Boston High School: Mike McCaffrey

Hendricken (R.I.) on track for another title run

May, 10, 2014
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One day last spring after Bishop Hendricken won its 12th Division I state baseball championship under veteran coach Ed Holloway – the 18th in school history – Holloway was having lunch with five of his players.

Rhode Island“I asked the kids ‘Did you ever think about what it would be like if you lost,” said Holloway who’s been the Hawks’ head coach since 1995. “They looked at me and said ‘Coach. We never gave it a thought.’

“The kids go out and play hard and expect to win. If we win, they’re happy and if we lost and gave it our best shot, fine. They focus on playing hard and playing to win.”

Best shot notwithstanding, the Hawks (9-1 in Division I-North), suffered their first loss on Tuesday when they were defeated, 6-2, by La Salle Academy (8-4).

“I think the kids feel like everybody comes to play hard against us,” Holloway said in an understatement. “It’s not like the teams don’t give it a full effort. They know we’ve been successful and try to knock us off regardless if we’re coming off a state championship year or not.

“Our kids feel like they’re going to get the best from the other team when they step on the field.”

The 2013 season was a typical one for the Hawks in that they captured the division title with an 18-0 record and then annexed their second consecutive state championship.

Experiencing the type of success Hendricken has over the years doesn’t happen just by the players throwing their gloves on the field.

“It starts with we’re very lucky in that we have a lot of good players,” said Holloway. “You need good players to win in any team sport. Those players are very competitive. They work hard. A lot of them concentrate on one sport (i.e. baseball). They start in late fall and work really hard until we start (the regular season).

“The kids really work hard during the off season. Our guys, from winning, they expect to win. They don’t think about losing. We try to keep the kids together and play American Legion ball during the summer.”

Another reason for the Hawks’ run of success can be attributed to what Holloway refers to as “a good feeder system.”

“Our freshman and junior varsity coaches do a good job of getting them ready to play at the varsity level,” said Holloway while referring to head freshman coach Dan Rice plus assistants Chris McDonough, Richard Dubuc and Brian Leahy, who’s been with Holloway since 1996, and head JV coach John Manning plus assistants Rob Manning and Peter Thomas. “They do a good job with the kids. That’s important.”

The same could be said of Holloway’s varsity assistants: Bill Campbell (who works with the pitchers and has been with Holloway since 1995); third base coach Ian Smith; and first base/conditioning coach Chris Sheehan, who was an All-State pitcher in 2009.

“The success of the program is due in large part to all of the coaches preparing the players,” said Holloway.

Arguably more preparation was necessary going into this season than in prior years since Hendricken was hit hard by graduation and returned only three starters: junior third baseman John Toppa (who’s given a verbal commitment to Connecticut), junior catcher Gian Martellini (who’s given a verbal to Vanderbilt) and captain/right fielder Brady Chant.

“We lost Ed Markowski, who was the MVP of the state tournament, which necessitated moving Toppa from left field to third base,” said Holloway. “Dante Baldelli (younger brother of former Hendricken All-Stater and Tampa Bay first-round draft pick Rocco Baldelli) is playing center field and batting fourth or fifth. He’s hitting .556 with 15 RBI.

“John Willette is at shortstop. Ryan Rotundo, who played behind Matt Murphy (who’s at Assumption), is hitting around .480. And Bill Keegan replaced Jarek Krajewski (who’s at Plymouth State) at first base.”

While Hendricken may lack a true ace like Mike King, the 2013 Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year who’s pitching for Boston College, Holloway has three starters who’re doing their best to fill that role. That's fallen to junior Mike McCaffrey, who last spring beat North Kingstown, 7-4, to clinch the state title, senior Anthony Graziano and sophomore Matt Kennedy.

Seniors Chris Travers and Sam Boulanger (who also is a DH) are the primary relievers.

If there’s one Hawk on whom the spotlight shines the brightest, it’s Martellini, who prior to the La Salle game was hitting .519 with 19 RBI.

“He’s a big, strong kid who right now looks like a college player,” said Holloway. “He’s got tremendous arm strength and is a very good batter. Last year was his first year as a catcher. He played third as a freshman. He knew we needed some help at catcher so he came in and caught as a sophomore. We were lucky to win the state championship with him.

“We talked with the Vanderbilt coach about how he has a lot of upside and yet there’s a lot of room for improvement,” continued Holloway. “He’s not a finished product but has a lot of potential.”

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

All-ISL football team

November, 20, 2013
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The Independent School League today announced its All-ISL football team for this season

Coaches or league representatives, across all fall sports, are encouraged send their league All-Star lists to editors Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com) and Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com):

Belmont Hill
Evan Chaletzky, Jr. WR/K
Eric Gustafson, Sr. DB
Harry Kraft, Jr. QB
Joe LaLiberte, Sr. OL
Greg Plumb, Sr. RB

Brooks
Chris Cervizzi, Jr. RB
Geoff Fulgione, Sr. LB
Andrew Konovalchik, Sr. DB

BB&N
Patrick Champagnie, Sr. DB
Frankie Williams, Sr. RB
Dante Papas, Sr. LB
Matt Bonazzolli, Sr. RB
Connor Coady, Sr. OG
Mike McCaffrey, Sr. WR

Governor's Academy
Jesse Gwozdz, Sr. RB
Bug Carper, Sr. LB
Mark Hoffman, Sr. OL
James Leary, Sr. OL
Tyler Harrington, Jr. OL
Brandon Lopez, Jr. RB
Tommy Vailas, Sr. QB

Groton
Austin Stern, Sr. LB
John Beatty, Soph. RB

Lawrence Academy
Andrew Crane, Sr. DL
Kyle Howes, Sr. FS
Chris Garrison, Jr. WR
Austin Luckey, Jr. FB
Rocco Daigneault, Sr. LB

Middlesex School
Hasani Figueroa, Sr. RB
Charlie Owen, Sr. LB
George Morris, Jr. LB
Sam Carlin, Jr. LB

Milton Academy
Drew Jacobs, Sr. RB
Anthony Scurto, Sr. QB
Matt Morin, Sr. LB
Bobby Gilmore, Jr. OL
Peter Graves, Sr. DL
Luke MacDonald, Sr. LB
Justin Yoon, Jr. K

Noble & Greenough
Alex Beach, Sr. DL
Ryan Vultaggio, Sr. QB
John McCarthy, Sr. DB
Martin Williams, Soph. DT
John Keally, Sr. LB
Teddy Strzetelski, Jr. DE

Roxbuty Latin
Mark Goldstein, Sr. OL
Duncan Finigan, Sr. OL
Sean Lowrie, Jr. WR
Kevin Cohee, Sr. TE

St. George's
Sage Hill, Sr. RB
Jonathan Lumley, Jr. WR

St. Paul's
David Smith, Sr. WR
John Bews, Jr. TE
Colin Sequiera, Sr. QB

St. Sebastian's
Connor Strachan, Sr. LB
Dan Fulham, Sr. DE
Will Kenny, Sr. OL
Joe Kearney, Sr. DB
John McNamara, Sr. DL

Thayer Academy
Quentin Hall, Sr. OL
Jack Becker, Sr. QB

Seniors the strength of BB&N football

September, 17, 2013
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It turns out the Buckingham Browne & Nichols football team is indecisive, in a good way.

Back when the Knights sat down to vote for their 2013 team captains, the ballots just didn't add up. One senior would have a smattering of votes, and his classmate would have one or two less. When head coach John Papas sat down and tried to do the math, seven players were within a few votes of each other.

So, he did the democratic thing. He made all seven captains.

“That's totally unusual for us,” Papas said. “We've never had over three captains before, but to be honest with you, that speaks volumes about that group of kids. Instead of us determining who the captains were on our own, we decided to go with all seven. Those seven guys have not disappointed at all.”

With a small army of captains, the obvious concern is that there are too many leaders and not enough followers for BB&N. However, Papas isn't too worried. Despite the votes being so close, the team's leaders couldn't be more different.

“That's the beauty of it all,” he said. “These guys are all different types.”

They have vocal guys like linebackers Mike Samko and Connor Campbell, and then they have the lead-by-example offensive lineman in Connor Coady. Meanwhile, the skill guys – wide receiver Mike McCaffrey, fullback Dante Papas, and running backs Frankie Williams and Matt Bonazzolli – are the quiet types.

Papas believes the team's leadership, combined with a strong offseason, will lead the Knights to their 11th-straight winning season.

“We do it with guys like we have on this year's team – dedicated football players,” he said. “Out of the sixteen seniors on this team, eleven of them will play college football. They're all being recruited, so this is a serious football program.”

The Knights will come at opponents with a pro-style attack led by running backs Williams and Bonazzolli, who combined for 1,998 yards last year. The younger Papas is crucial part of the offense at fullback, and uses a “gritty and tough” approach to open holes for BB&N's backs.

“He's rugged, and he's a key to our run game. Everything comes off of him. He takes after his mom,” Papas said, with a laugh.

Cole O'Connor will start his second season under center for the Knights and will look to improve his passing game. O'Connor, a junior, is 6-foot-4 and “we expect him to be better this year,” Papas said.

McCaffery, a Holy Cross commit, will be a big target for the second-year starter.

On defense, BB&N will run a 3-3 stack and “will blitz 90 percent of the time,” according to Papas. His concern on defense is the team's lack of size, which he plans to make up for with quality athletes at linebacker and in the secondary. One of the defensive leaders will be outside linebacker Pat Champagnie, who is fielding interest from the University of New Hampshire and Bryant.

“He's really good. He's probably the best defensive player we have,” Papas said.

The seniors have already made their mark on the 2013 Knights. The team came into camp in good shape, and after three tough scrimmages, Papas can tell BB&N is ready for another winning season.

“Honestly, they've exceeded my expectations as far as preparation for the season. They came back to camp in great shape. We've had three scrimmages against three very good opponents, and we faired well,” he said regarding BB&N's scrimmages against Malden Catholic, Xaverian and Andover, respectively. “I don't judge scrimmages by the score, I judge them by the quality of play, and we've done really well against some really quality opponents.”

BUCKINGHAM BROWNE & NICHOLS AT A GLANCE
Coach: John Papas (11th season, 67-20)
Last season: 5-3
Returning Starters: 17 (8 offense/9 defense)
Key Returnees: Sr. WR/CB Mike McCaffrey, Sr. RB/FS Frankie Williams, Sr. RB/CB Matt Bonazzolli, Sr. FB/OLB Dante Papas, Sr. OG/DE Connor Coady, Sr. OLB/HB Mike Samko, Sr. MLB/TE Connor Campbell, Sr. HB/OLB Pat Champagnie.
Strengths: Team chemistry, senior leadership, experience, toughness.
Weaknesses: Lack of size, depth.

Overview: The Knights are going to pound the ball, and they don't care who knows it. Williams and Bonazzolli are shorter backs, but both added some strength over the summer and are comfortable in the running-back-by-committee approach. The younger Papas is very tough and has no problem lowering his shoulder into a middle linebacker or a twisting lineman. He plays fullback like a linebacker, which makes sense: Last year he led the team in sacks from that position. If O'Connor grows as a quarterback, the Knights will have a dangerous play-action weapon. Champagnie and the other linebackers are going to have to make up for a lack of size up front, but there is a ton of speed coming in on BB&N's relentless blitzing attack. If everyone stays healthy, the Knights should be in good shape to have yet another winning season. However, with 17 returning starters and a ton of senior leadership, a winning record isn't the goal – it's merely something to check off en route to the Super Bowl.

Northeast 7v7: Reading wins second straight East title

July, 28, 2013
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PEABODY, Mass. -- Many are anticipating a different dynamic in Reading this year, with different faces. But there is one constant under center: the rifling arm of rising senior Drew Belcher.

When we last saw the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Belcher, he led the Rockets to a 27-7 win over Mansfield in the MIAA Division 2 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl, brushing the final stroke in what was a dominant 2012 season to earn ESPN Boston All-State honors. With his long, powerful frame accompanying exemplary arm strength, Belcher was one of the most dangerous dual threats in Massachusetts, bulling through the inside gaps on Tebow-like power plays.

Yesterday afternoon at Bishop Fenwick High School, in the third annual Under Armour Northeast 7-on-7 East Regional tournament, Belcher was breaking in some new targets, what with the graduation of deep threat Ryan Maney. For Belcher, the needle hit the groove early in the day, and rolled in clockwork fashion to the Rockets' second straight East Regional championship, beating Chelmsford 29-12 in the final.

Reading and Chelmsford both earned automatic bids to Tuesday night's New England Championship, at Bishop Fenwick. Andover won last year's New England title at Gillette Stadium by beating Reading, 19-7, in the finals.

"It feels great to win it again. I mean, it was much more important this year, because we had a lot of young guys," Belcher said. "We lost all our receivers, so we had a lot of juniors who were great today. It really helped working routes, figuring out our offense, getting all those guys in with the varsity. That was big."

Belcher found success with targets such as Will Murray and Mike Senfuma, but where he scored biggest was with receiver Rob DiLoreto.

In the semifinals against Buckingham, Browne & Nichols, the Rockets continually exploited a seam over the deep middle with vertical routes. DiLoreto continuously ran posts from the slots, splitting the safeties downfield, and Belcher went to him over and over.

Against Chelmsford in the finals, DiLoreto exposed the sidelines for big gains. On the Rockets' second offensive drive, coming after a tip-drill interception, the Rockets marched the entire 40 yards in one play, DiLoreto running a corner route to the first-down marker at the 25-yard line, side-stepping a defender and reversing direction for an easy scamper into the end zone. On the first play of the next Reading drive, Belcher hooked up with DiLoreto deep down the right sideline for first and goal at the nine; Belcher found a receiver for a touchdown on an inside slant the next play.

"After last year, we really know [each other]," Belcher said. "I can just tell him to run a seam, and I'll know if he's going to stop, I'll know if he's going to keep going, if he's going to break out. We have a lot of flexibility with that route, and we have really good chemistry on it, and it worked well today."

Two plays into the ensuing Chelmsford drive, the Rockets defense came up with another tip-drill pick, and Belcher put on the finishing touches. On the first play, the Rockets ran a post-wheel combination down the left sideline, leaving Murray wide open for the final score of the day.

Some other notes and observations from yesterday's tournament:

Fun and Gun: Lowell is a preseason favorite in the Merrimack Valley Conference, thanks to a well-oiled offense that returns many integral pieces from a season ago, when they finished 9-2.

Plain and simple, this is going to be one of the most entertaining offenses to watch, up there with Natick and St. John's of Shrewsbury. Offensive coordinator Brian Christopher draws up some funky stuff, utilizing pistol sets with spread principles as well as some zone read and an array of screens. In pool play yesterday, they put defenses in a bind with layered route combinations, including a unique “double wheel” set that had two receivers breaking off at different depths from the same path.

For an idea of what all of this looks like on film, take a look at rising senior wide receiver Jack Galvin’s Hudl highlights (take note of the packaged plays, particularly the zone read triple option).

The Red Raiders had a good showing, going 3-1 in pool play with their lone loss coming to Lynn English on the final play of the game. They lost to Arlington in overtime in the “Sweet 16” round, but not before impressing those in attendance with their deep arsenal of quality skill players.

Galvin is the biggest name of the bunch, a precise route-runner whose quick reflexes help him get great leverage on defenders and catch difficult balls in traffic. His speed is also a factor -- Galvin was one of the fastest hurdlers during indoor track season, with a 7.94 time in the 55-meter. But also take note of Musa Mansaray, a two-way player who is pretty physical at cornerback, and has recorded a time as fast as 15.5 in the 110-meter hurdles during outdoor track season. Scatback Ndeiva Mason, a waterbug who is shifty in space, will attract attention as well.

The biggest question mark for Lowell will be at quarterback, where they must replace the dynamic Cam Latta. Keep an eye on senior Brian Dolan, a baseball star who transferred from Lawrence Academy midway through last school year and has plenty of zip on his throws. Latta’s younger brother, Keegan, should have a breakthrough campaign as well.

Nothing new on Belcher recruiting: Scouts seem to be divided on how Belcher projects at the next level. He has heard from a wide variety of Division 1 FCS schools, including Delaware, Villanova and Lafayette. There has also been varying degrees of inquiry at the FBS level, including UMass and Boston College (his uncle, Bedford head coach Jack Belcher, is a former BC player). Still, Belcher has no offers to report at this time.

"A lot of them want to see senior film," Belcher said.

Asked about rumors college scouts would consider moving him to another position, such as tight end, Belcher said, "I haven't been talked to for any other position. I've been talked to only for quarterback."

Dream come true for McCaffrey: BB&N's showing at the tournament came less than 24 hours after senior wide receiver/defensive back Mike McCaffrey gave a verbal commitment to Holy Cross, a school where his last name carries some heavy weight.

Both his parents are Holy Cross alums. His father, James McCaffrey, was a basketball standout in the mid-80's, getting picked in the sixth round by the Phoenix Suns in the 1986 NBA Draft and being inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 1992. Mike has been to the campus many times over the years, mostly for basketball, and has always been fond of the place.

"It was a place I always wanted to go, ever since I was a little kid," McCaffrey said. "It was just a place that I loved. I went there in the winter, and it was just a place I always wanted to go. It's got great people, great football, great academics, it just has it all."

Of his anticipated role with the Crusaders, McCaffrey says he was told by head coach Tom Gilmore he thinks he can fit at cornerback. But more importantly, McCaffrey said, "after the one-day camp in June, he [Gilmore] said I was a very, very competitive kid, and that's what they like in me."

McCaffrey has been timed as fast as 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and that speed showed well on Saturday, playing mostly split out wide and beating defenders deep. Speed runs in the McCaffrey gene; his brother, Jimmy, is a defensive back for Boston College, and at BB&N established himself as one of the most dynamic kick returners to come through Massachusetts in recent years.

During summers, when Jimmy is home, the two will often head to the FieldTurf at their hometown Winchester High School and work on a number of drills.

"He's been a real big influence in my life," Mike said.

A number of BB&N players stood out on the day in addition to McCaffrey. Quarterback Cole O'Connor timed his throws well with targets like running back Frank Williams, but on the defensive side Augie Lin was among the more impressive coverage players. In pool play against Watertown, Lin was paired against 6-foot-4 receiver T.J. Hairston, a long, lanky prospect with good agility. Giving up half a foot to Hairston, Lin played him tight in press coverage. Hairston had a great rip move to the outside against his press, and towards the end of the game came up with a tip-drill pick on defense. But most of the time, Lin got good shove off the line and jammed him inside.

Small-school stars show well: Hairston figures to be an imposing target with his slender, basketball-esque frame able to out-reach defenders on 50/50 balls. Several other small-school stars stood out as players to keep an eye on the next months.

Boston Cathedral junior wide receiver/safety Trehme Haney gave defensive backs fits all day in pool play, as the 6-foot-1, 184-poounder routinely reaching over or out-leaping double coverage for jump balls. His teammate Justice Turner, who came in third in Massachusetts in the 200-meter dash last fall, will be tough to man up.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on Bedford running back/defensive back Olan Abner, who passes the eye test with his physical maturity. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder has heard from UMass, UNH and Central Connecticut State so far, and figures to project at strong safety for the next level.

BB&N's Mike McCaffrey commits to Holy Cross

July, 26, 2013
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Buckingham, Browne & Nichols senior wide receiver/defensive back Mike McCaffrey has verbally committed to Holy Cross for the 2014 season, his coach John Papas told ESPNBoston.com in an email.

"Holy Cross is a perfect fit for Mikey," Papas said. "Both of his parents are graduates of HC so he is very familiar with the school and program. He visited the campus in the spring and attended their summer camp, where he excelled and was offered a scholarship. We are thrilled that he found this great fit and now can focus on having a great senior season for us."

The 5-foot-10, 185-pound McCaffrey, a Winchester resident, is entering his fourth year as a varsity starter this fall for the Knights, and is among the faster players in Massachusetts. Last season, in eight games for the 5-3 Knights, McCaffrey recorded three interceptions, eight pass breakups, and 23 tackles.

There is terrific lineage within the McCaffrey family: his older brother James is a redshirt-junior defensive back for Boston College; his sister Stephanie is entering her junior season of soccer at Boston College, and was a Second Team All-ACC selection last fall.

Mike's father, Jim McCaffrey, is a 1986 Holy Cross graduate and 1992 Hall of Fame inductee, after a stellar two-year run with the Crusaders basketball team. He scored over 1,000 points in just two years of varsity, was a two-time All-MAAC selection, and holds the Hart Center scoring record (46 points). He was selected in the sixth round by the Phoenix Suns in the 1986 NBA Draft.

McCaffrey is the second Bay State propsect to commit to Holy Cross for the 2014 recruiting class, joining St. John's Prep linebacker Sean Smerczynski, who committed last month.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

May, 17, 2013
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Different year. Same story.

Rhode IslandOr to put it another way, Hendricken is giving every indication that it’s zeroing in on a state-record 18th Division I baseball championship.

Through games of May 7, the Hawks led Division I-North with an 11-0 record – one game ahead of arch-rival La Salle (10-1) whom Hendricken edged, 3-2, on April 17.

Going into the season, veteran coach Ed Holloway knew he would have his ace on the mound in the person of First Team All-State selection Mike King (who’s already signed a letter of intent to play for Boston College).

But the Hawks’ pitching staff has developed into something more than a one-trick pony.

Senior Dillon Manfredi and sophomore Mike McCaffrey have developed into reliable starting pitchers who’ve given Hendricken valuable depth.

Most importantly, the Hawks have shown an uncanny ability to win close games (games decided by one run).

Following is a list of Hendricken victories that underscore the above point:

* McCaffrey went the distance on a two-hitter as Hendricken edged Cranston East, 1-0. The game was tied 1-1 entering the last of the sixth when John Toppa singled with two outs to plate the go-ahead run.

* Manfredi tossed a complete-game four-hitter as Hendricken nipped Johnston, 2-1.

* King hurled a two-hit, 13-strikeout shutout as Hendricken blanked Woonsocket, 2-0. King also helped himself at the plate as he lofted a first-inning sacrifice fly and doubled home a fifth-inning run. King pulled off a major escape act in the top of the seventh when the Villa Novans loaded the bases with none out only to have the Hendricken ace fan three consecutive batters.

* Eddie Markowski’s single in the bottom of the ninth broke a 1-1 tie and gave Hendricken a 2-1 victory over Lincoln.

* King struck out nine and allowed only five hits as the Hawks clipped Cranston West, 2-1. Hendricken utilized the long ball to win this game when Nick Boland belted a solo homer in the top of the seventh inning.

TOWNIE TIME
While Hendricken long has been the dominant baseball team in the state, the same can’t be said of East Providence.

But this year may be different for a school that’s never won a state baseball title.

The Townies moved into sole possession of first place in Division II-Central with a 10-0 record thanks to 3-2, come-from-behind victory over second-place Central (8-2). Jerry Espinal and Keith Grant combined on a six-hitter as the Townies swept the season series from the Knights.

Prior to that game, the Townies outlasted Warwick Vets, 8-4, with Nick Karalekas collecting two hits, two RBI and four stolen bases.

Led by Karalekas plus Alex Hurley, Jasiah Hatch, Mike Allienello and Marc LaValley, the Townies have been pounding the opposition into submission.

Want proof? East Providence out-scored its first 10 opponents by a combined margin of 99-20.

AROUND THE DIAMOND
In two other games of note, North Kingstown beat South County rival South Kingstown, 3-1, and moved into a tie for first place in I-South with each team having a 9-2 record.

The Skippers’ Dom Grillo went the route on a two-hitter – allowing an RBI double in the first and not surrendering another hit until the sixth. In addition, he fanned eight Rebels.

Brian Cox accounted for North Kingstown’s runs, with an RBI single in the fourth and an RBI double in the sixth.

Exeter-West Greenwich (2-8), which has been struggling in Division II-South, rallied from a 6-1 deficit and upset West Warwick, 10-6.

The Scarlet Knights trailed 6-1 entering the fourth when Matt Grenier came on in relief. Grenier blanked the Wizards (4-5) on zero hits over the last 3 1/3 innings which enabled him to notch the victory.

DEFENSE MISSING
Defense was left on each team’s respective bus when the girls’ lacrosse teams from Moses Brown and East Greenwich met in a Division I crossover game.

The Quakers’ Meghan Buonanno scored eight goals and assisted on one while teammate Alexandra Pinsky recorded an unbelievable total of seven goals plus six assists during a 25-19 victory.

Ironically, the Avengers’ Marielle Kraft out-did Buonnano and Pinsky by scoring nine games.

Moses Brown improved to 7-1 in I-North.

AROUND THE RIM
Division I champion La Salle landed two players on the All-State Girls’ Basketball First Team – sophomore Davida Dale and senior Priscilla Dunphy.

Dale led the Rams in scoring with a 17.7 average and was voted MVP honors in the Division I Tournament.

Dunphy, who’ll play her college basketball at UMass-Lowell, averaged 16 points, eight rebounds and two assists for a La Salle team that finished 21-4 overall and won its third consecutive state title.

Rounding out the top five are Exeter-West Greenwich sophomore Taylor Buckley, the Gatorade Rhode Island Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year; Westerly senior Hannah Dobson who finished her career as the second-leading scorer in school history with 1,589 points; and Barrington senior Caitlyn Nolan who averaged 13.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

HEADING NORTH AND SOUTH
Elizabeth Scala, who played hockey at Bay View Academy before transferring to the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, has signed a letter of intent to play for Syracuse University.

Central senior Carlos Mangum, who earned All-American and All-State honors in the weight throw, has accepted a full ride from the University of Miami. Most recently, Mangum was ranked fourth in the nation in the hammer throw with a heave of 212-feet, 9-inches.

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

G-D hockey head coach Payne resigns

December, 4, 2012
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During Brian Payne’s tenure as head coach of Groton-Dunstable’s boys’ hockey team, the Crusaders attained pretty lofty heights. G-D’s combined record of 66-10-2 during the last three seasons under Payne is among the best in MIAA hockey during that period and includes a 22-0-1 campaign in 2011-12, when the Crusaders claimed a Division 3A state title.

But Payne will not be behind the bench when the Crusaders open up their title defense on Dec. 15. On Friday, he resigned from his post.

In an interview with ESPN Boston on Tuesday, Payne said he did so for the benefit of his players.

“They wanted to go in a different direction,” Payne said. “The biggest thing is that they wanted their own guy. They have the right to make whatever decision they’re going to make. We had different views.”

When reached for comment on Tuesday, G-D principal Michael Mastrullo confirmed the school has found a replacement as the boys’ hockey coach, but haven’t yet announced the candidate’s name.

Mastrullo said he was surprised by Payne’s decision, but indicated there recently had been meetings between the coach and athletic director Mike McCaffrey regarding finances and fundraising tied to program costs.

“That’s where the philosophical differences came from,” Mastrullo said. “We have an issue with too much fundraising being asked of all our kids and parents. There were a lot of things that were asked for, not necessarily frivolous things, they’re all nice things, but in these days we have to be fiscally minded.

“When it comes down to it, you have to look at things as a need versus want comparison.”

Payne believes the debated items were to the benefit of the entire program, such as enlisting a power skating coach to work with the Crusaders’ junior varsity squad at intervals throughout the season. Payne said that the program had been agreed upon during the summer, but McCaffrey later changed his mind.

While Payne sought out fundraising measures as a means of defraying the cost of such enhancements, Mastrullo felt too much pressure was being applied to the skaters’ families.

“Why not give kids the ability to offset costs?” Payne said.

Beside the Crusaders’ on-ice accomplishments under Payne, there was also a strong track record of community involvement.

G-D held a fundraiser for the Sgt. William J. Woitowicz Memorial Fund in its February game against Lunenburg, among other recent drives for causes such as Toys for Tots. The Crusaders have also raised $5,700 assisting in the purchase of a new bed for Justin Brace, a former youth league player who Payne coached and was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 21.

“I love coaching high school,” said Payne, who also has coaching experience at the college level, when asked about his future plans. “You can really have an influence on these kids’ lives. Hockey is about character. As I’ve always said, character builds champions. If you have good character kids, you’re going to win championships.”

Mastrullo spoke highly of Payne despite the parting of ways.

“He certainly got a lot out of his players in his time here and accomplished a lot. We wish him nothing but the best.”

With new face under center, all eyes on BB&N

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
11:29
AM ET
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- All eyes will be on the Buckingham, Browne & Nichols football team when it opens its season Friday against Belmont Hill. At its afternoon practice Tuesday, even the hawk perched atop the Nicholas Athletic Center swooped down to get a closer look.

Such is the case when you’ve won three of the last five NEPSAC Super Bowls like the Knights have.

“Our success is great for our program, but our kids know everyone circles us on their schedule and everyone wants a piece of us, but that comes with success,” said head coach John Papas.

A potential pitfall of success is not only sustaining it, but a team allowing the success to go to its head and lose the desire to keep working towards a repeat. Papas was quick to jump on his team in the preseason to make sure that didn’t happen.

“They needed a little bit of a tongue lashing at the beginning of the year,” he said. “We have a lot of kids that have got a lot of press. They had to be talked about that press clippings don’t win championships. But they’ve responded. Since that first week, we really have progressed every day.”

One of those players is 6-6, 270-pound offensive tackle Eric Olson, who fielded multiple Division 1 scholarship offers before verbally committing to Northwestern over the summer. Another is Dan Connaugton, Olson’s 6-3, 275-pound linemate, who is mulling over some Division 1 college football options.

Those two are part of a returning offensive line unit that will be in charge of protecting Chris Coady, who is making the transition from running back to quarterback. The senior played quarterback for two years at St. John’s Prep, after which he transferred to BB&N and switched to running back a season ago. He went on to break the single-season school rushing record, when he notched over 1,800 yards on the ground.

He will replace Eric Bertino, who graduated last year. Bertino lead the ISL with 24 touchdown passes in 2009. Papas said switching Coady back to quarterback was an easy decision.

“It was a no-brainer," Papas said. "He’s an outstanding athlete at 6-3, 225 pounds. He’s a 365-pound bench press kid, plus he’s tough, smart, and he can throw and run. The decision (to put him there) was purely because he’s so athletic and bright."

Coady wasn’t initially excited about the position switch, but has changed his mind over time.

“I just grew to love running back so much,” he said. “I had a blast playing running back last year, so I didn’t really want to leave that, but I’m happy I did now. It’s getting easier and easier every time we scrimmage and practice, with making the reads and throwing the ball.”

It was an adjustment for Coady to get his timing and throwing mechanics back, but he feels he worked enough in the offseason to make sure he didn’t come into practices behind the 8-ball.

“I threw a lot with two of my buddies from Winchester over the summer,” he said. “We went down to a field in Winchester and I was throwing at least three times a week with them, just going through routes and trying to get my motion back, and trying to shorten my motion.”

The hardest parts of handling the position change for Coady have been learning how to read defenses again and knowing where everyone in the offense needs to be, not just himself. When he played running back, he felt he only had to know his responsibility on a particular play, whether it was running a route or finding a running lane. Now, he has to be aware of what everyone is doing on a particular play.

With Coady under center, who will step up to replace his 1,800 rushing yards? It won’t be one particular person.

“We’re really strong at running back,” said Papas. “Nick DiChiara, Willie Peoples, and A.J. Grassa will be a running back by committee. We’ve lost no one on the offensive line so that will help. Hopefully, with Chris being the quarterback, it will add another dimension.”

Because Coady is such a gifted runner, the BB&N offense will feature more option-type plays, allowing him to get out of the pocket and keep the defense guessing. However, its offensive principles will stay the same.

“We’ll run multiple formations,” said Papas. “We’ll run and pass. We’ve always used multiple formations and been multi-dimensional. Our style of football is, we’re going to try to run the ball until they put guys in the box to stop it, and then when they do that we’ll throw it.”

Even though it has not lost as many players to graduation as it has in the past, BB&N is still unsure of how the changes they’ve made will play out for them. One thing is certain: everyone in the ISL will be watching them like hawks.


BB&N AT A GLANCE
Coach: John Papas (55-14)
Last Year: 8-1, won NEPSAC Bowl
Key Returnees: Chris Coady, Sr. QB, 6-3, 220 lbs; Junior Arroyo, Sr. WR/DB, 5-11, 173 lbs; Adam Bakopolus, Sr. WR/DB, 5-11, 171 lbs; Dan Connaugton, Sr. OL/DT, 6-3, 265 lbs; Julian Correa, Sr. OL/DT, 5-9, 185 lbs; Nick DiChiara, Sr. WR/FB/LB, 6-1, 203 lbs; Liam Flahive, Sr. RB/DB, RB/DB, 5-8, 171 lbs; Mike Henske, Sr. OL/DE, 6-5, 223 lbs; Cal Halloway, Sr. WR/TE/LB, 6-2, 187 lbs; Ben Kimball, Sr. RB/LB, 5-10, 170 lbs; Chad Kohler, Sr. WR/LB, 6-2, 171 lbs; Chris Mackey, Sr. OL/DT, 6-4, 222 lbs; Ralph Malin, Sr. PK/DT, 5-9, 230 lbs; Eric Olson, Sr. OL/DE, 6-6, 270 lbs; Rhett Wiseman, Sr. WR/DB, 6-1, 180 lbs; Danny Zhang, Sr. WR/DB, 5-8, 134 lbs; Brendan O’Neil, Jr. TE/DE, 6-5, 212 lbs; Willie Peoples, Jr. WR/DB, 6-0, 178 lbs; A.J. Grassa, Jr. RB/DB, 5-10, 176 lbs; Connor Coady, So. OL/DT, 6-0, 215 lbs; Mike McCaffrey, So. WR/DB, 5-7, 148 lbs
Strengths: Experience, Offensive and Defensive Line, Running Game
Weaknesses: How will Coady adjust to playing QB in the ISL after switching to running back for a year? How do they replace his 1,800 rushing yards?
Outlook: This team is coming off its third NEPSAC Bowl victory in the past five years, so success is expected. With that comes the metaphorical bullseye on its back because every team will be trying its hardest to knock off the defending league champion. The biggest question going into the season is how Chris Coady will make the adjustment from running back to quarterback at the ISL level. However, he played the position his first two years at St. John’s Prep, so it will only be a matter of time before he gets readjusted to the intricacies of the position. It also doesn’t hurt that all five members of the offensive line that helped him achieve 1,800 yards on the ground are returning. The talent is certainly there, so if BB&N can survive teams’ best games each week, they could be adding another trophy at the end of the season.

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