Boston High School: Jack Lavanchy

Recap: No. 8 Walpole 17, No. 9 Natick 14

October, 25, 2014
Oct 25
8:51
AM ET


NATICK, Mass. – For whatever Jack Lavanchy might go on to accomplish in life, he’ll always have the memory of making a field goal with the game on the line in the final seconds.

It wasn’t just any game either. As No. 8 Walpole traveled to No. 9 Natick in a battle of unbeatens and with the Bay State Conference Herget division title on the line, the senior wide receiver and cornerback could have been struck with pangs of trepidation before setting up for what would prove to be the game-winning 28-yard field goal Friday night.

With the hopes of a town settled on his shoulders, Lavanchy split the uprights, giving the Rebels a 17-14 win.

For the last seven years, the game had decided the Herget title, with Natick getting the upper hand in recent years, including a wild overtime victory at Walpole last year, when the teams combined for 111 points. With Lavanchy’s boot, the Rebels returned the favor in serving the Redhawks a taste of the gut-wrenching loss they’d encountered a year prior.

With so much riding on one kick, it would have been understandable for a young man to falter. Lavanchy didn’t. And, for whatever emotions might have been bottled up inside his helmet in lead up to that kick, you certainly weren’t able to tell otherwise afterward. “Probably number one in the books,” was Lavanchy’s assessment of one of the finer high school football games you’d ever see.

“It’s a hyped-up game, but you try to stay mellow,” he added. “But we came to play, the defense played well.”

The kid’s just cool as a cucumber.

“I’m just elated”: So how did the Rebels beat the Redhawks?

It was one part plan, and another part execution.

Walpole’s coaching staff knew they needed to stop Natick’s Harvard-bound receiver Brian Dunlap coming in, but the myriad ways in which they’d have to stop Dunlap might have been another story.

Natick (6-1) used Dunlap across a number of formations, setting him in the backfield of what Rebels head coach Barry Greener called “Georgia” sets, pushing Dunlap in motion out of the backfield and, of course, split out wide. Dunlap accounted for Natick’s longest offensive play of the game with his feet. His 79-yard run on a jet sweep, which set the Redhawks up with a first-and-goal to go from the 1, led to Dunlap’s 1-yard touchdown for the game’s opening score, with the senior lined up at tailback in a two-back set.

Dunlap accounted for both Redhawks’ touchdowns, hauling in a 5-yard pass from Nick Olson (8 of 13, 94 yards) while motioning out of the backfield out of the same goal-line set used on his rushing touchdown.

“He’s a hell of a player, the best I’ve ever seen,” said Lavanchy, who drew the primary responsibility of covering Dunlap from his cornerback position. “The double moves will get you, he’s got quick feet.”

Walpole (7-0) countered Dunlap’s rushing score with some special teams wizardry.

Senior wide receiver and defensive back Andrew Papirio returned a punt 37 yards for a touchdown to tie the score, 7-7, with 9:59 remaining in the first half.

Unlike the game’s predecessor from a year ago, when the teams volleyed scores with each possession, the 2014 installment of the rivalry was marked more by clutch defensive stops. And Walpole struggled at times to finish drives, despite getting 159 yards from running back Steve Cuqua on 29 carries.

However, the Rebels were at their offensive best in the fourth quarter, with junior quarterback Tyler Berkland orchestrating the game-tying drive in the fourth quarter.

Yet another of Walpole’s promising drives was threatened with sputtering out in Natick’s half of the field with a third-and-1 from the Redhawks’ 25. That’s when Berkland took the game into his own hands.

“Quick count. First sound. Go.” That’s how Greener summed up Berkland’s decision to check out of a running play to Cuqua and steam 23 yards in between the hash marks, setting up a first-and-goal to go.

“Our number one play – I probably shouldn’t say this – but if the quarterback sneak is there,” Greener said.

He paused and added, “Tyler Berkland is one smart cookie – a very smart quarterback. He understands the game, he understands fronts.

“If he sees it … What Natick was doing, their linebackers were filling great, their secondary was coming up hard in short-yardage situations – and if you hand it back to your tailback, it’s too much time that’s elapsed and they’re outnumbering you at the hole.”

Berkland eventually finished the 11-play, 79-yard drive with a 1-yard keeper on fourth and goal after T.J. Collins (2.5 tackles for loss) and Natick’s defensive front resisted.

“He’s a great athlete and he kept his head in it,” Papirio said of Berkland, a first-year starter. “He knew he had to make plays and he did.”

That score, with 4:13 remaining in regulation set the stage for Lavanchy’s heroics, after the Rebels forced a Natick punt with less than two minutes to play.

Papirio added his second noteworthy punt return, picking up a bounding ball on the fly and turning it down the left sideline for a 51-yard gain.

“Papirio had two big plays, one in the first half and one in the second half,” Greener said. “He’s just a warrior. I think they caught one ball on him all night. He was right there in coverage.”

After running a couple of plays and centering the ball between the hashes, Lavanchy’s 28-yard kick was the synthesis of Walpole’s plan: one part stifling defense, one part opportunistic offense, one part special teams prowess.

“I’m elated,” Greener said. “I’m just elated.”



 

Lack of pocket time: Olson entered the game with more than 1,200 yards passing and, with a stable of receivers at his fingertips, Walpole’s defensive brain trust knew getting pressure on the Natick quarterback would be paramount.

Greener said his staff targeted five sacks as a goal for the game. Well, the Rebels hit their mark and then some, tallying six sacks on the game, led by junior defensive lineman Xavier Andujar, who got his second sack of the game on the final play of the game.

“We played very little zone, we were in man most of the time and we were sending pressure to get at Olson,” Greener said.

Walpole’s defensive ends were a factor throughout. Despite playing through a shoulder injury, Chris Bender was a constant pest for Olson, contributing two pressures along with a tackle for loss.

“Bender didn’t play last week, with his shoulder it’s very painful,” Greener said. “He played in a lot of pain tonight, but sucked it up and went. [Nate] Porack played his usual, our tight end and defensive end, he’s smart as hell. Kevin Mansen came in and gave us some good time there as a sub, he’s another good, smart player and a senior.”

On the back end, Walpole stayed mostly in man, with a sprinkle of combo coverages sprinkled in. With pressure established up front, it limited the amount of time required for the Rebels defensive backs to trail the Redhawks’ stable of receivers.

“We had to give Dunlap extra attention, so Lavanchy was playing some man-under with our safety Jon Henri over the top,” Greener said.

Dunlap had as many carries (5, for 80 yards) as he did targets.

“He just had that one play that he hit big,” Greener said. “We turned it in pretty well, our defensive end played it great, but one of our linebackers must’ve gotten blocked because we didn’t get the fill – I’ll have to see it on film. But he cut it up and we didn’t have the scrape.”
NATICK, Mass. -- After last year's overtime shootout classic, No. 8 Walpole and No. 9 Natick turned in another storied chapter to one of the state's rivalries.

The Rebels took the Bay State Herget championship home, as Jack Lavanchy lifted them to a 17-14 win with a last-second field goal.

Here are the highlights from one memorable night:

(Video by Greg Story)

Telestrator: Inside Walpole vs. Natick

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
3:11
PM ET
NATICK, Mass. -- In this week's edition of "The Telestrator" ESPN Boston High Schools editor Brendan C. Hall and correspondent Mike Uva take a look further inside the key matchups for this week's ESPN Boston Game of the Week, No. 8 Walpole at No. 9 Natick.

In this segment, we take a look at the once-a-generation intangibles of Natick receiver Brian Dunlap and the versatility of Walpole defensive athlete Jack Lavanchy.

(Video by Greg Story)

The Telestrator - Walpole vs. Natick from ESPN Boston on Vimeo.

Recap: No. 13 Walpole 33, Needham 0

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
11:40
PM ET
WALPOLE, Mass. -- Walpole coach Barry Greener doesn’t exactly ask his players to step into several phone booths and emerge the way Clark Kent does as Superman.

Instead, his “demands” are much more modest.

“We don’t have any great superstars,” Greener said after the No. 13 Rebels demolished Needham, 33-0, in a Bay State Conference game on Friday night. “But everybody chips in. They know their roles and they play them.

“All we ask them to do is play hard, play fast, play smart. A lineman assignment –play fast.”

Suffice to say the Rebels did all of the above and then some in a game that, at least in a figurative sense, was over midway through the third quarter.

Among other things, Walpole:

* Outgained Needham 294 to 69 in total yardage.

* Forced two turnovers (a pass interception by Jack Lavanchy and a fumble recovery by Nolan Hardiman).

* Didn’t allow the Rockets to advance past Walpole’s 40-yard line.

* Recovered an onside kick (by D.J. Villa).

* Returned a punt for a touchdown (Andrew Papirio who dashed 42 yards late in the first half to give Walpole a 13-0 lead).

Greener singled out a host of Rebels who played key roles in defusing the Rockets. Among those was Lavanchy, a defensive back, defensive end Chris Bender, who recorded two sacks, and Papirio who contributed “lockdown corner” for the Rebels.

“Our defense played great,” said Greener. “We’ve got a lot of guys returning from the defense that we thought was a little suspect last year. And we’re playing better. We’re playing fast. We’re playing really fast.”

Besides solid defense, the Rebels also displayed a balanced offense.

Steve Cuqua, for example, gained 108 yards and scored three touchdowns on 21 carries. Overall, Walpole rushed for 137 yards.

Junior quarterback Tyler Berkland completed 12 of 19 passes for 157 yards replete with zero interceptions.

“I think around here we’ve always been balanced,” Greener said while referring to Walpole’s preferred offense. “Way back years ago in the ‘70s, everybody thought we were a passing team. But if you broke the stats down at the end of the year, we were pretty much a 50-50 team.

“You have to show balance. But you’ve got to have talent to have balance. You’ve got to have the talent to do it.”

Ironically Greener felt Berkland and Cuqua didn’t exactly bring their “A” games on Friday.

“Cuqua is Cuqua,” he said. “He’s a good running back. ‘Berky’ is a solid quarterback.

“They’ve played better. They can play better. They will play better. Last week against Foxborough, Berkland put on a clinic.”

Granted, Walpole did get off to a slow start as the first quarter ended scoreless. But in the waning minutes, the Rebels commenced a nine-play, 90-yard drive which culminated with Cuqua bursting around left end from the five.

Then, with 5:57 left in the first half, Papirio broke off his punt return.

Walpole started to break the game open when it received the second half kickoff and marched 95 yards in 12 plays (Berkland passed for 79 yards) with Cuqua again scoring from the 5 for a 19-0 lead. Villa recovered the ensuing onside kick and that set up a 23-yard touchdown run by Cuqua.

After Hardiman recovered a Sam Foley fumble, Ferry Armand added the exclamation point by diving over from the 1.

“Our defense came to play today,” said Lavanchy. “What more can we say? They filled the holes and the D-backs covered well.

“We’re taking one game at a time. You never can get too confident.”

WALPOLE 33, NEEDHAM 0
NE (0-1, 0-2) 0-0-0-0 - 0
WA (1-0, 2-0) 0-13-13-7 - 33

Second quarter
N – Steve Cuqua 5 run (Jack Lavanchy kick)
W – Andrew Papirio 42 punt return (kick failed)

Third quarter
W – Cuqua 5 run (run failed)
W – Cuqua 23 run (Lavanchy kick)

Fourth quarter
W – Ferry Armand 1 run (Alex Koskie kick)

Recap: No. 13 Walpole 31, Foxborough 8

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
2:39
AM ET


WALPOLE, Mass. – When Walpole football head coach Barry Greener talks about senior captain Jack Lavanchy, he uses the word special. It’s not about just what the two-way starter at wide receiver and defensive back brings in athleticism; it’s also the intangibles.

“He’s tough and when the going gets tough he’s there,” Greener said. “He scraps on every single play. He’s not only skilled, but he’s very competitive.”

Lavanchy – who also handles place kicking duties for the Rebels – did just about everything except turn out the lights at Turco Memorial Field as the No. 13 Rebels rolled over Foxborough, 31-8, Friday night. While hauling in three touchdown passes, Lavanchy accounted for 25 of the Rebels’ points (three scores, three point-after tries and a field goal). Aside from his scoring line, he also pocketed an interception on defense in the second half.

“He’s something else,” Greener said of Lavanchy. “What did he have, twenty-five or twenty-six of our points? But he’s a great captain – as all of my senior captains are – but Lavanchy’s a special player.

Lavanchy got the Rebels (1-0) started early, hauling in the first of two touchdown passes from junior first-time starting quarterback Tyler Berkland with a 37-yard connection at 7:44 of the first quarter. The pair were in sync once again to start the second quarter, giving Walpole a 14-0 lead with a 23-yard score on a perfectly executed fade to the near left-hand pylon.

The Rebels picked up the pace on the ground in the second half, taking the opening possession of the half 10 plays and 63 yards downfield for a score on a 2-yard run by Steve Cuqua.

After an interception by junior corner Amire Loftis, Lavanchy tacked on a 24-yard field goal for a 24-0 lead with 1:55 to play in the third. His third touchdown reception of the game came on the first throw from junior Noah Miree, who replaced Berkland at quarterback, on a 27-yard play.

The Warriors (1-1) added their lone score with about a minute remaining in the game as backup quarterback Mark Clagg hit Darren Kelly on a 23-yard touchdown.

Game face: Even in the bask of a career night, Lavanchy deflected praise at every turn.

“Tyler came to play, the offensive line played very well,” Lavanchy said. “Everyone tried their best and gave it their all.”

He continued, “We’re expecting a big season, but we’re just taking it game by game. We got Needham next and we’re going to focus on them.”

Improvements on D: Greener was satisfied by the efforts of his defense after what he termed to be a “down year” for the group last season. The Rebels were opportunistic, coming away with three interceptions from Andrew Papirio, Lavanchy and Loftis.

Walpole’s defense was also there to pick up the offense after it’s lone miscue of the night, when Warriors safety Jake Pond undercut a route for a pick at the end of the first quarter. The Rebels responded, hemming Foxborough in its own end. Walpole’s defensive line asserted its will, working to force the Warriors to back-to-back negative yard plays. Defensive end Nate Porack disrupted a screen pass for a loss of one before Xavier Andujar broke through the line to drop Warriors running back Keeyon Neal for a loss of four.

After a punt, the Rebels took advantage of the plus-50 field position with Lavanchy’s second touchdown catch.

“We played well against a team that can really run the ball,” Greener said. “Their offensive line is good, they have two running backs [Ronnie Marin] and [Neal], who are terrific and [quarterback Nolan Rogers] could throw the ball and run, too. So we knew we were going up against a strong offense.”

“I’m pleasantly surprised that we did as well as we did on defense. But we were prepared and my coaches do a great job.”

On the other hand, Foxborough was never able to recover.

“We didn’t show up and Walpole’s good football team, obviously,” Warriors head coach Jack Martinelli said. “If you don’t show up from the get-go, it ends up like it did.”

Top 25 countdown: Nos. 15-11

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
2:12
PM ET
On Monday, we unveiled our statewide MIAA Top 25 preseason football poll. Today, we continue our annual countdown of the poll with Nos. 15 through 11.

In case you missed our earlier installments: Nos. 25-21; Nos. 20-16.

NO. 15 BOSTON COLLEGE HIGH
Coach: Jon Bartlett (5th season, 33-12)
Last Season: 6-5, lost in Division 1 South Semifinals
Returning Starters: 9 (6 offense, 3 defense)
Key Returnees: Sean Holleran, Sr. QB, 5-11 185 lbs.; Nick Locken, Sr. OL/MLB, 6-1 240 lbs.; Will Johnson, Jr. WR/DB, 5-8 160lbs; Ryan Black, Sr. OL/DT, 6-2 245 lbs; Scott Gosnell, Sr. DB, 6-2 195 lbs; Christian Dallas, Sr. TE/DE, 6-3 200 lbs.; Shane Libby, Sr. TE/LB, 6-3 240 lbs; Brendan Smith, Sr. RB/OLB, 6-0 195 lbs; Brendan Lynch, Jr. OL/DT, 6-5 270 lbs.
Strengths: Commitment, attitude.
Weaknesses: Inexperience on defense.
Outlook: When Jon Bartlett took over in May for his second stint as head coach for BC High, one of the first things he stressed to his players was how much of a “team” they needed to be. It didn’t take players long to buy into the system, after learning that the man that had been their head coach for the past two seasons (Joe Gaff), would be returning to the staff as an assistant for Bartlett. “For coach Gaff to not only bring coach [Bartlett] back but to also stay with this team, it showed us how committed he is to all of us,” explained senior quarterback Sean Holleran. “That commitment makes us even more excited to play.” The Eagles will look towards Holleran’s leadership to guide the Eagles on offense and also their signature I-formation that will feature senior running back Brendan Smith. With a history of producing talented running backs in recent years, none of this will be possible without the power from the offensive line led by Nick Locken, Ryan Black and Brendan Lynch. On defense, inexperience may be a weakness heading into camp, but coach Bartlett has faith in his younger players to step up when they get their number called. Two returning players to keep an eye are ball-hawking senior defensive back Scott Gosnell and senior linebacker Shane Libby. The Eagles will be challenged like always, having to go through the gauntlet, that is the Catholic Conference, but with plenty of leadership from captains and seniors alike, BC High will be determined and use their loss to conference foe Xaverian in last year’s D1 South Semi-finals as extra motivation.
-MIKE UVA

NO. 14 HOLLISTON
Coach: Todd Kiley (12th season, 91-33)
2013: 9-2, Division 4 South finalists
Returning starters: 17 (8 offense, 9 defense)
Key Returnees: John DoCarmo, Sr. OL/DL, 5’11, 235 lbs; Nick Athy, Sr., QB/S, 6’, 200 lbs; Zach Elkinson, Sr., WR, 5’9, 175 lbs; Joe Bellomo Sr., RB., 6’, 215 lbs.
Strengths: Experience, athleticism, strength.
Weaknesses: Depth.
Outlook: It’s been an offseason keyed on conditioning for last year’s runner-up in Division 4 south, with many of the returners on Todd Kiley’s Panthers surpassing their personal records in the weight room this summer. Holliston can be expected to be a favorite in the Tri Valley League as well as in Division 4 south this year, a year after falling to Dennis-Yarmouth 26-7 in last year’s D4 south title game. Holliston will also be one of the most experienced teams in Eastern Mass., returning eight starters on each side of the ball to give the athletic squad a veteran presence. “We’re definitely a senior laden team , a lot of experience. Our guys have taken it up on themselves to put themselves in position to get a title. A lot of them have been working since day after Thanksgiving last year,” Kiley said. After averaging nearly 40 points per game last year, the offense will be based around captain quarterback Nick Athy, his favorite target: senior receiver Zach Elkinson, and running back Joe Bellomo – all three of whom made the cut for our pre-season all-state watch list. The Panthers will get things started quickly this week, heading to No. 25 Natick, who reached the D2 south semifinals last year, in a scrimmage on Saturday “I’m good friends with Coach Mortarelli, Kiley said of the Natick coach, “He’s done a great job with those guys. They just put together a solid product every year. A lot of people would have thought they’d take a step back, but they’re just as good as they were last year. That’s gonna be an awesome test on Saturday.” Look for a stingy and experienced Panthers defense to terrorize the TVL this year, led by linebackers Connor Lefevra and Derek Kiley and defensive lineman Michael Chipman. Their toughest test may very well come in just a matter of weeks, when they travel to take on Duxbury on September 5. “This is a hungry group, they’re very focused. It was a great summer, they worked their tails off,” Kiley said, “Getting that close like we did last year gave these guys some experience. That experience is really going to pay off for our guys.”
-CHRIS BRADLEY

NO. 13 MARBLEHEAD
Head Coach: Jim Rudloff (6th season, 41-17)
2013: 9-2, lost to Tewksbury in Div. 3 Northeast sectional final
Returning starters: 10 (5 offensive; 5 defensive)
Key Players: Brooks Tyrrell, Sr. RB/DB, 6-0, 195 lbs.; Derek Dumais, Sr. OT/DT; 6-5, 315 lbs.; Dan Marino, Sr. OT/DT, 6-3, 245 lbs.; Will Millett, Sr. TE/OLB/LS, 6-4, 220 lbs.; Spencer Craig, Sr. QB, 6-2, 205 lbs.
Strengths: Running game; depth and experience on offensive line; special teams return units.
Weaknesses: Lack of game experience at key positions on defense.
Outlook:One of the most talked about players in the state entering this football season will not be playing a down past December. Marblehead’s Brooks Tyrrell is a game-changing athlete both on the gridiron and the lacrosse field, but will stick to the latter when he matriculates to Notre Dame next year. While he’s with the Magicians, Tyrrell presents a multi-faceted threat, allowing Marblehead to run inside out of a single-back set while also presenting a threat as a receiver out of the backfield and across formations. The Magicians’ running attack is also advantaged by a pair of college-grade tackles in recent UMass commit Derek Dumais and fellow senior Dan Marino. Dumais presents a versatile element to Marblehead’s line, as he can play both tackle positions and kick inside to guard. Look for a breakout season from Will Millett, an adept blocker and pass catcher at tight end, who will also be an integral part of the Magicians’ defense at outside linebacker.
-SCOTT BARBOZA

NO. 12 DENNIS-YARMOUTH
Coach: Paul Funk (13th season, 89-45-1)
Last Season: 11-3 (4-2 ACL), lost in Div. 4 State Final
Returning starters: 11 (6 offense, 5 defense)
Key Returnees: Michael Dunn, Sr. QB/DB, 6-1, 200 lbs; L.K. Metz, HB/LB, 5-11, 180 lbs, Andrew Jamiel, JR, SE/DB, 5-9, 145 lbs; Zack Mancini, SR, G/DT, 5-8, 220 lbs; Nick Coelho, SR, C/DE, 6-1, 215 lbs; Chip Evangelista, SR, G/LB, 5-11, 185 lbs.
Strengths: Speed and athleticism, offensive line, linebackers, secondary.
Weaknesses: Defensive line, depth.
Outlook: The 2014 Dolphins will go as far as senior Michael Dunn can carry them, and don’t be surprised if that is a return trip to the Div. 4 Superbowl. D-Y graduated a talented group of seniors in the offseason including most of their offensive backfield, but D-Y seemingly has the ability to mass-produce undersized, yet athletic and speedy skill players that perfectly fit into their read-option scheme. Dunn is the lone exception to the Dolphins undersized nature, sporting a 6-1, 200-pound frame and was the Dolphins main weapon from every offensive skill position last season. But with the departure of QB Spencer Tyler, Dunn will take the majority of snaps under center. Despite the move to primary signal caller, head coach Paul Funk says Dunn will still be a threat across the field, “It wouldn’t surprise me if there were times where [junior quarterback Ian] Crosby was under center and Dunn lines up in the slot. He’s one of those kids who can do it all and him running in our triple option from quarterback is definitely something that we like.” Flanking Dunn in the backfield is L.K. Metz who will likely see a sizable increase in his workload at tailback and split out wide is Andrew Jamiel after a breakout sophomore campaign. D-Y also returns three starters from the offensive line; center Nick Coelho and guards Zack Mancini and Chip Evangelista. The question mark surrounding the Dolphins this year is their defensive line. Typically undersized, 2014 looks to be the same up front for D-Y, but their strength remains in the second and third levels where Metz and Evangelista return at linebacker and for those unfortunate to reach the secondary, will be welcomed by Dunn. Over the past three seasons, the seniors have amassed a 15-1 record at home, but only once in the opening four weeks of the season will they be in the friendly confines of the Lagoon (week two vs. No. 19 Plymouth North) while traveling No. 23 Barnstable, No. 24 Marshfield and Scituate.
-PHIL GARCEAU

NO. 11 WALPOLE
Coach: Barry Greener (6th year, 46-11)
2013: 7-4, lost in Division 3 Southwest Quarterfinals
Returning Starters: 10 (5 offense, 5 defense)
Key Returnees: Steve Cuqua, Jr. RB, 5-10, 185 lbs.; Matt Ordway, Sr. OG, 5-10, 210 lbs.; Andy Papirio, Sr. WR/DB, 5-10, 175 lbs.; Chris Bender, Sr. FB/DE, 6-0, 215 lbs.; Jack Lavanchy, Sr. WR/S, 6-1, 180 lbs.; Lovie Salvant, Jr. RB/ROV, 5-10, 165 lbs.; James Murphy, Sr. LB, 5-10, 185 lbs.; Mike Curran, Jr. LB, 5-6, 175 lbs.
Strengths: Speed, secondary, linebackers.
Weaknesses: Experience at quarterback, depth at running back.
Outlook: After a sophomore season in which he racked up over 1,500 rushing yards –- including his 300-plus yard, six score performance in an overtime epic with rival Natick –- there is a wave of hype beginning to build around Cuqua, who now clocks in the 4.5 range for 40-yard dash and has put on some more muscle in the offseason. “We can run, we’re pretty quick,” Greener said. But the Rebels are thin beyond Cuqua, and are hoping the speedster stays healthy. With the graduation of Will Bolster, the Rebels will have two juniors, Tyler Berkland and Noah Maire, vying for the starting spot under center. Defensively, though, they should be in much better shape after last year's trial by fire. Injuries in the secondary led to a slew of youngsters thrown to the wolves, but what was a deficiency a year ago is arguably now their strongest asset. The Rebels will likely stick to a 4-2-5 to counter many of the spread looks they now see in the Bay State Confernece. Between Lavanchy and Papirio -- the latter considered one of the better man-to-man defenders on Walpole's basketball team -- there is a lot to like. "He's a physical corner -- he'll hit you," Greener said of Papirio. Overall, the Rebels have a solid foundation in the junior and senior classes after enduring injuries to key players a year ago, and look suited make another quality run through the BSC. As usual, October's meeting with Natick could decide the Herget division.
-BRENDAN C. HALL

D3 Southwest: North Attleborough 35, Walpole 7

November, 2, 2013
11/02/13
12:20
AM ET
NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. – James Kummer and Jack Blasť each accounted for three touchdowns for North Attleborough, as the Rocketeers rolled 35-7 over Walpole in a Division 3 Southwest first-round game on Friday night at Community Field.

North Attleborough scored on five of its seven possessions and did not give up a touchdown until the final five minutes of the game. However, the result could have been very different, but for a huge defensive play early in the first half.

On the first play of the second quarter, trailing 7-0, Walpole was just two yards away from tying the game. The Rocketeers defense needed to make a play and it was senior linebacker Kyle Rodriguez that provided it.

As sophomore running back Steve Cuqua crossed the line of scrimmage, Rodriguez put two hands on the ball and ripped it away. North took over at the one and proceeded to march 99 yards on seven plays for a touchdown, which made it 14-0 and took all momentum away from the Rebels.

“It was a big momentum changer,” said Rodriguez, who also recovered a fumble on the opening Walpole possession. “Down on the one-yard-line, if they score then it changes the game. He had the ball in front of him a little bit and I just knew that I had to make a play.”

Head coach Don Johnson admitted that the North defense needed those turnovers, as the Rocketeers were struggling to contain Cuqua.

“It was really important at the time because I don’t think you can say we stopped them much in the first half. That’s actually something that we work on – getting takeaways. We haven’t gotten too many this season, but we had two big ones tonight.”

The North offense took advantage of the Walpole turnovers thanks in large part to the Rocketeers offensive line creating huge running lanes. North racked up 286 yards on the ground led by quarterback James Kummer (13 carries, 74 yards) and tailback Chris Hunter (13 carries, 118 yards).

The play of the line also helped North in the passing game with the Rocketeers line opening a huge hole up the middle for a shovel pass from Kummer to Blasť for a 22-yard touchdown that capped the 99-yard drive.

The Kummer to Blasť combination had a big first half with five completions for 78 yards. In the final minute of the second quarter, they hooked up for a 25-yard reception on fourth and 18 from the Walpole 35. The play kept the drive going and Kummer would finish it off with a one-yard sneak, which made it 21-0 at the break.

Johnson credited the experience of playing against the strong teams in the Hockomock League for developing his young offensive line. He remarked that the offense is starting to click and the Rocketeers were able to put together three long scoring drives.

He explained, “We knew it was going to take time and then the one senior that we had in there, [Evan] Sweeney, got hurt playing those three monster teams in the Hock. So, we finally got all our guys back and we’ve just continued to get better every week; it really showed it tonight.”

Walpole had an opportunity to get back into the game early in the third quarter after a Hunter fumble, which junior Jack Lavanchy recovered. But the Rebels went three and out and North took its next drive 72 yards in 14 plays, which ran out the clock in the third quarter. Kummer’s second one-yard touchdown of the game put North ahead 28-0.

Walpole head coach Barry Greener was blunt about his team’s performance. He said, “They beat us every which way to Sunday. They just took it to us; we just had no answers.”

Greener added, “We looked good in practice all week. They didn’t run anything that we didn’t work on; we’re just not very tough on defense. If our offense isn’t rolling, we have serious issues.”

Blasť finished off a strong day with a 31-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Cuqua broke one long run for Walpole on its final possession to pass 100 yards for the night (14 carries, 106 yards). The drive was finished by backup quarterback Brendan Chaisson to avoid the shutout.

Johnson noted that the game plan for the Rocketeers to was to try and make Walpole quarterback Will Bolster beat them in the passing game. Bolster finished 5-10 for just 38 yards.

“We felt like we had to stop the run first and put them in a position where they had to throw the ball,” said Johnson. “I think we did a fairly decent job of controlling their run game.”

Rodriguez added, “In the film, they were running all over teams; we knew they had a good offense. We knew that we had to have out best defensive game of the year and we did today.”

The Rocketeers advance to play fellow Hockomock League team Oliver Ames in the second round.

Recap: No. 6 Natick 56, Walpole 55 (OT)

October, 26, 2013
10/26/13
2:07
AM ET


WALPOLE, Mass. -- Years from now, when Troy Flutie finally hangs up the cleats for good, they'll look back to nights like tonight when talking about that special blend of moxie that seems to run through family bloodlines, passed down through generations like an heirloom.

And in this thrilling 56-55 overtime win over archrival Walpole, a Bay State Herget-clinching victory that the Boston College commit called "the greatest game in my life", they'll start with a play they'll likely refer to simply as "Fourth and 22".

Down 49-42 with under three minutes to go, facing fourth and 22 from midfield after a sack and incompletion, the Redhawks (7-0) came out in an empty formation, with trips to the right. Flutie (12 carries, 191 yards, 3 TD; 18-of-31, 370 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT), facing pressure, danced around the pocket before scrambling to his left, as receiver Scott Warnock crossed the field from the right.

Warnock actually ran the wrong route, flattening his depth too much. But with Walpole deploying a zone defense to the trips side, and man-to-man to the other side -- but taken far off the line of scrimmage by those two receivers running deep downfield -- Warnock had plenty of real estate in front of him, with a Rebels (4-3) linebacker chasing from behind. Flutie dumped off a soft touch pass to Warnock on the underneath route, and the senior wideout scampered up the left sideline for a 29-yard gain.

"We ran the wrong route, he was supposed to run the flat, but he ran an in, and Scott did the rest," Flutie said. "He must have saw an opening, and just did it."

Said Walpole coach Barry Greener, "Great call on fourth and 22. They knew we were running a hybrid coverage...They got a total mismatch on us."

The next play, Flutie found Mike Abbruzzese down the middle of the field on a skinny post for a 21-yard touchdown completion, tying the game at 49-all and sending the game into overtime.

Natick took possession first, and on the very first play of the overtime period, Flutie pulled the ball on a zone read, running to the near pylon for a 10-yard touchdown run. On the next series, sophomore Steve Cuqua (44 carries, 308 yards, 6 TD) plunged in from five yards out on second down. On the two point conversion, however, he was stuffed in the backfield, sending the Natick side into a frenzy.

"He's very special, everybody knows that," Natick head coach Mark Mortarelli said of Flutie. "He always gives us a chance to score, and to score quick with his legs or his arm, and tonight was no exception. He just kept producing."

As soon as the game went to overtime, Greener said he had already made up his mind as to whether he would go for two or not (teams are allowed to go for one on the first overtime only).

"Number one, I didn't think we could stop Flutie from the 10 yard line, I think that's a little unrealistic," he said. "Four cracks, there's no way they're not gonna score. And, we were just getting so beat up, the few people we had left, we just had to put it on the line right there. They did a great job scoring. We ran a nice counter, came back with the same play, and they defended it well."

The two teams combined for 1,063 yards of offense, with Natick holding a 588-475 advantage in yardage. For the Redhawks, it's the third time they've gone over the 500-yard mark for offense, and the highest total they've ever achieved with Flutie under center. The Redhawks' previous high under Flutie was 576 in an October 2012 win over Weymouth.

Making a statement: Natick came into tonight's contest as the undisputed favorite, but it was Walpole that came out of the gates throwing haymakers.

The Rebels came out in some spread looks, using trips and double-slot formations, stretching the Natick defense horizontally with a combination of speed and jet sweeps for sophomore Lovevindjy Salvant (seven carries, 121 yards, TD), as well as inside zone reads with the fellow sophomore Cuqua.

Walpole went up 14-0 late in the first quarter when senior safety Myles Cofield jumped a route deep downfield to pick off Flutie, setting up a seven-play, 40-yard drive that was capped with a one-yard Cuqua plunge on second and goal, his second of six scores on the evening.

In one of the prettiest plays of the night, with four minutes left in the contest, Cuqua took a toss from quarterback Will Bolster to the left sideline, slipped inside two kick-out blocks and raced 73 yards to paydirt. It was his final touchdown of regulation, giving the Rebels their final lead of the night at 49-42.

Down the road, this could turn into one of the state's most dynamic thunder-and-lightning tailback tandems, with Salvant providing a shifty change of pace to the hard-charging Cuqua, who dished out some violent pops tonight on dives up the middle. But in the near future, the Rebels could benefit greatly from this kind of production, should injured senior running back Connor Moriarty (ankle) be ready for the first round of next week's MIAA Division 3 Southwest playoffs.

"Cuqua is kind of one of what I call our real good sophomores," Greener said. "Tremendous football player, had a big game against Foxborough first game of the year, but he was sharing it with our captain Connor Moriarty. But Connor has been out for a number of weeks so Cuqua, with the help of Lovevindjy Salvant, has had to do everything himself. And I mean, he's ready for the trauma unit right now, he's really beat up."

Mortarelli, while excited with the win, expressed disappointment with what was an otherwise flat start on both sides of the ball for Natick.

"This back and forth battle, it's what you expect. They're a great team, great coaching staff, great tradition. They came out ready to play, and we didn't get off the bus. We've gotta fix that. We were asleep the first quarter, on offense and defense."

NATICK 56, WALPOLE 55 (OT)

NAT 7 14 7 21 7 --- 56
WAL 14 7 21 7 6 --- 55


First Quarter
W - Steve Cuqua 2 run (Jack Lavanchy kick) 8:04
W - Cuqua 1 run (Lavanchy kick) 3:47
N - Mike Abbruzzese 8 pass from Troy Flutie (Ben Nottonson kick) :33

Second Quarter
W - Will Bolster 1 run (Lavanchy kick) 5:06
N - Flutie 73 run (Nottonson kick) 4:14
N - Andrew Boynton 47 pass from Flutie (Nottonson kick) :35

Third Quarter
W - Lovevindjy Salvant 55 run (Lavanchy kick) 10:26
W - Cuqua 6 run (kick failed) 7:38
N - Flutie 1 run (Nottonson kick) 5:01
W - Cuqua 4 run (Bolster run) 2:06

Fourth Quarter
N - Boynton 46 pass from Flutie (Nottonson kick) 10:39
N - Alex Hilger 25 pass from Flutie (Nottonson kick) 8:29
W - Cuqua 73 run (Lavanchy kick) 4:06
N - Abbruzzese 21 pass from Flutie (Nottonson kick) 2:01

Overtime
N - Flutie 10 run (Nottonson kick)
W - Cuqua 5 run (rush failed)

Recap: No. 25 Walpole 49, Wellesley 35

October, 6, 2013
10/06/13
1:44
AM ET


WELLESLEY, Mass. –- When Connor Moriarty went down in the second quarter, Walpole (4-1) coach Barry Greener looked two a sophomore and a junior to pick the offense up and help gain momentum back.

The duo, running backs Steve Cuqua and Jack Lavanchy, were major difference-makers in the second half, leading the Rebels to a 49-35 victory over Wellesley (1-4) after previously being down at halftime. Cuqua (2 catches, 73 yards, 7 carries, 91 yards, 2 TD) caught a 65-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter to tie the game at 21 after the Rebels trailed 21-13 at halftime.

Cuqua, who had two touchdowns in the second half, later ran in his second score in the fourth quarter, putting Walpole up 49-28 late in the fourth quarter to all but seal the victory for the Rebels. Despite the fact that the rebels lost both Moriarty (7 carries, 72 yards, 2 TD) to a high ankle sprain and Andrew Papirio (concussion) early in the first half, Walpole’s offense was running on all cylinders in the first half.

“We needed some guys to step up and that happened," Greener said. "I try to tell them that tradition here at Walpole is that when one guy goes down, another guy is ready to go—and I think that was the key today. I can’t say enough about Wellesley, Wellesley played a great game."

Lavanchy, a threat both on the ground and through the air, finished with 81 total yards and a touchdown. Rebels’ quarterback Will Bolster (12-18, 216 yards, 4 TD) helped lead the charge as well.

“Bolster had a great day, played really well," Greener said. "I thought both quarterbacks were outstanding, for will…it’s his second year there. He played there as a junior, he’s had some big games for us and he’s really throwing the ball well. We even got him involved in the running game today."

Down at halftime and struggling to stop Wellesley star quarterback John Fadule (18-36, 212 yards, 20 carries, 134 yards. 3 pass TD, 2 rush TD). Fadule, a major running threat with the arm strength to burn Walpole’s defenders with throws downfield, may very well have been the best player on the field in a losing effort. His favorite target was junior receiver Jack Dolan, who caught two touchdowns and a slew of beautiful diving catches.

“[Dolan] really impressed me today, good job on offense, a great receiver, and he did a great job on defense as well," Greener said. "Their offensive line was outstanding, but the secret to our game was our offensive line. The offensive line was the key to that score out there, and our guys really had it at the end."

Wellesley coach Jesse Davis was more to the point with his wording, but like Greener, he was impressed by Fadule’s play on Saturday.

“John’s a good quarterback, we’re gonna watch the film and get better,” Davis said.

Struggling with depth in the secondary, the Rebels had to go to a “quarters” set in the second half—hoping to keep the ball in front of them and avoid giving up the big pass or long run. The defensive adjustment worked out, as Wellesley scored just one touchdown in the second half.

“We’re so beat up in the secondary that we’ve played a lot of ‘quarters’, and I hate ‘quarters’," Greener said. "But we were trying to keep the ball in front of us. That last touchdown, [Myles Cole] beat us in quarters coverage, the coverage wasn’t there, and the kid made a nice play on the ball. We’re just hoping to get some of our guys back as we get into the next two or three weeks. I said just what I said before, the Walpole way.”

SPONSORED HEADLINES