Boston High School: Ngaiiva Mason

D1 North: Lowell 41, St. John's Prep 0

November, 3, 2013
DANVERS, Mass. -– Keagan Latta was just trying to get rowdy.

The Lowell (6-2) senior defensive back led a spirited and intimidating defensive charge against St. John’s Prep (4-4) on Saturday afternoon, reeling in three interceptions -- one of which was a pick-six -- recovering a fumble and bringing it back for a touchdown, and catching a scoring pass from his own quarterback, Brian Dolan.

The result: a 41-0 victory over a traditional power and a statement to the rest of the MIAA.

“We got here early, [St. John’s Prep] were nowhere to be found. We just wanted to get rowdy and show their fans we were ready to play,” Latta said, face caked with eye black. “Hopefully everybody knows Lowell’s not somebody that you mess with anymore. We’re making our mark on the state football tournament.”

From the opening kick the Lowell sideline was loud, jumping up and down and excitedly yelling every time a big play was made on defense, which came early and often. Offensively, Latta caught the first touchdown of the game, a 26-yard pass from Dolan (9-14, 173 yards, TD), assisted by a bone-crushing block from fellow receiver Mike Holder to allow Latta the space to get in the end zone.

“[Offensive coordinator Brian] Christopher drew up some nice stuff on offense, the offensive line blocked and gave Dolan some time," Lowell coach John Florence said. "I think early in the year we were struggling with that, but we were able to get kids open and he hit them in stride."

Moments later, the Lowell sideline reached its most animated point of the day. On fourth down from the Prep 35, Eagles’ quarterback Mike Geaslen rolled out and was stopped far short of the first down. The Red Raiders defense and players on the sideline erupted. Ngaiiva Mason (90 yards rushing, 3 TD) scored a touchdown three plays later.

Prep started with the ball on their own 29 on the next drive, and it looked like the passing game might be able to get going when Geaslen found Owen Rockett on second down, but Rockett fumbled the catch one step after he pulled it in; Latta recovered the fumble and brought it back for a touchdown.

One could hear a pin drop on the Prep sideline after falling into what felt like an insurmountable 20-0 lead in the second quarter, a theme that went unchanged the rest of the game.

By blitzing often and jumbling up the middle of the field, Lowell forced Prep to throw the football all afternoon. Latta picked off Geaslen twice before the end of the first half, and the Prep quarterback was sacked seven times overall in the game. Prep mustered just 52 yards of offense in the first half.

“We definitely got some lucky breaks early with our defense causing turnovers and scoring, anytime you can do that in a football game it definitely increases your chances of winning. We got that going, we got some momentum, we just kept rolling with it,” Florence said. “We shut [the running game] down, and forced them to try to throw the ball on us. The kids stepped up.”

Latta picked Geaslen off one last time about halfway through the third quarter, and wouldn’t you know it, it was Mason who scored a 34-yard touchdown on the very next play to put an exclamation point on the victory.

“That was really just him making a lot of reads,” Florence said of Latta. “It’s really hard to describe, it was quite a performance. The kid made quite a day for himself. He really made a difference in the game.”

EVERETT AWAITS: Next week’s semifinal matchup with Everett isn’t just another game for Lowell, a fact that Florence and his team don’t just acknowledge, but embrace. The Crimson Tide are in a league of their own in terms of tradition and championships, while this year’s Lowell team may very well go down as the best team the school has seen in the last half-century -- further adding to the emotion of next Friday’s game for the Red Raiders.

“We went harder this week than we did any other week of the year, and I hope we do that again next week," Latta said. "We know Everett’s one of the best teams in the state every year. Hopefully we put it together again."

The Crimson Tide beat Malden with ease last night, by a score of 39-6. Preparation won’t change in the slightest, though. Florence will try to prepare his team and staff the same way they would any other game.

“We’re going to sit down and watch a lot of film tomorrow,” Florence said, “We know they’re a come right at you, smash-mouth type of football team, so we’ve gotta be ready and prepared for that.”

Recap: No. 16 Lowell 28, Andover 7

October, 26, 2013
LOWELL, Mass. -– Following up one of his best performances of the season, Brian Dolan couldn’t contain his excitement following Lowell’s 28-7 victory over Andover (3-4) Friday night.

“We just made history!” Dolan exclaimed while running to partake in the celebration with his teammates.

This Red Raiders (6-1) team, the first playoff squad to come from Lowell, was elevated in the offseason when Dolan decided to transfer from Lawrence Academy. Though it took the dual threat signal-caller some time to fit into Lowell’s offense, and get to know his teammates, he’s playing his best football of the season at the right time.

Dolan finished 13-19 for 104 yards and three touchdowns, giving the Red Raiders a quick lead in the first half that they were able to keep throughout the game.

“It’s reps, experience, him feeling comfortable with things, understanding what a defense is doing. Just progression and reps, he’s done a good job [this year],” Lowell coach John Florence said.

Two-way star Shyheim Cullen (73 yards rushing, one sack, one fumble forced) and Ngaiiva Mason (58 yards rushing, TD) also helped led the charge, as Mason’s consistent running in the first half and Cullen’s ability to make plays all over the field ultimately made a big contribution to the playoff clinching victory.

“We did great, we did awesome," Cullen said. "We almost had the shutout, but that doesn’t mean anything. We worked all week on [defense], our defense is probably the best in the league...We work hard on it every day. Coach just tells us never give up, never quit, 100% effort all the time."

Florence agreed, praising Cullen for his on-field leadership on both sides of the ball.

“He’s a great kid, a great teammate -- he prepares hard during the week,” Florence said. “He’s very intense, he practices hit technique, his reads, he watches film, and him and Ngaiiva running the ball they kind of have a little one-two punch right there. They’re good friends, good teammates—they don’t care who gets the ball. They’re always kind of rooting for each other.”

Dolan got the Lowell offense started quickly, leading an 11-play, 62-yard attack on the Red Raiders’ first drive in the first quarter. He found Keagan Latta (2 TD) from 14 yards out to give Lowell the first lead of the game in the opening minutes. Dolan threw a 17-yard strike to Jack Galvin late in the second quarter to extend the lead to 14-0 at halftime.

“It was definitely one of our most complete games of the year," Florence said. "We’ve gotten better slowly but surely, progressively better with that -- we were sloppy at that last year. Last week we played about three and a half quarters of football, we didn’t finish the way we wanted to. We did a better job this week."

Dolan found Latta once again in the third quarter to make it 21-0, then Mason ran it in from just over the goal line late in the fourth quarter to render the lead insurmountable. Oliver Eberth scored Andover’s only touchdown of the game with 10 seconds left in regulation, breaking through for an 86-yard run.

“We’re just gonna enjoy this for a couple minutes, and then we’ll put it behind us and we’ll find out tonight or tomorrow morning," Florence said. "We talk about it every week…we can’t worry about what happened in the past, we’re gonna focus on who we have next."

Cullen said he was ecstatic to make school history, especially going into the playoffs in grand fashion following one of their best team efforts of the season.

“It means a lot to us," Cullen said. "It means something to take our program to the next level, hopefully we take it further than the playoffs and go to the super bowl. It’s the first time we’ve ever been to the playoffs ever, and to be on the first team that goes to the playoffs—it’s incredible, it’s surreal.”

Recap: No. 12 Central Catholic 14, No. 16 Lowell 12

October, 12, 2013

LAWRENCE, Mass. –- Defense was the story on Friday night as Central Catholic and Lowell locked horns in a battle of Merrimack Valley Conference Division 1 powers.

Both teams proved that the MVC is more than just high-powered offenses as Central Catholic outlasted Lowell 14-12 to remain in first place in the MVC D1 and also maintain favorable position in the Division 1 playoff picture.

“Both defenses played awesome tonight,” Central Catholic coach Chuck Adamopoulos said after the game. “It was a hard-hitting game and the kids came up with the plays when we needed them.”

With both squads coming off bye weeks the preparation on both sidelines was evident. Early in the game the battle for field position was crucial, as three-and-outs and defensive stands were becoming increasingly popular.

“It was a weird game,” Adamopoulos said. “The atmosphere was strange at times. Both teams were just treading water back and forth.”

After a scoreless first quarter both teams would find the end zone in the second as Central Catholic quarterback Mike Milano, who was 12-of-23 for 175 yards passing, and two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing), would cap off the only scoring drive for Central in the first half, when he took it in from 10 yards out to give Central a 7-0 lead.

Milano’s touchdown with 5:43 remaining in the first half was answered by Lowell as quarterback Brian Dolan would hit wide receiver Jack Galvin on a deep slant, over the middle, for a 27-yard touchdown strike on third-and-20 with 3:08 remaining in the half. A failed extra point attempt would preserve Central’s 7-6 lead.

“We made some big defensive stands,” Adamopoulos said. “I thought in the first quarter that they had the field position the whole time and our defense came up really huge at the beginning of the game and set the tone.”

Central Catholic wide receiver and return man Cody Demers would provide the necessary lift in the first half as he hauled in 97 of his game-high 127 receiving yards in the opening half, to go with some big returns and an important touchdown-drive-preserving fumble recovery.

The second half of play was eerily similar to the first as both teams played to a scoreless third quarter, with many of the same penalties and field position dilemmas repeating themselves again for both teams.

The scoreless second half would end when Milano found running back D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie on a big touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter.

The University of New Hampshire commit made one of the plays of the game as he leaped to haul in Milano’s pass, spun away from a would-be tackler, and split two more to find the end zone on a 32-yard touchdown reception to give Central a 14-6 lead with 8:29 remaining in the game.

Lowell would answer back again on the following possession as running back Ngaiiva Mason (80 yards rushing) would take it in from 20 yards out to cut the lead to 14-12. A failed conversion attempt would leave the score at 14-12.

The Punt: One of the biggest plays of the game occurred in the final minutes of the game as Central Catholic punter Dan Wilson blasted a punt that netted 66 yards and was downed on the Lowell 4-yard line. The punt helped Central Catholic flip the field with time running out in the game.

“Danny is an awesome kid and that is his biggest punt of the season,” Adamopoulos said. “It could not have come at a better time. We were punting from our end and they have a great player at kick returner. The punt was big and the coverage got down to down it. It made defense a lot easier for that last minute.

Sealing the Win: After Wilson’s punt Central Catholic came up with their final defensive stand as defensive back Mike Balsamo made the game-sealing interception to preserve the victory.

“Mike Balsamo came up with a huge interception and Gavin Anderson, on that same play I thought, gave us some great coverage,” Adamopoulos said. “Mike came over from his safety spot in good position and made the pick.”

Balsmo’s play capped off a nice night for the junior as he continued to produce on both sides of the ball all game long.

“I saw him rolling out and just read the quarterback and played the ball,” Balsamo said. “It all comes down to practice and we worked real hard these two weeks to prepare.”

Lowell received strong games from linebacker Shy Cullen (2 Sacks) and Galvin (Seven catches, 141 yards).

“They are tough,” Adamopoulos said of Lowell. “There is a real good chance we will play each other again in a few weeks.”

Central was led defensively by the strong inebacker play of Markus Edmunds and Cam Manning.

Recap: No. 8 Leominster 33, No. 9 Lowell 20

September, 21, 2013

LOWELL, Mass. -- Since the beginning of the preseason, much has been made about Lowell's funky, frenetic offense, a blur-paced spread scheme sprinkled with enough smattering of screens, draws, crossing routes and zone reads to keep a defense on its heels in no-man's land trying to envelop it all.

It was enough of a concern for Leominster head coach Dave Palazzi that earlier this week, he said he called his players and coaching staff "on the carpet", challenging their toughness and mental discipline. As it turns out, the best defense tonight against the Red Raiders' Oregon-like scheme was to keep them off the field.

[+] EnlargeNeil O'Connor
Ryan Kilian for ESPNBoston.comQB Neil O'Connor (222 offensive yards, 4 TDs) and the Leominster offense dominated time of possession in their 33-20 win over Lowell.
The Blue Devils (2-0) dominated time of possession in this highly-anticipated regional battle between two state title contenders, rolling out to a 26-6 lead in the third quarter en route to a breezy 33-20 defeat of Lowell (2-1) where the aggressor was never in question.

"We just said, to a man I asked them to step up and be the man at your own position, and respond to their first punch," Palazzi said. "I thought they did that."

The Red Raiders drew first blood, marching 64 yards in nine plays, punching it in from five yards out on an inside zone from Ngaiiva Mason (15 carries, 86 yards) for a 6-0 score less than three minutes into the contest.

Leominster responded with an offensive look trademark of Blue Devils teams past, but not used yet in 2013 -- preseason, or last week's home-opener. Palazzi rolled out a "double wing" formation -- a red zone staple for Blue Devil squads prior to the coach's arrival in 2011 -- on the next series, and took Lowell's 3-5 defensive front by surprise. They marched 77 yards in 14 plays and six minutes, twice converting fourth and one in their own end, punching it in on a 17-yard strike from quarterback Neil O'Connor (156 passing yards, 3 TD; 16 carries, 66 yards, TD) to fullback Matt Banchs (4 catches, 69 yards) for his first of two touchdown catches.

Lowell's next two drives were three-and-out's that lasted a combined 2:09, and Leominster responded each time with scores. First, they capped a 63-yard, 12-play, six-minute drive with a 36-yard strike from O'Connor to Mayson Williams, running a fade route down the left sideline. The next trip down, the Blue Devils went 66 yards in 17 plays, eating up all but 13 seconds of the final 6:08 of the first half. James Gurley (26 carries, 91 yards) punched it in from a yard out on fourth and goal for the 18-6 halftime margin.

Leominster received to start the second half, and opened with another monster drive, this one going 80 yards in 15 plays and seven minutes, capped with a nifty 10-yard option keeper by O'Connor, followed by a rollout pass to Jarell Addo on the two-point conversion for the 26-6 score.

In the fourth quarter, Leominster sandwiched another O'Connor-Banchs touchdown pass, this one for 19 yards, in between two pretty scoring strikes from Brian Dolan to Jack Galvin.

Owning the clock: Between Leominster's six-minute drive to end the first half, a 15-minute halftime break, and the Devils' seven-minute opening drive of the second, it felt like Lowell's offense was off the field for an hour of real time.

Leominster dominated time of possession in the first half, holding on to the ball for 17:33 of the first half to Lowell's paltry 4:27 on four offensive drives. A big part of that was Lowell's combination of uber-fast no-huddle tempo and failure to convert on third downs. In the first half, the Red Raiders averaged 20 seconds, sometimes less, between plays; after their game-opening scoring drive, they failed to convert another third down the rest of the game, finishing 2-of-7 on the night.

Part of Leominster's practice week involves what players call "Intensity Tuesdays", a grueling mixture of sprints and suicides coordinated by assistant coach Charlie Raff. Against this high-powered scheme, O'Connor felt he and his teammates were conditioned well enough to hang around with them.

"He [Raff] definitely pushes us," O'Connor said. "We know why we’re doing it, and it’s for these reasons. They’re not doing it because they hate us, they're doing it to help us. We understand that, and it pays off."

As a result, Leominster out-gained the Raiders 207-68 in first half yardage, running 43 plays to just 14 by Lowell. For the game, they outgained Lowell 386-211 from scrimmage. Superstar receiver Galvin, an ESPN Boston Preseason All-State selection, finished with two catches for 90 yards and two scores; but he was held without catch until the final 8:41 of the game.

Such is the mortal flaw with many of these uptempo, copious "Blur" schemes. When everything is clicking, these offenses look exotic. But, as tonight explicated, they sure can unravel in a hurry.

Asked if he contemplated slowing the pace down at all, Lowell head coach John Florence said simply, "It’s not really our style. We want to go put the defense under duress and go from there."

Fourth and guts: Everett coach John DiBiaso's decision last week to go for it on fourth and two from his own 23 last Friday in a loss to Xaverian, and it has been a topic of discussion this week. DiBiaso's gamble, while not his first rodeo, ended up backfiring. Palazzi's gamble with it tonight, meanwhile, showed how big gambles can pay off.

The Blue Devils were a perfect 3-for-3 on fourth downs tonight, all of them coming within their own end. Twice on their first drive of the night they converted on fourth and one, first from their own 32, then from their own 43. Later in the first half, the Blue Devils converted a fourth down from their own 29.

Asked about how much he weighed the risk of such decisions, Palazzi said there was "no doubt in my mind" he was going to go for it on those fourth downs.

"What I saw the first half, the first drive out of Lowell, I thought this could get out of hand quickly," Palazzi said. "I just thought that was the play of the game, it was intuition. It was an out of control call, I agree, but I just felt it in my gut that we needed to get a first down there.

"The tables could have turned there. We punt there, and they go down and score, we’re down 14 now. It’s a different ball game, we’re [probably] spread out, trying to throw the ball around and that’s really not what we’re trying to do."

Often, such a maneuver is meant to test the skin of his players -- experienced or inexperienced, proven or unproven -- and see what kind of backbone they possess. No question, that factor weighed into the decision making.

"We knew we were coming up here to an Eastern Mass. team, a Division 1 team, we’ve played big games before but we had to match their intensity," Palazzi said. "That was part of the call, we just had to see if we were tough enough because as you see they’re a great team, great players, they were real physical on film."

Double Wing catches Raiders off-guard: The "Double Wing" package was often a staple of Leominster squads under legendary former coach John Dubzinski, particularly in the red zone, and it had been a novelty package seen in spurts the first two seasons under Palazzi. But neither in the preseason, nor last week's home-opener against St. John's of Shrewsbury, did we see any shred of the formation.

Suffice it to say when the Blue Devils opened up in the package early in the first quarter, and stayed in it for the most part throughout the half, it took Lowell by surprise. The Red Raiders deploy a 3-5-3 defensive front, a scheme known for its ability to disguise its blitzes, and one that better suits its speedy personnel. The linemen's one-inch splits in the double wing strip a defense of virtually all of its blitz packages, and Florence admitted this typically isn't a look they've had great success against.

"We see a little bit of it, with Tewksbury, it’s obviously something we haven’t played well [against] the last three years, and tonight was another example of that," he said. "With our style of defense, and the linemen we have, that’s a weakness for us to be in. We have to come ready [for that].

"It was obviously very difficult [defending it]. They chewed the clock the second quarter, and I think we knew it was coming on the sidelines, we just didn’t hit our gaps correctly and just let them push the pile. We were playing with our pad level too high."

Palazzi didn't want to get into a track meet with the Raiders, and felt this was their best method at keeping the game at a comfortable tempo. In basketball terms, Leominster matched Lowell's full-court press with a Princeton offense.

"[They run a] 3-5 with some very good athletes in there," Palazzi said. "We just thought with this league, and the way they run football, and a lot of the teams they play are throwing the ball like it’s backyard football, we just decided we’re going to go a little power football and see where we’d start. It kept on working, so we kept running it, and the kids were fired up about it. But Lowell made a lot of adjustments, they’ve got a great staff, they did a great job adjusting to it at the end."

Banchs moves the chains: Gurley took on a Yeoman's load, and paid for it after the game ("I’m feeling sore, but it’s a great win for the team," he chuckled), but an underrated part of Leominster's success on offense tonight came from the fullback Banchs. In addition to blocking for Gurley, Banchs was a vital part of the passing game.

All four of Banchs catches, including the two TD strikes, came in the flats. Out of the I-formation, Banchs would shoot up through the middle of the line and release to the flat, where a Lowell defender often failed to pick him up. O'Connor, rolling to his left or right, would hit him perfectly in stride for an easy first down and possibly more.


LEO 6 12 8 7 --- 33
LOW 6 0 0 14 --- 20

First Quarter
Low - Ngaiiva Mason 5 run (kick failed) 8:38
Leo - Matt Banchs 22 pass from Neil O'Connor (kick blocked) 2:31

Second Quarter
Leo - Mayson Williams 36 pass from O'Connor (pass failed) 7:10
Leo - James Gurley 1 run (rush failed) :08

Third Quarter
Leo - O'Connor 10 run (Tim DeCarolis pass from O'Connor) 3:59

Fourth Quarter
Low - Jack Galvin 73 pass from Brian Dolan (Evan McHugh kick) 8:41
Leo - Banchs 19 pass from O'Connor (Christian Lewis kick) 5:52
Low - Galvin 17 pass from Dolan (McHugh kick) 5:02

Recap: No. 9 Lowell 21, Westford 0

September, 7, 2013
WESTFORD, Mass. –- With overwhelming speed and a knack for getting to the ball, Lowell’s defense was all over the field on Friday night. As a result, the Red Raiders (1-0) pitched a shutout on opening night, picking up the road victory over Westford Academy, 21-0.

The Lowell offense got a quick start in the first quarter, putting up two touchdowns in the opening minutes.

The Red Raiders went right to running back Ngaiiva Mason on their first drive; he had 39 yards in the series, 28 of which on a second down run to put Lowell on the seven yard line. Moments later, senior quarterback Brian Dolan (10-of-15, 105 yards, 2 total TD) kept it himself and put his team on the scoreboard first.

A few minutes later, following a Westford (0-1) fumble forced by defensive end Malik Settles, Lowell came up with great field position on the Grey Ghosts’ 31 yard line. On third down, Dolan hooked up with highly-touted receiver Jack Galvin (5 catches, 68 yards) for a 29-yard touchdown, bringing the lead to 14-0.

“Those guys work well together,” Lowell coach John Florence said about the friendship between Galvin and Dolan. “They’ve grown up together, they’ve played since junior high together and they’ve been friends, so they already had that kind of bond.”

Westford had an opportunity to put points on the board at the end of the first half, but a dropped would-be touchdown in the endzone resulted in a turnover on downs.

The Grey Ghosts ended the first half with just 35 total yards. The defensive theme stood true early in the second half as well, as Lowell was able to pick up two stops in the red zone to keep the shutout alive.

Following a long punt return by Mason that brought Lowell to Westford’s 13 yard line, the Red Raiders scored on a run via Mason two plays later to extend the lead to 21-0. However, Westford wasn’t quite done yet.

Grey Ghosts quarterback Luke Moran helped manufacture a 68-yard drive thanks in part to two receptions for 41 yards from Will Puduski, and a 28-yard reception from tight end Matt Cardeiro. Two plays later though, Lowell defensive back Musa Mansary picked a Moran pass off in the endzone to, at least at the time, take the win out of Westford’s sails.

“Coach called man coverage. He thought I was nice, so I just covered the kid up pretty well,” Mansary said after the game.

The excitement on the Red Raiders’ sideline was anticlimactic, however, as Mason fumbled the ball on the very next play—putting Lowell’s defense back on the field and giving Westford position at the Red Raiders’ six yard line.

“Offensive line and run blocking…we need to clean it up,” Florence said regarding the fumble.

The Grey Ghosts’ would get the ball all the down the one yard line, but couldn’t finish off the opportunity, as running back Ben Rodman simply couldn’t get through Lowell’s linebackers. It was a sense of relief from Mansary and the rest of the defense, and he had high praise for his teammates:

“Give a lot of credit to the linebackers: Shyheim [Cullen], Nicolau Coury, and John Healy. Those guys are the best,” he said.

The defensive emphasis was a long time coming for Florence’s team, as the coach has worked hard at improving his defense over the past couple of years.

“We’ve been stressing ball security at practice, but obviously it’s something we need to work on a little bit more," Florence said. "It was great to see the defense make those stops, defensive backs made some plays there, the linebackers, the d-line, it was really a team effort on defense there.”

He continued, “It’s something we’ve been building for three years. We’ve been stressing tackling, we do a tackling circuit almost every day in practice. With these guys who have been playing for a few years, they’re kind of feeling more comfortable with things.”

Mansary, a senior who has learned a lot from Florence over the past couple of years, said the coach and his staff constantly put an emphasis on getting eleven men to the ball and playing fast on defense. He was quick to give credit to his coaches for the team’s success on Friday night:

“Give the credit to all the coaches: Coach Florence, Coach Casey, Coach Harris. It’s all them, it’s not us. They prepare us every week to play like we’re champions, every week.”

Recap: No. 23 Central Catholic 42, Lowell 34

October, 27, 2012
LOWELL, Mass. -- Central Catholic's season could look a lot different right now, and Chuck Adamopoulos would probably be the first one to tell you.

The Raiders took an early season test against St. John's Prep and failed, rather miserably at that, with a lopsided loss and a probably a lot of empty feelings after they could muster next to nothing offensively against one of the premier defenses in the state.

There are usually one of two ways a team can go after a demoralizing loss like that; keep digging youself deeper and deeper, or pick yourself out of the funk.

It's easy to say that Adamopoulos's crew took road No. 2 after defeating Lowell last night, 42-34, for its sixth victory in a row at Cawley Stadium on the road. The Prep game was the turnaround for the Raiders, and now they find themselves right at the top of the heap in the very crowded Merrimack Valley Conference.

"In that [Prep] game, I thought our defense actually played pretty solid," said the Raiders head coach, whose team moved to 7-1 on the year. "We just went three-and-out all day and our defense really got tired. I think we only had three offensive plays in the fourth quarter. We had fumbled twice in the fourth quarter. But I saw enough in our line that day that I felt good about that. Michael [Milano] showed a lot in our scrimmages that we didn't panic about that game.

"I thought we learned a lot from that game. The next week we had North Andover, who is a good team, and we were down in the first half. I think we had a hangover from the Prep game. We rallied and had a really good second half and we just kind of used it as a springboard from there."

Things were almost going too swimmingly for the Raiders last night, and all it took was a holding call that negated a drive to wake up the home team. Lowell bounced back from a 20-7 hole to score 14 unanswered points after Cam Latta (four touchdown passes) found Alex Kasirye for a 21-20 lead.

The referees said there were two or three more seconds on the clock despite the scoreboard posting all zeroes after a Raiders punt right before halftime. Adamopoulos argued that the teams should be in the locker room for the half, but it's lucky those extra seconds stayed with the referees.

Latta tried throwing a pass to the right flat and D'andre Drummond-Mayire picked it off and took it 45 yards the other way for the 28-20 lead after a Milano two-point conversion rush.

"We caught a break on that last play with the interception for a touchdown," said Adamopoulos. "It kind of changed the way we were going into the half. We were definitely down at that point."

Lowell would take back the lead in the third quarter lead after Ngaiiva Mason sprinted 44 yards for the 34-28 lead. But Milano avoided the rush on a fourth-and-17 and found Cody Demers in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.

Lowell would have several more chances to get points on the board, but the Raiders defense forced Latta into incompletions on nine of his last 10 throws, including an interception by Ryan Doherty to end the game.

Central Cath. (7-1) 20 - 8 - 0 - 14 -42
Lowell (6-2) 7 - 14 - 13 - 0 - 34

CC - Michael Barry 30 pass from Michael Milano ( Thomas Jenoski kick)
LO - Jack Galvin 46 pass from Cam Latta (Zach Noel kick)
CC - Milano 1 run (Jenoski kick)
CC - Cody Demers 25 pass from Milano (kick failed)
LO -Galvin 34 pass from Latta (Noel kick)
LO - Alex Kasirye 25 pass from Latta (Noel kick)
CC -D'andre Drummond-Mayire 45 INT return
LO - Kasirye 67 pass from Latta (Noel kick blocked)
LO - Ngaiiva Mason 44 run (Noel kick)
CC - Demers 34 pass from Milano (Jenoski kick)
CC - Santino Brancato 34 run (Jenoski kick)

Recap: No. 6 Chelmsford 28, Lowell 22

November, 6, 2011

LOWELL, Mass. -- Lowell had a chance to tie Saturday night's game with No. 6 Chelmsford late in the fourth quarter and they needed one yard to continue their drive, but that did not occur. Instead, Lions junior defensive lineman Lou Ferrer stuffed Ngaiiva Mason for no gain, giving the Lions the ball back and a chance to go ahead two touchdowns. Despite giving up one more, this defensive stop gave Chelmsford the cushion they needed to ride out the rest of the 28-22 win over its Merrimack Valley Conference rival.

“It was gut check time for us at that point,” Chelmsford head coach Bruce Rich said.

In the third quarter, Chelmsford fumbled the ball on the opening drive and had a three-and-out series while Lowell was able to get on the board with 9:08 left in the third and again on the first play of the fourth quarter, tying the Lions 14-14 and showing signs of a potential upset. Chelmsford then took two straight drives into the end zone, one 4:06 (54 yards) and the other 2:21 (71 yards).

Lowell was able to score with six seconds left to bring them within eight and R.J. Noel’s PAT rush brought it within 6, but a failed onside kick allowed Chelmsford to cruise.

“We’ll take a win,” Rich said. “I don’t care who it is in this league … they’re hard to get.”

The 5-foot-11, 290-pound junior came up with a huge tackle late in the fourth to get the ball back for the Lions, but Rich is used to seeing Ferrer tackle opponents. As a wrestler for Chelmsford, Ferrer has plenty of practice grabbing and slamming guys down to the mat. Rich thinks that he transfers some of those skills well into football.

“Lou plays low,” Rich said. “He’s very, very good in clinches and he knows how to get by people. Again, he plays low, he’s an immovable object, so he kind of spear heads that front line and the other guys are making plays off of him.”

Aside from the usual off sides, pass interference and false start penalties, roughing the passer and unnecessary roughness penalties were flying fairly frequently for both teams.

“The game got a little chippy, there was some extra stuff going on,” Rich said.

When asked if they were discussing chemistry after the play was dead, Ferrer made it clear that the Lions and Red Raiders were not talking about bonds or the periodic table.

“It was a lot of talking back and forth going on after the plays… A lot of penalties on us but we kind of stuck in there and played hard."

Rich was not so convinced that the players were aware of their surroundings due to the energy at Cawley Stadium and chalked it up to adrenaline.

“It was such a physical game; I don’t think the kids heard the whistle every time.”

The Chelmsford offensive line opened up holes late in the fourth quarter to allow running backs Eddie Sheridan and Colby Emanouil the space they needed to get the first down, but in each case on fourth and one, Sheridan and Emanouil got more than they needed. They knew that a one score lead against Lowell wouldn’t be enough to secure the win, so the backs and the linemen gave a little more than expected to pull out the win last night.

“Our line blocked real well tonight,” Rich said. “They bought 7, 8, 9 guys, they were coming all night long. I thought we picked up many of their stunters.”

Sheridan, (2 rushing TDs) appreciates the feeling of getting the ball down the stretch in a tight situation and getting the necessary yardage.

“That’s my favorite part of the game, just getting that yard, I love it.”

Sheridan admitted that like any team, the lineman and the running backs go back and forth with barbs, but when it counts, in the fourth quarter marching down the field, there is no contention in the Lion pride – they are hunting together.

“We’re a family. We play hard and finish hard.”

C (8-1) 0 - 14 - 0 - 14 --– 28
L (5-4) 0 - 0 - 7 - 15 –-- 22

C – Colby Emanouil 15 run (PAT failed)
C – Eddie Sheridan 13 run (Sheridan pass from Emanouil)
L – Gilberto Brown 40 pass from R.J. Noel (Connor McHugh kick)
L – Noel 11 run (McHugh kick)
C – Sheridan 2 run (Charlie Calenda kick)
C – Emanouil 41 run (Calenda kick)
L – Brown 9 pass from Noel (Noel rush)