Boston High School: Holliston

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?

Top 10 Plays of 2013 MIAA Football Season

December, 13, 2013
12/13/13
12:28
AM ET
Saturday's six inaugural MIAA State Championships put a bow on another thrilling season of high school football in Massachusetts. This year was filled with highlight reel-worthy plays, including two that made SportsCenter's "Top 10 Plays" in consecutive months. This year, more than any other year, it felt like there was a deep volume of wild plays and wilder finishes.

Here are my 10 best plays from the 2013 MIAA football season:

(Video clip of play No. 2 is courtesy of The Needham Channel. All other clips are courtesy of HUDL.com)

Honorable Mention -- The Megatron
In case you missed Cody Demers' ridiculous touchdown catch for Central Catholic, our No. 1 play from last Saturday's state championships, here it is again. Because it is that good:
10. Velociraptor Valenza
Foxborough linebacker Luc Valenza, a UMass lacrosse commit, dished out his fair share of violent hits this fall for the Warriors. Arguably none were more brutal, though, than the one he delivered here in the third quarter of their Thanksgiving loss to Mansfield:


9. Behind the Back
This Top 10 list is littered with nifty run-backs, but on pure athleticism, Weymouth sophomore defensive back Matt Long makes a strong case here. Watch as he returns a behind-the-back interception 52 yards to the house in the Wildcats' 49-14 rout of Braintree:


8. Juke 'Em Jahkari
There was a point this season where it seemed like every week, Doherty junior running back Jahkari Carpenter was ripping off a ridiculous run like the 55-yard catch-and-run TD he made here in the D4 Central semifinals against Hudson:


7. Zach's Zig-Zag
As the name implies, watch as Holliston junior Zach Elkinson pounces on an errant pass and, after some shake and bake, puts on the afterburners for a 70-yard interception return touchdown, late in the Panthers' win over Medway:


6. Phone Booth
We've seen some nice-looking one-handed catches from time to time, but none in as tight of quarters as Attleboro tight end Luke Morrison, who reels in this catch with a Xaverian defender sewing him up nicely, in this Division 1 South Final:


5. The Pinball Run
Penn State-bound St. John's Prep tailback Johnathan Thomas led all rushers statistically in Massachusetts through three games, before being lost for the season with a knee injury. It's possible that with a full season we could have dedicated an entire Top 10 entry to his best runs, because we're pretty sure he would have made runs like this 42-yarder in the Eagles' win over Brockton -- in which he breaks about a bajillion tackles -- somewhat routine.


4. The Ed Reed
It takes endurance to pull off interception returns like the one Leominster's Neil O'Connor did here late in the second quarter of the Blue Devils' rout of Wachusett. The state's Gatorade Player of the Year changes direction several times as he takes it 89 yards to the house:


3. The Miracle at Mahar
Strictly reading by box score, this was one of the season's best finishes, as Greenfield evaporated an 18-point deficit in the final four minutes of regulation to knock off Mahar, 30-29. But the ending, a 40-yard tip-drill Hail Mary from Connor Eckstrom to Parker Hickey with five seconds left, puts this over the top:


2. Can't Catch Cliff
Needham's Cliff Kurker made national headlines with this 70-yard punt return in a win over Framingham, breaking free of five tacklers after he was thought to initially be stopped on forward progress. He was the talk of the town after this play, which reached No. 1 on SportsCenter's "Top 10":


1. Johnny Unstoppable
This one never gets old. You might go another decade without seeing a play quite like this. Thomas made No. 1 on SportsCenter's "Top 10" after this record-setting 107-yard interception return late in Prep's win over Central Catholic, the longest touchdown in school history.

Thanksgiving Day: To play or not to play?

November, 26, 2013
11/26/13
7:36
PM ET
WESTWOOD, Mass. – On a cold and dreary Tuesday afternoon, Xaverian football went through its practice paces at the high school. It was like any other practice, except that it’s St. John’s Prep week. The Hawks kicked off the session with a chorus of “Beat Prep” after running through stretches.

Although Xaverian still has another game to play past its Thanksgiving Day duel against its Catholic Conference rival – the Division 1 state championship against Central Catholic to be played Dec. 7 at Gillette Stadium – they weren’t looking any further than the task at hand.

SportsNation

If you were the head coach of a state championship-bound team, how would you approach Thanksgiving Day?

  •  
    39%
  •  
    11%
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    50%

Discuss (Total votes: 498)

The Hawks are one of 12 teams in Massachusetts presented with the same conundrum this week: With a state championship game looming, how do you approach a game that essentially has become exhibition?

Now, with that being said, in this scenario, the Catholic Conference is a bit of an outlier. With the MIAA’s new playoff guidelines taking hold this year, the conference is an exception in the state, as league foes meet only once on Thanksgiving to count for its regular date, keeping with tradition. So while other Thanksgiving rivals who also happen to be league foes might be playing for the third time this season (Holliston vs. Westwood, Plymouth North vs. Plymouth South, etc.), Xaverian will be seeing the Eagles for the first time come Thursday.

It also sets up a duel for the Catholic Conference regular-season championship – no small pot.

And so Hawks head coach Charlie Stevenson is preparing as if there were no tomorrow.

“If one of my players didn’t want to go out there and play Thursday and beat Prep, I would think there’s something wrong with them,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson stands in support of a handful of statewide coaches who are staring down state championship games beyond Thanksgiving who also answered the question of whether to play starters on Thursday with the retort, “Let them play.”

So, during the weekend, we took the matter to those who will be charting the course with the question of whether to play, or not to play.

The responses were varied, from Dennis-Yarmouth head coach Paul Funk’s Belichick-ian, noncommittal approach, to this pearl from Plymouth South’s Scott Fry, on the status of star running back Dylan Oxsen: “You don’t think we should give it to Oxsen 30 times on Thanksgiving Day?”

Here it is in their words:

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Peter Afanasiw, Cohasset

“We’re going to try to roll out a team that stays healthy, competes and, hopefully, comes away with yet another win. No team in school history has ever registered 11 wins.”

Brian Aylward, Tewsbury

“It is a rite of passage for any football player that plays football in Tewksbury. It's an 80-year tradition against Wilmington; it's the one chance you get to play them in front of all your family and represent your town and do battle. And that's exactly what we're going to do. We have to. We're not good enough not to play."

Scott Fry, Plymouth South

“We expected, if we won this game, that a lot of our kids weren’t going to be playing on Thanksgiving. It’s the third time we’re going to play [Plymouth] North and we’ve already canceled the J.V. game because of that reason. The young kids are going to play on Thanksgiving. You’re going to need a different roster for the Thanksgiving Day game.”

Paul Funk, Dennis-Yarmouth

“We’re going to do what’s best for our football team.”

Ken LaChapelle, Northbridge

"We're going out to win that game. I'm not going to have Uxbridge start chanting the score [if they win] during the basketball season. I'm playing to win that game. Do I maybe not run [quarterback Koby Schofer] 20 times? Maybe. But I'm playing to win the game and Uxbridge better be prepared because we're coming to win."

Michael Lynn, Littleton

"We can’t even put some of our backup kids in there, it’s not safe. We’re 11-0, we want to protect our perfect season, so we’re going to have to play our starters and our premier guys as much as we have to — we don’t have much of a choice. To me this is the fatal flaw in the playoff system, Thanksgiving being sandwiched in between the state semifinals and state finals. For everybody but 12 schools it’s not a problem, but for those 12 schools it’s definitely a dilemma."

Sean Mulcahy, Doherty

"We have a big Thanksgiving game to get through first. Burncoat has ruined a lot of my Thanksgivings, so I'll make sure we have our kids ready for them come Thursday. We will be playing our starters. I'm not planning to go out and play for hopefully a state title and then walk around the streets of Worcester and have some Burncoat fan come up to me and say, ‘but we beat you.’ Hopefully, that's not happening."

Mike Redding, Mansfield

"We’re going to play to win. Obviously, we’d like to get our guys out early. Two years ago, we won on the last play of the game and, last year, they won. We want to beat Foxborough. We don’t want to be 11-1 as a state champion; we want to be 12-0. We want to beat our rival, but it would be in our best interest to score early and get some guys out and get some guys rested as soon as possible."

(Editor’s note: Correspondents Chris Bradley, Phil Garceau, Paul Lazdowski, John McGuirk and Josh Perry contributed original reporting to this story.)

TVL Large football All-Stars announced

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
2:10
PM ET
The Tri-Valley League Large division today announced its All-Stars and postseason award winners for the football season.

Thanks to Medfield head coach Erik Ormberg for the email sent to local media today.

Coaches or league representatives, across all fall sports, are encouraged send their league All-Star lists to editors Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com) and Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com):

TVL MVP – Bo Berluti, Westwood
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Matt Jeye, Holliston
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Paul Beling, Holliston
LINEMAN OF THE YEAR – Kevin Sheehan, Medway
COACH OF THE YEAR – Dave McSweeney, Medway

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ALL-STARS

O-LINE
Austin Barrett #52-Holliston
Jon doCarmo #55-Holliston
Callan Berry #51-Hopkinton
Joey Sears #55-Medfield
Chris Eldridge #52-Westwood

RECEIVERS
Zach Elkinson #3-Holliston
Chris Hanley #24-Westwood

RUNNING BACKS
Anthony Parchesky #23-Medway
Dan Roache #28-Westwood

TIGHT ENDS
Brendan Patterson #44-Westwood

QUARTERBACK
Stephen Ledogar #7-Medfield

D-LINE
Cam Smith #77-Medway
Joe Belomo #30-Holliston
Ryan Demaranis #75-Westwood

LINEBACKER
Tim Huffam #1-Medway
Jordan Jacobs #34-Hopkinton
Scott McManus #56-Westwood
Tom Radonich #53-Westwood

DEFENSIVE BACK
Nick Athy #12-Holliston
Nick D’Aloia #7-Hopkinton
Tommy Sears #5-Medfield
Matt Patry #25-Medfield

ALL-PURPOSE
Jeff Greenberg #17-Medway
Drew Donahue #22-Hopkinton

Mr. Football Watch: Playoffs, Week 3

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
2:21
AM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch", following the third weekend of MIAA State Championship Playoffs. As always, coaches and/or statisticians are encouraged to send statistics to editors Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com) and/or Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This will be the final "Mr. Football Watch" of the 2013 season. The five finalists for our Mr. Football Award will be announced on Monday, Nov. 25, with the winner announced on Dec. 9.

***

THE CONTENDERS

Luke Brennan, Sr. QB, Doherty
Threw for 191 yards and three touchdowns, but most importantly delivered the game-winning touchdown pass to Isaac Yiadom with five seconds left, as the Highlanders captured their first Central Mass. title since 1980 with a thrilling win over Shepherd Hill.

Davon Jones, Jr. FS, St. John's (Shrewsbury)
Totaled 10 tackles and an interception, in the Pioneers' 51-42 thriller over Leominster for the D2 Central title. He leads the team in tackles (91) and interceptions (5).

Neil O'Connor, Sr. QB, Leominster
Totaled 289 passing yards and two touchdowns, in a 51-42 loss to St. John's in the D2 Central Final.

Dylan Oxsen, Sr. RB, Plymouth South
Carried a career-high 39 times for 160 yards and a touchdown in the Panthers' 7-6 win over rival Plymouth North for the D3 Southeast title. He is the state's leader in playoff rushing yardage, with 737.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. QB, St. John's (Shrewsbury)
Completed 14 of 22 passes for 250 yards and three scores, and added 201 yards rushing and three more scores on 20 carries, in the win over Leominster. That puts him over the 2,000-yard passing mark for the second straight season; he currently has 2,787 yards of offense with 38 touchdowns.

Cody Williams, Sr. QB, Springfield Central
Completed 15 of 22 passes for 344 yards and four touchdowns in the Golden Eagles' win over Westfield in the D2 West Final.

Ju'an Williams, Sr. WR, Springfield Central
Made five catches for 119 yards in the Golden Eagles' 48-22 dismantling of Westfield in the D2 West Final.

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 20 of 27 passes for 284 yards and four touchdowns in the Hornets' 41-16 win over Barnstable in the D2 South Final. He is completing 70 percent of his passes in the playoffs.

FIVE ON THE RISE

Olan Abner, Sr. RB, Bedford
Ran for 139 yards and a touchdown in the Buccaneers' overtime win over Pentucket for the D4 North title, his third straight week going over 100 yards rushing.

Jahkari Carpenter, Jr. RB, Doherty
Ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the Highlanders past Shepherd Hill for the D4 Central title. He has 230 yards rushing and four touchdowns in the last two weeks.

Michael Dunn, Jr. CB, Dennis-Yarmouth
Held Holliston's top target Zach Elkinson without a catch, and made an interception for his own cause -- his sixth of the season -- as the Dolphins captured the D4 South title.

Michael Hershman, Sr. WR, Mansfield
Exploded for seven catches for 132 yards in the Hornets' 41-16 win over Barnstable, for the D2 South title.

Shayne Kaminski, Sr. RB, Xaverian
Ran for 200 yards and two scores to help rally the Hawks past Attleboro for the D1 South title, his second 200-yard rushing game in three playoff games.

PLAYOFF STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing
Kyle Wisnieski, Sr., Mansfield – 689 yards, 9 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 647 yards, 5 TD
Luke Brennan, Sr., Doherty - 607 yards, 11 TD
Drew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – 588 yards, 10 TD
Neil O’Connor, Sr., Leominster – 575 yards, 5 TD
Mike Milano, Sr., Central Catholic – 516 yards, 4 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 504 yards, 6 TD
Dana Parello, Sr., Waltham – 494 yards, 6 TD
Tim Walsh, Sr., Attleboro - 469 yards, 8 TD
Cody Williams, Sr., Springfield Central – 417 yards, 5 TD

Rushing
Dylan Oxsen, Sr., Plymouth South – 737 yards, 8 TD
Alex Givins-Perry, Sr., Bartlett – 710 yards, 5 TD
Christian Carr, Jr., Plymouth North – 618 yards, 8 TD
Brooks Tyrrell, Jr., Marblehead – 512 yards, 6 TD
Koby Schofer, Soph., Northbridge – 466 yards, 8 TD
Malik Garrett, Sr., Melrose – 466 yards, 7 TD
Shayne Kaminski, Sr., Xaverian – 447 yards, 5 TD
Mike Panepinto, Sr., Needham – 418 yards, 6 TD
Olan Abner, Sr., Bedford – 395 yards, 3 TD
Shane Combs, Jr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – 386 yards, 5 TD

D4 South final: D-Y 26, Holliston 7

November, 16, 2013
11/16/13
12:50
AM ET
SOUTH YARMOUTH, Mass. – It wasn’t pretty and it was downright frustrating at times.

In what was expected to be a high scoring affair between two of the best passing offenses in the state, it was the defenses that stole the show in Friday’s Division 4 South title game.

The Dolphin defense picked off Panther quarterback Matt Jeye five times and the offense finally found their stride in the final quarter in a 26-7 victory, clinching a spot in the Division 4 State semifinals.

The Dolphins broke a 7-7 tie with less than five minutes to play on Michael Dunn’s 11-yard scoring run and Spencer Tyler put the game on ice a minute and a half later with a 13-yard scamper.

“We just started off slow,” Tyler said following the victory. “I struggled a little bit, us as a group we weren’t clicking as we’re used to. We knew we had to pick it up in the second half because the defense played a hell of a game.”

The D-Y front four got immense pressure on Jeye all game, resulting in five sacks and countless knockdowns. Defensive end Jake Stafford led his line with three sacks and Kyle Pina and Dan Robels each got to the senior play-caller once.

“They got pressure on him, that was the key to it,” said Panther coach Todd Kiley. “They got pressure with their front four and our guys had a little difficulty getting open. D-Y did a great job, they have great athleticism in the secondary.”

That pressure contributed to the five interceptions. The first came at the end of the first quarter when L.K. Metz jumped an out route on fourth down and returned it to the Panthers’ 38-yard line.

The Holliston defense answered by forcing D-Y to turn the ball over on downs in four plays.

Two plays later, Mike Anderson picked off a pass intended for Paul Beling, giving D-Y the ball at the Holliston 25 yard line. Tyler made the Panthers pay five plays later hooking up with sophomore receiver Andrew Jamiel from 12 yards out. A Drew Tardiff extra point gave the home team a 7-0 lead with eight minutes to play in the second quarter.

“From start of the game to end of the game, I don’t know if anyone had a better game than Andrew Jamiel,” D-Y coach Paul Funk said. “He’s only a sophomore. For a sophomore to step up like this and go both ways, he normally doesn’t do that.”

After the two teams turned the ball over on next two drives, Jeye (9 of 34, 119) yards) had the Panthers on the doorstep of tying the game when the ball took an unfortunate bounce.

With the ball at the Dolphins’ 17 yard line, Jeye went over the middle but the ball was tipped by Tristan O’Leary at the line of scrimmage and fell into the hands of Angelo Hardaway.

Again the Holliston defense made a stop, forcing a punt at midfield. Liam Matheson pinned the Panthers at their own one-yard line and on the following play, Dunn (16 carries, 90 yards) picked off a deep pass down the right side intended for Zach Elkinson and returned it to the Holliston 35.

“I can’t say enough about Mike Dunn,” Funk said “That kid [Elkinson] is one of the best players in the state. He covered him all game on defense and ran the ball as much as we could give it to him on offense. It says a lot about him.”

Put into a tough position third time that quarter, the Holliston defense answered again forcing a turnover on downs.

The Dolphins got the ball to begin the half and were set to double their lead when Holliston caught a break. After going four plays and 46 yards in less than a minute, Corey Desimone (10 rush, 51 yards) fumbled the ball away at the Panther 14-yard line.

After an ugly first half in the passing game, Holliston began to transition to the run game, giving their junior halfback Joe Bellomo a heavier load and looking toward the run-option to move the football.

On their first two drives of the half, the Panthers rushed the ball for 100 yards and tied the game with 2:49 remaining in the third quarter on Bellomo’s nine yard scoring run.

With the momentum at the back of the Panthers their defense forced another D-Y stop and Jeye had the offense clicking. Threatening to take the lead with the ball at the Dolphins 25 yard line, the DY defense stiffened up and forced the turnover on downs.

Dunn broke out a 40-yard run on the following play and scored from 11 yards out seven plays later.

Matheson picked off Jeye for the fifth time on the following drive, and Tyler and Jacob Pawlina scored touchdowns in the final three minutes to finish out the game.

Taking away their weapons: D-Y had not seen a passing offense like this since Barnstable to open their season. To plan for the three and four wide receiver sets that the Panthers run, the Dolphins took some up their own wide receivers to line up on defense.

Making D-Y secondary’s job easier was the outstanding play of the defensive line.

But the Panther wide outs had difficulty getting any separation.

Andrew Jamiel was the standout defensive back for the Dolphins. The sophomore doesn’t play defense but was inserted into the lineup and had himself a game.

“Jamiel was outstanding,” said Funk. “A kickoff return, a touchdown, he made a tackle on the quarterback, great defensive play on fourth and long.”

Mike Anderson drew the tough card of handling Jeye’s favorite target Paul Beling. Beling caught five balls for 67 yards, but was relatively held in check as he longest catch was only 15 yards.

Dunn lined up opposite Elkinson and held him without a catch on the night.

We just kept working on it hard in practice,” Dunn said. “We put a couple receivers that start on offense and I covered them in practice to prepare for [Elkinson]. They only had a couple targets to three and no catches, so I think we worked hard enough in practice and prepared for them well to ruin their game plan.”

That stingy Holliston defense: When Holliston football comes to mind it is their electric pass game that immediately comes to mind. But their defense stole the show.

The Panthers turned the ball over four times in the first half. Three of those Dolphin drives began in Holliston territory. D-Y only got seven points off those four turnovers. Given the circumstances, the defense showed up to play. D-Y was 2-for-14 on third down and had four fourth down stops.

“Our defense played great,” said Kiley. “As poorly as we played, we had a chance in the fourth quarter to close it out.”

Dennis-Yarmouth 26, Holliston 7

H 0 0 7 0 -- 7

DY 0 7 0 19 -- 26

Second Quarter

DY-Andrew Jamiel 12 pass from Spencer Tyler (Drew Tardiff kick), 8:02

Third Quarter

H-Joe Bellomo 9 run (Matt Jeye kick), 2:49

Fourth Quarter

DY-Michael Dunn 11 run (kick fail), 4:30

DY-Spencer Tyler 13 run (rush fail), 2:51

DY-Jacob Pawlina 29 run (Tardiff kick), :27

Mr. Football Watch: Playoffs, Week 2

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
3:16
PM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch", following the second weekend of MIAA State Championship Playoffs. As always, coaches and/or statisticians are encouraged to send statistics to editors Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com) and/or Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com)

THE CONTENDERS

Zach Elkinson, Jr. ATH, Holliston
In two playoff games, Elkinson is averaging 16.9 yards per touch. That includes nine carries for 91 yards and four touchdowns, and nine catches for 221 yards and four more scores.

Troy Flutie, Sr. QB, Natick
Threw his 102nd career touchdown pass in Friday night's loss to Barnstable. He needs one more TD pass to tie the state's all-time mark, and he has two more chances, starting this Friday against Needham.

Brendan Hill, Jr. TE, Mansfield
Caught seven passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns in the Hornets' win over Needham.

Hayden Murphy, Sr. RB, Barnstable
Recorded 21 carries for 158 yards and three touchdowns, four catches for 36 yards, 10 tackles and 1.5 sacks in the Red Raiders' 27-13 win over Natick.

Neil O'Connor, Sr. QB, Leominster
In two playoff games, he has amassed 487 yards of offense, including 11.2 yards per rush, with seven touchdowns.

Dylan Oxsen, Sr. RB, Plymouth South
Ran for 227 yards and three touchdowns in the Panthers' 21-7 win over Dartmouth, punching their ticket to the D3 Southeast Final.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
Carried 23 times for 182 yards and two scores in the Rockets' loss to Mansfield

Andrew Smiley, Sr. QB, St. John's (Shrewsbury)
Completed 13 of 16 passes for 193 yards and three scores, and added five carries for 73 yards and two more scores, in the Pioneers' throttling of Marlborough in D2 Central.

Cody Williams, Sr. QB, Springfield Central
Totaled 134 yards of offense and two touchdowns in the Golden Eagles' 35-12 win over Longmeadow

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 14 of 18 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns, in the Hornets' 42-35 win over Needham.

FIVE ON THE RISE

Christian Carr, Jr. RB, Plymouth North
Ran for 351 yards and three touchdowns in the Blue Eagles' win over Dighton-Rehoboth, setting up a much-anticipated battle with cross-town rival Plymouth South for the D3 Southeast Championship this Friday.

Mike Elcock, Sr. WR, Needham
Caught six passes for 148 yards and a score in the Rockets' loss to Mansfield. He leads D2 Eastern Mass with 13 touchdown receptions.

Lubern Figaro, Sr. DB, Everett
The Wisconsin commit came up with two crucial interceptions, and some tremendous defense on top receiver Jack Galvin, in the Crimson Tide's 21-0 shutout of Lowell.

Malik Garrett, Sr. QB, Melrose
Through two playoff games, the dual threat signal-caller has accumulated nearly 550 yards of offense. He has 364 yards rushing and five TDs on just 29 carries, while he is 12-for-20 through the air for 185 yards and two more scores.

Tim Walsh, Attleboro
Led the Blue Bombardiers in rushing with 122 yards on 11 carries, while completing 7 of 11 pass attempts for 146 yards and 3 TD in their Div. 1 South semi-final win over Bridgewater-Raynham.

PLAYOFF LEADERS

Passing
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 528 yards, 5 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 504 yards, 6 TD
Kyle Wisnieski, Sr., Mansfield – 405 yards, 5 TD
Mike Milano, Jr., Central Catholic – 371 yards, 3 TD
Ryan Charter, Sr., Needham – 361 yards, 4 TD
Luke Brennan, Sr., Doherty – 359 yards, 7 TD
Marcus Collins, Jr., Cambridge – 355 yards, 4 TD
Andrew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – 338 yards, 7 TD
Dana Parello, Sr., Waltham – 312 yards, 4 TD
Neil O'Connor, Sr., Leominster - 286 yards, 3 TD

Rushing
Dylan Oxsen, Sr., Plymouth South – 577 yards, 7 TD
Christian Carr, Jr., Plymouth North – 551 yards, 7 TD
Alex Givins-Perry, Sr., Bartlett – 477 yards, 3 TD
Mike Panepinto, Sr., Needham – 418 yards, 6 TD
Brooks Tyrrell, Jr., Marblehead – 383 yards, 5 TD
Malik Garrett, Sr., Melrose – 364 yards, 5 TD
Hayden Murphy, Sr., Barnstable – 353 yards, 6 TD
Chris Dumont, Sr., Manchester-Essex - 321 yards, 5 TD
D.J. Engelke, Sr., Pentucket – 299 yards, 3 TD
Kevin Rosado, Jr., Northeast – 284 yards, 6 TD

Receiving
Alex Hilger, Sr., Natick – 278 yards, 4 TD
Mike Elcock, Sr., Needham – 258 yards, 3 TD
Brendan Hill, Jr., Mansfield – 228 yards, 3 TD
Elijah Booker, Sr., Cambridge – 225 yards, 2 TD
Zach Elkinson, Jr., Holliston – 221 yards, 4 TD

D4 South: Holliston 35, Westwood 20

November, 9, 2013
11/09/13
12:28
AM ET
WESTWOOD, Mass. -– The double overtime loss in early October was still fresh on the mind of Holliston quarterback Matt Jeye leading up to this week’s rematch. After all, if there is one game to win all season, it is over archrival Westwood.

Luckily for the Panthers, they got another shot and they did not let it slip through their grasp. This time is was Holliston celebrating at midfield with hundreds of fans after a thrilling 35-20 victory in the Div. 4 South semifinals.

“I got texts from seniors who graduated last year, alumni all over the place, they are asking me to defeat these guys and I knew I had to do that,” said Jeye.

“Those who graduated 10 years ago up till this team right here came back to see this team get this result,” Holliston coach Todd Kiley said following the game.

It wasn’t easy and it looked like another overtime game was in the forecast. Holliston lead 28-20 with just over three minutes to play and faced a 3rd and 1 from deep inside their own territory when they dialed up something buried deep in the playbook. Lining up in their "War" package, junior Zach Elkinson took an end-around, faked a reverse to Nick Athy and went untouched for 81 yards to seemingly put the game away for the Panthers.

“We put that in because of how they defended the reverse last time. We decided to go to that play because we needed one yard, and actually Zach scored too quickly,” Kiley joked after the game.

But no lead seems to be safe in this rivalry matchup. On the ensuring kickoff, Dan Roache returned the kickoff 70 yards to the Holliston 10 yard line. A big holding penalty and a couple of incompletions followed and the Wolverines turned the ball over on downs, ending the threat as Holliston went into victory formation.

“Until those numbers say zero on the clock, I don’t feel safe,” said Kiley.

Holliston opened the game with a chip on their shoulder. Their defense forced a Wolverine punt on the opening drive, and on their second possession, Westwood quarterback Bo Berluti (20 carries, 186 yards) was hit from behind and the ball popped into Matt McIssac’s hand which was returned 66 yards for the game’s first score.

After the two teams traded 1-yard touchdowns runs in the final five minutes of the half, Holliston threatened to run away with the game. The Panthers opened up the second half with a 6-play, 65-yard drive ending with a 14-yard hookup between Jeye and Elkinson to give the visitors a 21-6 lead and silencing the den.

Westwood needed to figure out the Panthers defense and quick. They looked to their senior quarterback and he answered. Berluti ran the ball six times for 38 yards and then found a wide-open Connor DiVincenzo in the end zone for a 32-yard score, cutting the deficit to 21-12.

The Westwood defense forced a three-and-out and four plays later, with Berluti only needing one-yard on third down, came up with 54 on a keeper up the middle to bring Westwood within one, capturing the momentum for the Wolverines.

With the script all too-familiar for Matt Jeye and the Panthers, they made it a point to win the fourth quarter. And they wasted no time. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Jeye found his favorite target, Paul Beling for 72 yards and was forced out of bounds by Corey Hanley.

For a moment it looked as if Hanley saved his team seven points, but on 4th and goal from the 13, Beling made an incredibly athletic play, leaping up from the back of the endzone with the awareness to get his feet inbound for the 28-20 lead.

“That was a huge turning point, said Kiley. “It really speaks volumes about what Matt Jaye is to this football team. He hung in there he got pressed out of the pocket but kept his composure and was able to find Paul in the back of the end zone. Those two have made plays all year long.”

Gutsy performances from Elkinson: The 5-foot-8 junior came down with everything thrown his way, including the flu. But, Elkinson was still determined to play in his team’s biggest game of the season. He showed up to school on Friday for the minimum amount of time needed and went home to get some sleep.

Elkinson didn’t even show up to the game until 15 minutes prior to kickoff. “He slept until he absolutely needed to be here because he didn’t want to let him teammates down,” Kiley said of his star wideout.

And without Elkinson, the Panthers may not have pulled off the upset. He had the clinching 81-yard touchdown run in the closing minutes and added four catches for 71 yards and a score on the receiving end.

“I texted him about 80 times today asking if he would be okay,” Jeye said. “I told him if he played id buy him some soup, some cake whatever he wants.“

Interesting end to first half: Westwood was driving in the final five minutes of the first half, trailing 7-0. The Wolverines ran the ball effectively during the drive when they decided to get cute with the ball. With the ball at the Panther 15 yard line and 15 minutes to play, Westwood came out with a half-back pass that was picked off by Colman Regan (his first of two on the night) at the two-yard line.

With 4:25 remaining and in the shadow of their own goalpost, Holliston came out throwing. The first was incomplete. Again, the Panthers threw the ball and Jeye was picked off at his own five-yard line. On the next play Roache, busted through the line for the first Westwood score of the night.

Two interesting play calls in a vulnerable position on the field. Two interceptions.

When Holliston got the ball back with 4:10 to play Jeye went into his two minute offense. A play to Elkinson for 11 yards and a big pass to Beling for 38 set up the Panthers inside the 10. Jeye called his own number on third and fourth down to get a big score before the end of the half and take the win out of the Wolverines’ sails.

A look ahead to Thanksgiving: Don’t worry, if you missed either of the first two thrillers between these two teams, you’ll get another chance.

For the first time in state football history, the same matchup will occur three times in the same year. These two teams met in divisional play, were matched up in the Division 4 playoffs and will meet again for their annual Thanksgiving rivalry matchup.

Over the past year, this rivalry has been one of the best in the state. In last season’s turkey-day game, with the winner taking the Tri-Valley large football crown and moving onto the playoffs, Westwood crushed Holliston.

In their first meeting this year, Westwood won again in double overtime and then Friday night, Holliston got revenge from last year with a huge playoff win.

“Thanksgiving will always be Thanksgiving and now it will be a rubber match,” Kiley said.

At this point, your guess is as good as mine as to who will take it this year. You have better luck at flipping a coin.


HOLLISTON 35, WESTWOOD 20
HOL -- 7 7 7 14 -- 35
WES -- 0 6 14 0 -- 20


First Quarter
H - Matt McIssac 66 interception return (Matt Jeye kick), 6:57

Second Quarter
W - Dan Roache 1 run (rush fail), 4:20
H - Jeye 1 run (Jeye kick), 1:03

Third Quarter
H - Zach Elkinson 14 pass from Jeye (Jeye kick), 8:27
W - Connor DiVincenzo 32 pass from Bo Berluti (rush failed), 4:08
W - Berluti 54 run (Corey Hanley pass from Bertuli), :10

Fourth Quarter
H - Paul Beling 13 pass from Jeye (Jeye kick), 10:07
H - Elkinson 81 run (Jeye kick), 3:03

Silver Lake claims boys' soccer No. 1

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
7:55
PM ET
Silver Lake takes over the top spot in the statewide ESPN Boston boys' soccer Top 20 poll after winning its 17th straight game last week.

The Lakers have outscored opponents 78-9 this season and showed their state title aspirations with a convincing win over No. 8 St. John's Prep last week.

Somerville keeps hold of the No. 2 spot and New Bedford drops from the top spot to No. 5 after losing to Brockton.

There was a lot of movement in the bottom half of the rankings this week as some of the teams struggled in the final games of the regular season, which is to be expected when other teams are desperately fighting for points to qualify for the playoffs.

Holliston enters the rankings for the first time after beating Medway and claiming the title in the competitive Tri-Valley League.

Oliver Ames jumps back into the rankings after winning the Davenport title and starting to show some of the firepower that helped it reach the D1 South semis last season. Meanwhile, unbeaten Martha's Vineyard also enters the rankings at No. 18, but the EAC champs will still have something to prove in the tourney, as some question just how good the team from the island is this season.

Medway, Wachusett, and Framingham each dropped into the Last 10 Out after tough losses over the past week, but all three will be looking forward to a potentially long run through the postseason.

Brockton was right on the edge of the rankings after beating former No. 1 New Bedford, but the Boxers followed with a 2-0 loss to BC High and stay just out of the Top 20.

State tournament brackets will be released on Wednesday.

For this week's full Top 20 poll, click HERE.

In This Week: No. 15 Holliston, No. 16 Oliver Ames, No. 18 Martha's Vineyard

Out This Week: Medway, Framingham, Wachusett

Mr. Football Watch: Week 7

October, 23, 2013
10/23/13
12:58
AM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch" following Week 7 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 13 of 25 passes for 257 yards and four touchdowns, in a 42-19 win over Milton.

Brandon Gallagher, Jr. RB, Bridgewater-Raynham
Carried 24 times for 100 yards and a touchdown, in the Trojans' 20-14 loss to Barnstable.

Hayden Murphy, Sr. RB/WR, Barnstable
In the Red Raiders' thrilling win over Bridgewater-Raynham, carried 14 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning 43-yard TD run with less than a minute to go.

Neil O’Connor, Sr. QB, Leominster
In the Blue Devils' 40-15 rout of Nashoba, completed 11 of 19 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns, and also had 50 yards rushing with a fourth score.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
Ran for 120 yards and two touchdowns in the Rockets' 33-6 win over Brookline.

Rufus Rushins, Jr. RB, Bishop Fenwick
Carried 19 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns in the Crusaders' 34-6 rout of St. Mary's of Lynn.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. RB, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Completed 6 of 6 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns, and added 91 rushing yards with two more scores, in the Pioneers' 34-9 win over Wachusett.

Cody Williams, Sr. QB, Springfield Central
Was 5 of 11 passing for 140 yards and two touchdowns, and added a rushing touchdown, in the Golden Eagles' 34-6 win over Putnam.

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 12 of 27 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown in the Hornets' 20-7 win over King Philip.

Isaac Yiadom, Sr. WR/DB, Doherty
Boston College commit caught a touchdown pass and threw for another, in the Highlanders' 28-0 shutout of Worcester North.



FIVE ON THE RISE

Emmanuel Almonte, Jr. QB/DB, Boston English
Totaled 254 yards of offense (190 rushing, 64 passing) and three touchdowns in the Blue & Blue's 24-6 win over West Roxbury. Through six games he is one of the state's leading rushers (1,025 yards, 8 TD, 9.5 yards per carry), in directing a read-option attack; he's also the team's leader in tackles (43).

Shaquille Anderson, Sr. RB, Cambridge
Led the way for the Falcons with 219 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries in their 34-20 win over Medford.

Dan Henrickson, Sr. WR, St. Peter-Marian
Totaled 123 receiving yards and a touchdown in the Guardians' 14-13 loss to Shepherd Hill.

Chris Lindstrom, Jr. OL/DL, Shepherd Hill
Leading a double-wing rushing attack that has accounted for 1,661 yards, 21 touchdowns and 7.2 yards per carry through six games, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound interior guard has been a road grader so far for the Rams.

Jack Sylvester, Sr. RB, Andover
Carried 14 times for 198 yards and two touchdowns, and also hauled in a 15-yard TD catch, in the Golden Warriors' 49-32 win over Rhode Island power La Salle Academy. In the last weeks, he's gained 402 yards with five touchdowns; on the season, he's averaging 8.3 yards per carry.



TOP STATISTICAL LEADERS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Rushing
Chris Ahl, Sr., Millis/Hopedale – 1,098 yards, 14 TD
Mark Wright, Sr., Auburn – 1,084 yards, 12 TD
Emmanuel Almonte, Jr., Boston English – 1,025 yards, 8 TD
Zered McCoy, Sr., Ware – 963 yards, 7 TD
Rufus Rushins, Jr., Bishop Fenwick – 957 yards, 15 TD

Receiving
Zach Elkinson, Jr., Holliston – 662 yards, 10 TD
Nick Thyden, Sr., Quabbin – 643 yards, 9 TD
Jake Bradway, Sr., Belchertown – 638 yards, 7 TD
Dan Henrickson, Sr., St. Peter-Marian – 559 yards, 7 TD
Isaac Yiadom, Sr., Doherty – 534 yards, 3 TD

Passing
Dylan Kierman, Sr., Quabbin – 2,070 yards, 21 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 1,617 yards, 26 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 1,543 yards, 18 TD
John Rumney, Sr., Marlborough – 1,499 yards, 19 TD
Andrew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – 1,320 yards, 15 TD



*Does not include players who had a bye week


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

Mr. Football Watch: Week 5

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
5:45
PM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch" following Week 5 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
Boston College commit completed 14 of 27 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns, and added 47 yards on the ground, in a 28-0 shutout of Norwood.

Brendan Hill, Jr. TE, Mansfield
Caught four passes for 76 yards and a score in the Hornets’ 49-42 win over Attleboro.

Hayden Murphy, Sr. ATH, Barnstable
Ran for 115 yards and three touchdowns in the Red Raiders’ 35-14 win over New Bedford.

Neil O’Connor, Sr. QB/S, Leominster
In just one half of football in the Blue Devils’ 34-0 shutout of Wachusett, accounted for 201 yards of offense and capped things off with a nifty 90-yard interception return to the house.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
Ran for 135 yards and three touchdowns in the Rockets’ 34-12 win over Framingham.

Rufus Rushins, Jr. RB, Bishop Fenwick
Carried 24 times for 233 yards and four touchdowns in the Crusaders’ commanding 42-20 rout of Cardinal Spellman.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. QB, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
In the Pioneers’ 49-21 win over Nashoba, completed 23 of 29 passes for 335 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, and added 67 rushing yards.

Cody Williams, Sr., Springfield Central
Monmouth commit completed 13 of 18 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns, and added 118 yards and a third score on the ground, in the Golden Eagles’ 19-7 win over Longmeadow.

Ju’an Williams, Sr., Springfield Central
Caught five passes for 96 yards and a touchdown in the Golden Eagles’ 19-7 win over Longmeadow

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 19 of 28 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns in the Hornets’ 49-42 thriller over Attleboro.

Isaac Yiadom, Sr. WR/DB, Doherty
Recorded a touchdown catch, his second of the year, in the Highlanders’ 40-12 rout of Worcester South. Through four games he is averaging 30.9 yards per catch, and has recorded 37 tackles on defense.


FIVE ON THE RISE

Bo Berluti, Sr. QB, Westwood
Accounted for 255 yards of offense and three total touchdowns in the Wolverines’ 43-41 double-overtime epic over archrival Holliston. But it will be his gutsy 25-yard, fourth and goal TD pass in the second overtime that will go down in folklore.

Derrell Fernandez, Sr. RB, Weymouth
Carried 225 times for 264 yards and five touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 42-18 win over Brookline.

Mike McGillicuddy, Sr. WR, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
The elusive slot receiver caught nine passes for 113 yards in the Pioneers’ 49-21 win over Nashoba.

Tom Rodrick, Sr. LB, Leicester
The UConn commit recorded 12 tackles, a sack, and blocked field goal in the Wolverines’ 15-6 win over Auburn.

Alex Valles, Sr. RB, Danvers
Carried 24 times for 211 yards and three scores in the Falcons’ 20-12 win over Revere.


TOP STATISTICAL LEADERS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Rushing
Brooks Tyrrell, Jr., Marblehead – 889 yards, 9 total TD
Johnathan Thomas, Sr., St. John’s Prep – 748 yards, 8 total TD
Mark Wright, Sr., Auburn – 760 yards, 8 TD
Olan Abner, Sr., Bedford – 733 yards, 7 TD
Christian Perez, Sr., Northeast – 725 yards, 8 total TD

Passing
Dylan Kierman, Sr., Quabbin – 1,230 yards, 19 TD
John Rumney, Sr., Marlborough – 1,086 yards, 14 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 1,072 yards, 11 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 1,035 yards, 17 TD
Andrew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – 955 yards, 11 TD

Receiving
Zach Elkinson, Jr., Holliston – 405 yards, 7 TD
Brian Daly, Sr., Marblehead – 395 yards, 8 TD
Dan Henrickson, Sr., St. Peter-Marian – 380 yards, 5 TD
Isaac Yiadom, Sr., Doherty – 371 yards, 2 TD
Mike Bombard, Sr., Chicopee Comp – 369 yards, 3 TD

Dual Threat
Dylan Kierman, Sr., Quabbin – 1,230 passing yards, 284 rushing yards, 21 total TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 1,035 passing yards, 316 rushing yards, 18 total TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 1,072 passing yards, 167 rushing yards, 14 total TD
Andrew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) 955 passing yards, 169 rushing yards, 16 total TD
Cody Williams, Sr., Springfield Central – 851 passing yards, 254 rushing yards, 13 total TD



*Not including teams who were idle last weekend.

New Bedford regains top spot in boys' soccer

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
4:18
PM ET
New Bedford takes over the top spot again in our MIAA boys' soccer Top 20 poll this week, after Ludlow was stunned by Westborough last week.

Somerville moves up into the No. 2 spot (or, more appropriately, No. 1A), as it continues unbeaten as well. Last year's defending state champs are still undefeated as well and hold on to the No. 3 spot.

The biggest moves were the drop of Medway from No. 11 to 19 after a defeat to unranked (but unbeaten) Norton and draw against Holliston. The Mustangs are still a solid team and the drop was more about the strength of the teams around them than there own weaknesses.

Oliver Ames also dropped eight spots, from No. 12 to 20, after four straight draws. The Tigers have looked good in all four games, but have struggled to finish against the strong defenses in the Hockomock League.

Brockton dropped out of the rankings after debuting at no. 20. The Boxers were crushed 7-2 at Xaverian and were replaced by Wilmington (at no. 18), which has won 11 games in a row and picked up a win against no. 7 St. John's Prep.

For this week's full Top 20 poll, click HERE.

Highlights: No. 20 Westwood prevails in 2 OT

October, 5, 2013
10/05/13
11:55
AM ET
In a renewal of an intense Thanksgiving Day rivalry, No. 20 Westwood and Holliston vied for Tri-Valley League supremacy in our ESPN Boston Game of the Week.

It might as well be the game of the year.

Correspondent Alex Sims provides the highlights to the Wolverines' 43-41, double-overtime victory:

(Video produced by Greg Story)



WESTWOOD, Mass. – At the end of a double-overtime, 43-41 win over archrival and traditional Thanksgiving Day foe Holliston, firework shells exploded overhead Westwood quarterback Bo Berluti.

It was the eve of “Westwood Day” and it appeared the entire populous of the leafy suburb had spilled out onto the turf at Flahive Field. Encircling Berluti was a gaggle of pint-sized youth football players, chanting, “Bo! Bo! Bo!”

The postgame fireworks were merely a coincidence, prompting one parent in passing to comment: “This would’ve had a different feel had they lost.” But they didn’t. All together, it seemed as though the Wolverines had already lost several times over. Yet, somehow, they avoided demise at every turn.

Like Robert Redford rounding the bases under popping stadium lights in “The Natural,” it was pure magic, and the Wolverines’ star receiver-turned-signal-caller had a hand in it all.

The ball was in Berluti’s hands on the two-point conversion to tie the game with less than a minute to play in regulation.

It was in his hands when Westwood faced certain loss with a fourth-down situation and 25 yards to go. And, when Berluti somehow dialed up the perfect touchdown play to Chris Hanley to tie the game once again, he took it into his own hands to finish the job, converting his third two-point conversion try of the game.

“The composure that kid had at the end was just unbelievable,” senior running back/defensive back Dan Roache said of Berluti. “And Chris Hanley, it’s his first year playing varsity, comes up huge. It’s just hard to describe it right now.”

Berluti accounted for three touchdowns total (two passing, one rushing) and factored directly in 24 of the Wolverines’ 43 points. He ran for 166 yards on 29 carries, while throwing for 89 yards.

Of course, it wasn’t a one-man production. Roache was a wrecking ball in between the tackles, rushing for 160 yards on 30 carries with three touchdowns. He initiated contact and, oftentimes, was seen carrying a gang of would-be Panthers tacklers draped on his shoulders.

But there was something more to this victory, some kind of universal accord that, no matter what the situation, Westwood (3-1, 2-0 Tri-Valley League) simply was not to lose.

Holliston (4-1, 1-1) overcame a 15-0 deficit to earn its first lead early in the third quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run by Nick Athy. The Panthers proceeded to make it a two-possession game on Matthew Jeye’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Zach Elkinson (his second of three).

On the evening, Jeye completed 12 of 26 pass attempts for 270 yards.

But, not to be outdone, Berluti clawed the Wolverines closer with perhaps his biggest play of the night, ripping off a zig-zagging 53-yard touchdown run to make it 29-21 Holliston with 2:36 to play in the third.

Westwood tied the game in regulation on the heels of a 16-play, 67-yard drive, kick started on a Chris Eldridge fumble recovery. The drive culminated in Roache’s 1-yard touchdown run on fourth and goal with 21 seconds remaining.

Roache went on to score his third touchdown of the game in the opening overtime session, battling across the line from two yards out. However, Westwood’s 2-point conversion run by Berluti fell a yard short.

The Panthers promptly answered on Jeye’s 4-yard touchdown run, but let a chance to win the game slip through their fingers on a missed point-after try.

Holliston also scored on the next possession, with Jeye hitting Elkinson on a 10-yard pass. But again, a missed two-point try opened the door for the Wolverines.

The ensuing Westwood possession was an unmitigated disaster. The series unfolded with a holding penalty wiping out a certain Roache touchdown run, a run for a 3-yard loss followed by a 3-yard gain and a false start penalty.

That left Berluti staring down one last chance at the end zone from 25 yards away.

“We’d practiced that route all week,” Berluti said. “We knew that when we gave them that formation they had nobody in the middle of the field. So I looked at him, gave him the sign – usually, he gives me the sign. And I said, ‘Chris Hanley, I want this.’ And he made a great catch. My line gave me all the time in the world, so really it was the perfect storm.”

And that set the stage for Berluti’s two-point dash.

“The snap before, we went up there with no intention of snapping the ball, but we wanted to see what kind of look they were going to give us,” he added.

Then, Berluti found some open running space and, at long last, victory.

Missed chances: The Panthers have more than a few chances to salt away the victory at various stages of regulation and beyond.

After a potentially deflating last-minute score by the Wolverines, Holliston zoomed downfield on the final possession of regulation. Aided by a 50-yard connection from Jeye to Athy, the Panthers found themselves in field goal range with seconds remaining. However, Jeye’s 34-yard field goal attempt fell shy of the crossbar and the teams soldiered on to overtime.

The kicking game again cost Holliston in the first overtime period. After Jeye’s 4-yard scamper tied the score, 35-all, a botched point-after try kept the game alive.

After another Elkinson touchdown reception in double overtime, the Panthers’ 2-point conversion attempt (their only failed conversion of the game) fell short, setting the scene for Westwood’s final act.

“Our kids battled tonight,” Holliston head coach Todd Kiley said. “We’re a young team, we have four seniors. We played one of the most talented teams in the state, a senior-laden team, and we were down 15-0 – most teams would’ve folded.”

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