Boston High School: P.J. Hayes

Flexibility, experience to key No. 11 Walpole

August, 28, 2012
Barry Greener had just coached his Walpole Rebels to a last-second, playoff-clinching win over rival Natick in early November 2011, for the Bay State Herget title, and was asked bout simulating the Red Hawks’ hyperactive tempo. Never one to mince his words, Greener adorningly illuminated his own hectic practice tempo, saying, “It is absolutely massive friggin’ chaos out there.”

“They don’t have time to get down in their stances, we’re running plays at them so fast,” he told reporters that night.

Scouts from their would-be opponents, undersized but frenetic Dennis-Yarmouth, were in the bleachers that night. They served up chaos of their own two weeks later, in a Tuesday night Division 2A playoff, attacking them at a pace unseen even in that Natick win, for a 46-20 whooping that wasn’t as close as even that lopsided score would indicate.

Reflecting on that outcome nearly nine months later, Greener recalled a conversation at a gas station last month with former Red Sox manager Joe Morgan (himself a lifelong Walpole resident) going back to that night – “I’ve known Joe for a long time, Greener recalled. “He said, ‘I was up in the stands with a friend, I turned to him and said this game is over before it starts’.”

Greener continued, “It was a mismatch. They were so much more athletic, they should have been No. 1 in the state [in’s poll]. I’ve been to every Walpole game since 1972, and that’s the best team we’ve played in 25 years. They were unbelievable.”

OK, now to the present day. Four of the Rebels’ best players were out of the lineup that fateful Tuesday night, and three of them – running backs Mike Rando and Cam Hanley, and wideout P.J. Hayes – are back, with weighty expectations.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Rando suffered a season-ending ACL tear in the second week of the season, but appears to have come back stronger than ever. Greener raves about Rando, with his blend of 4.5 speed and exceptional vision, evoking shades of one of the greatest ever to come through Walpole, 2010 graduate Ryan Izzo.

“I call them ‘Izzo Eyes’, he sees daylight where nobody else sees daylight,” Greener said. “Rando’s got great vision – are they Izzo’s vision? Probably not, but Rando’s is pretty good. Rando is the complete package, the perfect player, great teammate, great leader, great worker, just does everything right on and off the field. If you had all Rando’s, you’d feel guilty even signing your paycheck. It’d be too easy.

“If an Izzo comes around once every 25 years, Rando comes around every 10, and I’ll be retired before the next one. He’s just a pleasure to coach, and he doesn’t need a lot of coaching. You tell him once and he gets it.”

Hayes also suffered a season-ending ACL tear in week three of last season, but came back with a strong indoor and outdoor track campaign, with impressive personal bests in the 55 (6.45), 100 (10.73), 200 (20.04), and long jump (20-foot-1). However, he has been battling back issues this training camp, and will be out until week three of the season.

Still, with Hanley in the mix, and a solid returning nucleus in the trenches, the Rebels ought to be flexible. They found success with double-tight packages last season, and will utilize them again this season. Though with the number of athletes on the perimeter, Greener will quickly spread them out the gameplan stalls.

Defensively, the Rebels will be just as flexible out of a 3-4 front. One of the most impressive displays of this flexibility last year may have come in that very same Natick game, when they kept just five defenders in the box but for the most part didn’t allow for many leaks.

The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Collins should be a disruptive force yet again. A preseason ESPN Boston All-State selection at tight end, Collins is a Division 1-caliber talent who in all likelihood projects on the defensive side of the ball. Last season, he ranked third on the team in tackles. As instinctive and physical as he is, Greener suggests his best playing days “may come after he leaves Walpole.”

To this point, Collins has received interest from UMass, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, but to this point it is just due diligence. Prep school is also potentially an option for him.

“He does have unbelievable upside,” Greener said. “He’s strong, fast, and boy does he get to the ball. The thing he’s gotta understand if signs a D1 deal, they’re all gonna be like him, theyre all like you , so it boils down to technique and who plays the best, to get the most playing time.”

2011: 9-3, lost in Division 2A Playoffs
Coach: Barry Greener (4th year, 29-6 overall)
Key Returnees: Chris Collins, Sr. TE/DE, 6-4, 260 lbs.; Mike Rando, Sr. RB/DB, 5-10, 180 lbs.; P.J. Hayes, Sr. ATH, 5-10, 170 lbs.; Cam Hanley, Sr. RB/LB, 5-10, 210 lbs.; Steve Thulin, Sr. RB/ILB/P, 5-9, 190 lbs.; Ricky Ordway, Sr. OT/NG, 6-0, 260 lbs.; Ryan Finn, Sr. OLB, 5-11, 180 lbs.; Dave Driscoll, Sr. OL/LB, 6-0, 190 lbs.
Strengths: Returning seniors, leadership.
Weaknesses: Experience at offensive/defensive lines, secondary.
Outlook: The Rebels return six starters on both sides of the ball, and Greener will be counting on that veteran leadership to carry them to third straight Bay State Herget title and playoff berth. Rando and track star Hayes went down with season-ending knee injuries in consecutive weeks last September, and while Hayes is on the mend again with back issues, Rando has looked “phenomenal” in the preseason according to Greener. Flexibility appears to be the operative theme so far in Walpole. Offensively, the Rebels will utilize double-tight packages out of the I formation, but can spread it out if the gameplan calls so. Defensively, Greener will once again utilize a 3-4 base, with Division 1 prospect Collins setting the edge. At times the front was unwavering, as evidenced in last year’s win over Natick, when they left five in the box and were able to contain one of the state’s most efficient spread schemes. That battle with the Red Hawks decided the Herget, and barring a surprise run from Norwood or Wellesley, it will once again determine the Rebels’ Post-Thanksgiving fate.

Recap: No. 16 Needham 31, No. 17 Walpole 22

October, 21, 2011

NEEDHAM, Mass. -- The Needham football team proved Friday night that the loss of one player is not going to derail its chances at a Bay State Conference Carey Division title and more.

With starting quarterback Drew Burnett out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury, sophomore Ryan Charter found himself at the helm against Walpole and proceeded to burn the visiting Rebels with one big play after another in a 31-22 Rockets' win.

“Honestly, I found out (that I would start about) 20 minutes before the game,” said Charter, who completed 5-of-10 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns. “A couple kids were telling me, ‘You’re going to get in the game.’ I was, like, ‘Alright, that’s all I need.’ But I didn’t know until today.”

The heavy-hearted coach of the No. 16 Rockets, David Duffy, had to compose himself when he remarked how his players “wanted to do it for Drew.”

They did it alright, as they took down Walpole for the first time since 2006 and looked good doing so. Despite Walpole having what Rebels coach Barry Greener said was his team’s best offensive game of the season, Needham (6-1, 6-0 in the BSC) never wavered, landing haymaker after haymaker.

Ian Riley (115 yards rushing) set up Needham’s first touchdown with a 64-yard run that was soon followed by a jet sweep to senior Dan Pierce, who pulled up and hit Nico Panepinto for a 31-yard touchdown.

Walpole (6-1 overall and in BSC) answered with a Steve Thulin 4-yard score but the PAT was wide right to keep it at 7-6. One play later, Charter hit Mark Riley for a 67-yard touchdown pass as the Rockets took a 14-6 lead into halftime.

They built on it on the first series of the third quarter when Charter found Mark Riley again, this time for a 74-yard score that pushed the advantage to 21-6. Walpole immediately answered on a Shane Blass (152 yards rushing) 66-yard scoring run that helped make it 21-14 after a P.J. Hayes two-point rush.

Needham again had a response, though, as Charter hit Mike Vespa on a 49-yard screen that led to a 19-yard Andrew Murowchick field goal.

The Rockets defense then held for a turnover on downs and the offense chewed up 6:48 in a drive that culminated in a 6-yard Ian Riley run to make it 31-14 midway through the fourth.

Walpole added the final points when Hayes scored from six yards out and Blass added the two points out of the Wildcat, but Needham ran out the clock effectively on the final drive to secure the victory.

Walpole coach Barry Greener praised Needham after the game for always having great balance on offense, and his team paid dearly for it on Friday night. The Rockets can hurt defenses in a variety of ways, and the Rebels simply had a hard time getting Needham’s offense off the field. Charter was efficient on his throws, did not turn the ball over and made the Rebels pay for cheating up on play-action. The running back duo of Ian Riley at tailback and Vespa at fullback provided the sleeper hold on Walpole’s defense when it needed to kill the clock in the final quarter. Mark Riley again proved to be a speedy option in the passing game, and Pierce also made two big receptions in the fourth to help the Rockets extend their final touchdown drive, including a 24-yarder on third-and-13 from the Needham 18. The Rockets simply put on a clinic against one of the better defenses in the area.

There was a lot of speed on the field, but Hayes, a junior cornerback and wide receiver, may have been the fastest player out there. Although he bit on the trick play that resulted in Needham’s first score, he prevented one earlier in the drive when he chased down Ian Riley from a bad angle on the 64-yard run. Hayes also broke up several passes with good technique on some long throws to his side. And if Hayes wasn’t the fastest player on the Rebel sideline, it was Blass, who can really scoot once he gets in the open field. The Rebels have struggled at times on offense this year, but those two only need a little space to change those fortunes on any given play.

Walpole (6-1, 6-1 BSC) 0 6 8 8 - 22
Needham (6-1, 6-0 BSC) 7 7 10 7 - 31

1st quarter
N - Nico Panepinto 31 pass from Dan Pierce (Andrew Murowchick kick)

2nd quarter
W - Steve Thulin 4 run (kick failed)
N - Mark Riley 67 pass from Ryan Charter (Murowchick kick)

3rd quarter
N - M. Riley 74 pass from Charter (Murowchick kick)
W - Shane Blass 66 run (P.J. Hayes rush)
N - Murowchick 19 FG

4th quarter
N - Ian Riley 6 run (Murowchick kick)
W - Hayes 6 run (Blass rush)

Recap: No. 22 Walpole 14, Norwood 0

October, 7, 2011

WALPOLE, Mass. -- Even when you thought there might be a score … POP!

Border rivals Norwood and Walpole battled to a scoreless first half Thursday night at Turco Field. But it looked as though the Rebels had finally broken the stalemate late in the third quarter on a Dave Thibault run only to be met by a thunderous, ball-jarring hit at the goal line.

Eventually, No. 22 Walpole did in fact break the scoreless tie and would go on to a 14-0 win over the Mustangs, taking a big step toward a Bay State Herget title, but that particular play was indicative of the hard-hitting, defensive struggle between the two sides.

It took more than three quarters, but when the Rebels (5-0) got going, they kept going, scoring on successive fourth-quarter drives with a pair of rushing touchdowns from Cam and Craig Hanley separated by two minutes. Coupled with a stifling defense and its ever-present, yet disciplined pass rush the Rebels were able to bottle up the Mustangs and its offense led by quarterback Tommy Munro.

“We knew we had to stop the run up front and we knew we had to contain [Munro] from running to the outside, which our ends did a great job,” Cam Hanley said. “We needed to make sure we wrapped him up.”

The Rebels’ first brush with the end zone came with 6:06 to play in the third. Walpole had terrific field position thanks to Craig Hanley’s 38-yard punt return, which set up the Rebels offense at the Mustangs’ 26-yard line. Five plays later, Thibault tried to punch in the first score of the game on a jet sweep to the right. Just as the senior was about to cross the goal line, he was met by Norwood defensive end Gus Martin. After an audible popping of the shoulder pads, the ball flung out of Thibault’s hands straight into the air, allowing linebacker Sam Anderson to corral the loose ball in the end zone.

It looked like just the break the Mustangs (4-1) needed as Norwood went on the offensive.

“We went to our no-huddle,” Norwood head coach John Sarianides said. “We had a great first play and got ourselves into a second and short. But then, we commit a penalty, we lined up off the line.”

Following the ensuing Norwood punt, Walpole embarked on the game-winning 9-play, 54-yard drive capped off by Cam Hanley’s 15-yard run.

The Rebels defensive line made its living in the Mustangs’ backfield all evening long. Paced by senior captain and defensive tackle Dan King (2 tackles for loss; 1 sack) and Cam Hanley (3 TFL), Walpole got steady pressure on Munro (4-of-11, 59 yards) and disrupted the pace of the Norwood offense.

“They did a great job with their pressure,” Sarianides said. “We threw everything at them, formation-wise, but we had some problems with their pressure.

“At halftime, we made some adjustments to our protection, we were able to solve some of it on the inside, but their edge pressure gave us a lot of problems and it really affected our ability to get our playmakers open in space to let them create. So that’s a credit to them.”

Thibault, a mainstay of both Walpole’s offensive and defensive units, left the game in the third quarter with a concussion. Thibault was helped off the field on the second play of the defensive series following the big hit on the goal-line fumble.

It was left up the younger Hanley, Cam, to pick up the slack.

“He’s a good player [Thibault], obviously,” said Hanley, who finished with 10 carries for 75 yards. “When he went down, we were struggling a little bit. They asked me to go in, so I went in and did what I could.”

Norwood (4-1) 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Walpole (5-0) 0 0 0 14 -- 14

4th quarter
Walpole Cam Hanley 15-yard run (kick failed)
Walpole Craig Hanley 5-yard run (P.J. Hayes run)