Boston High School: John Vassar

No. 8 St. John's (S) rolls over No. 16 Wachusett

November, 6, 2010
11/06/10
12:44
AM ET
HOLDEN, Mass. -- With three minutes, 14 seconds left in the fourth quarter, No. 8 St. John’s of Shrewsbury led 35-14, and could have simply run the clock down and taken a 21-point win over No. 16 Wachusett Regional High School.

Instead, the St. John’s defense intercepted a Matt LeBlanc pass on the Wachusett 32-yard line, and Pioneers head coach John Andreoli did not let up. Andreoli called a wide receiver reverse-pass that put the ball on the 3-yard line, and then scored on a John Vassar 3-yard touchdown run.

Though the score ultimately gave the Mountaineers another possession that ended up in a touchdown, Andreoli stuck with his aggressive play-calling.

“We are playing a 7-1 team and we’re playing them for 44 minutes,” stated Andreoli about the final few minutes of the game.

“They can score at any point in the ball game…so our goal was to come out here and to keep the pedal to the metal for 44 minutes -- offensively, defensively, and special teams -- and that’s what our goal was, and that’s what we did.”

St. John’s (8-1, 4-0 1A) won by a score of 42-21 in the end, and left Wachusett (6-2, 3-1 1A) hurting after a physical game.

“That was a smash mouth, toe-to-toe type of football game,” Andreoli said.

“It always gets chippy with Wachusett,” said St. John’s wide receiver Richard Rodgers. “We wanted to make a statement and make sure they know who’s the best.”

Wachusett’s Eric Darko led both teams in rushing in the game, as he finished the contest with 16 carries for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Darko led a bruising Mountaineers offense that tried to run down the clock and keep the ball away from St. John’s offense.

The game plan was an excellent idea, but a tough one to execute.

“They are able to get yardage -- big chunks -- in a very short bit of time,” Wachusett head coach Mike Dubzinski said, “…part of our gameplan was to take the ball [away] and have our best defense, be our offense.”

The strategy scared the St. John’s coaching staff initially, as Wachusett scored on a 15-play drive that not only took seven minutes, 37 seconds off the clock in the first quarter, but also spanned 80 yards.

The Pioneers scored on six of nine offensive possessions and held the Wachusett offense to 14 points through the first 42 minutes of the game.

“The last two years they beat us, so we had to come out and leave no doubt that we were the better team,” St. John’s quarterback Dan Light said.

“We lost to Xaverian last week and we felt that we should have won that game,” Rodgers added. “I think we were all pretty mad about that and came out and used our anger from that game -- and the past two losses to Wachusett -- and took it to them.”

For St. John's it was the usual crew. Rodgers finished the game with five catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns, and Light completed 7 of 17 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns. Light also ran the ball 11 times for 76 yards and two touchdowns.

Although the St. John’s offense was overpowering at times, Wachusett never laid down.

“It was 42-14 and we could have gone three-and-out real quick, but we didn’t,” Dubzinski said. “The kids came to the sideline and we said, ‘Let’s keep going, let’s play Wachusett football’ and that’s what we did.”

Wachusett’s Matt McMillen was the focal point of the offense in the first half, piling up 45 yards on 11 carries. However, the St. John’s defense adjusted and limited McMillen to 15 yards on seven carries in the second half.

The Mountaineers opened up the second half with a 13-play drive of 77 yards and ended in a McMillen touchdown.

“To come up here and be playing on the road in this ball park, and play a team like this we had to play our best game,” Andreoli said. “And I think we played one of our better games tonight.”

“It feels good,” said Vassar (10 carries, 89 yards, one TD) about beating St. John’s biggest regional rival. “We still have to go through the rest of the year but we might see them again and they’re probably going to come out hard again.”

SJ - 14 7 0 21 -- 42
W - 7 0 7 7 -- 21

First quarter

SJ - Rodgers 67 catch from Light (Rodgers kick)
W - Darko 3 run (Connor McDavitt kick)
SJ - Light 5 run (Rodgers kick)

Second quarter
SJ - Rodgers 25 catch from Light (Rodgers kick)

Third quarter
W - McMillen 2 run (McDavitt kick)

Fourth quarter
SJ - Drew Ortone 12 catch from Light (Rodgers kick)
SJ - Light 35 run (Rodgers kick)
SJ - Vassar 3 run (Rodgers kick)
W - Darko 10 run (McDavitt kick)

No. 13 Xaverian throws Pioneers for first loss

October, 30, 2010
10/30/10
6:48
PM ET
SHREWSBURY, Mass. -– No. 2 St. John’s of Shrewsbury came into yesterday’s non-league game with No. 13 Xaverian averaging 41 points per game.

In the second half against the Hawks, though, the Pioneers didn’t manage a single point.

Spurred by that terrific defensive effort, Xaverian ended a two-game losing streak with a 20-16 win over the previously unbeaten Pioneers. The Hawks (6-2) now enter next week’s pivotal showdown with BC High with a little momentum.

"They've been scoring a lot of points, and I wasn't sure we'd be able to contain them as well as we did," Xaverian head coach Charlie Stevenson said.

"They’re a good football team," St. John’s (7-1) coach John Andreoli said. "We want to play these kind of games. They’re going to go down to the wire and they’re going to be the type of game where the littlest thing can have a huge impact."

St. John’s led, 16-13, at the half, before a Nick McDaniels interception set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Xaverian’s Joe Colton (111 yards rushing). Jules Murphy’s extra point completed the scoring, but not before the Hawks twice turned the Pioneers over on downs in Xaverian territory, once in the third and once in the fourth. The second came when Ryan Farrell and Chris Tamasi tackled Cal verbal commit Richard Rodgers (101 yards receiving, but just 17 in the second half) two yards shy of the first. The Pioneers never seriously threatened again.

Chris Calvanese threw for 148 yards and two scores for the Hawks, as he looked in the direction of receiver Mike Muir (96 yards on eight catches) early and often. John Warner and Muir caught first-half touchdowns from Calvanese.

Rodgers kicked a 37-yard field goal and caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dan Light (141 yards passing, 103 rushing). Light’s 1-yard sneak with four minutes left in the first half helped give the Pioneers a 16-7 lead before Calavanese’s toss to Muir made it 16-13 going into the break.

Here are a few quick thoughts from what was a terrific high school football game between two of the best in the state:
  • Stevenson has a lot of confidence in Calvanese, and the junior signal-caller rewarded him with a solid all-around effort on a windy day. Calvanese completed 13-of-21 passes with one interception on a ball that was overthrown. That set up the Rodgers 27-yard touchdown reception, but other than that, Calvanese made smart decisions with the ball and put it in tight spaces when need be. You can’t really coach poise, but Calvanese has it, as the St. John’s defense hurried him into some sticky situations and he didn’t blink.
  • Xaverian just might have the best secondary in the state. The Hawks made two interceptions and allowed just one touchdown through the air to an offense that has been putting up video-game numbers against everyone else on its schedule. The combination of Colton and McDaniels at the corners is superb, and safeties like Farrell, a junior, and Muir, make it so difficult to go over the top against this team. There were several times that Light had all day to throw, and he eventually just escaped the pocket and tried to pick up yards because there was no one open. Against a team with a set of receivers like St. John’s has, that’s quite an accomplishment.
  • Is there a more underrated player in Central Massachusetts than Pioneers’ senior John Vassar? Probably not. Vassar only carried the ball four times for 37 yards, but that’s not where his biggest impact on the game was. Vassar was everywhere on defense, just everywhere. He made two sacks and several other key tackles that prevented what would have been first downs. Listed at 5-feet, 10-inches tall and 200 pounds, Vassar is a thickly-built player who packs a wallop when he arrives at the ballcarrier. He may not be the most highly-recruited player, but wherever he plays at the next level, expect him to be a productive one. He’s just a pure, instinctive athlete who can do a lot of things well on a football field.
Xaverian (6-2) 7 6 7 0 -- 20
St. John's (S) (7-1) 9 7 0 0 -- 16


X - John Warner 9 pass from Chris Calvanese (Jules Murphy kick)

S - Richard Rodgers 27 FG

S - Rodgers 27 pass from Dan Light (kick failed)

S - Light 1 run (Rodgers kick)

X - Mike Muir 2 pass from Calvanese (kick failed)

X - Joe Colton 5 run (Murphy kick)

No. 2 Pioneers keep the wagon rolling

October, 23, 2010
10/23/10
8:57
PM ET


SHREWSBURY, Mass. – St. John’s of Shrewsbury’s offense has been operating at a prodigious pace with an average of 41 points per game.

Saturday’s matchup with Leominster saw much the same from the Pioneers who beguiled the Blue Devils defense all day.

Simply stated, the prospect of shutting down Cal-bound wide receiver Richard Rodgers is a tall enough task. However, the efficiency of St. John’s offense is found in the ability of quarterback Dan Light to distribute the ball to multiple targets. While coolly completing 15 of 18 passes for 204 yards and three touchdowns, the senior signal-caller spread the balls around to six receivers.

Light also took things into his own hands, adding a rushing touchdown in addition to a 35-yard interception for a score to contribute to another lopsided win, 42-12, for the No. 2 team in Massachusetts.

“Danny [Light] was patient back there, we had good protection and we were able to get some secondary reads that enabled us to get the ball down the field,” Pioneers head coach John Andreoli said. “That presents problems for the defense.”

The St. John’s boss credited his players’ ability to focus on the day-to-day tasks in practice as the main reason why they’ve been able to remain so proficient.

“As long as they’ve been in our program — the seniors in particular — they understand that from the time we scrimmage Brockton that anybody on our schedule can beat us. Really what that says is that you have to break down the weeks.

“If we do things right during the week, when we come out here and play on the weekend, things should take care of itself.”

The Pioneers offensive line provided ample time for Light during Saturday’s tilt. The only legitimate pressure the lefty faced came on two first-half sacks from Leominster defensive lineman Cortez Ludden. Otherwise, Light’s jersey remained clean and the pocket remained undisturbed for long stretches, often allowing him five to six seconds to survey the field and find the open receiver.

Once the ball is in their hands, Light knows his wideouts can take care of the rest.

“Rich [Rodgers] gets a lot of credit, which is well due,” Light said. “But Christian [Dulmaine] does a great job. He’s a very good player on that side. He’s a non-selfish player and when it’s his time he always shines.”

After Leominster (3-4) got on the board with Kevin O’Connor’s 10-yard touchdown from quarterback Kyle Ford, Light found Dulmaine (four catches for 54 yards) in the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown with 42 seconds remaining in the first half.

With Richard Rodgers’ successful extra point try, the Pioneers (6-0) took a 28-6 lead to the half.

Rodgers was impressive once again, leading the pack with five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown.

“Bob Bradley — who works with us, and was my coach here at St. John’s, and has coached at every level and is a hall of fame coach — he’s been tremendous with guys like Christian [Dulmaine] and getting them to understand how the defensive windows are going to open and how he can help for Danny [Light],” Andreoli said. “As a result, what you see is that he’s open a lot, but not because they leave him open, it’s because he finds the holes in the defense. That’s how we operate.”

Leominster struck again in the waning moments when sophomore Luis Orellana got into the end zone on a 3-yard carry.

With another win behind them, the Pioneers shift their attention to challenge next week. They’ve been able to maintain focus on the short-term, but their upcoming bout with Xaverian had Light a little excited.

“That’s always a real tough game,” Light said. “We’ve been marking that one since day one. We’re taking it one week at a time, but we’re glad that week’s here.”

Leominster 0 6 0 6 -- 12
St. John’s (S) 14 14 14 0 -- 42

First quarter

SJS John Vassar 7-yard run (Richard Rodgers kick)
SJS Dan Light 35-yard interception return (Rodgers kick)

Second quarter
SJS Brendan O’Connor 15-yard pass from Dan Light (Rodgers kick)
Leominster Kevin O’Connor 10-yard pass from Kyle Ford (Kick blocked)
SJS Christian Dulmaine 4-yard pass from Light (Rodgers kick)

Third quarter
SJS Rodgers 15-yard pass from Light (Rodgers kick)
SJS Light 1-yard run (Rodgers kick)

Fourth quarter
Leominster Luis Orellana 3-yard run (Missed kick)

Vassar breaks through as No. 4 SJS rolls

October, 1, 2010
10/01/10
10:29
PM ET




FITCHBURG, Mass. -- Dan Light was the catalyst once again for No. 4 St. John's of Shrewsbury, racking up 279 yards of offense and five touchdowns, but quietly having a solid night himself was the tailback in the Pioneers' no-huddle, shotgun spread offense, senior John Vassar.

The Pioneers rolled easily 56-12 Friday night at Crocker Field to improve to 4-0. But it was the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Vassar who gave St. John's the initial cushion, plunging from 4 yards out for a 14-0 lead, then ripping off a nifty 31-yard scamper for a 21-0 lead just 10 minutes into the first quarter. Coming around the right sideline on an off-tackle run, Vassar made two quick jukes back to the inside, made a quick jump-cut on a Fitchburg defender at the 15, stiff-armed another at the 10, then glided into the end zone.

St. John's led 42-6 at the half over Fitchburg, the No. 3-ranked team in Central Mass.

When asked about the second touchdown scamper, Vassar deferred credit to the offensive line.

"That was the line, they opened up the hole pretty well so I could make a good move on the linebackers," said Vassar, who finished with 70 yards on eight carries. "One on one with [Fitchburg safety Quinton] Perkins, I mean he plays hard. But I guess, I don't know, I think I got pretty lucky on that one. I went low, he went low, and I was surprised I kept my balance."

With the win, the Pioneers are now averaging 42.2 points per game and have outscored the opposition 169-27. Just what kind of statement does this make for the rest of Central Mass.? Head coach John Andreoli wouldn't go there -- "Next week [against Shrewsbury] is all we're caring about right now," he said -- but Vassar said he thinks it made a resounding one.

"We'll play you hard, doesn't matter what you do," Vassar said. "They [Fitchburg] came out and they beat St. Peter-Marian, 24-0 [last week], we just come back and smash them back."

Light, of course, was Light. In the first half, he racked up 151 yards passing with scores of 30 (to Drew Ortone) and 53 yards (to Cal-bound Richard Rodgers), and added 75 yards and two scores on the ground.

"In our spread offense, when you've got five on seven -- they came out in a 3-3, looked like six guys in the box," Andreoli said. "But Danny, we create our offense by spreading guys out and creating the run -- which, you know, he's a bruising runner, and he makes very good decisions with the ball."

Early on, however, Fitchburg's speedy junior Perkins (134 yards of offense, two touchdowns) got into the teeth of the Pioneers' passing game, breaking up several long balls with his coverage over the top at free safety (including a nice breakup of a potential Rodgers touchdown). He made arguably the best run of the night late in the third quarter, taking an option pitch at the right sideline, turning 90 degrees to the opposite field, cutting up right and putting on his 4.5-40 burners, stiff-arming the last defender at the Pioneer 35 and marching to pay dirt.

"Our game plan on defense was to get in his face quickly, not give him any space," Andreoli said of Perkins. "I think our outside linebackers did a really good job, Shaun Burlinson and John Vassar, on the other side when he went in motion. We didn't want to give him the ball in space."

Said Fitchburg head coach Ray Cosenza, "We had some chances, but things just didn't go our way early, and we didn't react well to it. They played awesome. They were clearly better tonight, and we'll have to go back to work."

ST. JOHN'S 56, FITCHBURG 12

SJS 21 21 7 7 --- 56
FIT 0 6 6 0 --- 12

First Quarter
S - Drew Ortone 30 pass from Dan Light (Richard Rodgers kick) 8:32
S - John Vassar 4 run (Rodgers kick) 6:15
S - Vassar 31 run (Rodgers kick) 2:40
Second Quarter
S - Rodgers 53 pass from Light (Rodgers kick) 8:14
S - Light 29 run (Rodgers kick) 6:09
F - Quinton Perkins 5 run (kick blocked) 3:05
S - Light 2 run (Rodgers kick) 0:03
Third Quarter
F - Perkins 63 run (pass failed) 3:02
S - Light 14 run (Rodgers kick) 1:14
Fourth Quarter
S - Sean Wilson 7 run (Sean Gavin kick) 4:31

Light leads No. 4 SJ in rout of No. 16 Longmeadow

September, 19, 2010
9/19/10
5:50
PM ET
SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- Two touchdowns, more than 170 yards of offense by himself, and yet Dan Light was left unsatisfied by his first-half performance -- "It was average," he shrugged.

[+] EnlargeRichard Rodgers
Brendan Hall/ESPNBoston.comCal-bound Richard Rodgers (Rec TD, sack) was a force on both sides of the ball for St. John's.
So he did what, well, few quarterbacks are capable of. In the first 5:42 of the third quarter, the St. John's senior lefty threw for two more scores and ran a third in, to give the No. 4 Pioneers a 37-0 lead over No. 16 Longmeadow. St. John's held on for an easy 37-8 win in front of its red-clad crowd; in the last two meetings, the Pioneers (2-0) have now averaged 39.5 points on the Lancers (1-1).

"I was very happy with that," said the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Light, who finished with 296 yards of offense and five touchdowns. "Especially since the first half, like I said, I wasn't happy. When we come out in the second half, and we get that much separation, it feels good. It means your offense is clicking...everything's clicking, actually."

It didn't take long for the Pioneers to take the lead in this one. They needed just four plays to score on their opening drive, capped with a 55-yard touchdown scamper by Light through the middle of the Lancers' defense, sprung loose with a block from senior Austin Riedel.

A well-fielded punt return gave the Pioneers a starting drive at the Lancer 32 yard line on the first drive of the second quarter, and they capitalized immediately. On the first play, Light tossed a fade to senior Richard Rodgers that was underthrown, but one the Cal-bound wideout easily grabbed out of the air with his 6-foot-5, 235-pound frame.

The Pioneers continued the run with a safety on the Lancers' first possession of the third quarter, with John Vassar bringing down Terry Norris. Junior Efrain Montalvo brought the ensuing punt all the way back to the Lancers' 28, and then hauled in a touchdown pass the next play on a go route from Light.

Montalvo brought Longmeadow's three-and-out punt back to the Lancers 45, and the Pioneers struck again with another one-play scoring drive, this time a fade from Light to Drew Ortone. Montalvo closed things out on the next drive, hauling a 44-yard Light pass at the left sideline to set up a six-yard scoring run from Light.

"The big thing (with Light) is just his size," Longmeadow head coach Alex Rotsko said. "He's such a big, strong kid, so you've got five guys in the box, you're playing 5-on-5, and he's going to run the ball, defensively your guy has to get off his blocker and tackle a guy that's 6-4, 235. That's bigger than most of our linemen. He's not especially elusive, but he runs hard and he's a big kid. He's tough to bring down."

The Pioneers needed just four plays to score three times in the third and put this one essentially in the books.

"We were able to take advantage of some of the matchups, and make some big plays today," St. John's head coach John Andreoli said. "Against a team like this, you've got to score quick, and you've got to establish momentum, because when you have momentum -- particularly on defense, and you can create stops and give the ball to your offense and score quickly -- it kinda takes them out of their game plan a little bit, because they have to score fast to catch up."


NO. 4 ST. JOHN'S 37, NO. 16 LONGMEADOW 8

Long 0 0 8 0 --- 8
SJS 7 7 23 0 --- 37

S - Dan Light 55 run (Richard Rodgers kick)
S - Rodgers 32 pass from Light (Rodgers kick)
S - Safety
S - Efrain Montalvo 28 pass from Light (Rodgers kick)
S - Drew Ortone 45 pass from Light (Rodgers kick)
S - Light 6 run (Rodgers kick)
L - Terry Norris 7 run (Ryan Barry pass from Jacob Lazarus)

Rodgers' little things add up for No. 5 SJS

September, 10, 2010
9/10/10
12:14
PM ET
SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- The football spiraled through the air as long as a punt normally would then hit the grass and made a large thud. It bounced back above a player’s head as he looked at the spot where the ball hit, and then counted back the yard marks to its origin.

"78 yards!" he shouted, to the handful of players left after practice.

Richard Rodgers laughed, smiled and looked back at the face of his St. John’s starting quarterback Dan Light. Light shrugged his shoulders and then playfully poked fun at his tight end because he knew he was beaten.

The competition was for bragging rights, but Rodgers was not going to lose.

That was the mentality that was passed down to him at St. John’s over the past three years. That is the mentality that he wants to pass down.

"When you’re a freshman, sophomore or junior you look up to kids and wonder when you’re going to be in those senior’s shoes," said Rodgers. "Now is that time for us and we need to step up, be leaders for the younger kids and leave our own legacy as a class."

Rodgers, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound wide receiver, committed to the University of California at Berkeley to play football in the fall of 2011. He has been clocked with a 4.6-second 40-yard dash time but because of his size, will play tight end in college.

However, the most impressive aspect about Rodgers is noticed off the field.

If you ask St. John’s head coach John Andreoli about Rodgers' talents on the field, surely he’ll say a few words. But then he’ll tell you about what a stand-up person Rodgers is in the locker room.

"He is a leader on and off the field -- which is really his nature," said Andreoli. "When I look back at the things he’s done over the past four years, what I remember the most, are all the small things that no one sees."

Whether the small things are trying to sit with the freshman basketball team when Rodgers was a starter on varsity as a freshman or just screwing in the facemasks of the helmets of younger players, the tight end has certainly learned how to be mature. While the California-bound senior is hoping for another super bowl win this season, he doesn’t sweat the little things either.

"When I go out on the field I know that a lot of people will know that I am going to Cal and they’re going to try say stuff and get to me like that," said Rodgers about his reputation. "But I just have to make sure I pay attention to the things happening around me and I’ll be fine."

ST. JOHN’S AT A GLANCE
2009
: 10-2, won Central Mass Division 1 Super Bowl
Coach: John Andreoli (seventh year, 54-17)
Key Players: Richard Rodgers, Sr., WR/DE, 6-4, 230 lbs., (49 catches, 722 yards, 17 touchdowns); Dan Light, Sr., QB/DE, 6-4, 235 lbs.; John Vassar, Sr., RB/LB, 5-10, 200 lbs.; Brendan Melanson, Jr., C/DL, 6-3, 230; Tyler Pike, Sr., LT/DT, 6-1, 270 lbs.; Shaun Burlanson, Sr., LB/RB, 5-10, 200 lbs.; Mike Hogan, Sr., LB, 6-0, 210 lbs.; Efraim Montalbo, Jr., WR/PR, 5-8, 160 lbs.
Strengths: Size, Speed
Weaknesses: Inexperience
Outlook: St. John’s is a very strong team. They are once again a favorite in Central Massachusetts, and look to take their talents to the Division 1 Super Bowl again. Although the Pioneers do have a tough schedule, they have the depth to overcome it. While Light does look like he will have a seamless transition from H-back to quarterback, he is still unproven. However, with Rodgers and Montalbo on the outside of the quads package, and Vassar as the running back, the chances are high that the Pioneers will return to the top.

Scrimmage slants: Brockton-St. John's (S)

August, 28, 2010
8/28/10
2:25
PM ET
SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- While teams around the state may have gotten started with football practices on Monday, the unofficial beginning of the season is the annual scrimmage between perennial state powers Brockton and St. John’s of Shrewsbury. This year, the game was up in Shrewsbury, and, as usual, it was a physical affair with some outstanding plays on both sides of the ball for each team.

The first units played four series apiece, and in that span, the host Pioneers scored four touchdowns to Brockton’s two. When the second units took the field, the Boxers held the advantage, scoring twice and keeping St. John’s out of the end zone. Overall, the Pioneers’ starters looked further along at this stage than Brockton’s, but the teams were generally evenly matched.
[+] EnlargeRichard Rodgers
Brendan Hall for ESPN.comSt. John's WR Richard Rodgers was one of several standouts in this morning's scrimmage with Brockton.

Here are some other quick thoughts:

-- Last season, Dan Light came on in relief of starting quarterback Griffin Murphy at times and mostly ran the ball. This year, the senior showed against the Boxers that he can throw the ball, too. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound southpaw throws a beautiful deep ball and can still run over defenders when he scrambles. He threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Richard Rodgers, a 35-yard score to Drew Ortone and rushed for a pair of scores as well.

"It's a process, definitely," Light said of his development throwing the ball. "We have a couple offensive coaches that have told me reads and other things. It's not just get the ball and try and gain 10 yards. It's where is this coverage going to leave open? Where's the holes in this coverage? So, definitely a learning process, but I think we’re picking it up well."

His performance humbled the much-heralded Boxer secondary.

"It’s perfect, because we’'e used to playing against teams that run the ball a lot," said Brockton safety and University of Miami commit Albert Louis-Jean. "The defense was a little confusing, because I had to give help to one side, but I would still have to be on the other side at the same time. But it was a good experience, a good learning experience, a good way to get better."

-- It seems like this is the case every year, but the St. John’' defensive line looks to be a strength once again. At the ends, Light and the 6-4, 235-pound Rodgers make up an athletic pair that will be tough for any offensive line to keep off the edge. The Pioneers are just as strong at tackle, with junior Ryan Anger (6-2, 250) and seniors Michael Abraham (6-1, 200) and Tyler Pike (6-1, 270). Even with the loss of Troy Moore (Bridgton Academy) to graduation, this group has the potential to be better than last year's.

"Last year, we moved (Rodgers) from free safety to defensive end at about Game 7 or 8," said St. John’s coach John Andreoli of his standout senior, who has offers from Boston College, Notre Dame and a host of Pac-10 schools. "He makes so many plays even when he’s not in the stat sheet. You look at him, he tips balls, he causes rushes in passes. He’s a very tough guy to block on the edge because he’s very athletic. We feel like if we can stop the run and bounce the ball to him and Light, that’s going to be a good situation for us. It’s tough to block him coming off the edge."

-- Although St. John's mostly worked on its passing game, teams would be mistaken to overlook senior running back John Vassar. The 5-10, 200-pounder runs with a nice, downhill burst and had several nice gains on the first Pioneers' series. If defenses empty the box against the potent St. John's passing attack, Vassar will be add an extra dimension to an already-explosive offense.

-- As for the Boxers, the situation at quarterback is a little bit more muddled at this point, with no clear starter being named by coach Peter Colombo yet. Sophomore Austin Roberts got most of the reps with the first team, but senior Paul Mroz also got his fair share. Another sophomore, Micah Morel, also had a series with the ones. Both Roberts and Mroz led the Boxers on touchdown drives that ended with 16-yard scampers by senior running back Trevon Offley. Don’t be surprised to see more than one signal-caller under center this season for the Boxers.

"Three good athletes and they all bring a little bit (something) different to the table," Colombo said. "I thought they all made their mistakes. They’re all young in terms of varsity experience, so there’s a learning curve. I think you saw Micah is going to be a great young quarterback. He had good velocity for a sophomore. Auggie (Roberts) threw it pretty good at times. I think he runs the option the best and Paul is your drop-back guy. The problem with that is you can’t get good at three different things.

"For right now, it's Auggie and Paul," he added. "But I still think Auggie's got control of the offense the best. But I wouldn’t be afraid to use Paul against certain teams in certain situations. He’s a senior. He’s the only one that’s that age. So there’s a maturity physically that he has. So we’ll see."

-- Brockton's offensive line looks better than it did at this time a year ago with four starters returning. Even against a quality front like St. John’s, the Boxers were able to create some nice running lanes for Offley and junior Josh Brewster. Offley, in particular, looks even faster than he did last fall and still has the lower-body strength to break free from those foolish enough to try and arm-tackle him.

"He's got to have the ball," Colombo said. "And when he does, good luck trying to tackle him. The line is coming together, and we have to get better every day."

-- No matter who takes over at quarterback, he will have a deep and talented group of receivers to work with. Louis-Jean made several nice grabs, including a 70-yarder for a touchdown from Roberts that was called back on a questionable offensive pass interference penalty. However, the player that may have been the biggest surprise was junior Jerrod Shelby. At 6-foot-4 with excellent hands, Shelby came in with the second unit and looked like a man among boys, finishing with a 40-yard catch and run for a score.

"I think this confirms that I’ve got to get him on the field with the starting quarterbacks, as well," Colombo said of Shelby. "We've got a bunch of kids like that, like Albert and (6-4 junior) Carl Joseph, who’s out from the basketball team. (Joseph’s) raw, he’s learning, but he could help us, too, before it’s over. So, we’ll see."

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