Boston High School: Peter Colombo

LeClair destined for breakout for No. 8 Brockton

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
11:49
PM ET
BROCKTON, Mass. -- If his junior year was any indication, Brockton High’s Aaron LeClair seems destined to be a breakout star for the No. 8 Boxers in 2013.

Last season, LeClair tackled many roles for the Big Three champs, seeing time as a running back, kick returner, punt returner and defensive back.

LeClair finished second on the squad in touchdowns with. He was second in rushing yards and total offense. The 5-foot-7, 175-pound running back averaged a whopping 7.17 yards per carry while rushing for more than 600 yards on 88 carries.

A shutdown defensive back for a stingy defense that led division one in points allowed, he pulled in two interceptions and led the team in pass defenses.

Electric as a return man, he averaged 23 yards per kickoff return, and an impressive 27 yards on punt returns -- including an 82-yard score against Pinkerton Academy.

“You look for guys like that, who are special, and try to get them every opportunity to take advantage of their talent,” said coach Peter Colombo. “Everything starts with physical abilities like that.

"We saw Micah Morel really emerge as a senior last year, and Aaron shows all the same promise. He’s already had two very good years and if he can take to the next level, it will be huge for us.”

LeClair’s stats hint toward the promise of a star year, almost as much as his bloodlines do.

“Aaron is the half-brother of the Thellens, Nate and Darren, who were tremendous players for us,” said Colombo. “He shows the same kind of football intellect that both older brothers possessed, and both those guys had great college careers and had tryouts at the big level.”

Before Nate played at Northeastern, and Darren at UMass, LeClair used to look up to both during their days playing at Marciano Stadium.

“I’ve always wanted to do it like them,” LeClair said. “It would be great if I can follow what they did.”

LeClair certainly will get ample opportunity to make his own name in a Boxers’ uniform this season, as the Boxers graduated much of their production from an offense that rushed for 3,232 yards on 472 carries during their runner-up Super Bowl showing. Led by star quarterback Austin Roberts, the Boxers graduated players who combined on 390 of the carries and 2,396 yards on the ground.

While much of last season’s talent were seniors -- the Boxers are replacing 18 starters this year -- LeClair proved to be one of the toughest to replace guys on the roster after he was inured in the team’s Big Three-clinching win over New Bedford in week 10. LeClair wouldn’t play another snap, making life easier on Brockton’s opponents.

“I think people kind of forget about how much we missed him last year after the New Bedford game,” Colombo said. “He was our second leading scorer behind Augie Roberts. I’m sure other coaches we played against were happy they didn’t have to worry about him because he is a game-breaking type of kid.”

Ready to shoulder the lion’s share of the load, LeClair also doesn’t plan to let the graduation of 18 seniors change the expectations for this year’s team. In fact, he has a simple message for anyone who doubts whether or not Brockton can create another magical season.

“Just wait for the season.”

BROCKTON AT A GLANCE
2012: 9-4, Div. 1 Super Bowl runner-up
Coach: Peter Colombo (11th season, 86-33-1)
Strengths: Running back, linebacker, offensive line
Weaknesses: Quarterback, Varsity experience
Key Returnees: Aaron LeClair, Sr. RB, 5-8, 170 lbs; Aaron Monteiro, Jr. OG, 6-5, 295 lbs; Kervin Jean-Claude, Sr. LB, 6-0, 210 lbs; Max Castor, Sr. TE/DL, 6-0, 200 lbs.
Outlook: The Boxers saw five players -- Austin Roberts, Micah Morel, Joe Previte, Anthony Davis and Ryan Kelley -- who saw some varsity time in all four years graduate off of last year’s team, in addition to 18 starters. In 2013, they’ll lean on guys like LeClair and Kervin Jean-Claude, who made significant impacts a year ago, to lead the way. “Kervin had a great year for us at linebacker,” Colombo said. “He’ll be called on to be a leader on defense. Aaron has played on both sides of the ball for two years now.” Previte and Davis were both four-year starters on the offensive line, so filling those holes won’t be easy. Colombo is happy to have Aaron Monteiro ready to fill one of the roles, and believes there is plenty of reason to feel that way. “He obviously has the size that will attract some attention for the next level, but he has very good footwork already too,” Colombo. “We’re hoping down the road to get something out of him on defense too, but right now he’s going to play guard for us on the offensive line.” Even after graduating so many guys, there’s no reason to think this team can’t return to the playoffs this year, and they should be among the favorites to win D1 South.

Scrimmage Slants: St. John's (S) at Brockton

August, 27, 2013
8/27/13
2:02
AM ET
BROCKTON, Mass. -- The No. 8 Brockton Boxers hosted No. 11 St. John's of Shrewsbury in their annual preseason scrimmage late Monday afternoon, at Marciano Stadium.

Since Brockton coach Peter Colombo and St. John's coach John Andreoli -- former teammates at Holy Cross -- began scheduling this yearly, it has become one of the most anticipated scrimmages of the preseason. In three 10-play series each of varsity on varsity, the Boxers scored twice while the Pioneers scored once.

A few notes and observations from Monday's scrimmage:

Ground and Pound: In last year's installment of this annual scrimmage, Brockton debuted a Georgia Tech-style "Flex Bone" scheme, a radical departure from the multiple offense the Boxers had been running for decades. But the look suited the exploits of tough-as-nails quarterback Augie Roberts very comfortably, and they put together one of the state's most fluid rushing attacks en route to the MIAA Division 1 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl.

There had been some light speculation during the offseason as to how much longer they would stick in the scheme, with Roberts graduating, but it looks like the Boxers are staying with it. Good thing, because it looks like they will be sharp once again, with Pat Burke assuming the reigns under center, fleet-footed seniors Aaron LeClair and Jamal Williams at the wingback spots, and promising sophomore Kerry Raymond at fullback.

"People thought we might have to abandon this when Augie left, but Pat's done a pretty good job with it," head coach Peter Colombo said. "He doesn't have to do everything Augie did, but spread it around."

By far, the most effective play was the "rocket toss", sending either LeClair and Williams circling in motion from the backside and pitching to them on the perimeter at full speed. The Boxers called the play three times on the first series, out of two-receiver sets, and gained a total of 52 yards.

Eventually, more ripples will be added as the new backfield pieces get accustomed -- Williams, for one, is already pretty familiar, having run a similar scheme at Taunton High last year.

"We've gotta be able to throw off of it, and do other things off of that," Colombo said. "We're just working on base stuff right now, but we'll add in some [more] throws, and some misdirection, and just keep getting better at it, because no matter how much ... it's hard to defend. It puts stress on them side to side, widen things out, and then we hit you in between. We'll see where it goes, but it's a good start with that."

The Boxers are hoping Raymond can provide a good counterpunch to the shifty LeClair and Williams. Already measuring 6-foot and close to 220 pounds, there are high hopes that he can be tough in between the tackles, and today's returns were encouraging. It's not every day you have a back this size in Brockton, which had Colombo recalling back to some of the most successful Brockton teams of the last few decades.

"He's a throwback to the Junior Penn, Darnell Campbell, Rudy Harris type of back," Colombo said. "Again, just a sophomore, so he's still just learning his plays. We've got him playing some fullback and some tailback, and I think at times he's confused about exactly what the concepts are. But with the ball in his hands, going north and south, he's a load, definitely.

Colombo added with a laugh, "He's not a fun guy to tackle -- not that I've ever tried, I'm just glad I don't have to. He's a big strong kid that we have to take advantage of."

Davon dazzles: One of the most interesting camp questions this preseason was where star athlete Davon Jones would line up on the offense. Jones, a starter at free safety since his freshman season of 2011, is already being hailed as one of the state's best defensive backs, named a Preseason All-State selection last week by ESPN Boston. Offensively, Jones is expected to have a bigger role this fall following the graduation of Shadrach Abrokwah at running back.

Today, Jones played wide receiver exclusively, mostly lining up opposite the strength of the formation in isolation, and he made several highlight-reel plays. On the fifth play of the first series, with his defender playing five yards off the line of scrimmage, Jones took one step forward and turned back to the line of scrimmage, where quarterback Andrew Smiley threw him a ball on the numbers. Jones turned back to his defender, shook his hips, and then juked another defender for good measure.

In the second series, Jones went deep down the left sideline on a go route, and Smiley delivered a deep ball towards his back shoulder. With a safety coming over the top, Jones looked back to the ball, turned mid-air, and acrobatically came down with the ball, his arms outstretched behind his head.

"He's always around the ball," Pioneers head coach John Andreoli said. "On both sides of the ball, he's an impact player that we need to have on the field. Offense, it's good to have him in the slot, open area, and we can get pretty good matchups against him."

Asked if Jones will stick at wide receiver, Andreoli said, "We like him there, because it gives us a matchup in space."

Monteiro shows promise: Right now, this is a young offensive line that is green with talent, breaking in a slew of new blood. But this is also a big line, consisting of tackles Dan Estrella (6-2, 235) and Sebastian Porter (6-2, 240), guards Aaron Monteiro (6-5, 290) and Junior Silva (6-0, 230), and center Terrence Thorpe (6-3, 240).

"The line is a work in progress, and they're working hard. I see definite hope there," Colombo said.

The Brockton coaching staff is especially excited about the potential of Monteiro, who showed flashes of potential in the run game, getting out into the second level, but also in the passing game. On the Boxers' second touchdown, a 40-yard strike from Burke to Watna Cunha, Monteiro initially chipped the nose guard in the gap to his right, then recovered and sealed off the defensive tackle attacking his outside gap.

Monteiro is an aggressive run blocker, but his technique is still raw. Right now, he plays a bit stiff, and has a tendency to over-extend himself. His intangibles, though, have plenty of folks in Brockton excited about what he could become.

"He's athletic for a big, big kid," Colombo said. "He plays basketball, so he's used to moving his feet. When he puts a year of experience under his belt, with another year in the weight room, I think he's a Division 1 prospect. We'll see what the other guys think, but certainly he's got the part you can't coach -- the frame, athleticism and the size to play at the next level."

Big hits: Of all the years St. John's and Brockton have been scrimmaging each other, this was one of the more intense meetings. There were plenty of loud, popping hits delivered on both sides; a brief scuffle also broke out in the end zone following a St. John's score, though no punches were thrown.

In the second series, Williams took a quick pitch on the perimeter and shuffled his feet, attempting to juke Jones. But Jones simply squared his shoulders and lunged at Williams' thighs, undercutting him with a loud pop. The next play, Brockton's Justin Ahanon took a swing pass in the flat, turned upfield and ran over Jones on his way to the sideline, one of the day's biggest hits, which fired up the Brockton sideline.

Then early in the third series, Brockton safety Devin Duarte read Smiley's eyes and picked off his pass over the deep middle. Duarte broke to the left sideline, picked up about 20 yards then lowered his shoulder to flatten a would-be Pioneers tackler.

Early rust, but passing marks for Smiley: First scrimmages never go smoothly, and Smiley -- a 2012 ESPN Boston All-State selection -- threw a bad pick early, his intended target having his back turned. But once he got going, he was accurate, hitting receivers in the flats and deep downfield for a number of positive gains. Smiley -- a Navy lacrosse commit -- is one of the state's most dangerous dual threats, and leads an offense that runs parallel to Oregon's "Blur" attack and last year led the state in offensive yards (442 yards per game). But today's gameplan did not call for him to run much.

"We had five sophomores on the offensive side of the ball today due to a couple guys being dinged up, but overall I thought he made some good decisions, threw some good balls," Andreoli said. "He got the ball to guys in space, and that's our offense. We didn't run it a lot today, but he's progressing right along nicely. Where he was now compared to a year ago at this time, he's a completely different player."

Combs comes through: Andreoli feels comfortable sticking Jones at wide receiver, and that's because the Pioneers have picked up a nice running back in junior transfer Shane Combs, who has moved into the area from St. Louis.

Combs took a vicious hit from Jonathan Deroulas on the second play of the day, stuffed on a dive up the middle after a minimal gain and his back looking like it got the worst of the collision. Looking dazed, Combs struggled to get to his feet, but he returned to the field two plays later and was serviceable the rest of the day.

He also scored the first St. John's touchdown, cutting back on an outside zone to the left and scampering 25 yards to paydirt.

"He sees the field pretty well, is able to run off blocks and change direction without really losing a step," Andreoli said of Combs. "And he can catch out of the backfield too, which is a really nice dimension for us."

Leg Up: Keep an eye on sophomore placekicker Ryan Clifford, who played for Brockton's soccer team last year and has an impressive boot. In the first series, Clifford attempted a 35-yard field goal that sailed wide left, but had plenty of distance.

Clifford is among a small minority of kickers in the MIAA that kick directly off the ground. High school rules allow for the ball to be elevated up to two inches off the ground on field goal attempts, and most kickers use some sort of platform.

"Eventually, I think he's a big strong kid who might play some tight end or some other position for us," Colombo said. "And he kicks off the grass. He's not used to using a tee, and as you saw that was plenty of distance. It's a nice weapon to have."

Recap: St. John's Prep 48, Brockton 28

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
12:13
AM ET


WALTHAM, Mass. -– From the time Brockton muffed the opening kickoff, setting St. John’s Prep up with a short field to start the EMass. Div. 1 Super Bowl at Bentley University on Saturday, it was clear there would be no momentum shifts as the Eagles cruised, 48-28, for their first title since 1997.

No, momentum stayed with St. John’s for the duration of the one-sided Super Bowl showing.

Just 50 seconds after the attempted squib kick set St. John’s up at their own 45, Jonathan Thomas caught a pass in the flats and streaked 33 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Eagles (11-1) advantage.

The Boxers (9-4) quickly went three-and-out -– marking the best part of their first possession. A bad snap resulted in blocked punt by Lucas Bavaro, and a scoop and score by senior Jake Anemoduris –- and just like that, the Eagles were up 13-0 less than three minutes into play.

“We came out and executed the way were supposed to execute our game plan,” said St. John’s coach Jim O’Leary. “That’s what we do and that’s how we played.”

It got briefly better for the Boxers, who put together 10-play scoring drive capped by a 6-yard run by Moise Edouard. The rush attempt on the conversion failed.

Another attempted squib kick, this time a low line drive that settled at about the 15-yard line, resulted in bad fortune for Brockton. Gerald Kahari caught the ball inches from the turf, and took off up field. A couple blocks and a missed tackle later, he was tossing the ball to a referee 85 yards away after scoring a touchdown.

“Obviously you have to play better than that to beat a great team like St. John’s Prep,” said Brockton coach Peter Colombo. “Take nothing away from them, they beat us twice and they beat us in all three phases today and they deserved to win.

"Right off the bat, we gave them easy field position. They jumped out to the lead and now we’re playing catch up and that’s obviously not what we wanted. We were hoping to shorten the game and control, but we couldn’t do it.”

Brockton quickly turned the ball over on downs in their own territory, and Thomas eventually ran in from two yards out to extend the lead to 27-6.

After a Boxers punt, it seemed like Brockton would get a chance to get the ball with decent field position after a pass fell incomplete on third down at the St. John’s eight yard line. An unnecessary roughness penalty instead gave the Eagles another first down.

And when Brockton forced a second stop, a roughing the kicker on fourth down planted St. John’s at their 42 with a first down.
The following play was a 58-yard catch for a touchdown by Gatorade Player of the Year Alex Moore from quarterback Jack Sharrio.

An onside kick attempt by St. John’s was recovered by the Boxers. Zack Kessler was hurt on the play, and left on a stretcher (later diagnosed with a severe concussion).

Austin Roberts hit Micah Morel on the next play for a 59-yard score, cutting the lead to 34-12.

In the final minute of the first half, Thomas punched in another score, extending the halftime lead to a whopping 41-12. Moore added a 19-yard fumble recovery for a TD in the second half to cap the scoring for St. John’s.

Edouard added another rushing touchdown and Ricardo Calixte chipped in with a score with just under two minutes to play to wrap up Brockton’s scoring, but it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome their first half woes.

“We just didn’t execute,” said Roberts. “They played at a Super Bowl speed and we didn’t. They played kicked it up today and we didn’t, and that was the difference. All the credit to them, they deserved it.”

Recap: Brockton 33, Weymouth 7

November, 28, 2012
11/28/12
2:49
AM ET



WEYMOUTH, Mass. -– The last time Brockton was in an MIAA Division 1 Super Bowl, gas prices were around $3, the housing market was spiraling downward, and Barack Obama had just been elected President.

Nothing crazy, right? Well, just understand that four years is an eternity in Brockton.

The Boxer faithful are known for their uniquely feverish blend of paranoia and restlessness, and aren’t afraid to let it be known to the players, coaches and everyone in between.

“We were beyond sick and tired of it, especially after last year,” said senior safety Micah Morel, alluding to their disappointing 5-6 finish in 2011. “We were absolutely disgusted with not being in the playoffs the last two years. We just wanted to turn this ship around.”

Said quarterback Austin Roberts, “They’re always coming up to you, and no one’s happy until you win a Super Bowl."

For now, everyone can rest easy. Brockton (9-3) is back in its first Division 1 Super Bowl since 2008, by way of an easy 33-7 victory over Bay State Carey champion Weymouth at the latter’s home field, thanks to a dominant rushing attack that gained 432 yards with just a single passing attempt.

Brockton hasn’t won a Super Bowl since taking back-to-back titles in 2004-05, when quarterback Jessy Resende and tailback Junior Penn were taking New England by storm and the Boxers were getting love in national polls. If they are to bring home the third Super Bowl title of the Peter Colombo era, they’ll have to do beat St. John’s Prep, which won the first meeting, 27-12, in Week 4.

“It’s been a while,” Colombo said.

Alluding to the Boxers’ first Super Bowl title in the first year of the era, in 1972, he continued, “We’re hoping to get back, and 40 years later...We started it off in ’72, and we’re hoping to put the brackets around this era.”

As usual, the dominant ground game was primarily the work of a four-pronged attack in the Boxers’ flex scheme: Roberts (18 carries, 125 yards, 2 TD), and senior running backs Moise Edouard (seven carries, 106 yards, TD), Ricardo Calixte (eight carries, 88 yards, TD) and Morel (10 carries, 90 yards, TD).

The Wildcats (8-4) stacked the box with its 50 front, yet the Boxers were able to establish the edge consistently, for big gains. Leading the attack as usual was Roberts, unafraid to lower his shoulder and charge forward and making the correct read on the option seemingly every play.

“He was very, very efficient tonight,” Morel said. “He played ‘Augie-Ball’ tonight. It was great.”

It started on the Boxers’ opening drive of the game, gift-wrapped for them at the Wildcats’ 19 after a Weymouth fumble on the first play of the game. Four plays later, Roberts tossed out wide to Morel, who glided over the left pylon for the game-opening score just two minutes into the contest.

Weymouth drove all the way to the Boxers’ 20 on the next drive, but stalled after quarterback David Harrison threw incomplete looking for the end zone. Going the other way, the Boxers completed a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive thanks to Edouard’s work, taking an off-tackle 44 yards down to the Weymouth 3 then punching it in on a dive the next play.

Then, the weirdest thing happened. Brockton’s kicker slipped as he went to kick, getting the nose of the ball, and the ball rolled 10 yards only to bounce off a Weymouth blocker into the hands of Brockton’s Justin Ahanon. Three plays later, the 215-pound Calixte made it 21-0 just 11 minutes into the contest with a 38-yard touchdown scamper, sprung loose by an Edouard kick-out block and cutting back at the left sideline with 10 yards to go for an easy score.

Defensive Back U: Year after year, the Boxers’ secondary churns out future Division 1 college athletes, this year being the Bryant University-bound Morel. Tonight, the unit made arguably the statement of the game after the offense fumbled the ball away on the first play of the second half. Harrison used a bubble screen to Ozzy Colarusso and a 24-yard QB draw to give the Wildcats first and goal from the Boxer 4.

Earlier in the game, Harrison knifed through the defense with a slick 18-yard touchdown pass to Colarusso. The play was drawn up perfectly, with trips to the right, both inside receivers running out routes and the outside man – Colarusso – cutting to the goal post on a slant.

This time, however, Harrison threw four incompletions to end the drive. Roberts then led the Boxers 96 yards the other way, accounting for 52 of the yards plus the score to make it 33-7.

“If we elimintated Harrison from extending the plays, we knew we had a good shot,” Morel said. “We’ve been playing great lockdown defense on the outside with our corners and our secondary the past few weeks, and we knew if we could contain Harrison then we had a good shot at winning this game.”

And how did they contain?

“Pressure up front, linebackers took their key steps,” he said. “Stay in the cutback lanes and just make sure that he wasn’t going to get anywhere.”

Tanks in the trenches: The Boxers installed their “Flex” offense, an option-based scheme utilizing multiple wing-backs (popularized by college programs such as Navy and Georgia Tech), as a way to take advantage of Roberts’ run-first exploits and the running back depth. Suffice to say it’s more than paid off, as the Boxers have run for 3,066 yards and 37 touchdowns as a team, with an average of 255.5 yards per game, making them among the state’s most efficient rushing attacks.

It’s a misdirection offense, but also one predicated on mobile linemen. Led by 6-foot-2, 260-pound road grader Joe Previte, the Boxers controlled the line of scrimmage from the opening whistle. It was an efficient night, calling 45 running plays and averaging 9.6 yards per run.

“The o-line has been great all season,” Roberts said. “They’re the best part of our team, offensive line and defensive line. They did a great job today. They controlled the line of scrimmage, made it easy for the backs.”

For all the headlines Roberts and Morel tend to grab, Weymouth head coach Kevin Mackin agreed it's the guys in the trenches that are the key ingredient.

"The most impressive part is that offensive line -- they are very, very physical," he said. "They've played a lot of years together obviously, and we threw everything we had at them. I think at one point we had all 11 guys in the box, and they still pushed us back. So, you've got to tip your hat to a team like that. They're very physical."

BROCKTON 33, WEYMOUTH 7

BRO (9-3) 7 20 6 0 --- 33
WEY (8-4) 0 7 0 0 --- 7


First Quarter
B - Micah Morel 8 run (De'Andre Brown kick) 7:58

Second Quarter
B - Moise Edouard 3 run (kick blocked) 9:30
B - Ricardo Calixte 38 run (Austin Roberts run )8:06
W - Ozzy Colarusso 18 pass from David Harrison (Colarusso kick) 2:27
B - Roberts 5 run (kick blocked) :16

Third Quarter
B - Roberts 2 run (rush failed) 3:07

Recap: No. 9 Brockton 41, Cath. Memorial 6

November, 3, 2012
11/03/12
12:16
AM ET
WEST ROXBURY, Mass. -- No. 9 Brockton defeated Catholic Memorial 41-6 on the heels of De’Andre Brown (two interceptions) and Ryan Kelley (two fumble recoveries, kick block) leading the defensive charge. Aaron LeClair (two rushing TDS) and Austin Roberts (one rushing TD, one passing) led the Boxers offensively.

“I was kind of surprised it was this easy, but we’ll take it”, said Brockton coach Peter Colombo.

Although CM (2-6) did not score until the fourth quarter, the Knights were moving the ball well for a time in the first half, but direct turnovers and failure to convert on third down were crucial to the Knights.

“When you’re playing a team like Brockton, you can’t turn the ball over at all,” said CM coach Alex Campea. “We’ll go back to the drawing board come Monday and we’ll be on the field working at it to get better.

Brockton has been turning up the defensive play, according to Colombo, and capitalized on those opportunities yesterday.

“The defense has been playing good football three weeks in a row,” added Colombo. “I have been very impressed by their hitting too.”

On the offensive front, Ricardo Calixte came up big for the Boxers, ripping a 52-yard run on their first possession, following Kelley’s first fumble recovery, to set up Brockton’s first score. Calixte, along with LeClair and Roberts, got good-sized holes from the offensive line and took advantage of the speed benefit once they were in the open field to produce extra yardage.

“They were blocking good, moving people and giving up space,” said LeClair. “This was a big week.”

Jimenez Injured Early: With 5:30 left in the first quarter, senior running back Luis Jimenez took a handoff from Austin Roberts and broke left with a touchdown on his mind. He laid out his body and broke the plane with the ball, lighting up the scoreboard for Brockton. As the team and fans alike celebrated the first score of the day, Jimenez remained on the ground with little movement. Jimenez was immobilized, placed onto a gurney, transferred to a stretcher and taken to hospital with an undisclosed leg injury.

As the World Turns: Last year, Catholic Memorial blanked Brockton 26-0. After Brockton went up early, talk of last year’s game and this year’s opposite outcome spread through the press box, airwaves and in the crowd.

“We twisted it around on them. They were a great team last year,” said Colombo. “And I think we’re turning into a pretty good team this year, We’re right where we want to be.”

Lunch Of Champions: While some students complain about school lunch, Ryan Kelley has made the grub at Brockton High School a part of his regiment.

“I had a chicken sandwich during school,” said Kelley with a laugh when asked about his game day menu. “After that I went to D’Angelo’s and had my meatball sub. That’s my ritual.”

BROCKTON 41, CATHOLIC MEMORIAL 6
BR (6-3) 7 21 13 0 --- 41
CM (2-6) 0 0 0 6 --- 6


First Quarter
B – Luis Jimenez 12 run (Levon Merian kick)

Second Quarter
B – Aaron LeClair 6 run (Merian kick)
B – LeClair 4 run (Merian kick)
B – Micah Morel 17 pass from Austin Roberts (Merian kick)

Third Quarter
B – LeClair 12 run (Merian kick)
B – Roberts 1 run (Kick failed)

Fourth Quarter
CM – Darren Wagner 3 run (kick blocked)

Recap: No. 9 Brockton 14, No. 14 Leominster 6

October, 26, 2012
10/26/12
11:48
PM ET
LEOMINSTER, Mass. -- The Brockton High football team has been searching for a key win they could hang their hats on all season.

After alternating wins and losses in the first seven weeks, the No. 9 Boxers finally put together to wins in a row when they bested No. 14 Leominster, 14-6, on the road at Doyle Field on Friday night.

“It was huge,” said Brockton senior receiver and defensive back Micah Morel. “We’ve been waiting to get that two wins straight to get the ball rolling and pick up some momentum going into the late part of the season. We want to get on a nice run. This was definitely a big win, because Leominster is a really good team.”

The Blue Devils (5-3) only found the end zone once despite moving the ball pretty well all night. They finished with 316 yards of total offense, led by Garrett DelleChiaie’s 225 passing yards.

“They moved it in the middle of the field because they’re a good team and their very well-coached,” Brockton head coach Peter Colombo said. "We talked to the kids all year about adversity, and bending, but always hanging tough. The kids believe they can stop other teams.

"I love our defense, and they’re getting better all the time. That’s a really good team and holding them to six is not easy.”

Early on, it looked Leominster was headed for a night filled with offensive fireworks.

After they forced a turnover on downs on Brockton’s game-opening possession, DelleChiaie hit a wide open Jake Allain for a 55-yard strike on what looked like a blown coverage. Kervin Jean-Claude chased him down from behind, finally bringing down with a desperation dive at his legs from behing.

The next play Shane O’Donnell cruised through a huge hole the offensive line created for another five yards. Just as it looked like Brockton didn’t have an answer for anything Leominster was doing, Jean-Claude forced stripped Mayson Williams on the next carry and the Boxers came away with the ball.

The Boxers went the other way but eventually stalled out and gave the ball after another turnover of downs. Leominster took over at their 33 with 2:40 left in the first, and a false start sent them backward before they could even get a snap off.

The false start, however, was the only thing that didn’t go right on that drive. DelleChiaie tossed a play-action pass to Neil O’Connor in the flat and he raced 26 yards for a first down. He caught the next pass, a 12-yard out pattern that moved the sticks again.

O’Donnell went 14 yards up the middle on the next handoff, setting up a first down at the Boxer 20. DelleChiaie dropped back and floated a ball to the back left corner of the endzone that came down in O’Connor’s outstretch hands for a touchdown just 1:17 after the drive began.

A bad snap meant Leominster didn’t get a point after try off but they had a 6-0 lead and a ton of momentum.

Brockton, which rushed for 264 yards in the win, benefitted from a late-hit penalty on the ensuing kickoff. They went to work on a 10-play drive that last just over five minutes and went 51 yards before quarterback Austin Roberts followed his offensive linemen into the endzone on a 1-yard keep play up the middle.

Levon Merian’s kick was good and the Boxers led 7-6.

Brockton’s defense forced Leominster into a turnover on downs on the ensuing drive, taking over at their own 33.

Aaron LeClair made sure the Boxers extended their lead on the next drive – and he never he touched the ball. On the third play of the drive, he took two linebackers out of the play with blocks that sprung Luis Jimenez for a 37-yard gain. The next play, he played the role of lead-blocker again, this time putting a linebacker flat on his back Roberts scampered in from 13 yards for another score.

“I’ll have to credit Ralph Roberts,” Colombo said. “He coaches our wideouts and they’re blocking the hell out of people. Aaron is a great blocker.”

LeClair put an end to Leominster’s attempt at adding a quick score before the half when he picked off DelleChiaie on the next drive. He took the ball 41 yards the other way before being forced out of bounds.

A penalty moved the Boxers backward as time wound down, and Merian’s field goal attempt from 36 yards had the distance but hooked just wide as the half ended.

The third quarter was controlled almost entirely by Leominster’s offense. Their opening drive lasted just shy of four minutes and ended in a turnover on downs. Brockton went three-and-out – their only three offensive plays of the quarter – resulting in a punt back to the Blue Devils.

For the remainder of the quarter, Leominster held the ball but couldn’t get it into the endzone. Brockton finally forced a turnover on downs on the second play of the fourth quarter.

“Ending the third quarter without giving up a point was a big lift for us,” said Morel. “Everything clicked together. We played with a lot of passion. There was a lot of communication. Talk, talk, talk. Just making sure everyone was in the right position.”

Brockton followed up with a lengthy drive of its own, running just over seven minutes off the clock before punting in a fourth-and-8 from their own 41. Justin Ahanon’s punt finally settled at the 8-yard line, giving Leominster a long field and long shot at a comeback win.

After advancing the ball as far as the 34, DelleChiaie tossed a pass deep down the left sideline into double coverage. De’Andre Brown raced under the ball for an interception.

Brockton picked up a first down when Roberts took an option-keeper 11 yards up field on the next possession and was able to take knees from there to end it.

The Boxers spread out the yards in the win.

Roberts had 14 carries for 67 yards (and was 2-for-3 passing for 33 yards), Ricardo Calixte had 12 carries for 60 yards, Leclair finished with 54 yards on nine carries and Jimenez had 49 yards on four carries.

AERIAL ATTACK NOT ENOUGH
Interceptions aside, DelleChiaie had a pretty impressive day throwing the ball for the Blue Devils. He went 13-for-19 passing in the win while accounting for 225 yards through the air. O’Connor was his top target all night, catching seven balls for an impressive 111 yards in the loss.

Allain was the only other person with more than one catch, and he had two of them for 73 yards.

While the passing game picked up plenty of yards, the running game was never able to their feet underneath them, and finished with just 91 total yards on the ground.

“It’s one of those games where we just couldn’t get the ball in,” said Blue Devils coach Dave Palazzi. “They played us tough and really locked us down when we got inside the 20. It was tough to connect. We had a few new wrinkles in there but we just didn’t make the plays today.”

Recap: Pinkerton (N.H.) 20, No. 8 Brockton 14

October, 13, 2012
10/13/12
12:56
AM ET


BROCKTON, Mass. –- Despite fumbling the ball, losing it four times, and an interception, the Brockton Boxers made it a game down the last two minutes. But the New Hampshire power Pinkerton Astros concluded the teams’ 19-year interstate rivalry in dramatic fashion, with a stern defensive stand late in the fourth quarter, to win out 20-14.

“I think [turnover ratio] made all the difference in the world,” said Pinkerton coach Brian O’Reilly.

Brockton last took possession of the ball with 2:33 left in the game, in receipt of the ball following Pinkerton gave up their fourth lost fumble. After Aaron LeClair and Micah Morel rushed for seven and five yards, respectively to get the first down, the Boxer fans were licking their lips, hoping their team could drive the 43 yards to the end zone to tie the game, and either kick or convert on the extra point to win.

On the following play, Brockton spiked the ball at 1:50 to stop the clock. On second down, Aaron LeClair (2 TDs) caught the ball in the middle of Pinkerton defenders but could not hold on. On second down, a screen pass from Morel to Ricardo Calixte netted a two-yard loss, leaving Brockton with a fourth and 12 from the Pinkerton 45.

Morel decided to go back to LeClair on a swing pass to the left, and the ball hit LeClair, but he was again unable to hold onto it. Regardless, he was surrounded by Pinkerton defensive backs and linemen who slid over to secure the victory. Had he caught the ball, nothing short of an apparition could have granted him the opportunity to run for the first down.

Before giving the ball up for the last time, Pinkerton had an interesting series.

Recovering the ball for the fourth time on the day, and starting from their own 47, Pinkerton first received a facemask penalty to move back to the 32. An illegal motion made it first and 30 for the Rockets. Jake Lisauskas carried the ball for four yards before a delay of game set up a second and 29 for Pinkerton.

Conroy fumbled the ball on the following play and fell on it for three-yard loss setting up 3rd and 32. Manny Latimore (27 carries, 150 yards) took the ball one yard before David Andrews’ 35-yard punt, which was nearly blocked.

“We were on our heels the whole time,” added O’Reilly. “Our offense went into the tank in the fourth quarter. We really couldn’t sustain a drive. I thought we could get that last one and run the time out and we couldn’t.”

Tradition's future on hold: Pinkerton and Brockton have been playing each other for the last 17 years. Last night’s match was the last scheduled between the two teams due to shifting schedules for Pinkerton which do not allot any open dates.

“We came in here, a long, long time ago, got the first one, got the last one,” joked O’Reilly. “It’s been an honor to play this program. I hope we can get back in the future.”

Brockton coach Peter Colombo admires not only the competitive side of the nearly two decade relationship, but the camaraderie that has been birthed out of a mutual occupation as head coach of premier football teams.

“We’re going to miss it,” Colombo added.

PINKERTON (N.H.) 20, BROCKTON 14
PA (6-1) 7 13 0 0 -- 20
BR (3-3) 6 8 0 0 – 14


First Quarter
P – Manny Latimore 27 run (Erik Anderson kick)
B – Aaron LeClair 82 punt return (kick failed)

Second Quarter
P – James Toohey 33 pass from Sean Conroy (Anderson kick)
B – LeClair 26 run (Micah Morel pass from Isaiah Kearns)
P – Ryan Day 1 run (kick failed)

Recap: No. 2 Prep 27, No. 7 Brockton 12

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
2:08
AM ET


BROCKTON, Mass. – Mix up two run-oriented teams, add in some inclement weather with swirling winds and driving rain, and you could pretty much figure out what the result would be.

No. 2 St. John’s Prep did what it does best, and did it a little bit better than No. 7 Brockton Friday night at Rocky Marciano Stadium. Eagles running back Jonathan Thomas was off to the races all night, tallying three touchdowns and 224 rushing yards on 23 carries. Thomas’ scores supplied Prep with its 20 unanswered points, all that it needed to claim a 27-12 win over the Boxers.

Although Prep (3-1) found its groove in the second half, dominating the time of possession battle in holding the ball for the greater portion of the fourth quarter, there was also a caveat.

The Eagles have expanded their playbook in recent weeks, adding Wildcat formation plays so as to take advantage of their backfield of Alex Moore and Thomas. Prep’s first touchdown of the evening came on a 70-yard run off a direct snap to Moore. In addition to Thomas’ eye-popping stat line, Moore also broke the century mark, running for 104 yards on nine carries.

Having such a dynamic backfield has its advantages, particularly in terms of play-calling.

“We did it last week, too, with Johnny [Thomas],” Prep head coach Jim O’Leary said. “We have to do that [use the Wildcat] because they start keying on people and there’s times we need first downs and they put too many people in the box. That gives us the ability to go outside, inside and they can’t key on either one of those guys.”

While the Eagles ran away with the second half, the Boxers (2-2) were the aggressors early on. Brockton was on the board with its first offensive possession of the game. Aaron LeClair capped a 14-play, 80-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown run over the right side end zone pylon.

Prep sent a return salvo on Moore’s 70-yard touchdown run on the ensuing possession, but the Boxers responded as well.

After another sustained drive, Brockton quarterback Austin Roberts plunged in with a 5-yard touchdown run off an option play. Roberts was hit in the back while making his dive into the end zone, however. He hobbled to his feet and tried to return to the Brockton sideline, but soon collapsed on the field. He was taken off the field by paramedics and taken to the hospital as a precaution.

The Boxers never got off the mat.

ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY LAND
Face it, opposing defenses know what’s coming when the Prep comes calling. Any defense had better commit to stopping the run and the Eagles’ array of sweeps, tosses and ole fashioned power football.

Yet, with the added wrinkle of Moore and Thomas lined up in the backfield side-by-side, running the Wildcat, the Eagles have become even harder to stop.

Part of the success Prep enjoyed against Brockton, particularly in the third quarter, came with the multi-back direct snap plays. Moore and Thomas stood shoulder-to-shoulder in place of the quarterback. Where the snap was headed was another question. In addition, the Eagles ran the package with tempo. The plays were sold with quarterback Jack Sharrio fetching play calls from the sideline. When Sharrio stepped off the playing field, the Eagles would step to the line and snap. It only added to the confusion and disguise.

“We’ve been working on it in practice with the zones and the hits up the middle because defenses don’t know whether it’s going to be me or John [Thomas] getting it,” Moore said. “We have many plays off of it that could go for a touchdown.”

It worked from the get-go. Moore’s 70-yard run came on the first Prep play with that personnel grouping.

From there, it was a matter of execution.

“Smuz [Sean Smerczynski] made a great block, I cut off of him to left and I saw a lot of green grass, so I made another cut and it was a touchdown from there.”

AIR LET OUT
Aside from the obvious fact of losing their starting quarterback, the Boxers also lost their emotional leader in Roberts. Forced to go their second quarterback, starting safety Micah Morel, the Boxers attack slowed in the second half.

Postgame, Brockton head coach Peter Colombo characterized Roberts’ injury as tied to the sciatic nerve. His status going forward is unknown.

On Friday, Roberts’ absence was apparent. Despite getting a 10-carry, 98-yard performance from Ricardo Calixte, the Boxers faltered without their charismatic leader.

“We took the lead, Auggie [Roberts] was in the end zone, we were doing what we wanted on offense,” Colombo said. I didn’t know if they had an answer for what we were doing.”

O’Leary admitted as much.

“It’s tough to defend when you have a quarterback like him that can spread the ball, spread the field and make those good decisions with the ball. And he’s tough.”

Game of the Week: No. 2 Prep at No. 7 Brockton

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
4:49
PM ET
BROCKTON, Mass. -- Wednesday afternoon, ESPN Boston High Schools Editors Scott Barboza and Brendan Hall stopped by Brockton football practice to take a look at our Game of the Week matchup between the No. 2 Eagles and No. 7 Boxers (Friday, 7 p.m.).

With the newly unveiled statue watching over its namesake Rocky Marciano Stadium, the Boxers will be looking for their third victory over a Catholic Conference opponent on the young season.

Barboza and Hall break down the upcoming game from angles, and also talked with Brockton head coach Peter Colombo, quarterback Austin Roberts and safety Micah Morel in taking a look at the X's and O's behind Friday's battle in this week's segment:

(Video shot and edited by Greg Story.)

Recap: No. 15 Brockton 22, No. 3 Xaverian 14

September, 22, 2012
9/22/12
12:15
AM ET
BROCKTON, Mass. -- Raise your hand if you had Brockton with two wins, and two hard-nosed, convincing victories, against two of the preseason favorites in the Catholic Conference.

Didn’t see too many hands raised outside of Rocky Marciano Stadium.

[+] EnlargeAustin Roberts
Jon Mahoney for ESPNBoston.comAustin Roberts withstood some tough hits from Xaverian's defense too lead the Boxers to their second victory over a top-5 team in three weeks.
But that’s exactly where the Boxers find themselves after the first three weeks of the season. Brockton battered Xaverian last night in a 22-14 victory on the kickoff to the unveiling of the Rocky Marciano statue that will keep a watchful eye on the football team as they look to continue this turnaround season.

The Boxers shut out BC High and put on a balanced display against the scuffling Hawks to run its record to 2-1 on the season. Brockton was 0-4 against Catholic Conference competition last season.

“This month of September is tough, and it doesn’t get easier with (St. John’s Prep) next week,” said Boxers coach Peter Colombo. “We’ve got two wins against the Catholic Conference and it’s the best conference year-in-and-year-out in Eastern Mass. It’s a good way to start.”

BIG PLAYS FOR BOXERS
Colombo knows that his team is going to face opposing defenses that stack the box against the Boxers option-based offense. A run here to the outside, a dive up the middle and a couple toss sweeps will keep those defenses honest, but nothing allows the option to work best than a couple of big plays from the passing game.

That’s exactly what Colombo got in the second half.

Austin Roberts connected with Micah Morel twice in the second half, one from 38 yards out and one from 17 yards, to stay comfortably ahead of the Hawks. The scores came off of the same play, but the only wrinkle was that Morel lined up on the backside for the second score.

“We knew eventually the safeties were going to come down and bite (on the run),” said Morel. “It’s a play we’ve been working on for a long time, so it was good to finally pop it open.”

“We need that out of Micah too,” Colombo added. “We are expecting him to give us some offense this year. We’ve had people open in other games and we haven’t capitalized. They are up there, eight or nine in the box trying to stop the run and we’ve got to take the pressure off by throwing the ball and completing passes. Finally tonight we got a couple of big ones.”

XAVERIAN STRUGGLING
It hasn’t been a great two weeks for the Hawks offense. They were held to 29 yards of total offense in the first half and only had 31 yards rushing, something that they went away from in the second half, for the game. It took two and a half quarters for Xaverian to pick up a first down.

Austin DeCarr threw two touchdown passes, but finished 12-of-32 for 97 yards, with 26 of those throws coming in the final two quarters.

The breaks just aren’t falling the Hawks way in a two-week span that saw them go 0-2 and fall to 1-2 on the year. The Boxers fumbled the ball four times in the first half, but Xaverian was only able to recover one with seconds remaining in the second quarter.

“We didn’t recover the football and that’s the way the ball bounces sometimes,” said Hawks head coach Charlie Stevenson. “They had some sustained drives in the first half and we had really miserable field position all half. We really had our hands tied because of the position we were in. That hurt.”

BROCKTON 22, XAVERIAN 14
Xaverian (1-2) 0 – 0 – 7 – 7 – 14
Brockton (2-1) 0 – 8 – 7 – 7- 22

Second Quarter
B — Austin Roberts 3 run (Justin Ahanon rush)

Third Quarter
B — Micah Morel 38 pass from Roberts (Levion Merian kick)
X — DJ Pagliuca 27 pass from Austin DeCarr (Kyle Darrow kick)

Fourth Quarter
B — Morel 17 pass from Roberts (Ahanon kick)
X — Joe Denucci Jr. 10 pass from DeCarr (Darrow kick)

Recap: No. 22 Reading 12, No. 9 Brockton 0

September, 15, 2012
9/15/12
12:38
AM ET
READING, Mass. -- The No. 22 Reading High football team made one thing pretty clear when they shutout No. 9 Brockton, 12-0, on Friday night.

The Rockets’ defense is as for real as is their lauded offense.

That's no easy task either, as Reading has averaged no less than 27.2 points per game in each of the last four seasons. The Rockets made the playoffs in each of those seasons.

In 2012, though, the Rockets’ defense is yet to surrender a point. In week one, the two points that Lawrence scored came off a returned point after try.

And against Brockton?

The Boxers rushed for 141 yards on 29 carries, all while passing for just 23 yards and throwing two interceptions. In their week one win against then No. 2 BC High, Brockton got 139 yards from quarterback Austin Roberts.

He was again Brockton’s leading rusher, but was held to just 61 yards on 14 carries in the loss.

The Rockets defense, which only allowed Brockton to advance past the Reading 35-yard line once in the game, earned praise from their offensive signal caller.

“They’ve been outstanding. They’ve played physical, and they’ve played ‘Rocket Football’ as Coach [John Fiore] likes to say,” said Rockets quarterback Drew Belcher. “It’s awesome. It helps me out knowing if we can only get a couple touchdowns, we can still get out of there with a win.”

Linebacker Liam Kenneally paced the defensive attack, racking up eight tackles for the Rockets (2-0). Robert DiLoreto and Zack Krugman, both part of the line-backing corps as well, added four tackles a piece in the win.

Reading ended the last two Brockton drives with interceptions - one by Joe Papplardo and one by Chris Godwin – to seal the win.

Much of the defensive success is because of defensive coordinator Dave Blanchard.

“Coach Blanchard has helped us a lot over the last 10 to 15 years, in so many capacities,” Rockets head coach John Fiore said. “He’s just an unbelievable teacher of the game and an unbelievable classroom teacher. What a job he’s done coaching. Look back at every big game we’ve had the last couple years, and he’s found a way to shut the other team down.”

Getting behind a good run game
The Rockets defense may have shined brightest on Friday night, but they wouldn’t have been able to mount much of an offensive attack without an effective running game.

Led by Belcher’s 76 yards on 11 carries, Reading ground-and-pounded their way to a 164 yards on the ground on 26 carries. Belcher also ran in their first score with 2:54 remaining in the first half from 12 yards out.

The rushing success was especially important considering Brockton’s made passing difficult all night. Belcher finished 3-for-10 passing for 27 yards and a TD, but was 0-for-7 in the first half.

Reading’s run game picked up steam on their second possession, when their offensive linemen, led by senior captain Matt Comerford at right tackle, started dominating the trenches.

“They were awesome,” Fiore said. “That was a big question mark coming into the year. People thought we were going to a finesse team but the last two games we were pretty heavy on the run, and pretty heavy running off tackle and downhill.”

Added Belcher: “They played great all night. They were just awesome. They deserve a lot of credit tonight. We were just finding the holes. The running backs also did a great job of lead blocking and we were getting off the ball well.”

The line paved the way for Reading to run three drives of at least eight plays, including their 15-play scoring attack to open the third quarter. Belcher finally capped the drive 7:38 in the quarter with a touchdown pass to Godwin.

“They’re a good team and they put some drives together,” Brockton head coach Peter Colombo said. “The game got short and we had to pass the ball which isn’t our game.”

The lateral that wasn’t
Brockton’s best chance to put points on the board was stopped by the referees before it was stopped by Reading’s defense.

On fourth-and-5 from the 14 yard line with 9:40 remaining, Austin Roberts took off on a QB-keeper. When it became clear he would be dragged down by a Reading defender, Roberts pitched the ball backward toward Ricardo Calixte, who snagged it and took off toward the end zone, being forced out at the one.

With players milling about after the play, the referees converged on the spot where Roberts was taken down. They deemed an inadvertent whistle was blown, and the down was re-played.

Brockton’s second fourth down attempt resulted in an incomplete pass, signaling a turnover on downs.

“They explained it was an inadvertent whistle,” Colombo said. “They took away one of Auggie’s [Roberts] magical tricks. He knew it was fourth down and he was trapped there. He made a lateral and we got it to the one yard line. That would’ve given us a chance to make it a one score game.

“He apologized to me - the ref. He thought he fumbled intentionally instead of lateralling it. The ball never got on the ground anyway, so it wasn’t a fumble.”

The play may have changed the game late, but Brockton knew they lost the game because of missed opportunities throughout.

“We didn’t execute on offense and I’m very disappointed with that,” Colombo said. “We need to learn from it. It’s a long road, we can’t let this effect us. We have to move on.”

Recap: No. 22 Brockton 21, No. 2 BC High 0

September, 8, 2012
9/08/12
12:16
AM ET
BROCKTON -- There have not been a lot of recent instances where Brockton was beaten as soundly as it was by BC High in last year's season opener.

The Eagles' 42-0 win was complete in every phase on their way to a Division 1 Super Bowl title. The loss sent Brockton into a tailspin that resulted in a 5-6 season, the program's first losing mark since 2001.

Well, last night at Marciano Stadium, the Boxers delivered a rousing counterpunch with a 21-0 shutout that felt even more decisive than the final score indicated.

"Last year, we couldn't match them, physically," said Brockton coach Peter Colombo. "This year, we obviously did."

And then some. Both lines dominated for the host Boxers, as they rushed for 310 yards and held BC High to 143 total and just 62 in the second half.

[+] EnlargeAustin Roberts
Jon Mahoney for ESPNBoston.comBrockton QB Austin Roberts orchestrated the offense in a vengeful shutout of rival BC High.
Senior quarterback Austin Roberts led the way for Brockton with 139 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, while junior tailback Aaron LeClair added 83 yards and a TD on seven attempts and fullback Ricardo Calixte contributed 61 yards on 10 rushes. Brockton only threw two passes (one interception, one incompletion), but didn't need to the way their front was blowing BC High off the ball. The Boxers completely eschewed the passing game in the second half with zero attempts but didn't punt, either. Their four second-half possessions read: touchdown, touchdown, lost fumble, touchdown.

The defense was physical and had its way between the hashes just as much as the offense did. Nowhere was that more apparent than at the end of the first half with the game still scoreless, when BC High marched inside the Brockton 10. On third down, quarterback Dan Collins took off and made a leaping attempt to the goal line but was leveled a yard short by a host of Brockton tacklers. After a timeout, BC High decided to go for it but Collins' sneak was stuffed by backup middle linebacker John Flaherty. The momentum lifted Brockton into the second half and the Boxers never looked back.

"I can't describe it. I'm still speechless, actually," said Brockton defensive back Micah Morel, who made an interception in the second half and played tight man coverage in the first half on Villanova-bound receiver Lincoln Collins. "I mean, I know it was only 21-0, but whenever you pitch a shutout against the No. 2 team in the state, that's saying something. That's saying a lot."

STRENGTH IN SENIORS
Usually, when BC High and Brockton meet up, no matter what the final score says, the ledger of the line play favors BC High. That was not the case Friday night. Not even close. Despite boasting Virginia-bound lineman Jack McDonald, BC High was pushed backwards on both sides of the ball by Brockton's line. The difference? For the first time in at least seven years (maybe longer), Brockton started five seniors on the offensive line. The defensive line is also a veteran unit. Four-year starters Joe Previte and Anthony Davis led the way, as Previte showed off the strength he displayed this offseason in throwing up a 410-pound bench press. On defense, players like Malik Cooley-Walker, Jeff Celestin and Max Castor were in the backfield all night.

LEADING ROLE
Like many teams, the Boxers have taken on the personality of their quarterback and it looks like it will pay big dividends this fall. Roberts is a tough runner who creates extra yards after contact and is simply a natural leader on the field. Many of his runs were just pure sneaks that he turned into 5-yard gains as the line pushed the pile forward. Coach Peter Colombo had the difficult task of retooling an offense that was shut out four times last season and built one around the strengths of his returning talent. The option scheme used most prominently in the college game by the likes of Navy and Georgia Tech can only work with a smart, tough quarterback and Roberts has both of those traits in abundance. He is also bigger, stronger and faster than he was last year, as he simply refused to go down on the first hit.

ROUGHED UP
BC High came into the game missing fullback/linebacker Luke Catarius to injury. The Eagles were also out three other starters on both lines, which needs to be factored in to an extent when taking into account how much Brockton controlled things physically. But at the end of the game, BC High suffered yet another brutal setback when quarterback Brendan Craven was carted off after getting hit low as he released a pass on the final possession of the game. In a scene eerily similar to Preston Cooper's season-ending ankle injury against Everett, Craven's injury looked very serious and left a pall over an already shaken squad.

BROCKTON 21, BC HIGH 0

BC High (0-1) 0 0 0 0 – 0
Brockton (1-0) 0 0 7 14 – 21

Third Quarter
Austin Roberts 1 run (Levon Merian kick)

Fourth Quarter
Aaron LeClair 10 run (Merian kick)
Roberts 23 run (Merian kick)
This season, we're trotting a new feature for football season that we started back in the spring. Each Wednesday, we'll pool the minds of our ESPN Boston staff and contributors to debate several hot button topics across the state in our Roundtable.

Without further ado, let's kick off the new season with these takes:

1. BC HIGH RECEIVED SOME BAD NEWS LAST WEEK WHEN RETURNING ESPN BOSTON ALL-STATE LINEBACKER LUKE CATARIUS SUFFERED A HAIRLINE FRACTURE ON HIS ANKLE. HOW WILL THE EAGLES COPE?

Brendan Hall, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: Over the last decade, BC High has proven to be a program with enough sufficient depth to compensate when star players miss a significant time with injury. However, it’s different when you lose the quarterback of your defense, especially when it’s a player as special a talent as the Eagles’ Luke Catarius.

In the scrimmage against Mansfield, after Catarius went out with the ankle injury, the Hornets went to the underneath game and exploited the flats for big gains. There was also one big miscommunication in the secondary that allowed Kevin Maki to wheel right through the middle of the deep field for a 45-yard completion. Not that this won’t be shored up before Friday’s big tilt with Brockton, but it is worth pointing out.

The good news, obviously, is that the Eagles’ Catholic Conference season doesn’t start until late October – but with Xaverian and St. John’s Prep looking sharp, it will be obvious if this team isn’t in proper shape. With that in mind, I expect Brandon Owens’ role at outside linebacker to have an even bigger significance than before. The pressure will also be on the front four, led by Jaleel Johnson, to buy the back seven time.

Scott Barboza, ESPN Boston High Schools editor: In terms of talent, I think the Eagles can get along. My greatest concern for BC High’s defense without Catarius relates to communication. The linebacker has been the leader of the defensive huddle, with messages from the sideline passed along to the inside linebacker. On field, Catarius was the quarterback of the defense as well, not only knowing his own responsibilities, but that of his teammates. That comes from knowledge of the system and cannot be replicated; it only comes through game-condition experience. The Eagles have a bevy of returning starters on the defensive line and secondary to shoulder the load but this one hurts. Will they rely on Brandon Owens to not only be the feature back, but take on more Catarius’ two-way role? We saw what happened last year when Preston Cooper went down at running back and how Deontae Ramey-Doe filled those shoes. So perhaps this will be more of the same for a deep Eagles’ squad. But a player of Catarius’ ilk cannot simply be replaced.

Adam Kurkjian, ESPN Boston correspondent: Without question, losing one of the top two-way players in the state will have a negative impact on BC High. The Eagles will not be able to replace his production easily and there may be an extra loss or two that comes down their way early on because of it. That said, if he is back by the time Catholic Conference play rolls around, BC High will still be one of the favorites to make it back to the playoffs. But still his loss cannot be understated.

Bruce Lerch, ESPN Boston correspondent: Believe it or not, I think the Eagles will be fine defensively. Obviously, Catarius is a one-of-a-kind talent with the ability to singlehandedly change opposing offensive gameplans. BC High will simply lean more on the unit as a whole rather than an individual to bail them out, as Catarius often did with his read and react style of play. Linebackers Danny Collins and Brandon Owens are leaders, defensive linemen like Billy Breen and Jaleel Johnson will take up blockers and make a few plays on their own, and the secondary will have to be more active in supporting.

Oddly enough, I think it's on offense where the Eagles may miss Catarius the most. A bruising fullback, Catarius helped pave the way for Preston Cooper and Deontay Ramey-Doe to pile up yardage last season. New backs Owens and Skyler Evans, along with a mostly inexperienced line, would have benefitted greatly from having Catarius leading the charge.

John Botelho, Editor-in-Chief, South Shore Sports Journal: I'm not even sure this Luke Catarius injury will have any real impact on BC. And I don't mean that as a slight to Catarius - in fact, I think he's the best linebacker in the state. My point of view though is this is a non-issue for the Eagles for two reasons.

First of all, replacing Catarius obviously wouldn't be easy, but aren't teams in the Catholic Conference best suited to replace someone they lose to an injury? Those teams are so loaded and so deep that it seems they have significant depth at every position. Or at least it seemed that way when Preston Cooper - who was arguably the best running back in the state in the first half of last year - went down with a broken ankle. All BC did was go on to win the Super Bowl as Deontae Ramey-Doe stepped in and the Eagles never missed a beat.

Secondly, and most important, is that BC doesn't open up league play until October 26 when they host Malden Catholic. I think even without Catarius, it'd be considered an upset if the Eagles lost that match-up. If it really comes to it, they don't need Catarius back until November 4th, week eight of the season, when they travel to Xaverian. It's reasonable to think that a hairline fracture would be healed up and they'd have him back by then.

2. WHICH REGION OF THE STATE HAS THE BEST UP-AND-COMING TALENT?

Hall: The emergence of Springfield-area talent over the last few years is one of the best stories developing this fall. But in terms of pure talent, for me it’s got to be the Cape & Islands region.

Every year, there seems to be a Cape player that seemingly washes ashore to earn a Division 1 scholarship. Two years ago, it was Randall Jette from Martha’s Vineyard going to UMass. Last year, Nauset’s Brendan Battles-Santos surprising everyone at UConn’s prospect camp to earn a scholarship practically on the spot. This past summer, UMass dug back into the region to pluck 6-foot-7 tight end Terrel Correia out of Nantucket, with intentions of making him an offensive tackle.

We’ll obviously be watching Correia closely this fall, but he isn’t even the best player from the region. Barnstable quarterback Nick Peabody is among the state’s best, with Ivy League interest. Mashpee has three athletes with Division 1 potential in tackle Nate Chrzanowski, running back Jared Taylor (he of the 300-yard epic last year at Gillette Stadium) and his new backfield mate Malik Lee, a Cape Cod Tech transfer with plenty of upside at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds.

Also keep an eye on Dennis-Yarmouth’s Joe Tyo, who still has to fill out but is projectable with a long 6-foot-5 frame and some active footwork. Falmouth sophomore Craig Green will be an intriguing prospect to monitor, after running a 10.6-second 100-meter dash last spring at the New England Track and Field Championships. And as good as Darien Fernandez was on the basketball court for Wareham last winter, some believe he’s an even better running back.

Barboza: I’m looking no further than our statewide preseason Top 25 poll to find two Springfield squads (Central at No. 14 and Putnum at No. 23) and another (Springfield Commerce) knocking on the door. Central is retooled for another run at Longmeadow in Div. 1 West with some key returnees from last year’s squad that made it to Gillette Stadium. Quarterback Cody Williams could be a breakout performer this year and Shawn Lockett is a legitimate force to deal with on the lines. Melquawn Pinkney might be gone, but the cupboard’s not bare for Putnam with Wayne Lowery, shouldering more of the running load while playing lock-down corner. Sha’ki Holines (UConn) and Hassan Graham (not to be confused with the Patriots receiver of yesteryear) grade out at their positions against anybody across the state.

Kurkjian: This is a tough question because the season has not started yet, so it is hard to assess which region has the top players. As it stands now, though, the North Shore looks to have an overflow of top players if you consider Everett part of that region. Also, don't forget BC High's Brandon Owens hails from Salem.

Botelho: Last fall made it hard to argue with any region being more up-and-coming than the Cape. Four of the nine Eastern Mass. Super Bowl champs were from the Cape and Islands (Dennis-Yarmouth Div. 2A, Bourne Div. 3A, Mashpee Div. 4 and Nantucket Div. 5). Not only did those teams each win Super Bowls last season, but the Cape teams outscored opponents 120-29 in those games. Only Bourne had a competitive game, beating defending Super Bowl champ Hamilton-Wenham, 16-14.

3. WHICH RUNNING BACK WILL HAVE THE BIGGEST BREAKOUT?

Hall: There’s a lot of directions you can go with this one. The addition of Malik Lee, and his soft hands, to Mashpee’s already-dangerous backfield has to feel like a high school offensive coordinator’s dream. Out west, Springfield folks are excited about two potential breakout candidates in Putnam’s Wayne Lowery and Central’s Aaron Owens. St. John's of Shrewsbury's Shadrach Abrokwah is bound for a breakout in John Andreoli's new Oregon-style "blur" offense.

However, I’m going with BC High’s Brandon Owens. That he is already committed to a Division 1 FCS school (Bryant) despite only seeing part-time duty one way last season speaks to his upside. As a runner, there is no wangle to his makeup – he’s a north-south, one-cut guy with a powerful frame that accelerates quickly to hit the hole at full speed.

Losing fullback Luke Catarius for the first six weeks of the season means the Eagles may have to get more creative with their offensive sets. But after seeing him take the corner on toss plays out of “Ace” formations, in the Mansfield scrimmage, I think he’s up for any task the coaching staff throws at him.

Barboza: I think we’re all hedging that Malik Lee of Mashpee will have a monster season in his first year with the Falcons, but I’m going to buck the trend here and go with another runner inside the South Shore League. Abington’s Babila Fonkem tallied seven touchdowns (five of those came in one game against backyard rival Archbishop Williams) and ran for over 1,000 yards last season. I think the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder has the potential to more than double last year’s tally as a feature back during Jim Kelleher’s swan song as head coach.

Kurkjian: From the looks of it, Brandon Owens has had a spectacular preseason and he will be the feature back in what expects to be another punishing ground attack for BC High. It appears as if the Eagles have just reloaded there.

Lerch: Everett's Kenny Calaj is already something of a household name, having been an impact weapon in Everett's offense the past two seasons. The majority of that. however, came as a pass catcher. With a pair of untested quarterbacks still battling to replace record-setting Jonathan DiBiaso, not to mention a mammoth group of offensive linemen, it would only make sense for the Tide to return to the ground game and Calaj should benefit as the main ball-carrier. I'm not sure what the record for all-purpose yardage in Massachusetts history, but Calaj is in a position to do some historic things as a senior.

Botelho: Arcel Armstead is primed to have an elite year at running back for Bridgewater-Raynham this season. It's no secret that Dan Buron-coached teams run the ball as well as anyone, and with both Nick Schlatz and Brandon Morin gone, Armstead will be the featured back for the Trojans. His athleticism alone would be enough for him to have a big year in that system, but B-R returns their entire offensive line from a season ago, led by 6-foot-4, 260-pound Joey MacInnis, meaning the sky is the limit for Armstead.

Don't sleep on guys like Jon Hurvitz at Duxbury, who is the best athlete returning to the Dragons who will need to remake their identity a bit without Matt O'Keefe under center. Hurvitz runs hard and has a chance to be the first running back Duxbury has built their offense around in recent memory.

Also, the South Shore League seems littered with potential breakout candidates. Jared Taylor is probably the best well-known running back who was a back-up last season. He flashed his electric running ability in the Super Bowl to the tune of more than 300 yards. But he won't be the only guy terrorizing defense in the league.

Babila Fonkem returns to Abington for a senior year with added size from his 1,000-yard campaign a year ago. Brian Kilmain, a junior for the Green Wave, could give them the most dangerous two-headed backfield in the league.

Andrew Benson, who looks like he'll officially be a quarterback, is ready to break out at East Bridgewater. He could end up running for more yards than ESPN All-Stater Casey DeAndrade a year ago, for more than one reason. Last year, DeAndrade split carries with Tim O'Brien. While Benson will share the backfield duties with Kevin Lynch, he'll see a higher percentage of touches than DeAndrade last year. Also, E-B's offense was so explosive last year that DeAndrade (and O'Brien) had their numbers cut down because the Vikings had big enough leads that the starters weren't on the field a lot in the fourth quarter. Only when they played Abington and Mashpee did starters stay in the entire game. This year's team will rank among the best in the SSL, but I don't think they'll put teams away so quickly this time around.

4. TAKE A LOOK AT THE FIRST MONTH OF BROCKTON’S SCHEDULE, AND PREDICT A RECORD.

Hall: This is going to upset some of our readers in the City of Champions, but there’s a realistic possibility of the Boxers coming out of the gate 0-4. Of those first four opponents – BC High, Reading, St. John’s Prep, Xaverian – nobody’s gotten worse from 2011, while I feel Brockton is still sitting in second gear after last year’s disappointing end.

That said, it sounds like Bryant-bound running back/defensive back Micah Morel will be ready for Friday’s opener against BC High after injuring his shoulder in the preseason, so that’s a positive sign. As for record, I think the Boxers will steal a game, either against Prep or Reading, to start off 1-3.

Barboza: Well, let’s go the tape … And hold me to this. I’m going:

Week 1, vs. BC High – Loss

Week 2, at Reading – Win

Week 3, vs. Xaverian – Loss

Week 4, vs. St. John’s Prep – Loss

That would make the Boxers 1-3 rolling into October. Then I think they rebound with three straight wins and finish out the season at 6-5 and represent the Big Three in the Division 1 playoffs as a very dangerous team after enduring a trying first month.

Kurkjian: With so many question marks surrounding this offense, it is hard to project exactly how the Boxers will fare. That said, this is a brutal start to the season. The feeling here is that Brockton manages to steal one and get off to a 1-3 start.

Lerch: It's a very real possibility that Brockton goes 0-4, and I think best case scenario is that they salvage a 2-2 mark. Any better than that and I wonder if the Catholic Conference would have an issue with adding a "league game" between Brockton and Everett to play for its championship.

Botelho: Brockton has the best program in state history. Literally. Their 751 all-time wins ranks first in the state by a wide margin (no one else even has 600 wins). They've also captured 11 Super Bowl titles in 40 years. That said, the last few years haven't been what Boxer fans are used to. They missed the playoffs two years in a row, and last season slumped to a disappointing 5-6.

All those struggles did was ignite something in the Boxers, who look primed to return to the postseason this season. I'm going to say Brockton gets through that portion of the schedule (one Peter Colombo said might rank as the toughest in New England) with a winning record. I'm a believer in Brockton this year, and they'll knock off at least one Catholic Conference opponent, as well as take care of business with Reading and Fitchburg. My guess is the Boxers end up 3-2 in this stretch (including a loss to BC High week one, which they'll avenge in the Super Bowl in December).

5. WHAT GAME WILL BE THE MOST THRILLING OF WEEK 1?

Hall: On a state-wide level, Everett’s trip to Leominster is certainly garnering the most interest, and deservedly so. The atmosphere there is going to be electric, with projections of anywhere up to 7-8,000 for expected attendance at Doyle Field. But, at the risk of being the wet blanket here, find me a pundit that doesn’t expect Everett to win.

Putnam-Central will be an intriguing battle out west, but I’m going with an underrated Saturday afternoon showdown in Shrewsbury, where St. John’s will host Holy Name in their customary season-opener. For all of Holy Name’s success under Mike Pucko, the Naps have never beaten St. John’s under John Andreoli. Last year’s contest, a 22-21 St. John’s thriller, was just epic on all fronts. And if there’s any year for Holy Name to get that elusive win over the Pioneers, it’s this one.

Barboza: This might not be the most high profile game on the docket, but I’m looking at the good ole fashioned brawl in the backyard between Dighton-Rehoboth and Somerset. The Falcons, coached by Somerset alum Dave Driscoll, are looking to rebound a bit in the South Coast Conference this season behind physical tackle Chuddy Nwachukwu and the Raiders could bounce back from a rebuilding year last year to finish atop the Eastern Athletic Conference this year. This has always been an underrated rivalry game in Southeastern Mass. and it's a great way to kick off the season for both squads.

Kurkjian: When in doubt, go with the No. 1 team opening up on the road against a program and community brimming with optimism over a Super Bowl win. No matter what happens, the atmosphere for Friday night's Everett at Leominster game will be electric.

Lerch: With apologies to several other high profile (BC High/Brockton) and not-so-high-profile (East Boston/Blue Hills will be a barnburner) matchups certainly deserving attention, the game at the top of my marquee is Duxbury at Bridgewater-Raynham (Saturday, 4 p.m.). Two programs very similar in the foundations programmed by a pair of tremendous head coaches, and both with an eye on getting a jump start on the "reload" process should be ready to go toe-to-toe for 44 minutes (or more).

Botelho: My favorite week one match-up is always Bridgewater-Raynham and Duxbury (especially this year, where these two teams grabbed the top two spots in our pre-season poll over at SportsJournal.co). Both perennial Super Bowl contenders, if either team doesn't bring their 'A' game from the get-go, they start the season with a loss. Dave Maimaron and Dan Buron always have their kids supremely prepared, so this one has a playoff atmosphere in September.

Scrimmage Slants: Brockton vs. St. John's (S)

August, 25, 2012
8/25/12
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St. John's defenseBrendan Hall/ESPNBoston.com St. John's defense showed plenty of pop this morning in its annual preseason scrimmage with Brockton.
SHREWSBURY –- Thoughts and observations from this morning’s annual preseason scrimmage between Brockton and St. John’s of Shrewsbury, on the grass at Pioneer Field:

Blurring the lines: In three series of starters against starters, each team scored once. But overall, I would say St. John’s was the aggressor for most of the morning, given the efficiency of their “Blur” offense, a very uptempo no-huddle look with spread principles, and the way they exploited the perimeters for multiple first downs.

One particular sequence that stands out is in the Pioneers’ first offensive series. Tailback Shadrach Abrokwah took an inside dive handoff and just before he hit the hole, cut back to his left and followed a big seam 15 yards down the left side. The Pioneers, with the ball now at the 10, went straight into the hurry-up. Before Brockton’s defense could get settled, Andrew Smiley hit Davon Jones in the right flat on a flare route, and the sophomore did the rest, diving over the pylon for the Pioneers’ only score.

“It really comes down to conditioning, staying focused, and making sure that we can execute our assignments,” head coach John Andreoli said. “It’s ball security and it’s playing penalty-free, because you really cannot stop that offense for reasons that you cause yourself. You’ve gotta make the defense make a mistake.

“You can’t make a mistake to stop that offense, you have to make sure it’s moving and you’re executing. That’s why I thought it was a good day for us today.”

Key injuries: Scary moment for the Pioneers on their second play from scrimmage, when incumbent starting quarterback Connor Kurtz went down with an injury to his left knee after getting his leg tangled in the pile while getting dropped for a loss. A diagnosis on the severity of the injury, or to what extent, was unknown after the scrimmage ended. Kurtz had to be helped off the field, and was seen on crutches on the sideline.

Kurtz’s backup, Smiley, took over duties for the rest of the afternoon. The 6-foot-4 junior looked sharp at times, tossing a 40-yard fade to Jones in the third offensive series, and making a few plays with his feet after getting flushed out of the pocket.

Meanwhile Brockton lost defensive back Micah Morel, a preseason ESPN Boston All-State selection, in the third series with an injury to his left shoulder. Morel will be re-evaluated on Monday, but having him out for an extended period of time could be a bad blow to the Boxers’ defense.

Shadrach reads and reacts: When you hear the term “blur offense”, it’s usually in reference to the no-huddle spread scheme run by Chip Kelly’s Oregon Ducks, who often try to snap the ball in 15 to 20 seconds. After evaluating his skill personnel, Andreoli felt his offense was up to the task, and as previously mentioned they looked crisp at times.

One of the foundations of this offense is the “Inside Zone Read”, a dive play out of shotgun that typically involves zone blocking principles up front, and a sharp cutback from the tailback. The play made a Heisman candidate out of LaMichael James last year; here in Shrewsbury, the play could lead to a breakout senior season for Abrokwah.

At 5-foot-7 and 205 pounds, and blessed with both speed and a powerful lower body, Abrokwah is essentially a sprinter in a hockey player’s body. His low center of gravity makes it difficult to get a clean shot, and today he used that to his advantage, repeatedly cutting back to the weak side on these zone plays to run off multiple gains of 10 yards or more.

“It’s all in the zone play,” Abrokwah said. “Once the offense flows one way, most likely the cutback is going to be on the other side, so I read my blockers, was patient, and just hit the hole.”

How quickly does he decide where he’s going to go on a zone play?

“It’s all instinct,” he smiled. “You have to feel the offense, and that’s what I did.”

New-look backfield: Devoid of a pure fullback, Brockton didn’t run its trademark Pro formation today, instead opting for a modified spread triple option popularized by college programs such as Georgia Tech and Navy.

The change was made to better utilize senior quarterback Augie Roberts’ dual-threat capabilities, and things started well in the first series. Roberts is a runner first, and on the second play from scrimmage he demonstrated his running ability, slipping outside a crack back block from Jeff Celeste for a 25-yard gain. But he also has a quality arm, connecting with Lorenzo Lovesy on a fly route for a 50-yard touchdown pass that was negated by a block in the back (an excessive celebration penalty was tacked on for good measure, too).

The Boxers rotated Morel and Aaron LeClair at one wingback position, Louis Jimenez and Moise Edouard at the other, and senior Ricardo Calixte at the fullback spot. Pat Healy is also in the mix at wingback, a baseball outfielder who is back in football after taking the year off.

“I just think it takes advantage of Austin’s skills,” head coach Peter Colombo said. “You didn’t see the whole package obviously today, and he’s not limited to that, but I just think it gives us a good opportunity for him to take advantage of his skills. We’ll see, we’ll adjust as it needs.”

The Boxers were good at times, but some of the problems that plagued them in last year’s disappointing 5-6 campaign –- namely, red zone struggles –- reared their heads. Jimenez did score from 10 yards out on the Boxers’ second drive, but on the first drive they were halted at the Pioneers’ five yard line. First, Matt Murphy made a stuff of the ballcarrier at the line of scrimmage. Then on the next play, fourth and goal from the five, Roberts was sacked by Andrew Sullivan.

It was a cycle that flashed in and out all afternoon, with the Pioneers bringing the heat in the front seven behind Connor Gatto, Sam Norton and Barron Dandridge.

Jones brings the wood, and the flash: I’m going to try my best to avoid the hyperbole highway this season with Davon Jones –- he is just a sophomore, after all, and he did fumble a ball away -– but it’s hard not to be impressed every time he comes to play.

Roaming around at free safety, Jones covers a lot of ground in the secondary, and played the bump well in the slot when the Pioneers went to a man press in the red zone. He showed off his live hips on offense, plugging himself into the slot and making defenders miss with multiple jukes.

But the trait that probably sticks out most at this point is his physicality. As the last line of defense against the run, Jones brings considerable pop for someone that’s 6-foot and 180 pounds, and it is certainly loud.

Earlier in the week, Andreoli told ESPNBoston.com of Jones, “If he continues to develop the way he develops, the way he’s playing now, he’s got the ability to play at the highest level” of college football.

“He’s a football player,” Andreoli said. “He doesn’t want to come off the field, he doesn’t care how tired he is, he’ll take a sip and get back on the field. He loves to play the game. And he plays hard, and he plays it the right way. He’s just got to continue to feel comfortable in our scheme, get good at reading receivers.”

Referring to Jones’ success so far as a guard for the Pioneers’ state semifinalist basketball team, Andreoli continued, “The thing too about him is, he’s played in a lot of big games –- basketball-wise, and in football. So he’s used to competing on the big stage here at the varsity level, so he can just basically play the game and get in the flow of the game.”

Jones says he’s learned a lot in the last 12 months, and has become more vocal in the secondary, calling out checks. Asked about those progressions he’s made in the mental side, Jones chalked it up to “muscle memory”.

“The coaches just pound it into my head – pass first, run second,” he said. “So I see it, and I just come up running fast.”

A Morel of a story for No. 22 Brockton

August, 22, 2012
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If there’s one word that Micah Morel could use to describe his anticipation for the 2012 football season, it isn’t excited or nervous or happy.

Since Brockton lost to Bridgewater-Raynham last Thanksgiving to be kept out of the playoffs with a 5-6 overall record, the senior safety has felt something different all offseason.

Hungry.

Hungry to prove that one of the worst statistical seasons in the program’s storied history is also a thing of the past, hungry to show that he can be as good as the many recent Boxer safeties to go on to play Division I football, hungry to help a famished offense reach the end zone after not being able to do so at an alarming rate in 2011.

Most of all, Morel is starving, ravenous in anticipation to regain a once-proud program’s place among the state’s elite.

“There was a lot of emotion and feeling right after the season,” Morel said. “The number one thing is I’m just hungry to get back to what Brockton always was. There’s been so many greats and the last two years were really disappointing. We really need to turn the ship around and really, really get the ball rolling this year. We’ve really worked so hard as a team. We just need to take one good thing as it comes.”

Once a promising third baseman and outfielder on the baseball diamond, Morel has focused his workouts all offseason on improving himself as a football player under the tutelage of Michael Williams, who supervises an intense training regiment to those in the city who choose to accept it. Morel calls the workouts “one of the hardest things we’ve ever done.”

In addition to the current players that participate, some of the former Boxers that have moved on to the next level also come back and get involved. One former player that has had a particular influence on this group is current Boston College safety Dominique Williams, who is Michael’s nephew.

“I get to talk to [Dominique] quite a bit,” said Morel, who made four interceptions in his first year as a starter last season. “We text each other quite a bit and talk about football, life. I really listen to any tips he gives to me and the rest of the team. After last year, we’re really, really focused on working together as a team. What he’s said to us motivate us really got us. I can honestly say we worked harder as a team than any season I can think of.”

“The thing [Morel] has in common [with previous Boxer defensive backs] is the awareness you look for in a guy in that position,” said Brockton defensive coordinator and secondary coach Bobby O’Neill. “He understands the big picture, takes on the responsibility of making the checks.

“A lot of those guys going into their senior year, it just clicked and became good football players. At that position, it doesn’t always happen overnight. As a junior, Dominique would be in position a lot of times and just didn’t finish. As a senior, he did. [Morel] is very similar. In the run game, I think you’ll see a vast improvement. I think the pass game he’s going to be fine. He learned a lot last year. I expect it to all come together. He’s worked hard. He’s been in the system three years. I expect it to all come together.”

Morel definitely wants to put his name in there as the next Brockton defensive back to get a Division I scholarship. But he makes a clear distinction that the only thing that will fill the hole in his stomach left by last year’s famine is getting his high school team back to its winning ways.

“I’m getting some good interest (from colleges), but I’m focused on winning right now,” he said. “Once we keep winning one game at a time, the rest will take care of itself. I’m not concerned with playing selfish, individual ball out there. All that matters is winning and the rest will take care of itself.”

Sounds like he’s ready to eat.

BROCKTON AT A GLANCE
2011: 5-6 (2-0 in the Big Three)
Coach: Peter Colombo (10th season, 77-29-1)
Key Returnees: Austin Roberts, Sr. QB, 5-10, 185 lbs.; Micah Morel, Sr. S/RB/WR, 6-0, 190 lbs.; Joe Previte, Sr. OT/DT, 6-3, 250 lbs.; Anthony Davis, Sr. G/DT, 5-11, 250 lbs.; Moise Eduard, Sr. LB/RB, 5-8, 220 lbs.; Ricardo Calixte, Sr. OLB/RB/WR, 6-0, 195 lbs.; Malik Cooley-Walker, Sr. DT, 5-8, 240 lbs.; Jeff Celestin, Sr. DE/TE, 6-0, 220 lbs.; Max Castor, Sr. DE/TE, 6-0, 215 lbs.; Matt Adams, Sr. C, 6-2, 200 lbs.; Aaron LeClair, Jr. DB/RB, 5-8, 170 lbs.; Kervin Jean-Claude, Jr. LB, 6-0, 200 lbs.; Sebastian Porter, Jr. OT, 6-2, 270 lbs.
Strengths: Defense, offseason commitment.
Weaknesses: Offense, tough schedule.

Outlook: After a disappointing season in 2011, the Boxers have the potential to field the type of defense that this traditional powerhouse is used to with experience returning at every positional unit. Morel and LeClair lead the secondary while big things are expected from Calixte, Jean-Claude and Eduard at linebacker. Celestin, Castor, Cooley-Walker, Davis and Previte all saw significant action on the defensive line in 2011. However, it’s the offense that needs a major rebuilding job after getting shut out four times a year ago. Roberts returns as the team’s signal-caller and promises to steer an option attack that will feature a committee of backs. The offensive line returns four-year starters Previte and Davis and will be an overall experienced group that figures to be physically stronger than last year’s. We will know just how much this team has recovered from last year right away when it takes on BC High, Reading, Xaverian and St. John’s Prep in its first four games.

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