Boston High School: Marlborough

Sargent in charge of Nashoba's destiny

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
10:07
PM ET
BOLTON, Mass. -- When Emily Sargent first arrived at Nashoba Regional as a unassuming freshman four years ago, even she had no idea how much her life, and the fortunes of the Chieftains softball program, would be dramatically altered.

In that time, Sargent has emerged as one of the most dominating pitchers statewide while helping turn Nashoba into a regular postseason participant. Going into Friday's game versus Hudson, Nashoba is a perfect 8-0.

The senior right-hander has owned the opposition with incredible ease, having yet to surrender an earned run. Last week, in a victory over Framingham, Sargent notched her 600th career strikeout. The milestone was something Sargent never dreamed of four years ago.

"I just never thought it would ever be that high a number," said Sargent, whose fastball has been clocked at 63 miles per hour. "I thought I would be just another pitcher coming through the Nashoba program. It has been a nice progression. But none of it would have ever happened without the help and support of my teammates and coaches."

Sargent has made considerable progressions inside the pitcher's circle over the years. Having first started playing softball at the age of 12, an instinctive, yet solid workethic has been the key behind her success.

"The jump Emily made, especially between her sophomore and junior seasons, told us that she could be an elite player," Nashoba head coach Steve Kendall said. "She was good as a sophomore (going 9-8) but last year, as a junior, she was nearly unhittable (16-5, 0.84 ERA). Her velocity picked up considerably and she has added a couple of pitches to her repertoire. Her control has improved greatly and she always plays with a high level of confidence."

In last year's Central Mass. Division 1 semifinal, the Chieftains lost in 11 innings to eventual district champion Marlborough. The consensus this year points to Nashoba being a much-stronger program and clearly have the pitcher in place to carry them deep into the playoffs and beyond.

"She gives us an opportunity to win every game and that's all you can ask for," Kendall said.

Kendall also praises the work of senior catcher Ali Lane and her ability to call pitches and set up targets for Sargent on both sides of the plate.

"Ali is a great catcher," he said. "She knows Emily very well and knows how to call a good game. She has always been very good at calling the right pitch at the right time."

If you ever get a chance to take in a Nashoba game, don't expect to see much production from the opposition. In fact, the only sound you are most apt to hear is the loud pop of the ball hitting Lane's mitt following a Sargent delivery.

Presently, Sargent as registered a school-record 627 strikeouts, with that number expected to go much higher with still a second half of the season remaining to be played. Her career ERA is a minuscule 1.20.

Offensively, Sargent is one of the top hitters on the team having gone 15-of-34 at the plate this season with 11 RBI. Over her career, 51 of her total 101 hits have gone for extra bases.

"She is a very strong hitter," said Kendall. "She doesn't strikeout very often and we are very fortunate to have gotten the offensive production we have out of her."

Lane, who has caught Sargent in each of the last three years, continues to marvel in her battery-mate's tenacity as a pitcher.

"Every year I felt there is no way that Emily could get any better," said Lane, who plans to attend Dickinson College and looks to walk on the school's softball team.

"But every year she has come out and has gotten better. She has made me better as a player and I consider myself lucky to be on the same field with her let alone play on the same team with her."

Lane has seen enough of Sargent to know that she could shut down any opponent with her fastball alone. But with so much more in Sargent's arsenal, her curveball, riser and change-up are used to keep hitters off-balance.

"She is all power all day," Lane added. "She has an incredible change up and other pitches but if she wants to go out there and just blow hitters away with her fastball she can and often does. It never gets boring catching her. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing a good job calling a game but then I remember that anyone could call a good game when everything is so dominating from your pitcher like Emily is."

After Nashoba, Sargent is headed to Central Connecticut State University with a scholarship. Earning a scholarship was something else not on her radar four years ago. Yet what has gotten Sargent to this point has been her unique makeup that has lauded her much praise and accolades.

"The combination of a positive attitude and a hard workethic is what makes her special," said Kendall, who is also Nashoba's boys’ hockey coach. "She is the hardest worker on the team. Her workethic goes unmatched for any player I've ever had here whether it be in hockey or softball. She works on her game during the entire off-season and has been doing that since her freshman year.

“Emily is also a complete team player and has no ego. She works with all of our other players, including our JV team, in trying to help them all get better."

The bond between Sargent and Lane is a relationship cast in iron. Good friends both on and off the field, they attribute their softball success to the fact that both always seem to be on the same page.

"I trust Ali so much back there," Sargent said. "She calls all of my pitches and I always agree with everything she says and does."

Adds Lane, "I've been super-spoiled by Emily because all of her pitches go exactly where I am set up. She makes it very easy for me."

The hope now is that the second half of the season will come just easy for Sargent, Lane and the rest of the Chieftains in their quest to bring home a state championship.

D2 Central: St. John's (S) 56, Marlborough 20

November, 9, 2013
11/09/13
6:12
PM ET
SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- St. John's senior quarterback Drew Smiley threw for three touchdowns and added a pair on the ground as the Pioneers (7-2) routed visiting Marlborough (7-2) 56-20 in Saturday’s Division 2 Central semifinal.

The Pioneers started things quickly, forcing the Panthers into a three-and-out on their opening drive, before explosive athlete Davon Jones (4 catches, 92 yards; 5 kick returns, 155 yards, TD) returned a punt 45 yards for the game's first score. The Pioneer defense forced another Panther punt moments later, but this time it would be Smiley (12-of-14 passing, 205 yards, 3 TD; 4 carries, 70 yards 2 TD) scoring for St. John's, keeping it himself for a 58-yard touchdown run on the Pioneers’ first play from scrimmage.

Less than two minutes in, St. John's led 14-0. It was a stark contrast to the first time these teams met.

"We've been talking all week about winning the moment," Pioneers coach John Andreoli said. "We came out last time (against Marlboro) and did not have a good first half, and I think we were relaxed today. We were well prepared, and we had confidence in our reads and in our mechanics. Our kids played to their ability, and it was a complete game for us."

The Panthers answered with a Will Cowdrey one-yard touchdown run, but Smiley responded with an 11-play, 90-yard drive that took up just over two minutes of game time before he found junior running back Shane Combs (15 carries, 100 yards, 2 TD; 2 catches, 3 yards, TD) for a 15-yard passing score.

Smiley would punch in a one-yard score on the next St. John's drive before Pioneer linebacker Patrick Ryan intercepted Panther quarterback John Rumney, setting up another Smiley touchdown pass, this one a 44-yard strike to leading receiver Michael McGillicuddy (2 catches, 50 yards). Three plays later, linebacker Anthony Moroski picked off another Rumney pass, running it back inside the Marlborough 20, and setting up Smiley's final touchdown of the day to senior T.J. Kelly.

St. John's led 42-7 at that point.

"Last time we played Marlborough it was pretty windy, so we couldn't really throw it," Smiley said. "So this time we tried to open it up and throw it around a little bit. Then, (on the zone read) it opened up room for Shane, and when they committed to him I just kept it and had space."

Marlborough scored on the following drive, after senior receiver Matt Thall drew back-to-back pass interference calls, and the Panthers threatened to pull within 21. But, with a first and goal at the Pioneer one-yard line, Rumney was stopped for a four-yard loss by senior defensive end Jeff DeMango, then forced into two incompletions by the stingy Pioneer secondary. The half ended with St. John's leading 42-14.

The second half started with a bang for St. John's, as Combs took the first play from scrimmage for a 55-yard rushing touchdown. Rumney answered with a 23-yard passing touchdown to Jose Caquias, but Combs' 15-yard touchdown to start the fourth quarter pushed the score to 56-20 in favor of St. John's, and brought the Pioneer backups into the game.

"I think our offensive line really set the tone," Combs, a recent Notre Dame baseball commit, said. "From the get-go they were coming off the line and pounding (Marlborough) back, and by the end of the game they didn't want to line up against us. All the credit to the O-line for pushing them back all day."

Next up for St. John's is a highly anticipated rematch of their season opener against rival Leominster. The Blue Devils defeated the Pioneers 33-22 at home the first time around, and the Division 2 Central final will also be played at Leominster's Doyle Field.

Coach Andreoli and his team know it won't be easy. After all, the Pioneers have yet to defeat Leominster with head coach Dave Palazzi at the helm, but St. John's is still relishing the second chance it's getting.

"They're the defending champions, they're undefeated," Andreoli said. "We know it's going to be a challenge, but we're just going to try to line up and win every snap. I think it's a great opportunity for us to have a great week and go up there and play our best game.

"This season was my first indoctrination into the Leominster-St. John's rivalry," Combs, a transfer from St. Louis, said. "The first game I was amazed by the energy of this rivalry. Right now it comes down to preparation, and I know we have a chip on our shoulder, and we're going to out-prepare them."

St. John’s will face Leominster in the D2 Central final Friday at 7 p.m., at Doyle Field.

Recap: No. 21 St. John's (S) 35, Marlborough 20

October, 26, 2013
10/26/13
11:22
PM ET
SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- Marlborough did everything right in the first half. The Panthers dominated time of possession, and outside of a 73-yard Drew Smiley to Mike McGillicuddy touchdown pass, they were in total control against St. John’s (Shrewsbury), holding a 13-point edge.

But, as we know, it takes two halves to win and Marlborough learned that lesson the hard way. The No. 21 Pioneers reversed roles over the final 22 minutes, scoring 28 unanswered points to post a 35-20 victory this afternoon at windy Pioneer Field.

"The first half we were like 'Dawn of the Dead' out there," St. John's coach John Andreoli said. "But in the second half we played our butts off. The kids never quit and we ran the ball with some authority in the second half. Defensively we dug in and gave our offense a chance to go back to work. Marlborough is a good football team but at times we shot ourselves in the foot in that first half by turning the ball over or having penalties on first down. We had to flush the first half and needed to come out and play hard in the second which we did."

What went so well for the previously undefeated Panthers (6-1) in the opening half turned into a house of horrors following intermission. After managing a paltry 106 yards of offense in the first half, St. John's (5-2) started to find its groove offensively and finished the game with 343 yards.

Unable to successfully move the ball early on, the Pioneers began to gain traction midway through the third quarter. Holes in Marlborough's defense began to widen and Smiley, a senior, was starting to find receivers getting open in the secondary.

The start of St. John's turnaround came midway through the third. On their second possession, the Pioneers drove 81 yards behind hard-charging junior running back Shane Combs (8 carries for 79 yards). That would lead to a 1-yard Smiley dive over the goal line, narrowing the deficit to 20-14 with 1:52 remaining in the quarter.

Marlborough's offense, which conjured up 205 first half yards but only 64 the rest of the way, failed in its attempts to move the ball against a rejuvenated St. John's defense. The Panthers' continuing efforts of keeping the Pioneers offense off the field eventually would backfire.

Early in the fourth quarter, Marlborough managed to reach the Pioneers 37. Facing a fourth-and-5 Marlborough opted to go for it. Quarterback John Rumney was stopped in his tracks for no gain, thus turning the ball back over to St. John's. Rumney, a senior, threw for 106 yards on 12-of-28 passing. He also led his team in rushing, gaining 72 yards on 14 carries.

"We thought we had a play there," Panthers coach Sean Mahoney said. "We didn't want to give their offense the ball back. Offensively, their offense was starting to click at that point.

“Defensively, I felt our kids got worn down a little bit. We threw the ball fairly well in tough, windy conditions but so did they. We weren't able to run the ball and that was a big difference. When we needed to run it we weren't able to. We battled them but we needed to convert on a couple of third and fourth downs in the second half and we didn't."

With the ball back in the hands of the St. John's offense, a 23-yard completion by Smiley to T.J. Kelley set up Smiley's 37-yard scamper down the left side line into the end zone. Jack Coveney's PAT put St. John's ahead to stay 21-20 with 3:38 to go.

"Our coaches told us we needed to come out with more intensity in the second half," said Smiley, who completed 9-of-16 passes for 147 yards, a touchdown, and rushed for 106 yards on 21 attempts, finding the end zone three times. "That first half was the worst half of football this team has played. We came out of halftime and played with a lot more intensity. We knew we could pound the ball and finally got it going in the second half. The way we played in the second half is the way we need to play throughout the entire upcoming playoffs."

While the Panthers, suddenly anemic, offense continuing to struggle, the Pioneers got the ball back on Marlborough's 28. Needing just one play, Smiley darted around left end for the score to put his team up 28-20 with 2:32 left. On the Panthers' next possession, Rumney was blindsided by defensive end Jeff DeMango, which resulted in a fumble that was recovered by Mike Duquette on the Marlborough 1-yard line. Running back Brad Sylvester closed this contest out with an easy plunge over the middle to make it a 15-point contest.

"When our offensive line started to get off the ball we and started to gain some confidence," Andreoli said. "Shane [Combs] was getting some tremendous yards after contact and that really got us going. Then we were able to use the wind in the fourth quarter and started to throw the ball and move the ball down field. I think the field position game really came into play for us in that fourth quarter."

McGillicuddy's early touchdown catch staked St. John's out to a 7-0 lead.

The Panthers answered two series later after Rumney hit receiver Matt Thall for a 9-yard scoring reception. Marlborough had to settle for just the six points after the following PAT sailed wide. With Thall, who also plays linebacker, given the assignment to shadow Smiley, the senior did an outstanding job containing a serious running threat. After its first score, St. John's offense did little the remainder of the half.

Marlborough took advantage of that by grabbing a 13-7 lead at 6:44 of the second quarter on Jose Caquias' 6-yard sprint around left end. Following another Pioneer four-and-out, the Panthers set up shot at their 48. A Caquias option pass to Alec Deveau netting 50 yards set the stage for Rumney's 2-yard run at 4:57, pushing the margin to 20-7. St. John's would have the ball three more times before the half was completed but could do nothing with it.

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

Recap: Marlborough 28, Nashoba 24

October, 11, 2013
10/11/13
11:49
PM ET
MARLBOROUGH, Mass. -- It was more than just your run-of-the-mill high school football game.

For Marlborough, it was a chance to make believers out of naysayers. The Panthers came into Friday's contest against rival Nashoba Regional spotless, having won its first four games of the season.

On the surface, that might seem impressive, but upon further review, the opponents Marlborough had defeated entering Friday’s action were a combined 3-13. Facing the Chieftains at historic Kellerher Field represented the first true litmus test of the season for this group. How they would stack up against a worthy opponent was anyone's guess.

Nashoba, like Marlborough, also had something to prove on this crisp autumn evening. The Chieftains' school-record of 29 consecutive victories was snapped a week ago against St. John's (Shrewsbury). Having not lost a game since 2010, first-year head coach Jamie Tucker spoke prior to kickoff that it was time for his team to deal with it and move on.

Following Marlborough's gut-check 28-24 victory, both teams proved their mettle in a number of ways. The Panthers, who last defeated the Chieftains in 2005, erased an 11-point deficit heading into the final quarter. A 28-yard touchdown pass from John Rumney to Jose Caquias was followed by a Leo Coelho conversion reception that left Marlborough trailing by only three points, 24-21, with just under nine minutes to go.

On the Chieftains' next series, it appeared they would go up by two scores again after driving 63 yards. Facing a fourth-and-goal inside the 5-yard line, the Panther defense stiffened and stopped Nashoba at the 1, taking over possession.

With momentum now clearly in Marlborough's favor, Rumney (18-of-31, 256 yards, 3 TD) directed the Panthers downfield. A crucial first down completion by senior receiver Matt Thall on fourth-and-10 allowed the drive to continue. Seven plays later, Rumney hit Thall again, this time on a slant pattern in the end zone with 1:08 remaining, to give Marlborough (5-0) the lead for good.

"Our defense made a huge stop on their drive," said Thall, who finished with eight catches for 114 yards. "We got the ball back and drove the length of the field to win it. Certainly, this is our first signature win of the season. We beat all the teams we were suppose to beat and tonight this was a real test for us and were able to come out on top. We have a lot of things going for us right now."

The conclusion to this game did not come without some edge-of-your-seat dramatics.

Nashoba (3-2) showed tremendous grit in staging a final comeback bid following the Panther touchdown. Senior quarterback Matt Mudgett (180 yards on 13 of 19 attempts, TD) completed five passes as part of a 63-yard drive, getting the ball to the Panther 13 with less than 10 seconds to go. But solid man-to-man defense forced Mudgett to sail his final two passes out of the end zone.

"Any loss is tough," said Tucker, after his team finished with 383 yards offensively. "We played hard but Marlborough made a few more plays and that was the difference in the game. That last drive was a huge test of character for us.

“They had that long drive for the touchdown and it's hard to fight back from that which we did. But unfortunately we weren't able to put the ball into the end zone. Matt Mudgett played tremendous for us tonight. He stood in there and took a lot of hits. I cannot say enough about him. He just played great."

Marlborough, which accumulated 376 yards of offense, wasted little time grabbing the lead in this one. Just two plays in, Rumney tossed an out-pass to Caquias, who darted down the left sideline 63 yards to put the Panthers on top 6-0.

Drew Korn's 31-yard field goal midway through the opening quarter put Nashoba on the board, trailing 6-3. Senior running back Matt Sabourin's 24-yard scoring scamper up the middle with 3:57 still remaining in the quarter then pushed the Chieftains ahead 10-6.

Sabourin led Nashoba's ground game with 105 yards on 14 attempts.

Marlborough moved back ahead with 6:05 left before halftime.

A 33-yard catch by Thall set up William Cowdrey's 1-yard scoring run. Cowdrey, a junior, carried the ball 19 times for 108 yards. The offensive fireworks continued. A blocked punt from Nashoba's Nick Tavis led to Mudgett's 51-yard strike to receiver Kevin Connelly in the closing minutes to send Nashoba into the break leading 17-13.

The Chieftains' momentum carried over into the third quarter.

An Eli Williams interception at the goal line, following a sustained Panther drive, allowed Nashoba to dodge a major bullet. After the pick, the Chieftains proceeded to march 68 yards before Frankie Chiodo blasted into the end zone from 13 yards out, putting Nashoba in command at 24-13.

"This was a one play game throughout for both teams," Panthers coach Sean Mahoney said. "Marlborough and Nashoba have had some tremendous games through the years and this is just another one.

“Even though Nashoba scored 24 points, I still felt our defense played well. We hadn't been very good defensively, but tonight we were good when we had to be. Offensively, nothing fazes these kids. They just go out and keep making plays."

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.

Player of the Week: Dexter's Luke Cuneo

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
1:14
AM ET
BROOKLINE, Mass. -- In a matchup of Evergreen Conference unbeatens Saturday, Dexter School continued its prodigious offensive pace, scoring a 46-21 win over Holderness.

Dexter again enjoyed a big day from senior quarterback Luke Cuneo.

Cuneo had a career day, throwing for six touchdowns and rushing for another, upping his season-long total to 14 touchdowns through just three games.

On Monday, ESPN Boston High Schools editor Brendan Hall caught up with Cuneo, our Player of the Week for Week 5:



Along with Cuneo, here are our Top 5 performers for Week 5:

Luke Cuneo, Sr. QB, Dexter - Had 393 passing yards and six touchdowns to go along with 67 yards and a rushing touchdown against Holderness.

Dylan Kierman, Sr. QB, Quabbin - Set the Central Mass single-game passing record in 40-34 overtime win over Oakmont, completing 31 of 44 passes for 456 yards and five touchdowns.

Derrell Fernandez, Sr. RB, Weymouth - In the Wildcats’ 42-18 win over Brookline, carried 25 times for 264 yards and five touchdowns.

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

John Rumney, Sr. QB, Marlborough - Completed 15 of 23 passes for 306 yards and four touchdowns in the Panthers’ 34-24 win over Westborough.

D1 softball semi: Agawam 2, Marlborough 1

June, 15, 2013
6/15/13
12:50
AM ET
MONTAGUE, Mass. -- To get to this point, it goes without question that a little luck is needed.

For Agawam, on Friday night, the Brownies received their fair share and then some after pulling out a thrilling 2-1 victory over Marlborough in the Division 1 state semifinal played at Turners Falls High School.

With only three hits to its credit, Agawam won this tilt on the strength of its defense, its cool customer of a pitcher (freshman Allison Wheeler) and a lack of execution by the Panthers.

The Brownies (18-6) is back in the finals for the first time since 1995 when they lost to Bishop Fenwick. They will face Milford on Saturday at 7 p.m. from Rockwood Field in Worcester. Agawam and Milford are no strangers to one another. In last year's state semifinal, the Hawks dominated the Brownies, 13-0.

"Our defense got us here and our defense won this game," said Agawam head coach Kathy Georgina. "Allison [Wheeler] pitched great again. We are ready for Milford. This time we aren't walking in blind like last year. We know Shannon Smith is an excellent pitcher. We know what she can do and we know what we can do."

Against Marlborough, Agawam dodged a number of bullets to survive. The Panthers (17-7) finished the game having left eight runners on base, including seven in scoring position.

Trailing 2-1, Marlborough squandered a golden opportunity to tie or take the lead in the fourth.

With two runners on, Victoria Petrie lined a Wheeler fastball to right for a single. Lead runner Jessica Acosta, who was on second base, was waved around third. But right fielder Mary Kate Reidy threw missile to catcher Rielly Wieners. Just a few feet from home plate, Acosta stopped dead in her tracks and retreated back to third.

"We didn't get flustered," Georgina said. "Allison [Wheeler] showed tremendous maturity out there. That out we got [in the fourth] was a huge break for us.

Meanwhile, trailing runner Jen Bombard had already touched third at that point and went a few feet towards home. But once the senior saw Acosta coming back, Bombard spun around and headed back to second. Acosta barely got back to third safely with Wieners chasing her, but umpires ruled Bombard out because she never stepped back on third in her attempts to return to second base. Now with runners on the corners and two out, Wheeler struck out Erin Coughlin to end the inning.

In the seventh, Marlborough threatened again. Victoria Falco opened by singling to right. A steal and wild pitch moved the junior to third with two out, representing the tying run. But Wheeler got Erin Coughlin to ground out to end the game.

The Panthers jumped on Wheeler for a run in the first after Wieners threw the ball into center field trying to nail Bombard, who was stealing. Marissa Flynn, who reached on an error to start the game, scored easily.

The Brownies, after having trouble with Marlborough pitcher Molly McGuire early, finally got to the hard-throwing senior in the third. A Panther error and a Paige Circosta single put runners at the corners. Wieners then atoned for her earlier mistake by ripping an RBI single to left to tie things at 1-1. Taylor Marcotte followed with a ground ball to second. Flynn, Marlborough's second baseman, tried to go the easy route and throw out pinch-runner Jess Lingenburg streaking toward second. But Flynn's throw was off the mark and went into the outfield allowing Circosta to score the go-ahead run.

"We were able to get out of some tight jams because Allison hit her spots when she needed to," Wieners said. "She missed a couple of times but she really battled through it. Her mental toughness got us through this game. It's all about heart and our ability to manufacture runs when we needed to and do what it takes to get it done."

Marlboro, which finished with nine hits, will come away from this affair knowing the chances it left on the base paths, especially in the fourth and seventh innings. The Panthers also saw another chance to add runs snuffed out in the second. Again with runners on second and third and two out, Flynn smashed a hard grounder just to the right of second base. But Marcotte, Agawam's second baseman, dove to snare the ball and managed to throw out Flynn from her backside by a half step.

"Overall I thought we hit the ball well but just didn't get the clutch hits tonight," said Marlborough head coach Kyle Westcott. "We got a lot of runners on but didn't score when we needed to. It was an unbelievable season. No Marlboro softball team had ever won a district championship prior to this year. It was an amazing group and I'm proud of all of them."

D1 softball semi: Milford 3, Central Catholic 0

June, 13, 2013
6/13/13
2:07
AM ET
TAUNTON, Mass. -- Milford’s Shannon Smith has set the proverbial bar so high that anything short of perfection seemingly qualifies as an off night for this senior right-hander who’s been given a full ride to Kentucky.

Smith blanked Central Catholic, 3-0, in a Division I state softball semifinal game on Wednesday and allowed two hits plus three walks replete with 17 strikeouts – including the 1,200th of her illustrious career. But Smith “only” threw 68 of 110 pitches for strikes and had to wiggle out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the sixth before retiring the side in order in the seventh.

The Scarlet Hawks (25-1) now will get a chance to defend their state title when they'll play the winner of the other semifinal game between Marlborough and Agawam at Worcester State on Saturday.

“I had a little trouble,” Smith said. “I started missing high and low in [the sixth]. I had to relax and throw my game. I think I got a little excited that we were up and were having a good game.

“I got a little ahead of myself and was throwing too hard. I think I had to take a step back and relax and find the strike zone again, and I did.”

In that precarious sixth, the North Sectional champion Raiders (20-5) loaded the bases on Krista Maloney’s double plus walks to Olivia Antczak and Leslie Moore. But Smith fanned Karoline Leavitt which allowed the Milford fans to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Prior to Leavitt’s at-bat, coach Brian Macchi paid a visit to Smith.

“I said we’ve been here plenty of times before,” Macchi said. “We just need one more out and we’ll go ahead and see if we can score more runs.

“We weren’t concerned about the runners on base. We just wanted to get that girl at the plate out and come hit. That was our focus. It was just [Smith] against the batter. Find a way to get her out and we secure our three-run lead and get to hit again.”

After Smith recorded that final out, she reflected on the meaning of the game – which, in a sense, was a bit surprising.

“Coach always gives us a speech before the game about Charlie Sand who was an old baseball coach at Milford who coached him and he always used to call this the ‘no-name’ game because you don’t win any trophies here but it’s still a huge game,” Smith said. “You’re not winning anything by winning this game but you’re getting an opportunity to go to the state championship.

“We call it the ‘no-name’ game. It’s probably one of the most important games of your season because there’s nothing to win coming out of this game, but it’s a crucial game to win.”

Go figure. In retrospect the Scarlet Hawks scored all the runs Smith would need in the first.

Sam Bonvino led with a single and scooted to second base when the ball eluded left fielder Olivia Ciccarelli for an error. Bonvino advanced to third on Lauren Hanna’s groundout to second and scored on a passed ball.

After Smith reached on an infield hit, Rachel Levine roped an RBI double to right-center for a 2-0 lead.

Milford added an insurance run in the fifth on Hanna’s single, a fielder’s choice and Caroline Fairbanks single.

“This time of the year, experience is a huge piece of your success,” Macchi said referring to his team’s post-season excursions. “Last year we were able to get the ultimate prize. And now we’re here again. We have a chance to do it again.

“It’s a great feeling to be there. But it’ll feel a lot better if we can finish it off on Saturday.”

West softball: Agawam, Mt. Everett claim titles

June, 10, 2013
6/10/13
12:51
AM ET
AMHERST, Mass. -- For those who live outside the greater Springfield area, you probably have never heard of Allison Wheeler -- yet.

Wheeler is a freshman pitcher for the Agawam Brownies but certainly does not play like one. At Sunday's Division 1 Western Mass. final, Wheeler, showcasing outstanding movement with all of her pitches, silenced the Longmeadow offense in the form of a 1-0 victory at UMass.

With the win, the fourth-seeded Brownies (17-6) claim their second consecutive district title. They now move on to Wednesday's state semifinal versus Marlborough here beginning at 5 p.m. Last year, Agawam fell to Milford in the semifinal round.

"Allison has really come into her own this season," Brownies coach Kathy Georgina said. "Today she put the ball where she needed to. We had played Longmeadow twice before (earning a split) and we had studied their hitters. We had them all mapped out and Allison put the ball where she needed to so they couldn't hit it. For a freshman, her maturity and composure is truly amazing."

Entering this tilt, all talk focused around two young upstart pitchers who offer little to opposing offenses. Wheeler's counterpart, sophomore Jillian Stockley, also performed well in this one. But Wheeler was a tad better. The right-hander issued a first-inning single and then proceeded to keep the second-seeded Lancers quiet for the remainder of this tilt. She also picked up seven strikeouts. Stockley gave up five hits and fanned eight giving her 225 for the year.

"We just fought the whole way and wanted this so bad," Wheeler said. "My defense made some big plays for me and I owe a lot to my catcher Rielly Wieners. She keeps me calm. I love her and I'm so excited that we get to keep going."

Stockley's lone mistake came in the Brownies first inning. Danielle Stratton led off with a bunt single. Faith Rheault then reached on an error. After a sacrifice bunt from Paige Circosta advanced both runners, Wieners hit a fly to left that was deep enough for Stratton to tag up and score on.

"I think our experience played out in getting that first run," said Georgina. "We came here and weren't nervous. I think they were a little nervous maybe in that first inning and we took advantage of that to get that run across."

From that point forward that would be the only offense put forth by both clubs as Wheeler and Stockley took over and made life difficult in the batter's box. Agawam managed to get two base runners to second in the later innings but Stockley left them stranded there.

"We knew going in we had to get some timely, clutch hits," said Longmeadow coach Steve Marcil, after his team finished at 17-5. "Wheeler pitched very well. We just didn't get a lot of good swings on her. Agawam played a great game. Danielle [Stratton] is probably the mentally-toughest kids I've ever coached. She has a plan for every pitch and every at bat. She's all business. She's just a phenomenal competitor and a great kid."

Mount Everett 3, Turners Falls 0
History says to beat a reigning state power like Turners Falls you need to be as close to perfect as one possibly can. be. The Indians have earned that reputation having won six state championships.

On Sunday, Mount Everett played near-flawless and certainly did enough to thwart the defending two-time Division 3 state champions 3-0 in the Western Mass. final played at UMass.

Much of the credit goes to Eagles hurler Alicia Bazonski. The hard-throwing righty curtailed the Indians' powerful bats throughout. After surrendering two first inning singles, the junior righty issued no more the rest of the way. At one point she set down 13 Indians in a row. Bazonski also registered six strike outs.

"This feels really good," said Bazonski, clutching her team's first district title trophy. "We knew Turners is a really good hitting team so I was just trying to keep them off-balance as much as I could. Fortunately, I was able to."

Mount Everett (22-1), the top seed, advances to Tuesday's state semifinal to be played here against Central Mass. champ Assabet Valley beginning at 5 p.m.
Having lost to the Indians in this game two years ago, Mount Everett, located in Sheffield, finally gained a little payback.

"We've been close a few times at winning this but always fell short," Eagles head coach Kurt DeGrenier said. "We live in a very tiny community so our whole community truly deserves this. Alicia [Bazonski] is the total package. I'm glad we've got her and nobody else does. She never gets rattled and never gives in. Turners has the best team in Western Mass for the last 20 years so beating them today is very special."

Mount Everett jumped ahead 1-0 in their half of the second against Indians ace Dakota Smith-Porter (CG, 4 hits, 2 Ks). Samantha Hoover walked, advanced to second on a sacrifice and scored on Emily Coon's bloop single that landed on the foul line beyond third base. On the play, Indians left fielder Amber Caouette bobbled the ball allowing Hoover to sprint home.

While No. 2 Turners Falls (20-3) bats continued to grow listless against Bazonski, the Eagles threatened to add to its lead in the fourth.

Bazonski opened with a walk. With Kayla Krom pinch-running, Hoover laid down a sacrifice bunt moving Krom to second. Alex Hoover then sent a flare to left. Caouette charged the ball, played it on a hop, and fired a laser to Indians catcher Morgan Ozdarski who tagged out Krom. On the play, Hoover took off for second but Ozdarski alertly fired a strike to second baseman Jenna Putala, who placed the tag on a sliding Hoover to end the inning.

In the sixth, the Eagles made amends after scoring a pair. Haley Finn singled. Morgan DeGrenier laid down a bunt. Ozdarski picked it up and threw it into right field. Brittany York, the right fielder, let the ball go past her with Finn crossing the plate. DeGrenier, taking third on the double error, scored moments later on Natasha MacLeay's ground out.

"I felt one run wasn't going to be enough," Bazonski said. "We knew we needed to get some more and we did."

Bazonski retired the Indians in order in the top of the seventh to deny them a chance for a third straight state crown.

"We hit a few balls hard and they made the catches," Turners Falls coach Gary Mullins said. "Their pitcher was tough and we couldn't handle it. We made three errors today and I don't think we've made three errors in over a month."

D2 volleyball: Melrose 3, Longmeadow 1

November, 18, 2012
11/18/12
12:46
AM ET
NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. – The plan for Melrose volleyball’s designs on Saturday’s Division 2 state championship match began immediately after last year’s title game.

“Last year, after the match ended, we all look at each other and we knew that we didn’t finish,” Red Raiders senior Sarah McGowan said. “We didn’t go out there and give it a 100 percent. So learning from that, we knew this was the last game of the season, the last game of my career, so I really wanted to come and win this last one.”

In last year’s final match, Melrose dropped a heartbreaker to Marlborough. Immediately following that ordeal, the Red Raiders planned on returning to Algonquin Regional and carried through that goal on Saturday.

[+] EnlargeMelrose volleyball
Scott Barboza/ESPNBoston.comMelrose claimed its first volleyball title with a 3-1 victory over Longmeadow.
However, this time the result was different and Melrose claimed its first volleyball title with a 3-1 victory over Longmeadow – 25-17, 24-26, 25-19, 25-10.

“Every year, this is our ultimate goal,” Melrose head coach Scott Celli said. “But we’ve never done it before, I’m just so proud. This is definitely the highlight of it all. This is one of my favorite teams that I’ve ever had. They’ve had one goal all year and that was to win this game.”

The Red Raiders came out in a furry, breezing through the first game; the second was another matter.

Longmeadow saw senior hitters Jennifer Hurwitz (7 kills) and Amanda Tyler (11 kills) begin to take control in the second. Hurwitz capped the Lancers’ 26-24 win with two straight kills.

In Game Three, Melrose returned to its aggressive style.

“That style of play, they weren’t able to handle,” Celli said. “Our block was unbelievable in Game Four was unbelievable. I thought the play of Jen Cain and Rachel Johnson tonight was fabulous. Our back row in Game Three and Four was phenomenal. Give credit to our serving, too, that put them on their heels.”

Cain led the Red Raiders with 11 kills, while McGowan was also in the double-digits with 10. Senior Brooke Bell, who earlier this season set Melrose’s all-time career assists record, dished out a game-high 26 assists.

To finish it out, the Red Raiders kicked it into another gear, jumping out a 16-point lead at one juncture before closing out a 25-10 victory.

“Game Four, I don’t know what got into them, but they were playing a different level,”Celli said. “They were hungry this year.”

In return, Melrose’s senior were driven to deliver that elusive state title for their head coach.

“He’s an amazing coach, he’s a great guy, he’s a good friend and he’s always been there for us,” McGowan said of Celli. “This is the one we wanted for him. He’s put countless hours into practice and game-planning, and he’s helped make us better players, better people. So to be able to finish my senior year and give him this, he deserves it.”

Soccer: OA downs Franklin, plus tourney notes

November, 4, 2012
11/04/12
11:40
PM ET
EASTON, Mass. -- Sunday night’s Division 1 South boys' soccer tournament first-round game between Hockomock League rivals Oliver Ames and Franklin was tight, defensive, and physical. Exactly what was expected when the match-up was first announced.

The Tigers eventually prevailed, but not until the game was sent into a shootout. Dave Stapleton fired home the final penalty to give Oliver Ames a 5-3 victory after a scoreless 100 minutes that featured non-stop action, no-holds-barred tackling, and very few scoring chances.

Hockomock League MVP Dave MacKinnon, Oliver Ames’ imposing senior goalkeeper, was the hero for the Tigers after saving Tim Larowe’s penalty kick. MacKinnon also made four saves including a brilliant diving effort to rob Panthers midfielder Joe Kalil moments before halftime.

Tigers head coach John Barata noted that his team struggled with penalty kicks after the season-ending draw with Brockton -- in which the teams held a shootout, which had no bearing on the result).

“We worked on them quite a bit the last couple of days and it paid off," Barata said. "It was a great game. I hate to see someone lose, but I’m glad it wasn’t us.”

There is plenty of respect between the Hockomock’s two division winners and Franklin coach Fran Bositis spoke after the game about how his team should be proud of the way it competed against a talented opponent.

“It was a great game and that’s the way they have been for the past few years. It’s a tough way to lose, but someone had to, unfortunately it was us. I’m proud of the kids, they played great soccer.”

It was the visiting Panthers, a team known more for its defensive strength, that created the best scoring opportunities during regulation. In fact, Franklin keeper Jesse D’Entermont was not forced into making a save until the first overtime period.

The best chance for Oliver Ames in the first half was a cross from Zachary Wyman that surprised D’Entermont and curled off the crossbar. Franklin created a great chance for star defender Zach Scafati off a corner kick minutes after halftime, but his stinging volley was saved by MacKinnon.

Oliver Ames adjusted its formation in the second half to try and get more possession. Forward Chris Goncalves was pulled back into midfield and central midfielder Lucas Araujo was pushed out wide on the left.

This change allowed Stapleton, the Tigers star midfielder, to play more advanced as the focal point of the attack and see more of the ball. Stapleton, who did not start because of a thigh injury, had a free kick two minutes from full time that slipped just wide of the post.

It was not until overtime that Oliver Ames finally put a shot on net as a Goncalves header had to be tipped over the bar. Stapleton also had a shot saved at the near post.

It was inevitable that these two teams would be forced into the coin flip of a penalty shootout. The last three meetings prior to Sunday night had all ended in a draw, including a 1-1 game earlier this season.

The Tigers practice paid off as they hit all of five of their penalties, including two off of D’Entermont’s fingertips, and MacKinnon, the league MVP, made the one save needed to allow OA to advance to the sectional quarterfinals.

After hearing some of the other results from the day’s action, Barata could only shake his head in awe of the depth contained in the Division 1 South sectional.

“The Division 1 South tournament is just unreal this year. I think anyone can win on any given day. If we come in on Tuesday and don’t play our best game then we’ll be saying we were knocked out too.”

Oliver Ames will host Walpole, which stunned No. 3 seed New Bedford, on Tuesday night.

State tournament notes:
  • There were plenty of upsets among ranked teams on Sunday. Among the surprise results were: Walpole shocking No. 7 New Bedford, 1-0; Braintree defeating No. 13 BC High, 2-1; and Wachusett ending the season of No. 18 Marlborough by a score of 3-2. In a game that featured two ranked teams, No. 16 Nauset beat No. 19 Wellesley 2-1 to move into the quarterfinals.
  • One team that was able to survive despite a scare was No. 2 Needham, the top seed in Division 1 South, which scored twice in the second half to claim a 3-1 win over Brockton. The game was tight from start to finish, but the Rockets size was too much for the Boxers to handle and Nolan Brady scored the winner 11 minutes into the second half. It was a solid performance from the Boxers who made a late season surge and head coach Rick Robens felt his team was unlucky to end up against such a tough opponent, “We didn’t match up that well on set plays and that was the difference in the game. We came together a little bit late, but we ran into the Needham buzzsaw.”
  • On Monday, the West sectional will get underway with No. 3 Ludlow the main attraction as they take on Northampton, but also deserving mention is Division 2 Belchertown, which finished the regular season a perfect 18-0 and will take on Palmer in the first round.
  • Tuesday will feature several marquee matchups. No. 12 Dartmouth will play host to No. 16 Nauset, No. 4 Acton-Boxborough will travel to No. 6 St. John’s Prep, and No. 2 Needham will host Marshfield.

Masco finishes regular season at No. 1

October, 30, 2012
10/30/12
8:44
PM ET
In the final regular season MIAA boys' soccer Top 20 poll, Masconomet holds on to the No. 1 spot.

The Chieftains will enter the tournament on a 15-game winning streak as it looks to defend its D1 North title. The other favorites in D1 are No. 2 Needham in the South and No. 3 Ludlow out West, but there will be a lot of teams that can challenge for the title this season and the South sectional looks particularly difficult to call as the regular season wraps up.

Defending D2 state champion No. 11 Groton-Dunstable moves up two spots as they continued a 14-game unbeaten run. Oliver Ames moves up four spots as well after an impressive win over Milford clinched the Davenport division title for the Tiger. Hingham drops out of the Top 20 after losing out on the Keenan division title to Silver Lake, which took its spot in the rankings and jumped into the No. 17 spot.

Two central teams, Algonquin and Marlborough, round out the rankings after losing a couple of games down the stretch, but expect both to challenge for the D1 sectional title with No. 10 Worcester North.

Several of the teams that just missed out on a spot in the rankings should also be considered threats in the tournament, including Franklin (D1 South), Bedford (D2 North), and Medway (D2 South).

ESPN Boston Week 7 football picks

October, 19, 2012
10/19/12
1:28
AM ET
FRIDAY
NO. 23 NEEDHAM (5-1) AT NO. 6 WALPOLE (6-0)
The Skinny: The Rockets received some help in the Bay State Carey race from Natick last week when the Red Hawks came away with a win at Weymouth. However, Needham will need to capitalize on that break with a win over the Herget’s other undefeated entrant. Rockets running back Mike Panepinto continues to be one of the great breakout stories on the year while the Rebels will need to shuffle the deck a little with the loss of Mike Rando, who’ll be out several weeks with an ankle injury. Of course, the Rebels counter with one of the more consistent and underrated linebacker units in the state, led by Cam Hanley and Steve Thulin.

Scott Barboza: Even sans Rando, the Rebels still have enough horses in the barn. Walpole, 26-21.

Hall: Losing Mike Rando, for however long a period of time, hurts. But this Rebels defense is still talented enough to get the job done and slow down Team Panepinto. Walpole, 20-7.

NO. 11 KING PHILIP (6-0) AT MANSFIELD (4-2)
The Skinny: This much anticipated Kelley-Rex matchup features one of the state’s premier defenses against a recharged Hornets offense. Brett McEvoy anchors the Warriors defense, which has surrendered just six points a game through the first six weeks, along with Joe Johnston. Kyle Wisnieski has held down the quarterback position admirably in his first year as starter, but hasn’t stared into a defense quite like that of the Warriors. If he has time to throw, Mike Hershman and Brendan Hill provide big-time targets. Let’s not forget that last year’s installment of this battle was the coming out party of KP quarterback John Dillon, who nearly lifted the Warriors to victory in a second-half comeback bid.

Barboza: Defense wins in big games, right? It’s been a while that the Warriors last had Mansfield’s number, but this is the year. KP, 20-14.

Hall: Can't have any pudding if you don't eat your meat. Mansfield, 24-21.

Wakefield (6-0) at Burlington (5-1)
The Skinny: Depending on how Stoneham does this weekend, this one's for at least a share, possibly sole possession of the Middlesex League's Freedom Division (can we just call it Small to alleviate any confusion?). Burlington has had some injuries, but still boast the league's top rushing attack led by Marcus Odiah and Anthony Cruz. They'll meet a Wakefield defense that features a number of playmakers and hasn't allowed a point in 11 quarters. With Dan Cardillo (ankle) gone, there's no real superstar for Wakefield -- but sophomore receiver Bruce Brown will be one to watch, coming off a 124-yard performance last week in a shutout of Wilmington.

Barboza: I’m calling this a split decision. My fan section vote goes to the Red Sea. But the action on the field is dictated differently. Burlington, 8-6.

Hall: This one will be close, and the Warriors might not solve Burlington's rushing attack, but they'll make a big stop late. Wakefield, 17-10.

Mashpee (4-2) at No. 25 Abington (6-0)
The Skinny: This is a battle for sole possession of first place in the South Shore League, with both teams sitting tied atop the league standings at 3-0. The undefeated Green Wave have been getting some terrific defense all season, and feature one of the more unheralded versatile athletes in senior Babila Fonkem. Mashpee stumbled out of the gates, with losses to Nauset and Austin Prep in the first month, but has rebounded with a three-game win streak. Leading the attack have been running backs Malik Lee and Jared Taylor, as well as emerging quarterback Cody Bingham-Hendricks.

Barboza: Fonkem provides the highlight reel plays running and on special teams, but Brian Kilmain and Jack Malafronte give the Green Wave balance. They’re the difference. Abington, 28-20.

Hall: For the first time in three years, I managed to get through our picks on video and our podcast without mentioning my parents are Abington High Class of '79 (self high-five, folks). Don't get it twisted, though, that has nothing to do with why I've soured on Mashpee since the preseason. Abington, 28-17.

NO. 2 EVERETT (5-1) AT BC HIGH (2-3)
The Skinny: The Eagles are finally starting to heal, with starting quarterback Brendan Craven seeing action last week against Marlborough and running back Brandon Owens getting back into the mix. While they’re still missing a couple key cogs on defense, Owens will help bolster BC High’s run defense against Everett’s double-wing-based ground attack. The Crimson Tide also have been nursing some injuries in recent weeks, but Jalen Felix returned for last week’s game at Xaverian and Jakarrie Washington ran for three scores. Gilly De Souza, the glue that holds Everett’s secondary together, continues playing with an ankle injury and didn’t see the offensive side of the ball last week, but he’s remained rock steady (as he has since freshman year) in the kicking game.

Barboza: BC High is pumped and ready for this one, but De Souza provides the game-winning boot late. Everett, 17-14.

Hall: Won't be fooled again. Everett, 24-10.

SATURDAY
XAVERIAN (1-5) AT NO. 21 BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM (3-3)
The Skinny: This one has the potential to please fans of power football. The Hawks could go heavy in the backfield with Hunter Taute with Mike Brennan doubtful for this weekend’s game after a late injury in last week’s loss to Everett. Or, the Hawks could air it out behind Austin DeCarr whose hit on touchdown passes of 30-plus yards in each of the last two weeks. The Trojans will look to pound the ball behind breakout sophomore running back Brandon Gallagher and a physical offensive line anchored by Joe MacInnis. Senior quarterback Jordan Cohen also gives B-R the opportunity to strike downfield while rolling out of the pocket.

Barboza: I went with the Hawks last week and promptly was served some humble pie by Everett’s offensive line postgame. I’m sticking with my gut this week. Trojans have controlled this matchup in the last two seasons. B-R, 21-17.

Hall: Historically when the game slows to a ground-and-pound stalemate, the odds favor the Trojans. B-R, 20-10.

No. 18 Leominster (4-2) at No. 20 St. John's of Shrewsbury (4-2)
The Skinny: Back at the start of the season, we pegged this as must-see action to circle on one's calendar. It's still one of the games of the year in Central Mass., and we could even see a rematch come playoff time, but let the facts stand. Leominster and St. John's quickly fell from the Top 10 in the last several weeks; Leominster looked shaky in an upset loss to Wachusett and win over Algonquin, while St. John's has surrendered 100 points total in the last two games.

Barboza: That Pioneers defense tightens some, but just not quite enough to stop the Blue Devils. Leominster, 34-28.

Hall: If there's anything we've learned in the last two weeks, it's that if you can run on St. John's, you can go all Barry Switzer and "hang half a hundred on 'em". Leominster, 40-35.

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