Boston High School: Plymouth North

Plymouth North sophomore lefthander Joe Walsh and Franklin Pierce junior catcher Matt Walsh are brothers. And that's about where the similarities end.

"Joey is a fierce competitor, but Matty was a grinder, he was a lot more outwardly competitive and Joey is much more laid back," said North head coach Dwayne Follette, their uncle.

The stocky Matt is more decorated, having led the Blue Eagles to two MIAA Division 2 state titles in four years, earning ESPN Boston All-State honors in two sports, and winning Northeast-10 Rookie of the Year in 2012.

But here's something the taller, lankier Joe has on his older brother: throwing a no-hitter in just his second varsity start.

The Eagles beat Marshfield last night under the lights, 1-0, thanks to Joe's efforts on the mound, striking out eight and walking two on just 80 pitches. Flashing a fastball in the 85-87 mile per hour range early, Joe's slider picked up sharply in the middle innings, getting five of his eight K's in the fourth, fifth and sixth stanzas. He didn't labor that much either, typically getting ahead in counts for quick innings.

The no-hitter was kept alive in the third inning by arguably the play of the game in centerfield, a diving snare of a sinking line drive into center that looked like it was going to drop.

"Incredible catch, that was the play of the game," Follette said.

When it comes to work ethic, Joe takes his cues from his older brother, who is set to play in his third season of Cape Cod League baseball this summer, with the Orleans Cardinals. And the potential is already looking promising, with Division 1 schools such as St. John's and Boston College expressing early interest.

Follette compares Joe to a South Shore legend, former Bridgewater-Raynham lefty Eddie Campbell, who was drafted in the 15th round by the Seattle Mariners last June after a standout career at Virginia Tech.

"His promise is phenomenal, he takes baseball very seriously," Follette said. "I'll tell you what, he does remind me of...Eddie Campbell. Eddie had more of a 10-12 curveball, but they're both tall, athletic lefties. I think Joey throws harder at this age, I think by his senior year he could be a 90-plus mile per hour pitcher -- and you know what that means for a prospect. The sky is the limit for him."

Thanksgiving Day: To play or not to play?

November, 26, 2013
11/26/13
7:36
PM ET
WESTWOOD, Mass. – On a cold and dreary Tuesday afternoon, Xaverian football went through its practice paces at the high school. It was like any other practice, except that it’s St. John’s Prep week. The Hawks kicked off the session with a chorus of “Beat Prep” after running through stretches.

Although Xaverian still has another game to play past its Thanksgiving Day duel against its Catholic Conference rival – the Division 1 state championship against Central Catholic to be played Dec. 7 at Gillette Stadium – they weren’t looking any further than the task at hand.

SportsNation

If you were the head coach of a state championship-bound team, how would you approach Thanksgiving Day?

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    39%
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    11%
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    50%

Discuss (Total votes: 498)

The Hawks are one of 12 teams in Massachusetts presented with the same conundrum this week: With a state championship game looming, how do you approach a game that essentially has become exhibition?

Now, with that being said, in this scenario, the Catholic Conference is a bit of an outlier. With the MIAA’s new playoff guidelines taking hold this year, the conference is an exception in the state, as league foes meet only once on Thanksgiving to count for its regular date, keeping with tradition. So while other Thanksgiving rivals who also happen to be league foes might be playing for the third time this season (Holliston vs. Westwood, Plymouth North vs. Plymouth South, etc.), Xaverian will be seeing the Eagles for the first time come Thursday.

It also sets up a duel for the Catholic Conference regular-season championship – no small pot.

And so Hawks head coach Charlie Stevenson is preparing as if there were no tomorrow.

“If one of my players didn’t want to go out there and play Thursday and beat Prep, I would think there’s something wrong with them,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson stands in support of a handful of statewide coaches who are staring down state championship games beyond Thanksgiving who also answered the question of whether to play starters on Thursday with the retort, “Let them play.”

So, during the weekend, we took the matter to those who will be charting the course with the question of whether to play, or not to play.

The responses were varied, from Dennis-Yarmouth head coach Paul Funk’s Belichick-ian, noncommittal approach, to this pearl from Plymouth South’s Scott Fry, on the status of star running back Dylan Oxsen: “You don’t think we should give it to Oxsen 30 times on Thanksgiving Day?”

Here it is in their words:

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Peter Afanasiw, Cohasset

“We’re going to try to roll out a team that stays healthy, competes and, hopefully, comes away with yet another win. No team in school history has ever registered 11 wins.”

Brian Aylward, Tewsbury

“It is a rite of passage for any football player that plays football in Tewksbury. It's an 80-year tradition against Wilmington; it's the one chance you get to play them in front of all your family and represent your town and do battle. And that's exactly what we're going to do. We have to. We're not good enough not to play."

Scott Fry, Plymouth South

“We expected, if we won this game, that a lot of our kids weren’t going to be playing on Thanksgiving. It’s the third time we’re going to play [Plymouth] North and we’ve already canceled the J.V. game because of that reason. The young kids are going to play on Thanksgiving. You’re going to need a different roster for the Thanksgiving Day game.”

Paul Funk, Dennis-Yarmouth

“We’re going to do what’s best for our football team.”

Ken LaChapelle, Northbridge

"We're going out to win that game. I'm not going to have Uxbridge start chanting the score [if they win] during the basketball season. I'm playing to win that game. Do I maybe not run [quarterback Koby Schofer] 20 times? Maybe. But I'm playing to win the game and Uxbridge better be prepared because we're coming to win."

Michael Lynn, Littleton

"We can’t even put some of our backup kids in there, it’s not safe. We’re 11-0, we want to protect our perfect season, so we’re going to have to play our starters and our premier guys as much as we have to — we don’t have much of a choice. To me this is the fatal flaw in the playoff system, Thanksgiving being sandwiched in between the state semifinals and state finals. For everybody but 12 schools it’s not a problem, but for those 12 schools it’s definitely a dilemma."

Sean Mulcahy, Doherty

"We have a big Thanksgiving game to get through first. Burncoat has ruined a lot of my Thanksgivings, so I'll make sure we have our kids ready for them come Thursday. We will be playing our starters. I'm not planning to go out and play for hopefully a state title and then walk around the streets of Worcester and have some Burncoat fan come up to me and say, ‘but we beat you.’ Hopefully, that's not happening."

Mike Redding, Mansfield

"We’re going to play to win. Obviously, we’d like to get our guys out early. Two years ago, we won on the last play of the game and, last year, they won. We want to beat Foxborough. We don’t want to be 11-1 as a state champion; we want to be 12-0. We want to beat our rival, but it would be in our best interest to score early and get some guys out and get some guys rested as soon as possible."

(Editor’s note: Correspondents Chris Bradley, Phil Garceau, Paul Lazdowski, John McGuirk and Josh Perry contributed original reporting to this story.)

Mr. Football Watch: Playoffs, Week 3

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

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

***

THE CONTENDERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIVE ON THE RISE

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

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

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

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

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

PLAYOFF STATISTICAL LEADERS

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

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

D3 Southeast final: Plymouth South 7, Plymouth North 6

November, 15, 2013
11/15/13
11:54
PM ET
PLYMOUTH, Mass. -- Over the last two seasons, star running back Dylan Oxsen has been the driving force behind much of Plymouth South's success.

On Friday night, as South downed visiting crosstown rival Plymouth North, 7-6, to capture the Div. 3 Southeast Sectional crown, it became obvious early in the contest that Oxsen wasn't headed for the explosive performance many were predicting.

A slow start saw Oxsen rush for just two yards in the first quarter. The second quarter was better as Oxsen ripped off 45 yards before halftime.

Just three plays into the second half though, Oxsen fumbled away his first of two turnovers in the third quarter. That first one set up North's lone score of the game -- a 1-yard plunge on fourth down with 3:40 from QB Cullin Cosgrove. Dylan Anti blocked the ensuing point-after try, setting the stage for the comeback win.

The game looked like it might slip away from the Panthers when Oxsen fumbled his second carry of the next possession, setting the Eagles up inside the 50 again.

This time though, the defense pushed North backward before forcing a three-and-out. Instead of pinning South deep in their territory, Plymouth North was only able to get off an 11-yard punt because Matt Bremis tore through the line and nearly batted the kick down.

"Give it up to the defense," said Oxsen. "I fumbled twice and they still held North to one touchdown. They did a great job."

Even after losing two fumbles, there was never any question that South would be going back to Oxsen.

"If we're going to win a game, we're going to win it with Dylan Oxsen," said South coach Scott Fry. "Two fumbles or not, he's going to be the guy who has to carry the load to get us into the end zone. He hasn't scored 60-something touchdowns the last two years without being our go-to guy."

Oxsen rewarded that mindset on the very first play, tearing off an impressive 28-yard and moving the ball down to North's 35.

That was the first of eight consecutive carries for the go-to guy, twice more moving the chains before setting up a first-and-goal from the 6.

After Bremis took a carry, the ball went back to Oxsen on a sweep left. He broke one tackle near line of scrimmage and shot in for a touchdown, tying the game.

Gordan Fitzgerald's extra point put South up with 5:03 to play.

A facemask penalty on the kickoff pushed PN to midfield, but when a fourth-and-6 pass attempt fell to the ground, the Panthers took over with just under three minutes to play.

Once again, Oxsen -- who finished with 160 yards on a career-high 39 carries -- proved to be the go-to guy, taking five straight carries and picking up a pair of first downs before South took knees and advanced to next Friday's Div. 3 South game against Stoughton, with a trip to Gillette Stadium on the line.

THE LESS-HERALDED LEADER: Bremis helped set up Oxsen's go-ahead score with his pressure on the punt, but that was just the tip of his impact in the win. He was perhaps the key cog in slowing down North's Christian Carr, who rushed for more than 350 yards a week ago.

Against South, however, Carr was limited to 69 yards on 22 carries. Meanwhile, Bremis racked up a team-high 10 tackles from his linebacker position.

He also played an important role in the offense, rushing for 26 yards on eight carries in short-yardage situations. More importantly, he paved the way for Oxsen — especially on the game-winning drive — as a lead-blocker, and sealed off a would be tackler on the 28-yard gain.

"He's a fullback in an I-formation," said Fry. "He doesn't get a lot of press. Ya’ know, it's Oxsen, Oxsen, Oxsen, as well as it should be, but Ryan is a starting linebacker, a starting fullback and he's probably our inspirational leader on both sides of the ball."

Added Oxsen: "Bremis is an absolute animal. He loves football. He lives and breathes football. He is so aggressive on defense, he knows how to read everything, and I can't even put into words how good he is on defense. And when he gets the ball on offense, he's not going down on first contact. He's a wrecking ball and he does a lot for us."

Video: Football sectional finals preview

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
3:30
PM ET
We're one step closer to Gillette Stadium, as the statewide MIAA football tournament finds its way to the sectional finals stage this weekend.

In this week's preview video, editors Scott Barboza and Brendan Hall encapsulate the action from last weekend's semifinals while looking ahead with their sectional finals picks. We also fired up the "BHallestrator" again, to take a look at Plymouth North's rushing attack, Doherty's Alfred Adarkwah and Barnstable's pass rush.

That and more in this week's preview:

(Video produced by Greg Story)

Mr. Football Watch: Playoffs, Week 2

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
3:16
PM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch", following the second weekend of MIAA State Championship Playoffs. As always, coaches and/or statisticians are encouraged to send statistics to editors Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com) and/or Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com)

THE CONTENDERS

Zach Elkinson, Jr. ATH, Holliston
In two playoff games, Elkinson is averaging 16.9 yards per touch. That includes nine carries for 91 yards and four touchdowns, and nine catches for 221 yards and four more scores.

Troy Flutie, Sr. QB, Natick
Threw his 102nd career touchdown pass in Friday night's loss to Barnstable. He needs one more TD pass to tie the state's all-time mark, and he has two more chances, starting this Friday against Needham.

Brendan Hill, Jr. TE, Mansfield
Caught seven passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns in the Hornets' win over Needham.

Hayden Murphy, Sr. RB, Barnstable
Recorded 21 carries for 158 yards and three touchdowns, four catches for 36 yards, 10 tackles and 1.5 sacks in the Red Raiders' 27-13 win over Natick.

Neil O'Connor, Sr. QB, Leominster
In two playoff games, he has amassed 487 yards of offense, including 11.2 yards per rush, with seven touchdowns.

Dylan Oxsen, Sr. RB, Plymouth South
Ran for 227 yards and three touchdowns in the Panthers' 21-7 win over Dartmouth, punching their ticket to the D3 Southeast Final.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
Carried 23 times for 182 yards and two scores in the Rockets' loss to Mansfield

Andrew Smiley, Sr. QB, St. John's (Shrewsbury)
Completed 13 of 16 passes for 193 yards and three scores, and added five carries for 73 yards and two more scores, in the Pioneers' throttling of Marlborough in D2 Central.

Cody Williams, Sr. QB, Springfield Central
Totaled 134 yards of offense and two touchdowns in the Golden Eagles' 35-12 win over Longmeadow

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 14 of 18 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns, in the Hornets' 42-35 win over Needham.

FIVE ON THE RISE

Christian Carr, Jr. RB, Plymouth North
Ran for 351 yards and three touchdowns in the Blue Eagles' win over Dighton-Rehoboth, setting up a much-anticipated battle with cross-town rival Plymouth South for the D3 Southeast Championship this Friday.

Mike Elcock, Sr. WR, Needham
Caught six passes for 148 yards and a score in the Rockets' loss to Mansfield. He leads D2 Eastern Mass with 13 touchdown receptions.

Lubern Figaro, Sr. DB, Everett
The Wisconsin commit came up with two crucial interceptions, and some tremendous defense on top receiver Jack Galvin, in the Crimson Tide's 21-0 shutout of Lowell.

Malik Garrett, Sr. QB, Melrose
Through two playoff games, the dual threat signal-caller has accumulated nearly 550 yards of offense. He has 364 yards rushing and five TDs on just 29 carries, while he is 12-for-20 through the air for 185 yards and two more scores.

Tim Walsh, Attleboro
Led the Blue Bombardiers in rushing with 122 yards on 11 carries, while completing 7 of 11 pass attempts for 146 yards and 3 TD in their Div. 1 South semi-final win over Bridgewater-Raynham.

PLAYOFF LEADERS

Passing
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 528 yards, 5 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 504 yards, 6 TD
Kyle Wisnieski, Sr., Mansfield – 405 yards, 5 TD
Mike Milano, Jr., Central Catholic – 371 yards, 3 TD
Ryan Charter, Sr., Needham – 361 yards, 4 TD
Luke Brennan, Sr., Doherty – 359 yards, 7 TD
Marcus Collins, Jr., Cambridge – 355 yards, 4 TD
Andrew Smiley, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – 338 yards, 7 TD
Dana Parello, Sr., Waltham – 312 yards, 4 TD
Neil O'Connor, Sr., Leominster - 286 yards, 3 TD

Rushing
Dylan Oxsen, Sr., Plymouth South – 577 yards, 7 TD
Christian Carr, Jr., Plymouth North – 551 yards, 7 TD
Alex Givins-Perry, Sr., Bartlett – 477 yards, 3 TD
Mike Panepinto, Sr., Needham – 418 yards, 6 TD
Brooks Tyrrell, Jr., Marblehead – 383 yards, 5 TD
Malik Garrett, Sr., Melrose – 364 yards, 5 TD
Hayden Murphy, Sr., Barnstable – 353 yards, 6 TD
Chris Dumont, Sr., Manchester-Essex - 321 yards, 5 TD
D.J. Engelke, Sr., Pentucket – 299 yards, 3 TD
Kevin Rosado, Jr., Northeast – 284 yards, 6 TD

Receiving
Alex Hilger, Sr., Natick – 278 yards, 4 TD
Mike Elcock, Sr., Needham – 258 yards, 3 TD
Brendan Hill, Jr., Mansfield – 228 yards, 3 TD
Elijah Booker, Sr., Cambridge – 225 yards, 2 TD
Zach Elkinson, Jr., Holliston – 221 yards, 4 TD

Quick hits from last weekend, looking ahead

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
1:13
AM ET
Some quick thoughts from last weekend’s second round of MIAA State Championship football playoffs, and looking ahead to this week’s sectional finals:

1a. Springfield Central’s Valdamar Brower and Leominster’s Dave Palazzi were my two front-runners for Coach of the Year headed into Friday, but Barnstable’s Chris Whidden has to be firmly in any discussion from herein, following Friday’s impressive stifling of Natick. At the beginning of the year, Whidden righted the ship before it even began to sink, making conditioning a high point of emphasis following their season-opening 37-9 whupping at the hands of archrival Dennis-Yarmouth. The Red Raiders came out of their bye week and proceeded to take down two Catholic Conference teams, BC High and Xaverian, in back to back weeks.

Last week, Whidden installed a Cover 2 defense –- a look they’ve never run all season long –- in three days to combat the wizardry of Troy Flutie. In what some would consider a shrewd move, Whidden opted not to match up his top defensive back (Derek Estes) with Natick’s most dangerous target (Alex Hilger), instead sticking a linebacker on Hilger and sagging the corners into zones. Whidden is a smart, smart coach, who knows how to quickly evaluate his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and devise a flexible gameplan to counter. This was a team that some thought would not compete as well as they did a year ago, when they reached the D1A Super Bowl, yet here they are, two wins away from a return to Gillette Stadium.

We’re three years into the Whidden era, and I’ve already lost count of how many wins the Raiders have had over Top 10 opponents. By now, this is no fluke. The guy can flat out coach.

1b. All that said, this Friday’s D2 South Final could be Whidden’s best challenge yet. Long-time Mansfield coach Mike Redding is a chess grand master, but he’s never had a king piece quite like Brendan Hill. The 6-foot-6 junior already holds a Division 1 FBS offer (UMass), leads the Hornets in receiving (43 catches, 631 yards, 7 TD) and lines up everywhere on the perimeter, from tight end to slot receiver to split end. Back in Week 6, King Philip held Hill to his lowest receiving total of the season (3 catches, 43 yards) in a 20-7 loss to the Hornets, and they mixed up their coverage quite a bit on him – rolling coverages, pressing, bumping and passing him along to another zone.

But here’s the thing. If they decide to deploy special coverage on Hill, I think the Hornets are that kind of team that would use him as a decoy to open up other parts of the field for two of their other most dangerous targets, Michael Hershman and Miguel Villar-Perez. Just a great matchup here between two of the best schemers across the state. Expect some funky stuff.

2. Crazy stat line of the week, singles division: In two playoff games, Doherty wide receiver Alfred Adarkwah has four catches for 122 yards and four touchdowns. That’s right, literally every touch this postseason for the lanky 6-foot-4 senior has been for a score.

During the summer, coaches and players over on Highland St. hinted that the Highlanders had been experimenting Boston College-bound athlete Isaac YIadom and Adarkwah on the same side of formations during passing leagues, to positive results. For the most part, that hasn’t been the case. Rather, leaving Adarkwah on an island opposite Yiadom’s side of the formation has yielded dramatic results (see: Quabbin, first round). And here’s the dilemma: the moment you shade off of Yiadom, the threat of him ripping off a big gain increases threefold.

Monday film sessions at Doherty are called “Moss Monday” for a reason. When talking about players who have elevated their stock for All-State consideration with their playoff performances, Adarkwah is certainly in the discussion.

3. Crazy stat line of the week, pairs division: In two playoff games, Plymouth South’s Dylan Oxsen and Plymouth North’s Christian Carr have combined for 1,128 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Apart, they are the state’s two top playoff rushing leaders, with both scoring seven times and Oxsen holding a 26-yard edge. That alone should be reason enough to go see these two teams square off. Now put the Division 3 Southeast title on the line, and factor in the intensity of his heated cross-town rivalry (Romano Field was over capacity in the first meeting in September, a 4 p.m. start), and this has the makings of something special.

4. Leominster is going for an unprecedented sixth straight win over rival St. John’s of Shrewsbury, dating back to the start of 2011, when the two teams meet on Friday at Doyle Field for the D2 Central title, but I don’t think this is such a shoe-in for the Blue Devils. How quickly people forget that, after a dismal first half, quarterback Andrew Smiley lit up the Leominster defense in the second half with a slew of screen passes, with Mike McGillicuddy the primary benefactor. If they get off to a good start in the screen game, and stay committed to it, I think an upset is in play here for the Pioneers.

5. Another reason to love the new playoff format: four teams from the Hockomock League and three from the Atlantic Coast Leagues are playing for district titles this weekend. Under the former system, Hockomock Kelley-Rex runner-up Attleboro would not be playing for a D1 South title on Friday night, nor would Davenport runner-up Stoughton (D3 Southwest), while Kelley-Rex champ Mansfield (D2 South) and Oliver Ames (D3 Southwest) would be still in play. Meanwhile, ACL champ Plymouth South (D3 Southeast) would be playing while Plymouth North (D3 Southeast) and Dennis-Yarmouth (D4 South) would be sitting at home. Up North, we have an All-DCL D2 Final (Lincoln-Sudbury vs. Waltham) and an All-Middlesex D3 Northwest Final (Woburn vs. Melrose). Honestly, what’s not to like about that?

6a. I’ve asked to several coaches playing non-playoff games about their approach, and whether they try to get underclassmen experience or let the seniors finish out their glory. Most of them said the same thing –- you have to balance the two. But the overarching theme I sensed with their talks was that, like a lower-tier college bowl game, there isn’t a lot of pressure so you might as well have some fun.

There’s still some interesting storylines to be played out there. For a football junkie like me, I actually look forward to some of these unique matchups, such as last weekend’s matchup between Somerset-Berkley’s “double wing” scheme and Nauset’s unique “Notre Dame Box” variation of the Single Wing, complete with spinning fullbacks. Elsewhere, Natick’s Troy Flutie needs one touchdown pass to tie the state’s all-time mark, and assuming he’s healthy enough to play, he could very well do it Friday against Needham.

6b. Which brings us to our final crazy stat line of the week, non-playoff division: In two post-qualification games, Pope John Paul II junior quarterback Ryan Barabe is completing 86 percent of his passes (31-of-36) for 488 yards and six touchdowns. That’s right, 86 percent, or 18 points higher than his regular season percentage. I’m on record saying the Lions were snubbed in D6 South, an unfair casualty of second league automatic qualifiers, and I’m wondering if this non-playoff run will help build a case for detractors.

Player of the Week: Plymouth North's Christian Carr

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
12:06
AM ET
PLYMOUTH, Mass. -- There are still several weeks remaining in MIAA football season for Plymouth North -- come win or loss in the Division 3 Southeast sectional final this week -- but junior running back Christian Carr has already etched his name into the school's record book.

With a 351-yard performance against Dighton-Rehoboth in last week's district semi-final, Carr became the Eagles' all-time, single-season rusher. Carr scored three touchdowns to lead North to a 19-14 win over D-R, setting up a sectional final date with crosstown rival Plymouth South this Friday.

For Carr's efforts, he was named our ESPN Boston Player of the Week.

Editor Brendan Hall caught up with Carr following Monday's practice:



Along with Carr, here are our Top 5 performers for last weekend:
  • Christian Carr, Jr. RB, Plymouth North - Ran for 351 yards and 3 TD in the Eagles' win over D-R in the Div. 3 Southeast semifinals.
  • Lubern Figaro, Sr. ATH, Everett - Hauled in two interceptions as part of four Crimson Tide turnovers in their shutout victory over Lowell in the Div. 1 North semifinals.
  • Malik Garrett, Sr. QB, Melrose - Racked up three rushing touchdowns on just 11 touches while running for 128 yards in the Red Raiders' Div. 3 Northwest semi-final against Arlington. Garrett was also efficient in the passing game, completing 8 of 9 attempts for 115 yards and a TD.
  • Hayden Murphy, Sr. RB, Barnstable - Scored 3 TD on 21 carries for 158 yards in the Red Raiders' Div. 2 South semi-final win over Natick. Murphy also added fourth catches for 36 yards.
  • Tim Walsh, Sr. QB, Attleboro - Led the Blue Bombardiers in rushing with 122 yards on 11 carries, while completing 7 of 11 pass attempts for 146 yards and 3 TD in their Div. 1 South semi-final win over Bridgewater-Raynham.

Roundtable: Predicting MIAA Football District Champs

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

Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Football Watch: Week 6

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
10:54
PM ET
Here is our latest "Mr. Football Watch" following Week 6 of the 2013 season. Statistics can be sent to editors Brendan Hall (bhall@espnboston.com) and/or Scott Barboza (sbarboza@espnboston.com)

THE CONTENDERS

Troy Flutie, Sr. QB, Natick
Completed 15 of 22 passes for 325 yards and five touchdowns, with no interceptions, in the Redhawks’ 42-10 win over Dedham.

Brandon Gallagher, Jr. RB, Bridgewater-Raynham
Ran for 232 yards and a score, and added a 70-yard touchdown reception, in a 27-7 win over Dartmouth.

Hayden Murphy, Sr. RB/WR, Barnstable
In the Red Raiders' 29-20 comeback win over Marshfield, carried 12 times for 116 yards and a touchdown, and caught two passes for 74 yards and another score.

Neil O’Connor, Sr. QB, Leominster
Accounted for a season-high 359 yards of offense (287 passing, 72 rushing) and two scores in the Blue Devils' 47-26 win over Doherty.

Dylan Oxsen, Sr. RB, Plymouth South
In the Panthers' 27-7 win over Nauset, carried a personal record 37 times for 243 yards and four touchdowns.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
Carried 18 times for 132 yards and a score in the Rockets' 21-0 shutout of Braintree.

Rufus Rushins, Jr. RB, Bishop Fenwick
Ran for 80 yards and a score in the Crusaders' 48-18 rout of Austin Prep.

Andrew Smiley, Sr. RB, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Completed 19 of 33 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns in the Pioneers' upset loss to cross-town rival Shrewsbury.

Cody Williams, Sr. QB, Springfield Central
Completed 12 of 17 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns in the Golden Eagles’ 40-12 rout of Minnechaug.

Ju’an Williams, Sr. WR, Springfield Central
Caught five passes for 69 yards in the Eagles’ win over Minnechaug.

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
Completed 13 of 15 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns in the Hornets’ 47-8 rout of Taunton.

FIVE ON THE RISE

Matt Banchs, Sr. FB/LB, Leominster
In the Blue Devils' win over Doherty, recorded 22 tackles and two sacks, and also added 40 yards rushing with a score on offense. Banchs is slowly rising as one of the top defensive players in Central Mass.

Christian Carr, Jr. RB, Plymouth North
In the Eagles' 33-6 win over Falmouth, carried 35 times for 254 yards and four touchdowns, giving him over 700 yards rushing on the season.

Mike Maggipinto, Soph. RB, East Longmeadow
Carried 20 times for 259 yards and five touchdowns in the Spartans’ 40-34 win over Springfield Putnam. He currently leads all Western Mass. running backs in rushing touchdowns (13).

James Sullivan, Jr. RB/DB, Tewksbury
Collected three of the Redmen’s four interceptions, while adding 75 yards on nine carries with a touchdown on offense vs. Methuen.

Miguel Villar-Perez, Jr. RB, Mansfield
Caught three passes for 95 yards and a touchdown in the Hornets’ 47-8 win over Taunton. Through five games he has 575 yards of offense as a pass-catching running back, with eight touchdowns.

TOP STATISTICAL LEADERS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Rushing
Mark Wright, Sr., Auburn – 950 yards, 11 TD
Brooks Tyrrell, Jr., Marblehead – 931 yards, 9 total TD
Chris Ahl, Sr., Millis/Hopedale – 895 yards, 11 TD
Dylan Oxsen, Sr., Plymouth South – 852 yards, 14 total TD
Zered McCoy, Sr., Ware – 843 yards, 5 TD

Passing
Dylan Kierman, Sr., Quabbin – 1,680 yards, 17 TD
John Rumney, Sr., Marlborough – 1,372 yards, 17 TD
Troy Flutie, Sr., Natick – 1,360 yards, 22 TD
Matthew Jeye, Sr., Holliston – 1,298 yards, 13 TD
Ryan Barabe, Jr., Pope John Paul II – 1,255 yards, 14 TD

Receiving
Zach Elkinson, Jr., Holliston – 513 yards, 14 total TD
Jake Bradway, Jr., Belchertown – 489 yards, 7 TD
Brian Daly, Jr., Marblehead – 487 yards, 10 TD
T.J. Hairston, Jr., Watertown – 472 yards, 5 TD
Jack Galvin, Sr., Lowell – 438 yards, 8 TD

ESPN Boston MIAA All-State Baseball Team

June, 28, 2013
6/28/13
12:01
PM ET
STARTING ROTATION

RHP – Tommy McDonald, Sr., BC High
The ace and the workhorse of BC’s rotation, which saw the Eagles make their first D1 South Final appearance since 2009, McDonald often went late into games to pick up a win. He was 7-0 on the season, with a 1.90 ERA, five complete games and just 10 walks. The Quincy resident will continue his career next year at UMass.

LHP – Ben Bowden, Sr., Lynn English
The state’s Gatorade Player of the Year, Bowden is a repeat selection, having also made the starting rotation of the All-State Team in 2012. On the season he was 4-2 with 84 strikeouts in 52 innings, with just 10 walks for an ERA of 0.67. He also recorded a .459 on-base percentage at the plate, with 13 RBI. Bowden will play at Vanderbilt next year.

LHP – Scott Tully, Sr., Reading
Another repeat All-State selection, Tully dominated the Middlesex League en route to winning the Liberty division’s MVP. For the season he went 7-1 with 96 strikeouts and an ERA of 0.54. For his career, he has 29 wins and over 400 strikeouts. Tully is headed to Notre Dame next year.

RHP – Evan Flanagan, Sr., Hingham
The Patriot League’s Co-MVP saved his best stuff for the playoffs, as the Harbormen won their first Division 2 state title in school history. On the season he was 6-2 with 79 strikeouts in 56 innings, with five complete games, a 1.75 ERA and a WHIP of 0.93. Flanagan will continue his career next year at the University of Rhode Island.

LHP – Mike Gaughan, Sr., Walpole
One of the state’s most elusive lefties, Gaughan helped lead the Rebels to the No. 1 overall seed in D1 South. He was 10-2 on the season with 117 strikeouts and a 1.88 ERA, and held opponents to a .180 batting average. Gaughan is headed to Division 2 Rollins College (Fla.) next year.

STARTING NINE

C – Joe Freiday, Jr., Bridgewater-Raynham
One of the state’s leaders in runs plated, Freiday finished the year batting .425, with a .573 on-base percentage, 31 RBI and five home runs. He also drew 21 walks and struck out just 10 times. Freiday is fielding interest from an assortment of Division 1 programs.

INF – Nick Bragole, Sr., St. John’s Prep
Part of one of the state’s most prolific hitting lineups, Bragole put up .403/.532/.758 totals with 21 RBI and six home runs, along with 10 stolen bases, as the Eagles captured the No. 1 seed in D1 North, won 22 straight games and made an appearance in the D1 North final. Bragole is headed to Division 2 St. Anselm College (N.H.) in the fall.

INF – Kenny Michael, Sr., Norwood
Michael catalyzed the Mustangs late in the season when they snatched the Bay State Conference’s Herget Division title in the last week of the regular season. He was named the Herget MVP as he hit .429 with 27 RBI and a home run. Michael will continue his career at Division 2 Southern New Hampshire University.

INF – Alex Toomey, Sr., Beverly
Toomey beat out a number of high-profile players to take the MVP in the Northeastern Conference’s Large division, and deservedly so. For the season he his .431 with eight doubles, 31 RBI and five home runs, only striking out five times. On the mound, he went 6-2 with a 1.33 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 42.1 innings. Toomey is headed to Salem State University next year.

INF – Brandon Bingel, Sr., St. John’s Prep
This year’s recipient of the prestigious ESPN Boston Mr. Baseball Award, Bingel was a force in all three phases of the game to take Catholic Conference MVP for the second straight year. He batted .302 with 20 RBI and two home runs, and went 9-0 on the mound with 76 strikeouts in 58.2 innings, walking just 10 batters, for a 0.97 ERA. Bingel will continue his career at Bryant University.

OF – David MacKinnon, Sr., Oliver Ames
MacKinnon took Hockomock League MVP honors after hitting .500 with 16 RBI. One of the best pure athletes of the bunch, MacKinnon is also an All-American soccer player, and will play both sports at the University of Hartford.

OF – Ian Strom, Sr., Hopedale
Strom was a monster on both the mound and at the plate as the Blue Raiders reached the Division 3 State Final. He hit .514 on the year with 21 RBI and 15 stolen bases, and didn’t strike out all season. On the mound, he was 9-2 with 107 strikeouts in 67.2 innings, for a 1.45 ERA. Strom will continue his career next season at UMass-Lowell.

OF – Mike Bruemmel, Sr., Bridgewater-Raynham
The Co-MVP of the Old Colony League saved his best stroke for last, carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning to lead the Trojans to their first Division 1 state title in school history. On the season he batted .341 with a .505 on-base percentage, with 21 RBI and 11 stolen bases. On the mound, he was 6-1 with 69 strikeouts in 41.1 innings, with a 1.82 ERA. Bruemmel is headed to Wheaton College next year.

DH – Malcolm Nachmanoff, Sr., Boston Latin
The Dual County League’s MVP of the Large division, Nachmanoff carried a heavy bat, hitting .507 with 26 RBI and five home runs. He also recorded a 1.45 ERA in 53 innings pitched. Nachmanoff is headed to Loomis Chafee (Conn.) next year for a post-graduate season.


BEST OF THE REST

OF – Dan Avery, Sr., Blackstone Valley Tech
Avery excelled both ways for the Beavers, recording .492/.579/.689 totals at the plate with three triples, 26 RBI, 28 runs scored and 18 stolen bases. On the mound, he was 7-2 with a 1.02 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 62 innings, with just eight walks. He will play both football and baseball at Massachusetts Maritime Academy next year.

3B – Ryan Baldwin, Sr., Fairhaven
One of the state’s leaders in home runs, Baldwin hit eight and batted in 34 runs, to finish the season with a .500 average and take South Coast Conference MVP honors. Baldwin will continue his career next year at Barry University (Fla.).

2B – Tommy Buonopane, Sr., St. John’s Prep
Another key cog to the Eagles’ impressive hitting order, Buonopane registered .354/.457/.585 totals with 21 RBI and three home runs, as the Eagles won the Catholic Conference outright. Buonopane is headed to the University of Rhode Island next year.
.354/.457/.585, 21 RBI, 3 HR

2B – Dan Connors, Sr., Danvers
A three-time Northeastern Conference All-Star, Connors captured the Small division’s MVP award after hitting .390, as the Falcons were the top seed in Division 2 North and reached the district final. Connors, a career .365 hitter, will enroll at UMass-Amherst in the fall.

LHP – Mac Curran, Sr., Coyle-Cassidy
A repeat selection, Curran was once again a force on the mound, going 5-2 with a 0.98 ERA as the Warriors captured the Eastern Athletic Conference outright. He also batted .402 with a home run. Curran is headed to Niagara University next season to continue his career.

C – Kyle Devin, Sr., Lynn Classical
One of the state's best arms behind the plate, Devin threw out eight of 12 steal attempts and also had 11 pickoffs. He also hit .410 with 16 RBI, five doubles, two triples, a home run and six stolen bases for the Rams. Devin is headed to Stony Brook next season to continue his baseball career.

SS – Isan Diaz, Jr., Springfield Central
One of the top defensive talents outside of Eastern Mass., Diaz showed off quite a bit with his bat as well, plating 19 runs and registering three home runs as the Golden Eagles once again reached the Division 1 West tournament.

RHP – Drew Foster, Sr., Nashoba
One of the steadiest starters in Central Mass., with a 4-1 record and 0.97 ERA, Foster led the Chieftains through a loaded Division 1 Central field to capture their first district title in program history. Foster is headed to Ohio University next year, where he intends to play club hockey.

RHP – Dustin Hunt, Sr., St. John’s Prep
Arguably the state’s top closer, Hunt embraced the role as the Eagles reeled off 22 straight wins before falling in the D1 North Final. On the season he struck out 31 batters in 27.1 innings, with a 1.54 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. Hunt, an Andover resident, is headed to Northeastern University next season.

RHP – Thomas Jankins, Sr., Quaboag
Jankins was dangerous on the mound and in the batter's box this season for the Cougars. He hit .473 with 19 RBI and two home runs, and was 5-3 with a 0.53 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 52.1 innings. Jankins will continue his career next season at Quinnipiac University.

OF – Tom Landry, Sr., BC High
Landry registered .348/.378/.493 totals at the plate and added 16 RBI and two home runs for the Eagles, who reached their first D1 South Final since 2009. He also struck out just 11 times and drew four walks. Landry will play for Wheaton College next year.

SS – Steven Lee, Sr., Braintree
Lee manned the middle of the Wamps’ order for the last three years, and put up impressive numbers in his senior season. He batted .376 with 26 RBI, one home run, 27 runs scored and 10 stolen bases as Braintree captured its fourth straight Bay State Carey title. He also committed just five errors in the field. Lee is headed to Stonehill College next year.

RHP – David Longstreeth, Soph., Smith Academy
Longstreeth is already over the 300 career strikeout mark, with 21 wins, in his still-blossoming career for Smith. On the season, he went 11-2 with 132 strikeouts in 80.1 innings, as the Falcons reached the Division 3 West Final.

RHP – Mike Lundin, Sr., Silver Lake
Lundin helped lead the Lakers to a Patriot League Fisher division title with his proficiency on the mound, going 7-2 with 86 strikeouts in 65.1 innings with a 0.67 ERA. Lundin will continue his career at Massasoit Community College next season.

OF – Tyler Lyne, Sr., Agawam
Lyne was a catalyst for the Brownies, who won the Valley League and reached the Division 1 West Final. For the season, he registered 16 RBI and two home runs. Lyne will continue his career at Merrimack College next year.

RHP – Donny May, Sr., Coyle-Cassidy
The other overpowering ace for the Warriors’ staff, May went unbeaten as they captured the Eastern Athletic Conference outright. He was 11-0 on the year, with a 0.44 ERA and 89 strikeouts, along with a .438 batting average at the plate. May is headed to Fordham University next year.

SS – David Murphy, Sr., Plymouth North
The Atlantic Coast League’s MVP helped the Blue Eagles to another league title, hitting .429 with 29 RBI and three home runs. He only struck out twice all year. Murphy will take his talents to Massasoit Community College next year.

SS – Noah Parker, Sr., St. Mary (Westfield)
One of the more underappreciated talents across the state, Parker was the catalyst for the Saints, who reached the Division 3 West quarterfinals. Parker registered 28 hits, 20 RBI and two home runs on the season. He will head to Seton Hall University next season as a preferred walk-on.

OF – Anthony Perriello, Sr., Norwood
A powerful hitter manning the middle of the Mustangs’ order, Perriello led the Bay State Conference in batting average (.507) and added 15 RBI and a home run.

RHP – Alex Person, Sr., Xaverian
The Foxborough resident manned the top of the rotation, as the Hawks tried to defend their D1 state title. On the season he struck out 52 batters in 51 innings, going 5-1 with a 2.06 ERA. Person will continue his career at Southern New Hampshire University next year.

C – Matt Phelan, Sr., Northbridge
Phelan was a force at the plate for the Rams, who reached their fourth straight Division 2 Central Final. On the season he hit .484 with 28 RBI and four home runs, and on the mound was 4-1 with a 1.91 ERA. Phelan is headed to St. Anslem in the fall, where he will play football.

RHP – Brendan Ryan, Sr., Newton North
Ryan earned MVP honors in the Bay State Conference’s Carey division, after going 7-1 with a 1.64 ERA and six complete games. Ryan also batted .347 with 17 RBI. He will enroll at the University of South Carolina in the fall.

RHP – Endy Sanchez, Jr., Holyoke
Another member of the 100-K club, Sanchez had one of the best strikeout-to-ratios in Western Mass., fanning exactly 100 batters in 62 innings pitched for the Purple Knights.

RHP – Kevin Superko, Sr., Wellesley
Following in the footsteps of his brother Tim, Superko carried on the name holding down the front of the Raiders’ rotation. On the season he recorded 67 strikeouts in 49 innings, with a 1.02 WHIP and holding batters to a .184 average. He will do a post-graduate season at Philips Andover next year.

RHP – Ryley Warnock, Sr., North Reading
Warnock was dynamic both on the mound and on the basepath for the Hornets, who captured the top overall seed in D3 North. On the mound he was 10-1 with a 0.44 ERA and 72 strikeouts, and at the plate he was .360 with 17 stolen bases. Warnock will continue his career next year at the University of Rhode Island.

LHP – Cody Younger, Sr., Middleborough
Younger came on in the second half of the season and led the Sachems through a gauntlet en route to the Division 3 state title, their first since 1997. On the mound, he was 4-2 with 53 strikeouts and a 1.90 ERA, and delivered wins over the top two seeds in D3 South. At the plate, he had .415/.482/.507 totals with 27 RBI. Younger will do a post-graduate season at Bridgton Academy (Maine) next year.

RHP – Zach Zona, Sr., St. Peter-Marian
Zona led the top of the Guardians’ rotation as they came on late in the regular season to make the Division 1 Central tournament. On the season he was 5-2 with 64 strikeouts in 46.2 innings, with a 1.05 ERA and two no-hitters. Zona will continue his career next season at UMass-Lowell.

D2 South Baseball: Hingham 5, Plymouth North 4

June, 4, 2013
6/04/13
11:09
PM ET
HINGHAM, Mass. -— In arguably Hingham’s biggest spot of the season, senior Cody Clifford stood calm at the plate.

The Harbormen had just tied the game at four and had a runner on third with two outs in the bottom of the sixth against Plymouth North in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.

With the Eagles’ infield in to try and cut down the potential go-ahead run, Clifford worked the count full and anticipated a fastball over the heart of the plate, knowing Plymouth North pitcher Kyle Mann couldn’t afford to put another runner on base.

Clifford guessed right and drove Mann’s heater through the infield and into right field to give Hingham its only lead of the game; one it held onto in the top of the seventh as John Carlson set down the Eagles in order to grab a 5-4 victory at Cronin Field.

The fourth-seeded Harbormen will play No. 1 seed Nauset in the semifinals of the Division 2 South Tournament, Thursday night at Adams Field in Quincy.

Fifth-seed Plymouth North took a 4-3 lead in the top of the sixth after Ryan Moskos willed the Eagles back on top after stealing second, third and finally home to send the Plymouth North dugout into a frenzy. While on third, Moskos capitalized on Carlson being left-handed and going through the windup, allowing him to take a big lead and jolt for the plate as Carlson’s delivery was too slow and Moskos slid ahead of the tag to grab the lead.

But the Hingham bats finally came to life. After Austin Irvin and David Hutchins singled to put runners on the corners with one out, Plymouth North coach Dwayne Follette pulled starter Kenny Drew (5-1/3 innings, five runs, four earned, seven hits) in favor of the freshman Mann.

Mann’s first pitch slipped through his catcher’s legs, scoring the runner from third and allowing Brett Tivnan — who pinch ran for Hutchins at first -— to scamper all the way to third, forcing the infield in, which allowed Clifford’s single to squirt through.

“We’re a pretty good offensive team,” Hingham coach Frank Niles said. “So we kept at it and ran the bases a little bit and I think we thought we could do it, so that’s a big part.”

But had it not been for Carlson, the Harbormen might have been out of this one early. Hingham starter Billy Boynton only lasted a third of an inning after the Eagles bats roped three hits and hit two balls in the hole that Hingham’s second baseman and shortstop couldn’t handle, leading to three unearned runs and an early exit for Boynton.

Carlson came in with the bases loaded and struck out the next two batters to retire the side and hold Plymouth North to just three. Carlson allowed only one run in his 6-2/3 innings of relief, striking out eight while surrendering just three hits and walking three.

“He’s not afraid of anything,” Niles said of Carlson. “He’s a hockey guy and he stood tall today and he got us out of that first inning.”

Carlson, who started the game in left field before replacing Boynton, mixed in his fastball and consistently threw his curveball for strikes, and said his team didn’t do their part to help out Boynton.

“We didn’t support him too much in the field, so I came in and did what I had to do — hit my spots and got the job done,” Carlson said.

The Harbormen used a three-run third to tie the score. Stephan White and Joe Leahy led off the frame with back-to-back singles, and after a double steal put both runners in scoring position, Eddie Bowler drove home White with a groundout to second.

One batter later, Leahy took off from second to try and steal third, and when the throw got past the Eagles third baseman, Leahy raced on home to bring Hingham within one at 3-2. Then, Irvin belted a solo home run over the fence in right field to knot the score at three.

Recap: Nauset 3-4, No. 13 Plymouth North 2-2

May, 11, 2013
5/11/13
6:44
PM ET
ORLEANS, Mass. -- If there was ambiguity before, the facts are now crystal clear: the Nauset Warriors have officially entered uncharted waters in the Atlantic Coast League.

The Warriors (15-2, 9-2) came into their doubleheader with juggernaut Plymouth North this afternoon at Eldredge Park having never beaten the Blue Eagles under coach Lou Elia. Not only did they end up sweeping North, 3-2 and 4-2, to put themselves in a tie for first place with the Eagles (11-4, 8-2) -- they have also put themselves in position to make history. If they win their final league game on Monday, against Falmouth, they will clinch themselves at least a share of the ACL title for the first time in school history.

"This program's come quite a long way. We're all happy about it," Elia said.

[+] EnlargeColin Ridley
Brendan Hall/ESPNBoston.com Left fielder Colin Ridley had 3 RBIs out of the ninth spot to lead Nauset to a two-game sweep of Plymouth North.
North now has to win out in its final two games to stay in the hunt and keep a share of the ACL title, starting Wednesday against archrival Plymouth South followed by a May 21 battle with Marshfield.

"It was just their day," North head coach Dwayne Follette said. "Now, we're going to have to see what kind of character we've got."

Down 2-0 early in the first game, Nauset plated three runs in the bottom of the third to take the lead. Colin Ridley plated the first of his three RBI of the afternoon out of the nine hole to bring across the first run, then senior Nick Taber smacked a single for the go-ahead run.

That was the Warriors' final hit of the first game, only reaching base twice more on an error and a fielder's choice. But the defense behind starting righthander Ray Rowell was solid, stranding six runners to support the lefty's nine-strikeout, eight-hit effort.

North head coach Dwayne Follette, was left wondering what could have been after watching his team load up the bases in the top of the seventh with one out. Facing a 1-2 count, cleanup hitter Jake Prifti was hit on the knee and initially appeared to have been awarded first base, which would have brought home Brendan Beane for the tying run. The ruling instead was a called third strike, after it was determined Prifti had brought the barrel of his bat across the zone enough to merit a swing.

Follette was furious at the call, marching all the way into the infield grass to loudly voice his protest for several minutes.

"You can quote this, that is one of the worst calls I've ever seen," Follette said. "You got a hit batter in the knee, and the umpires just botched it. Listen, they [Nauset] deserved to win, I'm not taking anything away from them. [But that was a] horrible call in the first game."

There was no controversy in the second game, however, as Taber went the full seven on the hill and allowed just two hits.

North once again was once again active early at the plate, scoring two runs in the first inning on a two-run single to center from Prifti to tie the game at 2-2. But the Eagles managed just one hit the rest of the way, a base hit by Ryan Moskos in the bottom of the fifth.

The Warriors went ahead in the top of the fifth on a bloop single from Ridley, dropping in shallow right to score Will Shackleford. Ridley gave them the insurance in the top of the seventh with a base hit that scored Rowell from second.

"Colin's coming up big with us," Elia said. "He might be at the bottom of the order, but he's getting his pitches, he's being patient, and is able to come through."

High marks for aces: Both Elia and Follette came away pleased with the performances of their starters.

The hard-throwing lefty Rowell pounded the zone with a bevy of fastballs in the first game, and after some trouble in the first two innings he settled nicely, getting himself out of jams with runners in scoring position in three of the final four innings.

Taber has tweaked his game since last spring, developing a cutter over the offseason to go along with a changeup and a sharp curveball. In dancing the ball around the plate, Taber kept his pitches low in the zone to stay ahead of the North hitters.

"They were locating, just locating," Elia said. "Nick has been with me for four years, he's one of only guys that's been in the varsity program for four years. He's got really good control, and he's got a couple of different pitches, and he's able to locate. So, he makes the most out of his pitches. He doesn't walk many people at all. He's got command of his pitches, and that's what's important."

Follette was pleased with the performance from junior righthander Kenny Drew, who struck out seven and scattered four hits on 72 pitches, to go along with the three earned runs. With staff ace Brian Christian unable to go today, Follette tapped freshman reliever Kyle Mann for his first varsity start in game two. The youngster demonstrates poise and high velocity in spite of his age, but did run into some trouble, allowing eight hits.

"I thought Kenny Drew, in the first game, pitched an incredible game," Follette said. "He didn't deserve that fate...We're pitching good enough to win, we're just not hitting enough. It's unfortunate. He pounded the zone."

Turning up the aggression: Over the last two seasons, the Eagles have been held in high regard for their ambitious approach to the basepath, compensating for a deficit in hitting with a blend of high-risk baserunning and fielding tactics playfully dubbed "Dwayne Ball" by their Plymouth brethren for its uniqueness.

In the second inning of game one, they executed a vintage "Dwayne Ball" staple. Executing a double steal, freshman Joe Walsh was caught in a rundown on the basepaths just long enough for Derek Salvucci to come screaming home for the initial 1-0 lead.

In the first inning of game two, the Eagles stole four bags, including two from Cory Boudreau, to help manufacture two runs.

North's leadoff hitter, Ryan Moskos stole two bags on the day to bring his season total to 26, which is eight more than the entire Nauset team attained a season ago. So far this year, however, the Warriors have recorded 60 steals, including two today.

What prompted the more dramatic approach in 2013?

"We've been running hard. We look for our opportunities, and I've got a pretty quick team one through nine," Elia said. "I've got a very young team, only two seniors, and the kids I've got coming up are pretty fast. We practice it, we practice running bases every day. We practice reading the pitches, knowing when to go, picking and choosing our battles. They've become very good at that, knowing when to be aggressive."

In developing that aggression, seeing has been believing. Muscle memory is the M.O. in Nauset practices, repeatedly practicing drills that have them envisioning those first-to-third, second-to-third, passed-ball scenarios.

"We do a lot of visualization," Elia said. "We've done a lot of mental preparation for games right now. They're goal-oriented. They don't go by expectations, they go by goals, and I think that's helped them out quite a bit this year."

Recap: Silver Lake 4, No. 13 Plymouth North 1 (8 inn.)

April, 16, 2013
4/16/13
9:02
PM ET
PLYMOUTH, Mass. -– The Silver Lake baseball team may been held hitless until the sixth inning against Plymouth North, but it was Lakers’ starting pitcher Mike Lundin who left Siever Field as the best pitcher on Tuesday.

Lundin threw a 101-pitch complete game in the Lakers' 4-1 eight-inning win in the opening round of the Brad Martin Tournament on Tuesday, setting them up with a match-up against Bridgewater-Raynham in the finals on Thursday at 2, back at Siever Field in Plymouth. Plymouth North will face New Bedford in the consolation game.

The senior hurler surrendered just two hits and one unearned run while striking out nine –- including five in the final two innings as Silver Lake improved to 5-0 on the season.

"Mike’s a stud. Mike’s a horse," said Silver Lake coach Ken Tocci. "This was just a good old fashioned pitcher’s duel. We were lucky enough to get out on top, because he made big pitches when he had to."

He was efficient in out-dueling Eagles (3-1) starter Ken Drew, throwing 68 of his 101 pitches for strikes.

"He kept us off-balance all game," said Plymouth North interim coach Pat Lamb. "Kids were ducking out of the way on called third strikes. His curve ball was working and he throws hard. Some days you just tip your hat, and today is one of those days. He pitched a little bit better than our guy."

Drew threw the first seven innings for North, holding Silver Lake hitless until a Sam Ballerini fell in down the right field line for a two-out double in the top of the sixth inning.

After Cory Boudreau walked, stole second and took third on a throwing error in the first inning, he came in to score an unearned run on a fielder’s choice from the bat of David Murphy.

Drew quieted a pair of potential SL rallies in the third and fourth innings, as they put runners on second and third in both, despite not having any hits.

It took until the top of the seventh for the Lakers to finally get to him. Freshman Anthony Videtto led off with a walk and quickly stole second base, despite a pitch-out by Plymouth North.

With one out, the speedy second baseman swiped third, forcing Plymouth North to pull its infield in to try and prevent the game-tying run from scoring.

Sophomore Tanner Bouchard –- who was Silver Lake’s first base runner after drawing a walk to conclude a nine-pitch at-bat in the third – fought off a pair of two-strike pitches before smacking a grounder toward shortstop.

Videtto was off on contact, and slid across the plate with the tying run just a blink of the eye ahead of the tag.

“We’re aggressive,” said Tocci. “Anyone who watches us know we’re aggressive, and you live by the sword, and die by the sword. He could have very easily been thrown out. We noticed that it was sort of a slow infield and balls weren’t getting to position players the way they would if the grass was cut lower. One out, working toward the bottom of the order, we decided to be off on contact.”

Plymouth North made a move to the bullpen in the eighth with Drew already at 116 pitches, and Silver Lake took advantage.

Josh O’Neill led off with a walk, and Matt Kauchon followed with one as well. Ballerini laced a line drive deep toward the right center field gap that was caught near the fence, allowing O’Neill to race to third base.

O’Neill scored the go-ahead run for SL on a wild pitch with Tucker Bouchard at the plate.

Bouchard was award first base after being hit by the next pitch, bringing Videtto back to the plate. He drew his third walk of the game.

Tanner Bouchard extended the lead when he laced a two-out single over the third baseman’s head, scoring both Kauchon and his older brother.

Lundin allowed two base runners in the bottom of the eighth, but ultimately recorded all three outs via strikeout to cap his impressive showing and punch Silver Lake’s ticket to Thursday’s championship game.

"Good pitching will always shut down good hitting," said Tocci. "We found a way to scratch one out and pulled ahead late."

ESPN Boston Week 3 football picks

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
3:25
AM ET
NO. 3 XAVERIAN (1-1) AT NO. 15 BROCKTON (1-1)
The Skinny:
Both teams are going to be seeing red after their respective performances last week with the Hawks taking an ole fashioned whooping at St. Joseph's Regional in New Jersey and the Boxers being shut out by the likes of Reading. This matchup will see some of the state's premiere lineman matching up with Michigan-bound Mo Hurst lining up across from preseason All-State Watch Lister Joe Previte of Brockton.

Barboza: The question might be is if the Boxers get back on the board again this week. I think they do, but it's still no enough. Xaverian, 27-14.

Hall: I want to know what St. Joseph's Regional alum Devin McCourty thinks of the New Jersey school's 62-0 beatdown of Xaverian last weekend. Xaverian, 24-17.

NO. 22 BC HIGH (0-2) AT DARTMOUTH (1-1)
The Skinny:
The beleaguered Eagles might enjoy of bit of a reprieve if rumors are true that quarterback Brendan Craven will return for the tilt against the Indians. These will be two hungry squads as BC High looks for its first win on the season and Dartmouth hopes to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Attleboro last week. This could be a coming-out party for Dartmouth RB/LB Mitch Loranger, one of the more underrated talents in the state, while Tim Smith provides a nice change of pace running.

Barboza: Coach Rick White puts these games on the schedule when he feels like he has something in the bag, so you can't look past that. I think the Eagles escape the South Coast with their first win of the season, however. BC High, 16-14.

Hall: I'm in need of a bailout from North Attleborough Credit Union after picking the Eagles last week. Sorry, in this dire times of financial brevity, I can't take on too much more water. Dartmouth, 17-10.

WHITMAN-HANSON (2-0) AT FOXBOROUGH (2-0)
The Skinny:
These are two traditional powers who have had some leaner years in recent memory, but seem again to be headed back in the right direction. The Panthers opened up their season with wins over ACL powers Plymouth North and Marshfield, with QB Tom Sapienza tallying over 400 yards on the air and ground in the victory over the Rams. The Warriors steamrolled their first two opponents (East Longmeadow and East Providnce, R.I.) by a combined 74-16 with running back Kiivone Howard putting his name into early Hockomock Player of the Year talk.

Barboza: The offensive weapons are there, but I wouldn't be surprised with a defensive struggle here. Foxborough makes the stops when it needs to behind linebacker Luc Valenza. Foxborough, 21-14.

Hall: Kiivone Howard has been one of the nicest surprises of the early season. Of course, folks in Foxborough will tell you that's no surprise. Foxborough, 30-25.

NO. 5 DUXBURY (2-0) AT NEW BEDFORD (2-0)
The Skinny:
The Dragons put their state-best winning streak on the line against the Whalers after rolling through Plymouth North last week. Marshall McCarthy has been as good as he's ever been for Duxbury's defense, registering 26 tackles through two games. New Bedford will look for a big game from quarterback Mike Rapoza, who's a multi-dimensional threat having played running back and wide receiver as well.

Barboza: Jon Hurvitz and the Duxbury line could be primed for a big day. Duxbury, 28-10.

Hall: I fully expect the Dragons to head into October 5's showdown with Xaverian on a 30-game win streak. Duxbury, 21-0.

NO. 2 ST. JOHN'S PREP (2-0) AT NO. 1 EVERETT (2-0)
The Skinny:
For the first time since 2010, we have the top two teams in ESPNBoston.com's statewide poll squaring off. Everett is 7-0 against the Catholic Conference since the 2009 MIAA Division 1 Super Bowl loss to Xaverian; that streak features three wins over the visiting Eagles, including the 2010 D1 Super Bowl. To snap the streak, Prep will have to play lockdown defense and get big production from its star running back Jonathan Thomas. For Everett, it's anyone's guess who will be lining up at quarterback this week, but Gilly De Souza has been very serviceable.

Barboza: I think both offenses are going to get theirs, but it's going to be decided by the defenses and who's able to force a fumble, come up with a pick, something to steal the game. Everett, 30-23.

Hall: No truth to the rumor Everett Superintendent of Schools Fred Foresteire was taking snaps under center this week. Everett, 23-21.

NO. 9 ST. JOHN'S OF SHREWSBURY (2-0) AT CATHOLIC MEMORIAL (1-1)
The Skinny:
St. John's can lay claim to one of the state's most prolific offenses after an impressive showing the first two weeks, outlasting No. 24 Holy Name (47-40) and cruising past No. 16 Longmeadow (35-14). However, neither team has an individual as talented on the defensive side of the ball as CM's UMass-bound linebacker/defensive end Peter Ngobidi, one of the state's best off the edge. Conversely, the Knights struggled against Westford last weekend, and may have their hands full against a Pioneers squad with similar spread principles but at a breakneck tempo.

Barboza: I like the Knights' defense with Ngobidi and Kevin Bletzer, but too many options for them to stop. St. John's, 31-17.

Hall: Going forward, I'm suddenly very intrigued at how St. John's will be calling in its plays. St. John's, 30-14.

BB&N AT BELMONT HILL
The Skinny:
Belmont Hill is entering its first season in decades without Kevin Fleming on the sidelines, and it comes out of the gate going right into the fire. BB&N took a 17-14 humbling at the Hillers' hands in the opening week of ISL play last year, and they have one of the best individual athletes this season in Wake Forest-bound tight end Brendan O'Neil.

Barboza: I'm still syphoning water from my boots after last year's "Car Wash" game. The memory will be fresh in the minds of the Knights as well. BB&N, 20-14.

Hall: Plain and simple, John Papas gets his revenge here. BB&N, 21-7.

THAYER ACADEMY AT GOVERNOR'S ACADEMY
The Skinny:
ISL season opens up with plenty of hype behind Thayer and its numerous athletes, including Bryan Vieira, Aaron Gilmer and Ikenna Nwokeji. The Governors had runaway success last season under first-year head coach Jim O'Leary, and return arguably the most valuable player in the league in quarterback Tate Jozokos, a UNC lacrosse commit who was a dual-threat nightmare for many opponents.

Barboza: Simply stated, Gov's are running the table again this year. Governor's, 23-17.

Hall: Tate Jozokos can play on my Tuesday night Charlestown flag football team any day. Governor's, 28-13.

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