Boston High School: Sean Peters

North's Peters commits to Sacred Heart

February, 5, 2013
2/05/13
5:30
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North Attleborough senior lineman Sean Peters has committed to Sacred Heart, his father Mike told ESPN Boston.

Peters, a two-way, 6-foot-4, 240-pound lineman, is expected to play offensive tackle for the Pioneers.

"Sacred Heart is a perfect fit for me both academically and football-wise also," Peters said. " I really like the coaching staff there and I'm really excited to play up at the next level in Division 1. The coaches have said they need athletic lineman which is very similar to North Attleborough."

Peters also was considering preferred walk-on offers at New Hampshire and Rhode Island, as well as offers from Bentley and Merrimack in addition to several other Northeast-10 schools. He is the second Red Rocketeers player to give a commitment to an FCS school in the last week and plans to study physical therapy at Sacred Heart.

Roundtable: X-factors for key league matchups

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
12:33
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A number of league championships will be decided this weekend, and with that, we're discussing "X-factors" for each of the most crucial matchups.

NO. 5 WALPOLE (9-0) AT NO. 21 NATICK (8-1)

Scott Barboza, ESPN Boston High Schools editor: You can pick just about anyone off this elite Rebels’ defense, but let’s go with senior captain and inside linebacker Cam Hanley. He’s been the quarterback to this Walpole defense for a few years now and will be a vital cog plugging the running lanes when Natick quarterback Troy Flutie takes off on the run.

Brendan Hall, ESPN Boston High Schools editor: When these two teams squared off last season, Walpole went almost exclusively with a three-man front and five in the box. They did just fine, holding the Red Hawks to just 17 yards of offense in the first half, and eked out a 16-13 win on a last-second field goal. I don’t expect much to change this year. Walpole has one of the state’s most aggressive pass rushes, with 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive end Chris Collins leading the way, and is a big reason why the Rebels haven’t allowed a point since Sept. 28.

This Natick line has improved since the beginning of the season, but expect their hands to be full. Natick plays an uptempo, hurry-up style aimed at making the defense think fast, but quarterback Troy Flutie is going to have to make quick decisions –- chuck it or tuck it. And with receiver Brian Dunlap expected to draw extra attention, supporting receivers Justin Robinson and Andrew Boynton are going to be crucial.

Adam Kurkjian, ESPN Boston correspondent: This game will come down to whether or not Natick can make enough stops to give its explosive offense a chance in the end. Both of these teams can put up big numbers on the scoreboard, but while Walpole's defense has been equally effective, Natick's was lit up last week against Wellesley and lacks the same amount of playmakers the Rebels have on that side of the ball. The Red Hawks need to make stops early and often or else they can kiss their hopes of a Bay State Herget Division title goodbye.

***

BISHOP FEEHAN (6-2) AT NO. 16 SOMERSET-BERKLEY (9-0)

Barboza: Sometimes the simplest answer is the best answer. I might be going super-safe here, but Garrett Carlos and Mike Garrant have been the key to Somerset-Berkley’s success all season long. If the two-headed backfield is on point on Saturday, the Blue Raiders will be tough to beat.

Hall: There’s nothing fancy about Somerset’s offense -– Garrett Carlos left, Mike Garrant right, vice-versa, fullback dive –- and there are no tricks. With its one-inch splits, the double wing eliminates blitz packages. Stopping the attack requires discipline not to over-pursue, and generally the play is read by following the pulling guards or watching where the quarterback opens his hips, then crashing the other way.

Of course, Feehan knows all this. This is nothing new to the Shamrocks, who sees this attack year in year out, and solved it last season for a 41-7 romp of the Blue Raiders. Somerset is looking like its 2010 dominance, but it is a smaller yet faster unit than that Super Bowl finalist squad which ran behind 320-pound road grader Ian Levesque. Plain and simple, the Feehan defensive line is going to have to get off its blocks -– and do it quickly.

Kurkjian: Bishop Feehan has to force negative plays on early downs and get Somerset's offense off the field. The way Somerset pounds teams on the ground, your defense can be worn out by the time the fourth quarter comes around. The Shamrocks would love to take an early lead and force Somerset out of its comfort zone by going to the air, although it's unlikely to happen unless Somerset is behind my multiple scores in the latter stages of the game.

Josh Perry, Managing Editor, HockomockSports.com: The X-factor between the top two teams in the EAC will be Shamrocks senior quarterback Nick Romero. Both teams are heavily focused on the ground game, but if Feehan can get something going in the passing attack and balance its offense it should provide the edge. Both teams will be crowding the line of scrimmage and bringing numbers up into the box. If Romero can connect with his receivers, even simple screens to Matt Allen and Isiah Douglas, it will give Feehan an edge.

***

NO. 18 KING PHILIP (8-1) AT NO. 24 NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH (6-3)

Barboza: I’m going with go with Sam McDonald, who’s made King Philip’s offense more dynamic in recent weeks. McDonald’s had two-touchdown games in two of the last three weeks, including last week’s win over Oliver Ames, when he hauled in a 22-yard touchdown pass from John Dillon and added a spark to the Warriors’ special teams with a 66-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Hall: Joe Johnston gives this King Philip rushing attack its spunk, but it’s going to be his play on defense that is the difference in this one. The Warriors are noted for devising great defensive gameplans, but that was delivered a swift wakeup call in the 46-33 loss to Mansfield. North has some big-play threats, and if KP wants to keep them in check they will have to dictate the pace of this game early.

Kurkjian: A year ago, King Philip held North Attleborough to just seven points. This year, it's the North defense that will need to be up to the task if it wants to take this showdown in the Hock. North can't count on its offense to just outscore King Philip because outside of an uncharacteristic breakdown against Mansfield, the Warriors have been strong on that side of the ball. Lately, North's defense has shown some weakness and it cannot allow more of that because KP is not the type of team that is going to allow the type of Arena League scores that the Red Rocketeers have hund up on teams this year.

Perry: The biggest X-factor in this game will be health. Sean Peters and Alex Jette are back for the Rocketeers, but neither is 100 percent. Jette's hair-line fracture is not fully healed yet and Peters will probably need surgery on his shoulder after the season. Even at only 75 percent, both players have made a significant contribution to the team on the field as well as positively impacting the team's attitude and confidence. Meanwhile, KP are a little banged up after fullback/linebacker Ryan Dunn went down with an arm injury in last week's rout of Oliver Ames. Dunn left the field with his arm in a sling and he would be a huge loss for the Warriors if he can't play. He is the lead blocker for Joe Johnston, a good inside option in the power running game, and is one of KP's best defensive players against the run.

***

NO. 17 NAUSET (9-0) AT PLYMOUTH SOUTH (6-3)

Barboza: Dylan Oxsen obviously is having a historic season for the Panthers with 28 touchdowns to date, but Harrison Holbrook and Devin Guadagno have also been intergral to Plymouth South’s success. Now, we’ll see if they can run together to a Atlantic Coast League title.

Hall: South’s Dylan Oxsen is as hard-charging as they come -– you don’t tip-toe your way to 28 touchdowns -– running behind some quick pulling linemen. For that, I think the key to this game will if Nauset’s two-way lineman Dakota Girard can get off his blocks and create some havoc at the point of attack. The Brown University-bound senior is one of the biggest reasons the Warriors are having their best season in school history.

Kurkjian: Nauset needs to be able to slow down Dylan Oxsen enough to force Plymouth South to beat it in other ways. Oxsen has put up monster numbers this season and his team is on a major roll right now. If Nauset is somehow able to limit his yards and force the Plymouth South offense to go elsewhere, it could be the key in this pivotal Atlantic Coast League game.

***

NO. 11 BEVERLY (9-0) AT MARBLEHEAD (8-1)

Barboza: Pick your poison with the Panthers’ backfield, right? So I’m going to go with the Magicians’ defense, in particular their defensive line of Rajive Alcindor, Trever Gelineau and Kyle McCormack. They’ll have their hands full with the Panthers’ athletic offensive line and will have to play their responsibilities if Marblehead is to have any hope of slowing Beverly’s stable of backs and a chance at victory.

Hall: Fitting that Marblehead goes by the Magicians, because their front seven is going to have to turn in some majestic play to keep this one close. The evolution of the spread has yielded video game-like stats for high school teams across Massachusetts, but what should scare you about the Panthers’ average of 38 points per game is that they’re doing it heavy on the run with a Wing-T offense. My advice: shoot the guards up the A-gaps, get upfield and hope for the best.

Kurkjian: The Magicians will be heavy underdogs in this game and the key for them to pull the upset is to make Beverly play a four-quarter game. Most of the opponents on the Panthers' schedule have fallen behind by so much that the fourth quarter is usually a JV contest. The Panthers have not trailed much at all this season and a second-half lead or a one-score game in the fourth quarter would give Marblehead a major advantage because they've been in more close games this season.

***

NO. 23 ABINGTON (9-0) AT EAST BRIDGEWATER (6-3)

Barboza: We all know the big-play ability Babila Fonkem brings for Abington, but the Green Wave is very much a three-headed monster. And the straws that stir the Green Wave’s drink are a dangerous duo in Brian Kilmain and Jack Malafronte.

Hall: Abington goes in as the favorites, but they’re going to have to stop East Bridgewater’s option game. Andrew Benson is a run-first quarterback who can keep the sticks moving if you give him the edge. The Green Wave are going to have to contain the outside gaps and funnel things through the middle of the field.

Kurkjian: The Vikings will come into this one as underdogs and deservedly so because Abington has been so solid all season. However, an upset is not out of the question and the way that East Bridgewater can do it is by jumping out to an early lead and keeping the game close heading into the fourth quarter. Abington has not played a close game since September and since so much is expected of this team, all the pressure will be on the Green Wave in a hostile environment. The Vikings need to maintain that pressure and see if it can have a negative impact on the visitors.

***

FRANKLIN (7-2) AT MANSFIELD (6-3)

Barboza: Junior linebacker Alex Ruddy has taken a big step forward for the Hornets this season and leads the team in tackles with 62 (35 solo) through nine weeks. He’ll be key to slowing the Panthers’ potent offense.

Hall: We’ve mentioned before about this Mansfield offense’s ability to reel off scores in bunches, and we saw that a few weeks ago in the Hornets’ 46-33 win over King Philip. It was vintage Mansfield, rushing for over 360 yards as a team. For all the talk we’ve made of the Hornets opening up the passing playbook the last few years, they can still run the ball downhill efficiently. We know Franklin can hang with them in the air, but can they stop the run?

Kurkjian: Both of these teams have proven to be solid when they choose to go to the air. The winner of this game will likely be the one who can also get its ground game going to complement that aerial attack. A lot of these Hockomock battles lately have been very high scoring and this one could be as well, but if someone can find a rhythm running the ball it could be the difference.

Perry: Mike Carden could be the deciding factor in a game that will be Franklin's first of two straight title deciding games (they play King Philip on Thanksgiving). The Panthers' kicker is considered a D1-caliber talent by head coach Brad Sidwell and won the game against Attleboro a couple of weeks ago with a 41-yard kick. In fact, he had a 48-yard attempt against Taunton that would have kept the Panthers perfect but it fell inches short. A solid kicking game is a rare luxury at this level and it could provide the edge in a tight game.

***

BOSTON CATHEDRAL (7-2) AT POPE JOHN XXIII (5-4)

Barboza: Mike Sullivan’s done a fine job all season taking over for Robert McMaster at quarterback for Pope John all season. For Pope John to knock off Cathedral, he’ll need to be at his best again.

Hall: Pope John is going to need to find a way to neutralize Kadeem Edge. The 6-foot-4 Cathedral receiver is a matchup problem for most small-school squads, able to win jump-balls as well as accelerate quickly in space. Also look for several Cathedral defenders to have big roles in this one, namely Cameron Seemore, Derek Welcome and Mohammed Braimah.

Kurkjian: Cathedral quarterback Kejonte Hickman has not played like a sophomore in guiding this team to where it wants to be heading into the end of the season. For Pope John to win this game, it has to force him into the types of mistakes and bad decisions that sophomores tend to make. Cathedral's offense can be brutal to defend with the number of speedy athletes it gets into space, but a disruptive defense that hassles the quarterback into bad decisions is a nice way of messing up its timing.


NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. – Bewitched, bemused, bewildered, be- anything about the way the season’s gone so far in the Hockomock League. Trying to predict which teams will claim the respective division titles this year is a bit like tossing pebbles into the Manchester Pond Resevoir.

And so Friday night’s battle between No. 19 Mansfield and North Attleborough did not disappoint, with the Red Rocketeers separating themselves in the fourth quarter in a 36-21 win. It only further obfuscated the playoff picture in the Kelley-Rex division, paired with a Franklin loss to Taunton.

“Welcome to the Hockomock League,” North head coach Don Johnson quipped postgame.

The Red Rocketeers (5-3, 2-1 Kelley-Rex) have endured a seemingly never-ending tide of injuries throughout the season, but saw multi-threat running back and defensive back Alex Jette return for their showdown with the Hornets (5-3, 2-1).

North’s early offensive play calls massaged Jette into the flow, running him across the field on passing plays as a decoy in the backfield, faking toss sweeps. They also put the ball in the hands of senior quarterback Ryan Perron (7 of 14, 162 yards, 2 TDs) who effectively piloted the Red Rocketeers’ passing attack with a steady stream of screens and intermediate routes in three- and four-receiver sets.

Lately, Perron’s also shown off a big-play capacity, however, and it showed Friday night with two touchdown passes. On the game’s second play from scrimmage, Perron hit Jake Dellaire on a seam route for a 62-yard touchdown and an instant 7-0 lead. Just before the half, Perron connected with Jette on a shallow fade for a 40-yard touchdown pass which provided North with a 20-7 halftime lead.

“That was probably the biggest difference tonight, he made good decisions,” Johnson said of his quarterback. “He was just playing with so much confidence tonight, running and throwing the ball.”

Mansfield worked its way back in the second half behind a thumping run game. The Hornets bruised their way downfield on a 9-play, 64-yard drive to open the third, capped by Kevin Makie’s 6-yard touchdown run to make it a one-score game.

The Hornets claimed their first and last lead of the game on the final play of the third quarter as quarterback Kyle Wisnieski hit Mike Hershman for a 35-yard touchdown. With a successful point-after try, Mansfield took a 21-20 lead.

On the ensuing drive, Perron again piloted the Red Rocketeers’ offense, embarking a four-plus minute, 67-yard drive. Perron called his own number for his second rushing touchdown of the game, breaking a tackle in the open field to run 10 yards for a score. He then hit a wide-open Mike Lambert (INT, 2 PD) on a two-point conversion for a 28-21 lead with 6:32 to play.

Looking to even the score, Mansfield was hampered by a couple key penalty calls on its ensuing drive. The Hornets were stung by an illegal forward pass call on what would have been a huge third-down conversion pass to Brendan Hill on third and 14. The call resulted in a loss of downs and forced a Mansfield punt.

With the ball back in their hands and looking to soak the clock, North running back Dwayne Hunter broke the game open two plays later with a 75-yard touchdown run to ice it.

BIG IN STATURE
Listed at 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds, Hunter makes up in punch for what he lacks in stature. His running style belies his stature. He’s willing to initiate contact, but also hard to bring down with his low center of gravity.

Hunter (8 carries, 127 yards, TD) came up huge for the Red Racketeers however in the fourth quarter. His 25-yard gain on an outside pitch to the left side on fourth and 2 set up North first and goal from the 10-yard line with under seven minutes to play in the fourth. The next play saw Perron run for the game-winning touchdown. The senior running back then placed an exclamation point on the evening with his 75-yard touchdown, made on his adept cutback across the teeth of a Mansfield all-out blitz.

“The linebackers were blitzing, so I had to cut it up quick,” Hunter said of his run. They were overloading on one side, so I had to make a quick decision.”

Johnson heaped praise on his back, calling Hunter a “tough nut.”

Like the rest of this Red Rocketeers team, he just doesn’t crack.

… BUT THEY BEND
North’s defensive front seven looked strong throughout, but saw Robbie Rapoza (14 carries, 135 yards, TD) and Co. find success against them in the second half. Yet, the Red Rocketeers turned Mansfield’s high-flying aerial attack, which scorched a good King Philip unit a week ago, into a relative non-factor.

Wisnieski was dealt with a steady stream of pressure, applied by rangy defensive end Tadkudzwa Chikomba (3 QB pressures) and linebacker Ben Jette.

Ben Jette, the fraternal twin of Alex, sealed a strong performance and the win for North with a strip-sack of Wisnieski on Mansfield’s final offensive drive. Ben Jette finished with three tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble.

“That’s why I’m so proud of these guys because we’ve been going through that now for about six weeks, asking guys to play different positions every week,” Johnson said. “Losing Harry [offensive/defensive lineman Harrison Carmichael] tonight, he’s one of our dominant players on both sides of the ball. We had to use [Sean] Peters at defensive end, he hasn’t gotten many reps out there and he’s banged up with his shoulder. We had to use [Eric] Beckwith as a guard … We’ve asked a lot of players to step up and they’ve done that.”

The pressure applied by the Red Rocketeers up front came in concert with strong efforts from Alex Jette and Jack Blasť at the cornerback positions. Jette tallied three passes defended, two of which came on a promising Mansfield drive late in the second quarter that ended in a turnover on downs and set up Jette’s touchdown reception.

“We didn’t blitz as much as we normally do, we felt that we just couldn’t give up the big play against them, so we played a lot more zone,” Johnson said. “We’d bring one of two guys here and there, but I think we did enough to keep them off-balance.”

Recap: No. 23 Stoughton 12, North Attleborough 7

October, 13, 2012
10/13/12
12:24
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NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. -- In a game where defense ruled, it was the Stoughton football team’s offense that ensured the Black Knights came out on top against North Attleborough, winning, 12-7, on the road at Community Field on Friday night.

A 17-play Red Rocketeers drive that spanned 10 minutes – the last six of the third quarter and the first four of the fourth – resulted in a touchdown with 6:53 left in the game put them up 7-6, and seemed like it shifted momentum completely in their favor.

Until the kickoff, when Malachi Baugh picked up a rolling kick at the 13-yard line and returned it 42 yards to the North 45.

“Through that whole drive, I was just trying to keep strength and focus,” Baugh said. “On the kickoff, I just saw some holes and took advantage and ran up the field.”

Baugh followed up with a 12-yard carry and an 18-yard carry to move the ball down to the 15-yard line.

“That was huge,” Stoughton coach Greg Burke said. “I don’t know what else to tell you. The fourth-down conversion before they scored shouldn’t have happened, but that’s high school football. It was a big play, though. Baugh is real tough.”

Frankie Morris finished the job two carries carries later, scoring on a 14-yard sweep left to put Stoughton back on top.

The flurry of late scoring played out completely different than the rest of the game, in which North Attleborough (3-3) totaled 180 yards of offense and Stoughton had just 163.

The teams each possessed the ball just once in the first quarter, and North’s 14-play opening drive stalled out after a chop block penalty erased a 1st-and-goal opportunity from the 4-yard line.

After a couple of penalties and plays that resulted in a loss of yards, Stoughton took over on downs at the 25.

The Black Knights (6-0) piled up a 16-play drive, but eventually came up short at the 4-yard line. Stoughton’s defense turned in an impressive three-and-out, forcing a punt from the 10. The punt wobbled out of bounds at the 24, setting the Knights up for an easy score.

Five plays later, Morris took off on a sweep left – the same play he scored the game-winner on – and plunged into the end zone from six yards out with 2:14 left in the first half.

From there, the teams traded defensive stands until the Red Rocketeers took over with 5:09 left in the third, when they set out on the 17-play drive.

Quarterback Ryan Perron, who finished with 13 carries for 45 yards and was 9-for-13 passing for 65 yards, was the driving force behind the extended scoring series.

On fourth and 2 from the 19, he delivered a 16-yard pass to a wide open Tyler Sellner, who had three catches for 32 yards.

On the ensuing first-and-goal play, Perron plunged three yards into the endzone. A made point after try gave them a brief lead.

INJURIES AFOOT
The Red Rocketeers went into the game knowing two of their best players would be watching from the sidelines.

Alex Jette, the team’s starting running back and their most dynamic playmaker, was in a walking boot with a stress fracture in his foot.

Fellow senior captain Sean Peters missed the game after his shoulder flared up earlier this week in practice. Peters, a two-way lineman who is catching some Div. 1 interest, tore his labrum playing basketball last year.

“We didn’t lose this game because of who we didn’t have,” North Attleborough coach Don Johnson said. “We lost this game because, like the last few weeks, we didn’t make plays we needed to make. If we had those guys, would we have won this game? I think so, but we didn’t have them and we didn’t get it done.”

Late in the game, Stoughton lost Adam Leonard to a leg injury that required splinting before he was carried off the field.

“I hope Leonard is OK,” Burke said. “He’s one of the best players in the state, and not having him is going to be a big blow to us. I don’t know what the injury was, I’m not a doctor, but we’ll find out soon.”

Roundtable: Big surprises in first month of football

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
4:31
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1. THROUGH THREE WEEKS, WHICH TEAM HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST SURPRISE?

Scott Barboza, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: I don’t know if it’s so much of a surprise, but I think we can say that Nauset football is for real and might be the front-runner for the Atlantic Coast League crown this season. While Mashpee has fallen below some preseason expectations, the Warriors 20-point win over the defending Division 4 Super Bowl champions last week was impressive. I’d absolutely put head coach Keith Kenyon on my shortlist for Coach of the Year in the early season, having completely turned that program around in his third year on the job. They’ll have another challenge this week with a trip to Cardinal Spellman, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Warriors undefeated after Week 4.

Brendan Hall, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: I know in the preseason I predicted Nauset would win out in an Atlantic Coast League that was expected to be a toss-up this year, and through the first three weeks of the season the Warriors have looked strongest. But if you told me in the preseason the Warriors would not only break through a stout veteran Wayland defense, but also roll over Mashpee with ease, I’d have chuckled.

But that’s exactly what we’ve got here. The Warriors have been off to a dominant start to the 2012 season, outscoring the opposition 95-32, including a 34-15 thump of Mashpee last weekend. But more than the impressive statistics on defense, and more than the shroud of scouting mystery provided by its remote location (ever been to Eastham after Labor Day?), it’s the offensive gameplan that makes the Warriors such a tough –- and unpredictable –- squad.

Keith Kenyon has turned around a once-dormant program (4-46 from 2005-09) into a formidable foe, in part due to the fact Nauset is one of the few teams in New England running exclusively out of a true Single-Wing offense. We’re talking one-inch splits, unbalanced formations and even fullbacks calling the cadence.

Last year, captain and fullback Brendan Battles-Santos (also an ESPN Boston All-Stater and UConn freshman) said of Kenyon’s offense, “when he brought in the Single Wing, I thought it was the best thing in high school football. I was like, ‘This is sick’, I’m not even getting the ball and this is fun, you know?”

Heck, even Wikipedia applauds Kenyon’s application of the Single Wing at Nauset.

Last year, you had to pick your poison between the aforementioned blocking back Battles-Santos and brothers Nathan and Dylan Holmes, who shared quarterback duties. This season, Jimmy Sullivan has taken the reigns at QB, and he had his breakout last weekend against Mashpee, carrying 22 times for 205 yards. Look for him to be a continued threat as the Warriors look for their first playoff berth ever in school history.

Adam Kurkjian, ESPN Boston correspondent: Have to go with Chelmsford. It speaks to the depth of the Lions' program that they can lose as much talent and experience from a year ago and beat teams like Westford Academy and Acton-Boxboro that decisively. It remains to be seen whether or not Chelmsford will keep up this pace with the iron of the Merrimack Valley Conference Large Division, but it's a good start.

Bruce Lerch, ESPN Boston correspondent: How about Bishop Fenwick? The program hasn't had a winning season since 2007 and is off to a 3-0 start with three different types of wins. First came a solid 22-14 victory over an always tough Northeast team, then the Crusaders showed they could do the shootout thing by putting up 39 points against Pope John, and last week they showed they can do it with defense in a 14-7 triumph of Lynnfield. Rufus Rushins is finding the end zone on the ground while quarterback Nick Bona and wideout Charlie Maistrellis have a strong connection through the air. The Catholic Central Large has been the domain of Cardinal Spellman, St. Mary's and Austin Prep over the years but Fenwick looks like it may be ready to get back to challenging those teams this season.

John Botelho, Editor-in-Chief, South Shore Sports Journal: Whitman-Hanson is off to a 3-0 start with wins over Plymouth North, Marshfield and should keep getting better. The Patriot League Keenan Division is still a race for who finishes second to Duxbury until someone knocks them off. Still though, the Panthers have closed the gap, at least a little bit, and this league has to be among the best on the South Shore now with undefeated Hingham in it as well. Tom Sapienza has transitioned seamlessly from wide out to quarterback this year, and has already found a top target in Dondre James, who has caught four of his eight TD passes.

Noth Attleborough has also been a pleasant surprise so far this year. Yes, they were a team many people thought could win the Hockomock Kelley-Rex crown, but they already hold wins over Rhode Island's top team in LaSalle and they beat the defending EMass. Div. 1 Super Bowl champ in BC High. If you had North at 2-0 after those two games before the season started, you were in the minority. And they didn't just squeak by, they beat both teams by at least 20 points. Sure, they won a close call against Bishop Feehan, but that was a trap game for them coming off those two huge wins. This team has already raised the ceiling for the expectations significantly in 2012.

Talking surprises, we might as well bring up both Middleboro and Norwell here too. Both programs have struggled to be competitive in recent years, but both are currently 2-1 this year (and both are following 2-9 campaigns in 2011). Neither team has gotten to the meat of their schedule yet, but it's always nice to see teams trending upward.

The Sachems have cruised past Coyle & Cassidy and Falmouth the last two weeks. Unfortunately for them, Duxbury comes to town this Friday. Still though, a clear message would be sent if they can put on a competitive show. As of right now, they'd probably be the favorites against Silver Lake, North Quincy and Carver, and winning those three would mean finishing at at least .500 for the season.

Norwell beat Randolph and South Shore Vo-Tech the last two weeks, surrendering 12 total points along the way. They host winless Rockland on Saturday, and the Bulldogs are having trouble finding the end zone. The Clippers could find themselves 3-1 before they run into Abington and Mashpee in the next few weeks.

2. WHICH PLAYERS HAVE SEPARATED THEMSELVES SO FAR FOR ESPNBOSTON.COM'S "MR. FOOTBALL" AWARD?

Barboza: Averaging nearly 17-yards-per-carry heading into Week 4 action, it’s hard to argue that any other single player in the state has contributed more to his team than Holy Name senior running back Quron Wright.

Beyond Wright, I don’t know if there’s another singular talent that has entirely joined that conversation, but there’s a couple others worth watching. Darien Fernandez is tearing up the record books for the Vikings, setting a school-record with six touchdowns in a 51-14 win over Falmouth and leading Wareham to a 3-0 record. This might be a little more outside of the box, but I defy you to find a lineman who’s been more valuable to his team in the early going than Reading tackle Matt Comerford, who’s absolutely eaten up all comers in the early season, including Brockton’s defensive line, which is no slouch in its own right. If you want to look at the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Zach Hume is poised to lead Nashoba to great heights.

Hall: At running back, Burlington’s Marcus Odiah and Quron Wright have separated themselves for contention with some impressive yardage in the early-going. Wright has amassed over 650 yards rushing on just 39 carries, while Odiah is averaging over 230 yards rushing per game. Both demonstrate exceptional top-end speed, albeit in different manners –- Odiah the long and slender build at 6-foot-1, Wright the short and compact frame that makes him difficult to spot behind the huge Holy Name linemen in the double wing.

And I mean, honestly, how can you not dig #QuronMania?

At quarterback, the competition is furious right now, with a number of players putting up impressive stats so far. St. John’s of Shrewsbury’s Andrew Smiley, Natick’s Troy Flutie, Reading’s Drew Belcher and Springfield Central’s Cody Williams, all juniors, have put up good numbers and showed resilient poise in the crunch. However, Barnstable’s Nick Peabody seems to be a cut above the quarterbacking competition right now. In just three games, he has already racked up 13 touchdown passes and over 1,000 yards of offense.

Defensively, it’s hard to ignore the impact Jon Baker has had in the middle of the field for Millis/Hopedale, and while Xaverian has struggled to a 1-2 record Maurice Hurst Jr. has had a big impact on the interior as a defensive tackle. Also look out for Nashoba linebacker Zach Hume and Reading lineman Matt Comerford, two leaders on two of the state’s stingiest defenses.

Kurkjian: It's still very early, but it's hard to go against Holy Name's Quron Wright. Through three games, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, he is averaging almost 17 yards per carry and has scored 10 touchdowns. Those are incredible numbers, regardless of the opponent, and expect them to continue.

Bruce Lerch: Burlington's Marcus Odiah has a staggering 705 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in just three games for an average of 235 per. Already the program's career rushing leader with 3,551 yards, Odiah could surpass the 4,000-yard milestone within the next couple of games.

Josh Perry, ESPN Boston correspondent: There are a host of quarterbacks that are putting up incredible numbers early in the season, including Troy Flutie of Natick, Drew Belcher of Reading, and my favorite -- Nick Peabody of Barnstable. Peabody fits in perfectly with the Red Raiders attack and has that offense rolling. He leads the state with 13 touchdown passes and has been incredibly accurate, while throwing more than just about anyone else in Massachusetts. Of course, I always have a special place in my heart for teams that love to throw and score points so Barnstable is intriguing.

Alex Jette of North Attleboro is another player that I think could get more attention at a state level, if he can stay on the field for four quarters. He has all the skills - breakaway speed, quick cuts, and great hands in the passing game, but a combination of cramping and some cheap shots at the bottom of piles has taken him out of games in the second half. A good example was Week 1 against LaSalle (R.I.) where he put on a show in the first half with nearly 300 yards of offense, but then was on the field for only a couple of snaps in the second half. Hockomock League play tends to slow down offensive attacks anyway so Jette is missing chances to rack up statistics before having to face Mansfield and KP’s defenses.

Botelho: Quron Wright has put up some ridiculous stats the first three, rushing for over 600 yards already. But don't sleep on Duxbury's Jon Hurvitz either. The Dragons have pushed their state-best win streak to 29 games despite running a changed offense. With Matt O'Keefe under center and a seemingly endless repertoire of weapons at his disposal, Duxbury blew past teams with a pass-happy offense. O'Keefe is gone, but the high scoring offense remains because of what Hurvitz has done out of the backfield. The senior tailback has already rushed for 10 touchdowns and shows no signs of slowing down.

Barnstable's Nick Peabody has torched opposing defenses, leading the Red Raiders to just north of 40 points per game, and his 13 touchdown passes lead the state. We find out just how good Barnstable is this weekend when they play No. 1 Everett. If Peabody can deliver there like he has the first few weeks, Mr. Football is probably his award to lose.

3. WHICH BROCKTON TEAM ARE WE LIKELY TO SEE THE REST OF THE WAY -- THE ONE THAT STRUGGLED AGAINST READING, OR THE ONE WITH TWO WINS OVER TOP-5 CATHOLIC CONFERENCE POWERS?

Barboza: Once again, I’ll happily eat my slice of humble pie for picking the Boxers to open up the season 1-3. They’ve certainly acquitted themselves as a better team than that in their two early wins. Whether Brockton can run their Catholic Conference win streak to three games against the Prep on Friday is another question. I’m sticking by my preseason pick that the Eagles will escape Marciano with a victory in tow. However, I think the destiny of this Boxers team is more in line with the pluses than the minuses, provided they can move the ball. The Rockets utterly shut down the triple option in Week 2, creating concern of Brockton’s ability to consistently move the ball. As long as there’s no repeat performance, and Prep’s stout defense provides an ample challenge this week, Brockton will be just fine in the long run.

Hall: Either there is just something about Catholic Conference schools that bring out the best in Brockton, or the Boxers are just better than any of us have given them credit for. Based on the early returns, my inclination is the latter, and you have to like the Boxers’ chances going forward. This St. John’s Prep squad is good, but not invincible, and even perhaps a little too conservative at times if the Everett loss is any indicator.

If the Boxers win out here, their next three opponents are Fitchburg, Pinkerton (N.H.) and Durfee. Of those three, I only expect the Pinkerton game to be a toss-up -– but then again, a year ago supposedly the worst Brockton team in a decade knocked off the unstoppable juggernaut that was supposed to be the 2011 Astros.

It’s very possible we could see Brockton at 6-1 headed into Week 8’s showdown with Leominster, and let the record show I predicted a 1-3 record for the Boxers coming into September.

Kurkjian: Your guess is as good as mine. There is one thing that is for sure, however. This Brockton team is light years better than last year's version. Maybe that's not saying much because last year's team struggled so mightily, but this team is just so much better up front and there's an overall uptick in focus and leadership that recent Brockton teams have lacked.

Lerch: You have to like the strength the Boxers have shown against the Catholic Conference with both of its wins coming against BC High and Xaverian. I think this is the week where we'll be able to better answer this question, as they'll take on a St. John's Prep squad that battled Everett tooth and nail. If Brockton can continue the momentum they picked up last week, I like their chances for a strong finish.

Botelho: Well, the one thing we know about the Boxers for sure is their defense is premier. They shut out BC High, then held Reading's powerhouse offense to just 12 points before allowing 14 in the win against Xaverian last week. The bad news for Brockton is that if they can't get their offense rolling early, they have a hard time finding the end zone at all. Since the beginning of the 2011 season, Brockton has been shutout in five of their seven losses. The only time they've reached double digits and lost since last year was their game 22-15 defeat against St. John's Prep last season.

That said, even with the shutout against Reading already on their tab this season, this year's version of the offense looks more complete than last season's. I'd be shocked if this team is shutout again this year, and wouldn't be at all surprised if they don't lose another game, because they don't need many points to with the defense they've got. My guess is as the season continues to carry on, and they hammer down their Georgia Tech-style offense more, they'll become a tough team to slow down.

4. WHICH RUNNING BACK HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST SURPRISE THUS FAR?

Barboza: This name might not be among the better known in the state in year in which, for all intents and purposes, is fairly deep at running back, but Somerset-Berkley’s Garrett Carlos has been a revelation. The senior is averaging a shade over 10 yards per carry while running for 411 yards and eight touchdowns in three weeks. After a bit of a rebuilding year last year, the Blue Raiders’ cupboard is full this year with 20 returning seniors, meaning that Nick Freitas’ team should again be in the poll position for an Eastern Athletic Conference title. And Carlos is no small part of that.

Hall: The one that sticks out in my mind is Wareham’s Darien Fernandez running roughshod over Falmouth in Week 1, running for 246 yards and six touchdowns (five in the first half). He has cooled down since then, but the kid is flat out an athlete. At 5-foot-6 and blessed with great leg strength, he is as durable as he is tough to get a good angle on. He’s already well-known on the basketball court, making our All-State Team last winter in leading the Vikings to the Division 3 Eastern Mass Final at TD Garden. But some have mused he may be a better football player, with some feelers from a few Division 1 FCS programs.

Kurkjian: Going to go with Needham's Mike Panepinto here. So far, he's been outstanding for an undefeated Needham team already owns a win over Mansfield. A tough runner, he simply doesn't go down on first contact and he's a perfect complement to a passing game that continues to get better with junior quarterback Ryan Charter.

Lerch: Needham's Mikey Panepinto is a heck of an athlete who is putting up tremendous numbers in what his probably his second-best sport, given that he's already committed to platy lacrosse at UMass. It's not so much the numbers that have surprised me with Panepinto though as much as it is the manner in which he's gotten them. He was able to get off for some big gains in two of the Rockets games but against Mansfield, he really impressed me by proving that he could also grind out the tough yardage and punch in a series of short TD runs.

Perry: Attleboro running back Malique Clark is not an unknown quantity after several explosive cameo appearances last season. He has breakout speed and the strength to carry the ball 20 times per game. The surprise is that the Attleboro offensive line has been able to create openings for him against tough defenses like Bishop Feehan and Dartmouth. Teams will be packing the box and daring junior QB Tim Walsh to beat them with his arm, but to this point it hasn’t slowed Clark down at all. The Hockomock is loaded with running backs this season, but Clark’s ability to turn a nothing play into a big gain has kept the Attleboro offense rolling and has the Bombardiers at a surprising 3-0. Hopefully, Clark’s rib injury that made him miss this weekend’s game won’t be a long-term problem.

Botelho: Darien Fernandez at Wareham, Kiivone Howard at Foxboro and Hurvitz have all exceeded expectations, but Jalen Felix has kept Everett rolling. He did it again last week against St. John's Prep, scoring a TD and rushing for 96 yards on 12 carries.

5. WHICH LINEMAN IS MAKING THE BIGGEST PUSH FOR ALL-STATE INCLUSION CURRENTLY?

Barboza: Aside from a lot of the familiar names you’ve seen in our preseason lists, here’s a couple who have stood out to me in the first quarter season. Both Brendan and I were taken back by the performance of Barnstable center Tom Grimmer during the Red Raiders’ man-handling of Dennis-Yarmouth. He spent most of that evening riding the Dolphins’ nose guard five yards back. I’m also looking at North Attleborough’s big bookend tackles –- Sean Peters and Eric Beckwith. We talked a little bit earlier in the season about how the Red Rocketeers have historically had good speed/zone blockers, but have often lacked size. Both Peters (6-4, 240) and Beckwith (6-2, 270) bring exactly that. Although North sees plenty of pressure from the outside against traditionally strong defensive sides in King Philip and Mansfield in its Hockomock League schedule, they might be better prepared this year to deal with the outside rush than at any time in recent memory behind their pillars on the end.

Hall: I’m making a case for Holy Name’s Basit Dennis to be included in this discussion. Off the field he’s a great story, with his Liberian roots, and a great kid. On the field, at 6-foot-1 and 290 pounds, the senior has been a dominant two-way force in the interior. As talented as Quron Wright is on his own merit, a big reason for his ridiculous rushing average is the Naps’ punishing offensive line, led by Dennis at right tackle.

Brockton’s Joe Previte has been a leader at center for a revitalized Boxer offense. And don’t forget about Everett’s bookend defensive ends, Jeff Soulouque and Omar Graciano, who have taken turns applying pressure on quarterbacks and causing confusion.

Kurkjian: Reading's Matt Comerford was pretty impressive in the game against Brockton Week 2. He's strong, mobile, tough and plays with good technique. And it doesn't hurt that he's about 6-4 or 6-5 and 285 pounds.

Lerch: Regardless of who is taking the snaps in Everett or what trickery John DiBiaso uses to get the ball into the hands of those tremendous athletes, the one constant is John Montelus. The Michigan-bound senior has really solidified his standing as the state's top prospect, regardless of position, and has done it againts one of the state's toughest, early-season schedules.

Two guys to keep an eye on are Millis/Hopedale's Jon Baker and Burlington's Mike Woods. Baker is a 290-pound beast who dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage in the Mohawks rout of Norton last week and has drawn plenty of notice from big-time college programs. Woods is the left tackle and leader of the Red Devils line that has paved the way for Marcus Odiah to run for 705 yards and 10 scores and is another player catching looks from several Division 1 FBS and FCS level schools in the Northeast.

6. IT'S A MEGA-WEEKEND OF MUST-SEE FOOTBALL ACTION. WHICH GAME ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?

Barboza: Well, since it’s part of our Massachusetts Army National Guard Game of the Week program, I’m going to go with St. John’s Prep at Brockton. As we went over in Question 3, the onus is on Brockton to show that they are in fact the team that’s notched two, tough Catholic Conference wins in the early going. But this one will also be a litmus test for the Eagles, who played a very competitive game against No. 1 Everett. It’ll be interesting to see how Prep responds – whether they use last week as a rallying point into their later schedule or if this one presents a letdown after taking on No. 1. This certainly isn’t a game to be taken lightly and I’d expect neither team will. This will be an ole fashioned slobber-knocker on the ground.

Hall: You ask anyone in Everett, and they’ll tell you Barnstable was the hardest-hitting team they faced all season. The Red Raiders come at you with a certain level of abandon replicated by few programs, and nobody embodies this more than middle linebacker Andrew Ellis. But it’s a much different level of football in Everett than the Raiders have seen so far (Durfee, Dennis-Yarmouth, Sandwich), so this should be a great litmus test under the lights at Everett Memorial Stadium.

Kurkjian: Barnstable at Everett. Any time you have the clear-cut No. 1 team in the state going up against a quality opponent it's pretty compelling. You have to wonder just how healthy the Crimson Tide are coming off such a physical battle with St. John's Prep last week. Barnstable has been throwing the ball all over teams so far but they haven't faced a defense anywhere near the level of Everett's. Everett definitely comes in more battle-tested. Not sure how much Durfee, a rebuilding Dennis-Yarmouth and Sandwich prepare you for the best team in the state, but we will find out Friday night.

Lerch: You really can't go wrong with a loaded schedule this weekend, particularly on Friday, but it's hard to look past another Game of the Week taking place in Everett. Last week the Crimson Tide hosted No. 2 St. John's Prep, and this week, it's No. 3 Barnstable coming to town. Everett hasn't yet seen an offense capable of putting up the kind of numbers that the Raiders have been achieving (145 points through three games) but the reverse of that is true as well in that Barnstable has yet to match up against a team that has as much athleticism as the Tide.

Perry: The easy choice would be Everett versus Barnstable, but I am a sucker for history.

In Hockomock country, old rivals North Attleborough and Foxborough will meet at Ahern Middle School. For decades, the Hockomock League title came down to North, Foxboro, and Mansfield, but recently the Warriors have been hit by changing demographics within the town. Each year the Foxboro program has shrunk a little bit and now KP has replaced it at the top of the league while Oliver Ames, Stoughton, and Canton have threatened to pass them by in the small school division.

This is a Warriors team that has promise and a desire to put North in its place (this is a trend among most teams in the Hockomock). Running back Kiivone Howard has been a star with 9 touchdowns in the opening three weeks and Foxboro wants nothing more than to reestablish itself in the Hockomock pecking order. Although the game lacks playoff implications, the rivalry between the teams makes this a must win for both.

The Rocketeers certainly saw last week what an angry rival is capable of, when they struggled to put away Feehan, and I expect a reaction from them, but still can’t count out Foxboro.

Botelho: This is the easily the most exciting weekend of the season so far, and you can look all over the state and find exciting games. Out west you've Minnechaug-Longmeadow, which is always one of the game's of the year. In the central region, Holy Name and Nashboa are colliding in a Super Bowl rematch. And in Eastern Mass, it's nearly impossible to pick just one. No. 1 Everett vs No. 3 Barnstable should be a blast. No. 18 Needham plays at No. 20 Weymouth in what is essentially a league title game in September. Brockton hosts St. John's. Bob Bancroft's Pembroke team host Whitman-Hanson, the team he became a legend with (and Panthers coach Mike Driscoll captained one of Bancroft's unbeaten Super Bowl champions). East Bridgewater and Mashpee has evolved into a huge tilt in the SSL the last couple years, and the Falcons have ended the Vikings' postseason chances each of the last two years. Mansfield might have the best passing attack in either Hockomock League, and Stoughton seems to have the best pass defense, and this week we'll find out which strength is greater.

A great weekend indeed if you're a high school football fan.

ESPN Boston Week 1 football picks

September, 6, 2012
9/06/12
11:06
PM ET
FRIDAY
NO. 1 EVERETT AT NO. 7 LEOMINSTER
The Skinny: Leominster has never beaten the Crimson Tide since this series began in 2002, but the Blue Devils have usually been a tough out. In 2009, the teams played to a 14-6 Tide win. The last two meetings, the Blue Devils got under the Tide’s skin early before Everett’s talent took over. But Leominster is brimming with excitement, its proud football culture awakened again following their first Super Bowl championship in a decade last fall. Everett, meanwhile, seems to be settled at every position but quarterback – and with a line averaging over 315 pounds, that will suffice. If Leominster is to pull off the upset, they’ll have to a find a way to contain electric wideouts Jakarrie Washington and Jalen Felix.

Scott Barboza: Leominster turns it into a game, but still too many horses in the stable for Everett despite the questions. Everett, 27-20.

Brendan Hall: It’s going to be a majestic crowd at Doyle, and some readers will undoubtedly conclude I’m biased towards Leominster because their defensive coordinator coached me 10 years ago at Oakmont. But I’m not. Even I’m not foolish enough to pick against the Tide in this one. Everett, 24-13.

NO. 2 BC HIGH AT NO. 22 BROCKTON
The Skinny: Injuries were an overarching theme of the preseason and both of these teams were affected. Bad news for BC High is Luke Catarius is out with a hairline ankle fracture, but Brockton should have Micah Morel in the lineup for their Week 1 challenge. We’ll get a look at the reigning Div. 1 Super Bowl champions new-look offense with Brendan Craven under center and Brandon Owens in the backfield while the Boxers will be sporting a Georgia Tech-inspired scheme with Auggie Roberts back at quarterback.

Barboza: A Jackson Bockhurst field goal will be the difference. BC High, 17-14.

Hall: Things unraveled for Brockton pretty quickly in last year’s meeting in Dorchester. The Boxers are fighting an uphill battle again this year, but at least it will be respectable. BC High, 28-14.

NO. 23 SPRINGFIELD PUTNAM AT NO. 14 SPRINGFIELD CENTRAL
The Skinny: With the schools sitting less than a mile from each other along Roosevelt Ave., the season-opening battle between these rival schools has become must-see as of late. Putnam won this contest last season, kick-starting an historic 2011 season that ended with their fifth Super Bowl title in eight seasons. Central will be looking for revenge, but it’s not easy replacing 2,000-yard rusher in Sacoy Malone. Putnam, meanwhile, turns to a plethora of new faces to replace record-setting running back Melquawn Pinkney, including quarterback Kayjuan Bynum and running back Wayne Lowery.

Barboza: I came away very impressed from talking to Central QB Cody Williams last year at Gillette. He blossoms into the real deal this year. Central, 21-16.

Hall: I like the direction Central is headed in over the long run, but Putnam is still Roosevelt Ave (See what I did there?). Putnam, 7-6.

LA SALLE ACADEMY (R.I.) AT NO. 16 NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH
The Skinny: Big Red will have its hands full opening night with their challenger from just across the state line. The Rams feature a high-octane attack led by reigning Gatorade Player of the Year running back Josh Morris and senior quarterback Anthony Francis. The key to this one will be in the trenches where North’s offensive line led by Eric Beckwith and Sean Peters could have the advantage.

Barboza: This Rams team is very talented, but North holds on – just barely. North, 28-26.

Hall: Josh Morris and Co. have been dying for that elusive win over a Massachusetts squad, and I think they finally get it here. La Salle, 17-13.

NO. 12 KING PHILIP AT DOVER (N.H.)
The Skinny: Self-admittedly, we don’t know as much about Dover as we do KP, but we can be some what certain what the Warriors will be showing them on defense. And, of course, that’s a variety of different looks and blitz and coverage schemes. Dover, which sits just outside of ESPN Boston correspondent Marc Thaler’s Granite State Top 10 poll, will also have to contend with KP quarterback John Dillon, who will enjoy a greater role directing the offense in his second year as starter.

Barboza: KP’s “Psycho” package gives Hockomock League teams fits, nevermind an offense that hasn’t seen it. KP, 28-8.

Hall: Knowing little about Dover outside of what our loyal New Hampshire correspondents tell us, I’m going to trust their convictions on this one and say it will be close. But I’m still going with the team closer to Boston. KP, 20-10.

NO. 4 ST. JOHN’S PREP AT DRACUT
The Skinny: The Middies have been a bit of a bugaboo for St. John's Prep in recent years and some around Danvers feel Dracut has simply posed a matchup problem for the Eagles with its spread attack. Good news for Prep is that their secondary, with Lucas Bavaro, Gerry Kahari, Alex Moore and Johnny Thomas, has matured into a strength of the team. Dracut senior linebacker Zach Bassett could be the key to the game, trying to slow down Prep's running attack.

Barboza: Looking for a defensive struggle here. Prep, 14-7.

Hall: Classic trap game for The Prep, against a classic trap opponent that’s had their number in recent years. Dracut, 10-6.

NORTH ANDOVER AT ANDOVER
The Skinny: North Andover's season starts with a Walsh at quarterback, but of another name. Brendan Walsh's younger brother Casey takes the helm of the Scarlet Knights' offense. It also marks North Andover's first Merrimack Valley Conference game. The Golden Warriors will counter with a high-flying attack that impressed during this summer's Northeast 7v7 passing tournament. Quarterback C.J. Scarpa has plenty of targets including Cam Farnham and Will Heikkinen.

Hall: I know it’s a familiar rival that’s been on the schedule for years, but North Andover is still in for a whole new ball game. And since it’s now officially an MVC game, there will be no less than 172 points scored and 1,000 yards of offense. Andover, 35-30.

Barboza: Ditto. Andover, 31-20.

MARSHFIELD AT CATHOLIC MEMORIAL
The Skinny: Last year at this time, Catholic Memorial entered Marshfield’s stadium with plenty of hype, behind three Division 1 FBS commits and a No. 4 preseason ranking in ESPNBoston.com’s poll. They promptly got shut out by the Rams, 24-0, fueling their ensuing seven-game win streak. The Knights will no doubt be looking to exact revenge, and they’ll look to Preseason All-State defensive end Peter Ngobidi to stifle the Rams’ vaunted run game.

Barboza: Ngobidi is a dominant force and asserts his will here. CM, 7-0.

Hall: The Knights got embarrassed last year in Marsh Vegas, and I expect them to exact revenge here. CM, 16-13.

SATURDAY
NO. 24 HOLY NAME AT NO. 17 ST. JOHN’S (SHREWSBURY)
The Skinny: For all of Holy Name’s success under Mike Pucko, the Naps have never beaten St. John’s during his tenure. Could that change on Saturday? Holy Name turns to one of the state’s most elusive scatbacks in Quron Wright, and will hope for a big day. St. John’s has already hit the injury bug, with incumbent QB Connor Kurtz (knee) out for the season, but RB Shadrach Abrokwah is a nice fit for their hurry-up scheme, and is poised for a breakout senior season.

Hall: If the Naps are ever to beat St. John’s, this has to be the year. Holy Name, 9-8.

Barboza: Hate to do this to the Naps, sorry. St. John's, 22-21.

NO. 9 DUXBURY AT NO. 8 BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM
The Skinny: B-R is itching to get over the hump after dropping its season-opener to the Dragons the past two seasons. The Trojans have some terrific talent between the tackles, led by Joey MacInnis, to pave for a big afternoon for junior tailback Arcel Armstead. Duxbury graduated one of its most talented classes ever from the 2011 Super Bowl champion squad, but still has plenty of talent left over to keep the state’s longest active win streak (26) going. Look for guard Rob Kosharek, linebacker Marshall McCarthy and running back Jon Hurvitz to have big days.

Barboza: Now that Dan Buron's nephew Andrew (former Duxbury standout) has graduated, expect the Trojans to get back to their winning ways. B-R, 14-10.

Hall: After graduating one of the program’s most talented classes ever, Marshall the Missile gets the full spotlight. And he usually gives the fans their money’s worth. Duxbury, 14-10.

CONCORD-CARLISLE AT BEVERLY
The Skinny: C-C heads into its non-league tilt with the heavy NEC/CAL Tier 2 favorite already limping, losing its star running back Tim Badgley (ACL tear) for the season. If the Patriots are to repeat last year’s Super Bowl championship success, sophomore quarterback Will Blumenberg will have to grow up quickly. Meanwhile, Beverly features one of the North Shore’s most feared rushing attacks with the three-pronged approach of Kenny Pierce, Brendan Flaherty and Dom Abate.

Barboza: ETA on when the Kenny Pierce hashtag gets rolling again? We're looking at you James Coffey. Beverly, 27-14.

Hall: I’m excited to see what Will Blumenberg can do for the Patriots, but the Panthers just have too much in the tank to be stopped in this one. Beverly, 28-7.

No. 16 North strives to be one better

August, 25, 2012
8/25/12
1:15
AM ET
NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. -- It’s hard to look back on a one-loss season and not feel pride, even if that one loss made all the difference.

When North Attleborough football walked off the field after a 14-7 win over border rival Attleboro on Thanksgiving Day, the team members soon learned their season had come to an end. They went into the final day of the season needing some help from Franklin pulling off a potential upset over King Philip. After dropping an earlier decision to KP, North needed a game in hand to represent the league in the Eastern Mass Division 2 playoffs.

Even as the Red Rocketeers are in the midst of two-a-days, the memory of last season is fresh. But they’ve also turned a negative into positive motivation. After all, the Hockomock League Kelley-Rex division co-champions still accomplished something major.

But it was yet another season that ended on Turkey Day, the same fashion it has since Big Red last claimed a Super Bowl title in 2002.

“Everybody counted us out last season, and no one expected us to do anything, so to come out 9-1, “ Hockomock League all-star senior lineman Eric Beckwith said, “we’re proud of our season, but we just wish we would’ve went further.”

And so Big Red returns with a great sense of urgency.

“We realize now how much one game can mean,” senior captain Harrison Carmichael said. That’s going to make us all that much hungrier to win every single game. We don’t want to have one that we look back on that we’re not proud of.”

North also returns with much the same identity, a team built on pride with a stingy defense that applies constant pressure on its opponent. However, the Red Rocketeers have something in its returning offensive line that it hasn’t often had – size.

With stalwarts Beckwith, Carmichael and Sean Peters anchoring the line, they’ll be both experienced and physically imposing.

“Usually we’re depending on our scat backs to make things happen,” North head coach Don Johnson said. “I still think we have the speed to get to the outside, but I think we have another dimension where if we’re in a situation that we need a first down, we can just pound it out.”

When talking to a group of senior leaders in between double sessions, it was striking how much energy they had. Johnson is excited for the Class of 2013, a group that is exception off the field as they are talented.

“You just have to bring energy to every practice,” inside linebacker Reid Holden said. “You have to set the tone. You bring the energy, ready to hit somebody, that carries you through and gets everybody going.”

That intensity isn’t about to wane any time soon.

North enters the season with two great challenges, playing Rhode Island powerhouse La Salle Academy in its opener before traveling to Dorchester for a date with the reigning Division 1 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl champions of BC High.

And, of course, there’s that always-daunting Hockomock League schedule.

“You have to view every game in the league the same,” senior captain Alex Jette said, “that the team who makes the fewest mistakes is probably going to be the team that wins.”

NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH AT A GLANCE
2011 record: 9-1 (Hockomock Kelley-Rex co-champions)
Head Coach: Don Johnson (4th year, 27-4)
Players to watch: Alex Jette, Sr. RB/DB, 6-0, 170; Eric Beckwith, Sr. OT/DT, 6-2 ,275; Sean Peters, Sr. OT/DT, 6-4, 225; Harrison Carmichael, Sr .G/DE, 6-2, 195; Dwayne Hunter Jr., Sr. RB/LB, 5-6, 170; Reid Holden, Sr. ILB, 5-9, 170.
Strengths: Size and physicality on line; depth at running back; experience in secondary
Weaknesses: Inexperience at quarterback; defensive depth.

Outlook: The Red Rocketeers have a position battle going on in camp worth watching with senior Ryan Perron and junior James Kummer looking to fill Spyro Varetimos’ spot under center. North is settled in the backfield, however, with the multi-talented Jette leading the rushing attack. “He’s a great all-around athlete, so our offensive coordinator can dream up a lot of things,” Johnson said. “He can run the ball, he can catch it and throw it. The only thing we haven’t figured out is how he could throw the ball to himself.” On defense, the Red Rocketeers lack depth, but can always get after the quarterback. They galvanize around inside linebacker Holden, who stepped in that role midway through last season.

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