Boston High School: Matt Long

Top 10 Plays of 2013 MIAA Football Season

December, 13, 2013
Saturday's six inaugural MIAA State Championships put a bow on another thrilling season of high school football in Massachusetts. This year was filled with highlight reel-worthy plays, including two that made SportsCenter's "Top 10 Plays" in consecutive months. This year, more than any other year, it felt like there was a deep volume of wild plays and wilder finishes.

Here are my 10 best plays from the 2013 MIAA football season:

(Video clip of play No. 2 is courtesy of The Needham Channel. All other clips are courtesy of

Honorable Mention -- The Megatron
In case you missed Cody Demers' ridiculous touchdown catch for Central Catholic, our No. 1 play from last Saturday's state championships, here it is again. Because it is that good:
10. Velociraptor Valenza
Foxborough linebacker Luc Valenza, a UMass lacrosse commit, dished out his fair share of violent hits this fall for the Warriors. Arguably none were more brutal, though, than the one he delivered here in the third quarter of their Thanksgiving loss to Mansfield:

9. Behind the Back
This Top 10 list is littered with nifty run-backs, but on pure athleticism, Weymouth sophomore defensive back Matt Long makes a strong case here. Watch as he returns a behind-the-back interception 52 yards to the house in the Wildcats' 49-14 rout of Braintree:

8. Juke 'Em Jahkari
There was a point this season where it seemed like every week, Doherty junior running back Jahkari Carpenter was ripping off a ridiculous run like the 55-yard catch-and-run TD he made here in the D4 Central semifinals against Hudson:

7. Zach's Zig-Zag
As the name implies, watch as Holliston junior Zach Elkinson pounces on an errant pass and, after some shake and bake, puts on the afterburners for a 70-yard interception return touchdown, late in the Panthers' win over Medway:

6. Phone Booth
We've seen some nice-looking one-handed catches from time to time, but none in as tight of quarters as Attleboro tight end Luke Morrison, who reels in this catch with a Xaverian defender sewing him up nicely, in this Division 1 South Final:

5. The Pinball Run
Penn State-bound St. John's Prep tailback Johnathan Thomas led all rushers statistically in Massachusetts through three games, before being lost for the season with a knee injury. It's possible that with a full season we could have dedicated an entire Top 10 entry to his best runs, because we're pretty sure he would have made runs like this 42-yarder in the Eagles' win over Brockton -- in which he breaks about a bajillion tackles -- somewhat routine.

4. The Ed Reed
It takes endurance to pull off interception returns like the one Leominster's Neil O'Connor did here late in the second quarter of the Blue Devils' rout of Wachusett. The state's Gatorade Player of the Year changes direction several times as he takes it 89 yards to the house:

3. The Miracle at Mahar
Strictly reading by box score, this was one of the season's best finishes, as Greenfield evaporated an 18-point deficit in the final four minutes of regulation to knock off Mahar, 30-29. But the ending, a 40-yard tip-drill Hail Mary from Connor Eckstrom to Parker Hickey with five seconds left, puts this over the top:

2. Can't Catch Cliff
Needham's Cliff Kurker made national headlines with this 70-yard punt return in a win over Framingham, breaking free of five tacklers after he was thought to initially be stopped on forward progress. He was the talk of the town after this play, which reached No. 1 on SportsCenter's "Top 10":

1. Johnny Unstoppable
This one never gets old. You might go another decade without seeing a play quite like this. Thomas made No. 1 on SportsCenter's "Top 10" after this record-setting 107-yard interception return late in Prep's win over Central Catholic, the longest touchdown in school history.

Weymouth's Long makes behind-the-back INT

October, 22, 2013
Check out this interception from Weymouth's Matt Long from Saturday's 49-14 win over Bay State Carey rival Braintree.

Long, a sophomore who also plays quarterback and place kicks, makes a nifty one-handed, behind-the-back catch, and then turns the play up-field for a 52-yard score on the pick-six:

(Video courtesy of the Weymouth coaching staff)



Recap: No. 7 Natick 35, Weymouth 14

September, 13, 2013

WEYMOUTH, Mass. – Alex Hilger was waiting for a game like this.

For most of the 2012 football season, all the Natick wide receiver and defensive back could do is watch from the sideline and cheer on his teammates, after a broken collarbone claimed most of his junior year. He still bears the scar of the injury, hidden underneath his shoulder pads.

The irony of the situation, in the No. 7 Redhawks’ 35-14 win over Weymouth Thursday afternoon, is that Hilger’s performance was, in part, due to the absence of one of his teammates. With ESPN Boston preseason All-State receiver Brian Dunlap lost for this season, the scene was set for Hilger to make up for lost time.

Hilger hauled in 14 catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns. He also showed up in the kicking game, connecting on each of Natick’s point-after tries and booting several kickoffs through the end zone for touchbacks.

It came to the surprise of none on the Redhawks’ sideline, who saw Hilger’s efforts as a case of promise realized.

“We’ve always known Alex is pretty dangerous,” Natick head coach Mark Mortarelli said. “We knew if our offense was going to move the ball, he was going to be the focal point. And Troy [Flutie] is so good at finding the open receiver, and Justin Robinson stepped up, and Andrew Boynton stepped up. We just had a lot of guys make plays for us.”

Hilger deflected praise when asked if he’d become Flutie’s top target, instead crediting his quarterback for reading the defense.

“They were playing way off with their safety,” Hilger said, “and we were saying, ‘Hey, let’s just keep taking these short routes.’”

Along with Hilger, fellow senior Andrew Boynton also assumed a greater load in Natick’s passing game, grabbing a 15-yard touchdown pass from Flutie to open scoring in the second quarter.

The Redhawks (1-0) clung to a 14-7 half-time lead after Wildcats quarterback Matt Long lofted a fade to the back left pylon to Ryan Ainslie for a 21-yard touchdown pass with three seconds remaining in the second.

In the second half, Natick used four Weymouth (0-1) turnovers to run away with a win that looked much more difficult than the score indicated.

“We got a little luck, when they put one on the ground, but then we had a great drive and we punched it in,” Mortarelli said. “That was really the difference, in my mind.”

After marching down the field off the opening kickoff of the second half, the Wildcats lost a fumble at Natick’s 3-yard line on a first-and-goal rush.

Fifteen plays and 97 yards later, Flutie (22 of 29, 247 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT) capped the statement drive with a 1-yard plunge over right guard.

“We talked about it in the locker room at halftime,” Hilger said, “one stop and a good drive and the game’s over.”

Oh, what a relief it is: For a few tense moments during the second quarter, Mortarelli’s stomach resided in his throat.

After running for a 5-yard gain on second and 9, Flutie pulled up lame on his left leg. The Boston College commit then sat out the next two plays and was replaced under center by junior Nick Olson, who would later go on to nab an interception.

Following the near brush with disaster, Flutie returned to the sideline in good spirits, insisting he was fine.

Aside from his contributions on game day, Flutie also assumed another role during practice this week: that of Weymouth’s multi-talented athlete David Harrison.

“You can’t simulate the speed of Harrison during practice,” Mortarelli said.

So he had the idea to use Flutie, perhaps the closest facsimile of what Harrison offers, on the scout team. Of course, that comes with perils of its own kind.

“It’s a little dangerous running your starting quarterback on scout team offense,” Mortarelli said.

A multitude of possibilities: Speaking of Harrison, a preseason All-Stater in his own right; there was the issue of exactly what form the Wildcats offense would assume. For the most part, Harrison was flexed out wide and sophomore Matt Long ran the read option at quarterback.

Long, who saw varsity snaps last year as a freshman, proved capable Thursday, making plays with his feet (a 49-yard run on Weymouth’s second play from scrimmage) and his arm (a pair of touchdowns to Ainslie, including a 55-yard play in the fourth quarter). Along with senior back Derrell Fernandez, the Wildcats have a stable of versatile athletes who can line up at multiple positions and create matchup problems for defenses.

Turnover battle: Both teams committed their share of turnovers Thursday, with the Wildcats’ four second-half giveaways factoring greatly.

The defensive secondary of both teams exhibited good ball instincts, primarily Weymouth’s Tyler O’Brien, who snagged two picks.

Natick safety Mike Abbruzzese also had an interception in addition to two fumble recoveries by the Redhawks in the second half.

Recap: No. 12 Natick 42, No. 10 Weymouth 23

October, 13, 2012

WEYMOUTH, Mass. – In heavyweight matchup of two of the Bay State Conference’s best, there’s plenty you knew about No. 10 Weymouth and No. 12 Natick entering Friday night’s game.

But there was more to be learned about the Red Hawks in their handy 42-23 win. Quarterback Troy Flutie showed he’s equally capable making plays with his feet as with his arm. Natick’s offensive line proved it could hold up against the Wildcats’ front. And, perhaps most importantly, the Red Hawks defense shined in the face of their biggest test of the year.

Natick (6-0) created five turnovers, three of which ended Wildcats drives in the red zone, swinging momentum at several key moments.

Everything else was left up to Flutie. In the air, he was efficient, completing 10 of 14 pass attempts for 171 yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, he was electric, running for 215 yards and two scores, including a 75-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

“Troy’s really matured a lot,” Flutie’s favorite target Brian Dunlap said postgame. “He’s got that offense under his belt. He does a great job leading us. The offensive line does a great job calling out their blocks, they’re all on the same page and that helps Troy.”

Dunlap also showed his versatility on both sides of the ball. The wideout took an end-around 67 yards for touchdown to get the Red Hawks on the board at 7-7 with 3:15 to play in the first. Dunlap also provided a bookend to Natick’s victory (which coincidentally was Weymouth’s first home loss in four years) with an interception return of 38 yards for a touchdown in the fourth.

It was Natick’s second interception of the game and their fifth takeaway on defense.

Aside from the scoreboard, the Wildcats (5-1) suffered a potentially bigger loss when jack-of-all-trades Ozzy Colarusso left the game just before half with a shoulder injury.

After David Harrison collected an interception against his counterpart, Weymouth took possession with 12 seconds remaining in the first half. Harrison moved the Wildcats into field goal range on the next play, connecting with Darrell Fernandez on a 43-yard pass.

On that play, Colarusso was injured and did not return. As the Wildcats top place kicker, Colarusso was replaced by freshman Matt Long who promptly knocked a 34-yard field goal through the uprights on the last play of the half. It gave Weymouth a 23-21 lead.

From then on, the Wildcats were shut out and the Red Hawks posted 21 unanswered points.

But Weymouth head coach Kevin Mackin wasn’t about to make any excuses for his team’s performance.

“That didn’t decide the game,” Mackin said of Colarusso’s injury, “the turnovers did.”

Dunlap spread the credit around when speaking of the Red Hawks’ defensive effort against Weymouth.

The Wildcats, who’ve changed things up with Harrison – originally a wide receiver – under center in recent weeks, present multiple looks on offense and plenty of worries for opposing defensive coordinators.

Dunlap said it all came down to preparation.

“We knew they like to roll out a lot,” Dunlap said. “Their receivers do a great job getting to different levels. Their quarterback is great, he brings that threat to run or pass. But the linebackers stayed with him, making sure he threw the ball and then the [defensive backs], we just jumped the routes. We had the safeties jumping the flats and our backside free safety had the deep.

“Coach [Mark] Mortarelli did a great job helping us out this week.”

Natick -- 7 14 14 7 -- 42
Weymouth – 7 16 0 0 -- 23

First quarter
W - David Harrison 48-yard run (Ozzy Colarusso kick)
N - Brian Dunlap 67-yard run (Sam Lenson kick)

Second quarter
N - Troy Flutie 75-yard run (Lenson kick)
N - Justin Robinson 35-yard pass from Flutie (Lenson kick)
W - Colarusso 81-yard pass from Harrison (Colarusso kick)
W - Harrison 1-yard run (kick failed)
W - Matt Long 34-yard field goal

Third quarter
N - Flutie 21-yard run (Lenson kick)
N – Mike Abbruzze 50-yard pass from Troy Flutie (Sam Lenson kick)

Fourth quarter
N - Dunlap 38-yard interception return (Lenson kick)