Boston High School: Olan Abner

D4 semifinal: Dennis-Yarmouth 21, Bedford 14

November, 24, 2013
11/24/13
1:13
AM ET


BROCKTON, Mass. – The old adage in football is to be the hammer, not the nail.

In facing North sectional champion Bedford in Saturday’s Division 4 Eastern Mass. final at Marciano Stadium, Dennis-Yarmouth head coach Paul Funk knew his Dolphins had to be the aggressor, not the punching bag. In his postgame remarks, Funk acknowledged his team’s desire to establish a two-score lead. With the Buccaneers’ All-State-caliber running back Olan Abner looming large, it was important the Dolphins play from ahead.

Despite a slow start, D-Y had done just that – taking a two-score lead into the fourth quarter. And the Dolphins defense maintained its part of the bargain, shutting down three of Bedford’s second-half drives with fourth-down stops resulting in turnovers on downs. And, notwithstanding a little fourth-quarter trickeration from deep in Bedford’s playbook, it equated to D-Y’s 21-14 victory, pushing the Dolphins onward to their first championship game appearance since the 2011 Div. 2A Super Bowl.

“We’ve been a team all year that has to stay on schedule,” Bedford head coach Jack Belcher said. “A second-and-fifteen against a state semifinalist team with our team isn’t going to fly – I think we had two or three of those in the second half.”

D-Y (9-2) tightened up defensively in the second half, after allowing Abner to run for 109 yards in the first two quarters. Sixty of those yards came on Bedford’s opening drive along, which Abner (35 carries, 165 yards) capped himself with a 2-yard touchdown plunge.

The Dolphins had trouble getting untracked offensively, with successive three-and-outs to open the game. However, D-Y caught fire in the second quarter, embarking on a 76-yard touchdown drive, culminating in Cory Desimone’s 1-yard run with 8:53 remaining in the half. However, a failed point-after try kept D-Y a point behind.

After serving Bedford (8-2) its first three-and-out of the game, the Dolphins offense was at it again, capitalizing on good field position with a 56-yard drive capped by a 5-yard touchdown run by quarterback Spencer Tyler.

The Buccaneers followed with another three-and-out, allowing D-Y to establish its coveted two-score lead before the half was through. It came in the form of the game’s longest play from scrimmage with Tyler (9 of 16, 129 yards, TD; 10 carries, 55 yards) hitting Michael Dunn in stride on the seam for a 70-yard scoring play.

“We just kept running our offense,” Dunn said of D-Y’s early offensive woes. “We knew we had to stick to our game plan. Just because they hadn’t allowed a passing touchdown doesn’t mean we can’t throw.”

In fact, Dunn’s score was the first passing touchdown the Buccaneers had allowed all season. On a whole, Bedford’s defense hadn’t allowed more than the 14-point total put up by Pentucket in last week’s North sectional final (a 22-14 decision).

Unfortunately, for Bedford, it was precisely one score too many.

Emptying out the playbook: Down a couple scores and with time drawing thin, Belcher was forced to before more creative with his playbook, as the Bucs mounted a late comeback bid.

Bedford made it a one-possession game with 2:24 remaining on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Joe Zampell to Robert McDonald.

The score was set up on the previous play – a 26-yard completion to the D-Y 7. It was a daring double-pass. With Zampell rolling to his right, selling a bootleg run, he then pivoted and threw clear across the field to Daniel Fay, who’d leaked out of the backfield. Fay took a couple steps to his left before planting and putting a spiral downfield toward Tom Sands.

The Dolphins played the progression about as well as could be expected. But, despite double coverage with safety help over the top, Sands was still able to leap above the fray and come down with a momentum-shifting reception.

“A 30-yard sideways throw and a 40-yard throw downfield is a little shaky in a wind like this,” Belcher said of the play call and Saturday’s blustery conditions. “But I decided it was time to empty the basket there.”

The Bucs scored on the next play. However, Bedford’s ensuing onside kick chance was quickly scooped up.

D-Y then milked the clock dry, with a plotting drive, driven home by a 42-yard run on a sweep from Dunn (2 receptions, 71 yards, TD; 4 carries, 65 yards) on third and 1, which effectively sealed Bedford’s fate.

Adjusting on the fly: As some point, somewhere in the middle of the second quarter, D-Y ditched its plan to play a modified 3-4 front, in hopes of slowing down Abner, in favor of its more familiar base 4-3.

“They were getting angles on us, so when we did that, it freed up L.K. [Metz] and Chip Evangelista to be able to run to the ball carrier,” Funk said.

Bedford had run its stretch play to the left side, off of left tackle Ryan Clasby with great success in the first quarter – resulting in three first downs and gains great than 12 yards. That well soon ran dry, as the Dolphins mixed up its approach and began gaining a foothold on the outside contain.

Much of that credit is due to Evangelista and Metz, the linebackers whom Funk credits as the quarterbacks to his defense.

“[Evangelista] and L.K. [Metz] really run that defense,” Funk said. “I always joke with L.K. that Reggie Jackson said that he was the straw that stirred the drink. But, for us, L.K.’s our straw.”

Evangelista finished with three tackles for loss or no gain, including a key fourth-quarter sack. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound linebacker shot up the gap to haul down Zampell for a 5-yard sack on fourth and 10 with about seven minutes remaining. It was the third of Bedford’s forced turnovers on downs in the second half.

“We knew this was our year to step up and make something happen,” Evangelista said.

The Dolphins advance to play Central sectional champion Doherty for the Division 4 state title, Dec. 7, at Gillette Stadium.

Mr. Football Watch: Playoffs, Week 3

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

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

***

THE CONTENDERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIVE ON THE RISE

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

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

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

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

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

PLAYOFF STATISTICAL LEADERS

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

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

Roundtable: Predicting MIAA Football District Champs

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

Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Football Watch: Week 5

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
5:45
PM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch" following Week 5 of the 2013 season. Statistics can be sent to editors Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com) and/or Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com)

THE CONTENDERS*

Troy Flutie, Sr. QB, Natick
Boston College commit completed 14 of 27 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns, and added 47 yards on the ground, in a 28-0 shutout of Norwood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


FIVE ON THE RISE

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

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

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

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

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


TOP STATISTICAL LEADERS IN MASSACHUSETTS

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

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

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

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



*Not including teams who were idle last weekend.

Mr. Football Watch: Week 3

September, 24, 2013
9/24/13
2:35
PM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch" following Week 3 of the 2013 season. Statistics can be sent to editors Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com) and/or Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com)

THE CONTENDERS*

Troy Flutie, Sr. QB, Natick
The Boston College commit completed 14 of 21 passes for 282 yards and five scores, and added 32 yards on the ground, in a 41-6 win over Acton-Boxborough.

Jack Galvin, Sr. WR, Lowell
Caught two passes for 90 yards and two scores in the Red Raiders’ 33-20 loss to Leominster.

Neil O’Connor, Sr. QB, Leominster
In the Blue Devils’ 33-20 defeat of Lowell, threw for 156 yards and three touchdowns, and added 66 yards and a score on the ground.

Dylan Oxsen, Sr. RB, Plymouth South
Carried 18 times for 256 yards and three touchdowns in the Panthers’ 21-7 win over Sandwich. In the first two games, he has 418 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
The UMass lacrosse commit ran for 195 yards and two touchdowns in the Rockets’ 26-6 win over Walpole.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. QB, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
In the Pioneers’ 42-24 win over Catholic Memorial, the Navy lacrosse commit completed 20 of 25 passes for 239 yards and four touchdowns, and added 47 rushing yards with a fifth score.

Johnathan Thomas, Sr. RB, St. John’s Prep
The Maryland commit carried 27 times for 228 yards and two scores, and added a spectacular 107-yard pick-six that made SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays, in a 40-21 win over Central Catholic.

Cody Williams, Sr. QB, Springfield Central
In the Golden Eagles’ 49-0 rout of East Longmeadow, the Monmouth commit completed 8 of 9 passes for 148 yards and three scores, and added 37 yards and a score on seven carries on the ground.

Ju’an Williams, Sr. WR/DB, Springfield Central
Was a factor in all three phases of the game in the Golden Eagles’ 49-0 blanking of East Longmeadow. He caught three passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns, recorded four tackles and a 92-yard interception return for a third score, and was a perfect 7-for-7 on extra point field goals.

Isaac Yiadom, Sr. WR/DB, Doherty
The Boston College commit caught four passes for 92 yards and a score, and recorded 13 tackles defensively, in the Highlanders’ 19-12 win over Holy Name.

FIVE ON THE RISE*

Zach Elkinson, Jr. ATH, Holliston
Registered 232 yards and three scores in three different methods – rushing, receiving and punt return – in the Panthers’ 43-7 win over Milford. Through three games, he has 514 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns by four different methods.

A.J. King, Sr. WR, Xaverian
Blew the doors open for the Hawks in their battle with Bridgewater-Raynham, catching four balls for 129 yards and two scores in the first half en route to a 49-13 rout.

Jimmy Sullivan, Sr. QB/S, Nauset
In the Warriors’ 34-8 win over Falmouth, carried 10 times for 167 yards and two scores, and added 38 passing yards and a third score, as well as four tackles on defense. Through two games, he has 419 all-purpose yards, five touchdowns, 13 tackles and an interception.

Olan Abner, Sr. RB, Bedford
Carried 38 times for 262 yards and two touchdowns in the Buccaneers’ 34-13 win over Belmont. Through two games, he has 398 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Ricardo Edwards, Sr. RB, Brighton
Had a record six touchdowns in the Bengals’ 44-22 win over East Boston. He ran for 233 yards and five scores, and returned an interception for a sixth.

TOP STATISTICAL LEADERS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Rushing
Johnathan Thomas, Sr., St. John’s Prep – 652 yards, 8 total TD
Christian Perez, Sr., Northeast – 574 yards, 5 TD
Mark Wright, Sr., Auburn – 558 yards, 6 TD
Isaiah White, Sr., Beverly – 558 yards, 5 TD
Brooks Tyrell, Jr., Marblehead – 453 yards, 6 total TD

Passing
Jordan Bolarinho, Sr., Billerica – 872 yards, 7 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 604 yards, 5 TD
Brendan Smith, Soph., Seekonk – 575 yards, 6 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 571 yards, 8 TD
Ryan Barabe, Jr., Pope John Paul II – 497 yards, 5 TD

Receiving
Kevin Casey, Jr., Billerica – 309 yards, 2 TD
Jack Galvin, Sr., Lowell – 283 yards, 6 TD
Jeff Trainor, Soph., Billerica – 254 yards, 3 TD
Zach Elkinson, Jr., Holliston – 252 yards, 7 total TD
Isaac Yiadom, Sr., Doherty – 244 yards, TD

Dual Threat QB*
Cameron McMillian, Sr., Cambridge – 397 passing yards, 437 rushing yards, 10 total TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 604 passing yards, 118 rushing yards, 7 total TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 571 passing yards, 99 rushing yards, 9 total TD
Tyler Bassett, Sr., Dracut – 355 passing yards, 312 rushing yards, 4 total TD
Kyle Dance, Sr., Latin Academy – 373 passing yards, 237 rushing yards, 10 total TD
*Not including teams who were idle last weekend.
**To qualify, quarterbacks must have rushing yards account for at least 15 percent of their total offensive production.

Roundtable: Best players, breakout stars, sleepers

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
6:03
PM ET
Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools editor


Best QB: Cody Williams, Springfield Central
Best RB: Johnathan Thomas, St. John's Prep
Best WR: Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE: Brendan Hill, Mansfield
Best OL: Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best DL: Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best LB: C.J. Parvelus, Everett
Best DB: Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense: Natick
Best rushing offense: St. John's Prep
Best offensive line: St. John's Prep
Best defensive line: Reading
Best linebackers: Reading
Best secondary: Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Medway
Coach Dave McSweeney's affinity for power football isn't a secret, and this season he'll have two road-graders to run behind in Kevin Sheehan (6-4, 285) and Cam Smith (6-5, 290, Lafayette commit). If there's any exhibit for why we needed to change the postseason format, the most glaring sample might be the Mustangs, who went 19-3 from 2009-10 with no playoff berth. In this new playoff system, a gameplan like the Mustangs' is built for the long haul.

Lynn English
Perhaps this isn't a surprise pick so much as an affirmation. In a Division 2 North that is perceived to be wide open after heavy favorite Reading, the Bulldogs have enough talent to make a deep run. There has always been elite talent at the skill positions, but Preseason All-State selection Chris Tinkham gives them a presence in the trenches they've lacked the last few years, a rare "war daddy" type who overpowers the interior gaps. The biggest question will be where the Bulldogs put junior Jordan Javier, a 6-foot-4 transfer from Haverhill who is a matchup problem at his natural split end position but also throws one of the prettiest balls you'll see on the North Shore.

Quabbin
The Panthers struggled to a 4-7 tune last season in a weak league, but there is some promise. Quarterback Dylan Kierman is an underappreciated talent, who should get a boost from the return of slippery receiver Nick Thyden. The Panthers run a unique "Air Raid" scheme, and another year of experience with it could surprised teams in Division 4 Central.

THREE BREAKOUT ATHLETES TO WATCH

Lukas Denis, Jr. ATH, Everett
After an injury-shortened 2012 season in which he was the assumed successor to record-setting quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso, but barely saw the field, Denis is moving to the perimeter, where he will take a role similar to the hybrid slot-back role that Manny Asprilla made legendary in 2010. Defensively, he should serve as a terrific compliment in the secondary to highly-touted safety/cornerback Lubern Figaro, and has already begun to pick up some Division 1 FBS interest.

Alfred Adarkwah, Sr. WR, Doherty
Standing a long 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan, Adarkwah has an unusually large catching radius for a high school receiver. This summer in passing leagues, the Highlanders toyed with Adarkwah and Boston College-bound receiver Isaac Yiadom on the same side of 2x2 formations. Head coach Sean Mulcahy has to be excited with the possibilities that opens up -- just imagine sending those two on a post-wheel combo route. Or better yet, imagine running them on a bubble screen, taking advantage of both Yiadom's elite speed and Adarkwah's great downfield blocking skills.

Taj-Amir Torres, Jr. ATH, Amherst
Already a household name in track and field, where he was named the state's Gatorade Player of the Year last spring as a sophomore after winning New Englands in the 100-meter dash, he's about to get a whole lot more attention. Boston College, UConn and UMass have already offered Torres, who made just 24 catches last season but made some incredible feats of athleticism. Hurricanes head coach David Thompson told us earlier this month "[We're] trying to get the ball in his hands every opportunity we get", so expect bigger numbers in 2013.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS

Div. 1 - Everett
Div. 2 - Springfield Central
Div. 3 - Walpole
Div. 4 - Doherty
Div. 5 - Auburn
Div. 6 - Millis/Hopedale

***

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor

Best QB - Drew Belcher - Sr. Reading
Best RB - Johnny Thomas - Sr. St. John’s Prep
Best WR - Brian Dunlap - Jr. Natick
Best TE - Rory Donovan - Sr. Cardinal Spellman
Best OL - Jon Baker – Sr., Millis/Hopedale
Best DL – Joe Gaziano – Jr., Xaverian
Best LB – Eddie Motavu – Sr., Tewksbury
Best DB - Lubern Figaro - Sr. Everett
Best passing offense - Natick
Best rushing offense - St. John's Prep
Best offensive line – Bridgewater-Raynham
Best defensive line - Reading
Best linebackers - Leominster
Best secondary - Everett

THREE SURPRISE TEAMS

St. Mary’s (Lynn)
OK, so a team coming off an 11-2 season and a Super Bowl appearance might not exactly be a surprise, but with a couple of other Catholic Central teams garnering the buzz in the preseason, let's not forget the Spartans have another season with Jordan Collier (1,495 yards, 18 TD).

Hingham

We've heard them knocking, but can they come in? The Harbormen have whittled the gap in recent years, particularly against Patriot League nemesis Duxbury, but they're still waiting to break through. They could have an in-road in Division 3 Southwest. An early non-leaguer against Oliver Ames should be a bellweather for things to come, but the real proof will come Oct. 5, against those aforementioned Dragons.

Wakefield
The Warriors fell short of their goal of winning the Middlesex League's Freedom division last year, but should be in the mix in a wide open Division 3 Northwest race. We'll have a better impression after a visit from Lynn English in Week 2.

THREE BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETES

Joe Johnston, Sr. RB/S, King Philip
Anybody who saw Johnston's hard-nosed 157-yard, 2-touchdown performance against North Attleborough last year knows Johnston's style. He's a burden for would-be tacklers inside the box, and once he kicks it outside, he's also very hard to catch.

Grant Kramer, Sr. OT, Duxbury
The younger brother of Boston College tackle Aaron Kramer, Grant is now ready to assume the role as the next great lineman on the Dragons' line (and there have been some very good ones in recent memory). He currently holds offers from Coastal Carolina and Villanova but has also expressed interest in attending West Point.

Connor Moriarty, Sr. RB, Walpole
When Rebels starter Mike Rando went out with an ankle injury near the midway point of the regular season last year, it was Moriarty who carried the load down the stretch. Expect even bigger numbers this year.

WAY TOO EARLY CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTIONS:

D1 – St. John’s Prep
D2 – Springfield Central
D3 – Walpole
D4 – Doherty
D5 – Auburn
D6 – Millis/Hopedale

***

Josh Perry
ESPN Boston correspondent


Best QB - Drew Belcher, Reading
Best RB - Jonathan Thomas, St. John’s Prep
Best WR – Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE – Brendan Hill, Mansfield
Best OL – Jon Baker, Millis-Hopedale
Best DL – Andrew Bourque, Reading
Best LB – Kevin Bletzer, Catholic Memorial
Best DB – Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense - Natick
Best rushing offense – St. John’s Prep
Best offensive line – St. John’s Prep
Best defensive line - Reading
Best linebackers – Catholic Memorial
Best secondary - Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE:

Attleboro
A new coaching staff, the energy of a new field complex, and a strong crop of returning seniors could make the Bombardiers the surprise team of the Hockomock League. Attleboro has always been a sleeping giant and the program continues to find solid athletes, it’s now up to the new staff to build a system that fits the talent on the roster. With a couple of league rivals dealing with injuries and suspensions, Attleboro could sneak up on people.

Barnstable
Everyone assumes that there will be a significant drop off for the Red Raiders due to a big graduating class, but there is still potential to be a solid team in D2 and in the OCL. This may not be a another season with Barnstable holding the top spot in the poll, but it shouldn’t be written off either.

Stoughton
The Knights are expected to finish behind Oliver Ames in the Davenport, but don’t be surprised if they pull an upset or two and give the Tigers a run at the title. Watch out for running back Malachi Baugh, who will be getting the majority of the carries this season and is a beast to try and bring down.

THREE BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETES TO WATCH

Luke Morrison, Sr. TE/DE, Attleboro
Attleboro’s giant tight end/defensive end is a monster match-up on both sides of the ball and could be a real threat as Tim Walsh’s favorite target in the Bombardiers passing attack.

Ryan Charter, Sr. QB, Needham
Mike Panepinto has deservedly drawn praise as the star man on the Needham offense, but the senior quarterback, who has been under center for 1-1/2 seasons already, will have high expectations as the Rockets try to get back on top in the Bay State.

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
With the graduation of running backs Robbie Rapoza and Kevin Makie and the continued injury problems for wide receiver Michael Hershman the key cog for the Hornets offense will be its senior quarterback. Wisnieski’s ability to spread the ball around and pick the right options out of a still talented receiving corps that includes Brendan Hill is going to be the key for Mansfield’s run at a Hockomock title.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS:

Div. 1 – St. John’s Prep
Div. 2 - Nashoba
Div. 3 – Bishop Feehan
Div. 4 - Doherty
Div. 5 - Auburn
Div. 6 – Millis-Hopedale

***

Ryan Kilian
Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Massachusetts Prep Stars


Best QB - Drew Belcher, Reading
Best RB - Johnathan Thomas, St. John's Prep
Best WR - Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE - Rory Donovan, Cardinal Spellman
Best OL - Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best DL - Alex Quintero, Lowell
Best LB - C.J. Parvelus, Defense
Best DB - Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense - St. John's (Shrewsbury)
Best rushing offense - St. John's Prep
Best offensive line - St. John's Prep
Best defensive line - Reading
Best linebackers - Duxbury
Best secondary - Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Bedford
While Wayland and Concord-Casrlisle have earned the DCL Small Championship the past few years do not sleep on Bedford in 2013. The Bucs play one of the toughest schedules in Division 4 and the return All-DCL running back Olan Abner.

Chelmsford
While Lowell, Central and Andover are getting most of the early press in the MVC Large, the Chelmsford Lions return one of the State's top running backs in Jeff D'Auria, a seasoned young quarterback in Jack Campsmith and a nice nucleus of tough experienced defenders.

Archbishop Williams
If Archies can find early offensive balance to take some of the work load off the shoulders of star senior back Kylan Philbert-Richardson, they could make some noise in the D5 playoff hunt.

THREE BREAKOUT ATHLETES TO WATCH

Ian Kessel, Soph. RB, Haverhill
The St. John's Prep transfer saw late game carries last season as a freshman for Prep's Super Bowl Champion squad. The speedy halfback is now back home in the MVC Small, and with the graduation of work horse, All-State RB Chance Brady (Tufts), there should be plenty carries to go around.

Devin Lekan, Sr. DE/TE, Chelmsford
D'Auria and Campsmith return to lead the offense for Chelmsford's but it is the Lion defense could be the story if they stay healthy. The Lions feature the 2nd team all-MVC performer was the most impressive player in the games I saw last season.

Nick Orekoya, Jr. DB/RB Billerica
Orekoya saw a lot of playing time as a two-way starter for Billerica last season. With another year under his belt Orekoya should thrive in coach Rich McKenna's high octane offense.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS

Div. 1 - Everett
Div. 2 - Reading
Div. 3 - Tewksbury
Div. 4 - Dennis-Yarmouth
Div. 5 - Auburn
Div. 6 - Boston Cathedral

***

John Botelho
Editor-in-Chief, South Shore Sports Journal


Best QB - Troy Flutie, Natick
Best RB - Dylan Oxsen, Plymouth South
Best WR - Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE - Rory Donovan, Cardinal Spellman
Best OL - Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best DL - Steve Manning, Abington
Best LB - Kervin Jean-Claude, Brockton
Best DB - Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense - Natick
Best rushing offense - St. John's Prep
Best offensive line - St. John's Prep
Best defensive line - Auburn
Best linebackers - Brockton
Best secondary - Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Brockton
They're ranked pretty high in any poll you look at because people have just come to accept the fact that Brockton generally reloads. They graduated 18 starters from last season's Super Bowl team, including quarterback Austin Roberts, who was one of the best in school history. Roberts, Micah Morel and Joe Previte are all playing ball at prep schools this year, and Anthony Davis has moved on to Div. 1 Central Connecticut. Still, the Boxers will very solid again. They have a number of athletes and playmakers, including returning do-it-all Aaron Leclair. Transfer Jamal Williams is going to compliment him well, and sophomore Kerry Raymond is physically imposing at 6-foot-1 and 205. Aaron Monteiro's 6-foot-5, 295-pound frame gives Brockton an anchor on the offensive line. They have plenty of guys ready to step forward on the other side of the ball as well, led by Kervin Jean-Claude, Justin Ahanon and Leclair.

Abington
The Green Wave went unbeaten in their march toward a Super Bowl crown last year, but saw a slew of stars graduate. QB Brandon Cawley, TE/DE Pat Dwyer, FB Jack Malafronte, RB Babila Fonkem, DB Mike Walsh, OL Tyler Perakslis and OL Matt Diver are just some of the elite players Abington graduated. These guys won't miss a beat though, as they have a ton of talent back. Matt Kilmain broke out for more than 400 yards on 27 carries in two postseason wins last year, and he might not even be the best player back this season. Abington returns its top three tacklers from a year ago and has most of their front seven back on defense. Jim Kelliher has one of the best coaching staffs going at this point, and these guys look like they're headed back to the playoffs. (For bold prediction purposes, I'm also going to go ahead and say I think they beat Duxbury on opening night, because that's how good I think this team can be).

Stoughton
The Black Knights missed the playoffs last year because of the wrong day for a let down game, taking a tough defeat to eventual Super Bowl champ Sharon. The Knights lost some very good players, but leading running back Malachi Baugh is back in the fold and they return four starting offensive lineman, so there's no reason to think the offense won't be up to par again. The Hockomock League has proven in recent years to be one of the toughest to win, but a second guaranteed playoff berth can only help a team like Stoughton.

THREE BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETES TO WATCH

Aaron Monteiro, Jr. OL, Brockton
Monteiro has something that can't be learned, or even worked toward. His 6-foot-5, 295-pound frame is one that will draw the interest of coaches at the next level. Coach Peter Colombo is very excited about plugging the junior into his offensive line, and it's not just because of the size. Monteiro worked during the off-season to get himself stronger and is primed to be one of the best lineman in the state. He plays basketball in the winter, something that has helped him develop quick and agile feet for a guy his size.

Sam Malafronte, Jr. LB, Abington
Started at linebacker a year ago as a sophomore for the Div. 4 Super Bowl champs, and finished second on the team in tackles. A very good athlete who is a work-out warrior, Malafronte will team with Matt Whelan to lead a solid corps in the middle of the field for the Green Wave.

James Shea, Sr. WR, East Bridgewater
The Vikings have benefited from having tremendous athletes in the backfield the last few years (think Casey DeAndrade, Tim O'Brien, Andrew Benson and Kevin Lynch), but in 2013 their most dangerous player will be splitting out wide. Shea can run with just about anyone -- he finished sixth in the 100-meter dash in the South Shore League last spring -- and is going to wreak havoc pulling in passes all year.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS

Div. 1 - Everett
Div. 2 - Natick
Div. 3 - Plymouth South
Div. 4 - Doherty
Div. 5 - Abington
Div. 6 - Millis/Hopedale

Northeast 7v7: Reading wins second straight East title

July, 28, 2013
7/28/13
8:44
PM ET
PEABODY, Mass. -- Many are anticipating a different dynamic in Reading this year, with different faces. But there is one constant under center: the rifling arm of rising senior Drew Belcher.

When we last saw the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Belcher, he led the Rockets to a 27-7 win over Mansfield in the MIAA Division 2 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl, brushing the final stroke in what was a dominant 2012 season to earn ESPN Boston All-State honors. With his long, powerful frame accompanying exemplary arm strength, Belcher was one of the most dangerous dual threats in Massachusetts, bulling through the inside gaps on Tebow-like power plays.

Yesterday afternoon at Bishop Fenwick High School, in the third annual Under Armour Northeast 7-on-7 East Regional tournament, Belcher was breaking in some new targets, what with the graduation of deep threat Ryan Maney. For Belcher, the needle hit the groove early in the day, and rolled in clockwork fashion to the Rockets' second straight East Regional championship, beating Chelmsford 29-12 in the final.

Reading and Chelmsford both earned automatic bids to Tuesday night's New England Championship, at Bishop Fenwick. Andover won last year's New England title at Gillette Stadium by beating Reading, 19-7, in the finals.

"It feels great to win it again. I mean, it was much more important this year, because we had a lot of young guys," Belcher said. "We lost all our receivers, so we had a lot of juniors who were great today. It really helped working routes, figuring out our offense, getting all those guys in with the varsity. That was big."

Belcher found success with targets such as Will Murray and Mike Senfuma, but where he scored biggest was with receiver Rob DiLoreto.

In the semifinals against Buckingham, Browne & Nichols, the Rockets continually exploited a seam over the deep middle with vertical routes. DiLoreto continuously ran posts from the slots, splitting the safeties downfield, and Belcher went to him over and over.

Against Chelmsford in the finals, DiLoreto exposed the sidelines for big gains. On the Rockets' second offensive drive, coming after a tip-drill interception, the Rockets marched the entire 40 yards in one play, DiLoreto running a corner route to the first-down marker at the 25-yard line, side-stepping a defender and reversing direction for an easy scamper into the end zone. On the first play of the next Reading drive, Belcher hooked up with DiLoreto deep down the right sideline for first and goal at the nine; Belcher found a receiver for a touchdown on an inside slant the next play.

"After last year, we really know [each other]," Belcher said. "I can just tell him to run a seam, and I'll know if he's going to stop, I'll know if he's going to keep going, if he's going to break out. We have a lot of flexibility with that route, and we have really good chemistry on it, and it worked well today."

Two plays into the ensuing Chelmsford drive, the Rockets defense came up with another tip-drill pick, and Belcher put on the finishing touches. On the first play, the Rockets ran a post-wheel combination down the left sideline, leaving Murray wide open for the final score of the day.

Some other notes and observations from yesterday's tournament:

Fun and Gun: Lowell is a preseason favorite in the Merrimack Valley Conference, thanks to a well-oiled offense that returns many integral pieces from a season ago, when they finished 9-2.

Plain and simple, this is going to be one of the most entertaining offenses to watch, up there with Natick and St. John's of Shrewsbury. Offensive coordinator Brian Christopher draws up some funky stuff, utilizing pistol sets with spread principles as well as some zone read and an array of screens. In pool play yesterday, they put defenses in a bind with layered route combinations, including a unique “double wheel” set that had two receivers breaking off at different depths from the same path.

For an idea of what all of this looks like on film, take a look at rising senior wide receiver Jack Galvin’s Hudl highlights (take note of the packaged plays, particularly the zone read triple option).

The Red Raiders had a good showing, going 3-1 in pool play with their lone loss coming to Lynn English on the final play of the game. They lost to Arlington in overtime in the “Sweet 16” round, but not before impressing those in attendance with their deep arsenal of quality skill players.

Galvin is the biggest name of the bunch, a precise route-runner whose quick reflexes help him get great leverage on defenders and catch difficult balls in traffic. His speed is also a factor -- Galvin was one of the fastest hurdlers during indoor track season, with a 7.94 time in the 55-meter. But also take note of Musa Mansaray, a two-way player who is pretty physical at cornerback, and has recorded a time as fast as 15.5 in the 110-meter hurdles during outdoor track season. Scatback Ndeiva Mason, a waterbug who is shifty in space, will attract attention as well.

The biggest question mark for Lowell will be at quarterback, where they must replace the dynamic Cam Latta. Keep an eye on senior Brian Dolan, a baseball star who transferred from Lawrence Academy midway through last school year and has plenty of zip on his throws. Latta’s younger brother, Keegan, should have a breakthrough campaign as well.

Nothing new on Belcher recruiting: Scouts seem to be divided on how Belcher projects at the next level. He has heard from a wide variety of Division 1 FCS schools, including Delaware, Villanova and Lafayette. There has also been varying degrees of inquiry at the FBS level, including UMass and Boston College (his uncle, Bedford head coach Jack Belcher, is a former BC player). Still, Belcher has no offers to report at this time.

"A lot of them want to see senior film," Belcher said.

Asked about rumors college scouts would consider moving him to another position, such as tight end, Belcher said, "I haven't been talked to for any other position. I've been talked to only for quarterback."

Dream come true for McCaffrey: BB&N's showing at the tournament came less than 24 hours after senior wide receiver/defensive back Mike McCaffrey gave a verbal commitment to Holy Cross, a school where his last name carries some heavy weight.

Both his parents are Holy Cross alums. His father, James McCaffrey, was a basketball standout in the mid-80's, getting picked in the sixth round by the Phoenix Suns in the 1986 NBA Draft and being inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 1992. Mike has been to the campus many times over the years, mostly for basketball, and has always been fond of the place.

"It was a place I always wanted to go, ever since I was a little kid," McCaffrey said. "It was just a place that I loved. I went there in the winter, and it was just a place I always wanted to go. It's got great people, great football, great academics, it just has it all."

Of his anticipated role with the Crusaders, McCaffrey says he was told by head coach Tom Gilmore he thinks he can fit at cornerback. But more importantly, McCaffrey said, "after the one-day camp in June, he [Gilmore] said I was a very, very competitive kid, and that's what they like in me."

McCaffrey has been timed as fast as 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and that speed showed well on Saturday, playing mostly split out wide and beating defenders deep. Speed runs in the McCaffrey gene; his brother, Jimmy, is a defensive back for Boston College, and at BB&N established himself as one of the most dynamic kick returners to come through Massachusetts in recent years.

During summers, when Jimmy is home, the two will often head to the FieldTurf at their hometown Winchester High School and work on a number of drills.

"He's been a real big influence in my life," Mike said.

A number of BB&N players stood out on the day in addition to McCaffrey. Quarterback Cole O'Connor timed his throws well with targets like running back Frank Williams, but on the defensive side Augie Lin was among the more impressive coverage players. In pool play against Watertown, Lin was paired against 6-foot-4 receiver T.J. Hairston, a long, lanky prospect with good agility. Giving up half a foot to Hairston, Lin played him tight in press coverage. Hairston had a great rip move to the outside against his press, and towards the end of the game came up with a tip-drill pick on defense. But most of the time, Lin got good shove off the line and jammed him inside.

Small-school stars show well: Hairston figures to be an imposing target with his slender, basketball-esque frame able to out-reach defenders on 50/50 balls. Several other small-school stars stood out as players to keep an eye on the next months.

Boston Cathedral junior wide receiver/safety Trehme Haney gave defensive backs fits all day in pool play, as the 6-foot-1, 184-poounder routinely reaching over or out-leaping double coverage for jump balls. His teammate Justice Turner, who came in third in Massachusetts in the 200-meter dash last fall, will be tough to man up.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on Bedford running back/defensive back Olan Abner, who passes the eye test with his physical maturity. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder has heard from UMass, UNH and Central Connecticut State so far, and figures to project at strong safety for the next level.

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