Boston High School: Sean Holleran

D1 South: Xaverian 11, BC High 9 (OT)

November, 10, 2013

WESTWOOD, Mass. – After his Hawks had won, Xaverian head coach Charlie Stevenson stood at midfield.

His team, down the field near the goal line, was waiting on him to deliver his postgame remarks. Instead, Stevenson was at midfield talking to a member of the opposing team. He held a hand to the side of Connor Walsh’s helmet, lightly tapping it to the syncopations of words he spoke. He asked the BC High tight end whether he was, in fact, a senior, and then quipped that he was relieved he’d never again have to coach against the 6-foot-3, 225-pound, two-way player.

“He had a great game, a great season and a great career,” Stevenson said of his interaction with Walsh. “I told him to have a great college career as well. I just wanted to tell him he’s a great player.”

Xaverian and BC High struggled to a 3-3 at the end of regulation in Saturday’s Division 1 South semi-final between the old Catholic Conference rivals.

At the game’s end, bad luck seemed to follow BC High at every turn. The Eagles had an opportunity to salt away the clock and attempt a potential game-winning field goal at the end of regulation time, but a fumble on a botched handoff returned the ball to the Hawks inside of the 2-minute warning.

Even when the Eagles had the chance to force a second overtime, the 2-point conversion pass fell to ground, following a near incredulous effort by Walsh to make what would have been a circus catch.

Sometimes there are greater forces at hand in football.

Stevenson alluded to the divine during the postgame. After dealing with a health issue in recent weeks, which even forced the 20-season veteran from the sideline, missing a regular-season game last month, a reflective Stevenson said he’d been asking a lot from the man upstairs of late.

The Hawks won, 11-9.

Stifling defense: Both offenses struggled to find pace through the first half, with both offenses combining for just 223 yards of offense through the first 22.

While the only points of regulation were scored in the first half, with Xaverian’s Matt Rogers connecting on a 22-yard field goal before the Eagles’ Matt Johnson snuck one over the crossbar from 32 yards out in the second quarter, BC High was fortunate to be locked in a tie game after the Hawks forced two turnovers.

The Eagles’ opening drive of the game was derailed by Joe Gaziano’s strip-sack, at the BC High 34-yard line. BC High’s second drive didn’t fair much better, as Xaverian junior defensive back Ernest Simon intercepted Sean Holleran.

The Eagles came away with a crucial pick as well in the fourth quarter, when Will Johnson hauled in a tip-drill interception, halting a Hawks drive which had entered BC High territory.

However, the most crucial turnover of the game unfolded nearing the final minute of regulation. A botched handoff by the Eagles resulted in a loose ball, which Gaziano (2 sacks, FF, FR) quickly pounced on with 1:03 remaining. The giveaway came after the Eagles had marched 54 yards on seven plays, with senior running back Ismail Asongwed (16 carries, 92 yards) accounting for 52 of those yards on rushes.

“The defense was outstanding,” Xaverian quarterback Jake Farrell said. “Again, we let up under ten points, or even under seven points in a game, they get one field goal. They weren’t moving the ball on us that much.

“Our linebacker corps and our defensive line is just stepping it up. It’s really hard to run the ball against us. When you do have to pass, we have a great secondary that can step up and make a lot of plays for us.”

Mixing things up: While Xaverian’s offense was ineffectual, at times, Farrell learned some timely lessons from a couple of miscues in regulation.

Farrell (12 of 20 pass attempts, 159 yards; 8 rushes, 46 yards, TD) earned the Hawks’ lone touchdown of the game, taking in a 5-yard rush on second down during the overtime session. The play-call was a check-with-me, meaning it was a discretion play, in which Farrell checked down to the run after scoping out the coverage against a preliminary pass call.

He chose wisely. However, the dive-option play Farrell checked into hadn’t gone so swimmingly earlier in the contest.

“It’s a just read play up the middle to Kenny [Kern],” the junior signal-caller said. “Earlier in the game, I gave it to Kenny when I should’ve kept it. I had that in the back of my head. Then, I saw an opening and I just kept going.”

The result was a perfectly executed permutation of a second option.

“We were expecting that dive-option,” Eagles head coach Joe Gaff said. “[Farrell] did a tremendous job pulling it. He read the D-end, he went down and did a nice job pulling it. We’d done a nice job stopping that all game, but that’s we he’s a good player. He read it and he got in there.”

Kern’s successful 2-point conversion run then put pull pressure on BC High’s offense to respond.

To counter, Holleran dialed up his prettiest throw of the afternoon, hitting Asongwed on a crossing pattern for a 13-yard score.

As the Eagles were forced to go for two to extend the game into a second overtime, Walsh couldn’t corral Holleran’s pass to the near right-hand side pylon and the Hawk Bowl’s faithful streamed onto the field.

The No. 1 seed Hawks will host No. 2 seed Attleboro for the sectional championship next Saturday in Westwood.

Recap: No. 4 Xaverian 19, No. 11 BC High 0

October, 25, 2013
BOSTON - Before Kenny Kern ever played a game for the No. 4 Xaverian football team, and before he was even born, the school was already a big part of his family as both his dad graduated from there.

On Friday night, he added a page of his own to the family history, powering the Hawks to an impressive 19-0 win over No. 11 BC High, clinching the Catholic Conference and likely sealing the top seed for the Division 1 South playoffs in the process.

The junior tailback paced the offense, rushing 16 times for 91 yards and notching the first score of the game for the Hawks (6-1). Kern also scooped up a fumble deep in Eagles’ territory in the fourth quarter to set up Shayne Kaminski’s first touchdown.

“Kenny’s a great player right now and gives a lot to us,” said Xaverian coach Charlie Stevenson. “Not only is he a good running back, a good blocker, a good linebacker, he really bleeds gold and blue. His dad went to Xaverian, as did some of his uncles. Kenny is a really special player.”

It was the Eagles (4-3) though who looked like they might steal the show early on. After receiving the opening kick, BC High picked up three first downs and marched into the red zone.

When a third down pass slipped the hands of a wide-open Eagles wideout, BC High was forced to try a 33-yard field goal. Jack O’Brien’s drive fell just short and the Hawks took over.

"The biggest thing was missed chances," said Eagles coach Joe Gaff. "We move down the field on the first drive and drop a pass that probably goes for a touch down then we miss a field goal, you can't drop those.

"We had a couple other chances later on, but in all those key spots we just shot ourselves in the foot."

Xaverian’s defense seemed to flip a switch going forward, completely bottling up the Eagles offense. They allowed just another four yards of offense in the first half, held BC to just 68 total yards in the game and didn’t surrender another first down until the fourth quarter.

“A lot of it was just on the field and in the huddle,” Kern said. “Our captains, Shayne Kaminski was pumping us up and A.J. King was pumping us up. In the huddle, we just told each other, ‘They planted us for three first downs. We have to pick it up.’ And we did.”

It took the offense a little bit longer to figure things out, but it was Kern who kick-started thing for the Hawks in the second quarter.

After a BC High punt resulted in Xaverian starting at the 50-yard line, Kern took a handoff up the middle for three yards on the first play. The next play, he ripped off a dive right up the gut for 16 yards. One play later, Kern was slicing through the middle again, this time going 31 yards to paydirt.

“We knew against the four-four, if we got our blocks the middle would be open and we just got it done,” Kern said. “If you do a play and it goes for big, you want to do it again. It was coach’s call, and it was a great call.”

Kaminski made it 12-0 with 9:19 to go in the game plowed into the end zone from two yards out after Kern scooped up a fumble and rumbled down to the 10-yard line.

On the first play following the kickoff, BC High quarterback Sean Holleran broke off a 25-yard run up the middle, but fumbled the ball when he was hit from behind at the end of the play. A slew of Hawks collapsed on the ball and put them back on the offensive.

They ran more than five minutes off the clock over the next nine plays before Kaminski (12 carries, 77 yards) plunged in once again, this time from three yards out, to seal the win.

A quick three-and-out for the Eagles resulted in a punt, and Xaverian was able to run out the clock and complete the shutout of their rival.

“In a game like this, the defense was big for us all night long,” said Stevenson. "There was a few times where the offense put them in tough situations and they came through every time and made the play we needed them to. It really was a great defensive effort. Coming in, everyone was talking about the BC High defense and how great they were, but we're not too bad ourselves."

Recap: No. 22 BC High 13, No. 4 St. John's Prep 7

October, 19, 2013
BOSTON -- Trailing highly-touted St. John's Prep by a touchdown at the half, Boston College High quarterback Sean Holleran got, in short, "a good chewing" from his head coach Joe Gaff. Players were getting open, looking for a good throw, and the 5-foot-10 junior was not holding up his end of the bargain, including a bad interception late in the second quarter.

"I deserved that chewing," he recalled, with a laugh.

Tied late in the game, before a boisterous home crowd at Viola Stadium, Holleran came through with the throw his coach was looking for, then let his feet do the rest of the work. His orchestration on what would be the game-winning eight-play, 66-yard delivered BC High (4-2) its biggest statement win of the season, a 13-7 decision over Prep (4-3) that improved them to 2-0 in the Catholic Conference and gave them three straight wins since their bye week in late September.

"Sean is the toughest kid as they come," Gaff said. "He took a good chewing at halftime, and he came out in the second half and responded incredibly. He made some choices tonight, giving and not giving the ball, and he made some great runs."

No play was more important on that final drive, perhaps, than the 18-yard strike to junior receiver Geoff Stillman on third and six at their own 38. Stillman, split out wide to the right, ran a slant to hash marks, where Holleran lasered the ball into a tight window. With quick reflexes, Stillman cradled the ball in traffic and ground forward for the first down.

"He came in, the linebacker stepped up and he made a great catch over the middle," Holleran said. "It takes a lot of guts to do that, and he went up and got it. It paid off for us."

That throw to Stillman was followed up with a 16-yard scramble, then a nine-yard option keeper, sprung loose by a sealing block downfield from tight end Connor Walsh but stepping out of bounds at the Prep 19. After a Prep offsides call, Holleran scurried for eight more yards on an option keeper with a fake pitch, then Mitch LaFerriere capped the winning drive with a six-yard plunge with 46 seconds remaining.

"[I was] just reading the defense and going with it, you know?" Holleran said. "Our pass game wasn't really there for us today, we had to get it done on our feet, and that's what we did."

The point-after kick was blocked, but BC High's fortunes took a favorable bounce when Prep's ensuing hook-and-ladder attempt was fumbled on the exchange in the boundary. Ismail Asongwed pounced on the loose ball for BC High, and they proceeded to run out the clock.

With 37 seconds left, a few timeouts to spare and 64 yards to go, the decision could be considered high-risk. Yet the Prep nearly pulled it off, likely marching to paydirt if not for the fumble. Prep head coach Jim O'Leary said he even considered calling a hook-and-ladder to open the game up.

"We had practice that this week, and we actually thought about opening the game up with it," he said. "The first play, we didn't get the yards we needed or something, but it's not a bad call. It looks likes it's going for a touchdown and then he puts the ball in the ground. More than anything else, ball security was the issue tonight. We just can't be turning the ball over like that, on the road, down here."

Brendan Smith led BC High on the ground with 15 carries for 97 yards, while Prep quarterback Mike Geaslen completed 7 of 11 passes for 96 yards and ran in the lone Prep score on a sneak from the one-foot line.

Prep linemen suspended: As if it wasn't snakebitten enough with the loss of Maryland-bound all-world running back Johnny Thomas (knee) for the season, three of Prep's top linemen were missing from tonight's action due to what O'Leary called "school disciplinary action".

Asked if the suspension could carry into the postseason (Prep has a bye next week, the final week of the regular season), O'Leary said, "If we make the playoffs, we'll see. I suspect with those kind of issues, that there's consequences that extend more than one game."

Harnais makes early exit: BC High lost one of its top running backs, senior Robert Harnais, five minutes into the contest on what would have been a sure-fire touchdown. On the first play of BC's second drive, from its own 12, Harnais took a toss sweep around the edge and took off for daylight before blowing a tire around midfield. The play, officially a 48-yard scamper that could have easily been an 88-yard TD, was Harnais' last of the night. He finished with three carries for 54 yards.

It was more than just a simple cramp. Harnais had to be carried off the field by two teammates, putting no weight on either leg. Gaff confirmed it is an issue with his left hamstring, with an unknown timetable.

"Imagine? He's gone on that, that's a touchdown on that," Gaff said. "It's a hamstring issue. Unfortunately, he's worked his body so hard all season and he's been nicked up all year. Hopefully, we'll get him back at the end of the year."

The Walls of Morrissey Blvd.: Coming out of its bye week, after some miserable first-half showings, it's safe to say BC High has cleaned things up on the defensive front. Two weeks ago, in statistically its best performance to date, the Eagles held then-No. 8 Brockton to 112 yards of total offense in a 6-0 shutout victory. Tonight, they held Prep to 135 yards of total offense, including just 39 rushing yards, giving them a total of less than 250 yards allowed combined against two teams ranked in ESPN Boston's Top 10 at the time.

With a front seven led by Steve DiCienzo and Chris Solis, this defense has developed a nastiness at just the right time, with the first round of Division 1 South playoffs two weeks away.

"This is unreal," Holleran said of the defense. "It's taken a lot of pressure off me, I'll tell you that much. It was a couple plays that got it back for us, and second half we put it in."

Check Mate: At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Walsh plays a unique chess piece in BC High's slowly-evolving offense. Able to set the edge lined up tight in a three-point stance, or seal an outmatched defender inside or outside for a big gain when split out on the perimeter, he plays a significant factor in the run game. In the passing game, he can be a matchup problem when isolated out wide, either in a double-slot formation or opposite trips, as BC High did tonight.

In the first half, Walsh was split out wide as a split end four times and was targeted twice, with no catches and one drop. In the opening drive of the second half, BC ran exclusively out of a double-slot formation with Walsh at split end, running mostly zone read plays but also targeting the big tight end once with no success.

On the game-winning final drive, Walsh again was put out on the perimeter, and he made several big blocks to spring Holleran loose for first-down gains.

"He's a big body, got great hands and moves really well for a big guy," Gaff said. "We've got some confidence moving him out. You've got Stillman, the tall target, with the big catch down the middle on that last drive, so it's nice to have some big bodies on the outside of Sean, who's not the tallest guy to see some big targets."

Said Holleran of tonight's strategy with Walsh, "We were just looking to hit Prep wherever we could. We saw an advantage on the outside with Walsh, and we tried to get it there. It was there, I just couldn't hit him."


SJP 0 7 0 0 --- 7
BCH 0 0 7 6 --- 13

Second Quarter
S - Mike Geaslen 1 run (Josh Hilty kick) 8:20

Third Quarter
B - Sean Holleran 1 run (Jack O'Brien kick) 2:56

Fourth Quarter
B - Mitch LaFerriere 6 run (kick blocked) :46

Recap: Barnstable 20, BC High 13

September, 21, 2013
DORCHESTER, Mass. -- Barnstable senior running back Hayden Murphy ran for more than 100 yards, and quarterback Kristian Lucashensky threw two touchdown passes to lead the Red Raiders to a come-back 20-13 victory over the BC High Eagles on Friday night at James Cotter Field.

Barnstable fell behind by two touchdowns early in the second quarter, but bounced back to score 20 unanswered points for a much-needed victory.

“We showed some tremendous resiliency. I’m so proud of our kids,” Barnstable head coach Chris Whidden said.

BC High senior Ismail Asongwed returned the opening kickoff of the game 97 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead before there was even a single play from the line of scrimmage.

On the first play of the second quarter, BC High (1-2) extended its lead to 13-0 when senior Robert Harnais punched it in from a yard out. That score was set up by a 68-yard run by quarterback Sean Holleran late in the first quarter.

The Eagles were in complete control of the line of scrimmage and seemed to be in total control physically. However, the tides turned and Barnstable took over on the road.

“We had all the momentum. We were playing hard, but then we didn’t tackle. Some of it is on us, some of it is Barnstable,” BC High head coach Joe Gaff said.

Murphy cut the lead to 13-7 when he scored on a 43-yard touchdown run with 7:09 to play in the first half. It was the first offensive touchdown of the season for the Red Raiders.

Barnstable had a chance to score again with under a minute to play in the first half, but couldn’t convert on four attempts inside the Eagles 10-yard line.

BC High looked to add to its lead in the third quarter, but a holding penalty nullified a long Holleran run on what appeared to be a promising drive.

“It was the third straight game where a mistake cost us. We went from down on their 15 up six to deep in our own end and they got the ball back and went up,” said Gaff.

Barnstable got the ball back and didn’t waste much time in taking its first lead of the game, when Lucashensky threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Derek Estes.

Lucashensky and Estes connected on another score in the fourth quarter to give the Red Raiders a seven-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.

BC High had a chance to practice its two-minute drill, but after driving to the Barnstable 20, the Eagles could not finish the deal.

After a season opening loss to Dennis-Yarmouth, Barnstable bounced back to even its record at 1-1.

“For us, at this point in the season, getting a win was so important after how down we were two weeks ago,” said Whidden. “Now the kids believe we can beat anyone.”

Whidden credited the improvement from one game to the next by emphasizing the team’s belief in each other. Another big reason was the play of Murphy and Lucashensky. Both players drew praise from the opposition’s coach.

“Murphy had a great game,” Gaff said. “He’s a good running back, and of course their quarterback didn’t play in their first game.”

The road won’t get any easier for the Eagles as they next face Brockton after a bye week.

Notes: The Eagles recovered two Barnstable turnovers -- one interception and one fumble.

Recap: BC High 16, Andover 10 (OT)

September, 13, 2013

ANDOVER, Mass. –- Steve DiCienzo stretched across the goal line to end the first overtime, and the game, as his Boston College High teammates stormed the field in celebration at Lovely Memorial Field. Only then, after a disappointing open to the season least week, could the visiting Eagles truly exhale.

“There’s not a better feeling than that. It was just awesome,” the senior fullback and Abington resident said of his game-winning score, a six-yard dive up the middle that gave the Eagles (1-1) a thrilling 16-10 overtime win over host Andover (1-1). “I couldn’t do it without the hogs up front, I just followed their butts and they got me in.

“It was awesome, though. We’ve been working so hard for this win. It’s great to come back after that tough loss.”

A week ago, the Eagles came into North Attleborough High with high aspirations, coming off a disappointing 2012 campaign. But for the second year in a row, they fell victim to the upset by the Red Rocketeers, a 217-yard night rushing by tailback Rob Harnais seemingly wasted.

If last week was a much-needed win, then tonight was simply a must-win. And for a while, it looked like the Eagles might fall to a similar fate after surrendering 10 straight points in the fourth quarter.

After Ryan Payne’s 30-yard field goal cut BC’s lead to 7-3 with 10:11 to go, the Warriors’ Brendan Slattery fell on an onside kick, wrestling his way into possession. Andover fumbled the ball away seven plays into its drive; but not to be outdone, BC gave them the ball right back just five plays later.

Looking for tight end Connor Walsh in the boundary, quarterback Sean Holleran was picked off at the BC 45 by Will Eikenberry. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior linebacker broke to the home bench and followed two kick-out blocks up the left sideline, diving over the pylon for the pick-six and a 10-7 lead with 4:35 to go. It marked the fifth turnover of the night for BC, and ninth combined for both sides.

After a favorable return, with an extra 15 yards tacked on from a penalty, the Eagles marched inside the red zone, aided In part by an 18-yard sweep from Harnais (16 carries, 75 yards), and set up Jack O’Brien for a 31-yard field goal to tie it at 10 with 2:34 to go.

Andover called three straight wide zones to Eikenberry, then stalled, then missed a 42-yard game-winning field goal attempt with no time left in regulation to force overtime.

In the overtime, Andover took the ball first and was immediately met with increased pressure, with quarterback Oliver Eberth intentionally grounding on fourth down to give BC the chance to win.

Three plays later, DiCienzo found paydirt. And it was sweet.

“We kinda shot ourselves in the foot last week, and it happened again this week,” said DiCienzo. “It was relieving getting this win. We definitely needed this one.”

Said head coach Joe Gaff, “You can’t take anything away from that Andover team, please. Their effort tonight, this was a great high school football game. We made some mental mistakes.”

Turnover Troubles: This wasn’t a clean game by any stretch, with the teams combining for nine turnovers, five from BC High. One would venture a guess that ball security will be a big emphasis in the coming weeks for the Eagles, who fumbled the ball away four times. On the flip side, Andover’s quarterbacks are going to have to work on scanning the field better, as they committed two interceptions.

However, credit has to go the other way as well. It’s no secret BC High head coach Joe Gaff likes to deploy a Cover 1 and challenge the opposition’s receivers mano a mano, but the Eagles also showed some nifty Cover 3 looks against trips formations. BC’s linebacking corps in particular did a good job maintaining their zone responsibilities, forcing bad throws.

Going the other way, not enough can be said about Eikenberry, a prep school transfer who was made an immediate impact in the Warriors’ program. Of the Eagles’ four fumbles, Eikenberry forced two of them, both with sound tackling fundamentals. At 210 pounds and with a long reach and a lacrosse-like skill set, expect him to continue being a defensive impact. Right now, he is arguably their most important defender.

Lockdown in the trenches: Andover took the ball first in overtime, from 10 yards out, with four chances to get into the end zone. When all was said and done, the Warriors only moved backwards, the final chance a fourth down from the 25 that ended in an intentional grounding penalty.

Credit defensive ends Darren Amado and Evan Burton for playing excellent containment responsibility, maintaining a depth that did not open up running lanes for Eberth, and then flushing him out of the pocket, eventually wrapping him up for losses.

“We widened our ends out a bit,” Gaff said of the overtime defensive stand. “We really made our defensive line very active today, with a lot of stunts. We didn’t just want to line up and give that offensive line they have...You know, just be able to pass block. We moved a lot today, I thought that helped our D-line a lot.”

Get Big: It will be interesting to watch how both BC High and Andover each integrate their big-bodied tight ends as the season progresses.

The trend right now with big-bodied tight ends is to flex them out on the perimeter and create mismatches on size and strength, a la the New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski. Walpole toyed with this strategy last year, splitting the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Chris Collins out wide to the sideline at times, and saw very favorable results.

Mansfield’s 6-foot-5 junior Brendan Hill may arguably be the best in state at this discipline right now. He is a tight end by definition, but in most games will play primarily in the slot or at split end. In last week’s upset of Dunbar (Md.), Hill led the team with eight catches for 109 yards and a score.

In Andover’s spread scheme, which operates primarily out of 2-by-2 and trips looks, there is an incredible mismatch developing. Six-foot-7, 220-pound sophomore Alex Marshall is already committed to the University of North Carolina for lacrosse, but has big-play capability in head coach E.J. Perry’s no-huddle offense just on size alone.

In the second quarter, Marshall hauled in a 28-yard pass on the run; he found himself targeted more in the second half, only to be over or under-thrown. With his long arms and good sense of leverage, Marshall also excelled at perimeter blocking against the Eagles.

BC High’s Connor Walsh, meanwhile, figures to be integrated more into the offense as the weeks progress. Lining up both tight and split out, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Milton resident was targeted six times and recorded three catches for 44 yards.

“Walshy, the kid worked his butt off all summer,” DiCienzo said. “Just to see him making plays is unreal. He deserves it. He worked his butt off. I work out with the kid, he ‘s unreal.”


BCH 0 7 0 3 6 --- 16
AND 0 0 0 10 0 --- 10

Second Quarter
B - Steve DiCienzo 6 run (Marco King kick) 5:56

Fourth Quarter
A - Ryan Payne 30 field goal 10:11
A - Will Eikenberry 45 interception return (Payne kick) 4:46
B - Jack O'Brien 31 field goal 2:28

B - DiCienzo 6 run

Scrimmage Slants: BC High at Mansfield

August, 28, 2013
MANSFIELD, Mass. -- Late this afternoon, No. 4 Mansfield hosted No. 19 Boston College High in their annual preseason scrimmage. In three alternating 10-play series of varsity on varsity, Mansfield scored once, while BC High failed to reach the end zone.

Some notes and observations from this afternoon's scrimmage:

The Whole Nine Yards: The spread offense is a wide spectrum, and today we saw a cornucopia of different elements of it from Mansfield. Expect senior quarterback Kyle Wisnieski to throw the ball close to 30 times a game, with such a talented target as junior tight end Brendan Hill to work with.

The two connected for the afternoon's lone varsity touchdown in the second series, a 70-yard fade in which Hill was left on an island opposite the strength of the formation, read tight coverage and beat his man off the line of scrimmage with a move to the outside. Wisnieski delivered a perfectly-threaded dart deep down the right sideline, in stride, allowing Hill to scamper the final 35 yards easily.

Mansfield operated primarily with trips formations, with Hill away from the strength, but also experimented with him lined up tight with his hand in the ground. The Hornets did a lot of funky stuff, from zone read triple options to even some shovel options; considering Hill's unique versatility, and the fact the Hornets were missing a number of key bodies such as receiver Michael Hershman (more on that later), it will be interesting to see what direction head coach Mike Redding ultimately goes with this talented offense.

"Obviously Brendan is a big part of what we do, we're gonna run him wide away from trips. We're gonna bring him in as tight end and run some drag, short routes," Redding said. "We'll balance up when we get Hershman back, we'll go Hershman and Hill on opposite sides and see how people want to play us. A lot of it is personnel. Miguel [Villar-Perez] has had a great preseason -- he didn't play tonight, but he's a great counter, bubble guy, and he's a great receiver. I think when we get the full package in there, it'll be pretty tough to defend. I just think right now, we're in flux with injuries and waiting on guys to be back."

King of the Hill: It's no secret that Hill will line up in a variety of spots in the passing game, both tight and split wide, to utilize his strengths. Last season as a sophomore, Hill led the Hornets in all major receiving categories (48 catches, 849 yards, 17.7 yards per catch, 11 TD), knifing through the middle of coverage with crisp vertical routes and also making some great catches along the sidelines.

Currently the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Hill holds one Division 1 FBS offer, from UMass, but the list of suitors should grow. His athleticism speaks for itself -- last year, he was named the Hockomock League's MVP in basketball -- and Redding makes no effort to hide how involved the kid will be in the offense.

"The game plan has about 12 highlighted sets and plays, and they're all for him, how do we get him in a position to get a bad matchup for the defense," Redding said. "He's a franchise guy, so we've got a lot of different ways to get him in spots where we can have this or that, and if he's double-covered, we've got a run call to take advantage of the double. He's an integral part of what we do with the spread, he's got to be the one guy in a balanced look, away from trips, make him a receiver and then we've got the ways to make him an inside guy on the trips, trade to the other. There's a lot of creativity to move him around formation-wise."

Eagles stuff the run: Try as they might, Mansfield simply could not establish any sort of running game, as the BC High front seven routinely overmatched them. They attacked and filled the inside gaps with tackles Rory Keohane and Yacoub Dobieb, preventing any cutback lanes from forming. When the play spilled to the outside, ends Darren Amado and Chris Solis were there to greet them for a minimal gain. In the second level, linebackers Steve DiCienzo and Mitch Laferriere shed blocks well and were aggressive in sideline pursuit.

"They've had a great offseason working, getting themselves into great shape," Eagles head coach Joe Gaff said of Amado and Solis. "They've been great for us all preseason. And then Steve DiCienzo, and Mitch Laferriere has really... [he's] healthy for once, and we've got Roy and Doubs in the middle, we like what we've got there."

For most of the afternoon, BC's front seven controlled the edge, which should help them out early in the season when they face similar-minded spread teams like Andover, North Attleborough and Barnstable.

"That's something we've really been working on, setting the edge, because we're going to see a lot of that jet stuff, spread," Gaff said. "It's been a big camp push for us, juust to know our roles, every kid knows his role on D. We're like the no-names, you know? We don't have those big guys this year. They understand that. What I liked today is when someone made a play on the ball, there were four or five jerseys flying to the ball, and that's what our defense is about."

Hershman finally in the clear: For much of the last year, Hershman has been nagged by injury. He missed most of basketball season, which made some of us wonder what could have been, with the Hornets losing to Springfield Putnam in an overtime thriller of the MIAA Division 1 State Championship.

It looked as if things were going to persist into this fall, his senior season. But doctors have recently concluded that what was believed to be a groin injury all this time is actually a sports hernia. Hershman was cleared for contact today, and will finally suit up for practice on Wednesday.

"Literally, all the time he rested, the only thing that allowed the doctors to do is diagnose it as a sports hernia," Redding said. "So he's cleared today to do football, basketball, he'll have a little discomfort but it won't get worse and he'll have surgery after basketball season. If we had figured it out in March, he could have had the surgery then [and] he'd be good now, but it actually took the months of resting to realize it was a hernia and not a groin pull.

"He's been out running routes, covering, just not been allowed contact, so now finally he'll be allowed to join us as a football player, and he's very anxious to play some football."

Battle at QB: Junior Sean Holleran got the start at quarterback this afternoon, and he has been the frontrunner for the position through most of camp. The spunky Holleran gives them a certain toughness under center that seems to trickle down to other players. When he scrambled, Holleran was unafraid to lower his head and invite contact. On a quarterback sneak in the third series, Holleran tucked behind his center and followed him up the middle, making a violent collision at the end of the play.

"He's a funny kid. He is a tough kid, and the kids lead after that," Gaff said. "It's just one of those things that, if your leader's tough, you're gonna go through a wall. He's got that nice presecne about him there, and he's enjoying what he's doing."

Still, Gaff is not yet ready to declare Holleran the starter for Week 1. Keep an eye on sophomore Marco King, who has been impressive as of late.

"Marco King's pretty good, behind him, we've got some guys competing for spots, so it's nice to have that," Gaff said.

Eagles run well: Operating primarily out of the I-Formation with either two-receiver or two-tight end personnel, BC's running game was fluid, with tailbacks Rob Harnais and Brendan Smith showing flashes of high potential.

The Eagles' best run came in the third series, when Smith took a toss left and was sprung loose by the left tackle Solis, who sealed off his man away from the play, for a 40-yard gain.

"Chris is hungry, some of these seniors are hungry," Gaff said. "They've been waiting after that nice class we had last year. They've been waiting to get up there, so they've been really biting to get in. I just like this group, I think you saw some energy today. I thought we got after the ball pretty good today."

Different look, different feel to No. 19 BC High

August, 23, 2013
DORCHESTER, Mass. -- Slot receivers dart across the middle of the field, running backs run track-meet speed between the tackles, and the scout-team defense spreads cautiously out of the box.

There is certainly a different look to the Boston College High football team.

[+] EnlargeSteve DiCienzo, Sean Holleran and Rory Keohane
Bob McGovern for ESPN No. 19 BC High will look to rebound from last year's 4-6 campaign behind (L to R) Steve DiCienzo, Sean Holleran and Rory Keohane.
The Eagles typically run a pro-style offense, but with questions at the offensive line, and a healthy stable of smaller sprinters, head coach Joe Gaff is adding a little spread attack to to the playbook. However, he is adamant that B.C. High is maintaining its offensive identity.

“We're still an I (formation) team. We're still a pro style team. We just have a little speed that we're trying to tinker around with and have some fun,” he said. “We're trying to get some guys with a little quickness the ball more.”

Part of the new-look spread attack is junior quarterback Sean Holleran, who at 5-foot-11 doesn't exactly have a pocket passer's frame. The first-year starter airs the ball out, but also looks comfortable running the read option.

“Sean is a good athlete, and there are some guys behind him that are pushing him. Sean is really a great athlete as a junior, and we're really excited to have him out here,” Gaff said. “He gives us a different look than we've had in the past.”

Holleran started for B.C. High's junior varsity team last year and said he's been “studying the playbook all summer.” He added that he and his receivers have been working out together during the offseason. Holleran has particularly good chemistry with Scott Gosnell, who he refers to as “Goose.”

The offensive line, with a list of newcomers, will be charged with replacing Jack McDonald, a hulking 6-foot-5, 275-pound athlete who will play guard for the University of Virginia. Joe MacDonald and Evan Burton will look to step up, while team captain and defensive lineman Rory Keohane will lead the group.

The Eagles will also go through some changes on defense. While B.C.'s base will still be the 4-4, Gaff said that the emergence of the spread attack is forcing him to change philosophies.

“We don't sit in it. It's pretty tough to sit with eight in the box when the other team is running spread on you,” he said. “I think we're going to see quite a few teams in it this year. You won't be seeing the 4-4 much when we're up against the spread.”

Linebacker Steve DiCienzo, who stepped in when Princeton-commit Luke Catarius went down with an injury, is going to be asked to be a physical leader for the team. The senior captain acknowledged that there is no way to replace guys like McDonald or Catarius, but indicated that this year's Eagles team has some intangibles.

“What you can replace is team chemistry. Our team this year is really tight, and that is the difference between this year and last year,” he said. “That's why we struggled a little last year. This year, we're all friendly, while last year there were a few different groups.”

The Eagles will also look for linebacker Connor Walsh and Sean Malone –- a speedy defensive lineman with a motor –- to make plays this year. Malone suffered a separated shoulder during the Eagles' first full-pads practice but is expected back in a few weeks.

After a disappointing 4-6 season, the Eagles are hoping team speed tied with the new spread attack will pay dividends.

“We're going to take things one game at a time.” Keohane said. “I think we'll surprise some people. We're faster, and we're a lot tougher than we were last year.”

Coach: Joe Gaff (second season, 4-6)
Last season: 4-6
Returning Starters: Two
Key Returnees: Sr. DT/OL Rory Keohane, Sr. RB/MLB Steve DiCienzo
Strengths: Speed, team chemistry, athleticism
Weaknesses: Lack of size, offensive line, unsettled special teams
Overview: With a smaller and faster team, B.C. High is going to rely on its athleticism to get by. The Eagles have a tough running back in Rob Harnais, who has decent size and doesn't hesitate when looking for running room. He will work well with Sean Holleran, a first-year quarterback who is dangerous in the open field and can extend plays with his feet. The Eagles have some bulk, and they will need to figure out how to best utilize it when they come across teams with more meat in the trenches. The kicking situation is unsettled, and Gaff is hoping to find a starter during camp. “We have a few guys trying to take that spot right now, so we're still trying to fill that out,” he said. The senior leaders said that last year's team had a few cliques, and that doesn't exist anymore. The Eagles may be able to run past a few teams, but they are going to have to make up for their lack of size with hard-nosed football. “We have a lot of tough kids. Everyone likes to hit, and no one is afraid to bring the wood,” team captain Steve DiCienzo said. “What we lack in size we make up for in toughness. Discipline, toughness and speed are the three keys to success for us this season.”