Boston High School: Jesse Davis

T.J. Noonan flicked on the television Wednesday night, saw the reports of Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer’s domestic violence arrest –- the latest in a string of such arrests, another black eye in one of the NFL’s worst weeks ever –- and decided he’d had enough.

“It’s something I feel really passionate about, because it directly affected my life,” the Wellesley High senior football captain said.

Thursday morning, Noonan approached head football coach Jesse Davis about doing something for the next night’s game against Newton North to raise awareness on the issue. With next month being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, purple its color of choice, and seeing the runaway success of the previous weekend’s “Red Bandana Game” at Boston College, Noonan settled on purple bandanas.

Davis instructed him that this would have to be put on by the entire team, or nothing at all. By Thursday afternoon, 60 bandanas had been dropped off for the team. The result was this:



And boy did the movement catch on. Friday, 100 bandanas were sold during school. Students, teachers and parents came out to the game in an assortment of purple gear -– beads, hats, scarves, and ribbons.

“There’s actually no purple bandanas left in Natick, Wellesley or Framingham, so don’t bother trying,” he laughed.

In all, $280 was raised, which the school’s business club then donated to Mary’s House, a family shelter in Waltham.

“It was great for our team to see what kind of impact a football team, or a sports team, can have on an entire town,” Noonan said. “It was awesome seeing people come up and say, ‘I’ve got my purple’, or teachers wear purple ribbons, every football player wearing their bandana the exact same way. It was awesome.”

So while the Raiders came out on the losing end, a 28-23 decision to the surprising Tigers, the night was still a success in more ways than one.

“It’s had an impact on my life, so seeing all this stuff happen made me want to make an impact. If we can raise awareness and help one person’s life, then it’s worth it,” Noonan said.

D2 South: Mansfield 31, Wellesley 14

November, 1, 2013
11/01/13
11:34
PM ET
MANSFIELD, Mass. -- When it looked like Wellesley's defense found a way to limit Mansfield's high-power offense, the Hornets displayed yet another weapon.

Quarterback Kyle Wisnieski ran for a team-high 80 yards helping to spark Mansfield to a 31-14 win over Wellesley in an MIAA Division 2 South Quarterfinal game.

Wisnieski is known for his accurate passing to weapons like Brendan Hill, Michael Hershman, and Kyle Hurley and the Hornets have even established a strong run game this season behind Miguel Villar-Perez and Chris Buchanon, but it was Wisnieski's legs that did the trick Friday night.

After punting on their first offensive series, the Raiders' defense held Mansfield to a 35-yard field goal from senior Alex Thompson. On just their second play of the next drive after recovering a surprise onside kick attempt, Wellesley quarterback John Fadule took it 54 yards for a touchdown to give Wellesley a 7-3 lead, but that would be their only one of the night.

"We tried to steal the onside kick and it backfired," said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. "We gave them a short field and they made us pay. After that I thought we settled down on defense. We gave them some hitches and slants but nothing big. Defense just played great."

Mansfield responded in a fashion they have used all season, mixing in runs and counters with big gain passes. Starting at their own 14-yard line, Villar-Perez and Buchanon combined for 16 yards on three rushes before Wisnieski hit Hurley over the middle for 18 yards and then Hill on the sideline for 33 more. Villar-Perez then went 19 yards almost untouched to give Mansfield the lead back at 10-7.

A quick three-and-out from Wellesley gave Mansfield the ball back at their own 31. Wisnieski dropped back to pass twice in a run but on both occasions, the Raiders had strong coverage and Wisnieski took off running, picking up 21 yards and then 15 yards. With the defense forced to respect Wisnieski's mobility, he connects with a wide-open Hurley on the left side for a 19-yard touchdown to put Mansfield up 17-7.

"They were dropping a lot of guys in coverage so it kind of opened it up," said Wisnieski. "The pass rushers got past me and there was a lot of room to run so I just took advantage of that."

Redding credited both Wellesley for their coverage scheme as well as Wisnieski for being able to make a play.

"They did a good job of covering and had a good scheme in the secondary and kind of clogged things up on Mike Hershman, Brendan Hill, and Kyle Hurley but they did give us some running lanes," he said. "Kyle [Wisnieski] is well respected for throwing the ball to those guys but he's a very good athlete. If he wasn't a quarterback, he'd be a heck of a receiver and defensive back. He makes a lot of bad calls into good ones by getting out and running for some yardage."

The Hornet defense again came up strong, forcing another three-and-out from the Raider offense and their punt was partially blocked by Hill, setting the Hornets up at their own 37. Wisnieski elected to stay in the pocket this time, hitting Villar-Perez over the middle on back to back passes to gain 30 yards. A pass interference call put the Hornets at the Raiders 5-yard line and two plays later, Buchanon punched it in from less than a yard out.

Mansfield almost tacked on another score but Wisnieski was picked off in the end zone, only his third interception thrown all season, and Mansfield took a 24-7 lead into halftime.

Mansfield went three-and-out to start the second half and Wellesley ate up a lot of clock on their first drive but it was ended when Aurian Dawkins came away with his second pick of Fadule. The Hornets then used eight rushing plays and one pass completion to get to the Wellesley 3-yard line as the third quarter ended.

On the first play of the final quarter, Buchanon took the toss to the right before cutting back in and scoring his second touchdown of the game to make it 31-7 with 10:55 left. Wellesley's final touchdown came with just 28 seconds left in the game with back ups from both sides in. Sophomore Myles Cole rushed to the left for a 19-yard touchdown for the Raiders.

"On offense we're pretty explosive at times," Redding said. "We didn't have to punt a whole lot which is good in the playoffs. Kyle was a little dinged up and we really didn't want him running much. He ended up running more than he has in the last month. Brendan made some big, big catches for us."

The top-seeded Hornets will now continue in the playoffs and will host No. 4 Needham, who defeated Duxbury 42-28 on Friday night.

"I like were we are," said Redding. "We're playing good defense and we're balanced on offense but the next round gets even tougher whether its Duxbury or Needham, the level just gets tougher and tougher. You have to bring your A game every Friday if you want to move on."

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.”

Notes and thoughts from around MIAA football

November, 6, 2012
11/06/12
1:59
AM ET
Some thoughts and observations from this past weekend’s slate of football around the state:

1. Chris Sarni and the Wellesley Raiders are the darlings of the Bay State this week following their 40-34 win over Natick in one of the biggest upsets of the year, and rightfully so. Sarni is your classic undersized, overachieving high school quarterback, noted for his quick acceleration and vision, but also unafraid to tuck it and run downhill. But let’s give credit to the offensive line, too, which kept his jersey clean all afternoon.

During the preseason, I did a video with correspondent Greg Story for The Wellesley Channel, discussing the Raiders’ chances this season, and pointed out that while it would be an uphill battle for the Raiders under first-year head coach Jesse Davis, history says the best rebuilding jobs start between the hashes. Having been a varsity wrestling coach at Wellesley the last four years, Davis can tell you a thing or two about that.

“The crossover is undeniable,” Davis said. “I’ve been preaching it since taking over the wrestling program. In terms of balance and strengths, close combat, playing with your hands, power angles, tackling, toughness, it’s literally the best thing you can do as an offensive lineman.”

Whereas in his first year he found himself dragging kids out, in year four it’s become as much a staple of the offseason regimen as a bench press. This year’s Raiders line averages roughly 210 across, but features four wrestlers –- left guard Ben Wardwell, center Dan Farina, and wrestling captains Will Dario (right guard) and Zach Zeytonjian (left tackle) –- who make up for lack of size with athleticism and first-step explosion.

“We want athletes on the offensive line,” Davis said. “I don’t want big, tubby, 300-pound kids. We want kids that can run.”

Needless to say, toppling one of the state’s most prolific offenses validates everything Davis has been preaching in year one. The Raiders may be out of contention for 2012 championship hardware, but definitely keep a watch out for them come next fall.

2. I suddenly find myself intrigued with Amherst running back Kieran Presley, who broke the school’s single-game record for yards from scrimmage in a 42-22 win over Chicopee. Presley ran for 359 yards on 21 carries and caught three passes for 60 yards, totaling four touchdowns; in the process he passed one of the Hurricanes’ all-time greats, Marcus Williams, who totaled 402 in a 2001 win over Minnechaug. Williams went on to be the all-time leading rusher at the University of Maine, and had a cup of coffee with the Indianapolis Colts.

“He’s probably one of the best athletes in Western Mass., he’s been underrated,” said first-year head coach David Thompson, himself a former offensive lineman at UMass. “He’s a Hell of a lacrosse player, he can play basketball, he long jumps and ran a leg in the 4x200, that’s the type of athlete he is.

“You can probably put him in any sport and he’ll excel, and he’s not gonna be a non-contributor—he’ll contribute. He can easily go to college in two sports, that’s the type of athlete he is. He has all the tools to play at the next level.”

So why haven’t we heard much about him until this fall? Presley didn’t get many carries last year, running in a three-back system. This year, Thompson has installed a pro-style offense more suited to his strengths, utilizing modified “Ace” personnel groupings (in Thompson’s case, one back with one tight end and three wideouts) with zone-blocking schemes up front. Presley is a patient runner, but a quick accelerator equipped with a few lacrosse-style moves and a gliding stride.

Rutgers is Presley’s dream school, but he has seen varied degrees of interest across Divisions 1 and 2, among them UConn, Albany, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and James Madison. The Hurricanes are currently 5-3, and will go for their third straight win this weekend. They could be one of the more interesting playoff teams to watch, if everything plays out accordingly.

3. Now that Barnstable has claimed the Old Colony League outright for the second straight year, many folks are clamoring for what would be the marquee Super Bowl championship game at Gillette Stadium, a rematch between the No. 1 (and undefeated) Red Raiders and Everett for the Division 1A title game. Not so fast, people. How quickly we all forget what happened last year, when the Raiders met Lincoln-Sudbury down in Taunton for a Tuesday night playoff and fell 14-13, helped by a ridiculous one-handed catch from Jack Harris. L-S appears to be on the inside track for a third straight Dual County League large division title, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they’re the ones marching into Gillette.

4. I’ll preface this by saying I am in no position to criticize college coaches for whom they decide to offer athletic scholarships and preferred walk-on spots to. And I'm fully aware how hard it is to get over the size of Holy Name’s Quron Wright, even if he’s the state’s leading rusher. But after watching 5-foot-5 Trindon Holliday return a kickoff 105 yards on Sunday for the Broncos, and enjoying 5-foot-5 Division 2 product Danny Woodhead’s steady place in the Patriots’ running back rotation the last three seasons, you mean to tell me there isn’t a college coach in New England willing to look past Wright’s unmistakably Lilliputian frame and at least see if the kid can handle?

5. If you’re a fan of power running, you have to love Friday’s matchup between Plymouth South and Nauset for pole position in the Atlantic Coast League. South’s Dylan Oxsen leads the state in rushing touchdowns (28) and is two weeks removed from one of the more explosive performances of the season, a 301-yard, six-TD effort in a surprise rout of Dennis-Yarmouth. The Panthers run a modified pistol scheme, sometimes even utilizing two fullbacks in addition to Oxsen at tailback. Based on the highlights I’ve seen, the Panthers are very downhill, and very efficient at running power plays.

Then you have Nauset, masters of the single wing, so respected they even have an entry devoted to them on Wikipedia. At the helm is junior Jimmy Sullivan (972 rushing yards, 491 passing yards), the de facto quarterback in a quarterback-less offense, running behind Brown-bound two-way lineman Dakota Girard. Keith Kenyon’s ancient offense adds another layer of mystique to a program already shrouded in it (Hey, the school is inside a national park, after all).

6. This past summer, I watched Andover win a 7-on-7 tournament at Gillette Stadium running 5-foot-6 speedster Cam Farnham on underneath routes into the perimeters. Two weeks ago, I watched Billerica's Jordan Balarinho carve up the No. 1 team in the land with a heavy bevy of short, quick passes to the sticks. Now I see Lowell wideout Jack Galvin's stat line from last weekend's upset of Andover (15 catches, 159 yards, 4 TD) and it gets me thinking. I know we've joked about it, but maybe we really should consider renaming the Merrimack Valley Conference, "Death By 1,000 Shallow Crosses". Has a nice ring to it, no?

Video: Wellesley 40, No. 10 Natick 34

November, 4, 2012
11/04/12
12:18
AM ET
WELLESLEY, Mass. -- Correspondent Greg Story passes along video highlights from Saturday's colossal upset of No. 10 Natick by Wellesley High, one of the biggest upsets of the 2012 football season.

(Video courtesy The Wellesley Channel)

Davis named Wellesley head football coach

April, 10, 2012
4/10/12
2:56
PM ET
Wellesley High School Athletic Director John Brown announced this afternoon the promotion of Jesse Davis to head football coach, replacing Bill Tracey, who stepped down last January after 10 years at the helm.

Davis has been the Raiders' defensive coordinator, and was a football captain for the Raiders during his senior season of 1998. He went on to a career at Norwich University before serving as a United States Marine. He has also been the Raiders' head wrestling coach for the last four seasons.

"We had many very strong candidates for the position," Brown wrote in an email to the Boston area media. "Jesse's pride, commitment and dedication along with his deep passion for the tradition of Wellesley High School Football is unmatched. We are very excited by the enthusiasm and energy that Jesse will bring to the head coach's position and the Wellesley High School Football Program."

The Raiders went 2-9 this past season, with wins over Milton and Dedham, who themselves went a combined 3-19. Tracey went 61-62 in his 10 years as head coach at Wellesley.

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