Boston High School: Jon Baker

NATICK, Mass. – The name Flutie is synonymous with Boston College. But it wasn’t just family lineage which led Natick’s Troy Flutie to the Eagles and Steve Addazio’s program.

“Meeting with him the first time, I was just like, ‘Wow, this guy is awesome!’” Flutie said of Addazio.

[+] EnlargeFlutie
Scott Barboza/ESPNReigning ESPN Boston Mr. Football award winner Troy Flutie signed his national letter of intent to Boston College this week.
The Redhawks quarterback and this year’s ESPN Boston Mr. Football award winner is part of a large haul of homegrown talent headed to the Heights in the 2014 recruiting class. This year, the greatest number of Eagles recruits came from the Commonwealth with seven, ahead of New Jersey’s six.

The commitment to seeking out talent around the home base has become a priority for BC under Addazio – or “building a fence” around in-state prospects as he’s termed it. Looking to revitalize local interest in the program, the effort has created a twofold benefit for Massachusetts’ recruits, such as Flutie. Not only has it created greater opportunities for the state’s football elite to play and stay close to home, it has gone a long way to reestablishing its roots in the area.

“I think it’s real important for BC to recruit around here because I think, for a while, they lost that for a couple years previous to Coach Adazzio,” Flutie said Friday, “and I think he really wanted to bring that back and make BC really feel like a community with a lot of Massachusetts guys representing.”

After Wednesday’s National Letter of Intent signing at Natick High was snowed out, the school hosted a celebration in honor of its signees, with soccer standout Haley Reddish (Bryant University) joining Flutie for a photo-op on Friday. The moment was strictly ceremonial though, as both athletes had already submitted their paperwork at the beginning of the signing period on Wednesday.

Flutie enjoyed a historic season in his senior year, breaking state records in career touchdown passes (112), career passing years (9,014) and single-season passing touchdowns (47).

However, Flutie’s role with the Eagles is to be determined. Recruited first as a wide receiver, the 6-foot, 178-pounder should also see time with BC’s quarterbacks this summer.

Addazio mentioned Flutie by name when outlining the competition at quarterback during a conference call with reporters on Signing Day.

“We had Troy in camp and he’s just got ‘it,’” Addazio said earlier this week. “He’s a guy that has a knack for anticipating guys being open. He’s got a really unbelievable confidence about him. And he’s just got that demeanor that’s got leadership to it. He’s a dynamic athlete.”

Flutie was listed on BC’s Signing Day materials as a “quarterback/athlete.”

Whether Troy Flutie will follow in the footsteps of Heisman-winning uncle, Doug, at quarterback or his father, Darren, at wide receiver with the Eagles, the youngest member of Massachusetts football’s first family is only focused on contributing.

“It’s a nice opportunity that I have to play quarterback or wide receiver, I just want to get on the field as quick as possible,” Troy Flutie said.

Flutie stressed the importance of learning Ryan Day’s offense as his primary goal. He spoke of the opportunity to learn the ropes under Florida graduate transfer Tyler Murphy as a tremendous help.

“Realistically, I’ll play wherever I can get on the field the quickest and where they need me as a team. Wherever they want me to play, I’ll play. Anything I can do to help the team, I’ll do – if it’s wide receiver, quarterback, special teams, I’ll do it.”

For now, Flutie’s biggest priority is working out in preparation for June’s camp. He’s given up basketball this winter to spend more time in the gym, but plans to play one last season of baseball.

He’s learned of the vigor of the Eagles’ strength program from midyear signees Jon Baker (Millis/Hopedale) and Isaac Yiadom (Doherty). The Eagles’ Massachusetts contingent has already formed a kinship.

“We all went to the official visit together and we really bonded,” Flutie said. “We’re all very close right now and I can’t wait to get there with them and spending those next four years, maybe five, with them.”

M/H's Baker looks to stay hungry at BC

November, 1, 2013
11/01/13
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MILLS, Mass. – Jon Baker’s hungry.

Obviously, with a 6-foot-3, 305-pound frame to support, it’s a common problem for the Millis/Hopedale football lineman. After the hulking senior Boston College commit signed an early National Letter of Intent Friday morning in Millis High’s library, officially marking his arrival at the Heights next season, all that was on his mind was grabbing a bite to eat.

“Getting this done, there’s a lot of weight off my shoulders,” Baker said. “Everything’s done, there’s no messing around. Plans have obviously changed, it’ll be a little bit tougher, but nothing too big has changed.”

[+] EnlargeJon Baker
Scott Barboza/ESPNBoston.comMillis/Hopedale senior OL/DL signed an early letter of intent Friday to play at Boston College next year and has enrolled for the spring semester.
Baker would have had more on his plate Friday, as his Mohawks prepared to take on Mashpee in an MIAA Division 6 South sectional playoff game, if not for a season-ending knee injury. During M/H’s Tri-Valley League game against Bellingham two weeks ago, Baker suffered a right anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear.

As a result, Baker’s priorities have shifted to rehabbing and getting back on the field as soon as possible to join his new Eagles teammates. He’s undergoing surgery on Monday, but with the peace of mind, knowing he now is signed and sealed to BC, Baker’s ready for the next chapter of his life.

“Sooner I get it done,” Baker said of the surgery, “the sooner I get back to practice and get back to playing.”

Mohawks head coach Dale Olmsted called Baker “a professional” during Friday’s gathering, citing his ambition and attention to detail. That’s carried Baker through his high school career, and it’s no coincidence that he’s accelerated his transition to college. Baker will graduate in December and is enrolled for the spring semester at BC (allowing him to sign his Letter early) and, aside from his rehabilitation, he’ll get a head start on his course work.

It’s emblematic of his approach on the field as well.

“The minute he went down with the injury, he looked up at me and said, ‘What if I just play offense?’” Olmsted said.

Expectations at Chestnut Hill are high for Baker. In his talks with BC’s coaching staff, Olmsted made mention that the Eagles staff believes Baker is among of the top incoming interior offensive linemen in the country.

Baker, who projects to work at guard and center with the Eagles, is simply thrilled to get to work with Steve Addazio and his staff.

“This new staff is amazing,” Baker said. “Just what they’ve managed to do this season, they haven’t really had any of the guys they’ve recruited come in, but they’ve managed to turn things around. I love the style of play they have and I look forward to getting in there and working with them.

“And, it’s close to home, so that’s great.”

Baker also had offers from Michigan State, Rutgers, Temple, UConn, UMass, Harvard, Yale, Old Dominion and Holy Cross, but it’s BC’s long-served reputation as a lineman factory that he’s hoping to reestablish.

“It was O-line U,” Baker said of the Eagles’ long lineage of linemen to play in the NFL.

If he stays hungry, he might just join them.

Roundtable: Predicting MIAA Football District Champs

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
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EDITOR'S NOTE: Picks for Western Mass. are omitted, as the district concludes its final week of regular season this weekend)

Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


Division 1 North: Everett
Plain and simple, I just don’t see John DiBiaso getting outcoached in this field.

Division 1 South: Attleboro
One of several surprise picks I’m going to lay down here. The Blue Bombardiers’ program has long been a sleeping giant, and they’ve finally awoken this fall with a slew of skilled athletes, including quarterback Tim Walsh, tight end Luke Morrison, receiver Brenden Massey and promising young two-way lineman Kyle Murphy. The key may be junior Damon Belin, a speedy pass-catching running back who is elusive in space.

Division 2 North: Haverhill
Hard to think just two years after an 0-11 campaign, the Hillies are the No. 1 seed in a playoff tournament. Sophomore running back Ian Kessel, one of the area’s leaders in yards from scrimmage, has been at the forefront of the renaissance, and I expect him to have a breakout campaign this next month.

Division 2 South: Natick
If there is one player capable of carrying his team on his back, it is quarterback Troy Flutie, who has put up video game numbers yet again (2,500-plus yards, 35 TD) with an assortment of supporting cast members.

Division 2 Central: Leominster
This is the most talented team of Dave Palazzi’s tenure, and it may be his best coaching job yet. They are not the most physically intimidating team, but they are one of the most disciplined, and they squeeze every inch out of their talents, led by dual threat QB Neil O’Connor. The Blue Devils brought the biggest crowd ever to Gillette Stadium two years ago. I can only imagine what kind of caravan from this football-mad city would show up this year.

Division 3 Northeast: Tewksbury
There may be some bumps in the road in this field, but at the end of the day there isn’t a team as deep as the Redmen in this field. They were the most dominant team in the MVC this season, and with a stable of running backs led by James Sullivan and Eddie Matovu, along with a scheme that draws formations from seemingly every family of offense throughout history, I just don’t see how anyone knocks these guys off.

Division 3 Northwest: Arlington
Two Dubzinskis are better than one, and the father-son duo of head coach John Jr. and his father John Sr. as defensive coordinator has taken the Middlesex by storm this fall after showing promise a year ago. I don’t know what direction this bracket is headed in, but the Spy Ponders are a safe pick.

Division 3 Southeast: Plymouth South
As long as Dylan Oxsen is carrying the rock, I don’t see anyone but the Panthers taking this bracket. It’s a different story after that, though.

Division 3 Southwest: Walpole
The Rebels’ ground game has come along well, after hitting a few bumps. As long as the defense can hold up, their multi-dimensional stable of backs can do the rest.

Division 4 North: Bedford
Another field that can go in an assortment of directions, the ground game dictated by Olan Abner could be the difference.

Division 4 South: Dennis-Yarmouth
The Dolphins typically hit their stride in the second half of the season, and the way this offense is clicking, it’s going to take a flawless defensive performance to shut down Spencer Tyler, Michael Dunn and company.

Division 4 Central: Doherty
Twitter follower and familiar 98.5 The Sports Hub caller “Aidan From Worcester” guarantees Shepherd Hill beats Doherty in this bracket. The Rams are a dangerous bunch, but the Highlanders have arguably the best grouping of pure athletes statewide across Division 4, so I'm sticking to my gut.

Division 5 North: Bishop Fenwick
Rufus Rushins gets much of the glory in this dominant run for the Crusaders, and deservedly so, but quarterback Nick Bona is the catalyst of this offense, and will be the difference in a close game somewhere down the line.

Division 5 South: Abington
The Green Wave lost some key bodies to start the year, but have been rolling ever since, capped with a convincing 36-7 rout of East Bridgewater. The versatile backfield of Al Freeman, Jason Halpin, quarterback Bryan Dwyer and promising sophomore Shawn Donovan will wear front sevens down.

Division 5 Central: Leicester
Tom Rodrick has been the driving force on both sides of the ball, but quarterback Drew Mazzeo puts the Wolverines over the top.

Division 6 North: Latin Academy
There are trendier picks in this field, such as Boston Cathedral, but the Dragons have one of the better overall athletes in this field in quarterback/safety Kyle Dance. He will be the difference.

Division 6 South: Upper Cape
Mike Hernon has done a fantastic job with this program, and while the Rams are a low seed headed into this wide-open field, Jon Dumont is a dangerous asset to this triple-option scheme who can take them deep.

Division 6 Central: Blackstone Valley Tech
Nic Wojnar is as elusive with his feet as he is throwing the ball in the Beavers’ read option scheme. Expect big numbers from the senior this postseason.

***

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


DIVISION 1 NORTH: Lowell
I’ve gone on record since the summertime months saying the Red Raiders are making an appearance at Gillette Stadium this year. Lowell has a tough road there, staring with a first-round road game at St. John’s Prep in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 swing matchup, but I’ve like the strides this defense has made behind Alex Quintero and Shyheim Cullen.

DIVISION 2 NORTH: Haverhill
One of the tougher races to project in Eastern Mass., the Hillies enter as the No. 1 seed. Preseason favorite Reading, a buzz worthy Waltham team and old stalwarts Lincoln-Sudbury could all claim the prize, but I’m going with the upstart Hillies, vindication for the terrific job Tim O’Connor has done since taking over the program.

DIVISION 3 NORTHEAST: Tewksbury
Marblehead might have the best athlete in the field with two-sport standout Brooks Tyrrell, but Tewksbury proves too much to handle, with a three-headed rushing attack and a stout defense.

DIVISION 3 NORTHWEST: Melrose
The Red Raiders lone loss of the regular season came against Middlesex Freedom division rival Wakefield, coming on a late field goal, but I like Melrose the second time around. The teams couldn’t meet until the sectional final and who wouldn’t love ensuring a third meeting of the season by Thanksgiving rivals.

DIVISION 4 NORTH: Watertown
Perhaps a surprise pick coming out of the division, the Red Raiders have some athletes on the boundaries with T.J. Hairston. I think Bedford might be the team to watch here, but just playing a hunch.

DIVISION 5 NORTH: Bishop Fenwick
Pick the Crusaders to go all the way, on a tear through Gillette. They haven’t just beaten teams, they’ve annihilated the CCL’s best, including St. Mary’s (first-round opponent) and Austin Prep, which they both will/can see down the road.

DIVISION 6 NORTH: Cathedral
Another North-based team I have running the field. As I mentioned earlier in the state championship Roundtable, I think the Panthers are just hitting their stride now. This could be the second championship of more to come.

DIVISION 1 SOUTH: Xaverian
Almost wanted to pull the trigger and go with Bridgewater-Raynham here, but I think the Hawks’ defense, which has carried them through the regular season, continues to be the story in the postseason, leading them to Gillette.

DIVISION 2 SOUTH: Mansfield
If this were the World Cup, this would be referred to as the “Group of Death.” Seriously, whichever team survives this gauntlet will be battle-tested. Ever since Week 1, it seems as though Mansfield’s been a team of destiny; they follow through.

DIVISION 3 SOUTHEAST: Plymouth South
An intriguing bracket, littered with some of the Atlantic Coast League’s finest, so look no further than the Panthers, the league’s playoff representative from last season. Nauset and Plymouth North are lurking, but also don’t look past an underrated rivalry game between Somerset-Berkley and Dighton-Rehoboth as a first-round appetizer.

DIVISION 3 SOUTHWEST: Oliver Ames
Another division strongly influenced by the presence of one particular league, in this case the Hockomock. OA and Stoughton drew the top two seeds, but let’s not sleep on No. 4 seed North Attleborough, which plays up in the Kelley-Rex division. Whichever team emerges from the Red Rocketeers’ first-round duel with Walpole could be a dark horse for the sectional title.

DIVISION 4 SOUTH: Westwood
Tons of Tri-Valley League talent to go around here, but I’m sticking with the regular-season champion. It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if Dennis-Yarmouth wears the sectional crown, but the Wolverines are a team that simply seems to get it done when the chips are on the table, led by dynamic senior quarterback Bo Berluti.

DIVISION 5 SOUTH: Cardinal Spellman
Old Rochester Regional enters the tournament with the No. 1 seeding, having posted some gaudy offensive numbers throughout the year behind running back Richie Phillips. I picked the Cardinals to win the state title from the start of the season, and while I like Fenwick a little more in terms of the state championship, I still envision Spellman returning to Gillette.

DIVISION 6 SOUTH: Millis/Hopedale
Perhaps no injury will have a greater impact on the outlook of the division than that of the Mohawks and lineman Jon Baker. Granted, I still like M/H’s chances emerging from a wide-open field, thanks to running back Chris Ahl. That being said, the Mohawks’ first-round date with Mashpee could determine the sectional champion.

DIVISION 2 CENTRAL: Leominster
I like the Blue Devils to advance to Gillette, but the sectional field is fraught with peril, too. Marlborough and St. John’s (Shrewsbury) can score with the best of them, but I don’t think anything short of an act of god slows down the Leominster caravan.

DIVISION 4 CENTRAL: Doherty
From season’s start, I’ve tabbed the Highlanders as my statewide Division 4 championship favorite. However, the toughest matchup in the path might very well in their first-round test against No. 6 seed Quabbin.

DIVISION 5 CENTRAL: Leicester
Coming into the season, it would have been easy to project Auburn running away with another championship of sorts, but I’m going with the No. 1-seeded Wolverines, led by linebacker Tom Rodrick – a strong Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

DIVISION 6 CENTRAL: West Boylston
This is a case of what have you done for me lately? While No. 1 seed Littleton rolled through its Mid-Wach schedule undefeated, scoring at a clip of nearly 43 points per game, West Boylston notched a thorough win over previously mentioned Leicester two weeks ago. Granted, the Lions’ lone loss of the season came at the hands of Littleton, but after a one-possession loss in Week 1, I’m banking on the second meeting having a different outcome.

Leftover quick-hit thoughts from the weekend

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
12:38
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Some leftover quick-hit thoughts from last weekend's action of football:

1a. If St. John's Prep running back Johnathan Thomas -- who left the second half of Saturday's game against Everett with a knee injury -- is out for any extended period of time, the Eagles might be in trouble. Much of the offense funnels through Thomas, and with plays like this it's easy to see why. In my 10 years covering high school football in Massachusetts, I have no problem saying he is the best I've ever seen.

If there's a silver lining, it's that this could open things up for two promising juniors on the perimeter, receiver Owen Rocket and tight end Jake Burt. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Burt has a high ceiling of potential, even drawing comparisons to Prep legend Jon Loyte, and has been a matchup problem in the short to intermediate passing game thus far. Rocket is a smooth route-runner, able to weave in and out of traffic and exploit coverage holes.

You obviously cannot replace a special kid like Thomas, but perhaps this could make the Eagles more unpredictable.

1b. It now bears asking. If Thomas -- who seemed to be running away with the ESPN Boston Mr. Football award at his current clip -- is out for the considerable future, is the race for title of the state's best player wide open again? Lots of names to consider here, most notably Springfield Central quarterback Cody Williams, Natick quarterback Troy Flutie, Leominster quarterback Neil O'Connor, Plymouth South running back Dylan Oxsen, and Millis/Hopedale two-way lineman Jon Baker.

2. An historic year for Mansfield continues to get better, as they ascend to the No. 1 spot in our statewide poll for the first time in our four seasons of coverage. As impressive as the North Attleborough win was, the upset of Baltimore-area powerhouse Dunbar continues to strengthen with the passing weeks. As Dave Redding points out on Mansfield football's website, (www.mansfieldfootball.org) since losing to Mansfield on Sept. 6, the Poets have won three straight outscored their opposition 136-18.

3a. If you missed the thrilling conclusion to the Fitchburg-St. John's of Shrewsbury battle on Saturday afternoon, you missed one of the best endings to a high school football game in years. Fitchburg quarterback Darius Flowers hit Manny Payton for a 16-yard touchdown strike with 13 seconds to go, then tailback Julio Gonzalez ran in the two-point try to give the Red Raiders a 15-14 lead. The ensuing kickoff, a high-hopping squib, was then returned 65 yards to the house by Mike McGillicuddy for walk-off 20-15 Pioneers win.

I'm not sure Fitchburg has endured a special teams heartbreak like that since the 1994 Division 1 Super Bowl, when North Middlesex pulled off a Boise State-esque fake punt for the 50-yard game-winning touchdown run, a play forever known in Central Mass. folklore as simply the "Norman Special".

3b. If there's anything to take away from that game, besides the incredible gumption of McGillicuddy, it's that much like Barnstable in Division 2 South, Fitchburg is not a team you want to draw in the first round of Division 2 Central action. Their defensive front four is impressive, and they controlled the line of scrimmage against St. John's for much of the afternoon.

4. There's a lot of talk early in the ISL season about running backs and linebackers, but keep an eye on Belmont Hill junior quarterback Harry Kraft. He had a field day on Saturday in a 38-11 win over Groton, completing 17 of 27 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns, and running in a fifth score.

5. A year ago, I mentioned the Cape & Islands area as an area of particular interest for under-the-radar talent, with a number of prospects earning Division 1 roster spots: Nantucket's Terrel Correia (UMass), Nauset's Derrick and Nathan Holmes (Rhode Island) and Dakota Girard (Brown), Mashpee's Jordan Keli'inui and Zak Orcutt (UMass), Dennis-Yarmouth's Joe Tyo (UMass) and Barnstable's Nick Peabody (Princeton), Andrew Ellis (UMass) and D.J. Crook (Penn State).

The Cape appears to be brewing again. Barnstable receiver/cornerback Derek Estes is one of the state's breakout stars of the first half of the season, making back-breaking plays on both sides of the ball in upsets of BC High and Xaverian. Two of his teammates, running back/safety Hayden Murphy and quarterback Kristian Lucashensky, deserve some praise for the way they've improved since the season-opening rout by D-Y.

Further down Route 6, keep an eye on two prospects from the lowest classification of MIAA football, Division 6. Defending D5 Super Bowl champ Upper Cape Tech is looking good with its flex offense, and at the forefront is Jon Dumont, who had 26 carries for 216 yards and four touchdowns in Saturday's win over Nantucket. At Pope John Paul II, they might have one of the most unheralded 2015 prospects in quarterback Ryan Barabe. Through four games the 6-foot-4, 175-pound Yarmouth resident is among the state's most efficient passers, completing 68 percent of his throws for 776 yards and eight touchdowns to just one interception. A good chunk of the Lions' plays involve option routes for their receivers, which to me demonstrates a lot of maturity when you consider Barabe's completion percentage.

Recap: East Bridgewater 28, No. 25 Millis/Hopedale 21

September, 15, 2013
9/15/13
12:11
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BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- When the Millis-Hopedale football team played against East Bridgewater at Bridgewater Raynham on Saturday, just about every player looked ready for a knockdown, drag out kind of tussle, in which they peppered each other with jab after jab looking for the eventual win.

East Bridgewater's Owen Harrington looked more the part of a prize fighter with knockout power as the Vikings slipped past the Mohawks, 28-21.

The Mohawks landed the first blow, marching nine plays in just under five minutes to score on the opening drive. After Chris Ahl opened the game with a 24-yard return, Millis/Hopedale used a steady running attack to grind down the field. Quarterback Sean Heffernan threw his first pass of the day on a third-and-goal from the three, connecting with Joe Caretta for a touchdown.

East Bridgewater didn't need nearly the time of possession, nor total plays to tie things up, because Harrington took the ensuing kickoff 83 yards straight up the middle of the field for the game-tying score.

"That was an absolute backbreaker for us," said Mohawks coach Dale Olmstead. "We had a great drive moving down the field to score, and we really thought we had punched them a bit, but he punched right back."

M/H used the remainder of of the first quarter to set up its next score, as they put together another marathon drive, finishing the quarter still with the ball - meaning EB didn't run an offensive play in the first.

Heffernan connected with Sager Dasai for a 24-yard touchdown pass to open the second quarter, on the 10th play of the drive.

After a touchback, EB quarterback Mike Kelly authored an impressive response for the Vikings. For the next 8:30, the Vikings matriculated the ball toward the other end, finally hitting pay-dirt on a 2-yard dive to cap a 15-play drive.

Kelly finished the day with 50 rushing yards on seven carries, and was a perfect 2-for-2 passing, including an impressive 16-yard heave to Jake Pierce with just two minutes to go on a long third down.

"Mike ran the offense very well, I'm very happy with him," EB head coach Shawn Tarpey said. "He did just what I wanted him to do - take what they give you, make a couple plays in the pass game, get north and south and don't try to do much. He did all of that today."

The Mohawks maneuvered the ball back into the Vikings' red zone before halftime, falling short of a score when the drive halted at the 9-yard line. When the teams reached the locker room, the score was knotted at 13 and M/H had out-gained EB, 188-70, on offense.

Harrington made the yardage look a lot more even, while unevening the scoreboard on just the second play of the second half. He took a handoff toward the right hash mark, and by the time he hit the line of a scrimmage a big hole had formed. He plunged through and never looked back, racing 61 yards for a score.

Even the heavy hitting of Harrington couldn't knock off M/H right there, and the Mohawks followed with another impressive and lengthy drive that culminated in a score by Ahl. A 2-point conversion was successful, and M/H grabbed a 21-20 lead.

After the kickoff, Harrington needed just one play to remind everyone what he was capable of. He dashed 63 yards to the Vikings back ahead, this time for good. A 2-point conversion made it a seven point game.

"We've had some stud players, and maybe Owen is going to be one of those guys," Tarpey said. "I'm not going to anoint him that just yet, but he had a great game. The thing is, he's worked his butt off and he's really wanted this. I can't say enough about him."

EB sealed the win in the final minute when Sean Pierce, who had a game-high nine tackles, intercepted a pass just past midfield. A knee by Kelly ran the remaining seconds off the clock.

Harrington finished with 166 rushing yards on 16 carries, and had 100 return yards to go with his three scores in the win against a team led by Jon Baker, a supremely talented lineman headed for Boston College next year.

"Our O-line was pretty amazing, especially on how they handled Baker. I just saw big holes and went right through," Harrington said. "I'll definitely be thanking the offensive line for what they did out there."

2014 Mass. Football Player Rankings Updated

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
1:37
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ESPNU has updated its player rankings for the Class of 2014 in Massachusetts, and there are a few changes of note.

St. John's Prep running back Johnathan Thomas and St. Sebastian's linebacker Connor Strachan maintain the top two spots. Meanwhile, Doherty athlete Isaac Yiadom (3), Everett defensive back Lubern Figaro (4), Millis/Hopedale lineman Jon Baker (5) and Tabor Academy athlete Miles Wright (6) all move up one spot from the previous update in July.

Roxbury Latin linebacker Kevin Cohee and Leominster safety Jarell Addo both move up two spots to Nos. 7 and 8, respectively. Rounding out the Top 10 are two newcomers, Dexter lineman James Hendren (9) and Catholic Memorial defensive athlete Kevin Bletzer (10).

To see the full list of top prospects in Massachusetts, CLICK HERE.

Below is the Top 10, with college commitment in italics. You can also see the updated Top 10 list on our homepage:

1. Johnathan Thomas, RB, St. John's Prep - Maryland
2. Connor Strachan, LB, St. Sebastian's - Boston College
3. Isaac Yiadom, WR/DB, Doherty - Boston College
4. Lubern Figaro, DB, Everett
5. Jon Baker, OL, Millis/Hopedale - Boston College
6. Miles Wright, ATH, Tabor Academy
7. Kevin Cohee, LB, Roxbury Latin - Boston College
8. Jarell Addo, S, Leominster - UMass
9. James Hendren, OL, Dexter - Boston College
10. Kevin Bletzer, LB, Catholic Memorial - Boston College


Roundtable: Best players, breakout stars, sleepers

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
6:03
PM ET
Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools editor


Best QB: Cody Williams, Springfield Central
Best RB: Johnathan Thomas, St. John's Prep
Best WR: Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE: Brendan Hill, Mansfield
Best OL: Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best DL: Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best LB: C.J. Parvelus, Everett
Best DB: Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense: Natick
Best rushing offense: St. John's Prep
Best offensive line: St. John's Prep
Best defensive line: Reading
Best linebackers: Reading
Best secondary: Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Medway
Coach Dave McSweeney's affinity for power football isn't a secret, and this season he'll have two road-graders to run behind in Kevin Sheehan (6-4, 285) and Cam Smith (6-5, 290, Lafayette commit). If there's any exhibit for why we needed to change the postseason format, the most glaring sample might be the Mustangs, who went 19-3 from 2009-10 with no playoff berth. In this new playoff system, a gameplan like the Mustangs' is built for the long haul.

Lynn English
Perhaps this isn't a surprise pick so much as an affirmation. In a Division 2 North that is perceived to be wide open after heavy favorite Reading, the Bulldogs have enough talent to make a deep run. There has always been elite talent at the skill positions, but Preseason All-State selection Chris Tinkham gives them a presence in the trenches they've lacked the last few years, a rare "war daddy" type who overpowers the interior gaps. The biggest question will be where the Bulldogs put junior Jordan Javier, a 6-foot-4 transfer from Haverhill who is a matchup problem at his natural split end position but also throws one of the prettiest balls you'll see on the North Shore.

Quabbin
The Panthers struggled to a 4-7 tune last season in a weak league, but there is some promise. Quarterback Dylan Kierman is an underappreciated talent, who should get a boost from the return of slippery receiver Nick Thyden. The Panthers run a unique "Air Raid" scheme, and another year of experience with it could surprised teams in Division 4 Central.

THREE BREAKOUT ATHLETES TO WATCH

Lukas Denis, Jr. ATH, Everett
After an injury-shortened 2012 season in which he was the assumed successor to record-setting quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso, but barely saw the field, Denis is moving to the perimeter, where he will take a role similar to the hybrid slot-back role that Manny Asprilla made legendary in 2010. Defensively, he should serve as a terrific compliment in the secondary to highly-touted safety/cornerback Lubern Figaro, and has already begun to pick up some Division 1 FBS interest.

Alfred Adarkwah, Sr. WR, Doherty
Standing a long 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan, Adarkwah has an unusually large catching radius for a high school receiver. This summer in passing leagues, the Highlanders toyed with Adarkwah and Boston College-bound receiver Isaac Yiadom on the same side of 2x2 formations. Head coach Sean Mulcahy has to be excited with the possibilities that opens up -- just imagine sending those two on a post-wheel combo route. Or better yet, imagine running them on a bubble screen, taking advantage of both Yiadom's elite speed and Adarkwah's great downfield blocking skills.

Taj-Amir Torres, Jr. ATH, Amherst
Already a household name in track and field, where he was named the state's Gatorade Player of the Year last spring as a sophomore after winning New Englands in the 100-meter dash, he's about to get a whole lot more attention. Boston College, UConn and UMass have already offered Torres, who made just 24 catches last season but made some incredible feats of athleticism. Hurricanes head coach David Thompson told us earlier this month "[We're] trying to get the ball in his hands every opportunity we get", so expect bigger numbers in 2013.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS

Div. 1 - Everett
Div. 2 - Springfield Central
Div. 3 - Walpole
Div. 4 - Doherty
Div. 5 - Auburn
Div. 6 - Millis/Hopedale

***

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor

Best QB - Drew Belcher - Sr. Reading
Best RB - Johnny Thomas - Sr. St. John’s Prep
Best WR - Brian Dunlap - Jr. Natick
Best TE - Rory Donovan - Sr. Cardinal Spellman
Best OL - Jon Baker – Sr., Millis/Hopedale
Best DL – Joe Gaziano – Jr., Xaverian
Best LB – Eddie Motavu – Sr., Tewksbury
Best DB - Lubern Figaro - Sr. Everett
Best passing offense - Natick
Best rushing offense - St. John's Prep
Best offensive line – Bridgewater-Raynham
Best defensive line - Reading
Best linebackers - Leominster
Best secondary - Everett

THREE SURPRISE TEAMS

St. Mary’s (Lynn)
OK, so a team coming off an 11-2 season and a Super Bowl appearance might not exactly be a surprise, but with a couple of other Catholic Central teams garnering the buzz in the preseason, let's not forget the Spartans have another season with Jordan Collier (1,495 yards, 18 TD).

Hingham

We've heard them knocking, but can they come in? The Harbormen have whittled the gap in recent years, particularly against Patriot League nemesis Duxbury, but they're still waiting to break through. They could have an in-road in Division 3 Southwest. An early non-leaguer against Oliver Ames should be a bellweather for things to come, but the real proof will come Oct. 5, against those aforementioned Dragons.

Wakefield
The Warriors fell short of their goal of winning the Middlesex League's Freedom division last year, but should be in the mix in a wide open Division 3 Northwest race. We'll have a better impression after a visit from Lynn English in Week 2.

THREE BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETES

Joe Johnston, Sr. RB/S, King Philip
Anybody who saw Johnston's hard-nosed 157-yard, 2-touchdown performance against North Attleborough last year knows Johnston's style. He's a burden for would-be tacklers inside the box, and once he kicks it outside, he's also very hard to catch.

Grant Kramer, Sr. OT, Duxbury
The younger brother of Boston College tackle Aaron Kramer, Grant is now ready to assume the role as the next great lineman on the Dragons' line (and there have been some very good ones in recent memory). He currently holds offers from Coastal Carolina and Villanova but has also expressed interest in attending West Point.

Connor Moriarty, Sr. RB, Walpole
When Rebels starter Mike Rando went out with an ankle injury near the midway point of the regular season last year, it was Moriarty who carried the load down the stretch. Expect even bigger numbers this year.

WAY TOO EARLY CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTIONS:

D1 – St. John’s Prep
D2 – Springfield Central
D3 – Walpole
D4 – Doherty
D5 – Auburn
D6 – Millis/Hopedale

***

Josh Perry
ESPN Boston correspondent


Best QB - Drew Belcher, Reading
Best RB - Jonathan Thomas, St. John’s Prep
Best WR – Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE – Brendan Hill, Mansfield
Best OL – Jon Baker, Millis-Hopedale
Best DL – Andrew Bourque, Reading
Best LB – Kevin Bletzer, Catholic Memorial
Best DB – Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense - Natick
Best rushing offense – St. John’s Prep
Best offensive line – St. John’s Prep
Best defensive line - Reading
Best linebackers – Catholic Memorial
Best secondary - Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE:

Attleboro
A new coaching staff, the energy of a new field complex, and a strong crop of returning seniors could make the Bombardiers the surprise team of the Hockomock League. Attleboro has always been a sleeping giant and the program continues to find solid athletes, it’s now up to the new staff to build a system that fits the talent on the roster. With a couple of league rivals dealing with injuries and suspensions, Attleboro could sneak up on people.

Barnstable
Everyone assumes that there will be a significant drop off for the Red Raiders due to a big graduating class, but there is still potential to be a solid team in D2 and in the OCL. This may not be a another season with Barnstable holding the top spot in the poll, but it shouldn’t be written off either.

Stoughton
The Knights are expected to finish behind Oliver Ames in the Davenport, but don’t be surprised if they pull an upset or two and give the Tigers a run at the title. Watch out for running back Malachi Baugh, who will be getting the majority of the carries this season and is a beast to try and bring down.

THREE BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETES TO WATCH

Luke Morrison, Sr. TE/DE, Attleboro
Attleboro’s giant tight end/defensive end is a monster match-up on both sides of the ball and could be a real threat as Tim Walsh’s favorite target in the Bombardiers passing attack.

Ryan Charter, Sr. QB, Needham
Mike Panepinto has deservedly drawn praise as the star man on the Needham offense, but the senior quarterback, who has been under center for 1-1/2 seasons already, will have high expectations as the Rockets try to get back on top in the Bay State.

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
With the graduation of running backs Robbie Rapoza and Kevin Makie and the continued injury problems for wide receiver Michael Hershman the key cog for the Hornets offense will be its senior quarterback. Wisnieski’s ability to spread the ball around and pick the right options out of a still talented receiving corps that includes Brendan Hill is going to be the key for Mansfield’s run at a Hockomock title.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS:

Div. 1 – St. John’s Prep
Div. 2 - Nashoba
Div. 3 – Bishop Feehan
Div. 4 - Doherty
Div. 5 - Auburn
Div. 6 – Millis-Hopedale

***

Ryan Kilian
Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Massachusetts Prep Stars


Best QB - Drew Belcher, Reading
Best RB - Johnathan Thomas, St. John's Prep
Best WR - Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE - Rory Donovan, Cardinal Spellman
Best OL - Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best DL - Alex Quintero, Lowell
Best LB - C.J. Parvelus, Defense
Best DB - Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense - St. John's (Shrewsbury)
Best rushing offense - St. John's Prep
Best offensive line - St. John's Prep
Best defensive line - Reading
Best linebackers - Duxbury
Best secondary - Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Bedford
While Wayland and Concord-Casrlisle have earned the DCL Small Championship the past few years do not sleep on Bedford in 2013. The Bucs play one of the toughest schedules in Division 4 and the return All-DCL running back Olan Abner.

Chelmsford
While Lowell, Central and Andover are getting most of the early press in the MVC Large, the Chelmsford Lions return one of the State's top running backs in Jeff D'Auria, a seasoned young quarterback in Jack Campsmith and a nice nucleus of tough experienced defenders.

Archbishop Williams
If Archies can find early offensive balance to take some of the work load off the shoulders of star senior back Kylan Philbert-Richardson, they could make some noise in the D5 playoff hunt.

THREE BREAKOUT ATHLETES TO WATCH

Ian Kessel, Soph. RB, Haverhill
The St. John's Prep transfer saw late game carries last season as a freshman for Prep's Super Bowl Champion squad. The speedy halfback is now back home in the MVC Small, and with the graduation of work horse, All-State RB Chance Brady (Tufts), there should be plenty carries to go around.

Devin Lekan, Sr. DE/TE, Chelmsford
D'Auria and Campsmith return to lead the offense for Chelmsford's but it is the Lion defense could be the story if they stay healthy. The Lions feature the 2nd team all-MVC performer was the most impressive player in the games I saw last season.

Nick Orekoya, Jr. DB/RB Billerica
Orekoya saw a lot of playing time as a two-way starter for Billerica last season. With another year under his belt Orekoya should thrive in coach Rich McKenna's high octane offense.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS

Div. 1 - Everett
Div. 2 - Reading
Div. 3 - Tewksbury
Div. 4 - Dennis-Yarmouth
Div. 5 - Auburn
Div. 6 - Boston Cathedral

***

John Botelho
Editor-in-Chief, South Shore Sports Journal


Best QB - Troy Flutie, Natick
Best RB - Dylan Oxsen, Plymouth South
Best WR - Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE - Rory Donovan, Cardinal Spellman
Best OL - Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best DL - Steve Manning, Abington
Best LB - Kervin Jean-Claude, Brockton
Best DB - Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense - Natick
Best rushing offense - St. John's Prep
Best offensive line - St. John's Prep
Best defensive line - Auburn
Best linebackers - Brockton
Best secondary - Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Brockton
They're ranked pretty high in any poll you look at because people have just come to accept the fact that Brockton generally reloads. They graduated 18 starters from last season's Super Bowl team, including quarterback Austin Roberts, who was one of the best in school history. Roberts, Micah Morel and Joe Previte are all playing ball at prep schools this year, and Anthony Davis has moved on to Div. 1 Central Connecticut. Still, the Boxers will very solid again. They have a number of athletes and playmakers, including returning do-it-all Aaron Leclair. Transfer Jamal Williams is going to compliment him well, and sophomore Kerry Raymond is physically imposing at 6-foot-1 and 205. Aaron Monteiro's 6-foot-5, 295-pound frame gives Brockton an anchor on the offensive line. They have plenty of guys ready to step forward on the other side of the ball as well, led by Kervin Jean-Claude, Justin Ahanon and Leclair.

Abington
The Green Wave went unbeaten in their march toward a Super Bowl crown last year, but saw a slew of stars graduate. QB Brandon Cawley, TE/DE Pat Dwyer, FB Jack Malafronte, RB Babila Fonkem, DB Mike Walsh, OL Tyler Perakslis and OL Matt Diver are just some of the elite players Abington graduated. These guys won't miss a beat though, as they have a ton of talent back. Matt Kilmain broke out for more than 400 yards on 27 carries in two postseason wins last year, and he might not even be the best player back this season. Abington returns its top three tacklers from a year ago and has most of their front seven back on defense. Jim Kelliher has one of the best coaching staffs going at this point, and these guys look like they're headed back to the playoffs. (For bold prediction purposes, I'm also going to go ahead and say I think they beat Duxbury on opening night, because that's how good I think this team can be).

Stoughton
The Black Knights missed the playoffs last year because of the wrong day for a let down game, taking a tough defeat to eventual Super Bowl champ Sharon. The Knights lost some very good players, but leading running back Malachi Baugh is back in the fold and they return four starting offensive lineman, so there's no reason to think the offense won't be up to par again. The Hockomock League has proven in recent years to be one of the toughest to win, but a second guaranteed playoff berth can only help a team like Stoughton.

THREE BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETES TO WATCH

Aaron Monteiro, Jr. OL, Brockton
Monteiro has something that can't be learned, or even worked toward. His 6-foot-5, 295-pound frame is one that will draw the interest of coaches at the next level. Coach Peter Colombo is very excited about plugging the junior into his offensive line, and it's not just because of the size. Monteiro worked during the off-season to get himself stronger and is primed to be one of the best lineman in the state. He plays basketball in the winter, something that has helped him develop quick and agile feet for a guy his size.

Sam Malafronte, Jr. LB, Abington
Started at linebacker a year ago as a sophomore for the Div. 4 Super Bowl champs, and finished second on the team in tackles. A very good athlete who is a work-out warrior, Malafronte will team with Matt Whelan to lead a solid corps in the middle of the field for the Green Wave.

James Shea, Sr. WR, East Bridgewater
The Vikings have benefited from having tremendous athletes in the backfield the last few years (think Casey DeAndrade, Tim O'Brien, Andrew Benson and Kevin Lynch), but in 2013 their most dangerous player will be splitting out wide. Shea can run with just about anyone -- he finished sixth in the 100-meter dash in the South Shore League last spring -- and is going to wreak havoc pulling in passes all year.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS

Div. 1 - Everett
Div. 2 - Natick
Div. 3 - Plymouth South
Div. 4 - Doherty
Div. 5 - Abington
Div. 6 - Millis/Hopedale

'Best ever'? Superstar Baker leads No. 25 M-H

August, 20, 2013
8/20/13
3:00
PM ET
MILLIS, Mass. -- One day last April, Jon Baker had finally had enough.

The Boston College-bound two-way lineman, a returning ESPN Boston All-State for Millis/Hopedale and one of New England's top 2014 recruits, had become increasingly frustrated with the lack of participation in offseason workouts. One morning, a scant six players showed up to a morning weightlifting session.

[+] EnlargeJon Baker
Brendan Hall/ESPNBostonBoston College commit Jon Baker, a returning ESPN Boston All-Stater, came into camp 20 pounds lighter but strong as ever.
Meanwhile, their quarterback/safety and captain Taylor Sack -- two months removed from a skiing accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down -- was down in Atlanta, rehabbing at the world-renowned Shepherd Center, with hopes of one day walking again.

The typically mild-mannered Baker, who has remained close to Sack throughout his recovery, was angry, and fired off a Facebook message to the team letting them know their lack of participation was unacceptable.

"I said, 'Look at [Taylor] right there, if he's doing it, you have no excuses," he recalled.

And perhaps that inevitably becomes the lasting impression on Baker's decorated career with the Mohawks. Athletically, he's a freak, combining nimble footwork and fluid agility with superior lower-body strength to make him the state's most feared run-blocker. In the weight room, he's a dynamo, benching 550 pounds and squatting well over 600.

But it's the mental part of it -- the 4.4 weighted GPA; the soft-spoken, austere leadership skills -- that complete the total package. Mohawks head coach Dale Olmsted compared Baker to former Walpole offensive line standouts Bubba Cox and Michael Cook, from his days on the Rebels staff in the 1990's and early 2000's, but says Baker is undoubtedly the best he's ever had.

"In my 23 years coaching, with 10 years plus at Walpole, we had some great linemen, one that went to BYU [Cox], one that went to Boston College in Michael Cook," Olmsted said. "Jon Baker ranks as the No. 1 football player that I've ever coached. He is the ultimate word of professional, whether it's on the field or off the field, whatever he sets his mind to he does it, and he does it 100 percent. He doesn't stop until he gets it right.

"It's such a pleasure to have him on my team. He looks around and he tells a kid what to do, or he says 'Good job', you're hearing it from a guy like that, it means a lot. That means more...peer pressure, we always talk about the negative things, [but] this is where Jon [separates himself]. They look up to him. He's certainly a role model. He had a lot of opportunities to go elsewhere -- BB&N, Xaverian -- but he's chosen to stay here with his friends, be part of the community, and I think that part speaks volumes of his character."

The Mohawks finally achieved their first winning season under Olmsted in 2011, falling to eventual Super Bowl champ Mashpee in a Div. 4 Eastern Mass. Playoff, and fell to Abington in last year's D4 playoffs. After going 18-6 over that two-year run, there are plenty of fresh faces in the fold that will have to grow up quickly if M-H is to sustain their success.

Baker reported to camp yesterday 20 pounds lighter from the end of 2012, weighing close to 290 and devoid of the familiar baby fat on his torso, and he'll be switching from center to guard (the position he projects to at BC) for this upcoming season. After toying with zone read schemes half of last season, the Mohawks are fully adopting a one-back zone running scheme (that too should please the BC staff, which will be deploying a zone/gap scheme under new head coach Steve Addazio).

With 285-pound senior Gavin Bradbury moving to left tackle, alongside Baker, combined with elusive scatback Chris Ahl and quarterback Sean Heffernan setting the reads, there is a confidence in the air.

"I definitely like the commitment, and the talent we have coming up," Baker said. "I've seen the guys all winter, spring, summer, a lot of them are talented kids. I'm excited to see how we turn out."

Many of those kids got the message after Baker aired his frustrations that fateful April day. The presence of Sack has contributed mightily to the hunger of the program, which suited just 33 at its first practice yesterday, but may be deeper in terms of athleticism.

Sack, who is now able to drive a car using hand-controls, has been with the team everywhere. He's often present at workouts, traveled with the team to Bay State Camp last week, and is on the sidelines at each practice.

"Obviously this offseason was unlike any other," Olmsted said. "It was very emotional, with Taylor, something I haven't had to deal with as a head coach, such a sensitive issue. Our kids did a good job making Taylor feel as comfortable as he can. [He's] going to have a great life ahead of him, it's just going to go a little different than he thought it would be, and he's bought into that.

"He's been to the beach. He's got a new truck. When I see him laying down by the pool, with no chair, he just looks like a regular kid, relaxing. I'm very proud of Taylor, and how he's handled all of this."

Said Baker, "It's definitely helped us out a lot. We all got [his] No. 11 on our helmets. It not only helped us come together as a team, helping him out, but it also gives us something to look to when we don't feel like going to a workout. You go, you see Taylor is there, it's just a great thing to see."

MILLIS AT A GLANCE
Coach: Dale Olmsted (8th year, 34-45 overall)
Last season: 8-4, lost in Div. 4 Playoffs
Returning Starters: Eight (four offense, four defense)
Key Returnees: Jon Baker, Sr. OG/DT, 6-3, 290 lbs.; Chris Ahl, Sr. RB, 5-6, 160 lbs.; Sean Heffernan, Sr. QB, 6-4, 180 lbs.; Tyler Angel, Sr. TE, 6-0, 200 lbs.; Gavin Bradbury, Sr. OT/DT, 6-0, 285 lbs.
Strengths: Offensive and defensive lines, running game, size.
Weaknesses: Youth, depth, inexperience at skill positions.
Overview: There are plenty of fresh faces in Millis, where the Mohawks must replace seven starters on both sides of the ball, but in terms of athleticism Olmsted believes this team is not as top-heavy, but deeper, than last year's TVL Small champion product. Defensively, Baker was one of the state's most obdurate two-gappers last year, earning ESPN Boston All-State honors after recording 78 tackles and four sacks from the defensive tackle spot. This fall, we could see Baker playing some interior five-technique defensive end, a style similar to what you see from the Houston Texans' J.J. Watt. Offensively, moving Baker to guard alongside Bradley makes for an imposing half-line that will outweigh many opponents at the point of attack. And perhaps Ahl is the best compliment to the Mohawks' new zone running scheme, his short frame difficult to pick up behind the big line. He's a one-cut, north-south runner who's good at identifying the cutback lane, but he's also got a little shake and bake in his game. "All summer he's been making kids look silly in passing leagues," Baker said. "I remember one play where he just hopped to the side, side-stepped a kid, and the kid slid flat on his face."

ESPN Boston Preseason MIAA All-State Team

August, 19, 2013
8/19/13
8:17
AM ET
The MIAA football season officially kicks off today with the first sanctioned team practices. Below is our fourth annual ESPN Boston Preseason MIAA All-State Football Team, as well as our expansive "Watch List".

*Indicates returning All-State

OFFENSE

QB – Drew Belcher, Sr., Reading*
QB – Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick*
QB – Andrew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury)*
QB – Cody Williams, Sr., Springfield Central
RB – Johnathan Thomas, Sr., St. John’s Prep*
RB – Dylan Oxsen, Sr., Plymouth South*
RB – Mike Panepinto, Sr., Needham
RB – Brandon Gallagher, Jr., Bridgewater-Raynham
WR – Brian Dunlap, Jr., Natick*
WR – Isaac Yiadom, Sr., Doherty
WR – Jack Galvin, Sr., Lowell
WR – Ju’uan Williams, Sr., Springfield Central
TE – Rory Donovan, Sr., Cardinal Spellman
TE – Brendan Hill, Jr., Mansfield
OL – Jon Baker, Sr., Millis/Hopedale*
OL – Kent Blaeser, Sr., St. John’s Prep
OL – Shawn Whitaker, Sr., Bridgewater-Raynham
OL – Cam Smith, Sr., Medway
OL – Sean Lee, Sr., Springfield Central
ATH – Dave Harrison, Sr., Weymouth
ATH – Neil O’Connor, Sr., Leominster

DEFENSE

DL – Andrew Bourque, Sr., Reading
DL – Will Greelish, Sr., Auburn
DL – Alex Quintero, Sr., Lowell
DL – Chris Tinkham, Sr., Lynn English
LB – C.J. Parvelus, Sr., Everett
LB – Sean Smerczynski, Sr., St. John’s Prep*
LB – Brett McEvoy, Sr., King Philip
LB – Liam Kenneally, Sr., Reading
LB – Shayne Kaminski, Sr., Xaverian
LB – Tom Rodrick, Sr., Leicester
DB – Lubern Figaro, Sr., Everett
DB – Davon Jones, Jr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
DB – D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie, Sr., Central Catholic
DB – Jarell Addo, Sr., Leominster
D-ATH – Kevin Bletzer, Sr., Catholic Memorial

***

WATCH LIST

Olan Abner, Sr. RB, Bedford
Mike Abruzzese, Sr. DB, Natick
Justin Ahanon, Sr. ATH, Brockton
Shaquille Anderson, Sr. RB, Cambridge
Nick Andreas, Jr. QB, Danvers
Charlie Aylward, Sr. LB, Catholic Memorial
Jordan Balarinho, Sr. QB, Billerica
Michael Balsamo, Jr. DB, Central Catholic
Malachi Baugh, Sr. RB, Stoughton
Joe Bellomo, Jr. RB, Holliston
Aidan Beresford, Sr. OL, Marshfield
Will Blumenberg, Jr. QB, Concord-Carlisle
Will Bolster, Sr. QB, Walpole
Ommel Bonilla, Jr. DL, Andover
Ryan Boucher, Sr. OL, North Reading
Andrew Boynton, Sr. WR, Natick
Luke Brennan, Sr. QB, Doherty
Joe Brown, Sr. OL, Central Catholic
Jake Burt, Jr. TE, St. John’s Prep
Ryan Charter, Sr. QB, Needham
Max Chipouras, Sr. RB, Longmeadow
Jordan Collier, Sr. RB, St. Mary’s (Lynn)
Nick Cordopatri, Sr. OL, Walpole
Nicolau Coury, Jr. LB, Lowell
Shyheim Cullen, Jr. LB, Lowell
Jeff D’Auria, Sr. RB, Chelmsford
Kyle Dance, Sr. QB, Latin Academy
Lukas Denis, Jr. DB, Everett
Joe DeNucci, Sr. ATH, Newton North
Kevin DiBona, Sr. LB, Duxbury
Steve DiCienzo, Sr. LB, BC High
Rob DiLoreto, Sr. WR, Reading
Brian Dolan, Sr. QB, Lowell
John Donnellan, Sr. DL, Reading
Isaiah Douglas, Sr. DB, Bishop Feehan
Angel Duarte, Sr. LB, Everett
Michael Dunn, Jr. ATH, Dennis-Yarmouth
Markus Edmonds, Jr. LB, Central Catholic
Derek Estes, Sr. DB, Barnstable
Michael Fawhemini, Sr. DB, St. John’s Prep
Joey Fitton, Sr. OL/DL, Holy Name
Connor Gatto, Sr. OL, Northbridge
Joe Gaziano, Jr. DL, Xaverian
Micah Gregory, Sr. DB, Barnstable
T.J. Hairston, Jr. WR, Watertown
Jack Herlihy, Sr. OL, Duxbury
Michael Hershman, Sr. WR, Mansfield
Kejonte Hickman, Jr. QB, Boston Cathedral
Alex Hilger, Sr. WR, Natick
Sean Hoey, Sr. OL, St. John’s Prep
Jon Holdgate, Sr. LB, Nantucket
Jeff Holland, Sr. ATH, Holy Name
Dom Hooven, Sr. OL, St. John’s Prep
Jack Hubley, Sr. LB, Lincoln-Sudbury
Phoenix Huerta, Sr. QB, Somerville
Jordan Javier, Jr. ATH, Lynn English
Kervin Jean-Claude, Sr. LB, Brockton
Domingo Jenkins, Sr. RB, Taunton
Austin Jones, Sr. OL, Shepherd Hill
Anderson Jupiter, Sr. RB, Somerville
Brandon Kahari, Soph. DB, St. John’s Prep
Devon Kellner, Sr. LB, Taunton
Rory Keohane, Sr. DL, BC High
Chris Kennedy, Sr. LB, Barnstable
Dylan Kierman, Sr. QB, Quabbin
A.J. King, Sr. ATH, Xaverian
Jimmy King, Sr. DL, Reading
Grant Kramer, Sr. OL, Duxbury
Fodee Kromah, Sr. DB, Holy Name
Noah Kung, Sr. OL, Walpole
Michael Kwegyir-Attah, Sr. LB, Haverhill
Jaleel Kyles, Sr. DB, Springfield Putnam
Mitch Laferriere, Sr. LB, BC High
Keagan Latta, Sr. WR, Lowell
Aaron LeClair, Sr. RB, Brockton
Matt Long, Soph. RB, Weymouth
Wayne Lowery, Sr. DB, Springfield Putnam
Steve Manning, Sr. DL, Abington
Kenneth Marshall, Sr. LB, Springfield Central
Ryan Martin, Sr. WR, Bridgewater-Raynham
Ngaiiva Mason, Sr. RB, Lowell
Liam Matheson, Sr. RB, Dennis-Yarmouth
Eddie Matovu, Sr. LB, Tewksbury
Sean McCarthy, Sr. QB, Duxbury
Eric Mercer, Sr. LB, Melrose
Kens Morantus, Sr. LB, Waltham
Connor Moriarty, Sr. ATH, Walpole
Luke Morrison, Sr. TE, Attleboro
Hayden Murphy, Sr. ATH, Barnstable
Kevin Nunes, Sr. WR, New Bedford
Nick Orekoya, Jr. DB, Billerica
Luis Ortiz, Sr. TE/LB, Springfield Central
Derek Pacheco, Sr. DL, Barnstable
Connor Peck, Sr. OL, Catholic Memorial
Khai Perry, Sr. RB, Duxbury
Kylan Philbert-Richardson, Sr. RB, Archbishop Williams
Wes Quinzani, Sr. DB, Duxbury
Aaron Rabb, Sr. DL, Whitman-Hanson
Deion Raper, Sr. DB, Brockton
Kerry Raymond, Soph. RB, Brockton
Eddie Rivera, Jr. RB, Leominster
Justin Robinson, Sr. WR, Natick
Owen Rocket, Jr. WR, St. John’s Prep
Sergio Rodriguez, Sr. OL, Somerville
Rufus Rushins, Jr. RB/LB, Bishop Fenwick
D’Vante Sewell, Sr. DB, Springfield Commerce
Ben Sheehan, Jr. RB, Minnechaug
Tim Smith, Sr. RB, Dartmouth
Joel Sodeinde, Sr. OL, Dartmouth
Jimmy Sullivan, Sr. QB, Nauset
Jack Sylvester, Sr. RB, Andover
Thomas Tabur, Sr. OL, Northbridge
Tyrone Thornton, Sr. DB, Newton South
Nick Thyden, Sr. WR, Quabbin
Griffin Tighe, Sr. DL, Franklin
Coby Tippett, Soph. ATH, Xaverian
Taj-Amir Torres, Jr. WR/DB, Amherst
Spencer Tyler, Sr. QB, Dennis-Yarmouth
Luc Valenza, Sr. LB, Foxborough
Jason Valera, Sr. LB, Leominster
Alex Valles, Sr. DB, Danvers
Kahlil Walker, Sr. DL, Springfield Central
Casey Walsh, Sr. QB, North Andover
Isaiah White, Sr. RB, Beverly
Jamal Williams, Sr. RB, Brockton
Mayson Williams, Sr. ATH, Leominster
Raheem Wingard, Sr. QB, Everett
Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield

As Sack begins long recovery, Millis community unites

May, 17, 2013
5/17/13
8:28
AM ET
They made the decision earlier in the week to spend the day on the slopes at Wachusett Mountain. This was nothing out of the ordinary; it was a trip that they had made almost every weekend during the winter. Standing at the summit, everything felt perfect. It was another great day with friends, the perfect way to end February vacation.

As the six friends began their descent and veered left towards the black diamond Smith Walton trail, Taylor Sack, Millis High junior and recently installed 2013 Mohawks football captain, had no idea that this day would be very different from the countless others that he had spent on the mountain.

He had no idea that, this time, his life would be irrevocably changed.

"We were going down, not really messing around, but a little bit near the side, and it was really icy on the edge. I got too close to the side and I ended up going down on my back on the side of the trail," remembers Taylor.

"I was thinking that if I hit something now, it will not be good…the next thing I knew, I was basically wrapped around a tree."

Taylor sat at the table with his parents, Clay and Stacy, slowly relating the details of that day and trying to recall exactly how he felt at that moment.

It has been a long two months since he was injured, but Taylor can still remember the smallest details: how his friends rushed to his side, how his skis went flying down the hill, and how his first instinct was to just get up.

"It felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. It hurt and I thought, okay I need to get up...it’s the weirdest feeling to not be able to move at all."

Taylor’s girlfriend, April O’Connell, rushed to his side and tried to comfort him. His friends knew there was a possible back injury and did not try to move him as they waited for the Snow Patrol. At this point in the retelling, Taylor smiled and shook his head. He remarked, "I just remember being cold because I had forgotten my jacket that day and all I had on was a sweatshirt. Apparently, it’s good for a spinal cord injury to be on ice, but I just remember complaining about my back being cold."

Even as he winds his way through the story of that day and the events that followed, his trademark sense of humor and contagious smile are never far from the surface.

“Normally when you’re skiing and you see someone going down on one of those boards [that are used for skiers injured on the trail], you think that looks fun, like a sled,” says Taylor with a rueful smile.

“But, you feel every little bump. It was a lot more painful than you would expect.”

A phone call every parent dreads

Clay Sack was working on his car in the driveway when April called. She frantically explained that there had been an accident and Taylor was being transported to the UMass Medical Center in Worcester. Most of the details were confused, except for one -Taylor was not moving.

Fearing the worst, the Sack family (Clay, his wife Stacy, and Taylor’s older brother Steve) made the trip to Worcester. Upon arriving at the hospital, they were met by a team of doctors, who confirmed that Taylor had broken five vertebrae. The doctors also confirmed that paralysis was a distinct possibility.

"That was the worst part," said Clay. "He asked if he could speak in front of everyone and said that Taylor’s condition was serious and that he may never walk again. That was when it started setting in."

Doctors worked quickly to stabilize Taylor, who was then moved to the Boston Medical Center for surgery. A rod and several screws were placed in his back to stabilize his bruised spinal cord and repairs were made to the vertebrae. Despite what was described as a successful surgery, doctors did not change the initial prognosis.

Wanting to quickly get Taylor into a rehabilitation program, Clay and his wife Stacy searched out the best facilities in the country. The choice came down to the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston or the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Ga. While they understood that it would be stressful having Taylor so far from home, the Sacks still made the choice to fly Taylor to the Georgia facility.

"You don’t get a do-over on this. You have to do it right the first time," said Clay.

Taylor has little memory of those days after the surgery. He spent 10 days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and the doctors made sure he had plenty of morphine during his initial recovery period. However, it did not take more than a couple of days in Atlanta for Taylor to accept his situation and, as he put it, "get to work."

He shrugs, "I just don’t see the point in getting depressed; it doesn’t help anything."

Millis gets involved to support one of its own

Millis-Hopedale football coach Dale Olmsted also learned of the tragic news through a phone call. He was overseeing a typical early-morning, off-season workout at the St. Cyr Academy in Franklin the day after the accident. When the phone rang, he assumed that Taylor was going to tell him that he had overslept or some other benign reason that teenagers use when missing a weekend workout.

Instead, it was Taylor calling from the hospital.

"He said that he had hit a tree and broke his collarbone and then he said that he hit his back and can’t feel his legs," said Olmsted. "When Stacy went out into the hallway...that’s when she broke down and explained that he broke his back."

[+] EnlargeTaylor Sack
Andre Bourque/ESPNTaylor Sack (No. 11) was paralyzed in a skiiing accident last February, but remains a captain and vocal leader in Millis' offseason training program.
Olmsted went back into the gym and spent several minutes just watching the players go through their workouts. He had dealt with a difficult situation with a player while in Walpole, but experience does not make it easier to look players in the eye and say one of their own is hurt. After a few minutes to regain his composure, Olmsted gathered his players and explained the situation. Five players immediately joined him to visit Taylor in the hospital.

"He has got a heart bigger than a school bus," said Clay. "Dale sat in the waiting room from eight in the morning to seven at night, before getting to see Taylor. He’s emotionally invested in this."

Olmsted acknowledged that this hit him very hard. He remarked, "I’m a parent of three...you just hate to get that phone call. People feel helpless and they want to do what they can to provide resources."

Taylor’s teammates sprang into action immediately after hearing about the accident. Along with their head coach and Katie O’Connell, April’s mother, the students began developing ideas for fundraisers and getting word to classmates that Taylor needed help.

From bowling nights at Ryan Amusements in Millis to a trivia night to a Walk for Taylor to a fundraiser in neighboring Medfield, the Mohawks were constantly finding ways to fight for their teammate. Obviously, the money raised was important, but it was the support of his friends and knowing that they were working on his behalf that meant the most to Taylor as he battled through his rehab in Atlanta.

In addition to fundraisers, the Millis community has found numerous other ways to support the Sack family.

One of the first nights that Taylor spent in the hospital, the Sacks’ boiler broke. A friend went to the house and fixed it for free. While she was staying at the hospital with Taylor, Stacy’s car needed to be fixed. Clay handed the mechanic $200 and asked if he could be billed for the rest, as he also had to drive into Boston that night. The mechanic refused payment and the car was fixed and sitting in the driveway the following day.

While Clay and Stacy spent time in Atlanta, Olmsted’s family and the family of Mohawks captain Jon Baker made sure to keep Taylor’s older brother Steven fed. Baker and several of Taylor’s other teammates are also working with a local contractor, who Clay says that he had never met prior to Taylor’s accident, to build a ramp and deck on the back of the Sacks’ home.

Clay’s voice faltered as he described the generosity of the Millis community and what it meant to the family. The exhaustion of the preceding weeks, and a just completed drive from Millis to Atlanta, were evident, but his sincere gratitude broke through. He had trouble putting into words the thanks that he felt to the Millis community.

"I get tears in my eyes watching these people help out," said Clay. "I don’t know where we would be without them."

"Enormous is not a big enough word for it," he continues. "I have never seen anything like it. Everywhere I’ve turned, people have been there."

When he is asked about whether or not he felt the support of Millis while in Georgia, Taylor starts laughing.

"I had an entire dresser full of food and I’m not going to be able to eat half of it," he says. "My entire wall was covered in cards and pictures. That helps when you’re having a bad day."

He adds, "Even people I don’t know have been so supportive and awesome."

The support of his teammates should come as no surprise to anyone that knows about Millis and Millis High athletics. It is a small, blue-collar town with a tradition of hard work and standing up for one of its own in need. The term family is thrown around quite a bit when discussing high school sports, but at Millis High it is a concept that resonates. In 2009, the girls’ soccer team took home a Division 3 state title spurred on by the emotion of supporting a teammate whose mother had passed away during the season.

As Clay described, "Millis is different."

The football team under Dale Olmsted has been built in the image of the community. Through adversity the players have learned to rely on each other. Only four years ago, the administration held a meeting with Olmsted to discuss whether football would even continue to be a varsity sport. Not only did the program survive, this past fall, the Mohawks won their second straight Tri-Valley League title and made a second consecutive trip to the playoffs.

The team’s success was built through hard work and defined by the bond that formed between the members of the team. Through long, grueling workout sessions at St. Cyr or the Spartan weight room at Millis High, the players formed an identity and found common ground. They became a family.

"It’s just a huge part of that program," said Clay. "These boys, Taylor and his teammates, have a bond that will last a lifetime."

It is not only Millis that has come to Taylor’s aid. Surrounding towns such as Holliston, Medway, Walpole, and Medfield have all supported the events and donated to the cause. In fact, Medfield High showed up with 80 runners at the Walk for Taylor in March. It was such an impressive display that the volunteers at the registration table were brought to tears as wave after wave of light blue shirts signed up to run.

Another instance came from Abington High, which had beaten Millis-Hopedale in the playoffs in December. Four captains from the team skipped a celebration being held in their honor to come to Millis and take part in a strongman fundraiser on St. Patrick’s Day.

Clay had been unaware of the gesture from the Abington players. When he heard the story, he was at a loss for words. After a deep breath, he simply said, "Amazing."

Taylor, who was able to “attend” the fundraisers thanks to Facetime and Skype, was humbled by the display of support that all of the communities have shown.

"I can’t even believe that this many people came out for one person," he marvels. "Even when I was back in Millis, I went to the gym and there are posters for Fight Night for Taylor [see sidebar] and you’re looking at them thinking -- that’s for me. That’s pretty cool."

Grueling rehab prepared Taylor for return to the real world

The Sacks are unanimous that the decision to send Taylor to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta was the correct one. The facility’s energy and ability to connect with younger patients was crucial to Taylor’s rehabilitation. The therapists were able to push him to relearn many of the mundane tasks of daily life and to keep his independence and not sink into self-pity.

In Taylor, the therapists also had a patient that was accustomed to working hard and that has an almost unsinkable resilience.

"I’m going to do everything I can to walk," he says only a few days after returning from Atlanta. "I’m going to work as hard as I can, but if I can’t then I will just live my life like I’m just sitting down like a normal person. I’m not going to be depressed about it, I’m just going to keep my head up and live my life as normal as possible."

Taylor continues, “There are certain moments when it sucks because every single thing that you’re doing takes a lot more effort, but after a short time, the things that you practice get easier.”

If Taylor needed to get dressed, he was given a pair of shorts and told that the therapist would be back in a little while to check on him. No matter how tired he was, he had to pull his legs onto the bed or get a pillow to elevate them. Clay and Stacy helped push Taylor’s chair up a steep hill and the therapists were adamant that he needed to be left alone. He needed to learn to deal with these situations on his own. That attitude has stayed with Taylor on his return to Millis.

During his stay at the Shepherd Center, the staff and fellow patients utilized gallows humor to help stay positive through the hard work. One of Taylor’s biggest concerns as he prepares to return to school and be back with his friends is being able to keep things light.

He explains, "When I asked my doctor if I would ever walk again he told me to ask [another patient, who was from Tyngsborough, Mass.]. So, I asked him and he said, ‘No, definitely not.’ So, I told him, 'Good, I hope you never walk again either'. When you come back and say that to someone that you don’t know that well, they don’t know how to take it."

His re-introduction to school (described as “seamless” by Chuck Grant, Millis High's Director of Student Services) was made easier by Taylor’s ability to stay in contact with his classmates throughout his time in Atlanta. He attended classes and assemblies virtually and stayed in touch through social media, which has also allowed him to be a leader to his teammates while being far away.

"Taylor is the captain still," said Olmsted. "He’s a leader and he continues to be an inspiration for the guys."

"He’s the first one to send them an email to get to weightlifting," said Grant. "We have all fed off of his enthusiasm."

With a wry smile, Taylor relates, "Jon Baker texted me that only about eight people showed up at St. Cyr. So, I went to the Facebook group and left a not-so-nice message. I was like, I’m down here working hard every day just to get out of bed and you guys can’t even take an hour out of your week to work out."

After a quick laugh and a short pause, he continues, "I just think that people take it for granted what they have and what they can do. I did too."

Olmsted related, "I went to give him the gifts [from his teammates and the fundraisers] and I was worried that he was going to breakdown. He said to me, ‘Football was all I wanted to do, but right now it’s not important at all.’ He’s focused all his energy on getting better."

Taylor’s will to succeed, which helped drive the Mohawks to success on the field, is now being redirected to simply getting back on his feet. Even his family marvels at his endless determination.

"I felt that he was strong, but he has really shown us how strong,” said Clay. “I am amazed by his getting up in the morning to face the day. He’s been an inspiration and kept me straight."

Back at school, and focused on the journey forward

While construction was being finished on their house, the Sacks were staying at a hotel in nearby Franklin. Taylor had been back in Massachusetts for only three days and the agenda was packed with finding a gym, making sure that specialized equipment was being delivered, and finding the right time for his return to Millis High.

In the midst of all that, he also needed to make time to get fitted for a tuxedo. After all, Junior Prom is just around the corner.

On the first Monday morning that Taylor was back in Massachusetts, the Sacks received an automated call from Millis High to let them know that he was not at school. Clay got a good laugh at the enthusiasm of the school to get Taylor back.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Sack
Brendan Hall/ESPNBoston.comTaylor Sack with fellow Millis co-captain Jon Baker at the recent Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association combine at Gillette Stadium.
It was a feeling that was shared by the majority of his classmates, who were all eagerly awaiting Taylor’s return. He rejoined his friends on Monday, May 6 – the same day that his therapist came to Millis High to address the school. He has been back into the daily routine of attending classes, doing homework, and dealing with his friends in the hallways.

He wants to go back and be a normal high school junior again. He wants it to be as though he never left.

"I just want to go back and not have everyone come up to me, people I’ve never even talked to before this, and say that they feel bad for me," Taylor says.

“I feel pretty lucky; I wasn’t wearing a helmet or anything when I was skiing and if I had hit my head, I may not even be here. I feel pretty fortunate. I still have my head, I can still use my arms...I just can’t use my legs.”

It was this attitude that made Taylor Sack a captain for the Mohawks. His focus, strength of character, and his ability to inspire others made him a natural leader on and off the field. Even in the face of adversity, he has not changed.

Sitting at the table in a crowded restaurant, adjusting himself in his wheelchair, and recounting the turmoil of the past two months, Taylor looks to his future with confidence.

“When I see people I just want to have a good attitude and let them know that I’m still happy," he says. "This didn’t ruin my life. I’m still the same person.”

Millis' Jon Baker commits to Boston College

April, 20, 2013
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Millis/Hopedale Class of 2014 two-way lineman Jon Baker verbally committed to Boston College this afternoon, during an unofficial visit to the Chestnut Hill campus.

The Eagles first offered the 6-foot-3, 305-pound Baker last spring. Baker also had offers from Michigan State, Rutgers, Temple, UConn, UMass, Harvard, Yale, Old Dominion and Holy Cross.

Baker is considered one of the top prospects in New England, and projects as a center for BC. In 2012, his junior season, he registered 78 tackles with four sacks at defensive tackle to earn a spot on ESPNBoston.com's annual All-State Team. He also earned Tri-Valley League Lineman of the Year honors for the second straight year, as the Mohawks made their second straight MIAA Division 4 playoff appearance.

"It's always been probably my top school, and the time just felt right," Baker said. "Beside the fact it's close to home and I love the new coaches, it's a great school, which is something I really look forward to.

BC has been Baker's top choice, but M-H head coach Dale Olmsted admitted surprise by how quickly the commitment came about.

"It came outta nowhere, usually recruiting heats up at this time of year," Olmsted said. "To be honest with you, it came about this morning. Our guys were working out at St. Cyr Academy, Jon woke up and said 'Coach, I want to commit today'. He didn't even tell his mother."

Baker met with Eagles head coach Steve Addazio this afternoon in his office, and after a 20-minute talk gave him a commitment on the spot.

"I like the energy and passion he brings, but also the fact he's an o-line guy, who will be working over there with coach [Justin] Frye," Baker said. "They're going to make us all better players."

Michigan State offers Millis/Hopedale's Baker

March, 18, 2013
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Michigan State extended a scholarship offer to Millis/Hopedale two-way lineman Jon Baker, his head coach Dale Olmstead told ESPNBoston.com this morning.

The Spartans are the second Big Ten school and fourth FBS school from outside the New England region to offer Baker. Since the beginning of February, Baker has seen FBS offers come in from Rutgers, Temple and Ohio, to go along with offers that first came last spring from Boston College, UMass and UConn. He also has offers from FCS schools Harvard, Yale, Old Dominion and Holy Cross; Stanford, Michigan, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin and UCLA have also expressed varying amounts of interest.

The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Baker is considered one of the top prospects in New England, and generally projects as a center in college. In 2012, his junior season, he registered 78 tackles with four sacks at defensive tackle to earn a spot on ESPNBoston.com's annual All-State Team. He also earned Tri-Valley League Lineman of the Year honors for the second straight year, as the Mohawks made their second straight MIAA Division 4 playoff appearance.

Ohio U. offers Millis' Jon Baker

February, 26, 2013
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This morning Ohio University became the ninth Division 1 school to extend a scholarship offer to Millis/Hopedale Class of 2014 two-way lineman Jon Baker, his head coach Dale Olmsted told ESPNBoston.com this afternoon.

The Bobcats are the second FBS school from outside the New England region to offer Baker, joining Rutgers, which offered earlier this month. Those two schools join UMass, UConn and Boston College -- who all offered last spring -- along with FCS schools Harvard, Yale, Old Dominion and Holy Cross. Stanford, Michigan and Vanderbilt have also expressed varying amounts of interest.

Olmsted told ESPNBoston.com earlier this month that Baker will likely take an unofficial visit to Rutgers towards the end of April. To date, Baker has taken unofficials to Harvard, BC, UMass and UConn.

The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Baker is considered one of the top prospects in New England, and generally projects as a center in college. In 2012, his junior season, he registered 78 tackles with four sacks at defensive tackle to earn a spot on ESPNBoston.com's annual All-State Team. He also earned Tri-Valley League Lineman of the Year honors for the second straight year, as the Mohawks made their second straight MIAA Division 4 playoff appearance.

Olmsted also told ESPNBoston.com today that Wisconsin and UCLA plan on making visits to Millis in April. Both those schools have been known in recent years to take last-minute flyers on Bay State products -- the Bruins with Lawrence Academy linebacker Mike Orloff shortly before signing day in 2011, and Wisconsin late last month picking up Everett defensive back Jakarrie Washington.

Recruiting notes: Baker gets first B1G offer

February, 21, 2013
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Shortly after the 2013 recruiting class was signed, the Rutgers coaching staff met to discuss their needs for 2014. They determined that one of those needs was Jon Baker, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound offensive lineman from Millis High School.

Rutgers offensive line coach Damian Wroblewski extended an offer to Baker during a trip to Massachusetts earlier this month.

"I'm not sure how they heard about Jon, but he (Wroblewski) told me that after reviewing his film and looking at his transcript, based on their needs he would be a good candidate for their program," Millis coach Dale Olmstead said. "Then, when Holy Cross saw the update, they offered as well."

Before he received offers from Rutgers and Holy Cross, Baker had offers from Boston College, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Harvard and Yale.

Baker plays right guard for Millis, but because of his height is projected to be a center in college. He played center for Millis as a freshman.

"Not only his height, but he has the football IQ to handle the position," Olmstead said. "He plays guard for us, but he makes all the line calls from that position."

Olmstead said Baker is interested in the medical field, and that he will likely visit Stanford this summer.

"He's getting letters from a lot of major programs, but Boston College has kept his interest the most," Olmstead said. "BC has him rated as the top lineman in New England, and they're constantly calling. They've lost some top talent from Massachusetts to other programs in recent years, and the new staff wants to keep those kids here.

"BC is his top choice right now, but that could change."

HENDREN ADDS OFFERS
February has been kind to Dexter School offensive lineman James Hendren.

Hendren, a 6-foot-7, 295-pound tackle, entered the month with no scholarship offers, but has since landed four: Holy Cross, Rutgers, Massachusetts and Old Dominion.

"Things are picking up," Dexter school coach Casey Day said. "He's really close with a couple other schools. I think he's going to visit Wake Forest and Duke during spring break, so hopefully he get offers then. We're still waiting to see what BC is going to do."

Old Dominion has also made an offer to Dexter School junior Dan DiNicola, a 6-foot-6, 280-pound offensive tackle.

TOP PAIR
Two Massachusetts players in the Class of 2014 are included on the ESPN Watch List: St. Sebastian's linebacker Connor Strachan and St. John's Prep running back Jon Thomas.

Strachan, who lives in Wellesley, has offers from Boston College, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia and Wake Forest.

"The schools I think are close that we might visit soon are Penn State, Iowa and Rutgers," Strachan said.

Strachan's uncle Steve played at Boston College and in the NFL for the Los Angeles Raiders, and his brother Brian is a sophomore wide receiver at Brown.

Thomas, a Peabody resident who helped St. John's Prep win the Division I Super Bowl last season, has offers from Boston College, Connecticut, Holy Cross, Maryland and Massachusetts. The Maryland offer came earlier this month.

"I got offered on the spot when I visited [Maryland] two weeks ago," Thomas said. "Maryland was very nice. Great facilities."

Thomas finished his junior season with 1,794 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns on 220 carries. He also caught nine passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns.

Recruiting information regarding high school or prep school football players in New England can be sent to Roger Brown at rbrown@nhfootballreport.com.

Rutgers offers Millis OL/DL Jon Baker

February, 13, 2013
2/13/13
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Millis/Hopedale Class of 2014 two-way lineman Jon Baker received an offer tonight from Rutgers University, his head coach Dale Olmstead told ESPNBoston.com.

Rutgers becomes the fourth Division 1 FBS school to extend an offer to Baker, joining Boston College, UConn and UMass -- all three of whom offered him last spring as a sophomore. Harvard and Yale have also offered from the FCS ranks, while Stanford, Michigan and Vanderbilt have all expressed varying amounts of interest.

The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Baker is considered one of the top prospects in New England, and generally projects as a center in college. In 2012, his junior season, he registered 78 tackles with four sacks at defensive tackle to earn a spot on ESPNBoston.com's annual All-State Team. He also earned Tri-Valley League Lineman of the Year honors for the second straight year, as the Mohawks made their second straight MIAA Division 4 playoff appearance.

"I'm very, very excited for the young man," Olmstead said. "It speaks volumes about kids not only Massachusetts but from any division. We're a Division 6 team, and to have a player like Jon Baker represent our team is one of a kind. We're very proud of his accomplishments on and off the field. Having Rutgers as the first team outside New England to offer speaks volumes about how he's looked upon not only in New England, but the country."

Baker has taken unofficial visits to Harvard, BC, UMass and UConn thus far. He plans on taking an unofficial visit to Rutgers at the end of April, when he is set to participate in a Nike Sparq combine in New York City.

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