Boston High School: Neil O'Connor

D1 Baseball Final: Leominster 6, Norwood 1

June, 14, 2014
Jun 14
11:20
PM ET


WORCESTER, Mass. -- The sun was setting in the distance behind Fitton Field’s left field foul pole as Leominster’s Neil O’Connor was putting the finishing touches on his team’s season.

With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Norwood’s John Galvin stepped into the batter’s box. The senior had himself a strong tournament run until that point. He went 4-for-4 at the plate and threw a complete game against Andover in the Eastern Mass. Finals. He was 1-for-3 with an RBI and pitched three strong innings until that point.

[+] EnlargeRich Barnaby
Brendan Hall/ESPNBoston.com Leominster won its first state title since 1996 under first-year coach Rich Barnaby -- a starting third baseman on that 1996 team.
His team’s season was in the balance and he was able to work a full count. O’Connor went with a high fastball and it was enough to put Galvin away. O’Connor threw his glove high in the air, higher than the protective netting behind home place.

Leominster defeated Norwood 6-1 in the Division 1 State Baseball Final. It is the fourth baseball state title in school history.

“Leominster is a baseball town,” said Blue Devils coach Rich Barnaby. “I was on the 1996 team, which is the last state title team we had. It’s the fourth time we’ve been here and the fourth time we’ve won it. It means a lot to the community.”

Barnaby played third base on that state championship team. Leominster also won state titles in 1986 and 1988.

His team got on the board first in the top of the third on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze by Brett Corliss. Nick Cordio opened the inning by hitting a rocket to deep left that one-hopped the wall. He advanced to third on a groundout before being knocked in on a well-placed bunt down the first base line.

Norwood tied it in the bottom of the inning when Denis Drummey scored from second on Galvin’s base knock to center. There was going to be a play at the plate, but Corliss’ throw was high enough for Drummey to slide in under the tag.

Leominster tacked on four more runs in the fourth, two coming on wild pitches. Another came on a Corliss sacrifice bunt.

The Blue Devils were able to use small ball tactics to move runners over and put them in position to capitalize on Norwood’s mistakes. When it appeared the bleeding was going to be stopped after one run in the fourth, David Barry’s grounder to second was mishandled by Connor Flynn. All runners were safe and it went on to score two more runs in the inning.

“Since the first practice, Coach has always been preaching small ball, do the little things to get the runs,” said O’Connor. “It payed off. We had a couple of big hits and a couple of big squeezes that helped us out today.”

Neil is nifty: O’Connor threw 98 pitches in the complete game effort, striking out six and only surrendering 4 hits and two walks. His most effective pitch Saturday was his curveball. The University of New Hampshire football commit was able to throw it at any point in the count and keep hitters off balance. He controlled it enough so it caught the inside corner of the plate against right-handed hitters.

“Coach was calling a good game and my curveball was working,” he said. “They’re a very good fastball hitting team and when they sit on the curve they can hit that too. I was just trying to mix it up and keep them guessing as much as I could.”

O’Connor’s curve was so nasty that it began fooling righties into thinking the ball was coming at them. Normally, a hitter takes his first stride toward the pitcher in order to generate power upon contact. Some Norwood hitters were taking their first step backwards away from the plate, believing the pitch was coming in high and tight before it eventually drifted back over the plate for strikes.

“He almost has more confidence in his curveball,” said Barnaby. “The one thing about playing a team we’ve never played before, it took us one or two times through the lineup to adjust to their hitters. They’ve got some good hitters, and they put some good contact on it. That’s a good team.”

Case for Super 8? Entering this postseason, there was discussion and complaints from Central and Western Mass. baseball fans and media regarding no Division 1A “Super 8” tournament representation from those regions. Many had differing opinions of how strong a Central Mass. schedule was in comparison to Eastern Mass. teams. When it came time to select the field, Leominster was one of the teams caught on the outside looking in. The tournament selection committee chose to nominate St. John’s of Shrewsbury for consideration over the 16-4 Blue Devils.

This state title win will only strengthen the argument that Leominster should have been in the “Super 8,” but players were not using the win as an opportunity to gloat Saturday.

“We were just trying to play baseball,” said O’Connor regarding the win. “We tried to do whatever we could. Whatever games we played, we tried to win. We just left it at that. We’re happy with where we are right now.”

Throughout the season, coaches have been more outspoken than the players regarding their teams’ respective candidacy. Of the teams left out, Leominster certainly has the ability to say “See? I told you so.”

“All year, our philosophy was control what you can control,” said Barnaby. “If we’re in the Super 8, we’re in the Super 8. If we’re not, we’re going to try to beat everyone the MIAA wants us to beat. We kind of kept a positive spin. On the bus today, I said, ‘Hey, if we don’t beat this team, the Super 8 is right, we don’t belong. If we beat them, maybe next year they’ll consider a Central Mass. team.”

Leominster star to leave lasting legacy

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
11:31
AM ET
LEOMINSTER, Mass. -– When Neil O’Connor first discovered that he was going to be named Gatorade Player of the Year, he happened to be in between classes at Leominster High. His football coach, Dave Palazzi, called O’Connor into his office.

“Have you heard of this Gatorade Player of the Year thing at all Neil? It’s pretty cool,” Palazzi asked, summoning his star quarterback over to his computer to look through the list of winners of the award.

O’Connor scrolled down the page and eventually got down to Massachusetts, shooting his coach a smirk when he found his name on the list of 2013 winners.

“Oh wow, well thanks coach,” O’Connor said, reaching out to shake Palazzi’s hand.

And then O’Connor walked out of the room, back to class next door, as if nothing had happened.

“I was like ‘don’t thank me, you did everything!’ Neil just shook my hand and that was it. He didn’t even tell anybody, he just went back to class,” recalls Palazzi, himself one of the city’s all-time greats, and a former UMass quarterback. “I peeked in the other room and he was just with his friends working on a project. He didn’t tell anyone. It was unbelievable.”

Jarell Addo, a UMass football signee and an exceptional athlete in his own right, has been one of O’Connor’s best friends since the two first started going to Leominster High football games together in the fourth grade. The day O’Connor won the Gatorade Player of the Year award, Addo had no idea until he heard about it from others.

“He didn’t even tell me, people kept coming up to him at school and asking him about it,” Addo said. “He was so humble that he didn’t even want to mention it to me and I hang out with him every day.”

Blue Blood

O’Connor is a three-sport captain and star in Leominster, the most well-known athlete in a sports-crazy town that prides itself partly on athletic programs that have been among the best in Massachusetts for well over a half a century. It’s a regular occurrence to see four or five thousand screaming fans at Doyle Field on Friday night for a Leominster football game, making it one of the few towns in Massachusetts that has that authentic feel so often romanticized in pop culture.

“It’s like the picture-perfect movie, like Friday Night Lights,” O’Connor said. “On Friday night, everyone stops what they’re doing and goes to the games. It’s a great feeling to play for your whole town – some of that community used to play football here or used to play baseball here. They’re done playing, they don’t get anything out of it, so it’s awesome knowing that they still care about it enough to come support us.”

Addo added: “Walking down that tunnel at Doyle and hearing all the fans screaming for you is just a great thing to have. In the back of your mind when things are going bad, you know all these people are here rooting for you. It’s very special.”

A member of the varsity baseball team since he was a freshman, a do-it-all utility man on the football field, and the ultimate glue guy on the basketball court, O’Connor is a rare breed in an age where most young athletes are encouraged to focus on just one sport.

The 6-foot senior won the Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year in football, passing for 2,132 yards and 24 touchdowns while rushing for 673 yards and 11 touchdowns. On defense, the hard-hitting safety led the team with 120 tackles and five interceptions, including two interceptions returned for a touchdown. He’s also been quite a role model for younger student-athletes in Leominster to look up to, sporting a 3.4 GPA in the classroom.

[+] EnlargeNeil O'Connor
Tim Hart for ESPNBoston.comNeil O'Connor was the state's Gatorade Player of the Year in football. Former Leominster coach John Dubzinski called him one of Leominster's best athletes ever.
Even at 6-foot with high tops on, O’Connor led the basketball team in rebounding and embraced a role as Coach Steve Dubzkinski’s go-to defensive stopper on a team that went 17-5 and fell to eventual state champion Putnam in the Western Mass. semis.

Most recently, he has anchored the baseball team’s run to the Division 1 state championship game with a .468 batting average and 8-1 record on the pitcher’s mound. He’s proven to be the most comfortable in uncomfortable situations. His coaches, as well as Addo, admitted that about the only time O’Connor gets uncomfortable is when he has to talk about himself.

“The only time Neil is uncomfortable is when you compliment him,” said Leominster baseball coach Rich Barnaby. “Literally, he’s probably the most modest kid you’ll ever meet. The most uncomfortable he gets is when you compliment him or tell him how good he is.”

O’Connor remains mum on receiving the Gatorade award. An award that specifically celebrates the individual, he didn’t address it with many people because he knew it wasn’t something he accomplished alone.

“It was a great accomplishment, it’s a great award and I was so honored to receive it,” he said. “That being said, it wasn’t just an award I won single-handedly –- I won it with my brothers, my family, the whole school -– everyone contributed to it. I wouldn’t have been able to do anything without all the people around us. Our coaches, our players -– everyone. It was great to have, but I wanted everyone to know that they played a part in it.”

Steve Dubzinski, Leominster’s varsity basketball coach who also grew up in the town, spares no words in describing O’Connor’s legacy at Leominster. He recalled a conversation he recently had about O’Connor with his uncle John Dubzinski, who won 181 games and five super bowls in his time as Leominster’s football coach preceding Palazzi.

“I talked to my uncle the other day and I said Neil’s the best athlete to ever come out of Leominster in the last 60 or 70 years,” Dubzkinski said. “So I asked my uncle -- my uncle came here in 1970, so he was here over 40 years -- and he said hands down Neil O’Connor is the best all-around athlete to come out of Leominster in the last 42 years.”

Palazzi added: “It’s one of those things where you go into that game and you have the cannon and the other guy has a squirt gun, so to speak, that’s how you feel when Neil’s on your team. And it’s not just his talent, it’s the things he can do in pressure situations.”

Family Ties

In order to understand O’Connor’s accomplishments on the athletic field, one must first look at his bloodlines.

Many in the town call Neil’s success destiny. His oldest brother Patrick was a three-sport athlete at Leominster before playing Division 1 football at Wagner College. His middle brother Kevin, who is two years Neil’s senior and also played three sports for the Blue Devils, plays football and baseball at Assumption College.

Neil’s father, Oscar, is the president of the Leominster Blue Devils Football Club. Meanwhile, his mother Ann could often be seen glancing back and forth at her cell phone during Neil’s games so that she could support two sons at the same time -– watching streams of Kevin’s football and baseball games online:

“She never had a smartphone, she had no idea how to work it,” O’Connor says with a laugh. “She would be at Doyle Field watching my game while watching Kevin’s game on a little iPhone. She’s always been our biggest supporter, our biggest fan.”

Neil learned much about defense and the safety position from his brother, and he remembers his touchdown pass to Kevin at Gillette Stadium two years ago as one of the proudest moments of his life. Only weeks earlier, Neil had broken his right collarbone, and it was feared that he wouldn’t be able to play for the rest of the season.

He even tried to take matters into his own hands, showing up to football practice with a catcher’s protector on his right shoulder in order to prove to Palazzi he could play. After he saw a doctor and was ruled out for the Blue Devils’ Thanksgiving Day game against Fitchburg, he was cleared to play in their final game of the season – where they took on heated rival St. John’s for the Central Mass. Division 1 Super Bowl.

“The team knew about it. That just gave us even more fire coming out against St. John’s knowing that Neil was playing with that hurt shoulder. He was going to do whatever it took to win,” said Addo, who spent the last two years playing at safety alongside O’Connor.

The Blue Devils upended St. John’s for the 21-6 Super Bowl victory, but the first touchdown of the game is one the O’Connors will never forget. On a halfback option pass from junior quarterback Garrett DelleChiaie, Neil caught the ball and hurled a perfect spiral 44 yards downfield to Kevin to give Leominster the early lead.

At that point, his right collarbone was of course still broken, but he had confirmed with a doctor that the injury wouldn’t be aggravated by continuing to play. Immense pain and all, there was but one choice.

“I was so down, I wanted to play on Thanksgiving because it’s a huge family tradition – so that really hurt,” O’Connor recalled. “It really meant a lot to play one last game with my brother, someone who I’ve looked up to my whole life. But that touchdown was one of the best parts of my sports career, and it was at Gillette. That moment, I’ll always cherish that.”

“He grew up in a town where his brothers competed at a high level, meanwhile he’s there the whole time listening in on it,” Palazzi said. “Just the upbringing by his parents: teaching him what’s right about the game and how to act, what to say, how to be to your teammates. That whole package of support got him to where he is today, no question about that.”

Thrown in the fire

The first impression O’Connor made at Leominster High was as a skinny freshman, where he practiced with the varsity baseball team but only played in JV games during the regular season. Emile Johnson, Leominster’s longtime baseball coach who retired last year after 725 victories, went to O’Connor for two key relief appearances in the Central Mass. tournament -– including once against top-seeded Milford, where O’Connor picked up the victory. O’Connor has been a starter for the baseball team ever since.

“He was on the JV team, but he practiced with us. So we brought him up, we played Milford in the quarterfinals, and Neil came in to shut the door against the number-one team – you knew the kid had poise under the pressure,” Barnaby said. “It’s tough to be a freshman and move all the way up to the varsity, but just being the youngest brother you knew he was going to be gifted. He tried out with us and we saw that we had to give him some playing time. It’s very rare for a freshman to play at the varsity level.”

The pitching appearances against Milford and Quabbin came as a complete surprise to O’Connor, who expected to spend the tournament on the bench considering that the Blue Devils had a senior-laden team.

“I figured I would just play a role on the bench, like get foul balls and stuff like that,” he said. “Coach Johnson told me I had nothing to lose, to go out there and do my best, that if we win I’m the hero and if we lose then it doesn’t matter. He pretty much told me to go out there and give it my best shot.”

Leominster faced St. John’s in the semifinal -– which would become a recurring theme over the course of O’Connor’s career –- and fell 5-4.

"The color red, we just don’t like it"

The Blue Devils’ rivalry with St. John’s of Shrewsbury has been long and storied, but has been especially fierce during O’Connor’s tenure at Leominster. Any time the two schools meet – especially in football, basketball, baseball – extra-aggressive play and plenty of trash talk is sure to follow suit.

“Everybody gets fired up no matter what the event, whether it’s basketball or football or baseball. It’s the color red, we just don’t like it,” Addo said, referring to the Pioneers’ colors.

Leominster faced the Pioneers in all four years of O’Connor’s career in the MIAA baseball tournament, and went 2-1 on the mound in three postseason starts against them.

His best work though, was the show he put on at Tivnan Field in this year’s semifinal. O’Connor pitched a complete game, giving up just one run on four hits to one of the state’s deepest lineups. Once again, he had decided to take things into his own hands.

Down 1-0 in the sixth inning, O’Connor came to the plate and ripped the first pitch he saw to left field for a two-run home run; he later called the home run the farthest ball he’s ever hit. Minutes later, he retired the side on the mound to send his archrival home packing for the second straight year, 2-1. The win was vengeance, in a way, after Leominster’s year ended at the hands of the Pioneers during football.

After seeing O’Connor jump on home plate and embrace his teammates with celebratory shouts and high-fives, his coaches agreed unanimously that the emotion from him after he hit the home run was more emotion than they’d ever seen him display on a playing field.

The untold story was the challenge that Barnaby issued to O’Connor before the game, and his star senior rose to the challenge in a way that the coach never thought possible.

“I said ‘You know what Neil? People that don’t know anything about sports will say you had some good regular season games but you couldn’t come through in the playoffs…I know better than that, but that’s what they’ll say about you. You can’t win the big one’,” Barnaby recalled.

“The thing about that challenge, and the fact that St. John’s was the one who took the football title away from him; there was obviously some bad blood from the fans and from players on the other team too. That made it extra special.”

The challenge forced O’Connor to do some thinking before the game, coming to the quick conclusion that he had to do anything in his power to make sure his team had the chance to achieve their goal of playing for a state championship – a goal Barnaby and the team set for themselves last summer.

“That game felt like a football game,” said O’Connor. “Just the emotion, that was the closest thing I’ve ever had to a football game. We lost to them in football at the end of the year and I really just didn’t want to go down in my last game of my high school career losing to St. John’s. Before the game I was just thinking about how I couldn’t let that happen.”

With an equally deep talent pool in football, the Central Mass. championship the last few years have often come down to Leominster and St. John’s. The Blue Devils got the best of the rivalry in O’Connor’s sophomore and junior years, winning two Super Bowls in Palazzi’s first two years as coach, but could only watch as the Pioneers’ high-powered offense, led by All-State quarterback Drew Smiley, ran away with a 51-42 victory this year –- knocking Leominster out of the playoffs.

“That loss to St. John’s [in football] really left a fire in his stomach,” Addo said. “You see him now performing on the baseball field: hitting home runs and closing teams out, you can just see that he wants to end it on a good note. I think the home run probably gave him closure on the rivalry. He doesn’t want his team to be one win away or a couple wins away, he wants to take it all down.”

Palazzi seconded Addo’s opinion: “You’ve got to understand that Neil doesn’t say a whole lot, he internalizes it. But I think a lot of that came out when he hit the home run against St. John’s. It doesn’t compare necessarily to a football game, but to him I think it does. He carries those things with him.”

Leaving a legacy

Saturday’s Division 1 state championship game against Norwood will be an opportunity that Leominster’s seniors have dreamt up since they first played Little League together: having their own state championship banner at school.

[+] EnlargeNeil O'Connor
Courtesy Brendan HallO'Connor will play in his final high school game Saturday as Leominster looks to capture its first Division 1 baseball state championship in nearly two decades.
The Blue Devils’ have been a team on a mission since early in the season, winning 16 of their last 17 games dating back to April. Led by a strong senior class anchored by O’Connor, pitcher Tanner Jakola, and power-hitting first baseman Brennan Cuddahy, Leominster goes into Saturday’s Division 1 state championship with a chance to bring home a source of pride for their team, their school, and the sports-obsessed community:

“We know it’s our last game playing together for Leominster. We’ve been playing sports together our whole lives, the last four years at Leominster for me has been the time of my life,” O’Connor reflects, “We looked back on how much fun it was and realized how quickly it’s coming to an end. It kind of stinks that it’s our last game ever, but the one positive of it is that we can win our last game ever. Not a lot of teams can do that, not a lot of players can do that.”

Before this year, the Blue Devils hadn’t won a district championship in baseball since 1996, when Barnaby was a third baseman on a squad that won the Division 1 state championship. O’Connor deflects any opportunity to talk about his individual legacy, but many in the community consider the Blue Devils’ state championship run to be one last chapter in the story of “OC”.

Whether it was O’Connor’s Gillette Stadium touchdown pass with a broken collarbone to his brother; being forced out of a Pop Warner game when he was 10, because his hard hits were hurting opposing players; the home run that sent his most hated rival home; or the time Palazzi was so frustrated with the kicking game, that O’Connor went home and taught himself how to kick by practicing field goals in the street with Kevin; it’s a story that often seems more full of tall tales and folk lore than real life.

For Dubzinski, it’s a story that the people of Leominster will never forget.

“Neil’s just a gifted kid because he’s not only a fierce a competitor as you’re ever going to find, he’s talented and he’s a play ahead of everyone on the court or the field,” he said. “He just has a gift...You can’t quantify it, it just happens.

“I just hope people appreciate what we’ve witnessed over the last four years, because you get a kid like that maybe once in a lifetime. I’m 43 years old and I will never see another kid like Neil O’Connor.”
Leominster High senior quarterback/safety Neil O'Connor has verbally committed to the University of New Hampshire for the 2014 season, Blue Devils head coach Dave Palazzi told ESPNBoston.com tonight.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder was named the state's Gatorade Player of the Year, just the second player from the Central Mass. district to earn the nod, as the Blue Devils reached the MIAA Division 2 Central final. On the season, he completed 121 of 194 passes for 2,132 yards and 24 touchdowns this past season, and also rushed for 673 yards and 11 scores on 81 carries. On defense, he recorded 120 tackles, five interceptions -- returning two for touchdowns -- and forced one fumble. He also helped the Blue Devils to back-to-back MIAA Division 1 Central Super Bowl titles in 2011 and 2012.

O'Connor also holds the unique distinction of earning All-State honors on both sides of the ball last month. On Dec. 13, he was named to ESPNBoston.com's annual All-State Team as a quarterback. Two weeks later, he was named to the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) "Super 26" All-State Team, as a defensive back.

O'Connor projects as a safety for the Wildcats, who reached the Division 1 FCS National Semifinal last month before falling to North Dakota State. He is the third Bay State commitment for coach Sean McDonnell, joining Central Catholic safety D'Andre Drummond-Mayrie and Cardinal Spellman wide receiver Rory Donovan.

More details to follow.

Top 10 Plays of 2013 MIAA Football Season

December, 13, 2013
12/13/13
12:28
AM ET
Saturday's six inaugural MIAA State Championships put a bow on another thrilling season of high school football in Massachusetts. This year was filled with highlight reel-worthy plays, including two that made SportsCenter's "Top 10 Plays" in consecutive months. This year, more than any other year, it felt like there was a deep volume of wild plays and wilder finishes.

Here are my 10 best plays from the 2013 MIAA football season:

(Video clip of play No. 2 is courtesy of The Needham Channel. All other clips are courtesy of HUDL.com)

Honorable Mention -- The Megatron
In case you missed Cody Demers' ridiculous touchdown catch for Central Catholic, our No. 1 play from last Saturday's state championships, here it is again. Because it is that good:
10. Velociraptor Valenza
Foxborough linebacker Luc Valenza, a UMass lacrosse commit, dished out his fair share of violent hits this fall for the Warriors. Arguably none were more brutal, though, than the one he delivered here in the third quarter of their Thanksgiving loss to Mansfield:


9. Behind the Back
This Top 10 list is littered with nifty run-backs, but on pure athleticism, Weymouth sophomore defensive back Matt Long makes a strong case here. Watch as he returns a behind-the-back interception 52 yards to the house in the Wildcats' 49-14 rout of Braintree:


8. Juke 'Em Jahkari
There was a point this season where it seemed like every week, Doherty junior running back Jahkari Carpenter was ripping off a ridiculous run like the 55-yard catch-and-run TD he made here in the D4 Central semifinals against Hudson:


7. Zach's Zig-Zag
As the name implies, watch as Holliston junior Zach Elkinson pounces on an errant pass and, after some shake and bake, puts on the afterburners for a 70-yard interception return touchdown, late in the Panthers' win over Medway:


6. Phone Booth
We've seen some nice-looking one-handed catches from time to time, but none in as tight of quarters as Attleboro tight end Luke Morrison, who reels in this catch with a Xaverian defender sewing him up nicely, in this Division 1 South Final:


5. The Pinball Run
Penn State-bound St. John's Prep tailback Johnathan Thomas led all rushers statistically in Massachusetts through three games, before being lost for the season with a knee injury. It's possible that with a full season we could have dedicated an entire Top 10 entry to his best runs, because we're pretty sure he would have made runs like this 42-yarder in the Eagles' win over Brockton -- in which he breaks about a bajillion tackles -- somewhat routine.


4. The Ed Reed
It takes endurance to pull off interception returns like the one Leominster's Neil O'Connor did here late in the second quarter of the Blue Devils' rout of Wachusett. The state's Gatorade Player of the Year changes direction several times as he takes it 89 yards to the house:


3. The Miracle at Mahar
Strictly reading by box score, this was one of the season's best finishes, as Greenfield evaporated an 18-point deficit in the final four minutes of regulation to knock off Mahar, 30-29. But the ending, a 40-yard tip-drill Hail Mary from Connor Eckstrom to Parker Hickey with five seconds left, puts this over the top:


2. Can't Catch Cliff
Needham's Cliff Kurker made national headlines with this 70-yard punt return in a win over Framingham, breaking free of five tacklers after he was thought to initially be stopped on forward progress. He was the talk of the town after this play, which reached No. 1 on SportsCenter's "Top 10":


1. Johnny Unstoppable
This one never gets old. You might go another decade without seeing a play quite like this. Thomas made No. 1 on SportsCenter's "Top 10" after this record-setting 107-yard interception return late in Prep's win over Central Catholic, the longest touchdown in school history.

Leominster's O'Connor named Gatorade Player of the Year

December, 5, 2013
12/05/13
10:01
AM ET
In its 29th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, today announced Neil O'Connor of Leominster High School as its 2013-14 Gatorade Massachusetts Football Player of the Year. O'Connor is the first Gatorade Massachusetts Football Player of the Year to be chosen from Leominster High School.

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes O'Connor as Massachusetts’s best high school football player. Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Football Player of the Year award announced in December, O'Connor joins an elite alumni association of past state award-winners in 12 sports, including Mark Sanchez (2004-05, Mission Viejo HS, Calif.), Wes Welker (1999-00, Heritage Hall HS, Okla.), Terrell Suggs (1999-00, Hamilton HS, Ariz.), Anquan Boldin (1998-99, Pahokee HS, Fla.) and Jerome Bettis (1989-90, Mackenzie HS, Mich.).

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior quarterback and safety passed for 2,132 yards and 24 touchdowns this past season, completing 121-of-194 attempts and leading the Blue Devils (10-1) to the MIAA Division 2 Central championship game. O’Connor also rushed for 673 yards and 11 scores on 81 carries. On defense, the 2012 Worcester Telegram & Gazette Defensive Player of the Year recorded 120 tackles, five interceptions—returning two for touchdowns—and forced one fumble.

O’Connor has maintained a 3.32 GPA in the classroom. A member of the Leominster High G.I.V.E Foundation, a community outreach group, he has volunteered locally as a peer mentor to special needs students, as a youth football, baseball and basketball coach and donated his time to area beautification projects.

“Neil O’Connor is the best,” said Chris Lindstrom, head coach of Shepherd Hill High. “Not only did he hurt us offensively but he made several touchdown-saving tackles from the safety position.”

O’Connor remains undecided upon a collegiate destination.

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade high school sports leadership team in partnership with USA TODAY High School Sports, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.

O'Connor joins recent Gatorade Massachusetts Football Players of the Year Alex Moore (2012-2013, St. John's Preparatory School), Jonathan DiBiaso (2011-12, Everett High School), Matt Costello (2010-11, Everett High School), Nick LaSpada (2009-10, Billerica Memorial), Matt Grimard (2008-09, Dracut High School) and Matt Bellomo (2007-08, Holliston) among the state’s list of former award winners.

Mr. Football Watch: Playoffs, Week 3

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
2:21
AM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch", following the third weekend of MIAA State Championship Playoffs. As always, coaches and/or statisticians are encouraged to send statistics to editors Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com) and/or Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This will be the final "Mr. Football Watch" of the 2013 season. The five finalists for our Mr. Football Award will be announced on Monday, Nov. 25, with the winner announced on Dec. 9.

***

THE CONTENDERS

Luke Brennan, Sr. QB, Doherty
Threw for 191 yards and three touchdowns, but most importantly delivered the game-winning touchdown pass to Isaac Yiadom with five seconds left, as the Highlanders captured their first Central Mass. title since 1980 with a thrilling win over Shepherd Hill.

Davon Jones, Jr. FS, St. John's (Shrewsbury)
Totaled 10 tackles and an interception, in the Pioneers' 51-42 thriller over Leominster for the D2 Central title. He leads the team in tackles (91) and interceptions (5).

Neil O'Connor, Sr. QB, Leominster
Totaled 289 passing yards and two touchdowns, in a 51-42 loss to St. John's in the D2 Central Final.

Dylan Oxsen, Sr. RB, Plymouth South
Carried a career-high 39 times for 160 yards and a touchdown in the Panthers' 7-6 win over rival Plymouth North for the D3 Southeast title. He is the state's leader in playoff rushing yardage, with 737.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. QB, St. John's (Shrewsbury)
Completed 14 of 22 passes for 250 yards and three scores, and added 201 yards rushing and three more scores on 20 carries, in the win over Leominster. That puts him over the 2,000-yard passing mark for the second straight season; he currently has 2,787 yards of offense with 38 touchdowns.

Cody Williams, Sr. QB, Springfield Central
Completed 15 of 22 passes for 344 yards and four touchdowns in the Golden Eagles' win over Westfield in the D2 West Final.

Ju'an Williams, Sr. WR, Springfield Central
Made five catches for 119 yards in the Golden Eagles' 48-22 dismantling of Westfield in the D2 West Final.

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 20 of 27 passes for 284 yards and four touchdowns in the Hornets' 41-16 win over Barnstable in the D2 South Final. He is completing 70 percent of his passes in the playoffs.

FIVE ON THE RISE

Olan Abner, Sr. RB, Bedford
Ran for 139 yards and a touchdown in the Buccaneers' overtime win over Pentucket for the D4 North title, his third straight week going over 100 yards rushing.

Jahkari Carpenter, Jr. RB, Doherty
Ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the Highlanders past Shepherd Hill for the D4 Central title. He has 230 yards rushing and four touchdowns in the last two weeks.

Michael Dunn, Jr. CB, Dennis-Yarmouth
Held Holliston's top target Zach Elkinson without a catch, and made an interception for his own cause -- his sixth of the season -- as the Dolphins captured the D4 South title.

Michael Hershman, Sr. WR, Mansfield
Exploded for seven catches for 132 yards in the Hornets' 41-16 win over Barnstable, for the D2 South title.

Shayne Kaminski, Sr. RB, Xaverian
Ran for 200 yards and two scores to help rally the Hawks past Attleboro for the D1 South title, his second 200-yard rushing game in three playoff games.

PLAYOFF STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing
Kyle Wisnieski, Sr., Mansfield – 689 yards, 9 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 647 yards, 5 TD
Luke Brennan, Sr., Doherty - 607 yards, 11 TD
Drew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – 588 yards, 10 TD
Neil O’Connor, Sr., Leominster – 575 yards, 5 TD
Mike Milano, Sr., Central Catholic – 516 yards, 4 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 504 yards, 6 TD
Dana Parello, Sr., Waltham – 494 yards, 6 TD
Tim Walsh, Sr., Attleboro - 469 yards, 8 TD
Cody Williams, Sr., Springfield Central – 417 yards, 5 TD

Rushing
Dylan Oxsen, Sr., Plymouth South – 737 yards, 8 TD
Alex Givins-Perry, Sr., Bartlett – 710 yards, 5 TD
Christian Carr, Jr., Plymouth North – 618 yards, 8 TD
Brooks Tyrrell, Jr., Marblehead – 512 yards, 6 TD
Koby Schofer, Soph., Northbridge – 466 yards, 8 TD
Malik Garrett, Sr., Melrose – 466 yards, 7 TD
Shayne Kaminski, Sr., Xaverian – 447 yards, 5 TD
Mike Panepinto, Sr., Needham – 418 yards, 6 TD
Olan Abner, Sr., Bedford – 395 yards, 3 TD
Shane Combs, Jr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – 386 yards, 5 TD

Mr. Football Watch: Playoffs, Week 2

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
3:16
PM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch", following the second weekend of MIAA State Championship Playoffs. As always, coaches and/or statisticians are encouraged to send statistics to editors Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com) and/or Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com)

THE CONTENDERS

Zach Elkinson, Jr. ATH, Holliston
In two playoff games, Elkinson is averaging 16.9 yards per touch. That includes nine carries for 91 yards and four touchdowns, and nine catches for 221 yards and four more scores.

Troy Flutie, Sr. QB, Natick
Threw his 102nd career touchdown pass in Friday night's loss to Barnstable. He needs one more TD pass to tie the state's all-time mark, and he has two more chances, starting this Friday against Needham.

Brendan Hill, Jr. TE, Mansfield
Caught seven passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns in the Hornets' win over Needham.

Hayden Murphy, Sr. RB, Barnstable
Recorded 21 carries for 158 yards and three touchdowns, four catches for 36 yards, 10 tackles and 1.5 sacks in the Red Raiders' 27-13 win over Natick.

Neil O'Connor, Sr. QB, Leominster
In two playoff games, he has amassed 487 yards of offense, including 11.2 yards per rush, with seven touchdowns.

Dylan Oxsen, Sr. RB, Plymouth South
Ran for 227 yards and three touchdowns in the Panthers' 21-7 win over Dartmouth, punching their ticket to the D3 Southeast Final.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
Carried 23 times for 182 yards and two scores in the Rockets' loss to Mansfield

Andrew Smiley, Sr. QB, St. John's (Shrewsbury)
Completed 13 of 16 passes for 193 yards and three scores, and added five carries for 73 yards and two more scores, in the Pioneers' throttling of Marlborough in D2 Central.

Cody Williams, Sr. QB, Springfield Central
Totaled 134 yards of offense and two touchdowns in the Golden Eagles' 35-12 win over Longmeadow

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 14 of 18 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns, in the Hornets' 42-35 win over Needham.

FIVE ON THE RISE

Christian Carr, Jr. RB, Plymouth North
Ran for 351 yards and three touchdowns in the Blue Eagles' win over Dighton-Rehoboth, setting up a much-anticipated battle with cross-town rival Plymouth South for the D3 Southeast Championship this Friday.

Mike Elcock, Sr. WR, Needham
Caught six passes for 148 yards and a score in the Rockets' loss to Mansfield. He leads D2 Eastern Mass with 13 touchdown receptions.

Lubern Figaro, Sr. DB, Everett
The Wisconsin commit came up with two crucial interceptions, and some tremendous defense on top receiver Jack Galvin, in the Crimson Tide's 21-0 shutout of Lowell.

Malik Garrett, Sr. QB, Melrose
Through two playoff games, the dual threat signal-caller has accumulated nearly 550 yards of offense. He has 364 yards rushing and five TDs on just 29 carries, while he is 12-for-20 through the air for 185 yards and two more scores.

Tim Walsh, Attleboro
Led the Blue Bombardiers in rushing with 122 yards on 11 carries, while completing 7 of 11 pass attempts for 146 yards and 3 TD in their Div. 1 South semi-final win over Bridgewater-Raynham.

PLAYOFF LEADERS

Passing
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 528 yards, 5 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 504 yards, 6 TD
Kyle Wisnieski, Sr., Mansfield – 405 yards, 5 TD
Mike Milano, Jr., Central Catholic – 371 yards, 3 TD
Ryan Charter, Sr., Needham – 361 yards, 4 TD
Luke Brennan, Sr., Doherty – 359 yards, 7 TD
Marcus Collins, Jr., Cambridge – 355 yards, 4 TD
Andrew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – 338 yards, 7 TD
Dana Parello, Sr., Waltham – 312 yards, 4 TD
Neil O'Connor, Sr., Leominster - 286 yards, 3 TD

Rushing
Dylan Oxsen, Sr., Plymouth South – 577 yards, 7 TD
Christian Carr, Jr., Plymouth North – 551 yards, 7 TD
Alex Givins-Perry, Sr., Bartlett – 477 yards, 3 TD
Mike Panepinto, Sr., Needham – 418 yards, 6 TD
Brooks Tyrrell, Jr., Marblehead – 383 yards, 5 TD
Malik Garrett, Sr., Melrose – 364 yards, 5 TD
Hayden Murphy, Sr., Barnstable – 353 yards, 6 TD
Chris Dumont, Sr., Manchester-Essex - 321 yards, 5 TD
D.J. Engelke, Sr., Pentucket – 299 yards, 3 TD
Kevin Rosado, Jr., Northeast – 284 yards, 6 TD

Receiving
Alex Hilger, Sr., Natick – 278 yards, 4 TD
Mike Elcock, Sr., Needham – 258 yards, 3 TD
Brendan Hill, Jr., Mansfield – 228 yards, 3 TD
Elijah Booker, Sr., Cambridge – 225 yards, 2 TD
Zach Elkinson, Jr., Holliston – 221 yards, 4 TD

Roundtable: Predicting MIAA Football District Champs

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
4:21
PM ET
EDITOR'S NOTE: Picks for Western Mass. are omitted, as the district concludes its final week of regular season this weekend)

Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


Division 1 North: Everett
Plain and simple, I just don’t see John DiBiaso getting outcoached in this field.

Division 1 South: Attleboro
One of several surprise picks I’m going to lay down here. The Blue Bombardiers’ program has long been a sleeping giant, and they’ve finally awoken this fall with a slew of skilled athletes, including quarterback Tim Walsh, tight end Luke Morrison, receiver Brenden Massey and promising young two-way lineman Kyle Murphy. The key may be junior Damon Belin, a speedy pass-catching running back who is elusive in space.

Division 2 North: Haverhill
Hard to think just two years after an 0-11 campaign, the Hillies are the No. 1 seed in a playoff tournament. Sophomore running back Ian Kessel, one of the area’s leaders in yards from scrimmage, has been at the forefront of the renaissance, and I expect him to have a breakout campaign this next month.

Division 2 South: Natick
If there is one player capable of carrying his team on his back, it is quarterback Troy Flutie, who has put up video game numbers yet again (2,500-plus yards, 35 TD) with an assortment of supporting cast members.

Division 2 Central: Leominster
This is the most talented team of Dave Palazzi’s tenure, and it may be his best coaching job yet. They are not the most physically intimidating team, but they are one of the most disciplined, and they squeeze every inch out of their talents, led by dual threat QB Neil O’Connor. The Blue Devils brought the biggest crowd ever to Gillette Stadium two years ago. I can only imagine what kind of caravan from this football-mad city would show up this year.

Division 3 Northeast: Tewksbury
There may be some bumps in the road in this field, but at the end of the day there isn’t a team as deep as the Redmen in this field. They were the most dominant team in the MVC this season, and with a stable of running backs led by James Sullivan and Eddie Matovu, along with a scheme that draws formations from seemingly every family of offense throughout history, I just don’t see how anyone knocks these guys off.

Division 3 Northwest: Arlington
Two Dubzinskis are better than one, and the father-son duo of head coach John Jr. and his father John Sr. as defensive coordinator has taken the Middlesex by storm this fall after showing promise a year ago. I don’t know what direction this bracket is headed in, but the Spy Ponders are a safe pick.

Division 3 Southeast: Plymouth South
As long as Dylan Oxsen is carrying the rock, I don’t see anyone but the Panthers taking this bracket. It’s a different story after that, though.

Division 3 Southwest: Walpole
The Rebels’ ground game has come along well, after hitting a few bumps. As long as the defense can hold up, their multi-dimensional stable of backs can do the rest.

Division 4 North: Bedford
Another field that can go in an assortment of directions, the ground game dictated by Olan Abner could be the difference.

Division 4 South: Dennis-Yarmouth
The Dolphins typically hit their stride in the second half of the season, and the way this offense is clicking, it’s going to take a flawless defensive performance to shut down Spencer Tyler, Michael Dunn and company.

Division 4 Central: Doherty
Twitter follower and familiar 98.5 The Sports Hub caller “Aidan From Worcester” guarantees Shepherd Hill beats Doherty in this bracket. The Rams are a dangerous bunch, but the Highlanders have arguably the best grouping of pure athletes statewide across Division 4, so I'm sticking to my gut.

Division 5 North: Bishop Fenwick
Rufus Rushins gets much of the glory in this dominant run for the Crusaders, and deservedly so, but quarterback Nick Bona is the catalyst of this offense, and will be the difference in a close game somewhere down the line.

Division 5 South: Abington
The Green Wave lost some key bodies to start the year, but have been rolling ever since, capped with a convincing 36-7 rout of East Bridgewater. The versatile backfield of Al Freeman, Jason Halpin, quarterback Bryan Dwyer and promising sophomore Shawn Donovan will wear front sevens down.

Division 5 Central: Leicester
Tom Rodrick has been the driving force on both sides of the ball, but quarterback Drew Mazzeo puts the Wolverines over the top.

Division 6 North: Latin Academy
There are trendier picks in this field, such as Boston Cathedral, but the Dragons have one of the better overall athletes in this field in quarterback/safety Kyle Dance. He will be the difference.

Division 6 South: Upper Cape
Mike Hernon has done a fantastic job with this program, and while the Rams are a low seed headed into this wide-open field, Jon Dumont is a dangerous asset to this triple-option scheme who can take them deep.

Division 6 Central: Blackstone Valley Tech
Nic Wojnar is as elusive with his feet as he is throwing the ball in the Beavers’ read option scheme. Expect big numbers from the senior this postseason.

***

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


DIVISION 1 NORTH: Lowell
I’ve gone on record since the summertime months saying the Red Raiders are making an appearance at Gillette Stadium this year. Lowell has a tough road there, staring with a first-round road game at St. John’s Prep in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 swing matchup, but I’ve like the strides this defense has made behind Alex Quintero and Shyheim Cullen.

DIVISION 2 NORTH: Haverhill
One of the tougher races to project in Eastern Mass., the Hillies enter as the No. 1 seed. Preseason favorite Reading, a buzz worthy Waltham team and old stalwarts Lincoln-Sudbury could all claim the prize, but I’m going with the upstart Hillies, vindication for the terrific job Tim O’Connor has done since taking over the program.

DIVISION 3 NORTHEAST: Tewksbury
Marblehead might have the best athlete in the field with two-sport standout Brooks Tyrrell, but Tewksbury proves too much to handle, with a three-headed rushing attack and a stout defense.

DIVISION 3 NORTHWEST: Melrose
The Red Raiders lone loss of the regular season came against Middlesex Freedom division rival Wakefield, coming on a late field goal, but I like Melrose the second time around. The teams couldn’t meet until the sectional final and who wouldn’t love ensuring a third meeting of the season by Thanksgiving rivals.

DIVISION 4 NORTH: Watertown
Perhaps a surprise pick coming out of the division, the Red Raiders have some athletes on the boundaries with T.J. Hairston. I think Bedford might be the team to watch here, but just playing a hunch.

DIVISION 5 NORTH: Bishop Fenwick
Pick the Crusaders to go all the way, on a tear through Gillette. They haven’t just beaten teams, they’ve annihilated the CCL’s best, including St. Mary’s (first-round opponent) and Austin Prep, which they both will/can see down the road.

DIVISION 6 NORTH: Cathedral
Another North-based team I have running the field. As I mentioned earlier in the state championship Roundtable, I think the Panthers are just hitting their stride now. This could be the second championship of more to come.

DIVISION 1 SOUTH: Xaverian
Almost wanted to pull the trigger and go with Bridgewater-Raynham here, but I think the Hawks’ defense, which has carried them through the regular season, continues to be the story in the postseason, leading them to Gillette.

DIVISION 2 SOUTH: Mansfield
If this were the World Cup, this would be referred to as the “Group of Death.” Seriously, whichever team survives this gauntlet will be battle-tested. Ever since Week 1, it seems as though Mansfield’s been a team of destiny; they follow through.

DIVISION 3 SOUTHEAST: Plymouth South
An intriguing bracket, littered with some of the Atlantic Coast League’s finest, so look no further than the Panthers, the league’s playoff representative from last season. Nauset and Plymouth North are lurking, but also don’t look past an underrated rivalry game between Somerset-Berkley and Dighton-Rehoboth as a first-round appetizer.

DIVISION 3 SOUTHWEST: Oliver Ames
Another division strongly influenced by the presence of one particular league, in this case the Hockomock. OA and Stoughton drew the top two seeds, but let’s not sleep on No. 4 seed North Attleborough, which plays up in the Kelley-Rex division. Whichever team emerges from the Red Rocketeers’ first-round duel with Walpole could be a dark horse for the sectional title.

DIVISION 4 SOUTH: Westwood
Tons of Tri-Valley League talent to go around here, but I’m sticking with the regular-season champion. It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if Dennis-Yarmouth wears the sectional crown, but the Wolverines are a team that simply seems to get it done when the chips are on the table, led by dynamic senior quarterback Bo Berluti.

DIVISION 5 SOUTH: Cardinal Spellman
Old Rochester Regional enters the tournament with the No. 1 seeding, having posted some gaudy offensive numbers throughout the year behind running back Richie Phillips. I picked the Cardinals to win the state title from the start of the season, and while I like Fenwick a little more in terms of the state championship, I still envision Spellman returning to Gillette.

DIVISION 6 SOUTH: Millis/Hopedale
Perhaps no injury will have a greater impact on the outlook of the division than that of the Mohawks and lineman Jon Baker. Granted, I still like M/H’s chances emerging from a wide-open field, thanks to running back Chris Ahl. That being said, the Mohawks’ first-round date with Mashpee could determine the sectional champion.

DIVISION 2 CENTRAL: Leominster
I like the Blue Devils to advance to Gillette, but the sectional field is fraught with peril, too. Marlborough and St. John’s (Shrewsbury) can score with the best of them, but I don’t think anything short of an act of god slows down the Leominster caravan.

DIVISION 4 CENTRAL: Doherty
From season’s start, I’ve tabbed the Highlanders as my statewide Division 4 championship favorite. However, the toughest matchup in the path might very well in their first-round test against No. 6 seed Quabbin.

DIVISION 5 CENTRAL: Leicester
Coming into the season, it would have been easy to project Auburn running away with another championship of sorts, but I’m going with the No. 1-seeded Wolverines, led by linebacker Tom Rodrick – a strong Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

DIVISION 6 CENTRAL: West Boylston
This is a case of what have you done for me lately? While No. 1 seed Littleton rolled through its Mid-Wach schedule undefeated, scoring at a clip of nearly 43 points per game, West Boylston notched a thorough win over previously mentioned Leicester two weeks ago. Granted, the Lions’ lone loss of the season came at the hands of Littleton, but after a one-possession loss in Week 1, I’m banking on the second meeting having a different outcome.

Mr. Football Watch: Week 7

October, 23, 2013
10/23/13
12:58
AM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch" following Week 7 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 13 of 25 passes for 257 yards and four touchdowns, in a 42-19 win over Milton.

Brandon Gallagher, Jr. RB, Bridgewater-Raynham
Carried 24 times for 100 yards and a touchdown, in the Trojans' 20-14 loss to Barnstable.

Hayden Murphy, Sr. RB/WR, Barnstable
In the Red Raiders' thrilling win over Bridgewater-Raynham, carried 14 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning 43-yard TD run with less than a minute to go.

Neil O’Connor, Sr. QB, Leominster
In the Blue Devils' 40-15 rout of Nashoba, completed 11 of 19 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns, and also had 50 yards rushing with a fourth score.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
Ran for 120 yards and two touchdowns in the Rockets' 33-6 win over Brookline.

Rufus Rushins, Jr. RB, Bishop Fenwick
Carried 19 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns in the Crusaders' 34-6 rout of St. Mary's of Lynn.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. RB, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Completed 6 of 6 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns, and added 91 rushing yards with two more scores, in the Pioneers' 34-9 win over Wachusett.

Cody Williams, Sr. QB, Springfield Central
Was 5 of 11 passing for 140 yards and two touchdowns, and added a rushing touchdown, in the Golden Eagles' 34-6 win over Putnam.

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 12 of 27 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown in the Hornets' 20-7 win over King Philip.

Isaac Yiadom, Sr. WR/DB, Doherty
Boston College commit caught a touchdown pass and threw for another, in the Highlanders' 28-0 shutout of Worcester North.



FIVE ON THE RISE

Emmanuel Almonte, Jr. QB/DB, Boston English
Totaled 254 yards of offense (190 rushing, 64 passing) and three touchdowns in the Blue & Blue's 24-6 win over West Roxbury. Through six games he is one of the state's leading rushers (1,025 yards, 8 TD, 9.5 yards per carry), in directing a read-option attack; he's also the team's leader in tackles (43).

Shaquille Anderson, Sr. RB, Cambridge
Led the way for the Falcons with 219 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries in their 34-20 win over Medford.

Dan Henrickson, Sr. WR, St. Peter-Marian
Totaled 123 receiving yards and a touchdown in the Guardians' 14-13 loss to Shepherd Hill.

Chris Lindstrom, Jr. OL/DL, Shepherd Hill
Leading a double-wing rushing attack that has accounted for 1,661 yards, 21 touchdowns and 7.2 yards per carry through six games, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound interior guard has been a road grader so far for the Rams.

Jack Sylvester, Sr. RB, Andover
Carried 14 times for 198 yards and two touchdowns, and also hauled in a 15-yard TD catch, in the Golden Warriors' 49-32 win over Rhode Island power La Salle Academy. In the last weeks, he's gained 402 yards with five touchdowns; on the season, he's averaging 8.3 yards per carry.



TOP STATISTICAL LEADERS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Rushing
Chris Ahl, Sr., Millis/Hopedale – 1,098 yards, 14 TD
Mark Wright, Sr., Auburn – 1,084 yards, 12 TD
Emmanuel Almonte, Jr., Boston English – 1,025 yards, 8 TD
Zered McCoy, Sr., Ware – 963 yards, 7 TD
Rufus Rushins, Jr., Bishop Fenwick – 957 yards, 15 TD

Receiving
Zach Elkinson, Jr., Holliston – 662 yards, 10 TD
Nick Thyden, Sr., Quabbin – 643 yards, 9 TD
Jake Bradway, Sr., Belchertown – 638 yards, 7 TD
Dan Henrickson, Sr., St. Peter-Marian – 559 yards, 7 TD
Isaac Yiadom, Sr., Doherty – 534 yards, 3 TD

Passing
Dylan Kierman, Sr., Quabbin – 2,070 yards, 21 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 1,617 yards, 26 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 1,543 yards, 18 TD
John Rumney, Sr., Marlborough – 1,499 yards, 19 TD
Andrew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – 1,320 yards, 15 TD



*Does not include players who had a bye week


Recap: No. 6 Leominster 40, Nashoba 15

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
11:16
PM ET
LEOMINSTER, Mass. -- With the upcoming playoff scenario beginning to take shape, one has to wonder if anyone can beat the Leominster Blue Devils.

Last night it was Nashoba Regional's turn, but the Chieftains failed in their attempts, falling hard 40-15 at Doyle Field. No. 6 Leominster improves to 6-0 and look to be virtually unstoppable.

"That team is super-athletic and very well-coached," said Nashoba coach Jamie Tucker. "They come at you with multiple sets and are very fast. We had trouble containing them all night. They are just a very good football team."

Tucker is not alone in trying to conjure up the right strategies to beat the Blue Devils. His Chieftains just happened to be the latest in a long list of teams who have tried and failed to match Leominster on both sides of the ball.

Racking up 432 yards of offense, Leominster pulled away from Nashoba after scoring a pair of touchdowns in the final 1:47 of the first half to grab a 27-7 lead. The Blue Devils had no problems maintaining control of this one throughout the second half as well, after scoring on their opening two possessions to go up by 33 points before the Chieftains were able to punch one in late.

Senior quarterback Neil O'Connor led the Leominster assault by completing 11-of-19 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for a score, finishing with 50 yards on seven carries.

The Blue Devils wasted no time getting on the board. On their initial possession, Leominster marched 79 yards before O'Connor closed it out with a 26-yard jaunt into the end zone.

Nashoba (3-3), which began the season hot but has since fallen on hard times losing three straight, caught a huge break late in the quarter. After O'Connor found Jarell Addo for a 21-yard completion, the senior receiver was stripped of the ball before falling to the turf. Frankie Chiodo recovered the fumble for the Chieftains. Realizing opportunities such as this don't come often against the Blue Devils, Nashoba wasn't about to let it go to waste. Matt Sabourin's 19-yard touchdown run knotted things at 7-7. However, less than a minute later, Leominster reclaimed the lead on a perfectly-executed, 70-yard strike from O'Connor to Mayson Williams, who slipped past the defensive secondary to make it 13-7.

On its next possession, Nashoba's ground unit was able to move the ball to the Blue Devils 26. Looking to take the lead, quarterback Matt Mudgett's errant pass was intercepted by Jake Allain, who returned it 60 yards, and set the stage for wide receiver Shane Crayton's 19-yard touchdown reception and upping the advantage to 19-7.

Following a Chieftains punt, Leominster found itself back in business on its own 44 with three timeouts remaining and just over a minute remaining before the half. O'Connor began the drive by connecting with Addo for a 23-yard reception. Three players later, he hooked up with Crayton again, this time for a 33-yard catch, in the end zone sending Leominster into the break on top by 20 points.

"It feels marvelous to be able to contribute to this win," said Crayton, a junior, who finished with three catches for 57 yards. "We have some players who have been hurt so I was told I needed to step up tonight and I did.

“The only reason I scored those two touchdowns was because Neil O'Connor was just being Neil and our offensive line gave him time to throw. He put both passes perfectly where I needed to get them and I was able to run under both for touchdowns. Neil is marvelous and he is the leader of this team."

Beginning the second half, Leominster left no doubts. After Nashoba (189 yards offensively) witnessed what began as a positive drive stall on the Blue Devil 28, Leominster went back to its quick-strike offense after regaining possession. This time they looked to their running game to carry the load and James Gurley did just that, busting through the Chieftains for a 63-yard scoring run to make it 33-7 with under five minutes to go in the third quarter.

Gurley, who has been a main catalyst in the Leominster backfield all season, was saw limited action, finishing with 64 yards on just two carries.

With Leominster's first unit now being relegated to the role of spectator at this point, the second group entered and still managed to move the ball with relative ease, offensively. That group set forth on a 66-yard drive before Eddie Rivera plowed into the end zone from two yards out, extending the lead to 40-7.

Despite the lopsidedness of the contest, the Chieftains still showed some heart. Kurt Arsenault's 1-yard dive over the goal line capped a 56-yard march to make this tilt a bit more respectable.

"Our defense hung tough in the first half and we were able to continue that in the second half," Leominster coach Dave Palazzi said. "There was some things we saw we felt we could take advantage of offensively with the pass. They made it a little tough on us but O'Connor made some very-good throws tonight.

“It was another great team victory. There is no me on this team, it's we. That's what we've said all year. We have a lot of different guys stepping up. We expect all of our kids when their number is called to be ready to go and give them credit all have answered the call."

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

Recap: No. 6 Leominster 47, No. 17 Doherty 26

October, 12, 2013
10/12/13
1:47
AM ET


WORCESTER, Mass. – It only took 30 seconds for No. 17 Doherty to make a statement in Friday night’s showdown with Leominster at Foley Stadium.

The Highlanders zipped 70 yards downfield on two passing plays to hang a quick six on the No. 6 Blue Devils’ defense. Doherty scored on each of its first two possessions, underscoring the point about its dynamic group of athletes.

But, while the Highlanders continued to cling to a lead through halftime (19-10), Leominster showed the mettle of a cagy, playoff-proven crew during the second half. Then, the Blue Devils erased the mistakes of the early going and effectively stepped on the neck of the Highlanders, outscoring them 37-7 in the final two quarters for a 47-26 victory.

In a matchup of two of the Central district’s top playoff contenders in their respective divisions, Leominster conducted a clinic as to what the Highlanders will need to adopt if they, too, hope to make a run at a section title – that is a killer instinct.

“We weren’t putting ourselves down,” Blue Devils running back/ corner back James Gurley said of the locker room scene at the half. “We’d been in this position before. We know how to come back – we’re Leominster, we play four quarters.”

Gurley and his teammates dropped the hammer in the second half, when the junior tallied both of his rushing scores, as well as an interception. From upping the defensive ante, to the flawless execution of sustained drives it was all there for the Blue Devils (5-0) – at least coming out of the intermission.

Doherty (4-1) landed the first blow just 38 seconds in. Luke Brennan moved the Highlanders up-field 70 yards for a touchdown on two plays from scrimmage, finishing with a 29-yard lob to Shawn Jackson on a jump ball.

After the Highlanders forced Leominster into a turnover on downs, Doherty utilized a short field to grab a near-instant 12-0 lead on Brennan’s 6-yard pass to Alfred Adarkwah.

“I think they wanted to go to Adarwah there and he hurt us,” Leominster head coach Dave Palazzi said of Doherty’s fast start. “It was a great game plan on their part and it worked for them.”

Doherty held a 19-10 lead at halftime, despite not having a single target at Boston College commit receiver Isaac Yiadom.

Yiadom would play a greater role for the Highlanders in the second half, but the Blue Devils simply ran away.

To start the second half, Doherty remained aggressive, with head coach Sean Mulcahy rolling the dice, calling for an onside kick. The play worked, with Brennan chasing the bounding ball and falling on it for a successful recovery.

However, the Highlanders’ ensuing drive stalled after some penalty trouble. Then, the Blue Devils went to work, engineering a methodical 9-play, 76-yard drive capped on Gurley’s first of two touchdown runs.

After a successful two-point conversion, Leominster trailed 19-18.

The Blue Devils soon had the ball in their possession again after inside linebacker Jason Valera picked off a Brennan pass. Following a 53-yard return by Valera and tacking on an unsportsmanlike penalty at the play’s end, Leominster set up shot first and goal from the 6.

“They had a little bit of momentum going, and we needed a big play,” Palazzi said of Valera’s pick. “We finally got one.”

Two plays later, the Blue Devils had their first lead of the game, 24-19, on Matt Banchs’ 2-yard touchdown plunge.

The momentum snowballed from there. After forcing Doherty three-and-out, Neil O’Connor (16 of 23, 287 yards) connected with Shane Crayton for the pair’s second touchdown play of the game. The 63-yard pass on the roll out from O’Connor, hitting junior wideout on the backside post, and the following 2-point conversion provided Leominster with a 32-19 lead at 9:17 of the fourth.

Doherty would respond with Yiadom getting untracked on a 40-yard touchdown reception from Brennan (12 of 26, 217 yards), but the Blue Devils kept piling it on.

Gurley helped shut the door, knocking in his second rushing touchdown of the game before picking off a pass on Doherty’s next possession.

Blue Devils backup quarterback Nick Xarras capped scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run out of their goal-line double wing set.

“It was a team win in every aspect of the game,” Palazzi said. “We did a great job coming back from the onslaught at the beginning.”

Two-way player: O’Connor continued his campaign for this year’s Mr. Football award with another impressive showing.

On offense, in addition to his 287 passing yards, O’Connor ran for 72 yards on six carries. Twenty-nine of those yards came on one awe-inspiring fourth-quarter carry on which O’Connor broke four tackles before being wrestled down by a pair of Highlanders defenders at the Doherty 13. The run helped set up Leominster’s second to last score, providing the Blue Devils with a two-possession lead.

Palazzi also lauded O’Connor’s play at safety, helping to neutralize Doherty’s passing attack in the second half.

“He’s playing against a lot of these great athletes and he’s a competitor out there,” Palazzi said of O’Connor. “He threw the ball well, he ran the ball well and he played tremendous defense. [He was] going a hundred miles per hour on every play.”

Mr. Football Watch: Week 5

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
5:45
PM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch" following Week 5 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
Boston College commit completed 14 of 27 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns, and added 47 yards on the ground, in a 28-0 shutout of Norwood.

Brendan Hill, Jr. TE, Mansfield
Caught four passes for 76 yards and a score in the Hornets’ 49-42 win over Attleboro.

Hayden Murphy, Sr. ATH, Barnstable
Ran for 115 yards and three touchdowns in the Red Raiders’ 35-14 win over New Bedford.

Neil O’Connor, Sr. QB/S, Leominster
In just one half of football in the Blue Devils’ 34-0 shutout of Wachusett, accounted for 201 yards of offense and capped things off with a nifty 90-yard interception return to the house.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
Ran for 135 yards and three touchdowns in the Rockets’ 34-12 win over Framingham.

Rufus Rushins, Jr. RB, Bishop Fenwick
Carried 24 times for 233 yards and four touchdowns in the Crusaders’ commanding 42-20 rout of Cardinal Spellman.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. QB, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
In the Pioneers’ 49-21 win over Nashoba, completed 23 of 29 passes for 335 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, and added 67 rushing yards.

Cody Williams, Sr., Springfield Central
Monmouth commit completed 13 of 18 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns, and added 118 yards and a third score on the ground, in the Golden Eagles’ 19-7 win over Longmeadow.

Ju’an Williams, Sr., Springfield Central
Caught five passes for 96 yards and a touchdown in the Golden Eagles’ 19-7 win over Longmeadow

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 19 of 28 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns in the Hornets’ 49-42 thriller over Attleboro.

Isaac Yiadom, Sr. WR/DB, Doherty
Recorded a touchdown catch, his second of the year, in the Highlanders’ 40-12 rout of Worcester South. Through four games he is averaging 30.9 yards per catch, and has recorded 37 tackles on defense.


FIVE ON THE RISE

Bo Berluti, Sr. QB, Westwood
Accounted for 255 yards of offense and three total touchdowns in the Wolverines’ 43-41 double-overtime epic over archrival Holliston. But it will be his gutsy 25-yard, fourth and goal TD pass in the second overtime that will go down in folklore.

Derrell Fernandez, Sr. RB, Weymouth
Carried 225 times for 264 yards and five touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 42-18 win over Brookline.

Mike McGillicuddy, Sr. WR, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
The elusive slot receiver caught nine passes for 113 yards in the Pioneers’ 49-21 win over Nashoba.

Tom Rodrick, Sr. LB, Leicester
The UConn commit recorded 12 tackles, a sack, and blocked field goal in the Wolverines’ 15-6 win over Auburn.

Alex Valles, Sr. RB, Danvers
Carried 24 times for 211 yards and three scores in the Falcons’ 20-12 win over Revere.


TOP STATISTICAL LEADERS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Rushing
Brooks Tyrrell, Jr., Marblehead – 889 yards, 9 total TD
Johnathan Thomas, Sr., St. John’s Prep – 748 yards, 8 total TD
Mark Wright, Sr., Auburn – 760 yards, 8 TD
Olan Abner, Sr., Bedford – 733 yards, 7 TD
Christian Perez, Sr., Northeast – 725 yards, 8 total TD

Passing
Dylan Kierman, Sr., Quabbin – 1,230 yards, 19 TD
John Rumney, Sr., Marlborough – 1,086 yards, 14 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 1,072 yards, 11 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 1,035 yards, 17 TD
Andrew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – 955 yards, 11 TD

Receiving
Zach Elkinson, Jr., Holliston – 405 yards, 7 TD
Brian Daly, Sr., Marblehead – 395 yards, 8 TD
Dan Henrickson, Sr., St. Peter-Marian – 380 yards, 5 TD
Isaac Yiadom, Sr., Doherty – 371 yards, 2 TD
Mike Bombard, Sr., Chicopee Comp – 369 yards, 3 TD

Dual Threat
Dylan Kierman, Sr., Quabbin – 1,230 passing yards, 284 rushing yards, 21 total TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 1,035 passing yards, 316 rushing yards, 18 total TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 1,072 passing yards, 167 rushing yards, 14 total TD
Andrew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) 955 passing yards, 169 rushing yards, 16 total TD
Cody Williams, Sr., Springfield Central – 851 passing yards, 254 rushing yards, 13 total TD



*Not including teams who were idle last weekend.

Video: O'Connor's amazing interception return

October, 6, 2013
10/06/13
12:31
AM ET
Last night, the No. 6 Leominster Blue Devils made easy work of Wachusett, going up 34-0 at the break and making that score stand after resting all of its starters the entire second half. The icing on the cake might have been this spectacular interception return from safety Neil O'Connor.

Watch as the senior picks the ball off at his own 10, reverses direction and takes it 90 yards to the house:

(Video courtesy of Leominster High)


Mr. Football Watch: Week 4

October, 1, 2013
10/01/13
5:03
PM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch" following Week 4 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
Did it all in the Redhawks’ 35-14 win over Wellesley, completing 20 of 30 passes for 236 yards and five touchdowns, and adding 170 rushing yards.

Brandon Gallagher, Jr. RB, Bridgewater-Raynham
Carried 20 times for 232 yards and three touchdowns in the Trojans’ 32-0 shutout of New Bedford.

Jack Galvin, Sr. WR, Lowell
Caught four passes for 39 yards and a score in the Red Raiders’ 32-6 win over Billerica.

Brendan Hill, Jr. TE/DE, Mansfield
Caught four passes for 31 yards in the Hornets’ 35-14 win over North Attleborough, but where he did most of his damage was on the defensive side, setting the edge and containing.

Neil O’Connor, Sr. QB, Leominster
Threw for 188 yards and three touchdowns, and added 40 rushing yards, in the Blue Devils’ 41-14 win over Shepherd Hill.

Dylan Oxsen, Sr. RB, Plymouth South
Ran for 191 yards and a touchdown, and added a 90-yard interception return – his second pick-six and three games – in the Panthers’ 21-14 win over cross-town rival Plymouth North.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
Carried 12 times for 147 yards and two scores in the Rockets’ 41-12 rout of Newton North.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. QB, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Completed 12 of 21 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns in the Pioneers’ wild 20-15 thriller over rival Fitchburg.

Johnathan Thomas, Sr. RB, St. John’s Prep
Carried 19 times for 96 yards in the Eagles’ loss to Everett. But even worse, he is reportedly undergoing season-ending knee surgery later this week after getting hurt in the second half of the game.

Cody Williams, Sr. QB, Springfield Central
In another easy rout, this one a 49-0 drubbing of Holyoke, Williams completed 9 of 12 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns.

Ju’an Williams, Sr. WR, Springfield Central
Caught two passes for 42 yards and score in the Golden Eagles’ 49-0 blanking of Holyoke.

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 11 of 16 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns in the Hornets’ 35-14 win over North Attleborough.

FIVE ON THE RISE

Ryan Barabe, Jr. QB, Pope John Paul II
In the Lions’ 26-22 loss to Boston Cathedral, completed 18 of 25 passes for 279 yards and three scores and an interception. On the season, he is completing 68 percent of his passes for 776 yards and eight scores, which is among the state’s best.

Derek Estes, Sr. CB, Barnstable
Came up with two interceptions in the Red Raiders’ upset of then-No. 1 Xaverian last Friday, helping seal a 15-14 win at the end. He leads the Raiders with three interceptions through three games.

Ian Kessel, Soph. RB, Haverhill
Slowly establishing himself as one of the premier pass-catching tailbacks in Eastern Mass. Through four games he has 245 receiving yards and three touchdowns to go along with 331 rushing yards and five more scores.

Dylan Kierman, Sr. QB, Quabbin
Currently leads all passers in Central Mass. with 774 yards and nine touchdowns.

Brooks Tyrrell, Jr. RB, Marblehead
The Notre Dame lacrosse commit continues his torrid tear through the first half of the season, the latest a 27-carry, 181-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 35-7 win over rival Swampscott.

TOP STATISTICAL LEADERS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Rushing
Johnathan Thomas, Sr., St. John’s Prep – 748 yards, 8 total TD
Mark Wright, Sr., Auburn – 728 yards, 8 TD
Isaiah White, Sr., Beverly - 682 yards, 6 total TD
Brooks Tyrell, Jr., Marblehead – 634 yards, 7 total TD
Dylan Oxsen, Sr., Plymouth South – 609 yards, 10 total TD

Passing
Jordan Bolarinho, Sr., Billerica – 955 yards, 7 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 807 yards, 13 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 785 yards, 8 TD
Michael Whitsett, Jr., Chicopee Comp – 781 yards, 4 TD
Ryan Barabe, Jr., Pope John Paul II – 776 yards, 8 TD

Receiving
Cole Bernier, Jr., Old Colony – 339 yards, 3 TD
Mike Bombard, Sr., Chicopee Comp – 335 yards, 3 TD
Brian Daly, Sr., Marblehead – 328 yards, 7 TD
Jack Galvin, Sr., Lowell – 322 yards, 7 TD
Jeff Trainor, Soph., Billerica – 317 yards, 3 TD

Dual Threat**
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 807 passing yards, 269 rushing yards, 14 total TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 785 passing yards, 156 rushing yards, 10 total TD
Cody Williams, Sr., Springfield Central – 647 passing yards, 169 rushing yards, 10 total TD
Jermal Brevard Jackson, Jr., Boston Cathedral – 262 passing yards, 514 rushing yards, 6 total TD
Neil O’Connor, Sr., Leominster – 542 passing yards, 193 rushing yards, 12 total TD



*Not including teams who were idle last weekend.
**To qualify, quarterbacks must have rushing yards account for at least 15 percent of their total offensive production.


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