Boston High School: Justin Cabral

Recap: Oliver Ames 21, No. 19 Plymouth North 7

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
NORTH EASTON, Mass. -- Oliver Ames' offense showed some bursts in the first three quarters of the game, but couldn't put it all together.

That changed completely in the final frame as the Tigers erupted for three touchdowns in the final nine minutes of play to beat No. 19 Plymouth North, 21-7.

While OA's offense worked out the kinks, their defense was able to shut down anything Plymouth North's offense threw at them. The Eagles, who were without star running back Christian Carr because of a knee injury, also looked to be trying to figure things out offensively.

"I think we're different than we were last year," Oliver Ames head coach Jim Artz said of his defense. "I don't think we have some of the size we had but I think our team speed is very good. I think we can fly to the ball and we don't overflow sometimes, and I think they hurt us with that with some very nice cut back runs."

After a scoreless first half, the first breakthrough came through less than a minute into the second half. On Oliver Ames' second play of the half, a muffed handoff resulted in a fumble that was recovered by Plymouth North's Justin Cabral at the OA 23-yard line. Plymouth North's Myles Uva (12 carries, 59 yards) took the first play 17 yards on a run to the right and then took the next carry six yards and into the end zone to put the Eagles up 7-0.

OA and Plymouth North each traded punts before the Tigers took over at their own 25-yard line. Faced with third and six at the Eagles' 22-yard line, OA quarterback John McMillan hit junior receiver Franklin Holgate on a short pass but Holgate chugged his way through the defense and dove over the 15-yard line for a gain of eight and a first down. On the next play, senior Michael Ferrara rushed it straight up the middle for a 14-yard touchdown to tie the game, 7-7.

Plymouth North was forced into a three in out on the next possession, mainly because of a shoestring tackle from Oliver Ames linebacker Joey Tepper. On third and seven from their own 29-yard line, Plymouth North quarterback Cullin Cosgrove dropped very deep, drawing in the defensive line, before dumping it off to Uva on a screen pass. It looked like Uva had plenty of space but Tepper quickly closed down and tripped him up before the first down marker.

"He's good," Artz said of Tepper. "He's very, very good. I thought the play defensively for us in the game was that screen he sniffs out. He tracked the kid down, tripped the kid up and makes an unbelievable play. Then I think he ran a 4.3 off the field."

That play forced Plymouth North to punt and eight plays later, Holgate was at it again. McMillan hit Holgate for another quick pass and this time Holgate broke through the first tackle and then sprinted up the sideline for a 43-yard touchdown. Steven Scurti's extra point was good to make it 14-7 Oliver Ames with 2:43 left.

As the Eagles tried to conduct a game-tying drive, the Tigers brought the pressure. Cosgrove was flushed from the pocket and OA seniors Dan Sullivan and Patrick McNeely closed in and forced a fumble. Sophomore Shawn Cardoza recovered the fumble at the Eagles' 40-yard line and OA took over with 1:24 let.

After one rushing play went for two yards and Plymouth North called timeout, the Tigers went play action and McMillan found a wide open Sam Kelly along the left sidelines for a 38-yard touchdown, giving OA a 21-7 lead.

"They found some seams and made some plays," Plymouth North head coach Kevin Cobban said. "They made two more plays than we did. There was a big penalty early on when we could have gone up 7-0, that could have changed things a little bit. For the first game of the year, I thought it was a pretty good football game. We know what we have to work on and we'll get better. We have nothing to hang our heads about, they're a good team and we're a good team."

McMillan, who started his first varsity game, looked a lot more comfortable in the second half for the Tigers. He went 4-8 for 32 yards in the first half but went 10-11 for 125 yards and two touchdowns in the second half.

"I think it's a comfort level," Artz said of throwing more later in the game. "With a new quarterback, I kind of have to get that feel. They're very good up front, it's not like they gave us a ton of time either. That was a very strong, very good physical football team. We had to pick our moments and not get too greedy and make a costly mistake. Defensively if we make them drive the whole field, we're very tough."

As for Carr, Cobban said that he's getting an MRI this week.
PLYMOUTH, Mass. – It’s a predicament that’s posed to any athlete who’s coming off a record-breaking year: how to follow it up?

Plymouth North’s Christian Carr ran for 1,765 yards last season, marking an Eagles’ single-season record. Carr set the record with a statement, while going off for 351 yards in a sectional semi-final playoff win over Dighton-Rehoboth. While earning repeat honors as an Atlantic Coast League (ACL) all-star, he finished with 19 touchdowns on the season.

Carr doesn’t see a slow-down in sight. Apparently, he plans on one-upping himself.

“I’m trying to surpass my achievements last year and, hopefully, get to the [state championship],” he said during Tuesday’s practice.

Carr paused, then added coyly: “Nothing too big.”

The senior’s name now carries clout across the state and, as a result, Carr will be marked man in the Eagles’ backfield. That is, if anybody can find him emerging out of the thicket of tall timbers on North’s offensive line. Carr is listed at 5-foot-4 and 150 pounds on his official Hudl recruiting page.

“It’s an advantage, actually,” Carr said, referencing the trend to smaller backs in the NFL, including Darren Sproles and Danny Woodhead. “They have to get lower to tackle me. It’s even harder for them, that helps me. If I was taller, people could easily get me down by my legs, but now they have to get even lower. It’s harder to tackle someone if they’re already so low.”

As Carr will remind you, however, he didn’t do it alone. He referenced North’s offensive line as the driving force behind his record 2013 campaign. That unit also returns four of its starters from last season, two of whom (Justin Cabral and Brian Proctor) played as sophomores last year. North head coach Kevin Cobban is optimistic that senior Jack Gallagher – who he labeled as their “best offensive lineman” – has returned from the injury that forced him out of the lineup past Week 2 last year. There’s also versatility among the group in senior center/guard Gavin Johnson.

“We had a good offensive line last year, and it takes ten other guys to help [Carr] out,” Cobban said. “We’re a physical football team, we want to run the football and there’s no better kid than [Carr]. He’s a hard-nosed kid. He plays bigger than his 5-foot-5.”

While North’s offensive philosophy remains in place, both Cobban and Carr hinted that there could be more opportunities for returning three-year starter quarterback Cullin Cosgrove to air it out.

But the most significant change for the Eagles will come in their schedule, as the school shifts its conference affiliation from the ACL to the Patriot League.

“It doesn’t change anything,” Carr said. “If we play like we can, we should do good. It doesn’t depend on the league, it’s about how we play.”

Top 25 countdown: Nos. 20-16

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
On Monday, we unveiled our statewide MIAA Top 25 preseason football poll. Today, we continue our annual countdown of the poll with Nos. 20 through 16.

ICYMI: 25-21

Coach: Sean Mulcahy (24th season, 112-141)
2013: 12-1, Division 4 State Champions
Returning Starters: 10 (5 offense, 5 defense)
Key Returnees: Jahkari Carpenter, Sr. RB/DB, 5-7, 160 lbs.; Javon Watkins, Sr. WR/RB/DB, 5-9, 170 lbs.; Eric Vecsey, Sr. QB/S, 5-10, 175 lbs.; Rickey Webster, Jr. DB/RB, 5-8, 160 lbs.; Dominique Lee, Sr. DB/RB, 5-9, 165 lbs.; Tavian Vassar, Jr. RB/DT, 6-1, 230 lbs.; James Shaugnessy, Sr. LB/WR, 5-11, 185 lbs.; Fitzroy Spencer, Sr. OL/DL, 6-2, 240 lbs.; Sean Moran, Sr. OL/DL/LB, 6-0, 240 lbs.; Manny Obisui, Sr. OL/DL, 6-2, 260 lbs.; Tariq Massenberg, Jr. DB/WR, 6-0, 160 lbs.; Aaron Adu, Jr. DB/WR, 5-11, 160 lbs.; Jack McGrail, Sr. DE/LB/TE, 6-1, 160lbs.
Strengths: Athleticism, offensive line, defensive line, senior leadership
Weaknesses: Inexperience at skill positions, inexperience at LB and DB
Outlook: Repeating as state champions is never easy, nor is replacing a pair of Division 1 athletes and arguably the best quarterback in school history. That is the challenge Doherty is faced with in 2014, with Isaac Yiadom now playing for BC, Alfred Adarkwah off to UMass and Luke Brennan pitching for Franklin Pierce. Still, the Highlanders should be right in the thick of things in D4 Central thanks to one of the state's most experienced and athletic offensive lines, and the versatility of speedy running back Jahkari Carpenter. Consistent targets will need to emerge for senior quarterback Eric Vecsey, but the Highlanders never seem to lack for athletes. Doherty is stacked up front on defense, where junior Tavian Vassar's quickness and the power of both Fitzroy Spencer and Manny Obisui should provide some cover for a back seven looking to replace six starters. Some talented options are available in the secondary, where juniors Rickey Webster and Aaron Adu will fight for playing time against classmate Tariq Massenberg, who started at corner last year when Adarkwah was nicked up. The linebacker corps will be totally overhauled, but the move of star guard Sean Moran to MLB should make things a little easier, and the return of James Shaugnessy from injury is certainly a welcome site for defensive coordinator and Associate Head Coach Steve Bucciatlia. This year's group isn't quite as talented or experienced as last year's title team, but sleeping on Doherty would be foolish for anyone in Central Mass.

Head Coach: Kevin Cobban (3rd season, 11-10)
2013: 8-3, lost to Plymouth South in Div. 3 Southeast final
Returning Starters: Eight returning starters on offense; six returning starters on defense.
Key Players: Christian Carr, Sr. RB; Cullin Cosgrove, Sr. QB; Jack Gallagher, Sr. OL; Gavin Johnson, Sr. C/G; Justin Cabral, Jr. OL; Brian Proctor, Jr. OL; Ryan Boudreau, Sr. S/CB;
Strengths: Rushing game; experience on the offensive line and defensive secondary.
Weaknesses: Depth on defensive line; special teams.
Outlook: There was no secret to Plymouth North’s formula for turnaround success last season: give it to Christian Carr. “That was our forte last year,” Eagles head coach Kevin Cobbin said. “Everybody in the stadium knew what we were going to do, but we just kept doing it.” The ground game will again be the bread and butter for North, with Carr coming off a season in which he broke the school’s single-seasons rushing record. The Eagles return four starters on the offensive line, including Jack Gallager, who was lost after the second game of the season last year but Cobban says “might have been our best lineman.” However, Cobban also sees the Eagles airing it out a bit more in 2014 behind incumbent three-starting quarterback Cullin Cosgrove. The Eagles also have an abundance of experience in their defensive secondary, where they return a full corps of three-year starters. While North lacks the same kind of experience along the defensive line, Cobban is confident the Eagles will be able to win the point of attack on either side of the ball. “The kids have bought into offseason workouts and we’re bigger and stronger than we’ve been,” Cobban said. This year also marks the Eagles’ first year in the Patriot League, moving from the Atlantic Coast League. The shift means North will be establishing some new rivalries and reigniting some lost in time. “It doesn’t matter that we’re moving into a new league, we’re just excited to play,” Cobban said.

Coach: Mike Strachan (Second Year, 9-2)
2013 Record: 9-2 (6-1), lost to Xaverian in Division 1 South sectional final
Returning Starters: 12 (6 offensive, 6 defensive)
Key Players: Kyle Murphy, Jr. OL/DL 6-3, 235 lbs.; Brenden Massey, Sr. WR/DB, 6-0, 170 lbs.; Thomas Belin, Sr. RB, 5-11, 170 lbs.; Matt Elliot, Sr. WR/DB, 5-9, 190 lbs.; Nick Desmaris, Sr. WR/DB, 6-1, 160 lbs.; Tim Christensen, Sr. OL/DL, 6-2, 235 lbs.; Ross Killion, Sr. QB, 6-3, 185 lbs.; Tyler McGovern, So. QB, 6-1, 140 lbs.
Strengths: Offensive and defensive line
Weaknesses: Inexperience at quarterback and skill positions
Outlook: Last season was one to remember for the Bombardiers with a change of leadership under new head coach Mike Strachan and his staff and a trip to the Division 1 South final. Now the test for the Bombardiers is to build off the success of last season and prove that they can be a perennial threat in the Hockomock League. That will be a difficult task without star quarterback Tim Walsh, whose dynamic ability to make plays with his feet and his arm aren’t easily replicated, which head coach Mike Strachan admitted at the league’s recent Media Day. While Attleboro may not have a settled quarterback position heading into camp, with Ross Killion being the senior but a lot of people close to the program talking about the talent of sophomore Tyler McGovern, the Bombardiers can rely on strength in the trenches. Senior Tim Christensen and junior Kyle Murphy, who is receiving interest from Clemson University after a breakout sophomore season, will anchor the offensive and defensive line and try to open holes for running back Thomas Belin. The senior did not see action until the fourth game of 2013, but he will be the focal point of the offense this year and his breakaway speed will be crucial. If teams bunch the line of scrimmage, then Attleboro can also look downfield to senior wideout Brenden Massey, who made several remarkable catches last season and was named to the 2014 Preseason All-State team. Every team has to deal with the loss of great players to graduation and Strachan is expecting his players to step up in camp to prove that 2013 was not a fluke. “I think if we’re going to build our program long term than we need to be like the Mansfields, North Attleboroughs, and KPs, and continue that level of player from year to year,” he said. “We expect a lot of competition in camp.”

Coach: Valdamar Brower 6th season (45-16)
Last Year: 10-2. Beat Longmeadow 35-12 in WMass Divison 2 semifinal. Beat Westfield 44-20 in WMass Division 2 final. Lost to St. John's (S) 37-32 in Division 2 state semifinal
Returning Starters: 10 (5 offense, 5 defense)
Key Returnees: Antoine Williams, Jr., RB/WR/S, Justin Bolden, Sr.,RB/MLB, Nate Smith, Sr, WR/S/KR, Issac Morales, Jr., WR/DB, Kaleb Hunter-Sams, Sr., OL/DL, Aaron Williams, Sr., QB/S; Tysean Williams, Sr., WR 5-11, 170; Tyreque Estrada-Crapps, Jr., RB/CB, 5-8, 170; Daryl Wiggins, Sr., OL/DL, 6-0, 340; Noah Mayberry, Sr., C, 5-11, 248.
Strengths: Offensive line, team unity
Weaknesses: Inexperience
Outlook: The Golden Eagles have a major task ahead of them as they try to replenish their arsenal following the graduation of several key contributors from last year's highly-successful season. This will most-likely be felt on the offensive side of the ball. Cody Williams, the brilliant duel-threat quarterback, now playing for Monmouth University (NJ), was a three-year starter, having passed for 5,290 yards and 59 TDs during his remarkable tenure here. On the ground, Williams had a career rushing mark of 801 yards, scoring 19 times. Last season he threw for 2,214 yards and 24 TDs, while rushing for 578 yards and 12 TDs. Also gone are WR/CB/K Ju'an Williams, who finished last year with 823 receiving yards and 7 TDs, WR/CB Malik Johnson (595 receiving yds, 7 TDs), HB/S Troy Morrow (986 rushing yds, 4 TDs) and RB/SS DaQuan Clemons (536 rushing yds, 4 TDs). That group was the primarily nucleus in guiding the Golden Eagles to within a game of playing in the Division 2 Super Bowl before losing to St. John's of Shrewsbury in the state semifinal round last November. Without question, it was a very gifted and uniquely talented group of seniors _ all of whom will be sorely missed. However, as Brower is quick to point out, this is not the time to reflect on the past.The focus now turns to him and his staff attempting to developed a young squad, many of whom are considered to be untested and unproven, in preparation for this season.
"We are returning just three guys that started on offense and four that started on defense so right now we have a lot of inexperience and a lot of unseasoned guys," Brower said. "A lot of these kids will need to step up to the challenges that lie ahead of us this season. We will be able to evaluate throughout the preseason and especially after our first game to see where we are at and make the necessary adjustments along the way. Hopefully some of our younger guys took a few mental and physical notes by watching how those kids from last year conducted themselves, not only in games, but on the practice field and inside the locker room as well. But now it is their time. We continue to have high expectations for this program. No matter how we do, we still need to weather any storm that comes our way and continue to get better and not beat ourselves up when things go bad. There are many other teams that have younger players too so, for us, we just need to keep getting better everyday and not stop working until someone tells us our season is over."
Despite the number of departures, Central still has be considered one of the favorites to win the highly-competitive AA Conference mostly because Brower and his staff, as proven, are well-versed in getting the most out of their players. Last season, the Golden Eagles finished 7-0 in conference play, but are expected to face some fierce competition this season particularly from the likes of Westfield, East Longmeadow, Longmeadow as well as much-improved Holyoke and West Springfield squads. Central opens its season with a home date against powerful Everett on Sept. 5 -- marking the fourth consecutive year these two clubs have squared off against one another. The Crimson Tide hold a 3-0 lead in the series. "We love playing against Everett and it is my hope that this series will continue," said Brower. "Obviously they are a great team with a great tradition and are well-coached. We really enjoy playing them. For us, we want to continue to play the top programs in the state. That's how you get better as a team." As far as returners go, Crapps gives Central a solid two-way threat as a rusher and receiver out of the back field. He is a talented downhill runner who saw limited action last year due to the emergence of Morrow and Clemons. Bolden and Antoine Williams will also get their fair share of the work load as well. Tysean Williams should be the Golden Eagles' top receiving threat. The fleet-footed wide out hauled in four touchdowns a year ago. But it will be difficult for opposing teams to double up on him with Smith and Morales also on the field. Look for Mayberry to anchor a strong offensive line from his center position. And obviously, with Aaron Williams taking over the signal-calling duties, he will have some big shoes to fill however no one is questioning his pure athleticism to excel at the position. Defensively, Wiggins, at 6-foot, 340-pounds, is a beast with unlimited potential to be a sure-fire gap stopper. He will also be counted on heavily to keep constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks. One of the biggest question marks surrounds Hunter-Sams. At 6-2, 280, Hunter-Sams has shown traces of developing into a solid two-way lineman, but does he have the high motor to go along with it? Only time will tell as the skill level seems to be there. One intangible in the Golden Eagles' favor is the addition of Bill Watson, the former Putnam Voc head coach. Watson, who enjoyed a successful two-year stint holding down the reins with the Beavers, decided to leave the position at the conclusion of last season, moving across town to join Brower's staff and will serve as defensive coordinator. Watson's particular attention to detail, ability to motivate players and calling out the proper defensive packages on the fly will certainly be a major asset for Central moving forward. "He's a great addition," Brower said. "We've coached against one another and have gotten to know each other very well. He and I have always talked about working together someday. It didn't seem like it would be a reality until this last spring when things just happened to pan out. All of us here are ready to accept him with open arms. We both have similar philosophies and we both have a strong passion for the game. It is going to be exciting to have him with us."

Coach: Dave Palazzi (Fourth season, 29-8)
2013: 10-1, lost in Division 2 Central Final
Returning Starters: Five (2 offensive, 3 defensive)
Key Returnees: Nate Lambert, Sr. OG, 5-11, 195 lbs.; James Gurley, Sr. RB/CB, 5-9, 190 lbs.; Kevin Beran, Sr. DL; Hector Aponte, Sr. DL
Strengths: Size, defensive line.
Weaknesses: Inexperience
Outlook: After a dominant three-year stretch that included back-to-back Super Bowl titles, an historic shutout of long-time rival Brockton and a district final appearance, the Blue Devils are hitting the reset button. Gone are All-State safety Jarell Addo and last year’s Gatorade Player of the Year, Neil O’Connor. In their places are a whole lot of fresh faces, from linemen Alex Bourgeois and Jared McDonald; to skill guys like tight end Carlos Santana and receivers D’Andre Addo, Shane Crayton and Mike Lovewell; to a promising sophomore class led by Anthony Dandini, Dylan Tanner and 6-foot-4 athlete Noah Gray. “To be honest with you, I’m more excited than ever to coach this year,” Palazzi said. “We know what we have this year, but we don’t know what we have because there’s no experience. So, it makes it more exciting, to see kids grow. It might be painful, it might be frustrating, but you know, that’s why I love coaching.” Defensive coordinator Charlie Raff has taken over at Oakmont, and in his place Palazzi promoted line coach and long-time compatriot Kevin Murphy, and also added former North Middlesex head coach John Margarita to the defensive staff. The Blue Devils under Palazzi have never blown you away with size, but they’ll have more of it this year with the new blood. Still, the newbies are going to have to grow up quick this fall. They open with three preseason Top 10 opponents (at No. 5 St. John’s, Sept. 13; vs. No. 7 Lowell, Sept. 19; vs. No. 8 Shepherd Hill, Sept. 26), then host No. 20 Doherty on Oct. 10. That’s a brutal stretch for even the most experienced team, never mind one as green as the Devils.