Boston High School: Mecca Gonzalez

New faces, same old No. 23 Putnam

August, 22, 2012
How do you move on from a legendary head coach like Lou Malvezzi, and keep the Putnam machine rolling?

You go internal and promote an enthusiastic, energetic mind like William Watson, who’s in his first head job after serving in various coordinator positions under Malvezzi the previous 13 seasons.

And how do you replace 2,889 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns?

[+] EnlargePutnam Football
Brendan Hall/ESPN BostonPutnam's (L to R) Tavis Frazier, Rishawn Harris, Wayne Lowery and Kayjuan Bynum will look to lead the Beavers to their fourth Western Mass. Super Bowl in six seasons.
You don’t. You simply smile, and you move on to the next one.

Melquawn Pinkney put Putnam football on the map last fall with his mind-boggling rushing totals, in the process breaking the two most sacred state single-season rushing records held by one of the greatest running backs ever in Massachusetts high school history, Holyoke’s Cedric Washington. Five times the elusive Pinkney went over 250 yards; that included a record 421 against Agawam, and 341 in the Beavers’ 48-6 win over rival Commerce for the Division 2 Western Mass. Super Bowl title, their third championship in five seasons.

Dynamic junior Wayne Lowery is the favorite to take the reigns as Putnam’s lead back this year, and he demonstrates some of the same one-cut, fleet-footed instincts of Pinkney last year, and Lavaughnte Love before him. But Watson notes that junior Milton Crawford will be right on his tail pushing for the job -– just as Pinkney’s magical season nearly never was, on account of some competition.

“A lot of people don’t know that Melquawn was in a dogfight last year at running back,” Watson said. “Jordan Almore had it, but he got hurt the first game after five carries, 36 yards and a touchdown. They were going back and forth at the position.”

Still, it’s hard to ignore the way the 5-foot-9, 175-pound Lowery’s flashes his speed. He showcases some of that speed at camps this summer, taking home hardware in the inaugural Super 7 Showcase in Springfield last month. While a little more powerful than Pinkney, Watson thinks Lowery has similar vision.

“Wayne seems to have those instincts,” Watson said. “Read those holes and make the right decision. He’s not dancing out there. He makes the cut, trusts it and hits the hole full-speed. We haven’t been able to put the pads on yet…I know he has the speed, he’s a fast kid, and I know he has the power because of what he does in the weight room. The tools are there.”

In terms of work ethic, Lowery won over his teammates this offseason with his dedication and no-nonsense demeanor.

“He doesn’t flex on the field,” said senior wide receiver Rishawn Harris. “He pushes everybody else, he doesn’t like walking around, telling everyone about himself, he listens as much as possible.

“He has a lot of confidence, that’s good though, [but] he's very humble also. He’s not cocky, he doesn’t go around bragging about his stats, he just likes to get on field get it done.”

Elsewhere in the backfield, senior Kayjuan Bynum moves from tight end to quarterback, and has put on muscle to his 6-foot-2 frame over the offseason, bulking up to 210 pounds from 190. Bynum took a greater focus on leg power in the offseason, harnessed his speed during spring track, and won’t be afraid to swing his newer, bigger frame around.

“There’s a lot less contact in practice,” he says of the transition. “You have to kind of know everyone a little more. As a tight end, you’re worried about blocking assignments, now you’ve got to worry about what everyone on the defense will do.”

As a dual-threat quarterback, Watson likes the options Bynum presents.

“He’s a good athlete. I expect him to run well,” Watson said. “He’s a good size kid. If he can get to the second level he’s not gonna be an easy task, at his size, to bring down. He’s got good size and he’s physical, he’s tough. He knows how to protect the football, make sure not to turn it over. We will ask for a lot of things out of him in the run game as well.”

2011: 12-1, won Western Mass. Division 2 Super Bowl
Coach: William Watson (First year)
Key Returnees: Kayjuan Bynum, Sr. QB/LB 6-2, 210 lbs.; Rishawn Harris, Sr. WR/DB, 5-10, 175 lbs.; Tavis Frazier, Sr. WR/S, 5-9, 170 lbs.; Wayne Lowery, Jr. RB/DB, 5-9, 175 lbs.; Jonathan Burris, Sr. OL/DL, 6-1, 365; Lincoln Edwards, Sr. OL/DL, 5-11, 285
Strengths: Skill positions, team speed, size.
Weaknesses: Inexperience.
Outlook: Watson inherits a slew of fresh faces that will have to grow up fast if they are to defend their D2 WMass title. With Bynum moving to quarterback from tight end, the Beavers have a true dual-threat quarterback that can allow for a more balanced offensive attack. Expect Bynum, who also plays linebacker, to throw his weight around. The most talented group may be the secondary, where Lowery is locked into one cornerback spot and the trio of Jaleel Brown, Mecca Gonzalez and Eddy White will battle for the other one. Frazier and Harris will assume the safety spots, flexing between the free and strong positions as the Beavers like to play two-high. And if the target isn’t already on their back, the Beavers practice in the same park as archrival Springfield Central. The two schools are less than a mile apart, and they annually open up the season against one another. Putnam won last season’s contest to kick-start their Super Bowl run.

WMass stars shine at Super 7 Showcase

July, 21, 2012
Cody WilliamsBen Larsen for ESPNBoston.comSpringfield Central junior quarterback Cody Williams was named the top offensive player at the Super 7 Showcase in Wilbraham.
WILBRAHAM -- The knock on Western Massachusetts football is that, despite the number of athletes in and around Springfield, they typically don’t get to experience the in-season matchups that warrant serious looks from NCAA Division I football programs.

That may change following the region’s terrific showing at the Super 7 Showcase Saturday, held by Elite Athlete Development at Wilbraham & Monson Academy.

Featuring many top-level recruits from Connecticut and New York, the top players from the Springfield area had the opportunity to compete against competition that’s on another level compared to what they’ll see during the high school football season. A quick glimpse at the post-camp awards will prove that they certainly didn’t waste the opportunity.

In fact, some of the names likely to make headlines this fall, dominated the camp and showed they can play with other top northeast recruits.

Springfiel Central’s Aaron Owens took home the camp’s Most Valuable Player Award. The incoming senior, who was used in various capacities for the Golden Eagles last season, showed an ability to stay with the camp’s receiving corps, which included Manchester (Conn.) tight end Andrew Isaacs and Tottenville (NY) wide receiver Malique Belfort --- who combine to boast 12 Division I offers.

Owens was also in perfect timing with Central quarterback Cody Williams, who took home hardware as the showcase’s Top Offensive Player.

All told in addition to Owens’ and Williams’ honors, Springfield players garnered four top positional awards. Central’s Shawn Lockett won top offensive lineman while Sha’ki Holines of Commerce took home the top defensive lineman award. Commerce’s Hasan Graham was the No. 1 linebacker and Rishawn Harris of Putnam won the event’s top defensive back award.

Holines made news earlier this summer with a verbal commitment to UMass. Given his showings at camps similar to the Super 7 Showcase, he’s bound to get even more interest and offers leading up to signing day.

UConn is the latest school to offer the 6-foot-3, 265-pound defensive lineman/linebacker.

He received the camp’s top defensive lineman award for his ability to dominate the 1-on-1 positional drills.

Holines has also received attention from the University of Maine.
Holines was instrumental in the Red Raiders’ turnaround and run to the Division II Western Mass. Super Bowl last season. He recorded 132 tackles with six sacks and four fumbles recovered.

Two of the more talked-about players from the Super 7 Showcase were from the Nutmeg State.

Arkeel Newsome, an incoming junior at Ansonia, took home the top running back award. Given his 2011 accomplishments, it’s easy to see why.

The shifty back ran for an eye-popping 3,763 yards and scored 62 touchdowns as Ansonia went 14-0 en route to the Class M state title.

Newsome already has offers from UConn and UMass and that list is likely to grow.

Isaiah Wright, who’ll be just a sophomore this fall at Holy Cross in Waterbury, made a number of great plays at the wide receiver position.

Two players from Staten Island were as impressive as any duo at the Super 7 Showcase.

Belfort, the 6-foot-4, 170-pounder from Tottenville, took home the camp’s top wide receiver honor. He was equally effective on deep balls as he was going across the middle. His unique combination of height and speed made it hard for defenders all day long.

Belfort is mulling offers from numerous BCS schools, including Arizona State, Boston College, UConn, Illinois, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Virginia.

Naby Sylla hails from nearby Port Richmond High School and was equally impressive on the defensive side of the ball. The 5-foot-8 cornerback earned the camp’s top defensive player award and showed great speed and instincts in one-on-one drills and the 7-on-7 portion of the event.

Sylla has interest from UConn, West Virginia, Albany and Syracuse.

The camp awarded numerous honors following the camp. The complete list is as follows:

Camp MVP: Aaron Owens RB/DB, Central (MA)
Top Offensive Player: Cody Williams QB, Cental (MA)
Top Defensive Player: Naby Sylla CB, Port Richmond (NY)

Offensive Line
2nd Place: Ismael Figueroa, Springfield Central (MA)
1st Place: Shawn Lockett, Springfield Central (MA)

Defensive Line
2nd Place: George Blake, East Longmeadow (MA)
1st Place: Sha’ki Holines, Commerce (MA)

Tight End
2nd Place: Raishawn Finney, Ansonia (CT)
1st Place: Andrew Isaacs, Manchester (CT)

3rd Place: Blake Rise, Stafford (CT)
2nd Place: Kayjuan Bynum, Putnam (MA)
1st Place: JaQuan McKnight, Ansonia (CT)

Wide Receiver
5th Place: Mecca Gonzalez, Putnam (MA)
4th Place: Isaiah Wright, Holy Cross (CT)
3rd Place: Tavis Frasier, Putnam (MA)
2nd Place: Sam Blake, East Longmeadow (CT)
1st Place: Malique Belfort, Tottenhill (NY)

Running back
2nd Place: Wayne Lowery, Putnam (MA)
1st Place: Arkeel Newsome, Ansonia (CT)

2nd Place: Kyle Soja, Chicopee Comp (MA)
1st Place: Hasan Graham, Commerce (MA)

Defensive Back
3rd Place: Devontae Sewell, Commerce (MA)
2nd Place: Terrell Huff, Windsor (CT)
1st Place: Rishawn Harris, Putnam (MA)