Boston High School: R.J. Noel

D1 North Baseball: Lowell 5, Malden 1

June, 8, 2012
LOWELL, Mass. -- After hours of start time uncertainty and an eventual postponement the day before, and another hour rain delay the next day, Lowell is headed to Saturday’s Division 1 North Sectional Finals.

The Red Raiders beat Malden 5-1 at Alumni Field Friday, leaving only Newton North separating it from a sectional championship.

Lowell got strong pitching performances from R.J. Noel (5.1 innings pitched, 1 earned run, 3 hits, 3 strikeouts, 2 walks) and Nick Godfroy (3.2 innings pitched, 4 hits, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks).

With the team playing on back-to-back days, Lowell (20-4) coach Dan Graham was able to conserve most of the arms for Saturday, and any potential games next week.

“I take nothing for granted, but I knew coming into the game that R.J. was rested, Godfroy was rested, Chad (Gens) was rested, and if need be, I could use Matty (Tulley) too,” said Graham. “There’s no sense in holding anyone back today and planning ahead for tomorrow because if you don’t win today, there is no tomorrow. Coming in with the arms, we felt good with where we were at.”

The effort was aided in the second inning when Tulley, who was dropped into the No. 5 spot in the lineup, hit a bomb over the left field wall for the first run of the game.

Two batters later, Andrew Marasa hit a ball to right field that Malden’s Nick Powers misplayed, which turned Marasa’s single into a three-base hit. Roger Roman plated him with the third hit of the inning.

Lowell added another in the third when a Chad Gens sacrifice fly allowed Noel to cross the plate.

“We really wanted it,” he said. “We were upset that we really didn’t score as many runs as we should, but we definitely came ready to hit, play defense, and all that.”

Gens helped out again in the fifth when he crushed a 1-0 pitch from Malden (17-6) pitcher Brad Applin off the centerfield wall for a double. He scored two batters later on a Joe Parisi single to make the game 4-0.

Malden got on the board in the sixth inning when the heart of the batting order hit four straight singles, which knocked in Austin Teal.

On to LeLaucher: Lowell will play Newton North Saturday, the No. 22 seed that not many people, if any at all, expected to be playing in the sectional finals. In contrast, it will be playing a Lowell team that many prognosticators had pegged for a postseason run before the season even started.

North did not get there by blind luck, however. With postseason victories over Lexington, Billerica, St. John’s Prep, and Acton-Boxborough, it defeated four of the top 11 seeds in the tournament to get to where it is now. If it is able to defeat Lowell Saturday, it will add to that list.

Gens and the rest of the Red Raiders are confident they can keep this run going beyond Saturday.

“There’s always a sense of urgency when you’re playing in the North finals,” he said. “We can beat them. We beat A-B, we beat all the teams they played, so we can do it.”

Flawless on the mound -- and field: Lowell’s pitching and defense has been as good as it could ask for over the past three games. It has now given up one run in 27 innings. While there were times in the later innings when Godfroy got behind in counts and seemed to struggle with his command, Graham stuck with him and the senior rewarded him by pitching out of trouble.

Instead of having a quick trigger and burning through pitchers, Graham left himself the opportunity to use his ace (Tulley) on six days rest Saturday, with other fresh arms (Gens, Cam Latta, etc.) to use if necessary.

“It worked out today,” said Graham. “We only had one pitching change today. It took Nick a minute or two to get settled in once he got out there, but once he did he started doing his thing, changing speeds and throwing strikes. He was our No. 2 starter most of the year.

“I like our team, I think we’ve got talent,” he added. “I’m very happy these kids are going in there and playing to their ability, not getting nervous, and executing. It makes my job a little bit easier.”

No more delays: Saturday’s games will mark the end of an unorthodox two-week stretch for most of the teams in the state playoffs. A week of inclement weather and end of the school year activities has brought about many scheduling conflicts for the remaining teams in the state playoffs, and Lowell is no exception.

“Those kids had their prom two weeks ago on Tuesday,” said Graham. “It’s been tough from the time the prom rolled around, through graduation this last Wednesday, and in preparation for the state tournament.”

“Monday (May 28) we won the league. Tuesday (May 29) these kids had the prom, they had the day off. Wednesday, I didn’t bring them back until late at night. Then the tournament’s starting. We know we have a bye, we’re waiting until Saturday to play. We got rained out on Saturday and ended up playing on Sunday.

“We win that game 1-0 (against Westford), then we’re supposed to come back on Monday, and we end up getting rained out so we have a day to actually go indoors and get some work in and talk to the kids and work on some offensive stuff. We did a better job when we came back out on Tuesday (against Malden Catholic). We got a dynamite pitching performance from Cam Latta. Then these kids graduated on Wednesday (June 6) so we got a quick day of work. We were supposed to play yesterday, so we got out here and did most of our pregame out here on the field. We were waiting to take the bus to Fraser Field to play a game, it got rained out there, then we had to come back and get ready to go today."

Graham continued, “The good part about today was the kids got out of school early so, with a 4 p.m. game, we were able to get out here early, take a full pregame, and make sure we were ready to play. So it was a little bit more routine, which was nice, with not as many distractions, which is nice. I think the focus was where it needs to be.”

The scheduling was more of an inconvenience to the players, but not anything that couldn’t be worked around.

“It’s a pain,” said Gens. “We were ready to play yesterday, but I guess it was kind of good that it rained yesterday since we played well today. We got extra swings in in practice and we hit good today.”

D1 Baseball: Lowell 2, Malden Catholic 0

June, 5, 2012
LOWELL, Mass. -- For its second straight Division 1 North tournament game, Lowell kept its opponent off the scoreboard entirely.

With strong defense and a complete game by Cam Latta, Lowell advanced to the tournament semi-finals with a 2-0 victory over Malden Catholic Tuesday.

While Latta was not overpowering hitters (7 strikeouts over 9 innings), he relied on the team behind him to take care of the balls in play. This allowed him to work quickly and efficiently throughout the game, while allowing only four hits and stranding 7 MC runners.

Malden Catholic (14-8) led off the second and third innings with doubles, but each time, Latta was able to work around them and not let the runner advance beyond second base.

“I knew my defense would help me behind me, so I just tried to throw as many strikes as possible and not put too many guys on base,” he said.

Lowell (19-4) got on the board in the second after having runners on the corners with one out. Dylan Dennis, the MC starter, threw to first to check on Roger Roman. The ball ricocheted off the first baseman’s glove and got away from him.

This allowed Andrew Marasa to score from third and for Roman to advance to third.

It’s other run came in the fifth on a bases loaded Chad Gens sacrifice fly.

“What’s encouraging for me is, I still think we have better days ahead, especially from an offensive standpoint,” said Lowell coach Dan Graham. “I think we’re capable of doing a better job, and I think we will.”

MC’s threatened in the third inning when it had runners on first and second with two outs, but Latta was able to induce two flyouts to end any scoring chance MC had.

Sixteen of MC’s 27 outs came on fly balls.

Lowell warmed up three pitchers during the eighth and ninth innings, but they weren’t needed. He struck out Manny Powers looking to end the game and helped his team move on to the semi-finals.

Under the Radar: Latta’s quiet emergence as a reliable starting pitcher gives Lowell more potential arms to throw at teams as the postseason rolls on. While Matt Tulley is the well-publicized ace of the staff, Latta has earned the trust of his coach and his teammates to be put on the mound as the team’s No. 2 starter.

“He’s a kid that, early in the year, pitched in relief, and pitched in relief a lot,” said Graham. “I think like 15 games into the season, the kid had 12 appearances. He was doing so well in relief, we put him into the rotation, then he put three great starts together. Seeing that, with a kid like Matty, I have all the confidence in the world with Cam, against anyone, to give us a shot to win.

“So for him to come out of the bullpen and establish himself in the rotation, to prove everyone right, and to come out and pitch the way he pitched today, is awesome.”

After warming up arms in the late innings, it appeared Graham was waiting for the opportune time to make a move. He decided to ride the wave and keep his starter in, even after he approached -- and eventually went over -- 100 pitches.

“That means a lot to me,” said Latta. “He believes in me and we’re trying to go far in this tournament.”

Latta was assisted by MC’s tendency to jump on pitches early in the count and try to drive them. In 10 of its 15 at-bats between the third and sixth innings, he had to throw at most two pitches to each hitter. That quick work helped keep the fatigue at a minimum, and helped him go farther in the game.

“It was good because they were first-pitch swinging,” he said. “They were getting pop-ups, so they were quick and easy outs.”

No tax on the staff: Because Latta and Matt Tulley combined to pitch 17.1 innings for Lowell over the past two games, the rest of the team’s arms are available for Thursday, when it is expected to play Malden in the Division 1 North Semi-finals.

R.J. Noel, who pitched two-thirds of an inning Sunday against Westford, has been the only non-starter arm Lowell has used in the state tournament so far.

“Eighteen innings of tournament baseball, we haven’t given up a run yet,” said Graham. “We’ve gone to the pen one time, that’s it. Our defense has been great. To see the pitching in the first two games be the way it was, you have some arms rested. You have some other kids you can go to. (Cam) was unbelievable today.”

D1 Baseball: Lowell 1, Westford 0

June, 3, 2012
LOWELL, Mass. -- As a blanket of dreary clouds rolled in overhead, Lowell’s Matt Tulley toed the rubber and stared in at Westford’s Luke Morse, Sunday’s opposing pitcher.

A hit batsman, throwing error, and single put Westford players on every base with only one out in the sixth inning. Neither team could get on the board up until that inning. A pop fly, at the very least, a ground ball to either the second baseman or shortstop would plate a Westford run.

With the count 1-2, Morse swung and hit a soft ground ball back to Tulley. He flipped it to his catcher, Mike Hart, for the force out to keep the score tied at zero. After working the count full against Danny Cerullo, he threw a fastball down the middle that Cerullo took and started jogging down to first base. Except it was strike three. The inning was over, the crisis was averted.

It was that kind of a game for Westford: the Grey Ghosts got runners in scoring position, but could never get any to cross the plate. It took a 129-pitch effort from Tulley, but Lowell hung on for the 1-0 victory to move on to the Division 1 North Quarterfinals.

“I don’t let anything bother me,” said Tulley. “No matter what the situation is, I don’t let it bother me, no matter what it is.”

The only run for Lowell (18-4) came in the seventh inning. After Morse walked Andrew Marasa and Joe Parisi to start the inning, he was relieve in favor of John Troy.

Marasa got picked off second base after Matt Sullivan, the catcher for Westford (11-10), threw down to second after noticing Marasa took too big a lead off the bag. He then got RJ Gray to fly out to center for the second out of the inning.

Roger Roman came up next and sent a ball into centerfield a single. The ball got by Mike Bibinski and kept rolling towards the warning track. This allowed Parisi to score all the way from first and Roman to roll into third.

It was a tough game for Bibinski, who went 1-for-5 at the plate with four strikeouts to go along with the fielding error.

Tulley had nine strikeouts heading into the final frame, and added another before being relieved by R.J. Noel.

If it was up to the senior righthander, he would have stayed in the game. However, the team knew Noel was more than capable of getting the final two outs in the game.

“I definitely wanted to throw the complete game, but it was a certain situation where R.J. is quick to the plate, and I was getting up there in pitches, so it was smart decision,” he said.

Rainy Day Fund: Due to inclement weather over the weekend, many of the remaining playoff teams have to play again on Monday, a back-to-back scenario rarely seen in high school baseball.

While having an extra day of rest would be preferred, Lowell coach Dan Graham doesn’t think the immediate turnaround will be a detrimental to his team.

“It’s not a bad thing,” he said. “I’m sure some of these kids are anxious. I’m sure they’d like to get some more at-bats right now. I think it will be a good thing for us to get right back out here tomorrow and play.”

Lowell plays against Malden Catholic on Monday at 4 p.m.

Morse leaves it all on the field: Morse deserved the standing ovation the fans gave him when he came out of the game in the sixth inning. He did everything he could to keep his team in the game against a powerful offensive team.

There was a stretch between the second and sixth innings when he allowed only two hits and four runners to reach base.

He ended his six-inning outing allowing four hits, three walks, one earned run, and two strikeouts. He pitched out of jams in the first and second innings where, each time, Lowell had runners on second and third with one out.

“He threw the ball well, credit him,” said Graham. “He was starting kids off offspeed, getting it for strikes and getting ahead in the count. He had enough on his fastball where, if you show them offspeed early, you can sneak fastballs by people.”

“I feel like we should’ve got out of those first couple innings with a run or two, which probably could have changed the complexion of the game. We probably would’ve settled in and been a little more comfortable at the plate. You’re not going to win many state tournament games putting up only one run. But we feel fortunate that it didn’t come back to bite us at the end of the game.”

Draft Tracking: By the time Lowell’s Division 1 North Quarterfinal matchup versus Malden Catholic is over Monday night, the Major League Baseball Player Draft will be underway.

The Red Raiders have two potential draftees in Tulley and infielder Chad Gens. Don’t look for them to be distracted from the task at hand though.

“I don’t think they’ll be distracted,” said Graham. “I don’t think they’re going to be bringing their cell phones into the dugout or anything waiting for a phone call. That’s really out of their control. They’ve played the season up until this point, so if it happens for them, great, if it doesn’t happen for them, it’s not like they’re finishing their college careers here. They’re just finishing the tail end of their high school careers. They have a lot of baseball in front of them.”

Tulley knows that even if he doesn’t get that phone call in the next few days, it won’t be the end of the line for him. The Virginia Tech commit will work to make the most of his time in the land of Division 1 college baseball.

“I’m just going to let it play out,” he said. “I hope I do (get drafted). It would be an honor. If it doesn’t happen, then I’ve got three years at Virginia Tech, and I’ll try my best to do it then.”

Recap: No. 13 Lowell 4, No. 7 BC High 2

May, 18, 2012

LOWELL, Mass. -- It is a known fact that big-time pitchers are usually at their best in big-game situations.

Lowell High’s Matt Tulley certainly falls into that classification of big-time pitcher. Tonight the senior righty showed why, as he surrendered just four hits while striking out 11 in a complete game 4-2 non-league victory effort over BC High at Alumni Field.

“I knew this was the most-anticipated game of the year for us,” said Tulley, who will play for Virginia Tech next season. “I was just very excited to play. Coach (Danny) Graham told me about a pitcher from this area named Jeff Allison (who played at Peabody High and was a first-round pick of the Florida Marlins) and how gritty a player he was and I just tried to follow that.

"Warming up in the bullpen I didn't feel that good. I don't know what it was but I wasn't to worried about it. I just knew I had to zone in more and get focused. Once I got out there I felt great.”

Tulley mixed his fastball and cutter with a knee-buckling curve, which proved to be his most effective pitch of the evening as it kept Eagles (13-5) off-balanced throughout.

“We had chances but let to many opportunities go by,” BC High coach Norm Walsh said. “(Tulley) is obviously one of the top 4-5 guys we’ve seen all year. Him changing speeds on his breaking ball was the biggest thing. It wasn't so much the fastball but the ability for him to change speeds on the breaking ball. He competes. That’s what you want to see out of your pitchers -- to be aggressive and go after hitters like he did tonight.”

With the contest tied 2-2 through 5 1/2 innings, the Red Raiders (13-3) put this one to rest in their half of the sixth. With John Arens in relief of starter Trent Berg (5 IP, 2 runs, 7 hits, 4 Ks) on the mound, Lowell’s Roger Roman opened the frame with a single. After advancing to second on Matt Cassella’s well-executed sacrifice bunt, the senior eventually came around to score the go-ahead run on a Chad Gens fielder’s choice. The Red Raiders added another run moments later on a Tulley (2 hits, 2 RBI) single to left that scored Mike Hart, who walked.

“We knew it was going to be a good game,” Graham said. “It was a great performance by Matt, and he was very gutsy right to the end. Credit our kids. This one was fun to watch. (BC High) is a helluva team and they compete hard. You could see at the end of the game how meaningful it was to beat a program like BC High. Anytime you win it’s great but when you beat a quality team it’s even better. Our kids were definitely up for the challenge.”

The Red Raiders looked to put this contest away in their half of the first after loading the bases with no out. But Berg, who also used his 12-to-6 curveball with authority, pitched his way out of trouble by striking out Tulley and R.J. Noel before inducing Derek Reed to fly out. Walking the proverbial tightrope much of the evening, Berg, a junior, failed to escape trouble in the third.

Back-to-back singles by R.J. Gray and Gens started things. A Tulley sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position. After Berg set Noel with a strike out, Reed next singled to plate Gray with Lowell’s first run.

The Eagles tied it up in the fifth. Rich Roach opened with a double to left, took third on a deep fly out by Chuckie Connors and sprinted home on a wild pitch. Lowell got that run back its half of the fifth. Gens singled, stole second and came around to score on Tulley’s double down the left field line which short-hopped over the glove of third baseman Justin Silvestro making it 2-1.

Showing great resiliency, the Eagles answered back to begin the sixth. Bobby Melley blasted a triple to right and scored moments later on a passed ball to deadlock this tilt yet again, 2-2.

But on this night, the Red Raiders simply had too much firepower offensively and it showed in the bottom of the frame after taking a two-run advantage. With Tulley in full command on the hill, that would prove to be more than enough run support for him to secure the win.

“We put some pressure on them,” said Walsh. “When we kept it on them we scored but we just didn’t get it done as often as we needed to do it.”

Recap: Chelmsford 4, No. 1 Lowell 2

May, 4, 2012
CHELMSFORD, Mass. -– Chelmsford starting pitcher Tanner Houle tossed a complete game on Friday afternoon to pick up the win as Chelmsford (9-4) defeated Merrimack Valley Conference rival Lowell, 4-2, for their second victory over the Red Raiders this season and their fifth win in a row.

The Lions wasted little time getting on the board as they plated three first inning runs, sending seven batters to the plate in a 15-minute opening inning.

[+] EnlargeTanner Houle
Ryan Kilian for ESPNBoston.comTanner Houle picked up his second win this season over No. 1 Lowell, going the distance on the mound in a 4-2 battle.
Chelmsford senior first baseman Thomas Murphy struck the biggest blow in the inning as the lefty clean-up hitter took a breaking ball the other way for a two-run double over the head of the left fielder. The RBI double plated Matt Rabbito and Michael DeDonato. Rabbito had previously raked a double off the left field rock wall that scored lead-off man Mason Trubey.

“I was down in the count so I was just trying to battle back,” said Murphy. “He left one over the plate so I was just trying to go the opposite way.”

The Lions would score their fourth run in the third inning as Russell Olive walked with the bases loaded to force DeDonato in for his second run scored of the game.

With a 4-0 lead Houle made quick work of the Red Raiders in the fourth inning as he did a great job of mixing up his pitches and keeping the Lowell hitters off balance all afternoon. The only trouble that Houle encountered on the day came in the fifth inning as Lowell mounted a rally behind a leadoff single from R.J. Noel and an RBI double from Joe Parisi that would lead to two runs in the inning.

“It feels real good as last year they got us pretty good both games,” recalled Houle. “To get them back this year makes me so happy.”

Houle also picked up the win out of the bullpen during the first meeting between the two teams on April 13. Chelmsford defeated Lowell 11-5 in that contest.

Momentum killer: The Red Raiders scored two runs in the fifth inning and were looking for more as they had runners on the corners with one out.

Rabbito would then come up with the game’s biggest play as the junior backstop threw out R.J. Gray trying to steal second base. The caught stealing halted a feverish Lowell rally and gave Chelmsford a key second out to help curb the Lowell comeback.

“Knowing I have him makes me so happy out there,” said Houle of his battery mate. “I can throw a slow curve and he can still beat them out there and if I throw it in the dirt he will knock it down.”

The Beauty of Ayotte: Ayotte Field in North Chelmsford is one of the classic fields in Eastern Massachusetts as it sports a short, sloped rock wall in left field that often draws the attention of batters. The neighborhood ballpark is set on the banks of Freeman Lake and is named after legendary long time Chelmsford coach Harry Ayotte, who passed away last year.

Friday afternoon was no different, as Rabbito pelted the rock wall on the fly, resulting in a first inning RBI double.

“The rocks are there and that ball that he hit could have bounced any direction,” said Chelmsford head coach Mike O’Keefe. “It is a unique field and we are happy that it is ours.”

Red Hot Lions: The Lions have now won five games in a row, and eight out of their last nine, as they head into the home stretch of their schedule.

“We are working on team chemistry as we go along,” explained Murphy. “Each game we seem to be getting better and I am excited to play the next couple of games.”

The Lions get back to action on Monday as they host Andover in another MVC Large battle. First pitch is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. at Ayotte.

“We are starting to understand who we are and what we do well,” O’Keefe said. “As long as we don’t beat ourselves it gives us an opportunity to do what we did today.”

What We Learned: Week 9

November, 8, 2011
The knock on Barnstable the last few years has never been that they've been short on talent, but rather they always seemed a year away.

One five-yard touchdown scamper in overtime, from a floppy-haired sophomore named Hayden Murphy, has suddenly changed everything about that perception. Since junior Nick Peabody took over for the injured D.J. Crook at quarterback, the Red Raiders are 3-1, and a point-after field goal in overtime from being 4-0, led by their youth movement on defense and some above-average speed at the skill positions.

All of it came to a head on Friday night in Hyannis, when the Raiders (5-4, 3-0) emerged with a 26-20 overtime win over previous No. 3 Bridgewater-Raynham to win the Old Colony League outright and punch their first ticket to the playoffs since 2002.

"I just wanted it so bad for the kids," first-year head coach Chris Whidden said following the game. "They've done so much, so much off the field as a team, and they worked so hard in the offseason, I just felt like they deserved it so much."

The Raiders will face Dual County Large champion Lincoln-Sudbury in a Tuesday night playoff following their Thanksgiving showdown with archrival Falmouth. By all accounts, this figures to go a lot more swimmingly than the Raiders' last appearance, a 42-6 stomping by a St. John's Prep squad that saw two kids go to the NFL, another get drafted 17th overall by the Padres, and another go on to play hockey at Boston University.

This time around, the Raiders have speed in all sorts of places, and smart coach in the young Whidden. Witness the B-R game, in which he made a few tweaks on his defensive line to free up hawking linebackers Andrew Ellis, Bryan Hardy and Ryan Litchman, allowing them to get to the sidelines quicker and contain those outside power sweeps that has been the calling card of the Trojans for so many years.

Offensively, speedsters like Murphy have their best days ahead of them. But just as integral to the turnaround has been the emergence of running back Theo France. We've long mused that, given more carries, the senior will prove his worth. Off the field, France is reportedly a workout warrior; and Friday night, it showed, racking up nearly 160 yards on the ground to keep the Trojans honest.

You might have thought the loss of Preston Cooper would be catastrophic for BC High.

As tight end Jameson McShea put it, "He was our offense."

However, the Eagles have gotten along just fine without Cooper because of Deontae Ramey-Doe's hard-nosed running out of the backfield in the last two weeks. The rangy senior running back put in a huge 206-yard, two-touchdown performance against No. 13 Xaverian at a windswept Viola Stadium on Friday night, powering the Eagles to an important Catholic Conference win.

And, while Ramey-Doe admits he could never hope to replace Cooper, he's understanding his new role as a feature back within the Eagles' offense.

"Coach [Jon Bartlett] has told me that he doesn't expect me to be Preston," Ramey-Doe said after Friday's victory. "I just have to run the way that I know that I can run."

What that means is the Eagles have a versatile runner who's tough enough to run in between the tackles, but also fast enough to run on sweeps to outside behind BC High's hulking line, as they exhibited on Friday night.

"We just want him to run hard," Bartlett said, "and he did that.”

Of course, Ramey-Doe didn't do it alone. He had his biggest fan on the sideline for Friday's game, none other than Cooper, himself. After scoring his first touchdown of the game, Ramey-Doe ran over to Cooper with a high five, saying, "That one's for you."

With Lowell quarterback R.J. Noel working his magic again and wreaking havoc with his arm and his feet, Chelmsford was playing for their lives in the fourth quarter of Saturday night's game at Cawley Stadium. The Red Raiders came back to tie the Lions, 14-14, and for all intents and purposes had gained momentum. Not only had Chelmsford lost the lead, they also lost BC-bound linebacker Tim Joy on the game-tying PAT by Lowell. A bad night had just gotten worse.

Then, the Lions offense took over behind running back Eddie Sheridan (168 yards, 2 TDs).

Chelmsford marched down the field on two straight series and the Lions' defense tightened, including Lou Ferrer's huge fourth-down stop. So the Lions escaped and inched closer to a Merrimack Valley Large title.

"My favorite part of the game is getting that one yard," Sheridan said. "I love it."

Several weeks ago, Needham was in the driver's seat to claim the Bay State's large division title. A few key injuries later and a last-second win by Framingham (22-21) last week and the Carey is ripe for the picking.

Flyers quarterback Greg Finley connected with Mike Stearns on a 4-yard touchdown pass with one second remaining to lift Framingham to an improbable comeback win that's thrown the league race into limbo.

Framingham, Needham and Weymouth now all stand at 6-2 in league play. Needham holds an advantage over Weymouth in their head to head record, but with the loss to Framingham, the Flyers can sneak by with a win over the Wildcats in Framingham Friday night. Meanwhile, Needham hosts Newton North on Friday.

To think of the last time a team besides Natick or Walpole represented the Bay State Conference's Herget division in the playoffs, you have to go all the way back to 2002, when a Kyle Beatrice-led Swampscott squad torched division champ Norwood 51-22 in Division 3. That's a decade-long run that, following Friday night's showdown in Walpole, is about to get longer.

The Hockomock League has Mansfield-North Attleborough. The Dual County League has Acton-Boxboro versus Lincoln-Sudbury. In the Bay State, the premier matchup year in and year out is Natick-Walpole, and this year's installment should be no different.

From Reshaude Goodwin to Billy Flutie to Ryan Izzo and Scott McCummings, the rivalry has always featured premiere Division 1 talent going at it. This year's installment will be more of a youth movement, with a strong junior class leading Walpole's stout defense that hasn't allowed a point since its lone loss of the season, to Needham in Week 7.

Natick, also 8-1, battles Walpole's youth with uber-youth. Their starting quarterback, sophomore Troy Flutie (yes, Darren's kid), is on track for 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 rushing. Their leading receiver, freshman Brian Dunlap, is closing in on 1,000 receiving yards and is one of the state's leaders in touchdown receptions (12). Running back Nick Lee, a junior, is 33 yards short of 1,000.

Of all of the league championships up for grabs on Friday night, one of the most underrated has got to be the one going down in Mashpee, where the Falcons will host No. 19 East Bridgewater in a battle of unbeatens, for the South Shore League's playoff berth.

By now, East Bridgewater's superstar, UNH-bound running back Casey DeAndrade, is a household name for his breathtaking speed. Some have even gone as far as to call him one of the best to come through the league in the last two decades. But flying under the radar has been Mashpee senior running back Jordan Keli'inui.

A patient runner with a long frame, live hips, and a compact yet powerful frame at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, he's paved his way to over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns, one of the leading scorers in Division 4. (Check out his highlights here)

This could be a high-scoring affair -- even by the down-tempo South Shore League standards.

Recap: No. 6 Chelmsford 28, Lowell 22

November, 6, 2011

LOWELL, Mass. -- Lowell had a chance to tie Saturday night's game with No. 6 Chelmsford late in the fourth quarter and they needed one yard to continue their drive, but that did not occur. Instead, Lions junior defensive lineman Lou Ferrer stuffed Ngaiiva Mason for no gain, giving the Lions the ball back and a chance to go ahead two touchdowns. Despite giving up one more, this defensive stop gave Chelmsford the cushion they needed to ride out the rest of the 28-22 win over its Merrimack Valley Conference rival.

“It was gut check time for us at that point,” Chelmsford head coach Bruce Rich said.

In the third quarter, Chelmsford fumbled the ball on the opening drive and had a three-and-out series while Lowell was able to get on the board with 9:08 left in the third and again on the first play of the fourth quarter, tying the Lions 14-14 and showing signs of a potential upset. Chelmsford then took two straight drives into the end zone, one 4:06 (54 yards) and the other 2:21 (71 yards).

Lowell was able to score with six seconds left to bring them within eight and R.J. Noel’s PAT rush brought it within 6, but a failed onside kick allowed Chelmsford to cruise.

“We’ll take a win,” Rich said. “I don’t care who it is in this league … they’re hard to get.”

The 5-foot-11, 290-pound junior came up with a huge tackle late in the fourth to get the ball back for the Lions, but Rich is used to seeing Ferrer tackle opponents. As a wrestler for Chelmsford, Ferrer has plenty of practice grabbing and slamming guys down to the mat. Rich thinks that he transfers some of those skills well into football.

“Lou plays low,” Rich said. “He’s very, very good in clinches and he knows how to get by people. Again, he plays low, he’s an immovable object, so he kind of spear heads that front line and the other guys are making plays off of him.”

Aside from the usual off sides, pass interference and false start penalties, roughing the passer and unnecessary roughness penalties were flying fairly frequently for both teams.

“The game got a little chippy, there was some extra stuff going on,” Rich said.

When asked if they were discussing chemistry after the play was dead, Ferrer made it clear that the Lions and Red Raiders were not talking about bonds or the periodic table.

“It was a lot of talking back and forth going on after the plays… A lot of penalties on us but we kind of stuck in there and played hard."

Rich was not so convinced that the players were aware of their surroundings due to the energy at Cawley Stadium and chalked it up to adrenaline.

“It was such a physical game; I don’t think the kids heard the whistle every time.”

The Chelmsford offensive line opened up holes late in the fourth quarter to allow running backs Eddie Sheridan and Colby Emanouil the space they needed to get the first down, but in each case on fourth and one, Sheridan and Emanouil got more than they needed. They knew that a one score lead against Lowell wouldn’t be enough to secure the win, so the backs and the linemen gave a little more than expected to pull out the win last night.

“Our line blocked real well tonight,” Rich said. “They bought 7, 8, 9 guys, they were coming all night long. I thought we picked up many of their stunters.”

Sheridan, (2 rushing TDs) appreciates the feeling of getting the ball down the stretch in a tight situation and getting the necessary yardage.

“That’s my favorite part of the game, just getting that yard, I love it.”

Sheridan admitted that like any team, the lineman and the running backs go back and forth with barbs, but when it counts, in the fourth quarter marching down the field, there is no contention in the Lion pride – they are hunting together.

“We’re a family. We play hard and finish hard.”

C (8-1) 0 - 14 - 0 - 14 --– 28
L (5-4) 0 - 0 - 7 - 15 –-- 22

C – Colby Emanouil 15 run (PAT failed)
C – Eddie Sheridan 13 run (Sheridan pass from Emanouil)
L – Gilberto Brown 40 pass from R.J. Noel (Connor McHugh kick)
L – Noel 11 run (McHugh kick)
C – Sheridan 2 run (Charlie Calenda kick)
C – Emanouil 41 run (Calenda kick)
L – Brown 9 pass from Noel (Noel rush)

Recap: No. 20 Billerica 40, Lowell 30

October, 29, 2011
BILLERICA, Mass. -- The scoreboard may have said 40-30 in favor of Billerica over Lowell Friday, but it was a lot closer than it appeared. The Red Raiders fought hard, even tying the game at one point, but they never could take the lead.

The No. 20 Indians jumped out to an early 14-0 lead when Byron Ramirez ran for two touchdowns on his team’s first two drives of the game.

Both offenses struggled to score for the remainder of the first half, but Billerica (6-1) took a 14-6 lead into the break.

The fireworks started right at the beginning of the half. On the opening drive of the second half, Lowell (5-3) moved the ball down the field in barely over two minutes. Quarterback R.J. Noel hit Jack Galvin for a 10-yard touchdown, and then successfully executed a 2-point conversion pass to tie the game at 14.

Billerica came back and answered with a two-minute drive of its own, which was capped off when Nick LaSpada found Cam Slatton running a post pattern towards the right pylon and put the ball over his shoulder for the touchdown.

The team extended its lead in the fourth quarter when Ramirez ran for another touchdown, again putting his team up by two scores.

“We came out in the first quarter moving the ball well, but then we stalled there a little bit in the second,” LaSpada said. “At halftime, we made a couple adjustments and came out flying here in the fourth quarter and put the game away.”

Ramirez ended the game with 21 carries for 117 yards and 3 touchdowns. He was Billerica’s leading rusher, but LaSpada was right behind him with 112 yards rushing of his own.

“The offensive line really stepped up, they really helped me do my thing and they did their thing,” Ramirez said. “We really stepped up. We needed this.

“Coach always says to keep running your feet. I always do that. Every time, before the play, I always think about what I’m going to do, and that really helps me out.”

Lowell did not go quietly however. On its next drive, Noel found his favorite target, Gilberto Brown, running in the secondary and connected with him for a 45-yard touchdown pass. It had another successful two-point conversion, making it a 6-point game. The Red Raiders were at a disadvantage all night because their usual field goal kicker, Connor McHugh, was out with an injury. That forced the team to go for two points after every touchdown, rather than kicking an extra point.

The two teams traded touchdowns until LaSpada hit Slatton for another touchdown pass, making it a 10-point game with two minutes to go.

Slatton had seven catches for 133 yards in the game. LaSpada was 15-of-28 for 235 yards and a touchdown through the air.

The Red Raiders turned the ball over on downs during its ensuing possession, finally allowing Billerica to breath easy knowing it was leaving with a victory.

“We have to stay tough, we have to execute play by play,” LaSpada said. “We have to stay consistent. Coach preaches that all the time that consistency is the biggest thing.”

“This win says we never give up, we always stay the course,” Ramirez added. “Coach Flynn always says, ‘Thunder and lightning, we stay the course, we never give up.”

If a quarterback throws for 326 yards and three touchdowns in a game, it would be easy to believe he played for the winning team. Friday, however, those were Noel’s numbers in a losing effort. He threw 178 of those to Brown, who had 10 catches in the game. The dual-threat quarterback is usually prolific on the ground, but the Billerica defense was able to keep him in the pocket. He ended the game with 15 carries for 50 yards and a touchdown. While his numbers are impressive, its his two interceptions that proved to be crucial. The most important was the second quarter interception caught by Slatton in the endzone on a long pass intended for Brown. The ball tipped off Brown’s hands when he jumped to catch it, and Slatton was able to secure it for the touchback. If Brown would have been able to come down with the ball, it would have been a one-score game with six minutes to go in the half. Hypothetically, that touchdown could have changed the entire complexion of the game.

In the third quarter, Noel was picked off again and Ngiiva Mason lost a fumble. While Billerica was unable to create points off the three turnovers, it was the momentum swings that resulted from them that were critical.

“Those were big,” Billerica head coach Peter Flynn said. “The kids stayed the course, they bent, but they didn’t break in those situations. We, as a coaching staff, address all the time how important that is that you bend a little bit but just as long as they don’t go in that endzone, its fine.”

When facing a quarterback like Noel or Billerica’s LaSpada, you have to be prepared for them to take off and try to run and create plays with their feet. Friday, Lowell was willing to take away that part of his game and force him to beat them with his arm. They played with a single-high safety and brought an extra defender into the box, leaving man-to-man coverage on the receivers on the outside. Rather than try to force a play with his feet, LaSpada stayed patient in the pocket and did his damage that way. He still ended the game with 112 yards rushing, but 81 of those game after halftime.

“They were giving me the cover-3 look with the free safety over the top, so I was just sitting in the pocket, finding the open guys,” he said. “There was no need for me to run until we needed the big play so I could step up and do that.”

That was nothing new for Flynn and the Billerica coaching staff.

“This is what we go over all the time in practice,” said Flynn. “He’s seen every defense in practice, from when they bring eight guys to when they drop eight guys. He’s so disciplined. As you could see, he just takes his time, surveys the situation, and makes the correct call.”

It was the Indians’ sixth win in a row after the early season 12-7 loss to Woburn. The team credits that game as a wake-up call and its seniors leadership as reasons for its turnaround.

“This is my fourth year starting with the team, so I looked at all the seniors and said that couldn’t happen again,” LaSpada said. “The first thing I thought of when I came off the field was that wasn’t supposed to happen. So I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“That was a slap in the face,” Flynn said of the loss to the Tanners. “That was a reality check and wake-up call for the kids. In the preseason we had it pretty easy as far as dominance and in the first game against Burlington our kids did very well and moved the ball and scored a lot. Things were looking really good and I think we forgot what got us there. That really woke everybody up that we have to stay the course, be shoulder-to-shoulder and be one family with one heartbeat.”

Billerica - 14 0 7 19 -- 40
Lowell - 0 6 8 16 -- 30

1st quarter
B - Byron Ramirez 8-yard run (Steve Trask kick)
B - Ramirez 17-yard run (Trask kick)

2nd quarter
L - Gilberto Brown 10-yard pass from RJ Noel (2-pt conversion failed)

3rd quarter
L - Jack Galvin 10-yard pass from Noel (Brown pass from Noel)
B - Cam Slatton 35-yard pass from Nick LaSpada (Trask kick)

4th quarter
B - Ramirez 14-yard run (Trask kick)
L - Gilberto Brown 45-yard pass from Noel (Emo Beaudry pass from Noel)
B - LaSpada 5-yard run (2-pt conversion failed)
L - Noel 4-yd run (Brown pass from Noel)
B - Slatton 17-yard pass from LaSpada (kick failed)

10 thoughts from the first half of football season

October, 19, 2011
Barring catastrophe, we fully expect Everett quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso to break Tom Colombo’s all-time passing touchdown mark of 85 before the month is over. He’s four away, and he’s got two games to do it – this Saturday against BC High, and on Oct. 28 in the Crimson Tide’s Greater Boston League opener against Medford.

The question now is that, with seven games left on the schedule (let’s just declare them Super Bowl-bound now), whether he can surpass the century mark. Last season, he threw for 16 scores in the Tide’s four GBL contests, and another five in two playoff wins over Andover and St. John’s Prep.

All evidence points to DiBiaso shattering the state mark and putting the record nearly out of reach, when all is said and done.

A few weeks ago, when the Rockets upset then-No. 6 Weymouth, we would have told you yes. Even before that, when the Rockets went toe-to-toe in an eventual 36-30 loss to Mansfield, we’d have told you Needham’s on to something.

Now? We’re not sure what to think. Drew Burnett , a senior quarterback with Division 1 offers, broke his ankle in two places during Saturday’s 49-14 win over Milton, putting an end to one of the more promising seasons in the Bay State Conference. With a healthy Burnett, we like their chances of not only controlling their destiny in the Bay State Carey, but against whomever comes out of the Big 3 conference for the Division 1 playoffs.

Head coach David Duffy told ESPNBoston correspondent Matt Noonan earlier today that he will use a rotation of three guys at quarterback in Friday’s crucial tilt with No. 17 Walpole. The Rockets have shown to lineup quality athletes in Dan Pierce, Nico Panepinto, Ian Riley and Mark Riley (no relation), but you have to wonder how quickly the understudy can adapt to Duffy's system, which has begun to diversify the last few years.

We’ve sung their praises several times before, but it bears mentioning again: even after a bump in the road, No. 14 Auburn’s line is rising as one of the state’s best units.

Comprised entirely of juniors and sophomores – including a 6-foot-4, 305-pounder who is just 15 years old – this makes the Rockets at team to watch over the next few years. With short splits and a precise zone-blocking scheme, these guys are a cohesive unit up front and have been blowing teams off the ball to the tune of 17 rushing touchdowns. Dan Flink is the Rockets’ Peyton Hillis, but give speedster Fred Taylor some room to run and he is one of the shiftier players in the Worcester area.

Within the Central Mass sphere, this will continue to be one of the more dangerous teams in Division 3.

Extremely tough.

But such is the beauty and the beast of picking a true statewide All-Star team that doesn’t just simply reward the 25 best running backs in Eastern Mass. – when you’ve got just four slots to pick from 300-plus schools, an elite player inevitably gets left off the list.

Andover’s Andrew Coke came into the season as the lone returning All-State running back (Catholic Memorial’s Armani Reeves was an athlete selection). But as good as he’s been for the 4-2, Golden Warriors, there have been better resumes through the first half of the season.

BC High’s Preston Cooper has 14 rushing touchdowns through six games and is coming off a 202-yard performance in a 32-0 blanking of a tough Marlborough squad. Concord-Carlisle’s George Craan would be on pace for a ridiculous senior season if not for the emergence of Tyquan Culbreath, and the overall ease with which the Patriots have disposed of opponents so far.

Meanwhile, a trio of Western Mass. tailbacks have emerged on the scene forcefully, all averaging seven yards or more per carry.

Springfield Putnam’s Melquawn Pinkney currently leads the state in rushing yards (1,526) and rushing touchdowns (24). Longmeadow’s T.J. Norris (1,003 rushing yards, 15 TD) is a fire hydrant at 5-foot-8 and 220 pounds. Folks within the Everett program still tell us Springfield Central’s Sacoy Malone (916 yards, 7 TD) is one of the best backs they’ve faced in two years. If his performance in the Eagles’ 21-20 upset of Longmeadow last week is any indication (194 yards, 2 TD), he could be in for a terrific second half.

Also not to be forgotten is King Philip’s Charles Ruffin, who is coming on strong after a 147-yard performance in last week’s win over North Attleborough. The track star’s elite speed is known about statewide, but he’s starting show his toughness between the tackles. Health will be key, as he’s already missed some time with injury.

Back when Paul Funk was still an assistant at Everett, the program at Dennis-Yarmouth was in such shambles that the school was thinking of dropping the program altogether.

In his first year, back in 2001, the Dolphins played only JV games. Since then, he’s slowly built up a program that has become arguably the Cape’s most consistent over the last half-decade. Since their last losing season in 2006, the Dolphins are 38-12, including a 6-0 mark this year; if the Dolphins stay the course, they will wrap up their third 10-win season in six years, and their second-straight Division 2A playoff berth after earning their historic first a season ago.

This year, the Dolphins boast one of the state’s elite jump-ball receivers in Damion Johnson and arguably the toughest pound-for-pound quarterback in Matt Montalto. But it’s not about the superstars that make this program go.

More often than not, D-Y wins with undersized players who are neither big nor athletic, but embrace contact and love to hit. With little depth, most of the starters go both ways, and guys like 5-foot-7 defensive tackle Tommy Kennedy are relied upon to shoot the gaps rather than fill them. At the end of the day, this is a well-conditioned, disciplined team that has to be one of the favorites in Division 2A if all goes to plan.

Have you heard about Catholic Memorial's four FBS recruits? Have you heard about their opening day loss to Marshfield?

It’s all old news, but now the question is whether the Knights can heed the lessons learned from the Rams debacle and translate that into a Catholic Conference championship.

Following a bye week last week, the Knights will embark on their four-game conference schedule, which is bisected by a matchup with Brockton in two weeks, on Friday against Malden Catholic. The biggest of those game occurs in their Thanksgiving Day game against BC High, provided there are no missed steps along the way. You have to like CM’s chances against Malden Catholic and the Prep, but if CM can knock off Xaverian, that would set up the winner-take-all matchup at the end of their regular season schedule.

There’s no question the Knights have the talent to beat Xaverian, or the third-ranked Eagles for that matter. But, as has been the case in the last couple of seasons, it’s not about if, it’s about when. Is this the time that the group led by A.J. Doyle, Donovan Henry, Armani Reeves and Camren Williams prove good on their promise?

When New Bedford knocked off Brockton in their Big Three meeting last November, it was a shocking upset.

If the Whalers are to repeat the feat this year, a New Bedford victory wouldn’t be greeted with such surprise.

Myles Medeiros (11 TD passes) has the Whalers offense firing with a legitimate down-field threat in receiver Jaraud Wood, while running back Marcel DePina needs only a yard to shake loose from defenses in the open field. In addition, the defense, led by junior lineman Tyler Arena has been strong.

Meanwhile, Brockton pulled off an upset last week against New Hampshire behemoth Pinkerton Academy (its fifth straight win against the Astros), so you can’t count out the Boxers quite yet, despite a slow start (1-3) to the season. But clearly the balance of power in the Big Three (read: Brockton, Brockton and, ahem, Brockton) isn’t quite what it used to be.

The most encouraging thing you can say about Brockton’s season thus far has been the emergence of quarterback Austin Roberts. The junior signal-caller had his biggest game yet last week against Pinkerton. Roberts completed 14 of 22 passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns to down the Granite State’s top team.

If Roberts can keep the big plays coming, Brockton is still very much a threat.

No. 4 Chelmsford showed once again last week why the Merrimack Valley Conference Large runs through them in a thorough victory over Andover on Saturday.

But let’s not crown the Lions and Mr. Football challenger Tim Joy champions just yet. After all, they still have a pesky Central Catholic team on the schedule, in addition to huge games at Lowell and at Billerica to finish on Turkey Day. Both the Red Raiders and Indians made their debuts in our Top 25 this week after both teams have been flying under the radar a little at 5-1. Dynamic quarterback R.J. Noel has Red Raider nation believing that this could be the team to unseat Chelmsford, while the Indians feature a defense that is much improved from last year’s edition.

Plus, Billerica still has that LaSpada kid causing havoc for defenses and you can’t underestimate that.

Akin to the MVC, the Hockomock League always fields one of the most competitive leagues in the state from top to bottom. And we’ve seen that parity play out in the first half, what with Stoughton’s shocking win over Mansfield.

What is for certain is that the league, which now has two playoff bids for the first time for its Davenport and Kelley-Rex winners, is still wide open.

Mansfield remains in the driver’s seat in the large division with wins over King Philip and Attleboro, but the Hornets’ game against North still looms. In the Davenport, the likely winner-take-all meeting between Oliver Ames and Stoughton is still three weeks away, but the Tigers’ matchup with Mansfield on Friday will be a good indicator of how far they’ve come this season.

Mr. Football Watch: Week 7

October, 17, 2011

George Craan, Sr. RB, Concord-Carlisle - Part of a three-headed rushing attack in Friday's 61-14 stomping of Westford, carried 10 times for 102 yards and a touchdown.
Preston Cooper, Sr. RB, BC High - Ran for 202 yards and three touchdowns in the Eagles' 32-0 shutout of Marlborough.
Casey DeAndrade, Sr. RB, East Bridgewater - On just four carries, totaled 179 yards and three scores, as the Vikings cruised to a 42-14 defeat of Carver.
Jonathan DiBiaso, Sr. QB, Everett - Threw for 308 yards, and added 55 on the ground, totaling three scores in the No. 1 Crimson Tide's 42-21 win over Xaverian. He is now four touchdown passes off the state's all-time mark of 85.
Sacoy Malone, Sr. RB, Springfield Central - Carried 26 times for 194 yards and two touchdowns in the Golden Eagles' 21-20 upset of Longmeadow.
Matt Montalto, Sr. QB, Dennis-Yarmouth - In the Dolphins' 14-0 shutout of Marshfield, carried 22 times for 148 yards and a touchdown, and also added 82 yards through the air on 6 of 13 passing.
T.J. Norris, Sr. RB, Longmeadow - In the loss to Central, carried 26 times for 170 yards and all three of the Lancers' scores.
Matt O'Keefe, Sr. QB, Duxbury - Was 11 of 20 passing for 191 yards and a touchdown in the Dragons' 21-0 blanking of Scituate.
Melquawn Pinkney, Sr. RB, Putnam - Another week, another monster performance. He carried 31 times for 297 yards and five touchdowns in the Beavers' 56-14 win over Springfield Cathedral. Through six games, he leads the state in rushing yards (1,526) and rushing touchdowns (24).
Charles Ruffin, Sr. RB, King Philip - Carried 23 times for 147 yards and two scores in the Warriors' 19-7 win over North Attleborough.
Cody Titus, Sr. RB, St. Bernard's - Remember our "400 Rule"? Well, this kid just became a contender after rushing for a state-record 436 yards on 34 carries for five touchdowns in the Bernardians' 33-14 win over Littleton. Through six games he's carried 180 times for 1,465 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Brandon Walsh, Sr. QB, North Andover - Totaled five scores, including a 26-yard interception return, in the Knights' 46-0 shutout of Philips Andover.
Don Webber, Sr. WR, Duxbury - Caught seven passes for 109 yards in the Dragons' 21-0 win over Scituate.


Drew Burnett, Sr. QB, Needham - Completed 8 of 11 passes for 290 yards and five touchdowns in a 49-14 rout of Milton, but unfortunately that will be his last. He left the game with a broken ankle, and is done for the season.
Jamison Craft, Sr. RB, Gardner - Put in a workmanlike 27 carries for 192 yards and three touchdowns in the Wildcats' 28-7 win over Tyngsborough.
Tyquan Culbreath, Sr. RB, Concord-Carlisle - In the Patriots' 61-14 thrashing of Westford, gave them a jump early with 130 yards and four scores on just six carries.
Jalen Felix, Sr. WR, Everett - A breakout game to say the least, caught 10 balls for 145 yards and a score in the Tide's 42-21 win over Xaverian.
Greg Heineman, Sr. QB, Minnechaug - In the Falcons' 39-14 win over Agawam, he was 23 of 37 passing for 246 yards and four touchdowns.
Vondell Langston, Sr. RB, Everett - Ran for a career-high 203 yards and two scores on 15 carries in the Tide's 42-21 win over Xaverian.
Zack Jackson, Sr. RB, Amherst - Accumulated 282 yards of offense, including 228 on the ground, and two scores in a 44-41 win over Chicopee Comp.
R.J. Noel, Sr. QB, Lowell - Threw for 189 yards and totaled four scores in the Red Raiders' 42-15 rout of Central Catholic.
Mark Riley, Sr. TE, Needham - Hauled in three touchdown passes in the Rockets' 49-14 rout of Milton.
Eddie Sheridan, Jr. RB, Chelmsford - Led the Lions' rushing attack with 145 yards and three scores on 20 carries, in a 48-28 win over Andover.
Jonathan Thomas, Soph. RB, St. John's Prep - Exploded for 235 yards and three scores on 27 carries in the Eagles' 41-20 rout of St. John's (Shrewsbury).

Mr. Football Watch: Week 6

October, 10, 2011

George Craan, Sr. RB, Concord-Carlisle - Easy week for him in the Patriots' 35-7 rout of Boston Latin. He had just five carries for 135 yards and two scores.
D.J. Crook, Sr. QB, Barnstable - Looks he won't be appearing on this list for a few weeks. He fractured the thumb on his throwing hand in the second half of a 31-17 loss to New Bedford last Friday, meaning he'll be sitting at 74 career touchdown passes for a while. He did managed to throw for 135 yards on 13 of 19 passing.
Casey DeAndrade, Sr. RB, East Bridgewater - The UNH commit ran for two touchdowns in the Vikings' 36-12 win over Cohasset, bringing season season total to 12.
Jonathan DiBiaso, Sr. QB, Everett - Threw five touchdown passes in the No. 1 Crimson Tide's 41-8 rout of Taunton, bringing his career total to 79. It's a very real possibility he'll break Tom Colombo's state record of 85 sometime over the next two weeks.
Nick LaSpada, Sr. QB, Billerica - Threw for 209 yards and two scores in the Indians' 20-14 win over Tewksbury.
Sacoy Malone, Sr. RB, Springfield Central - Carried 16 times for 141 yards in the Golden Eagles' 36-15 win over East Longmeadow.
Matt Montalto, Sr. QB, Dennis-Yarmouth - In the Dolphins' 27-18 win over Plymouth North, he completed 7 of 13 passes for 236 yards and added 71 yards on seven carries on the ground, totaling three scores.
T.J. Norris, Sr. RB, Longmeadow - Carried 14 times for 101 yards and two scores in the Lancers' 34-7 win over Holyoke.
Matt O'Keefe, Sr. QB, Duxbury - Another brilliant performance for the Johns Hopkins lacrosse commit, in a big 31-14 win over Xaverian. He was 16 of 22 passing for 230 yards and two scores, and added 76 yards on the ground on 14 carries.
Melquawn Pinkney, Sr. RB, Putnam - Carried 23 times for 352 yards and six scores in the Cybercats' 54-22 win over Chicopee Comp. In the last three weeks, he's carried 68 times for 1,035 yards and 16 touchdowns. That's an average of 15.2 yards per carry.
Armani Reeves, Sr. RB, Catholic Memorial - The Penn State commit had rushing touchdowns in the first and fourth quarters to seal the Knights' 35-14 win over Hingham.
Michael Walsh. Sr. QB, Swampscott - Threw for three touchdowns in the Big Blue's 24-23 comeback win over Triton.


Chris Bettano, Sr. RB, Tewksbury - Ran for 122 yards on 15 carries in the 20-14 loss to Billerica.
Matt Clifford, Jr. WR/KR, Billerica - Amassed nearly 300 all-purpose yards in the Indians' 20-14 win over Tewksbury, hauling in both of Nick LaSpada's touchdown passes and returning a kickoff 91 yards for the game-winning score.
Alex Eaton, Sr. RB, Westford - In the Grey Ghosts' 48-14 stomping of Newton South, carried 16 times for 139 yards and two scores, and added a 90-yard kickoff return for a third score.
Geeavontie Griffith, Sr. RB, Boston Cathedral - Carried 10 times for 180 yards and all four of the Panthers' scores in a 32-0 win over Charlestown. On the year, he has 917 rushing yards on 62 carries, for 11 touchdowns.
Myles Medeiros, Sr. QB, New Bedford - In the 31-17 win over Barnstable, was 17 of 26 passing for 227 yards and a touchdown. He also carried six times for 53 yards.
Reilly Naton, Sr. WR/DB, Duxbury - The Yale lacrosse commit asserted himself at the most crucial point of the Dragons' 31-14 comeback win over Xaverian. He had back to back receiving touchdowns to give them the lead for good, and sealed the game late with an interception.
R.J. Noel, Sr. QB, Lowell - In the Raiders' 35-20 win over Dracut, he ran for 127 yards and a score on the ground, and added 96 yards and two scores through the air.
Ian Riley, Jr. RB, Needham - Ran for 162 yards and three scores in the Rockets' 34-0 shutout of Weymouth, giving him six rushing touchdowns in the last two weeks.

Recap: Lowell 35, Dracut 20

October, 7, 2011
LOWELL, Mass. -- The Dracut football team found itself down by two touchdowns going into the fourth quarter Friday. It was faced with an arduous task of a 3rd-and-goal from the Lowell 19-yard line.

Dracut quarterback Jimmy Ryan dropped back to pass and surveyed the field. Seeing only a few defenders in the middle of the field, Ryan decided to run for it, figuring it was two-down territory anyway, so picking up even half that yardage would put his team in better position on fourth down.

He ran past one defender and then another, all the way down to the 1. Fourth-and-goal from the 1 was more than manageable. Ryan got up in pain after the play, holding his arm. He had to come out for the next play, preventing Dracut from having its starting quarterback on the field for the biggest play of the game.

Dracut went to a Wildcat-style formation where wide receiver Zach Bassett lined up as quarterback. Someone on the offensive line was called for a false start on the 4th-and-1 play, backing the Middies up five yards.

Now needing a touchdown from six yards away, Dante Torres took over at quarterback for Dracut. He rolled to his right on the fourth down play, but threw an incomplete pass, giving the ball back to Lowell.

The Red Raiders held on for a 35-20 victory.

Lowell (4-1) came into the game Friday known as a team that could put up a lot of points on teams, but it was its defense that made big plays in this game. On Dracut’s first offensive possession of the game, it was using the running game to attack the defense. It got out to midfield, but running back Leo Lakmany fumbled the ball going down to the ground, which was recovered by Lowell.

In the second quarter, with Dracut (2-3) punting deep in its own territory, Lowell made the decision to go after the punt with a heavy rush and try to block it. R.J. Noel was able to burst through the protection and block it. Cam Latta picked the ball up at the 8-yard line and ran it in for the touchdown.

Later in the quarter, with about a minute to go, Dracut was facing a 3rd-and-22 at midfield. Ryan dropped back and tried to throw, but was intercepted by Nyakeh Koroma. He ran it back all the way to the Dracut 13-yard line. Noel hit Gilberto Brown for a touchdown on the very next play, giving Lowell a 21-8 lead going into halftime.

The defense recovered a Ryan fumble in the last quarter when he dropped back to pass on 4th down. A few plays later, Noel ran a quarterback keeper up the middle 47 yards for a touchdown, making it 35-14.

The defense was able to get consistent pressure on Ryan throughout the night. It has been a key point of emphasis after giving up 44 points to Nashua South in the team’s only loss of the season.

“We said after the Nashua game that we wanted to make a name for the defense,” said linebacker Ryan Garrigan. “We came out and just played as hard as we could from the moment the ball was snapped.”

“Normally it’s just the offense doing their job but hey, we have to do our job. We did a great job today. We had three turnovers, which are huge. They ended up making the game go in our favor.”

This was a game of two teams notorious for their spread offenses and their dual-threat quarterbacks. Noel had 18 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown, while Ryan had 25 carries for 93 yards. Through the air, Noel was 8-of-12 for 96 yards and two touchdowns, while Ryan was 11-of-23 for 142 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.

Garrigan felt that playing against a spread offense like Dracut’s so often in practice gave the defense an upper hand when playing a quarterback like Ryan.

“They run the same stuff that we do, they just give it a different name for it,” he said. “When we practice it’s like the same thing that the offense is going to run against us, so it was nice and easy for us. It was just a matter of who was going to execute better, and we executed better tonight.”

Lowell coach John Florence said that facing the speed of a spread offense in practice helped his team immensely for Friday.

“Our ability to go no-huddle matches theirs, it’s not something different we have to prepare for, ” he said. “It’s not just spreading out the field, but it’s the speed at which they go.”

With the loss, Dracut falls to 2-3 with a difficult three-game stretch ahead of it. In consecutive weeks, they play a scrappy Tewksbury team, Chelmsford, and Andover. It will not be easy for a team hoping to be a prominent player in the Merrimack Valley Conference.

Lowell will take its 4-1 record into games against Central Catholic, Tewksbury, and Billerica.

LOWELL 7 14 7 7 -- 35
DRACUT 0 8 6 6 -- 20

1st quarter

L - Jack Galvin 2-yard pass from RJ Noel (Connor McHugh kick good)

2nd quarter
D - Dante Torres 4-yard pass from Jimmy Ryan (2-pt conversion good- Ryan pass to Jeff Breen)
L - Cam Latta 8-yard punt block return (McHugh kick good)
L - Gilberto Brown 13-yard pass from Noel (McHugh kick good)

3rd quarter
D - Zach Bassett 2-yard run (Jack MacShane kick failed- hit upright)
L - Brown 10-yard pass from Galvin (McHugh kick good)

4th quarter
L - Noel 47-yard run (McHugh kick good)
D - Bassett 2-yard run (kick failed)

No. 8 A-B moves on behind McDonald

June, 2, 2011
ACTON, Mass. -- There was no way Ryan McDonald was coming out of the game.

The junior left-handed pitcher for Acton-Boxborough was determined to finish what he started last night. McDonald did just that, stifling Lowell on just five hits while striking out 10, as the Colonials prevailed 3-0 in the first round of the Division 1 North playoffs.

No. 8 A-B (16-5) moves on to the quarterfinal round when it will face either Lexington, Malden or Westford Academy on Sunday at 4 p.m. at a site to be determined. The ninth-seeded Red Raiders close out their season at 14-7.

McDonald kept the Lowell bats off-balanced throughout with his mix of fastballs and off-speed pitches. In fact, he didn’t allow a Red Raiders to reach third until the seventh frame.

“As a pitcher you’re thinking you want to go as long as you can and give it everything you’ve got,” said McDonald. “I felt great and the adrenaline was flowing. In the beginning I was able to established my off-speed stuff and then as the game progressed I picked it up more with my fastball. I realized over the last couple of innings they weren’t able to catch up to my fastball.”

McDonald was accurate in that statement as he wrapped up this contest by striking out four of the last five batters he faced.

In what was expected to be a low-scoring affair, the Colonials were able to strike first against Red Raider starter R.J. Noel. A single by Jared Tamulynas was followed by a line double to left by McDonald scoring Tamulynas and putting A-B on top 1-0.

The Colonials would add a solo run in the following frame thanks to Chris Murphy’s RBI single which drove in Dana Flood, who had led off the inning with a single.

While Lowell’s puzzlement against McDonald continued, a two-run lead was looking better with each passing inning. In the sixth however the Red Raiders threatened after putting a pair of runners on base. But McDonald was able to get out of the jam without issue.

In the bottom of the inning A-B added some insurance. Brian Bowler and Tamulynas opened with back-to-back walks. A McDonald sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position. Noel was then pulled in favor of Matt Tulley. Much to the surprise of Red Raiders, Matt Sweet laid down a perfectly-executed suicide squeeze on Tulley’s first delivery allowing Bowler to cross the plate.

“We’re not the type of team that’s going to put up 9 or 10 runs in a game,” said A-B coach Pat Grucela. “We knew we needed to manufacture runs in order to be successful and I was happy with the way we executed tonight. Ryan was a horse for us out there tonight. He got stronger as the game went on.”

In the seventh, Lowell had it best chance to get on the board. With two out and two runners on James Ricoy lofted a pop up in foul territory on the right side of the infield. Gusty wind conditions pushed ball back into fair territory and out of the reach of first baseman Devin Santilli. The ball dropped but Santilli displayed his alertness by throwing out Padriac Donovan out at the plate after a rundown ensued. After that, the Red Raiders were done.

“A lot of it was [McDonald] and some of it was us not being able to execute when we had the opportunities,” Lowell coach Dan Graham said. “On that squeeze play, I was kind of expecting it but just wasn’t expecting it on Matt’s first pitch.”

No. 1 Lexington caps perfect regular season

May, 28, 2011
LEXINGTON, Mass. -- It appeared the Lexington and Lowell High School baseball teams were destined to play extra innings Friday, just as they did the first time they played each other April 8. That is, until the Minutemen broke the game open with a four-run sixth inning, giving them an 8-4 victory and securing an undefeated season at 20-0.

"No Lexington team has won 18 games and we won 20," said Will Marcal, who pitched a complete game. "It hasn't been done by a Middlesex League team in a long time. This is unbelievable, it's great to be a part of history."

Marcal, a tall, hard-throwing lefty, surrendered nine hits, including a home run, two walks, but had 12 strikeouts in the victory.

He ran into the most trouble in the second inning. After Ben Ruxin scored on a wild pitch to put Lexington on the board, 1-0, in the first, Lowell's Matt Tulley came back in the top of the second and homered off Marcal to start the inning. That was the beginning of a four-run inning that saw R.J. Noel, Roger Roman, and Richard Gary each single to put Lowell (14-6) up 2-1. Derek Reed knocked in the next two runs with a double to right-center to make it 4-1.

Lexington answered back in the bottom of the inning when Demetri Monovoukas hit a two-run homer off Nick Godfroy to center cut the deficit to one. The Lexington bats went quiet over the next two innings, but that was not a problem since Marcal kept Lowell off the board for the rest of the game.

"I was saying if we could just keep it to a one-run game, I thought we'd definitely have a shot," said Marcal. "We did it in the first game of the year [against Lowell]. We were down three runs going into the last inning and it just really showed the teamwork that we had and everything clicked and everything came together."

It was a strong performance by a pitcher who, admittedly, did not begin the game at his best.

"I didn't start off the game with my best stuff," Marcal said. "Towards the end of the game I really started to feel it. I felt like my fastball was really jumping and I felt like I could stay on top of it. I think the command of my fastball was really what got me over the hump."

Godfroy kept the Lexington bats quiet for the next two innings, and was relieved in the fifth by Kyle Edwards. Overall, Godfroy finished with four innings of work, giving up three runs, four hits, with five strikeouts.

Edwards walked the first two batters he faced, but settled down and got a strikeout and a flyout to the next two. It seemed he was going to get out of the inning when he got Chris Shaw to hit a groundball to second, but the second baseman made an error on the play, sending the ball into right field, which allowed a runner to score, tying the game 4-4.

The damage continued in the sixth inning after Chad Gens came in to pitch for Lowell. He hit Charlie Guthrie on the first pitch of the inning, then gave up a single to Monovoukas, putting runners on the corners with one out. A failed double-play brought Guthrie home to put Lexington ahead 5-4. A hit batsman and two walks later, Lexington went up another run, which got Gens pulled from the game in favor of Noel.

Noel was not anymore effective for Lowell, giving up a two-run double to Marcal to make it 8-4.

Lexington's performance was all that much more impressive when considering the two teams could potentially cross paths again in the upcoming state tournament.

"They're a great team, this was a much closer game than the score indicated," said Lexington coach Tom O'Grady. "We got some big at-bats in the end. I certainly don't think winning this game can hurt us [going into the state tournament]."

Tulley buckles down for Lowell in MVC tilt

May, 20, 2011

LOWELL, Mass. -- Matt Tulley pitched Lowell High School one game closer to winning the Merrimack Valley Conference outright with a complete game, two-hit, 10 strikeout, 2-0 victory over conference foe Chelmsford High School Friday.

“We shared (the MVC title) last year and we’re still in a position where if we win, it’s guaranteed ours,” said Lowell head coach Danny Graham. “If we would have lost and they were to win their last league game, there would be a co-champ, but we want to take it on our own this year, we definitely want to win it.”

Tulley’s first two innings were quiet, but he found himself in trouble in the third. He walked Colin Clancy to start the inning, and Clancy then advanced to second on a passed ball, which put a runnier in scoring position with no outs. After Joe Gennaro grounded out to second, Clancy was on third with one out, seemingly able to score on a sacrifice fly or ground out to the right side of the infield. The next sequence showed why Tulley is considered one of the best pitchers in the Merrimack Valley, if not the state.

Even though he was facing the top of the Chelmsford lineup, he struck out the next two batters, defusing the strongest scoring threat Chelmsford had all game. He then came out the next inning, facing the Chelmsford No. 3, 4, and 5 hitters and struck out the side.

“He reaches back and gets the outs when he has to, I saw him do it early in the game and again in the middle innings,” said Graham. “Once we got those runs (in the third), I always say you have to go out and have shut down innings, and he did that three times in a row. From a momentum standpoint, that obviously keeps us in a good position in the game.”

Tulley was also responsible for Lowell’s only runs offensively. Derek Reed lead off the third inning with a single, and then stole second. A throwing error by the third baseman allowed Rory O’Connor to reach base and put runners on the corners for Tulley. On the eighth pitch of his at-bat, he lined a single to right-centerfield, bringing in Reed and getting O’Connor to third.

“It was a long at-bat and I was watching something on Dustin Pedroia last night how he just fights every at-bat, and I just had that in mind,” he said.

O’Connor was able to score because Tulley was caught in a rundown between first and second when he tried to take the extra base on the throw in to the infield. He was able slide back to first safely, beating the rundown, and letting O’Connor score the second run of the game.

Not happy with the two-run lead, Graham tried to manufacture a run in the fourth with Chad Gens on third and no outs. Gens made a dash for home with R.J. Noel squared around to bunt, but he missed the pitch, leaving the runner in the difficult position of getting back to third after running most of the way up the baseline.

“Our offense has shown a lack of consistency as of late but that’s not because we’re not capable, I think it’s just because we need to buy in a little bit more and do what the kids are being asked to do,” said Graham.

Regardless of the mistake, Tulley was able to keep Chelmsford off the board and not let a runner get beyond second base for the remainder of the game.

“This is the best I’ve felt after a game because the past three years Chelmsford has belted me around,” he said. “Now that I’ve pitched well against them I feel good.”