Boston High School: Luke Catarius

Recap: No. 4 BC High 2, No. 6 Malden Catholic 1

April, 9, 2013
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MALDEN, Mass. -- As far as league openers go, you can't get much better than Ryan Tufts' night.

Beneath the lights Monday night at Maplewood Park, the Virginia Tech-bound third baseman shone his brightest for Boston College High when it mattered most, in the Eagles' Catholic Conference opener against host Malden Catholic. Facing fireballing MC sophomore reliever Austin Batchelor with one out in the top of the seventh, tied 1-1, Tufts sat fastball and didn't have to wait long to get his pitch.

[+] EnlargeBC High Baseball
Brendan Hall/ESPNVirginia Tech-bound third baseman Ryan Tufts' sacrifice fly to deep center scored the winning run in the seventh inning for BC High.
Tufts blasted one deep to center, a ball that was eventually dropped but scored Dan Dougherty from third to make it 2-1. The Eagles then sealed it in the final frame with a double play, to improve to 3-0 and 1-0 in the conference.

"He's clutch, he can hit anybody," Eagles coach Norm Walsh said. "In fact, that ball might have been a little up and out of the strike zone, but he's got such talent that he just did the job for us. That was one fantastic baseball game."

Said Tufts of seeing the drop, "I was pumped. Any time you can get an extra baserunner there, it's really big, especially when we're trying push across a few runs."

BC High took the initial 1-0 lead in the top of the second with some smart baserunning from Ryan Tropeano. After reaching first on a fielder's choice and stealing second, the sophomore scampered home after the second baseman dropped the ball trying to tag out Sean Webster trying to steal second.

MC fired back in the bottom of the fifth with a dramatic shot from pinch hitter Paul Garozzo. Facing a full count with two outs and a runner at third -- Cam Lanzilli, who led the inning off with a triple -- Garozzo sliced one just inside the foul line down first base for an RBI triple and tie ball game.

McDonald grins and bears it: Clearly, there are divided schools of thought amongst MIAA coaches as to how to handle pitchers in the first month of the season, when temperatures are still cold and arms are still getting broken in after a winter with limited live throwing.

Some like to keep starters regimented around 60 to 70 pitches, approaching the subject like a faberge egg; then there are those like Walsh, who let senior righthander Tommy McDonald throw into triple-digits, watched as McDonald took a ball off his left knee trying to bare-hand a comebacker in the final frame, and said, "You can't get mad at him though, because he's just so competitive."

"He wanted to make that play," Walsh said. "I think [second baseman] Jake [Marotta] would have had it, but he's such a competitor. You can't fault him for that."

Said McDonald, "I had the adrenaline running, it didn't even faze me. I'm just glad I stopped the ball from going into centerfield."

McDonald, a UMass commit, threw close to 115 pitches in a complete-game effort, striking out seven and walking none while scattering five hits and allowing the one earned run.

"At this point, he's thrown a bunch of bullpens in the preseason," Walsh said when asked about pitch count. "He's not going to start again for eight or nine days. He was throwing strikes, he was pounding the zone. I talked to [catcher] Luke [Catarius], Luke said he was really throwing the ball well still, so at this point no. He was probably up around 115 or so, and that's reasonable for him. He's our horse."

It's easy to see why the reigns are a little looser on McDonald. The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder demonstrates good command of his fastball, locating it around the zone, and doesn't labor on the mound. He generates much of his power from his legs, and is the kind of type-A personality you want as a starting pitcher -- asked how he'd characterize himself, he laughed, "I'm kind of a jerk out there...I don't want to give anything up."

Asked how he felt after racking up a high pitch count this early, McDonald said he felt fine.

"I was going into this thinking four or five innings, and leaving the rest for the bullpen," he said. "But my adrenaline was going and I felt in mid-season form. I just feel really good right now."

Seamless transition: Forgive the Eagles if they've been spoiled the previous three seasons with Bobby Melley behind the plate. The UConn freshman catcher was one of the state's most feared hitters a season ago, hitting .370/.557/.685 totals with 13 RBI and drawing 22 walks to earn a spot on ESPN Boston's All-State Team.

But it looks like the equally-bulky Catarius, bound for Princeton University as a linebacker at a burly 6-foot and 230 pounds, will keep everyone comfortable despite his limited varsity experience. Catarius batted .267 a year ago in just 17 plate appearances.

Confidence around Catarius is apparent immediately.

"We didn't lose anything, he [Catarius] picked up right where Melley was coming back from," McDonald said. "Good presence behind the plate, good presence in the dugout, good presence with everything...He knows where I like to throw [and] where, inside, outside. He knows when to go out there, when I'm having a tough time."

Said Walsh, "[Luke] is a really tough, competitive kid. He's the heart and soul. He's got that fire to him."

Velozo battles: In five complete innings of work, senior lefty Joe Velozo worked his way out of jam after jam on the mound for MC. In the third, he retired the first two batters (K, 6-4) then loaded the bases up, then put out his own flames with some high heat to Tom Russo, getting him swinging up and out of the zone.

The next inning, he evaded trouble again thanks to a 3-2 double play from first baseman Steve Passatempo to Batchelor. Passatempo dove to his left for an unassisted out at first, then fired home to Batchelor, who made a terrific block at the plate for a tag on Tropeano. In his last go-around, the fifth, he struck out the first two batters then allowed batters to reach second and third before ringing up Russo again to end the scoring chance.

Velozo finished with six strikeouts and scattered six hits while walking three. Nick George relieved him in the sixth, followed by Batchelor in the seventh.

"Very little fazes him," MC head coach Pat Driscoll said of Velozo. "I think he likes being in the big pressure situations. He wants to be that guy in that situation, making the pitches and getting his team back in there to hit."

Signing Day showcases promise at BC High

February, 7, 2013
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college football signeesScott Barboza/ESPNBoston.comEleven college-bound seniors from BC High football's team gathered for a ceremony Wednesday at the school on National Letter of Intent Signing Day.


BOSTON -- Luke Catarius’ senior season didn’t go as planned. Coming off a Division 1 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl championship season with his BC High teammates as a junior, the Eagles linebacker and fullback held high expectations for 2012.

Yet, his final campaign got off a rough start when he suffered an ankle fracture during a preseason scrimmage against Mansfield. It forced Catarius to miss the Eagles’ first seven games of the season.

“It was tough because every year since freshman year everyone’s like senior year is when everyone’s going to come together,” Catarius said Wednesday at the school’s Morrissey Blvd. campus, “and obviously we had big shoes to fill from [the 2011] team. We wanted to repeat. I got hurt, a couple other guys got banged up, too, and it all went down hill from there.”

BC High had a revolving door of injuries through the first half of the season and they struggled to gain momentum, finishing with a 4-6 record.

But Wednesday was National Letter of Intent signing day and Catarius joined 10 of his football teammates who are going on to play football at the college level for a ceremony held for the families and friends of the Eagles athletes.

While 2012 might have been a season of unrealized potential, the Eagles seniors will leave nothing behind.

“Going to BC High, you understand that an education is what gets you far in life,” said wide receiver Lincoln Collins, who signed to FCS power Villanova. “In looking for colleges, we did the same thing. We’re all setting ourselves up for life outside of football.”

Looking on during the gathering was Eagles head coach Joe Gaff, a longtime Eagles assistant coach who assumed the program’s reigns for the first time in the fall. Gaff held Catarius up as an example to younger athletes. It would’ve been easy for the injured player to pack it for the rest of the season. Instead, Catarius stuck to his strict rehabilitation regiment and made his return to the field while putting in some extra work in the library to work his way into Princeton.

“He took his frustration and turned it into action,” Gaff said of Catarius, who originally committed to Bryant University before switching to Princeton in January. “He knew what he had to do to get into the Ivys. He needed a certain test score, so he went in and studied every day and he got himself mentally prepared.

“He did a tremendous job. It shows what kind of competitor he is.”

On a day that marks a milestone for many families across the nation, Gaff’s class headed the notion that Wednesday was but a transitional day.

Eagles offensive tackle Jack McDonald signed his Letter to Virginia before a large group of family members – most of whom were donning the Cavaliers’ navy blue and orange colors.

“Football’s going to end sometime, whether that’s two years, four years from now, or even if you’re lucky enough to make it to the NFL,” the Eagles captain said. “It’s going to happen sometime. You need that education for when it does end. I think that’s what all of us have found.”

Those BC High seniors pursuing collegiate football careers are:

Jackson Bockhorst - Tufts
Luke Catarius – Princeton
Lincoln Collins – Villanova
Skyler Evans – Mass Maritime Academy
Jaleel Johnson – Merrimack
Tim Johnson – Sacred Heart
Jack McDonald - Virginia
Mark McGuire – Holy Cross
Pat O’Hearne – John Carroll
Brandon Owens – Byrant
Mike Roberts - Colby

Recruiting: Prep's Thomas running patiently

January, 18, 2013
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St John's Prep running back Jonathan Thomas may be known for his above-average speed, but he appears to be in no hurry to select the school where he'll play college football.

Recruiting NotebookThomas, who will be among the top recruits from New England in the Class of 2014, raised his profile by running the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds at the Under Armour Combine earlier this month. His time was the second fastest overall at the event, and the top time among juniors.

“Right now it's early in the process for me,” Thomas said. “I don't have a No. 1 school. I'll be taking a lot of [unofficial] visits to schools before next season.”

Thomas said Massachusetts is the only school that has extended a scholarship offer, but he expects both Boston College and Virginia to offer soon. Brown and Dartmouth have also shown strong interest.

“My grades are there, but I don't think I'll be going to the Ivy League,” Thomas said. “I want to play at the [FBS] level, and I know I can.”

Thomas, a Peabody resident, said Connecticut and Penn State are two other schools that have shown serious interest. He attended camps at BC and Virginia last summer, and said he's being recruited exclusively as a running back.

“I would like to go down South and play, but right now [BC] is an option,” Thomas said. “Coach Addazio [BC head coach Steve Addazio] is good friends with Coach O'Leary [St. John's Prep coach Jim O'Leary] and he knows what he's doing. He's no stranger to big-time football programs. They're definitely on my list.”

Thomas, a 5-10 1/2, 200-pound junior, helped St. John's Prep win the Division I Super Bowl last season. St. John's Prep defeated Brockton, 48-28, in the championship game.

Thomas finished the season with 1,794 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns on 220 carries. He also caught nine passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns.

“I just want a good academic school with good Division I football,” Thomas said. “Whoever has interest in me, I have interest in playing for them.”

QUARTERBACK KEEPER
Bedford (N.H.) High School's James Caparell may have been the best quarterback in New Hampshire last season, but he's still waiting for his first scholarship offer.

Caparell has received interest from mix of FCS and Division II schools, but said at this point his future is unclear. A postgraduate year at Worcester Academy is also a possibility.

Rhode Island, Marist and Albany are among the FCS schools that have shown interest. He's also been contacted by several Division 2 schools in the Northeast-10 Conference, including Merrimack, New Haven, St. Anselm and Stonehill.

“Merrimack and Stonehill have already said they were going to give me money, it's just a matter of how much,” Caparell said. “I'm just looking for a good program at the highest level I can compete at.”

New Hampshire has also shown interest in Caparell, but not as a quarterback. The Wildcats already have several young QBs on their roster.

“They're really the only school looking at me as an athlete,” Caparell said. “I would still get some reps at quarterback, but they see me as a potential wide receiver or defensive back, which I've played.

“I'd like to play quarterback [in college], but it'll really come down to money and the school. Picking the right school is important just in case something happened and I couldn't play football.”

Caparell completed 153 of 233 passes for 2,265 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. He also rushed for 536 yards and 11 touchdowns on 87 carries. He completed 579 passes for 5,389 yards during his four-year varsity career.

NOTEWORTHY
Sanford (Maine) High School running back Alex Shain has accepted a full scholarship from Division 2 Assumption last week. Shain rushed for 1,413 yards and scored 28 touchdowns last season, when he also made 43 solo tackles. He is one of three finalists for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, which is awarded annually to Maine's top senior football player. … Running back/defensive back Brendan Flaherty, a key piece on the Beverly High School team that won last year's Division 2A championship, committed to Holy Cross earlier this week. Flaherty rushed for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns on 160 carries last season. He also caught 10 passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns. … BC High fullback/linebacker Luke Catarius couldn't pass up an opportunity to play in the Ivy League. Catarius committed to Bryant in December, but told ESPN Boston earlier this week that he intends to attend Princeton. Catarius suffered a broken bone in his right ankle during BC High's first scrimmage last season, and missed first seven regular-season games. He learned that he had been accepted to Princeton last weekend. …. Three-star wide receiver David Coggins (Sacred Heart/Waterbury, Conn.) said he plans to attend prep school next season, but has yet to select a school. Coggins committed to Boston College last year, but parted ways with BC before the start of his senior season.

Recruiting information regarding high school or prep school players in New England can be sent to Roger Brown at rbrown@nhfootballreport.com.

BC High's Catarius switches commitment to Princeton

January, 14, 2013
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BC High senior linebacker/fullback Luke Catarius told ESPNBoston.com tonight that he has switched his verbal commitment for the fall of 2013, de-committing from Bryant University and re-upping with Princeton University a short time later.

"When a school like Princeton presents itself, it's a no-brainer," Catarius said. "You can't pass up a school that has both great academics and football."

The 6-foot, 225-pound Sandwich resident initially committed to Bryant on Dec. 15, joining teammate Brandon Owens in the Bulldogs' 2013 recruiting class. But things took a change this past weekend; he took an official visit to the Princeton campus, where he was hosted by 2010 ESPN Boston Mr. Football Matt Costello, and then on Sunday was notified by the coaching staff that he'd been accepted to the school and would receive his likely letter this week. He was told to expect his official acceptance letter in March.

Catarius was one of the state's most feared run-stuffers in his junior season of 2011, being named to ESPN Boston's MIAA All-State Team after leading the Eagles to their second Division 1 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl in four seasons. In 10 games that season, he led the Eagles in tackles with 129, including 24 for loss, and also paved the way offensively as the lead blocker for running backs Preston Cooper and Deontae Ramey-Doe.

This past fall, Catarius suffered a hairline fracture to his right ankle in the Eagles' first preseason scrimmage, sidelining him for the first seven games of the season as the Eagles finished 4-6 and missed out on the playoffs.

Catarius says he was told by coach Bob Surace that he doesn't know which side of the ball -- linebacker or fullback -- he'd be playing yet, "because I could play either, whatever he thinks will be most beneficial."

BC High's Luke Catarius commits to Bryant

December, 15, 2012
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BC High senior linebacker/fullback Luke Catarius gave a verbal commitment to Bryant University yesterday, he told ESPNBoston.com tonight.

The 6-foot, 225-pound Sandwich resident was named to ESPN Boston's MIAA All-State Team as a junior in 2011, after leading the Eagles to their second Division 1 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl in four seasons. In 10 games that season, he led the Eagles in tackles with 129, including 24 for loss, and also paved the way offensively as the lead blocker for running backs Preston Cooper and Deontae Ramey-Doe.

This past fall, Catarius suffered a hairline fracture to his right ankle in the Eagles' first preseason scrimmage, sidelining him for the first seven games of the season as the Eagles went 4-6 and missed out on the playoffs.

Catarius is the third Class of 2013 prospect from the Catholic Conference to commit to the Bulldogs. He joins teammate Brandon Owens, an outside linebacker/safety who committed last July, and Xaverian linebacker Hunter Taute, who committed this past Wednesday. Bryant also has commitments in the Bay State from Thayer Academy wide receiver Aaron Gilmer and Bishop Stang linebacker Charlie McKeeman.

"It is the right fit for me," Catarius said. "Brandon going and Hunter Taute committing really made my decision easy. They are both competitors just like myself, and we want to go to a program that can compete."

ESPN Boston Week 9 football picks

November, 2, 2012
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ACTON-BOXBOROUGH (6-2) AT LINCOLN-SUDBURY (7-1)
The Skinny: Although the Colonials enter this rivalry game after a letdown against Waltham last week, these teams always have a say in the determination of the Dual County League crown. The Warriors have worked toward reclaiming the division title with help from a talented cast of seniors who have two-way success with the football and the lacrosse teams, including Chris Giorgio, Henry Guild and John Sexton. A-B’s wing-T attack is led by a pair of promising juniors in William Tejada (14 TDs) and Tom Saponaro.

Scott Barboza: Bill Maver has the building blocks for a strong group next year, but this senior group from L-S has been primed to make their run during the last two years. The seal the deal for the division, but it’s a rivalry game, so throw the records out. L-S, 20-14.

Brendan Hall: The Warriors take the inside track to their third consecutive postseason berth, but because it’s A-B they do it in knock-down, drag-out fashion. L-S, 17-10.

DIGHTON-REHOBOTH (6-1) AT WAREHAM (7-1)
The Skinny: Both teams sport a perfect South Coast Conference record entering Friday’s tête-à-tête and their only loss came against a common non-league opponent in Somerset-Berkley. Since their opening day loss, the Falcons have run off six straight wins, including a 5-0 record in the SCC. D-R’s ground attack is keyed by 6-foot-7 tackle Chuddy Nwachukwu, but the Falcons have also seen dividends in the passing game behind sophomore quarterback Nathan Kowalski. The Vikings, also undefeated in the SCC, have big-play ability with the electrifying Darien Fernandez in the backfield. Yet, Wareham has also brought the lumber on defense, surrendering just 26 points through five league games.

Barboza: In big SCC games, it’s hard to pick against a Dave Driscoll-led team. D-R, 16-14.

Hall: As usual, our loyal correspondent Corey comes up with some innovative names, this one “The Fernandez Express”. As long as Darien’s legs keep churning, the Vikings will stay ahead. Wareham, 17-13.

STONEHAM (7-1) AT BURLINGTON (7-1)
The Skinny: The Red Devils can sew up the Middlesex League Freedom division title with a win over the upstart Spartans. Stoneham saw its undefeated record blemish last week in a 42-28 loss to Wakefield, but the Spartans are capable of throwing a monkey wrench into the race behind Aaron Louis and Darius McPherson. Meanwhile, Burlington’s backfield tandem of Anthony Cruz and Marcus O’Diah has few equals in Eastern Mass.

Barboza: Cinderella’s ball comes to a halt. Burlington, 33-24.

Hall: Stoneham appears to have a quality foundation for the long haul, but in the short term this Burlington rushing attack will be too much for the Spartans to handle. Burlington, 28-14.

GOVERNOR’S ACADEMY (6-0) AT MILTON ACADEMY (4-2)
The Skinny: The defending ISL champs put their undefeated record on the line in a road game. Gov’s 40-6 win over Brooks last week kept its point-per-game average above 41 points a game as Tate Jozokos and Eli Morrissey continue their assault on opposing defenses. Mustangs junior running back Drew Jacobs continued his breakout season with four touchdowns last week in a throttling of Belmont Hill.

Barboza: Opposing teams better hope they have Jacoby Jones or Ellis Hobbs returning kicks for them because it’s a 108 yards or bust with Justin Yoon kicking off. Still, Gov’s offense takes over. Governor’s, 31-24.

Hall: The Governators haven’t lost a game since Jim O’Leary took over in 2011. How crazy is that? Governor’s, 30-20.

WAYLAND (5-3) AT CONCORD-CARLISLE (4-4) (
The Skinny: Wayland looks for the inside track in the Dual County League’s Small division, entering the game with one of the league’s stingiest defenses (10.6 points allowed), and two versatile targets in senior wideout Mark Bonner and junior tailback Robert Williams. C-C, the defending league and Super Bowl champs, lost Tim Badgley in the preseason, but running backs Evan Boynton and Shayne McCloskey have picked up the slack.

Barboza: Yeah, I went with the Patriots winning a long time ago, in fact before we learned Badgley would be out for the year. It’s political season, so consider me a swing voter here. Wayland, 14-7.

Hall: I have the feeling this game is going to be possession-based. In that case, give me the better defense. Wayland, 10-6.

LOWELL (6-2) AT ANDOVER (8-0)
(The Skinny: Lowell has been on an offensive tear the last four games, going 3-1 and averaging 43 points per game over that span. Cam Latta has spearheaded the surge, but can he outduel Andover’s C.J. Scarpa? The 5-foot-8 senior hasn’t thrown an interception since Oct. 6, meanwhile the Golden Warriors are averaging over 370 yards of offense a game.

Barboza: Calculators ready? Andover, 46-38.

Hall: Remember the 88-80, eight-overtime game between these two in 2010? Let’s do the honorable thing here and move the venue to the Tsongas Center. Andover, 45-40.

NORTHBRIDGE (7-1) AT AUBURN (8-0) (
The Skinny: Auburn, one of the state’s stingiest defenses (5.1 points per game), holds first place in the SWCL A division, and can put a vice grip on it with a win over the Rams. Offensively, the Rockets have rode one of the state’s biggest lines to bull their way to over 2,000 yards rushing and over 2,700 yards of total offense, led by quarterback Drew Goodrich and Tyler Desjardins. But Northbridge quarterback Matt Phelan (1,344 passing yards, 11 TD; 673 rushing yards, 19 TD) will be one of the more slippery athletes the Rockets will have seen all season long. Can they contain him?

Barboza: Again, more than the score, I’m wondering what the line would be set at on these occurrences: how many times the Rockets venture to pass versus the Rams keeping it on the ground. Think it’s a push, but … Auburn, 31-27.

Hall: Classic clash of philosophies here: Jeff Cormier’s power running scheme versus Northbridge guru Ken LaChapelle and his pioneering run-and-shoot. Give me the team with the better line, in a physical battle. Auburn, 20-13.

BC HIGH (3-4) AT XAVERIAN (2-6) (
The Skinny: What would you have said if we told you back in August these two teams would be meeting in November with a combined 10 losses? But that’s what we have here, as the two Catholic Conference foes will fight to stay alive in a conference that St. John’s Prep is favored to take a hold of. If linebacker Luke Catarius is a go for BC High, that should provide an interesting matchup for Xaverian and its talented skill corps of Austin DeCarr, D.J. Pagliuca and Hunter Taute. The key matchup will be in the interior, where two close friends and Division 1 commits will square off – Xaverian defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (Michigan) versus BC High guard Jack McDonald (Virginia).

Barboza: Going with my preseason Catholic Conference pick in this one for whatever that’s worth – though it’s still probably worth more than Facebook stock. BC High, 21-17.

Hall: Give both teams credit here, they’re still fighting hard. But at this point, the Eagles have a little bit more momentum. BC High, 21-10.

BARNSTABLE (7-0) AT BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM (5-3)
The Skinny: Once again, these teams engage in a winner-takes-all battle for the Old Colony League crown in this week’s Game of the Week. Some elements to watch entering this one will be to see how the Red Raiders secondary is able to shake off a lackluster performance last week against Billerica. Similarly, B-R had its troubles with La Salle Academy and its spread attack a couple weeks back, so we’ll see how the Trojans’ secondary is able to deal with Barnstable quick and nimble wideouts. Let’s not overlook the running backs in this one, however. Hayden Murphy figured prominently into last year’s win by Barnstable in this game and Trojans sophomore sensation Brandon Gallagher (12 TDs) will be one to watch for years to come.

Barboza: Because it’s what Dan Buron wants us to do anyway, and for the fact I think the Red Raiders repeat. Barnstable, 30-24.

Hall: Any time you have an NFL veteran coaching the secondary, you have to think things will shore up after a bad week. Barnstable, 35-28.

Roundtable: Big statements, bigger production

October, 4, 2012
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1. WHAT IS THE BIGGEST STATEMENT YOU GOT OUT OF BARNSTABLE'S UPSET OF EVERETT?

Scott Barboza, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: Aside from the defense, which was phenomenal by all accounts, the manner in which the Red Raiders were able to pull off the upset was impressive, meaning that the offense was firing on all cylinders for most of the game. In other words, Barnstable can win ugly. When you hear about the offense and all the things the Red Raiders can do on offense, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the fundamentals. They can do all the things that constitute a potentially successful playoff team in that they can run the ball when called upon, get the back stop when required and they don’t turn the ball over. When you have one of the top quarterbacks in the state like Nick Peabody, that’s all you need to win. And, if Hayden Murphy runs the ball as he can and the defense, led by Andrew Ellis, is on, Barnstable is difficult to beat, no matter the conditions.

Brendan Hall, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: For me, more than anything, it was a throwback statement. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how much Division 1-caliber talent you've stockpiled, how heavy your line is, or how many of your skill players run a 4.5. All that matters is who puts themselves in the best position to win -- period. Barnstable demonstrated that to a T on Friday night.

Of course, this Red Raiders team isn't an underdog. They came into the game at No. 3 in our statewide poll, and I think the general consensus was that this would be a one-score type of affair. Nick Peabody is in a quarterbacking class of his own through the first month of the season, Dylan Morris is beginning to enter Matt Costello territory in terms of production, and the Raiders' linebacking corps is one of the two or three best in the state.

Barnstable coach Chris Whidden dialed up a great defensive gameplan in the pouring rain, playing outside contain on the Crimson Tide's gifted receivers, and getting great push in the trenches with a deceivingly athletic front four that fired quickly off the ball. These guys were not as big, but they certainly were fast, and above all else they hit with a level of abandon replicated by very few teams in the state.

At the end of the day, it was a pleasant reminder that things haven't gotten soft in the game of football. At the end of the day, the overarching theme remains -- if you come out complacent, someone's going to knock you around.

Adam Kurkjian, ESPN Boston correspondent: Year after year, while Everett always seems to have its share of explosive skill players, the foundation of its success is consistent and dominant line play on both sides of the ball.

The biggest statement Barnstable made Friday night was that it can go toe-to-toe with Everett's front and get the better of the exchange. That is rare, and it speaks to the level of offseason commitment the Red Raiders have made the past few seasons. While Barnstable may have the reputation as a finesse team because of the amount of times it puts the ball in the air, it looks like the Red Raiders shattered that notion last week.

Bruce Lerch, ESPN Boston correspondent: Defense, defense, defense. Staring at Everett's offensive line with 300-pounders across the board is daunting for any opposition but the Raiders didn't seem intimidated at all. In fact, they set the tone and managed to stuff the Tide twice on fourth-down tries from the one-yard line.

All 11 starters, plus the others that rotate in made plays. Jason Frieh and the defensive line held their own Everett's blockers, linebackers Brian Hardy, Andrew Ellis, Terrence Mudie and Robbie Stuart made tackles all over the field. Safeties Ryan Litchman and Kevin Hardy were tremendous in support against the run and corners Tedaro France and Derek Estes won their matchups with Everett's speed merchants at the receiver positions.

John Botelho, Editor-in-Chief, South Shore Sports Journal: Nick Peabody and the offense have been well publicized -- and deservedly so -- all season. Going into the Everett game, they had scored an astounding 145 points in three games. But the biggest statement made while snapping Everett's 28-game win streak was that the Red Raiders' defense is just as good as their powerful offense. Division 1A should be real fun to watch come December.

Everett and Barnstable Round II is already a Super Bowl many people are excitedly calling for, but neither has an easy path to get there. Everett is likely headed for a first-round playoff game with Lincoln-Sudbury, and Barnstable has to worry about beating Bridgewater-Raynham during the regular season just to reach the playoffs.

2. NAME YOUR FIVE BEST WIDE RECEIVERS IN THE STATE

Barboza:
1. Brian Dunlap, Natick – Might not be No. 1 on any other list, but come his senior season, he's going to be right there on the top of all the volume stats list.

2. Jalen Felix, Everett – Seeing, in person, the catch he made during last year’s BC High game at Memorial Stadium is something I’ll likely never forget. It’s the same feeling I had watching Randy Moss make impossible catches.

3. Jakarrie Washington, Everett – One of the best route runners around since those Asprilla and Costello kids were the go-to targets in Everett.

4. Dylan Morris, Barnstable – Hard to argue with Morris’ production thus far this season with his eight touchdown catches.

5. Will Heikkinen, Andover – Spies tell me Xaverian had Heikkinen blanketed with double coverage throughout most of last week’s game. That’s the ultimate compliment paid to a wideout.

Hall:
1. Dylan Morris, Barnstable - You'll be hard-pressed to duplicate his five-catch, 207-yard performance in Week 2, and right now he's on track for 20 touchdown receptions and over 1,000 yards receiving. Bar none, best wideout in the state right now. And to think, some have mused he may be a better baseball player.

2. Jakarrie Washington, Everett - You could rotate this spot with Jalen Felix, who had an explosive performance against Springfield Central, but right now you've got to with Washington based on game-breaking ability. Against Leominster and St. John's Prep, he turned the game on its heels seemingly on a dime with one back-breaking catch or run.

3. Brian Dunlap, Natick - A versatile route-runner, he's got crunch-time knack (see his game-winning catch against Norwood with 10 seconds to go) and makes the most of his touches (17.25 yards per catch, 6 TD).

4. David Harrison, Weymouth - Has seven receiving touchdowns, and in the last two games running a pistol offense at quarterback, has thrown for six. He's just plain productive.

5. Sam Blake, East Longmeadow - Doesn't get a lot of touches in the Spartans' system, but in terms of athleticism I've heard some pretty crazy stories. In his last two games, he has 232 receiving yards and four touchdowns on just seven catches.

Kurkjian:
Tough to say for me because most of the games I have been to have featured mainly run-oriented teams.

That said, looking around the state, Lincoln Collins of BC High needs to be mentioned for his size and improved speed.

Jakarrie Washington of Everett may be the fastest receiver out there right now.

Speaking of guys that can motor, Andover's Cam Farnham has been pure lightning all season as well.

As far as pure production goes, there aren't many who do more on a week-to-week basis than Natick's Brian Dunlap.

If anyone can outdo Dunlap in that department, though, how about Shawsheen receiver Devonn Pratt? One of the top wrestlers in the state, Pratt has 11 touchdown receptions already, including five in a ridiculous, 15-catch, 268-yard performance against Cambridge two weeks ago.

Lerch:
1. Dylan Morris, Barnstable - Seems to have a tremendous mind meld going on with quarterback Nick Peabody. Has eight TD receptions on the season, including two clutch catches in the 13-7, double OT win over Everett.

2. Jalen Felix/Jakarrie Washington, Everett - I'm cheating a little by putting both in, but it's hard to argue against the fact that these speedsters are two of the biggest gamebreakers in Massachusetts.

3. Bryan Vieira, Thayer Academy - Eight receptions for 200 yards and a TD in the opener (along with an interception return for a score) and six more catches for 179 yards and three TDs in week two. The top receiver in the ISL.

4. Brian Dunlap, Natick - Just a sophomore, Dunlap continues to team up with QB Troy Flutie to put up big numbers week after week. I may be underrating him because of his age, but all signs point toward Dunlap someday taking over at the top of this list. Maybe sooner rather than later.

5. David Harrison/Tyler O'Brien, Weymouth - It's a cheat day for me in the roundtable as I'm going with a duo once again. The Wildcats receivers have combined to catch 13 TD passes and O'Brien seems to be Harrison's favored target when he switches under center as Weymouth's quarterback.

Botelho:
1. Dylan Morris, Barnstable: This is sort of a chicken and egg thing. Is Nick Peabody such a good quarterback because he has Morris to throw to, or is Morris the beneficiary of a standout QB. I think the answer is Peabody is a tremendous QB and Morris an elite receiver, and the results have indicated that so far.

2. Lincoln Collins, BC High: Collins might not have the gaudy stats some his peers do (he's caught just one TD this year) but he's a D-1 scholarship athlete going to Villanova for a reason. The Eagles have been the victims of bad luck and bad timing this season, dealing with some of the toughest teams in this state - and New Jersey - while figuring out how to replace injured stars like Brendan Craven and Luke Catarius.

3. Brian Dunlap, Natick - Like Morris, Dunlap has a premier QB throwing him the ball. He's pulled in 6 TD from Troy Flutie, and is one of the biggest reasons Natick is scoring more than 30 points per game.

4. Dondre James, Whitman-Hanson - James single-handedly changes game plans of opposing teams, often drawing more than one defender on passing plays. He's spread out defenses all season, allowing QB Tom Sapienza to throw 8 TD already. James' speed and athleticism are clear with one looks at the Panthers on offense, but what he contributes away from the ball might be even more impressive. James has sprung more than one ball carrier this year with a big block.

5. Rory Donovan, Cardinal Spellman - The Cardinals aren't matching their regular season success from the last two years, but Donovan is among the toughest receivers for defenses to match-up with. At 6-5 and with an impressive vertical, not many defenders can go up and get a jump ball against him. He's averaging a touchdown a game right now and could get better as Spellman's line matures this season.

3. WHO IS THE BEST QUARTERBACK FROM A SMALL SCHOOL?

Barboza: Right now, I’m looking at Hopkinton’s Hank Rudden. The Hillers have been off and running in the Tri-Valley League, averaging more than 34 points per game through four weeks. Whether the Hillers can keep it going into the meat of their TVL schedule is another thing, but the 6-foot-1 senior is a dependable pocket presence.

Hall: Hard to argue with the production of Northbridge's Matt Phelan. Head coach Ken LaChapelle (who won his 300th career game last weekend) is famously inclined towards the pass -- and a passing pioneer for this state, really -- but through the first four games of the 2012 Phelan has been arguably better on his feet (41 carries, 448 yards, 12 TD) than through the air (42 of 50, 514 yards, 2 TD). LaChapelle has joked that he would like to once coach a game where he doesn't call a running play, but he tends to yield some freelancing to his quarterbacks when he feels they're up for it. And understand, for LaChapelle to loosen the reigns, you have to be a special player.

Kurkjian: Let's go into the Boston City South Division where Latin Academy junior Kyle Dance is putting together a fantastic season through four games.

To this point, Dance has had a hand in 13 touchdowns (nine passing, four rushing). You want to know how many touchdowns the Dragons have as a team? Fourteen. In other words, Dance is doing it all for this team, and it will be exciting to see how the rest of his season and career develops.

Lerch: Since taking over in week two, Shawsheen's Mike O'Hearn has produced eye-popping numbers and ranks fourth in the state with 11 touchdown passes, including a six-TD performance against Cambridge. With the 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior at the helm, the Rams have put up 98 points in their last two games.

Botelho: Assuming "small" school means any outside of Div 1, 1A, 2 or 2A, the best small school QB might be Dan Eckler at Stoughton. They're a run-first offense with tons of weapons, but he's been the point man for all of their success this year.

Hanover's Ryan Bennett and Middleborough's Troy Rossi both have big arms and ideal QB size and have been fun to watch early on.

Abington's Brandon Cawley has all of the tools to run the offense for the Green Wave. He's tall, has a cannon of an arm and can tuck it and run if need be. Andrew Benson also comes to mind in the South Shore League. After sliding over from RB to QB when the Vikings didn't have an obvious heir apparent to Tim O'Brien, Benson has handled the transition well. He's very athletic and gives EB a similar look on offense they had a year ago.

4. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE CATHOLIC CONFERENCE?

Barboza: (Disclaimer: None of this argument has to do with St. John’s Prep right now.) Honestly, I’m not trying to make excuses here, and this has happened a couple of times during the last couple seasons, but it’s not as though the teams are playing easy schedules. On the other hand though, I think the rest of the state has caught up with the parochials a little bit. Some inside the Catholic Conference used to scoff at the idea of a Hockomock team (North Attleborough anybody?) hanging with one of those teams. Use this weekend’s Xaverian vs. Duxbury matchup as another proof positive. I think the Hawks will find out that last year’s win by the Dragons at the Hawk Bowl was no fluke. And, while most of the state still cannot match the numbers the Catholics have on their sidelines, there’s plenty of talent to be had.

Hall: With St. John's Prep, nothing. With the rest of the conference (a combined 4-12 heading into this weekend's games), where do you start?

Expectations weren't high on Malden Catholic or Catholic Memorial coming into the season, but the way BC High and Xaverian (preseason Nos. 2 and 3, respectively) have stumbled out of the gates is concerning. Then again, they've endured brutal schedules, and few teams in Massachusetts would come out of September with better than their 1-3 records. Still, the way in which they've lost is not convincing, between BC High getting dominated from scrimmage by North Attleborough and Xaverian laying eggs against Brockton and Andover. Bottom line, BC High and Xaverian so far haven't lived up to the preseason hype.

Something tells me they'll turn it around. BC High will be getting All-State linebacker Luke Catarius (ankle) back this month, and quarterback Brendan Craven (knee) sometime soon, and you can't say enough how much that could change things quickly. Xaverian finally showed signs of life in the second half of the Andover upset, and Mike Brennan has been bringing steady production to what has been an otherwise stale offense.

How quickly does Xaverian turn it around? Jury's out, because the rest of the Hawks' 2012 schedule, in order, goes like this: Duxbury, Everett, Bridgewater-Raynham, St. John's (Shrewsbury), BC High, Catholic Memorial, St. John's Prep. Talk about skating uphill.

Kurkjian: Well, there's not much wrong with St. John's Prep right now, as they've looked outstanding in their three wins and only have one loss to Everett in a game many observers thought could have gone the other way with a few breaks.

As for the rest? BC High has been decimated by injuries, but the Eagles are starting to heal up and it would not be a total shock to see them make a run at the league title once everyone is back.

Xaverian does not have nearly the amount of team speed it usually does and has not looked physical at all on the lines.

Catholic Memorial has, as expected, struggled on offense, and you simply don't improve when graduation takes away as much talent as it did for the Knights.

Malden Catholic is this year what it has been nearly every year, which is the fifth-best team in the league.

Lerch: The coaches won't make excuses but we can. Injuries have absolutely decimated BC High while graduation hit both Xaverian and Catholic Memorial pretty hard. Not to mention that these teams all play among the toughest schedules in the state. That said, St. John's Prep is still a top-three team in Massachusetts and don't think for a second that the aforementioned trio won't put it together by the time league play rolls around. Anyone who counts these teams out when we're not even halfway through the season is making a big mistake.

Botelho: BC High and Xaverian has certainly underachieved, but their schedules have been absolutely brutal. BC is also dealing with a whole mess load of injuries. That said, what looked like the best league in the state before the season needs a turnaround in the second half to avoid an overall disappointing year. If things continue like they are, St. John's Prep will coast to a league title behind Jonathan Thomas and Alex Moore. The Prep, in my mind, is probably the favorite to win the Div. 1 Super Bowl right now (I still love Brockton, but missing Austin Roberts is going to hurt them in a big way).

5. THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF SHOOTOUTS IN THE FIRST TWO WEEKS OF ISL PLAY. WHICH IS THE BEST OFFENSE?

Barboza: I think this was supposed to be Thayer’s year to shine behind wide receiver Aaron Gilmer and the Tigers haven’t disappointed, putting up 76 points in their two games. But they still have nothing to show for it, losing two close barn-burners against Governor’s and Roxbury Latin. But it’s hard to ignore the defending ISL champions at Governor’s. We’ve extolled about Tate Jozokos’ two-sport excellence for a couple years now, but running back Eli Morrissey has been a true revelation in the early going. Gov’s should face a test this weekend against BB&N, but with 103 points scored in two games, it’s hard to pick against anything short of a repeat performance of 2011.

Hall: If what Duxbury's been doing the last couple of years doesn't tell you enough about the value of lacrosse skill in football, then Governor's senior quarterback Tate Jozokos will. The UNC lacrosse commit led a renaissance last fall, leading the Governors to the ISL championship, and is off to a quality start this season. He is as a true a dual-threat quarterback as you will find in Massachusetts.

Running back Eli Morrissey has been just as productive (5 TDs), and is arguably one of the best backs in the ISL -- not the biggest, but definitely one of the most complete, and a tough runner. Overall, the Governors have averaged 51.5 points per game in their first two contest. Hard to argue with a number like that.

Kurkjian: Tough to say with such a small sample size, but it's hard to go against what Governor's Academy has accomplished in the first two weeks. With 103 points in two games, the Governors are simply running past, over, around and through everyone in their way.

We will see whether or not that continues this weekend as they travel to Cambridge to face an always-tough BB&N squad.

Lerch: When in doubt, I always say go with the team led by the lacrosse guy. Governor's is stacked with talent on offense with quarterback/dynamo/North Carolina lacrosse commit Tate Jozokos leading the charge. Along with standout running back Elijah Morrissey, the duo has combined to score nine rushing TDs in the first two games. Until some team finds a way to slow these two guys down, the Red Dogs will keep piling on the points.

Tale of the Tape: BC High v. St. Peter's Prep (N.J.)

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
12:42
AM ET
Another big inter-state matchup is on tap this weekend, as No. 22 Boston College High heads to the Garden State to take on Jersey City, N.J. powerhouse St. Peter's Prep, at Rutgers Stadium, as part of the 2012 Great American Rivalry Series.

St. Peter's won last year's contest in Dorchester, at Viola Stadium, 35-19. For a refresher of that game, CLICK HERE.

To break down the two matchups, we've collaborated with MSG Varsity senior editor Brian Fitzsimmons to get New Jersey's perspective on this matchup. ESPN Boston High Schools editor Brendan Hall provides the skinny on what to look for from BC High.


WHEN BC HIGH HAS THE BALL

Brendan Hall, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: Under Jon Bartlett the previous four seasons, the Eagles experienced one of their greatest periods of success, winning Division 1 Eastern Mass. Super Bowls in 2008 and 2011. But a lot has changed since last season, when the Eagles showed some late mettle in an otherwise forgettable 35-19 loss to St. Peter's and used it to kick-start a run to the D1 Super Bowl title.

For starters, Bartlett stepped down as coach last April, but remains on as the school's Athletic Director. Defensive coordinator Joe Gaff was swiftly promoted to head coach status. At quarterback they graduated Bartley Regan (Stonehill), and at running back they graduated one of their best ever in Preston Cooper (cousin of veteran Chargers linebacker Stephen Cooper), who is currently enrolled at Dean Junior College down the road in Franklin, Mass.

And with it, the Eagles have apparently lost some firepower. Most of us were pretty high on BC High heading into the season, starting at No. 2 in ESPN Boston's statewide MIAA Top 25 poll, largely on the hype of its Division 1 talent in offensive lineman Jack McDonald (Virginia), wideout Lincoln Collins (Villanova), and linebackers Brandon Owens (Bryant) and Luke Catarius. The craziest story might be senior quarterback Brendan Craven, who received an offer from Valparaiso University before he even took a snap of varsity football.

But things went south quickly for the Eagles, who were shut out on opening night by Brockton (21-0), then outgained in yardage 445-96 in a 27-7 loss to North Attleborough the following week, to tumble 20 spots in our poll. In the first two games the usually sure-handed Collins, a big target at 6-foot-4, was also held without a catch.

Worst of all, the injury bug hit hard, with seven starters missing in that North Attleborough loss. Craven took a nasty shot to the knee at the end of the Brockton loss, though he's expected back soon, and Catarius -- a returning ESPN Boston All-Stater -- suffered a hairline fracture on his ankle in the preseason and isn't expected back until mid-October.

The Eagles appeared to break out of their funk last Friday, however, with a nice 31-0 win over upstart Dartmouth. McDonald moved from guard to right tackle, a new Collins (Andrew) did enough at quarterback to get the job done, and Lincoln Collins broke through with a monster night -- five catches for 181 yards, including one electrifying play in which he turned a five-yard out into an 85-yard touchdown scamper. Once again, however, the injury bug hit, taking Owens, who is also the feature running back.

Lincoln Collins had a nice day last year against St. Peter's, for those who recall (6 catches, 84 yards). If BC High is to have a chance in this -- and by the sounds of it, it's a puncher's chance -- then they're going to have to find a way to get Collins open. That will likely incorporate a good share of screens, and if there is one positive so far, it's that they have executed those well for big gains in spurts.

Brian Fitzsimmons, MSG Varsity Senior Editor: BC High’s offense will need to be in its finest form if the squad plans on trading punches with its latest opponent – and it starts with Villanova-bound wide receiver Lincoln Collins.

If Collins can explode for at least one or two home runs and catch the Marauders off guard, perhaps the score will be even closer than last season’s matchup.

St. Peter’s defense isn’t one to doubt, though. Senior linebacker Shane Huber leads the team with seven solo tackles and two sacks, while Tre Bell and Brian Githens are quick, agile corners.

BC High is no stranger to the intense pressure of facing talented teams from New Jersey; the Eagles had DePaul Catholic (Wayne, N.J.) on the ropes in a 49-35 loss in Week 2 before falling to St. Peter’s in Week 4.

This past weekend, BC High coach Joe Gaff reflected on what last year’s 35-19 setback to St. Peter’s meant to their Super Bowl season.

“We went down there and we competed against two really good teams with great speed,” Gaff told ESPNBoston.com. “When we came back, we solved things. As a defense, I know it really clicked for us because we saw faster players. So that’s what we’re hoping for.”

An upset victory wouldn’t be so bad, either.

WHEN ST. PETER'S PREP HAS THE BALL

Hall: St. Peter's quarterback and current West Virginia athlete Brandon Napoleon had a field day against BC High in last year's meeting, racking up 145 yards from scrimmage and making some electric returns in the kicking game. By the sounds of it, if this St. Peter's squad is anything like the St. Joseph Regional squad that pasted Xaverian 62-0 in Week 2, then the Eagles are going to have their hands full once again.

And worst of all, they are missing their quarterback of the defense, Catarius. At middle linebacker he is among the state's elite in run support, and makes the calls that orchestrate Gaff's defense. Without him, there have been communication errors and some holes that were exposed often in the first two weeks of the season.

After pitching a shutout last Friday, the Eagles appear to have solved a few of those issues. But with Owens' status unknown, there will be some added pressure on the front four, led by McDonald, Billy Breen, Mark McGuire and Jaleel Johnson. By Massachusetts' standards, they certainly have the size and strength to hold their own, dominating up front on Friday, never letting the Dartmouth running game stretch the field and get out of first gear. How that translates against elite New Jersey parochial talent remains to be seen.

In the secondary, the player to watch is senior Tim Johnson, another one of seemingly a handful of FCS prospects. He first gained recognition for his back-breaking interception in the D1 Super Bowl last December, and has since followed up with some nice performances early on this season. But like every other area, he will be tested thoroughly.

Fitzsimmons: BC High covets a grueling test filled with speed, and there’s no doubt the Eagles will get their wish when taking on St. Peter’s Prep (N.J.) on Saturday.

The Marauders, ranked fifth among all New Jersey/New York/Connecticut teams in the latest MSG Varsity Tri-State Top 25 poll, are off to a rousing start thanks to their formidable offensive unit.

They won by forfeit over Kearny this past weekend, so coach Rich Hansen and his team will look to recapture the explosiveness displayed in the opening weeks of the season. St. Peter’s opened the campaign with a 31-6 victory over McDonogh (Md.) in Annapolis and then cruised past Memorial by a whopping, 77-7 margin.

Jonathan Hilliman, Trejon Dinkins and Minkah Fitzpatrick anchor the ground game, combining for nearly 600 yards in two contests. Hilliman, a junior who has attracted offers from nearly every big-time Division I program, is the group’s workhorse with 293 yards and four touchdowns.

Quarterback Mike Rabasca is a solid game manager, and he gained valuable experience last season, when starter Brandon Napoleon – now at West Virginia – went down with injury for several weeks. Don’t be surprised to see heralded freshman Brandon Wimbush under center more often as the weeks go by.

As potent as the running backs are, the Marauders’ biggest threat is wide receiver Charlie Callinan. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder is long, athletic and possesses great hands – all sparkling attributes that make the Boston College-bound senior a true game-changer.

Under the guidance of Hansen, the Marauders have established themselves as the measuring stick for all Hudson County programs. They haven’t lost to a Hudson County opponent since 1999, but joining fellow North Jersey parochial powerhouses Don Bosco Prep, Bergen Catholic and St. Joseph Regional remains the ultimate goal year in and year out.

St. Peter’s Prep hasn’t won a Non-Public Group 4 state championship since 2005, thanks to the remarkable run authored by Don Bosco, which has clinched six straight state titles and two of the last three national crowns.

So naturally, this weekend isn’t so much about defeating an out-of-state foe; this is about excelling during another tune-up for a championship run against the Goliaths of the Garden State.

Recap: No. 22 Brockton 21, No. 2 BC High 0

September, 8, 2012
9/08/12
12:16
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BROCKTON -- There have not been a lot of recent instances where Brockton was beaten as soundly as it was by BC High in last year's season opener.

The Eagles' 42-0 win was complete in every phase on their way to a Division 1 Super Bowl title. The loss sent Brockton into a tailspin that resulted in a 5-6 season, the program's first losing mark since 2001.

Well, last night at Marciano Stadium, the Boxers delivered a rousing counterpunch with a 21-0 shutout that felt even more decisive than the final score indicated.

"Last year, we couldn't match them, physically," said Brockton coach Peter Colombo. "This year, we obviously did."

And then some. Both lines dominated for the host Boxers, as they rushed for 310 yards and held BC High to 143 total and just 62 in the second half.

[+] EnlargeAustin Roberts
Jon Mahoney for ESPNBoston.comBrockton QB Austin Roberts orchestrated the offense in a vengeful shutout of rival BC High.
Senior quarterback Austin Roberts led the way for Brockton with 139 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, while junior tailback Aaron LeClair added 83 yards and a TD on seven attempts and fullback Ricardo Calixte contributed 61 yards on 10 rushes. Brockton only threw two passes (one interception, one incompletion), but didn't need to the way their front was blowing BC High off the ball. The Boxers completely eschewed the passing game in the second half with zero attempts but didn't punt, either. Their four second-half possessions read: touchdown, touchdown, lost fumble, touchdown.

The defense was physical and had its way between the hashes just as much as the offense did. Nowhere was that more apparent than at the end of the first half with the game still scoreless, when BC High marched inside the Brockton 10. On third down, quarterback Dan Collins took off and made a leaping attempt to the goal line but was leveled a yard short by a host of Brockton tacklers. After a timeout, BC High decided to go for it but Collins' sneak was stuffed by backup middle linebacker John Flaherty. The momentum lifted Brockton into the second half and the Boxers never looked back.

"I can't describe it. I'm still speechless, actually," said Brockton defensive back Micah Morel, who made an interception in the second half and played tight man coverage in the first half on Villanova-bound receiver Lincoln Collins. "I mean, I know it was only 21-0, but whenever you pitch a shutout against the No. 2 team in the state, that's saying something. That's saying a lot."

STRENGTH IN SENIORS
Usually, when BC High and Brockton meet up, no matter what the final score says, the ledger of the line play favors BC High. That was not the case Friday night. Not even close. Despite boasting Virginia-bound lineman Jack McDonald, BC High was pushed backwards on both sides of the ball by Brockton's line. The difference? For the first time in at least seven years (maybe longer), Brockton started five seniors on the offensive line. The defensive line is also a veteran unit. Four-year starters Joe Previte and Anthony Davis led the way, as Previte showed off the strength he displayed this offseason in throwing up a 410-pound bench press. On defense, players like Malik Cooley-Walker, Jeff Celestin and Max Castor were in the backfield all night.

LEADING ROLE
Like many teams, the Boxers have taken on the personality of their quarterback and it looks like it will pay big dividends this fall. Roberts is a tough runner who creates extra yards after contact and is simply a natural leader on the field. Many of his runs were just pure sneaks that he turned into 5-yard gains as the line pushed the pile forward. Coach Peter Colombo had the difficult task of retooling an offense that was shut out four times last season and built one around the strengths of his returning talent. The option scheme used most prominently in the college game by the likes of Navy and Georgia Tech can only work with a smart, tough quarterback and Roberts has both of those traits in abundance. He is also bigger, stronger and faster than he was last year, as he simply refused to go down on the first hit.

ROUGHED UP
BC High came into the game missing fullback/linebacker Luke Catarius to injury. The Eagles were also out three other starters on both lines, which needs to be factored in to an extent when taking into account how much Brockton controlled things physically. But at the end of the game, BC High suffered yet another brutal setback when quarterback Brendan Craven was carted off after getting hit low as he released a pass on the final possession of the game. In a scene eerily similar to Preston Cooper's season-ending ankle injury against Everett, Craven's injury looked very serious and left a pall over an already shaken squad.

BROCKTON 21, BC HIGH 0

BC High (0-1) 0 0 0 0 – 0
Brockton (1-0) 0 0 7 14 – 21

Third Quarter
Austin Roberts 1 run (Levon Merian kick)

Fourth Quarter
Aaron LeClair 10 run (Merian kick)
Roberts 23 run (Merian kick)

ESPN Boston Week 1 football picks

September, 6, 2012
9/06/12
11:06
PM ET
FRIDAY
NO. 1 EVERETT AT NO. 7 LEOMINSTER
The Skinny: Leominster has never beaten the Crimson Tide since this series began in 2002, but the Blue Devils have usually been a tough out. In 2009, the teams played to a 14-6 Tide win. The last two meetings, the Blue Devils got under the Tide’s skin early before Everett’s talent took over. But Leominster is brimming with excitement, its proud football culture awakened again following their first Super Bowl championship in a decade last fall. Everett, meanwhile, seems to be settled at every position but quarterback – and with a line averaging over 315 pounds, that will suffice. If Leominster is to pull off the upset, they’ll have to a find a way to contain electric wideouts Jakarrie Washington and Jalen Felix.

Scott Barboza: Leominster turns it into a game, but still too many horses in the stable for Everett despite the questions. Everett, 27-20.

Brendan Hall: It’s going to be a majestic crowd at Doyle, and some readers will undoubtedly conclude I’m biased towards Leominster because their defensive coordinator coached me 10 years ago at Oakmont. But I’m not. Even I’m not foolish enough to pick against the Tide in this one. Everett, 24-13.

NO. 2 BC HIGH AT NO. 22 BROCKTON
The Skinny: Injuries were an overarching theme of the preseason and both of these teams were affected. Bad news for BC High is Luke Catarius is out with a hairline ankle fracture, but Brockton should have Micah Morel in the lineup for their Week 1 challenge. We’ll get a look at the reigning Div. 1 Super Bowl champions new-look offense with Brendan Craven under center and Brandon Owens in the backfield while the Boxers will be sporting a Georgia Tech-inspired scheme with Auggie Roberts back at quarterback.

Barboza: A Jackson Bockhurst field goal will be the difference. BC High, 17-14.

Hall: Things unraveled for Brockton pretty quickly in last year’s meeting in Dorchester. The Boxers are fighting an uphill battle again this year, but at least it will be respectable. BC High, 28-14.

NO. 23 SPRINGFIELD PUTNAM AT NO. 14 SPRINGFIELD CENTRAL
The Skinny: With the schools sitting less than a mile from each other along Roosevelt Ave., the season-opening battle between these rival schools has become must-see as of late. Putnam won this contest last season, kick-starting an historic 2011 season that ended with their fifth Super Bowl title in eight seasons. Central will be looking for revenge, but it’s not easy replacing 2,000-yard rusher in Sacoy Malone. Putnam, meanwhile, turns to a plethora of new faces to replace record-setting running back Melquawn Pinkney, including quarterback Kayjuan Bynum and running back Wayne Lowery.

Barboza: I came away very impressed from talking to Central QB Cody Williams last year at Gillette. He blossoms into the real deal this year. Central, 21-16.

Hall: I like the direction Central is headed in over the long run, but Putnam is still Roosevelt Ave (See what I did there?). Putnam, 7-6.

LA SALLE ACADEMY (R.I.) AT NO. 16 NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH
The Skinny: Big Red will have its hands full opening night with their challenger from just across the state line. The Rams feature a high-octane attack led by reigning Gatorade Player of the Year running back Josh Morris and senior quarterback Anthony Francis. The key to this one will be in the trenches where North’s offensive line led by Eric Beckwith and Sean Peters could have the advantage.

Barboza: This Rams team is very talented, but North holds on – just barely. North, 28-26.

Hall: Josh Morris and Co. have been dying for that elusive win over a Massachusetts squad, and I think they finally get it here. La Salle, 17-13.

NO. 12 KING PHILIP AT DOVER (N.H.)
The Skinny: Self-admittedly, we don’t know as much about Dover as we do KP, but we can be some what certain what the Warriors will be showing them on defense. And, of course, that’s a variety of different looks and blitz and coverage schemes. Dover, which sits just outside of ESPN Boston correspondent Marc Thaler’s Granite State Top 10 poll, will also have to contend with KP quarterback John Dillon, who will enjoy a greater role directing the offense in his second year as starter.

Barboza: KP’s “Psycho” package gives Hockomock League teams fits, nevermind an offense that hasn’t seen it. KP, 28-8.

Hall: Knowing little about Dover outside of what our loyal New Hampshire correspondents tell us, I’m going to trust their convictions on this one and say it will be close. But I’m still going with the team closer to Boston. KP, 20-10.

NO. 4 ST. JOHN’S PREP AT DRACUT
The Skinny: The Middies have been a bit of a bugaboo for St. John's Prep in recent years and some around Danvers feel Dracut has simply posed a matchup problem for the Eagles with its spread attack. Good news for Prep is that their secondary, with Lucas Bavaro, Gerry Kahari, Alex Moore and Johnny Thomas, has matured into a strength of the team. Dracut senior linebacker Zach Bassett could be the key to the game, trying to slow down Prep's running attack.

Barboza: Looking for a defensive struggle here. Prep, 14-7.

Hall: Classic trap game for The Prep, against a classic trap opponent that’s had their number in recent years. Dracut, 10-6.

NORTH ANDOVER AT ANDOVER
The Skinny: North Andover's season starts with a Walsh at quarterback, but of another name. Brendan Walsh's younger brother Casey takes the helm of the Scarlet Knights' offense. It also marks North Andover's first Merrimack Valley Conference game. The Golden Warriors will counter with a high-flying attack that impressed during this summer's Northeast 7v7 passing tournament. Quarterback C.J. Scarpa has plenty of targets including Cam Farnham and Will Heikkinen.

Hall: I know it’s a familiar rival that’s been on the schedule for years, but North Andover is still in for a whole new ball game. And since it’s now officially an MVC game, there will be no less than 172 points scored and 1,000 yards of offense. Andover, 35-30.

Barboza: Ditto. Andover, 31-20.

MARSHFIELD AT CATHOLIC MEMORIAL
The Skinny: Last year at this time, Catholic Memorial entered Marshfield’s stadium with plenty of hype, behind three Division 1 FBS commits and a No. 4 preseason ranking in ESPNBoston.com’s poll. They promptly got shut out by the Rams, 24-0, fueling their ensuing seven-game win streak. The Knights will no doubt be looking to exact revenge, and they’ll look to Preseason All-State defensive end Peter Ngobidi to stifle the Rams’ vaunted run game.

Barboza: Ngobidi is a dominant force and asserts his will here. CM, 7-0.

Hall: The Knights got embarrassed last year in Marsh Vegas, and I expect them to exact revenge here. CM, 16-13.

SATURDAY
NO. 24 HOLY NAME AT NO. 17 ST. JOHN’S (SHREWSBURY)
The Skinny: For all of Holy Name’s success under Mike Pucko, the Naps have never beaten St. John’s during his tenure. Could that change on Saturday? Holy Name turns to one of the state’s most elusive scatbacks in Quron Wright, and will hope for a big day. St. John’s has already hit the injury bug, with incumbent QB Connor Kurtz (knee) out for the season, but RB Shadrach Abrokwah is a nice fit for their hurry-up scheme, and is poised for a breakout senior season.

Hall: If the Naps are ever to beat St. John’s, this has to be the year. Holy Name, 9-8.

Barboza: Hate to do this to the Naps, sorry. St. John's, 22-21.

NO. 9 DUXBURY AT NO. 8 BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM
The Skinny: B-R is itching to get over the hump after dropping its season-opener to the Dragons the past two seasons. The Trojans have some terrific talent between the tackles, led by Joey MacInnis, to pave for a big afternoon for junior tailback Arcel Armstead. Duxbury graduated one of its most talented classes ever from the 2011 Super Bowl champion squad, but still has plenty of talent left over to keep the state’s longest active win streak (26) going. Look for guard Rob Kosharek, linebacker Marshall McCarthy and running back Jon Hurvitz to have big days.

Barboza: Now that Dan Buron's nephew Andrew (former Duxbury standout) has graduated, expect the Trojans to get back to their winning ways. B-R, 14-10.

Hall: After graduating one of the program’s most talented classes ever, Marshall the Missile gets the full spotlight. And he usually gives the fans their money’s worth. Duxbury, 14-10.

CONCORD-CARLISLE AT BEVERLY
The Skinny: C-C heads into its non-league tilt with the heavy NEC/CAL Tier 2 favorite already limping, losing its star running back Tim Badgley (ACL tear) for the season. If the Patriots are to repeat last year’s Super Bowl championship success, sophomore quarterback Will Blumenberg will have to grow up quickly. Meanwhile, Beverly features one of the North Shore’s most feared rushing attacks with the three-pronged approach of Kenny Pierce, Brendan Flaherty and Dom Abate.

Barboza: ETA on when the Kenny Pierce hashtag gets rolling again? We're looking at you James Coffey. Beverly, 27-14.

Hall: I’m excited to see what Will Blumenberg can do for the Patriots, but the Panthers just have too much in the tank to be stopped in this one. Beverly, 28-7.
This season, we're trotting a new feature for football season that we started back in the spring. Each Wednesday, we'll pool the minds of our ESPN Boston staff and contributors to debate several hot button topics across the state in our Roundtable.

Without further ado, let's kick off the new season with these takes:

1. BC HIGH RECEIVED SOME BAD NEWS LAST WEEK WHEN RETURNING ESPN BOSTON ALL-STATE LINEBACKER LUKE CATARIUS SUFFERED A HAIRLINE FRACTURE ON HIS ANKLE. HOW WILL THE EAGLES COPE?

Brendan Hall, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: Over the last decade, BC High has proven to be a program with enough sufficient depth to compensate when star players miss a significant time with injury. However, it’s different when you lose the quarterback of your defense, especially when it’s a player as special a talent as the Eagles’ Luke Catarius.

In the scrimmage against Mansfield, after Catarius went out with the ankle injury, the Hornets went to the underneath game and exploited the flats for big gains. There was also one big miscommunication in the secondary that allowed Kevin Maki to wheel right through the middle of the deep field for a 45-yard completion. Not that this won’t be shored up before Friday’s big tilt with Brockton, but it is worth pointing out.

The good news, obviously, is that the Eagles’ Catholic Conference season doesn’t start until late October – but with Xaverian and St. John’s Prep looking sharp, it will be obvious if this team isn’t in proper shape. With that in mind, I expect Brandon Owens’ role at outside linebacker to have an even bigger significance than before. The pressure will also be on the front four, led by Jaleel Johnson, to buy the back seven time.

Scott Barboza, ESPN Boston High Schools editor: In terms of talent, I think the Eagles can get along. My greatest concern for BC High’s defense without Catarius relates to communication. The linebacker has been the leader of the defensive huddle, with messages from the sideline passed along to the inside linebacker. On field, Catarius was the quarterback of the defense as well, not only knowing his own responsibilities, but that of his teammates. That comes from knowledge of the system and cannot be replicated; it only comes through game-condition experience. The Eagles have a bevy of returning starters on the defensive line and secondary to shoulder the load but this one hurts. Will they rely on Brandon Owens to not only be the feature back, but take on more Catarius’ two-way role? We saw what happened last year when Preston Cooper went down at running back and how Deontae Ramey-Doe filled those shoes. So perhaps this will be more of the same for a deep Eagles’ squad. But a player of Catarius’ ilk cannot simply be replaced.

Adam Kurkjian, ESPN Boston correspondent: Without question, losing one of the top two-way players in the state will have a negative impact on BC High. The Eagles will not be able to replace his production easily and there may be an extra loss or two that comes down their way early on because of it. That said, if he is back by the time Catholic Conference play rolls around, BC High will still be one of the favorites to make it back to the playoffs. But still his loss cannot be understated.

Bruce Lerch, ESPN Boston correspondent: Believe it or not, I think the Eagles will be fine defensively. Obviously, Catarius is a one-of-a-kind talent with the ability to singlehandedly change opposing offensive gameplans. BC High will simply lean more on the unit as a whole rather than an individual to bail them out, as Catarius often did with his read and react style of play. Linebackers Danny Collins and Brandon Owens are leaders, defensive linemen like Billy Breen and Jaleel Johnson will take up blockers and make a few plays on their own, and the secondary will have to be more active in supporting.

Oddly enough, I think it's on offense where the Eagles may miss Catarius the most. A bruising fullback, Catarius helped pave the way for Preston Cooper and Deontay Ramey-Doe to pile up yardage last season. New backs Owens and Skyler Evans, along with a mostly inexperienced line, would have benefitted greatly from having Catarius leading the charge.

John Botelho, Editor-in-Chief, South Shore Sports Journal: I'm not even sure this Luke Catarius injury will have any real impact on BC. And I don't mean that as a slight to Catarius - in fact, I think he's the best linebacker in the state. My point of view though is this is a non-issue for the Eagles for two reasons.

First of all, replacing Catarius obviously wouldn't be easy, but aren't teams in the Catholic Conference best suited to replace someone they lose to an injury? Those teams are so loaded and so deep that it seems they have significant depth at every position. Or at least it seemed that way when Preston Cooper - who was arguably the best running back in the state in the first half of last year - went down with a broken ankle. All BC did was go on to win the Super Bowl as Deontae Ramey-Doe stepped in and the Eagles never missed a beat.

Secondly, and most important, is that BC doesn't open up league play until October 26 when they host Malden Catholic. I think even without Catarius, it'd be considered an upset if the Eagles lost that match-up. If it really comes to it, they don't need Catarius back until November 4th, week eight of the season, when they travel to Xaverian. It's reasonable to think that a hairline fracture would be healed up and they'd have him back by then.

2. WHICH REGION OF THE STATE HAS THE BEST UP-AND-COMING TALENT?

Hall: The emergence of Springfield-area talent over the last few years is one of the best stories developing this fall. But in terms of pure talent, for me it’s got to be the Cape & Islands region.

Every year, there seems to be a Cape player that seemingly washes ashore to earn a Division 1 scholarship. Two years ago, it was Randall Jette from Martha’s Vineyard going to UMass. Last year, Nauset’s Brendan Battles-Santos surprising everyone at UConn’s prospect camp to earn a scholarship practically on the spot. This past summer, UMass dug back into the region to pluck 6-foot-7 tight end Terrel Correia out of Nantucket, with intentions of making him an offensive tackle.

We’ll obviously be watching Correia closely this fall, but he isn’t even the best player from the region. Barnstable quarterback Nick Peabody is among the state’s best, with Ivy League interest. Mashpee has three athletes with Division 1 potential in tackle Nate Chrzanowski, running back Jared Taylor (he of the 300-yard epic last year at Gillette Stadium) and his new backfield mate Malik Lee, a Cape Cod Tech transfer with plenty of upside at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds.

Also keep an eye on Dennis-Yarmouth’s Joe Tyo, who still has to fill out but is projectable with a long 6-foot-5 frame and some active footwork. Falmouth sophomore Craig Green will be an intriguing prospect to monitor, after running a 10.6-second 100-meter dash last spring at the New England Track and Field Championships. And as good as Darien Fernandez was on the basketball court for Wareham last winter, some believe he’s an even better running back.

Barboza: I’m looking no further than our statewide preseason Top 25 poll to find two Springfield squads (Central at No. 14 and Putnum at No. 23) and another (Springfield Commerce) knocking on the door. Central is retooled for another run at Longmeadow in Div. 1 West with some key returnees from last year’s squad that made it to Gillette Stadium. Quarterback Cody Williams could be a breakout performer this year and Shawn Lockett is a legitimate force to deal with on the lines. Melquawn Pinkney might be gone, but the cupboard’s not bare for Putnam with Wayne Lowery, shouldering more of the running load while playing lock-down corner. Sha’ki Holines (UConn) and Hassan Graham (not to be confused with the Patriots receiver of yesteryear) grade out at their positions against anybody across the state.

Kurkjian: This is a tough question because the season has not started yet, so it is hard to assess which region has the top players. As it stands now, though, the North Shore looks to have an overflow of top players if you consider Everett part of that region. Also, don't forget BC High's Brandon Owens hails from Salem.

Botelho: Last fall made it hard to argue with any region being more up-and-coming than the Cape. Four of the nine Eastern Mass. Super Bowl champs were from the Cape and Islands (Dennis-Yarmouth Div. 2A, Bourne Div. 3A, Mashpee Div. 4 and Nantucket Div. 5). Not only did those teams each win Super Bowls last season, but the Cape teams outscored opponents 120-29 in those games. Only Bourne had a competitive game, beating defending Super Bowl champ Hamilton-Wenham, 16-14.

3. WHICH RUNNING BACK WILL HAVE THE BIGGEST BREAKOUT?

Hall: There’s a lot of directions you can go with this one. The addition of Malik Lee, and his soft hands, to Mashpee’s already-dangerous backfield has to feel like a high school offensive coordinator’s dream. Out west, Springfield folks are excited about two potential breakout candidates in Putnam’s Wayne Lowery and Central’s Aaron Owens. St. John's of Shrewsbury's Shadrach Abrokwah is bound for a breakout in John Andreoli's new Oregon-style "blur" offense.

However, I’m going with BC High’s Brandon Owens. That he is already committed to a Division 1 FCS school (Bryant) despite only seeing part-time duty one way last season speaks to his upside. As a runner, there is no wangle to his makeup – he’s a north-south, one-cut guy with a powerful frame that accelerates quickly to hit the hole at full speed.

Losing fullback Luke Catarius for the first six weeks of the season means the Eagles may have to get more creative with their offensive sets. But after seeing him take the corner on toss plays out of “Ace” formations, in the Mansfield scrimmage, I think he’s up for any task the coaching staff throws at him.

Barboza: I think we’re all hedging that Malik Lee of Mashpee will have a monster season in his first year with the Falcons, but I’m going to buck the trend here and go with another runner inside the South Shore League. Abington’s Babila Fonkem tallied seven touchdowns (five of those came in one game against backyard rival Archbishop Williams) and ran for over 1,000 yards last season. I think the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder has the potential to more than double last year’s tally as a feature back during Jim Kelleher’s swan song as head coach.

Kurkjian: From the looks of it, Brandon Owens has had a spectacular preseason and he will be the feature back in what expects to be another punishing ground attack for BC High. It appears as if the Eagles have just reloaded there.

Lerch: Everett's Kenny Calaj is already something of a household name, having been an impact weapon in Everett's offense the past two seasons. The majority of that. however, came as a pass catcher. With a pair of untested quarterbacks still battling to replace record-setting Jonathan DiBiaso, not to mention a mammoth group of offensive linemen, it would only make sense for the Tide to return to the ground game and Calaj should benefit as the main ball-carrier. I'm not sure what the record for all-purpose yardage in Massachusetts history, but Calaj is in a position to do some historic things as a senior.

Botelho: Arcel Armstead is primed to have an elite year at running back for Bridgewater-Raynham this season. It's no secret that Dan Buron-coached teams run the ball as well as anyone, and with both Nick Schlatz and Brandon Morin gone, Armstead will be the featured back for the Trojans. His athleticism alone would be enough for him to have a big year in that system, but B-R returns their entire offensive line from a season ago, led by 6-foot-4, 260-pound Joey MacInnis, meaning the sky is the limit for Armstead.

Don't sleep on guys like Jon Hurvitz at Duxbury, who is the best athlete returning to the Dragons who will need to remake their identity a bit without Matt O'Keefe under center. Hurvitz runs hard and has a chance to be the first running back Duxbury has built their offense around in recent memory.

Also, the South Shore League seems littered with potential breakout candidates. Jared Taylor is probably the best well-known running back who was a back-up last season. He flashed his electric running ability in the Super Bowl to the tune of more than 300 yards. But he won't be the only guy terrorizing defense in the league.

Babila Fonkem returns to Abington for a senior year with added size from his 1,000-yard campaign a year ago. Brian Kilmain, a junior for the Green Wave, could give them the most dangerous two-headed backfield in the league.

Andrew Benson, who looks like he'll officially be a quarterback, is ready to break out at East Bridgewater. He could end up running for more yards than ESPN All-Stater Casey DeAndrade a year ago, for more than one reason. Last year, DeAndrade split carries with Tim O'Brien. While Benson will share the backfield duties with Kevin Lynch, he'll see a higher percentage of touches than DeAndrade last year. Also, E-B's offense was so explosive last year that DeAndrade (and O'Brien) had their numbers cut down because the Vikings had big enough leads that the starters weren't on the field a lot in the fourth quarter. Only when they played Abington and Mashpee did starters stay in the entire game. This year's team will rank among the best in the SSL, but I don't think they'll put teams away so quickly this time around.

4. TAKE A LOOK AT THE FIRST MONTH OF BROCKTON’S SCHEDULE, AND PREDICT A RECORD.

Hall: This is going to upset some of our readers in the City of Champions, but there’s a realistic possibility of the Boxers coming out of the gate 0-4. Of those first four opponents – BC High, Reading, St. John’s Prep, Xaverian – nobody’s gotten worse from 2011, while I feel Brockton is still sitting in second gear after last year’s disappointing end.

That said, it sounds like Bryant-bound running back/defensive back Micah Morel will be ready for Friday’s opener against BC High after injuring his shoulder in the preseason, so that’s a positive sign. As for record, I think the Boxers will steal a game, either against Prep or Reading, to start off 1-3.

Barboza: Well, let’s go the tape … And hold me to this. I’m going:

Week 1, vs. BC High – Loss

Week 2, at Reading – Win

Week 3, vs. Xaverian – Loss

Week 4, vs. St. John’s Prep – Loss

That would make the Boxers 1-3 rolling into October. Then I think they rebound with three straight wins and finish out the season at 6-5 and represent the Big Three in the Division 1 playoffs as a very dangerous team after enduring a trying first month.

Kurkjian: With so many question marks surrounding this offense, it is hard to project exactly how the Boxers will fare. That said, this is a brutal start to the season. The feeling here is that Brockton manages to steal one and get off to a 1-3 start.

Lerch: It's a very real possibility that Brockton goes 0-4, and I think best case scenario is that they salvage a 2-2 mark. Any better than that and I wonder if the Catholic Conference would have an issue with adding a "league game" between Brockton and Everett to play for its championship.

Botelho: Brockton has the best program in state history. Literally. Their 751 all-time wins ranks first in the state by a wide margin (no one else even has 600 wins). They've also captured 11 Super Bowl titles in 40 years. That said, the last few years haven't been what Boxer fans are used to. They missed the playoffs two years in a row, and last season slumped to a disappointing 5-6.

All those struggles did was ignite something in the Boxers, who look primed to return to the postseason this season. I'm going to say Brockton gets through that portion of the schedule (one Peter Colombo said might rank as the toughest in New England) with a winning record. I'm a believer in Brockton this year, and they'll knock off at least one Catholic Conference opponent, as well as take care of business with Reading and Fitchburg. My guess is the Boxers end up 3-2 in this stretch (including a loss to BC High week one, which they'll avenge in the Super Bowl in December).

5. WHAT GAME WILL BE THE MOST THRILLING OF WEEK 1?

Hall: On a state-wide level, Everett’s trip to Leominster is certainly garnering the most interest, and deservedly so. The atmosphere there is going to be electric, with projections of anywhere up to 7-8,000 for expected attendance at Doyle Field. But, at the risk of being the wet blanket here, find me a pundit that doesn’t expect Everett to win.

Putnam-Central will be an intriguing battle out west, but I’m going with an underrated Saturday afternoon showdown in Shrewsbury, where St. John’s will host Holy Name in their customary season-opener. For all of Holy Name’s success under Mike Pucko, the Naps have never beaten St. John’s under John Andreoli. Last year’s contest, a 22-21 St. John’s thriller, was just epic on all fronts. And if there’s any year for Holy Name to get that elusive win over the Pioneers, it’s this one.

Barboza: This might not be the most high profile game on the docket, but I’m looking at the good ole fashioned brawl in the backyard between Dighton-Rehoboth and Somerset. The Falcons, coached by Somerset alum Dave Driscoll, are looking to rebound a bit in the South Coast Conference this season behind physical tackle Chuddy Nwachukwu and the Raiders could bounce back from a rebuilding year last year to finish atop the Eastern Athletic Conference this year. This has always been an underrated rivalry game in Southeastern Mass. and it's a great way to kick off the season for both squads.

Kurkjian: When in doubt, go with the No. 1 team opening up on the road against a program and community brimming with optimism over a Super Bowl win. No matter what happens, the atmosphere for Friday night's Everett at Leominster game will be electric.

Lerch: With apologies to several other high profile (BC High/Brockton) and not-so-high-profile (East Boston/Blue Hills will be a barnburner) matchups certainly deserving attention, the game at the top of my marquee is Duxbury at Bridgewater-Raynham (Saturday, 4 p.m.). Two programs very similar in the foundations programmed by a pair of tremendous head coaches, and both with an eye on getting a jump start on the "reload" process should be ready to go toe-to-toe for 44 minutes (or more).

Botelho: My favorite week one match-up is always Bridgewater-Raynham and Duxbury (especially this year, where these two teams grabbed the top two spots in our pre-season poll over at SportsJournal.co). Both perennial Super Bowl contenders, if either team doesn't bring their 'A' game from the get-go, they start the season with a loss. Dave Maimaron and Dan Buron always have their kids supremely prepared, so this one has a playoff atmosphere in September.

New faces blend talent for No. 2 BC High

September, 2, 2012
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With a new head coach patrolling the sidelines, some preseason injury concerns and a cast of new faces stepping into crucial roles on the field, an element of change has certainly been in the air around the BC High football program.

Joe Gaff, a 26-year veteran of the Everett police department, was tabbed to replace Jon Bartlett this summer. Gaff served as the Eagles defensive coordinator the last four years and has previous head coaching experience with Chelsea, Matignon, and Malden Catholic.

The Eagles quest to defend the Division 1 Super Bowl title has gotten off to something of an auspicious beginning, most notably because of the loss of All-State linebacker Luke Catarius. Catarius suffered a slight fracture to his right ankle earlier this week in a scrimmage with Mansfield, and will miss five to six weeks according to Gaff.

Standouts Jack McDonald, Billy Breen and Jaleel Johnson all sat out Friday's scrimmage against Lawrence with what Gaff called "nagging injuries", but all three are expected to be ready to go for Friday's season opener in Brockton.

On the field, the Eagles strength looks like it will be on defense, even with Catarius sidelined. Mark McGuire and Johnson are the anchors at defensive tackle while Tim Johnson and Mike McAuley (who had two interceptions in the Lawrence scrimmage) are standout cornerbacks.

At the linebacker spots, replacing Catarius will be difficult but the Eagles will lean on returnees Danny Collins and Brandon Owens. Brian Robinson has had a terrific preseason, Brian Landry is back after taking two years off from football, and Steve Dicienzo will also contribute.

When asked who would be looked to step up to fill the void left by Catarius, Gaff pointed at the group and talked about some changes the defense will have to make.

"I don't think I can pinpoint one guy. It's more of a unit," Gaff explained. "We've been playing a lot of base defense and letting Luke just read and go so we're going to have move our defense a lot more. We're going to have to be a bit more aggressive and make things happen instead of letting Luke clean things up. We have to set the tempo now and move our guys around a lot more than we have in the past."

The kicking game will also be stellar. BC High boasts one of the state's elite kickers in Jackson Bockhorst, who can hit from 50 yards out, and a strong punter in Pat Ahearn.

Offensively, the Eagles are extremely talented but very inexperienced. Virginia commit McDonald (6-5, 270 lbs.) and Breen (6-4, 240 lbs) will anchor the line from the tackle spots, although the versatile McDonald can play all five positions if needed. BC High adds three new starters to the unit, but the expectation is that they will be able to continue a fine tradition of line play at the school.

"We'll be a pretty quick offensive line this year," said Gaff. "We don't have the huge size all the way across but we'll be very athletic up front. We're looking to keep the tradition of solid offensive line play, keep the running game going, and they know that's what we want."

Senior Brendan Craven steps in at quarterback after spending the last couple of years watching former starter Bartley Regan, although Gaff hinted that Danny Collins may be used in spots as a change of pace, running QB in certain situations. Craven's main target should be 6-foot-4 Lincoln Collins, who committed to Villanova over the summer. Tim Johnson and Mike McAuley step into the lineup alongside him.

Brandon Owens will be the main tailback, joined by Skyler Evans. Catarius also served a crucial role as the team's fullback, so look for DiCienzo and Mitch LaFerriere to pick up the slack.

"I think we need some experience in the passing game," Gaff admitted. "We have talent but its been a lack of playing time for those guys. (Craven) is a first year quarterback and we have inexperience at WR. Even with Lincoln as great as he is, our two and three guys haven't got too much experience as receivers. And we have a new running back too, and losing Luke from that means we will have to do some different things."

BC HIGH AT A GLANCE
2011: 10-3, Division 1 Super Bowl champion
Coach: Joe Gaff (1st season)
Key Returnees: Billy Breen, Sr., OT/DL, 6-4, 240 lbs; Jack McDonald, Sr., OT/DT, 6-5, 275 lbs; Jaleel Johnson, Sr., DT, 6-2, 240 lbs, Mark McGuire, Sr. DL, 6-2, 200 lbs.; Tim Johnson, Sr. DB/WR, 5-10, 175 lbs.; Danny Collins, Sr. MLB/QB, 6-2, 185 lbs.; Lincoln Collins, Sr., WR, 6-4, 180 lbs; Brandon Owens, Sr. LB/RB, 6-0, 200 lbs.; Mike McAuley, Sr. DB/WR, 5-11, 170 lbs.; Brendan Craven, Sr. QB, 6-3, 180 lbs.; Skyler Evans, Sr. RB, 5-9, 180 lbs.
Strengths: Defense, kicking game, senior leadership.
Weaknesses: Inexperience on offense, key injuries.
Outlook: The defending Super Bowl champions have a different look and feel from the team that won the title, not just because those seniors are gone but also because those seniors were able to get playing time as juniors and sophomores, something much of this year's senior class hasn't had. "I think this is a different group," Gaff said. "That senior class last year was so good that we have a lot of guys that are seniors now and are stepping on the field for the first time. Last year we had a lot of guys that had played as juniors and I think that's the big difference. This years group is good, just not game experienced." Gaff and his charges will be put to the test early as the Eagles open with games against Brockton, North Attleboro, Dartmouth, St. Peters Prep (N.J.), Marlboro and Everett before finishing with its Catholic Conference slate. A strong defense should give the inexperienced offense time to get its feet wet and allow its talent to shine through. Bockhurst is a weapon that few other teams with his ability to boom field goals from as deep as 50 yards, something that may come into play early and often.

Scrimmage Slants: BC High vs. Mansfield

August, 28, 2012
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DORCHESTER, Mass. -– Thoughts and observations from tonight’s scrimmage between No. 2 BC High and No. 19 Mansfield, in which Mansfield’s varsity score three times to just one from the Eagles:

Matinee screening: Mansfield struggled on its opening drive, thanks to pressure applied in interior defensive line from an assorted combination of Jack McDonald, Jaleel Johnson, Mark McGuire and Billy Breen. That prompted the Hornets to go to their screen game in their next three varsity offensive series, yielding favorable results.

[+] EnlargeBC/Mansfield
Brendan Hall/ESPNBoston.comBrandon Owens is expected to take over at tailback at BC High, and he showed some positive signs in Tuesday's scrimmage with Mansfield.
When the scrimmage went to “situational” play in the third and fourth varsity series (i.e., chain markers were brought in), seniors Roger Rapoza and Kevin Makie had big gains out of the backfield off screen passes to the flats from Kyle Wisniewski.

Makie was particularly efficient. In the third series, he took a screen in the left flat, shot up a seam and went untouched 32 yards down the sideline for a score. Makie also had a nice 45-yard reception in stride off a play-action pass, running a wheel through zone coverage up the right sideline to set up a touchdown plunge from three yards out.

“They came at us hard, and we had a little trouble protecting,” Mansfield head coach Mike Redding said. “They did a good job pounding us. But what I like is how we got some spunk and got things going when the chains got up and we got to some down and distance. We at least walked out of here with some confidence.”

BC High head coach Joe Gaff’s explanation for how the defense got exploited on those screens was simple – poor execution.

“No idea, that’s all we talk about around here is screens,” he said. “We just didn’t do a good job on screens. It was just clear as that. We didn’t read where they were coming from, our D-linemen went upfield too much, and we just didn’t hug the backs like we’re supposed to.”

Key injuries: Another Preseason ESPN Boston All-Stater took to the trainer’s table this evening, when BC High senior middle linebacker Luke Catarius left the field in the first defensive series with an injury to his right ankle, and did not return. Catarius, a Sandwich resident, made ESPN Boston’s All-State Team a year ago and is a likely candidate for both our Mr. Football and Defensive Player of the Year awards.

It’s worth wondering if Catarius’ absence helped contribute to the Eagles’ breakdown in pass defense, as the 6-foot, 215-pounder is the face (and quarterback) of the defense.

An early prognosis was not available.

“I think it’s just a little sprain, that’s all I’m hoping for,” Gaff said. “He’s a beast.”

Owens poised for breakout? Last weekend, we wrote about Xaverian junior defensive end Elijah Jolly as a potential breakout player in the Catholic Conference this fall. BC High’s Brandon Owens is my pick for the conference’s breakout player, and I would have said that two weeks ago. But the way he ran tonight made me feel safe about my conviction.

Though Owens only platooned part-time at linebacker last season, he still garnered enough attention from Division 1 FCS schools to make a verbal commitment to Bryant University last month, as a safety. This season, the 6-foot, 190-pounder figures to be the feature back in Gaff’s pro-style offense, and looks capable of taking 20 to 25 carries a game.

On BC High’s first offensive play of the night, Owens followed Catarius up the gut into the second level, bursting off for a 35-yard gain. Several times he took toss sweeps out of one and two-back formations, and turned the corner for gains of 8 to 12 yards. He can also bring some pop – on his final carry of the night, a dive, he lowered his shoulders and easily trucked a 250-pound Mansfield lineman and fell forward.

Owens also had the Eagles’ lone varsity score, a short plunge in the second series.

There is little twist in Owens’ arsenal. He is a one-cut, north-south runner with good first-step explosion that allows him to burst through the line of scrimmage at full speed. As an outside linebacker, he demonstrated good hands, shedding would-be blockers in run support.

“He runs hard,” Gaff said. “He’ll lose a few more pounds and get in better game shape. It’s hard to knock him down for a loss, he goes forward. I thought he did a real nice job tonight.”

Craven proving sufficient: Brendan Craven enters his senior year at BC High having never started a varsity game at quarterback, yet he holds various Division 1 interest and even a scholarship offer, from FCS school Valparaiso University. How did this happen?

For starters, Craven was a fixture at camps, keeping his name afloat on the recruiting radar as he waited patiently the last two seasons behind current Stonehill College freshman Bartley Regan. The 6-foot-2 Craven has proven himself as a good rhythm passer over the summer, to go with sharp footwork and scrambling ability.

Physically, he’s done all he can. The mental part will have to wait until the Eagles strap it up for real at Brockton on September 7, so for now we’re left with glimpses of what could become.

And there were some good glimpses. Craven and Villanova-bound wideout Lincoln Collins, a preseason ESPN Boston All-State selection, looked like they were on the same page for most of the night. In the second series, Craven hit the 6-foot-4 Collins on a bubble screen for 15 yards, then three plays later connected for a 30-yard strike after faking a counter handoff up the middle.

There’s still work to be done. Craven threw a pick-six in the third series saw repeated pressure from Hornets senior linemen Ollie Erickson, Jon Lawlor, Jamie Comer and Antonio Medeiros as the game wore on. But as he was repeatedly flushed out of the pocket by pressure in those third and fourth series, he demonstrated his pocket presence, to buy himself an extra second in the pocket with his footwork or breaking off for a run.

“He’s done everything except game time, which is why situations like this are good,” Gaff said. “It’s good to have situations like this, with getting pressure, getting pressure. We’ll clean this offensive line up, there’s no question about it. That’s our priority tomorrow, cleaning it up.”

Roundtable: Best players, league champs

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
8:14
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In our first "Roundtable" of the 2012 football season, our high school staff and correspondents submitted their best position players in the state, and predicted champions for the state's most anticipated league races.

Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


Best QB: Nick Peabody, Barnstable
Best RB: Jared Taylor, Mashpee
Best WR: Jalen Felix, Everett
Best TE: Chris Collins, Walpole
Best OL: John Montelus, Everett
Best DL: Maurice Hurst Jr., Xaverian
Best LB: Luke Catarius, BC High
Best DB: Micah Morel, Brockton
Best K: Gilly De Souza, Everett
Best RET: Cam Farnham, Andover

Catholic Conference: Xaverian
MVC Large: Andover
MVC Small: Dracut
Bay State Carey: Needham
Bay State Herget: Natick
Old Colony: Barnstable
Atlantic Coast: Nauset
South Coast: Dighton-Rehoboth
Dual County Large: Lincoln-Sudbury
Dual County Small: Wayland
Patriot Keenan: Duxbury
Patriot Fisher: Pembroke
Hockomock Kelly-Rex: North Attleborough
Hockomock Davenport: Stoughton
NEC/CAL Tier 1: Masconomet
NEC/CAL Tier 2: Beverly
Middlesex Large: Reading
Middlesex Small: Wakefield
South Shore: Mashpee

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


Best QB: Drew Belcher, Reading
Best RB: Jonathan Thomas, St. John's Prep
Best WR: Jalen Felix, Everett
Best TE: Chris Collins, Walpole
Best OL: John Montelus, Everett
Best DL: Maurice Hurst Jr., Xaverian
Best LB: Luke Catarius, BC High
Best DB: Alex Moore, St. John's Prep
Best K: Gilly De Souza, Everett
Best RET: Cam Farnham, Andover

Catholic Conference: BC High
MVC Large: Andover
MVC Small: Dracut
Bay State Carey: Weymouth
Bay State Herget: Natick
Old Colony: Barnstable
Atlantic Coast: Marshfield
South Coast: Dighton-Rehoboth
Dual County Large: Lincoln-Sudbury
Dual County Small: Concord-Carlisle
Patriot Keenan: Duxbury
Patriot Fisher: Pembroke
Hockomock Kelly-Rex: King Philip
Hockomock Davenport: Stoughton
NEC/CAL Tier 1: Lynn English
NEC/CAL Tier 2: Beverly
Middlesex Large: Reading
Middlesex Small: Wakefield
South Shore: Mashpee

Adam Kurkjian
ESPN Boston correspondent


Best QB: Drew Belcher, Reading
Best RB: Jonathan Thomas, St. John's Prep
Best WR: Jakarrie Washington, Everett
Best TE: Chris Collins, Walpole
Best OL: John Montelus, Everett
Best DL: Maurice Hurst Jr., Xaverian
Best LB: Luke Catarius, BC High
Best DB: Jalen Felix, Everett
Best K: Jackson Bockhurst, BC High
Best RET: Ozzy Colarusso, Weymouth

Catholic Conference: BC High
MVC Large: Central Catholic
MVC Small: Haverhill
Bay State Carey: Weymouth
Bay State Herget: Walpole
Old Colony: Bridgewater-Raynham
Atlantic Coast: Dennis-Yarmouth
South Coast: Wareham
Dual County Large: Lincoln-Sudbury
Dual County Small: Concord-Carlisle
Patriot Keenan: Duxbury
Patriot Fisher: Pembroke
Hockomock Kelly-Rex: King Philip
Hockomock Davenport: Stoughton
NEC/CAL Tier 1: Lynn English
NEC/CAL Tier 2: Beverly
Middlesex Large: Reading
Middlesex Small: Wakefield
South Shore: Mashpee

Ryan Kilian
Founder, New England Prep Stars


Best QB: Drew Belcher, Reading
Best RB: Jonathan Thomas, St. John's Prep
Best WR: Jalen Felix, Everett
Best TE: Chris Collins, Walpole
Best OL: John Montelus, Everett
Best DL: Maurice Hurst Jr., Xaverian
Best LB: Luke Catarius, BC High
Best DB: Alex Moore, St. John's Prep
Best K: Gilly De Souza, Everett
Best RET: Cam Farnham, Andover

Catholic Conference: BC High
MVC Large: Central Catholic
MVC Small: Haverhill
Bay State Carey: Weymouth
Bay State Herget: Natick
Old Colony: Barnstable
Atlantic Coast: Dennis-Yarmouth
South Coast: Dighton-Rehoboth
Dual County Large: Lincoln-Sudbury
Dual County Small: Concord-Carlisle
Patriot Keenan: Duxbury
Patriot Fisher: Pembroke
Hockomock Kelly-Rex: Mansfield
Hockomock Davenport: Stoughton
NEC/CAL Tier 1: Masconomet
NEC/CAL Tier 2: Beverly
Middlesex Large: Reading
Middlesex Small: Wakefield
South Shore: Mashpee

Corey Allen
ESPN Boston Correspondent


Best QB: Nick Peabody, Barnstable
Best RB: Brendan Flaherty, Beverly
Best WR: Jakarrie Washington, Everett
Best TE: Chris Collins, Walpole
Best OL: John Montelus, Everett
Best DL: Peter Ngobidi, Catholic Memorial
Best LB: Luke Catarius, BC High
Best DB: Jalen Felix, Everett
Best K: Gilly De Souza, Everett
Best RET: Cam Farnham, Andover

Catholic Conference: BC High
MVC Large: Central Catholic
MVC Small: Dracut
Bay State Carey: Needham
Bay State Herget: Walpole
Old Colony: Bridgewater-Raynham
Atlantic Coast: Nauset
South Coast: Wareham
Dual County Large: Lincoln-Sudbury
Dual County Small: Boston Latin
Patriot Keenan: Duxbury
Patriot Fisher: Pembroke
Hockomock Kelly-Rex: North Attleborough
Hockomock Davenport: Stoughton
NEC/CAL Tier 1: Masconomet
NEC/CAL Tier 2: Beverly
Middlesex Large: Reading
Middlesex Small: Wakefield
South Shore: Mashpee

New BC High coach Gaff: 'I am just humbled'

May, 17, 2012
5/17/12
12:12
AM ET
We caught up tonight with new BC High head football coach Joe Gaff, who was officially elevated from Defensive Coordinator and named successor to Jon Bartlett this afternoon. Over our half-hour conversation, Gaff discussed his new responsibilities, as well as the gameplan going forward and the talent coming up through the program's ranks.

Gaff, a member of the Everett Police Department by day, has served the last four years as Bartlett's defensive coordinator. The two teamed up for Division 1 Super Bowl titles in 2008 and 2011. Prior to that, he had a two-year stint as the head coach at Catholic Conference rival Malden Catholic.

His reaction to being named the new head coach: "I am just humbled. There are so many great people over there, so many great guys already there on the staff that have really pulled a lot of hard work. And to take over one of the elite programs in the state not just on the field, but off the field -- these are such quality kids outside of football -- it's a remarkable feeling."

On the element of continuity with this hire: "It's huge, and I think that's what they saw throughout this whole process. Jon has done such a wonderful job putting together such a great staff together, and we've had hardly any turnover in my four years here. I want to keep that going. It's not just about wins and losses, it's about getting kids into the right schools and playing the right way, that's really what BC High is all about. The whole message we try to preach over there is it's more than just wins and losses at BC High. It's about life."

What working under Bartlett has meant to him, and how those roles will change going forward: "I just think that it's just a friendship that we've bonded these last four short years. We're best friends, and we talk all of the time. Even in the offseason, we spend time together in the offseason. The friendship we've developed is amazing. It's a nice thing that he'll still be in the corner office. It's nice to know I have a friend there, and that the door's always going to be open."

Lessons learned from his last head coaching stint in the Catholic Conference, at Malden Catholic: "I think it's just that kids, no matter where you are, are great kids, and while some situations are different, all kids everywhere I've been at just want you to give them the best chance to win. I think that's going to be the philosophy at BC High. I'll still be coaching varsity swimming at Malden Catholic. I've got great swimmers -- we're not the best program in the world, but we started off with 15 kids and now we've got 43. And it's worked out, I'm going to be able stay in that position over there as well, so I'm ecstatic about that. It's hard going between two schools, but we're all in this business to teach kids right and wrong, and try to give them the right direction in life. I don't care what sport, what school, that will always be my mission."

His coaching style, and the philosophy going forward: "When Jon and I talked four years ago, that's what the whole idea was, our coaching styles were the same, and that's why it's worked so well. His idea of a pro-style offense with multiple formations is what I like. You have to adapt to different players, and we have to go with what best suits us every year, and for that I like the system Jon has put in. You don't want to be one-dimensional. Some years you'll have a great stable of running backs, other years its the wide receivers and quarterback, and I think it helps us to be a multiple-formation team.

"Defensively, we're going to stay very physical and very aggressive. The other thing is you really have to make sure the kids are very disciplined on the field, and these kids do such a good job with being disciplined off the field. They know why they're there -- academics, spiritual life and sports. We did mostly a four-man front, and I think we're going to stay with that. With the manpower we have, we're going to play with some things in the secondary and with the linebackers. We've got a great linebacker in Luke Catarius coming back, he is a heck of a player. We'll be mostly a four-man front though, but with the way teams can be pass-happy now, we'll have a little bit of three-man front. But we'll stay mostly in a four-man front, and adapt to what we need to."

On the coordinators situation: "I'll stay at defensive coordinator. Offense, I'm just getting the job today, we've got some quality guys on the staff, but it's something that I really haven't had a chance to talk about yet. We just have some great guys and friendships on the staff, and that's leads over to the kids' comfort zone. Offensive coordinator is going to be a big thing. Jon was head coach and offensive coordinator, and they averaged quite a few points in his career. It's going to be tough to match that."

On replacing the Class of 2012 talent, and the talent coming up: "We've got a good core of players coming back between Lincoln Collins, [Jack McDonald], Lucas [Catarius], Billy Breen. [Brendan] Craven hopefully will fill in for Bartley Regan at quarterback. It's going to be tough to replace Preston Cooper and Deontae [Ramey-Doe] at running back. Deontae did a tremendous job for Preston after he went down. We're going to have to find a tailback, but I think we've got a few guys that can fill the spot nicely.

"McDonald, he's got a bunch of offers. We haven't gotten into that yet though, we're meeting next week to set up a lot of that stuff. We've got Mark McGuire [senior tight end/defensive end] coming back, he's going to be great. Tim Johnson [senior defensive back], he had a great interception in the Super Bowl [last December], he's back. We do have some good kids coming up. Brandon Owens is another one coming back, we'll use him at outside linebacker some with his speed, and he'll play a little tailback for us too."

The most important thing to take care of between now and August: "Getting everyone comfortable with everything, try to get everyone on the same page. The offensive and defensive terminology might change a little, but as long as we continue to put in hard work in the weight room we'll be OK."

How he will handle college recruiting inquiries: "That's something me and Jon haven't yet worked out. Unfortunately I'm out of the building because I'm a police officer, but it's something we're working on. Jon will help me out with that. They already have a system over there, but we'll try to continue that. We've sent a player to Harvard four years in a row -- that's not too bad. Jon will be a big part, guidance will be a big part, and I think we'll all work together to get these kids into college."

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