Boston High School: Raudy Minaya

Carroll leads No. 7 Methuen to 8th straight 'W'

November, 6, 2010
11/06/10
1:21
AM ET
LAWRENCE, Mass. -- Against Central Catholic, Cal Carroll found yet another way to impact a game. And this time, Methuen’s dual-threat quarterback wasn’t even on the field.

With eight and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter, Central Catholic scored on a two-yard touchdown run by quarterback Matt McDermott and trailed, 17-16. Conventional wisdom would have told Raiders coach Chuck Adamopoulos to tie the game with an extra point. But across the field, on the opposing sideline, Carroll loomed.

"I wanted to go for two because I thought our best chance to win the game was to win in regulation," Adamopoulos said. "I didn’t want to have to defend Carroll in overtime."

The Raiders’ two-point try failed and left them trying to catch up for the remainder of a wild fourth quarter that ended with Methuen taking its eighth straight win, 24-22.

"It’s awesome," said Carroll. "Methuen hasn’t been 8-0 in the [Merrimack Valley Conference] in a long time…To be on top feels great."

After Central Catholic’s failed conversion, Carroll made the Raiders’ comeback climb even tougher. He capped a 67-yard drive by hitting Bobby Cole on a 35-yard touchdown pass to make the score 24-16.

Down eight, Central Catholic had one last scoring drive left in them. The second half of the Raiders’ two-headed quarterback attack, Ben Onett (5-11, 65 yards), found Xavier Peralta (4 rec., 86 yards) in the end zone for a 23-yard score with 1:55 left.

Facing a two-point deficit, Adamopoulos was forced to go for two points again. The second try was similarly unsuccessful as the snap sailed over the head of running back Santino Brancato, forcing Brancato (10 carries, 45 yards) to fall on the ball for a loss.

Cole recovered the ensuing Central Catholic onside kick attempt to seal the Methuen victory.

It was a dramatic end to a firework-filled fourth quarter dominated by Carroll. He finished the game with a touchdown and 123 yards rushing on 28 carries, and 6-15 passing for 101 yards and two touchdowns. Both his touchdown passes came in the fourth quarter, and came with the Rangers’ leading receiver, Raudy Minaya, out of the game. Minaya left with a right knee injury suffered on a punt return late in the second quarter. He did not return.

Before Carroll’s touchdown pass to Cole, he started the fourth quarter by rolling out to his right to find Corey Shepherd for a 42-yard score. Shepherd was one of four Rangers receivers to catch a pass.

"Down the stretch everyone’s taking away our run," said Methuen coach Patrick Graham, who also watched his running back Ryan Savastano rush for 123 yards on 16 carries. "So we’re going to have to throw and [Carroll] has done a good job."

Methuen went into the half with a 10-0 lead after a Carroll one-yard touchdown plunge and an Eric Lacroix 29-yard field goal, but Central Catholic got those points back in the third quarter thanks to Cam Walsh.

Walsh kicked a 30-yard field goal to bring the Raiders within a touchdown of Methuen. Just over three minutes later, on Central Catholic’s next drive, Walsh (4 carries, 87 yards) took a handoff, burst through the line of scrimmage and sprinted 78 yards for the game-tying score.

Methuen answered with Shepherd’s touchdown catch and Central Catholic was left to catch up from there after McDermott (5-10, 58 yards passing) scored from two yards out and the following two-point try failed.

"It’s big," said Graham of the win. "There’s a lot of Methuen kids [on Central Catholic]. They grew up with those kids. They grew up playing with them in Pop Warner and other sports. When you lose to someone you don’t know, it doesn’t hurt as bad as when you lose to someone you do know."

Other notes:

- Methuen called up sophomore junior varsity center Dicky Aziz to play in place of starter Matt Whittaker, who missed the game with an injury. He fit into the Rangers zone blocking scheme just fine, helping to pave the way for 268 yards rushing. He also was on point with his shotgun snaps, as the Rangers’ offense almost exclusively uses the shotgun.

“[Aziz] did an excellent job,” said Carroll. “His snaps were all on target, and most of all he did a great job double teaming with our guards. That’s great to see we can trust him.”

- Methuen was unsure if Minaya would miss future games because of his injury. He was on crutches on the sidelines for the entire second half.

- This was Methuen’s third straight win over Central Catholic.

- Central Catholic continued to platoon quarterbacks as McDermott and Onett took the snaps on every other series.

- The national anthem was performed by six-year-old Olivia DiFiore, daughter of Raiders assistant coach Ernie DiFiore.


METHUEN 24, CENTRAL CATHOLIC 22

MET (8-1) 0 10 0 14 --- 24
CEN (6-3) 0 0 10 12 –-- 22

Second quarter
M – Lacroix 29 kick
M – Carroll 1 run (Lacroix kick)

Third quarter
C – Walsh 30 kick
C – Walsh 78 run (Walsh kick)

Fourth quarter
M – Carroll 42 pass to Shepard (Lacroix kick)
C – McDermott 2 run (run failed)
M – Carroll 35 pass to Cole (Lacroix kick)
C – Onett 23 pass to Peralta (run failed)

Statement night for Carroll, Savastano

October, 9, 2010
10/09/10
12:21
AM ET



METHUEN, Mass. -- Cal Carroll checked in with Dr. David St. Pierre at his Danvers office last Monday and got the OK to lead his No. 11 Methuen Rangers tonight at home against No. 10 Chelmsford. It was a hairline fracture to his left thumb (non-throwing), suffered in Saturday's win over Lowell, but if he treaded carefully with his heavily-wrapped cast, he'd be healed in three weeks.

Thumbs up or down, though, St. Pierre could probably guess what the reaction would have been.

"God, you'd have to chain him inside his house to keep him from playing," running back Ryan Savastano said of Carroll. "He plays hurt, he plays whenever he can...he loves this sport. Nothing can keep him away from it."

Yet not even Chelmsford's stalwart defense, led by a trio of fierce linebackers and allowing just seven points a game, could keep these guys chained down -- least not tonight. The gameplan didn't deviate an inch in spite of the injury, the Rangers line plowed away, and Carroll kept it steady all night -- inside zone left, inside zone right, keeper here or there -- as they took down the Lions, 31-21, before a capacity crowd at Nicholson Stadium.

"They caught on, I thought they were going to shut us down fast," said Savastano (32 carries, 221 yards, TD) of the game plan. "But we still put it to them. We drove it right up the hole."

The diminutive Savastano ended up shouldering the bulk of the load, repeatedly taking zone read handoffs from Carroll and darting between and around his linemen as they repeatedly drove Chelmsford linemen off the ball -- sometimes straght into their linebackers -- with a surgical zone-blocking scheme. But Methuen head coach Pat Graham insists that wasn't by design.

"I think if the reads were there, he (Carroll) would have kept it," Graham said. "He wanted to run the ball. He's not that type of kid. At the end of the game, we told him to hold the ball, to hand the ball off, and he didn't want to do that. He's not that type of guy, if the read's there, he's not a selfish kid but he wants the ball in his hand."

Carroll admitted there was little pain tonight, despite the repeated dives through the middle of the line and ensuing pile-ups.

"Throwing passes, I kinda have to fiddle with the ball a little more, try to find the right grip with this thing (cast) on," said Carroll, who had a seven-yard touchdown pass to his favorite target Raudy Minaya in the third quarter. "Running up the middle, I actually had to use this (right) hand to cover it up, usually I like to use my left to stiff-arm."

He then added, laughing, "I didn't fumble tonight, so that's a plus."

After a scoreless first quarter that saw Chelmsford feature back Joe Gennaro leave the game following a collision with Methuen linebacker Mike Harper (he returned in the second half), the Rangers (4-1, 3-0 MVC) took the initial lead when Carroll plunged in from three yards out and Eric LaCroix split the uprights on the point after. Savastano shouldered most of the load on the drive, carrying four times for 24 yards, and that became a reoccurring theme throughout the night.

Methuen's next scoring drive was more of the same, with Savastano eating up most of the yards of shifty scampers up the middle and Carroll scoring from a yard out on fourth and goal on the second half's opening drive. But the Lions responded immediately with an 85-yard pass from A.J. Rotella (14 of 24, 269 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT) to Colby Emanouil. A muffed kickoff return gave Chelmsford (4-1, 2-1) a starting drive at their own 11, but on the second play Rotella found Emanouil with an underthrown deep ball in double coverage. But Emanouil, facing his quarterback, faked with his shoulder to his left and burst to his right, going unscathed the final 60 yards to paydirt.

In the final minutes of the third, the Methuen defense came alive. First, LaCroix came up with his second pick of the night on Rotella, setting up Carroll's seven-yard touchdown pass to Minaya. On Chelmsford's next possession, junior linebacker Kevin Nickerson ripped the ball out of Gennaro's hands as the senior pushed the pile for extra yardage, setting up a 22-yard LaCroix field goal. Savastano then made it 31-14 with a 12-yard scamper into the end zone, preceded by a 30-yard strike from Carroll to Kevin Higgins.

"We knew we wanted to be physical with them," said LaCroix, who also picked off Rotella to end the first half. "People have said the secondary was our weakness, and we've been using that as momentum all year. I'm glad the secondary stepped up tonight. Hopefully they start realizing we're not a weakness, that we're a strength."

METHUEN 31, CHELMSFORD 21

CHE 0 6 8 7 --- 21
MET 0 7 14 10 --- 31

Second Quarter
M - Cal Carroll 3 run (Eric LaCroix kick) 6:46
C - Anthony Andre 18 pass from AJ Rotella (kick blocked) 4:12

Third Quarter
M - Carroll 1 run (LaCroix kick) 8:25
C - Colby Emanouil 85 pass from Rotella (Pat McLaughlin pass from Rotella) 7:12
M - Raudy Minaya 7 pass from Carroll (LaCroix kick) 3:28

Fourth Quarter
M - LaCroix 22 field goal 7:41
M - Savastano 12 run (LaCroix kick) 5:29
C - Eddie Sheridan 90 kickoff return (Charlie Calenda kick) 5:13

What We Learned: Week 3

September, 27, 2010
9/27/10
12:06
PM ET


Now that the dust has settled on Week 3 of the Massachusetts football schedule, here’s what we learned from this weekend’s action:

OK, so we were slightly wrong about Xaverian...
Turns out our friends at the Boston newspapers had it right and we had this No. 1-2 thing in the wrong order. Xaverian, on the heels of a 23-20 double overtime instant classic over Brockton, is our new No. 1.

But differences aside, we've all agreed that, man oh man, last Saturday's showdown at the Hawk Bowl was one of the best in the history of the series. And these two teams almost always seem to fight to a seven-point win or four-point defensive stalemate.

The Boxers have plenty of hype this season, and rightly so with the likes of Miami-bound Albert Louis-Jean joined by fellow seniors Ralph Cherry, Paul Mroz, William Carruthers, Trevon Offley and Jacques Janvier. But the Hawks showed plenty of toughness in the win. Junior quarterback Chris Calvanese fought through cramps to orchestrate the comeback win, delivering the game-tying pass to Mike Muir -- who, a few plays prior, separated his shoulder and popped it back in.

Hey, who said Xaverian kids aren't tough?

...But when healthy, Brockton's Trevon Offley is a bull to take down
Mahar's Isaiah Jones put it ever so simply last week in our Q&A: "My coach always says squatting is going to do everything for you."

It's clear after last weekend that the 5-foot-6 Offley abides by a similar mantra. And, as All-Pro running back Maurice Jones-Drew demonstrates every Sunday, leg power with a low center of gravity is a vicious combination.

From the second quarter on, Offley was just a chore to take down. Just when the Hawks had him for a 5-yard loss, he'd rip through an arm tackle, sidestep and shimmy his way back out to the line of scrimmage and then some. Other times, he'd keep his legs churning and drag the pile for an extra two or three yards. Offley, who carried the rock 19 times for 117 yards and all three of Brockton's scores in the loss, had been out with a shoulder injury since the first half of the Boxers' 16-6 season-opening win over Boston College High. But when he's healthy, he's as reliable as they come.

Methuen's offensive line kicks out and kicks off?
Methuen quarterback Cal Carroll emerged as one of the region's toughest playmakers with the Rangers' 36-26 stunner of No. 9 Billerica, but just as impressive was his offensive line. Since losing to Plymouth North, 13-7, in Week One, the guys in the trenches have been blowing teams off the ball. A week and a half ago, they took it to Malden's massive defensive line in the second half en route to a 42-12 win. Last Friday, the guys paved the way to over 200 yards on the ground against the Indians.

Led by seniors Steve DiZazzo and Dan Cormier on the left side, the Rangers' line might not always be the biggest, but they proved that when on the same page, they can bang heads with anybody on a given night.

"Our o-line, they're tough, man," senior wide receiver Raudy Minaya said. "They hit hard, they hit every single play, and we get extra yards. That last (Carroll carry), we got the first down with ease and Cal got the touchdown, that's because of our o-line. We never give up. Up seven, doesn't matter, we need to get up the field and get the first down, and we ended up getting a touchdown with it."

Said head coach Pat Graham, "Offensive line-wise, it was essential to control the clock and to be able to run the ball, and I think our kids did a good job with that."

The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Cormier, by the way, has an impressive right leg. After Eric LaCroix kicks the extra point, the Rangers line up in a standard five-and-five kickoff formation, and some may be surprised to see Cormier raising his hand to the officials. But Cormier's got quite the boot, as he routinely blasted it to around the Billerica 5-yard line Friday night, with plenty of hang time.

Gloucester is really that good...so far, at least
Andover, coming off a 38-13 drubbing by the Fishermen, hung 39 points on MVC Small dark horse Tewksbury last Friday, which makes one wonder: just how good is Gloucester?

The Fish's defense, led by linebacker Chris Unis, was touted as a wagon before the team even started up their famous annual summer beach training regimen. The first unit hasn't allowed more than a score from opponents. Meanwhile, the Gilbert Brown-led offense has been explosive, averaging 38.3 points per game.

The rest of the Northeastern Conference, however, hasn't been sitting idly. Revere, led by bulldozing tailback Trae Weathers, is 3-0 for the first time in a while. Cross-town rivals Lynn Classical and Lynn English have also proven adequate to start the season, too.

We'll find out next month how capable the rest of the NEC Large contenders are of unseating the defending Division 1A Super Bowl champs, but for now we'll enjoy the ride.

Key EAC matchups could have bearing on December
Yeah, it’s a little premature, but we can’t help but wonder how a couple of this weekend’s Eastern Athletic Conference games might impact the long-term playoff picture in Division III.

There was a battle of unbeatens on Slocum Road in Dartmouth with Somerset traveling to meet Bishop Stang. The Blue Raiders rolled to a convincing 43-13 win over Stang, riding running backs Jaron Spear and Seth DeMello, who combined for five rushing touchdowns.

Meanwhile, heading north along Rte. 140, Martha’s Vineyard took care of business against Coyle-Cassidy. The Vineyarders escaped with a 41-32 win over the Warriors thanks to quarterback Randall Jette’s 192 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

While it appears that Somerset and the Vineyard control their own destinies in the EAC, we’ll see if Bishop Feehan has anything to say in the situation. It’s hard to figure what the Shamrocks have after losses to Attleboro, No. 18 North Attleborough and Abington — three quality teams. Feehan has two more games out conference, including next week’s out-of-state matchup with Barrington (R.I.), before hosting C-C.

“This is a tough division,” Somerset head coach Nick Freitas said Saturday after his team’s win.

He continued, “Hopefully, we just remain healthy. I think that will be the key.”

Blue Raiders quarterback Alex Ledoux left the game to an injury during the second quarter of Saturday’s game. At the time, Freitas didn’t have information on the severity of Ledoux’s injury.

What was clear was the Blue Raiders’ statement made on the field.

Playing with heavy hearts
Friday night’s Hockomock game between Attleboro and Franklin almost was for not.

Attleboro’s school community woke Friday morning to the news that senior Myles Brastow had died in a motorcycle accident. Hours before the game administrators and coached from the representative schools huddled to discuss whether it was appropriate to hold the game in light of Brastow’s death.

“We talked to the administrators and the coaches to see what they wanted to do with the game,” Franklin athletic director and head football coach Brad Sidwell said in a telephone interview on Sunday. “We certainly understood if they wanted to reschedule the game. But they felt that they wanted to try have a sense of normalcy and have the game like any other Friday night.”

The Blue Bombardiers paid homage to their fallen classmate with a dramatic 20-13 win over the Panthers. Attleboro was led by quarterback Nate Robitaille, who was cleared for the game after suffering a concussion during the previous game against King Philip, and running back J.J. Jolaoso. Robitaille march the Blue Bombardiers down the field on the game-winning drive inside the two-minute warning and Jolaoso punched in the winning score on a 7-yard touchdown run.

"It's a tribute to the kids," Attleboro head coach Kevin Deschenes told Mark Farinella of The Sun Chronicle after the game. "They had a rough day today, and for these young adults to bounce back after a very traumatic day, losing a friend, I thought they responded very well."

The Franklin football community was also dealing with the loss of one of its own. Longtime Panthers head coach Gerry Leone Sr. passed away last week

“He was a legendary part of Franklin football,” Sidwell said. “I know there are even some parents of current players who played for him and I know the lessons taught to them by coach Leone in high school are things that have stayed with them throughout their lives. That’s the kind of man he was.”

HEAD OF THE CLASS
VALVOLINE PEAK PERFORMER OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY KNIGHT, SR. RB, LAWRENCE ACADEMY
The North Carolina State-bound Knight kicked off the much-hyped Spartans’ ISL title defense in grand fashion, carrying the ball 14 times for 308 yards and two scores in a 36-14 defeat of Milton Academy. We’ve seen 300-yard games before from schoolboy athletes, but on just 14 carries? That averages out to 22 yards a carry, or essentially a first down every time he touched the ball, so in that regard we’ve got to add a shout-out to his offensive line.

THE CLASSMATES
Blaise Branch, Sr. RB, Cardinal Spellman – The 6-foot, 200-pound Branch had three scores on the ground and totaled 201 rushing yards on the day, ironically to give his head coach Ron St. George his 201st win, as the Cardinals rolled to a 35-8 win over Carver.

Andrew Coke, Jr. RB, Andover – Coke accounted for all six of the Warriors’ touchdowns in a 39-32 win over Tewksbury to open MVC play. He rushed 30 times for 214 yards and a school record five touchdowns; was 2 of 2 passing for 28 yards, including a 12-yard scoring strike to Brian Miller; and added 65 return yards for 311 all-purpose yards.

Dylan Colarusso, Sr. RB, Weymouth – He carved quite a name for himself following his performance in Friday’s 41-14 win over Milton, carrying 25 times for 262 yards and three scores.

Dave Dubin, Jr. DE, Holliston – For all of the talk of the Panthers’ offensive weapons, it was Dubin’s work on defense that stood out in the 48-24 win over Millis/Hopedale. He had 11 tackles, including five sacks, and contributed to holding the Mohawks to minus-27 yards of offense in the first half.

Randall Jette, Sr. QB, Martha's Vineyard - Jette captained the Vineyarders' Navy-style option offense with 17 carries for 192 yards and five touchdowns in their 41-32 win over Coyle-Cassidy.

Ben Patrick, Sr. RB, Rivers – The Roxbury resident, who ran for over 900 yards in six games last season, continued his good ways with an impressive ISL debut. He carried 20 times for 269 yards and two scores, and also came up with two interceptions, as the Red Wings downed St. Paul’s, 40-18.

Ben Shelton, Sr. QB, Wayland – The Warriors turned a lot of heads with its stunning 36-7 win over highly-ranked Westford, and Shelton was the catalyst. He was 12 of 17 passing for 209 yards and two touchdowns, and carried the ball 11 times for 97 yards.

Jaron Spear, Sr. RB, Somerset - The Blue Raiders asserted their will on the ground in a 43-13 victory over Bishop Stang and Spear headed the charge with 21 carries for 215 yards and four touchdowns.

Carroll, o-line comes full-circle in upset

September, 25, 2010
9/25/10
1:34
AM ET
BILLERICA, Mass. -- Cal Carroll was just looking to move the chains, bring up a new set of downs, and run out the last 40 seconds on this clock to let the celebration begin. With third down and a few yards to go, his team up 29-26, the Methuen quarterback took a direct snap, churned up the right side and -- perhaps in a sign of how much his hogs in front had worn down the Billerica defense in the second half -- sprung loose for a 55-yard touchdown, the last 45 or so unscathed.

And so, on a night already on its way to being a pleasant surprise, the Rangers got some unexpected insurance in the first of what ought to be a handful of "hype games" in the Merrimack Valley Conference. Down 26-20 with under five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, No. 17 the Rangers rallied with 14 unanswered points to take down the No. 9 Indians, 36-26, for the program's first win over Billerica since 2000.

"I just can't believe it. This is the best win in program history," said Carroll, who racked up 290 yards of offense and four touchdowns in leading the Rangers to victory. "We haven't beaten Billerica in 10 years. This is just a great win for us...We wanted it so bad all week, we were hungry for it. You could tell. I think we proved it on both sides of the ball."

For wideout Raudy Minaya, whose basketball skills have translated well in the open field on the gridiron these last two seasons, tonight's win justifies that decision four years ago to come out for the freshman football team and put on a pair of shoulder pads for the first time in his life.

"It's amazing, it's amazing. Coming into high school, I didn't think I was going to play football," said an ecstatic Minaya, who had four catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns. "I tried it out, and now look where I am. It's just the greatest feeling in the world right now."

Carroll and Minaya, best friends off the court and running mates on the hardwood, had their MVC coming-out party before a packed crowd at Marshall Middle School. But the Rangers won this game by buckling down in the trenches, moving the ball steadily with a series of zone-read options behind the guards and tackles. Led by seniors Steve DiZazzo and Dan Cormier on the left side, the Rangers paved their way to well over 200 yards on the ground with Carroll's 113 and another 98 from Ryan Savastano.

"Our line just got after it every play," Carroll said. "They never took a play off. Our tempo was really fast again (no-huddle), like it was last week. We really wore down there defense, and again that's because of our offensive line just taking it to them every play and not giving up."

All-everything quarterback Nick LaSpada (21 carries, 94 yards, TD; 19 of 34 passing, 240 yards, 3 TD) gave the Indians (2-1) a 26-20 lead with a 56-yard strike to Matt Clifford with 4:58 to go in the game (the point-after pass failed). Methuen (2-1) responded with a 10-play, 69-yard scoring drive that took just over three minutes to complete. Minaya put the gears in motion by hauling in a 20-yard pass from Carroll in single-coverage on the third play, and the Rangers finished it off with a steady dose of Savastano draws and Carroll keepers. Carroll punched it in from three yards out on first and goal to give the Rangers a 29-26 lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, Clifford fielded a booming Cormier boot at his own five and brought it all the way down to the Ranger 37, bursting up a seam at the left hashmark before being dragged down near the left sideline. But the Indians stalled immediately.

Methuen head coach Pat Graham called for seven defenders to drop into coverage against LaSpada's precision arm, but the one rusher from the back seven -- linebacker Mike Harper -- caused a whole lot of havoc. Three times he exploded up the A-gap, and three times he created turmoil around LaSpada, first dropping him for a six-yard loss; then hurrying him into a throw out of bounds; and finally hurrying him to scramble up the middle on fourth down, where he was met forcefully by Jeff Sadezwicz and Gio Rivera and turned the ball over on downs with less than a minute to go.

"I didn't want to lose. We had a bad kick return (coverage), and I knew I had to make up for it," said Harper, who earlier in the second half blocked an extra point kick and returned it for two points. "(This win) definitely puts us on the map, but we're not done. We're not done at all. We've got alot of work to do."

A few more observations:

-- Minaya's two scores came on the long ball. His first, a 51-yarder in the second quarter, came off a slant from wide left coming over the deep middle, where he easily shed an arm tackle and marched unscathed to paydirt. His second came in similar fashion, beating his man off the blocks off a go route.

It seemed like whenever the Indians left Minaya in single-coverage with no help over the top, the Rangers were going to make them pay for it.

"Me and Cal have that connection, and we just know when...our coaches have the perfect play calls," said Minaya, who now has five touchdown receptions on the season. "They're just perfect plays at the right time, you know? And that's what opens me up. I just run routes."

-- Graham put together a pretty diverse gameplan for stopping LaSpada, the defending Gatorade Player of the Year and an ESPNU 150 recruit for the Class of 2012. The Rangers came out in a 3-3-5 stack look defensively all night, and threw in a few stunts. Graham's assessment?

"We had all kinds of plans to stop him, and we used them all, and I don't think any of them really stopped him," Graham said. "But I think we threw him different looks, and we did alot of different things to him, sometimes we contained him and sometimes we didn't. He's obviously a very special player."

No. 17 Methuen 36, No. 9 Billerica 26

MHS 6 7 9 14 --- 36
BHS 7 7 6 6 --- 26

B - Matt Clifford 18 pass from Nick LaSpada (Steve Trask kick)
M - Ryan Savastano 5 run (kick failed)
M - Raudy Minaya 51 pass from Cal Carroll (Eric LaCroix kick)
B - Ryan Donohoe 8 pass from LaSpada (Trask kick)
B - LaSpada 9 run (Mike Harper blocked kick return)
M - Minaya 61 pass from Carroll (LaCroix kick)
B - Clifford 56 pass from LaSpada (pass failed)
M - Carroll 3 run (LaCroix kick)
M - Carroll 55 run (LaCroix kick)

What we learned: 9/20 edition

September, 20, 2010
9/20/10
11:27
AM ET
Now that the dust has settled on Week 2 of the MIAA football schedule, here’s what we learned from this weekend’s action:

The Atlantic Coast League race is going to be a lot closer than we thought
No. 15 Falmouth and defending Super Bowl champ Marshfield were the figurative favorites in the ACL headed into the 2010 season, but the picture just got a whole lot more crowded.

After a surprise upset of Methuen in Week One, Plymouth North almost pulled off another shocker last Friday against No. 24 Duxbury. Matt Walsh – he of the heroic 77-yard winning touchdown in week one – hauled in a 5-yard pass from Cody Merritt with no time left on the clock, to make it 14-12 Duxbury. The ensuing two-point conversion pass was intercepted and returned 100 yards for the 16-12 final, but a point has been firmly made in year one of the Dwayne Follette era.

Meanwhile, Dennis-Yarmouth – fresh off a 41-38 upset of Barnstable – is averaging 42 points per game, led by junior dual-threat quarterback Matt Montalto. The Dolphins run the spread and like to throw the ball, but a closer look at their program shows they’re not some pass-happy outfit. Led by the hulking 6-foot-5, 319-pound Nate Crary at left tackle, the Dolphins are physical at the point of attack, and maintain a nice balance on their zone read behind running backs like Joe Furness and Damion Johnson.

“If you ever needed a big play in any sport, he’s the one who’s going to do it,” D-Y head coach Paul Funk said of Montalto, who also plays hockey and baseball at the school. “That’s him, that’s his makeup. I’d take that kid anywhere.”

As for toughness?

“(I’d rate him) at the top,” Funk said. “That’s what makes him so great. When your quarterback’s as tough as everybody else, everybody else tows the line.”

Burlington can score in a hurry
Down 28-14 to Arlington in the fourth quarter, the Red Devils bounced back in a hurry, scoring a whopping 29 points over the final few minutes of the contest to take a 43-28 win going away. Freshman Marcus Odiah hauled in a 25-yard Greg Sheridan pass, then recovered a fumble moments later and scored from three yards out. He then ran in the two-point conversion for a 29-28 lead with 1:15 left.

Seconds later, Kyle Shields intercepted a pass, and Odiah ran it in from 40 yards out to make it 36-28. Anthony Cruz then put the clamps on the win with a 52-yard pick-six on an Arlington Hail Mary heave.

One thing is for certain as Middlesex League play begins next week: The Red Devils are a wild card.

Dan Light is a tough guy to wrap up
Last season, we saw glimpses of Dan Light’s ability as a running quarterback for St. John’s (Shrewsbury), when he took direct snaps lined up next to quarterback Griffin Murphy as the Pioneers’ ball-carrier in Wildcat formations. And now that Light, a senior, has made the full transition from tight end to signal-caller, we’re seeing that in full force.

With the No. 4 Pioneers’ 37-8 defeat of Longmeadow yesterday, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound lefty has accumulated over 600 yards of offense and 10 touchdowns through two games. On the ground, he is averaging 11.1 yards a carry, and has hooked up with Cal-bound receiver Richard Rodgers for four touchdowns.

At times, Light has shown Tebow-esque abilities carrying the ball. But it’s the vision he’s developed over the last few weeks that has made him that much more difficult to stop.

“If I looked at him over the last three weeks, he has become a very smart quarterback,” St. John’s head coach John Andreoli said of Light. “Our offense is really designed around looking at the defense and taking advantage of what the defense gives you, and I see Danny taking more ownership of those calls.

“He’s been able to deliver the ball on the long balls, but on the short balls, you know, you see his feet moving around in the pocket and he’s very comfortable. And all of that, when you pull people out of the box and give him the ability to run the ball, he’s a very dangerous player. That’s really the point where we want to get.”

Tewksbury’s visit to Methuen on Oct. 29 will go a long way to deciding the MVC Small crown
With Lawrence’s surprise upset of Lynn English and Tewksbury’s surgical handling of Lincoln-Sudbury on opening weekend, the two teams’ meeting in Tewksbury last Saturday had the potential for greatness. The Redmen, however, wanted none of that, going up 28-6 on Lawrence at the half en route to an easy 35-6 win.

Sean Connolly led the way for Tewskbury with 101 yards on the ground and 105 through the air, totaling two scores, but watch out for tailback Anthony Arcari. He may be one of the more underrated speedsters in the league.

“The whole team likes to play as a family,” Arcari told ESPNBoston’s Neil Carroll. “We talked about that all year and on that one drive the offensive line did their job, the quarterback did his job, we ran the ball well and it demonstrated all that Tewksbury can do.”

Meanwhile over in Methuen, the two-man game of Cal Carroll and Raudy Minaya that works so well during basketball season has finally broken out again on the gridiron. Carroll (11 of 15, 146 yards) easily dispatched much-hyped Malden on Friday night with a strong second half, finishing with five scores through the air – including three to his good buddy – and another on the ground.

This was the Methuen that so many coaches had raved about during preseason.

“We have some of the toughest lineman around,” Carroll told ESPNBoston correspondent Phil Perry. “Steve DiZazzo, Sean Whittaker, they do all the dirty work inside. They watch so much film and work so hard, my success is because of what they can do.”

This week is a brutal one for the MVC Small’s front runners, with Methuen traveling to Billerica, Dracut hosting Central Catholic and Tewksbury visiting Andover. But based on the early returns, we suggest circling October 29 on your calendars.

Not the Raiders of old
Central Catholic proved more than just the point that they could hang with St. John’s Prep in this weekend’s game. The Raiders offensive identity has been altered from years past to incorporate the passing game more.

Although head coach Chuck Adamopoulos said in the preseason he hadn’t seen a definitive No. 1 quaterback emerge, it looks as though Central Catholic has some able bodies at the position. Transfer student Ben Onett was impressive and accurate in his Massachusetts debut against Marlborough a week ago.

But it was junior Matt McDermott who seemed to take hold of the Raiders’ offense this week at St. John’s Prep. Adamopoulos again split time between his quarterbacks on Saturday, but McDermott looked as though he might have a hand up on the competition. He was on the field for each of the Raiders’ scoring drives and seems to have developed a good rapport with his top target, receiver Xavier Peralta.

It was also telling that McDermott was on the field for the Central Catholic’s final drive in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. The Raiders’ chance for a comeback was thwarted by an interception in the game’s waning moments, but it bears watching how the quarterback situation in Lawrence develops in the coming weeks.

No. 1 Brockton and No. 2 Xaverian have been flawless so far, setting up Saturday’s showdown to be one for … well, really, do we need to explain?
Saturday. 1 p.m. Clapboardtree Street, Westwood.

No. 1 versus No. 2.

Public vs. Private.

Need we say more?

HEAD OF THE CLASS, WEEK 2
Taking a look at the weekend’s top performers:
  • Isaiah Jones, Mahar: Tallied 311 yards of total offense and five touchdowns during just the first half in a 46-14 win over Dean Tech. Jones had two rushing scores, two punt returns for a touchdown and an interception return. Mahar ran just 4 plays in first half and was up 46-8 at half.
  • Ryan Vultaggio, Groton-Dunstable: Vultaggio picked up 279 yards on the ground on just 12 carries to go along with four touchdowns in a 52-34 over West Boylston.
  • Nick LaSpada, Billerica: The junior quarterback was stellar once again, completing 15 of 23 pass attempts for 318 yards and one touchdown against Woburn. LaSpada also ran for three touchdowns.
  • Cal Carroll, Methuen: See Phil Perry’s story.
  • Charlie Blackett, Lexington: The senior defensive tackle set up camp in Concord-Carlisle’s backfield to the tune of five sacks and was in on a countless number of other plays.
  • Dan Light, St. John’s (S): The quarterback was superb with 296 yards of offense and five touchdowns in a 37-8 win over Western Mass. power Longmeadow.
  • John Pieterse, Worcester Academy: In his third career start, Pieterse was 16 of 18 for 322 yards and five touchdowns in a 41-14 victory over Blair Academy.

No. 20 Methuen takes it to Malden

September, 18, 2010
9/18/10
1:24
AM ET
METHUEN, Mass. — Cal Carroll couldn’t help but smile after beating Malden in the Rangers’ home-opener. Methuen’s senior co-captain and quarterback was behind the steering wheel of an offense that drove up and down the field on the Golden Tornados like a high-performance sports car.

Carroll (11-15, 146 yards) had six touchdowns— one rushing and five through the air — to lead the No. 20 Rangers over Malden, 42-12.

“We knew we could be a team that was in fifth gear instead of third gear like we’ve been,” said Carroll, whose team was upset last week by Plymouth North. “We felt really disgusted with ourselves after last week, but we had three hard days of practice and that led to this.”

Coming out of halftime with a 14-12 lead, Methuen (1-1) really got on the gas. With its first possession out of the locker room, Carroll broke through multiple would-be Malden tacklers for a 23-yard touchdown scamper to cap a two and a half minute, 70-yard drive.

Less than a minute later, after Methuen recovered the ball on a strip sack by senior Matt Delmonte, Carroll hooked up with his favorite target Raudy Minaya for a wide open 30-yard touchdown strike. With the score 28-12 with 7:29 left in the third quarter, Methuen effectively had the Golden Tornados (1-1) in their rearview.

Minaya (five receptions, 72 yards) is a strong 6-foot-2 receiver with good leaping ability and he often sees double coverage. But not on Friday. He made the most of it, hauling in three touchdowns.

“If I’m double covered, I know my teammates can make some plays,” said Minaya. “But if I’m single covered, I want the ball.”

Carroll also threw touchdown passes to seniors James Staples in the second quarter and Kevin Higgins in the fourth, but Methuen ran a balanced attack. Junior running back Ryan Savastano, amassed 100 yards on 19 carries while Carroll finished with 94 yards on the ground.

“We got a real good push up front,” said Rangers coach Patrick Graham. “I think we wore them down a little bit. They have a lot of guys who play both ways and we really don’t have guys who do that so I think that helped us.”

Malden suffered injuries to Jamie McInerney (ACL) and Chris Miller (ACL) in the preseason and now employs players like linemen Aaron Samano and Vernon Sanvil on both sides of the ball.

Another all-around player for Malden, Jo Jo Randolph (nine carries, 58 yards; one catch 28 yards), rushed for Malden’s first touchdown of the night on a 16-yard sweep in the first quarter, but he was then forced from the game in the second half with a broken forearm.

“We have some injuries right now that are making us play guys a lot,” said Malden coach Joe Pappagallo. “It’s fatiguing them mentally and physically. But, ultimately, we lost this game because [Methuen] was more physical at the point of attack and they just plain out-played us.”

Malden did get a touchdown from its playmaker, Frankie Dunn (six catches, 35 yards; five rushes, 24 yards) mid-way through the second quarter, but it was the Golden Tornados’ last burst of offense.

Methuen dominated after Carroll’s touchdown to Staples at the end of the first half. The Rangers scored touchdowns on each of their second-half possessions, except for their final possession when backups were called on to run out the clock in the fourth quarter.

“It’s nice to come back after last week,” said Graham. “We obviously didn’t play our best football last week. We knew we had things to improve on as a team. We talked a lot about how important it is to get off to a good start to the season, and 0-2 wouldn’t have been a good start.”

Other observations:
  • Carroll credited his experienced offensive line with giving him enough time to throw for five scores. “We have some of the toughest lineman around,” he said. “Steve DiZazzo, Sean Whittaker, they do all the dirty work inside. They watch so much film and work so hard, my success is because of what they can do.
  • Carroll to Minaya seems to be a connection for all seasons. The two play as forwards for Methuen’s basketball team in the winter. “We know how to hook up on the court, too,” said Carroll, laughing. “He’s one of our best scorers…He’s so athletic he can make plays whenever he wants to.”
  • Malden’s Kenny Mettelus was tackled hard in the fourth quarter and remained on the ground for several minutes before coming off the field on the stretcher. The injury wasn’t as serious as it appeared, according to Pappagallo, who said Mattelus suffered a lower-back contusion. He was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure. “I’ve never had so many gosh darned severe injuries,” said Pappagallo. “But what can you do? You have to keep plugging, you know?”

No. 11 Methuen no longer an underdog

September, 7, 2010
9/07/10
1:26
AM ET
METHUEN, Mass. -- Here in this blue-collar city, nestled on the New Hampshire border, lies a certain reputation -- an identity, if you will -- that has come to be embraced.

Some call it toughness, others a chip on the shoulder. At Methuen High, it's a pathos of never initiating, but never relenting.

"It's like our swag, you know. It's kind of a Methuen thing," said Rangers quarterback Cal Carroll. "Kids around school have it, too, not just the football players...I wouldn't say 'cocky', but we never back down. That's a good way to put it."

Says head coach Pat Graham, "We've been known as a tough, scrappy group, which I think is a pretty good description of us. We're usually alot smaller than other teams, but we tend to just play really hard. I think last year, what happened is we won alot of games we weren't expected to win, and this year people have given us more credit."

In a relatively short time, Graham turned the Rangers from the Merrimack Valley Conference's welcome mat (33 straight losses before his hiring in 2007) to a lunch-pail gang capable of pulling the upset on anyone (see: Dracut, Thanksgiving 2008; Andover, Central Catholic, 2009). So try as they might, after quietly going 15-7 over the last two seasons, the Rangers are no longer perceived as the little engine that could.

Spearheading that change of winds is Carroll. The Rangers favor a zone-read look on offense, and without a consistent running game in 2009, the 6-foot, 180-pound signal-caller took matters into his own hands, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark in rushing and passing and totaling 26 touchdowns (15 rushing). Lacking the speed of an outside runner and the size to handle continuous punishment up the middle, Carroll merely bulls his neck and plows ahead without regard for his safety -- "I'm here to play, not here to worry about bumps and bruises," he said.

"I'm always trying to crawl for the extra yards," he continued. "Even if it's just a spin move or that extra half-yard, I'll get that. No matter what it takes, I'll get that."

So perhaps it makes sense that Carroll dons the No. 16 in honor of a former Ranger player, wideout Dave Koerner -- "6-3, jumped through the roof," Carroll recalled of Koerner, who currently plays at Coastal Carolina. Carroll fondly recalls Koerner breaking his ankle midway through the 2007 season, and arriving Thanksgiving morning in full gear, taping his ankle "max, as if he was going to try to walk out there and play". He didn't, but two captains carried him out to midfield for the coin toss.

Graham, whose coaching career has taken him extensively through the college ranks before Methuen, doesn't hesitate to call Carroll one of the most competitive players he's ever coached.

"It's just one of those things, I know people like to make the joke, but he's the type of kid that would dive on the ground scraping, no matter what you were playing," Graham said. "His wanting to win, his overachieving, you can just see it. He just practices really hard every day, diving to get that extra inch in practice. Just a very serious kid who's driven and wants to win."

Helping relieve the load this year is senior Raudy Minaya, a close friend and basketball teammate of Carroll's. The two go back quite a ways, and their chemistry pays off on their timed routes. Able to jab-step and turn his hips on a corner route just as well as he can break a tackle, the Rangers will be putting the ball in Minaya's hands in a variety of ways after seeing him get pressed in double-coverage late last season.

With these newfound declarations of respect, of course, come the voices of reason hammering down egos with the stick of humility. But sometimes, you can't help but let that swagger leak through a little bit. Asked about their preseason together so far, Carroll grins about the touchdowns he's connected with his buddy in three scrimmages.

"Five times, right?" Carroll asked Minaya, with a bump of the fists.

It's a Methuen thing.

METHUEN AT A GLANCE
2009:
8-3 (6-3 MVC)
Coach: Pat Graham (fourth year, 17-16)
Players to watch: Cal Carroll, Sr., QB/S, 6-0, 170 lbs (1,058 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns; 1,035 passing yards, 11 touchdowns); Raudy Minaya, Sr., WR/DB, 6-2, 195 lbs; Mike Harper, Sr., LB/RB, 5-10, 200 lbs; Jason Doyle, Sr., OL/DE, 6-0, 195 lbs; Ryan Savastano, Jr., RB/DB, 5-9, 170 lbs; Tyler Bolduc, Sr., OT/DE, 6-1, 190 lbs; Sean Whittaker, Sr., OT/DL, 6-1, 265 lbs; Matt Whittaker, Jr., OG/DL, 6-0, 215 lbs; Dan Cormier, Sr., OL/DL, 6-4, 300 lbs; Steve Dizazzo, Sr., OL/DL, 6-3, 250 lbs; Kevin Higgins, Sr., WR/DB, 6-2, 165 lbs; Jimmy Staples, Sr., TE/DB, 6-2, 200 lbs; Jeff McAndrew, Sr., WR/DB, 5-11, 175 lbs; Eric LaCroix, Jr., DB, 6-2, 170 lbs; Matt Delmonte, Sr., LB/RB, 5-9, 200 lbs.
Strengths: Offensive experience, offensive line.
Weaknesses: Inexperience on defense, secondary.
Outlook: The Rangers will be looking for more balance in their offensive gameplan after leaving Carroll to shoulder most of the load as a dual-threat quarterback. Savastano has emerged as the front-runner at running back, but look for Minaya to get involved in a variety of ways, including taking handoffs out of the backfield and -- for the first time -- returning kicks. "He's a special kid as far as making plays and doing big things," Graham said. The experienced offensive line, led by the Whittaker brothers, will be counted upon to open up running lanes again, and match up favorably at the point of attack. Defensively, it will be tough to replace last year's MVC Small Co-Defensive Player of the Year, John McCarthy, and the Rangers may experiment with a three-man front at times. But they will remain a blitz-oriented squad, perhaps even up to 50 percent of the time.

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