key for Mansfield’s run at a Hockomock title.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS:

Div. 1 – St. John’s Prep
Div. 2 - Nashoba
Div. 3 – Bishop Feehan
Div. 4 - Doherty
Div. 5 - Auburn
Div. 6 – Millis-Hopedale

***

Ryan Kilian
Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Massachusetts Prep Stars


Best QB - Drew Belcher, Reading
Best RB - Johnathan Thomas, St. John's Prep
Best WR - Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE - Rory Donovan, Cardinal Spellman
Best OL - Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best DL - Alex Quintero, Lowell
Best LB - C.J. Parvelus, Defense
Best DB - Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense - St. John's (Shrewsbury)
Best rushing offense - St. John's Prep
Best offensive line - St. John's Prep
Best defensive line - Reading
Best linebackers - Duxbury
Best secondary - Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Bedford
While Wayland and Concord-Casrlisle have earned the DCL Small Championship the past few years do not sleep on Bedford in 2013. The Bucs play one of the toughest schedules in Division 4 and the return All-DCL running back Olan Abner.

Chelmsford
While Lowell, Central and Andover are getting most of the early press in the MVC Large, the Chelmsford Lions return one of the State's top running backs in Jeff D'Auria, a seasoned young quarterback in Jack Campsmith and a nice nucleus of tough experienced defenders.

Archbishop Williams
If Archies can find early offensive balance to take some of the work load off the shoulders of star senior back Kylan Philbert-Richardson, they could make some noise in the D5 playoff hunt.

THREE BREAKOUT ATHLETES TO WATCH

Ian Kessel, Soph. RB, Haverhill
The St. John's Prep transfer saw late game carries last season as a freshman for Prep's Super Bowl Champion squad. The speedy halfback is now back home in the MVC Small, and with the graduation of work horse, All-State RB Chance Brady (Tufts), there should be plenty carries to go around.

Devin Lekan, Sr. DE/TE, Chelmsford
D'Auria and Campsmith return to lead the offense for Chelmsford's but it is the Lion defense could be the story if they stay healthy. The Lions feature the 2nd team all-MVC performer was the most impressive player in the games I saw last season.

Nick Orekoya, Jr. DB/RB Billerica
Orekoya saw a lot of playing time as a two-way starter for Billerica last season. With another year under his belt Orekoya should thrive in coach Rich McKenna's high octane offense.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS

Div. 1 - Everett
Div. 2 - Reading
Div. 3 - Tewksbury
Div. 4 - Dennis-Yarmouth
Div. 5 - Auburn
Div. 6 - Boston Cathedral

***

John Botelho
Editor-in-Chief, South Shore Sports Journal


Best QB - Troy Flutie, Natick
Best RB - Dylan Oxsen, Plymouth South
Best WR - Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE - Rory Donovan, Cardinal Spellman
Best OL - Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best DL - Steve Manning, Abington
Best LB - Kervin Jean-Claude, Brockton
Best DB - Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense - Natick
Best rushing offense - St. John's Prep
Best offensive line - St. John's Prep
Best defensive line - Auburn
Best linebackers - Brockton
Best secondary - Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Brockton
They're ranked pretty high in any poll you look at because people have just come to accept the fact that Brockton generally reloads. They graduated 18 starters from last season's Super Bowl team, including quarterback Austin Roberts, who was one of the best in school history. Roberts, Micah Morel and Joe Previte are all playing ball at prep schools this year, and Anthony Davis has moved on to Div. 1 Central Connecticut. Still, the Boxers will very solid again. They have a number of athletes and playmakers, including returning do-it-all Aaron Leclair. Transfer Jamal Williams is going to compliment him well, and sophomore Kerry Raymond is physically imposing at 6-foot-1 and 205. Aaron Monteiro's 6-foot-5, 295-pound frame gives Brockton an anchor on the offensive line. They have plenty of guys ready to step forward on the other side of the ball as well, led by Kervin Jean-Claude, Justin Ahanon and Leclair.

Abington
The Green Wave went unbeaten in their march toward a Super Bowl crown last year, but saw a slew of stars graduate. QB Brandon Cawley, TE/DE Pat Dwyer, FB Jack Malafronte, RB Babila Fonkem, DB Mike Walsh, OL Tyler Perakslis and OL Matt Diver are just some of the elite players Abington graduated. These guys won't miss a beat though, as they have a ton of talent back. Matt Kilmain broke out for more than 400 yards on 27 carries in two postseason wins last year, and he might not even be the best player back this season. Abington returns its top three tacklers from a year ago and has most of their front seven back on defense. Jim Kelliher has one of the best coaching staffs going at this point, and these guys look like they're headed back to the playoffs. (For bold prediction purposes, I'm also going to go ahead and say I think they beat Duxbury on opening night, because that's how good I think this team can be).

Stoughton
The Black Knights missed the playoffs last year because of the wrong day for a let down game, taking a tough defeat to eventual Super Bowl champ Sharon. The Knights lost some very good players, but leading running back Malachi Baugh is back in the fold and they return four starting offensive lineman, so there's no reason to think the offense won't be up to par again. The Hockomock League has proven in recent years to be one of the toughest to win, but a second guaranteed playoff berth can only help a team like Stoughton.

THREE BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETES TO WATCH

Aaron Monteiro, Jr. OL, Brockton
Monteiro has something that can't be learned, or even worked toward. His 6-foot-5, 295-pound frame is one that will draw the interest of coaches at the next level. Coach Peter Colombo is very excited about plugging the junior into his offensive line, and it's not just because of the size. Monteiro worked during the off-season to get himself stronger and is primed to be one of the best lineman in the state. He plays basketball in the winter, something that has helped him develop quick and agile feet for a guy his size.

Sam Malafronte, Jr. LB, Abington
Started at linebacker a year ago as a sophomore for the Div. 4 Super Bowl champs, and finished second on the team in tackles. A very good athlete who is a work-out warrior, Malafronte will team with Matt Whelan to lead a solid corps in the middle of the field for the Green Wave.

James Shea, Sr. WR, East Bridgewater
The Vikings have benefited from having tremendous athletes in the backfield the last few years (think Casey DeAndrade, Tim O'Brien, Andrew Benson and Kevin Lynch), but in 2013 their most dangerous player will be splitting out wide. Shea can run with just about anyone -- he finished sixth in the 100-meter dash in the South Shore League last spring -- and is going to wreak havoc pulling in passes all year.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS

Div. 1 - Everett
Div. 2 - Natick
Div. 3 - Plymouth South
Div. 4 - Doherty
Div. 5 - Abington
Div. 6 - Millis/Hopedale

Northeast 7v7: St. Paul (Conn.) takes South title

July, 22, 2013
7/22/13
12:20
AM ET
EASTON, Mass. -- It's been an eventful offseason in the recruiting department for St. Paul Catholic (Conn.) quarterback Logan Marchi, who saw his childhood dream come true late last month with a verbal commitment to UConn.

Winning? Not so much. Since appearing the CIAC Class MM playoffs in 2009, the Falcons have won just six games in three years. If they're to get back to their winning ways, they're going to need another big season out of Marchi, a 6-foot-1 gunslinger with plenty of zip out of his unorthodox three-quarter arm slot.

Could today's events at Oliver Ames High, site of the Under Armour Northeast 7-on-7 South Regional Tournament, be the start? Marchi led the Falcons through a forest of quality competition, knocking off Massachusetts heavyweight Mansfield in the finals, 35-29, to become the first team from Connecticut to capture a regional title in tournament history.

St. Paul and Mansfield qualified for July 30's New England Championship, at Bishop Fenwick High in Peabody.

"It feels good," said Marchi, a Winsted, Conn., resident, who also played safety today on defense. "The past three seasons have been losing for us. We've been young, we've had freshmen starting on the varsity. Coming out here, seeing smiles on faces, seeing everybody happy winning is good. It's a fun experience."

After going unbeaten through a pool of Framingham, Braintree, Whitman-Hanson and Middleborough, the Falcons took out Dighton-Rehoboth and East Bridgewater to advance to the Final Four. There, St. Paul matched up with Cardinal Spellman, led by one of the Bay State's top targets in 6-foot-6 tight end Rory Donovan, before advancing to the final against Mansfield.

"For his height he runs good routes," Marchi said of Donovan, who currently holds offers from UMass and UNH. "He's fast, he's quick, he's got good feet -- I like that. I tried playing some press man on him, but he blew right by me. He's got good hands, he's a good kid. I like him."

Marchi did a good job most of the afternoon spreading the ball around to his targets -- junior Eli Parks, junior Brendan Carroll, senior Reid Morin and his brother, sophomore Austin -- and in the finals against the Hornets, Marchi impressed the crowd on hand with his throws both short and long.

Utilizing crossing patterns over the middle, Marchi threaded some lasers through the middle for quick first downs. Their most successful maneuver involved switching vertical routes deep down the right sideline; with the Mansfield safety often locked along the hash marks, that left inside slot receiver Austin Morin open for several terrific over-the-shoulder grabs at the pylons.

Marchi, pleased with the results, is optimistic about the potential momentum today's action carrying into the season.

"We're excited, we're ready to compete," he said. "We're ready to show our offense to people, we're ready to show we have a better defense, and we want to win some games."

Flair for the Dramatic: Mansfield, Sunday's runner-up, advanced to the final with a little bit of karma on its side perhaps.

The Hornets were spurred on the road to the championship game by a couple of last-ditch passing attempts. After winning an early-round game on a Hail Mary, Mansfield won its semi-final matchup with Catholic Memorial via a full-field heave from quarterback Kyle Wisnieski to Kyle Hurley with no time remaining. Hurley, who was all over the field for the Hornets, working a complement of short and intermediate routes, grabbed a hold of the tipped ball in the end zone to earn the come-from-behind victory over CM.

For Mansfield, a Division 2 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl participant in 2012, it's about carrying last season's momentum into a new campaign.

"We have a lot of juniors from last year returning this year, so it's a pretty tight family," Hurley said. "We just came in here trying to compete. We knew there were a lot of good teams coming in. We thought we could hold our own, obviously making it to the championship game and played a great team."

Sunday was a fine showcase for Mansfield's aerial attack, which figures to feature more spread looks in the upcoming season to maximize the strengths of its personnel. And, although the Hornets were without two of their top targets -- Brendan Hill (AAU basketball Nationals) and Mike Hershman (rehabbing injury) -- they still showed plenty of sting behind Brendan Keady and Hurley.

"We're able to make some connections with Kyle [Wisnieski] throwing to a couple different receivers," Hurley said. "I feel like there are things we can get out of it, we can communicate and try to make improvements -- it's July, it's early obviously. It's just great to get out here and compete."

Donovan gets his share: One of the most-anticipated individual matchups of the day went down early in the afternoon in Pool G, where Springfield Central's Ju'uan Williams manned up the 6-foot-6 Donovan in a battle between two players who could potentially see themselves on ESPN Boston's Preseason All-State Team next month.

The 5-foot-8 Williams, who currently holds an offer from Division 2 American International College, gave up 10 inches and nearly 25 pounds to Donovan. He mostly played eight to 10 yards off the line of scrimmage against Donovan, but he showed off his athleticism early, crashing to the pylon on a fade and out-leaping Donovan to break up a would-be touchdown. On plays that Williams marked Donovan, the tight end was targeted three times, with two catches and a score.

"He's a good player and he's really aggressive. He's physical," Donovan said of Williams. "He's fast, he's quick, he knows what he's doing ou there, absolutely. He's not a scrub."

In addition to UMass and UNH offers, Donovan has also heard from Temple, James Madison, Towson, UConn and Maryland.

Albany offers Cody Williams: Central's biggest star, quarterback Cody Williams, was not available for today's tournament. He was on a visit to the University of Albany, where he received his third scholarship offer from the Division 1 FCS ranks to go along with Monmouth (N.J.) and Central Connecticut State.

With Cody out, two of his cousins -- sophomore Aaron, and the aforementioned Ju'uan -- saw time under center. Ju'uan filled in for Cody in two games last season, and was quite impressive, most significantly throwing for two touchdowns and running in the game-winning score in a highly-anticipated October showdown with rival Longmeadow. Today Ju'uan aired it out, with two deep completions down the right sideline to senior Malik Johnson.

Blitz for Bletzer: One of the most intriguing commitments of Steve Addazio's historic first recruiting class at Boston College is Catholic Memorial athlete Kevin Bletzer, who saw time at nearly every position in the back seven last year as one of the team's leading tacklers. At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, the Medfield resident will likely fit at outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Don Brown's scheme, which prioritizes speed and versatility. Bletzer also captains the Knights' hockey and lacrosse teams, which are traditionally among the state's best.

And in turn, it's likely that Bletzer will stay closer to the line of scrimmage on defense this year for the Knights.

"I've kinda always loved to play linebacker," Bletzer said. "They had me at safety the last three years, but they put me up in the box, so I've had a little taste for linebacker in my past years. The only difference is, I'm going to be stuck there [now], and have to deal with a lot more lineman. But I look forward to it."

Ball Hawks: Remember earlier this month, when we mused that suggestions of Barnstable's demise, after graduating one of its best senior classes in school history, may have been exaggerated?

Look, there's a reason the Red Raiders dropped futile Durfee from their schedule and added Catholic Conference juggernauts BC High and Xaverian, one year after spending seven weeks as the state's No. 1 team and taking Everett to the brink in the Division 1A Super Bowl. Under head coach Chris Whidden, Barnstable has been among the state's best in pass coverage -- and we saw that again today.

The Raiders didn't survive pool play, going 2-2 in a pool that included Nauset and BB&N, but suffice to say their safety play was among the day's most impressive performances. In the final two games, senior Derek Estes came up with seven interceptions, including four against Silver Lake. In the Silver Lake battle, senior Micah Gregory made one of the day's most impressive athletic plays, breaking on a ball at the opposite sideline from the far hash marks and making a one-handed snatch of a would-be first down.

Walloping Whalers: Nantucket might have been the only team in the country last season with bookend tackles tipping the scales at 180 pounds, but a Division 1-bound tight end measuring 6-foot-7 and 275 pounds (ESPN Boston All-Stater Terrel Correia). But it looks like the Whalers will have some more meat in the trenches this fall.

Juniors Mykal Ludford (6-4, 305) and Matt Correia (6-3, 250, younger brother of Terrel) were out running routes today with the Whalers' skill, and a third lineman Taylor Gulley (6-3, 275) should give them further bulk. That should help out senior linebacker Jon Holdgate, who is expected to shoulder a big load.

Recap: No. 23 Abington 22, East Bridgewater 16

November, 9, 2012
11/09/12
11:42
PM ET
EAST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- Jack Malafronte might only stand 5-foot-5 and 170 pounds, but he played like the biggest man on the field Friday night for the Abington football team in their South Shore League title clinching win over East Bridgewater.

The fire hydrant of a running back led the charge for the Green Wave, carrying the ball 12 times for a whopping 174 yards in the 22-16 win.

The Vikings managed to curtail the production of offensive lightning rods Babila Fonkem and Matt Kilmain, but Malafronte found the end zone three times for the unbeaten Green Wave (10-0, 7-0 SSL).

“It always starts with the offensive line, they open up the holes,” said Malafronte. “I just hit em fast and hit em hard.

"I think we have the most talented group of backs around. You really can’t game-plan for three running backs and quarterback who can throw, so teams have to pick their poison. You might shut down one or shutdown two, but someone is going to find those holes.”

And Hall-of-Fame coach Jim Kelliher couldn’t have been happier it was Malafronte, who is widely recognized as one of the best motivators he's had – this year or any.

“Jack [Malafronte] is without a doubt one of the best captain-leaders we’ve ever had here,” Kelliher said. “I’ve been here for 42 years, so I’ve seen a lot of guys go through. He’s without a doubt the best. He epitomizes being a captain leader. He certainly showed it tonight.”

He didn’t get his first carry until two minutes into the second quarter, but he made the most of it as he sprinted 61 yards and moved the Green Wave into East Bridgewater territory for the first time.

After a pass interference call on fourth down kept the drive alive, Malafronte finished it off with a 10-yard dive into the end zone with 5:25 remaining in the half. A halfback pass from Fonkem to Joe Buckley made it 8-0.

East Bridgewater suffered its third turnover-on-downs on the next drive, and Abington held the ball for the final two minutes of the first half. Malafronte extended the lead on third play from scrimmage after the break, racing 53 yards for a score. A Fonkem run on the two-point conversion made it 16-0.

Just when it seemed Abington might run away with this one, the Vikings (6-4, 4-2 SSL) put together an impressive nine-play drive that spanned nearly five minutes. Andrew Benson, who finished with 67 yards rushing and another 51 yards passing, scored from three yards out before adding a two-point conversion rush to make it 16-8.

EB forced a quick three-and-out, and took over at their own 24 following a punt.

This time it took 10 plays, but Benson once again plunged in from three yards out. He added another impressive two-point conversion score on a broken play, tying the game with 7:53 remaining.

The tie was short-lived, however, as Abington manufactured a 10-play drive of their own and Malafronte finished it from two yards out with 3:37 left. His rush attempt failed and the Green Wave led 22-16.

East Bridgewater marched down the field again, and an athletic 17-yard scramble by Benson set up a 1st-and-10 at the 11-yard line. Back-to-back false starts moved the Vikings back 10 yards though.

With pressure baring down on him, Benson threw a pass toward that end zone that Abington’s Mike Walsh came down with, ending the drive and comeback bid.

The fourth time EB failed to net points after reaching the end zone doomed them as it came with just 1:05 left on the clock.

“We just made too many mistakes and had too many breakdowns,” East Bridgewater head coach Shawn Tarpey said. “We’ve been talking about execution the last few weeks. Overall we played pretty well, but we didn’t get it done when we needed a big play.”

Fittingly, Malafronte cruised past the first down marker allowing the Green Wave to take a knee and clinch their first SSL crown since 2008.

While Malafronte led the way offensively, his younger brother, Sam, made sure it was family affair on both sides of the ball. He led the Green Wave with six tackles, who also five each from Fonkem and Steve Manning, as well as four from Joe Brady and Jon Aprile in the win.

LYNCH'S FIGHTING CHANCE
Doctors and coaches weren’t sure senior captain Kevin Lynch would be able to suit up again for the Vikings after breaking his arm in their Week 4 loss to Mashpee.

Still, Lynch – a linebacker and running back – planned to be back, and his return to the field during the Abington loss was the brightest spot of the day for East Bridgewater.

“I mentioned it to the team that he was gutsy when he got hurt,” Tarpey said. “He backed that up again tonight. He’s just such a special kid. Six weeks off, and for him to just jump in their like that, I couldn’t be prouder of a kid. What a performance by him.”

The performance included rushing for 130 yards on 20 carries and leading the Vikings on defense while registering a team-high seven tackles.

“He’s just such a good kid,” Tarpey said. “He works so hard across the board – he’s ranked fourth in his class, and was always in the weight room, I’m just so proud of what he did out there tonight.”

ESPN Boston Week 10 football picks

November, 9, 2012
11/09/12
1:42
AM ET
NO. 5 WALPOLE (9-0) AT NO. 21 NATICK (8-1)
The Skinny: The most anticipated regular-season matchup is finally upon us. A swelling crowd is expected to turn out for this one, as the Bay State Conference’s Herget division title is on the line. Natick is looking to bounce back after coming up on the wrong side of one of the year’s biggest upsets (a 40-34 loss to Wellesley), but Troy Flutie, Brian Dunlap and co. will have to do it against one of the state’s stingiest defenses. Walpole hasn’t allowed a point since Sept. 28, and hasn’t allowed a touchdown since Week 3.

Scott Barboza: I’m shudder to think that we might not have any questions to answer during our Sunday night chat this week now that we’re finally about to give our picks on this game. Walpole, 27-21.

Brendan Hall: I’m sure the primary topic of discussion in this Sunday night’s Top 25 chat will be “What’s your prediction for Natick-Walpole in 2013?” Walpole, 20-17.

NO. 17 NAUSET (9-0) AT PLYMOUTH SOUTH (6-3)
The Skinny: Raise your hand if you thought this would be the de facto Atlantic Coast League championship back in August. South’s Dylan Oxsen leads the state in rushing touchdowns (28), doing so behind a uniquely modified pistol attack that gets the hard-charging junior downhill in a hurry. Written off a month ago, the Panthers are suddenly in prime position for their first postseason berth here, but they’ll have to find a way to neutralize all the chicanery that comes with Nauset’s single wing attack, led by running back Jimmy Sullivan.

Barboza: It’s time we start considering Oxsen as a serious candidate for our Offensive Player of the Year Award. Plymouth South, 13-7.

Hall: If you know me, you know I’m a fiend for the ground-and-pound. For that reason, can’t go wrong with either team, but I’m sticking with my preseason pick. Nauset, 28-21.

NO. 23 ABINGTON (9-0) AT EAST BRIDGEWATER (6-3)
The Skinny: Abington can clinch the South Shore League title with a win over the Vikings, and are the favorites here behind a dynamic offense led by Babila Fonkem, Pat Dwyer and Brandon Cawley. Defensively, the Green Wave are allowing just under seven points a game the last three weeks, but they figure to have their hands full trying to slow down quarterback Andrew Benson in the option game.

Barboza: I’m going to mention Brandon Cawley’s name again just because the other night on Twitter he’s said I only mention the running backs. JK guys, JK. Abington, 32-24.

Hall: If this is truly Abington coach Jim Kelliher’s last season, then you can’t find a more fitting farewell. Abington, 31-20.

SHARON (7-2) AT FOXBOROUGH (7-2)
The Skinny: Is the clock about to strike midnight on Sharon? The Eagles remain unbeaten in the Hockomock’s Davenport division, but still have two big league games on the slate. The first one is Friday night, where they will attempt to contain tailback Kiivone Howard, who leads the Hockomock in rushing yardage (1,405).

Barboza: Foxborough quarterback Mike Slaby could be the difference-maker. Foxborough, 23-17.

Hall: What would a Hockomock League berth be without a little bit of mathematics? Foxborough, 21-7.

MARBLEHEAD (8-1) AT BEVERLY (9-0)
The Skinny: The Magicians claimed the CAL/NEC Tier 2 title last season with a senior-laden team. However, Marblehead’s in the mix again, even after a surprise loss to Salem a few weeks back. Meanwhile, the Panthers can clinch the league crown with a win on Saturday. The vaunted Panthers offense (averaging 38 points per game) and its rushing attack is closing in on 3,000 combined rushing yards on the season, led by a backfield of Brendan Flaherty and Kenny Pierce. The Magicians have relied on 1,000-yard passer Ian Maag (13 touchdowns) for a bulk of their offense.

Barboza: It’s been a nice bounce back run for Marblehead in an attempt at a repeat title, but, after all, this is the #yearofthepanther. Beverly, 28-14.

Hall: We love Jim Rudloff’s mind games as much as the next guy, but the Magicians are simply overmatched here against one of the state’s best rushing attacks. Beverly, 35-21.

BISHOP FEEHAN (6-2) AT SOMERSET-BERKLEY (9-0)
The Skinny: As in each of the last three seasons, the Eastern Athletic Conference title will be determined in a matchup between the Shamrocks and Blue Raiders. Feehan came away with a decisive victory last year, but Somerset-Berkley is looking to lay claim to its second crown in the last three years. The Blue Raiders are led by a dynamic back field of Garrett Carlos and Mike Garrant, but they’ll encounter a physical Feehan front seven anchored by linemen Chris Barthe, Seamus Cuddy and Mitch Matrin.

Barboza: Nick Freitas escapes with EAC title No. 2. Somerset-Berkley, 27-20.

Hall: In terms of EAC supremacy, Feehan had the 2000’s. And now, Somerset has the 2010’s. Somerset-Berkley, 24-17.

FRANKLIN (7-2) AT MANSFIELD (6-3)
The Skinny: The Panthers get back into Hockomock Kelley-Rex play after a startling loss to Taunton two weeks ago. If Franklin is to hold out hope of hanging around in the division race, they’ll need a win at Mansfield on Saturday. The Hornets are in a similar situation having dropped a close decision to North Attleborough two weeks ago. Look for the Hornets, led by Robbie Rapoza, to pound the ball on the ground and play some ball control in trying to keep the Panthers’ spread attack on the sideline. Franklin junior quarterback Nick Zucco has been a revelation this year, but the Panthers can also run the ball behind Kyle Finamore. The Mansfield defense has been bolstered by junior linebacker Alex Ruddy, who currently leads the team in tackles.

Barboza: As predicted a couple weeks back, the Kelley-Rex picture is only obfuscated more. Expect another wild finish. And, of course, another prediction my friends in Mansfield will relish. Franklin, 38-36.

Hall: If the Hornets can establish the run game early, they can do just enough to hold off a furious Franklin rally. Mansfield, 27-24.

KING PHILIP (8-1) AT NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH (6-3)
The Skinny: Another pair of Kelley-Rex teams with one division loss meet in this rivalry game. The Red Rocketeers have cobbled together a three-game winning streak, following a three-game losing streak in the middle of the season. The better news yet for North in recent weeks its improving health, seeing several key contributors return to the field in recent weeks. Meanwhile, King Philip has rolled through Attleboro and Oliver Ames by a combined 75-21 margin since its loss to Mansfield.

Barboza: I find myself simply rooting for another chaotic finish to the Kelley-Rex division race, but I’m sticking with my preseason pick. KP, 24-21.

Hall: This is a new team with Sean Peters and Alex Jette both healthy. I’m looking at a return to early September form down the stretch for the Big Red. North, 30-23.

Roundtable: X-factors for key league matchups

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
12:33
AM ET
A number of league championships will be decided this weekend, and with that, we're discussing "X-factors" for each of the most crucial matchups.

NO. 5 WALPOLE (9-0) AT NO. 21 NATICK (8-1)

Scott Barboza, ESPN Boston High Schools editor: You can pick just about anyone off this elite Rebels’ defense, but let’s go with senior captain and inside linebacker Cam Hanley. He’s been the quarterback to this Walpole defense for a few years now and will be a vital cog plugging the running lanes when Natick quarterback Troy Flutie takes off on the run.

Brendan Hall, ESPN Boston High Schools editor: When these two teams squared off last season, Walpole went almost exclusively with a three-man front and five in the box. They did just fine, holding the Red Hawks to just 17 yards of offense in the first half, and eked out a 16-13 win on a last-second field goal. I don’t expect much to change this year. Walpole has one of the state’s most aggressive pass rushes, with 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive end Chris Collins leading the way, and is a big reason why the Rebels haven’t allowed a point since Sept. 28.

This Natick line has improved since the beginning of the season, but expect their hands to be full. Natick plays an uptempo, hurry-up style aimed at making the defense think fast, but quarterback Troy Flutie is going to have to make quick decisions –- chuck it or tuck it. And with receiver Brian Dunlap expected to draw extra attention, supporting receivers Justin Robinson and Andrew Boynton are going to be crucial.

Adam Kurkjian, ESPN Boston correspondent: This game will come down to whether or not Natick can make enough stops to give its explosive offense a chance in the end. Both of these teams can put up big numbers on the scoreboard, but while Walpole's defense has been equally effective, Natick's was lit up last week against Wellesley and lacks the same amount of playmakers the Rebels have on that side of the ball. The Red Hawks need to make stops early and often or else they can kiss their hopes of a Bay State Herget Division title goodbye.

***

BISHOP FEEHAN (6-2) AT NO. 16 SOMERSET-BERKLEY (9-0)

Barboza: Sometimes the simplest answer is the best answer. I might be going super-safe here, but Garrett Carlos and Mike Garrant have been the key to Somerset-Berkley’s success all season long. If the two-headed backfield is on point on Saturday, the Blue Raiders will be tough to beat.

Hall: There’s nothing fancy about Somerset’s offense -– Garrett Carlos left, Mike Garrant right, vice-versa, fullback dive –- and there are no tricks. With its one-inch splits, the double wing eliminates blitz packages. Stopping the attack requires discipline not to over-pursue, and generally the play is read by following the pulling guards or watching where the quarterback opens his hips, then crashing the other way.

Of course, Feehan knows all this. This is nothing new to the Shamrocks, who sees this attack year in year out, and solved it last season for a 41-7 romp of the Blue Raiders. Somerset is looking like its 2010 dominance, but it is a smaller yet faster unit than that Super Bowl finalist squad which ran behind 320-pound road grader Ian Levesque. Plain and simple, the Feehan defensive line is going to have to get off its blocks -– and do it quickly.

Kurkjian: Bishop Feehan has to force negative plays on early downs and get Somerset's offense off the field. The way Somerset pounds teams on the ground, your defense can be worn out by the time the fourth quarter comes around. The Shamrocks would love to take an early lead and force Somerset out of its comfort zone by going to the air, although it's unlikely to happen unless Somerset is behind my multiple scores in the latter stages of the game.

Josh Perry, Managing Editor, HockomockSports.com: The X-factor between the top two teams in the EAC will be Shamrocks senior quarterback Nick Romero. Both teams are heavily focused on the ground game, but if Feehan can get something going in the passing attack and balance its offense it should provide the edge. Both teams will be crowding the line of scrimmage and bringing numbers up into the box. If Romero can connect with his receivers, even simple screens to Matt Allen and Isiah Douglas, it will give Feehan an edge.

***

NO. 18 KING PHILIP (8-1) AT NO. 24 NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH (6-3)

Barboza: I’m going with go with Sam McDonald, who’s made King Philip’s offense more dynamic in recent weeks. McDonald’s had two-touchdown games in two of the last three weeks, including last week’s win over Oliver Ames, when he hauled in a 22-yard touchdown pass from John Dillon and added a spark to the Warriors’ special teams with a 66-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Hall: Joe Johnston gives this King Philip rushing attack its spunk, but it’s going to be his play on defense that is the difference in this one. The Warriors are noted for devising great defensive gameplans, but that was delivered a swift wakeup call in the 46-33 loss to Mansfield. North has some big-play threats, and if KP wants to keep them in check they will have to dictate the pace of this game early.

Kurkjian: A year ago, King Philip held North Attleborough to just seven points. This year, it's the North defense that will need to be up to the task if it wants to take this showdown in the Hock. North can't count on its offense to just outscore King Philip because outside of an uncharacteristic breakdown against Mansfield, the Warriors have been strong on that side of the ball. Lately, North's defense has shown some weakness and it cannot allow more of that because KP is not the type of team that is going to allow the type of Arena League scores that the Red Rocketeers have hund up on teams this year.

Perry: The biggest X-factor in this game will be health. Sean Peters and Alex Jette are back for the Rocketeers, but neither is 100 percent. Jette's hair-line fracture is not fully healed yet and Peters will probably need surgery on his shoulder after the season. Even at only 75 percent, both players have made a significant contribution to the team on the field as well as positively impacting the team's attitude and confidence. Meanwhile, KP are a little banged up after fullback/linebacker Ryan Dunn went down with an arm injury in last week's rout of Oliver Ames. Dunn left the field with his arm in a sling and he would be a huge loss for the Warriors if he can't play. He is the lead blocker for Joe Johnston, a good inside option in the power running game, and is one of KP's best defensive players against the run.

***

NO. 17 NAUSET (9-0) AT PLYMOUTH SOUTH (6-3)

Barboza: Dylan Oxsen obviously is having a historic season for the Panthers with 28 touchdowns to date, but Harrison Holbrook and Devin Guadagno have also been intergral to Plymouth South’s success. Now, we’ll see if they can run together to a Atlantic Coast League title.

Hall: South’s Dylan Oxsen is as hard-charging as they come -– you don’t tip-toe your way to 28 touchdowns -– running behind some quick pulling linemen. For that, I think the key to this game will if Nauset’s two-way lineman Dakota Girard can get off his blocks and create some havoc at the point of attack. The Brown University-bound senior is one of the biggest reasons the Warriors are having their best season in school history.

Kurkjian: Nauset needs to be able to slow down Dylan Oxsen enough to force Plymouth South to beat it in other ways. Oxsen has put up monster numbers this season and his team is on a major roll right now. If Nauset is somehow able to limit his yards and force the Plymouth South offense to go elsewhere, it could be the key in this pivotal Atlantic Coast League game.

***

NO. 11 BEVERLY (9-0) AT MARBLEHEAD (8-1)

Barboza: Pick your poison with the Panthers’ backfield, right? So I’m going to go with the Magicians’ defense, in particular their defensive line of Rajive Alcindor, Trever Gelineau and Kyle McCormack. They’ll have their hands full with the Panthers’ athletic offensive line and will have to play their responsibilities if Marblehead is to have any hope of slowing Beverly’s stable of backs and a chance at victory.

Hall: Fitting that Marblehead goes by the Magicians, because their front seven is going to have to turn in some majestic play to keep this one close. The evolution of the spread has yielded video game-like stats for high school teams across Massachusetts, but what should scare you about the Panthers’ average of 38 points per game is that they’re doing it heavy on the run with a Wing-T offense. My advice: shoot the guards up the A-gaps, get upfield and hope for the best.

Kurkjian: The Magicians will be heavy underdogs in this game and the key for them to pull the upset is to make Beverly play a four-quarter game. Most of the opponents on the Panthers' schedule have fallen behind by so much that the fourth quarter is usually a JV contest. The Panthers have not trailed much at all this season and a second-half lead or a one-score game in the fourth quarter would give Marblehead a major advantage because they've been in more close games this season.

***

NO. 23 ABINGTON (9-0) AT EAST BRIDGEWATER (6-3)

Barboza: We all know the big-play ability Babila Fonkem brings for Abington, but the Green Wave is very much a three-headed monster. And the straws that stir the Green Wave’s drink are a dangerous duo in Brian Kilmain and Jack Malafronte.

Hall: Abington goes in as the favorites, but they’re going to have to stop East Bridgewater’s option game. Andrew Benson is a run-first quarterback who can keep the sticks moving if you give him the edge. The Green Wave are going to have to contain the outside gaps and funnel things through the middle of the field.

Kurkjian: The Vikings will come into this one as underdogs and deservedly so because Abington has been so solid all season. However, an upset is not out of the question and the way that East Bridgewater can do it is by jumping out to an early lead and keeping the game close heading into the fourth quarter. Abington has not played a close game since September and since so much is expected of this team, all the pressure will be on the Green Wave in a hostile environment. The Vikings need to maintain that pressure and see if it can have a negative impact on the visitors.

***

FRANKLIN (7-2) AT MANSFIELD (6-3)

Barboza: Junior linebacker Alex Ruddy has taken a big step forward for the Hornets this season and leads the team in tackles with 62 (35 solo) through nine weeks. He’ll be key to slowing the Panthers’ potent offense.

Hall: We’ve mentioned before about this Mansfield offense’s ability to reel off scores in bunches, and we saw that a few weeks ago in the Hornets’ 46-33 win over King Philip. It was vintage Mansfield, rushing for over 360 yards as a team. For all the talk we’ve made of the Hornets opening up the passing playbook the last few years, they can still run the ball downhill efficiently. We know Franklin can hang with them in the air, but can they stop the run?

Kurkjian: Both of these teams have proven to be solid when they choose to go to the air. The winner of this game will likely be the one who can also get its ground game going to complement that aerial attack. A lot of these Hockomock battles lately have been very high scoring and this one could be as well, but if someone can find a rhythm running the ball it could be the difference.

Perry: Mike Carden could be the deciding factor in a game that will be Franklin's first of two straight title deciding games (they play King Philip on Thanksgiving). The Panthers' kicker is considered a D1-caliber talent by head coach Brad Sidwell and won the game against Attleboro a couple of weeks ago with a 41-yard kick. In fact, he had a 48-yard attempt against Taunton that would have kept the Panthers perfect but it fell inches short. A solid kicking game is a rare luxury at this level and it could provide the edge in a tight game.

***

BOSTON CATHEDRAL (7-2) AT POPE JOHN XXIII (5-4)

Barboza: Mike Sullivan’s done a fine job all season taking over for Robert McMaster at quarterback for Pope John all season. For Pope John to knock off Cathedral, he’ll need to be at his best again.

Hall: Pope John is going to need to find a way to neutralize Kadeem Edge. The 6-foot-4 Cathedral receiver is a matchup problem for most small-school squads, able to win jump-balls as well as accelerate quickly in space. Also look for several Cathedral defenders to have big roles in this one, namely Cameron Seemore, Derek Welcome and Mohammed Braimah.

Kurkjian: Cathedral quarterback Kejonte Hickman has not played like a sophomore in guiding this team to where it wants to be heading into the end of the season. For Pope John to win this game, it has to force him into the types of mistakes and bad decisions that sophomores tend to make. Cathedral's offense can be brutal to defend with the number of speedy athletes it gets into space, but a disruptive defense that hassles the quarterback into bad decisions is a nice way of messing up its timing.

Recap: Medfield blanks Dedham, plus tourney notes

November, 7, 2012
11/07/12
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MEDFIELD, Mass. -- The Medfield girls' soccer team demonstrated the importance of a dominant midfield in a 2-0 dismantling of Bay State Herget division champion Dedham on Tuesday night in a Division 2 South quarterfinal match.

Medfield (17-0-3) controlled possession and consistently stepped forward to break up Dedham attacks before they could threaten the Warriors goal. Medfield was so successful in keeping the Marauders at bay that Dedham (15-2-4) managed only one shot on goal and it came off a corner in the 76th minute.

Medfield coach Michael La Francesca highlighted the play of senior Jen Narlee as a controlling influence in the heart of the midfield that allowed the speedier wide players to create chances.

[+] EnlargeJen Narlee
Josh Perry/ESPNBoston.comMedfield's Jen Narlee helped the Warriors win the battle of the midfield in a 2-0 blanking of Dedham in Tuesday night's Division 2 quarterfinal match.
“The goal is, if you can control the ball in the middle and keep the ball on the ground, we would have more possession," La Francesca said. "If you have more of the possession - than you have more of the play.”

The Warriors took the lead in the 13th minute.

The sequence began with striker Katelyn Murray had several shots blocked on the edge of the box. The attempted clearance came right back at the Dedham defense and Murray fired in another shot that forced a good save out of Ellen Masalsky, which was turned home by senior Krista Pinciaro.

Dedham played much better in the second half and started to find openings to attack the Warriors defense. The biggest talking point of the second half came seven minutes after the break when a great through ball fed junior Libby Masalsky in behind the last defender. Medfield’s Colleen Beggan shouldered the forward off the play and Dedham’s bench cried out for a penalty.

The refs denied the appeal and called it a fair challenge. It would be the Marauders best chance until the final moments of the game.

Dedham head coach Don Savi was certainly not happy with many calls from the officials during the game, but afterwards admitted that Medfield’s defending was a much bigger factor in the final outcome.

“They’re a good defensive team. They only gave up six goals all season, we knew that. We had a couple chances, but couldn’t get an open look. It wasn’t the reason we lost, but it was a good game and we shouldn’t have an official that can’t handle it.”

The Warriors wrapped up the game in the 26th minute. Freshman Krissy Rimmel reached the end line and cut the ball back to Cami McCurdy, who opened up space on her right foot and the shot found the side netting off the fingertips of Masalsky.

Despite the loss, Savi is proud of Dedham’s achievements this season and the success this senior class has had over the past four years.

“I have nothing bad to say about this team, even tonight, they worked hard. Three league championships in four years that’s the best we’ve ever done. It’s been a fun year.”

Medfield, the No. 3 seed, will move on to face No. 7 seed East Bridgewater in the sectional semifinals. La Francesca was looking forward to the next game after beating two very tough opponents in the opening rounds.

“I do like our chances right now. We beat two of the better teams in the bracket. I’d rather play stronger teams at this point to get us ready.”

State tournament notes:

  • Medfield was not the only favorite in D2 South to advance on Tuesday. The Canton girls' soccer team, the No. 4 ranked team in the state, also moved into the sectional semifinals with a 1-0 win over Scituate. Canton will face Duxbury, which beat Holliston in the afternoon game. The expectation coming into the season was that Medfield and Canton would have to go through each other to win the sectional and right now that showdown still looms on the horizon.
  • There were shocks galore in the Central sectional as both of the top remaining seeds in the boys' soccer Division 1 bracket were knocked out on Tuesday. Worcester North, No. 10 in the state, was stunned 2-1 by Leominster (who they beat 3-0 during the regular season) and No. 20 Algonquin was beaten, 1-0, by Wachusett. The top seeds in the girls’ sectional are still alive setting up the third meeting of the season between Nashoba and Algonquin (Nashoba won each of the first two games).
  • Several ranked teams went down in the topsy-turvy and ultracompetitive D1 North girls’ sectional. Acton-Boxborough, which knocked off No. 2 Peabody on Sunday, fell to Westford Academy in penalties. Westford will face Beverly in the next round, which knocked off No. 18 Concord-Carlisle. On the other side of the bracket, No. 10 Lincoln-Sudbury beat No. 19 Newton North, 4-2, and will play No. 11 Central Catholic in the semifinals.
  • In the girls’ D1 South sectional, No. 9 Needham came from behind in the final minutes of regulation and beat North Attleborough, 2-1, in overtime. Needham coach Carl Tarabelli and North coach Bill Wallace are good friends and shared several laughs during the game. Wallace’s gameplan of limiting Needham chances and hitting on the break almost worked to perfection when senior Jamie Grinavic scored with just over 10 minutes remaining. Two headers off corners, by Katie Beval and Sammy Lerner, allowed the Rockets to avoid the upset. Needham will face No. 16 Oliver Ames after the Tigers beat No. 14 Whitman-Hanson on penalties.
  • The boys’ side of the tournament also offered some great matchups and several surprising result. In D1 North, No. 6 St. John’s Prep beat No. 4 Acton-Boxborough 1-0 and will face the No. 1 team in the state, Masconomet, in the semifinals. In the South sectional, No. 2 Needham was led by player of the year candidate Mac Steeves, who scored two goals in a 3-0 win over Marshfield. Next, the Rockets will face No. 12 Dartmouth, which dispatched No. 16 Nauset with surprising ease, 5-0. On the other side of the bracket, Weymouth and Oliver Ames will have a rematch of a regular season game that was won by Weymouth 1-0 on a scrappy goal by Mike Lynch.

Player of the Week: EB's Andrew Benson

October, 8, 2012
10/08/12
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EAST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The South Shore League should again prove to be one of the state's most tightly contested races this year, and once again East Bridgewater will be in the thick of it, thanks to senior quarterback Andrew Benson.

Benson is our Massachusetts Army National Guard Player of the Week for Week 5 after leading the Vikings to a 39-26 win over Hull. He combined for five touchdowns (4 on the ground, 1 passing) while falling just shy of a 300-yard rushing performance (296 yards) on 17 carries.

Editor Brendan Hall caught up with the Vikings' signal-caller on Monday:

Mr. Football Watch: Week 6

October, 8, 2012
10/08/12
6:15
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THE CONTENDERS

Drew Belcher, Jr. QB, Reading
Called his own number for the winning touchdown with less than a minute left, as the Rockets rallied past Burlington, 22-15.

Brian Dunlap, Soph. WR, Natick
Caught six passes for 121 yards and two scores in the Red Hawks’ 42-7 rout of Dedham.

Troy Flutie, Jr. QB, Natick
In the Red Hawks’ 42-7 romp of Dedham, completed 12 of 16 passes for four touchdowns, and added 41 yards rushing with a score.

Jon Hurvitz, Sr. RB, Duxbury
Reached the end zone twice, the second time putting the Dragons ahead for good, in a 20-16 thriller over Xaverian.

Marshall McCarthy, Sr. LB, Duxbury
Recorded 13 tackles and two sacks, both for forced fumbles, in the Dragons’ 20-16 win over Xaverian.

Alex Moore, Sr. RB, St. John’s Prep
Racked up over 200 yards from scrimmage and all three of the Eagles’ scores in a 20-7 win over Bridgewater-Raynham, rushing for 159 yards and two TDs, and three catches for 73 yards and a third score.

Nick Peabody, Sr. QB, Barnstable
Threw for three touchdowns in the Red Raiders’ 19-14 win over New Bedford, bringing his season total to 18 touchdown passes.

C.J. Scarpa, Sr. QB, Andover
In the Golden Warriors’ wild 51-42 win over Tewksbury, completed 17 of 24 passes for 382 yards and three touchdowns.

Jakarrie Washington, Sr. WR, Everett
Scored five times for the Crimson Tide (three rushing, two receiving) as they avoided a scare against Cambridge, 51-30.

Quron Wright, Sr. RB, Holy Name
Had his lowest total of the season in a 38-20 loss to Doherty, but still went over 100 yards (18 carries, 105 yards, 2 TD) and crossed the 1,000-yard barrier. He needs 370 yards to break the school’s all-time rushing yardage record.

ON THE RISE

Andrew Benson, Sr. QB, East Bridgewater
In the Vikings’ 39-26 win over Hull, carried 17 times for 296 yards and four touchdowns, and added a 20-yard touchdown through the air.

Chance Brady, Jr. RB, Haverhill
Ran for 204 yards and two scores in the Hillies’ 30-23 thriller over Chelmsford.

Jaleel Brown, Jr. RB, Springfield Putnam
With feature back Wayne Lowery leaving the game with an ankle injury, Brown came through with 165 yards rushing and three scores to help the Beavers in a 40-19 win over Chicopee Comp.

Kayjuan Bynum, Sr. QB/LB, Springfield Putnam
Racked up 299 passing yards and three touchdowns, to go along with nine tackles, in the Beavers’ 40-19 win over Chicopee Comp. Through five games, Bynum leads the team in tackles (46) and forced fumbles (four).

Andrew Deloury, Sr. WR, Andover
Caught seven passes for a ridiculous 226 yards and three scores in the Golden Warriors’ 51-42 win over Tewksbury.

Brendan Flaherty, Sr. RB, Beverly
Became the school's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with his 47th score in a 49-0 blanking of Peabody

David Maaghul, Jr. QB, Cambridge
Had an impressive showing in the Falcons’ 51-30 loss to Everett, throwing for 274 yards and four touchdowns. On the season, he already has over 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns passes.

Justin Mount, Sr. ATH, Westford
In the Grey Ghosts’ 42-7 win over Newton South, carried three times for 60 yards and two scores, and added 24 receiving yards.

Matt Phelan, Sr. QB, Northbridge
In the Rams’ 28-21 win over Grafton, completed 9-of-17 passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns, and added 79 yards rushing on 16 carries.

Jimmy Sullivan, Jr. QB, Nauset
In the Warriors’ 28-20 win over Scituate, completed all five of his pass attempts for 121 yards and two scores, and added 88 yards rushing.

Juwan Williams, Sr. ATH, Springfield Central
Filled in marvelously for his cousin at quarterback, in the Golden Eagles’ 40-7 rout of East Longmeadow. Through the air, he was 4-of-5 passing with 114 yards and two touchdowns; on the ground, he carried 10 times for 94 yards and two more scores.

Roundtable: Big surprises in first month of football

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
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1. THROUGH THREE WEEKS, WHICH TEAM HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST SURPRISE?

Scott Barboza, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: I don’t know if it’s so much of a surprise, but I think we can say that Nauset football is for real and might be the front-runner for the Atlantic Coast League crown this season. While Mashpee has fallen below some preseason expectations, the Warriors 20-point win over the defending Division 4 Super Bowl champions last week was impressive. I’d absolutely put head coach Keith Kenyon on my shortlist for Coach of the Year in the early season, having completely turned that program around in his third year on the job. They’ll have another challenge this week with a trip to Cardinal Spellman, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Warriors undefeated after Week 4.

Brendan Hall, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: I know in the preseason I predicted Nauset would win out in an Atlantic Coast League that was expected to be a toss-up this year, and through the first three weeks of the season the Warriors have looked strongest. But if you told me in the preseason the Warriors would not only break through a stout veteran Wayland defense, but also roll over Mashpee with ease, I’d have chuckled.

But that’s exactly what we’ve got here. The Warriors have been off to a dominant start to the 2012 season, outscoring the opposition 95-32, including a 34-15 thump of Mashpee last weekend. But more than the impressive statistics on defense, and more than the shroud of scouting mystery provided by its remote location (ever been to Eastham after Labor Day?), it’s the offensive gameplan that makes the Warriors such a tough –- and unpredictable –- squad.

Keith Kenyon has turned around a once-dormant program (4-46 from 2005-09) into a formidable foe, in part due to the fact Nauset is one of the few teams in New England running exclusively out of a true Single-Wing offense. We’re talking one-inch splits, unbalanced formations and even fullbacks calling the cadence.

Last year, captain and fullback Brendan Battles-Santos (also an ESPN Boston All-Stater and UConn freshman) said of Kenyon’s offense, “when he brought in the Single Wing, I thought it was the best thing in high school football. I was like, ‘This is sick’, I’m not even getting the ball and this is fun, you know?”

Heck, even Wikipedia applauds Kenyon’s application of the Single Wing at Nauset.

Last year, you had to pick your poison between the aforementioned blocking back Battles-Santos and brothers Nathan and Dylan Holmes, who shared quarterback duties. This season, Jimmy Sullivan has taken the reigns at QB, and he had his breakout last weekend against Mashpee, carrying 22 times for 205 yards. Look for him to be a continued threat as the Warriors look for their first playoff berth ever in school history.

Adam Kurkjian, ESPN Boston correspondent: Have to go with Chelmsford. It speaks to the depth of the Lions' program that they can lose as much talent and experience from a year ago and beat teams like Westford Academy and Acton-Boxboro that decisively. It remains to be seen whether or not Chelmsford will keep up this pace with the iron of the Merrimack Valley Conference Large Division, but it's a good start.

Bruce Lerch, ESPN Boston correspondent: How about Bishop Fenwick? The program hasn't had a winning season since 2007 and is off to a 3-0 start with three different types of wins. First came a solid 22-14 victory over an always tough Northeast team, then the Crusaders showed they could do the shootout thing by putting up 39 points against Pope John, and last week they showed they can do it with defense in a 14-7 triumph of Lynnfield. Rufus Rushins is finding the end zone on the ground while quarterback Nick Bona and wideout Charlie Maistrellis have a strong connection through the air. The Catholic Central Large has been the domain of Cardinal Spellman, St. Mary's and Austin Prep over the years but Fenwick looks like it may be ready to get back to challenging those teams this season.

John Botelho, Editor-in-Chief, South Shore Sports Journal: Whitman-Hanson is off to a 3-0 start with wins over Plymouth North, Marshfield and should keep getting better. The Patriot League Keenan Division is still a race for who finishes second to Duxbury until someone knocks them off. Still though, the Panthers have closed the gap, at least a little bit, and this league has to be among the best on the South Shore now with undefeated Hingham in it as well. Tom Sapienza has transitioned seamlessly from wide out to quarterback this year, and has already found a top target in Dondre James, who has caught four of his eight TD passes.

Noth Attleborough has also been a pleasant surprise so far this year. Yes, they were a team many people thought could win the Hockomock Kelley-Rex crown, but they already hold wins over Rhode Island's top team in LaSalle and they beat the defending EMass. Div. 1 Super Bowl champ in BC High. If you had North at 2-0 after those two games before the season started, you were in the minority. And they didn't just squeak by, they beat both teams by at least 20 points. Sure, they won a close call against Bishop Feehan, but that was a trap game for them coming off those two huge wins. This team has already raised the ceiling for the expectations significantly in 2012.

Talking surprises, we might as well bring up both Middleboro and Norwell here too. Both programs have struggled to be competitive in recent years, but both are currently 2-1 this year (and both are following 2-9 campaigns in 2011). Neither team has gotten to the meat of their schedule yet, but it's always nice to see teams trending upward.

The Sachems have cruised past Coyle & Cassidy and Falmouth the last two weeks. Unfortunately for them, Duxbury comes to town this Friday. Still though, a clear message would be sent if they can put on a competitive show. As of right now, they'd probably be the favorites against Silver Lake, North Quincy and Carver, and winning those three would mean finishing at at least .500 for the season.

Norwell beat Randolph and South Shore Vo-Tech the last two weeks, surrendering 12 total points along the way. They host winless Rockland on Saturday, and the Bulldogs are having trouble finding the end zone. The Clippers could find themselves 3-1 before they run into Abington and Mashpee in the next few weeks.

2. WHICH PLAYERS HAVE SEPARATED THEMSELVES SO FAR FOR ESPNBOSTON.COM'S "MR. FOOTBALL" AWARD?

Barboza: Averaging nearly 17-yards-per-carry heading into Week 4 action, it’s hard to argue that any other single player in the state has contributed more to his team than Holy Name senior running back Quron Wright.

Beyond Wright, I don’t know if there’s another singular talent that has entirely joined that conversation, but there’s a couple others worth watching. Darien Fernandez is tearing up the record books for the Vikings, setting a school-record with six touchdowns in a 51-14 win over Falmouth and leading Wareham to a 3-0 record. This might be a little more outside of the box, but I defy you to find a lineman who’s been more valuable to his team in the early going than Reading tackle Matt Comerford, who’s absolutely eaten up all comers in the early season, including Brockton’s defensive line, which is no slouch in its own right. If you want to look at the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Zach Hume is poised to lead Nashoba to great heights.

Hall: At running back, Burlington’s Marcus Odiah and Quron Wright have separated themselves for contention with some impressive yardage in the early-going. Wright has amassed over 650 yards rushing on just 39 carries, while Odiah is averaging over 230 yards rushing per game. Both demonstrate exceptional top-end speed, albeit in different manners –- Odiah the long and slender build at 6-foot-1, Wright the short and compact frame that makes him difficult to spot behind the huge Holy Name linemen in the double wing.

And I mean, honestly, how can you not dig #QuronMania?

At quarterback, the competition is furious right now, with a number of players putting up impressive stats so far. St. John’s of Shrewsbury’s Andrew Smiley, Natick’s Troy Flutie, Reading’s Drew Belcher and Springfield Central’s Cody Williams, all juniors, have put up good numbers and showed resilient poise in the crunch. However, Barnstable’s Nick Peabody seems to be a cut above the quarterbacking competition right now. In just three games, he has already racked up 13 touchdown passes and over 1,000 yards of offense.

Defensively, it’s hard to ignore the impact Jon Baker has had in the middle of the field for Millis/Hopedale, and while Xaverian has struggled to a 1-2 record Maurice Hurst Jr. has had a big impact on the interior as a defensive tackle. Also look out for Nashoba linebacker Zach Hume and Reading lineman Matt Comerford, two leaders on two of the state’s stingiest defenses.

Kurkjian: It's still very early, but it's hard to go against Holy Name's Quron Wright. Through three games, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, he is averaging almost 17 yards per carry and has scored 10 touchdowns. Those are incredible numbers, regardless of the opponent, and expect them to continue.

Bruce Lerch: Burlington's Marcus Odiah has a staggering 705 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in just three games for an average of 235 per. Already the program's career rushing leader with 3,551 yards, Odiah could surpass the 4,000-yard milestone within the next couple of games.

Josh Perry, ESPN Boston correspondent: There are a host of quarterbacks that are putting up incredible numbers early in the season, including Troy Flutie of Natick, Drew Belcher of Reading, and my favorite -- Nick Peabody of Barnstable. Peabody fits in perfectly with the Red Raiders attack and has that offense rolling. He leads the state with 13 touchdown passes and has been incredibly accurate, while throwing more than just about anyone else in Massachusetts. Of course, I always have a special place in my heart for teams that love to throw and score points so Barnstable is intriguing.

Alex Jette of North Attleboro is another player that I think could get more attention at a state level, if he can stay on the field for four quarters. He has all the skills - breakaway speed, quick cuts, and great hands in the passing game, but a combination of cramping and some cheap shots at the bottom of piles has taken him out of games in the second half. A good example was Week 1 against LaSalle (R.I.) where he put on a show in the first half with nearly 300 yards of offense, but then was on the field for only a couple of snaps in the second half. Hockomock League play tends to slow down offensive attacks anyway so Jette is missing chances to rack up statistics before having to face Mansfield and KP’s defenses.

Botelho: Quron Wright has put up some ridiculous stats the first three, rushing for over 600 yards already. But don't sleep on Duxbury's Jon Hurvitz either. The Dragons have pushed their state-best win streak to 29 games despite running a changed offense. With Matt O'Keefe under center and a seemingly endless repertoire of weapons at his disposal, Duxbury blew past teams with a pass-happy offense. O'Keefe is gone, but the high scoring offense remains because of what Hurvitz has done out of the backfield. The senior tailback has already rushed for 10 touchdowns and shows no signs of slowing down.

Barnstable's Nick Peabody has torched opposing defenses, leading the Red Raiders to just north of 40 points per game, and his 13 touchdown passes lead the state. We find out just how good Barnstable is this weekend when they play No. 1 Everett. If Peabody can deliver there like he has the first few weeks, Mr. Football is probably his award to lose.

3. WHICH BROCKTON TEAM ARE WE LIKELY TO SEE THE REST OF THE WAY -- THE ONE THAT STRUGGLED AGAINST READING, OR THE ONE WITH TWO WINS OVER TOP-5 CATHOLIC CONFERENCE POWERS?

Barboza: Once again, I’ll happily eat my slice of humble pie for picking the Boxers to open up the season 1-3. They’ve certainly acquitted themselves as a better team than that in their two early wins. Whether Brockton can run their Catholic Conference win streak to three games against the Prep on Friday is another question. I’m sticking by my preseason pick that the Eagles will escape Marciano with a victory in tow. However, I think the destiny of this Boxers team is more in line with the pluses than the minuses, provided they can move the ball. The Rockets utterly shut down the triple option in Week 2, creating concern of Brockton’s ability to consistently move the ball. As long as there’s no repeat performance, and Prep’s stout defense provides an ample challenge this week, Brockton will be just fine in the long run.

Hall: Either there is just something about Catholic Conference schools that bring out the best in Brockton, or the Boxers are just better than any of us have given them credit for. Based on the early returns, my inclination is the latter, and you have to like the Boxers’ chances going forward. This St. John’s Prep squad is good, but not invincible, and even perhaps a little too conservative at times if the Everett loss is any indicator.

If the Boxers win out here, their next three opponents are Fitchburg, Pinkerton (N.H.) and Durfee. Of those three, I only expect the Pinkerton game to be a toss-up -– but then again, a year ago supposedly the worst Brockton team in a decade knocked off the unstoppable juggernaut that was supposed to be the 2011 Astros.

It’s very possible we could see Brockton at 6-1 headed into Week 8’s showdown with Leominster, and let the record show I predicted a 1-3 record for the Boxers coming into September.

Kurkjian: Your guess is as good as mine. There is one thing that is for sure, however. This Brockton team is light years better than last year's version. Maybe that's not saying much because last year's team struggled so mightily, but this team is just so much better up front and there's an overall uptick in focus and leadership that recent Brockton teams have lacked.

Lerch: You have to like the strength the Boxers have shown against the Catholic Conference with both of its wins coming against BC High and Xaverian. I think this is the week where we'll be able to better answer this question, as they'll take on a St. John's Prep squad that battled Everett tooth and nail. If Brockton can continue the momentum they picked up last week, I like their chances for a strong finish.

Botelho: Well, the one thing we know about the Boxers for sure is their defense is premier. They shut out BC High, then held Reading's powerhouse offense to just 12 points before allowing 14 in the win against Xaverian last week. The bad news for Brockton is that if they can't get their offense rolling early, they have a hard time finding the end zone at all. Since the beginning of the 2011 season, Brockton has been shutout in five of their seven losses. The only time they've reached double digits and lost since last year was their game 22-15 defeat against St. John's Prep last season.

That said, even with the shutout against Reading already on their tab this season, this year's version of the offense looks more complete than last season's. I'd be shocked if this team is shutout again this year, and wouldn't be at all surprised if they don't lose another game, because they don't need many points to with the defense they've got. My guess is as the season continues to carry on, and they hammer down their Georgia Tech-style offense more, they'll become a tough team to slow down.

4. WHICH RUNNING BACK HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST SURPRISE THUS FAR?

Barboza: This name might not be among the better known in the state in year in which, for all intents and purposes, is fairly deep at running back, but Somerset-Berkley’s Garrett Carlos has been a revelation. The senior is averaging a shade over 10 yards per carry while running for 411 yards and eight touchdowns in three weeks. After a bit of a rebuilding year last year, the Blue Raiders’ cupboard is full this year with 20 returning seniors, meaning that Nick Freitas’ team should again be in the poll position for an Eastern Athletic Conference title. And Carlos is no small part of that.

Hall: The one that sticks out in my mind is Wareham’s Darien Fernandez running roughshod over Falmouth in Week 1, running for 246 yards and six touchdowns (five in the first half). He has cooled down since then, but the kid is flat out an athlete. At 5-foot-6 and blessed with great leg strength, he is as durable as he is tough to get a good angle on. He’s already well-known on the basketball court, making our All-State Team last winter in leading the Vikings to the Division 3 Eastern Mass Final at TD Garden. But some have mused he may be a better football player, with some feelers from a few Division 1 FCS programs.

Kurkjian: Going to go with Needham's Mike Panepinto here. So far, he's been outstanding for an undefeated Needham team already owns a win over Mansfield. A tough runner, he simply doesn't go down on first contact and he's a perfect complement to a passing game that continues to get better with junior quarterback Ryan Charter.

Lerch: Needham's Mikey Panepinto is a heck of an athlete who is putting up tremendous numbers in what his probably his second-best sport, given that he's already committed to platy lacrosse at UMass. It's not so much the numbers that have surprised me with Panepinto though as much as it is the manner in which he's gotten them. He was able to get off for some big gains in two of the Rockets games but against Mansfield, he really impressed me by proving that he could also grind out the tough yardage and punch in a series of short TD runs.

Perry: Attleboro running back Malique Clark is not an unknown quantity after several explosive cameo appearances last season. He has breakout speed and the strength to carry the ball 20 times per game. The surprise is that the Attleboro offensive line has been able to create openings for him against tough defenses like Bishop Feehan and Dartmouth. Teams will be packing the box and daring junior QB Tim Walsh to beat them with his arm, but to this point it hasn’t slowed Clark down at all. The Hockomock is loaded with running backs this season, but Clark’s ability to turn a nothing play into a big gain has kept the Attleboro offense rolling and has the Bombardiers at a surprising 3-0. Hopefully, Clark’s rib injury that made him miss this weekend’s game won’t be a long-term problem.

Botelho: Darien Fernandez at Wareham, Kiivone Howard at Foxboro and Hurvitz have all exceeded expectations, but Jalen Felix has kept Everett rolling. He did it again last week against St. John's Prep, scoring a TD and rushing for 96 yards on 12 carries.

5. WHICH LINEMAN IS MAKING THE BIGGEST PUSH FOR ALL-STATE INCLUSION CURRENTLY?

Barboza: Aside from a lot of the familiar names you’ve seen in our preseason lists, here’s a couple who have stood out to me in the first quarter season. Both Brendan and I were taken back by the performance of Barnstable center Tom Grimmer during the Red Raiders’ man-handling of Dennis-Yarmouth. He spent most of that evening riding the Dolphins’ nose guard five yards back. I’m also looking at North Attleborough’s big bookend tackles –- Sean Peters and Eric Beckwith. We talked a little bit earlier in the season about how the Red Rocketeers have historically had good speed/zone blockers, but have often lacked size. Both Peters (6-4, 240) and Beckwith (6-2, 270) bring exactly that. Although North sees plenty of pressure from the outside against traditionally strong defensive sides in King Philip and Mansfield in its Hockomock League schedule, they might be better prepared this year to deal with the outside rush than at any time in recent memory behind their pillars on the end.

Hall: I’m making a case for Holy Name’s Basit Dennis to be included in this discussion. Off the field he’s a great story, with his Liberian roots, and a great kid. On the field, at 6-foot-1 and 290 pounds, the senior has been a dominant two-way force in the interior. As talented as Quron Wright is on his own merit, a big reason for his ridiculous rushing average is the Naps’ punishing offensive line, led by Dennis at right tackle.

Brockton’s Joe Previte has been a leader at center for a revitalized Boxer offense. And don’t forget about Everett’s bookend defensive ends, Jeff Soulouque and Omar Graciano, who have taken turns applying pressure on quarterbacks and causing confusion.

Kurkjian: Reading's Matt Comerford was pretty impressive in the game against Brockton Week 2. He's strong, mobile, tough and plays with good technique. And it doesn't hurt that he's about 6-4 or 6-5 and 285 pounds.

Lerch: Regardless of who is taking the snaps in Everett or what trickery John DiBiaso uses to get the ball into the hands of those tremendous athletes, the one constant is John Montelus. The Michigan-bound senior has really solidified his standing as the state's top prospect, regardless of position, and has done it againts one of the state's toughest, early-season schedules.

Two guys to keep an eye on are Millis/Hopedale's Jon Baker and Burlington's Mike Woods. Baker is a 290-pound beast who dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage in the Mohawks rout of Norton last week and has drawn plenty of notice from big-time college programs. Woods is the left tackle and leader of the Red Devils line that has paved the way for Marcus Odiah to run for 705 yards and 10 scores and is another player catching looks from several Division 1 FBS and FCS level schools in the Northeast.

6. IT'S A MEGA-WEEKEND OF MUST-SEE FOOTBALL ACTION. WHICH GAME ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?

Barboza: Well, since it’s part of our Massachusetts Army National Guard Game of the Week program, I’m going to go with St. John’s Prep at Brockton. As we went over in Question 3, the onus is on Brockton to show that they are in fact the team that’s notched two, tough Catholic Conference wins in the early going. But this one will also be a litmus test for the Eagles, who played a very competitive game against No. 1 Everett. It’ll be interesting to see how Prep responds – whether they use last week as a rallying point into their later schedule or if this one presents a letdown after taking on No. 1. This certainly isn’t a game to be taken lightly and I’d expect neither team will. This will be an ole fashioned slobber-knocker on the ground.

Hall: You ask anyone in Everett, and they’ll tell you Barnstable was the hardest-hitting team they faced all season. The Red Raiders come at you with a certain level of abandon replicated by few programs, and nobody embodies this more than middle linebacker Andrew Ellis. But it’s a much different level of football in Everett than the Raiders have seen so far (Durfee, Dennis-Yarmouth, Sandwich), so this should be a great litmus test under the lights at Everett Memorial Stadium.

Kurkjian: Barnstable at Everett. Any time you have the clear-cut No. 1 team in the state going up against a quality opponent it's pretty compelling. You have to wonder just how healthy the Crimson Tide are coming off such a physical battle with St. John's Prep last week. Barnstable has been throwing the ball all over teams so far but they haven't faced a defense anywhere near the level of Everett's. Everett definitely comes in more battle-tested. Not sure how much Durfee, a rebuilding Dennis-Yarmouth and Sandwich prepare you for the best team in the state, but we will find out Friday night.

Lerch: You really can't go wrong with a loaded schedule this weekend, particularly on Friday, but it's hard to look past another Game of the Week taking place in Everett. Last week the Crimson Tide hosted No. 2 St. John's Prep, and this week, it's No. 3 Barnstable coming to town. Everett hasn't yet seen an offense capable of putting up the kind of numbers that the Raiders have been achieving (145 points through three games) but the reverse of that is true as well in that Barnstable has yet to match up against a team that has as much athleticism as the Tide.

Perry: The easy choice would be Everett versus Barnstable, but I am a sucker for history.

In Hockomock country, old rivals North Attleborough and Foxborough will meet at Ahern Middle School. For decades, the Hockomock League title came down to North, Foxboro, and Mansfield, but recently the Warriors have been hit by changing demographics within the town. Each year the Foxboro program has shrunk a little bit and now KP has replaced it at the top of the league while Oliver Ames, Stoughton, and Canton have threatened to pass them by in the small school division.

This is a Warriors team that has promise and a desire to put North in its place (this is a trend among most teams in the Hockomock). Running back Kiivone Howard has been a star with 9 touchdowns in the opening three weeks and Foxboro wants nothing more than to reestablish itself in the Hockomock pecking order. Although the game lacks playoff implications, the rivalry between the teams makes this a must win for both.

The Rocketeers certainly saw last week what an angry rival is capable of, when they struggled to put away Feehan, and I expect a reaction from them, but still can’t count out Foxboro.

Botelho: This is the easily the most exciting weekend of the season so far, and you can look all over the state and find exciting games. Out west you've Minnechaug-Longmeadow, which is always one of the game's of the year. In the central region, Holy Name and Nashboa are colliding in a Super Bowl rematch. And in Eastern Mass, it's nearly impossible to pick just one. No. 1 Everett vs No. 3 Barnstable should be a blast. No. 18 Needham plays at No. 20 Weymouth in what is essentially a league title game in September. Brockton hosts St. John's. Bob Bancroft's Pembroke team host Whitman-Hanson, the team he became a legend with (and Panthers coach Mike Driscoll captained one of Bancroft's unbeaten Super Bowl champions). East Bridgewater and Mashpee has evolved into a huge tilt in the SSL the last couple years, and the Falcons have ended the Vikings' postseason chances each of the last two years. Mansfield might have the best passing attack in either Hockomock League, and Stoughton seems to have the best pass defense, and this week we'll find out which strength is greater.

A great weekend indeed if you're a high school football fan.

Two-Sport ESPN Boston All-Staters

June, 27, 2012
6/27/12
1:53
PM ET
Looking back at the nearly two years that ESPN Boston's high school section has been up and running, we have had seven boys and one girl make our MIAA All-State Teams in multiple sports. Here are the eight below:

Pat Connaughton, St. John’s Prep '11
Basketball (2010-11), Baseball (2011)
College: Notre Dame (Basketball and Baseball)

Richard Rodgers, St. John’s (Shrewsbury) '11
Football (2010), Basketball (2010-11)
College: Cal (Football)

Matt Walsh, Plymouth North '11
Football (2010), Baseball (2011)
College: Franklin Pierce (Baseball)

Blake Dietrick, Wellesley '11
Basketball (2010-11), Lacrosse (2011)
College: Princeton (Basketball)

Casey DeAndrade, East Bridgewater '12
Football (2011), Baseball (2012)
College: New Hampshire (Football)

Matt O’Keefe, Duxbury '12
Football (2011), Lacrosse (2012)
College: Johns Hopkins (Lacrosse)

James Burke, Duxbury '12
Football (2011), Lacrosse (2012)
College: Penn State (Lacrosse)

Mark Riley, Needham '12
Football (2011), Lacrosse (2012)
College: Bates (Football and Lacrosse)

ESPN Boston's MIAA All-State Baseball Team

June, 22, 2012
6/22/12
2:09
PM ET
STARTING ROTATION

All-StateRHP – Matt Tulley, Sr., Lowell
The Virginia Tech signee lived up to every ounce of his preseason hype, taking ESPN Boston’s 2012 Mr. Baseball Award earlier this week as the state’s top player. He earned his third consecutive Merrimack Valley Conference Player of the Year honor, going 7-1 with 90 strikeouts in 59 innings and one save, for a 1.46 earned run average. Opponents batted just .159 against Tulley on the season. At the plate, Tulley batted .306 for the Raiders, leading the team in RBI (20) and ranking second in runs scored (19). For his career, Tulley went 20-2 with a 1.57 ERA and 200 strikeouts in 140 innings.

All-StateRHP – Pat Ruotolo, Jr., Peabody
The 5-foot-10 craftsman caught national attention this year after throwing three no-hitters in a span of four starts, and finished the season as the state’s runner-up in strikeouts (130). In 76 innings of work, he went 8-1 with two saves, 31 hits allowed and 12 walks, for an ERA of 0.83, to earn Northeastern Conference MVP honors. He has 232 strikeouts since the start of his sophomore season, and over 300 for his career. Ruotolo is considering interest from a handful of Division 1 schools.

All-StateRHP – Alex Rozak, Sr., Plymouth North
The UMass-bound Rozak catapulted himself into discussion as one of the state’s best pitchers with his postseason play, winning three games as the Blue Eagles made their fourth Division 2 state final appearance in five seasons. He also carried a no-hitter into the final out in the Division 2 Eastern Mass final. For the season, Rozak was 8-3 with 61 strikeouts and 13 walks, with a 1.02 ERA. He won 24 games in his career at North, including a 9-1 campaign in the Eagles’ 2011 state championship season.

All-StateLHP – Steve Moyers, Sr., East Longmeadow
One of a handful of returning All-Staters, the University of Rhode Island signee is making his second appearance in the “Starting Rotation” after compiling a 7-2 record with 106 strikeouts. Over his last two seasons, he has gone 15-3 with 194 strikeouts, and he leaves East Longmeadow as one of the school’s winningest, compiling a 30-3 career record.

All-StateLHP – Ben Bowden, Jr., Lynn English
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound southpaw got off to a hot start, throwing a perfect game on April 7, and didn't cool off. On the mound he had six wins, with 82 strikeouts in 51.2 innings for a 2.19 ERA. At the plate, he played a key role in the Bulldogs' stunning upset of Peabody in the Division 1 North tournament; on the season, he batted .394 with 21 RBI, two home runs and nine extra-base hits, and also drew 17 walks.

STARTING NINE

All-StateCF – Casey DeAndrade, Sr., East Bridgewater
The speedster joins exclusive company as one of several players to make All-State in two sports, having made the football squad last fall. This spring, he put up .455/.506/.682 totals at the plate, with 25 RBI, two home runs, 19 runs and 15 stolen bases. On the mound, he went 5-2 with 67 K’s in 50.2 innings, holding opponents to a .106 average as the Vikings captured their first Division 3 South title since 1993. DeAndrade is headed to the University of New Hampshire in the fall for football.

All-State2B – Chris Hoyt, Sr., Xaverian
Nobody elevated their stock in the playoffs more than the Stonehill College-bound Hoyt, who pounded out eight RBI in the MIAA tournament – including four in the Division 1 state final. Batting out of the leadoff spot this spring, Hoyt batted .411/.477/.526 totals, with 19 RBI, two home runs, stole 19 bases and only struck out three times in 107 plate appearances. He also posted a ridiculous OPS of 1.003.

All-StateC – Bobby Melley, Sr., BC High
A returning All-Stater, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Centerville resident was one of the state’s most dangerous power hitters, compiling .370/.557/.685 totals with 13 RBI, three home runs and drawing 22 walks. Behind the plate, only two runners attempted to steal on him, both of which were caught out. Melley will continue his career next year at UConn.

All-State1B – Chris Shaw, Sr., Lexington
A returning All-Stater, Shaw was one of three Bay Staters taken in this year’s MLB Draft, going to the New York Mets in the 26th round. This spring, he batted .480 with seven home runs and 27 RBI, and also went 5-0 on the mound with 95 strikeouts in 45 innings. Shaw will be honoring his commitment to Boston College rather than signing.

All-State3B – Frank Crinella, Sr., Springfield Cathedral
In addition to flawless defense, Crinella was a tough out at the plate, hitting .456 on 26 hits, with 27 RBI and four home runs to go along with it as the Panthers went 18-2 before a surprise upset in the Division 1 West quarterfinals. Crinella will continue his career next year at Merrimack College.

All-StateSS – Matt O’Neil, Sr., East Longmeadow
Coupled with Moyers, the returning All-Stater formed an imposing 1-2 punch on the mound for the Spartans, who suffered a surprise upset in the Division 1 West semifinals. O’Neil batted four home runs to go along with 21 RBI; on the mound, he was 4-3 with 70 strikeouts in 41.1 innings. O’Neil will continue his career next year UConn.

All-State1B – John Jennings, Sr., Newton South
The Dual County League’s Large Division MVP was a force at the plate for the Lions, batting .415 with five home runs and 31 RBI. On the mound, he was 4-1 with 31 K’s in 27.2 innings, for a 1.27 ERA. He will continue his career next year at UMass.

All-StateSS – Regan Aghdam, Sr., Burncoat
One of the state’s premier leadoff hitters, Aghdam was solid at the plate, leading the Inter-High league in batting average (.463). On the mound, he went 6-0 with 43 strikeouts in 49 innings pitched. Aghdam will continue his career next year t the University of Rhode Island.

All-StateSS – Brandon Bingel, Jr., St. John’s Prep
The Catholic Conference’s co-MVP was a driving force for the Eagles, hitting .418 with 25 RBI and five home runs. On the mound, he was 5-1 with a 1.20 ERA in 40.2 innings pitched. Bingel is currently committed to Bryant University.

BULLPEN

All-StateLHP – Scott Tully, Jr., Reading
Tully had a breakout junior season, going 8-2 with four saves with a 0.99 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 63.1 innings, tied for third-most K’s in the state. Tully also allowed just 27 hits this spring. He is currently committed to Notre Dame.
All-StateRHP – Pat Delano, Sr., Braintree
Nearly two years after Tommy John surgery, the 6-foot-7 fireballer found his way back to the top, going in the 35th round to the Boston Red Sox in the MLB Draft, and earning MVP honors in the Bay State Conference’s Carey Division. He posted a 1.21 ERA with four wins and 50 strikeouts in 57 innings, and added four home runs at the plate. He was also named a Region 1 All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association. Delano is currently committed to Vanderbilt, but has until the August 15 deadline to decide whether he’ll sign or not.

RHP – Charlie Butler, Sr., Nashoba
A returning All-Stater, Butler was once again dominant on the mound for the Chieftains, striking out 90 in 54 innings for a 0.91 ERA and 6-2 record. At the plate, he batted .365 with 14 RBI and two home runs. Butler will continue his career next year at the University of Maine.

All-StateRHP – Mike Walkowicz, Sr., Amherst
Another one of the state’s strikeout kings, Walkowicz went 5-4 on the mound as he rang up 112 batters in 65 innings of work for an average of nearly two K’s per inning. He will continue his career next year at Endicott College.
All-StateLHP – Tyler Buck, Sr., Franklin
One of the state’s most elusive lefties, Buck went 7-1 on the mound with 80 strikeouts and a 1.42 ERA for the Panthers, who were the No. 1 overall seed in Division 1 South. He also went .378 at the plate with 18 RBI and two home runs. Buck will play next year at St. Anselm College.

All-StateLHP – Mac Curran, Jr., Coyle-Cassidy
The hard-throwing 6-foot-4, 240-pound Lakeville resident was an intimidator for the Warriors, going 6-1 with a 0.52 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 49 innings. He also batted .351 at the plate, and is 14-3 so far as a starter for Coyle. Curran is currently fielding a slew of Division 1 interest.

All-StateRHP – Brandon Shileikis, Jr., Dighton-Rehoboth
The workhorse logged 68 innings and struck out 74 while walking just 12, going 9-1 with three saves, an ERA of 1.75 and a WHIP of 0.96. At the plate, Shileikis had .427/.456/.524 totals with 28 RBI and 27 runs. Shileikis is currently fielding various Division 1 interest.

All-StateRHP – Keegan Dellacona, Sr., Barnstable
The 6-foot-3 Dellacona formed a dynamic 1-2 punch on the mound along with UConn-bound Willie Nastasi, as the Red Raiders won the Old Colony League outright. For the season, Dellacona struck out 67 in 49.1 innings, for a 4-0 record and 0.89 ERA. He also threw 70 percent of his pitches for strikes, registered a 0.67 WHIP, and held opponents to just a .136 batting average. Dellacona is undecided on college plans.

All-StateLHP – Ryan McDonald, Sr., Acton-Boxborough
Another of the state’s most deceiving lefties, McDonald went 5-2 with 71 strikeouts in 46 innings, for a 1.98 ERA. He also led the Dual County League in batting average (.468) and plated 16 runs, including two homers. McDonald had previously signed with Bryant University, but is currently uncommitted.

All-StateRHP – Lee Albertson, Sr., Westfield
Albertson was the ace of a Bombers staff that won its third Division 1 West title in five years this spring. He went 6-2 on the mount with two saves, and struck out 58 batters in 54 innings. Albertson will be heading to Holyoke Community College next season.

UTILITY

All-State3B – Joelfi Arias, Sr., Springfield Central
The Eagles scored one of the biggest upsets of the MIAA tournament by knocking off Springfield Cathedral, and Arias played a big role. He had five home runs on the season to go with 24 RBI, and on the mount he had 65 strikeouts in 62 innings, logging a 5-2 record. Arias is headed to Juco power Indian Hills Community College, in Ottumwa, Iowa.

All-StateOF – Adam Benvie, Sr., Dighton-Rehoboth
One of several mashers on a lineup that batted nearly .400 as a team, Benvie posted .386/.538/.771 totals with 37 RBI and five home runs, scoring 27 runs and drawing 22 walks. Benvie will continue his career next year at UMass.
All-StateC – Joe Walsh, Sr., Taunton
The Old Colony League MVP led the Tigers on a surprise run to the Division 1 South final, where they lost to eventual state champ Xaverian. He batted .447 with 31 RBI, 23 runs scored and three home runs, for an on-base percentage of .562. He leaves Taunton a career .379 hitter with a .486 on-base percentage and 50 RBI. Walsh will play next year at Eckard College in St. Petersburg, Fla.

All-StateSS – Evan Mondor, Sr., Dighton-Rehoboth
One of several big bats that led the Falcons to the No. 1 seed in Division 2 South, Mondor posted .478/.617/.791 totals with 10 doubles, three home runs, and 20 RBI. Mondor also scored 35 runs and only struck out three times all year. He will continue his career next year at Bentley University.

All-StateSS – Brendan Skidmore, Sr., Franklin
Skidmore took home Hockomock MVP honors this season after batting .467 with five home runs and 21 RBI for the Panthers, who won the league outright as well as the No. 1 seed in Division 1 South. Skidmore will do a post-graduate year at Bridgton Academy next season.

OF – Jarrod Casey, Sr., Milford
A returning All-Stater and the reigning Mid-Wach A MVP, Casey put in another dominant season for the Scarlet Hawks, batting .490 with 22 RBI. On the mound, he was 6-2 with 73 strikeouts in 47 innings, for a 0.91 ERA. Over the last two years, Casey has gone 14-3 on the mound.

All-StateSS – Sean O’Neill, Sr., Norwood
The senior played a significant impact on the Mustangs’ run to the Division 1 South quarterfinals, taking MVP of the Bay State Conference’s Herget Division in the process after batting .416 with 16 RBI and a home run in the wood-bat league. O’Neill will play next year at Merrimack College.

All-StateSS – Dan Cellucci, Sr., Lincoln-Sudbury
Another returning All-Stater, Cellucci was consistent once again for the Warriors, batting .435 with 18 RBI and two home runs as the Warriors came up short in the Division 1 state title defense. Cellucci will continue his career next year at Bryant University.

All-State1B – Adam Mayhew, Sr., Westfield
His numbers probably don’t reflect his importance to the team (12 RBI; 3-0, 15 IP), but his defensive presence was without question as the Bombers won their third Division 1 West title in five years. Mayhew will continue his career next year at Westfield State University.

Photos of Adam Mayhew, Mike Walkowicz, Lee Albertson, Matt O'Neil and Joelfi Arias are courtesy of the Springfield Republican. Photos of Pat Ruotolo, Ben Bowden and Mac Curran are courtesy of the Area Code Games.

Final Baseball Top 25 Poll of 2012

June, 19, 2012
6/19/12
8:29
PM ET
Following last weekend's MIAA state championships, we have updated our MIAA Top 25 poll for the final time in 2012 this evening.

Division 1 state champion Xaverian finishes at No. 1, after winning 13 of its final 14 games. The Hawks came into the spring as the No. 4 team in our preseason poll, but fell out of the countdown at the halfway point of the season following a five-game losing streak.

For the complete poll, CLICK HERE. A few notes about the final poll:

-- Two teams finish in the poll with losing records. South Hadley (12-13) won its first Division 2 state title in school history, and was seeded No. 2 in the West sectional despite a 7-13 record. This is in part to the 16 regular-season games played against Division 1 competition. Springfield Central (10-12) comes in at No. 25 after knocking off state title contender Springfield Cathedral in the D1 West quarterfinals.

-- Of the eight teams that played for a state championship in Divisions 1 through 4, only one team -- Plymouth North -- was ranked in the final regular season poll released on May 28. The Eagles came into the Division 2 South tournament ranked No. 20, and finish No. 8 after making their fourth state final appearance in five years. Going one step further, of the 12 teams that made the state semifinals in Divisions 1 through 3 (In Division 4, the North-South final represents the state championship), only four were ranked in the May 28 poll -- Auburn, Lowell, Westfield, and the aforementioned North.

-- No team finished exactly where they started in the preseason. Only Lowell (No. 2, preseason No. 3), St. John's of Shrewsbury (No. 6, preseason No. 9), Plymouth North (No. 8, preseason No. 5), Lincoln-Sudbury (No. 17, preseason No. 15), and the aforementioned Xaverian come close to finishing near their first ranking of 2012.

-- There are 11 teams in the final poll that were unranked in the May 28 poll. That includes the three state champions (Xaverian, South Hadley, North Reading) in the final poll. Of the 11 teams, only three have previously been ranked this season -- Xaverian, Taunton and East Bridgewater.

Here is how the final poll breaks down by league affiliation:



Bay State Conference - 3
Catholic Conference - 3
Dual County - 2
Old Colony - 2
Southern Worcester County - 2
Suburban League - 2
Atlantic Coast - 1
Cape Ann - 1
Central Mass. Conference - 1
Hockomock - 1
Merrimack Valley - 1
Mid-Wach A - 1
Middlesex - 1
South Coast - 1
South Shore - 1
Valley League - 1
Valley Wheel - 1



As always, thanks for following along in 2012. Any questions or comments can be sent to bhall@espnboston.com

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