Boston High School: Keith Kenyon

Recap: No. 25 Plymouth South 27, Nauset 6

October, 12, 2013
NORTH EASTHAM, Mass. -– You cannot stop him. You can only hope to contain him.

After missing last week’s contest with an ankle injury, Dylan Oxsen ran wild against Nauset, rushing for 243 yards on 37 rushes en route to a 27-6 victory over the Warriors.

“When you get him back on the practice field, the whole atmosphere changes,” said Panther coach Scott Fry. “The mood of the team, they knew what they were playing for today."

With the victory Friday night, the Panthers control their own destiny in the ACL. With a win in two weeks at Falmouth, Plymouth South will take the ACL for the second year in a row.

Nauset’s star tailback Jimmy Sullivan was limited after breaking a bone on the top of his hand in last week’s last second loss at Marshfield. Sullivan wore a cast on his right hand, eliminating the passing game.

“He had a broken hand and it’s in his palm so he can’t throw the ball at all,” said Nauset coach Keith Kenyon. “We certainly wanted him to run the ball and he did, but it was difficult for him to take snaps.”

It took Oxsen a quarter to find his groove. On the second play of the second quarter, Oxsen took a pitch to the left side and found a seam for a 34-yard score. Gordan Fitzgerald hit the extra point to give South the 7-0 lead.

On the following drive, the Warriors put together some offense, getting to the Panther 32-yard line, but the drive ended on a fourth-down interception that gave South the ball at their own 44.

Oxsen took command of the offense, rushing for over five yards per carry on the subsequent drive and capped it off with a 1-yard run in the final minute of the half to give South a 14-0 halftime lead.

With starting quarterback Rick Barnhardt on the sidelines after hurting his leg last week, sophomore Andrew Shortall made her first career start. While he only threw four times, he was effective, tossing for 55 yards and rushing for an additional 25 yards.

Nauset had trouble moving the ball in the first half, as they were out gained 153-79 in the first half. But their offense found a spark after halftime to get them back in the game.

The Warriors opened the second half with a 13-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off with a 2-yard scoring run from Sullivan that cut the lead to 14-6.

But it was all Plymouth South after that, as Nauset had no answer for Oxsen.

“That’s what he’s (Oxsen) been throughout his career here,” said Fry. “Just wear people down because he’s so strong and such great vision and the offensive line does too. I think over a matter of time they just keep pounding and pounding them.”

Oxsen ran for 125 of his 243 yards in the second half and outgained the Warriors offense as a whole (214 yards for Nauset). He had scoring runs of 1 and 17 yards in the final quarter, but more importantly kept the clock running for the duration of the fourth quarter to put away the victory.

Monster run game: The Panthers are a different team with Oxsen in the backfield. While the Panthers ran the ball effectively last week at D-Y, they lacked the ability to punch the ball into the end zone. But with Oxsen back tonight, the Panthers scored on every drive after their opening possession (turnover on downs).

Oxsen has the ability to put the exclamation point on every drive. His ankle took a quarter to warm up, but once it did, Oxsen found the explosiveness that we are accustomed to seeing from him.

The Panthers ran the ball at will in the second half after they wore down the front seven of Nauset.

“We’ve always been a second half team,” said Oxsen. “It depends how fired up we get. We came out fired up in the first half too but its just how we are were always more fired up in the second."

The Panthers were bit by the injury bug once again, losing senior quarterback Rick Barnhardt in the closing minutes of last week’s loss at D-Y, but Shortall stepped in beautifully.

While having Oxsen in the backfield will make it easier for an quarterback, Shortall did make a few big throws on third down and scrambled for a handful of first downs.

“Going in, we knew we were going to miss Ricky,” said Fry. “Just what he brings to the team. But the sophomore Shortall stepped in admirably to say the least. It adds another dimension to our offense.”

Losing Sullivan hurts: Jimmy Sullivan has had a standout year for Nauset. So when he broke his hand last week at Marshfield, but offense took a huge hit. Sullivan couldn’t throw the ball nor take snaps under center, two things he regularly does.

It didn’t take the Panthers long to figure out that Nauset couldn’t throw the ball (two interceptions on their first two passing plays) and could just play the run.

“Defensively, you can completely change your strategy when you know the kid doesn’t have the ability to throw the ball,” said Kenyon. “And that’s okay. We still ran the ball with some success tonight but it’s a lot of Dylan Oxsen. He’s a great back.”

Nauset still ran the ball with decent success. Sullivan ran for 80 yards on 15 carries and Kyle Cambone had 68 yards on 12 carries. But that running game couldn’t translate into points.

“Sullivan’s got a hyper extended left elbow, along with a broken right hand so he has two injuries on both arms,” said Kenyon. “It was just, let him run the ball but no threat to throw the ball and I think Plymouth South knew that after a while and they loaded up the box.”

In a game where Oxsen is running all over the offense, the Warriors couldn’t afford to not put up points on long drives, and that is exactly what happened.

The ACL beings to crystalize: The ACL has been beating up on each other all year. Heading into this game, three teams were tied at 3-1 (Nauset, South and Marshfield) and three teams at 1-2 (D-Y, North and Sandwich).

With the win, South takes sole possession of first place in the ACL (as Marshfield played a non-league game at Barnstable). Meaning that if South wins in two weeks at Falmouth (1-4, 0-4 ACL), they will win the ACL.

“If we lost this game, we wouldn’t control our own destiny and a lot of things had to go our way,” said Oxsen. “We knew that coming into this game, so we did what we had to do. We’ve got a bye this week and we’re gonna rest up our players.”

“Going in, when knew it was going to be a real competitive league with all the teams in the ACL,” said Fry. “We thought there might be a situation where everyone is going to lose at least one game. But we rebounded nicely and now we get to rest some kids and get ready for Falmouth.”

PS 0 14 0 13 -- 27
NA 0 0 6 0 -- 6

Second Quarter
PS - Dylan Oxsen 34 run (Gordan Fitzgerald kick), 10:38
PS - Oxsen 2 run (Fitzgerald kick), :47

Third Quarter
NA - Jimmy Sullivan 2 run (kick blocked), 4:02

Fourth Quarter
PN - Oxsen 1 run (rush failed), 10:04
PN - Oxsen 17 run (Fitzgerald kick), 1:27

Roundtable: Big surprises in first month of football

September, 26, 2012

Scott Barboza, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: I don’t know if it’s so much of a surprise, but I think we can say that Nauset football is for real and might be the front-runner for the Atlantic Coast League crown this season. While Mashpee has fallen below some preseason expectations, the Warriors 20-point win over the defending Division 4 Super Bowl champions last week was impressive. I’d absolutely put head coach Keith Kenyon on my shortlist for Coach of the Year in the early season, having completely turned that program around in his third year on the job. They’ll have another challenge this week with a trip to Cardinal Spellman, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Warriors undefeated after Week 4.

Brendan Hall, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: I know in the preseason I predicted Nauset would win out in an Atlantic Coast League that was expected to be a toss-up this year, and through the first three weeks of the season the Warriors have looked strongest. But if you told me in the preseason the Warriors would not only break through a stout veteran Wayland defense, but also roll over Mashpee with ease, I’d have chuckled.

But that’s exactly what we’ve got here. The Warriors have been off to a dominant start to the 2012 season, outscoring the opposition 95-32, including a 34-15 thump of Mashpee last weekend. But more than the impressive statistics on defense, and more than the shroud of scouting mystery provided by its remote location (ever been to Eastham after Labor Day?), it’s the offensive gameplan that makes the Warriors such a tough –- and unpredictable –- squad.

Keith Kenyon has turned around a once-dormant program (4-46 from 2005-09) into a formidable foe, in part due to the fact Nauset is one of the few teams in New England running exclusively out of a true Single-Wing offense. We’re talking one-inch splits, unbalanced formations and even fullbacks calling the cadence.

Last year, captain and fullback Brendan Battles-Santos (also an ESPN Boston All-Stater and UConn freshman) said of Kenyon’s offense, “when he brought in the Single Wing, I thought it was the best thing in high school football. I was like, ‘This is sick’, I’m not even getting the ball and this is fun, you know?”

Heck, even Wikipedia applauds Kenyon’s application of the Single Wing at Nauset.

Last year, you had to pick your poison between the aforementioned blocking back Battles-Santos and brothers Nathan and Dylan Holmes, who shared quarterback duties. This season, Jimmy Sullivan has taken the reigns at QB, and he had his breakout last weekend against Mashpee, carrying 22 times for 205 yards. Look for him to be a continued threat as the Warriors look for their first playoff berth ever in school history.

Adam Kurkjian, ESPN Boston correspondent: Have to go with Chelmsford. It speaks to the depth of the Lions' program that they can lose as much talent and experience from a year ago and beat teams like Westford Academy and Acton-Boxboro that decisively. It remains to be seen whether or not Chelmsford will keep up this pace with the iron of the Merrimack Valley Conference Large Division, but it's a good start.

Bruce Lerch, ESPN Boston correspondent: How about Bishop Fenwick? The program hasn't had a winning season since 2007 and is off to a 3-0 start with three different types of wins. First came a solid 22-14 victory over an always tough Northeast team, then the Crusaders showed they could do the shootout thing by putting up 39 points against Pope John, and last week they showed they can do it with defense in a 14-7 triumph of Lynnfield. Rufus Rushins is finding the end zone on the ground while quarterback Nick Bona and wideout Charlie Maistrellis have a strong connection through the air. The Catholic Central Large has been the domain of Cardinal Spellman, St. Mary's and Austin Prep over the years but Fenwick looks like it may be ready to get back to challenging those teams this season.

John Botelho, Editor-in-Chief, South Shore Sports Journal: Whitman-Hanson is off to a 3-0 start with wins over Plymouth North, Marshfield and should keep getting better. The Patriot League Keenan Division is still a race for who finishes second to Duxbury until someone knocks them off. Still though, the Panthers have closed the gap, at least a little bit, and this league has to be among the best on the South Shore now with undefeated Hingham in it as well. Tom Sapienza has transitioned seamlessly from wide out to quarterback this year, and has already found a top target in Dondre James, who has caught four of his eight TD passes.

Noth Attleborough has also been a pleasant surprise so far this year. Yes, they were a team many people thought could win the Hockomock Kelley-Rex crown, but they already hold wins over Rhode Island's top team in LaSalle and they beat the defending EMass. Div. 1 Super Bowl champ in BC High. If you had North at 2-0 after those two games before the season started, you were in the minority. And they didn't just squeak by, they beat both teams by at least 20 points. Sure, they won a close call against Bishop Feehan, but that was a trap game for them coming off those two huge wins. This team has already raised the ceiling for the expectations significantly in 2012.

Talking surprises, we might as well bring up both Middleboro and Norwell here too. Both programs have struggled to be competitive in recent years, but both are currently 2-1 this year (and both are following 2-9 campaigns in 2011). Neither team has gotten to the meat of their schedule yet, but it's always nice to see teams trending upward.

The Sachems have cruised past Coyle & Cassidy and Falmouth the last two weeks. Unfortunately for them, Duxbury comes to town this Friday. Still though, a clear message would be sent if they can put on a competitive show. As of right now, they'd probably be the favorites against Silver Lake, North Quincy and Carver, and winning those three would mean finishing at at least .500 for the season.

Norwell beat Randolph and South Shore Vo-Tech the last two weeks, surrendering 12 total points along the way. They host winless Rockland on Saturday, and the Bulldogs are having trouble finding the end zone. The Clippers could find themselves 3-1 before they run into Abington and Mashpee in the next few weeks.


Barboza: Averaging nearly 17-yards-per-carry heading into Week 4 action, it’s hard to argue that any other single player in the state has contributed more to his team than Holy Name senior running back Quron Wright.

Beyond Wright, I don’t know if there’s another singular talent that has entirely joined that conversation, but there’s a couple others worth watching. Darien Fernandez is tearing up the record books for the Vikings, setting a school-record with six touchdowns in a 51-14 win over Falmouth and leading Wareham to a 3-0 record. This might be a little more outside of the box, but I defy you to find a lineman who’s been more valuable to his team in the early going than Reading tackle Matt Comerford, who’s absolutely eaten up all comers in the early season, including Brockton’s defensive line, which is no slouch in its own right. If you want to look at the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Zach Hume is poised to lead Nashoba to great heights.

Hall: At running back, Burlington’s Marcus Odiah and Quron Wright have separated themselves for contention with some impressive yardage in the early-going. Wright has amassed over 650 yards rushing on just 39 carries, while Odiah is averaging over 230 yards rushing per game. Both demonstrate exceptional top-end speed, albeit in different manners –- Odiah the long and slender build at 6-foot-1, Wright the short and compact frame that makes him difficult to spot behind the huge Holy Name linemen in the double wing.

And I mean, honestly, how can you not dig #QuronMania?

At quarterback, the competition is furious right now, with a number of players putting up impressive stats so far. St. John’s of Shrewsbury’s Andrew Smiley, Natick’s Troy Flutie, Reading’s Drew Belcher and Springfield Central’s Cody Williams, all juniors, have put up good numbers and showed resilient poise in the crunch. However, Barnstable’s Nick Peabody seems to be a cut above the quarterbacking competition right now. In just three games, he has already racked up 13 touchdown passes and over 1,000 yards of offense.

Defensively, it’s hard to ignore the impact Jon Baker has had in the middle of the field for Millis/Hopedale, and while Xaverian has struggled to a 1-2 record Maurice Hurst Jr. has had a big impact on the interior as a defensive tackle. Also look out for Nashoba linebacker Zach Hume and Reading lineman Matt Comerford, two leaders on two of the state’s stingiest defenses.

Kurkjian: It's still very early, but it's hard to go against Holy Name's Quron Wright. Through three games, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, he is averaging almost 17 yards per carry and has scored 10 touchdowns. Those are incredible numbers, regardless of the opponent, and expect them to continue.

Bruce Lerch: Burlington's Marcus Odiah has a staggering 705 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in just three games for an average of 235 per. Already the program's career rushing leader with 3,551 yards, Odiah could surpass the 4,000-yard milestone within the next couple of games.

Josh Perry, ESPN Boston correspondent: There are a host of quarterbacks that are putting up incredible numbers early in the season, including Troy Flutie of Natick, Drew Belcher of Reading, and my favorite -- Nick Peabody of Barnstable. Peabody fits in perfectly with the Red Raiders attack and has that offense rolling. He leads the state with 13 touchdown passes and has been incredibly accurate, while throwing more than just about anyone else in Massachusetts. Of course, I always have a special place in my heart for teams that love to throw and score points so Barnstable is intriguing.

Alex Jette of North Attleboro is another player that I think could get more attention at a state level, if he can stay on the field for four quarters. He has all the skills - breakaway speed, quick cuts, and great hands in the passing game, but a combination of cramping and some cheap shots at the bottom of piles has taken him out of games in the second half. A good example was Week 1 against LaSalle (R.I.) where he put on a show in the first half with nearly 300 yards of offense, but then was on the field for only a couple of snaps in the second half. Hockomock League play tends to slow down offensive attacks anyway so Jette is missing chances to rack up statistics before having to face Mansfield and KP’s defenses.

Botelho: Quron Wright has put up some ridiculous stats the first three, rushing for over 600 yards already. But don't sleep on Duxbury's Jon Hurvitz either. The Dragons have pushed their state-best win streak to 29 games despite running a changed offense. With Matt O'Keefe under center and a seemingly endless repertoire of weapons at his disposal, Duxbury blew past teams with a pass-happy offense. O'Keefe is gone, but the high scoring offense remains because of what Hurvitz has done out of the backfield. The senior tailback has already rushed for 10 touchdowns and shows no signs of slowing down.

Barnstable's Nick Peabody has torched opposing defenses, leading the Red Raiders to just north of 40 points per game, and his 13 touchdown passes lead the state. We find out just how good Barnstable is this weekend when they play No. 1 Everett. If Peabody can deliver there like he has the first few weeks, Mr. Football is probably his award to lose.


Barboza: Once again, I’ll happily eat my slice of humble pie for picking the Boxers to open up the season 1-3. They’ve certainly acquitted themselves as a better team than that in their two early wins. Whether Brockton can run their Catholic Conference win streak to three games against the Prep on Friday is another question. I’m sticking by my preseason pick that the Eagles will escape Marciano with a victory in tow. However, I think the destiny of this Boxers team is more in line with the pluses than the minuses, provided they can move the ball. The Rockets utterly shut down the triple option in Week 2, creating concern of Brockton’s ability to consistently move the ball. As long as there’s no repeat performance, and Prep’s stout defense provides an ample challenge this week, Brockton will be just fine in the long run.

Hall: Either there is just something about Catholic Conference schools that bring out the best in Brockton, or the Boxers are just better than any of us have given them credit for. Based on the early returns, my inclination is the latter, and you have to like the Boxers’ chances going forward. This St. John’s Prep squad is good, but not invincible, and even perhaps a little too conservative at times if the Everett loss is any indicator.

If the Boxers win out here, their next three opponents are Fitchburg, Pinkerton (N.H.) and Durfee. Of those three, I only expect the Pinkerton game to be a toss-up -– but then again, a year ago supposedly the worst Brockton team in a decade knocked off the unstoppable juggernaut that was supposed to be the 2011 Astros.

It’s very possible we could see Brockton at 6-1 headed into Week 8’s showdown with Leominster, and let the record show I predicted a 1-3 record for the Boxers coming into September.

Kurkjian: Your guess is as good as mine. There is one thing that is for sure, however. This Brockton team is light years better than last year's version. Maybe that's not saying much because last year's team struggled so mightily, but this team is just so much better up front and there's an overall uptick in focus and leadership that recent Brockton teams have lacked.

Lerch: You have to like the strength the Boxers have shown against the Catholic Conference with both of its wins coming against BC High and Xaverian. I think this is the week where we'll be able to better answer this question, as they'll take on a St. John's Prep squad that battled Everett tooth and nail. If Brockton can continue the momentum they picked up last week, I like their chances for a strong finish.

Botelho: Well, the one thing we know about the Boxers for sure is their defense is premier. They shut out BC High, then held Reading's powerhouse offense to just 12 points before allowing 14 in the win against Xaverian last week. The bad news for Brockton is that if they can't get their offense rolling early, they have a hard time finding the end zone at all. Since the beginning of the 2011 season, Brockton has been shutout in five of their seven losses. The only time they've reached double digits and lost since last year was their game 22-15 defeat against St. John's Prep last season.

That said, even with the shutout against Reading already on their tab this season, this year's version of the offense looks more complete than last season's. I'd be shocked if this team is shutout again this year, and wouldn't be at all surprised if they don't lose another game, because they don't need many points to with the defense they've got. My guess is as the season continues to carry on, and they hammer down their Georgia Tech-style offense more, they'll become a tough team to slow down.


Barboza: This name might not be among the better known in the state in year in which, for all intents and purposes, is fairly deep at running back, but Somerset-Berkley’s Garrett Carlos has been a revelation. The senior is averaging a shade over 10 yards per carry while running for 411 yards and eight touchdowns in three weeks. After a bit of a rebuilding year last year, the Blue Raiders’ cupboard is full this year with 20 returning seniors, meaning that Nick Freitas’ team should again be in the poll position for an Eastern Athletic Conference title. And Carlos is no small part of that.

Hall: The one that sticks out in my mind is Wareham’s Darien Fernandez running roughshod over Falmouth in Week 1, running for 246 yards and six touchdowns (five in the first half). He has cooled down since then, but the kid is flat out an athlete. At 5-foot-6 and blessed with great leg strength, he is as durable as he is tough to get a good angle on. He’s already well-known on the basketball court, making our All-State Team last winter in leading the Vikings to the Division 3 Eastern Mass Final at TD Garden. But some have mused he may be a better football player, with some feelers from a few Division 1 FCS programs.

Kurkjian: Going to go with Needham's Mike Panepinto here. So far, he's been outstanding for an undefeated Needham team already owns a win over Mansfield. A tough runner, he simply doesn't go down on first contact and he's a perfect complement to a passing game that continues to get better with junior quarterback Ryan Charter.

Lerch: Needham's Mikey Panepinto is a heck of an athlete who is putting up tremendous numbers in what his probably his second-best sport, given that he's already committed to platy lacrosse at UMass. It's not so much the numbers that have surprised me with Panepinto though as much as it is the manner in which he's gotten them. He was able to get off for some big gains in two of the Rockets games but against Mansfield, he really impressed me by proving that he could also grind out the tough yardage and punch in a series of short TD runs.

Perry: Attleboro running back Malique Clark is not an unknown quantity after several explosive cameo appearances last season. He has breakout speed and the strength to carry the ball 20 times per game. The surprise is that the Attleboro offensive line has been able to create openings for him against tough defenses like Bishop Feehan and Dartmouth. Teams will be packing the box and daring junior QB Tim Walsh to beat them with his arm, but to this point it hasn’t slowed Clark down at all. The Hockomock is loaded with running backs this season, but Clark’s ability to turn a nothing play into a big gain has kept the Attleboro offense rolling and has the Bombardiers at a surprising 3-0. Hopefully, Clark’s rib injury that made him miss this weekend’s game won’t be a long-term problem.

Botelho: Darien Fernandez at Wareham, Kiivone Howard at Foxboro and Hurvitz have all exceeded expectations, but Jalen Felix has kept Everett rolling. He did it again last week against St. John's Prep, scoring a TD and rushing for 96 yards on 12 carries.


Barboza: Aside from a lot of the familiar names you’ve seen in our preseason lists, here’s a couple who have stood out to me in the first quarter season. Both Brendan and I were taken back by the performance of Barnstable center Tom Grimmer during the Red Raiders’ man-handling of Dennis-Yarmouth. He spent most of that evening riding the Dolphins’ nose guard five yards back. I’m also looking at North Attleborough’s big bookend tackles –- Sean Peters and Eric Beckwith. We talked a little bit earlier in the season about how the Red Rocketeers have historically had good speed/zone blockers, but have often lacked size. Both Peters (6-4, 240) and Beckwith (6-2, 270) bring exactly that. Although North sees plenty of pressure from the outside against traditionally strong defensive sides in King Philip and Mansfield in its Hockomock League schedule, they might be better prepared this year to deal with the outside rush than at any time in recent memory behind their pillars on the end.

Hall: I’m making a case for Holy Name’s Basit Dennis to be included in this discussion. Off the field he’s a great story, with his Liberian roots, and a great kid. On the field, at 6-foot-1 and 290 pounds, the senior has been a dominant two-way force in the interior. As talented as Quron Wright is on his own merit, a big reason for his ridiculous rushing average is the Naps’ punishing offensive line, led by Dennis at right tackle.

Brockton’s Joe Previte has been a leader at center for a revitalized Boxer offense. And don’t forget about Everett’s bookend defensive ends, Jeff Soulouque and Omar Graciano, who have taken turns applying pressure on quarterbacks and causing confusion.

Kurkjian: Reading's Matt Comerford was pretty impressive in the game against Brockton Week 2. He's strong, mobile, tough and plays with good technique. And it doesn't hurt that he's about 6-4 or 6-5 and 285 pounds.

Lerch: Regardless of who is taking the snaps in Everett or what trickery John DiBiaso uses to get the ball into the hands of those tremendous athletes, the one constant is John Montelus. The Michigan-bound senior has really solidified his standing as the state's top prospect, regardless of position, and has done it againts one of the state's toughest, early-season schedules.

Two guys to keep an eye on are Millis/Hopedale's Jon Baker and Burlington's Mike Woods. Baker is a 290-pound beast who dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage in the Mohawks rout of Norton last week and has drawn plenty of notice from big-time college programs. Woods is the left tackle and leader of the Red Devils line that has paved the way for Marcus Odiah to run for 705 yards and 10 scores and is another player catching looks from several Division 1 FBS and FCS level schools in the Northeast.


Barboza: Well, since it’s part of our Massachusetts Army National Guard Game of the Week program, I’m going to go with St. John’s Prep at Brockton. As we went over in Question 3, the onus is on Brockton to show that they are in fact the team that’s notched two, tough Catholic Conference wins in the early going. But this one will also be a litmus test for the Eagles, who played a very competitive game against No. 1 Everett. It’ll be interesting to see how Prep responds – whether they use last week as a rallying point into their later schedule or if this one presents a letdown after taking on No. 1. This certainly isn’t a game to be taken lightly and I’d expect neither team will. This will be an ole fashioned slobber-knocker on the ground.

Hall: You ask anyone in Everett, and they’ll tell you Barnstable was the hardest-hitting team they faced all season. The Red Raiders come at you with a certain level of abandon replicated by few programs, and nobody embodies this more than middle linebacker Andrew Ellis. But it’s a much different level of football in Everett than the Raiders have seen so far (Durfee, Dennis-Yarmouth, Sandwich), so this should be a great litmus test under the lights at Everett Memorial Stadium.

Kurkjian: Barnstable at Everett. Any time you have the clear-cut No. 1 team in the state going up against a quality opponent it's pretty compelling. You have to wonder just how healthy the Crimson Tide are coming off such a physical battle with St. John's Prep last week. Barnstable has been throwing the ball all over teams so far but they haven't faced a defense anywhere near the level of Everett's. Everett definitely comes in more battle-tested. Not sure how much Durfee, a rebuilding Dennis-Yarmouth and Sandwich prepare you for the best team in the state, but we will find out Friday night.

Lerch: You really can't go wrong with a loaded schedule this weekend, particularly on Friday, but it's hard to look past another Game of the Week taking place in Everett. Last week the Crimson Tide hosted No. 2 St. John's Prep, and this week, it's No. 3 Barnstable coming to town. Everett hasn't yet seen an offense capable of putting up the kind of numbers that the Raiders have been achieving (145 points through three games) but the reverse of that is true as well in that Barnstable has yet to match up against a team that has as much athleticism as the Tide.

Perry: The easy choice would be Everett versus Barnstable, but I am a sucker for history.

In Hockomock country, old rivals North Attleborough and Foxborough will meet at Ahern Middle School. For decades, the Hockomock League title came down to North, Foxboro, and Mansfield, but recently the Warriors have been hit by changing demographics within the town. Each year the Foxboro program has shrunk a little bit and now KP has replaced it at the top of the league while Oliver Ames, Stoughton, and Canton have threatened to pass them by in the small school division.

This is a Warriors team that has promise and a desire to put North in its place (this is a trend among most teams in the Hockomock). Running back Kiivone Howard has been a star with 9 touchdowns in the opening three weeks and Foxboro wants nothing more than to reestablish itself in the Hockomock pecking order. Although the game lacks playoff implications, the rivalry between the teams makes this a must win for both.

The Rocketeers certainly saw last week what an angry rival is capable of, when they struggled to put away Feehan, and I expect a reaction from them, but still can’t count out Foxboro.

Botelho: This is the easily the most exciting weekend of the season so far, and you can look all over the state and find exciting games. Out west you've Minnechaug-Longmeadow, which is always one of the game's of the year. In the central region, Holy Name and Nashboa are colliding in a Super Bowl rematch. And in Eastern Mass, it's nearly impossible to pick just one. No. 1 Everett vs No. 3 Barnstable should be a blast. No. 18 Needham plays at No. 20 Weymouth in what is essentially a league title game in September. Brockton hosts St. John's. Bob Bancroft's Pembroke team host Whitman-Hanson, the team he became a legend with (and Panthers coach Mike Driscoll captained one of Bancroft's unbeaten Super Bowl champions). East Bridgewater and Mashpee has evolved into a huge tilt in the SSL the last couple years, and the Falcons have ended the Vikings' postseason chances each of the last two years. Mansfield might have the best passing attack in either Hockomock League, and Stoughton seems to have the best pass defense, and this week we'll find out which strength is greater.

A great weekend indeed if you're a high school football fan.

Recap: No. 7 Dennis-Yarmouth 27, Nauset 15

November, 24, 2011

SOUTH YARMOUTH, Mass. -- Late in the fourth quarter of what was turning into a big win for his Dennis-Yarmouth squad, quarterback Matt Montalto dove for a first down in the Nauset red zone, and the sub 6-footer engaged in a short shoving match with the Warriors' UConn-bound linebacker, 240-pound senior Brendan Battles.

A few plays later, Dylan Hodsdon put the finishing touches on the scoring drive, and the game was in hand. Montalto was then asked post-game about the "Game Over" message written on his eye black strips, and he merely offered a sheepish grin as he motioned towards the scoreboard.

It's that kind of spunk that's embodied this team -- undersized, yet tough and unafraid to confront -- and has led the Dolphins to this, a 27-15 win over their Thanksgiving rivals that wrapped up a perfect 11-0 regular season, their second straight outright Atlantic Coast League title, and their second straight Division 2A playoff berth (and second ever).

This also marked the first time in the rivalry that the league title was directly on the line. But in a snap, Montalto was already moving on to Tuesday night's playoff game with the No. 18 Walpole Rebels.

"It was definitely a little bit different of a feeling than it usually is on Thanksgiving," Montalto said. "It feels great to win, awesome to win, I always love winning on Thanksgiving. But like coach [Paul Funk] said, our season starts on Tuesday now. It's do or die."

Montalto carried the day with another Montalto-like performance, carrying the ball 11 times for 101 yards and throwing for another 50 through the air, including 42 and a score to his favorite target Damion Johnson.

D-Y (11-0, 6-0) found success early through the air on familiar patterns, with Johnson sitting on 10 and 15-yard comeback routes against zone coverage. They marched right down the field to open the game, capping a 10-play, 64-yard drive with a 13-yard goal line fade from Montalto to Johnson at the back pylon for a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.

The Warriors responded soundly on the ensuing drive, marching all the way to the Dolphins' 11 with rushes from brothers Derrick (22 carries, 86 yards, TD) and Nathan Holmes (18 carries, 81 yards, TD). But on fourth down, Mike Messersmith's field goal attempt fell way short and was scooped up by Johnson at the goal line; he juked a half-dozen defenders in between the hashes for a 60-yard return that set up first and 10 at the Warriors' 42.

It took just five plays to capitalize, with Montalto setting up a one-yard Joe Furness plunge with a nifty scamper around the right side. On a designed bootleg left, Montalto ran into some pressure from Battles and reversed direction, turning a two-yard loss into a 34-yard run that was ruled down at the one as he attempted to dive over the pylon. Terrio's kick gave the Dolphins a 14-0 lead with just nine minutes player in the game.

Johnson also added a 50-yard kickoff return and 37 rushing yards, giving him over 200 all-purpose yards for the day.

The Dolphins scored twice more in the second half, and put the clamps down defensively behind linebacker Hunter Oppedisano (two sacks) and nose guard Tommy Kennedy. Until the Warriors' final scoring drive with under five minutes in the game, the Warriors had been held to just 26 yards of offense in the second half.

The Drive: The backbreaker for this one came in the third quarter, when the Dolphins put together an 11-play six-minute, 99-yard scoring drive after a beautiful Nauset punt pinned them at their own half-yard line.

Furness capped the drive with an 18-yard scamper around the left, but it was a series of jet sweeps that opened things up on the drive. First, Hodsdon came around the right from his own 14 and carved up 18 yards. Two plays later, Funk sent Rufus Hamilton in motion to the left, and he sprinted up the left sideline for a 28-yard gain. Two plays after that, they went to the left side again, this time with Quan Lovett, to set up another first down.

"We knew we could get the perimeter," Funk said. "We knew we were faster than they were, and we knew we could get the perimeter. That was the game plan for the second half."

Oppedisano finishes 'em off: If the Dolphins' 99-yard drive swung momentum, then Oppedisano drove the stake into the ground on the ensuing Nauset possession. Five plays into the drive, on first and 10 from the Dolphins' 39, Derrick Holmes took a direct snap for a sweep left, but Oppedisano slipped through the B-gap and took him down for a six-yard loss. The next play, Oppedisano sacked Nathan Holmes for a 10-yard loss, setting up third and 26 from the Nauset 45 when play resumed for the fourth quarter.

Two consecutive false starts then gave Nauset a surreal third and 36 from its own 35, and they punted a play later.

"They just looked away from me, and I took advantage of it, and caught them blindside," Oppedisano said bluntly.

Said Funk, "Hunter's a really good player. He works really hard, he's done some really good things, and he's tough. He's physical. They brought their game in the second half."

Singled out: Keith Kenyon's rebuilding job at Nauset included the installation of the Single-Wing offense, a scheme popular in the first half of the 20th century that has since fallen out of favor as the passing game has evolved. Elements and principles of the scheme still exist in offenses such as the ones run by Urban Meyer and Rich Rodriguez; but Kenyon's scheme is the formation at its roots.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Battles lined up as an off-set fullback behind one of the guards, brought the play from the sideline into the huddle, and called the cadence. Both Holmes brothers lined up in various places in the backfield, ready for a direct snap or a handoff from Battles or their brother, sometimes accompanied by a flanker.

With tight splits, unbalanced lines, and an intimidating lead blocker in Battles -- a state wrestling champion who sometimes left his feet to take down the first player up the gap -- it's a tough offense to stop once it gets going. But a month earlier, the Dolphins shut down Marshfield by deploying a Buddy Ryan-esque 50 Eagle front against the Rams' run-heavy Wing-T offense, and that appeared to help them out this morning.

"Definitely, [but] you've just got to be physical up front," Oppedisano said. "You've got to take on the block by Battles and you've got to work hard."

Funk thought it came down to getting to the point of attack.

"That's what we talked about at halftime -- we've got to get off the ball," Funk said. "And we absolutely did in the second half."

Scouting the Rebels: D-Y quarterbacks coach Nick Montalto, older brother of Matt, was spotted in the stands at the Walpole-Natick game two weeks ago. Asked what his brother told him about Walpole, Matt offered up a Belichickian response.

"What he told me is they're tough," Matt said. "Playoffs are always going to be tough, though. We're looking forward to it."

Turkey Day Honors: For Dennis-Yarmouth, Hodsdon (72 rushing yards) took home Offensive Player of the Game honors, while Oppedisano took home the Defensive Player of the Game award. Nauset's Nathan and Derrick Holmes took the team's offensive and defensive awards, respectively.

NAU (7-4, 5-1) 0 - 7 - 0 - 8 --- 15
D-Y (11-0, 6-0) 14 - 0 - 7 - 6 --- 27

First Quarter
D - Damion Johnson 13 pass from Matt Montalto (John Terrio kick) 6:23
D - Joe Furness 1 run (Terrio kick) 1:08

Second Quarter
N - Derrick Holmes 1 run (Mike Messersmith kick) 3:36

Third Quarter
D - Furness 18 run (Terrio kick) 2:35

Fourth Quarter
D - Dylan Hodsdon 5 run (kick failed) 5:41
N - Nathan Holmes 11 run (D. Holmes run) 0:04

Player Perspective: Nauset's Brendan Battles

October, 26, 2011
NORTH EASTHAM, Mass. -- You wouldn't be quick to confuse Nauset Regional High with the term "powerhouse" any time soon. But the Warriors, off to a 4-3 start, boast arguably one of New England's most unheralded prospects in fullback/linebacker Brendan Battles.

A series of leg injuries kept the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Eastham native from getting noticed too much on the gridiron. But luckily, he had his decorated wrestling career to fall back on. He picked up the sport as a freshman, and last winter won Division 1 and All-State in the 215-pound divsion, and fell in the New England finals to Virginia-bound Patrick Gillen of Shelton, Conn.

We've heard about the overlap between wrestling and football before (Stephen Neal anyone?), and that paid off when he arrived at football camps at Boston College, UConn and South Florida. Without seeing film, both the Huskies and Bulls offered scholarships, and Battles committed to UConn last June, joining Grafton's Obi Melifonwu and Tabor Academy's Jason Sylva (whom he almost teamed with this fall) on the list of in-state commitments.

We caught up with Battles before practice Tuesday afternoon at Nauset, and as you'll see, he had a lot to say.

Q: I asked this to Mike DeVito a year ago. Do you guys hate the tourists?
A: "Being with the workforce and working my entire life, I appreciate it to a degree with the tourists – but I can’t wait ‘til they leave (laughs)."

Q: What do you mean by workforce?
A: "I’m a landscaper, and I also did shucking oysters and clams over at a raw bar in P-Town (Provincetown). You make good money while they’re here. It’s fun, I guess you could say, but it’s also crazy. I mean, traffic-wise, just the amount of people goes from, like…you’re here in the winter time, and there’s maybe a car or two on the road, and then if you come here in the summertime, Jesus, the road’s packed."

Q: How long have you been doing that kind of work, and how much does that go into building your strength?
A: "My father owns his company, so I’ve been landscaping probably since I was like between 6 and 8. I’ve been doing that throughout my whole life. Shucking oysters was actually this one summer type thing. I had to find a different job because we had morning workouts here (at the school) at 6 in the morning, whereas before I was used to doing workouts on my own with my dad at 5:30 and then being at work at 7:30. But we didn’t get out of here until 8:30, so I had to find a different job, one of my friends’ dad’s up in P-Town was a seafood restaurant, so I just learned how to shuck."

Q: Sometimes you hear about, say, folks in places Gloucester training on the beach in the summer time. How much do you guys use the natural resources in your training?
A: "For football, we just use the field most of the time. I know I’ve gone down to the beach and used the sand for different types of workouts between my wrestling and whatnot. But we never really did it for football. I don’t know if it was just more convenient to go out here (to the school) because we had all the stuff we needed.":

Q: What would you use the sand for in your wrestling training?
A: "Sprints, lotta sprints, building up the ankles. We did a little bit of footwork. And then, of course, at some beaches you’ve got – for instance, down here [the high school is a mile from the Cape Cod National Seashore and the Nauset Light], or this beach where I used to live, you’d have an incline up until the stairway, and then you’d have a stairway that’s a good 25 yards, so you could sprint the whole thing."

Q: That must get tiring.
A: Hell yeah, Hell yeah. It sucks (laughs).

Q: When you committed to UConn, I think the question some people had was ‘Who is this kid?’ How did it end up coming about?
A: "Funny story, actually. Long story short, I’ve played football my entire life, but the past four years I’ve had some type of injury. Sophomore year, I broke my left fibula. Junior year, I broke my right fibula. The year before that [sophomore year], I had a hematoma on my arm. Et cetera, et cetera. So that was my high school football experience, to really put it in a sum. So I didn’t really get my name out there in the football aspect, loved the game though.

"I really made my name in wrestling. I started freshman year. Most kids who are in nationals start in wrestling when they’re six or eight years old, and in the state they’ll probably start around sixth grade. So I was behind, but even then my freshman year I still went 23-7. My sophomore year, I ended up taking state finalist [in the 215-pound division], fifth in All-State, fifth in New England, and then that summer I won nationals for the first time. Last year, I won state, won All-State, took second in New England, took third in the country.

"I got a lot of offers. But I knew going into wrestling, the more I grew into my friends I trained with, who were in college. That’s how I got so good, wrestling with college wrestlers. And every time I talked to them they’d be like ‘Dude, this isn’t the sport for you, you’re an amazing athlete and you need to focus on football, because you could end up having your whole college education paid for.’ And also, the door’s there, go to it. That stuck in the back of mind, and you get to a certain point in wrestling where after two seasons of cutting 25 pounds a week, it gets to you, it really does. I’d be about 240, 245 and I’d have to cut to 215 once or twice a week. I mean, if I did it twice a week, it’d be Wednesday and Saturday, I’d be back to 240 by the end of the night that I weighed in. That sucks, like Hell – you’re talking to a big boy, I like to eat, I’ll eat all day. Telling me I can only eat one meal a day to get to a certain weight? (laughs)

"There was talk of me going to a prep school, I was supposed to go to Tabor (Academy, in Marion). Then there was talk of me possibly, if I got an offer – I went to BC camp, UConn camp and USF (South Florida) camp – if I got an offer, I would stay here, no prep school. But if I didn’t, I’d go to prep school, because I was really looking more into the football side of things.

"I went to BC, got a little discouraged because I thought they were going to offer. I talked to the coaches there, and they said, ‘We’ve got nothing for you’. At the same time, I was also playing middle linebacker and fullback, which I’m more of a tight end/defensive end type of guy, as UConn and USF said. That sat in my system for a while, and I think it gave me more motivation. I’m a very negative-driven person, I guess you could say, so that pissed me off for the next two weeks of training. Then I went to UConn, and I want to say the first day [defensive coordinator] Don Brown noticed me. From then on, it was like ‘Oh, we want to try you over here’, or ‘We want to try you over there’. I started off with the middle linebackers, then fullbacks, then next thing you know they’re like ‘Screw it, let’s try you at end’."

Q: Don tends to do that.
A: "Yeah (laughs). He put me over at end, and of course I’m like, hey, if he wants to see me , I don’t care, I’ll go wherever you want me to go. If you want me at wideout or kicker, I’ll try that as well. I mean, man, I’m just that type of kid, I want to get looked at, you know? Who doesn’t? So, he put me with [defensive line coach Hank] Hughes, I think I did the same drill over and over and over. Literally, there was five drills, but I had to stay with him, and he stayed at that one drill. So I only did the one drill for the day, then pretty much at the end of camp coach P [head coach Paul Pasqualoni], I got off-campus and he gave me the offer and I committed. It was a no-brainer for me. Good program, beautiful facilities, good school."

Q: But Nauset isn’t exactly a traditional power. How did you get exposed?
A: "(Pauses) I don’t know how to answer that one (laughs). I think it was just going to the camps, really. I got my name out in the wrestling, like I said. Because I went down to USF, Skip Holtz, I mean that’s all he was looking at me for. None of these guys looked at my tape – UConn, they never asked me for tape before I committed, they were just like ‘Aw, he’s a great wrestler and a great athlete’ when they looked at the drills I did, and that’s what they took me off of. They didn’t ask for tape. I think that’s what got my name out and more exposed, me selling myself on my wrestling and my athletic ability by going to these camps. Other than that, I have no idea. Guess I just got lucky (laughs)."

Q: You hear every now and then about the overlap between wrestling and being a lineman. How much did wrestling help you with your technique as a defensive lineman?
A: "It helped a lot. You wouldn’t notice it, but when I wrestle and play football in the same season…the beginning of the season, I stopped, it must have been for the first week or second week, and I was like, ‘I’m just going to focus on football’. And then you notice you’re out of breath faster, you don’t open your hips up as much as you could on some moves, your hands aren’t as aggressive as they should be. So, wrestling to me, I play a lot of sports and it’s the hardest one I play. Endurance-wise, when I’m wrestling, a two-hour practice at least once a week, the football game is a joke to me. It’s all about hands, wrestling is all about your hand control, the way you open your hips up, so if I’m trying to pass an elbow by you have to open up your hips – same with football, if someone’s trying to reach block me, you can open your hips up and do the same thing as wrestling. You can apply a lot of wrestling moves, and the aggression I guess you could say, the same way you would apply defensive line."

Q: You mentioned at the beginning about injuries. Are you OK this season?
A: "Yeah, nothing big, just minor problems, but for the most part pretty healthy."

Q: You guys had a couple lean years earlier this century (from 2005 to 2009, the Warriors went 4-46), and you’re off to a pretty nice start this season (4-3, 1-1 ACL). What’s been the key?
A: "A lot of things. One, coach [Keith] Kenyon, one of the best coaches, he’s like a God-given gift to us. We had coaches before who’d say you should lift, or you should do this, but it wasn’t really, you know, ‘You have to do this or else’. It was a should of. You’re talking about a bunch of kids on Cape Cod in the summertime. I mean, let’s face it, there’s much more to do than ‘shoulda lifting’, you know? (laughs) For me, I’ve been lifting since I was 11 years old with my father – my father is a marine – I’d lift with him every morning at 4:30. To me, I was like, if my team doesn’t want to lift, I’m here but if they don’t want to lift then whatever. But when coach Kenyon came here, we had lifts at 6, we’d do an hour of lift and an hour of conditioning. That helped out huge.

"Then it’s also what we run as well. We used to run a spread, but we never really had a quarterback for it. It’s kinda like your backyard quarterback who can throw, but doesn’t know when to throw it, one of those type deals. Blocking was a big part, there was a lot of parts we didn’t have. But then when he brought in the Single Wing, I thought it was the best thing in high school football. I was like, ‘This is sick’, I’m not even getting the ball and this is fun, you know? And as we lift, the linemen get stronger, whether it’s Eric Marston at 150 pounds at center, or Ben Ering and Jordan Fowler who are 300 pounds. So I mean, everyone’s getting stronger, our running backs are great. As much as we depend on the blocking, the running backs can make do if something does break down. So I think basically what it comes down to is the coaching and all the players putting in the work. Those 6 o’clock workouts pay off.

Q: I understand the weight room is pretty remarkable here.
A: "I love the place, it’s really nice. If you’re in a gym class here, you’re more apt to watch TV on the plasma screens, ESPN, it’s nice. It’s funny, I’d go to my gym with my dad, I pay 30 bucks a month for that. You come here, it’s free and they got three plasmas bigger than any TV you’ve got paying 30 bucks a month over there. Like, you gotta be kidding me, I’m coming over here! (laughs) I might watch Sunday Night Football on the plasma at the school, come on now (laughs). As much as we trash it by the end of the lift, we definitely take care of it. I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s like having a nice car, you want to go back in it. We’re definitely blessed to have that, that’s for sure."

Q: You seem like you’re in pretty good shape. How intense do you go in workouts? What’s a typical workout?
A: "It changes, it all depends on what season it is…I’m actually kinda out of shape right now. I had to take a week off for high blood pressure, that was basically related to all my stress that’s going on. I’m currently not staying at home, I’ve been out of the house for like three months now. I’ve been staying with one of my friends. So basically, stress-related. Soon as I learned how to calm down by myself…it’s funny, I went from 110 to 130 to 160 to 190, then I was like, alright, I need to calm down. I shut everything off, my phone, my computer, just played ball and came home to do studies, next day I was 110. It was nothing big, but I had to take the week off. But the week off – whew, I ate the wrong things (laughs).

"[As for most intense workout], it’d have to be my functional workouts. Those things suck, oh my God. Functional workout would basically be, you’ve got your tire, then you have a sled that you pull, sledgehammer that you use against the tire, ladders, you’d always have a hill. And then, either you get the choice of pushing the lawnmower on a nice day – and this is a commercial mower, so that’s about 1500 [pounds] – or I’d push my mom’s SUV. Those days definitely sucked. And it was always a Sunday, because that’s the only day I got to really use everything, because it’s ‘Family Day’, which is really like ‘Hell Day’ because everyone’s at the house.

"It’s just one of those days you wake up and you’re like [expletive], today’s Sunday. My dad’s got all the tools ready, because you’ve got to take the hydraulics off the mower and whatnot. It’s fun. It sucked though, it definitely sucked."

Q: You seem like the type of guy who gets amped before games. Am I guessing right?
A: "Oh yeah."

Q: Take me through your pregame routine.
A: "It’s changed a little bit, but not too much. I stay really calm for the most part. People sometimes go nuts and want to be intensely focused, going through their packets and whatnot. Me, you know, I’ll read my packet on, say, Thursday. Friday, I won’t think anything about it. Nothing about the game, I stay calm, put my mind in other places, don’t want to stress out about it. And then come probably after lunch, that’s when I start almost visualizing, you might say. I’ve always been big on visualizing, I completely believe in it. We do our run through, I try to stay calm, 50 percent, just run through it. Nothing hard. I’m always the last person to put my equipment on, I don’t know why. It’s just something that’s been in high school. I just sit there, I’m relaxed and then it’s like, oh, people are lining up? I’ve got to put my stuff on (laughs). Between the adrenaline getting my stuff on and not wanting to be the last in line, by the time we’re lined up I’m ready to go off.

"It’s just one of those things where you flip the switch, really. As soon as I put the helmet on and walk up the stairs, or if it’s an away game, soon as we get out on in line to take the field, I’m just amped. I go nuts. I’m just waiting for someone to say something so I can go off."

Q: So what’s that first hit of the game like for you? Some people say they get butterflies, and then that first hit unwinds them.
A: Yeah, I definitely get nervous, it doesn’t matter how big or small they are. I’m just like, you get that nervous feeling, your heart is almost in your throat. It’s a little anxious, but soon as that first hit happens, doesn’t matter if you lay them on their ass, or they lay you on your ass, you’re like ‘Let’s just do this now’. It’s fun after that, but that first hit is always very key. I’m too anxious, oh man.

Q: Some have wondered if the Atlantic Coast League could come down to the Thanksgiving matchup with Dennis-Yarmouth. What do you guys need to take care of the rest of the way?
A: "We just need to take it one game at a time. I think we get too ahead of ourselves as any team would, as soon as you have a little bit of success. Take it one game at a time, and keep improving. Do what you can to make yourself better, your team better. Focus on the game, win the next game, then it’s on to the next one.

"Then when the Thanksgiving game comes…I mean, may the best man win. I think they’re very good, obviously. Not much for trash-talking, but I’m ready to hit someone (laughs). There’s something about D-Y, I don’t know if it’s losing to them the last three years, or haven’t been able to get revenge because any other school in the ACL has a wrestling team, I don’t have that with D-Y. They had me on that big kid (6-foot-4, 300-pound tackle Nate Crary) the last two years, and I hate that he’s gone (Crary graduated) because I’d love to see him again this year. I’m excited for the game. It’s hard, like I said, to stay focused on the game, and very hard when the season’s halfway done and you’ve got D-Y done. And it’s at their house, so you know it’s gonna be packed."