Boston High School: Ray Holloway

Thanksgiving football leftovers

November, 27, 2010
11/27/10
7:00
PM ET
WHALERS' ACES IN THE HOLE
No. 21 New Bedford's worst fears were realized in the first quarter against Durfee. Although mired in a scoreless tie, the Hilltoppers carried play early behind their Wing-T attack and running back Keith Omosefunmi. Things only got worse when Whalers offensive and defensive lineman Lance Burlingame when down with a meniscus injury on a defensive play in the first quarter. Durfee later scored the first touchdown of the game, but New Bedford got it right back on the ensuing kickoff with Nate Lewis' 72-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Although the Whalers had to mix and match their line, New Bedford was more efficient on offense in the second half. The line provided ample time for junior quarterback Myles Medeiros to throw and created the lanes in which running back Phito Gondre could run. Darian Sousa-Bizarro moved over from guard to left tackle in Burlingame's absence and Tyler Ollivierre filled in at left guard, showcasing New Bedford's depth on the line. Ollivierre was also instrumental in clogging up the middle at defensive tackle.

"The way Coach [Dennis Golden] runs practices, all the linemen get time to practice," Medeiros told Scott Barboza on Thursday, "so when somebody goes down we have the confidence that the next guy can get the job done."

However, the Whalers might miss Burlingame more on the defensive side of the ball when it comes to Tuesday's Division I semifinal playoff game against St. John's Prep. Burlingame was dominant in New Bedford's Big Three win over Brockton in neutralizing Boxers running back Trevon Offley. The same could be said for the Eagles' physicla offensive line and speedy running back Tyler Coppola.

"We're just taking it one game at a time and one day at a time," Medeiros said. "We got to where we wanted to be. We're Big Three champions. Now, we'll focus on what comes next."


IT IS NOT A THIN LINE

The St. John’s Prep offensive line is becoming somewhat legendary. Besides from opening up holes, they also escort their running backs down the field for touchdowns.

“Those are the plays that you get pumped for,” said Dan Culkeen, a 5’11’’, 252-pound senior. “As a lineman, you don’t get much glory, but those are the plays that people will see. I’m out there leading my best friend Tyler, and he does his thing. I get one block and he’s gone.”

The quarterback draws worked well for St. John’s, running them through almost every hole on the line, to the point that it seemed that Tommy Gaudet was just looking to run through an open space, but that wasn’t the case.

“We’re not a read team,” Gaudet said. “On the option we are, but mostly we’re running where we’re blocking. We try to move it up and down the line...get them to where they’re not comfortable in their defense. We were just trying to make it hard for them.”

“Every lineman on our team is All-Conference,” lauded Gaudet. “No matter what hole we run to, it’s the same. They’re all unbelievable at what they do.”

MIDDIES UP TO TASK
Dracut turned in one of its best defensive performances of the season during Thursday’s 19-12 triumph over No. 6 Methuen, which entered the contest averaging 31.6 points per game.

The Middies held the Rangers to 268 yards of total offense, but 105 of those 268 yards came on two plays – a 58-yard pass from quarterback Cal Carroll to Eric Lacroix, and Ryan Savastano’s 47-yard run.

“They got a couple of big plays, but they didn’t really drive the ball against us,” Dracut head coach Jason Houston said. “We wanted to stop the run. We felt that was the key, and we did a pretty good job of doing that.”

Dracut came up with three turnovers, including two interceptions in the second half.

Savastano, who entered the game with 1,225 yards rushing, was held to 75 yards on eight carries. The Middies (8-3) had surrendered at least 21 points in six of their other 10 games.

“It was one of the better defensive efforts I’ve seen in a while,” Houston said.

The victory gave Dracut a 26-19-3 edge in its series with Methuen, which dates back to 1963.

BIG PLUNGE FOR 'BIG A'

Malden senior Aaron Samano, the team's captain and a humanitarian (literally) off the field, was rewarded for his dedication on Thanksgiving morning in a unique way only befitting for a 6-foot-1, 300-pound nose tackle -- with the rock.

On the Golden Tornadoes' opening drive of their 29-0 win over storied archrival Medford, with the ball at the Mustangs' one yard line, head coach Joe Pappagallo called for a "tackle right", one of their standard plays, only with Samano as the ballcarrier. Samano admitted he was nervous at first when quarterback Kevin Valley came into the huddle with the call.

"It was almost like, I can't believe he's actually calling this right now," said the humble lineman, affectionately called "Big A" by his teammates. "I never thought it would come so early in the game, that we'd open up with it. I didn't want to let anyone down, so I held the ball as tight as I could."

Samano followed his blockers left, then took a reverse pivot and plunged right for the one-yard score, and then celebrated his score with a LaDainian Tomlinson-style flip of the ball and jumping around with his teammates.

"I was excited, I was fired up," Samano said. "It felt great to actually score a touchdown, after four years of blocking, then to actually run one in, it just feels great."

After a slew of preseason hype, the 2010 season was a disappointing one for the Tornadoes, who finished 5-5 and 3-1 in the Greater Boston League. But things are just heating up for Samano, who is being recruited by several Division 1 schools, including Harvard and Duke.

TWO JARRING COINCIDENCES

Flashback #1: It was two years ago, when Longmeadow traveled to East Longmeadow riding a state-best 47-game win streak into Thanksgiving Day weekend 2008. Longmeadow was trailing 16-13 but rallied behind junior quarterback Conor Hobert on a drive in the final minutes.

The game came down to a Longmeadow fourth down with 19 seconds left, when Hobert lobbed up a pass from around 20-yards out to Niko Sierra. Sierra dove for the ball but was covered well by East Longmeadow’s Dave Fraboni. Fraboni swatted the ball down in the end zone, and EL upset Longmeadow in thrilling fashion.

2010 implications: Sophomore Austin Sierra, younger brother of Niko, recovered a fumble in the end zone to upend the Spartans 13-7 in overtime on Thanksgiving. The fumble was recovered in about the same spot in the end zone (in front of the right side goal post) where Fraboni knocked down Hobert’s pass in 2008.

The fumble recovery won the AA conference title for the Lancers.

“I just saw it drop and all I was thinking was, ‘jump on it!’” Austin laughed about after the game. “I think it was great, kind of a hard game and we just came out with the win.

“Defensively we did great, offensively, well -- we had a couple of fumbles.”

The Lancers did have several fumbles but only one was recovered by East Longmeadow. It’s safe to say that the Lancers will be alright if Austin keeps picking up the mistakes like he did on Thanksgiving.

Flashback #2: Longmeadow had not lost a home game since 2004, and to lose to East Longmeadow would compound the pain. The Lancers had gone up 21-19 over the Spartans on Thanksgiving but were crossing their fingers on a 45-yard field goal that could win the game for EL.

EL’s Ray Holloway was well short on the field goal (which was pushed back after an intentional grounding call on the previous play) and took the brunt of the blame for the loss after time expired.

2010 implications: Holloway had a chance at redemption. After his team cut up the Longmeadow defense in the fourth quarter. EL was looking to take the lead 10-7 with 18 seconds left. Instead of going for the end zone though, coach Scott Raymond wanted to play it safer with a field goal attempt. He called a timeout, and the team ran a belly to the left to center the ball between the hashes.

Raymond then called another timeout and after a Longmeadow timeout, Holloway stepped up to the plate again. It is hard to imagine that in a rivalry so close and intense, a circumstance would present itself in such similar circumstances two years in a row.

The crowd hushed as Holloway’s kick was pushed well right and short of the goal posts, and Longmeadow survived an epic defensive collapse. The Lancers then seized momentum stopping EL first in overtime and then scoring afterwards.

After the game, it was a tough scene as Holloway and his co-captains let their emotions show on the field. When the fans cleared from East Longmeadow High School, almost 10 minutes had gone by and Holloway was still going over the kick in his mind standing in the same spot.

“You hate to lose the way we lost at the end here, but what are you going to do?” Raymond said after the game.

“I hate to see them hurt. I hate to see them hurt as bad as they are right now,” “Especially a kid like Ray…its an awful lot to put that pressure on a kid two years in a row.”

No one can blame Raymond for the call. No one can blame Holloway for the kick.

Holloway played his heart out on Thanksgiving even if the numbers didn’t show it. He was an integral part of a defense that shut down the number one offense in Western Mass, and a top-15 offense in the state.

Holloway is a stud running back, emotional leader, and certainly in contention for the Daegenais, Bertelli and ESPNBoston.com WMass Player of the Year Award.

COACHING DUEL

Longmeadow coach Alex Rotsko and East Longmeadow coach Scott Raymond both run the Wing-T offense. Both coaches are sticklers for leverage, positioning, timing and execution, and around Western Mass, anyone can tell you that neither call “sexy” plays.

However their bland running styles took a turn on Thanksgiving and both debuted some new additions. In fact, both even showed off an inside shovel pass -- which is uncharacteristic of the Wing-T disciples. East Longmeadow actually brought out a Wildcat set, early in the second half, and used an empty backfield to spread the field on their fourth quarter drive.

“We were trying some different things, but its just that they played so tough,” Raymond said. “…it was pretty good football.”

“I don’t think you could ask for two more evenly matched teams at this point,” Raymond said. “Both teams are the best in Western Mass and they’re so competitive -- you can’t deny that it’s been exciting.”

“Our defense played really well -- except for the last series of the game,” Longmeadow senior Jeff Anderson said. “Our teams run identical offense so we know the insides and outs of them. So we knew basically it was going to come down to who was going to make plays.”

“We couldn’t establish anything with the inside run game or the outside run game,” Rotsko said. “They were just pressing the line of scrimmage.”

Both coaches will have to rally their teams back into shape quickly. The first playoff game is set for Tuesday and both teams are hoping for super bowls this year. After the game Rotsko’s team was very somber during the post game speech listening to the coach intently.

However when asked about the speech Rotsko paused, and then answered: “I actually don’t remember what I said,” Rotsko said with a laugh.

Coaches, players and families were caught up in the emotion across the state on Thanksgiving Day 2010, and it was surely one for the ages.

Sierra saves No. 8 Longmeadow in thriller

November, 25, 2010
11/25/10
4:49
PM ET
EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. -- The last two confrontations in the East Longmeadow-Longmeadow rivalry has left one team heart-broken because of a last-second loss, and one team overjoyed after it narrowly pulled out an exciting victory. This Thanksgiving the game continued with the same theme.

The No. 8 Longmeadow Lancers survived a bruising Thanksgiving Day-game with a 13-7 overtime win, after they were brought to the brink of defeat by No. 18 East Longmeadow with nine seconds left in the fourth quarter.

In overtime Longmeadow (10-1, 7-0 AA) intercepted East Longmeadow (9-1, 6-1) quarterback Tom Mazza’s pass on third down, and simply needed a field goal to earn the victory. On second and goal from the five-yard line, Longmeadow coach Alex Rotsko sent out the field goal unit, but before the snap, the group switched into a Wing-T formation, and backup quarterback Joe Volk handed the ball off on a belly to the right side.

Fullback T.J. Norris fumbled the ball into the end zone, where Lancers’ sophomore Austin Sierra jumped on it, gaining possession of the ball for a timely score and a Longmeadow victory.

Rotsko said after the game that the decision to run the ball with the field goal-unit came because he wanted to move the ball to a better position to kick a field goal, and decided he might as well try to trick the defense.

“Oh my god,” Longmeadow co-captain Jeff Anderson said about the finish. “When that ball dropped, it was the scariest moment of my life.”

“I was more worried about the snap because Joey [Volk] is our holder. Normally I wouldn’t do anything like that, but I have a lot of trust in him,” Rotsko said about the call. “You don’t worry about your fullback, because he’s got to hang onto the ball, but I guess we got a little bit lucky.”

The two teams both averaged over 30 points per game coming into the matchup, but both defenses stood up to the test.

“When you get into a football game of this magnitude, the defenses are just so well prepared, “ EL coach Scott Raymond said about the game. “Both coaching staffs basically shut down both offenses. You couldn’t pick a winner out of this game -- you couldn’t pick someone that had any decided advantage.”

Longmeadow’s Norris managed 23 yards on 11 carries, and EL’s Ray Holloway had 37 yards on 15 carries.

“It was back-and-forth, just waiting for something to break for either team,” Rotsko said. “It never really did…defensively it was two good efforts by two teams that wanted to win.”

Both Rotsko and Raymond decided it was the right move to throw the ball to the outside in the second half. Longmeadow’s Jake Lazarus had the most offense for either team, completing 10 of 16 passes for 160 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

The Spartans’ Mazza had 59 yards on 9 of 13 passes with one interception, but most of those passes came on a fourth quarter drive that showed how talented East Longmeadow really is.

EL strung together the drive of the year using the no-huddle offense and 17 plays to take the ball from their one-yard line to Longmeadow’s 20 and taking up the last five minutes of time in regulation. With nine seconds to play, EL’s Holloway lined up for a 32-yard field goal with the game on the line -- that was eerily similar to last season’s 45-yard miss to give Longmeadow a 21-19 victory. After a succession of timeouts, Holloway missed the kick short and to the right.

“The only [good] drive of the game was the last one that East Longmeadow put together, and based on that, they probably deserved to win the game,” Rotsko said after the game. “But sometimes its better to be lucky than good I guess.”

NO. 8 LONGMEADOW 13, NO. 18 EAST LONGMEADOW 7

LM 0 7 0 0 6 --- 13
EL 7 0 0 0 0 --- 7

First Quarter
EL - Tom Mazza 1 run (Ray Holloway kick)

Second Quarter
L - Ben Sterrit 14 pass from Jake Lazarus (Sterrit kick)

Overtime
L - Austin Sierra 0 fumble recovery

The great rivalry of the West

November, 24, 2010
11/24/10
6:40
PM ET
LONGMEADOW, Mass. -- Across the state, most football-powerhouses meet their match on Thanksgiving Day. They face off against a similarly talented team, the records get thrown out, and it’s a no-holds-barred battle for Turkey Day supremacy.

In the Central and Eastern parts of Massachusetts there are plenty of games to choose from: Xaverian and St. John’s Prep, Marshfield and Duxbury, Andover and Central Catholic or Fitchburg and Leominster -- just to name a few.

But for everyone west of Worcester, if you want to see a consistently close game between two of the most successful programs in the region, you head to the annual Longmeadow-East Longmeadow Thanksgiving Day matchup.

This heated rivalry wasn't forged in 1882 like Wellsley and Needham’s game, nor has it involved the trading off of some kind of historical relic, but time-after-time this contest comes down to pure competition between two of the best in the West.

If you’re trying to pick a favorite in this game, then good luck. This year’s contest is a headache to break down.

At first glance, the two teams’ records stand out. East Longmeadow (9-0,6-0 AA) has a chance to go undefeated for the first time in Coach Scott Raymond’s career, and Longmeadow (9-1, 6-0) has one loss to out of conference opponent St. John’s (Shrewsbury).

The Longmeadow Lancers come in with a stronger schedule as they lost to St. John’s (Shrewsbury) and beat Catholic Memorial earlier in the season, but according both coaches, strength of schedule won’t matter on the field on Thursday.

“I don’t see [our schedule] as a factor at all. I think they could have just as easily gone out to St. John’s and got their butt kicked as we did,” Longmeadow coach Alex Rotsko joked. “I don’t know if they’re better than Catholic Memorial or not -- I’m not sure we are better than CM.

“We beat Catholic Memorial that night and did some good things, but if you look at the common opponents [with East Longmeadow], the scores are very comparable actually.”

“I don’t think the kids even look at [the out of conference games],” Raymond said. “They’ve played against Longmeadow since their youth days and the can judge their competitive level with that.”

After last year’s conference realignment, East Longmeadow has now moved up into the AA conference with Longmeadow -- even though they are in Division II as far as the MIAA playoffs are concerned. Longmeadow has won or shared a whopping nine-straight league titles (although one year Longmeadow tied with Minnechaug Regional High School) but this year’s game -- like last year’s -- is for the league title.

The Spartans will host the Lancers for the last time on the current field at East Longmeadow High School (before it's replaced with turf in the offseason) and they are hoping to continue a win-streak that dates back to 2006. The last time East Longmeadow lost at home was against -- you guessed it -- the Lancers. And speaking of streaks, Longmeadow has not lost to a conference opponent since 2004, when the Lancers fell to Agawam at home.

“The excitement of playing Longmeadow has changed a little bit for us, because we’ve gotten to the point where we feel we can compete with them,” Raymond said about Longmeadow. “They’re such a great program and our kids get excited because they want to play the best -- and they’ve always demonstrated that they are the best.”

The two teams are very familiar with each other. Raymond used to coach at Longmeadow High before Rotsko became the head coach, and he and Rotsko remain friends despite their teams’ rivalry. But it doesn’t stop there.

In the offseason, Rotkso and Raymond team up to run the Wing-T Camp at either Longmeadow or East Longmeadow High every summer. This gives teams from around the region an opportunity to learn from some of the best Wing-T minds in the area. It also gives East Longmeadow and Longmeadow a chance to measure up against one another before they put the pads on.

That familiarity with each other’s offense makes the Thanksgiving Day game an annual chess match between coaches. Whether Rotsko will dust off his patented sweep-series “sucker”-trap (where the guard pulls outside to draw a linebacker), or Raymond will implement the sweep-series quarterback keeper to get an extra athlete in front of the normal outside-run, both coaches will pull out all the tricks they have.

While ball possession will surely be a factor in the game because of the 10-minute quarters now implemented in the Thanksgiving Day games, it is worth seeing what the coaches thought (outside of the clock) will be a factor in the game.

When asked about what the keys to the game will be Rotsko gave his textbook vanilla-answer.

“First, we’re trying not to give up big plays, and secondly execution,” Rotsko said. “The team that executes better will win the game.”

When asked about what stands out about Longmeadow’s team, Raymond paused and laughed.

“What doesn’t stand out?” Raymond responded.

KEYS TO VICTORY:
  • Unlike how the coaches responded, if you look at the offensive stats, both teams stack up well against another. Longmeadow’s top two rushers (T.J. Norris and Frankie Elder) have combined for 22 rushing touchdowns, while East Longmeadow’s lead backs (Ray Holloway and Bryce McAllister) racked up 26 touchdowns.
  • Look for Holloway to have one big return against a Longmeadow kickoff team that always seems to be a weakness (if there was one) for the Lancers. Holloway -- like Minnechaug’s Mike Mercadante earlier in the year -- will have a lot of success against the Lancers, but Longmeadow will try to completely shut down the rest of the Spartans offense.
  • Don’t be surprised if Rotsko decides to air it out with Jake Lazarus. Although the Thanksgiving Day game usually presents raw or wet weather, by this time in the year, Rotsko typically gains enough confidence in his signal-callers to expand the playbook.

What We Learned: Week 9

November, 8, 2010
11/08/10
1:54
PM ET
WARRIORS CAME OUT TO PLAY
Lincoln-Sudbury’s success might have come a year earlier than expected.

Pitted against Dual Country League (Large) rival Acton-Boxborough and the Colonials’ stout defense, a young Warrior team claimed their own destiny with a 10-7 win on Senior Night in Sudbury.

L-S has only two seniors starting on either side of the ball (Benjamin Forman, Zach Smerlas, Lawrence Stevenson and Ryan Swoyer) and relies heavily on its strong junior class. The Warriors also received key contributions from a couple of sophomores in the victory over A-B. Running back Christopher Georgio punched in the Warriors’ lone touchdown of the game. In addition, fellow second-year player Brian Carroll pocketed a key fourth-quarter interception along with a strong contribution in the running game with nine carries for 72 yards.

Clearly, L-S has come a long way in a short period of time.

“I never thought we’d be at this point,” Warriors head coach Tom Lopez told Scott Barboza after the game, “especially after that loss to Tewksbury at home.”

From that point on, L-S strung together three straight wins before hitting a couple bumps in the road with losses coming at Concord-Carlisle and at home to Reading. The Warriors righted their ship with league wins over Waltham and Westford to put themselves in position for the big matchup with A-B.

L-S still needs to win one game over Boston Latin or on Thanksgiving against Newton South to sew up the DCL crown.

“We just need to keep things rolling,” senior running back Marc Pace said. “All we need to do is win.”

THANKSGIVING CORNUCOPIA
It’s not that far away (heck, you can ever hear Christmas music round some parts) to start thinking about Thanksgiving. And, if all holds true to form, here’s a smattering of holiday traditions around Eastern Mass. that could have a greater significance this year:
  • Walpole at Weymouth: It has no bearing on either team’s postseason destiny, but both sides would like nothing better than to disrupt the other side’s potential run at a perfect regular-season slate.
  • St. John’s Prep at Xaverian: Provided neither team is upset this weekend, Turkey Day is shaping up to be a winner-takes-all contest for the Catholic Conference.
  • Dracut at Methuen: This one should be entertaining nonetheless and expect there to be plenty of points on the board when all is said and done. In addition, it could decide which team moves on from the Merricmack Valley Small.
  • Lowell Catholic at Pope John: The winner of the Catholic Central Small clash could be headed to the Division IV-A playoffs.
  • Abington at Whitman-Hanson: Worth noting that it is the 100th anniversary of the rivalry.
FOR ALL THE MARBLES … ONCE AGAIN
OK, so we thought the battle of Somerset and Martha’s Vineyard was the Eastern Athletic Championship game, but who saw Bishop Feehan getting into the fray this late into the season? Although the Shamrocks are 4-5 overall, they are 3-0 in the EAC, thus staging the league’s second in-season Super Bowl Friday in Somerset.

HOLLISTON CAN'T WAIT FOR ITS REMATCH WITH MEDWAY; DITTO MEDWAY, VICE-VERSA
The Medway Mustangs couldn't help but feel overjoyed when the final seconds ticked off on their 28-18 victory over Norton, to send them to Saturday night's Tri-Valley League championship game. So, too, was Holliston, no doubt licking its chops since the Mustangs shocked the region with a 28-16 upset back in early October.

"This is the matchup they've been waiting for since October 1," Holliston coach Todd Kiley told ESPNBoston's Brendan Hall. "We haven't overlooked anybody by any stretch, but you know it's in the back of their minds, they're kids of course. So we're fired up for that. I think they were secretly rooting for Medway today."

BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM IS STILL THE CLASS OF THE OLD COLONY
The Trojans' gameplan last Friday night against Barnstable was classic Dan Buron. The B-R coach is known for always having great run blocking out of power formations, and in this particular matchup he used it to set up play action waggles that kept the young Red Raiders defenders on their feet. Quarterback Billy Zolga completed his first seven passes, as the Trojans burst out to a 35-6 halftime lead.

"I thought it was very important (to keep them honest with the pass), because they were creeping up on us," Buron said. "I thought there were two passes in particular -- one to Delullis and one to (Branden) Morin where they had it covered and those kids slid, and Billy was poised and threw a nice ball...I thought Billy showed alot of poise tonight."

Zolga, also starting in the secondary that night to combat the Raiders' talented receiving corps, essentially sealed it in the fourth quarter with a pick-six of a D.J. Crook pass over the middle, essentially wrapping up the Old Colony League title for the second straight year. Even if the Trojans were to lose this week to Taunton, they're in based on head-to-head with Barnstable.

In other words, the road to Gillette still goes through Bridgewater.

HEAD OF THE CLASS
VALVOLINE PEAK PERFORMER OF THE WEEK: ANDREW COKE, ANDOVER

The junior running back was at it once again for the Golden Warriors, carrying the ball 30 times for a season-high 290 yards and all five touchdowns in a 36-20 win over Billerica to improve to 6-3. That gives Coke four 200-yard games on the season, and 1,447 yards in nine games this year, averaging 6.5 yards a carry. In all but two games this season, Coke has run for at least 130 yards.

THE CLASSMATES
Ray Holloway, Sr. RB, East Longmeadow - He was a dominant force for the Spartans in their 27-3 win over Springfield Putnam, rushing for 225 yards and three scores to keep EL undefeated.

Isaiah Jones, Sr. RB, Mahar: Needed only six carries to rack up 200 yards and four touchdowns against Turners Falls.

Mike Mercadante, Sr. RB, Minnechaug - Western Mass.'s leading rusher went off for 232 yards and two scores as the Falcons toppled Agawam, 41-20.

T.J. Norris, Jr. RB, Longmeadow: Led the Lancers to a 39-24 win over Westfield with 16 carries for 235 yards and three touchdowns.

Jaron Spear, Sr. TB, Somerset: Not be outdone by Jones, Spear’s line from Friday night: Four touches, 172 yards, four touchdowns.

Mitch Temple, Sr. QB, Weymouth - Threw for 260 yards and three touchdowns in the Wildcats' 42-0 shutout of Wellesley, which clinched them a berth in the Division 1A playoffs.

SPONSORED HEADLINES