Boston High School: Evan Sweeney

NATICK, Mass. – ESPN Boston preseason No. 5 Natick conducted a tri-scrimmage with Braintree and North Attleborough on Wednesday.

Here are some thoughts and observations from the three sides:

The Missing: The proceedings were in some ways marked by who wasn’t there, with each of the sides suiting up without some of their top players. Natick saw top receiver Brian Dunlap held out after he’d rolled an ankle during Saturday’s scrimmage. The injury bug also bit Braintree Saturday against Stoughton, when starting tight end and defensive end Derek Anson suffered a high ankle sprain on his final rep. Meanwhile, North Attleborough wasn’t without its own issues, as quarterback/half back Jack Blasť was limited by a hip ailment.

Full tilt: Even in Dunlap’s absence, the Redhawks looked to be near midseason form in the passing game. Troy Flutie dazzled with his trademark elusiveness in the pocket, scrambling around the backfield to make several first-down completions against Braintree’s top defensive unit. The offensive highlight of the afternoon came on Flutie’s 20-yard connection to Andrew Boynton, who made an over-the-shoulder catch on a perfect fade thrown to back right pylon in tight coverage.

Filling holes: Boynton’s score wasn’t his only contribution. He also lined up in the backfield in some two-back looks shown by the Redhawks. Natick is looking for a new feature back, following the graduation of Nick Lee. Head coach Mark Mortarelli also worked in senior Gus Black and sophomore Chad Kidd at running back on Wednesday.

It’s not the only positional battle Mortarelli was keeping an eye on. In addition to Black (also a starting OLB), he’s looking to junior T.J. Collins (5-10, 175 lbs.) to fill a hole, as well as senior Justin Montgomery, who also sat out the scrimmage because of an injury.

Working against North’s spread concepts and the double wing and Wing-T formations of Braintree, Mortarelli believes the exercise served as a good preparation for what’s to come.

“We wanted to make our kids uncomfortable,” Mortarelli said. “I wanted to see who could adjust, who could make the change playing against two different styles. I thought we did a good job overall, defensively, today.”

Step right up: North head coach Don Johnson also used Wednesday’s workout to glean a bit more information about his squad, which returns just a few starters on either side of the ball.

With Blasť limited, senior James Kummer had the majority of snaps with the first team offense at quarterback. He was working behind a new-look offensive line, which returns just one starter – senior captain Evan Sweeney, who slides over to left tackle.

The preseason snaps have been particularly important to the young line. Johnson anticipates a deep junior class to help patch the other holes on the line with Max Kroll working at right guard while Connor Ryan steps into right tackle. The battle at left guard is among the tightest in camp with Dan Kummer and Pat Munley vying for playing time.

Once the line has come together, Johnson thinks the Red Rocketeers have the elements to move the ball.

“I like what we have in the depth of our backfield and the versatility there,” Johnson said. “I think we’ll be able to show some balance and be able to throw.”

Keep your eye on … : Well, you can see him from about a mile away.

Standing 6-feet, 7-inches tall and 260 pounds, Braintree tackle Ryan Houlihan commands attention. The physical lineman made his presence felt Wednesday, particularly in the ground game. He’s not just a big frame. Also a basketball player, Houlihan has the feet to match, and he’s begun to gain the attention of college recruiters. A host of Division 2 schools have inquired about Houlihan, but Harvard has also expressed interest.

With a bruising offensive line in front of them, Connor Columbus and Mike Mahoney should find running room. Third-year Wamps head coach Brian Chamberlain is also looking for junior hoop standout Keyshaad Dixon to have an impact at receiver.

And, if all goes to plan, the Wamps – who haven’t experienced a winning season in their last nine – could break beyond their three-win total from a year ago.

Recap: No. 18 Longmeadow 14, Pinkerton (N.H.) 9

April, 21, 2012
4/21/12
4:31
PM ET
DERRY, N.H. -- Dylan Kelleher dreaded the idea of making the 2-hour bus ride back to Longmeadow High after losing to the same Granite State boys' lacrosse power for the fourth consecutive season.

The senior attackman's four goals – and a monster effort from his teammates – helped ensure a far different outcome in the latest meeting with Pinkerton Academy.

Kelleher contributed to a 12-goal second half for the No. 18 Lancers, whose emphatic 14-9 win Saturday at Memorial Field snapped a losing streak to the Astros that started in 2009.

“Last year, they came out and smashed us right away (15-7). Two years ago, they beat us in overtime (12-11), which was unfortunate,” said Kelleher, whose club improved to 7-0. “I'm not really sure about my freshman year, but I know we lost (17-8).

“This is my senior year,” he added. “My goal was to beat Pinkerton. Finally.”

After the first period, Pinkerton appeared poised to win in a rout. Joe Appolonia (two goals) one-hopped a shot that gave New Hampshire's No. 2 team the lead just 34 seconds into the contest.

The Astros possessed the ball throughout the first frame. They forced turnovers with timely stick checks, won ground balls, recovered nicely when caught out of position, and built a 4-1 lead.

“We came off the bus a little slow. Down, 4-1, it showed the character of the team to battle back,” Longmeadow coach John Rauseo said. “We outscored them, 13-5, after the first quarter. That's a nice win.”

Momentum began to shift in Longmeadow's favor just before halftime.

Coming out of a timeout, Bennett Leveillee (three goals) scooped a deflected pass and, atop the crease, popped a quick shot past Pearce Connal (eight saves). It was the period's lone marker, registered with 12.2 left on the clock.

Pinkerton (4-2) regained its three-goal cushion after the break. Evan Sweeney charged in uncontested after Cody Desmarais forced a turnover at midfield.

Then, the game-changer: An unnecessary roughness penalty on the Astros. The flag was thrown a moment after the Lancers were whistled for a cross-check.

“It was 5-2 when we get the penalty on them and we decide to retaliate because we were upset that the kid pushed us down, and kicked the kid in the face to get the matching penalties,” Pinkerton coach Brian O'Reilly said. “They scored two quick goals and the game wasn't the same after that.”

Leveillee buried his chance in 5-on-5 play. Keegan Dudeck (three goals, assist) fired from the top of the restraining box. The goals, scored in a 41-second span, pulled the Lancers within 5-4.

But they were only heating up.

Leveillee again capitalized on a ground ball with a quick pick-and-pop near the crease. Kelleher finished an easy catch-and-shoot from the left post to briefly give the Lancers their first lead.

Drew Kelleher was also instrumental, particularly in the second half. The sophomore took 19 of the game's 27 faceoffs. He won possession for his team 10 times.

Pinkerton's Dom Corsetto (three goals, assist) whipped a game-tying, man-up goal past Glenn LaFountain (seven saves), the unsung hero of the third period. The senior stopper made point-blank saves on Josh Gallant and Peter Field midway through the stanza to prevent Pinkerton from stopping the onslaught.

Longmeadow simply crushed it in crunch time. Eight goals. Five different goal scorers.

Ryan Coombs (two goals, assist) pulled the Astros even at 7-apiece with a long-distance submarine-style shot from the top-right corner.

But, as the clock dipped under 11 minutes, Eric Barsalou (two goals) snapped the deadlock. The Lancers, on top for the third time, didn't relinquish the lead.

Instead, they poured it on.

“Pinkerton is always a good challenge for us,” Rauseo said. “It helps us gauge where we are.”

Where might that be?

“We're 7-0,” Rauseo said. “That's all I know.”

SPONSORED HEADLINES