Boston High School: Mark Wright

Top 25 Countdown: Nos. 25-21

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
12:21
PM ET
On Monday, we unveiled our statewide MIAA Top 25 preseason football poll. Today, we begin our annual countdown of the poll with Nos. 25 through 21.

NO. 25 NATICK
Head Coach: Mark Mortarelli (5th season, 35-11)
2013: 10-1, lost to Barnstable in D2 South semifinal
Returning Starters: Five offensive; Six defensive.
Key Players: Jared Abbruzzese, Jr. WR/LB/DB, 5-8, 160 lbs.; T.J. Collins, Sr. LB, 5-11, 185 lbs.; Brian Dunlap, Sr. WR/CB, 6-0, 175 lbs.; Chad Kidd, Jr. RB/LB, 5-6, 190; Trenton Wright, Sr. DE/TE, 6-2, 205 lbs.; Anthony Natarelli, Sr. OL/DL; Nick Olson, Sr. QB/FS; Tommy Ranucci, Sr. WR/DB.
Strengths: Passing game; defensive secondary; linebackers.
Weaknesses: Depth and experience on offensive line; size on defense.

Outlook: Even without last year’s Mr. Football winner, Troy Flutie, the Redhawks will still be able to air it out with the best of them, as senior Nick Olson gets his first crack at playing varsity quarterback. A returning starter at safety, Natick head coach Mark Mortarelli isn’t concerned about how the first-year signal-caller will fit in. “He’s used to the spotlight,” Mortarelli said of Olson. “He started every game for us at safety. He was a tremendous safety for us, he was all-league. He’s a varsity basketball player, too, so I think all of things in combination, this isn’t the first time for him under the lights.” Olson’s transition will be advantage by the return of a healthy Brian Dunlap. The Harvard commit was forced to sit out his junior year with a Lisfranc injury, but Mortarelli is happy to report he’s back at 100 percent. While defensive coverage schemes will naturally set around Dunlap, the Redhawks should be able to expose a soft underbelly as second-year starting running back Chad Kidd can provide tough yards in between the tackles. “I think we’ll run the ball a little more [this year],” Mortarelli said. “Coach [Matt] Brenneman, our offensive coordinator, likes to the throw the ball around a little, but we have a great running back in Chad Kidd. He’s a big, strong kid; he can handle the workload.” Meanwhile, Mortarelli is counting on junior Jared Abbruzzese among others to create complementary options in the passing game. On defense, Natick’s athleticism shines again. With a ball-hawking secondary last year, the Redhawks were routinely able to win the turnover battle. Natick graduated the leader of that group – Mike Abbruzzese -- but returns a few starters in Olson and Tommy Ranucci. The strength of Natick’s defense runs up the middle, with returning all-league selection T.J. Collins quarterbacking the group. While the Redhawks will not be the biggest defense in the state, they should be able to gain consistent pressure off the edge with returning three-year starter Trenton Wright. “We’re going to need to generate some pressure up front with a four-man rush,” Mortarelli said. “We can’t be blitzing all the time, so Trenton’s going to be a big part of that. He can create some havoc; he’s a rangy kid. We’re going to rely on him a lot for that.”
-SCOTT BARBOZA

NO. 24 MARSHFIELD
Coach: Lou Silva (34th season, 205-139-7)
Last Season: 5-6 (4-2 ACL), lost in Div. 2 South Quarterfinals.
Returning starters: 16 (8 offense, 6 defense)
Key Returnees: Jack Masterson, Jr. QB, 6-1, 190 lbs.; Dan Dalton, Jr. TE/LB, 6-5, 235 lbs.; Frank Catanoso, Sr. RB/DB, 5-8, 160 lbs.; Jason Darcy, Jr. WR/DB, 6-2, 185 lbs.; Matt Armstrong, Jr. TE/DE, 6-1, 180 lbs.; Shane Leonard, Jr. C, 6-2, 230 lbs.; Pat Kielty, Jr. OL, 5-11, 200 lbs.; Ian Duffy, Jr. LB, 5-8, 160 lbs.; Chris Lunn, Jr. RB/DE, 6-0, 185 lbs.; Fred Allen, Jr. MLB, 6-1, 210 lbs.; Josh Ramos, Jr. OL/DL, 6-3, 240 lbs.
Strengths: Quarterback, tight ends, offensive line, linebackers.
Weaknesses: Pass defense, experience at running back.
Outlook: The Rams offense found their identity down the stretch of the 2013 campaign and that was largely based on the superb play of quarterback Jack Masterson. As a sophomore, Masterson broke three school passing records and has many more in his sights for his junior season. Masterson’s favorite target, Dan Dalton also returns for his junior year and will present mismatches in the passing and running game. Dalton can lineup anywhere on the field and has all the tools for a monster season with his large frame (6-foot-5, 235 pounds), sure-hands and quick speed. Protecting the junior signal caller, center Shane Leonard anchors an experienced offensive line that also returns Pat Kielty and Josh Ramos. The Rams defense had difficulty taming high-powered offenses last season, allowing 40 or more points four times. Looking to this season, the Rams will have a talented front seven returning, led by MLB Fred Allen and Dalton at defensive end, but their defensive backfield remains a question mark with the loss of a handful of defensive backs. Offensively, the Rams running game took a big hit, losing their three top tailbacks to graduation in the offseason. Junior Chris Lunn is the favorite to take the brunt of the carries this season, while the search continues to another tailback to compliment him with. It has taken two years for the Rams to climb back to their perennial power status, but their talent-laden junior class will make Marshfield a team to watch out for this season. An experienced offensive line and the ability to stretch the field will give their young running game an added boost. With the Atlantic Coast League shrinking down to five teams this season, circle their September 26th matchup at No. 12 Dennis-Yarmouth to likely decide the ACL title.
-PHIL GARCEAU

No. 23 BARNSTABLE
Coach: Chris Whidden (Fourth season, 28-8-0)
Last season: 9-2 (3-0 OCL), lost in Div. 2 South Finals.
Returning starters: 4 (2 offense, 2 defense)
Key Players: Owen Murray, Sr. OL/DL, 6-4, 250 lbs; Clyde Perry, Sr. MLB, 5-11, 225 lbs; Colton Bergal, Sr. LB, 6-1, 225 lbs; Bo Delaney, Sr. WR, 5-11, 165 lbs.
Strengths: Linebackers, offensive line, coaching staff.
Weaknesses: Overall experience, defensive secondary, offensive backfield.
Overview: The Red Raiders have many holes to fill at the skill positions on both sides of the ball after losing 30 players to graduation, but Barnstable has the tendency to reload rather than rebuild. Of the 307 points scored in Barnstable’s 2013 campaign, only 16 points hit the scoreboard from non-seniors, meaning there will be plenty of position battles when the Red Raiders open camp. Head coach Chris Whidden praised his roster, citing their work ethic and coach-abillity as strengths for the team. Senior Owen Murray will bolster the offensive line from his position at right tackle, diverting the pressure from first-year starting quarterback Griffin Burke and carving holes for the running back-by-committee system in the backfield. MLB Clyde Perry is also one of the few returning starters on the Red Raiders defense and with Murray on the defensive line, Barnstable has a strong core up the middle to build around. It will be a trail by fire for this young Red Raiders team to begin the season. The first four weeks consist of No. 12 Dennis-Yarmouth, at No. 24 Marshfield, No. 15 BC High and at top-seeded Xaverian which will put Barnstable to the test early and often. Barnstable doesn’t begin Old Colony League play until mid-October, which gives them plenty of time to get their game on-track to defend their three-consecutive OCL titles and perhaps more importantly, an automatic bid to the Div. 2 South playoffs. Entering his fourth year at the helm, Whidden has never had a losing season and has shown that he can lead his troops into battle while getting the most out of each player on the field.
-PHIL GARCEAU

NO. 22 AUBURN
Coach: Jeff Cormier (16th season, 136-43 overall)
Last Season: 8-3, lost in Division 5 Central Quarterfinals
Returning Starters: 10 (5 offense, 5 defense)
Key Returnees: Mark Wright, Sr. RB/DB, 5-8, 180 lbs.; Dillon Bruso, Sr. OL/DL, 6-2, 250 lbs.; Josh Furmanick, Sr. FB/DL, 5-8, 195 lbs.; Nick Thomas, Sr. LB, 5-6, 160 lbs.
Strengths: Running game, receivers, competitiveness in camp.
Weaknesses: Depth.
Outlook: After going 63-2 with five Super Bowl titles from 2008-12, with a 41-game win streak sandwiched in between, the Rockets were as green as any point in Cormier's tenure last fall, returning just one starter on either side of the ball. It showed early, and again late when they were one of just four home seeds in Massachusetts to lose their first round playoff game, taking one on the chin to SWCL rival Bartlett in D5 Central. But it was quite the revelation for Wright, who led CMass in carries (258), rushing yards (2,111) and rushing TDs (25) in his first year starting with the varsity. "Once we get five yards, Mark will make his one cut and explode through the hole. As long as we get some decent blocking, he'll be able to make a play," said Bruso. Still, there's a bitter taste in the Rockets' mouths about the way things ended in 2013. "Everywhere we had to hear about it. Even kids from our own town were telling us we were done," Furmanick said. The Rockets are most known for their power running scheme, deploying two-back, double-tight personnel and seeking to outweigh their opponents at the point of attack. This year, with a giant target on Wright's back and a good grouping of perimeter skill players, the Rockets may throw more. Cormier is not ready to name a starting quarterback yet, with several players in the mix, but keep an eye on sophomore Steve Saucier. The undersized signal-caller puts good zip on the ball for a player of his frame, and showed some great flashes as a freshman last fall.
-BRENDAN C. HALL

NO. 21 TEWKSBURY
Coach: Brian Alyward (17th year, 102-82-1)
2013: 13-0, Division 3 State Champions
Returning Starters: Six (2 offense, 4 defense)
Key Returnees: James Sullivan, Sr. RB/SS, 5-11’ 215 lbs; Tom Casey, Sr. FB/MLB, 5-9 190 lbs; Ryan Bednarek, Sr. S, 5-9 160 lbs; Ethan Eloi Sr. DT/NG, 5-9 226 lbs.; Alex Schelfhaudt, Sr. T/DE, 6-0 195 lbs; Brendan O’Connor Sr. WR/CB 5-7 145 lbs; Mitchell Miskell, Sr. K, 5-10 160 lbs; Jimmy Hurtle, Sr. RB/CB 5-9 167 lbs; Jimmy Doran, Sr. OG/DT, 5-11, 215 lbs; Ryan Carey, Sr. RB/DB, 5-6 143 lbs.
Strengths: Physicality, running game.
Weaknesses: Inexperience at offensive line.
Outlook: Tewksbury will never be confused for its Merrimack Valley Conference neighbors that run spread offenses and like to throw the ball all over the field. The hallmark of Tewksbury has been its continuous physicality. Its run to last year’s Division 3 state championship was predicated on (no pun intended) its ability to run the ball and outmuscle teams on both sides of the ball. While it lost some linemen to graduation, impact players like Eloi and Casey return to anchor the middle of the defense. Sullivan will play behind them at strong safety, flanked by other skilled defenders. Offensively, the team will continue its multiple-running back approach that brought it so much success last season. “We feel pretty confident in all our backs,” said Alyward. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can contribute. We’re not going to have a need for a one-man show, nor do I think that would be effective. We’re going to try to stay as multiple as we can and try to use the same format as we do every year.” The starting offensive linemen on last year’s Super Bowl-winning team were lost to graduation, leaving spots open for players to try and create running lanes for Sullivan and others. Last year’s line continuity helped the team steamroll through D3 and allowed Sullivan to score over 20 touchdowns. “We have about 10 kids that are vying of those spots that have been good kids in our program,” said Alyward. “We’ll work with them and learn more about what we can do and what we can’t with them.” John Aylward, the quarterback of that undefeated team, also graduated, so the Redmen will have someone new under center to go along with that new offensive line. Juniors Brett Morris and Steve Hamel are in the running to take over for Aylward, with Morris the early odds-on favorite to win the job. On top of all that, as a defending state champion, the team now has a target on its back. It has not lost a game since November 2012, so it will get its opponent’s best game every week as they try to dethrone the champion. How the team reacts and responds to that pressure will determine whether the Redmen can duplicate last year’s success. “I told the kids at the start of our first practice, ‘Hey guys, you had such a special experience last year and a state championship under your belt and that’s money in the bank that no one can ever take away from you,’’ said the coach. “But now you just have to put it aside and understand that doesn’t buy us anything but a little more attention than in years before. So now we’ve gotta get ready to fight.”
-ANDY SMITH
AUBURN, Mass. –- Everybody in Auburn has their own favorite Mark Wright run.

“You ever seen his YouTube highlights? Ohh, the spin move,” exclaims linebacker Nick Thomas, his voice growing more animated as he takes us through a developing play from midfield.

Fullback Josh Furmanick is quick to cut him off: “No, the Northbridge game.”

“The one where he fakes out three guys?” Thomas asks, getting giddy again. “That was something out of NCAA Football [video game].”

On the heels of a delightful revelation last fall, everybody these days is quick to sing the praises of Wright, the latest in a long line of decorated Rockets running backs to put up video game numbers in a patented smash mouth running scheme that has captivated Southern Worcester County since the turn of the Millennium.

After a dominant stretch from 2008-12, going 63-2 with five Super Bowl titles and an historic 41-game win streak, the Rockets hit a funk last fall. Returning just one starter, they were a green bunch, finishing 8-3 but taking an early exit in the MIAA Division 5 Central tournament. It was a grand coming out party for Wright, however, leading the Central Mass. district in carries (258), rushing yards (2,111) and rushing touchdowns (25), juking and jiving his 5-foot-8, 180-pound frame through many an arm tackle.

Boston College, UMass, New Hampshire and Wagner are among the most notable colleges that have taken interest in Wright over the offseason. He's timed as fast as 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and last week reportedly ran a hand-timed 4.0-second shuttle at a camp on the turf at Auburn High.

While not blessed with burners, Wright demonstrates a patient ability to follow his burly blockers through the hole, then carve through traffic in a manner that sets up second-level blocks to squeeze out additional yardage. As the shuttle time might imply, his agility -- and the change of pace with which he wields it -- is probably his best asset.

His two favorite moves are a quick one-step cut and a spin move, sometimes combining both. Unlike some runners, Wright likes to spin through his defenders, rather than around, as shown in these three clips below from last year's playoff loss to Bartlett:

(The third clip, by the way, is Wright's personal favorite from last season)



Even the soft-spoken Wright himself struggles to describe how he developed such live hips.

"I don't even know, just years after years of watching great players," he laughed.

"It comes to a point where, you can only run so many drills, it comes down to genetics. I think Mark is just a gifted athlete. But then, it's also what he does after the gifts," Rockets head coach Jeff Cormier said. "There's a lot of players that are gifted athletically. It's the special ones that take that and build on it with work ethic, and Mark has a great work ethic.

"He does a nice job setting his blocks up. I think he reads the holes well. I think if you give Mark a little bit of a window, he can find positive yards for you."

Under Cormier's reign at Auburn, stretching back into the late 1990's, the Rockets have built a storied tradition of running backs. Asked about historical comparisons, Cormier drew back to Jake Guertin, the feature back on the Rockets' 2005 squad that shut out Pittsfield's St. Joseph Central in the Division 2A Central/West Super Bowl.

"Neither one of those guys was excessively fast -- guys like [Bryan] DeSimone, [Tyler] Desjardins, those guys were one step and it was over. Blazing fast," Cormier said. "Mark is not a blazing fast runner, nor was Jake. But they compensate by the ability to set their blocks up, by the ability to change speed in the hole, by the ability to change direction."

But Cormier, famous around these parts for his Belichickian prose, is also quick to remind that all of those Rockets greats turned in great senior seasons, an item left unfinished for Wright. After a strong offseason in the weight room, putting on close to 10 pounds of muscle, Cormier expects Wright to improve on his pass-blocking skills.

That last part is crucial. The one returning starter on last year's team was not Wright, it was two-way lineman Will Greelish. If there was any doubt of his abilities before, Wright certainly isn't sneaking up on anyone anymore. Dare we say, with an unusually deeper stable of receivers to work with, and an intriguing quarterback battle brewing as the Rockets enter training camp, we may see them throw the ball more.

"I don't think it's a big secret, people are going to scheme to stop Mark," Cormier said. "That's going to put a lot of pressure on our offensive line immediately, and that's going to put pressure on us to throw the ball. I think what Mark did last year puts greater emphasis on us developing on the line of scrimmage as well as being more efficient in the passing game."

Mr. Football Watch: Week 7

October, 23, 2013
10/23/13
12:58
AM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch" following Week 7 of the 2013 season. Statistics can be sent to editors Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com) and/or Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com)



THE CONTENDERS*

Troy Flutie, Sr. QB, Natick
Completed 13 of 25 passes for 257 yards and four touchdowns, in a 42-19 win over Milton.

Brandon Gallagher, Jr. RB, Bridgewater-Raynham
Carried 24 times for 100 yards and a touchdown, in the Trojans' 20-14 loss to Barnstable.

Hayden Murphy, Sr. RB/WR, Barnstable
In the Red Raiders' thrilling win over Bridgewater-Raynham, carried 14 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning 43-yard TD run with less than a minute to go.

Neil O’Connor, Sr. QB, Leominster
In the Blue Devils' 40-15 rout of Nashoba, completed 11 of 19 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns, and also had 50 yards rushing with a fourth score.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
Ran for 120 yards and two touchdowns in the Rockets' 33-6 win over Brookline.

Rufus Rushins, Jr. RB, Bishop Fenwick
Carried 19 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns in the Crusaders' 34-6 rout of St. Mary's of Lynn.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. RB, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Completed 6 of 6 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns, and added 91 rushing yards with two more scores, in the Pioneers' 34-9 win over Wachusett.

Cody Williams, Sr. QB, Springfield Central
Was 5 of 11 passing for 140 yards and two touchdowns, and added a rushing touchdown, in the Golden Eagles' 34-6 win over Putnam.

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 12 of 27 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown in the Hornets' 20-7 win over King Philip.

Isaac Yiadom, Sr. WR/DB, Doherty
Boston College commit caught a touchdown pass and threw for another, in the Highlanders' 28-0 shutout of Worcester North.



FIVE ON THE RISE

Emmanuel Almonte, Jr. QB/DB, Boston English
Totaled 254 yards of offense (190 rushing, 64 passing) and three touchdowns in the Blue & Blue's 24-6 win over West Roxbury. Through six games he is one of the state's leading rushers (1,025 yards, 8 TD, 9.5 yards per carry), in directing a read-option attack; he's also the team's leader in tackles (43).

Shaquille Anderson, Sr. RB, Cambridge
Led the way for the Falcons with 219 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries in their 34-20 win over Medford.

Dan Henrickson, Sr. WR, St. Peter-Marian
Totaled 123 receiving yards and a touchdown in the Guardians' 14-13 loss to Shepherd Hill.

Chris Lindstrom, Jr. OL/DL, Shepherd Hill
Leading a double-wing rushing attack that has accounted for 1,661 yards, 21 touchdowns and 7.2 yards per carry through six games, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound interior guard has been a road grader so far for the Rams.

Jack Sylvester, Sr. RB, Andover
Carried 14 times for 198 yards and two touchdowns, and also hauled in a 15-yard TD catch, in the Golden Warriors' 49-32 win over Rhode Island power La Salle Academy. In the last weeks, he's gained 402 yards with five touchdowns; on the season, he's averaging 8.3 yards per carry.



TOP STATISTICAL LEADERS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Rushing
Chris Ahl, Sr., Millis/Hopedale – 1,098 yards, 14 TD
Mark Wright, Sr., Auburn – 1,084 yards, 12 TD
Emmanuel Almonte, Jr., Boston English – 1,025 yards, 8 TD
Zered McCoy, Sr., Ware – 963 yards, 7 TD
Rufus Rushins, Jr., Bishop Fenwick – 957 yards, 15 TD

Receiving
Zach Elkinson, Jr., Holliston – 662 yards, 10 TD
Nick Thyden, Sr., Quabbin – 643 yards, 9 TD
Jake Bradway, Sr., Belchertown – 638 yards, 7 TD
Dan Henrickson, Sr., St. Peter-Marian – 559 yards, 7 TD
Isaac Yiadom, Sr., Doherty – 534 yards, 3 TD

Passing
Dylan Kierman, Sr., Quabbin – 2,070 yards, 21 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 1,617 yards, 26 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 1,543 yards, 18 TD
John Rumney, Sr., Marlborough – 1,499 yards, 19 TD
Andrew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – 1,320 yards, 15 TD



*Does not include players who had a bye week


Mr. Football Watch: Week 6

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
10:54
PM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch" following Week 6 of the 2013 season. Statistics can be sent to editors Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com) and/or Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com)

THE CONTENDERS

Troy Flutie, Sr. QB, Natick
Completed 15 of 22 passes for 325 yards and five touchdowns, with no interceptions, in the Redhawks’ 42-10 win over Dedham.

Brandon Gallagher, Jr. RB, Bridgewater-Raynham
Ran for 232 yards and a score, and added a 70-yard touchdown reception, in a 27-7 win over Dartmouth.

Hayden Murphy, Sr. RB/WR, Barnstable
In the Red Raiders' 29-20 comeback win over Marshfield, carried 12 times for 116 yards and a touchdown, and caught two passes for 74 yards and another score.

Neil O’Connor, Sr. QB, Leominster
Accounted for a season-high 359 yards of offense (287 passing, 72 rushing) and two scores in the Blue Devils' 47-26 win over Doherty.

Dylan Oxsen, Sr. RB, Plymouth South
In the Panthers' 27-7 win over Nauset, carried a personal record 37 times for 243 yards and four touchdowns.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
Carried 18 times for 132 yards and a score in the Rockets' 21-0 shutout of Braintree.

Rufus Rushins, Jr. RB, Bishop Fenwick
Ran for 80 yards and a score in the Crusaders' 48-18 rout of Austin Prep.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. RB, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Completed 19 of 33 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns in the Pioneers' upset loss to cross-town rival Shrewsbury.

Cody Williams, Sr. QB, Springfield Central
Completed 12 of 17 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns in the Golden Eagles’ 40-12 rout of Minnechaug.

Ju’an Williams, Sr. WR, Springfield Central
Caught five passes for 69 yards in the Eagles’ win over Minnechaug.

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 13 of 15 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns in the Hornets’ 47-8 rout of Taunton.

FIVE ON THE RISE

Matt Banchs, Sr. FB/LB, Leominster
In the Blue Devils' win over Doherty, recorded 22 tackles and two sacks, and also added 40 yards rushing with a score on offense. Banchs is slowly rising as one of the top defensive players in Central Mass.

Christian Carr, Jr. RB, Plymouth North
In the Eagles' 33-6 win over Falmouth, carried 35 times for 254 yards and four touchdowns, giving him over 700 yards rushing on the season.

Mike Maggipinto, Soph. RB, East Longmeadow
Carried 20 times for 259 yards and five touchdowns in the Spartans’ 40-34 win over Springfield Putnam. He currently leads all Western Mass. running backs in rushing touchdowns (13).

James Sullivan, Jr. RB/DB, Tewksbury
Collected three of the Redmen’s four interceptions, while adding 75 yards on nine carries with a touchdown on offense vs. Methuen.

Miguel Villar-Perez, Jr. RB, Mansfield
Caught three passes for 95 yards and a touchdown in the Hornets’ 47-8 win over Taunton. Through five games he has 575 yards of offense as a pass-catching running back, with eight touchdowns.

TOP STATISTICAL LEADERS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Rushing
Mark Wright, Sr., Auburn – 950 yards, 11 TD
Brooks Tyrrell, Jr., Marblehead – 931 yards, 9 total TD
Chris Ahl, Sr., Millis/Hopedale – 895 yards, 11 TD
Dylan Oxsen, Sr., Plymouth South – 852 yards, 14 total TD
Zered McCoy, Sr., Ware – 843 yards, 5 TD

Passing
Dylan Kierman, Sr., Quabbin – 1,680 yards, 17 TD
John Rumney, Sr., Marlborough – 1,372 yards, 17 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 1,360 yards, 22 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 1,298 yards, 13 TD
Ryan Barabe, Jr., Pope John Paul II – 1,255 yards, 14 TD

Receiving
Zach Elkinson, Jr., Holliston – 513 yards, 14 total TD
Jake Bradway, Jr., Belchertown – 489 yards, 7 TD
Brian Daly, Jr., Marblehead – 487 yards, 10 TD
T.J. Hairston, Jr., Watertown – 472 yards, 5 TD
Jack Galvin, Sr., Lowell – 438 yards, 8 TD

Mr. Football Watch: Week 5

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
5:45
PM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch" following Week 5 of the 2013 season. Statistics can be sent to editors Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com) and/or Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com)

THE CONTENDERS*

Troy Flutie, Sr. QB, Natick
Boston College commit completed 14 of 27 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns, and added 47 yards on the ground, in a 28-0 shutout of Norwood.

Brendan Hill, Jr. TE, Mansfield
Caught four passes for 76 yards and a score in the Hornets’ 49-42 win over Attleboro.

Hayden Murphy, Sr. ATH, Barnstable
Ran for 115 yards and three touchdowns in the Red Raiders’ 35-14 win over New Bedford.

Neil O’Connor, Sr. QB/S, Leominster
In just one half of football in the Blue Devils’ 34-0 shutout of Wachusett, accounted for 201 yards of offense and capped things off with a nifty 90-yard interception return to the house.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
Ran for 135 yards and three touchdowns in the Rockets’ 34-12 win over Framingham.

Rufus Rushins, Jr. RB, Bishop Fenwick
Carried 24 times for 233 yards and four touchdowns in the Crusaders’ commanding 42-20 rout of Cardinal Spellman.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. QB, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
In the Pioneers’ 49-21 win over Nashoba, completed 23 of 29 passes for 335 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, and added 67 rushing yards.

Cody Williams, Sr., Springfield Central
Monmouth commit completed 13 of 18 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns, and added 118 yards and a third score on the ground, in the Golden Eagles’ 19-7 win over Longmeadow.

Ju’an Williams, Sr., Springfield Central
Caught five passes for 96 yards and a touchdown in the Golden Eagles’ 19-7 win over Longmeadow

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 19 of 28 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns in the Hornets’ 49-42 thriller over Attleboro.

Isaac Yiadom, Sr. WR/DB, Doherty
Recorded a touchdown catch, his second of the year, in the Highlanders’ 40-12 rout of Worcester South. Through four games he is averaging 30.9 yards per catch, and has recorded 37 tackles on defense.


FIVE ON THE RISE

Bo Berluti, Sr. QB, Westwood
Accounted for 255 yards of offense and three total touchdowns in the Wolverines’ 43-41 double-overtime epic over archrival Holliston. But it will be his gutsy 25-yard, fourth and goal TD pass in the second overtime that will go down in folklore.

Derrell Fernandez, Sr. RB, Weymouth
Carried 225 times for 264 yards and five touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 42-18 win over Brookline.

Mike McGillicuddy, Sr. WR, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
The elusive slot receiver caught nine passes for 113 yards in the Pioneers’ 49-21 win over Nashoba.

Tom Rodrick, Sr. LB, Leicester
The UConn commit recorded 12 tackles, a sack, and blocked field goal in the Wolverines’ 15-6 win over Auburn.

Alex Valles, Sr. RB, Danvers
Carried 24 times for 211 yards and three scores in the Falcons’ 20-12 win over Revere.


TOP STATISTICAL LEADERS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Rushing
Brooks Tyrrell, Jr., Marblehead – 889 yards, 9 total TD
Johnathan Thomas, Sr., St. John’s Prep – 748 yards, 8 total TD
Mark Wright, Sr., Auburn – 760 yards, 8 TD
Olan Abner, Sr., Bedford – 733 yards, 7 TD
Christian Perez, Sr., Northeast – 725 yards, 8 total TD

Passing
Dylan Kierman, Sr., Quabbin – 1,230 yards, 19 TD
John Rumney, Sr., Marlborough – 1,086 yards, 14 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 1,072 yards, 11 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 1,035 yards, 17 TD
Andrew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – 955 yards, 11 TD

Receiving
Zach Elkinson, Jr., Holliston – 405 yards, 7 TD
Brian Daly, Sr., Marblehead – 395 yards, 8 TD
Dan Henrickson, Sr., St. Peter-Marian – 380 yards, 5 TD
Isaac Yiadom, Sr., Doherty – 371 yards, 2 TD
Mike Bombard, Sr., Chicopee Comp – 369 yards, 3 TD

Dual Threat
Dylan Kierman, Sr., Quabbin – 1,230 passing yards, 284 rushing yards, 21 total TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 1,035 passing yards, 316 rushing yards, 18 total TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 1,072 passing yards, 167 rushing yards, 14 total TD
Andrew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) 955 passing yards, 169 rushing yards, 16 total TD
Cody Williams, Sr., Springfield Central – 851 passing yards, 254 rushing yards, 13 total TD



*Not including teams who were idle last weekend.

Mr. Football Watch: Week 4

October, 1, 2013
10/01/13
5:03
PM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch" following Week 4 of the 2013 season. Statistics can be sent to editors Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com) and/or Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com)

THE CONTENDERS*

Troy Flutie, Sr. QB, Natick
Did it all in the Redhawks’ 35-14 win over Wellesley, completing 20 of 30 passes for 236 yards and five touchdowns, and adding 170 rushing yards.

Brandon Gallagher, Jr. RB, Bridgewater-Raynham
Carried 20 times for 232 yards and three touchdowns in the Trojans’ 32-0 shutout of New Bedford.

Jack Galvin, Sr. WR, Lowell
Caught four passes for 39 yards and a score in the Red Raiders’ 32-6 win over Billerica.

Brendan Hill, Jr. TE/DE, Mansfield
Caught four passes for 31 yards in the Hornets’ 35-14 win over North Attleborough, but where he did most of his damage was on the defensive side, setting the edge and containing.

Neil O’Connor, Sr. QB, Leominster
Threw for 188 yards and three touchdowns, and added 40 rushing yards, in the Blue Devils’ 41-14 win over Shepherd Hill.

Dylan Oxsen, Sr. RB, Plymouth South
Ran for 191 yards and a touchdown, and added a 90-yard interception return – his second pick-six and three games – in the Panthers’ 21-14 win over cross-town rival Plymouth North.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
Carried 12 times for 147 yards and two scores in the Rockets’ 41-12 rout of Newton North.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. QB, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Completed 12 of 21 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns in the Pioneers’ wild 20-15 thriller over rival Fitchburg.

Johnathan Thomas, Sr. RB, St. John’s Prep
Carried 19 times for 96 yards in the Eagles’ loss to Everett. But even worse, he is reportedly undergoing season-ending knee surgery later this week after getting hurt in the second half of the game.

Cody Williams, Sr. QB, Springfield Central
In another easy rout, this one a 49-0 drubbing of Holyoke, Williams completed 9 of 12 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns.

Ju’an Williams, Sr. WR, Springfield Central
Caught two passes for 42 yards and score in the Golden Eagles’ 49-0 blanking of Holyoke.

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 11 of 16 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns in the Hornets’ 35-14 win over North Attleborough.

FIVE ON THE RISE

Ryan Barabe, Jr. QB, Pope John Paul II
In the Lions’ 26-22 loss to Boston Cathedral, completed 18 of 25 passes for 279 yards and three scores and an interception. On the season, he is completing 68 percent of his passes for 776 yards and eight scores, which is among the state’s best.

Derek Estes, Sr. CB, Barnstable
Came up with two interceptions in the Red Raiders’ upset of then-No. 1 Xaverian last Friday, helping seal a 15-14 win at the end. He leads the Raiders with three interceptions through three games.

Ian Kessel, Soph. RB, Haverhill
Slowly establishing himself as one of the premier pass-catching tailbacks in Eastern Mass. Through four games he has 245 receiving yards and three touchdowns to go along with 331 rushing yards and five more scores.

Dylan Kierman, Sr. QB, Quabbin
Currently leads all passers in Central Mass. with 774 yards and nine touchdowns.

Brooks Tyrrell, Jr. RB, Marblehead
The Notre Dame lacrosse commit continues his torrid tear through the first half of the season, the latest a 27-carry, 181-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 35-7 win over rival Swampscott.

TOP STATISTICAL LEADERS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Rushing
Johnathan Thomas, Sr., St. John’s Prep – 748 yards, 8 total TD
Mark Wright, Sr., Auburn – 728 yards, 8 TD
Isaiah White, Sr., Beverly - 682 yards, 6 total TD
Brooks Tyrell, Jr., Marblehead – 634 yards, 7 total TD
Dylan Oxsen, Sr., Plymouth South – 609 yards, 10 total TD

Passing
Jordan Bolarinho, Sr., Billerica – 955 yards, 7 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 807 yards, 13 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 785 yards, 8 TD
Michael Whitsett, Jr., Chicopee Comp – 781 yards, 4 TD
Ryan Barabe, Jr., Pope John Paul II – 776 yards, 8 TD

Receiving
Cole Bernier, Jr., Old Colony – 339 yards, 3 TD
Mike Bombard, Sr., Chicopee Comp – 335 yards, 3 TD
Brian Daly, Sr., Marblehead – 328 yards, 7 TD
Jack Galvin, Sr., Lowell – 322 yards, 7 TD
Jeff Trainor, Soph., Billerica – 317 yards, 3 TD

Dual Threat**
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 807 passing yards, 269 rushing yards, 14 total TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 785 passing yards, 156 rushing yards, 10 total TD
Cody Williams, Sr., Springfield Central – 647 passing yards, 169 rushing yards, 10 total TD
Jermal Brevard Jackson, Jr., Boston Cathedral – 262 passing yards, 514 rushing yards, 6 total TD
Neil O’Connor, Sr., Leominster – 542 passing yards, 193 rushing yards, 12 total TD



*Not including teams who were idle last weekend.
**To qualify, quarterbacks must have rushing yards account for at least 15 percent of their total offensive production.


Mr. Football Watch: Week 3

September, 24, 2013
9/24/13
2:35
PM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch" following Week 3 of the 2013 season. Statistics can be sent to editors Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com) and/or Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com)

THE CONTENDERS*

Troy Flutie, Sr. QB, Natick
The Boston College commit completed 14 of 21 passes for 282 yards and five scores, and added 32 yards on the ground, in a 41-6 win over Acton-Boxborough.

Jack Galvin, Sr. WR, Lowell
Caught two passes for 90 yards and two scores in the Red Raiders’ 33-20 loss to Leominster.

Neil O’Connor, Sr. QB, Leominster
In the Blue Devils’ 33-20 defeat of Lowell, threw for 156 yards and three touchdowns, and added 66 yards and a score on the ground.

Dylan Oxsen, Sr. RB, Plymouth South
Carried 18 times for 256 yards and three touchdowns in the Panthers’ 21-7 win over Sandwich. In the first two games, he has 418 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
The UMass lacrosse commit ran for 195 yards and two touchdowns in the Rockets’ 26-6 win over Walpole.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. QB, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
In the Pioneers’ 42-24 win over Catholic Memorial, the Navy lacrosse commit completed 20 of 25 passes for 239 yards and four touchdowns, and added 47 rushing yards with a fifth score.

Johnathan Thomas, Sr. RB, St. John’s Prep
The Maryland commit carried 27 times for 228 yards and two scores, and added a spectacular 107-yard pick-six that made SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays, in a 40-21 win over Central Catholic.

Cody Williams, Sr. QB, Springfield Central
In the Golden Eagles’ 49-0 rout of East Longmeadow, the Monmouth commit completed 8 of 9 passes for 148 yards and three scores, and added 37 yards and a score on seven carries on the ground.

Ju’an Williams, Sr. WR/DB, Springfield Central
Was a factor in all three phases of the game in the Golden Eagles’ 49-0 blanking of East Longmeadow. He caught three passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns, recorded four tackles and a 92-yard interception return for a third score, and was a perfect 7-for-7 on extra point field goals.

Isaac Yiadom, Sr. WR/DB, Doherty
The Boston College commit caught four passes for 92 yards and a score, and recorded 13 tackles defensively, in the Highlanders’ 19-12 win over Holy Name.

FIVE ON THE RISE*

Zach Elkinson, Jr. ATH, Holliston
Registered 232 yards and three scores in three different methods – rushing, receiving and punt return – in the Panthers’ 43-7 win over Milford. Through three games, he has 514 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns by four different methods.

A.J. King, Sr. WR, Xaverian
Blew the doors open for the Hawks in their battle with Bridgewater-Raynham, catching four balls for 129 yards and two scores in the first half en route to a 49-13 rout.

Jimmy Sullivan, Sr. QB/S, Nauset
In the Warriors’ 34-8 win over Falmouth, carried 10 times for 167 yards and two scores, and added 38 passing yards and a third score, as well as four tackles on defense. Through two games, he has 419 all-purpose yards, five touchdowns, 13 tackles and an interception.

Olan Abner, Sr. RB, Bedford
Carried 38 times for 262 yards and two touchdowns in the Buccaneers’ 34-13 win over Belmont. Through two games, he has 398 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Ricardo Edwards, Sr. RB, Brighton
Had a record six touchdowns in the Bengals’ 44-22 win over East Boston. He ran for 233 yards and five scores, and returned an interception for a sixth.

TOP STATISTICAL LEADERS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Rushing
Johnathan Thomas, Sr., St. John’s Prep – 652 yards, 8 total TD
Christian Perez, Sr., Northeast – 574 yards, 5 TD
Mark Wright, Sr., Auburn – 558 yards, 6 TD
Isaiah White, Sr., Beverly – 558 yards, 5 TD
Brooks Tyrell, Jr., Marblehead – 453 yards, 6 total TD

Passing
Jordan Bolarinho, Sr., Billerica – 872 yards, 7 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 604 yards, 5 TD
Brendan Smith, Soph., Seekonk – 575 yards, 6 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 571 yards, 8 TD
Ryan Barabe, Jr., Pope John Paul II – 497 yards, 5 TD

Receiving
Kevin Casey, Jr., Billerica – 309 yards, 2 TD
Jack Galvin, Sr., Lowell – 283 yards, 6 TD
Jeff Trainor, Soph., Billerica – 254 yards, 3 TD
Zach Elkinson, Jr., Holliston – 252 yards, 7 total TD
Isaac Yiadom, Sr., Doherty – 244 yards, TD

Dual Threat QB*
Cameron McMillian, Sr., Cambridge – 397 passing yards, 437 rushing yards, 10 total TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 604 passing yards, 118 rushing yards, 7 total TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 571 passing yards, 99 rushing yards, 9 total TD
Tyler Bassett, Sr., Dracut – 355 passing yards, 312 rushing yards, 4 total TD
Kyle Dance, Sr., Latin Academy – 373 passing yards, 237 rushing yards, 10 total TD
*Not including teams who were idle last weekend.
**To qualify, quarterbacks must have rushing yards account for at least 15 percent of their total offensive production.

Scrimmage Slants: Leominster vs. Auburn

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
10:59
AM ET
LEOMINSTER, Mass. -- Yesterday afternoon at Doyle Field, No. 7 Leominster hosted No. 17 Auburn in a preseason scrimmage. Both varsity's scored once, with Leominster connecting on a touchdown pass while the visiting Rockets ran back an interception.

Some notes and observations from yesterday's scrimmage:

O'Connor takes the reigns: For now it looks like Leominster's jack-of-all-trades Neil O'Connor -- a Preseason ESPN Boston All-State selection, as an offensive athlete -- will stick at quarterback, moving over from wide receiver a year ago. This move has been rumored for some time; Blue Devils head coach Dave Palazzi had even hinted at it at the end of last season, after they won their second straight MIAA Division 1 Central Super Bowl behind quarterback Garrett DelleChiaie.

"He's been in the huddle for two years and he's been listening to the plays," Palazzi said. "He kinda knew to watch Garrett last year and learn the plays, so it's not like I'm teaching him new plays. He just doing them from a different position. I was confident and comfortable with what I saw."

The early returns have been positive so far. O'Connor aced the Blue Devils' pitching staff last spring, when they reached the D1 Central Final before losing to state runner-up Nashoba, and that throwing ability has translated well. He hooked up with another Preseason ESPN Boston All-State selection, athlete Jarell Addo, for a 40-yard touchdown pass in the first series. He also makes plays on the run, throwing balls into tight pockets and exploiting zone holes down the sidelines.

O'Connor also adds an element of elusiveness out of the backfield, his running ability making him a classic dual-threat quarterback that isn't afraid to take off downfield when given a running lane. On one play in the second series, he had everybody fooled on a play action fake, cradling the ball under his armpit with his back turned as he sold the handoff fake.

Defensively, O'Connor set the tone from the safety position. The secondary operates in a "red light, green light" sort of function that allows O'Connor and Addo to play aggressively and fly upfield, which gives way to hits like the one O'Connor made late in the scrimmage. Reading a high, wobbly pass to the left flat, O'Connor lowered his shoulder textbook-style and crashed into his midsection, flattening the receiver cold before he could get a good grip on the ball.

Multi-pronged mismatch: To put it bluntly, Addo is going to line up everywhere on both sides of the ball this season, what with his gifted athleticism (42-inch vertical leap) and his unrelenting downhill pursuit in run support.

Yesterday, the UMass-bound athlete made two of the Blue Devils' most highlight reel-worthy plays. On the Devils' touchdown in the first series, they came out in a two-by-two formation and Palazzi dialed up a post-wheel route combination on the left side, with Addo running the wheel out of the slot. O'Connor found Addo in a zone hole roughly 20 yards down the left sideline, and the 6-foot-2 specimen effortlessly shook an arm tackle to march the final 15 yards untouched.

In one of the final varsity series, Addo lined up as a tight end in a three-point stance, came off the line and released to the right flat after feigning a reach block; after hauling in the catch near the sideline, Addo slipped out of an arm tackle at his hips and made two more cuts for a 15-yard gain.

"Jarell is just a great blocker, he's got good hands, he jumps, he's tall, so he's gonna help us out in the pass game with some of those things obviously, run after the catch-type things," Palazzi said.

The Rockets primarily operate out of the I-Formation with "22" personnel (two running backs, two tight ends), which for a 3-4 front like Leominster can lead to mismatches at the point of attack. To counter, the Devils toyed with Addo at defensive end for several plays, and Palazzi said he's not against using the strategy in the future.

"They run power stuff, so we're outnumbered up front, so we've got to do some different things on the line for that particular defense," Palazzi said. "If teams run that, we may do that, or O'Connor may be up there. We do so many different things on defense, but it's really just looking at what teams do to us. We have a three-man front, so if they start running Power I, you do the math. We do a lot of support with our safeties on the run in the 3-4, so if we need to bring a safety down before they snap the ball, we might do that."

New blood, same big bodies: After Everett, Auburn could lay claim to the state's best offensive line that year, a unit that averaged 280 pounds across and was led by ESPN Boston All-State selection Aaron Dyke (now playing at Southern Connecticut State). The Rockets lost four starters and a ton of size from that unit, one of its best in school history, but the one holdover -- 6-foot-4, 300-pound Preseason ESPN Boston All-State selection Will Greelish -- was joined by some bodies that are sizeable.

Defensively, the Rockets deployed 3-5-3 and 3-3-5 Stack looks, and newbies like Domenic Pappas and Dylan Russo held their own. One of the more impressive of the bunch might have been Steve Sisko, who made a few explosive rushes up the interior gaps to draw holding penalties from the Devils line.

From the back, safety Matt Morrissey made the play of the day for Auburn's defense, picking off a pass deep downfield and breaking free down the right sideline, for a 70-yard interception return touchdown.

The Wright Stuff: It's unclear who will be Auburn's feature back this season, but Mark Wright had a solid outing yesterday. His first two carries of the day, a sweep then a zone play up the left side, totaled 45 yards. He also excelled running a lead draw play up the middle, for some good yardage.

Two years ago the Rockets featured one of Central Mass.'s most elusive athletes out of the backfield, Fred Taylor, gifted with loose hips and quick acceleration. And while nobody is going to start throwing around such comparisons yet, Wright is of the same type of skill, a finesse back that can squeeze extra yards out of his carries with some nimble cutbacks.

Rockets coach Jeff Cormier, known for his affinity against the hyperbole machine, was typically subdued when asked about Wright's role.

"Whoever's gaining yards is going to get the ball," Cormier said. "If that's going, he [Wright] is going to get it."

Keep it simple: The Devils offense showed a variety of looks -- some I, some two-by-two, and some pistol looks with two running backs -- but overall the gameplan was pretty vanilla yesterday. They only threw one screen, a tunnel off the backside of a zone read play, and have not installed the full passing game for the most part.

"It's early here, those types of things we haven't run yet, I wanted to get our run game set [today] and what we're doing up front," Palazzi said. "We'll start getting crazy, as I call it, as we move on to the next week, to kind of have everything in. It's tough."

There were some positives out of the run game, the biggest highlight a 40-yard counter trey by Eddie Rivera in the third series. With Rivera, Mayson Williams and James Gurley sharing the carries, Palazzi has high hopes for the running game.

"We've got three good backs that we've got confident with different sets of skills," Palazzi said. "We're comfortable with who we have back there at running back."

Young gun: Keep an eye on 5-foot-8 freshman quarterback Steve Saucier, who demonstrates advanced throwing ability for a player his age. The Rockets are typically run-heavy, but when called upon, he could add another threat.

"Our QB threw the ball real well the other day, I thought he had a couple good balls today that got dropped on him, so we'll get some guys that can catch him," Cormier said. "We'll throw the ball. He's a freshman, he gets the ball downfield, he rolls through both sides pretty well. We think we're going to be able to throw the ball.

"We're optimistic with him, [but] we've got a couple good guys behind him, so we need to figure out where we're at hopefully we're better tomorrow."

Massive turnover underway at No. 17 Auburn

August, 23, 2013
8/23/13
10:32
PM ET


Jeff Cormier has built a legitimate power program at Auburn, but faces the largest rebuilding job of his storied career this season.

Well, to say rebuilding isn't really fair, because the Rockets have simply reloaded over the last half-decade. Five consecutive Central Mass. Super Bowl titles and a 41-game winning streak that stretch from 2008-2011 are evidence of that, but this year the Rockets are undergoing a facelift unlike any team in the Commonwealth.

Auburn returns star offensive and defensive tackle Will Greelish and...That's it.

Ten other starters on each side of the ball must be found, and Cormier has declared an open competition for all spots. Despite losing nearly the entirety of one of Central Mass' all-time best teams, Cormier insists this year is no different than any other.

"We just want to get better every day in the preseason, like every other team in the state," Cormier said. "There's always new guys coming in and sometimes you have more new guys than not. This year we have some guys that have played, but we need to get them some more varsity experience."

While Cormier knows that Greelish can't do everything, the ESPN Boston Preseason All-State selection is not a bad place to start when building a team. With preseason hype coming into the season, and a seeming need to elevate the play of his teammates, the 6-foot-4, 325-pound Greelish still insists he is going to play within himself.

"I’m just going to play my game," Greelish said. "(Recognition) is nice but it isn’t going to change the way I play. It’s going to be fun."

Among those needing to be replaced are ESPN Boston All-State offensive lineman Aaron Dyke and star running back Tyler Desjardins, Central Mass' third leading rusher from a year ago. The offensive line again looks capable, with Greelish holding down the right tackle spot and a plethora of newcomers filling in, while the backfield is still up in the air. Running back Mark Wright didn't get a ton of touches last season, but when he did he was effective, averaging 8.3 yards per carry.

Still, Cormier says nothing is set in stone, and whoever has the hot hand on game day will carry the majority of the rushing load. The picture is even murkier at quarterback, where senior Mike Thomas returns to compete with lefty freshman Steven Saucier. Those two got all the reps during Auburn's first full-pads practice on Thursday, with Saucier getting a few more snaps with the first team. Both looked poised and solid on roll-out passes, but Cormier insists that senior Adam Gustafson and sophomore Connor Scully will also get a chance to win the job.

As for defense, look for Greelish to be featured prominently on that line as well. The Rockets plan to feature a "heavy" package that will consist of five defensive linemen -- with Greelish in the center playing nose -- and three linebackers. While Auburn does lose some size and experience from last season, it may be hard to notice for opposing teams as they run into that wall in short yardage situations.


AUBURN AT A GLANCE
Coach: Jeff Cormier (15th year, 128-40 overall)
Last Season: 13-0, Won Div. 3 Central Super Bowl.
Returning Starters: 1 (Will Greelish started on both sides)
Key Returnees: Will Greelish, Sr. OT/DT, Mark Wright, Jr. RB/DB, Khan Bakhtyr Sheirn, Sr. LB, Andrew Markvenas, Sr. FB/LB.
Strengths: Toughness, a culture of winning and talent on both lines.
Weaknesses: Extreme inexperience and depth (so far)
Overview: If this were any other program in Central Mass, a down year would be expected, but this is Auburn. The Rockets will again be the CMass favorites in their division, and the disciplined approach Cormier instills in his group has worked so well over the years, that a complete reload is almost expected at this point. That's not to say the Rockets don't have talent. Running back Mark Wright has all the makings of a break out star this season, and both lines will be built around one of the best players in the state. The major concern for Auburn will be depth. We know Cormier will turn some young guys into players, but can he create enough depth to survive a season that Auburn hopes will include multiple playoff games?

No. 18 Auburn turns to its hefty line again

August, 23, 2012
8/23/12
6:04
PM ET
Auburn playersBrendan Hall Led by junior Will Greelish (second from left) and senior Aaron Dyke (third from left), No. 18 Auburn will once again boast one of the state's heaviest lines at nearly 280 pounds across.


AUBURN -– As a unit, they were among the state's most efficient, paving the way to more than 4,200 rushing yards, and among the biggest, averaging nearly 260 pounds across. Paired with a blend of power and finesse between four change-of-pace backs, it was a lethal combination that led to an unprecedented fourth straight Super Bowl championship for the Auburn Rockets.

All five starting offensive linemen return, now averaging nearly 280 pounds across, and the unit is comprised primarily of seniors with two or three years of varsity experience. And yet, true to the Belichickian mantra professed by head coach Jeff Cormier, it's as if they're right back at square one.

"We've got a ways to go," says senior Aaron Dyke, arguably the best of the bunch, and a preseason ESPN Boston All-State selection. "The whole team's got a long way to go. But we take it day by day."

If you've been to one Auburn practice in August, you've been to them all. Humility and brevity are the operative themes, and you can't argue with the method's success given the program's track record under Cormier. The only difference in 2012 is the absence of questions about their win streak, which was snapped at 41 last year to rival Shepherd Hill.

"Once we lost, we blew out every team," Dyke said. "But I know every team's coming back with more studs than they had last year. We bring back 27, but I know Holliston, Shrewsbury, Northbridge, they bring back everybody."

Says senior tackle Steve Domenick, "It's not really about going undefeated, it's about taking it one game at a time. We never focused on the whole streak thing, we just wanted to go out there every game and play some good football."

The Rockets graduated one of the state's most dynamic rushing tandems in the fleet-footed speedster Fred Taylor, now playing defensive back at Dean College, and Dan Flink, an ESPNBoston All-State selection now suiting up for Mass. Maritime Academy. Eric Desjardins is the only back returning with experience, and figures to take the lead role, but it should be a competitive training camp with Zach Clifford and Mark Wright.

Ideally, it would be a smooth transition. The Rockets consistently outweighed opponents at the point of attack in 2011, utilizing tight splits and combo blocks to nullify their opponents' top threats in the front seven. They were especially efficient on the right side with Dyke (6-foot-4, 295 pounds) and junior Will Greelish (6-foot-4, 325 pounds). Both have been receiving varied interest from an assortment Division 1 schools across the Northeast, including Boston College, UMass, UConn and Buffalo.

"I expect them to be very physical at the point of attack," Cormier said. "People know we're gonna run the football, which makes it that much more difficult to run the football. Those guys are gonna be under stress. There's going to be some pressure on those guys, with some young guys back there, they're gonna have to hold their blocks a little longer, move people a bit further. We're gonna have to compensate for our lack of experience at the running positions."

Defensively, where the Rockets have used odd fronts in the past, they will likely stay in a four-man front, given their size and depth in the trenches. As an added ripple, one of those key defensive linemen -- end Steve St. Jean -- will take on a new role this year as tight end.

St. Jean is an imposing figure at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, and is gaining interest from the MAC conference for track and field -- last spring, he finished third in New England in the shot put. It's still a work in progress, but if he adapts quickly he could leave Cormier with a favorable amount of options in the passing game for returning starting quarterback Drew Goodrich.

"He's trying to feel that out," Cormier said. "He didn't play tight end a year ago, so it's really square one, just trying to load him up with blocking assignments, kinda settle hiim in. But I think that he's pretty athletic as far as flexibility, and the possibility of options."

AUBURN AT A GLANCE
2011: 12-1, Won Division 3 Central Mass. Super Bowl
Coach: Jeff Cormier (14th season, 115-40)
Key Returnees: Aaron Dyke, Sr. OG/DL, 6-4, 295; Will Greelish, Jr. OT/DL, 6-4, 325 lbs.; Jordan Giampa, Sr. C, 6-2, 285 lbs.; Steve Domenick, Sr. OL/DL, 6-2, 250 lbs.; Matt Ramirez, Sr., OL/DL, 5-10, 240 lbs.; Steve St. Jean, Sr. TE/DE, 6-4, 245 lbs.; Tyler Simmons, Sr. TE/DL, 6-1, 220 lbs.; Avery Sweet, Sr. TE/DL, 6-2, 250 lbs.
Strengths: Size, experience at offensive and defensive lines
Weaknesses: Experience at skill positions
Outlook: The Rockets made headlines last season when their win streak, third-longest active in the nation, was snapped by Shepherd Hill. Then they made headlines again with their imposing line comprised entirely of underclassmen, led by Dyke and Greelish on the right side. As a unit, they are one of the state’s heaviest across, and with the graduation of its top two backs (Dan Flink, Fred Taylor) and wide receiver (Connor Fuller) that unit will be taking on an even bigger role. St. Jean brings a unique skill set to the offense this year, his first as tight end, with his athleticism allowing him to play in space in addition to supporting the run, and that has to be pleasing to Goodrich. If the line continues on last year’s success, when the Rockets ran for over 4,000 yards, then it should be a smooth transition for the new blood in the backfield.

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