MASHPEE –- Jared Taylor walked off the field following his final carry in last December’s Division 4 Super Bowl romp over Cardinal Spellman, before a sparse crowd at Gillette Stadium, with his mind still lost in the fog of war.
The 6-foot, 215-pound tailback had just run for a record 308 yards, most ever by a high school player at Gillette, and naturally the shy, reserved kid was unaware. Hey, when you’re having one of those nights, why bother with stat-checking?
“I just couldn’t believe we actually won the game,” Taylor reflected earlier this month. “We made it so far, and now the season was just over. It was just an amazing feeling you get. I didn’t really know what I was running right then, I just kept running. I just wanted to win.”
Taylor led the Falcons to their first ever Super Bowl title in school history in 2011, splitting carries with bruiser Jordan Keli’inui but leading the way with 1,535 yards, 21 touchdowns and 9.5 yards per carry. The notion that he was the No. 2 back behind Keli’inui –- who did not play in the Super Bowl due to a high ankle sprain –- seemed to make Taylor’s 300-yard night all the more dramatic.
But it was the perfect storm of opportunity and preparation.
Tales of his uncle, Andy Andrade, are legendary; he was taken by the Cowboys in the fourth round of the 1974 draft out of Northern Michigan, but never played a down. Through most of his time coming up through Falmouth, Taylor wore the number 44 in honor of his uncle.
Taylor is also related to Robert Pena, another Falmouth legend who played three seasons with the Cleveland Browns (1971-73) as a defensive tackle. In 2010, Taylor was a starting defensive tackle for Falmouth High when the Clippers delivered one of the biggest upsets of the season, downing BC High amidst torrential downpours at Guv Fuller Field.
All that, in turn, has led to dialogue of Taylor as one of the state’s most dangerous threats out of the backfield. Blessed with a combination of speed, power, north-south acceleration and some lively hips, Taylor is a consistent threat to rip a big play wide open with a quick burst to the corner, or bull his way up the middle of the field shedding and spinning through contact.
And just how many tailbacks in the state double as a nose guard? Under Triveri, the Falcons have always looked to optimize speed at each position, sometimes sacrificing size, and Taylor serves as a classic speed-rush one-technique. In 2011, he recorded 66 tackles, seven sacks, and a pick-six off a batted pass.
"He’s a difference maker as a one technique," Triveri said. "You just don’t find guys like that. He is very tough to control without a double, and he makes plays. He’s awkward for other offenses to gameplan against, because he’s so fast off the ball and so powerful."
But while Taylor will be the lead back this season, he’ll once again be splitting carries. Senior Malik Lee, a Mashpee native transferring in from Cape Cod Tech, is expected to make an immediate impact at both tailback and linebacker with his 6-foot-2, 235-pound frame. He is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons at Cape Tech, and has reportedly ran as fast as a sub-4.6 40-yard dash.
Be careful not to cast him as a between-the-tackles back, however. Lee demonstrated soft hands in 7-on-7 leagues this summer, along with some quality footwork and leaping ability honed during basketball season. Lee also ran some “Wildcat” packages last season, and could be given similar looks with the Falcons.
“When you run the I, it’s not the way it used to be, unless you have a kid who’s just not going to get hurt,” Triveri said, while noting Taylor “should be the lead guy”.
He continued, “To me, you can’t have a kid get 35 carries a game. Our kids aren’t going to get anything over 20 carries for the most part, especially when they’re playing both ways. It’s good to have them come in fresh – they push each other, they compete, the whole thing. That’s what they’re looking at, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
The Taylor-Lee combination in the backfield could inspires some creative play-calling, but Triveri feels Lee is not yet a finished product.
“Jordan [Keli’inui] was a finisher, he’d finish people after contact, to the point where junior, senior year, guys didn’t want to hit Jordan anymore,” Triveri said. “Malik doesn’t look like he finishes yet, but there’s nothing to hit on him. He’s just a big, huge kid with breakaway-type speed. And for that size, yeah he’s a good-looking kid. There’s some things that can be smoothed over, but we’re going to get him in different positions.
“The best thing about Malik is, just like Jared he has great hands, so there’s a lot of different things you can ask him to do – step out in the slot [for instance]. With a kid that size, I was surprised at how good his hips are. There’s some technique-refining, but other than that he’s something you can work with.”
Elsewhere, 6-foot-4, 325-pound road grader Nate Chrzanowski will kick down to right tackle on offense, from guard, and is expected to an impact between the hash marks both ways.
“He should be a guy that shouldn’t get moved,” Triveri said. “He’s a 320-pound kid, he’s got to get himself in shape. He’s a Division 1 body with Division 1 feet, but the question is if he can come into every play in shape. We expect him to dominate offensively, though. He began to dominate about halfway through the year last year, just wiped guys out.”
MASHPEE AT A GLANCE
2011: 13-0 (Won Division 4 EMass Super Bowl)
Coach: Matt Triveri (8th season, 60-16)
Key Returnees: Jared Taylor, Sr. TB/NG, 6-0, 215 lbs.; John Bernard, Sr. FB/LB, 5-11, 200 lbs.; Nate Chrzanowski, Sr. OT/DL, 6-4, 325 lbs.; Kenny Roche, Jr. OL/DL, 5-9, 200 lbs.; Alex Clark, Sr. TE/DE, 6-3, 190 lbs.; Kevin Frye, Jr. WR, 5-9, 160 lbs.; Cody Bingham-Hendricks, Sr. QB/CB, 5-10, 165 lbs.
Strengths: Skill positions, defensive line, cornerbacks.
Weaknesses: Depth at offensive line, experience at linebacker.
Outlook: After an explosive 300-yard performance in last year’s D4 Super Bowl, Taylor is expected to take the reigns as the Falcons’ lead back. He’ll be joined in the backfield by Malik Lee, a 6-2, 235-pound senior transferring in from Cape Cod Tech, and will look to form a thunder-lightning combo similar to last year with Taylor and Jordan Keli’inui. “We had the same 1-2 punch last year, it wore on people,” Triveri said. Chrzanowski will be the one to watch in the trenches, leading an offensive line that is solid in the starting spots but “paper-thin” beyond that, according to Triveri. Bingham-Hendricks has big shoes to fill in taking over for Zak Orcutt under center, but showed strides in 7-on-7 leagues over the summer. Overall, the Falcons return as much talent as anyone in Division 4 to make another run, but the operative theme will be staying healthy. Doesn’t help matters that they’re on the road for the first four games of the season.