Boston High School: Henry Rodriguez

Recap: Central Catholic 7, No. 20 SJP 6 (OT)

September, 17, 2011
9/17/11
11:49
PM ET



LAWRENCE, Mass. -- St. John's Prep head coach Jim O'Leary was asked about going for two instead of kicking an extra point in the first overtime of last night's 7-6 overtime loss to Central Catholic. And in trademark Jim O'Leary fashion, the long-time Eagles coach shot back a look that screamed, Are you kidding me?

Say what you want about the Eagles' conservative game plan tonight on offense, but in the crunch time O'Leary isn't afraid to roll the dice. Unfortunately for them, the Eagles (0-2) came up short, as Jack Sharrio was stopped short of the goal line by a gang of Raiders defenders, as Central (1-1) went on to score a big non-conference win, under the lights at Lawrence Veterans Memorial Stadium.

"There was no decision. We were going for two," said O'Leary, who opted to play defense first in the overtime. "You have an opportunity to win the game, on the road, win the game at home, you go for the win. Because if you go back to the 25 [yard line], anything can happen. It's not like we were ripping it up, moving the ball all over the field, you know?

"I've done that forever. We were gonna go for two. That's why you defer and go on defense, so you have that opportunity to win the game. Why stretch it out?"

On the other sideline, the Raiders scored a momentum swing for their program headed into Merrimack Valley Conference play next week, after dropping a 9-7 decision to an underrated Marlborough squad in the opening week.

"We weren't happy with how we played last week," Raiders head coach Chuck Adamopoulos said. "Marlborough beat us. We're not gonna say we played bad and that's why they won -- Marlborough beat us. We needed to bounce back with the game we had. Two years ago, we go down there and Marlborough spanked us pretty good, then we upset St. John's [Prep] and Dracut back to back, and kinda got on a roll. Hopefully this game kinda does the same thing."

Some key points from the game:

Play of the game, Pt. I: Central's game-winning touchdown on the second play of their first overtime series was called "Trips Left 79 Snare". Lining up with three receivers to the left, split end Henry Rodriguez ran eight yards upfield towards the left hash mark, and sat. After corralling in Matt McDermott's pass and charging towards the left pylon, Rodriguez was sprung loose by a block near the goal line.

"He got the ball to the right guy," said offensive coordinator John Sexton.

McDermott said Rodriguez "ran it exactly as he was supposed to" and "really did all the work", but for Rodriguez, it was the least the 5-foot-11 senior could do after dropping a pass earlier in the game.

"To be honest, I just...I dropped that first pass, and I'm usually a guy that struggles with confidence, so I kept my head up and got in, because I got benched for that [earlier]. I just kept my head up, ran my route right and scored."

McDermott said that play was "open all night" and confessed he was actually looking backside, because there was no safety over the top.

"I shoulda thrown it earlier," he said. "But it worked out as it did, and I'm not going to take anything back. It was awesome."

Play of the game, Pt. II: The Eagles' most threatening scoring drive of the night was thwarted by an unusual heads-up play from the unlikeliest of players. Senior nose guard Pat Hammond is your classic one-gap, speed-rush nose guard at 5-foot-7 and 195 pounds; and on third and goal from the Raiders' four yard line with 4:45 to go in the game, Hammond slipped through the playside A-gap immediately and stole Sharrio's handoff.

"He plays like his personality, because he's a pain in the butt," Adamopoulos laughed. "He's very disruptive. He's small, but he's quick and he gets in the backfield. That was a huge play that he made for us at that point. We forced the turnovers when we had to."

Getting loose: Was it a solid defensive game or just two offenses still breaking in new parts? Perhaps the answer is somewhere in between. The two teams combined for just six first downs in the first half, with Central's Ryan Barry, Christian Nunez and Hammond giving the Eagles a game in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Adamopoulos admitted after the game that in his 15 years at the helm "we're about as inexperienced as we've been since I've been head coach".

Meanwhile, the Eagles have been adjusting to a "flex" scheme similar to what Paul Johnson runs at Georgia Tech, complete with wide splits, wingbacks flanking outside the tackles and an excellent dive back in sophomore Jonathan Thomas (21 carries, 81 yards).

The gates started to open up in the third quarter, with the teams combining for 130 yards rushing (Central had 67, including Santino Brancato's 43-yard scamper that was the longest play from scrimmage). Each team also had two turnovers.

CENTRAL CATHOLIC 7, ST. JOHN'S PREP 6

SJ (0-2) 0 0 0 0 6 --- 6
CC (1-1) 0 0 0 0 7 --- 7

Overtime
C - Henry Rodriguez 25 pass from Matt McDermott (Tommy Jenoski kick)
S - Jack Sharrio 10 run (rush failed)
LAWRENCE, Mass. -- In years prior, No. 22 Central Catholic found itself the victim of the critical turnover -- the fumble with a goal-to-go, a costly interception to swing momentum. That translated to a 5-6 record in both 2007 and ’08.

In 2009, things just seemed to come around.

Central Catholic
Scott Barboza/ESPNBoston.comCentral Catholic hopes to build on its turnaround season of 2009.
“I’ve found there’s a very fine line between 5-6 and 8-3,” Raiders head coach Chuck Adamopoulos said. “Last year, it was a group that just made plays. We had more than a couple times we made a play and came up with a big turnover at a big time in the game.

“In those years before, when we went 5-6, quite frankly, we weren’t the team that was doing that.”

A collection of tiny moments, small actions stitched together form the fabric of a season. And the Raiders were finally able to take hold of those last year. Such as when Cam Walsh’s clutch field goal lifted the then 0-1 Raiders to a dramatic 15-14 win over St. John’s Prep in Week 2. From there, Central Catholic ran off a string of six straight victories, putting them in contention for the Merrimack Valley Conference title.

Even after two straight losses (in a squeaker to Methuen and a drubbing administered by Billerica) to dash their MVC hopes, the Raiders rallied to snap a three-year skid against rival Andover on Thanksgiving morning.

It’s brought a sense of optimism.

“I’d like for us to finish with a winning record, obviously, first of all,” said senior running back and linebacker Trae Musumarra. “But I’d like to think that we can win it all. I’m feeling good about this season, real good. We’re young, but I think we’re going to make our mark.”

If the Raiders are to do so, Musumarra will have to be a big contributor to the cause.

“He’s explosive,” Adamopoulos said, “he’s a good player and we need him to have a big season for us to do well as a team.”

It’s a heavy weight to bear for the 6-foot, 190-pounder.

Musumarra, who has been clocked running a 4.5 in the 40, tallied six touchdowns on offense while collecting seven sacks playing as an outside linebacker last year. But there have been plenty of changes. While the Raiders will continue with their spread attack, Adamopoulos is going to a 4-3 instead of their customary 3-4 because of their losses at linebacker.

“I think we’ve had more learning to do this year because we’re moving to a 4-3,” Musumarra said. “Now, it’s our job to pick up the leadership and make sure the younger players are getting it. With a lot of younger kids in there, there’s a lot of learning to do.”

Yet, for all the formations to remember and coverage schemes to study, Central Catholic’s success will once again hinge on performance — making the big play in the biggest moments.

Just like Walsh’s kick against Prep last year.

“Confidence is really what you need to kick the ball well,” said the senior captain.

“It’s more of a mind game.”

The Raiders will have that covered.

CENTRAL CATHOLIC AT A GLANCE
2009 record: 8-3 ( Merrimack Valley)
Coach: Chuck Adamopoulos (14th year, 90-50)
Players to watch: Trae Musumarra, Sr., RB/LB, 6-0, 190 lbs.; Jaycob Morales, Sr., TE/LB, 6-0, 180 lbs.; Ryan Sullivan, Sr., WR/DB, 5-10, 150 lbs.; Cam Walsh, Sr., RB/DB/K, 5-10, 175 lbs.; Brendan Hopkinson, Sr., OL/DL, 6-1, 240 lbs.; Henry Rodriguez, Jr., WR/DB, 5-11, 175 lbs.
Strengths: Depth at wide receiver and secondary, team speed.
Weaknesses: Depth and experience at linebacker, experience on offensive and defensive lines.
Outlook: The biggest transition the Raiders will face will be on defense with Adamopoulos’ move from a 3-4 to a 4-3. The linebacker corps is also in flux, but will be anchored by strong-side linebacker Jaycob Morales. The secondary is the strength of the group with Zach Bardwell and Walsh holding down the corner spots. On offense, Adamopoulos’ outlook is almost giddy with excitement. “This is probably about as talented a group of receivers we’ve had in a very long time.” There are plenty of weapons between Xavier Peralta, Henry Rodriguez and Ryan Sullivan. The question is: Who will throw them the ball? Right now, it’s a two-man race between Bardwell and junior Matt McDermott. The line is a little lacking in the experience department, but senior center Brendan Hopkinson provides stability. At the tackles, juniors Ryan Barry and Christian Nunez will give the Raiders capable bookends for the next couple years.

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