Boston High School: Nick Meninno

Recap: Swampscott 21, Beverly 13

November, 5, 2011

BEVERLY, Mass. -– As far as momentum swings go, you won’t find many that top the one that happened Saturday in Swampscott’s 21-13 victory over Beverly.

With the host Panthers up 13-7 late in the first half, Swampscott quarterback Michael Walsh swung a pass to Richard Sullivan in the right flat, but Beverly’s Dan Brown arrived when the ball did and with authority.

The hit, which caused an incompletion, elicited a roar from the Beverly crowd and a corresponding one from Swampscott coach Steve Dembowski, who barreled over from his sideline to argue for either a personal foul or taunting penalty.

Neither came, but Dembowski ended up getting an even better result. On the next play, Walsh (240 all-purpose yards) converted a fourth and 3 when he picked up nine yards. Then, Walsh threw back to A.J. Baker, who found Walsh in the left flat with a wall of blockers leading him to the end zone for a 49-yard touchdown. Nick Meninno’s PAT gave the Big Blue a 14-13 halftime lead and they never trailed again.

Walsh added a 12-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter and the defense forced two turnovers on downs in Swampscott (8-1, 3-0 in the NEC/Cal Tier 2) territory later on to seal it. It was a satisfying win for the Big Blue, who hadn’t beaten Beverly (6-3, 2-1) since 2007.

“It feels incredible,” said Swampscott linebacker Zach Kalapinski. “They’re a great team.”

“This was huge,” said Walsh. “This was another step towards winning the NEC and that’s where we want to be. So this was a big step towards that.”

Beverly nearly took that step, as Brendan Flaherty (137 yards rushing, 91 receiving) was a major weapon for the Panthers, scoring on a 49-yard run on their first drive and a 27-yard reception on their second.

But Swampscott made just enough plays in the final minutes to hold off the hosts, turning the ball over on downs twice deep in Big Blue territory.

Swamp monsters: The Swampscott offensive line may not be the biggest around, but it’s an underrated group that made the difference in the second half. The all-senior group of Mark Lausier, Sam Gold, Michael Wynne, Michael Bagarella and Abdi Yusef paved the way for 108 yards on the ground between Walsh and Evan Rhodes (71 yards rushing) in the final 22 minutes.

“We thought we could win the trench war,” Dembowski said. “Last year we lost the trench war. We won the yards and all that stuff, but we didn’t get the touchdowns.”

No huddles here: Swampscott’s offense is well-known for its no-huddle spread, but Beverly showed at times that its Wing-T could be executed at just as quick a pace. For much of the game, the Panthers operated without a huddle and kept the Big Blue on their heels for the entire first half. The tempo at which the Panthers played was impressive, and by the looks of it, will only be more elevated in the future. With quarterback Dave Rollins, running backs Flaherty, Dom Abate and Kenny Pierce and four offensive linemen returning next year, expect more defenses to be sucking wind when the Beverly offense takes the field.

SWA (8-1, 3-0) 7 - 7 - 0 - 7 --– 21
BEV (6-3, 2-1) 7 - 6 - 0 - 0 –-- 13

First quarter
B – Brendan Flaherty 49 run (Dave Rollins kick)
S – Michael Walsh 1 run (Nick Meninno kick)

Second quarter
B – Flaherty 27 pass from Rollins (kick failed)
S – Walsh 49 pass from AJ Baker (Meninno kick)

Fourth quarter
S – Walsh 12 run (Meninno kick)

What We Learned: Week 4

October, 3, 2011
Could it be that the No. 1 team in the land took a step back in a win, and the state’s No. 3 team took a step forward in a loss?

That appears to be the scenario that unfolded last Saturday, as No. 1 Everett struggled early en route to an eventual 35-21 win over rising Cape power Barnstable while No. 3 BC High showed flashes of good promise in a 35-19 loss to New Jersey power St. Peter’s Prep.

For the No. 1 Crimson Tide, who took a 14-0 lead into the break before opening up the passing playbook and putting this one away, the victory came at the cost of one of their defensive stalwarts. Senior co-captain and linebacker Chris “Buck” McCarthy is lost for the season after leaving Saturday’s contest with both a dislocated ankle and broken fibia. The 5-foot-11 Stetson-bound McCarthy -– an ESPN Boston preseason All-State football selection, and an ESPN Boston baseball All-State selection last spring at catcher (which he’ll play for the Hatters) –- was the leader of a defense that was allowing just 8.3 points per game headed into the contest. Head coach John DiBiaso relied on his high football IQ and fundamentals to lead by example in a defense long on athleticism.

Barring catastrophe, the Tide figure to enter Oct. 15’s contest with Xaverian undefeated and holding on to the No. 1 spot. After Xaverian, it’s arguably the most anticipated matchup of the season, a visit from No. 3 BC High.

Simply put, the Marauders outmatched BC High everywhere, from size in the trenches to the athletic secondary, to the elite speed of West Virginia-bound quarterback Brandon Napoleon and the matchup problem posed by 6-foot-5, 240-pound Rutgers bound tight end Mike Giacone.

"This is why we play this game," Eagles head coach Jon Bartlett said. "Obviously, we're disappointed with the loss, but we want our guys to play at a different level leading up to the [Catholic] Conference. Hopefully this helps. Again, [we're] disappointed, but in the big picture, playing faster, playing stronger, playing at a different level...right now Northern New Jersey is a little ahead of Massachusetts, but this is good for us in the long run."

The St. Peter’s faithful took note of BC High quarterback Bartley Regan’s sound delivery and footwork; but while Preston Cooper, Gordon McLeod and Temple commit Jameson McShea have garnered most of the attention so far, the emergence of Lincoln Collins (6 catches, 84 yards, TD) maybe most paramount as the season progresses.

“Lincoln is developing as a real good receiver,” Bartlett said. “He has real good hands, won’t beat you long – he’s working on that – but he’s a steady receiver. He can block, too.”

Quite frankly, there isn’t a team in this state as talented as the one that visited Dorchester last Saturday. How much do you think that will pay off as the Eagles make a stretch run?

As each week passes, that week one score between Chelmsford and Westford seems less and less of an aberration.

The game, a 54-34 Chelmsford win, raised eyebrows both for how many points the historically-conservative Lions put up, and for how many points Westford was able to score on a vaunted Chelmsford defense led by Boston College-bound linebacker Tim Joy and a slew of versatile athletes in the front seven.

Three weeks out, two things are clear:

Chelmsford can score. The Lions had their way with upstart Lawrence on Friday at Veterans Memorial Stadium, winning 42-16 and making it look easy. They started out in a variety of power packages out of the I formation, and paved favorable holes for the quick Eddie Sheridan to burst through. But when they went to a spread scheme at the end of the half, they marched 75 yards in just four plays in 41 seconds, capped with a nifty flea-flicker to quarterback Colby Emanouil.

"We're capable of opening up, we've always been," head coach Bruce Rich said. "I know it's generally out of the I, running power, but we're able to open it up. Our quarterback is dangerous, he's got good wheels. We're able to run with him, and we've got some pretty good receivers as well. We got protection tonight [too], which I thought was good."

Alex Eaton is underrated. We’ve said it before, practically ad nauseum, and we’ll say it again: there is significant crossover between lacrosse and football (see: No. 2 Duxbury). Westford running back Alex Eaton, a Lehigh commit in lacrosse, torched Groton-Dunstable for over 330 yards and five scores in last Friday’s 33-8 win, and through four games he has 785 yards of offense.

“The best thing we do is give the ball to Alex,” remarked Westford head coach Rich McKenna, with a laugh. “He makes us look good.”

Whether he’s catching balls out of the backfield or running straight up the gut, Eaton is making people miss; and if you watch enough lacrosse, and then think back to high school lacrosse/football legends like Ryan Izzo (Walpole) and Sean Morris (Marshfield), you can make some educated guesses. The proof is in the running stride, keeping one’s hips active enough where your average defender might have difficulty squaring up.

And while we’re on the subject of lacrosse guys leaving their footprints all over the gridiron…how ‘bout them Needham boys?

Tight end (and lax star) Mark Riley and quarterback Drew Burnett grab the headlines for the Rockets – who debut in the polls at No. 21 this week following their upset of previous No. 6 Weymouth – but in an interview with late last week, head coach David Duffy said he felt his athletes can hang with the Wildcats’ attention-grabbing receivers like Khary Bailey-Smith and Ozzy Colarusso.

Turns out he was right, although it was another Riley doing the damage. Senior running back Ian Riley led the way with 186 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, and also hauled in two passes for 29 yards. That was part of a 279-yard rushing effort by the Rockets, who also got crucial yardage from fullback Mike Vespa.

Nico Panepinto led the way through the air, hauling in two touchdown passes from Burnett, while Dan Pierce provided some flair in the return game.

Meanwhile, tight end Mark Riley found himself covered up most of the afternoon, which should speak to a larger point.

“He’s just clobbering everybody and we put a great athlete on him, our quarterback, which is double duty for him, so maybe that hurt a little offensively,” Weymouth head coach Kevin Mackin told ESPN Boston correspondent Matt Noonan, of Mark Riley. “Who knows, but he covered him and we had Bailey-Smith over the top. We maybe over-committed a little bit, but clearly that kid is the best tight end in the state and we [wanted] to make sure that we slowed him down, [and] unfortunately they had way too many weapons to go to other than him.”

Mansfield and King Philip produced the instant classic that we though the game could be with the Hornets once again escaping with a one-score victory thanks to some late dramatics. On Friday, defensive back Kevin Makie's pass defensed on a KP 2-point conversion try for the win provided the heroics. While both head coaches looked shell-shocked after a tense 44 minutes of football, both Mansfield head Mike Redding and KP boss Brian Lee struck on one surprising trend of the early season: Could the Hockomock's little division, the Davenport, be better than the Kelley-Rex?

OK, that might sound like hyperbole, but hear us out here. First case and point, Stoughton's "shocking" 8-0 win over Mansfield in the previous week.

"I wouldn't say they shocked us," Redding said of Stoughton, "that team can play."

There's also undefeated Oliver Ames, which plays King Philip this weekend, who is coming off a win over Kelley-Rex opponent Franklin.

"You can't look past those teams," Lee said Friday night, looking ahead to the challenge ahead, "if you, they're very capable of beating you."

The rest of the Davenport's teams - Canton, Foxborough and yes, even Sharon - are all even on the season at 2-2. And they'd all love to throw a monkey wrench in any Kelley-Rex's teams postseason prospectus. Just ask the Hornets.

"It's not often that way, but it's truly wide open this year," Redding said. "Any of those smaller division teams are capable of winning. We know that firsthand, even look at Canton, they're playing well and they gave North [Attleborough] all they could handle [a 7-0 game]. You're not going to be able to sleep walk through any of those games."

It might not be Wrigley Field, but Thursday night's Swampscott home game versus Triton will be the first Big Blue home game held under the lights ever. Swampscott wide receiver Nick Meninno's father helped procure the lights, which are typically used for nighttime highway paving projects.

"We're very excited about it and hopefully the town is, too," Big Blue head coach Steve Dembowski said. "We'd like to make it a tradition."

Swampscott claims Under Armour 7v7

July, 30, 2011
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Chelmsford was on the cusp of back-to-back championships on back-to-back weekends at the New England Patriots Under Armour 7v7.

The Lions rode the momentum from last week's Northeast 7v7 victory into the final of Saturday's event at Gillette Stadium, facing off against Swampscott. While there was no resolution after regulation, Big Blue spoiled Chelmsford's designs when quarterback Mike Walsh found A.J. Baker in the end zone for the game-winner in overtime.

After a disappointing performance at the Northeast 7v7 last week, Walsh was glad to his team's hard work pay off.

"We put a lot of preparation into this," said the rising senior who recently committed to Brown. "We have workouts every Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 6 a.m. All throughout the summer, we go through a ton of 7-on-7's and I think this is our sixth major tournament of the summer, plus the passing league were in every Sunday."

Walsh found his favorite target and lifelong friend -- Baker said they've been best friends since the first grade -- in the back of the end zone off of a crossing mesh route. Baker's responsibility on the play was actually as a decoy, setting a screen to allow another receiver to become open underneath. However, instead of setting that pick, Baker found open turf. When he turned around the ball was there and Big Blue walked away winners.

"We have a good chemistry," Baker said of his quarterback. "We played together in Pop Warner and on and on. He's really smart and he knows what he's doing back there. He makes his read and he throws wherever he wants to because he has a cannon of an arm, so he just launches off and finds the open man."

After the graduation of a couple of couple of his top receivers from 2010, including Peter Yasi and Zach Beerman, Walsh has been using the summer period to better acquaint himself with a new crop of wideouts.

"We have a lot of first-year kids who are stepping up big time," Walsh said. "We have a couple of juniors who played JV last year. Joe DeSalvo had a huge day today, offensively and defensively. A.J. [Baker] does his thing out there, too. He's going to be my go-to guy, but Aidan Lang's been running great routes and been doing real well. He's going to take the H-receiver role and I've been happy with all of those guys. Nick Meninno's been doing a great job on the outside, too. He's another JV guy from last year that's stepping up big."

The first-year event hosted eight of Massachusetts' top football programs with BB&N, Boston Cathedral, Catholic Memorial, Duxbury, North Andover and St. John's Prep joining the fray.

Among the breakout performers was Cathedral wide receiver Geeavontie Griffith who tallied nine touchdowns in four games.