Boston High School: Mitch Celaj

Tale of the Tape: Doherty vs. Dennis-Yarmouth

December, 4, 2013
12/04/13
12:27
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 4 Final, ESPN Boston High Schools editors Brendan Hall and Scott Barboza take a closer look at Central champ Doherty and South champ Dennis-Yarmouth, respectively.

Division 4 State Championship
DOHERTY (11-1) vs. DENNIS-YARMOUTH (10-2)
at Gillette Stadium, 11:30 a.m.


When Doherty has the ball: Quarterback Luke Brennan, a Franklin Pierce baseball commit, has a live arm. And with Boston College-bound athlete Isaac Yiadom (31 catches, 748 yards, 6 TD), tight end Mitch Celaj (24 catches, 441 yards, 2 TD) and boundary receiver Alfred Adarkwah (27 catches, 513 yards, 11 TD) at his disposal in the passing game, he has put up terrific numbers in his senior season (2,079 yards, 24 TD). Yiadom is averaging 17.7 yards per touch as a factor in both the running and passing games, as dangerous on speed sweeps from the slot (30 carries, 334 yards, 4 TD) as he is receiving.

Package that with Adarkwah on the other side, and that has left many a defense in a bind. Measuring 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan, Adarkwah has an exceptionally large catching radius – seemingly any ball landing from his knees up above his head is catchable. This is perhaps none more evident than his ridiculous four-game stat line for these playoffs: eight catches, six touchdowns.

The key, however, may lie in the running game. Often deploying a two-back three-receiver set out of a shotgun, Tyler Kmon provides a nice change of pace for their most elusive weapon, junior tailback Jahkari Carpenter. As one of Central Mass.’s rushing leaders (134 carries, 1,287 yards, 8 TD), he has been on a tear through these playoffs, averaging 9.6 yards a carry. Don’t let him get to the edge, because every single week of these playoffs, it seems like he comes up with some ridiculous run where he jukes about 100 defenders. EVERY . . . SINGLE . . . WEEK . . .

When D-Y has the ball: With the Dolphins offense, seemingly any of its talented athletes can break a big play at any given moment.

The fulcrum is senior quarterback Spencer Tyler. From the Dolphins' spread, Tyler can create with his feet and is well-capable of striking downfield on big-hit plays. Yet, for Tyler's arm strength, D-Y is at its best in the screen game. The Dolphins utilize a plethora screen concepts and funnel the ball through a cadre of athletes set out across the formation -- whether in the backfield or out wide. Michael Dunn, L.K. Metz and Jake Pawlina are among the tide of seemingly interchangeable, yet dynamic athletes D-Y pulls out at every turn. Meanwhile, sophomore Andrew Jamiel has emerged as a downfield threat as the season has progressed.

In its matchup with Doherty, however, D-Y senior running back Cory Desimone should have an increased workload. Desimone is as close to a three-down back that the Dolphins have and they will rely on him to gain tough yards inside the tackle box.

When Doherty is on defense: In short, there's lots of athleticism abound in the back seven here, between Yiadom (100 tackles) at free safety, Adarkwah shuffling in and out of the box, and linebackers Celaj and Peter Franco (84 tackles, 6 sacks, 2 INT) roaming the middle. While Yiadom doesn't have the interception totals of his breakthrough 2012 season, he still covers a ton of ground in the deep field, forcing quarterbacks into second-guessing throws.

Don't overlook the Highlanders' defensive line, which packs both bulk and punch. Senior Matt Smalls (63 tackles, 6 sacks, 1 INT) is a load off the edge at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, equipped with an explosive first step and a good rip move to the outside. Keep an eye on promising sophomore Tavian Vassar (56 tackles, 12 sacks), who alternates between middle linebacker and defensive tackle. The 5-foot-11, 220-pounder is built low to the ground and disruptive.

When D-Y is on defense: In the early going of its Division 4 Eastern Mass. final against Bedford, D-Y struggled early to slow down Bedford's Olan Abner. While the Highlanders don't have a back as physical as Abner, the Dolphins will have to contend with Jahkari Carpenter, who could exploit D-Y's difficulty in containing stretch plays. The group tasked with leading the charge will be an underrated Dolphins defensive line, led by tackles Spike Elizondo and Angelo Hardaway.

The strength of D-Y's defense might be its linebacking corps, anchored by Chip Evangelista and Metz. After a strong second-half effort against Bedford, Dolphins head coach Paul Funk praised the efforts of his linebackers, calling Metz the factor that "stirs the drink," defensively. The art of the Dolphins defense is to collapse the interior line and allow for its athletic group of linebackers to step up and make tackles.

Of course, the greatest question entering is how the Dolphins secondary will match up with Doherty's tall, rangy receivers. A player like Metz could be used to shadow Yiadom across the formation, but how does D-Y game plan for Adarkwah on the perimeter?

Yiadom set to lead No. 22 Doherty

August, 22, 2013
8/22/13
8:35
PM ET
Sean Mulcahy still clearly remembers the first time he knew he had something special with Isaac Yiadom.

Back then, in 2011, he was a wiry 6-foot, 147 pounds, freshly transplanted from Alexandria, Va., where he quickly moved into the starting secondary as a freshman at Robert E. Lee High. Raw, skinny, but blessed with a solitary blend of speed and leaping ability, Yiadom was placed at free safety for the Highlanders' first preseason scrimmage, Westborough.

On one of the first plays from scrimmage, the Rangers called a toss play to the alley, and Yiadom -- lined up 10 yards off the ball in a "man free" look, in the middle of the field -- came sprinting across the field, wrapping up the wingback cleanly in the space between the hash mark and numbers, before he could turn the corner.

"I was like 'Holy Cow'," Mulcahy recalled. "Those kinds of things you can’t coach. What would have taken a normal kid, maybe he gives up three yards [on the play], Isaac made the play and they lost three yards. He's a great open-field tackler. Literally, if we needed him to play at linebacker, he'd be more suited for us to be successful at middle linebacker. But we've gotta protect him too."

Two years, two inches and 30 pounds later, Yiadom is one of the fastest-rising commodities in Massachusetts, becoming the first of seven Bay State prospects to pledge to Boston College's 2014 recruiting class, in late March, and building buzz ever since. Last season, he had 48 touches for 972 yards of offense, which included 22 carries; with his signature running play, an end-around, he averaged nearly 13 yards a carry.

Blessed with 4.5 speed and a 37-inch vertical leap, Yiadom also made six interceptions and 60 tackles as a strong safety. He will likely fit into a cornerback role at BC, with hopes that his long arms can provide some stiff coverage. During outdoor track and field season, Yiadom is among the state's best in the 400-meter dash (49.99 seconds) and triple jump (46-foot-6). Scouts Inc. ranks Yiadom as the No. 4 overall prospect in Massachusetts, higher than highly-touted Division 1 prospects such as Everett defensive back Lubern Figaro (12 offers), Natick quarterback Troy Flutie (BC) and Tabor Academy athlete Miles Wright (undecided).

Of course, he benefited from the impact last year of two-way star Noah Robinson, who became a matchup problem at tight end, as well as a strong stable of running backs and the terrific arm of returning quarterback Luke Brennan, who committed to Franklin Pierce University for baseball earlier this month. Yiadom began to see more physical, bracketed coverage towards the end of last season, but now he'll expect full-on scheming against him as the Highlanders' top option.

That suits him just fine. After all, the Highlanders are expecting big things this year out of receivers Alfred Adarkwah and Shawn Jackson.

"Towards the end of the season they were beating me up a little harder," Yiadom said. "But [physical play] kind of excites me at the same time. I like it, too, because it opens new ways for Luke to find Alfred or Shawn."

Which brings us to one of the more intriguing developments of the offseason. In passing leagues this summer, in an effort to stress defenses, the Highlanders toyed with Yiadom and the 6-foot-4, 170-pound Adarkwah on the same side of formations. With his big hands and long arms (6-foot-7 wingspan), Adarkwah can stretch a defense vertically and seal a defender off deep downfield. That could blend well with Yiadom's speed; running the two of "smash" and "snag" combo routes, along with bubble screens, the strategy had some success this summer.

"I definitely think it's gonna be his best season this year," Yiadom said. "Last year he did great, but we had Noah Robinson and great receivers [around him]. This is gonna be his best year because he can draw a lot of attention. He stretches for the ball. He just doesn't drop the ball -- even in passing league, he just doesn't drop it. He's hungry this year, it's gonna be a good year."

DOHERTY AT A GLANCE
Coach: Sean Mulcahy (23rd season, 100-143)
Last season: 9-3, lost in Div. 2 CMass Playoffs
Returning Starters: 10 (seven offense, three defense)
Key Returnees: Sr. WR/DB Isaac Yiadom, Sr. QB Luke Brennan, Sr. WR Alfred Adarkwah, Sr. RB/LB Pete Franco, Sr. OL/DL Jack Halloran, Sr. E/DB Shawn Jackson, Sr. E/DB Mitch Celaj, OL/DL Matt Smalls
Strengths: Skill players, passing game, secondary, athleticism.
Weaknesses: Experience at offensive and defensive lines, linebackers.
Overview: Defensively there might be growing pains at first for the Highlanders, who are looking to replace eight starters, mostly in the front seven and none more significant than linebacker Noah Robinson (125 tackles, five sacks). But with the BC-bound Yiadom at free safety leading the defensive backs, one has to wonder how much time that can buy his teammates in front of him on pass rushes -- his closing speed is without peer in the Central Mass. region, and he takes terrific angles on passes. Offensively, the questions are in the trenches, where there is experience to be replaced. But the Highlanders run a perimeter-oriented offensive scheme, which suits their deep stable of talented skill players. Expect Yiadom, who racked up nearly 1,000 yards of offense on just 48 carries last season, to be the focal point of defensive game plans, and see his fair share of bracket coverage. But one of the more interesting developments over the summer has been their usage of the 6-foot-4 Adarkwah, who could be in for a breakout season. With long arms that give him a wide catching radius and help him lock up defenders when blocking downfield, the Highlanders may experiment with him and Yiadom on the same side of formations, which could stretch the limits of pass defenses they face. Overall, the Highlanders have plenty of firepower on offense, directed by Brennan under center, but the defense will have to grow up quick if they are to replicate last year's success and fulfill some heady preseason expectations.

Summer Snapshot: Doherty Highlanders

August, 6, 2013
8/06/13
11:43
PM ET
This is the second installment in our "Summer Snapshot" series, checking in with some of Massachusetts' top teams leading into the MIAA football preseason. To see all of our Summer Snapshots, CLICK HERE.

Long on athleticism but often short on results, this last decade has seen an impressive turnaround for once-dormant Doherty High. Last fall was an historic season for the Highlanders, which took some of Central Mass.'s heavyweights to the wire (Nashoba) and gave others a swift humbling (Holy Name, Shepherd Hill). They finished 9-3, losing the rematch with Shepherd Hill in the MIAA Central Mass. Division 2 playoffs, but by all accounts 2012 was a high water mark.

At safety they'll return Isaac Yiadom -- a Boston College commit, the state's No. 4 overall prospect, and the program's highest-profile recruit since current UConn linebacker Yawin Smallwood -- but there are questions everywhere else with the graduation of eight starters. Can the Highlanders continue the momentum that's been building for the last few seasons? We checked in with them this morning as part of our annual preseason football gallery.

DOHERTY AT A GLANCE
Coach: Sean Mulcahy (22nd season, 98-143)
Last season: 9-3, lost in Div. 2 CMass Playoffs
Final ESPN Boston Rank: NR
Returning Starters: 10 (seven offense, three defense)
Key Losses: LB Noah Robinson, RB/DB Terence Hall, DB Abdullah Webster, DB Sam Oppong, OL/DL Dave Ritchotte, OL/DL Robbie Nay, LB Maurice Morales, OL/DL Octavio Rodriguez
Key Returnees: Sr. WR/DB Isaac Yiadom, Sr. QB Luke Brennan, Sr. WR Alfred Adarkwah, Sr. RB/LB Pete Franco, Sr. OL/DL Jack Halloran, Sr. E/DB Shawn Jackson, Sr. E/DB Mitch Celaj, OL/DL Mitch Smalls
Overview: Coming off one of their most successful campaigns in years last fall, the Highlanders must find a way to replace eight starters on defense, most notably Robinson (125 tackles, five sacks). Normally that's a daunting task, but the presence of one of the state's best pass defenders in Yiadom, a fluid athlete who covers plenty of ground at free safety and demonstrates great leaping ability, should keep things clean in back. Perhaps the quality secondary can help shore up the youthful front seven. Offensively, Yiadom is the top option, and has great rapport with Brennan, a Franklin Pierce University baseball commit. But keep an eye on Adarkwah, a big target at 6-foot-4 and 170 pounds, who could have a breakout senior campaign. With his long, lanky frame, Adarkwah has an exceptionally large catching radius and does a quality job sealing off defenders downfield on run plays. In the newly-aligned Central Mass. district, Doherty figures to be one of several favorites in Division 4, but they'll have a tougher schedule to endure, including a must-see matchup with D2 favorite Leominster in the final week of the regular season.

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