Boston High School: Miguel Villar-Perez

D2 final: Mansfield 28, St. John's (S) 14

December, 7, 2013
12/07/13
6:15
PM ET


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Not only did Mansfield enter Saturday’s Division 2 state championship against St. John’s (Shrewsbury) minus its injured leading receiver, Brendan Hill, but the Hornets also turned the ball over five times – in the first half alone.

Even though the Hornets only trailed 14-7 at halftime, a repeat of that performance quite likely would have resulted in a Pioneers victory.

Not quite.

“We were in a big, big hole,” Mansfield coach Mike Redding said after his team rallied for an improbable 28-14 victory. “We did everything we could to give it away.

“I thought the big difference was twice when we turned it over in our own end, we came up with stops or this thing would have gotten away from us in a hurry.”

The plays that Redding cited each occurred in the second quarter.

St. John’s Derek Houde recovered a Miguel Villar-Perez fumble at the Pioneers 20. But Mansfield’s Connor Finerty planted Shane Combs for no gain on fourth-and-one from Mansfield’s 23.

Then, after the Pioneers’ Pat Ryan recovered a “pooch kick” that deflected off a Hornet at the Mansfield 17, Aurian Dawkins intercepted an Andrew Smiley pass in the end zone.

Cool, calm and collected: Those plays had much to do with the Hornets’ mindset during intermission.

“We felt pretty good at halftime because we had moved the ball and we hadn’t punted,” Redding said. “We were only down seven. To turn it over five times against a team like this and be down seven, we felt like we still had a good shot at winning it.

“This group has a lot of character. Nobody was rattled at halftime. We felt pretty good and we came to play in the second half on defense.”

Granted, Mansfield (13-0) held St. John’s (9-4) to a modest 161 yards of total offense in the second half. But if there was one sequence that reflected the Hornets’ character it was the one that began at the tail end of the third quarter with Mansfield leading, 21-14.

Commencing on the last play of that period, Mansfield chewed up 68 yards of Gillette Stadium real estate on 13 plays and took a whopping 7:49 off the clock.

The drive culminated with Villar-Perez (18 carries for 120 yards) busting through the right side from the 3 for the game-clinching touchdown.

“I think that was the most crucial drive we’ve had,” Mike Hershman said. “It took up a good portion of the fourth quarter so we kept our defense off the field.

“It was big for us. We just wanted to execute and try not to give their offense another chance to score. To melt so much of the clock and punch it in at the end was perfect.”

Hershman was one of several Hornets who “executed.”

Besides running for 66 yards and one touchdown on eight carries, he also caught six passes for 77 yards.

“We executed very well on offense (Mansfield amassed 384 yards of total offense) and on defense I was trying to give everything I had,” Hershman said. “This was the last game and I wanted to leave it all on the field.”

Fast start: Mansfield began the game with a 66-yard-, 10-play drive that ended with Alex Ruddy diving over from the 2. But St. John’s countered with a 66-yard drive that culminated with Smiley sneaking over from the 1.

The Pioneers took what proved to be their last lead, 14-7, after Jacob Byczko recovered a Mansfield fumble. Shane Combs (14 carries for 100 yards) sped 19 yards to the end zone.

Mansfield’s Mike Barresi intercepted a Smiley pass three plays into the third quarter and that set up an 11-yard touchdown run by Alex Ruddy. But Alex Thompson was wide right on the ensuing PAT so St. John’s still led 14-13.

No problem.

After St. John’s went three-and-out, Mansfield marched 59 yards with Chris Buchanan blasting over from the 8 and Villar-Perez bulling his way for a two-point conversion.

“It was a very professional-like halftime without a lot of hollering,” Redding said. “We just wanted to keep it going, hold onto the ball and get some stops,” Redding said. “The goal was to have a tie or a lead going into the fourth and we managed to do it.

“To win a championship you have to play defense, which we did in the second half, and you’ve got to be able to run the ball (Mansfield gained 299 yards on the ground) and we did that as well. We’re known for our passing. But today was about defense and running the football.”

MANSFIELD 28, ST. JOHN’S 14

MANSFIELD (13-0) 7-0-14-7 - 28

ST. JOHN’S (9-4 ) 7-7-0-0 - 14

First quarter

M – Alex Ruddy 2 run (Alex Thompson kick)

S – Andrew Smiley 2 run (John Coveney kick)

Second quarter

S – Shane Combs 19 run (Coveney kick)

Third quarter

M – Ruddy 11 run (kick failed)

M – Chris Buchanan 8 run (Miguel Villar-Perez run)

Fourth quarter

M – Villar-Perez 3 run (Thompson kick)

Tale of the Tape: St. John's vs. Mansfield

December, 5, 2013
12/05/13
2:09
AM ET
Ahead of Saturday's six MIAA Football State Championships at Gillette Stadium, today we are bringing back our "Tale of the Tape" series to break down each participating team's matchups headed into the game.

In the Division 2 Final, ESPN Boston High Schools editors Brendan Hall and Scott Barboza take a closer look at Central champ St. John's and South champ Mansfield, respectively.

MIAA Division 2 State Championship
ST. JOHN'S (9-3) vs. MANSFIELD (12-0)
at Gillette Stadium, 1:30 p.m.


When St. John’s has the ball: Be prepared for a blitzkrieg. In these playoffs, the Pioneers are averaging 49.7 points per game -– including 51 or more points in all three of their Division 2 Central contests –- and an unheard-of 482.5 yards of offense, both bests among teams playing on Saturday. Much has been made over the past two years of the Oregon-like offense they’ve installed, looking to push a hyperactive tempo that is nearly unmatched across Massachusetts, and at the forefront of this offensive renaissance has been quarterback and Navy lacrosse commit Andrew Smiley (170-for-245, 2,368 yards, 28 TD, 4 INT; 97 carries, 866 yards, 12 TD). A true dual-threat quarterback, he has perfected the zone read, and demonstrated the ability to make difficult throws in tight windows throughout the state tournament. Smiley left the Thanksgiving matchup with St. Peter-Marian with a shoulder injury, but he is expected to play on Saturday.

A critical part of the Pioneers’ passing game is predicated on finding weak spots in the defense and sitting in the holes, creating a short but fluid rhythm that allows them to keep the chains moving and therefore play fast. In accomplishing this, they may package any number of screens and route combinations on the backside of zone read plays. It’s hard to ascertain who is truly the key receiver in the passing game: Mike McGillicuddy (46 catches, 817 yards, 10 TD), master of the underneath routes; senior T.J. Kelly (30 catches, 502 yards, 6 TD), a prominent basketball forward who can take the safeties deep off the ball; or junior Davon Jones (46 catches, 634 yards, 7 TD), a freakish athlete with a 40-inch vertical, who high-points balls like few others in the state.

Arguably the most crucial element, however, has been their ability to run the ball effectively in these playoffs – and not just with Smiley, who can pull the ball and slip through the first line of defense with his lacrosse-bred running skills. Junior tailback Shane Combs (149 carries, 1,143 yards, 15 TD), a Notre Dame baseball commit, has been incremental in these playoffs, going over the century mark in all four playoff games for a total of 524 yards and 10 touchdowns. As the season has progressed, Combs has transformed from fleet-footed to bullish, a tough downhill runner who can keep his legs churning after first contact.

When Mansfield has the ball: Wednesday's state championship breakfast at Gillette Stadium was dominated by the news that Hornets tight end Brendan Hill, their leading receiver on the season, will miss the game after an ACL injury suffered on Thanksgiving Day against Foxborough. While the loss of an All-State caliber receiver is never a positive, Mansfield still has dangerous targets on the outside to choose from. However, instead of spreading out the ball distribution, an increased number of targets (and the Pioneers' defensive scheming) will shift to Mike Hershman (37 catches, 645 yards, 6 TD) and Kyle Hurley (21 catches, 311 yards, 4 TD).

Leading us to the real X-factor of Saturday's game, which is what does Miguel Villar-Perez have left in the tank? The Hornets' leading rusher (890 yards, 11 TD) has been hobbled in recent weeks and was again banged up during their Thanksgiving game. Also, a dependable pass-catcher out of the backfield and in the slot, Villar-Perez has given Mansfield its dynamism on offense and, with Hill already out of the picture, its imperative that Mansfield maximize his snaps despite perhaps playing at less than 100 percent. If not ready to go, expect a greater dose of senior running back Chris Buchanan out of Mansfield's heavy sets.

Yet, for all the seeming uncertainty now surrounding the Hornets leading in, the constant has been senior quarterback Kyle Wisnieski. Throughout the season, Wisnieski has completed passes at clip of greater than 65 percent, including a very strong postseason run. The supremely efficient passer has also held on to the ball, with a touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio of greater than 5:1 (27 TD, 5 INT).

When St. John’s is on defense: Judging from the scores this fall, one may get the impression this is a suspect defense. All but one opponent has put up double-digits on the Pioneers; nine have reached the 20’s, and three have eclipsed 30. But some of that may be due in part to the type of offense the Pioneers run. With such quick offensive drives, that leads to more possessions for the opposition, which has often led to shootouts this season.

But that isn’t to take away from what has been an athletic unit. At the forefront is the junior Jones, a three-year starter who has gone over 100 tackles for the second straight season (108 tackles, 7 INT, 5 TFL, 3 forced fumbles). Often playing as a high free safety, Jones covers a lot of ground in the deep field, and has developed a reputation as a violent hitter. Occasionally, the Pioneers will split the deep field with Jones and Smiley (3 INT), who made one of the playoffs’ most acrobatic feats with a one-handed interception to ice the Central/West semifinal win over favored Springfield Central.

In the front seven, the Pioneers aren’t overbearing, but they are definitely quick, led by linebackers Patch Ryan (105 tackles, 2 INT, 2 forced fumbles) and Alex Pappas (108 tackles, 8 TFL, 2 sacks). Keep a special eye on defensive end Jeff DeMango (68 tackles, 12 TFL, 8 sacks, 6 passes deflected), who demonstrates exceptional hand skills that are usually good for a batted pass or two.

When Mansfield is on defense: The Hornets' success on defense stems from its interior line, with a couple of underrated pluggers in Andrew Horstmann and Dhruv Patel. Their inside gap responsibilities will be put to the test with Combs and Smiley working the option game. But recent history sides with the Hornets, who held Barnstable's Hayden Murphy to just 21 rushing yards in the teams' Div. 2 South playoff game. Also, on the line, Steve Zieselman has enjoyed a strong senior season, earning Hockomock League All-Star honorers as a dependable two-way contributor, as well as John Keefe (56 tackles).

Junior linebacker Q'Ra Guichard has quietly led the Hornets in tackles (58 solo) to date, but last year's returning top tackler Alex Ruddy has caught up with 56 tackles, despite missing several games to start the season.

Not only will the loss of Hill set back Mansfield's passing game, the Hornets also lost their top pass rusher. Hill leads the team with 7.5 sacks.

Hornets senior Mike Barresi could draw the coverage assignment on Davon Jones, as Barresi leads the team with six passes defended.

Quick hits from last weekend, looking ahead

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
1:13
AM ET
Some quick thoughts from last weekend’s second round of MIAA State Championship football playoffs, and looking ahead to this week’s sectional finals:

1a. Springfield Central’s Valdamar Brower and Leominster’s Dave Palazzi were my two front-runners for Coach of the Year headed into Friday, but Barnstable’s Chris Whidden has to be firmly in any discussion from herein, following Friday’s impressive stifling of Natick. At the beginning of the year, Whidden righted the ship before it even began to sink, making conditioning a high point of emphasis following their season-opening 37-9 whupping at the hands of archrival Dennis-Yarmouth. The Red Raiders came out of their bye week and proceeded to take down two Catholic Conference teams, BC High and Xaverian, in back to back weeks.

Last week, Whidden installed a Cover 2 defense –- a look they’ve never run all season long –- in three days to combat the wizardry of Troy Flutie. In what some would consider a shrewd move, Whidden opted not to match up his top defensive back (Derek Estes) with Natick’s most dangerous target (Alex Hilger), instead sticking a linebacker on Hilger and sagging the corners into zones. Whidden is a smart, smart coach, who knows how to quickly evaluate his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and devise a flexible gameplan to counter. This was a team that some thought would not compete as well as they did a year ago, when they reached the D1A Super Bowl, yet here they are, two wins away from a return to Gillette Stadium.

We’re three years into the Whidden era, and I’ve already lost count of how many wins the Raiders have had over Top 10 opponents. By now, this is no fluke. The guy can flat out coach.

1b. All that said, this Friday’s D2 South Final could be Whidden’s best challenge yet. Long-time Mansfield coach Mike Redding is a chess grand master, but he’s never had a king piece quite like Brendan Hill. The 6-foot-6 junior already holds a Division 1 FBS offer (UMass), leads the Hornets in receiving (43 catches, 631 yards, 7 TD) and lines up everywhere on the perimeter, from tight end to slot receiver to split end. Back in Week 6, King Philip held Hill to his lowest receiving total of the season (3 catches, 43 yards) in a 20-7 loss to the Hornets, and they mixed up their coverage quite a bit on him – rolling coverages, pressing, bumping and passing him along to another zone.

But here’s the thing. If they decide to deploy special coverage on Hill, I think the Hornets are that kind of team that would use him as a decoy to open up other parts of the field for two of their other most dangerous targets, Michael Hershman and Miguel Villar-Perez. Just a great matchup here between two of the best schemers across the state. Expect some funky stuff.

2. Crazy stat line of the week, singles division: In two playoff games, Doherty wide receiver Alfred Adarkwah has four catches for 122 yards and four touchdowns. That’s right, literally every touch this postseason for the lanky 6-foot-4 senior has been for a score.

During the summer, coaches and players over on Highland St. hinted that the Highlanders had been experimenting Boston College-bound athlete Isaac YIadom and Adarkwah on the same side of formations during passing leagues, to positive results. For the most part, that hasn’t been the case. Rather, leaving Adarkwah on an island opposite Yiadom’s side of the formation has yielded dramatic results (see: Quabbin, first round). And here’s the dilemma: the moment you shade off of Yiadom, the threat of him ripping off a big gain increases threefold.

Monday film sessions at Doherty are called “Moss Monday” for a reason. When talking about players who have elevated their stock for All-State consideration with their playoff performances, Adarkwah is certainly in the discussion.

3. Crazy stat line of the week, pairs division: In two playoff games, Plymouth South’s Dylan Oxsen and Plymouth North’s Christian Carr have combined for 1,128 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Apart, they are the state’s two top playoff rushing leaders, with both scoring seven times and Oxsen holding a 26-yard edge. That alone should be reason enough to go see these two teams square off. Now put the Division 3 Southeast title on the line, and factor in the intensity of his heated cross-town rivalry (Romano Field was over capacity in the first meeting in September, a 4 p.m. start), and this has the makings of something special.

4. Leominster is going for an unprecedented sixth straight win over rival St. John’s of Shrewsbury, dating back to the start of 2011, when the two teams meet on Friday at Doyle Field for the D2 Central title, but I don’t think this is such a shoe-in for the Blue Devils. How quickly people forget that, after a dismal first half, quarterback Andrew Smiley lit up the Leominster defense in the second half with a slew of screen passes, with Mike McGillicuddy the primary benefactor. If they get off to a good start in the screen game, and stay committed to it, I think an upset is in play here for the Pioneers.

5. Another reason to love the new playoff format: four teams from the Hockomock League and three from the Atlantic Coast Leagues are playing for district titles this weekend. Under the former system, Hockomock Kelley-Rex runner-up Attleboro would not be playing for a D1 South title on Friday night, nor would Davenport runner-up Stoughton (D3 Southwest), while Kelley-Rex champ Mansfield (D2 South) and Oliver Ames (D3 Southwest) would be still in play. Meanwhile, ACL champ Plymouth South (D3 Southeast) would be playing while Plymouth North (D3 Southeast) and Dennis-Yarmouth (D4 South) would be sitting at home. Up North, we have an All-DCL D2 Final (Lincoln-Sudbury vs. Waltham) and an All-Middlesex D3 Northwest Final (Woburn vs. Melrose). Honestly, what’s not to like about that?

6a. I’ve asked to several coaches playing non-playoff games about their approach, and whether they try to get underclassmen experience or let the seniors finish out their glory. Most of them said the same thing –- you have to balance the two. But the overarching theme I sensed with their talks was that, like a lower-tier college bowl game, there isn’t a lot of pressure so you might as well have some fun.

There’s still some interesting storylines to be played out there. For a football junkie like me, I actually look forward to some of these unique matchups, such as last weekend’s matchup between Somerset-Berkley’s “double wing” scheme and Nauset’s unique “Notre Dame Box” variation of the Single Wing, complete with spinning fullbacks. Elsewhere, Natick’s Troy Flutie needs one touchdown pass to tie the state’s all-time mark, and assuming he’s healthy enough to play, he could very well do it Friday against Needham.

6b. Which brings us to our final crazy stat line of the week, non-playoff division: In two post-qualification games, Pope John Paul II junior quarterback Ryan Barabe is completing 86 percent of his passes (31-of-36) for 488 yards and six touchdowns. That’s right, 86 percent, or 18 points higher than his regular season percentage. I’m on record saying the Lions were snubbed in D6 South, an unfair casualty of second league automatic qualifiers, and I’m wondering if this non-playoff run will help build a case for detractors.

D2 South: Mansfield 42, Needham 35

November, 8, 2013
11/08/13
11:46
PM ET
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Joe Montana had Jerry Rice. Tom Brady had Wes Welker.

Kyle Wisnieski has Brendan Hill.

The latter of the above trio is a major reason why No. 1 Mansfield remained undefeated Friday night and out-gunned No. 4 Needham, 42-35, in a Division 2-South semifinal game.

Wisnieski completed a mind-boggling 14-of-16 passes (87.5 percent) for 216 yards and four touchdowns.

Hill caught seven of those passes for 152 yards and three scores.

“It’s obviously been a lot of hard work,” said Wisnieski. “As a freshman, (Hill) played on jayvees so I’ve been throwing to him for three years. We’ve played in passing leagues in the summer … coming out on the turf and just working out in the summer. It’s been a lot of reps and a lot of time has been put in and it’s paying off now.

“I figure this goes back to the chemistry we have between us. I know he’s going to get open at some point for me. I know he’s obviously a mismatch nightmare at 6-5. I know he’s eventually going to get open for me so I know if I can buy enough time, if he’s not open initially, I know I’ll be able to find him eventually.”

If there was one play that underscored the chemistry that exists between Wisnieski and Hill, as well as the confidence coach Mike Redding has in this duo, it was the one that came late in the fourth quarter with the Hornets nursing a 42-35 lead.

Mansfield faced a second-and-10 on the Rockets’ 38 and virtually everybody this side of the Berkshire Mountains expected the Hornets to run the ball and take more time off the clock.

Wrong.

Instead, Wisnieski completed a 29-yard pass to Hill for a first down, which enabled Mansfield to run out the clock and advance to next week’s sectional finals.

“I think their whole defense was expecting a run,” said Wisnieski. “I think Coach [Mike] Redding recognized that. It was a good play call by him and it worked.”

Even though the Hornets stung the Rockets en route to a seemingly comfortable 35-7 lead late in the third quarter, Mansfield needed everything to work down the stretch because it was unable to stop Needham running back Mike Panepinto.

Panepinto torched Mansfield for 182 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries and, after the Hornets’ Miguel Villar-Perez (17-123 yards, 2 TD) scored on a one-yard dive for a 35-7 lead, returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a score which sparked a Needham rally.

“We thought we had it kind of put away at 35-7 but we made the mistake of kicking to Mike [Panepinto] and he hurt us with the return,” Redding said in a massive understatement. “It seemed like all of a sudden their juices started flowing. They played good ‘D.’ They score again. They get the onside kick.

“I thought both teams showed unbelievable character. A lot of teams would have quit at 35-7. They kept battling. Then, all the momentum went their way and we sucked it up and found a way to get a score to get the lead back to 14 (42-28), which we needed. It was great playoff football and a lot of great efforts on both sides of the ball.”

The sequence Redding referred to went as follows.

After Panepinto’s kickoff return, quarterback Ryan Charter (8 of 14, 166 yards, 2 TD) threw a 68-yard touchdown bomb to Mike Elcock (6-148 yards) on the first play of the final quarter which pulled Needham within 35-21.

Then, Needham successfully executed an onside kick with Carter Christensen smothering Auggie Coll’s kick at Mansfield’s 44.

Four plays player, Panepinto broke one tackle and ran 13 yards for a touchdown that sliced Mansfield’s lead to 35-28.

After the ensuing kickoff, Wisnieski cranked up his right arm and heaved a 51-yard touchdown pass to Hill with 5:51 left which gave Mansfield a 42-28 lead.

Needham needed just 2:42 to get back on the board when Charter threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Elcock.

But after Wisnieski completed that 29-yard pass to Hill, Mansfield fans finally were able to exhale.

“I’m glad we’ve got Brendan Hill catching the football for us,” said Redding. “Throw it near him and he’s going to make a play.

“Kyle’s a cool customer. Most teams would have run the ball (on that aforementioned second-and-10 play). But we just have so much faith in our guys to be able to throw it late in the game. I thought that got us a big first down which didn’t let them get the ball back one more time.”

MANSFIELD 42, NEEDHAM 35
Needham (7-2) 7-0-7-21 - 35
Mansfield (9-0) 14-21-0-7 - 42

First quarter
M – Miguel Villar-Perez 19 pass from Kyle Wisnieski (Alex Thompson kick)
N – Mike Panepinto 76 run (Auggie Coll kick)
M – Villar-Perez 1 run (Thompson kick)

Second quarter
M – Brendan Hill 18 pass from Wisnieski (Thompson kick)
M – Hill 25 pass from Wisnieski (Thompson kick)

Third quarter
M – Villar-Perez 1 run (Thompson kick)
N – Panepinto 91 kickoff return (Coll kick)

Fourth quarter
N – Mike Elcock 66 pass from Ryan Charter (Coll kick)
N – Panepinto 13 run (Coll kick)
M – Hill 51 pass from Wisnieski (Thompson kick)
N – Elcock 13 pass from Charter (Coll kick)

D2 South: Mansfield 31, Wellesley 14

November, 1, 2013
11/01/13
11:34
PM ET
MANSFIELD, Mass. -- When it looked like Wellesley's defense found a way to limit Mansfield's high-power offense, the Hornets displayed yet another weapon.

Quarterback Kyle Wisnieski ran for a team-high 80 yards helping to spark Mansfield to a 31-14 win over Wellesley in an MIAA Division 2 South Quarterfinal game.

Wisnieski is known for his accurate passing to weapons like Brendan Hill, Michael Hershman, and Kyle Hurley and the Hornets have even established a strong run game this season behind Miguel Villar-Perez and Chris Buchanon, but it was Wisnieski's legs that did the trick Friday night.

After punting on their first offensive series, the Raiders' defense held Mansfield to a 35-yard field goal from senior Alex Thompson. On just their second play of the next drive after recovering a surprise onside kick attempt, Wellesley quarterback John Fadule took it 54 yards for a touchdown to give Wellesley a 7-3 lead, but that would be their only one of the night.

"We tried to steal the onside kick and it backfired," said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. "We gave them a short field and they made us pay. After that I thought we settled down on defense. We gave them some hitches and slants but nothing big. Defense just played great."

Mansfield responded in a fashion they have used all season, mixing in runs and counters with big gain passes. Starting at their own 14-yard line, Villar-Perez and Buchanon combined for 16 yards on three rushes before Wisnieski hit Hurley over the middle for 18 yards and then Hill on the sideline for 33 more. Villar-Perez then went 19 yards almost untouched to give Mansfield the lead back at 10-7.

A quick three-and-out from Wellesley gave Mansfield the ball back at their own 31. Wisnieski dropped back to pass twice in a run but on both occasions, the Raiders had strong coverage and Wisnieski took off running, picking up 21 yards and then 15 yards. With the defense forced to respect Wisnieski's mobility, he connects with a wide-open Hurley on the left side for a 19-yard touchdown to put Mansfield up 17-7.

"They were dropping a lot of guys in coverage so it kind of opened it up," said Wisnieski. "The pass rushers got past me and there was a lot of room to run so I just took advantage of that."

Redding credited both Wellesley for their coverage scheme as well as Wisnieski for being able to make a play.

"They did a good job of covering and had a good scheme in the secondary and kind of clogged things up on Mike Hershman, Brendan Hill, and Kyle Hurley but they did give us some running lanes," he said. "Kyle [Wisnieski] is well respected for throwing the ball to those guys but he's a very good athlete. If he wasn't a quarterback, he'd be a heck of a receiver and defensive back. He makes a lot of bad calls into good ones by getting out and running for some yardage."

The Hornet defense again came up strong, forcing another three-and-out from the Raider offense and their punt was partially blocked by Hill, setting the Hornets up at their own 37. Wisnieski elected to stay in the pocket this time, hitting Villar-Perez over the middle on back to back passes to gain 30 yards. A pass interference call put the Hornets at the Raiders 5-yard line and two plays later, Buchanon punched it in from less than a yard out.

Mansfield almost tacked on another score but Wisnieski was picked off in the end zone, only his third interception thrown all season, and Mansfield took a 24-7 lead into halftime.

Mansfield went three-and-out to start the second half and Wellesley ate up a lot of clock on their first drive but it was ended when Aurian Dawkins came away with his second pick of Fadule. The Hornets then used eight rushing plays and one pass completion to get to the Wellesley 3-yard line as the third quarter ended.

On the first play of the final quarter, Buchanon took the toss to the right before cutting back in and scoring his second touchdown of the game to make it 31-7 with 10:55 left. Wellesley's final touchdown came with just 28 seconds left in the game with back ups from both sides in. Sophomore Myles Cole rushed to the left for a 19-yard touchdown for the Raiders.

"On offense we're pretty explosive at times," Redding said. "We didn't have to punt a whole lot which is good in the playoffs. Kyle was a little dinged up and we really didn't want him running much. He ended up running more than he has in the last month. Brendan made some big, big catches for us."

The top-seeded Hornets will now continue in the playoffs and will host No. 4 Needham, who defeated Duxbury 42-28 on Friday night.

"I like were we are," said Redding. "We're playing good defense and we're balanced on offense but the next round gets even tougher whether its Duxbury or Needham, the level just gets tougher and tougher. You have to bring your A game every Friday if you want to move on."

Recap: No. 1 Mansfield 20, No. 14 KP 7

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
11:43
PM ET
WRENTHAM, Mass. -- With all of the focus locked in on Mansfield's high power offense and King Philip's stout defense before the game, it was the Hornet defense that stood tall after it.

No. 1 Mansfield scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns on their way to a 20-7 win over Hockomock rival No. 14 King Philip.

"I think the story of the night was our defense," said Mansfield head coach Mike Redding. "We gave up one early and then settled down and played great run defense against a very physical team that can run the ball. All week that was what we were preaching. Everyone was going to talk about our offense against the defense but the story of the game is going to be our defense playing against their run game and if we could stop them we have a chance to win."

The Warriors gained the momentum early as their defense forced three straight incompletions from Mansfield QB Kyle Wisnieski and their offense took the ball 63 yards on six plays -- helped by a 15-yard face mask penalty -- and scored first on a Mark Glebus 4-yard touchdown run. But that would be all the Warrior offense would be able to muster up the entire game.

"That was just good old fashioned Hockomock league football," Redding said. "A dirt field, two teams physically hitting each other hard. They were as advertised on defense -- very, very good. They're athletic and they're physical. I just thank God we have some playmakers that made some things happen."

After the teams traded punts three times each, the last being a Christian Flaherty punt that pinned Mansfield at their own 12, the Hornets found their first playmaker. Senior running back Miguel Villar-Perez came in motion and took the hand off and headed right before meeting a host of King Philip defenders. He quickly cut back left through a whole before turning on the jets, running it 88 yards for a touchdown and the extra point made it 7-7 with 5:55 left in the second quarter.

The play was a hint of luck for Mansfield, as Redding admitted after the game that it wasn't exactly run correctly.

"We had nothing going and I couldn't come up with the call," he said. "We actually lined up wrong and blocked it wrong but we adjusted and Miguel made a great cut back. He's been a clutch guy all year. That was definitely a big play. You don't want to go into halftime shutout and have them feeding off that."

The score would remain 7-7 through the rest of the first half and all through the third quarter as the two squads both were unable to get anything going offensive.

Neither King Philip's rushing attack or Mansfield's passing game found a rhythm until early in the fourth quarter, when Mansfield came up with a new simple strategy: get the ball to junior Brendan Hill. On their last play of the third quarter they started doing so, finding Hill for his first catch on a short 7-yard pass. That then opened the door for other Mansfield receivers.

On a first-and-10 from their own 42, Wisnieski's play-action pass over the middle looked like it was going to be broken up but Kyle Hurley made a move back to the ball, tipping it up before catching it and completing a 26 yard gain. On the next play, Wisnieski mishandled the ball but quickly picked it up and tossed it to a wide open Hurley, who ran it in for a 22-yard touchdown play, giving the Hornets a 14-7 lead with 9:20 left in the game.

King Philip looked to strike back quickly and almost did when quarterback J.J. Dillon heaved one to Peter Garrity downfield, but the ball slipped through his hands and the Warriors settled with a three and out and a punt.

The Hornets continued with their strategy of getting the ball to Hill, who was held without a catch in the first half. Facing third and 10 in their own half, Wisnieski threw one towards the sideline but a King Philip defender jumped the route, getting his hands on it but it slipped through and Hill was able to catch it while falling down. Three plays later, another play-action led to a 21-yard catch for Hill, at the KP 5-yard line. Villar-Perez was able to just get across the goal line and the extra point missed as Mansfield led 20-7 with 4:20 left in the game.

"He's just unbelievable," Redding said of Hill. "We kind of just got to the point were we said just throw it to him, I don't care if he's covered, just throw it and get a little height on it and he's going to make the catch. He's a clutch guy and they were all over him with the double coverage, banging under and the safety over the top and they did a great job of trying to take him out but it got to the point where we said just get him the ball and let him make plays."

Hill was there again on KP's last ditch effort drive, as a high snap forced a fumble and Hill pounced on it to get the ball back for the Hornets.

With a strong performance from Mansfield's defense came disappointment from KP head coach Brian Lee about his offense.

"I think our offense needed to help our defense out in the second half a little bit," Lee said. "You know, if you leave them out there and leave them out there, eventually those caliber of dudes are going to make plays and thats what happened. When you're playing a team like that, you know they're going to make their plays We said 20 all week long was what we wanted to hold them to so offensively we just didn't do the job but defensively I'm pretty proud of how we played."

Mansfield improves to 6-0 overall and 4-0 and clinches at least a share of the Hockomock Kelley-Rex division and KP falls to 5-1 and 3-1 in the division. The Hornets will look to sweep their league games with a trip to Franklin next week while KP will host Attleboro, fresh off a 45-0 beating of Taunton.

A REMATCH?
Normally when it comes to the Hock, you see a team once and whoever comes out on top keeps bragging rights for a year. But with the new playoff system in place, a rematch between these two is not just possible, it's likely.

With both teams in Division 2 South and both teams top quality squads, a playoff rematch looks promising. Mansfield will continue to be at the top of the ratings while KP won't drop much because of this loss. If you ask Mike Redding what he think's of a rematch, he's pretty clear.

"Mark my words, we'll play again," he said. "I hope its in the sectional championship but these two teams are going to meet up again and it should be a heck of a game because we're both going to make some progress in the Division 2 playoffs, I just hope its the last round."

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

Video: Mansfield vs. North highlights

September, 28, 2013
9/28/13
6:55
PM ET
Editor Scott Barboza checks in with highlights from No. 2 Mansfield's 35-14 win over Hockomock rival North Attleborough on Friday night in our Game of the Week:

(Highlights produced by Greg Story)


Player of the Game: Mansfield's Miguel Villar-Perez

September, 28, 2013
9/28/13
10:58
AM ET
No. 2 Mansfield opened its Hockomock Kelley-Rex play in Friday's Game of the Week action, taking on rival North Attleborough.

The Hornets remained unbeaten with a 35-14 win on the heels of another big game from running back Miguel Villar-Perez. With two first-half touchdowns, Villar-Perez ran for 114 yards on 14 carries.

Editor Scott Barboza caught up with Villar-Perez for this segment, brought to you by Sports Authority and Bay State Games:

(Video produced by Greg Story)

Recap: No. 2 Mansfield 35, North Attleborough 14

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
11:30
PM ET


MANSFIELD, Mass. – Mansfield coach Mike Redding is like a kid in a toy store.

But unlike a kid who has an abundance of toys from which to choose, Redding has an abundance of offensive weapons that are designed to dissect the opposition.

That was the case – again – Friday night as the defending Hockomock League champion and No. 2-ranked Hornets began league play by belting North Attleborough, 35-14.

“Miguel (Villar-Perez) is very valuable,” Redding said of one of his weapons. “He’s a good receiver and a really good runner.

“With Mike Hershman and Brendan Hill out there to cover, you have to line up your defense to take away the pass and it opens up things for Miguel, Chris Buchanan and Matt Bukuras. We really have five good skill kids out there. It’s kind of a rare treat for a coach to be able to call plays for five different guys and they all can make plays. We’re developing some nice balance with all five skill guys contributing.”

After opening their Kelley-Rex division slate with a win, Redding talked about the Hornets’ intent to become a more diversified offense.

“That’s what it takes in this league,” Redding said. “If you try to get the ball to one guy too much you’re going to end up getting beat sooner or later. We have the five guys and we’re trying to spread it around.”

Bombs away: The only Hornet not mentioned above was senior quarterback Kyle Wisnieski, who completed 11-of-16 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns (sans interceptions).

Wisnieski and Hershman were never better than on two plays, one near the end of the second quarter and the other midway through the fourth.

Mansfield was leading 14-7 when Wisnieski guided an eight-play, 81-yard drive that culminated with him throwing a 28-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Hershman.

Then, with Mansfield up 21-7 and facing a third-and-nine on the Rocketeers 23, Wisnieski unloaded a pass to Hershman who was so wide-open in the end zone he had time to write a term paper before snaring the ball.

“It was a combination of a lot of things,” Wisnieski said while explaining why Hershman was so wide-open. “They were coming with a lot of heat all night. They were blitzing linebackers. The line did a great job of picking up the blitzes and that’s where it started.

“We got lucky. With Brendan out there, he’s obviously going to draw a lot of attention. On the first touchdown they tried to man-up Mike and that’s going to be a tough match-up for anyone to cover Mike one-on-one. He was able to beat them on the inside. On the second touchdown, they were all over Brendan and Mike just came free.”

“Wis’ does a great job running the show,” Redding said. “He’s smart. He’s poised. He handles pressure and does a lot of great things for us. I thought the big one was when they scored and we were able to answer at the end of the half (i.e. the 28-yard TD pass to Hershman). That was the drive that kind of kept them at arms’ length.”

Moving the pile: One Green Hornet who drove through North Attleborough’s defense all night was Villar-Perez, who gained 114 yards and scored twice on 14 carries.

Villar-Perez, in fact, scored Mansfield’s first touchdown when he capped a six-play, 70-yard drive by taking a pitchout and sprinting 15 yards to the end zone.

Then, late in that first quarter, Mansfield capitalized on a short North Attleborough punt and Villar-Perez wedged into the end zone from the 2 for a 14-0 lead.

The Rocketeers countered with a four-yard touchdown pass from James Kummer to Mike Lambert.

But Wisnieski’s 28-yarder to Hershman gave Mansfield that 21-7 lead at the half.

After Wisnieski and Hershman hooked up for that 23-yard touchdown pass, Mansfield closed out the scoring late in the fourth when Buchanan busted 16 yards off right tackle to make it 35-7.

Despite the impressive victory, Redding echoed a note of caution.

“It’s only a beginning,” he said. “Next week we have to go to an Attleboro team that’s probably going to be 3-0. It’s a battle. We’re getting healthier and we’re getting better. But it’s a long road here in the Kelly-Rex.”

MANSFIELD 35, NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH 14
NA (2-1, 0-1) 0-7-0-7 - 14
MAN (3-0, 1-0)

First quarter
M – Miguel Villar-Perez 15 run (Alex Thompson kick)
M – Villar-Perez 2 run (Thompson kick)

Second quarter
N – Mike Lambert 4 pass from James Kummer (Connor Flynn kick)
M – Mike Hershman 28 pass from Kyle Wisnieski (Thompson kick)

Fourth quarter
M – Hershman 23 pass from Wisnieski (Thompson kick)
M – Chris Buchanan 16 run (Thompson kick)
N – Lambert 12 pass from Justin Gallagher (Flynn kick)

Scrimmage Slants: BC High at Mansfield

August, 28, 2013
8/28/13
12:18
AM ET
MANSFIELD, Mass. -- Late this afternoon, No. 4 Mansfield hosted No. 19 Boston College High in their annual preseason scrimmage. In three alternating 10-play series of varsity on varsity, Mansfield scored once, while BC High failed to reach the end zone.

Some notes and observations from this afternoon's scrimmage:

The Whole Nine Yards: The spread offense is a wide spectrum, and today we saw a cornucopia of different elements of it from Mansfield. Expect senior quarterback Kyle Wisnieski to throw the ball close to 30 times a game, with such a talented target as junior tight end Brendan Hill to work with.

The two connected for the afternoon's lone varsity touchdown in the second series, a 70-yard fade in which Hill was left on an island opposite the strength of the formation, read tight coverage and beat his man off the line of scrimmage with a move to the outside. Wisnieski delivered a perfectly-threaded dart deep down the right sideline, in stride, allowing Hill to scamper the final 35 yards easily.

Mansfield operated primarily with trips formations, with Hill away from the strength, but also experimented with him lined up tight with his hand in the ground. The Hornets did a lot of funky stuff, from zone read triple options to even some shovel options; considering Hill's unique versatility, and the fact the Hornets were missing a number of key bodies such as receiver Michael Hershman (more on that later), it will be interesting to see what direction head coach Mike Redding ultimately goes with this talented offense.

"Obviously Brendan is a big part of what we do, we're gonna run him wide away from trips. We're gonna bring him in as tight end and run some drag, short routes," Redding said. "We'll balance up when we get Hershman back, we'll go Hershman and Hill on opposite sides and see how people want to play us. A lot of it is personnel. Miguel [Villar-Perez] has had a great preseason -- he didn't play tonight, but he's a great counter, bubble guy, and he's a great receiver. I think when we get the full package in there, it'll be pretty tough to defend. I just think right now, we're in flux with injuries and waiting on guys to be back."

King of the Hill: It's no secret that Hill will line up in a variety of spots in the passing game, both tight and split wide, to utilize his strengths. Last season as a sophomore, Hill led the Hornets in all major receiving categories (48 catches, 849 yards, 17.7 yards per catch, 11 TD), knifing through the middle of coverage with crisp vertical routes and also making some great catches along the sidelines.

Currently the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Hill holds one Division 1 FBS offer, from UMass, but the list of suitors should grow. His athleticism speaks for itself -- last year, he was named the Hockomock League's MVP in basketball -- and Redding makes no effort to hide how involved the kid will be in the offense.

"The game plan has about 12 highlighted sets and plays, and they're all for him, how do we get him in a position to get a bad matchup for the defense," Redding said. "He's a franchise guy, so we've got a lot of different ways to get him in spots where we can have this or that, and if he's double-covered, we've got a run call to take advantage of the double. He's an integral part of what we do with the spread, he's got to be the one guy in a balanced look, away from trips, make him a receiver and then we've got the ways to make him an inside guy on the trips, trade to the other. There's a lot of creativity to move him around formation-wise."

Eagles stuff the run: Try as they might, Mansfield simply could not establish any sort of running game, as the BC High front seven routinely overmatched them. They attacked and filled the inside gaps with tackles Rory Keohane and Yacoub Dobieb, preventing any cutback lanes from forming. When the play spilled to the outside, ends Darren Amado and Chris Solis were there to greet them for a minimal gain. In the second level, linebackers Steve DiCienzo and Mitch Laferriere shed blocks well and were aggressive in sideline pursuit.

"They've had a great offseason working, getting themselves into great shape," Eagles head coach Joe Gaff said of Amado and Solis. "They've been great for us all preseason. And then Steve DiCienzo, and Mitch Laferriere has really... [he's] healthy for once, and we've got Roy and Doubs in the middle, we like what we've got there."

For most of the afternoon, BC's front seven controlled the edge, which should help them out early in the season when they face similar-minded spread teams like Andover, North Attleborough and Barnstable.

"That's something we've really been working on, setting the edge, because we're going to see a lot of that jet stuff, spread," Gaff said. "It's been a big camp push for us, juust to know our roles, every kid knows his role on D. We're like the no-names, you know? We don't have those big guys this year. They understand that. What I liked today is when someone made a play on the ball, there were four or five jerseys flying to the ball, and that's what our defense is about."

Hershman finally in the clear: For much of the last year, Hershman has been nagged by injury. He missed most of basketball season, which made some of us wonder what could have been, with the Hornets losing to Springfield Putnam in an overtime thriller of the MIAA Division 1 State Championship.

It looked as if things were going to persist into this fall, his senior season. But doctors have recently concluded that what was believed to be a groin injury all this time is actually a sports hernia. Hershman was cleared for contact today, and will finally suit up for practice on Wednesday.

"Literally, all the time he rested, the only thing that allowed the doctors to do is diagnose it as a sports hernia," Redding said. "So he's cleared today to do football, basketball, he'll have a little discomfort but it won't get worse and he'll have surgery after basketball season. If we had figured it out in March, he could have had the surgery then [and] he'd be good now, but it actually took the months of resting to realize it was a hernia and not a groin pull.

"He's been out running routes, covering, just not been allowed contact, so now finally he'll be allowed to join us as a football player, and he's very anxious to play some football."

Battle at QB: Junior Sean Holleran got the start at quarterback this afternoon, and he has been the frontrunner for the position through most of camp. The spunky Holleran gives them a certain toughness under center that seems to trickle down to other players. When he scrambled, Holleran was unafraid to lower his head and invite contact. On a quarterback sneak in the third series, Holleran tucked behind his center and followed him up the middle, making a violent collision at the end of the play.

"He's a funny kid. He is a tough kid, and the kids lead after that," Gaff said. "It's just one of those things that, if your leader's tough, you're gonna go through a wall. He's got that nice presecne about him there, and he's enjoying what he's doing."

Still, Gaff is not yet ready to declare Holleran the starter for Week 1. Keep an eye on sophomore Marco King, who has been impressive as of late.

"Marco King's pretty good, behind him, we've got some guys competing for spots, so it's nice to have that," Gaff said.

Eagles run well: Operating primarily out of the I-Formation with either two-receiver or two-tight end personnel, BC's running game was fluid, with tailbacks Rob Harnais and Brendan Smith showing flashes of high potential.

The Eagles' best run came in the third series, when Smith took a toss left and was sprung loose by the left tackle Solis, who sealed off his man away from the play, for a 40-yard gain.

"Chris is hungry, some of these seniors are hungry," Gaff said. "They've been waiting after that nice class we had last year. They've been waiting to get up there, so they've been really biting to get in. I just like this group, I think you saw some energy today. I thought we got after the ball pretty good today."

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