Boston High School: Mitch LaFerriere

Recap: No. 22 BC High 13, No. 4 St. John's Prep 7

October, 19, 2013
10/19/13
1:48
AM ET
BOSTON -- Trailing highly-touted St. John's Prep by a touchdown at the half, Boston College High quarterback Sean Holleran got, in short, "a good chewing" from his head coach Joe Gaff. Players were getting open, looking for a good throw, and the 5-foot-10 junior was not holding up his end of the bargain, including a bad interception late in the second quarter.

"I deserved that chewing," he recalled, with a laugh.

Tied late in the game, before a boisterous home crowd at Viola Stadium, Holleran came through with the throw his coach was looking for, then let his feet do the rest of the work. His orchestration on what would be the game-winning eight-play, 66-yard delivered BC High (4-2) its biggest statement win of the season, a 13-7 decision over Prep (4-3) that improved them to 2-0 in the Catholic Conference and gave them three straight wins since their bye week in late September.

"Sean is the toughest kid as they come," Gaff said. "He took a good chewing at halftime, and he came out in the second half and responded incredibly. He made some choices tonight, giving and not giving the ball, and he made some great runs."

No play was more important on that final drive, perhaps, than the 18-yard strike to junior receiver Geoff Stillman on third and six at their own 38. Stillman, split out wide to the right, ran a slant to hash marks, where Holleran lasered the ball into a tight window. With quick reflexes, Stillman cradled the ball in traffic and ground forward for the first down.

"He came in, the linebacker stepped up and he made a great catch over the middle," Holleran said. "It takes a lot of guts to do that, and he went up and got it. It paid off for us."

That throw to Stillman was followed up with a 16-yard scramble, then a nine-yard option keeper, sprung loose by a sealing block downfield from tight end Connor Walsh but stepping out of bounds at the Prep 19. After a Prep offsides call, Holleran scurried for eight more yards on an option keeper with a fake pitch, then Mitch LaFerriere capped the winning drive with a six-yard plunge with 46 seconds remaining.

"[I was] just reading the defense and going with it, you know?" Holleran said. "Our pass game wasn't really there for us today, we had to get it done on our feet, and that's what we did."

The point-after kick was blocked, but BC High's fortunes took a favorable bounce when Prep's ensuing hook-and-ladder attempt was fumbled on the exchange in the boundary. Ismail Asongwed pounced on the loose ball for BC High, and they proceeded to run out the clock.

With 37 seconds left, a few timeouts to spare and 64 yards to go, the decision could be considered high-risk. Yet the Prep nearly pulled it off, likely marching to paydirt if not for the fumble. Prep head coach Jim O'Leary said he even considered calling a hook-and-ladder to open the game up.

"We had practice that this week, and we actually thought about opening the game up with it," he said. "The first play, we didn't get the yards we needed or something, but it's not a bad call. It looks likes it's going for a touchdown and then he puts the ball in the ground. More than anything else, ball security was the issue tonight. We just can't be turning the ball over like that, on the road, down here."

Brendan Smith led BC High on the ground with 15 carries for 97 yards, while Prep quarterback Mike Geaslen completed 7 of 11 passes for 96 yards and ran in the lone Prep score on a sneak from the one-foot line.

Prep linemen suspended: As if it wasn't snakebitten enough with the loss of Maryland-bound all-world running back Johnny Thomas (knee) for the season, three of Prep's top linemen were missing from tonight's action due to what O'Leary called "school disciplinary action".

Asked if the suspension could carry into the postseason (Prep has a bye next week, the final week of the regular season), O'Leary said, "If we make the playoffs, we'll see. I suspect with those kind of issues, that there's consequences that extend more than one game."

Harnais makes early exit: BC High lost one of its top running backs, senior Robert Harnais, five minutes into the contest on what would have been a sure-fire touchdown. On the first play of BC's second drive, from its own 12, Harnais took a toss sweep around the edge and took off for daylight before blowing a tire around midfield. The play, officially a 48-yard scamper that could have easily been an 88-yard TD, was Harnais' last of the night. He finished with three carries for 54 yards.

It was more than just a simple cramp. Harnais had to be carried off the field by two teammates, putting no weight on either leg. Gaff confirmed it is an issue with his left hamstring, with an unknown timetable.

"Imagine? He's gone on that, that's a touchdown on that," Gaff said. "It's a hamstring issue. Unfortunately, he's worked his body so hard all season and he's been nicked up all year. Hopefully, we'll get him back at the end of the year."

The Walls of Morrissey Blvd.: Coming out of its bye week, after some miserable first-half showings, it's safe to say BC High has cleaned things up on the defensive front. Two weeks ago, in statistically its best performance to date, the Eagles held then-No. 8 Brockton to 112 yards of total offense in a 6-0 shutout victory. Tonight, they held Prep to 135 yards of total offense, including just 39 rushing yards, giving them a total of less than 250 yards allowed combined against two teams ranked in ESPN Boston's Top 10 at the time.

With a front seven led by Steve DiCienzo and Chris Solis, this defense has developed a nastiness at just the right time, with the first round of Division 1 South playoffs two weeks away.

"This is unreal," Holleran said of the defense. "It's taken a lot of pressure off me, I'll tell you that much. It was a couple plays that got it back for us, and second half we put it in."

Check Mate: At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Walsh plays a unique chess piece in BC High's slowly-evolving offense. Able to set the edge lined up tight in a three-point stance, or seal an outmatched defender inside or outside for a big gain when split out on the perimeter, he plays a significant factor in the run game. In the passing game, he can be a matchup problem when isolated out wide, either in a double-slot formation or opposite trips, as BC High did tonight.

In the first half, Walsh was split out wide as a split end four times and was targeted twice, with no catches and one drop. In the opening drive of the second half, BC ran exclusively out of a double-slot formation with Walsh at split end, running mostly zone read plays but also targeting the big tight end once with no success.

On the game-winning final drive, Walsh again was put out on the perimeter, and he made several big blocks to spring Holleran loose for first-down gains.

"He's a big body, got great hands and moves really well for a big guy," Gaff said. "We've got some confidence moving him out. You've got Stillman, the tall target, with the big catch down the middle on that last drive, so it's nice to have some big bodies on the outside of Sean, who's not the tallest guy to see some big targets."

Said Holleran of tonight's strategy with Walsh, "We were just looking to hit Prep wherever we could. We saw an advantage on the outside with Walsh, and we tried to get it there. It was there, I just couldn't hit him."

BC HIGH 13, ST. JOHN'S PREP 7

SJP 0 7 0 0 --- 7
BCH 0 0 7 6 --- 13


Second Quarter
S - Mike Geaslen 1 run (Josh Hilty kick) 8:20

Third Quarter
B - Sean Holleran 1 run (Jack O'Brien kick) 2:56

Fourth Quarter
B - Mitch LaFerriere 6 run (kick blocked) :46

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."

New faces blend talent for No. 2 BC High

September, 2, 2012
9/02/12
10:41
PM ET
With a new head coach patrolling the sidelines, some preseason injury concerns and a cast of new faces stepping into crucial roles on the field, an element of change has certainly been in the air around the BC High football program.

Joe Gaff, a 26-year veteran of the Everett police department, was tabbed to replace Jon Bartlett this summer. Gaff served as the Eagles defensive coordinator the last four years and has previous head coaching experience with Chelsea, Matignon, and Malden Catholic.

The Eagles quest to defend the Division 1 Super Bowl title has gotten off to something of an auspicious beginning, most notably because of the loss of All-State linebacker Luke Catarius. Catarius suffered a slight fracture to his right ankle earlier this week in a scrimmage with Mansfield, and will miss five to six weeks according to Gaff.

Standouts Jack McDonald, Billy Breen and Jaleel Johnson all sat out Friday's scrimmage against Lawrence with what Gaff called "nagging injuries", but all three are expected to be ready to go for Friday's season opener in Brockton.

On the field, the Eagles strength looks like it will be on defense, even with Catarius sidelined. Mark McGuire and Johnson are the anchors at defensive tackle while Tim Johnson and Mike McAuley (who had two interceptions in the Lawrence scrimmage) are standout cornerbacks.

At the linebacker spots, replacing Catarius will be difficult but the Eagles will lean on returnees Danny Collins and Brandon Owens. Brian Robinson has had a terrific preseason, Brian Landry is back after taking two years off from football, and Steve Dicienzo will also contribute.

When asked who would be looked to step up to fill the void left by Catarius, Gaff pointed at the group and talked about some changes the defense will have to make.

"I don't think I can pinpoint one guy. It's more of a unit," Gaff explained. "We've been playing a lot of base defense and letting Luke just read and go so we're going to have move our defense a lot more. We're going to have to be a bit more aggressive and make things happen instead of letting Luke clean things up. We have to set the tempo now and move our guys around a lot more than we have in the past."

The kicking game will also be stellar. BC High boasts one of the state's elite kickers in Jackson Bockhorst, who can hit from 50 yards out, and a strong punter in Pat Ahearn.

Offensively, the Eagles are extremely talented but very inexperienced. Virginia commit McDonald (6-5, 270 lbs.) and Breen (6-4, 240 lbs) will anchor the line from the tackle spots, although the versatile McDonald can play all five positions if needed. BC High adds three new starters to the unit, but the expectation is that they will be able to continue a fine tradition of line play at the school.

"We'll be a pretty quick offensive line this year," said Gaff. "We don't have the huge size all the way across but we'll be very athletic up front. We're looking to keep the tradition of solid offensive line play, keep the running game going, and they know that's what we want."

Senior Brendan Craven steps in at quarterback after spending the last couple of years watching former starter Bartley Regan, although Gaff hinted that Danny Collins may be used in spots as a change of pace, running QB in certain situations. Craven's main target should be 6-foot-4 Lincoln Collins, who committed to Villanova over the summer. Tim Johnson and Mike McAuley step into the lineup alongside him.

Brandon Owens will be the main tailback, joined by Skyler Evans. Catarius also served a crucial role as the team's fullback, so look for DiCienzo and Mitch LaFerriere to pick up the slack.

"I think we need some experience in the passing game," Gaff admitted. "We have talent but its been a lack of playing time for those guys. (Craven) is a first year quarterback and we have inexperience at WR. Even with Lincoln as great as he is, our two and three guys haven't got too much experience as receivers. And we have a new running back too, and losing Luke from that means we will have to do some different things."

BC HIGH AT A GLANCE
2011: 10-3, Division 1 Super Bowl champion
Coach: Joe Gaff (1st season)
Key Returnees: Billy Breen, Sr., OT/DL, 6-4, 240 lbs; Jack McDonald, Sr., OT/DT, 6-5, 275 lbs; Jaleel Johnson, Sr., DT, 6-2, 240 lbs, Mark McGuire, Sr. DL, 6-2, 200 lbs.; Tim Johnson, Sr. DB/WR, 5-10, 175 lbs.; Danny Collins, Sr. MLB/QB, 6-2, 185 lbs.; Lincoln Collins, Sr., WR, 6-4, 180 lbs; Brandon Owens, Sr. LB/RB, 6-0, 200 lbs.; Mike McAuley, Sr. DB/WR, 5-11, 170 lbs.; Brendan Craven, Sr. QB, 6-3, 180 lbs.; Skyler Evans, Sr. RB, 5-9, 180 lbs.
Strengths: Defense, kicking game, senior leadership.
Weaknesses: Inexperience on offense, key injuries.
Outlook: The defending Super Bowl champions have a different look and feel from the team that won the title, not just because those seniors are gone but also because those seniors were able to get playing time as juniors and sophomores, something much of this year's senior class hasn't had. "I think this is a different group," Gaff said. "That senior class last year was so good that we have a lot of guys that are seniors now and are stepping on the field for the first time. Last year we had a lot of guys that had played as juniors and I think that's the big difference. This years group is good, just not game experienced." Gaff and his charges will be put to the test early as the Eagles open with games against Brockton, North Attleboro, Dartmouth, St. Peters Prep (N.J.), Marlboro and Everett before finishing with its Catholic Conference slate. A strong defense should give the inexperienced offense time to get its feet wet and allow its talent to shine through. Bockhurst is a weapon that few other teams with his ability to boom field goals from as deep as 50 yards, something that may come into play early and often.

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