Boston High School: Ju'an Williams

In Central's Isan Diaz, a phenom has awoken

April, 2, 2014
Apr 2
10:10
PM ET
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Mike Donato is right. The sound is different.

During a recent batting practice inside spacious Springfield Central gymnasium, the sound of Isan Diaz's bat making contact with the baseball echoed loudly across the walls. The sound, so definitive, told you immediately who was at bat.

Even at an early age, Diaz could always hit a baseball. Now, as the senior standout shortstop of this talented Golden Eagles team, he is hitting the ball with tremendous authority and power.

All of his swings connect flush on the bat's sweet spot. No matter the pitch, Diaz can hit it.

"When he's in the batting cage, the sound of the ball coming off his bat sounds so much different than anyone else's," said Donato, now in his third season as Central's head coach. "Just solid contact every time through."

Special, special talent

Diaz has already established himself as the top all-around high school player in Massachusetts. Baseball America ranks him the 55th best prospect in the nation. Most expect Diaz to be drafted in the early rounds of June's MLB Draft. He has already accepted a scholarship to play at Vanderbilt University next season. Depending upon where he is selected in the draft will determine which road he will pursue.

"I really haven't gotten all that deep into the draft," said Diaz. "I don't care where I go. But if I did have a choice, I would like to go to a team like the Houston Astros or Miami Marlins because I think I would have a quicker transition up through the ranks. Teams like the Red Sox, Yankees and Rangers always seem to have plenty of prospects and good talent in their farm systems.

[+] EnlargeIsan Diaz
Brendan Hall/ESPNSpringfield Central shortstop Isan Diaz says he will likely honor his commitment to Vanderbilt if he's not taken in the first five rounds of June's MLB Draft.
"You want to go somewhere and play for a team where you can move up through the levels at a reasonable pace. I know I can play. I've seen a lot of good pitching over the last couple of years wherever I have gone. I have been able to recognize pitches coming out of the pitcher's hand right away. I feel that is the only way you are going to know how to hit successfully."

Asked what it would take for him to hold onto his scholarship and play at Vanderbilt, Diaz says he would most likely go that route if he is not selected in the first five rounds.

The recognition of Diaz's talent took center stage last year after partaking in several off-season tournaments. That included the well-established Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., and Perfect Game World Showcase in Ft. Myers, Fla., where he earned Second Team All-American honors. At Central, he is considered the most feared by opposing teams who often times have second thoughts whether or not to pitch to him or walk him intentionally.

Yet with fear also comes respect, in regards to how Diaz plays the game.

"Isan is an extremely talented player, whom we have a lot of respect for," said Springfield Cathedral head coach Pat Moriarty. "He does not give any at bats away and is a very good defensive player also. He truly respects the game of baseball."

Last season the 6-foot, 180-pound Diaz earned ESPN Boston All-State honors after batting .435, driving in 23 runs and belting three home runs in helping the Golden Eagles win the Valley Wheel League title. However, Central's postseason tournament run ended all to abruptly after falling to Northampton (a team it defeated twice during the regular season) in the opening round.

This year, Diaz and company have made a solemn vow to get back to the postseason and stay a little longer this time out. It all begins on Friday when the Golden Eagles travel to Amherst.

"Most of us now know what we did wrong last year both mentally and physically," Diaz said. "This year I feel there is more of an awareness of how to fix those mistakes during a game. We should see a big change in regards to all of us playing more like a unit instead of playing for ourselves."

Last season, the Golden Eagles started out the season at 1-4 before turning it on midway through, winning 9 of their next 11 games. Besides Diaz there is enough talent on this club for them to make a serious run, not only for a Division 1 Western Mass. title, but perhaps beyond.

Even though Diaz appears to have a bright future ahead of him, he says his first order of business remains with his high school team. Among Central's other standouts include second baseman Ju'an Williams, outfielder Eddie Acevedo and pitchers Sam and Seth Allen.

"I think we can win a title here," said Williams, who plans to attend Dean College next year and play football. "We just need to put the time in and continue to work hard. We have the talent."

The strength of Diaz and Williams covering the middle of the diamond is certainly a huge asset. Few, if any balls, get past them which, in turn, bodes great confidence in the pitching staff as to not being afraid to throw pitches down the middle of the plate.

"I feel our two guys up the middle can compete with anybody and I feel positive in saying that," assistant coach Peter Hall said. "Both are simply phenomenal. With Isan, the hype is there but he still continues to go out and work hard everyday. Every time he does something spectacular I just look over at Mike and say 'Oh my God.' You just get blown away by what he can do."

Everyone knew Diaz could hit, but early in his Central career his defensive skills were lacking. Both Donato and Hall worked exclusively on improving his footwork, balance, throwing skills and other intangibles in an effort to eliminate bad habits. Because of that, Diaz has emerged into a first-rate defensive specialist.

"As a sophomore I knew right away that he was going to be special," said Donato. "But in the field he had a lot of things to work on and that sort of worked to our advantage as coaches because we told him yes he could hit with anybody but at the same time if he wanted to play shortstop at the next level he couldn't be making 20 errors over the course of a season. We saw a huge change in his defensive skills last year."

Leading by example

Born in Puerto Rico, Diaz moved to Springfield with his family at the age of four. Prior to attending Central as a sophomore, Diaz attended Renaissance School in Springfield before deciding to transfer and play for a program that would give him more notoriety.

In his three years with the Golden Eagles, Diaz has attained the utmost admiration from his teammates in regards to how he handles himself both on the field and in the classroom. He is the first to hand out positive advice and support to a fellow teammate.

"I've learned a lot of things from him over the years," Williams said. "Not only is Isan an awesome player, but he is a pretty good coach too. Wherever he has gone to play, he always brings some information back with him that he has learned and then passes it along to the rest of the team so that it helps all of us."

Says Hall, "The one thing I tried to do was to get him to slow the game down. On defense, he was always trying to do a lot of things on the run and tried to make the pretty play all the time. We worked a lot on it and I think by having him slowing the game down and developing confidence in his footwork is what has really helped him improve greatly as a shortstop."

Having watched Diaz play in several AAU-sponsored events as a member of the New England Ruffnecks and seeing his talents shine bright during the Perfect Game World Showcase and Area Code Games, it was enough for Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin to offer him a scholarship last November.

If Diaz opts to head down to Nashville next fall, he will join up with some other Massachusetts-based players currently there including Tyler Beede (Auburn/Lawrence Academy), Rhett Wiseman (BB&N), Adam Ravenelle (Lincoln-Sudbury) and Ben Bowden (Lynn English).

Donato, who played his college baseball at UMass-Amherst and was an All-Atlantic 10 First Team selection and team captain, understands the nuisances of playing collegiately at the Division 1 level, and has mentored Diaz as to what to expect.

"The difference between schools like Vanderbilt and UMass is their lineup is much deeper, their best player is better than our best player and their pitchers are better," he said. "But that doesn't mean a guy who stands out here can't do the same at Vanderbilt. There have been a few players from the northeast who have gone down south to play and have gotten drafted and have been successful so I think Isan can certainly do it as well."

But he only thing on Diaz's mind at this point is the here and now. Like any senior, he wants to finish his high school career with a bang. Yes, the Golden Eagles have the potential to wreak some havoc in their quest to win a state title but the road will not be easy facing the likes of area powers Cathedral, Amherst, Westfield, East Longmeadow and defending WMass champ Agawam.

"I feel like every team that we play out here is pretty-much equal," said Seth Smith, a junior lefty. "You need to go into every game with the same mentality and take no one lightly."

Adds Donato, "Expectations from our stand point is we want to be the best but you need to beat the best. Last year we did a lot of beating ourselves especially early in the year before we started to get hot. This year our expectations as a team are very high. I know we can do it and our kids know they can do it. But we also know nothing is going to be handed to us. We need to go out and earn it."

Growing pains, but early returns for Central, O'Brien

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
3:22
PM ET
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -– Jack O’Brien won’t sugarcoat the facts. This is a brutal routine for him, even by his own famously hardy standards.

As early as 5:30 a.m. each morning, he rises from his home in Medford and makes the 15-mile commute south across heavy traffic to his job in the Physical Education department at West Roxbury High, a drive that can take up to 45 minutes. From there, he takes off at 1:15 p.m. and makes the 85-mile drive west to Springfield Central High, a commute that can take up to two hours.

There are nights when the Eagles get the gymnasium for a night practice, landing O’Brien home in Medford as late as midnight, only to get up in five hours to do it all over again.

[+] EnlargeJack O'Brien
Brendan Hall/ESPNBoston.com In Jack O'Brien's first game back on the sidelines since 2006, Springfield Central blew by Amherst, 69-47.
“It’s not easy, but I want to be here, so I’ve got to do it,” O’Brien said Wednesday night, following his first game back on the sidelines since leaving his storied post at Charlestown in 2006, a 69-47 win over Amherst. “You do what you gotta do. You made a commitment, what else can you do? You either do it, or you don’t do it, or you feel bad for yourself –- and you can’t do that.

“You know, one of my kids needs a ride home right now, so I’m going to give him a ride home and go out of my way [before going home]. I told the kids, this is what I’m going to do, this is the way I’m going to treat you.”

After winning an MIAA Division 2 state championship in 1990 with McDonald’s All-American Rick Brunson at point guard, O’Brien came over to Charlestown in 1993 and built a program that was nothing short of spectacular. The Townies went on a run at the turn of the Millennium that may never be duplicated in the MIAA, winning five Division 2 state titles in a span from 1999 to 2005. Arguably his best squad, in 2001-02, finished No. 16 in USA Today’s national poll and featured seven players that went on to earn Division 1 scholarships. His final state championship season of 2004-05 was chronicled by Boston Globe writer Neil Swidey in a book, “The Assist”.

O’Brien left Charlestown in 2006 to take over at Lynn English; hours before the start of the first practice, however, he suddenly resigned. After sitting in the shadows, watching his disciple Hugh Coleman coach Brighton High to a first-ever D2 state title a season ago, O’Brien had to venture west to get back in the game after coming up short in several bids for openings in the Boston area. O’Brien accepted the Central job this past September.

Is this the most desirable way to get back into the game? Adding 200-plus miles on the odometer every day? No.

But truth is, this was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

People forget, before the magical run of the early 2000’s, this was not a very good Charlestown program. The Townies won just one game in his first season. The same can’t be said about the Golden Eagles, who two seasons ago captured their first Division 1 state title in 21 years, then last year followed up with a Division 1 West Final appearance.

Cousins Cody and Ju’an Williams are two All-State football stars who bring gridiron toughness to the backcourt (Cody, a Monmouth-bound quarterback, was named ESPN Boston’s Offensive Player of the Year), a crossover O’Brien didn't always have at previous stops. The gem of the bunch may be 6-foot-8 junior Chris Baldwin, considered one of the top power forwards across Massachusetts, who flashes elite brilliance in between moments of inconsistency.

“He’s just trying to feel his way right now,” O’Brien said of Baldwin. “The biggest thing right now is getting him to play hard. We’re pressing, we’re running him around, and I thought he did a pretty good job tonight. I thought he had good moments.

“He showed some good things, but we’ve got to do a better job of getting him the ball, too. That zone [from Amherst] kinda clogged him up a little, so it’s hard. It’s early, but so far he’s had some good moments on defense, blocked shots, and he’s kind of unselfish too.”

Against visiting Amherst last night, the Golden Eagles wore down the Hurricanes in a fashion that had blueprints of those fabled Charlestown squads all over it. After trailing in the first quarter, and leading by three at halftime, they outscored the Hurricanes 39-20 to blow the doors off.

Seven minutes into the contest, 11 players had already gotten into the game, often rotating in players three or four at a time. They pressed like crazy, most notably executing a “Diamond Trap” that made getting the ball over halfcourt an adventure at times. They caused two dozen turnovers, in part a function of the 25 deflections they recorded.

“You really don’t have a man, it’s more of a zone. And we don’t trap a pass, we trap a dribble,” Cody Williams said of the press. “We’ve been at this for three weeks, and I’d say after about two weeks we got a feeling for it.”

For the most part, despite what the final score indicated, scoring points was an adventure, particularly in the half-court. But of the 47 rebounds they hauled down, 31 of them were offensive, leading to many second-chance points. Even the lumbering Baldwin took a charge, in his own end.

O’Brien said the press was “not even close to where it should be right now”, but was pleased with the Eagles’ effort in the win. Asked to reflect on his first experience back in a game in seven years, he was deferential, saying, “Honestly, I like the practices better than the games. That’s where you teach the kids.”

Those practices appear to be pretty intense.

“High energy,” Cody Wiliams said of the new culture under O’Brien. “High energy, and very serious and blunt about things. It’s his way and it’s our way, or no way.”

Conditioning is a paramount emphasis in practices, where O’Brien has built a culture of high expectations. Competition between players is fierce, but they find out daily about the quick hook of O’Brien, who is unafraid to boot someone out.

“For instance, he said ‘Don’t bounce pass’ to someone, kid bounce passes and Jack says ‘You’ve got one more time to bounce pass and you’re out of the gym’. Kid bounced passed, [Jack] kicked him out the door,” Cody explained. “That’s it. He came back, but obviously he missed that day.”

Intimidating environment, eh?

“Hell yeah,” Cody laughed. “You don’t want to be that kid. You want to give it all. He expects it out of you, so you better give it back to him.”

There’s a lot to like down the road with these kids, a loose bunch that can string together some electric fast break plays, with players like junior Terrel Morse, Isaiah Pizzaro, Rashyne Prophet and James McMillian. It’s a daily grind, but one the folks on Roosevelt Ave have embraced.

That doesn’t make O’Brien’s daily travel any easier. But it’s certainly rewarding.

“Honestly, I do the best I can. I’m not going to say it’s easy. I’m gonna tell you it’s hard,” O’Brien said. “But tonight feels good, though.”

Mr. Football Watch: Playoffs, Week 3

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
2:21
AM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch", following the third weekend of MIAA State Championship Playoffs. As always, coaches and/or statisticians are encouraged to send statistics to editors Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com) and/or Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This will be the final "Mr. Football Watch" of the 2013 season. The five finalists for our Mr. Football Award will be announced on Monday, Nov. 25, with the winner announced on Dec. 9.

***

THE CONTENDERS

Luke Brennan, Sr. QB, Doherty
Threw for 191 yards and three touchdowns, but most importantly delivered the game-winning touchdown pass to Isaac Yiadom with five seconds left, as the Highlanders captured their first Central Mass. title since 1980 with a thrilling win over Shepherd Hill.

Davon Jones, Jr. FS, St. John's (Shrewsbury)
Totaled 10 tackles and an interception, in the Pioneers' 51-42 thriller over Leominster for the D2 Central title. He leads the team in tackles (91) and interceptions (5).

Neil O'Connor, Sr. QB, Leominster
Totaled 289 passing yards and two touchdowns, in a 51-42 loss to St. John's in the D2 Central Final.

Dylan Oxsen, Sr. RB, Plymouth South
Carried a career-high 39 times for 160 yards and a touchdown in the Panthers' 7-6 win over rival Plymouth North for the D3 Southeast title. He is the state's leader in playoff rushing yardage, with 737.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. QB, St. John's (Shrewsbury)
Completed 14 of 22 passes for 250 yards and three scores, and added 201 yards rushing and three more scores on 20 carries, in the win over Leominster. That puts him over the 2,000-yard passing mark for the second straight season; he currently has 2,787 yards of offense with 38 touchdowns.

Cody Williams, Sr. QB, Springfield Central
Completed 15 of 22 passes for 344 yards and four touchdowns in the Golden Eagles' win over Westfield in the D2 West Final.

Ju'an Williams, Sr. WR, Springfield Central
Made five catches for 119 yards in the Golden Eagles' 48-22 dismantling of Westfield in the D2 West Final.

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 20 of 27 passes for 284 yards and four touchdowns in the Hornets' 41-16 win over Barnstable in the D2 South Final. He is completing 70 percent of his passes in the playoffs.

FIVE ON THE RISE

Olan Abner, Sr. RB, Bedford
Ran for 139 yards and a touchdown in the Buccaneers' overtime win over Pentucket for the D4 North title, his third straight week going over 100 yards rushing.

Jahkari Carpenter, Jr. RB, Doherty
Ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the Highlanders past Shepherd Hill for the D4 Central title. He has 230 yards rushing and four touchdowns in the last two weeks.

Michael Dunn, Jr. CB, Dennis-Yarmouth
Held Holliston's top target Zach Elkinson without a catch, and made an interception for his own cause -- his sixth of the season -- as the Dolphins captured the D4 South title.

Michael Hershman, Sr. WR, Mansfield
Exploded for seven catches for 132 yards in the Hornets' 41-16 win over Barnstable, for the D2 South title.

Shayne Kaminski, Sr. RB, Xaverian
Ran for 200 yards and two scores to help rally the Hawks past Attleboro for the D1 South title, his second 200-yard rushing game in three playoff games.

PLAYOFF STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing
Kyle Wisnieski, Sr., Mansfield – 689 yards, 9 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 647 yards, 5 TD
Luke Brennan, Sr., Doherty - 607 yards, 11 TD
Drew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – 588 yards, 10 TD
Neil O’Connor, Sr., Leominster – 575 yards, 5 TD
Mike Milano, Sr., Central Catholic – 516 yards, 4 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 504 yards, 6 TD
Dana Parello, Sr., Waltham – 494 yards, 6 TD
Tim Walsh, Sr., Attleboro - 469 yards, 8 TD
Cody Williams, Sr., Springfield Central – 417 yards, 5 TD

Rushing
Dylan Oxsen, Sr., Plymouth South – 737 yards, 8 TD
Alex Givins-Perry, Sr., Bartlett – 710 yards, 5 TD
Christian Carr, Jr., Plymouth North – 618 yards, 8 TD
Brooks Tyrrell, Jr., Marblehead – 512 yards, 6 TD
Koby Schofer, Soph., Northbridge – 466 yards, 8 TD
Malik Garrett, Sr., Melrose – 466 yards, 7 TD
Shayne Kaminski, Sr., Xaverian – 447 yards, 5 TD
Mike Panepinto, Sr., Needham – 418 yards, 6 TD
Olan Abner, Sr., Bedford – 395 yards, 3 TD
Shane Combs, Jr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – 386 yards, 5 TD

D2 West: Central 35, Longmeadow 12

November, 8, 2013
11/08/13
11:20
PM ET
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The transformation of Springfield Central football began a year ago, after the Golden Eagles defeated super power Longmeadow twice — once during the regular season and later in the Division 1 Western Mass. Super Bowl.

The Lancers' gridiron stranglehold, not only in Western Mass., but statewide has dwindled some.

On Friday, Longmeadow was looking to regain some of that magic of yesteryear, when they were winning Super Bowls at random (20 appearances since 1984 and 13 titles), against the Golden Eagles in the semifinal round of the Division 2 Western Mass. playoffs at Fred Berte Field.

But as Central proved once again, it’s simply more talented, much faster and overall, just plain better than its AA Conference rival. The Golden Eagles secured a big lead early and went on to post a 35-12 victory.

Central (8-1) will host Westfield next Friday (7 p.m.) in the final. The Bombers crushed East Longmeadow in the other semifinal, 49-26. The Golden Eagles drubbed Westfield a week ago, 52-14.

The Golden Eagles out-gained the Lancers 371 yards to 197, with most of it coming on the ground.

"Longmeadow is a well-coached team and their kids play hard," Central coach Valdamar Brower said. "Tonight, our offensive line played their tails off I thought. Our receivers on the edge did a great job blocking. Tonight, we took what was there. It was nothing fancy. It's all about moving the chains and finish drives."

Central found the end zone three times in the opening half to race out to a 21-0 lead.

Senior Cody Williams, arguably the best duel-threat quarterback in the state, put the Golden Eagles on the board midway through the first quarter with a 1-yard dive over the goal line to cap a 54-yard drive. Following a Lancer punt, Central took over on its own 14. A 38-yard pass and catch from Cody Williams to Ju'an Williams would lead to another Cody Williams dive over the pylon from two yards away with 8:17 to go before the half, putting Central up by 14.

Longmeadow's offense did little to help the cause on its next possession. A fumble by junior running back Keegan Barry was scooped up by Central's Tyreque Estrada-Crapps at the Lancer 35. Sticking primarily with the running attack, Troy Morrow finished the eight-play drive with a 2-yard plunge into the end zone to make it a 21-point game with 1:35 remaining before halftime.

"Longmeadow played us great earlier in the season (a 19-7 Central triumph)," said Cody Williams, who finished with 56 yards on 7 carries and passed for 77 yards, completing 4-of-6. "They're a tough team and time consuming team too. “We were able to get on top and keep it going from there."

Longmeadow (5-4) got on the board late in the third quarter. A ball-control drive ate up 67 yards before Barry busted through for a 26-yard scoring run.

But Central continued to flourish once the ball was back in the hands of its offense. A Ju'an Williams 18-yard catch was preceded by a Cody Williams 16-yard scamper. DaQuan Clemons, a senior back, finished things off with an 11-yard run into the end zone to up the Golden Eagles lead to 28-6 with just 12 seconds showing in the quarter.

Give the Lancers credit. They could've easily rolled over, but that isn't their style.

On the ensuing possession, behind the running of Barry and senior Max Chipouras (104 yards on 22 attempts), Longmeadow moved down field to set up a Chipouras 23-yard carry across the goal line, cutting the deficit to 28-12 with 8:10 left.

But thoughts of a comeback were soon diminished after Morrow (12 carries, 106 yards) blasted through the Lancers defense for 41 yards with under three minutes left to seal the deal.

"We made some mistakes in the first half that hurt us," Longmeadow second-year coach Nick St. George said. "We lack some intensity. But I thought we bounced back in the second half and played hard. We just couldn't climb out of the hole we created in the first half."

Recap: No. 3 Central 52, No. 13 Westfield 14

November, 2, 2013
11/02/13
1:57
AM ET
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- For what was at stake, Springfield Central's 52-14 dissection of Westfield, Friday at Fred Berte Field, was taken in stride. The post-game celebration that was expected, consisted of just a few hugs and high-fives.

For the Golden Eagles, it was business as usual.

Central's triumph did accomplished two goals. The No. 3 Golden Eagles (7-1, 7-0) claimed their third consecutive AA Conference crown as well as catapulting them to the top seed in next weekend's Division 2 Western Mass. Tournament.

But this team has loftier goals in mind — that being a state championship.

Since losing its season-opener to Everett, Central has now run off seven straight victories. Judging by the way they handled the No. 13 Bombers, the Golden Eagles seemed primed to contend for a state title.

"You have to give a shout out to our scout team and coaching staff for this win tonight," Central head coach Valdamar Brower said. "We played very-disciplined. We were able to execute and our kids were very determined tonight."

Central took control of this one early, jumping out to a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter on a pair of touchdown runs (5 and 1 yard, respectively) from all-everything quarterback Cody Williams and a Ju'an Williams 13-yard reception.

Cody Williams, a Monmouth University commit, finished another brilliant evening by completing 9-of-12 passes for 133 yards. The senior also rushed for 107 yards on 15 carries.

Westfield (7-1, 6-1) was presumed to be Central's toughest opponent outside of Everett. For a brief period, the Bombers lived up to that billing after quarterback Jake Toomey (4-of-13, 20 yards, 37 rushing yards) scored on an 8-yard run to cut the deficit to 20-7.

Moments later, Westfield was driving again. The Bombers marched 64 yards before facing a fourth-and-goal at the Golden Eagles' 1-yard line. It was a no-brainer that Westfield would give the ball to bulldozing fullback Ben Geschwind.

As planned, it did, but Central's defensive front stopped the senior short of the goal line thus turning the ball over to the Golden Eagles. Geschwind, the Bombers' season-leading ground-gainer, carried the ball 21 times for 111 yards.

Teammate Cody Neidig, a junior, contributed 103 yards on 11 carries.

"Obviously we are disappointed with the way things went tonight," said Westfield coach Bill Moore, who will retire once the postseason is over with. "There were a couple of occasions where we made it a game. We got stuffed on that goal line play which really hurt us. We were about an inch away from making it a 20-14 game. But Central is a very good team. They have great players and a great staff who all work very hard. Tonight wasn't our night but we have a good group of kids that will keep fighting."

The Golden Eagles out-gained Westfield 511 yards to 350.

After stopping Geschwind, Central, with its quick-strike, no-huddle offense, wasted little time escaping the shadow of its own goal post. A 25-yard carry from versatile running back Troy Morrow set the stage for his own 74-yard jaunt down the right sideline to make the score 27-7 with just 1:39 showing before halftime. Morrow, who was virtually unstoppable on this night, gained 209 yards on 18 attempts.

"Their linebackers shift around a lot but when they shifted the wrong way that opened up holes for us," said Morrow, a senior. "It worked out perfectly tonight. For us, this is just the start of a journey. We just have to keep focused. Overall, this team has depth which is a good thing to have at this time of the year. We just need to stay hungry and humble."

Added Brower, "Troy has been giving maximum effort since the start of the season," he said. "I was excited to see him making big plays in a big game like this. But he's been doing it all year for us."

A quick four-and-out by Westfield, on its ensuing possession, was all the Golden Eagles would need to increase their total. Getting the ball on the Bombers' 45, Cody Williams found Malik Johnson for a 13-yard reception. That was followed by a pair of Cody Williams' runs netting 16 yards. With just 12 seconds to go before the break, The signal-caller, who had ample time given to him thanks to his solid front line, connected with Traveis Dykes for a 17-yard touchdown sending the Golden Eagles into the half well in-control, leading 33-7.

Getting the ball back to begin the second half, Central marched 71 yards before DaQuon Clemons darted into the end zone from 13 yards out to push the advantage to 39-7. A Toomey to Garrett Fitzgerald 19-yard scoring pass on Westfield's next possession did little to rattle the Golden Eagles.

During the final 3:47, Central scored twice more leaving no doubt who the favorite is to come out of Western Mass. At 3:47, Williams danced around several would-be tacklers for a 42-yard score. A short time later, sophomore cornerback Tyreque Estrada-Crapps stepped in front of a Toomey pass, returning it 53 yards into the end zone to close this contest out.

Player of the Week: Natick's Troy Flutie

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
1:09
AM ET
NATICK, Mass. -- Call it a touch of Flutie Magic.

Like his uncle (and father) before him, Natick quarterback and BC commit Troy Flutie has a penchant for the dramatic, and Friday's thrilling 56-55, overtime win over Bay State Herget rival Walpole was no exception.

Flutie threw for 370 yards, while adding 191 on the ground, and accounting for seven touchdowns (4 passing, 3 rushing) in the victory over the Rebels. For that, he was named our Player of the Week for Week 8.

Editor Brendan Hall caught up with Flutie before Monday's practice:



In addition to Flutie, here are this week's Top 5 performers:
  • Troy Flutie, Sr. QB, Natick - Totaled 561 yards of offense (370 passing, 191 rushing) and seven touchdowns in overtime win vs. Walpole.
  • Drew Jacobs, Sr. RB/LB Milton Academy - Totaled 4 scores (3 rushing, 1 INT) with 194 yards rushing while helping to end Governor's Academy's ISL-best 23-game winning streak.
  • Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham - Ran for 301 yards, along with a school-record 6 TD in 42-28 win vs. Weymouth.
  • Xavier Santiago, Sr. DE, Lawrence - While notching a season-high 14 tackles, credited with 7 sacks in a win vs. Billerica.
  • Ju'an Williams, Sr. WR, Springfield Central - Hauled in 2 TD catches in his five receptions, averaging more than 32 yards per catch in a win vs. West Springfield.

Mr. Football Watch: Week 6

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
10:54
PM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch" following Week 6 of the 2013 season. Statistics can be sent to editors Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com) and/or Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com)

THE CONTENDERS

Troy Flutie, Sr. QB, Natick
Completed 15 of 22 passes for 325 yards and five touchdowns, with no interceptions, in the Redhawks’ 42-10 win over Dedham.

Brandon Gallagher, Jr. RB, Bridgewater-Raynham
Ran for 232 yards and a score, and added a 70-yard touchdown reception, in a 27-7 win over Dartmouth.

Hayden Murphy, Sr. RB/WR, Barnstable
In the Red Raiders' 29-20 comeback win over Marshfield, carried 12 times for 116 yards and a touchdown, and caught two passes for 74 yards and another score.

Neil O’Connor, Sr. QB, Leominster
Accounted for a season-high 359 yards of offense (287 passing, 72 rushing) and two scores in the Blue Devils' 47-26 win over Doherty.

Dylan Oxsen, Sr. RB, Plymouth South
In the Panthers' 27-7 win over Nauset, carried a personal record 37 times for 243 yards and four touchdowns.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
Carried 18 times for 132 yards and a score in the Rockets' 21-0 shutout of Braintree.

Rufus Rushins, Jr. RB, Bishop Fenwick
Ran for 80 yards and a score in the Crusaders' 48-18 rout of Austin Prep.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. RB, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Completed 19 of 33 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns in the Pioneers' upset loss to cross-town rival Shrewsbury.

Cody Williams, Sr. QB, Springfield Central
Completed 12 of 17 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns in the Golden Eagles’ 40-12 rout of Minnechaug.

Ju’an Williams, Sr. WR, Springfield Central
Caught five passes for 69 yards in the Eagles’ win over Minnechaug.

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 13 of 15 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns in the Hornets’ 47-8 rout of Taunton.

FIVE ON THE RISE

Matt Banchs, Sr. FB/LB, Leominster
In the Blue Devils' win over Doherty, recorded 22 tackles and two sacks, and also added 40 yards rushing with a score on offense. Banchs is slowly rising as one of the top defensive players in Central Mass.

Christian Carr, Jr. RB, Plymouth North
In the Eagles' 33-6 win over Falmouth, carried 35 times for 254 yards and four touchdowns, giving him over 700 yards rushing on the season.

Mike Maggipinto, Soph. RB, East Longmeadow
Carried 20 times for 259 yards and five touchdowns in the Spartans’ 40-34 win over Springfield Putnam. He currently leads all Western Mass. running backs in rushing touchdowns (13).

James Sullivan, Jr. RB/DB, Tewksbury
Collected three of the Redmen’s four interceptions, while adding 75 yards on nine carries with a touchdown on offense vs. Methuen.

Miguel Villar-Perez, Jr. RB, Mansfield
Caught three passes for 95 yards and a touchdown in the Hornets’ 47-8 win over Taunton. Through five games he has 575 yards of offense as a pass-catching running back, with eight touchdowns.

TOP STATISTICAL LEADERS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Rushing
Mark Wright, Sr., Auburn – 950 yards, 11 TD
Brooks Tyrrell, Jr., Marblehead – 931 yards, 9 total TD
Chris Ahl, Sr., Millis/Hopedale – 895 yards, 11 TD
Dylan Oxsen, Sr., Plymouth South – 852 yards, 14 total TD
Zered McCoy, Sr., Ware – 843 yards, 5 TD

Passing
Dylan Kierman, Sr., Quabbin – 1,680 yards, 17 TD
John Rumney, Sr., Marlborough – 1,372 yards, 17 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 1,360 yards, 22 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 1,298 yards, 13 TD
Ryan Barabe, Jr., Pope John Paul II – 1,255 yards, 14 TD

Receiving
Zach Elkinson, Jr., Holliston – 513 yards, 14 total TD
Jake Bradway, Jr., Belchertown – 489 yards, 7 TD
Brian Daly, Jr., Marblehead – 487 yards, 10 TD
T.J. Hairston, Jr., Watertown – 472 yards, 5 TD
Jack Galvin, Sr., Lowell – 438 yards, 8 TD

Mr. Football Watch: Week 5

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
5:45
PM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch" following Week 5 of the 2013 season. Statistics can be sent to editors Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com) and/or Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com)

THE CONTENDERS*

Troy Flutie, Sr. QB, Natick
Boston College commit completed 14 of 27 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns, and added 47 yards on the ground, in a 28-0 shutout of Norwood.

Brendan Hill, Jr. TE, Mansfield
Caught four passes for 76 yards and a score in the Hornets’ 49-42 win over Attleboro.

Hayden Murphy, Sr. ATH, Barnstable
Ran for 115 yards and three touchdowns in the Red Raiders’ 35-14 win over New Bedford.

Neil O’Connor, Sr. QB/S, Leominster
In just one half of football in the Blue Devils’ 34-0 shutout of Wachusett, accounted for 201 yards of offense and capped things off with a nifty 90-yard interception return to the house.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
Ran for 135 yards and three touchdowns in the Rockets’ 34-12 win over Framingham.

Rufus Rushins, Jr. RB, Bishop Fenwick
Carried 24 times for 233 yards and four touchdowns in the Crusaders’ commanding 42-20 rout of Cardinal Spellman.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. QB, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
In the Pioneers’ 49-21 win over Nashoba, completed 23 of 29 passes for 335 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, and added 67 rushing yards.

Cody Williams, Sr., Springfield Central
Monmouth commit completed 13 of 18 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns, and added 118 yards and a third score on the ground, in the Golden Eagles’ 19-7 win over Longmeadow.

Ju’an Williams, Sr., Springfield Central
Caught five passes for 96 yards and a touchdown in the Golden Eagles’ 19-7 win over Longmeadow

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 19 of 28 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns in the Hornets’ 49-42 thriller over Attleboro.

Isaac Yiadom, Sr. WR/DB, Doherty
Recorded a touchdown catch, his second of the year, in the Highlanders’ 40-12 rout of Worcester South. Through four games he is averaging 30.9 yards per catch, and has recorded 37 tackles on defense.


FIVE ON THE RISE

Bo Berluti, Sr. QB, Westwood
Accounted for 255 yards of offense and three total touchdowns in the Wolverines’ 43-41 double-overtime epic over archrival Holliston. But it will be his gutsy 25-yard, fourth and goal TD pass in the second overtime that will go down in folklore.

Derrell Fernandez, Sr. RB, Weymouth
Carried 225 times for 264 yards and five touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 42-18 win over Brookline.

Mike McGillicuddy, Sr. WR, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
The elusive slot receiver caught nine passes for 113 yards in the Pioneers’ 49-21 win over Nashoba.

Tom Rodrick, Sr. LB, Leicester
The UConn commit recorded 12 tackles, a sack, and blocked field goal in the Wolverines’ 15-6 win over Auburn.

Alex Valles, Sr. RB, Danvers
Carried 24 times for 211 yards and three scores in the Falcons’ 20-12 win over Revere.


TOP STATISTICAL LEADERS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Rushing
Brooks Tyrrell, Jr., Marblehead – 889 yards, 9 total TD
Johnathan Thomas, Sr., St. John’s Prep – 748 yards, 8 total TD
Mark Wright, Sr., Auburn – 760 yards, 8 TD
Olan Abner, Sr., Bedford – 733 yards, 7 TD
Christian Perez, Sr., Northeast – 725 yards, 8 total TD

Passing
Dylan Kierman, Sr., Quabbin – 1,230 yards, 19 TD
John Rumney, Sr., Marlborough – 1,086 yards, 14 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 1,072 yards, 11 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 1,035 yards, 17 TD
Andrew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – 955 yards, 11 TD

Receiving
Zach Elkinson, Jr., Holliston – 405 yards, 7 TD
Brian Daly, Sr., Marblehead – 395 yards, 8 TD
Dan Henrickson, Sr., St. Peter-Marian – 380 yards, 5 TD
Isaac Yiadom, Sr., Doherty – 371 yards, 2 TD
Mike Bombard, Sr., Chicopee Comp – 369 yards, 3 TD

Dual Threat
Dylan Kierman, Sr., Quabbin – 1,230 passing yards, 284 rushing yards, 21 total TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 1,035 passing yards, 316 rushing yards, 18 total TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 1,072 passing yards, 167 rushing yards, 14 total TD
Andrew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) 955 passing yards, 169 rushing yards, 16 total TD
Cody Williams, Sr., Springfield Central – 851 passing yards, 254 rushing yards, 13 total TD



*Not including teams who were idle last weekend.

Mr. Football Watch: Week 3

September, 24, 2013
9/24/13
2:35
PM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch" following Week 3 of the 2013 season. Statistics can be sent to editors Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com) and/or Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com)

THE CONTENDERS*

Troy Flutie, Sr. QB, Natick
The Boston College commit completed 14 of 21 passes for 282 yards and five scores, and added 32 yards on the ground, in a 41-6 win over Acton-Boxborough.

Jack Galvin, Sr. WR, Lowell
Caught two passes for 90 yards and two scores in the Red Raiders’ 33-20 loss to Leominster.

Neil O’Connor, Sr. QB, Leominster
In the Blue Devils’ 33-20 defeat of Lowell, threw for 156 yards and three touchdowns, and added 66 yards and a score on the ground.

Dylan Oxsen, Sr. RB, Plymouth South
Carried 18 times for 256 yards and three touchdowns in the Panthers’ 21-7 win over Sandwich. In the first two games, he has 418 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
The UMass lacrosse commit ran for 195 yards and two touchdowns in the Rockets’ 26-6 win over Walpole.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. QB, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
In the Pioneers’ 42-24 win over Catholic Memorial, the Navy lacrosse commit completed 20 of 25 passes for 239 yards and four touchdowns, and added 47 rushing yards with a fifth score.

Johnathan Thomas, Sr. RB, St. John’s Prep
The Maryland commit carried 27 times for 228 yards and two scores, and added a spectacular 107-yard pick-six that made SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays, in a 40-21 win over Central Catholic.

Cody Williams, Sr. QB, Springfield Central
In the Golden Eagles’ 49-0 rout of East Longmeadow, the Monmouth commit completed 8 of 9 passes for 148 yards and three scores, and added 37 yards and a score on seven carries on the ground.

Ju’an Williams, Sr. WR/DB, Springfield Central
Was a factor in all three phases of the game in the Golden Eagles’ 49-0 blanking of East Longmeadow. He caught three passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns, recorded four tackles and a 92-yard interception return for a third score, and was a perfect 7-for-7 on extra point field goals.

Isaac Yiadom, Sr. WR/DB, Doherty
The Boston College commit caught four passes for 92 yards and a score, and recorded 13 tackles defensively, in the Highlanders’ 19-12 win over Holy Name.

FIVE ON THE RISE*

Zach Elkinson, Jr. ATH, Holliston
Registered 232 yards and three scores in three different methods – rushing, receiving and punt return – in the Panthers’ 43-7 win over Milford. Through three games, he has 514 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns by four different methods.

A.J. King, Sr. WR, Xaverian
Blew the doors open for the Hawks in their battle with Bridgewater-Raynham, catching four balls for 129 yards and two scores in the first half en route to a 49-13 rout.

Jimmy Sullivan, Sr. QB/S, Nauset
In the Warriors’ 34-8 win over Falmouth, carried 10 times for 167 yards and two scores, and added 38 passing yards and a third score, as well as four tackles on defense. Through two games, he has 419 all-purpose yards, five touchdowns, 13 tackles and an interception.

Olan Abner, Sr. RB, Bedford
Carried 38 times for 262 yards and two touchdowns in the Buccaneers’ 34-13 win over Belmont. Through two games, he has 398 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Ricardo Edwards, Sr. RB, Brighton
Had a record six touchdowns in the Bengals’ 44-22 win over East Boston. He ran for 233 yards and five scores, and returned an interception for a sixth.

TOP STATISTICAL LEADERS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Rushing
Johnathan Thomas, Sr., St. John’s Prep – 652 yards, 8 total TD
Christian Perez, Sr., Northeast – 574 yards, 5 TD
Mark Wright, Sr., Auburn – 558 yards, 6 TD
Isaiah White, Sr., Beverly – 558 yards, 5 TD
Brooks Tyrell, Jr., Marblehead – 453 yards, 6 total TD

Passing
Jordan Bolarinho, Sr., Billerica – 872 yards, 7 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 604 yards, 5 TD
Brendan Smith, Soph., Seekonk – 575 yards, 6 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 571 yards, 8 TD
Ryan Barabe, Jr., Pope John Paul II – 497 yards, 5 TD

Receiving
Kevin Casey, Jr., Billerica – 309 yards, 2 TD
Jack Galvin, Sr., Lowell – 283 yards, 6 TD
Jeff Trainor, Soph., Billerica – 254 yards, 3 TD
Zach Elkinson, Jr., Holliston – 252 yards, 7 total TD
Isaac Yiadom, Sr., Doherty – 244 yards, TD

Dual Threat QB*
Cameron McMillian, Sr., Cambridge – 397 passing yards, 437 rushing yards, 10 total TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 604 passing yards, 118 rushing yards, 7 total TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 571 passing yards, 99 rushing yards, 9 total TD
Tyler Bassett, Sr., Dracut – 355 passing yards, 312 rushing yards, 4 total TD
Kyle Dance, Sr., Latin Academy – 373 passing yards, 237 rushing yards, 10 total TD
*Not including teams who were idle last weekend.
**To qualify, quarterbacks must have rushing yards account for at least 15 percent of their total offensive production.

ESPN Boston Week 3 football picks

September, 19, 2013
9/19/13
6:07
PM ET
BOSTON LATIN ACADEMY (2-0) at DORCHESTER (1-0), Friday 6 p.m.

Scott Barboza: The other day when we visited Dragons QB Kyle Dance for our Player of the Week interview, he was wearing a Cam Newton t-shirt. He does his best on-field impression again. Latin, 22-14.

Brendan Hall: Everything we’re taught in this business cautions against cliché, pun-filled headlines. But when you have a quarterback as elusive and fleet-footed as Kyle Dance, you can’t help yourself. Latin Academy, 22-12.

ACTON-BOXBOROUGH (1-0) at No. 7 NATICK (1-0), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: Hate to upset loyal reader and former A-B gridder Mark Martin after picking against the Colonials last week in their win over Cambridge, but I just don’t think this is the week to change my tune. Natick, 34-24.

Hall: Just wait until Troy Flutie really gets untracked. Natick, 31-20.

BARNSTABLE (0-1) at BC HIGH (1-1), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: Red Raiders are going to enter hungry and desperate not to fall to 0-2, but Eagles defense wins out. BC High, 20-17.

Hall: Barnstable is going to need to show a lot more aggression, and discipline, on both sides of the ball if it is going to stay afloat in the competitive D2 South standings. Eagles could use the points for this win, considering the tough road ahead. BC High, 20-10.

No. 15 ST. JOHN’S OF SHREWSBURY (0-1) at CATHOLIC MEMORIAL (1-0), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: Kevin Bletzer is the type of player an offensive coordinator will have fits about, but ultimately too much to stop with the Pioneers. St. John’s, 32-28.

Hall: After some early struggles, the St. John’s passing game came alive in the second half, thanks to a flurry of screens and a couple of deep completions down the sidelines from returning All-Stater Andrew Smiley. There are some excellent individual talents at CM, but how good they are on the whole remains to be see. St. John’s, 28-14.

No. 6 SPRINGFIELD CENTRAL (0-1) at EAST LONGMEADOW (2-0), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: This will be a one-possession game with Ju’an Williams being the difference for the Eagles. Central, 23-20.

Hall: Spartans proving they are an underrated bunch, after a solid win last weekend, but there is too much perimeter speed to harness here. Central, 25-14.

WEYMOUTH (0-1) at No. 11 BROCKTON (0-1), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: A game of turnovers, or at least whichever team is able to hold onto the football best. I’m sure it was a point of emphasis for both squads coming off their performances last week. Brockton, 30-21.

Hall: Wildcats licking their chops after Brockton gassed them for 432 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the Division 1 playoffs last year. Flat out, to be perfectly blunt, I just don’t see Brockton losing to a team from the Bay State Conference. I can’t recall the last time they did. Brockton, 27-13.

No. 12 WALPOLE (1-0) at NEEDHAM (0-1), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: As I wrote in our Roundtable earlier, I really think this classifies as a near must-win for Needham in the stacked Division 2 South sectional. Think the Rebels are too well-rounded though. Walpole, 36-28.

Hall: Wouldn’t be surprised to see an upset here, considering the Rebels’ relative inexperience. But they’ve had two weeks to prepare for this one. Walpole, 17-10.

No. 4 ST. JOHN’S PREP (1-1) at No. 13 CENTRAL CATHOLIC (2-0), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: A defensive struggle in its truest sense. Prep, 17-14.

Hall: That was some vintage defense by the defensively-sound Raiders in last weekend’s shutout of Haverhill. I don’t see Central doing the same to Prep, but I’m curious to see what kind of gameplan Chuck Adamopoulos devises for Johnathan Thomas. The last two defensive coordinators failed. Expect the Raiders to muck it up here. Prep, 17-14.

No. 8 LEOMINSTER (1-0) at No. 9 LOWELL(2-0), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: Brian Dolan and the Red Raiders offense opposes their greatest competition – and, most likely – the best secondary they’ll see all season. They find a way to squeak by the Blue Devils. Lowell, 28-21.

Hall: I’ve been saying for a few weeks now that Leominster has the best safety tandem in the state, between Neil O’Connor and Jarell Addo. Lowell is about to find out on Friday night what kind of pass defense they’re up against. Going the other way, I’m intrigued to see how Jack Galvin squares up with Addo at tight end. Leominster, 35-31.

ST. SEBASTIAN’S at MILTON ACADEMY, Saturday 3 p.m.

Barboza: I like the Mustangs’ backfield depth with Luke McDonald and Drew Jacobs; they’re the difference. Milton Academy, 24-14.

Hall: Connor Strachan gets the job done. St. Seb’s, 19-15.

LAWRENCE ACADEMY at GOVERNOR’S ACADEMY, Saturday 1 p.m.

Barboza: Gov’s streak will end this year, just not this week. Governor’s, 17-14.

Hall: LA’s Chris Garrison might be the most impressive player on the field on either side of the ball, and the Spartans will surely get him involved in a variety of ways. Still, I think the sum of the Govs’ lacrosse-bred talent will win out here. Governor’s, 24-14.

GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 1 BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM (2-0) at No. 10 XAVERIAN (1-0), Saturday 1 p.m.

Barboza: The Trojans make it four in a row over the Hawks and break out of the early season curse of the ESPN Boston No. 1. B-R, 16-14.

Hall: First there was #CropTopOverTheTop, then came #FakeCropTopOverTheTop. Can we get some #CropTopOverThePylon action to complete the cycle here? B-R, 16-10.

Last Week’s Picks

Barboza: 10-2 (15-8 overall)

Hall: 7-5 (14-9 overall)

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