Boston High School: Kevin Curry

Holliston gets rings, closure at Patriot Place

March, 5, 2011
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A hundred or so visitors huddled around the New England Football exhibit on the third floor of the Hall at Patriot Place, cell phones and point-and-click’s firing away, and not a single one was about to bother Charlene Larracey as she made her way to the edge of the podium and stared at the Holliston High football jersey that was hanging front and center, amongst the several dozen honoring recent New England high school champions.

Clutching a black pocket-sized digital camera in her right palm, she fought back the tears welling up in her eyes with long sighs and sniffles, as she repeatedly pressed the flash. The Panthers’ red No. 73 jersey –- the one worn by her son Joey until his untimely death in 2008, the one since retired by the school, the one Charlene has worn to every home game the last three seasons, and the one that hung in the window of Charlene and husband Jim’s bedroom every day until this past December 4 –- was now in the spotlight.

Pinned to the left breast of the jersey was the last picture of Joey in that red No. 73 uniform before he tragically collapsed during a scrimmage, and was later pronounced dead at the age of 16, in the 2008 preseason. Attached to the picture was a white ribbon bearing the hand-written names “Joey” and “Timmy”, the latter honoring the late Tim O’Connell, a 10-year-old honorary captain who succumbed to leukemia less than 48 hours following Joey’s death.

All of it was a bit surreal just then, and all of it had Charlene struggling to keep it all together.
[+] EnlargeDaniel Larracey
Brendan Hall for ESPNBoston.comFlanked by his mother, Charlene, Daniel Larracey accepted a Super Bowl championship ring on behalf of his late brother Joey.

“It’s very emotional, very emotional,” Charlene said moments later, choking up. “We’re very proud, very honored. We are very blessed.”

Added Jim, “Joey loved being a part of the Holliston football program. And I think they loved him back, so I think that’s why it’s up there. Joey would have been proud of all of these guys.”

This was an afternoon of rejoice stretching into the early evening, celebrating the Panthers’ Division 3A Super Bowl victory at Gillette Stadium over Cardinal Spellman last Dec. 4 with photo-op’s, a few words from former New England Patriot Steve DeOssie, and a ring presentation that would bring closure to all the group’s struggles since that fateful August day.

Players dressed up in shirts and specially-designed black and red-checkered ties, and posed for a group photo underneath where Larracey’s jersey hung, and again with their rings inside of the Raytheon Theater on the third floor. Head coach Todd Kiley is never one to conceal his heart, and in an emotional speech to his players inside the theater, he let it all hang out.

Choking up as he addressed the team, he spoke of how bad he wanted to get back to Gillette, to get Joey’s jersey hung at the Hall, after losing handily in the 2009 Super Bowl.

“We all know you can be the best team in the world, but you need breaks and bounces to happen,” Kiley said. “So I prayed that we’d get that opportunity again, to get his jersey up in the Hall. And obviously with a lot of his help, a lot of Timmy’s help, and a lot of other angels that are up there helping us out, we were able to get that done. So we…that’s one of my proudest moments, being able to take a picture out there in front of that jersey. As a team.”

Players echoed those same sentiments following the ring presentation.

“There are no words to describe that, really,” said senior linebacker and co-captain Kevin Curry, an ESPNBoston All-State selection. “I’m speechless, as I’m sure most of my teammates are. For us to get here last year and not be able to put that jersey up for his senior year, and the way we wanted to end it, for it to finally be up there, it’s a special moment.”

Included among the ring recipients was Joey’s younger brother Daniel, a 16-year-old junior who doesn’t play football, but comes out with the team during their most crucial moments –- such as running out onto the field at Gillette with an oversized red flag with the Panthers’ logo and Joey’s No. 73.

Wearing a short-sleeved white dress shirt with the checkered tie, black low-tops and a black oval-shaped keychain with the inscription “JL 73” hanging off the belt loop of his cargo pants, Daniel continues to draw inspiration from his late brother every day. Joey’s white No. 73 jersey hangs next to his bedroom window –- “Right when I open my shade, light comes through it,” he said. “Every day I wake up, and it’s the first thing I look at.”

Daniel remembered the first time he saw the jersey at Patriot Place, the day the Panthers beat the Cardinals and head coach Todd Kiley immediately brought it over to the third-floor exhibit. And this afternoon, the emotions the image draws remained strong.

“It’s amazing,” Daniel said. “I can’t even put it into words. Just how this community has just come together so much over the past few years, and how everything is for him now, it’s so amazing. I couldn’t ask for anything better, this is so cool seeing all this finally happening.”

He added with a chuckle, “I know that sounds redundant.”

Joey’s memory never fades too much these days, neither the what-an-honor nor the what-could-have-been.

“It’s very bittersweet,” Charlene said, welling up. “It’s very…hard. There’s not a minute that we don’t miss him…but you know, my biggest fear was that he would be forgotten. And this just helps prove that he won’t be, and the kids have helped show us that. They’ve been a tremendous amount of support for Jim and I, and Daniel.

“Sometimes it’s a double-edged sword, because it’s a reminder that he’s not here. But yet, you don’t want to be forgotten, so people still…we still get calls, cards, ‘How are you guys?’, ‘You know if there’s anything I can do’, ‘We think of Joey every day’. And that means the world to us.”

All of it is enough to make Daniel wonder whether baseball is the only sport he wants to take up. Kiley says he’s left the door open for him to join, but that “it’s up to him”. Daniel wondered aloud if he’d be able to wear his brother’s number, the same one that hangs in his room.

“I haven’t asked, but I’m just making the assumption. Hopefully they do,” Daniel said. “I hope they do. If not…still, I mean, going to the games is the most fun you can have. That’s an absolutely great crowd.”

Of course, you figure, they’d make an exception. They’ve gone so far already.

'The Beast' carries Holliston to title

December, 4, 2010

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Holliston finished its perfect run to the Division 3A Super Bowl championship on the back of a beast.

One year after falling in the 3A title game, Panthers running back Kevin Curry rushed 36 times for 182 yards to lead Holliston over Cardinal Spellman at Gillette Stadium, 21-7.

“He is ‘the beast,’ ” said Panthers coach Todd Kiley. “That was our theme, ‘Feed the beast.’ It’s not only him, it’s the guys up front. We put some different backs in there and they’re doing some nice things too so it was just a team effort.”
[+] EnlargeSean Mayo
Courtesy of John MahoneyHolliston QB Sean Mayo tries to shake a Cardinal Spellman defender out of his shoes during the Panthers' 21-14 Division 3A Super Bowl win at Gillette Stadium.

Curry spearheaded a prolific rushing attack that totaled 279 total yards on the ground for a Panthers team that is usually known for its passing game. Quarterback Sean Mayo entered the game with 1723 yards passing and 21 touchdowns, but Holliston (13-0) broke a 7-7 halftime tie and pulled away in the second half, attempting just three passes in the third and fourth quarters.

“We’ve gotten a lot of press, a lot of ink for our pass game,” said Kiley. “We knew all along we’ve got great guys up front, we’ve got a great running back, and our quarterback can run too, so we’re a tough team to defend.”

Mayo (7-20, 40 yards; 13 carries, 69 yards) provided some change of pace for the Panthers, converting two long third downs on quarterback draw plays, and punching in two scores when Holliston got deep in Cardinals territory.

His first score came as the last play in the third quarter and broke the 7-7 tie. From the Cardinal Spellman (11-2) one yard line, he spun, faked a hand off and dove across a pile for the score. His play was the exclamation point to a 10-play 55-yard drive where Curry carried the ball six times.

On Holliston’s subsequent possession, they went 60 yards in just under five minutes. This time, Curry got to put on the finishing touch with a ten yard run where he was sprung loose with a lead block from an unlikely source: his quarterback.

“On that [touchdown to end the third quarter], he drove it down the field and I got the one yard carry in the end zone,” said Mayo. “I had to repay him somehow.”

That made the score 21-7 and proved to put the game out of reach.

“The whole town was here today,” said Kiley, whose team fell 38-15 to Austin Prep in last year’s 3A Super Bowl. “You don’t know how it feels until it happens. It’s the greatest feeling. It’s up there with having a child. It really is. Don’t tell my wife that.”

Holliston opened the scoring with 5:57 remaining in the first half when Mayo plunged across the goal line from two yards out. For a team that averaged just under 40 points per game during the season, it was a light-scoring half. But with the way the Panthers defense played, the lead seemed safe.

Cardinals running back Blaise Branch (6 carries, 5 yards), who had scored 36 rushing touchdowns coming into Saturday, was held to just five yards in the first half. On the first play of the second half, he suffered a concussion and did not return.

“Their defense dominated so we couldn’t do anything, when we lost our one weapon for the first half, that got our kids down a little bit,” said Cardinal Spellman coach Ron St. George. “We all hate not to be success but I am proud of how hard we played.”

The Cardinals scored when quarterback Zac Cooney found Joe Glynn wide open for a 25-yard touchdown strike with 23 seconds left in the first half. The play capitalized on a Patrick Hinkley interception that put Cardinal Spellman on the Holliston 45-yard line.

“We turn it over, we get right back on the ball and it’s time to play,” said Curry of his team’s attitude going into halftime. “Going into half they got one, but we’re coming back to play.”

That they did.

Holliston forced its first turnover with just over a minute left in the game. Brody Ciarcello intercepted Cardinal Spellman backup quarterback Kevin Crane to effectively end the game.

“The emotion, I can’t even explain right now,” said Curry. “It hasn’t even gone through my head yet. It’s great. The season’s over with a ‘W.’ It’s perfect.”

And so are the Panthers.

Holliston – 0 7 7 7 – 21
Cardinal Spellman – 0 7 0 0 – 7

First quarter

H – Mayo 2 run (Christian Baker kick)

Second quarter
CS – Cooney 25 pass to Glynn (Jordan Williams kick)

Third quarter
H – Mayo 1 run (Baker kick)

Fourth quarter
H – Cooney 10 run (Baker kick)

Larracey legacy reigns supreme for Holliston

December, 4, 2010

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The black painted beneath his eyes had turned into a muddled mess of smears, smiles, lines and tears by the time Ethan Rayner got his hands on the MIAA Division 3A Super Bowl championship trophy Saturday.

Cradling the hardware like a newborn -- fitting, considering Holliston coach Todd Kiley likened the feeling to having a child -- Rayner started to speak of what made the Panthers’ 21-7 victory over Cardinal Spellman so emotional when he peered off to what could have only been a far-flung friend.

“Absolutely, 100 percent, this is for Joey,” the senior lineman/linebacker said following the 3A Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium. “He was definitely present here today. We did it his way.”

A junior at Holliston in September 2008, Joey Larracey died after sustaining a hit during a scrimmage in Lakeville, a tragedy an autopsy later revealed stemmed from an undetectable heart abnormality. Coupled that month with the loss of 10-year-old Timothy O’Connell, a student of Kiley’s and honorary member of the team who succumbed to a lengthy battle of leukemia, the Panthers have since played with their memories on their minds and Larracey’s No. 73 stitched on their chests.

Last season -- one dedicated to Larracey -- ended here with a 38-15 loss to Austin Prep in the 3A title game.

Saturday, the Panthers (12-1) lined up for the national anthem by spelling out ‘73’ on the field. They carried the familiar red flag with Larracey’s number on it on the sidelines. And they finished the day by dominating Cardinal Spellman on both sides of the ball, including 323-56 in total yards and 283-6 on the ground.

“We got it done Joe’s way all season,” senior quarterback Sean Mayo said, his team huddled around him following the trophy ceremony. “That’s how we’re gonna end it!”

Somewhere, Larracey had to be smiling.

“He’s what we want all our players to be modeled after,” senior Kevin Lamarque said. “He was a great kid, a nice kid, worked hard in the classroom, worked his (butt) off in practice. He was everyone’s brother. When that (his death) happened, we turned from a team into a family.”

It’s a family with lots of older brothers. The Panthers boasted 22 seniors this year, the majority of whom spent the day after last year’s Super Bowl loss in the school’s weight room.

It’s a moment Kiley and several of his players pointed to Saturday. Yearning to return to Foxborough for a calendar year, there was no “star-gazing,” Mayo said, when the team walked into Gillette Stadium this time. Just business and hard work, all of which translated onto the field.

Though Cardinal Spellman’s tall offensive line limited Mayo to 6-of-19 passing for 40 yards -- several times batting down passes at the line -- the speedy Panthers chewed up yardage by the chain-full. Kevin Curry rushed 36 times for 182 yards and a touchdown, and Mayo added 69 yards and two scores. Defensively, they were even more dominant, holding the Cardinals to a total of one yard in the third quarter.

All the while, hundreds of Holliston fans packed the stands behind the Panthers’ sideline -- “almost the whole town” Mayo estimated.

“It’s not just for us,” Kiley said of the title. “It’s for all our brothers that have played before us, Joey Larracey, Timmy O’Connell, kids who have passed away the last couple years, their families. They’ve been a huge part of what we do, and they’ve been an inspiration to us.”

You only had to talk to one of the seniors to know how much.

“I was thinking about what we all went through two years ago, how hard we worked and how much we all wanted it,” Lamarque said. “This is the way it had to end for us. There was no other way.”

It was Joe’s way.

Super Saturday breakdown and picks

December, 3, 2010

Yesterday, coaches and captains from each of the teams participating in the six Eastern Mass Super Bowls played at Gillette Stadium toured the field in anticipation of Saturday's games. We caught up with Bridgewater-Raynham quarterback Billy Zolga and Everett wide receiver and defensive back Matt Costello yesterday.

Both players were at Gillette last year when their respective teams lost their Super Bowl bids. Now, the seniors are looking to leave a lasting imprint in their final high school football games.

This is for all the marbles, so let's get straight into the action:

Everett (11-0) vs. St. John's Prep (8-4), 6 p.m., Gillette Stadium
Everett players to watch:
ATH Manny Asprilla, WR Matt Costello, QB Jonathan DiBiaso, RB/LB Vondell Langston, LB Buck McCarthy, WR/DB Kenny Calaj, OL/DL Nick Chiarello, DL Shaquille Taylor.
St. John's Prep players to watch: RB Tyler Coppola, OL/DL Nathan Cyr, TE Ryan Delisle, TE/ROV Lucas Bavaro, OL/DL Dan Culkeen.
The skinny: In his third year under center, DiBiaso has exploded to lead one of the state's most prolific offenses (37.5 points per game), and re-write the record book (he threw his state-record 40th touchdown pass of the season in Tuesday's 21-0 win over Andover). But you best believe he is thanking his lucky stars for the exploits of Costello (20 touchdowns) and Asprilla. The Boston College-bound Asprilla, who lines up at both tailback and wide receiver, is one of the state's most dangerous threats in the short passing game, and known to rip off huge gains out of underneath routes. Prep, meanwhile, has rode a powerful ground game (what's new?) to victory, led by Coppola, who has nearly 450 yards on the ground in the last two games. The Eagles are anchored by a powerful line led by Cyr and Culkeen, while Bavaro has emerged as an intimidating presence over the middle on defense.
X-factor: The matchup of the Trinity-boud Cyr, one of the state's best o-linemen, versus Taylor, one of the state's best d-linemen, will be one of the most intriguing battles of the day. Both are built low to the ground, with an explosive first step, and you've got to wonder if one key block will spring either team to victory.

Barboza: A Prep win would be the fitting culmination to an emotional ride, but this has been the Crimson Tide's year. Everett, 27-21

Hall: This has been a remarkable run for the Prep, after all the program has been through these last two seasons, and they're winners in my book either way. I'm going with one of the unsung guys, Gilly DeSouza, to win it late with his feet for the Crimson Tide. Everett, 24-21.

Bridgewater-Raynham (10-2) vs. Gloucester (12-0), 8 p.m. at Gillette Stadium

B-R players to watch: QB/QB Billy Zolga, RB/LB Nick Schlatz, OL/DL Mike Devin, RB/LB Mike Chicoine, RB Brandon Morin.
Gloucester players to watch: TE/DE Chris Unis; RB/LB Gilbert Brown; FB/LB Jordan Shairs; OT/DE Andrew Mizzoni; C/NT Anthony Latassa.
The skinny: Do you like running the football? This game is for you. The Trojans and Fishermen do it better than just about anybody and certainly have the book on each other after facing off in last year’s Super Bowl. You’d be hard pressed to find a more consistent pair of backs than Gilbert Brown and Jordan Shairs of Gloucester. The Trojans ran behind Brandon Morin to a win over Weymouth in the semifinals after starting in place of injured tailback Nick Schlatz. It would give B-R a lift if Schlatz can recover from a shoulder injury sustained in a Thanksgiving Day win over Brockton
X-factor: Really it just comes down to which team blocks its assignments better. It’s simple as that.

Barboza: This might be the most difficult game to forecast, but I’m giving the edge to Gloucester’s experience. Gloucester, 16-14.

Hall: This might be the best matchup of the day. Power versus power, strength versus strength. Gloucester has more playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, but I like the way this B-R team has been running the ball this last month. Against Dan Buron’s wishes, of course, I’m picking the Trojans to avenge 2009 and put an end to the Fish's 25-game win streak. B-R, 17-14.

Mansfield (11-1) vs. Reading (12-0), 3:30 p.m., Gillette Stadium
Mansfield players to watch:
RB Jamel Marshall, QB George Busharis, WR Blayne Taylor, OL/DL Sean Otto, OL/DL Kyle McGuire, OL/DL Anthony Todesco, WR Jeff Hill.
Reading players to watch: QB/DB Brian Bourque, OL/DL Jeff Covitz, OL/DL Anthony Fodera, RB Larry Gilligan, RB Zack Bates, WR Sean Gildea, WR Connor Sheehan.
The skinny: The defending Division 2 Super Bowl champ Rockets come into Saturday on a 25-game win streak, albeit by a thread after some late heroics from Bourque and Covitz allowed them to escape their home turf with a 15-14 thriller over Dracut. With Bourque spearheading a shotgun-oriented rushing attack, the Rockets have amassed 42 rushing touchdowns going into Saturday. The Hornets, meanwhile, are back at Gillette for the second time in three years thanks to a stalwart defense led by McGuire at defensive tackle, and the workhorse carrying load of Marshall. This Mansfield squad, known for its Wing-T, isn't afraid to pass the ball more than in years past, with the arm of Busharis. Taylor and Hill, the latter of whom caught three touchdowns in Tuesday's 28-0 shutout of Walpole, have emerged as downfield threats the last few weeks.
X-factor: Covitz, with his above-average leg strength and low center of gravity, has been the most irreplaceable guy on the offensive line, and is generally been a nuisance for opposing offensive linemen coming off the edge. With that in mind, picking up the blitz will be crucial for the Hornets.

Barboza: When it's on the line, Marshall is just too explosive. Mansfield, 17-14.

Hall: Stan Andre, the one who kicked off this whole win streak, was in the house Tuesday night to take in the Reading game. I'm sure he said something to them in the ecstatic locker room after the game, and I'm sure it's going to count late in the fourth quarter. Reading, 28-27.

Duxbury (12-0) vs. Concord-Carlisle (10-2), 1:30 p.m. at Gillette Stadium
Duxbury players to watch:
QB Matt O’Keefe, DB/QB Kane Haffey, OL/DL Brett Harasimowicz, TE/DE Don Webber, RB/DB Reilly Naton.
Concord-Carlisle players to watch: RB George Craan; QB Peter George; RB/LB Jabrail Coy; LB Evan Boynton.
The skinny: These are two very stingy defenses with the Green Dragons allowing just 10.8 points per game and the Patriots have surrendered a shade under 13 points per game. Make no mistake, these teams can also move the ball. Duxbury thrives with its complement of Kane Haffey and Matt O’Keefe at quarterback. Concord-Carlisle can always depend on George Craan and his 1,600-plus yards out of the backfield.
X-factor: The Patriots and their fans know what to expect out of Craan, but if sophomore Tim Badgley can repeat his five-carry, 109-yard performance from their semifinal against North Andover, C-C’s chances for victory would greatly improve.

Barboza: One last time, I’ll pull this one out. The “Double Dragons” of O’Keefe and Haffey will lead them to victory. Duxbury, 21-20

Hall: Yes, that’s right, I called Duxbury’s defense “Duxbury Swag District” yesterday on our podcast. I am tragically lame, and slightly out of control. Duxbury, 24-10

Beverly (6-6) vs. Somerset (12-0), 11 a.m. at Gillette Stadium
Somerset players to watch:
RB/LB Seth DeMello; RB/DB Jaron Spear; OT/DT Ian Levesque; RB/LB Alex Estrella; QB Adam Ledoux.
Beverly players to watch: RB/DB Brendan Flaherty, QB/DB Joe Wioncek, OL/DL George Kallas, RB/DB Nick Theriault, LB Mark Giles, OL/DL Andrew Cannata.
The skinny: Somerset’s 28-0 win over Dighton-Rehoboth in the semifinals was a prototypical Blue Raiders game. Both Seth DeMello and Jaron Spear finished with over 100 yards rushing as Somerset bled the clock dry in the second half. Meanwhile, Beverly – the official Cinderella squad of the 2010 playoffs — showed that they truly belonged with a 41-14 thrashing of Scituate. Will the Blue Raiders prevail and finish a perfect season? Or can the Panthers keep the magic alive? It’s the quintessential favorite vs. underdog.
X-factor: The teams’ lines. For Division 3 schools, both of these squads have good sized linemen. Six-foot-five, 315-pound lineman Ian Levesque is a mountain on the Blue Raider line, but is agile as well. George Kallas is an immovable object on the Panther line.

Barboza: Not only is the double wing difficult for any team to run, but the Blue Raiders have all the right elements to run it to its best. Somerset, 28-14

Hall: Clock strikes midnight on Beverly, as two wings are better than one. Somerset, 21-10

Holliston (11-1) vs. Cardinal Spellman (12-0), 9 a.m., Gillette Stadium
Holliston players to watch:
RB/LB Kevin Curry, QB Sean Mayo, TE/DE Ryan Barrett, RB/DB Jake Frechette, WR/DB Christian Baker, OL/LB Ethan Rayner, OL/DL Kevin Lamarcque.
Spellman players to watch: RB/DB Blaise Branch, FB/LB Jared Lordi, RB/DB Jordan Williams, QB Zac Cooney.
The skinny: The 11-1 Panthers come into Saturday averaging just a hair under 40 points a game, with Mayo as the triggerman. Even in limited playing time -- the Panthers often pulled their starters in the third or fourth quarter -- the dual-threat quarterback put up 1,723 yards through the air, with 21 touchdown passes to only five interceptions, and also added 456 yards and nine scores on the ground. Spellman, in its third year under Ron St. George, had a remarkable turnaround, going from 2-9 to undefeated and in its first Super Bowl since 1992. At the forefront of St. George's vaunted Wing-T scheme is the senior Branch, who leads Eastern Mass with 36 rushing touchdowns. But over the last few games, defenses have had to worry more and more about Lordi and Williams.
X-factor: The Bryant-bound Barrett, at 6-foot-5 and 233 pounds, was a matchup problem all year long in the Tri-Valley League. And while he's not putting up the most gaudy numbers at tight end and was used more as a blocking back, his combination of size, speed and athleticism demands airtight coverage from the linebackers and helps open up the Panthers' offense.

Barboza: Panthers' rallying cry: 'We Don't Get Fooled Again". Holliston, 31-24

Hall: The Panthers came to Gillette last December and got manhandled. Guarantee you that's been fresh on their minds this week, and for that I think they avoid the same early mistakes that doomed them in 2009. Holliston, 25-20

Shawsheen (10-1) vs. Blue Hills (10-1), 10 a.m., Curry College
Shawsheen players to watch: OL/DL David Summiel, QB Ryan Woolaver, RB Andrew Dascoli, WR Rob Greenwood.
Blue Hills players to watch: RB Vincent Burton, RB Isaiah Teixeira, OL/DL Jamarr Goff, QB John Curran
The skinny: Shawsheen, on the heels of a 21-0 shutout of Madison Park in Tuesday night’s playoffs, is on a roll defensively. The Rams haven’t allowed a point in 19 quarters, dating back to a 41-6 win over Lynn Tech on October 15. Dascoli is the Rams’ workhorse back, while Greeenwood is their top threat at receiver. The Warriors, rested from a bye on Tuesday night, are led by Vincent Burton and his Division 4-best 30 touchdowns.
X-factor: The 6-foot-5, 310-pound Summiel might be the biggest catalyst for this incredible Shawsheen run. Playing right offensive tackle and left defensive end, Summiel paved the way for 118 rushing yards from leading rusher Dascoli, and also preserved a fourth straight shutout.

Barboza: The week off will certainly benefit Blue Hills, but the Rams defense is stout. Shawsheen, 14-7

Hall: Logic says to go with Blue Hills, as they’ll be well-rested thanks to their bye. But this Shawsheen defense is an absolute wagon by Division 4 standards, and for that I’m giving them another shutout to finish off what’s been a remarkable run over the last six weeks. Shawsheen, 21-0

Brighton (9-2) vs. Northeast (10-2), 1 p.m. at Curry College

Brighton players to watch: RB/LB Andrew Maestre, RB Dwight Kennedy, QB Jonathan Marrero, OL/DL Patrick Jean, WR Olumide Olukoga.
Northeast players to watch: RB/DB Bobby Novello; RB/DB Mike Cross; OL/DE Ryan Adams; FB/DE Ian Bagby; TE/LB A.J. Ortiz.
The skinny: You'd be hard pressed to find a hotter defense in the state than the Golden Knights, who have now pitched six shutouts after a 42-0 blanking of Pope John Tuesday. Their next challenge lies in the Bengals. A Division 4-A Super Bowl participant last year, Brighton’s offense is led by running back Andrew Maestre and quarterback Jonathan Marrerro, each of whom ran for two touchdowns in their 36-13 win over West Bridgewater on Tuesday.
X-factor: Brighton wide receiver Olumide Olukoga is the favorite target of Marrerro, but he’s also dangerous in the return game. Olukoga had a 41-yard kickoff return to set up Maestre’s first touchdown of the game. At this stage, with two talented teams, special teams play always comes to bear.

Barboza: Can’t pick against the Northeast defense, but the Bengals will put some points on the board. Northeast, 23-17

Hall: I used to live in Brighton Centre, and my neighbors were awesome. Go grab a bite at Smoken’ Joe’s when you get a chance, and make sure you get the Kansas City Sticky. Brighton, 21-17.

Mayo lifts Holliston back to 3A Super Bowl

December, 1, 2010
HOLLISTON, Mass. -- Its lead slipping and Rockland charging behind 235-pound senior Mike Driscoll, the Holliston High School football team needed not a stop, but a game-changing blow in its Eastern Mass Division 3A semifinal game on its home turf.

“We like to call it ‘punching adversity in the face,’ ” senior Sean Mayo said.

David Kriegsman did his teammate one better: He knocked it stone cold.

Clinging to a one-score lead, Kriegsman’s fourth-down tackle for a loss early in the fourth quarter Tuesday re-energized Holliston, which rode Mayo’s arm to a score on the ensuing drive and a 35-20 victory over South Shore League champion Rockland.

The victory catapulted the two-time Tri-Valley League champs into their second straight Super Bowl on Saturday at Gillette Stadium, where they’ll meet Cardinal Spellman, a 28-16 winner over Hamilton-Wenham in the other 3A semifinal. The Panthers (11-1) hope to atone for last year’s 38-15 blowout loss to Austin Prep in Foxborough.

“We want to finish it with a win this time,” said Mayo, who threw for a pair of touchdowns and rushed for two more Tuesday.

Kriegsman helped give them that chance. After Devyn Flipp hauled in a touchdown pass between two defenders to slice Holliston’s 20-7 halftime lead to six points in the third quarter, Rockland (10-2) forced the Panthers into a three-and-out before moving the ball back downfield.

That mainly came on the back of Driscoll, a 5-foot-10 rhinoceros posing as a high school senior in shoulder pads, who epitomizes Rockland’s bruising run-control offense. But after Driscoll (176 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries) carried the ball on three of four straight possessions to put Rockland into a fourth-and-one situation just over midfield, Bulldogs coach Ken Owen opted for the unexpected, running a counter to Tim Fitzgerald.

While most of the defense bit on Driscoll charging into the line, Kriegsman did not, wrapping Fitzgerald up for a two-yard loss, a turnover on downs and all the momentum this side of Framingham.

“We knew they were going to run it from the get-go, and I saw an open window and I just filled the hole,” Kriegsman said.

The impact of the play was magnified by the stark contrast between the teams’ styles. Rockland, riding a defense that entered allowing just over eight points per game, has built it season upon tough-nosed victories in the trenches. Holliston, toting around its 40-plus-points-per-game scoring average, has largely won with style.

But Kriegsman drew just as many "ooohs" as any touchdown catch with his punishing hit.

“Huge,” Holliston coach Todd Kiley said of the tackle. “That was huge. They’re going down, I think we were up a score at that point, and they ran a counter play. Kriegsman read it beautifully … and our offense just fed off of that. You could see it. Our team fed off that play.”

A 13-yard catch by Adam Camilli coupled with a late-hit penalty put the Panthers within 21 yards from the end zone, where Mayo hit Brody Ciarcello with an absolute strike on third down across the middle for a 28-14 lead.

Rockland fumbled on its very next offensive play -- an attempted lateral after a catch that Ciarcello recovered -- and Kevin Curry ran for 49 of his 115 yards on the following drive, capping it with a spinning, tackle-breaking 19-yard touchdown run with 5:52 to play.

Fitzgerald scored on a one-yard run after Driscoll left due to injury, and Rockland recovered an onside kick. But the Bulldogs committed their fourth turnover of the second half thereafter, ending any comeback.

“This team battles,” Mayo said.

So does its quarterback. Mayo fought off cramps in the first half and an apparent arm injury in the second to rush for 73 yards, throw for 119 more and score his team’s first two touchdowns.

The second -- which came directly after Driscoll’s five-yard scoring plunge to tie at a 7-7 in the second quarter -- was sheer will. The senior darted to the left sideline on a quarterback keeper and dove headfirst while being pushed out of bounds to catch the pylon.

Later in the quarter, with the Panthers on their own 41-yard line with 1:31 until the intermission, Mayo orchestrated a 68-second scoring drive, either throwing or running it himself on every play. He finished it with a 10-yard slant pass to Camilli, but Mayo needed several moments to pull himself from the turf after cramping up.

“He was outstanding, with his legs, with his arm,” Kiley said of his quarterback. “He’s the guy who’s led this team all season. And he’s a tough kid, mentally, physically. As he goes, we go. … Gusty, gusty performance.”


ROC 0 7 7 6 --- 20
HOL 7 13 0 15 --- 35

First Quarter
H - Sean Mayo 13 run (Christian Baker kick).

Second Quarter
R - Mike Driscoll 5-yard run (Ricky Witt kick).
H - Mayo 10 run (Baker kick).
H - Adam Camilli 10 pass from Mayo (kick no good).

Third Quarter
R - Devyn Flipp 15 pass from D.J. Austin (Witt kick).

Fourth Quarter
H - Brody Ciarcello 21 pass from Mayo (Curry run).
H - Curry 19 run (Baker kick).
R - Tim Fitzgerald 1 run (pass failed).

No. 24 Holliston captures TVL playoff crown

November, 14, 2010
HOLLISTON, Mass. -- With the Tri-Valley League title on the line, No. 24 Holliston defeated Medway 33-14 on Saturday night at home, using motivation from a matchup earlier in the season when Medway came out the victor.

The two familiar foes battled it out again in the inaugural Tri-Valley League championship game, but Holliston willed its way to victory and used the results of the teams’ previous meeting to keep its focus.

“Revenge is sweet, like they say,” Holliston’s Kevin Curry said after the win. “It’s perfect.”

“The coaches didn’t want to say revenge, but it was definitely building up inside of us,” Holliston quarterback Sean Mayo said. “We wanted another crack at Medway and we got it and took advantage.”

In the teams’ first game, Holliston fought hard to stay even with Medway, but the Mustangs took over in the second half and ended up winning 28-16. However Holliston seized the opportunity of the rematch in the TVL playoffs.

“You play that team ten times and it’s a dogfight all ten times and it can go either way,” Holliston head coach Todd Kiley said. “We just got them this time around, but they outplayed us last time.”

Medway’s offense staggered throughout the game because the team never broke out the big play. The Mustangs’ running attack managed to heat up, but the team did not connect on play-action passes, and couldn’t convert in key situations.

Tailback Michael Ozzella ran the ball 25 times for 158 yards -- including a 28-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter -- but Medway couldn’t catch up because the run game used up too much time.

Kiley said that the Panthers looked at the film from the teams’ Oct. 1 matchup, and took a different approach coming into Saturday night’s game. Holliston did not change its scheme completely, but just altered what they were doing in certain formations.

“They are a sound defensive football team…” Kiley said about Medway. “We thought with different formations we could out-leverage them with some things and the kids did a great job executing it.”

Those changes helped get Holliston’s offense in gear. Curry racked up 143 yards on 20 carries and also had two touchdowns in the game.

“The keys in the run game were getting up to the linebackers,” Curry said. “They have some of the best ‘backers in the league -- the same with their [defensive line], they’re so strong -- so all we had to do was get up to them, and make our blocks.”

The senior running back was elated after the game, as fans came onto the field as Holliston was handed the TVL trophy.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling…it’s absolutely amazing,” Curry added about the setting.

The Panthers set the tone with a good first drive, but more importantly scored on their first three offensive possessions and only gave up seven points in the first half.

The inaugural TVL playoff system got mixed reviews among coaches and players, but Medway has now repeated as league champions.

“I don’t like it.” Medway head coach Dave McSweeney said about the new playoff system. “To not have those non-league games -- I don’t like that -- you have to jump into a tough Tri-Valley schedule right from the beginning -- I like the old system. I’m a traditional guy, I just like the old system.”

“I know there were a lot of coaches who were not in favor of it, but [we said] ‘Let’s embrace this thing, have fun with it, and go out and win it’,” Kiley said about his impressions of the playoffs. “Our kids took that approach and it obviously worked out for us.”

M 0 7 7 0 -- 14
H 6 6 7 7 6 -- 33

H - Mayo 1 run (kick blocked)

H - Curry 10 run (conversion failed)
M - Kevin Moreau 8 run (Joe Davenport kick)
H - Christian Baker 57 catch from Adam Camilli (Camilli kick)

H - Mayo 4 run (conversion good)
M - Ozzella 28 run (Davenport kick)

H - Curry 18 run (conversion failed)

Holliston speeds to TVL title game

November, 7, 2010

WESTWOOD, Mass. -- Sean Mayo arrived at Holliston High School at approximately 3:45 p.m., warmed up with his Panther teammates, hopped on the team bus and arrived at Westwood High just in time to see Norton's Brendan Curtin haul in a 40-yard touchdown pass to go up 12-0 on Medway in the first half of this Tri-Valley League first-round playoff -- "Saw a couple plays here and there, but nothing big," the senior quarterback shrugged.

But with the Mustangs mounting a comeback, and Mayo (11 of 16 passing, 156 yards, two total touchdowns) making yet another up-tempo Panthers blitzkrieg look effortless, he now gets his dream matchup in next week's TVL Finals against the lone team to take down Holliston this season.

"Everything we asked for we got," Mayo smiled. "We've got to take advantage of this, though. We can't take anything for granted, and we've got to have the best week of practice we've had all season, and just get back on track and get the win."

The Panthers (7-1) found themselves repeatedly marching downfield in the same surgical, no-huddle spread fashion that had them coming into this game averaging nearly 42 points per game. With Mayo directing the offense, and speedsters Kevin Curry (130 all-purpose yards) and junior Jake Frechette (89, four total touchdowns) threatening through the air and ground, they racked up 340 yards of offense on their archrivals.

Perhaps most impressive, though, was the execution of Holliston's defense. The Wolverines were held to 83 yards of offense in the first half, and leading rusher Sean Amaru mustered just 76 yards on 23 carries, well below what he's accustomed to rushing for. The back seven, led by Curry at linebacker and Dan Barone and Dan Miller in the secondary, swarmed on angle pursuit and sealed off the outside edge quickly for most of the night.

"Defensively, I'll tell you what, we are gelling at the right time," head coach Todd Kiley said. "And it's not just one or two guys. It's all 11. We feel very good about where our defense is at this point."

The Panthers' night was kick-started by a fortunate bounce in their favor, midway through the first quarter. Bryant-bound senior tight end Ryan Barrett fell on a muffed Westwood punt return at the Wolverines' 25 yard line, and after hauling in a 15-yard pass from Mayo a play later, Mayo would punch it in three plays later on a seven-yard scramble up the left hash marks.

Westwood drove all the way to the Panthers' 35 on the ensuing drive. But on fourth down, and the 12th play of the drive, a fumbled snap was landed on by Holliston's Alex Greenberg to give the Panthers possession again. They wasted little time scoring again, following up a 19-yard Mayo shovel pass to Frechette with a 33-yard Curry run that gave them first and 10 at the Westwood 11. That's when the Panthers went to their "war" package, a tight-split double-wing formation run exclusively in the red zone. Two plays later, Frechette plowed in from three yards out for his first of four scores on the night.

The Panthers followed this pattern on their next two scores, both Frechette runs out of the "war" package, before closing out the scoring with a 35-yard pass from Mayo to Frechette midway through the third to essentially seal it.

"When you have Kevin and Jake in the backfield, it's really tough for defenses to key on one guy," Mayo said. "But if you key on Kevin, like when we go to our 'war' set, we've got Jake over there too. And those two are great athletes, some of the best athletes on our team, and we're just happy to have them both in full stride."

And, barring injury this week in practice, the Mustangs will get their first glimpse of Frechette next Saturday -- the running back was out with injury in the Mustangs' 28-16 win over Holliston back on Oct. 1. That's just one of the many things both teams are looking forward to these next seven days.

"We're going to need to play our A-game," Kiley said. "The kids know that, we'll have a great week of practice. There's going to be some adjustments made; the beauty of this from a coaching standpoint, we love it. It's a little bit more of a chess match, we're going to make our adjustments, they're going to make their adjustments, and that's what makes it exciting."


WES 0 0 0 0 --- 0
HOL 7 14 14 0 --- 35

First Quarter
H - Sean Mayo 7 run (Christian Baker kick) 4:57

Second Quarter
H - Jake Frechette 3 run (Baker kick) 6:55
H - Frechette 9 run (Baker kick) 3:16

Third Quarter
H - Frechette 5 run (Baker kick) 9:32
H - Frechette 35 pass from Mayo (Baker kick) 5:49

Holliston puts chink in Lancers' armor

October, 23, 2010

NORTON, Mass. – Which four teams will reach the Tri-Valley League playoff has been a foregone conclusion for quite some time with Holliston, Medway, Norton and Westwood ensconced at the top of the standings.

Entering into Friday night’s action, as to how those entrants would rank in the tournament (which kicks off in T-minus two weeks) was anyone’s guess beyond Norton having first dibs on the top spot. After Holliston’s 42-0 drubbing of the Lancers in Norton, that process has only gotten muddled.

Following the Panthers’ impressive showing, all four squads are now square at 6-1.

One thing is clear, however.

If the top spot were to be judged on style points alone, Holliston’s flexing of their offensive muscle against the Lancers would be case enough.

“We wanted to go high tempo, we wanted to gas them,” said Panthers quarterback Sean Mayo, who completed 11 of 21 pass attempts for 185 yards and a touchdown. “We mixed it up with the run and we ran a little bit more than we usually do, but we got it done tonight.”

Holliston controlled the game from its onset. After fielding the opening kickoff, the Panthers maneuvered downfield on a six-play, 64-yard drive capped by Kevin Curry’s first of three rushing touchdowns.

Things got out of hand in the second quarter after Mayo found Dan Barone (5 catches, 110 yards) on a 26-yard touchdown pass as time expired in the first. On the ensuing kickoff, Atticus Grinder scooped up a Norton fumble and reached the end zone on a 14-yard score.

Harper Lee couldn’t have drawn it up any better.

“What a great football name, isn’t it?” Holliston head coach Todd Kiley said while reflecting on his special teams ace. “[Grinder] is a kid that honestly could be starting a lot of other teams but he brings it every [play], special teams wise. It was no different tonight.”

On the second play from scrimmage following Grinder’s score, Barone picked off a Brendan Curtin pass and returned it 35 yards to the Lancers’ 4-yard line. Two plays later, Curry punched in his second touchdown from two yards out.

“We had a great week of practice,” Curry said, breaking down Holliston’s defensive keys. “We knew what they were going to show, we knew their tendencies.”

The Panthers bore down on Norton’s defense for two more scores in the second half. Curry, who finished with 12 carries for 85 yards, knocked in his second two-yard score of the game in the third quarter and Barone added an exclamation point with a 47-yard run to paydirt with 1:08 remaining in the contest.

Holliston 14 14 7 7 -- 42
Norton 0 0 0 0 -- 0

First quarter
Holliston Kevin Curry 5-yard run (Christian Baker kick)
Holliston Dan Barone 26-yard pass from Sean Mayo (Baker kick)

Second quarter
Holliston Atticus Grinder 14-yard fumble return (Baker kick)
Holliston Curry 2-yard run (Christian Baker kick)

Third quarter
Holliston Curry 2-yard run (Baker kick)

Fourth quarter
Holliston Barone 47-yard run (Baker kick)

'73' means everything to No. 24 Holliston

August, 30, 2010
HOLLISTON, Mass. -- Todd Kiley says he's had to do "a lot less barking" with his Holliston Panthers this year.

The eight-year head coach says this year's team is farther along than any of his teams have been at this point in camp, and there are several reasons why. The most prominent one coming out of preseason camp seems to be the evolution of senior quarterback Sean Mayo from go-getting gunslinger to the team's spiritual and emotional leader. "From the first day without pads (August 23), he took this team by the horns," Kiley said.

Of course, the writing's on the wall. The Panthers wore many teams down with their speedy, huddle-free spread offense and blitz-heavy defensive schemes. But in the Division 3A Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium, they struggled to establish a running game and never got in a rhythm. And so a squad that had averaged 35 points a game to that point faltered big, 38-15.

"As soon as we put on the pads, we think about the last time we took them off last season," noted senior running back Kevin Curry.

But the motivation goes even deeper.

On Sept. 5, 2008, the Panthers' final scrimmage of the preseason against Apponequet Regional, 16-year-old Joey Larracey collapsed suddenly after getting hit in the chest, and was pronounced dead later that night. A few nights later, 10-year-old honorary captain Tim O'Connell succumbed to leukemia after more than a year-long battle.

The Panthers canceled their first game of the year, against Oliver Ames. The whole ordeal was, in the words of Ryan Barrett, "a nightmare"; to this day, the death of the popular student and teammate resonates deep under the team's skin.

"No one was talking, we were all speechless," said running back Kevin Curry of the 48 hours that followed Larracey's death.

"You don't want any team to go through that, it's the worst possible thing that could happen," said linebacker Ethan Rayner.

But that tragedy has never been lost on anyone in this town for a second. If anything, it's brought incredible closure to a community that already considered itself fairly tight-knight. As Mayo put it, "That brought us from a team to a family. Ever since the passing of Joey, we love each other. He's all of our brothers."

Said Raymer, "People in this town said we kind of carried this community, helped them get through a tough time. I'm really proud of myself, proud of us, for doing that."

Larracey's legacy, and his uniform number 73, was the pulse and the throttle of the Panthers' Super Bowl run last year. His mother, Charlene, often spoke to the team after games. In week six, wide receiver Christian Baker booted a 37-yard last-second field goal to beat previously undefeated Medway, took off his helmet to reveal the numbers "7" and "3" written on his cheeks, and simply told reporters, "That was for Joey."

The modus operandi hasn't changed. Larracey's number remains stenciled into the black paw print on the 25-yard lines of the team's home stadium. The energized fans, known for their inspired antics last year -- uniformly showing up in red shirts bearing "73", storming the field after wins, chanting Wu-Tang Clan lyrics, filling up the parking lot 2 1/2 hours before games and sometimes outdrawing home crowds at away games -- are expected to return.

Friday night, the second annual Joey Larracey Bowl commences, with the Panthers facing Framingham in a scrimmage (i.e. no kickoffs). And they will once again utilize their "7-3-7" warmup formation, which is exactly how it sounds -- seven in one row, three in the next, in honor of Larracey's "73" and O'Connell's "7".

"You just get the chills," Mayo said of the formation.

"It's nothing like any other team does," Curry said. "It really does bring us from a team to a family. We're out there doing it for a purpose."

"We talk about doing it Joe's way," Rayner said. "Doing everything 110 percent, just like Joey did it every play."

"On and off the field," added Curry. "Great kid, great student, great leader."

So it goes without saying that, with the Super Bowl loss, the plethora of speed returning (eight TVL first-teamers) and Larracey's memory hanging over it all, the Panthers are fired up. With Mayo in his third year calling the shots on offense, and targets like the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Barrett (Kiley calls Barrett, who currently holds an offer from Bryant, "a versatile kid that allows our offense to stay versatile,"), there's a whole lot to like.

Offensively, they're often at their best when running at a no-huddle pace, a tempo they've coined "blood" around here.

And very often these days, the phrase is all-encompassing.

12-1 (9-0 Tri-Valley), lost in Division 3A Super Bowl
Coach: Todd Kiley (8th year, 55-23 overall)
Players to watch: Kevin Curry, Sr., RB/OLB, 5-10, 175 lbs (303 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns); Sean Mayo, Sr., QB, 6-0, 170 lbs (2,010 passing yards, 26 total touchdowns); Ryan Barrett, Sr., TE/DE, 6-5, 225 lbs; Ethan Rayner, Sr., OG/LB, 5-11, 215 lbs; Christian Baker, Sr., WR/DB/K, Sr., 5-11, 170 lbs (308 receiving yards, four touchdowns); Jake Frechette, Jr., RB/DB, 5-9, 165 lbs (1,201 rushing yards, 10.3 yards per carry; 300 receiving yards, 15 total touchdowns); Kevin Lamarque, Sr., OL/DL, 6-2, 275 lbs; Dan Barone, Jr., WR/S, 5-9, 160 lbs (362 receiving yards, five touchdowns); Dan Miller, Sr., WR/LB, 5-10, 165 lbs; Jonathan Rossini, Sr., OT/LB, 6-1, 190 lbs.
Strengths: Speed, experience at skill positions.
Weaknesses: Replacing starters on offensive line and linebackers.
Outlook: Kiley's high-powered spread offense is back and should be sharp as ever, what with eight first-team league all-stars returning. Offensively, the Panthers will utilize the no-huddle again, and will return key speedsters like Frechette and Curry. They'll be lining up Barrett in a variety of positions -- out wide, in tight -- to get him in space. But look out for Barrett's downfield blocks, too -- "he's second to none," Kiley said of his blocking skills. The key, as last year's Super Bowl loss showed, will be to establish a consistent run game. Defensively, the Panthers will be moving pieces around to fill the void at linebacker, but Rayner will be rock-solid in the middle of the field, while Lamarque and Barrett lead the front four. Overall, there is alot of speed to be accounted for this season, which makes the Panthers a favorite to repeat as TVL champs.