Boston High School: Jaraud Wood

10 thoughts from the first half of football season

October, 19, 2011
Barring catastrophe, we fully expect Everett quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso to break Tom Colombo’s all-time passing touchdown mark of 85 before the month is over. He’s four away, and he’s got two games to do it – this Saturday against BC High, and on Oct. 28 in the Crimson Tide’s Greater Boston League opener against Medford.

The question now is that, with seven games left on the schedule (let’s just declare them Super Bowl-bound now), whether he can surpass the century mark. Last season, he threw for 16 scores in the Tide’s four GBL contests, and another five in two playoff wins over Andover and St. John’s Prep.

All evidence points to DiBiaso shattering the state mark and putting the record nearly out of reach, when all is said and done.

A few weeks ago, when the Rockets upset then-No. 6 Weymouth, we would have told you yes. Even before that, when the Rockets went toe-to-toe in an eventual 36-30 loss to Mansfield, we’d have told you Needham’s on to something.

Now? We’re not sure what to think. Drew Burnett , a senior quarterback with Division 1 offers, broke his ankle in two places during Saturday’s 49-14 win over Milton, putting an end to one of the more promising seasons in the Bay State Conference. With a healthy Burnett, we like their chances of not only controlling their destiny in the Bay State Carey, but against whomever comes out of the Big 3 conference for the Division 1 playoffs.

Head coach David Duffy told ESPNBoston correspondent Matt Noonan earlier today that he will use a rotation of three guys at quarterback in Friday’s crucial tilt with No. 17 Walpole. The Rockets have shown to lineup quality athletes in Dan Pierce, Nico Panepinto, Ian Riley and Mark Riley (no relation), but you have to wonder how quickly the understudy can adapt to Duffy's system, which has begun to diversify the last few years.

We’ve sung their praises several times before, but it bears mentioning again: even after a bump in the road, No. 14 Auburn’s line is rising as one of the state’s best units.

Comprised entirely of juniors and sophomores – including a 6-foot-4, 305-pounder who is just 15 years old – this makes the Rockets at team to watch over the next few years. With short splits and a precise zone-blocking scheme, these guys are a cohesive unit up front and have been blowing teams off the ball to the tune of 17 rushing touchdowns. Dan Flink is the Rockets’ Peyton Hillis, but give speedster Fred Taylor some room to run and he is one of the shiftier players in the Worcester area.

Within the Central Mass sphere, this will continue to be one of the more dangerous teams in Division 3.

Extremely tough.

But such is the beauty and the beast of picking a true statewide All-Star team that doesn’t just simply reward the 25 best running backs in Eastern Mass. – when you’ve got just four slots to pick from 300-plus schools, an elite player inevitably gets left off the list.

Andover’s Andrew Coke came into the season as the lone returning All-State running back (Catholic Memorial’s Armani Reeves was an athlete selection). But as good as he’s been for the 4-2, Golden Warriors, there have been better resumes through the first half of the season.

BC High’s Preston Cooper has 14 rushing touchdowns through six games and is coming off a 202-yard performance in a 32-0 blanking of a tough Marlborough squad. Concord-Carlisle’s George Craan would be on pace for a ridiculous senior season if not for the emergence of Tyquan Culbreath, and the overall ease with which the Patriots have disposed of opponents so far.

Meanwhile, a trio of Western Mass. tailbacks have emerged on the scene forcefully, all averaging seven yards or more per carry.

Springfield Putnam’s Melquawn Pinkney currently leads the state in rushing yards (1,526) and rushing touchdowns (24). Longmeadow’s T.J. Norris (1,003 rushing yards, 15 TD) is a fire hydrant at 5-foot-8 and 220 pounds. Folks within the Everett program still tell us Springfield Central’s Sacoy Malone (916 yards, 7 TD) is one of the best backs they’ve faced in two years. If his performance in the Eagles’ 21-20 upset of Longmeadow last week is any indication (194 yards, 2 TD), he could be in for a terrific second half.

Also not to be forgotten is King Philip’s Charles Ruffin, who is coming on strong after a 147-yard performance in last week’s win over North Attleborough. The track star’s elite speed is known about statewide, but he’s starting show his toughness between the tackles. Health will be key, as he’s already missed some time with injury.

Back when Paul Funk was still an assistant at Everett, the program at Dennis-Yarmouth was in such shambles that the school was thinking of dropping the program altogether.

In his first year, back in 2001, the Dolphins played only JV games. Since then, he’s slowly built up a program that has become arguably the Cape’s most consistent over the last half-decade. Since their last losing season in 2006, the Dolphins are 38-12, including a 6-0 mark this year; if the Dolphins stay the course, they will wrap up their third 10-win season in six years, and their second-straight Division 2A playoff berth after earning their historic first a season ago.

This year, the Dolphins boast one of the state’s elite jump-ball receivers in Damion Johnson and arguably the toughest pound-for-pound quarterback in Matt Montalto. But it’s not about the superstars that make this program go.

More often than not, D-Y wins with undersized players who are neither big nor athletic, but embrace contact and love to hit. With little depth, most of the starters go both ways, and guys like 5-foot-7 defensive tackle Tommy Kennedy are relied upon to shoot the gaps rather than fill them. At the end of the day, this is a well-conditioned, disciplined team that has to be one of the favorites in Division 2A if all goes to plan.

Have you heard about Catholic Memorial's four FBS recruits? Have you heard about their opening day loss to Marshfield?

It’s all old news, but now the question is whether the Knights can heed the lessons learned from the Rams debacle and translate that into a Catholic Conference championship.

Following a bye week last week, the Knights will embark on their four-game conference schedule, which is bisected by a matchup with Brockton in two weeks, on Friday against Malden Catholic. The biggest of those game occurs in their Thanksgiving Day game against BC High, provided there are no missed steps along the way. You have to like CM’s chances against Malden Catholic and the Prep, but if CM can knock off Xaverian, that would set up the winner-take-all matchup at the end of their regular season schedule.

There’s no question the Knights have the talent to beat Xaverian, or the third-ranked Eagles for that matter. But, as has been the case in the last couple of seasons, it’s not about if, it’s about when. Is this the time that the group led by A.J. Doyle, Donovan Henry, Armani Reeves and Camren Williams prove good on their promise?

When New Bedford knocked off Brockton in their Big Three meeting last November, it was a shocking upset.

If the Whalers are to repeat the feat this year, a New Bedford victory wouldn’t be greeted with such surprise.

Myles Medeiros (11 TD passes) has the Whalers offense firing with a legitimate down-field threat in receiver Jaraud Wood, while running back Marcel DePina needs only a yard to shake loose from defenses in the open field. In addition, the defense, led by junior lineman Tyler Arena has been strong.

Meanwhile, Brockton pulled off an upset last week against New Hampshire behemoth Pinkerton Academy (its fifth straight win against the Astros), so you can’t count out the Boxers quite yet, despite a slow start (1-3) to the season. But clearly the balance of power in the Big Three (read: Brockton, Brockton and, ahem, Brockton) isn’t quite what it used to be.

The most encouraging thing you can say about Brockton’s season thus far has been the emergence of quarterback Austin Roberts. The junior signal-caller had his biggest game yet last week against Pinkerton. Roberts completed 14 of 22 passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns to down the Granite State’s top team.

If Roberts can keep the big plays coming, Brockton is still very much a threat.

No. 4 Chelmsford showed once again last week why the Merrimack Valley Conference Large runs through them in a thorough victory over Andover on Saturday.

But let’s not crown the Lions and Mr. Football challenger Tim Joy champions just yet. After all, they still have a pesky Central Catholic team on the schedule, in addition to huge games at Lowell and at Billerica to finish on Turkey Day. Both the Red Raiders and Indians made their debuts in our Top 25 this week after both teams have been flying under the radar a little at 5-1. Dynamic quarterback R.J. Noel has Red Raider nation believing that this could be the team to unseat Chelmsford, while the Indians feature a defense that is much improved from last year’s edition.

Plus, Billerica still has that LaSpada kid causing havoc for defenses and you can’t underestimate that.

Akin to the MVC, the Hockomock League always fields one of the most competitive leagues in the state from top to bottom. And we’ve seen that parity play out in the first half, what with Stoughton’s shocking win over Mansfield.

What is for certain is that the league, which now has two playoff bids for the first time for its Davenport and Kelley-Rex winners, is still wide open.

Mansfield remains in the driver’s seat in the large division with wins over King Philip and Attleboro, but the Hornets’ game against North still looms. In the Davenport, the likely winner-take-all meeting between Oliver Ames and Stoughton is still three weeks away, but the Tigers’ matchup with Mansfield on Friday will be a good indicator of how far they’ve come this season.

Recap: New Bedford 31, Barnstable 17

October, 8, 2011

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. -- It seemed as though the Barnstable defense was not going to let New Bedford running back Marcel DePina beat them by himself. The shifty Whaler back was limited to just 11 yards on 10 carries through the greater portion of three quarters in Friday night’s game.

But, with New Bedford trailing 17-15, DePina broke loose in the passing game. His 48-yard connection from Myles Medeiros was a Barry Sanders-like highlight to the Whalers’ 31-17 comeback win over the Red Raiders.

“It was a broken play,” DePina said of the game-winning score. “My quarterback [Medeiros] got it off and we got good blocking and then I just found the right spots on the field and got to the end zone.”

There were a multitude of issues at play as New Bedford (3-2) scored 24 unanswered fourth-quarter points.

First off was a risky maneuver on the behalf of Whalers head coach Dennis Golden. Trailing 17-7, Golden rolled the dice on a fake field goal pass play with the capable Mike Rapoza running on the bootleg left and hitting Nathan Ojuri in the back of the end zone with a 3-yard touchdown pass.

“It came from the fact that they’d blocked the first one,” Golden said of the play call. “It was a good opportunity for us.”

Next, the Whalers forced the potent Barnstable (3-2) offense three-and-out with quarterback D.J. Crook (13 of 19 for 135 yards) throwing his only pass attempt of the second half. Crook later confirmed to ESPN Boston that he dislocated the thumb of his throwing hand, apparently coming on a carry in the third quarter.

Junior Nick Peabody finished the game at quarterback for Barnstable.

“We didn’t know what was wrong with D.J. to start with,” Red Raiders head coach Chris Whidden said. “At first we thought there was something wrong with his elbow and then we realized it was his thumb.”

New Bedford continued their onslaught behind a highly efficient game from Medeiros, who finished 17 of 26 for 227 yards and one touchdown to go along with 53 rushing yards on six carries.

Medeiros put the icing on the Whalers’ victory with a perfectly placed 15-yard touchdown pass to Jaraud Wood, putting up a jump ball that only the rangy receiver could pluck.

The Red Raiders offense was prodigious in the first half and beyond in its screen game. Running back Theo France (11 carries, 81 yards, TD) found big holes underneath on the New Bedford defense with wide receiver Dylan Morris catching everything in sight in the flat.

It looked as though Barnstable had gotten yet another big play with a bubble screen on what would’ve been a 68-yard touchdown by France to tie the score. However, the play was called back on an illegal block penalty. The Red Raiders had yet another huge play whistled dead two plays later.

After those opportunities fell by the wayside, the Red Raiders were done in.

This Barnstable-New Bedford series has yielded some classics in recent memory with games in each of the last four years being decided in the fourth quarter, along with a couple on the game’s final play.

In the bigger picture, this was a potential season-shifting win for the Whalers. After getting roughed up by Top 10 opponents in Duxbury and Bridgewater-Raynham in the last two weeks, New Bedford was eager to snap a two-game losing skid.

“This gets our wheels turning,” junior end Tyler Arena said. “It boosts our morale and maybe next week we keep on rolling.”

As for Barnstable, the question surely to follow the Red Raiders in the coming weeks is the health of Crook. While Peabody, a natural wide receiver, showed that they’re in capable hands indeed if Crook cannot play, the loss of one of the top quarterbacks in the state would surely hurt.

As Golden puts it, DePina can simply do things on a football field many cannot.

“That’s what Marcel does best,” Golden said, commenting on DePina’s 48-yard score. “We don’t have anybody who can change directions like him; he can do it with the best of them. We’re fortunate he’s on our team.”

On the play, DePina shook no fewer than three Red Raiders defenders clear out of their boots on the way to rumbling upfield for the game-winning score. He’d also turned in a key 28-yard gain on a screen from Medeiros several plays earlier to set up the score.

While Barnstable, with talented junior linebacker Andrew Ellis, showed that DePina, if contained to running in between the tackles, can be slowed, there’s simply nothing a defense can do when he hits the open field. Coupled with the hard-nosed running of Rapoza (9 carries, 60 yards), that makes the Whalers that much more difficult to stop.

Barnstable (3-2) 7 3 7 0 -- 17
New Bedford (3-2) 7 0 0 24 -- 31

1st quarter
Barnstable Theo France 44-yard run (Tom Mullen kick)
New Bedford Mike Rapoza 7-yard run (Mike Rapoza kick)

2nd quarter
Barnstable Tom Mullen 35-yard field goal

3rd quarter
Barnstable Hayden Murphy 29-yard run (Mullen kick)

4th quarter
New Bedford Nathan Ojuri 3-yard pass from Rapoza (Tyler Arena pass from Rapoza)
New Bedford Marcel DePina 48-yard pass from Myles Medeiros (Jaraud Wood pass from Medeiros)
New Bedford Wood 15-yard pass from Medeiros (DePina pass from Medeiros)

Recap: New Bedford 40, Silver Lake 21

September, 17, 2011

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. – The question coming into this season was whether New Bedford football would be able to parlay the momentum from last year’s Big Three co-championship and playoff appearance into big things this year.

So far so good as the Whalers put up 40-plus points for the second week while rolling to a 41-20 win over Silver Lake on Saturday afternoon.

Even though it was a non-league matchup, it was an important early season marker for New Bedford, as the Lakers have held the upper hand in the teams’ recent meetings.

New Bedford (2-0) ran out to a 26-0 halftime lead, outgaining the Lakers with 205 yards of offense compared to Silver Lake’s 11 yards gained. Whalers quarterback Myles Medeiros threw for 164 yards and two touchdowns by the half, giving way to Mike Rapoza in the third quarter as the Whalers continued racking up points.

Whalers running back Marcel DePina also got into the act with a rushing touchdown in the first quarter before returning a punt 82 yards for a score, giving New Bedford a 20-0 lead in the second.

“Marcel has the ability to change directions very quickly,” Whalers head coach Dennis Golden said. “He’s got great vision as a back. “

Medeiros added his third touchdown pass of the game to Jaraud Wood, a 13-yard completion in the third quarter.

Xavier Barros capped New Bedford’s scoring in a 2-yard touchdown run with 5:27 remaining in the third.

Silver Lake (0-2 ) finally got on the board inside of two minutes remaining in the third with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Dana Nemes to John Hurley.

Matthew Pinnetti and Jeffrey Reynolds added late rushing touchdowns for the Lakers in the fourth.

New Bedford now eyes next week’s challenge against No. 2 Duxbury. While everyone is anticipating the Whalers’ eventual date with Brockton, Golden’s team has their attention fixed on a worthy opponent.

“Duxbury’s one of the best teams in the state, everybody knows that,” Golden said. “They haven’t lost in a long time and we have our work cut out for us.”

The talk of the offseason was how New Bedford would be able to replace their talented bookends on the line from last season in Lance Burlingame and Janny DosReis. Two weeks in, the Whalers are building an identity as capable pass protectors and run blockers, led by returning starter Darian Sousa-Bizarro. Not to mention, the defensive line has been downright dominant, evidenced by a three-sack day for Carl Santos, two sacks by Servulo Pires and a fumble forced by Ricky Moraes. Throw in an impressive junior in end Tyler Arena and New Bedford once again has the makings of a D-line that can hang with the Boxers. “They’re doing well,” Golden said of the group. “Coach [Nick] Salmon and Coach [Marc] Hayes are doing a great job with them every day. They’re giving a good effort in practice. The kids are coming and playing hard consistently. It’s a good thing, it’s a good situation.”


Medeiros stepped into the starting quarterback role midway through last season and hasn’t looked back. He’s become more comfortable in the Whalers’ offense and stated his experience as a prime factor. “Especially with the O-line, they’re giving me great time to throw,” said Medeiros, who has eight touchdown passes through two games. “I’m making good reads, the receivers are where they need to be. Our practices have been good. Everything’s going good this year, everything’s falling into place.” Medeiros is a long, lanky passer with the ability to pull the ball down and take off running. However, his pocket presence has improved, has good arm strength and showed good touch on the ball in his 27-yard touchdown pass to Wood in the second, coming on a fade route to the near side pylon. It also helps having a weapon like Wood, a tall 6-foot receiver with the ability to separate himself from defenders with a long reach.

DePina takes over as the feature back in New Bedford’s offense this year, following talented track star Phito Gondre. However, the Whalers’ aren’t loosing much in terms of speed with DePina, a good athlete in his own regard as a member of New Bedford’s basketball team. Although he’s listed at 5-foot-6, DePina’s not afraid to run inside, but it’s in the open field where his value is found. Consider the 82-yard punt return he fielded on one hop, juking his way past two Laker defenders and then streaking down unabated down the left sideline as evidence.

Whalers look to grab season by the tail

August, 27, 2010
NEW BEDFORD, Mass. – When New Bedford High football head coach Dennis Golden talks about his team’s accomplishments last year, he is both philosophical and emotional. He is earnest when he talks and could convince any player to suit up for his team.

So it wasn’t lost on the Whalers’ sixth-year coach what his team really did in finishing 6-4-1 — the best record of Golden’s tenure — in 2009.

“They believe they can do well now,” Golden said. “The expectations have been pushed higher. We’re looking at it from a different view. Doing well is a habit and you always want it to be a habit. The belief in oneself and the belief in one’s team is huge.”

He also realizes there is no guarantee the strides his team made last year will be carried through to a new year. With only four returning starters on either side of the ball, Golden knows the Whalers have their work cut out for them.

But, with a newfound positive mentality, his players are setting their sights on the next step.

“It definitely gives us a lot more confidence the way we turned things around last year,” senior quarterback Nate Lewis said. “But last year’s in the past. We’re going to work as a team to move forward. We’re taking it one step at time and going at it day by day.”

For what New Bedford may lack in experience this year, it does have the luxury of pulling from a deep pool of athletes. Nearly every position is manned by a member of the Whalers track and field team. Their athleticism is apparent while watching the players operate in New Bedford’s spread offense.

The flashes of speed are not only limited to the skill positions. While running wind sprints that culminated Friday’s practice at the high school, it was 6-foot-5, 250-pound tackle Lance Burlingame that was pacing his teammates. He’s attracted the attention of Division I schools, such as BC and UMass Amherst, because of his athleticism.

That doesn’t mean that Burlingame rested on his laurels this summer.

“I worked on my conditioning and I ran a lot more. I tried to improve on my footwork, getting out of my stance quicker.”

That work ethic permeates the Whalers roster. Lewis devoted much of his offseason to working on his footwork with New Bedford’s coaching staff. Last year’s success has been the impetus to continue to improve and keep a good thing going.

“Winning is good,” Burlingame said, cracking a little smile. “Now, we just want to continue on that path and keep up the good work. Hopefully, we’ll continue to do that and have another successful season.”

So will things finally get a little bit tighter in the Big Three?

“We’re focused on the first game right now and nothing beyond that, we’ll take it from there,” Golden said. “The larger picture is that we’d like to learn how to win in the Big Three, consistently. We want to do that and that’s certainly a goal. But we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”

2009 record: 6-4-1 (1-1 Big Three)
Coach: Dennis Golden (sixth year, 43-58-1)
Players to watch: Lance Burlingame, Sr., LT/DE, 6-5, 250 lbs.; Nate Lewis, Sr., QB, 5-10, 165 lbs.; Phito Gondre, Sr., RB/S, 5-10, 165 lbs.; Izaiah Barretto, Sr., RB/DB, 5-8, 150 lbs.; Jaraud Wood, Jr., WR/LB, 5-101, 165 lbs.; Janny Dosreis, Sr., RT/DL, 6-2, 255 lbs.
Strengths: Team speed, athleticism at skill positions, team chemistry.
Weaknesses: Lack of experience.
Outlook: Golden’s offensive philosophy is simple: Get the ball in the hands of the playmakers and watch them go. And the Whalers have the horses in their spread offense to do it. Running back Phito Gondre is one of the elite sprinters in the state and has placed at New England Regionals in each of the last two years. One thing to watch is how sophomore Miles Medeiros could push Lewis at quarterback as the season progresses. On defense, it will all come down to how fast the young Whalers can learn the playbook in their 4-3 scheme. “We want to be able to be confident in our reads and then just play with the speed that we have,” Golden said.