Boston High School: East Longmeadow

Our 2014 Summer Football Primer

July, 8, 2014
Jul 8
11:52
AM ET
Don't look now, but the first day of MIAA football practices is just 40 days away. Per our tradition every summer, ESPN Boston High Schools editors Brendan C. Hall and Scott Barboza whet your appetite for the gridiron with some players on the rise, surprise teams to watch, top teams and some food for thought.

Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


FIVE PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Drew Jean-Guillaume, Sr. QB/DB, Shepherd Hill
With a powerful frame and impressive speed honed during track and field season, Jean-Guillaume is a throwback-type option quarterback, a converted running back who’s as adept at powering through defenders as he is at evading or blowing by them. The Rams will be heavy favorites in Division 4, and Jean-Guillaume will have plenty of room to work behind a reportedly heavy line led by Boston College commit Chris Lindstrom.

Mekhi Henderson, Soph. DB, Xaverian
In a defense full of household names, Henderson is one of the Hawks’ brightest young stars. Often last season, he was left on an island against an opponent’s top target, and often he held his own. With his coverage skills and raw ability, the coaching staff has a luxury to get creative in the secondary.

Shane Combs, Sr. ATH, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
It’s assumed that Combs, a Notre Dame baseball commit and ESPN Boston All-State selection during the spring, will take the reins at quarterback from last year’s Mr. Football finalist Drew Smiley. The Missouri transplant was one of the state’s most productive rushers during the playoffs, going over the century mark in all five postseason contests as the Pioneers reached the Division 2 state final.

Mike Maggipinto, Jr. RB, East Longmeadow
Somewhat quietly, the 5-foot-5 scatback eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark last year for the Spartans, running behind a great blocking scheme that continued to find unique ways to get him in space. Between Maggipinto and Plymouth North’s Christian Carr, this could be the year of the pint-sized running back.

Jahkari Carpenter, Sr. RB, Doherty
Among the area’s most elusive, Carpenter was a weekly highlight reel during the Highlanders’ run to the Division 4 state title, with runs like THIS, or THIS, or THIS. Junior Tavian Vassar is expected to have a bigger role in the backfield this year, which could make for an imposing thunder-and-lightning combination.

FIVE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Billerica
The Indians hit a home run this offseason with the hiring of Duane Sigsbury as their new head coach, though they are considered a year or two away. Still, Sigsbury is one of the area’s brightest offensive minds, with a track record of making programs relevant in a hurry (see: Boston Cathedral). Similar to his other stops, there are already some terrific talents coming up the pipe.

Boston English
The Blue and Blue made history last fall to end Brian Vaughn’s first season at the helm, beating Boston Latin for the first time since 1997. Now, with dynamic dual threat Emmanuel Almonte leading the offense, they’ll look to continue last year’s momentum.

Cambridge
Long considered a powder keg for skill talent, head coach Ryan Saulnier has tapped into it, and found a lot of success running his brand of spread offense in his first season last fall. With Marcus Collins returning under center, and a new home in the Dual County League, the Falcons ought to be one of the most entertaining teams to watch in Division 2 North.

Leominster
Blue Devils graduated one of their most talented classes ever, but this is a program built to reload, not rebuild, under a great offensive mind in Dave Palazzi. Defensive coordinator Charlie Raff left to take over at Oakmont, but in his place comes former North Middlesex coach John Margarita. It’s too early – not to mention, lofty – to make any Neil O’Connor comparisons yet, but keep an eye on sophomore Noah Gray this fall.

Springfield Central
Similar to Leominster, the Golden Eagles have many holes to fill on the heels of its most successful season in school history. But they should have a solid defense again, led by lineman Kaleb Hunter-Sams, and the coaching staff should get a boost from the addition of former Putnam head coach Bill Watson.

Hall's Preseason Top 10:

[+] EnlargeJoe Gaziano
Brendan Hall/ESPNESPN Boston's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Northwestern commit Joe Gaziano, leads a stacked Xaverian defense.
1. Xaverian
Little drama here as to who’s the top dog. With a star-studded defense that includes the likes of Northwestern commit Joe Gaziano, ESPN Boston’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2013; linebackers Noah Sorrento, Kenny Kern and D’Aundre Holmes; and defensive backs Damion Wood and Mekhi Henderson; as well as a potent running game behind UMass-bound tackle Joe Parsons, and an innovative playmaker in quarterback Jake Farrell; the Hawks figure to start the year No. 1 in many polls.

2. Everett
Crimson Tide are licking their chops after a disappointing end to 2013 season, and as usual they reload with some of the most gifted skill players in the area. The interesting question is how they’ll fit Boston College-bound cornerback Lukas Denis into the offense; originally slotted as the successor to Jonathan DiBiaso at quarterback before injuries derailed his sophomore season in 2012, Denis showed flashes of brilliance in a multitude of positions last year.

3. Central Catholic
The Raiders’ featured one of the state’s best defenses a year ago in their D1 state title run, and they’ll be held in high regard again thanks to linebacker Markus Edmunds and safety Mike Balsamo, who is fielding multiple Division 1 FCS offers at the moment. Also keep an eye on Matt Milano, who was statistically one of the state’s most productive quarterbacks in the playoffs last year.

4. Mansfield
The Hornets dramatically altered their offense on the fly late in the season following a season-ending injury to wideout Brendan Hill, and it worked out as they took the D2 state title. A fully healthy Hill and another year of running back Miguel Villar-Perez, one of last fall’s most pleasant revelations, should make the Hornets the favorite in a tough D2 South.

5. Bridgewater-Raynham
Trojans always get the benefit of the doubt for their powerful running game and their “anyone, anywhere, anytime” approach to scheduling, and they’ll be a force again with Brandon Gallagher returning at tailback. But the question is whether the Trojans can sustain momentum and avoid last year’s fate, when they reached No. 1 in our statewide poll early, only to sputter in the second half.

6. Shepherd Hill
In short, Boston College-bound offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom Jr. is a force. But the fact that he is the Rams’ most dominant, yet possibly their lightest, should tell you something about what to expect in 2014. They’re arguably Central Mass.’s most talented team this fall, and while there’s a couple other heavy hitters contending in D4 – Holliston, Dennis-Yarmouth and Wahconah, for starters – these guys are my odds-on favorite. Look for them to put up a ton of rushing yards in head coach Chris Lindstrom Sr.’s double wing scheme.

7. Lowell
The Red Raiders made one of the biggest statements of the playoffs last fall in blanking St. John’s Prep 41-0 in the first round of the D1 North tournament. Syracuse commit Shyheim Cullen was exceptional at interior gap blitzes, baiting and confusing potential blockers to create chaos up the middle, and he’ll lead a talented defense that includes linebacker Nicolau Coury and defensive back Theo Bryant.

8. St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Boston College-bound free safety Davon Jones is one of several early candidates for Defensive Player of the Year after recording 125 tackles and eight picks a year ago. Offensive coordinator Chris Moriarty is as creative as they come, and how he utilizes Jones and athlete Shane Combs in the offense will be one of the more interesting storylines of the season’s earlygoings.

9. Brockton
We’re still in wait-and-see mode after another season of unrealized expectations in Brockton, but it’s hard to deny the talent the Boxers have coming back. Keep an eye on Boston College-bound lineman Aaron Monteiro, who has some raw potential and a powerful frame at 6-foot-6 and nearly 300 pounds.

10. Dennis-Yarmouth
Division 1 recruit Michael Dunn lined up at nearly every offensive position last year for the Dolphins in their run to the D4 state final, and he may very well do it again. Defensively, this kid is a treat, regarded as one of the state’s premier shutdown corners. As usual, Paul Funk’s frenetic read option scheme will be a tall task to keep up with.

Others to Watch: Attleboro, Barnstable, BC High, Doherty, Holliston, Marblehead, Oliver Ames, Plymouth North, Pope John Paul II, St. John’s Prep, St. Peter-Marian, Tewksbury, Wahconah, Walpole

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

1. Spread offense has been the growing trend in Massachusetts over the last decade, and we’re now seeing its influence at all levels of the game. But at the other end of the spectrum, we’re seeing more and more teams dip into playbooks from decades and decades ago for some wild success in the running game. We’ve romanticized Nauset’s Single Wing offense for years. At Holy Name, Mike Pucko dug into Dutch Meyer’s World War II-era playbook and installed a fullback-less “Triple Wing” offense for the Naps’ Thanksgiving contest with Milford, a game they won 35-14. Last year’s D5 West Final featured a Pistol Flex Bone (Hoosac Valley) versus a Wishbone (Easthampton). Tewksbury, last year’s D3 state champ, calls running plays out of an encyclopedia of formations from every family of offense. Factor in all of the traditional Double Wing success stories like Shepherd Hill, Holy Name and Somerset-Berkley, too. Running offense continues to diversify in this corner of the country, and if you’re an X’s and O’s junkie like me, you are having a blast watching it.

2. LSU took some negative backlash last fall when they received a verbal commitment from a freshman early in his season after an apparently intense summer of recruitment from a number of SEC schools, but this doesn’t appear to be a trend going away any time soon. Early offers are still fairly uncommon for football prospects in this part of the country, though it’s worth noting St. Sebastian’s incoming sophomore Blake Gallagher received an offer from Nebraska last month. Beyond the concerns about pressure and bloated expectations, the biggest question I have is this: What if the recruit stops growing, or has just peaked earlier than his peers? I’m interested to see if Maryland head coach Randy Edsall’s proposals for recruiting reform gain any traction. Among other things, his plan stipulates schools can’t make a written offer until a player’s senior year, and that the offer must come with permission from the school’s admissions department.

3. I’m on record as saying I hope the true state championship format the MIAA rolled out last year is here to stay, but I’m also in favor of giving it some tweaks. First and foremost, get rid of the second automatic qualifier for leagues. Weak leagues were rewarded at the expense of teams like Medway and Pope John Paul II, teams who finished with winning records in qualification period but were pushed all the way out of the eight-team field in their respective divisions to satisfy undeserved automatic berths. Leagues should be restricted to one automatic qualifier, or two if it is a two-tier league. I also question whether a seven-game regular season is enough of a window to properly gauge a team’s strength. Expanding to an eight-game season and starting it on Labor Day Weekend could satisfy that, and could be a good gate opportunity for many schools as well.

***

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


FIVE PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Michael Balsalmo, Sr. RB/FS, Central Catholic
A standout on the Raiders’ Division 1 championship season a year ago, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder holds a couple of offers (Bryant, Wofford) entering the season. Here’s better there will be more to follow.

Christian Carr, Sr. RB, Plymouth North
For what Carr might lack in stature, he makes up for in elusiveness. A consistent 100-yard-per-game rusher in his junior season, he broke out with a 351-yard performance in the Eagles’ playoff win against Dighton-Rehoboth.

Jake Gibb, Jr. QB, Stoughton
In his first season under center, Gibb led the Knights to the Division 3 South final before falling to Plymouth South. Gibb will have them contending for the Davenport division title again.

Kyle Murphy, Jr. OL/DL, Attleboro
The two-way lineman was a driving force behind the Blue Bombardiers’ breakout season last year. It’s only a matter of time before the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder starts getting colleges’ attention.

James Sullivan, Sr. RB/S, Tewksbury
Sullivan announced himself to a statewide audience on the biggest stage last year, racking up 125 yards and three touchdowns in the Redmen’s win over Plymouth South in the Division 3 state title game. With graduations, Sullivan will take on an even bigger role this year.

FIVE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Braintree
The Bay State Carey should again be one of the more interesting races to watch across the state this year, and the Wamps might be primed to take a big step forward after last year’s 4-7 mark. One to watch is inside linebacker Derek Anson, who’s only added to his 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame.

Doherty
The Highlanders were historically good in 2013, capturing their first state title while beating Dennis-Yarmouth for the Division 4 championship. Although several key contributors have graduated, they can still make a run

Natick
It might not be the aerial display we’ve seen in recent years with Troy Flutie at quarterback, but the Redhawks will be one worth watching as Brian Dunlap returns from a season missed due to injury (Lisfranc fracture) last year.

Quincy
After a 7-4 campaign last season, are the Presidents ready to challenge for the Patriot Keenan title? With promising running back Jhave Handsom-Fields (8 TD as a sophomore) and quarterback James Lam returning, the time could be now.

Somerset-Berkley
The Raiders return a big class of juniors, including feature back Chip Wood back in the fold and Jacob Cabana rushing off the edge. Another EAC title could be in the cards.

Barboza's Preseason Top 10:

1. Xaverian
The Hawks will have some questions to answer on offense, but deserve the top spot on defense alone, with Defensive Player of the Year Joe Gaziano returning along with the state’s best secondary group.

2. Central Catholic
The Raiders peaked at precisely the right time last year, capturing the first true statewide Division 1 title. Some of their biggest playmakers have graduated, but Michael Balsamo’s primed for a breakout year.

3. Everett
The Crimson Tide are undoubtedly still smarting over last year’s home playoff loss to Central Catholic. We all know what that means.

4. Bridgewater-Raynham
Here’s betting tight end/defensive end Connor Reagan is one of next year’s breakout performers.

5. St. John’s (S)
You never know what you’re getting from the Pioneers’ offense game to game, and it’ll be intriguing to see how the group develops this season. But you have to like any group with athletes of ilk of Shane Combs and Davon Jones.

6. Lowell
I’ll take my chances with the linebacking corps the Red Raiders have returning, anchored by Shyheim Cullen and Nicolau Coury.

7. Brockton
The Boxers will not be pushed around inside the tackle box, with perhaps the biggest returning offensive line in the state, including Aaron Monteiro (6-6, 300) and Uzziah Hilliard (6-0, 280)

8. Mansfield
Mike Redding will come up with creative schemes to avoid Brendan Hill being double-teamed on both sides of the ball. Connor Finerty will also look to expand on a promising sophomore season.

9. Dennis-Yarmouth
The Dolphins fell just shy of the Div. 4 state title in a riveting matchup with Doherty. They might not be denied this year.

10. Tewksbury
The Redmen might not match the size and physicality of last year’s state championship squad, but having James Sullivan in the backfield is still enough to win.

Others to watch: Arlington, Attleboro, Billerica, BC High, Holliston, Leominster, Oliver Ames, Shepherd Hill, Stoughton, Wahconah, Walpole.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

1. The football playoff system is here to stay – well, at the very least for two more years. While there are still pockets of dissent, the sentiment across the state is that the first year determining true state champions across six divisions was a success. It even drew over some who’d been opposed to the playoff proposal originally and voted against the measure. The build up and drama of the first seven weeks leading up the start of the tournament brought a different dimension of intrigue to the season. Still, detractors remain and, as Brendan ruminated earlier in this feature, there’s still room for improvement regarding the means of automatic qualifiers and the discrepancies that exist between the respective athletic conferences’ rubrics – including, most importantly, the weight of league games. But with one year in the books, I declare the system to be a success. Now, let’s start tweaking the framework.

2. Which brings me to my next point: get rid of Thanksgiving. This is going to be a highly unpopular opinion in some neck of the woods, but it’s simply a reality of what’s put in front of us. At the end of last season, I talked to many athletic directors who complained about a diminished gate return from their Thanksgiving Day games. That’s a natural feedback of the playoff system – which in some place requires teams to “double up” with their Thankgiving rivals. In change, that has deemphasized the pomp and circumstance surrounding Turkey Day. As a result, that left some Thanksgiving Day matchups to resemble more of an exhibition game in tone – althought don’t tell that to St. John’s Prep and Xaverian, or Foxborough and Mansfield. The result is a hodgepodge of situations that follow teams into what used to be the biggest day of the regular-season football calendar: ie a non-playoff team vs. a team that’s bound for a championship game, or two teams who are playing out the string on a season that’s already ended. I counter those scenario’s are really no different than what existed in the year B.P. (Before Playoffs), but the current arrangement has only emphasized was already apparent – Thanksgiving is an exhibition. Minus the Catholic Conference or Merrimack Valley Conference duels which resulted in playoff berths in previous years, Thanksgiving largely was such. Only now have the detractors used the playoff system to highlight the faults in Thanksgiving Day that already existed. What Thanksgiving Day has always been about is the rivalry. I ventured to North Attleborough last year when the Red Rocketeers (already eliminated from the playoffs) hosted Attleboro (who were just eliminated the previous week in the sectional final). The scene was what you’d become accustomed to – with an overflow crowd at Community Field. They were all there to watch an exhibition game. Why not make that game mean something more again? Why not play the game before the first frost?

D2 West: Westfield 49, East Longmeadow 26

November, 8, 2013
11/08/13
11:30
PM ET
WESTFIELD, Mass. -- It was the Rashaun Rivers show Friday at Westfield’s Bullens Field as the No. 2 Bombers routed third-seeded East Longmeadow in Western Mass. Division 2 Semifinal action.

Rivers scored racked up 222 yards and scored five times to power Westfield to a 49-26 win that was much more dominant than the final score indicated.

Westfield moves on to face top-seeded Springfield Central, winners over Longmeadow in the region’s other Division 2 semifinal Friday.

Rivers broke East Longmeadow’s collective back with a pair of impressive touchdown runs early in each half.

After the Spartans scored the game’s first points, Rivers scored from 60 yards out on the game’s very next play. He kept the momentum in Westfield’s corner early in the third quarter with a 63-yard run on the Bombers’ first offensive play of the half.

“Rashaun had a great game,” said Westfield head coach Bill Moore. “He had some tremendous runs and refused to go down.”

After a fumble on their first offensive possession, Westfield went on to score on its remaining seven series.

“We just played better this time around,” Moore said in regards to the team’s earlier victory over East Longmeadow. “We got better throughout the course of the week.”

Ben Geschwind added two first-half touchdowns and 41 yards on the ground while quarterback Jake Toomey ran for 94 yards.

East Longmeadow, which ends its postseason run at 6-3, was powered by Mike Maggipinto, who ran for 163 yards and a touchdown. John Bortolussi added 107 yards and a score.

EMOTIONS RUNNING HIGH
Westfield had an emotional team huddle following the victory and it’s easy to understand why.

The game was the last the team will play at home this season --- no matter how far they march in the postseason. It’s the last time a very dedicated group of seniors will play in front of the home crowd and it was also the last home game of Moore’s tenure.

“It’s been a great season,” Moore said. “I’ll look back at it when it’s all said and done and feel great about what we’ve done. Tonight, we’re going to enjoy this one.”

It was equally emotional for the group of veterans on the field.

“We worked since we were freshmen for this very night,” said linebacker Noah Swords, who recorded three sacks and gained pressure on the quarterback all night. “We had to do whatever it took to win. You don’t feel pain, you don’t feel anything. You just feel great.”

ANOTHER CHANCE
The semifinal win sets up a chance at redemption for the Westfield Bombers.

The only blemish in an otherwise terrific season came last week in a blowout loss to Central.

Fortunately for Westfield, it gets a chance to erase that blemish next week in the sectional title game.

“We were disappointed in how we played last week,” Moore said. “I think all of us are honored to have the opportunity to go play them again.”

Westfield was in it in last week’s matchup late in the first half before a big stop on fourth-and-goal swung the momentum.

“The bottom line for us is that we just have to play better,” Moore said.

Mr. Football Watch: Week 6

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
10:54
PM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch" following Week 6 of the 2013 season. Statistics can be sent to editors Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com) and/or Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com)

THE CONTENDERS

Troy Flutie, Sr. QB, Natick
Completed 15 of 22 passes for 325 yards and five touchdowns, with no interceptions, in the Redhawks’ 42-10 win over Dedham.

Brandon Gallagher, Jr. RB, Bridgewater-Raynham
Ran for 232 yards and a score, and added a 70-yard touchdown reception, in a 27-7 win over Dartmouth.

Hayden Murphy, Sr. RB/WR, Barnstable
In the Red Raiders' 29-20 comeback win over Marshfield, carried 12 times for 116 yards and a touchdown, and caught two passes for 74 yards and another score.

Neil O’Connor, Sr. QB, Leominster
Accounted for a season-high 359 yards of offense (287 passing, 72 rushing) and two scores in the Blue Devils' 47-26 win over Doherty.

Dylan Oxsen, Sr. RB, Plymouth South
In the Panthers' 27-7 win over Nauset, carried a personal record 37 times for 243 yards and four touchdowns.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
Carried 18 times for 132 yards and a score in the Rockets' 21-0 shutout of Braintree.

Rufus Rushins, Jr. RB, Bishop Fenwick
Ran for 80 yards and a score in the Crusaders' 48-18 rout of Austin Prep.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. RB, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Completed 19 of 33 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns in the Pioneers' upset loss to cross-town rival Shrewsbury.

Cody Williams, Sr. QB, Springfield Central
Completed 12 of 17 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns in the Golden Eagles’ 40-12 rout of Minnechaug.

Ju’an Williams, Sr. WR, Springfield Central
Caught five passes for 69 yards in the Eagles’ win over Minnechaug.

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 13 of 15 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns in the Hornets’ 47-8 rout of Taunton.

FIVE ON THE RISE

Matt Banchs, Sr. FB/LB, Leominster
In the Blue Devils' win over Doherty, recorded 22 tackles and two sacks, and also added 40 yards rushing with a score on offense. Banchs is slowly rising as one of the top defensive players in Central Mass.

Christian Carr, Jr. RB, Plymouth North
In the Eagles' 33-6 win over Falmouth, carried 35 times for 254 yards and four touchdowns, giving him over 700 yards rushing on the season.

Mike Maggipinto, Soph. RB, East Longmeadow
Carried 20 times for 259 yards and five touchdowns in the Spartans’ 40-34 win over Springfield Putnam. He currently leads all Western Mass. running backs in rushing touchdowns (13).

James Sullivan, Jr. RB/DB, Tewksbury
Collected three of the Redmen’s four interceptions, while adding 75 yards on nine carries with a touchdown on offense vs. Methuen.

Miguel Villar-Perez, Jr. RB, Mansfield
Caught three passes for 95 yards and a touchdown in the Hornets’ 47-8 win over Taunton. Through five games he has 575 yards of offense as a pass-catching running back, with eight touchdowns.

TOP STATISTICAL LEADERS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Rushing
Mark Wright, Sr., Auburn – 950 yards, 11 TD
Brooks Tyrrell, Jr., Marblehead – 931 yards, 9 total TD
Chris Ahl, Sr., Millis/Hopedale – 895 yards, 11 TD
Dylan Oxsen, Sr., Plymouth South – 852 yards, 14 total TD
Zered McCoy, Sr., Ware – 843 yards, 5 TD

Passing
Dylan Kierman, Sr., Quabbin – 1,680 yards, 17 TD
John Rumney, Sr., Marlborough – 1,372 yards, 17 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 1,360 yards, 22 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 1,298 yards, 13 TD
Ryan Barabe, Jr., Pope John Paul II – 1,255 yards, 14 TD

Receiving
Zach Elkinson, Jr., Holliston – 513 yards, 14 total TD
Jake Bradway, Jr., Belchertown – 489 yards, 7 TD
Brian Daly, Jr., Marblehead – 487 yards, 10 TD
T.J. Hairston, Jr., Watertown – 472 yards, 5 TD
Jack Galvin, Sr., Lowell – 438 yards, 8 TD

Recap: No. 6 Central 49, E. Longmeadow 0

September, 20, 2013
9/20/13
11:33
PM ET
EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. -- With all due respect to South Hadley and Amherst, they are not Springfield Central. East Longmeadow learn that lesson rather harshly as the Golden Eagles stormed over and through the Spartans for a 49-0 victory Friday night in a AA Divisional tilt at Spartan Field.

Coming off a bye week, Central (1-1) bounced back nicely from its season-opening loss to Everett two weeks ago. The Golden Eagles amazingly scored 21 points in the first minute of this one and never looked back.

Quarterback Cody Williams (7 of 8, 149 yards, 3 TDs), on his first touch from scrimmage, hit Ju’an Williams for a 26 yard scoring pass in the right corner of the end zone. The score was set up by the first of three turnovers committed by East Longmeadow (2-1) in the opening minute.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Spartans lost the ball putting the Golden Eagles on the 14. Cody Williams connected with Ju’an Williams again, this time on an out pattern, and the senior sprinted past the defense into the end zone to make it 14-0.

It was déjà vu all over again on the proceeding kickoff after the Spartans lost control of it and giving Central the ball on the 2. Needing just one play, running back Marcal Davis’ dive over the goal line extended the cushion to 21 points before many fans had even reached their seats.

“We know special teams is a big part of the game,” said Ju’an Williams. “We work on it all the time during practice because we want everything to be nice and crisp.”

What was expected to be a close game after East Longmeadow came into this tilt following back-to-back victories over South Hadley and Amherst, was anything but.

“We had the bye week so the kids were really excited to play tonight,” said Central coach Valdamar Brower. “This game comes after a loss so there was a lot of aggression building up. We have a lot of competitive teams in our conference it just so happens we had the bye week and we were able to get the best of East Longmeadow tonight.”

To the Spartans’ credit, they did manage to hold on to the ball on their next possession and drove to the Central nine before turning it over on downs. With 6:45 left before the half, the Spartans again entered the red zone but Devon Kennedy’s pass was picked off by Ju’an Williams and returned 98 yards for the score. Kennedy completed 10 of 22 passes for 64 yards.

Central added to the Spartans’ misery in the waning minutes of the half. Behind running back Da'Quan Clemons (5 carries, 38 yards) and a couple drive-sustaining catches by Troy Morrow, Cody Williams finished it off with a nimble 15-yard jaunt sending the Golden Eagles into the break well-in command, 35-0.

Central continued its onslaught in the third. A six-yard scoring run by Davis finished off a 50-yard, six-play drive to push the lead to 42-0. On their next possession, Cody Williams hooked up with Morrow on a 71-yard screen pass, pushing the advantage to 49 points.

“One of the things we work on is to not let up and keep going,” Ju’an Williams said. “We get tackled we just get up and get back on the ball. We try to get the defense off-balanced.”

The Golden Eagles finished with 358 yards while East Longmeadow finished with 221. Sophomore running back Mike Maggipinto led the Spartans with 71 yards on 10 attempts.

ESPN Boston Week 3 football picks

September, 19, 2013
9/19/13
6:07
PM ET
BOSTON LATIN ACADEMY (2-0) at DORCHESTER (1-0), Friday 6 p.m.

Scott Barboza: The other day when we visited Dragons QB Kyle Dance for our Player of the Week interview, he was wearing a Cam Newton t-shirt. He does his best on-field impression again. Latin, 22-14.

Brendan Hall: Everything we’re taught in this business cautions against cliché, pun-filled headlines. But when you have a quarterback as elusive and fleet-footed as Kyle Dance, you can’t help yourself. Latin Academy, 22-12.

ACTON-BOXBOROUGH (1-0) at No. 7 NATICK (1-0), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: Hate to upset loyal reader and former A-B gridder Mark Martin after picking against the Colonials last week in their win over Cambridge, but I just don’t think this is the week to change my tune. Natick, 34-24.

Hall: Just wait until Troy Flutie really gets untracked. Natick, 31-20.

BARNSTABLE (0-1) at BC HIGH (1-1), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: Red Raiders are going to enter hungry and desperate not to fall to 0-2, but Eagles defense wins out. BC High, 20-17.

Hall: Barnstable is going to need to show a lot more aggression, and discipline, on both sides of the ball if it is going to stay afloat in the competitive D2 South standings. Eagles could use the points for this win, considering the tough road ahead. BC High, 20-10.

No. 15 ST. JOHN’S OF SHREWSBURY (0-1) at CATHOLIC MEMORIAL (1-0), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: Kevin Bletzer is the type of player an offensive coordinator will have fits about, but ultimately too much to stop with the Pioneers. St. John’s, 32-28.

Hall: After some early struggles, the St. John’s passing game came alive in the second half, thanks to a flurry of screens and a couple of deep completions down the sidelines from returning All-Stater Andrew Smiley. There are some excellent individual talents at CM, but how good they are on the whole remains to be see. St. John’s, 28-14.

No. 6 SPRINGFIELD CENTRAL (0-1) at EAST LONGMEADOW (2-0), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: This will be a one-possession game with Ju’an Williams being the difference for the Eagles. Central, 23-20.

Hall: Spartans proving they are an underrated bunch, after a solid win last weekend, but there is too much perimeter speed to harness here. Central, 25-14.

WEYMOUTH (0-1) at No. 11 BROCKTON (0-1), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: A game of turnovers, or at least whichever team is able to hold onto the football best. I’m sure it was a point of emphasis for both squads coming off their performances last week. Brockton, 30-21.

Hall: Wildcats licking their chops after Brockton gassed them for 432 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the Division 1 playoffs last year. Flat out, to be perfectly blunt, I just don’t see Brockton losing to a team from the Bay State Conference. I can’t recall the last time they did. Brockton, 27-13.

No. 12 WALPOLE (1-0) at NEEDHAM (0-1), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: As I wrote in our Roundtable earlier, I really think this classifies as a near must-win for Needham in the stacked Division 2 South sectional. Think the Rebels are too well-rounded though. Walpole, 36-28.

Hall: Wouldn’t be surprised to see an upset here, considering the Rebels’ relative inexperience. But they’ve had two weeks to prepare for this one. Walpole, 17-10.

No. 4 ST. JOHN’S PREP (1-1) at No. 13 CENTRAL CATHOLIC (2-0), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: A defensive struggle in its truest sense. Prep, 17-14.

Hall: That was some vintage defense by the defensively-sound Raiders in last weekend’s shutout of Haverhill. I don’t see Central doing the same to Prep, but I’m curious to see what kind of gameplan Chuck Adamopoulos devises for Johnathan Thomas. The last two defensive coordinators failed. Expect the Raiders to muck it up here. Prep, 17-14.

No. 8 LEOMINSTER (1-0) at No. 9 LOWELL(2-0), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: Brian Dolan and the Red Raiders offense opposes their greatest competition – and, most likely – the best secondary they’ll see all season. They find a way to squeak by the Blue Devils. Lowell, 28-21.

Hall: I’ve been saying for a few weeks now that Leominster has the best safety tandem in the state, between Neil O’Connor and Jarell Addo. Lowell is about to find out on Friday night what kind of pass defense they’re up against. Going the other way, I’m intrigued to see how Jack Galvin squares up with Addo at tight end. Leominster, 35-31.

ST. SEBASTIAN’S at MILTON ACADEMY, Saturday 3 p.m.

Barboza: I like the Mustangs’ backfield depth with Luke McDonald and Drew Jacobs; they’re the difference. Milton Academy, 24-14.

Hall: Connor Strachan gets the job done. St. Seb’s, 19-15.

LAWRENCE ACADEMY at GOVERNOR’S ACADEMY, Saturday 1 p.m.

Barboza: Gov’s streak will end this year, just not this week. Governor’s, 17-14.

Hall: LA’s Chris Garrison might be the most impressive player on the field on either side of the ball, and the Spartans will surely get him involved in a variety of ways. Still, I think the sum of the Govs’ lacrosse-bred talent will win out here. Governor’s, 24-14.

GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 1 BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM (2-0) at No. 10 XAVERIAN (1-0), Saturday 1 p.m.

Barboza: The Trojans make it four in a row over the Hawks and break out of the early season curse of the ESPN Boston No. 1. B-R, 16-14.

Hall: First there was #CropTopOverTheTop, then came #FakeCropTopOverTheTop. Can we get some #CropTopOverThePylon action to complete the cycle here? B-R, 16-10.

Last Week’s Picks

Barboza: 10-2 (15-8 overall)

Hall: 7-5 (14-9 overall)

Putnam's Kyles shows strong at Super 7 Showcase

July, 21, 2013
7/21/13
10:50
PM ET
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- When Jaleel Kyles showed up for Putnam Vocational Tech’s first football practice three years ago as an unassuming freshman, the Beaver coaches didn’t pay much attention to him, that is, except for making a few mental notes regarding his dimensions. Kyles stood 5-foot-2 and barely reached 90 pounds.

“At that size at the time we didn’t know how much he was going to help us,” said Putnam head coach Bill Watson, who served as assistant under head coach Lou Malvezzi when Kyles arrived on the scene.

Prior to Kyles’ junior season, he had a growth spurt which bumped him up to 5-foot-6, 140-pounds. To the coaches that was progress but questions still lingered.

“Funny thing is when we as coaches continued to doubt if he would be able to play for us, Jaleel always believed and just kept working,” Watson said. “He ran track to get faster and continously worked out during the off-season with weight lifting and doing agility work and then he had another growth spurt.”

Fast forward to the present, and with the start of pre-season camp just a few short weeks away, Watson’s reflections of Kyles have changed dramatically. No longer the scrawny little kid whom many felt might get injured if he played, Kyles, thanks to yet another growth spurt this past year which now puts him at 5-foot-10, 160-pounds along with a vigilant off-season conditioning program, has emerged in becoming the featured player on the Putnam squad.

Taking part, along with 40 other area players, in Saturday’s Super 7 Showcase at Central High’s Fred Berte Field, Kyles showed off the abilities which should make him one of the top two-way players not only in Western Mass. but most-likely beyond.

Because of his pure athleticism, Watson says Kyles will play all over the field this season and will rarely come off. As of now, his primary position is slot receiver but he will also see time at running back and quarterback as well with the various offensive packages Watson wants to use. On the other side of the ball Kyles is a shutdown defensive back.

“It doesn’t matter where I play,” Kyles said. “I just want to put this team on my back and let them know I’m ready to lead them.”

With the addition of Sci-Tech High players merging with Putnam this year, automatically the Beavers’ numbers regarding depth will increase. Putnam will need those extra bodies after being moved up to Western Mass. Division 2 this season, joining the likes of powers Longmeadow, Central, East Longmeadow and Westfield.

“We’re going to have more numbers which is huge because last year we would only practice using half of field because we didn’t have a lot of numbers,” said Kyles.

Early in his life Kyles, like so many other kids, experienced his share of hardship. Just nine months old at the time, his father left him and his mother Shakira. In time his mother met another man (Kwame Kyles) and they were married. The younger Kyles regards his stepfather, whom he refers to as dad, as a pure blessing and in fact, recently had his last name which use to be Brown changed to Kyles.

“He’s not my true father but he helped raise me,” Kyles said. “He’s always been there for me as is my mom. He took me under his wing and I’ve always been his. He’s like my real father. My mother works very hard and always does her best to get me and my siblings everything we need. She comes to my football games and track meets and supports me in everything I do.”

Kyles says without Kwame being a major presence in his life, he doesn’t know if he would have ever become the football star he is today. As a youngster, Kyles was extremely hyper and Kwame searched different high and low to try and put that energy to good use. Early on, Kwame got him involved in karate and boxing. Then one day Kwame saw an advertisement on a billboard about Springfield youth football. Kwame immediately signed Kyles up and the rest is history.

“Playing football at a young age, my dad taught me everything about football and a strong hard-work ethic,” said Kyles. “We would do drills and he would set up cones in our back yard to help me run precise routes, etc.”

Going into last season, Watson had Kyles listed as his third receiver but suddenly all of that changed.

“Going into camp we had two kids in front of him who were college scholarship type of receivers,” said Watson, who has coached at Putnam for 17 years. “In the scrimmages Jaleel played well and we had him play running back sparingly and he still ended up being our leading rusher last year (544 yards on 102 carries, 9 TDs). In my mind I believe he needs to touch the football at least 20 times a game. If he doesn’t then we’re not doing our job. He’s tough, physical, fast, quick and just a great kid to coach.”

Kyles’ hard-work and dedication to make himself better has already begun to pay dividends. He recently received an offer from AIC. Watson, who played at AIC, said UMass and UConn have also shown some interest.

“I want to play college football and get an education,” Kyles said. “My dad has always steered me in the right direction. So whatever offers I get on the table we will deal with. If it’s not something of my interest then I may go to a private school for a year.”

With a full high school season ahead of him, it is highly-likely a few more offers will come his way. No matter, Kyles has become a role model for others, who also may be a bit undersized, to follow and fulfill their dream.

Notable performances: During Saturday’s Super 7 Showcase, under the direction of Watson, other players besides Kyles, had very productive days. Ansonia (Conn.) running back Arkeel Newsome, who recently committed to UConn, stood out along with Holy Cross (Conn.) receiver Isaiah Wright, who will attend Kingswood-Oxford School in East Hartford next fall. Others who grabbed attention included quarterback Cody Williams and lineman Khaleel Walker of Central, Putnam tight end David Spears, East Longmeadow receiver Sam Blake -- who will PG at Williston-Northampton School -- and Windsor (Conn.) receiver/defensive back Terrell Huff, who will suit up for East Coast Prep in Great Barrington come September.

Shriners Football: West 13, Central 0

June, 22, 2013
6/22/13
12:28
AM ET
LEOMINSTER, Mass. -- Throughout the week leading up to the 13th Annual Shrine Chowder Bowl Classic, the Western Mass. all-stars were provided a daily history lesson by their coaches on the inadequacies of past teams who have come up short in this event.

It had been nine years since Western Mass. had last won this game. For many of these current players, they were just in elementary school at the time. With a collective promise to revamp history, Western Mass. succeeded in carrying out its promise
Friday night after shutting out the Central Mass. all-stars 13-0 at Doyle Field.

The Western Mass. defense was solid through all four quarters, keeping Central Mass. in check and forcing them into committing six turnovers, including five interceptions.

"This was a total team effort," said Springfield Central defensive back Tejano Smith, who finished with two picks. "We pushed each other and got through this. All week long we were saying when the ball is in the air it's ours."

In all, the defense held Central Mass. to just 149 yards. Anytime they tried to sustain a drive, it would end with a turnover. Western Mass piled up 237 yards of offense with East Longmeadow receiver Sam Blake hauling in four passes for 84 yards and Greenfield quarterback Zak Bartak completing 5-of-9 passes for 83 yards.

After a scoreless first quarter, Western Mass. got the break it was looking for early in the second. Smith stepped in front of a pass by Shrewsbury's Mike Coggeshall, putting the ball on the Central Mass. 28. A Blake 29 yard reception set the stage for Turners Falls running back Ryan Wilder to blast over the goal line from a yard out with 4:52 left before halftime to give Western Mass. a 6-0 lead after kicker Liam Murphy's PAT was blocked. Wilder also had a solid game as he rushed for 65 yards on 17 attempts.

"The offensive line did a great job tonight," said Wilder, who will play at Westfield State next fall. "They did a great job creating holes and getting the seams for me. It's been a pleasure coming out here and getting a win for Western Mass. It's been an awesome time doing this and getting to meet new people and making new friends."

Just prior to the half, Western Mass. had a chance to pad its lead. After Minnechaug's Demetri Strange partially blocked Shepherd Hill kicker Chris Dutting's punt, Western Mass. had the ball on its own 31. A 15-yard catch by West Springfield's Chris Lipscomb combined with a couple of runs from Springfield Central's Aaron Owens moved the ball to the Central Mass. 9 yard line. But Chicopee Comp quarterback Tom Duffy lost the handle off a snap that was recovered by Nashoba's Cam Rothfuss to deny the threat.

"We had a couple of turnovers which stung us a bit," Central Mass. and Auburn coach Jeff Cormier said. "I felt our kids played with a lot of heart. Western Mass. made some plays and key times and we needed a few more opportunities that we didn't get. We were in this game and I can't say enough about the quality of kids we have on this team.

"They battled to the end. The nature of these kids, on both teams, is they are all competitive. They didn't get here because they take plays off and I'm very proud of the way our kids especially competed tonight."

Leading by six at the break, Western Mass. knew the score was still to close for comfort. With the offense sporadic at best, it was no secret that the defense needed to continue its high-level of play for them to hold on. Early in the third, they did just that after Springfield Central defensive back Bryan Rivas picked off Leominster quarterback Garrett DelleChiaie. It was one of two interceptions made by Rivas on the night.

However the offense failed to get any points off the turnover. Another DelleChiaie pick by Smith went for naught early in the fourth after Murphy missed a 37 yard field goal attempt thus keeping the hopes of Central Mass. alive. But moments later, Coggeshall had his pass interception by St. Joesph's of Pittsfield defensive back Jon Bianchi.

Bianchi's interception had Western Mass. setting up camp on the Central Mass. 32. Not about to let this latest opportunity fall by the way side, Wilder ran off tackle for 16 yards, and moments later, Duffy connected with Blake for a 13 yard scoring strike with 3:54 remaining. Following Murphy's PAT, Western Mass. was now in control leading by 13.

"Sam Blake was open all night," Duffy said. "He's an incredible athlete. I knew all I had to do was throw it up there and he would catch it. Our coaches preached to us every day that we were 1-10-1 against Central Mass. overall and we knew we had so much talent coming out of the west this year. We had a two hour ride to get here and we didn't want to come here for nothing. It's a very humbling experience to be here and I feel honored to have played in this game."

On the final Central Mass. possession of the evening, they managed to drive to the Western Mass. 30 in hopes of avoiding the shut out. However, the defense continued to prosper, forcing them to turn the ball over on downs and allowing Western Mass. to run out the clock and celebrate after nine grueling years. Central Mass. still holds a 10-2-1 lead in the series.

Recap: No. 7 E. Longmeadow 11, West Side 1

May, 15, 2013
5/15/13
12:05
AM ET
WEST SPRINGFIELD -- For East Longmeadow, it was about doing what it had to do. And Today, what the Spartans had to do was to win convincingly over a non-playoff team.

Consider that mission accomplished.

The Spartans used a sound five-inning effort from starter Caleb Berard and an offensive onslaught that included 13 hits, to win with ease, 11-1, over West Springfield.

The win, of course, improves the Spartans -- considered the team to beat in Western Mass. as the postseason creeps closer and closer -- to an impressive 16-1. And perhaps even more importantly, it comes a week after East Longmeadow suffered its first and only loss of the season to Cathedral.

The youthful Spartans, who weren’t considered a favorite entering the year due to massive turnover caused by graduation, including the loss of three scholarship players, proved evermore that they can recover from low points.

“You never know with a game like this,” said head coach Scott Whelihan. “This felt like a trap game. We were a little tight after the loss and I felt that coming in today too. But they battled. They always do.”

Berard struggled early, walking two batters and hitting the bases loaded with no outs in the first inning. He found a way to settle down, though, and escaped the jam having allowed just one run. The recovered form stuck with him throughout as he scattered just two hits and struck out seven while showcasing a nasty, biting slider that devastated the Terriers’ lineup.

Berard allowed just three baserunners in the middle innings of his start and escaped a two-on, no-out jam in his fifth and final frame.

“The slider was working great,” said Berard, who improved to 5-0 on the season. “I felt good after the first inning and always get stronger as the innings go on.”

The Spartans offense showed pop and execution as it collected 13 hits. What’s more, East Longmeadow -- which has rode to its impressive heights on the strength of its pitching staff --- showed a knack for handling the bat in various situations. Indeed, a sight to strike fear in the other Division I contenders.

“I had a feeling we were going to hit today,” Whelihan said.

Leadoff man Nick Lambert had two hits, two steals and a run scored to spark the top of the lineup. Reed Phillips, who hit for Berard, was 3-for-4 with an RBI. Vinnie Calcasosa had two hits and an RBI while smooth-fielding third baseman Nate Anderson was 2-for-4 with three RBI.

BOUNCING BACK TO FORM
The adversity has been few and far between for the Spartans this season. After winning their first 14 games, perennial contender in the region Cathedral halted the streak and took away any thoughts of a perfect season.

But East Longemeadow has bounced back well. The Spartans defeated Chicopee, 4-3, on Friday and took care of business Tuesday at West Side. It appears the loss may have done them well.

“Oh we learned a lot,” said Whelihan. “We learned to never give up and these guys don’t. In that game, they never got down and we were down early against Chicopee.

“They’ve played hard and as a team all season.”

Prior to the Cathedral loss, East Longmeadow had only played in five games that could be considered "close". The loss and subsequent one-run win over Chicopee have shown head coach Whelihan and Co. the importance of being able to win in the clutch, especially as the postseason nears.

“We’ve been playing small ball and trying to execute," Whelihan said. "We’re really trying to get ready for the playoffs. It’s time to execute.”

WILD EARLY, ACCURATE LATE
Berard took some time to find his ground, struggling with control early on.

The junior southpaw walked the first two batters and hit Andre Marrero to load the bases before finding his groove.

“Early on, I went to the mound and told him to just do what he does,” Whelihan said. “I told him the team has faith in him and he settled down.”

To say that he got comfortable would be a major understatement. Berard retired the next three batters in succession, limiting the first-inning damage.

He struck out Brandon Magnil, got Sam Doucette to ground out and fanned Mark Couture -- ending the major threat and limiting the damage.

“I always start like that,” Berard said. “I don’t know what it is. After the first inning, I was able to throw on the side and I felt good going back out there.”

The lefty was dominant through the second, third and fourth innings, allowing just three base runners before getting into and out of a jam in the fifth.

“I just tried to focus and throw strikes,” he said. “I can’t worry about it. I just have to let my defense make plays.”

BasketBull Hoops Fest tips off Thursday

December, 19, 2012
12/19/12
1:21
PM ET
The 2012 BasketBull Hoops Fest tips off Thursday at noon with two days of prep school basketball, followed by an additional two days of Catholic school matchups.

All games will be played at Holyoke Community College. For more information on the tournament, CLICK HERE.

BasketBull Director Colin Tabb passes along the full schedule, as well as players to watch over the four-day event:

Thursday, Dec. 20
Noon - Cheshire Academy (Conn.) vs. Worcester Academy
1:45 p.m. - Williston-Northampton vs. Masters School (Conn.)
3:30 p.m. - Jean de Brebeuf (Canada) vs. Wilbraham & Monson
5:15 p.m. - Suffield Academy (Conn.) vs. Northfield-Mt. Hermon
7 p.m. - ALMA Academy (Canada) vs. Cheshire ACademy (Conn.)

Friday, Dec. 21
Noon - St. Thomas More (Conn.) vs. Wilbraham & Monson
1:45 p.m. - Jean de Brebeuf (Canada) vs. Williston-Northampton
3:30 p.m. - Masters School (Conn.) vs. Cheshire Academy (Conn.)
5:15 p.m. - Northfield-Mt. Hermon vs. ALMA Academy (Canada)
7 p.m. - East Longmeadow vs. West Springfield

Saturday, Dec. 22
2 p.m. - Holy Cross (N.Y.) vs. St. Joseph Central
3:45 p.m. - Bishop Hendricken (R.I.) vs. St. Theresa's (Canada)
5:30 p.m. - Holy Name vs. Springfield Cathedral
7:15 p.m. - Bishop Kearney (N.Y.) vs. St. Peter's Prep (N.J.)

Sunday, Dec. 23
Noon - Jean de Brebeuf (Canada) vs. Holy Cross (N.Y.)
1:45 p.m. - St. Theresa's (Canada) vs. Springfield Cathedral
3:30 p.m. - St. Raphael (R.I.) vs. Catholic Memorial

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Rene Castro – Worcester Academy - 2013 – Butler
Peter Miller – Northfield Mt Hermon - 2013 – Princeton
Anthony Dallier – Northfield Mt. Hermon - 2013 – Yale
Zena Edosomwan – Northfield Mt. Hermon – 2013 - Harvard
Denzel Gregg – St. Thomas More – 2013 – Fordham
Dylan Haines – St. Thomas More – 2013 – undecided
Marquis Moore – St. Thomas Moore – 2013 – undecided
Chinonso Obokoh – Bishop Kearney – 2013 - Syracuse
Trevis Wyche – Saint Peter’s Prep – 2013 – St. Peter’s
Charles Correa – St. Raphael’s – 2013 – undecided
Tarik Smith – Cheshire Academy – 2013 – undecided
Eric Suder – Cheshire Academy – 2013 – undecided
Tank Roberson – St. Joseph Central – 2013 – undecided
Kamali Bey – Wilbraham and Monson – 2013 – undecided
Thomas Rivard – Worcester Academy – James Madison
Skylar White – Northfield Mt Hermon – 2013 – undecided
Donte Gittens – Masters School – 2013 – undecided
Austin Carter – Masters School – 2013 – undecided
Kendall Jackson – Suffield Academy – 2013 – undecided
Max Risch – Williston – 2013 – undecided
Goodluck Okonoboh – Wilbraham and Monson – 2014 – Undecided
Kerem Kanter – Wilbraham and Monson – 2014 – undecided
Matt Cimino – Worcester Academy – 2014 - undecided
Cane Broome – St. Thomas More – 2014 – undecided
Sem Kroon – Northfield Mt. Hermon – 2014 – undecided
Gerard Adams – Catholic Memorial – 2014 – undecided
Godspower Ogide – Bishop Kearney – 2014 – undecided
Thomas Bryant – Bishop Kearney – 2015 – undecided
Josh Sharma – Northfield Mt. Hermon – 2015 – undecided
DJ Baptiste – Wilbraham and Monson – 2015 – undecided
Luis Montero – Wilbraham and Monson – 2015 - undecided
David Watkins – Catholic Memorial – 2015 – undecided
Darrick Boyd – Springfield Cathedral – 2015
Mustapha Heron – Wilbraham and Monson – 2016
Tyonne Malone – Williston - 2016

Franklin finishes No. 1 in girls' soccer poll

December, 5, 2012
12/05/12
7:01
PM ET
There can be little question over the top two teams in the final 2012 girls' soccer Top 20 poll.

The Division 1 and 2 state champions, Franklin and Medfield, proved their worth over the course of undefeated seasons capped by victories over Top 5 teams in the state finals. A combined record of 43-0-4 speaks for itself.

The two defeated finalists, Nashoba and Belchertown, also proved they belonged in the top five. Both teams were unbeaten going into the finals.

Two of the biggest upsets in the tournament ended the season for top seeds East Longmeadow and Peabody. Both teams dropped in the rankings after seeing their seasons end abruptly. Oliver Ames and Duxbury were the big movers up the rankings after impressive runs to their respective sectional finals.

Two teams were added to the rankings after tournament win streaks that caught just about everyone by surprise.

Beverly made it all the way to the state semifinal behind striker Caitlin Harty and goalkeeper Casey Cook. The Panthers won the incredibly deep D1 North sectional, which few (if anyone) had predicted.

Weston's run to the D3 state title is even more amazing as it was the 17th seed in D3 North and romped its was through the sectional. The only goal it gave up in the postseason was in the opening round against the 16th seed Georgetown. Weston outscored its next four opponents 19-0. A 1-0 win over Sutton in the finals meant that Weston had to be included in the rankings.

Girls' soccer: Nashoba 2, Minnechaug 0

November, 15, 2012
11/15/12
1:54
AM ET


BOLTON, Mass. -- Wednesday, theoretically, was a day the Nashoba girls’ soccer team had circled on its calendar since 2011. Ever since the Chieftains’ 2-1 defeat to East Longmeadow in last year’s Division 1 state semifinal match, they’ve been planning their return.

“We’ve been counting the days, let’s put it that way, for a year to get back here again,” Nashoba head coach Pam Vaughan said Wednesday.

Well, there will be on more date that needs penciling in – as in Friday’s state championship game – after the Chieftains blanked West champion Minnechaug in front of a home crowd Wednesday night.

While improving their unbeaten record, Nashoba (18-0-4) set up a state final matchup with South champion Franklin, which also claimed a 2-0 win over North champion Beverly on Wednesday.

“We’ve been wanting this for so long, especially coming off the semi-final loss last year,” senior captain Laura Courtney said. “We’ve been waiting for this moment to come back and prove ourselves again.”

Courtney notched what proved to be the game-winner after a scoreless first half. With 18 minutes remaining in the match, the midfielder flicked a perfect volley from Kim Slade past Minnechaug keeper Anna Maria Ribeiro.

The Chieftains added an insurance marker in the 73rd minute with Kaitlyn Thorogood knocking home a rebound off of a Hannah Konash shot.

Nashoba’s strong finish was a direct response to what the Chieftains felt was a lackluster start.

“We were all in agreement that we weren’t playing the way that we normally can,” Courtney said, “and we just knew that if we wanted to win that we had to come out in the second half and play the way we’ve been playing this entire season, possessing the ball, playing our game and coming out 100-percent for the rest of the half.”

Boys Soccer: Needham 2, Somerville 1

November, 15, 2012
11/15/12
12:23
AM ET
(Highlights courtesy of The Needham Channel)

LYNN, Mass. -- Mac Steeves scored two first-half goals, including one from the penalty spot, to bring Needham back from a goal down in a 2-1 victory over previously unbeaten Somerville on Wednesday night at Manning Field.

The Rockets' 6-foot-4 forward was a menace throughout. In addition to scoring goals, Steeves was a towering presence in the midfield and defense as Needham dropped back midway into the second half.

Needham head coach Don Brock, who will be looking for the third state championship of his illustrious career, spoke after the game about the team’s many uses for Steeves in late-game situations.

“We’ve been doing it for several years with Mac," he said. "He can play anywhere on the field. He’s one of the taller players and he’s got a tremendous boot.”

Somerville started the game brighter, with its own star Felix De Bona forcing Needham goalie Kevin MacMillan into two early saves. The Highlanders jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute when Francisco Neto’s cross from the left caromed into the net off the knee of Rockets defender Jack Nardi.

Gradually, Needham started to get more control of the ball in the midfield through senior captains Brandon Miskin and William Corkery.

The game changed in the 25th minute when Steeves, who had already had an early chance well-saved by Luis Guerra, was played in by an incisive through ball from Miskin. The team’s leading scorer made no mistake with a cool finish into the bottom corner.

Just before the break, Steeves went down in the box as he battled with Somerville defender Andre Rolim (who also received a yellow card). A penalty was given and Steeves sent Guerra the wrong way to give Needham its first lead of the night.

The call was hotly disputed by Somerville head coach George Scarpelli.

“It’s disheartening," he said. "You play that long and that hard, you know...It was tough when you lose on something like that. You’re talking about two kids that battled all night long. This is why you preach- finish your chances and we would have been there.”

The second half saw little in the way of goalmouth action as the Rockets dropped back into a defensive shell. Both goalies were only forced into one save apiece following the halftime interval.

Scarpelli saw the strategy being implemented and knew that it would be problematic for his team given the size and strength of the Rockets.

“They dropped off," he said. "They put six guys in the back and left one kid up top and it worked. I give a lot of credit to Needham. Coach Brock is a legend, he knows how to play these games and he did it.”

For Steeves, and the rest of the Needham seniors, it was a job well done and sets up a chance to win the program’s first state title since the turn of the millennium.

“Our team, collectively, just played a great game," Brock said. "Our defense has improved so much all season. I think we just put together a good game there and knocked off a very, very good team.”

Needham will advance to the state championship game to be played Friday night at 7:30 p.m. against Amherst, at Worcester State University.

Tournament Notes:
  • After Needham’s win, Don Brock commented that he wished that the Rockets would be taking on Ludlow in the state finals so to “get even with them.” Brock, who has more than 600 wins in his career, will have the chance to add his fourth state title on Friday Night.
  • Brock will not get Ludlow, but he will be facing a West region team. Amherst held off Leominster 1-0 in the semifinal game played at Nashoba Regional to advance to Worcester. This was not the expected semifinal matchup as most predicted a rematch of last year’s battle (in the metaphorical and literal sense) between top seeds Worcester North and Ludlow. It was fitting that the two teams that knocked off the top seeds would get to play each other. Amherst have now won three in a row by 1-0 scorelines (the game against Ludlow was scoreless into penalties but goes down officially as a 1-0 win), but it will be a tough task to keep the Rockets off the board.
  • Franklin will face Nashoba in the D1 girls final after the Panthers beat Beverly 2-0 in the early game at Manning Field. Kristi Kirshe, who is on the list of submitted names for All-American status, ended a two-game scoreless streak and notched her 100th goal of her career on an early free kick. Kirshe was dropped into a midfield role against Beverly as they looked to disrupt its attack. The star of the game was Julia Bireley, who was given the man-marking job on Beverly junior striker Caitlin Harty. Harty has scored an incredible 50 goals this season, but barely got a whiff of the goal thanks to the attentions of the junior defender. Friday’s early game should be a classic between two teams that have been ranked all season. Nashoba knocked off Minnechaug, who beat the favorites East Longmeadow in the sectional.
  • Groton-Dunstable will attempt to defend its D2 boys’ state title after handing Belchertown its first loss of the season. The opponent will be the mustangs of Medway who have advanced to the state finals despite losing their best player, Matt Coakley. Sutton will also look to defend its title (Division 3) when it takes on Watertown in the finals. The D3 North sectional champs advanced with a win over Dover-Sherborn in penalties.
  • It will be a battle of unbeaten in the D2 girls’ championship game as Medfield (the 2010 state champs) will face West sectional champions Belchertown. This is the final season for the Orioles at this level and they will have a tough task against the Warriors, who received national top 25 votes in the latest NSCAA poll released yesterday.

Franklin assumes No.1 spot in girls' Top 20

October, 25, 2012
10/25/12
4:03
PM ET
For the first time in more than a calendar year, there's a new team atop our MIAA girls' soccer Top 20 poll this week.

Franklin takes over the top spot in the poll after extending its perfect start to the season to 15 games. Peabody drops a single spot in the rankings after a surprise loss to Acton-Boxborough.

It was only the second time in three regular seasons that the Tanners have been beaten.

East Longmeadow drops a spot to make way for Franklin moving up the poll, but expect all three teams at the top to challenge for their respective sectional titles.

Needham falls from No. 7 to No. 12 after being beaten 4-0 by Newton North. The BSC Carey division champions will take on Herget champion Dedham on Thursday night in the Needham 300 Cup. Newton North's win over the Rockets sees them jump into the polls this week, replacing Auburn which has lost its last two games.

Concord-Carlisle, Dedham, and Scituate are some of the big movers this week. A few teams, such as Bishop Feehan and Danvers, are right on the edge of being ranked and will be a threat come playoff time.

Roundtable: Big statements, bigger production

October, 4, 2012
10/04/12
1:44
AM ET
1. WHAT IS THE BIGGEST STATEMENT YOU GOT OUT OF BARNSTABLE'S UPSET OF EVERETT?

Scott Barboza, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: Aside from the defense, which was phenomenal by all accounts, the manner in which the Red Raiders were able to pull off the upset was impressive, meaning that the offense was firing on all cylinders for most of the game. In other words, Barnstable can win ugly. When you hear about the offense and all the things the Red Raiders can do on offense, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the fundamentals. They can do all the things that constitute a potentially successful playoff team in that they can run the ball when called upon, get the back stop when required and they don’t turn the ball over. When you have one of the top quarterbacks in the state like Nick Peabody, that’s all you need to win. And, if Hayden Murphy runs the ball as he can and the defense, led by Andrew Ellis, is on, Barnstable is difficult to beat, no matter the conditions.

Brendan Hall, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: For me, more than anything, it was a throwback statement. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how much Division 1-caliber talent you've stockpiled, how heavy your line is, or how many of your skill players run a 4.5. All that matters is who puts themselves in the best position to win -- period. Barnstable demonstrated that to a T on Friday night.

Of course, this Red Raiders team isn't an underdog. They came into the game at No. 3 in our statewide poll, and I think the general consensus was that this would be a one-score type of affair. Nick Peabody is in a quarterbacking class of his own through the first month of the season, Dylan Morris is beginning to enter Matt Costello territory in terms of production, and the Raiders' linebacking corps is one of the two or three best in the state.

Barnstable coach Chris Whidden dialed up a great defensive gameplan in the pouring rain, playing outside contain on the Crimson Tide's gifted receivers, and getting great push in the trenches with a deceivingly athletic front four that fired quickly off the ball. These guys were not as big, but they certainly were fast, and above all else they hit with a level of abandon replicated by very few teams in the state.

At the end of the day, it was a pleasant reminder that things haven't gotten soft in the game of football. At the end of the day, the overarching theme remains -- if you come out complacent, someone's going to knock you around.

Adam Kurkjian, ESPN Boston correspondent: Year after year, while Everett always seems to have its share of explosive skill players, the foundation of its success is consistent and dominant line play on both sides of the ball.

The biggest statement Barnstable made Friday night was that it can go toe-to-toe with Everett's front and get the better of the exchange. That is rare, and it speaks to the level of offseason commitment the Red Raiders have made the past few seasons. While Barnstable may have the reputation as a finesse team because of the amount of times it puts the ball in the air, it looks like the Red Raiders shattered that notion last week.

Bruce Lerch, ESPN Boston correspondent: Defense, defense, defense. Staring at Everett's offensive line with 300-pounders across the board is daunting for any opposition but the Raiders didn't seem intimidated at all. In fact, they set the tone and managed to stuff the Tide twice on fourth-down tries from the one-yard line.

All 11 starters, plus the others that rotate in made plays. Jason Frieh and the defensive line held their own Everett's blockers, linebackers Brian Hardy, Andrew Ellis, Terrence Mudie and Robbie Stuart made tackles all over the field. Safeties Ryan Litchman and Kevin Hardy were tremendous in support against the run and corners Tedaro France and Derek Estes won their matchups with Everett's speed merchants at the receiver positions.

John Botelho, Editor-in-Chief, South Shore Sports Journal: Nick Peabody and the offense have been well publicized -- and deservedly so -- all season. Going into the Everett game, they had scored an astounding 145 points in three games. But the biggest statement made while snapping Everett's 28-game win streak was that the Red Raiders' defense is just as good as their powerful offense. Division 1A should be real fun to watch come December.

Everett and Barnstable Round II is already a Super Bowl many people are excitedly calling for, but neither has an easy path to get there. Everett is likely headed for a first-round playoff game with Lincoln-Sudbury, and Barnstable has to worry about beating Bridgewater-Raynham during the regular season just to reach the playoffs.

2. NAME YOUR FIVE BEST WIDE RECEIVERS IN THE STATE

Barboza:
1. Brian Dunlap, Natick – Might not be No. 1 on any other list, but come his senior season, he's going to be right there on the top of all the volume stats list.

2. Jalen Felix, Everett – Seeing, in person, the catch he made during last year’s BC High game at Memorial Stadium is something I’ll likely never forget. It’s the same feeling I had watching Randy Moss make impossible catches.

3. Jakarrie Washington, Everett – One of the best route runners around since those Asprilla and Costello kids were the go-to targets in Everett.

4. Dylan Morris, Barnstable – Hard to argue with Morris’ production thus far this season with his eight touchdown catches.

5. Will Heikkinen, Andover – Spies tell me Xaverian had Heikkinen blanketed with double coverage throughout most of last week’s game. That’s the ultimate compliment paid to a wideout.

Hall:
1. Dylan Morris, Barnstable - You'll be hard-pressed to duplicate his five-catch, 207-yard performance in Week 2, and right now he's on track for 20 touchdown receptions and over 1,000 yards receiving. Bar none, best wideout in the state right now. And to think, some have mused he may be a better baseball player.

2. Jakarrie Washington, Everett - You could rotate this spot with Jalen Felix, who had an explosive performance against Springfield Central, but right now you've got to with Washington based on game-breaking ability. Against Leominster and St. John's Prep, he turned the game on its heels seemingly on a dime with one back-breaking catch or run.

3. Brian Dunlap, Natick - A versatile route-runner, he's got crunch-time knack (see his game-winning catch against Norwood with 10 seconds to go) and makes the most of his touches (17.25 yards per catch, 6 TD).

4. David Harrison, Weymouth - Has seven receiving touchdowns, and in the last two games running a pistol offense at quarterback, has thrown for six. He's just plain productive.

5. Sam Blake, East Longmeadow - Doesn't get a lot of touches in the Spartans' system, but in terms of athleticism I've heard some pretty crazy stories. In his last two games, he has 232 receiving yards and four touchdowns on just seven catches.

Kurkjian:
Tough to say for me because most of the games I have been to have featured mainly run-oriented teams.

That said, looking around the state, Lincoln Collins of BC High needs to be mentioned for his size and improved speed.

Jakarrie Washington of Everett may be the fastest receiver out there right now.

Speaking of guys that can motor, Andover's Cam Farnham has been pure lightning all season as well.

As far as pure production goes, there aren't many who do more on a week-to-week basis than Natick's Brian Dunlap.

If anyone can outdo Dunlap in that department, though, how about Shawsheen receiver Devonn Pratt? One of the top wrestlers in the state, Pratt has 11 touchdown receptions already, including five in a ridiculous, 15-catch, 268-yard performance against Cambridge two weeks ago.

Lerch:
1. Dylan Morris, Barnstable - Seems to have a tremendous mind meld going on with quarterback Nick Peabody. Has eight TD receptions on the season, including two clutch catches in the 13-7, double OT win over Everett.

2. Jalen Felix/Jakarrie Washington, Everett - I'm cheating a little by putting both in, but it's hard to argue against the fact that these speedsters are two of the biggest gamebreakers in Massachusetts.

3. Bryan Vieira, Thayer Academy - Eight receptions for 200 yards and a TD in the opener (along with an interception return for a score) and six more catches for 179 yards and three TDs in week two. The top receiver in the ISL.

4. Brian Dunlap, Natick - Just a sophomore, Dunlap continues to team up with QB Troy Flutie to put up big numbers week after week. I may be underrating him because of his age, but all signs point toward Dunlap someday taking over at the top of this list. Maybe sooner rather than later.

5. David Harrison/Tyler O'Brien, Weymouth - It's a cheat day for me in the roundtable as I'm going with a duo once again. The Wildcats receivers have combined to catch 13 TD passes and O'Brien seems to be Harrison's favored target when he switches under center as Weymouth's quarterback.

Botelho:
1. Dylan Morris, Barnstable: This is sort of a chicken and egg thing. Is Nick Peabody such a good quarterback because he has Morris to throw to, or is Morris the beneficiary of a standout QB. I think the answer is Peabody is a tremendous QB and Morris an elite receiver, and the results have indicated that so far.

2. Lincoln Collins, BC High: Collins might not have the gaudy stats some his peers do (he's caught just one TD this year) but he's a D-1 scholarship athlete going to Villanova for a reason. The Eagles have been the victims of bad luck and bad timing this season, dealing with some of the toughest teams in this state - and New Jersey - while figuring out how to replace injured stars like Brendan Craven and Luke Catarius.

3. Brian Dunlap, Natick - Like Morris, Dunlap has a premier QB throwing him the ball. He's pulled in 6 TD from Troy Flutie, and is one of the biggest reasons Natick is scoring more than 30 points per game.

4. Dondre James, Whitman-Hanson - James single-handedly changes game plans of opposing teams, often drawing more than one defender on passing plays. He's spread out defenses all season, allowing QB Tom Sapienza to throw 8 TD already. James' speed and athleticism are clear with one looks at the Panthers on offense, but what he contributes away from the ball might be even more impressive. James has sprung more than one ball carrier this year with a big block.

5. Rory Donovan, Cardinal Spellman - The Cardinals aren't matching their regular season success from the last two years, but Donovan is among the toughest receivers for defenses to match-up with. At 6-5 and with an impressive vertical, not many defenders can go up and get a jump ball against him. He's averaging a touchdown a game right now and could get better as Spellman's line matures this season.

3. WHO IS THE BEST QUARTERBACK FROM A SMALL SCHOOL?

Barboza: Right now, I’m looking at Hopkinton’s Hank Rudden. The Hillers have been off and running in the Tri-Valley League, averaging more than 34 points per game through four weeks. Whether the Hillers can keep it going into the meat of their TVL schedule is another thing, but the 6-foot-1 senior is a dependable pocket presence.

Hall: Hard to argue with the production of Northbridge's Matt Phelan. Head coach Ken LaChapelle (who won his 300th career game last weekend) is famously inclined towards the pass -- and a passing pioneer for this state, really -- but through the first four games of the 2012 Phelan has been arguably better on his feet (41 carries, 448 yards, 12 TD) than through the air (42 of 50, 514 yards, 2 TD). LaChapelle has joked that he would like to once coach a game where he doesn't call a running play, but he tends to yield some freelancing to his quarterbacks when he feels they're up for it. And understand, for LaChapelle to loosen the reigns, you have to be a special player.

Kurkjian: Let's go into the Boston City South Division where Latin Academy junior Kyle Dance is putting together a fantastic season through four games.

To this point, Dance has had a hand in 13 touchdowns (nine passing, four rushing). You want to know how many touchdowns the Dragons have as a team? Fourteen. In other words, Dance is doing it all for this team, and it will be exciting to see how the rest of his season and career develops.

Lerch: Since taking over in week two, Shawsheen's Mike O'Hearn has produced eye-popping numbers and ranks fourth in the state with 11 touchdown passes, including a six-TD performance against Cambridge. With the 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior at the helm, the Rams have put up 98 points in their last two games.

Botelho: Assuming "small" school means any outside of Div 1, 1A, 2 or 2A, the best small school QB might be Dan Eckler at Stoughton. They're a run-first offense with tons of weapons, but he's been the point man for all of their success this year.

Hanover's Ryan Bennett and Middleborough's Troy Rossi both have big arms and ideal QB size and have been fun to watch early on.

Abington's Brandon Cawley has all of the tools to run the offense for the Green Wave. He's tall, has a cannon of an arm and can tuck it and run if need be. Andrew Benson also comes to mind in the South Shore League. After sliding over from RB to QB when the Vikings didn't have an obvious heir apparent to Tim O'Brien, Benson has handled the transition well. He's very athletic and gives EB a similar look on offense they had a year ago.

4. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE CATHOLIC CONFERENCE?

Barboza: (Disclaimer: None of this argument has to do with St. John’s Prep right now.) Honestly, I’m not trying to make excuses here, and this has happened a couple of times during the last couple seasons, but it’s not as though the teams are playing easy schedules. On the other hand though, I think the rest of the state has caught up with the parochials a little bit. Some inside the Catholic Conference used to scoff at the idea of a Hockomock team (North Attleborough anybody?) hanging with one of those teams. Use this weekend’s Xaverian vs. Duxbury matchup as another proof positive. I think the Hawks will find out that last year’s win by the Dragons at the Hawk Bowl was no fluke. And, while most of the state still cannot match the numbers the Catholics have on their sidelines, there’s plenty of talent to be had.

Hall: With St. John's Prep, nothing. With the rest of the conference (a combined 4-12 heading into this weekend's games), where do you start?

Expectations weren't high on Malden Catholic or Catholic Memorial coming into the season, but the way BC High and Xaverian (preseason Nos. 2 and 3, respectively) have stumbled out of the gates is concerning. Then again, they've endured brutal schedules, and few teams in Massachusetts would come out of September with better than their 1-3 records. Still, the way in which they've lost is not convincing, between BC High getting dominated from scrimmage by North Attleborough and Xaverian laying eggs against Brockton and Andover. Bottom line, BC High and Xaverian so far haven't lived up to the preseason hype.

Something tells me they'll turn it around. BC High will be getting All-State linebacker Luke Catarius (ankle) back this month, and quarterback Brendan Craven (knee) sometime soon, and you can't say enough how much that could change things quickly. Xaverian finally showed signs of life in the second half of the Andover upset, and Mike Brennan has been bringing steady production to what has been an otherwise stale offense.

How quickly does Xaverian turn it around? Jury's out, because the rest of the Hawks' 2012 schedule, in order, goes like this: Duxbury, Everett, Bridgewater-Raynham, St. John's (Shrewsbury), BC High, Catholic Memorial, St. John's Prep. Talk about skating uphill.

Kurkjian: Well, there's not much wrong with St. John's Prep right now, as they've looked outstanding in their three wins and only have one loss to Everett in a game many observers thought could have gone the other way with a few breaks.

As for the rest? BC High has been decimated by injuries, but the Eagles are starting to heal up and it would not be a total shock to see them make a run at the league title once everyone is back.

Xaverian does not have nearly the amount of team speed it usually does and has not looked physical at all on the lines.

Catholic Memorial has, as expected, struggled on offense, and you simply don't improve when graduation takes away as much talent as it did for the Knights.

Malden Catholic is this year what it has been nearly every year, which is the fifth-best team in the league.

Lerch: The coaches won't make excuses but we can. Injuries have absolutely decimated BC High while graduation hit both Xaverian and Catholic Memorial pretty hard. Not to mention that these teams all play among the toughest schedules in the state. That said, St. John's Prep is still a top-three team in Massachusetts and don't think for a second that the aforementioned trio won't put it together by the time league play rolls around. Anyone who counts these teams out when we're not even halfway through the season is making a big mistake.

Botelho: BC High and Xaverian has certainly underachieved, but their schedules have been absolutely brutal. BC is also dealing with a whole mess load of injuries. That said, what looked like the best league in the state before the season needs a turnaround in the second half to avoid an overall disappointing year. If things continue like they are, St. John's Prep will coast to a league title behind Jonathan Thomas and Alex Moore. The Prep, in my mind, is probably the favorite to win the Div. 1 Super Bowl right now (I still love Brockton, but missing Austin Roberts is going to hurt them in a big way).

5. THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF SHOOTOUTS IN THE FIRST TWO WEEKS OF ISL PLAY. WHICH IS THE BEST OFFENSE?

Barboza: I think this was supposed to be Thayer’s year to shine behind wide receiver Aaron Gilmer and the Tigers haven’t disappointed, putting up 76 points in their two games. But they still have nothing to show for it, losing two close barn-burners against Governor’s and Roxbury Latin. But it’s hard to ignore the defending ISL champions at Governor’s. We’ve extolled about Tate Jozokos’ two-sport excellence for a couple years now, but running back Eli Morrissey has been a true revelation in the early going. Gov’s should face a test this weekend against BB&N, but with 103 points scored in two games, it’s hard to pick against anything short of a repeat performance of 2011.

Hall: If what Duxbury's been doing the last couple of years doesn't tell you enough about the value of lacrosse skill in football, then Governor's senior quarterback Tate Jozokos will. The UNC lacrosse commit led a renaissance last fall, leading the Governors to the ISL championship, and is off to a quality start this season. He is as a true a dual-threat quarterback as you will find in Massachusetts.

Running back Eli Morrissey has been just as productive (5 TDs), and is arguably one of the best backs in the ISL -- not the biggest, but definitely one of the most complete, and a tough runner. Overall, the Governors have averaged 51.5 points per game in their first two contest. Hard to argue with a number like that.

Kurkjian: Tough to say with such a small sample size, but it's hard to go against what Governor's Academy has accomplished in the first two weeks. With 103 points in two games, the Governors are simply running past, over, around and through everyone in their way.

We will see whether or not that continues this weekend as they travel to Cambridge to face an always-tough BB&N squad.

Lerch: When in doubt, I always say go with the team led by the lacrosse guy. Governor's is stacked with talent on offense with quarterback/dynamo/North Carolina lacrosse commit Tate Jozokos leading the charge. Along with standout running back Elijah Morrissey, the duo has combined to score nine rushing TDs in the first two games. Until some team finds a way to slow these two guys down, the Red Dogs will keep piling on the points.

MIAA girls' soccer Top 20 poll

September, 12, 2012
9/12/12
4:34
PM ET
The MIAA girls' soccer Top 20 poll has been updated with most of the teams kicking off their season last week.

Defending Division 1 state champion Peabody returns as the No. 1 ranked team in our poll, as the Tanners look for a repeat performance in 2012. Canton, East Longmeadow, Oliver Ames and Nashoba round out our Top 5 this week.

As always lest us know what you think, and continue to Tweet your team's scores and updates at us @espnbostonhs and @bhallespn.

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