Boston High School: Noah Sorrento

Player of the Game: Xaverian's Noah Sorrento

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
12:09
AM ET
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- Xaverian running back Noah Sorrento and the Hawks' offensive line have been unstoppable through two weeks.

The senior, who also plays linebacker, turned in his second straight 100-yard rushing performance in the top-ranked Hawks' 28-6 win over No. 9 Bridgewater-Raynham. Sorrento ran for 131 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown while being named our Player of the Game in our Game of the Week, presented by the New England Dairy Council.

ESPN Boston High Schools editor Scott Barboza caught up with Sorrento for this post game interview:

(Video by Joe Parello)

Recap: No. 1 Xaverian 21, No. 3 Everett 14

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
6:59
PM ET


WESTWOOD, Mass. –- There was just about two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and No. 1 Xaverian was nursing a one-touchdown lead in the Hawks’ Saturday opener against No. 3 Everett. They were confronted with a third and 12 at their own 29-yard line.

Hawks head coach Charlie Stevenson took a timeout to think the play over, but there was little doubt as to whom would take the ball.

“He doesn’t have to ask me; I want to give it to him,” Stevenson said of senior running back Noah Sorrento. “He keeps saying, ‘Me, me, me,’ but it’s not like I’m not going to give the ball to him. Who the heck do you think I’m going to give it to?”

Instead of dropping back to pass on the third-and-long, the call was for a weak side toss to Sorrento. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound bulldog of a back took care of the rest, streaking past the second tier of the Crimson Tide defense and rumbling 20 yards downfield.

With the first down (and then some) and Everett’s ability to stop the clock dwindling, the Hawks were able to hold on for the 21-14 win.

From an outsider’s perspective, it might have been a bit of a gamble on Stevenson’s part – putting so much on a running back in a long-yardage situation. But his belief in Sorrento’s ability and – perhaps more importantly – his competitiveness is unfaltering.

“He’s a very competitive kid,” Stevenson said. “He wants to take the three-pointer with no time left on the clock. And you know what? I want him taking it, too.”

Chompin’ at the bit: While Everett (1-1) opened with a Top 25 victory last week at Springfield Central, the Hawks were crisper in the first half of their season opener.

The Crimson Tide offense sputtered in the first 22 minutes, mustering just 15 yards offensive yards from scrimmage while being hampered with a string of penalties.

“We made some stupid illegal procedure penalties that put us in a bad position,” Everett head coach John DiBiaso said. “We let a punt (71 yards by Joe Gaziano) get behind us when we were supposed to catch it and we went back to the 5-yard line. We shot ourselves in the foot.”

Xaverian couldn’t capitalize either, as the teams played to a scoreless first quarter. However, the Hawks built their first sustained drive at the tail end of the quarter and, on the first play of the second, Sorrento punched in a 1-yard run for a 7-0 lead.

Xaverian extended its lead to two scores at 8:26 of the second when Coby Tippett made an adjustment to come back on a ball and win a 50-50 ball in the end zone on a 31-yard throw from Jake Farrell. A botched snap on a late field goal attempt kept the Hawks from extending their lead before the half was out.

The Crimson Tide showed a more dynamic offensive attack in the second half, led by sophomore quarterback Jordan McAfee, who was making his second varsity start. McAfee took advantage of a short field gifted to him after a Duval Paul fumble recovery ended the Hawks’ opening possession of the half. Five plays later, McAfee hit preseason All-State selection Lukas Denis on a wheel route for a 25-yard score with 6:42 remaining in the third.

After Sorrento’s second 1-yard touchdown plunge restored the Hawks’ two-score advantage, McAfee responded, engineering a 15-play, 85-yard scoring drive. He placed a perfect throw to the pylon on the back-side shoulder of wide receiver Gary Clark for a 5-yard touchdown with 4:03 to play.

A drive to nowhere (but victory): Starting at their 20-yard line, Xaverian embarked on its game-clinching drive. But it wasn’t without moments of trepidation for the Hawks’ sideline. A holding penalty and a subsequent false start had Xaverian backed up with a second-and-20 play. After an 8-yard gain by Sorrento, he helped put the game out of reach with his 20-yard gain on third and 12.

The Crimson Tide never had the ball again.

“We were in a situation where we need to run clock and we were able to get that done with our lineman, Jake [Farrell], and Kenny [Kern] and Noah [Sorrento] making the carries for us,” Stevenson said.

He added, “Kenny made a couple nice runs at the end, too, to pick up some tough yards for us. I thought they all performed nicely at the end of the game to bring it to an end.”

Sorrento was able to find a greater amount of green pasture ahead of him in the second half, thanks to a play-calling adjustment, making a departure from the Hawks’ power-based assault in the first half.

“They were really crashing their ends and their linebackers were really onto our power, so that’s why we started breaking it outside,” Sorrento said. “We had some big plays there on the toss.”

A mixed bag: The Crimson Tide could look at Saturday’s loss as a glass-half-full scenario. Everett was missing five starters lost to injury during their Week 1 win over Top 25 foe Springfield Cathedral. The losses hurt primarily on the defensive side of the ball, which didn’t help against a big, physical Xaverian offensive line.

“There were a lot of guys making their first start, a lot of guys out of position,” DiBiaso said. “I’m not making excuses, it’s just that we weren’t ready for this type of game.”

He continued, “It creates stress when you’ve got two 150-pound linebackers and a 140-pound nose guard against the No. 1 team in the state. I was stressed all week … Today I wasn’t that stressed. I was proud of the way they played.”

DiBiaso was also pleased with the play of McAfee in his first start – in spite of a couple of misleading interceptions.

“I thought he played well. When he was under duress, he took off and had a nice first down and get out of bounds near the stakes. He made some nice throws. It was unfortunate that the two throws that got picked were tipped out of the hands.”

Hawks opportunistic: Senior Coastal Carolina commit Damion Wood pocketed a pair of interceptions for the Hawks – both of which could have come with a gift basket.

Wood’s first pick was a bit of a hot potato, in fact.

“[The Everett receiver] tipped it, then Ernest [Simon] tipped it, then Noah [Sorrento] tipped it and it ended up in my hands,” Wood chuckled.

For Wood’s second act, he snatched a ball out of the hands of Boston College commit Lukas Denis during the third quarter. While Denis was able to impact the game – what with his 25-yard touchdown reception and another acrobatic catch down the sideline for a 33-yard gain later in the third – the Hawks were intent to not let him take it over.

“He’s an athletic kid, so we had to put more people on his side so he couldn’t get to the ball as easy,” Wood said of the matchup with Denis. “He’s a big kid, he’s about six feet, so it’s tough to stop him and shut him down.”

Xaverian didn’t put either of its corners – Mehki Henderson and Ernest Simon – into exclusive coverage on Denis, but they regularly received safety help over the top from Wood.

“I know that we were trying to put pressure on the quarterback, but when you do that, that kind of leaves guys on an island,” Stevenson said of the Hawks’ defensive game plan. “And we didn’t pressure them and we had guys on an island, so maybe we should’ve made another decision.”
WESTWOOD, Mass. – After meeting in a preseason scrimmage before last season, Central Catholic and Xaverian exchanged pleasantries before departing. Many of the players, while cycling through the handshake line offered sentiment of good luck with the idea that the teams would meet in the Division 1 state championship game. Both teams got their wish as the Raiders met the Hawks in the first Div. 1 state title at Gillette Stadium.

The teams partook in their annual preseason meeting on Tuesday, but unlike the last meeting at Gillette, Xaverian held the upper hand, looking a step quicker and crisper than the defending champions.

Here are a couple of takeaways from today’s two-hour long work session at the Hawl Bowl:

Tinkering continues: As in their prior scrimmage Saturday against Bridgewater-Raynham, Xaverian continued to sprinkle in some different faces into their spread formations. Reigning ESPN Boston Defensive Player of the Year Joe Gaziano was again seen split out wide in a four-receiver set which also featured starting inside linebacker D’Aundre Holmes seeing snaps in the slot.

The Hawks already have a deep corps of receivers, including returning contributors like Princewell Iwejuo, Ernest Simon, Peter Thorbahn, Coby Tippett and Damion Wood. But the big bodies out wide give Xaverian a different look while presenting matchup problems for undersized defensive backs.

On Tuesday, the Hawks again had to be impressed by senior quarterback Jake Farrell, who has turned in efficient performances in both of the team’s scrimmages.

“I was happy with the way our skills players matched up with them today,” Hawks head coach Charlie Stevenson said.

Xaverian had success moving the ball through the air throughout against a Central Catholic secondary that is still rounding into form. After losing a couple of All-Staters from the group in Cody Demers and D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie, Raiders head coach Chuck Adamopoulos is using the preseason period to test out a host of competitors in a couple of positions.

“Reading didn’t really throw the ball downfield in our last scrimmage,” Adamopoulos said. “And we’re really young in the secondary, so we need to figure out who’s going to play there. Today, with Xaverian, they threw the ball downfield, they threw the ball in the flat with quick hits, so we got a chance to look at our secondary kids.”

Round 2 adjustments: Both squads came in with agendas different from their Saturday debuts.

For one, Xaverian incorporated the running game – after having a pass only scrimmage with B-R. While the Hawks still do not have their full complement of backs, as John Dean continues to be held out with an injury, they look more themselves with Noah Sorrento and sophomore Devon Piccinin pounding Central’s front seven.

“I think when we’re able to throw him into our offensive mix, we’re a lot better team,” Stevenson said of Sorrento.

Meanwhile, the Raiders countered with some different blitz packages and defensive looks, with inside linebacker Markus Edmunds making a strong showing.

“It’s an opportunity to see some different things,” Stevenson said. “With their 3-on-2 blitz packages, any time they did that they caught us off guard. There’s stuff in there that we haven’t practiced.”

Here and there: While the intensity was nowhere near that of last December, the pace of Tuesday’s scrimmage was brisk and the competition was spirited. “There was a lot of bad blood out there still from the championship game, so it was good for us to grind it out,” Central senior running back/ safety Michael Balsamo said. “We saw them last year this time in the preseason and we all told them if they made it we’d see them in the playoffs.” … Injuries curtailed a couple of key players from participating or staying in the scrimmage. Xaverian right tackle and UMass commit Joe Parsons was held out and is listed as day-to-day. Also, Central lineman Jorge Elias missed the last half of the proceedings after having a Hawks player fall on his ankle. … How do you improve on a Super Bowl season? For Central four-year returning starting quarterback Michael Milano, that means an increased leadership role. “He always was a leader, but he’s taken that to a new level this year,” Adamopoulos said. “It’s really impressive. He did it all for us last season.” … Reflecting on his team’s progress through the first week-plus of the preseason, Adamopoulos had this to offer about the top-ranked Hawks: “They deserve to be ranked where they are; we don’t.” The No. 2 Raiders have another tuneup scheduled Friday at Mansfield. “Last year, at this time, we weren’t what we were at the end of last year,” Adamopoulos said. “There’s a long way to go.”

Top 25 Countdown: Nos. 5-1

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
8:26
PM ET
Last Monday, we unveiled our fifth annual statewide preseason Top 25 poll. Today, we continue our annual countdown of the poll with our final installment, featuring our top five teams.

In case you missed our earlier installments: 25-21 | 20-16 | 15-11 | 10-6

NO. 5 ST. JOHN'S (SHREWSBURY)
Coach: John Andreoli (11th year, 92-31)
Last season: Division 2 state finalists, lost 28-14 to Mansfield
Returning starters: 11 (4 offense, 7 defense)
Key returners: Davon Jones, Sr., RB/DB, 5-10, 185 lbs; Sam Norton, Sr., DT, 5-9, 210 lbs, Nick Calvano, Sr., WR/DB, 5-7, 175 lbs; Shane Combs, Sr., QB/RB/DB, 6-1, 210 lbs.
Strengths: Defense, physical strength
Weaknesses: Experience
Outlook: Another year, another deep and talented starting lineup boasted by the Pioneers, last year’s Central Mass. Division 2 champion. The Pioneers lost some major contributors off of last year’s team, including all-state quarterback Andrew Smiley, but coach John Andreoli is confident especially in the ability Combs, Jones, and Calvano to make big plays on the offensive side of the ball. Currently, Combs is splitting equal reps at quarterback with Tim Cassidy. “The jury is still out,” Andreoli said on the quarterback decision, “Both he and Tim Cassidy are taking equal snaps. They both have very different skillsets...it’s a different look when each one of them is in there.” Jones, a hard-hitting Boston College-committed safety, has proven to be one of the state’s top players over the past couple of years, but it’s his on the field leadership that is standing out so far this fall. Jones is the only four-year starter in the history of the program. “The thing that impresses me most about him is that he's really assumed a leadership position, with the way he conducts himself on the field, and the way he takes control of the defense,” Andreoli said, “And offensively the level of maturity that he has brought takes him to the next level.” Several players have found a way to make a name for themselves early on in camp, partly too because of the work they put in over the offseason. Andreoli said that this year’s team has the most physical strength collectively of any squad that he’s coached at St. John’s: “The amount of guys that we had were able to bench 185 for multiple reps was the most we ever had here. That's kind of been the foundation as the first thing. On the defensive side of the ball, our secondary has really shown a tremendous amount of speed, athleticism, and physicality in our first week.” Keep a close eye on Marc-Eddy Paul, Michael Corinna, Mitch Earley, and Sam Kloczkowski – all of whom have made a big early impact early on in practice.
-CHRISTIAN BRADLEY


NO. 4 MANSFIELD
Coach: Michael Redding (27th, 217-66-4)
2013 Record: 13-0, Division 2 State Champions
Returning Starters: 11 (5 offensive, 6 defensive)
Key Players: Brendan Hill, Sr. TE/SE 6-5, 228 lbs; Mike Carpino, Sr. OL/DL 5-9, 210 lbs; Tyler Smith, Sr. OL 6-1, 205 lbs; Andrew Horstmann, Sr. OL 6-2, 225 lbs; Curtis Boisvert, Sr. RB/DB 5-8, 180 lbs; Joe Moreshead, Sr. LB 5-10, 180 lbs; Q'ra Guichard, Sr. LB 5-8, 195 lbs; Connor Finerty, Jr. LB 5-11, 195 lbs; Nick Borsari, Sr. DL 6-2, 270 lbs; C.J. Daniel, Sr. LB 5-11, 170 lbs.
Strengths: Offensive line, linebackers, defensive line, running backs/receivers
Weaknesses: Inexperience in the secondary, adapting offense to personnel
Outlook: The Hornets completed their own version of a revenge tour last year, turning a loss in the 2012 D2 EMass Finals into an undefeated 2013 season and winning the first ever Division 2 State Championship. The biggest concern for the Hornets will come on offense and finding the pieces to replace quarterback Kyle Wisnieski, receivers Michael Hershman and Kyle Hurley and the elusive Miguel Villar-Perez. But to counter that, Mansfield possesses one of the most talented tight ends in the entire state in Brendan Hill, a member of the ESPNBoston Preseason All-State Team. Hill, who has received interest from multiple D1 programs, will likely garner the majority of attention from defenses so Mansfield will need to develop other options. Matt Carafa will likely step in and be QB1 for the Hornets while Curtis Boisvert will see a good amount of carries out of the backfield. Last year, Michael Redding talked about having some inexperience on the offensive line but this year they return three starters – Carpino, Smith, and Horstmann – and will rely on their line to help carry the offense. Defensively, the front seven is very strong led by linebackers Q'Ra Guichard and Joe Moreshead, arguably two of the more underrated players in the Hockomock League. They also return linebackers Connor Finerty and CJ Daniel as well as Brendan Hill and Nick Borsari, who will both be on the defensive line. The question on defense will be about replacing the strong defensive backs they had a season ago, led by Mike Barresi and Aurien Dawkins. Boisvert will likely be called on to be the anchor of that group. It won't be an easy start either for Mansfield as they begin the season on the road in New York against powerhouse Archbishop Stepinac.
-RYAN LANIGAN

NO. 3 EVERETT
Head Coach: John DiBiaso (23rd season at Everett, 271-66-1 overall)
2013: 8-2, lost Division 1 North final to Central Catholic
Returning starters: 13 (6 offense, 7 defense)
Key Players: Lukas Denis, Sr. Ath./DB, 6-0, 175 lbs.; Nick Orekoya, Sr. RB, 5-10, 200 lbs.; J.J. Colimon, Jr. TE/DL, 6-4, 250 lbs.; Erick Browne, Sr. OT/DT, 6-3, 270 lbs.; Mark Cardwell, Sr. 6-0, 225 lbs.; Jordan McAfee, Soph. QB.
Strengths: Athleticism in offensive and defensive backfield; size and physicality on offensive line.
Weaknesses: Lack of game experience at key positions.
Outlook: Perhaps more than any Everett team in recent memory, this year’s edition of the Tide is full of X-factors. The hype is abundant, but there are lingering questions. The athletic potential is apparent, but there’s a lack of on-field experience together. The one surefire thing the Crimson Tide do have returning is Lukas Denis, who joined the long lineage of Everett defensive backs to give their commitment to Boston College. Denis, who’s on-ball coverage skills are unparalleled in the region, will again be relied upon heavily as a hybrid back/wide receiver. Of course, that too depends on which form Everett’s offense will take. There are big things predicted for sophomore signal-caller Jordan McAfee whose yet to make a start. Meanwhile, Billerica transfer Nick Orekoya provides a stout presence at running back – one that can both break tackles and out-run hits. On defense, the Crimson Tide are short on game experience at linebacker, but should be able to generate on the pass rush with senior Mark Cardwell.
-SCOTT BARBOZA

NO. 2 CENTRAL CATHOLIC
Head Coach: Chuck Adamopoulos (18th season, 123-62)
2013: 11-1, won Division 1 State championship
Returning starters: 11 (5 offense, 6 defense)
Key Players: Michael Milano, Sr. QB, 6-1, 170 lbs.; Michael Balsamo, Sr. RB/S, 6-1, 202 lbs.; Markus Edmunds, Sr. RB/ILB, 5-11, 210 lbs.; Jorge Elias, Sr. G/DT, 6-0, 215 lbs.; Pat Dziedzic, Sr. OT/DT, 6-1, 220 lbs.; Dan MacDonald, Sr. OT/DT, 6-3, 260 lbs.; Justin Landry, Sr. C/ NG, 5-11, 270 lbs.
Strengths: Experience at quarterback, inside linebacker and safety; defensive front seven; big game experience.
Weaknesses: Lack of game experience at wide receiver and outside linebacker; kicking game.
Outlook:The Raiders rolled through Everett and Xaverian on the Road to Gillette and snuck up on some observers – we’re included – en route to the state’s first true state championship in Division 1. This year, they’ll be the targeted team, with a good mix of returning key contributors from last year’s title team. The added good news for Central is that many of its returning starters are back at its most important positions. That includes senior four-year starting quarterback Michael Milano, who was among the statistical statewide leaders in just about every category during last year’s playoffs. “He led our team in rushing last year and, I think for the people that followed us every week, that while [Cody] Demers made a lot of the big plays, Michael [Milano] did a lot of the things that made us successful, making such a big jump from his sophomore to his junior season.” The Raiders also return a few key members of its vaunted 3-4 defense, including free safety Michael Balsamo and inside linebacker Markus Edmunds. Edmunds, who led the team in tackles last year while eclipsing the century mark, will be working beside a new-look linebacking corps, but “I don’t know if he’s going to have a better year statistically this year because he was so good last year, but he’s going to have a lot more on his shoulders. We had two seniors at outside linebacker last year, who were both pretty smart kids as football players and they helped him make calls. So he’s got a little bit more on him in a leadership role.”
-SCOTT BARBOZA

NO. 1 XAVERIAN
Coach: Charlie Stevenson (21st season, 172-62-1)
2013: 10-2, lost in Division 1 State Championship
Returning Starters: 15 (6 offense, 9 defense)
Key Returnees: Joe Gaziano, Sr. TE/DE, 6-4, 242 lbs.; Damion Wood, Sr. WR/FS, 5-11, 200 lbs.; Joe Parsons, Sr. OT/DT, 6-5, 285 lbs.; Jake Farrell, Sr. QB, 6-3, 185 lbs.; Noah Sorrento, Sr. RB/OLB, 5-9, 185 lbs.; Kenny Kern, Sr. FB/MLB, 6-0, 227 lbs.; Elijah Pierre, Jr. OL/NG, 6-0, 260 lbs.; Mekhi Henderson, Soph. CB, 5-9, 175 lbs.; D'Aundre Holmes, Jr. RB/FB/OLB, 5-11, 205 lbs.; Coby Tippett, Jr. WR/CB, 5-9, 165 lbs.; Ernest Simon, Sr. WR/CB, 5-9, 180 lbs.; Nick Allsop, Jr. C/DT, 6-3, 248 lbs.
Strengths: Defense, experience at quarterback, skill position depth
Weaknesses: Experience at offensive line.
Outlook: There’s no hiding it, and there’s no way the coaching staff can sandbag it: This defense is going to be pretty good. Led by the Northwestern-bound Gaziano, the reigning ESPN Boston Defensive Player of the Year, the Hawks return virtually everyone defensively, and are solid at just about every position in the front seven. The strength of the defense may lay in the secondary, where the Coastal Carolina-bound Wood has been playing with a violent chip so far this preseason, and the quick-twitched Henderson figures to be the top draw at corner after a promising freshman campaign. "He’s a fierce competitor," Stevenson said of Wood. "He likes to make plays against the opponent, and I think he’s serious about that. He’s playing hard when he’s out there, that’s a good thing to have." Offensively, the Hawks have a few holes to fill, but on the right side they should be fine with the UMass-bound Parsons returning at right tackle. Gaziano was mostly used in-line for run support last season, but the Hawks have so far experimented with him in a "flex" role, lining him up in the slot or splitting him out wide. He made a few dazzling grabs in Saturday’s scrimmage with B-R, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the traditionally conservative Hawks don’t get him more involved in the passing game this fall. "When he gets inside a cornerback, that’s a big body for the cornerback to come through," Stevenson said. "He’s a big guy who can run and catch, and once he catches the ball –- I’m not gonna say he’s quick –- but he brings a pretty good load with him. Clearly, we’re going to get him more involved in our pass attack." Farrell, a baseball star during the spring, is entering his second year under center and demonstrates above-average arm strength. He won’t be depended upon to run the ball, with the entire backfield back, but his improvisational skills are noteworthy.
-BRENDAN C. HALL
WESTWOOD, Mass. – The date doesn’t matter. Whenever Bridgewater-Raynham and Xaverian renew their ever-intensifying football rivalry – whether it be in August, like Saturday’s scrimmage, or in the regular season – there’s always a tinge of physicality.

That stuck out immediately as a smattering of Trojans and Hawks came to a head in close quarters nearly from the get-go of an exercise that was primarily a passing scrimmage. It possessed the tenor of a black-and-blue trench battle, however, with neither team able to find the end zone with regularity.

Xaverian outscored B-R, 2-1, in the nearly two-hour long scrimmage, with the Hawks’ first unit offense holding the upper hand with two passing touchdowns, while the Trojans’ second unit accounted for its lone score.

Here are some of our takeaways from a rather intense (given that the teams just began practicing in pads a few days ago) morning at the Hawk Bowl:

Choppin’ the Wood: One of the standouts on the day was Xaverian senior wide receiver/safety Damion Wood. The Coastal Carolina commit helped establish the physical tone early on defense, laying down a wallop on a B-R receiver. Wood, who’s listed at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds on Xaverian’s updated roster, looks to have bulked up in the offseason. It’s an added benefit for the Hawks, who will return nine of 11 starters from last year’s defensive corps.

Wood, who exhibited good ball skills last year in a ball-hawking secondary, is also a sure-handed tackler who carries a chip on his shoulder, befitting a player who can play up in the box.

Watch out for the big man: Is there anything Northwestern commit Joe Gaziano can’t do athletically?

While the 6-foot-4 defensive end’s future is on the gridiron, he’s a lock-down pole on the Hawks lacrosse team in the spring. But Gaziano’s palate of skills looks as though it will expand further this fall.

Gaziano was featured prominently in the Hawks’ offensive sets at tight end on Saturday. That’s nothing new, but what is is how head coach Charlie Stevenson might look to utilize him in the future. Gaziano was flexed out on several formations during the course of the scrimmage, showing a flair for the dramatic as well while making a diving catch on a crossing route at one point.

“A couple of times today we did experiment with splitting him out wide,” Stevenson said. “He did make a nice post catch. When he gets inside a cornerback, that’s a big body for that cornerback to come through. He made a nice diving catch over here on a crossing route.

“He’s a big guy who can run and catch. And, once he catches the ball, I’m not going to say he’s quick, but … Clearly, we’re going to get him more involved in our passing attack.”

Do what doesn’t come natural: Both Stevenson and Trojans head coach Dan Buron expressed the importance of Saturday’s get together in that it takes both of their teams outside of their element to a degree.

For B-R, a power-running team, that meant a diminished load for preseason All-State Brandon Gallagher and a lack of the play-action game set up off the ground game. On the flip side, Xaverian’s option game – featuring quarterback Jake Farrell’s play-making ability on foot – and running backs Noah Sorrento and Kenny Kern was all but moot.

But, for Farrell and the Hawks, Saturday proved an important building block for testing out the starter’s arm. Farrell, who missed much of hockey and baseball season with a shoulder injury, is on a “pitch count” – as Stevenson termed it – for the preseason. But for a player that’s limited in preseason snaps, Farrell looked comfortable making throws on the run, hitting timing routes and players on the run in Xaverian’s intermediate and vertical passing plays.

That all equates to a major plus for the Hawks’ incumbent starter.

“Jake’s poised and he’s throwing the ball well,” Stevenson said. “He’s chomping at the bit.”

Meanwhile, B-R senior starter Matt Clement also looked as though he’d put on some bulk in the offseason and was efficient on the Trojans’ rollout passes. Buron, who believes he has two high-grade quarterbacks in Clement, as well as also fellow senior Steve D’Emilia (who spelled Clement for a time late last season).

“He’s bigger, he’s thicker this year,” Buron said of Clement. “He’s an athlete, so we’re going to call on him to run the ball a little bit more this year.”

He continued, “We’ve got two good ones. They need to work on the fundamentals and the decision-making process, but that’s why you practice.”

Our 2014 Summer Football Primer

July, 8, 2014
Jul 8
11:52
AM ET
Don't look now, but the first day of MIAA football practices is just 40 days away. Per our tradition every summer, ESPN Boston High Schools editors Brendan C. Hall and Scott Barboza whet your appetite for the gridiron with some players on the rise, surprise teams to watch, top teams and some food for thought.

Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


FIVE PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Drew Jean-Guillaume, Sr. QB/DB, Shepherd Hill
With a powerful frame and impressive speed honed during track and field season, Jean-Guillaume is a throwback-type option quarterback, a converted running back who’s as adept at powering through defenders as he is at evading or blowing by them. The Rams will be heavy favorites in Division 4, and Jean-Guillaume will have plenty of room to work behind a reportedly heavy line led by Boston College commit Chris Lindstrom.

Mekhi Henderson, Soph. DB, Xaverian
In a defense full of household names, Henderson is one of the Hawks’ brightest young stars. Often last season, he was left on an island against an opponent’s top target, and often he held his own. With his coverage skills and raw ability, the coaching staff has a luxury to get creative in the secondary.

Shane Combs, Sr. ATH, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
It’s assumed that Combs, a Notre Dame baseball commit and ESPN Boston All-State selection during the spring, will take the reins at quarterback from last year’s Mr. Football finalist Drew Smiley. The Missouri transplant was one of the state’s most productive rushers during the playoffs, going over the century mark in all five postseason contests as the Pioneers reached the Division 2 state final.

Mike Maggipinto, Jr. RB, East Longmeadow
Somewhat quietly, the 5-foot-5 scatback eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark last year for the Spartans, running behind a great blocking scheme that continued to find unique ways to get him in space. Between Maggipinto and Plymouth North’s Christian Carr, this could be the year of the pint-sized running back.

Jahkari Carpenter, Sr. RB, Doherty
Among the area’s most elusive, Carpenter was a weekly highlight reel during the Highlanders’ run to the Division 4 state title, with runs like THIS, or THIS, or THIS. Junior Tavian Vassar is expected to have a bigger role in the backfield this year, which could make for an imposing thunder-and-lightning combination.

FIVE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Billerica
The Indians hit a home run this offseason with the hiring of Duane Sigsbury as their new head coach, though they are considered a year or two away. Still, Sigsbury is one of the area’s brightest offensive minds, with a track record of making programs relevant in a hurry (see: Boston Cathedral). Similar to his other stops, there are already some terrific talents coming up the pipe.

Boston English
The Blue and Blue made history last fall to end Brian Vaughn’s first season at the helm, beating Boston Latin for the first time since 1997. Now, with dynamic dual threat Emmanuel Almonte leading the offense, they’ll look to continue last year’s momentum.

Cambridge
Long considered a powder keg for skill talent, head coach Ryan Saulnier has tapped into it, and found a lot of success running his brand of spread offense in his first season last fall. With Marcus Collins returning under center, and a new home in the Dual County League, the Falcons ought to be one of the most entertaining teams to watch in Division 2 North.

Leominster
Blue Devils graduated one of their most talented classes ever, but this is a program built to reload, not rebuild, under a great offensive mind in Dave Palazzi. Defensive coordinator Charlie Raff left to take over at Oakmont, but in his place comes former North Middlesex coach John Margarita. It’s too early – not to mention, lofty – to make any Neil O’Connor comparisons yet, but keep an eye on sophomore Noah Gray this fall.

Springfield Central
Similar to Leominster, the Golden Eagles have many holes to fill on the heels of its most successful season in school history. But they should have a solid defense again, led by lineman Kaleb Hunter-Sams, and the coaching staff should get a boost from the addition of former Putnam head coach Bill Watson.

Hall's Preseason Top 10:

[+] EnlargeJoe Gaziano
Brendan Hall/ESPNESPN Boston's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Northwestern commit Joe Gaziano, leads a stacked Xaverian defense.
1. Xaverian
Little drama here as to who’s the top dog. With a star-studded defense that includes the likes of Northwestern commit Joe Gaziano, ESPN Boston’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2013; linebackers Noah Sorrento, Kenny Kern and D’Aundre Holmes; and defensive backs Damion Wood and Mekhi Henderson; as well as a potent running game behind UMass-bound tackle Joe Parsons, and an innovative playmaker in quarterback Jake Farrell; the Hawks figure to start the year No. 1 in many polls.

2. Everett
Crimson Tide are licking their chops after a disappointing end to 2013 season, and as usual they reload with some of the most gifted skill players in the area. The interesting question is how they’ll fit Boston College-bound cornerback Lukas Denis into the offense; originally slotted as the successor to Jonathan DiBiaso at quarterback before injuries derailed his sophomore season in 2012, Denis showed flashes of brilliance in a multitude of positions last year.

3. Central Catholic
The Raiders’ featured one of the state’s best defenses a year ago in their D1 state title run, and they’ll be held in high regard again thanks to linebacker Markus Edmunds and safety Mike Balsamo, who is fielding multiple Division 1 FCS offers at the moment. Also keep an eye on Matt Milano, who was statistically one of the state’s most productive quarterbacks in the playoffs last year.

4. Mansfield
The Hornets dramatically altered their offense on the fly late in the season following a season-ending injury to wideout Brendan Hill, and it worked out as they took the D2 state title. A fully healthy Hill and another year of running back Miguel Villar-Perez, one of last fall’s most pleasant revelations, should make the Hornets the favorite in a tough D2 South.

5. Bridgewater-Raynham
Trojans always get the benefit of the doubt for their powerful running game and their “anyone, anywhere, anytime” approach to scheduling, and they’ll be a force again with Brandon Gallagher returning at tailback. But the question is whether the Trojans can sustain momentum and avoid last year’s fate, when they reached No. 1 in our statewide poll early, only to sputter in the second half.

6. Shepherd Hill
In short, Boston College-bound offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom Jr. is a force. But the fact that he is the Rams’ most dominant, yet possibly their lightest, should tell you something about what to expect in 2014. They’re arguably Central Mass.’s most talented team this fall, and while there’s a couple other heavy hitters contending in D4 – Holliston, Dennis-Yarmouth and Wahconah, for starters – these guys are my odds-on favorite. Look for them to put up a ton of rushing yards in head coach Chris Lindstrom Sr.’s double wing scheme.

7. Lowell
The Red Raiders made one of the biggest statements of the playoffs last fall in blanking St. John’s Prep 41-0 in the first round of the D1 North tournament. Syracuse commit Shyheim Cullen was exceptional at interior gap blitzes, baiting and confusing potential blockers to create chaos up the middle, and he’ll lead a talented defense that includes linebacker Nicolau Coury and defensive back Theo Bryant.

8. St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Boston College-bound free safety Davon Jones is one of several early candidates for Defensive Player of the Year after recording 125 tackles and eight picks a year ago. Offensive coordinator Chris Moriarty is as creative as they come, and how he utilizes Jones and athlete Shane Combs in the offense will be one of the more interesting storylines of the season’s earlygoings.

9. Brockton
We’re still in wait-and-see mode after another season of unrealized expectations in Brockton, but it’s hard to deny the talent the Boxers have coming back. Keep an eye on Boston College-bound lineman Aaron Monteiro, who has some raw potential and a powerful frame at 6-foot-6 and nearly 300 pounds.

10. Dennis-Yarmouth
Division 1 recruit Michael Dunn lined up at nearly every offensive position last year for the Dolphins in their run to the D4 state final, and he may very well do it again. Defensively, this kid is a treat, regarded as one of the state’s premier shutdown corners. As usual, Paul Funk’s frenetic read option scheme will be a tall task to keep up with.

Others to Watch: Attleboro, Barnstable, BC High, Doherty, Holliston, Marblehead, Oliver Ames, Plymouth North, Pope John Paul II, St. John’s Prep, St. Peter-Marian, Tewksbury, Wahconah, Walpole

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

1. Spread offense has been the growing trend in Massachusetts over the last decade, and we’re now seeing its influence at all levels of the game. But at the other end of the spectrum, we’re seeing more and more teams dip into playbooks from decades and decades ago for some wild success in the running game. We’ve romanticized Nauset’s Single Wing offense for years. At Holy Name, Mike Pucko dug into Dutch Meyer’s World War II-era playbook and installed a fullback-less “Triple Wing” offense for the Naps’ Thanksgiving contest with Milford, a game they won 35-14. Last year’s D5 West Final featured a Pistol Flex Bone (Hoosac Valley) versus a Wishbone (Easthampton). Tewksbury, last year’s D3 state champ, calls running plays out of an encyclopedia of formations from every family of offense. Factor in all of the traditional Double Wing success stories like Shepherd Hill, Holy Name and Somerset-Berkley, too. Running offense continues to diversify in this corner of the country, and if you’re an X’s and O’s junkie like me, you are having a blast watching it.

2. LSU took some negative backlash last fall when they received a verbal commitment from a freshman early in his season after an apparently intense summer of recruitment from a number of SEC schools, but this doesn’t appear to be a trend going away any time soon. Early offers are still fairly uncommon for football prospects in this part of the country, though it’s worth noting St. Sebastian’s incoming sophomore Blake Gallagher received an offer from Nebraska last month. Beyond the concerns about pressure and bloated expectations, the biggest question I have is this: What if the recruit stops growing, or has just peaked earlier than his peers? I’m interested to see if Maryland head coach Randy Edsall’s proposals for recruiting reform gain any traction. Among other things, his plan stipulates schools can’t make a written offer until a player’s senior year, and that the offer must come with permission from the school’s admissions department.

3. I’m on record as saying I hope the true state championship format the MIAA rolled out last year is here to stay, but I’m also in favor of giving it some tweaks. First and foremost, get rid of the second automatic qualifier for leagues. Weak leagues were rewarded at the expense of teams like Medway and Pope John Paul II, teams who finished with winning records in qualification period but were pushed all the way out of the eight-team field in their respective divisions to satisfy undeserved automatic berths. Leagues should be restricted to one automatic qualifier, or two if it is a two-tier league. I also question whether a seven-game regular season is enough of a window to properly gauge a team’s strength. Expanding to an eight-game season and starting it on Labor Day Weekend could satisfy that, and could be a good gate opportunity for many schools as well.

***

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


FIVE PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Michael Balsalmo, Sr. RB/FS, Central Catholic
A standout on the Raiders’ Division 1 championship season a year ago, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder holds a couple of offers (Bryant, Wofford) entering the season. Here’s better there will be more to follow.

Christian Carr, Sr. RB, Plymouth North
For what Carr might lack in stature, he makes up for in elusiveness. A consistent 100-yard-per-game rusher in his junior season, he broke out with a 351-yard performance in the Eagles’ playoff win against Dighton-Rehoboth.

Jake Gibb, Jr. QB, Stoughton
In his first season under center, Gibb led the Knights to the Division 3 South final before falling to Plymouth South. Gibb will have them contending for the Davenport division title again.

Kyle Murphy, Jr. OL/DL, Attleboro
The two-way lineman was a driving force behind the Blue Bombardiers’ breakout season last year. It’s only a matter of time before the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder starts getting colleges’ attention.

James Sullivan, Sr. RB/S, Tewksbury
Sullivan announced himself to a statewide audience on the biggest stage last year, racking up 125 yards and three touchdowns in the Redmen’s win over Plymouth South in the Division 3 state title game. With graduations, Sullivan will take on an even bigger role this year.

FIVE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Braintree
The Bay State Carey should again be one of the more interesting races to watch across the state this year, and the Wamps might be primed to take a big step forward after last year’s 4-7 mark. One to watch is inside linebacker Derek Anson, who’s only added to his 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame.

Doherty
The Highlanders were historically good in 2013, capturing their first state title while beating Dennis-Yarmouth for the Division 4 championship. Although several key contributors have graduated, they can still make a run

Natick
It might not be the aerial display we’ve seen in recent years with Troy Flutie at quarterback, but the Redhawks will be one worth watching as Brian Dunlap returns from a season missed due to injury (Lisfranc fracture) last year.

Quincy
After a 7-4 campaign last season, are the Presidents ready to challenge for the Patriot Keenan title? With promising running back Jhave Handsom-Fields (8 TD as a sophomore) and quarterback James Lam returning, the time could be now.

Somerset-Berkley
The Raiders return a big class of juniors, including feature back Chip Wood back in the fold and Jacob Cabana rushing off the edge. Another EAC title could be in the cards.

Barboza's Preseason Top 10:

1. Xaverian
The Hawks will have some questions to answer on offense, but deserve the top spot on defense alone, with Defensive Player of the Year Joe Gaziano returning along with the state’s best secondary group.

2. Central Catholic
The Raiders peaked at precisely the right time last year, capturing the first true statewide Division 1 title. Some of their biggest playmakers have graduated, but Michael Balsamo’s primed for a breakout year.

3. Everett
The Crimson Tide are undoubtedly still smarting over last year’s home playoff loss to Central Catholic. We all know what that means.

4. Bridgewater-Raynham
Here’s betting tight end/defensive end Connor Reagan is one of next year’s breakout performers.

5. St. John’s (S)
You never know what you’re getting from the Pioneers’ offense game to game, and it’ll be intriguing to see how the group develops this season. But you have to like any group with athletes of ilk of Shane Combs and Davon Jones.

6. Lowell
I’ll take my chances with the linebacking corps the Red Raiders have returning, anchored by Shyheim Cullen and Nicolau Coury.

7. Brockton
The Boxers will not be pushed around inside the tackle box, with perhaps the biggest returning offensive line in the state, including Aaron Monteiro (6-6, 300) and Uzziah Hilliard (6-0, 280)

8. Mansfield
Mike Redding will come up with creative schemes to avoid Brendan Hill being double-teamed on both sides of the ball. Connor Finerty will also look to expand on a promising sophomore season.

9. Dennis-Yarmouth
The Dolphins fell just shy of the Div. 4 state title in a riveting matchup with Doherty. They might not be denied this year.

10. Tewksbury
The Redmen might not match the size and physicality of last year’s state championship squad, but having James Sullivan in the backfield is still enough to win.

Others to watch: Arlington, Attleboro, Billerica, BC High, Holliston, Leominster, Oliver Ames, Shepherd Hill, Stoughton, Wahconah, Walpole.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

1. The football playoff system is here to stay – well, at the very least for two more years. While there are still pockets of dissent, the sentiment across the state is that the first year determining true state champions across six divisions was a success. It even drew over some who’d been opposed to the playoff proposal originally and voted against the measure. The build up and drama of the first seven weeks leading up the start of the tournament brought a different dimension of intrigue to the season. Still, detractors remain and, as Brendan ruminated earlier in this feature, there’s still room for improvement regarding the means of automatic qualifiers and the discrepancies that exist between the respective athletic conferences’ rubrics – including, most importantly, the weight of league games. But with one year in the books, I declare the system to be a success. Now, let’s start tweaking the framework.

2. Which brings me to my next point: get rid of Thanksgiving. This is going to be a highly unpopular opinion in some neck of the woods, but it’s simply a reality of what’s put in front of us. At the end of last season, I talked to many athletic directors who complained about a diminished gate return from their Thanksgiving Day games. That’s a natural feedback of the playoff system – which in some place requires teams to “double up” with their Thankgiving rivals. In change, that has deemphasized the pomp and circumstance surrounding Turkey Day. As a result, that left some Thanksgiving Day matchups to resemble more of an exhibition game in tone – althought don’t tell that to St. John’s Prep and Xaverian, or Foxborough and Mansfield. The result is a hodgepodge of situations that follow teams into what used to be the biggest day of the regular-season football calendar: ie a non-playoff team vs. a team that’s bound for a championship game, or two teams who are playing out the string on a season that’s already ended. I counter those scenario’s are really no different than what existed in the year B.P. (Before Playoffs), but the current arrangement has only emphasized was already apparent – Thanksgiving is an exhibition. Minus the Catholic Conference or Merrimack Valley Conference duels which resulted in playoff berths in previous years, Thanksgiving largely was such. Only now have the detractors used the playoff system to highlight the faults in Thanksgiving Day that already existed. What Thanksgiving Day has always been about is the rivalry. I ventured to North Attleborough last year when the Red Rocketeers (already eliminated from the playoffs) hosted Attleboro (who were just eliminated the previous week in the sectional final). The scene was what you’d become accustomed to – with an overflow crowd at Community Field. They were all there to watch an exhibition game. Why not make that game mean something more again? Why not play the game before the first frost?

Central Catholic LBs pull their weight

December, 7, 2013
12/07/13
9:30
PM ET


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Even without Shayne Kaminski, Xaverian's rushing attack was still strong enough to pose massive problems for Central Catholic in last night's Division 1 title game.

Insert Central linebackers Nick Boes and Markus Edmunds: Xaverian's problem.

Edmunds and Boes combined for 10 1/2 tackles and played a major role in shutting down Noah Sorrento and holding the Hawks to 122 total rushing yards.

“We practiced they're plays all week so we knew what they were going to run,” Boes said. “We knew they were a good team but we knew we'd have to keep battling. The defensive tackles set the edge along with our outside linebackers. They kept them inside and we made plays.”

After Sorrento scored in the second quarter to cut the Central lead to 13-7, the tandem buckled down. Sorrento was held to only 48 yards on the night. Boes and Edmunds also both got through to hassle Xaverian quarterback Jake Farrell.

“Our unsung guy is Nick Boes,” Central coach Chuck Adamopoulos said. “He's inside their with Markus and he's been consistent all season for us. They played well today.”

Central won the battle of wills by game's end, but Xaverian pressed the physicality throughout. It took a few key stops in the fourth quarter by Central to close out the game.

“The lineman hit very hard; the running backs hit very hard, obviously,” Edmunds said. “They're an excellent all-around football team.”

The on-field chemistry is a byproduct of the close relationship Boes and Edmunds have off the field. Boes and Edmunds have played together dating back to their time on the J.V. squad in 2011.

“Nick and I are best friends,” Edmunds said. “We know each other very well.”

Edmunds pitched in on the offensive side of the ball as well. The junior rushed the ball five times for 64 yards, including runs of 22 and 26 yards that led to the touchdown that clinched Central's win.

“I love being able to contribute to the team any way I can,” Edmunds said. “The blocking on the perimeter was great.”

As far as winning Central's first state title in 15 years, Edmunds and Boes said that this was dream and capturing it was sweet.

“Before the season this was the ultimate, but we knew it would be tough,” Edmunds said. “We knew we'd have to buckle down to win the game. The feeling's indescribable.”

“This is one of the greatest feelings I've ever experienced in my life,” Boes said.

Recap: No. 5 Xaverian 14, No. 15 Brockton 0

October, 12, 2013
10/12/13
6:34
PM ET
WESTWOOD, Mass. -– Just when you think you’ve seen the best out of Xaverian’s defense, the Hawks just keep dialing it up another notch.

[+] EnlargeXaverian football
Brendan Hall,/ESPNBoston.comJoe Gaziano (4 sacks, 2 TFL, 1 INT) led the way for Xaverian as the No. 5 Hawks held Brockton to just 70 yards of offense.
Three weeks ago, three blocked punts led the Hawks to a 49-13 rout of then-No. 1 Bridgewater-Raynham. Last week, the Hawks’ defense put down the clamps in the second half as they blew out Catholic Memorial, 43-7.

Under gray, drizzly skies this afternoon at the Hawk Bowl, Xaverian held Brockton’s vaunted triple-option attack to just 70 yards of total offense, sealing the game late with a 57-yard interception return to come away with a hard-earned 14-0 shutout victory.

“I thought our defense played really outstanding, they really bailed us out today,” Xaverian head coach Charlie Stevenson said. “We had trouble getting our offense in gear, we’d make a play and then we wouldn’t make a play.”

The Hawks (4-1) took their initial lead late in the first quarter, starting at their own 45 and stringing together a nine-play, five minute drive that was punctuated by a 21-yard touchdown scamper by quarterback Jake Farrell. The right-handed junior saw pressure coming from his front side, rolled to his left and found a running lane open up, sprinting up field for the scoring scramble.

After that, the Hawks played it conservatively –- mostly feeding the ball to running backs Shayne Kaminski (17 carries, 64 yards), Kenny Kern and Noah Sorrento –- and let the defense take over.

And boy, did they take over. Led by junior defensive end Joe Gaziano (four sacks, two tackles for loss, interception) and Dan Benvie (sack), the Hawks dropped Boxers (2-3) quarterback Pat Burke for six sacks on the afternoon. The Boxers have been known to create confusion at the point of attack with its “Flex Bone” option scheme, but there were no such tricks today, as the Hawks routinely filled the interior gaps and muddied what has been at times a pretty crisp three-headed backfield.

Perhaps most impressive was the Hawk defense’s ability to get off the field quickly. Brockton had just two first downs on the afternoon and crossed the 50-yard line into Hawk territory just twice, both times coming in the fourth quarter.

The Hawks sealed it late in the fourth quarter when Burke’s screen pass attempt was broken up, then returned 57 yards to the house on a tip-drill pick-six. Sorrento was there to greet the Brockton running back in the right flat, squaring up his shoulders as the back attempted to haul in the pass and slamming into his midsection. The ball took a high bounce off of the player’s shoulder pads, and Kerns was there to pluck the ball out of the air and take it down the left sideline to paydirt.

“I’m really happy with the way our guys hung in there,” Stevenson said. “They [Brockton] are a really physical team. They’re getting much better from week to week. When I see the way they played early on to now, they’re playing very very well defensively.”

Brockton has allowed just 20 points in its last two games, but its offense has some kinks to work out following a second straight shutout loss. The Boxers have not scored a point in the last eight quarters, and have produced just 182 yards of offense over that same timespan.

Joe of all trades: Of all the Swiss Army knives in Stevenson’s drawer this fall, Gaziano might be the sharpest. Few athletes in the Catholic Conference have demonstrated as much versatility as the 6-foot-3, 230-pound five-technique end.

Offensively, he had one of the most impressive plays of the game at tight end, hauling in a 21-yard pass from Farrell in which he used his long outstretched arms to wrestle the ball away from two Brockton defenders dogging him all over. He also factored into the running game, setting the edge for the Hawks’ stable of backs.

In special teams, Gaziano is everywhere. His punts at times can pin the opposition deep, and he registered a touchback today kicking the ball off. In the return game, he is a constant threat to block a punt (the Hawks registered another one today), and also excels at blocking for returners.

Defensively, his prowess is already well-known. He is a rangy player with a long, athletic frame, that they take full advantage of. In one second-half play, Gaziano got hang time as he leaped high to pick off a middle screen from Burke. Gaziano is also called on occasionally to drop back into pass coverage from the defensive end spot.

“Gaziano is a beast,” Stevenson said. “Gaziano had a great game today, he picked off the screen pass they tried and sacked the quarterback at huge times –- it’s not just that he had a sack, [he had them] at huge times in the game. He’s a good player for us, and I’m glad he’s going to Xaverian High School again next year. He’s just getting better week to week.

“We certainly were concerned about their perimeter game, we didn’t want to let their speed guys outside, so he was coming up field a little more than we normally do. He’s such a good athlete that he can do that kind of stuff and come back down inside if we need him to. As you guys know, he’s a jack of all trades.”

XAVERIAN 14, BROCKTON 0

BR 0 0 0 0 --- 0
XB 7 0 0 7 --- 14


First Quarter
Jake Farrell 21 run (Matt Rogers kick) :06

Fourth Quarter
Kenny Kern 57 interception return (Rogers kick) :47

Recap: No. 5 Xaverian 43, CM 7

October, 5, 2013
10/05/13
11:31
PM ET


WESTWOOD, Mass. – It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish.

And one week after a rough finish in a loss at Barnstable, No. 5 Xaverian learned its lesson heading into Saturday’s Catholic Conference matchup with Catholic Memorial.

The Hawks hadn’t played their finest half against the Knights and held just a slim three-point lead (10-7) at the intermission. But Xaverian showed up for the second half, outscoring the Knights 33-0 en route to a 43-7 win.

Xaverian (3-1, 1-0) pounded the ball in the second half behind a trio of running backs in Shayne Kaminski, Kenny Kern and Noah Sorrento. Meanwhile, the Hawks defense produced points as well, as junior defensive back Damion Wood returned two interceptions for touchdowns, turning a once competitive struggle into a manhandling.

“We weren’t really making the plays we needed to, we hurt ourselves a little bit there,” Xaverian head coach Charlie Stevenson said of his team in the first half. “We took some bad penalties.”

In fact, the Hawks were so generous they accounted for three of CM’s five first downs in the first half, with one leading up to the Knights’ lone touchdown of the day – a 15-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Claflin to Kevin Bletzer roughly a minute before the break.

Xaverian’s defense would be much more stingy in the second half.

After the Hawks extended their lead to 23-7 following a 1-yard touchdown run by Kaminski (11 carries, 79 yards), Wood collected his first pick-six with a 90-yard return with 22 seconds remaining the third quarter.

On the ensuing Knights possession, Ernest Simon collected the second of three Hawks interceptions during the half. That set up a six-play touchdown drive, culminating in a 4-yard touchdown by Sorrento (15 carries, 66 yards).

CM (1-3, 0-1) then committed its third straight turnover with Wood taking a 67-yard interception to the house, providing Xaverian with its final margin of victory.

“I just saw an opportunity and I took it,” Wood said of his pair of scores.

Meanwhile, the Knights were left asking, what went so very wrong?

“Xaverian’s a good football team, they can score without us helping them,” CM head coach Alex Campea said. “I think they just decided that they were going to wear us down and were kind of pounding us [in the second half].”

Next man up: Xaverian’s ball-hawking secondary was a major factor Saturday, forcing three turnovers. But what’s most surprising is how the group came together so quickly, especially considering the loss of senior captain D.J. Sperzel for the foreseeable future.

“ D.J. being out, that’s a big loss for us,” Wood said postgame. “But we practiced well, got all aspects together … everything’s fine with our defense even though we’re missing [Sperzel].”

Sperzel, who was lost to injury during the Hawks’ loss to Barnstable last week, had quarterbacked the secondary along with fellow captain and corner A.J. King (36-yard TD reception in the third quarter). But the group can still be a strength for the Hawks, with Wood making such a bold statement. Along with sophomore Peter Thorbahn, who slotted into Sperzel’s spot for most of Saturday’s contest, and freshman standout Mekhi Henderson, the newly formulated group has come together quickly.

“I think they’re good young players, but they’re young,” Stevenson said. “So you never know what you’re going to get.”

Give it up for the Big Man: The Hawks held their first-half lead thanks to senior offensive lineman Jeff Perez.

Xaverian opened scoring at 3:42 of the first quarter, when the 6-foot-1, 220-pound guard fell on a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, pulling his best impression of Logan Mankins in the 2006 AFC Championship Game. After Kern ran up the middle for 24 yards on a fullback draw, he was stripped from behind. The loose ball bounded into the end zone, and Perez, who was trailing the play, alertly fell on the ball for the score.

Roundtable: Bigger things to come for Xaverian?

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
1:59
PM ET
1. SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYED A MAJOR FACTOR IN XAVERIAN'S 49-13 DRUBBING OF BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM, RETURNING TWO BLOCKED PUNTS FOR TOUCHDOWNSW, BUT A.J. KING (2 TDs) DIDN'T HAVE A BAD DAY EITHER. IS THIS XAVERIAN SQUAD CAPABLE OF ROUTINELY PUTTING UP BIG NUMBERS?

Brendan Hall, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: If this were 2012, or any other recent year for that matter, I would lean towards labeling that game an anomaly. Xaverian squads typically aren't known for blowing up the scoreboard, instead moving the chains rather steadily behind a conservative multiple offense and relying on change-of-pace backs to grind out the tough yardage. I've been in this for 10 years, and this year's Xaverian team feels like one of the more unpredictable squads that I can recall. And when I say that, I mean you just don't know that they're going to throw at you. Certainly, Jake Farrell brings about an escapeability intangible they typically haven't had with quarterbacks, and there is some promising sophomore talent.

By the way, whoever the special teams coach is at Xaverian, give that man a raise. If you think the B-R game was an aberration, ask the BB&N coaches how their scrimmage with the Hawks went.

Scott Barboza, ESPN Boston High Schools editor: I know we all thought the Hawks’ defense would be ahead of the offense entering the season, but this looks like a much-improved group thus far. I like the one-two punch Shayne Kaminski and Noah Sorrento provide in the backfield. They have some legit targets in the passing game with King and D.J. Sperzel and Jake Farrell has looked great at quarterback. If the offensive line keeps creating holes and pass protecting the way they have in the first two weeks, I don’t foresee a slowdown.

John McGuirk, ESPN Boston correspondent: With the talent Xaverian has they should continue to put up decent numbers. They have four 'big' games left on the schedule in Barnstable, Brockton, BC High and St. John's Prep. All four of those programs are outstanding but all have issues on defense as well which should work in the Hawks' favor.

2. NASHOBA OWNS THE STATE'S LONGEST ACTIVE WIN STREAK (28 GAMES), BUT TWO TOUGH OPPONENTS LAY AHEAD IN WACHUSETT AND ST. JOHN'S OF SHREWSBURY. DO YOU SEE THE CHIEFTAINS MAKING IT TO 30 STRAIGHT?

Hall: Wachusett matches up evenly on paper with Nashoba, but watch out for St. John's. Andrew Smiley is heating up (380 passing yards the last six quarters), and the running game seems to be hitting a groove with St. Louis transplant Shane Combs taking over the feature role. The "blur" offense is a whirlwind to handle when all is going right, and you always have to watch where Davon Jones lines up. I see the Pioneers stopping Nashoba's streak at 29.

Barboza: I think it’ll end at No. 29. The Chieftains will get by Wachusett, but I think the Pioneers’ athletes, particularly on the perimeter, will prove too much to handle.

McGuirk: I see Nashoba reaching 30 straight wins. Wachusett is going through a down year, having already lost to St. Peter-Marian and Fitchburg. And what has been noted many times, St. John's biggest weakness the last couple of seasons has been its porous defense and inability to make tackles consistently. If you look past those next two games, the Chieftains will face a pair of unbeatens (Marlborough and Leominster). That is where the streak could possibly come to a close.

3. BETWEEN THE SUPERB STARTS FROM BROCKTON, TAUNTON, TEWKSBURY AND WESTFIELD, THE TRIPLE OPTION IS MAKING A COMEBACK. WHICH TEAM RUNS IT BEST?

Hall: It's tough to argue against Westfield's ridiculous numbers -- there are running backs that will go a whole season not putting up as many rushing yards as the Bombers have their first two games of the season. But it's hard to argue against Brockton's talent. Aaron LeClair and Jamal Williams get to the perimeter quick, and the Boxers can steamroll you inside with counters and dives. All four of these teams have a dynamic playmaker in the backfield -- LeClair, Tewksbury's Eddie Matovu, Westfield's Ben Geschwind and Taunton's Domingo Jenkins -- but I will give Brockton the edge here because of what they have in the trenches. Aaron Monteiro, the Boxers' prized prospect at 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds, is a road grader at left guard with a pretty high ceiling.

Barboza: As of right now, I don’t see how you can argue with Westfield. The Bombers are running roughshod over opponents behind senior fullback Ben Geschwind. After running for 348 yards and six touchdowns as a team during last week's 49-20 win over West Springfield, Westfield has scored 109 points in two games, with Geschwind averaging more than 150 yards per game.

Josh Perry, HockomockSports.com: I can’t say whether or not Taunton runs it better than other teams in the state, but I can say that the Tigers do make it look fun. With Gerald Cortijo and Steven Harrison giving star back Domingo Jenkins some help in the backfield, the Tigers have speedy and shifty runners. It’s almost enough to make you forget just how good the ground game would have been without Jamal Williams’ move to Brockton. Taunton’s ability to run the triple option will of course get a much tougher test this week against King Philip and its strong defense, but the Tigers are unique among the other Hockomock teams and it can be fun to watch.

McGuirk: The way Westfield is dominating the competition (109 points in two games), I would say the the triple option is working best for them. They have the right personnel to execute it and coach Bill Moore is very good at putting the right players in place to keep it rolling effectively, especially his tandem of Ben Geschwind and Jake Toomey, who are both averaging over 10 yards-per-carry.

4. TWO OF THE MERRIMACK VALLEY CONFERENCE'S BEST SQUADS, CENTRAL CATHOLIC AND LOWELL, SURRENDERED A COMBINED 73 POINTS AGAINST NON-LEAGUE TOP 10 OPPONENTS LAST WEEKEND. ARE WE HEADED FOR ANOTHER SEASON OF HIGH SCORES IN THE MVC?

Hall: Tough to tell, because Tewksbury has more than pulled its weight in the defensive end so far. If there's one team that can avoid track meets, it's the Redmen. Everyone else, good luck. We anointed the MVC "Death By 1,000 Shallow Crosses" a year ago, and with the amount of spread offense and no-huddle tempo deployed in this league, we could very well be in for another season of Wild West scores.

Barboza: I'd take my chances with the defensive units of Andover, Central Catholic, Lowell and Tewksbury against just about any offense in the state, but what comes into play in the MVC is the teams' offensive style of play. With so many teams in its ranks adopting the spread offense, the big numbers put up seemingly on a weekly basis are more a function of the pace of the game, with shortened drives as opposed to rushing-oriented, ball-control styles of play. But as long as MVC teams continue to live and die by the sword (or the spread), I think we'll continue to see some lopsided numbers.

Mike Abelson, ESPN Boston correspondent: Yes and no. Central and Lowell, when the blur is working as advertised, can drop basketball scores on lesser teams because of the athletic talent. That being said, through three weeks there are only two MVC teams averaging 30 or more points. Central is one, and the other, North Andover, hasn't won a game. The only two remaining undefeated teams, Tewksbury and Methuen, are averaging 27 and 18 points a game, respectively, and winning games without all the flash and dash of putting up buckets of points. Yes, the MVC will have it's share of high-scoring contests (I'll put the over/under for Central-Chelmsford at 90.5), but it won't consistently translate to W's.

5. AFTER A ROUGH FIRST WEEK, HAS BARNSTABLE FIGURED IT OUT? CAN THEY KNOCK OFF NO. 1 XAVERIAN?

Hall: I feel like this is a sneaky good matchup. Let's not forget Barnstable was our preseason No. 12 before getting shell-shocked by Dennis-Yarmouth in the opening weekend. There is talent, between versatile athlete Hayden Murphy, shutdown corner Derek Estes and elusive scatback Justus Chafee.

Defensively, Barnstable typically likes to stretch vertically and keep everything in front of them, which can be a bad matchup against spread teams like Dennis-Yarmouth. Last week against BC High, they looked like they cleaned up a lot of their mistakes. Xaverian's offense, while a bit more creative, has some similarities to BC High's. Going the other way, the Red Raiders use some funky misdirection in the run game to prevent linebackers from filling gaps. On their first touchdown against BC, for instance, a receiver backpedaled off the line of scrimmage, feigning a bubble screen, putting several defenders on their heels as Chafee came up the gut on a zone read.

That kind of stuff can keep even the best defenses on their toes. Expect some fireworks, and some dynamic playcalling, in this one.

Barboza: This is a yes-and-no proposition to me. I think the Raiders righted ship after an embarrassing loss to Cape rival Dennis-Yarmouth in Week 1, going on the road to beat another Catholic Conference foe in BC High. But I think Barnstable would need to play a near perfect game, while forcing the Hawks into some turnovers in order to make it four straight defeats of an ESPN Boston No. 1 squad. I'm not saying it will not be a close game, I just like Xaverian a little bit more.

Perry: In a preseason roundtable, I said that Barnstable was a team that was getting overlooked because of the players that it lost from last year. I’ll stick by that and say that the Raiders give Xaverian a run for their money. The No. 1 ranking has been more of an albatross than an honor this year, so I’ll say that Barnstable has a good chance of causing the Hawks problems.

McGuirk: Barnstable is good but Xaverian is playing with a lot of confidence, especially following the huge win over B-R last week. The Hawks should take care of the Red Raiders who gave up 37 points to D-Y in Week One but did bounce back nicely last week against BC High.

Abelson: In Hayden Murphy I trust. In the ESPN Boston poll curse I believe. Barnstable, 27-21.

6. THE HOCKOMOCK LEAGUE'S KELLY-REX DIVISION MIGHT BE THE STATE'S MOST UNPREDICTABLE RACE THIS FALL. AS LEAGUE PLAY OPENS UP THIS WEEK, PROJECT YOUR CHAMPION AND DARK HORSE.

Hall: Mansfield was the prohibitive favorite in most minds heading into the season, and so far they've done little to suggest otherwise. Consider that nearly three weeks out from their shocking upset of Dunbar (Md.), the Hornets are still without five starters. They're already a dynamic offense, between quarterback Kyle Wisnieski, 6-foot-5 flex tight end Brendan Hill, and space-carving tailback Miguel Villar-Perez. Hard to go against that.

For dark horses, I like Attleboro. I think it's understated how big their line is, particularly at defensive tackle, and there are plenty of weapons on offense between quarterback Tim Walsh, tight end Luke Morrison and receiver Brendan Massey. This program has long been a sleeping giant, and new coach Mike Strachan has re-awakened those sentiments.

Barboza: All along, I've penciled in Mansfield as the team to beat in the Kelley-Rex. I believe they had the most complete group of talent on either side of the ball, and also had the most upside. The scary part is that, due to injury, the Hornets might not have yet hit their apogee and will continue to strengthen as the season progresses.

Now, for the sleeper, I know we've talked up Attleboro up a lot in the early going -- to the point that I really think they're a threat in Division 1 South. Seeing that the Blue Bombardiers are for real in the first two weeks of the season, I'm going to go with Taunton. I don't think Chris Greding has gotten enough credit for the job he's done turning around the Tigers program in short order. Of course, an infusion of talent led by Domingo Jenkins helps, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if Taunton knocks off one of the Hock's "Big Three" -- King Philip, Mansfield, North Attleborough -- at some point this season.

Perry: The favorite heading into the Hockomock League season is defending champions Mansfield and its new spread attack that takes advantage of its great weapons like senior quarterback Kyle Wisnieski and junior tight end Brendan Hill. Attleboro has gotten a lot of hype from media, me included, in the preseason as a sleeper in the Hock. A new coaching staff, a new field, and new schemes on both sides of the ball have made the Bombardiers a much more confident crew and better utilize the weapons that it has. The Bombardiers were only a few mental mistakes from beating Mansfield last season and Tim Walsh is on fire running the spread formation – watch out for Attleboro. Of course, watch out for KP, Franklin, and North Attleborough, too. It really is up for grabs

McGuirk: The Kelly-Rex Division is solid with four teams still unbeaten (Mansfield, Attleboro, North Attleboro and Taunton). When it is all said and done. I believe it will come down to Mansfield and North Attleborough for the title because of their high-octane offenses. Attleboro has to be considered the darkhorse here because of its stingy defense which could carry them through. It will be interesting to watch all four of these team beat up one another during the season and see who survives.

Recap: No. 10 Xaverian 49, No. 1 B-R 13

September, 21, 2013
9/21/13
8:20
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WESTWOOD, Mass. – Let there be no doubt who’s No. 1.

At least for another week, that is.

For the third straight week to begin the MIAA football season, the No. 1 team in ESPN Boston’s Top 25 poll suffered a sound defeat. This time, on Saturday in the grand unveiling of the extensive renovations to Xaverian’s Hawk Bowl, Bridgewater-Raynham became the most recent squad to be dethroned.

No. 10 Xaverian systematically beat the Trojans in each and every facet of the game, administering a 49-13 beat-down of yet another No. 1.

It also marked the second straight week in which the Hawks (2-0) beat the poll No. 1 after a road victory at Everett last week.

“Playing two No. 1 teams, that’s what we aim to do here,” Hawks senior running back/ linebacker Shayne Kaminski said. “There are high expectations at this school. Playing a No. 1, it’s just a whole different situation – that just gets you pumped up for the game.”

Kaminski, who missed Xaverian’s opener due to injury, celebrated his return to game action with a 31-yard touchdown run at 5:02 of the first quarter, providing the Hawks with an early 7-0 lead.

On B-R’s ensuing possession, Kaminski also announced his return, defensively, falling on a fumble created on a strip-sack from defensive end Joe Gaziano. Two plays later, fellow running back Noah Sorrento rumbled in from 13 yards out for a quick two-score lead.

However, the Trojans (2-1) would respond on their next possession with Matt Clement hitting Ryan Martin in tight coverage for a 29-yard touchdown pass.

After the teams exchanged a couple of fruitless drives, the Hawks began pulling away just before the half – thanks to quarterback Jake Farrell and senior wideout A.J. King.

Inside the final two minutes of the first half, Farrell and King linked up for two quick-strike passing plays. First, King came down with a ball, despite bracketed coverage, and raced 62 yards for a score. Then, with two seconds remaining, Hawks head coach Charlie Stevenson eschewed taking the knee and, instead, dialed up a dazzling 47-yard connection with Farrell hitting King in stride along the left-hand sideline on a fly route.

And the Hawks took a 28-6 lead to the locker room.

Xaverian’s special teams had their chance to shine in the third quarter, when the Hawks blocked two punt attempts with one turned for a touchdown and another setting up a first-and-goal situation.

After B-R’s opening drive of the second half sputtered out, Gaziano got his mitts on a punt, allowing freshman Mekhi Henderson to pick up an easy scoop and score from 30 yards out.

Then, following a Trojans’ three-and-out, Xaverian sophomore lineman Elijah Pierre registered a second block. B-R’s recovery set up the Hawks at the Trojans’ 2, setting up Kaminski (10 carries, 138 yards) for his second of three rushing scores.

Kaminski later added a 54-yard run, providing the Hawks with a 49-6 lead.

“I felt like every guy today wanted to get in there and make a contribution,” Kaminski said, “And we did that.”

Run differential: Aside from some padded stats B-R tacked on once the game was out of reach, Xaverian lopsidedly won the battle of the rushing attacks.

While holding Trojans preseason All-State running back Brandon Gallagher under 40 yards rushing for the game, the Hawks consistently dominated the point of attack against a depleted B-R offensive line.

“We really did a good job of stopping their run, I thought,” Stevenson said. “[Gallagher] is tough and I was really worried about us being able to match up with him and stop him.”

Meanwhile, the Hawks’ offensive line continued to create holes. And, with the additional shot in the arm Kaminski injected along with Sorrento, Xaverian’s off and running.

Star in the making: During the preseason, Stevenson highlighted freshman cornerback Mehki Henderson as a player to watch as the year progressed.

But, through two weeks, it appears as though Henderson is coming along just fine.

The 5-foot-9, 170-pounder showed good instincts undercutting a route to the end zone pylon and snatched his first interception at the end of the second quarter. The pick helped set up the Hawks’ last-minute drive at the half.

That was before Henderson also snatched up six points with his second-half punt block return for touchdown.

“He’s a really good athlete,” Stevenson said of Henderson. “He’s young and a little inexperienced, but I think he’s going to be a good player.”

Game of the Week: B-R at Xaverian

September, 19, 2013
9/19/13
10:19
AM ET
WESTWOOD, Mass. -- ESPN Boston High Schools editors Scott Barboza and Brendan Hall check in from Xaverian Brothers High School, host site of this week's ESPN Boston "Game of the Week", presented by Sports Authority and the Bay State Games.

No. 10 Xaverian, fresh off an upset of Everett, hosts newly-anointed No. 1 Bridgewater-Raynham this Saturday, at 1 p.m.

Recap: No. 14 Xaverian 20, No. 1 Everett 8

September, 14, 2013
9/14/13
1:16
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EVERETT, Mass. – One would have thought Xaverian’s offense would be behind the 8-ball entering Friday night’s showdown with No. 1 Everett. Without starting running back (and linebacker) Shayne Kaminski in the lineup, lost to a leg injury suffered during a scrimmage last week, the Hawks were playing without perhaps their best athlete.

No sweat.

Junior quarterback Jake Farrell was nearly perfect in the passing game, while junior Noah Sorrento (15 carries, 98 yards) picked up the slack in the backfield as the No. 14 Hawks surged past the top-ranked Crimson Tide during the second half in a 20-8 win.

With the victory, Xaverian (1-0) ended Everett’s 10-game winning streak against Catholic Conference foes and, in the process, started 2013with bang for a squad coming of a sub-.500 2012 campaign.

“It’s a huge statement for everybody on our team,” said Farrell, who started the game going 9-for-9 in completions, a streak extending into the third quarter. “We showed we can beat one of the elite teams in Massachusetts, and people are going to know about this.”

Sorrento, who worked in two-back sets with Kaminski throughout the preseason, set the Hawks off in the right direction with a 12-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

Xaverian would maintain the 7-0 lead until 4:13 remaining in the half, when Everett quarterback Raheem Wingard (149 rushing yards) broke off a 29-yard touchdown on an option keeper. Although the point-after try was blocked, an offsides penalty against Xaverian gave the Crimson Tide (1-1) another crack. Another yard closer, Marquis Holman ran in the 2-point conversion over left guard.

The scoring drive was enabled by a fourth-down stand by Everett’s defense at their 40-yard line.

The Crimson Tide’s one-point lead stood until the fourth quarter, when another crucial fourth-down decision from the Xaverian sideline would come into play.

Facing a fourth-and-11 at the Everett 25, and with a little more than eight minutes remaining, the Hawks broke huddle looking for something special. When the play broke down around Farrell, he improvised and took off toward the end zone. Twenty-five yards later, the first-year starter scored what would prove to be the game-winning touchdown.

After the Hawks defense came away with another key fourth-down stop on the ensuing Everett possession, Farrell capped his evening with a perfectly thrown 23-yard fade to D.J. Sperzel for an insurance strike.

“It was just reading the quarterback,” Sperzel said. “I knew I had the receiver in front of me and broke on the ball.”

“We felt like that was the time to take a shot,” Hawks head coach Charlie Stevenson said. “He went up and got it, and Jake put it right where he needed to.”

For added measure, Sperzel closed out the special evening with an interception of Wingard on the following drive.

Shuffling the deck: While Kaminski’s absence forced Stevenson to alter his offensive game plan, the Hawks still played to their strengths.

“We lose a lot of firepower without Kaminski in the backfield,” Steveson added. “But I thought Noah Sorrento did an unbelievable job.”

Also key to the victory was the play of Xaverian’s offensive line. Anchored by senior captain Jeff Perez, the line created holes ample for any running back to walk through.

“If we block like that and Shayne’s with us, I think we’ll be OK as we go forward,” Stevenson said.

They also drew rave reviews from their quarterback.

“The O-line was excellent,” Farrell said. “I had a ton of time to throw and the receivers just ran good routes. They made it easy for me.”

Work in progress: Meanwhile, after a sloppy Week 1 win over another Top 10 foe in Springfield Central and Friday night’s loss, Crimson Tide head coach John DiBiaso was less than enthused with his team’s work thus far.

“There were no positives,” DiBiaso said of Friday’s loss. “They kicked our butts up and down the field, in every aspect of the game – special teams, offense, defense.

“We didn’t play well, we didn’t execute.”

Lax the key for No. 15 Xaverian football?

August, 27, 2013
8/27/13
8:27
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Forgive the Xaverian Hawks if they have a chip on their shoulders this season.

They're (how do you say in a politically correct manner?) a little ticked off about the way last season went. It was a losing season (4-7), and, as a result, the Hawks again fell short of a Catholic Conference championship, having last won it in the magical 2009 undefeated season.

Expectations never waver at the Hawk Bowl, and there's no exception for 2013. But with returning Conference champion and statewide preseason No. 1 St. John's Prep holding the gate and a stacked gauntlet of opponents in the newly formed Division 1 South sectional, Xaverian's path to postseason glory is wrought with peril.

“I think every year we have high expectations for ourselves,” junior defensive end and tight end Joe Gaziano said. “And, obviously, last year was a disappointment. But I feel this year we’re really motivated to work hard and we expect even more of ourselves this year, knowing what it takes to win and how hard it is to win.”

While the wins may have come up short in the fall, for Gaziano and several of his teammates who were members of the Hawks lacrosse team’s Division 1 state championship in June -- the program's first -- they might have found a springboard into football season. It’s certainly not unprecedented in recent MIAA history that a program wins championships in both lacrosse and football in a calendar year, with Massachusetts lacrosse scions Duxbury pulling the feat most recently in both 2011 and 2012. On both those Dragons squads, a number of players shared responsibilities in both the spring and fall.

Xaverian fits a similar mold this year, with seniors Shayne Kaminski and D.J. Sperzel (Providence College lacrosse recruit) and Gaziano starring in both seasons.

Yet, Kaminski wasn’t about to buy into the idea that one success necessarily begets another.

“It’s a different game. But we’re really trying to push the defense this year and I think we can be good.”

He continued, “Our goal for right now is just to beat Everett [in Week 1]. That’s as far as we’re looking right now.”

XAVERIAN AT A GLANCE
Coach: Charlie Stevenson (20th season, 162-59-1)
Last year: 4-7
Key returnees: Shayne Kaminski, Sr. RB/LB, 5-11, 198 lbs.; Joe Gaziano, Jr. DE/TE, 6-3, 230 lbs.; D.J. Sperzel, Sr. WR/S, 6-2, 190 lbs.; A.J. King, Sr. WR/S, 5-10, 180 lbs.; Nick Colantuoni, Sr. TE/DE, 6-3, 215 lbs.; Noah Sorrento, Jr. RB/LB, 5-9, 180 lbs.
Strengths: Depth at wide receiver, experienced pass rush.
Weaknesses: Depth at offensive line, experience on interior defensive line.

Outlook: The word around Clapboardtree Street is that defense has been the imperative this preseason. And it’s not a stretch to hint that the Hawks might have one of the best units in the state this season. Gaziano and Nick Colantuoni present a serious pass rush threat from the ends, while Kaminski, Noah Sorrento and Kenny Kerns will feature at the linebacker spots. Of course, the Hawks have to find a replacement for the departed Mo Hurst, now a freshman at Michigan. Well, you can’t really replace a player like that can you? “We’ll have a cast of hundreds,” head coach Charlie Stevenson said, alluding to the pool of players his staff is considering to fill the defensive tackle positions. On offense, there’s a quarterback battle that continues with senior Peter White and junior Jake Farrell vying for the job. Xaverian has depth at running back with Kaminski and Sorrento providing able options. But the Hawks are auditioning a several new starters along the offensive line. The early returns have been positive. “Our offensive line has been great so far,” Gaziano said. “We have a lot of new guys stepping up on the line with Joe Parsons, Ryan Mellen and Jeff Perez. I expect them to do a great job up front and help the run game and be a big, physical presence.”

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