Boston High School: Kyle Ford

Ludden shocks Fitchburg in Double OT

November, 25, 2010
LEOMINSTER, Mass. -- Understand, Cortez Ludden might have missed a few people when he was listing everyone responsible for his game-winning touchdown in double overtime for Leominster High School.

Ludden somehow didn’t mention the cheerleaders, the band, the principal, the custodians, the cops on the sidelines, the vendors hawking hot chocolate on this chilly Thanksgiving morning, his parents, his future wife and kids. But the junior running back had just about everybody else covered, and given enough time, he probably would have gotten around to the others, too.

“It was amazing,’’ said the gracious Ludden, a 5-foot-8, 225-pounder who is built low to the ground and tough to knock off his feet, as he demonstrated while pushing his way into the end zone from three yards out to score the deciding points in Leominster’s 24-18 win over archrival Fitchburg High in Doyle Field.

“We were the underdogs with the newspapers and everybody, and we pulled through. My offensive line, my defensive line, the whole team, the wide receivers, everyone, the specialists, they all did their job.’’

What Ludden didn’t mention, until prodded, was that in the end, Leominster coach John Dubzinski had the confidence to call his number with the game on the line, after a disastrous sequence earlier in the game had led directly to Fitchburg’s first touchdown.

“It was all in my hands,’’ said Ludden, whose winning score came after the Leominster defense stopped Fitchburg on its second series of extra downs, senior lineman David Ferguson recovering a fumble by Fitchburg’s Steph’fon Teague on a third-down play from the five.. “I had to prove myself right there, show them what I was made of. We put all the energy of the mistakes we had made into that touchdown, and that’s how we got it.’’

Fitchburg, whose do-everything backfield star Quinton Perkins missed much of the first half after taking a shot in the head while making a tackle on defense, had been just stopped at the Leominster one, safety Geraldo Rivera making a touchdown-saving tackle of Fitchburg quarterback Kyle Phillips, with Leominster holding a 6-0 lead late in the second quarter.

But four plays later, an anxious Fitchburg crowd -- whose team had come in as heavy favorites in the 127th meeting in this ancient rivalry of two old mill towns in central Massachusetts -- exploded with unexpected joy when defensive back Tyrie Osby ripped the ball out of Ludden’s hands, and went in untouched from 18 yards out for the game-tying score.

It happened so quickly, it took a moment to register. How did Osby wind up with the ball?

“They were a little dirty,’’ said Ludden, who fumbled again later but was bailed out when teammate Josh Caouette fell on the ball. “They were trying to punch me and stuff in the stomach and I was trying to hold onto it. I thought I was down on one knee but two guys pulled it out.’’

Fitchburg, with a chance to take the lead, failed to click on a pass from Anthony Figueroa intended for D.J. Wilson on the two-point conversion attempt, and Leominster took the second-half kickoff 67 yards for the go-ahead score. Senior quarterback Kyle Ford, who threw sparingly during the game, executed some beautiful sleight of hand before connecting with senior Justin Bailey on a 25-yard play-action pass that gave the Blue Devils a 12-6 lead with 3:49 left in the third quarter.

Perkins, who had scored six touchdowns in Fitchburg’s previous game against a good Gardner team, had watched much of the first half disconsolately from the Fitchburg bench while the team doctor hovered, concerned that the 18-year-old junior had sustained a concussion. Without him, the Fitchburg offense sputtered. “Of course,’’ Ford said when asked whether Perkins’s absence had been a big factor. “He’s a huge playmaker.’’

But after he was re-examined in the locker room at halftime, Fitchburg coach Ray Cosenza reinserted him in the game.

“I kind of had a feeling we’d see him again,’’ Dubzinski said. “He’s a great back.’’

In Fitchburg’s spread offense, Perkins lines up as a wide receiver, a slot back, even a quarterback in the shotgun. And indeed, he showed signs of taking over the game upon his return, ripping off gains of 12 and 18 yards as Fitchburg crossed into Leominster territory. Lined up wide to the left, Perkins ran a fly pattern down the sideline as Fitchburg went for it all from the Leominster 48, but junior Shaunsagh Addo made a leaping interception at the eight.

But there was the inescapable sense that Leominster had not seen the last of Perkins. Indeed, after the Red Raiders got the ball back at their own 34 after a short Leominster punt with 5:47 to play in regulation, he took Fitchburg down the field in just six plays for the game-tying touchdown, going in himself from 10 yards out for the tying score with 3:21 to play.

At that moment, Leominster’s two failed conversion kicks loomed large. “I thought our special teams had gotten us in real trouble,’’ Dubzinski said.

But the Leominster defense once again came up with the kind of stop that made you wonder how the Blue Devils had lost five straight coming into this game. The kind of stop a team makes when it knows a trip to the playoffs does not await, and that this would be its bowl game.

With Perkins prepared to work some more magic after taking a handoff out of the slot, junior Brandon Herrick broke through Fitchburg’s line and flung him down for a huge loss on the two-point conversion attempt.

The Blue Devils, faced with a 4th and 2 on their own 47 with 44 seconds left, elected to go for it rather than punting and putting the ball back into Perkins’ hands. With the Fitchburg defense stacked for the run, Ford put the ball in the air, connecting with sophomore tight end Rocco Daigneault for a 26-yard gain. “We’d been working on that play all week in practice,’’ Ford said.

Two plays later, Nicholas Wilford’s 12-yard gain on a draw play brought the ball to the 11, and Ford spiked the ball, bringing on sophomore Leonardo Trento for a potential game-winning field goal. Teague, however, broke through the line to block the kick, and for the second time in three years, this game would require extra time. Four downs for each team from the 10-yard line, with a two-point conversion try required after any score.

Wilford punched through from a half-yard out on fourth down to give Leominster an 18-12 lead, but was stopped by linebacker Eric Myles on the conversion try. It took Fitchburg just two downs to answer, Teague running it in from eight yards, but he, too, was denied on the conversion.

Fitchburg had the ball first in the second overtime, but after two runs by Perkins gained just five yards, Ferguson made his fumble recovery.

Dubzinski had some trickery left in his playbook -- a flanker reverse by Caouette -- though he credited offensive coordinator Roger Mercier with the call. “Coach wanted to go with it,’’ Ford said, acknowledging initially there was some resistance. “But coach said, ‘Let me do what I want to do.’’’

Caouette gained seven on the trickery. In the huddle, Ludden heard his play called.

“I knew he’d come through,’’ Ford said. “I knew he would.’’

And when Ludden sprawled across the goal line, the Leominster students lined up behind the end zone rushed the field. Tears streamed down the face of some of the Leominster seniors who had just played their final game, as parents alternately hugged and comforted them. A skirmish briefly broke out between the teams. An emotional Perkins hurled his helmet to the field. The coaches decided between them that the Fitchburg team should leave without the traditional postgame handshake.

Fitchburg (7-4) will play again, with a first-round playoff game looming against Holy Name.

Leominster (4-7)? Dubzinski, walking off the field with his wife Donna and daughter Jane, laughed when asked if this win meant he’d been taken off dish-washing duty for the day. “A tough season,’’ he said, “but we told our kids that winning this one would be something for them to savor all winter and spring.’’

Or maybe longer. “The rest of my life,’’ said Ford, the quarterback, flashing a beautiful teen-aged smile. “For the rest of my life.’’


FIT 0 6 0 6 6 0 --- 18
LEO 6 0 6 0 6 6 --- 24

First Quarter
L - Geraldo Rivera 2 run (kick failed) 3:25

Second Quarter
F - Tyrie Osby 18 fumble return (pass failed) 1:51

Third Quarter
L - Justin Bailey 25 pass from Kyle Ford (kick failed) 3:49

Fourth Quarter
F - Quinton Perkins 10 run (rush failed) 2:49

First Overtime
L - Nick Wilford 1 run (rush failed)
F - Steph'fon Teague 8 run (rush failed)

Second Overtime
L - Cortez Ludden 3 run

No. 2 Pioneers keep the wagon rolling

October, 23, 2010

SHREWSBURY, Mass. – St. John’s of Shrewsbury’s offense has been operating at a prodigious pace with an average of 41 points per game.

Saturday’s matchup with Leominster saw much the same from the Pioneers who beguiled the Blue Devils defense all day.

Simply stated, the prospect of shutting down Cal-bound wide receiver Richard Rodgers is a tall enough task. However, the efficiency of St. John’s offense is found in the ability of quarterback Dan Light to distribute the ball to multiple targets. While coolly completing 15 of 18 passes for 204 yards and three touchdowns, the senior signal-caller spread the balls around to six receivers.

Light also took things into his own hands, adding a rushing touchdown in addition to a 35-yard interception for a score to contribute to another lopsided win, 42-12, for the No. 2 team in Massachusetts.

“Danny [Light] was patient back there, we had good protection and we were able to get some secondary reads that enabled us to get the ball down the field,” Pioneers head coach John Andreoli said. “That presents problems for the defense.”

The St. John’s boss credited his players’ ability to focus on the day-to-day tasks in practice as the main reason why they’ve been able to remain so proficient.

“As long as they’ve been in our program — the seniors in particular — they understand that from the time we scrimmage Brockton that anybody on our schedule can beat us. Really what that says is that you have to break down the weeks.

“If we do things right during the week, when we come out here and play on the weekend, things should take care of itself.”

The Pioneers offensive line provided ample time for Light during Saturday’s tilt. The only legitimate pressure the lefty faced came on two first-half sacks from Leominster defensive lineman Cortez Ludden. Otherwise, Light’s jersey remained clean and the pocket remained undisturbed for long stretches, often allowing him five to six seconds to survey the field and find the open receiver.

Once the ball is in their hands, Light knows his wideouts can take care of the rest.

“Rich [Rodgers] gets a lot of credit, which is well due,” Light said. “But Christian [Dulmaine] does a great job. He’s a very good player on that side. He’s a non-selfish player and when it’s his time he always shines.”

After Leominster (3-4) got on the board with Kevin O’Connor’s 10-yard touchdown from quarterback Kyle Ford, Light found Dulmaine (four catches for 54 yards) in the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown with 42 seconds remaining in the first half.

With Richard Rodgers’ successful extra point try, the Pioneers (6-0) took a 28-6 lead to the half.

Rodgers was impressive once again, leading the pack with five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown.

“Bob Bradley — who works with us, and was my coach here at St. John’s, and has coached at every level and is a hall of fame coach — he’s been tremendous with guys like Christian [Dulmaine] and getting them to understand how the defensive windows are going to open and how he can help for Danny [Light],” Andreoli said. “As a result, what you see is that he’s open a lot, but not because they leave him open, it’s because he finds the holes in the defense. That’s how we operate.”

Leominster struck again in the waning moments when sophomore Luis Orellana got into the end zone on a 3-yard carry.

With another win behind them, the Pioneers shift their attention to challenge next week. They’ve been able to maintain focus on the short-term, but their upcoming bout with Xaverian had Light a little excited.

“That’s always a real tough game,” Light said. “We’ve been marking that one since day one. We’re taking it one week at a time, but we’re glad that week’s here.”

Leominster 0 6 0 6 -- 12
St. John’s (S) 14 14 14 0 -- 42

First quarter

SJS John Vassar 7-yard run (Richard Rodgers kick)
SJS Dan Light 35-yard interception return (Rodgers kick)

Second quarter
SJS Brendan O’Connor 15-yard pass from Dan Light (Rodgers kick)
Leominster Kevin O’Connor 10-yard pass from Kyle Ford (Kick blocked)
SJS Christian Dulmaine 4-yard pass from Light (Rodgers kick)

Third quarter
SJS Rodgers 15-yard pass from Light (Rodgers kick)
SJS Light 1-yard run (Rodgers kick)

Fourth quarter
Leominster Luis Orellana 3-yard run (Missed kick)

DiBiaso shakes rust, handles Devils

September, 11, 2010
LEOMINSTER, Mass. -- Jonathan DiBiaso started the night off just as he had in several key moments last season -- sputtering -- and watched from the sidelines as Leominster quarterback Kyle Ford tucked the ball and scrambled around the right side unscatched for a 22-yard touchdown scamper for the game's initial lead.

The remedy? Breathe.

"We told him to keep his head up. The bad passes, we basically blamed ourselves," senior wideout Manny Asprilla said.

And then, DiBiaso turned right around and fired one over the middle to Asprilla, who promptly put on the jets and took off down the left sideline, a 72-yard score to knot it at 7-all and open the floodgates. The Crimson Tide took a 28-16 lead over Leominster into the half, all DiBiaso passing touchdowns, and went away 42-23 winners in the season-opener for both at Doyle Field.

In the nine years the two have been meeting, Everett has outscored the Blue Devils, 275-109. So much for those concerns about transitions to a no-huddle, spread-oriented offense in year two.

"All the criticism said, you know, we averaged what, 21 (points per game) last year? How the offense was gone," head coach John DiBiaso said. "We put up good numbers tonight, so...for the first game, I'm pleased."

On the Tide's first score, on third and short late in the first quarter, the original intent was to give the ball to running back Vondell Langston. But Asprilla saw the middle open, and the Tide switched plays at the line of scrimmage. DiBiaso (278 passing yards, five touchdowns) gave Asprilla a perfect feed over the middle, and the Boston College-bound wideout simply turned on the jets.

"I don't know what happened. I ran straight, and saw it looked empty, so I just ran," laughed Asprilla, who finished the night with 195 yards of offense (145 receiving) and two scores.

From there, the Tide eased further into a groove -- "After that, I think we really started getting into a rhythm," said senior Matt Costello, who one-upped Asprilla with three touchdown catches.

On their next offensive possession, Costello slanted over the middle of the end zone from five yards out, to haul in his first of three touchdown catches. Leominster's Kyle Sanders sandwiched a 74-yard touchdown run in between two more Everett scores in the second quarter -- first Asprilla's second touchdown, then Costello's second -- and the Blue Devils were ready to make this a shootout when Shaunsagh Addo hauled in a lucky Everett bounce for a 42-yard catch that set up 1st and 10 inside the Tide 25.

But the Tide defensive line, led by Shaquille Taylor, stifled the run, forcing the Blue Devils to settle for a 27-yard field goal.

Vondell Langston put the Tide up 35-16 in the third with a Gronkowski-like one-yard run, dragging a defender tugging at his right foot and spinning through a tackle. And from there, Leominster was unable to make a significant rally.

A few more observations:

-- If there was doubt before, let's put this to rest now: Asprilla has some serious burners. When you're 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds, you don't average 36 yards per catch in a game going for the deep ball. In the spirit of DeSean Jackson and Wes Welker, this guy is all about the YAC. On a first-and-10 late in the second quarter, Asprilla turned around for a five-yard comeback route, jab-stepped to the inside with his right foot, broke to the left sideline and was shoved out of bounds some 31 yards later.

Asprilla will turn heads this year with his offensive production -- the speedster ran for 50 yards out of motion-sweep handoffs -- but he also grabbed an interception on a jump ball in the third quarter (he figures to fit in at defensive back at BC). That's a welcome change from when we last saw the Tide, at Gillette Stadium in the Division 1 Super Bowl loss.

"Last season, the DB's and everyone was fighting with each other the last game, everybody was confused," Asprilla said. "All the turnovers, everybody was just angry at each other, we weren't on the same page. But this year we told each other that no matter what, even if it was a big play like when the big guy (Addo) caught that ball off Jaleel Wingard, we were going to keep each other up. We all just stayed on the same page."

-- Asprilla's yards after the catch will get the headlines, but Costello ran some very crisp routes tonight. His best catch might have been the one that set up Langston's touchdown run, turning at the left sideline a half-yard short of the near pylon, planting the tips of his toes inches short of the sideline, stretching out and bringing the ball to his chest. Just like they teach you in camp.

Not to mention, these trips to Doyle Field bear sentimental value to Costello, who was a long-time waterboy for the Tide before enrolling at the high school.

"Just growing up and being here, seeing the older kids go through it, and now getting a chance to actually go through it myself, I mean it's awesome," said Costello, who's been here for all five of Everett's trips to the Plastic City. "It's a little kid's dream growing up. And I mean, making the trip out to Leominster, it's not that bad...we've got the coach buses, we get to catch up on some sleep after school, coming on the way up, so it's great."

-- Can't leave out the man they call "Shaq". Taylor is the Tide's emotional leader out there, and when Taylor gets going, as Costello noted, "He's tough to stop. He's a big boy, and when he gets going, we can't even slow him down."

The 5-foot-11, 270-pound Taylor showed his speed with his pursuit of King in the backfield, and serves as the team's lead blocking back when they go to their goal line formation. It's a pretty nifty formation they've got: out of a double-slot Ace formation, Taylor lines up on the line of scrimmage, standing up as a tight end, and on DiBiaso's cadence the skill players switch from an Ace to a Power-I.

"He's an emotional player," the elder DiBiaso said. "That's important to play with emotion. I thought him and (Nick) Chiarello did real well tonight."

-- And by the way, the offensive line -- led by Chiarello and three sophomores -- didn't allow a sack tonight.

"We were sending kids off the edge, and their offensive line and running backs did a great job blocking," Leominster head coach John Dubzinski said. "We never put him (DiBiaso) on the ground at all. We just couldn't put him on the ground. They did a great job blocking."

Everett 42, Leominster 23

EHS 7 21 7 7 --- 42
LHS 7 9 0 7 --- 23

First Quarter
L - Kyle Ford 22 run (Leonardo Trento kick)
E - Manny Asprilla 72 pass from Jonathan DiBiaso (Gilly De Souza kick)
Second Quarter
E - Matt Costello 5 pass from DiBiaso (De Souza kick)
E - Asprilla 29 pass from DiBiaso (De Souza kick)
L - Kyle Sanders 74 run (kick failed)
L - Trento 27 field goal
Third Quarter
E - Vondell Langston 1 run (De Souza kick)
Fourth Quarter
E - Costello 9 pass from DiBiaso (De Souza kick)
L - Nick Wilford 34 run (Trento kick)