Boston High School: Johnny Falcone

Versatility, athleticism key for No. 18 Longmeadow

August, 23, 2013
Longmeadow High School has one of the most tradition-rich programs in the Commonwealth.

With a record 19 Super Bowl appearances and 13 Super Bowl victories, the Lancers have storied history that seems to grow every year. This year's Lancer squad will look to get the program to its 17th consecutive Super Bowl, but with a new playoff system and 15 starters to replace, it will be a long road to Gillette for Longmeadow.

Still, returning running back Max Chipouras believes the talent, and will, is in place to improve upon last season's Division 1 Western Mass. Super Bowl loss to Springfield Central.

"We have a saying, 'Tradition doesn't graduate'," Chipouras said. "Obviously we lost a lot from last year, but I feel like we can bounce back. We've been working hard to fill all the spots that we lost, and I think we’re looking good."

One major spot on Longmeadow's offense where change is evident is the offensive line. Gone are four starters from a line that averaged nearly 270 pounds across in 2012, and in their place are smaller, more nimble players that coach Nick St. George hopes will be able to pull and trap in his Wing-T scheme.

The lone returnee on the offensive line is a good one. Senior captain Mike Scuderi moves from left tackle to right tackle this year in hopes of sparking Longmeadow's feared ground game, and he believes a smaller line could be an advantage for the Lancers.

"Last year out line was a lot bigger and those guys where experienced, they had all started since they were sophomores," Scuderi said. "But we've got some juniors stepping in, and they're great athletes that are going to step up like everybody else… Our guards are going to be all over the field, and we're going to mix some things up. It all starts with the line."

"We have some really athletic kids playing line now," coach Nick St. George said. "This offense looks a little bit different when we're smaller up front, but we think we have some guys that can really run and want to block people."

While it may start up front for Longmeadow, there is also the question of who will run behind that line in the Lancer Wing-T. Chipouras seems to have locked down one of the running back spots, but all other spots in the backfield, including the quarterback position, appear to be open.

Senior Connor Ostrander started at quarterback during last season's playoffs due to an injury to now graduated Frankie Elder, but he will be pushed by classmates Johnny Falcone and Mike Metcalf for the starting job. Whoever wins the job, the other two will be plenty busy, as Metcalf has been working in at corner and Ostrander and Falconne have each gotten to carry the ball in other capacities.

"We're going to focus really hard on putting the best 11 players on the field that we feel can help us win," St. George said. "If a player is not one of our starters at one position, he very well may be at another position. We have good athletes, and we are going to utilize them to the best of our ability."

Coach: Nick St. George (2nd Year, 10-4 overall)
Last Season: 10-4, lost in Div.1 West Super Bowl
Returning Starters: Six (Three offense, three defense)
Key Returnees: Max Chipouras, Sr. RB/DB, Connor Ostrander, Sr. QB/DB, Mike Scuderi, Sr. OL/DL, Johnny Falcone, Sr. QB/RB,
Strengths: Athleticism on both lines and experience in the offensive backfield
Weaknesses: Inexperience, depth and size up front.
Overview: Longmeadow has long been the premier program in Western Mass, but the Lancers enter 2013 with many questions to answer and a ton to prove. If they can find a quarterback or two to run the Wing-T, and get things sorted out along with offensive line, this team has the speed and talent to make some noise. But a lack of size up front on both sides could hurt the Lancers, and coach St. George is still deciding what defensive front the team will run. With Springfield Central poised for another big year, Longmeadow enters the season in an unusual position: Flying under the radar.

Recap: No. 9 Central 21, No. 16 'Meadow 14

October, 13, 2012

LONGMEADOW, Mass. -– When Ju’uan Williams was asked to slide into the quarterback role in place of his suspended star cousin two weeks ago, a position he hadn’t played since the fourth grade, he didn’t just serve for Springfield Central. He flat out dazzled, putting up over 200 yards from scrimmage in a blowout of East Longmeadow.

Tonight, amidst a 14-all deadlock with rival Longmeadow, with the ball in field goal range and 15 seconds left in regulation, Williams didn’t just bring in the play from the sidelines, a power-option right out of a two-back shotgun look aimed at simply moving the ball to the right hash mark for roughly a 30-yard field goal attempt.

No, it’s never as simple as just that with these Central kids. Somebody’s always got to make it interesting.

Williams brought the play into the huddle, told his linemen “Leave it all on the field”, then proceeded to cut back the opposite way from that intended hash mark to paydirt, a 15-yard scamper with six seconds left, to give the Golden Eagles (5-1) a dramatic 21-14 comeback win over Longmeadow that folks on Roosevelt Ave. will surely be talking about for a while.

It’s the second year in a row the Eagles have beaten the Lancers (4-2) in the regular season, having won 21-20 last October in equally-dramatic fashion. But it was also a revenge game; the Lancers rolled Central, 35-7, in the rematch at Gillette Stadium last December for the Division 1 West Super Bowl title.

“This game was personal,” said tight end Luis Ortiz. “We came out here, we fought, and we give it to our big men [the offensive line]. Without them, we can’t do anything.”

Williams (16 carries, 68 yards, TD; 8-of-14, 129 yards, 2 TD) was equally deferential to the trench, where linemen like Ishmael Figueroa and Shawn Lee seemed to get more push as time elapsed.

“The hogs were working to get the outside,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without them, and everyone that was blocking for me.”

But really, this was about a team collectively making a statement with its two biggest stars on the sideline. Quarterback Cody Williams, the cousin of Ju’uan, served the second of a two-game suspension tonight for his involvement in a fight on the field two weeks ago. Two-way lineman Shawn Lockett, a preseason ESPN Boston All-State selection, hobbled off the field in the game’s opening series, re-aggravating the ankle injury that has already kept him out of three games this season.

And the way this game started off made one wonder for a second if this was going to get out of hand. The Lancers opened the game with a 10-minute, 16-play, 72-yard drive, punctuated with a one-yard sneak by quarterback Johnny Falcone on fourth and goal. Central’s ensuing drive ended after three minutes thanks to Frankie Elder’s tip-drill interception, and the Lancers put together another monster drive. This one went 91 yards and nearly six minutes, capped again with a one-yard sneak by Falcone.

The Eagles responded on the ensuing drive with the first of two well-timed touchdown strikes from Ju’uan to receiver Tejano Smith (3 catches, 31 yards, 2 TD). Facing third and goal from the five, Smith crashed to the back left pylon on a smash route and hauled it in easily amid single-coverage.

After some struggles in the third quarter, Central got a good break early in the fourth when Lancers fullback Austin Sierra (13 carries, 90 yards) fumbled the ball at his own 40 yard line, and Kenneth Marshall quickly pounced on it and rolled out of bounds.

A half-dozen plays later, Smith came up with the play of the night, this time rolling to the right back pylon as Ju’uan threw a high knuckler that came off his fingertips looking like it was going to sail over the back line. But Smith came down with it, diving with about a foot of real estate to go and getting a foot in before rolling out of bounds. That tied the game at 14 with 6:31 to go.

After forcing a three-and-out on the next series, Central took the ball at its own 30 with 4:04 to go, and Ju’uan did the rest, leading them on a nine-play, 70-yard drive using a mix of spread and offset power-I looks out of the no-huddle and punching it in with his 15-yard change-of-direction rush.

The Education of Ju’uan: Ju’uan Williams last played quarterback in fourth grade before this current stint, and naturally it wasn’t a totally polished effort tonight, veiling play-fakes thinly and sometimes overthrowing his intended receiver, which ended up costly at least once (Elder had a second tip-drill pick negated on a roughing the passer penalty).

Tonight, Ju’uan was at his best seemingly when he was at his most unpredictable, taking off on scrambles or rolling out to his right and leading a short crossing receiver with some soft touch. He has worn many hats so far in his time with the Eagles, and will probably wear many more, but the one overarching theme with it all is speed.

With Cody Williams under center, the Eagles have a more balanced attack, able to drop back rather than play on the run. But with Ju’uan under center, it’s a unique look, essentially putting 11 on 11 with the added threat of extending the play with his feet.

“We’re spreading the receivers out, and if Ju’uan doesn’t see anyone open, he just runs,” Smith said. “He can run it. He can run it.”

You can darn well bet Ju’uan has been consulting his cousin Cody a lot these past two weeks -– “It’s been amazing, he’s been there every step of the way,”. But with Cody coming off his suspension and resuming his role under center this week comes potentially a new added ripple. All that time with the scout team has taught Brower a few more things about Cody’s ability.

“He was scout safety [these past two weeks], and we found out he can play a little safety,” Brower said of Cody Williams. “He was excited about that. He made the scout defense pretty competitive.”

Underrated? Asked about the play calls on Smith’s two touchdown grabs, Brower chuckled, “25 T.J. Smith.”

It’s easy to overlook Smith, listed comfortably at 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds. But he seems to be acutely aware of the spacing he has to work with, how he’ll exploit it, and seems to have this intuitive nose for making worthwhile athletic plays.

Take his second touchdown, for instance, a ball that appeared to be overthrown at first glance. Whereas some may have slowed up when seeing the ball, Smith accelerated to get under it, then laid out with a few short steps to go. Smith told reporters of the catch, “It just came to me, really,” saying he just wanted to get underneath the ball and let his feet come along for the ride.

“Ju’uan threw a knuckleball, and I had to adjust to it,” Smith said. “It came out of the dark, but it was a good throw.”

“He’s a great athlete, man,” Brower said. “He studies a lot of film, and he studies a lot of different things. He just loves football, loves football, and he’s a great athlete. The kid high-jumps 5-11 and he’s about 5-4. He’s just a little freak.

“So, you can’t really teach that stuff. He kinda just does it in practice, you know, it just kind of comes natural to him. He’s just a good athlete.”

Good athlete, but underrated? Smith seems to carry a chip on his shoulder. When asked about how he got open on his two touchdown catches, he veered off onto one of his favorite topics.

“They went man, and honestly, I think I’m one of the best in Western Mass.,” he smiled, adding with a laugh, “But I guess I’m underrated.”