Boston High School: Ryan Welch

LA's senior class comes full circle

February, 4, 2011
2/04/11
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BOSTON -- Two weeks ago, Mike Orloff's phone went off during class, as sometimes happens these days. And when he looked down at the missed call, he was startled to see a Los Angeles area code number.

"I couldn’t for the life of me guess who it was going to be," the Lawrence Academy senior laughed as he recalled the story of how he ended up just minutes earlier this Thursday evening, from the 37th floor of the 40-story 28 State Street skyscraper in Government Center, signing a National Letter of Intent to play football at UCLA next fall.

Turns out the mystery call was a voicemail from Rick Neuheisel, head coach of the Bruins, and he had just finished watching his film 10 seconds ago. Not only did he love the linebacker's physical, downhill style of play, and natural nose for the ball, he wanted him to call back immediately and come down to Westwood for an official visit.

Mike Orloff
Brendan Hall/ESPNBoston.comSenior linebacker Mike Orloff switched his commitment Monday from Iowa to UCLA and signed his letter of intent Thursday night in Boston.
Orloff had verbally committed to Iowa last summer, but couldn't resist. He flew down for an official visit last Friday, and by Monday he had made up his mind to switch his commitment.

On Thursday night, high above the downtown Boston skyline, he and six of his Spartan teammates signed National Letters of Intent to play Division 1 football at the FBS or FCS level, bringing the Spartans' amazing run these last two seasons -- 17-1, with two ISL championships and a NEPSAC Bowl victory -- full circle.

Wednesday's National Letter of Intent signing day for football prospects was one that lacked drama, with all of the top in-state prospects already committed. But it was quite an anomaly, with 13 players signing NLI's to Division 1 FBS schools from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Conference-USA, Pac-10, Mountain West and MAC, most significantly Brockton's Albert Louis-Jean (Boston College), Rivers' Taariq Allen (Nebraska) and St. John's of Shrewsbury's Richard Rodgers (Cal). One of Orloff's teammates, three-star wideout Marcus Grant, signed with Iowa; they were joined by running back Anthony Knight (Nevada), tight end Clay Horne (Villanova), linebacker Dan Giovacchini (Brown) and linemen Max Ricci (BC) and Ryan Welch (UNH).

It's a level of depth not seen year to year in this state. Allen, for instance, will be the Huskers' first scholarship player from Massachusetts since Peabody's Grant Miller in 2002; before that, you have to go back to Lincoln-Sudbury's duo of Mike Croel and Joe Sims in the 1980's. Louis-Jean, meanwhile, is the No. 9 overall cornerback in the nation by ESPNU's rankings, and committed to Miami last March before dropping the Hurricanes following Randy Shannon's firing as head coach.

"Being from Mass, and seeing other kids from Mass going on to big places, Taariq going to Nebraska and Albert going to BC, and all of us in this room, it’s been incredible," said Grant, a Carver native, moments after putting the ink on his paperwork. "To see people you’ve known for so long, going on to play big time football, it’s been a pretty amazing experience for me."

IOWA DILEMMA HITS HOME

Grant was in Iowa City this past January 21, a Friday, the day after a number of players performed an intense squat workout that has since come under scrutiny from the national media. Grant said he saw "players limping, looking like they couldn't move, couldn't even go out at night to hang out."

He didn't put too much weight into the scene until Monday rolled around and reports surfaced that 13 players were hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis, a stress-induced syndrome that can cause kidney problems and damage cells. The news has resonated back in the Boston area, as Duxbury native and linebacker Shane DiBona was among the 13 hospitalized, while strength coach Chris Doyle hails from Quincy.

Earlier today, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics spokesman Tom Moore told the Associated Press that three employees were in the process of being terminated over a breach of players' medical records, while two more were handed five-day unpaid suspensions.

Grant says he sticks by the Hawkeyes, and that the news has not had an affect on his commitment.

"It was crazy," Grant said. "First thing I did was talk to my recruiting coordinator, Ken O’Keefe, and he actually had no idea at the time because he was out on the road. It was crazy, but then again they said it wasn’t anything to do with people on the team doing something illegal or anything. It wasn’t too concerning, you’ve just got to take care of your body when you do a gruesome workout like that."

When asked how much of an affect the highly-publicized incident had on him switching his commitment from the Hawkeyes, Orloff swiftly responded, "Absolutely not, absolutely not. I mean, coach Doyle is one of the most respected people in that business. As far as I know, he’s one of the best, so that has nothing to do with it."

Football Signing Day is here

February, 2, 2011
2/02/11
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The first day of the football National Letter of Intent signing period has arrived, and we've got you covered all day (though we'll probably be buried under snow ourselves). Here is a list of Massachusetts athletes committed to Division 1 programs headed into today's big day.

Any commitments can be sent to Scott Barboza at sbarboza@espnboston.com or Brendan Hall at bhall@espnboston.com.

(NOTE: The Ivy League does not recognize National Letters of Intent)


DIVISION 1 FBS
Taariq Allen, Rivers – Nebraska
Manny Asprilla, Everett – Boston College
Dalton Gifford, Bridgton Academy (Maine)/Barnstable – UConn
Marcus Grant, Lawrence Academy – Iowa
Harry Keselman, Oliver Ames - Temple
Anthony Knight, Lawrence Academy – Nevada
Albert Louis-Jean, Brockton – Boston College (enrolled in January)
Brian Miller, Andover – Boston College
Paul Nwokeji, Thayer Academy – UConn
Rodman Noel, Milford Academy (N.Y.)/Everett – NC State
Mike Orloff, Lawrence Academy – UCLA
Liam Porter, Natick – Boston College
Max Ricci, Lawrence Academy – Boston College
Richard Rodgers, St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – Cal
Andrew Siden, Natick – Tulane

DIVISION 1 FCS
Jeff Anderson, Longmeadow - Brown
Ryan Barrett, Holliston – Bryant
Connor Candito, Bridgton Academy (Maine)/St. John's (Shrewsbury) - Sacred Heart
Jamie Casselbury, Philips Andover - UMass
Connor Caveney, Cushing Academy - Sacred Heart
Matt Costello, Everett – Princeton
Jeff Covitz, Reading - Bryant
Ryan Delisle, St. John’s Prep – Harvard
Anthony Fabiano, Wakefield – Harvard
Ryan Flannery, North Attleborough - Columbia
Justin Flores, Tilton School/Woburn - Maine
Dan Giovacchini, Lawrence Academy – Brown
Will Guinee, Malden Catholic - Dartmouth
Greg Hilliard, Suffield Academy (Conn.)/Brockton – UMass
Clay Horne, Lawrence Academy – Villanova
Brandon Howard, Worcester Academy/King Philip - UMass
Randall Jette, Martha’s Vineyard – UMass
Isaiah Jones, Mahar - Maine
Andrew Kestenbaum, Dartmouth – Rhode Island
Ben Koopman, Marblehead – Holy Cross
John Lavin, Falmouth – Bryant
Dan Light, St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – Fordham
Harrison Lyons, Avon Old Farms (Conn.)/Norwell - Bryant
Alec May, King Philip - Georgetown
Brian McDonald, Hebron Academy (Maine)/Westwood - Sacred Heart
Andrew Mizzoni, Gloucester – Holy Cross
Obum Obukwelu, BC High – Harvard
Ben Patrick, Rivers – UMass (preferred walk-on)
Jason Richard, Milford Academy (N.Y.)/Weston - Sacred Heart
Peter Savarese, BB&N - Dartmouth
Zach Smerlas, Lincoln-Sudbury – Brown
Keshaudas Spence, Taft (Conn.)/Catholic Memorial - Sacred Heart
Charlie Storey, Milton Academy - Dartmouth
Brian Strachan, St. Sebastian’s – Brown
Cam Sullivan, Westfield - Bryant
Jeff Synan, Plymouth North - Bryant
Ben Ticknor, Milton Academy - Dartmouth
John Wallace, Somerville – UMass
Ryan Welch, Lawrence Academy – UNH
Conor Wyand, Nashoba - Brown

DIVISION 2 RECRUITMENTS REPORTED
Nick Broughton, Marblehead - Merrimack
Matt Delaney, Barnstable - Assumption
Chris Mooney, Stoneham - Assumption
Mike Muir, Xaverian - Bentley
Bobby Richman, North Attleborough - Bentley
Chris Unis, Gloucester - Merrimack

DIVISION 3 RECRUITMENTS REPORTED
Eric Bertino, BB&N - Middlebury
Ned Deane, Andover - Amherst
Mike Devin, Bridgewater-Raynham, Bowdoin
James DiBlaisi, BB&N - Trinity
Josh Friedland, Marblehead - Bates
Jake Giovanucci, Dexter - Bowdoin
Mike Gustafson, Belmont Hill - Washington & Lee
Brett Harasimowicz, Duxbury - Middlebury
Mike Hogan, St. John's (Shrewsbury) - Wesleyan
Matt Perlow, Marblehead - Bowdoin
Mike Tomaino, Gloucester - Bates

More on Knight, Giovacchini, Welch

December, 16, 2010
12/16/10
12:43
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Correspondent Roger Brown has more details today in his blog on the recent decommitment of Lawrence Academy tailback Anthony Knight from North Carolina State.

Knight, No. 11 in-state prospect according to ESPN, decommitted from the Wolfpack on Tuesday and told Brown he has a "real strong interest in Nevada."

"I'm probably gonna go there for a visit," he told Brown.

LA head coach Mike Taylor said Arizona, Syracuse and Temple have also shown interest in the 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior, who helped lead the Spartans to their second straight ISL championship this past fall. He also told Brown that linebacker Dan Giovacchini has narrowed his schools down to Brown, Boston College and Princeton; offensive lineman Ryan Welch, meanwhile, could commit to UNH soon.

For more recruiting updates, be sure to check out Brown's blog.

ESPNBoston's All-ISL football team

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
6:07
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Offense
QB – Eric Bertino, Sr., BB&N
QB – Charlie Storey, Sr., Milton Academy
QB – Shaquor Sandiford, Jr., Rivers
RB – Ben Patrick, Sr., Rivers
RB – Chris Coady, Jr., BB&N
RB – Anthony Knight, Sr., Lawrence Academy
FB – Tommy Kelly, Sr., Nobles
TE – Josh Rivers, Sr., Roxbury Latin
OL – Jeff Winthrop, Sr., St. Paul’s
OL – Max Ricci, Sr., Lawrence Academy
OL – Eric Olson, Jr., BB&N
OL – Paul Nwokeji, Sr., Thayer
OL – A.J. Walsh, Sr., Rivers
WR – Taariq Allen, Sr., Rivers
WR – Marcus Grant, Sr., Lawrence Academy

Defense
DL – Tyler Cardoze, Sr., Lawrence Academy
DL – John Bergantino, Sr., Belmont Hill
DL – Dan Connaughton, Jr., BB&N
DL – Ryan Welch, Sr., Lawrence Academy
LB – Dan Giovacchini, Sr., Lawrence Academy
LB – Peter Savarese, Sr., BB&N
LB – Brian Bowser, Jr., Belmont Hill
LB – Nick DiChiara, Jr., BB&N
DB – Mike Orloff, Sr., Lawrence Academy
DB – Brian Strachan, Sr., St. Sebastian’s
DB – Joe Giandomenico, Sr., Roxbury Latin
DB – Ben Ticknor, Sr., Milton Academy

Lawrence Academy survives upstart Govs

October, 16, 2010
10/16/10
7:19
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BYFIELD, Mass. -- Lawrence Academy came to Governor’s Academy for a win, and they got one, but it was not a giveaway. The Spartans fought for four quarters, keeping the Govs to just one score on their way to a 20-7 win.

"There’s two ways to play our team," said Lawrence Academy (4-0) coach Mike Taylor. "Either you lay down and die or fight. These guys did a heck of a job fighting."

And to the end they did. With 4:20 left in the game and Lawrence Academy leading 20-7, Governor's Academy’s Kirk Ryder recovered a fumble at the Govs’ 40. A three pitch flea flicker from Tate Jozokos to Frank Barba brought the Govs down to the 24, within striking distance of making the game a one score tossup.

"It was definitely supposed to run a little smoother," said Jozokos, referring the two players who were nearly tackled before he got the ball again. "I just ran to space, chucked it up and hoped for the best. It was definitely supposed to run smoother; it was kind of scary actually."

Two plays later Governor’s Academy gave up the ball, but a Lawrence Academy three and out gave them one more shot at the end zone.

The Govs got down to the 12, but Lawrence’s Dan Giovacchini (six tackles) stopped Elijah Morrissey for a five-yard loss, finally quelling the fire that the Govs kept up all game despite the disparate size matchup.

"Our kids, when they play with some emotion and some passion, they bring it pretty well," said Govs’ coach Mark Gerry, who said he suited up 27 players for today’s game.

"The kids knew they were in this game, they knew they could play with these guys and I can’t say enough about their character, their persistence and their heart. ‘The few, the proud’ we call ourselves when we come out to practice. Numbers are one thing, but having the right kids on the field is another thing."

If this were a fight, Governor’s Academy (1-3) landed one early on the Spartans’ chin. Morrissey took a sweep right fifty-five yards for a score with under a minute gone in the game.

"We knew they’d be flying after the ball," said Gerry. "So we figured we’d try to trick them. We got a break, a good run and went up early."

But the extra point Camden Means put between the uprights would be the last time a Govs’ player would be responsible for the ball passing the plane.

Five plays after the failed onside kick by Governor’s, Daniel Giovacchini bounced outside left and dodged tacklers en route to a 24-yard touchdown run. The failed rush attempt left the game at 7-6.

Governor’s came out flat on the next drive. Attempting a double reverse, the first play went for a six-yard loss. On the next play, Lawrence Academy’s Ryan Welch body slammed Govs’ quarterback Jozokos for a three-yard loss.

"Ryan Welch, probably the hardest player on the team," said Lawrence Academy’s quarterback and safety Michael Orloff. "Doesn’t get a lot of credit, but he’s the one in the trenches getting held, cut and all of the dirty stuff that happens to him. I give him a ton of credit. He’s an animal on defense."

A two yard-gain on the next play finished the three and out series for the Govs. Lawrence Academy scored six minutes later on a silent snap quarter sneak to the left by Orloff (9 rushes, 45 yards), catching The Academy defense off guard. This time, a failed passed left the score at 12-7 with 24 seconds left in the first quarter.

With 6:44 left in the first half, Lawrence Academy recovered a fumble at the Govs’ 37 yard line. Five plays and 2:25 later, Marcus Grant caught an 11-yard toss from Orloff in the front right corner of the end zone. Orloff ran for the extra point for the Spartans’ final score of 20-7.

"We’re a tough football team," added Taylor. "Next week, we've got another team on the schedule. I don't even know who it is, because we take it one game at a time."

Who’s your daddy?
With 6:19 left in the third quarter, Orloff went down on offense and limped off the field favoring his right leg. Governor’s got the ball back, and began to drive. That’s when the Lawrence Academy sideline began the slow chant, “Daddy’s baaack”. They were referring to Orloff, who went on to make three of his seven tackles of the day on that drive.

"They used to call me general," said Orloff. "Being quarterback and being safety… they knew that when Daddy came back into the game everything was going to be alright."

Lawrence Academy 20, Governor’s Academy 7

Law (4-0) 12 8 0 0 --- 20
Gov (1-3) 7 8 0 0 --- 7

G – Eli Morrissey 55 run (Joe Uglietto kick)
L – Daniel Giovacchini 24 run (rush failed)
L – Michael Orloff 4 run (pass failed)
L – Marcus Grant 11 pass from Orloff (Orloff rush)

Lawrence Academy not short on talent

September, 22, 2010
9/22/10
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Lawrence Academy coach Michael Taylor was asked what he considered the weakness of his defending Independent School League and New England Prep School Athletic Council Samson/Lorden Bowl champion.

“Hmmmm,” Taylor said, clearly stumped by the inquiry.

Long pause.

“I’d say, with any ISL school, depth,” Taylor said. “If we had to play the schedule like Brockton and Xaverian and Everett, we don’t have the depth on the roster. We don’t have the long numbers because of student population. There’s somewhere around 160 boys in the school. It would be tough to compete on a longer schedule like the public schools do because we don’t have the student population.”

Taylor said about 60 players play from the freshman level up, but only 20-to-25 get significant varsity reps from offense to defense to special teams.

“In that regard, we’re a tiny team,” Taylor said.

Well, that’s the only regard in which this team can be described as “tiny.” In everything else – from pure physical size, speed, talent, you name it – the Spartans are the exact opposite. This team is huge. A colossal. There isn’t a “look test” that this team doesn’t pass.

The most obvious example is the offensive line. From tackle to tackle, the heights and weights of the Spartans are as follows: 6-feet, 5-inches, 360 pounds; 6-1, 300; 6-6, 235; 6-5, 278; and 6-5, 340. And it’s a group that has an athleticism that belies its bulk.

Tyler Cardoze (the 6-5, 340-pounder from Queens, NY) has the best feet out of all of them. A young senior who just turned 17 on Aug. 10, Cardoze holds an offer from Bryant but might have the most upside of any player on a team that already has four BCS verbally committed athletes.

“He’s our best offensive lineman,” Taylor said, “which is saying a lot.”

Max Ricci, a 6-5, 360-pound verbal commit to Boston College and native of Jamaica Plain, also has seemingly limitless potential. According to Taylor, Ricci first played organized football just two years ago.

“When it’s really driving rain and windy, we’re an opponent’s worst nightmare,” he added. “With our line, we’re not just a finesse offense. We are a fundamental group. We’re going to line up and we’re going to come right at you. We have both options available. That’s one of the benefits of having a good, athletic line like that.”

It doesn’t hurt to have a 6-3, 220-pound running back in Anthony Knight who clocked a 4.55 forty-yard dash at NC State’s camp and committed to the Wolfpack shortly thereafter. Not surprisingly, Knight averaged over 14 yards per carry last year.

The Spartans’ most explosive skill player is Marcus Grant, a speedy wideout who burns defenses both on sweeps on handoffs from Michael Orloff or catching passes from the senior Danvers native. Both players are verbally committed to Iowa.

Defensively, Orloff is a hard-hitting safety and middle linebacker Dan Giovacchini of Acton returned six interceptions for touchdowns last year.

“He’s somebody that flies under the radar a little bit,” Taylor said of Giovacchini, who is receiving heavy interest from the Ivy League and Boston College.

Senior guard and nose guard Ryan Welch (6-1, 300) suffered a hamstring injury over the summer but still owns a New Hampshire offer already and is one of the most physical linemen in New England.

This is a Lawrence team that can play with anyone on any given day and will be a huge favorite against everyone on its schedule, including BB&N — the only team to beat the Spartans in the last two years. But Taylor does his best to keep what happens on the field in perspective.

“Winning is nice. It is,” Taylor said. “But I’ll tell you what. If we lost all of our games but were able to get every senior free education by playing football, I’d sacrifice it in a second, because that education is going to last them a lifetime.”

LAWRENCE ACADEMY AT A GLANCE
2009 record: 9-0, won ISL title and beat Kimball Union in Samson/Lorden Bowl
Coach: Michael Taylor (3rd year, 16-1)
Players to watch: Michael Orloff, Sr., QB/S, 6-3, 220 (verbal commit to Iowa); Anthony Knight, Sr., RB/CB, 6-3, 220 (verbal commit to NC State); Marcus Grant, Sr., WR/CB, 6-3, 190 (verbal commit to Iowa); Max Ricci, Sr., OT/DT, 6-5, 360 (verbal commit to Boston College); Dan Giovacchini, Sr., MLB, 6-5, 225; Tyler Cardoze, Sr., OT/DT, 6-5, 340; Ryan Welch, Sr., G/NG, 6-1, 300; Clay Horne, Sr., WR/TE, 6-7, 220; Nevin Cyr, Jr., WR/TE/OLB, 6-6, 230; Tyler Beauschesne, Jr., G/DL, 6-5, 278; Matt Boone, Sr., C, 6-6, 235; Jack Michaels, So., DL, 6-1, 260; Dominik Kozlowski, Jr., CB/WR/K, 6-1, 190; Owen Moore, Jr., FB, 6-0, 230; Peter Taylor, Sr., FB/DE, 6-1, 200.
Strengths: Line play, skill positions, speed, physicality, overall talent level, experience.
Weaknesses: Depth.
Outlook: It is by no means hyperbolic to suggest that this year’s version of the Spartans is the most talented in ISL history, as four seniors are already committed to BCS-level schools and the likelihood of more to come. Offensively, Lawrence is versatile and explosive. The Spartans can stretch the field vertically and horizontally or pound the ball between the tackles with Knight behind an overpowering and college-sized offensive line. On defense, Lawrence runs a 50 front that is strong up the middle with Welch over center, Giovacchini (6 INTs returned for TDs last season) at middle linebacker and Orloff at safety. With BB&N looking at a relative rebuilding year, the question isn’t whether or not anyone on Lawrence’s schedule can beat the Spartans, it’s whether or not anyone on its schedule can stay within four touchdowns of them, as the Knights were the only team to do so last year.

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