Boston High School: Somerset-Berkley

Our 2014 Summer Football Primer

July, 8, 2014
Jul 8
11:52
AM ET
Don't look now, but the first day of MIAA football practices is just 40 days away. Per our tradition every summer, ESPN Boston High Schools editors Brendan C. Hall and Scott Barboza whet your appetite for the gridiron with some players on the rise, surprise teams to watch, top teams and some food for thought.

Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


FIVE PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Drew Jean-Guillaume, Sr. QB/DB, Shepherd Hill
With a powerful frame and impressive speed honed during track and field season, Jean-Guillaume is a throwback-type option quarterback, a converted running back who’s as adept at powering through defenders as he is at evading or blowing by them. The Rams will be heavy favorites in Division 4, and Jean-Guillaume will have plenty of room to work behind a reportedly heavy line led by Boston College commit Chris Lindstrom.

Mekhi Henderson, Soph. DB, Xaverian
In a defense full of household names, Henderson is one of the Hawks’ brightest young stars. Often last season, he was left on an island against an opponent’s top target, and often he held his own. With his coverage skills and raw ability, the coaching staff has a luxury to get creative in the secondary.

Shane Combs, Sr. ATH, St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
It’s assumed that Combs, a Notre Dame baseball commit and ESPN Boston All-State selection during the spring, will take the reins at quarterback from last year’s Mr. Football finalist Drew Smiley. The Missouri transplant was one of the state’s most productive rushers during the playoffs, going over the century mark in all five postseason contests as the Pioneers reached the Division 2 state final.

Mike Maggipinto, Jr. RB, East Longmeadow
Somewhat quietly, the 5-foot-5 scatback eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark last year for the Spartans, running behind a great blocking scheme that continued to find unique ways to get him in space. Between Maggipinto and Plymouth North’s Christian Carr, this could be the year of the pint-sized running back.

Jahkari Carpenter, Sr. RB, Doherty
Among the area’s most elusive, Carpenter was a weekly highlight reel during the Highlanders’ run to the Division 4 state title, with runs like THIS, or THIS, or THIS. Junior Tavian Vassar is expected to have a bigger role in the backfield this year, which could make for an imposing thunder-and-lightning combination.

FIVE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Billerica
The Indians hit a home run this offseason with the hiring of Duane Sigsbury as their new head coach, though they are considered a year or two away. Still, Sigsbury is one of the area’s brightest offensive minds, with a track record of making programs relevant in a hurry (see: Boston Cathedral). Similar to his other stops, there are already some terrific talents coming up the pipe.

Boston English
The Blue and Blue made history last fall to end Brian Vaughn’s first season at the helm, beating Boston Latin for the first time since 1997. Now, with dynamic dual threat Emmanuel Almonte leading the offense, they’ll look to continue last year’s momentum.

Cambridge
Long considered a powder keg for skill talent, head coach Ryan Saulnier has tapped into it, and found a lot of success running his brand of spread offense in his first season last fall. With Marcus Collins returning under center, and a new home in the Dual County League, the Falcons ought to be one of the most entertaining teams to watch in Division 2 North.

Leominster
Blue Devils graduated one of their most talented classes ever, but this is a program built to reload, not rebuild, under a great offensive mind in Dave Palazzi. Defensive coordinator Charlie Raff left to take over at Oakmont, but in his place comes former North Middlesex coach John Margarita. It’s too early – not to mention, lofty – to make any Neil O’Connor comparisons yet, but keep an eye on sophomore Noah Gray this fall.

Springfield Central
Similar to Leominster, the Golden Eagles have many holes to fill on the heels of its most successful season in school history. But they should have a solid defense again, led by lineman Kaleb Hunter-Sams, and the coaching staff should get a boost from the addition of former Putnam head coach Bill Watson.

Hall's Preseason Top 10:

[+] EnlargeJoe Gaziano
Brendan Hall/ESPNESPN Boston's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Northwestern commit Joe Gaziano, leads a stacked Xaverian defense.
1. Xaverian
Little drama here as to who’s the top dog. With a star-studded defense that includes the likes of Northwestern commit Joe Gaziano, ESPN Boston’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2013; linebackers Noah Sorrento, Kenny Kern and D’Aundre Holmes; and defensive backs Damion Wood and Mekhi Henderson; as well as a potent running game behind UMass-bound tackle Joe Parsons, and an innovative playmaker in quarterback Jake Farrell; the Hawks figure to start the year No. 1 in many polls.

2. Everett
Crimson Tide are licking their chops after a disappointing end to 2013 season, and as usual they reload with some of the most gifted skill players in the area. The interesting question is how they’ll fit Boston College-bound cornerback Lukas Denis into the offense; originally slotted as the successor to Jonathan DiBiaso at quarterback before injuries derailed his sophomore season in 2012, Denis showed flashes of brilliance in a multitude of positions last year.

3. Central Catholic
The Raiders’ featured one of the state’s best defenses a year ago in their D1 state title run, and they’ll be held in high regard again thanks to linebacker Markus Edmunds and safety Mike Balsamo, who is fielding multiple Division 1 FCS offers at the moment. Also keep an eye on Matt Milano, who was statistically one of the state’s most productive quarterbacks in the playoffs last year.

4. Mansfield
The Hornets dramatically altered their offense on the fly late in the season following a season-ending injury to wideout Brendan Hill, and it worked out as they took the D2 state title. A fully healthy Hill and another year of running back Miguel Villar-Perez, one of last fall’s most pleasant revelations, should make the Hornets the favorite in a tough D2 South.

5. Bridgewater-Raynham
Trojans always get the benefit of the doubt for their powerful running game and their “anyone, anywhere, anytime” approach to scheduling, and they’ll be a force again with Brandon Gallagher returning at tailback. But the question is whether the Trojans can sustain momentum and avoid last year’s fate, when they reached No. 1 in our statewide poll early, only to sputter in the second half.

6. Shepherd Hill
In short, Boston College-bound offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom Jr. is a force. But the fact that he is the Rams’ most dominant, yet possibly their lightest, should tell you something about what to expect in 2014. They’re arguably Central Mass.’s most talented team this fall, and while there’s a couple other heavy hitters contending in D4 – Holliston, Dennis-Yarmouth and Wahconah, for starters – these guys are my odds-on favorite. Look for them to put up a ton of rushing yards in head coach Chris Lindstrom Sr.’s double wing scheme.

7. Lowell
The Red Raiders made one of the biggest statements of the playoffs last fall in blanking St. John’s Prep 41-0 in the first round of the D1 North tournament. Syracuse commit Shyheim Cullen was exceptional at interior gap blitzes, baiting and confusing potential blockers to create chaos up the middle, and he’ll lead a talented defense that includes linebacker Nicolau Coury and defensive back Theo Bryant.

8. St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Boston College-bound free safety Davon Jones is one of several early candidates for Defensive Player of the Year after recording 125 tackles and eight picks a year ago. Offensive coordinator Chris Moriarty is as creative as they come, and how he utilizes Jones and athlete Shane Combs in the offense will be one of the more interesting storylines of the season’s earlygoings.

9. Brockton
We’re still in wait-and-see mode after another season of unrealized expectations in Brockton, but it’s hard to deny the talent the Boxers have coming back. Keep an eye on Boston College-bound lineman Aaron Monteiro, who has some raw potential and a powerful frame at 6-foot-6 and nearly 300 pounds.

10. Dennis-Yarmouth
Division 1 recruit Michael Dunn lined up at nearly every offensive position last year for the Dolphins in their run to the D4 state final, and he may very well do it again. Defensively, this kid is a treat, regarded as one of the state’s premier shutdown corners. As usual, Paul Funk’s frenetic read option scheme will be a tall task to keep up with.

Others to Watch: Attleboro, Barnstable, BC High, Doherty, Holliston, Marblehead, Oliver Ames, Plymouth North, Pope John Paul II, St. John’s Prep, St. Peter-Marian, Tewksbury, Wahconah, Walpole

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

1. Spread offense has been the growing trend in Massachusetts over the last decade, and we’re now seeing its influence at all levels of the game. But at the other end of the spectrum, we’re seeing more and more teams dip into playbooks from decades and decades ago for some wild success in the running game. We’ve romanticized Nauset’s Single Wing offense for years. At Holy Name, Mike Pucko dug into Dutch Meyer’s World War II-era playbook and installed a fullback-less “Triple Wing” offense for the Naps’ Thanksgiving contest with Milford, a game they won 35-14. Last year’s D5 West Final featured a Pistol Flex Bone (Hoosac Valley) versus a Wishbone (Easthampton). Tewksbury, last year’s D3 state champ, calls running plays out of an encyclopedia of formations from every family of offense. Factor in all of the traditional Double Wing success stories like Shepherd Hill, Holy Name and Somerset-Berkley, too. Running offense continues to diversify in this corner of the country, and if you’re an X’s and O’s junkie like me, you are having a blast watching it.

2. LSU took some negative backlash last fall when they received a verbal commitment from a freshman early in his season after an apparently intense summer of recruitment from a number of SEC schools, but this doesn’t appear to be a trend going away any time soon. Early offers are still fairly uncommon for football prospects in this part of the country, though it’s worth noting St. Sebastian’s incoming sophomore Blake Gallagher received an offer from Nebraska last month. Beyond the concerns about pressure and bloated expectations, the biggest question I have is this: What if the recruit stops growing, or has just peaked earlier than his peers? I’m interested to see if Maryland head coach Randy Edsall’s proposals for recruiting reform gain any traction. Among other things, his plan stipulates schools can’t make a written offer until a player’s senior year, and that the offer must come with permission from the school’s admissions department.

3. I’m on record as saying I hope the true state championship format the MIAA rolled out last year is here to stay, but I’m also in favor of giving it some tweaks. First and foremost, get rid of the second automatic qualifier for leagues. Weak leagues were rewarded at the expense of teams like Medway and Pope John Paul II, teams who finished with winning records in qualification period but were pushed all the way out of the eight-team field in their respective divisions to satisfy undeserved automatic berths. Leagues should be restricted to one automatic qualifier, or two if it is a two-tier league. I also question whether a seven-game regular season is enough of a window to properly gauge a team’s strength. Expanding to an eight-game season and starting it on Labor Day Weekend could satisfy that, and could be a good gate opportunity for many schools as well.

***

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


FIVE PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Michael Balsalmo, Sr. RB/FS, Central Catholic
A standout on the Raiders’ Division 1 championship season a year ago, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder holds a couple of offers (Bryant, Wofford) entering the season. Here’s better there will be more to follow.

Christian Carr, Sr. RB, Plymouth North
For what Carr might lack in stature, he makes up for in elusiveness. A consistent 100-yard-per-game rusher in his junior season, he broke out with a 351-yard performance in the Eagles’ playoff win against Dighton-Rehoboth.

Jake Gibb, Jr. QB, Stoughton
In his first season under center, Gibb led the Knights to the Division 3 South final before falling to Plymouth South. Gibb will have them contending for the Davenport division title again.

Kyle Murphy, Jr. OL/DL, Attleboro
The two-way lineman was a driving force behind the Blue Bombardiers’ breakout season last year. It’s only a matter of time before the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder starts getting colleges’ attention.

James Sullivan, Sr. RB/S, Tewksbury
Sullivan announced himself to a statewide audience on the biggest stage last year, racking up 125 yards and three touchdowns in the Redmen’s win over Plymouth South in the Division 3 state title game. With graduations, Sullivan will take on an even bigger role this year.

FIVE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Braintree
The Bay State Carey should again be one of the more interesting races to watch across the state this year, and the Wamps might be primed to take a big step forward after last year’s 4-7 mark. One to watch is inside linebacker Derek Anson, who’s only added to his 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame.

Doherty
The Highlanders were historically good in 2013, capturing their first state title while beating Dennis-Yarmouth for the Division 4 championship. Although several key contributors have graduated, they can still make a run

Natick
It might not be the aerial display we’ve seen in recent years with Troy Flutie at quarterback, but the Redhawks will be one worth watching as Brian Dunlap returns from a season missed due to injury (Lisfranc fracture) last year.

Quincy
After a 7-4 campaign last season, are the Presidents ready to challenge for the Patriot Keenan title? With promising running back Jhave Handsom-Fields (8 TD as a sophomore) and quarterback James Lam returning, the time could be now.

Somerset-Berkley
The Raiders return a big class of juniors, including feature back Chip Wood back in the fold and Jacob Cabana rushing off the edge. Another EAC title could be in the cards.

Barboza's Preseason Top 10:

1. Xaverian
The Hawks will have some questions to answer on offense, but deserve the top spot on defense alone, with Defensive Player of the Year Joe Gaziano returning along with the state’s best secondary group.

2. Central Catholic
The Raiders peaked at precisely the right time last year, capturing the first true statewide Division 1 title. Some of their biggest playmakers have graduated, but Michael Balsamo’s primed for a breakout year.

3. Everett
The Crimson Tide are undoubtedly still smarting over last year’s home playoff loss to Central Catholic. We all know what that means.

4. Bridgewater-Raynham
Here’s betting tight end/defensive end Connor Reagan is one of next year’s breakout performers.

5. St. John’s (S)
You never know what you’re getting from the Pioneers’ offense game to game, and it’ll be intriguing to see how the group develops this season. But you have to like any group with athletes of ilk of Shane Combs and Davon Jones.

6. Lowell
I’ll take my chances with the linebacking corps the Red Raiders have returning, anchored by Shyheim Cullen and Nicolau Coury.

7. Brockton
The Boxers will not be pushed around inside the tackle box, with perhaps the biggest returning offensive line in the state, including Aaron Monteiro (6-6, 300) and Uzziah Hilliard (6-0, 280)

8. Mansfield
Mike Redding will come up with creative schemes to avoid Brendan Hill being double-teamed on both sides of the ball. Connor Finerty will also look to expand on a promising sophomore season.

9. Dennis-Yarmouth
The Dolphins fell just shy of the Div. 4 state title in a riveting matchup with Doherty. They might not be denied this year.

10. Tewksbury
The Redmen might not match the size and physicality of last year’s state championship squad, but having James Sullivan in the backfield is still enough to win.

Others to watch: Arlington, Attleboro, Billerica, BC High, Holliston, Leominster, Oliver Ames, Shepherd Hill, Stoughton, Wahconah, Walpole.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

1. The football playoff system is here to stay – well, at the very least for two more years. While there are still pockets of dissent, the sentiment across the state is that the first year determining true state champions across six divisions was a success. It even drew over some who’d been opposed to the playoff proposal originally and voted against the measure. The build up and drama of the first seven weeks leading up the start of the tournament brought a different dimension of intrigue to the season. Still, detractors remain and, as Brendan ruminated earlier in this feature, there’s still room for improvement regarding the means of automatic qualifiers and the discrepancies that exist between the respective athletic conferences’ rubrics – including, most importantly, the weight of league games. But with one year in the books, I declare the system to be a success. Now, let’s start tweaking the framework.

2. Which brings me to my next point: get rid of Thanksgiving. This is going to be a highly unpopular opinion in some neck of the woods, but it’s simply a reality of what’s put in front of us. At the end of last season, I talked to many athletic directors who complained about a diminished gate return from their Thanksgiving Day games. That’s a natural feedback of the playoff system – which in some place requires teams to “double up” with their Thankgiving rivals. In change, that has deemphasized the pomp and circumstance surrounding Turkey Day. As a result, that left some Thanksgiving Day matchups to resemble more of an exhibition game in tone – althought don’t tell that to St. John’s Prep and Xaverian, or Foxborough and Mansfield. The result is a hodgepodge of situations that follow teams into what used to be the biggest day of the regular-season football calendar: ie a non-playoff team vs. a team that’s bound for a championship game, or two teams who are playing out the string on a season that’s already ended. I counter those scenario’s are really no different than what existed in the year B.P. (Before Playoffs), but the current arrangement has only emphasized was already apparent – Thanksgiving is an exhibition. Minus the Catholic Conference or Merrimack Valley Conference duels which resulted in playoff berths in previous years, Thanksgiving largely was such. Only now have the detractors used the playoff system to highlight the faults in Thanksgiving Day that already existed. What Thanksgiving Day has always been about is the rivalry. I ventured to North Attleborough last year when the Red Rocketeers (already eliminated from the playoffs) hosted Attleboro (who were just eliminated the previous week in the sectional final). The scene was what you’d become accustomed to – with an overflow crowd at Community Field. They were all there to watch an exhibition game. Why not make that game mean something more again? Why not play the game before the first frost?

Quick hits from last weekend, looking ahead

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
1:13
AM ET
Some quick thoughts from last weekend’s second round of MIAA State Championship football playoffs, and looking ahead to this week’s sectional finals:

1a. Springfield Central’s Valdamar Brower and Leominster’s Dave Palazzi were my two front-runners for Coach of the Year headed into Friday, but Barnstable’s Chris Whidden has to be firmly in any discussion from herein, following Friday’s impressive stifling of Natick. At the beginning of the year, Whidden righted the ship before it even began to sink, making conditioning a high point of emphasis following their season-opening 37-9 whupping at the hands of archrival Dennis-Yarmouth. The Red Raiders came out of their bye week and proceeded to take down two Catholic Conference teams, BC High and Xaverian, in back to back weeks.

Last week, Whidden installed a Cover 2 defense –- a look they’ve never run all season long –- in three days to combat the wizardry of Troy Flutie. In what some would consider a shrewd move, Whidden opted not to match up his top defensive back (Derek Estes) with Natick’s most dangerous target (Alex Hilger), instead sticking a linebacker on Hilger and sagging the corners into zones. Whidden is a smart, smart coach, who knows how to quickly evaluate his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and devise a flexible gameplan to counter. This was a team that some thought would not compete as well as they did a year ago, when they reached the D1A Super Bowl, yet here they are, two wins away from a return to Gillette Stadium.

We’re three years into the Whidden era, and I’ve already lost count of how many wins the Raiders have had over Top 10 opponents. By now, this is no fluke. The guy can flat out coach.

1b. All that said, this Friday’s D2 South Final could be Whidden’s best challenge yet. Long-time Mansfield coach Mike Redding is a chess grand master, but he’s never had a king piece quite like Brendan Hill. The 6-foot-6 junior already holds a Division 1 FBS offer (UMass), leads the Hornets in receiving (43 catches, 631 yards, 7 TD) and lines up everywhere on the perimeter, from tight end to slot receiver to split end. Back in Week 6, King Philip held Hill to his lowest receiving total of the season (3 catches, 43 yards) in a 20-7 loss to the Hornets, and they mixed up their coverage quite a bit on him – rolling coverages, pressing, bumping and passing him along to another zone.

But here’s the thing. If they decide to deploy special coverage on Hill, I think the Hornets are that kind of team that would use him as a decoy to open up other parts of the field for two of their other most dangerous targets, Michael Hershman and Miguel Villar-Perez. Just a great matchup here between two of the best schemers across the state. Expect some funky stuff.

2. Crazy stat line of the week, singles division: In two playoff games, Doherty wide receiver Alfred Adarkwah has four catches for 122 yards and four touchdowns. That’s right, literally every touch this postseason for the lanky 6-foot-4 senior has been for a score.

During the summer, coaches and players over on Highland St. hinted that the Highlanders had been experimenting Boston College-bound athlete Isaac YIadom and Adarkwah on the same side of formations during passing leagues, to positive results. For the most part, that hasn’t been the case. Rather, leaving Adarkwah on an island opposite Yiadom’s side of the formation has yielded dramatic results (see: Quabbin, first round). And here’s the dilemma: the moment you shade off of Yiadom, the threat of him ripping off a big gain increases threefold.

Monday film sessions at Doherty are called “Moss Monday” for a reason. When talking about players who have elevated their stock for All-State consideration with their playoff performances, Adarkwah is certainly in the discussion.

3. Crazy stat line of the week, pairs division: In two playoff games, Plymouth South’s Dylan Oxsen and Plymouth North’s Christian Carr have combined for 1,128 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Apart, they are the state’s two top playoff rushing leaders, with both scoring seven times and Oxsen holding a 26-yard edge. That alone should be reason enough to go see these two teams square off. Now put the Division 3 Southeast title on the line, and factor in the intensity of his heated cross-town rivalry (Romano Field was over capacity in the first meeting in September, a 4 p.m. start), and this has the makings of something special.

4. Leominster is going for an unprecedented sixth straight win over rival St. John’s of Shrewsbury, dating back to the start of 2011, when the two teams meet on Friday at Doyle Field for the D2 Central title, but I don’t think this is such a shoe-in for the Blue Devils. How quickly people forget that, after a dismal first half, quarterback Andrew Smiley lit up the Leominster defense in the second half with a slew of screen passes, with Mike McGillicuddy the primary benefactor. If they get off to a good start in the screen game, and stay committed to it, I think an upset is in play here for the Pioneers.

5. Another reason to love the new playoff format: four teams from the Hockomock League and three from the Atlantic Coast Leagues are playing for district titles this weekend. Under the former system, Hockomock Kelley-Rex runner-up Attleboro would not be playing for a D1 South title on Friday night, nor would Davenport runner-up Stoughton (D3 Southwest), while Kelley-Rex champ Mansfield (D2 South) and Oliver Ames (D3 Southwest) would be still in play. Meanwhile, ACL champ Plymouth South (D3 Southeast) would be playing while Plymouth North (D3 Southeast) and Dennis-Yarmouth (D4 South) would be sitting at home. Up North, we have an All-DCL D2 Final (Lincoln-Sudbury vs. Waltham) and an All-Middlesex D3 Northwest Final (Woburn vs. Melrose). Honestly, what’s not to like about that?

6a. I’ve asked to several coaches playing non-playoff games about their approach, and whether they try to get underclassmen experience or let the seniors finish out their glory. Most of them said the same thing –- you have to balance the two. But the overarching theme I sensed with their talks was that, like a lower-tier college bowl game, there isn’t a lot of pressure so you might as well have some fun.

There’s still some interesting storylines to be played out there. For a football junkie like me, I actually look forward to some of these unique matchups, such as last weekend’s matchup between Somerset-Berkley’s “double wing” scheme and Nauset’s unique “Notre Dame Box” variation of the Single Wing, complete with spinning fullbacks. Elsewhere, Natick’s Troy Flutie needs one touchdown pass to tie the state’s all-time mark, and assuming he’s healthy enough to play, he could very well do it Friday against Needham.

6b. Which brings us to our final crazy stat line of the week, non-playoff division: In two post-qualification games, Pope John Paul II junior quarterback Ryan Barabe is completing 86 percent of his passes (31-of-36) for 488 yards and six touchdowns. That’s right, 86 percent, or 18 points higher than his regular season percentage. I’m on record saying the Lions were snubbed in D6 South, an unfair casualty of second league automatic qualifiers, and I’m wondering if this non-playoff run will help build a case for detractors.

Roundtable: Predicting MIAA Football District Champs

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
4:21
PM ET
EDITOR'S NOTE: Picks for Western Mass. are omitted, as the district concludes its final week of regular season this weekend)

Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


Division 1 North: Everett
Plain and simple, I just don’t see John DiBiaso getting outcoached in this field.

Division 1 South: Attleboro
One of several surprise picks I’m going to lay down here. The Blue Bombardiers’ program has long been a sleeping giant, and they’ve finally awoken this fall with a slew of skilled athletes, including quarterback Tim Walsh, tight end Luke Morrison, receiver Brenden Massey and promising young two-way lineman Kyle Murphy. The key may be junior Damon Belin, a speedy pass-catching running back who is elusive in space.

Division 2 North: Haverhill
Hard to think just two years after an 0-11 campaign, the Hillies are the No. 1 seed in a playoff tournament. Sophomore running back Ian Kessel, one of the area’s leaders in yards from scrimmage, has been at the forefront of the renaissance, and I expect him to have a breakout campaign this next month.

Division 2 South: Natick
If there is one player capable of carrying his team on his back, it is quarterback Troy Flutie, who has put up video game numbers yet again (2,500-plus yards, 35 TD) with an assortment of supporting cast members.

Division 2 Central: Leominster
This is the most talented team of Dave Palazzi’s tenure, and it may be his best coaching job yet. They are not the most physically intimidating team, but they are one of the most disciplined, and they squeeze every inch out of their talents, led by dual threat QB Neil O’Connor. The Blue Devils brought the biggest crowd ever to Gillette Stadium two years ago. I can only imagine what kind of caravan from this football-mad city would show up this year.

Division 3 Northeast: Tewksbury
There may be some bumps in the road in this field, but at the end of the day there isn’t a team as deep as the Redmen in this field. They were the most dominant team in the MVC this season, and with a stable of running backs led by James Sullivan and Eddie Matovu, along with a scheme that draws formations from seemingly every family of offense throughout history, I just don’t see how anyone knocks these guys off.

Division 3 Northwest: Arlington
Two Dubzinskis are better than one, and the father-son duo of head coach John Jr. and his father John Sr. as defensive coordinator has taken the Middlesex by storm this fall after showing promise a year ago. I don’t know what direction this bracket is headed in, but the Spy Ponders are a safe pick.

Division 3 Southeast: Plymouth South
As long as Dylan Oxsen is carrying the rock, I don’t see anyone but the Panthers taking this bracket. It’s a different story after that, though.

Division 3 Southwest: Walpole
The Rebels’ ground game has come along well, after hitting a few bumps. As long as the defense can hold up, their multi-dimensional stable of backs can do the rest.

Division 4 North: Bedford
Another field that can go in an assortment of directions, the ground game dictated by Olan Abner could be the difference.

Division 4 South: Dennis-Yarmouth
The Dolphins typically hit their stride in the second half of the season, and the way this offense is clicking, it’s going to take a flawless defensive performance to shut down Spencer Tyler, Michael Dunn and company.

Division 4 Central: Doherty
Twitter follower and familiar 98.5 The Sports Hub caller “Aidan From Worcester” guarantees Shepherd Hill beats Doherty in this bracket. The Rams are a dangerous bunch, but the Highlanders have arguably the best grouping of pure athletes statewide across Division 4, so I'm sticking to my gut.

Division 5 North: Bishop Fenwick
Rufus Rushins gets much of the glory in this dominant run for the Crusaders, and deservedly so, but quarterback Nick Bona is the catalyst of this offense, and will be the difference in a close game somewhere down the line.

Division 5 South: Abington
The Green Wave lost some key bodies to start the year, but have been rolling ever since, capped with a convincing 36-7 rout of East Bridgewater. The versatile backfield of Al Freeman, Jason Halpin, quarterback Bryan Dwyer and promising sophomore Shawn Donovan will wear front sevens down.

Division 5 Central: Leicester
Tom Rodrick has been the driving force on both sides of the ball, but quarterback Drew Mazzeo puts the Wolverines over the top.

Division 6 North: Latin Academy
There are trendier picks in this field, such as Boston Cathedral, but the Dragons have one of the better overall athletes in this field in quarterback/safety Kyle Dance. He will be the difference.

Division 6 South: Upper Cape
Mike Hernon has done a fantastic job with this program, and while the Rams are a low seed headed into this wide-open field, Jon Dumont is a dangerous asset to this triple-option scheme who can take them deep.

Division 6 Central: Blackstone Valley Tech
Nic Wojnar is as elusive with his feet as he is throwing the ball in the Beavers’ read option scheme. Expect big numbers from the senior this postseason.

***

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


DIVISION 1 NORTH: Lowell
I’ve gone on record since the summertime months saying the Red Raiders are making an appearance at Gillette Stadium this year. Lowell has a tough road there, staring with a first-round road game at St. John’s Prep in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 swing matchup, but I’ve like the strides this defense has made behind Alex Quintero and Shyheim Cullen.

DIVISION 2 NORTH: Haverhill
One of the tougher races to project in Eastern Mass., the Hillies enter as the No. 1 seed. Preseason favorite Reading, a buzz worthy Waltham team and old stalwarts Lincoln-Sudbury could all claim the prize, but I’m going with the upstart Hillies, vindication for the terrific job Tim O’Connor has done since taking over the program.

DIVISION 3 NORTHEAST: Tewksbury
Marblehead might have the best athlete in the field with two-sport standout Brooks Tyrrell, but Tewksbury proves too much to handle, with a three-headed rushing attack and a stout defense.

DIVISION 3 NORTHWEST: Melrose
The Red Raiders lone loss of the regular season came against Middlesex Freedom division rival Wakefield, coming on a late field goal, but I like Melrose the second time around. The teams couldn’t meet until the sectional final and who wouldn’t love ensuring a third meeting of the season by Thanksgiving rivals.

DIVISION 4 NORTH: Watertown
Perhaps a surprise pick coming out of the division, the Red Raiders have some athletes on the boundaries with T.J. Hairston. I think Bedford might be the team to watch here, but just playing a hunch.

DIVISION 5 NORTH: Bishop Fenwick
Pick the Crusaders to go all the way, on a tear through Gillette. They haven’t just beaten teams, they’ve annihilated the CCL’s best, including St. Mary’s (first-round opponent) and Austin Prep, which they both will/can see down the road.

DIVISION 6 NORTH: Cathedral
Another North-based team I have running the field. As I mentioned earlier in the state championship Roundtable, I think the Panthers are just hitting their stride now. This could be the second championship of more to come.

DIVISION 1 SOUTH: Xaverian
Almost wanted to pull the trigger and go with Bridgewater-Raynham here, but I think the Hawks’ defense, which has carried them through the regular season, continues to be the story in the postseason, leading them to Gillette.

DIVISION 2 SOUTH: Mansfield
If this were the World Cup, this would be referred to as the “Group of Death.” Seriously, whichever team survives this gauntlet will be battle-tested. Ever since Week 1, it seems as though Mansfield’s been a team of destiny; they follow through.

DIVISION 3 SOUTHEAST: Plymouth South
An intriguing bracket, littered with some of the Atlantic Coast League’s finest, so look no further than the Panthers, the league’s playoff representative from last season. Nauset and Plymouth North are lurking, but also don’t look past an underrated rivalry game between Somerset-Berkley and Dighton-Rehoboth as a first-round appetizer.

DIVISION 3 SOUTHWEST: Oliver Ames
Another division strongly influenced by the presence of one particular league, in this case the Hockomock. OA and Stoughton drew the top two seeds, but let’s not sleep on No. 4 seed North Attleborough, which plays up in the Kelley-Rex division. Whichever team emerges from the Red Rocketeers’ first-round duel with Walpole could be a dark horse for the sectional title.

DIVISION 4 SOUTH: Westwood
Tons of Tri-Valley League talent to go around here, but I’m sticking with the regular-season champion. It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if Dennis-Yarmouth wears the sectional crown, but the Wolverines are a team that simply seems to get it done when the chips are on the table, led by dynamic senior quarterback Bo Berluti.

DIVISION 5 SOUTH: Cardinal Spellman
Old Rochester Regional enters the tournament with the No. 1 seeding, having posted some gaudy offensive numbers throughout the year behind running back Richie Phillips. I picked the Cardinals to win the state title from the start of the season, and while I like Fenwick a little more in terms of the state championship, I still envision Spellman returning to Gillette.

DIVISION 6 SOUTH: Millis/Hopedale
Perhaps no injury will have a greater impact on the outlook of the division than that of the Mohawks and lineman Jon Baker. Granted, I still like M/H’s chances emerging from a wide-open field, thanks to running back Chris Ahl. That being said, the Mohawks’ first-round date with Mashpee could determine the sectional champion.

DIVISION 2 CENTRAL: Leominster
I like the Blue Devils to advance to Gillette, but the sectional field is fraught with peril, too. Marlborough and St. John’s (Shrewsbury) can score with the best of them, but I don’t think anything short of an act of god slows down the Leominster caravan.

DIVISION 4 CENTRAL: Doherty
From season’s start, I’ve tabbed the Highlanders as my statewide Division 4 championship favorite. However, the toughest matchup in the path might very well in their first-round test against No. 6 seed Quabbin.

DIVISION 5 CENTRAL: Leicester
Coming into the season, it would have been easy to project Auburn running away with another championship of sorts, but I’m going with the No. 1-seeded Wolverines, led by linebacker Tom Rodrick – a strong Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

DIVISION 6 CENTRAL: West Boylston
This is a case of what have you done for me lately? While No. 1 seed Littleton rolled through its Mid-Wach schedule undefeated, scoring at a clip of nearly 43 points per game, West Boylston notched a thorough win over previously mentioned Leicester two weeks ago. Granted, the Lions’ lone loss of the season came at the hands of Littleton, but after a one-possession loss in Week 1, I’m banking on the second meeting having a different outcome.

Player of the Week: Mashpee's Robert Andrade

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
12:38
AM ET
MASHPEE, Mass. -- Simply stated, Mashpee's Robert Andrade had the game of a lifetime.

The Falcons junior running back and jack of all trades, set a program record with seven total touchdowns in a wild 56-38 win over Cape rival Monomoy. He racked up 491 all-purpose yards and his touchdowns came via four methods -- rushing, receiving, passing and kickoff return.

For that, Andrade is our ESPN Boston Player of the Week for Week 7.

Editor Brendan Hall caught up with Andrade for this interview before Monday's workout:



In addition to Andrade's record-setting night, here are our Top 5 performers for Week 7:
  • Robert Andrade, Jr. RB/KR Mashpee - 17 carries, 146 yards, 2 TD; 1 reception, 29 yards, TD; 1-for-1 passing, 79 yards, TD; 4 kickoff returns, 229 yards, 3 TD; 7 tackles, 1 INT vs. Monomoy.
  • Dan Bailey, Jr. LB, North Shore - Made 27 tackles, including one for a loss vs. Minuteman.
  • Frank Roche, Jr. QB, Arlington - Taking over for injured starter Seth Coiley midgame, Roache did everything for the Spy Ponders, scoring 4 total TD, including a 94-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter, while running for 172 yards vs. Woburn.
  • Nick Thyden, Sr. WR, Quabbin - 10 catches 250 yds 3 TD in 62-47 loss to St. Bernard's.
  • Chip Wood, Jr. RB, Somerset-Berkley - Ran for 268 yards and scored four total TD, including an 80-yard score on the opening kick vs. Martha's Vineyard.

Recap: Bishop Feehan 24, No. 16 S-B 7

November, 11, 2012
11/11/12
12:49
AM ET
[+] EnlargeIsaiah Douglas
Brendan Hall/ESPNBoston.comIsaiah Douglas' goal line interception early in the fourth quarter helped cement Bishop Feehan's second straight EAC crown.
SOMERSET, Mass. -- For as long as we can remember, the Eastern Athletic Conference title always runs through Bishop Feehan. And for the third straight year, the crown fell into the hands of today's matchup between those Shamrocks and the Blue Raiders of Somerset-Berkley.

And for the second straight year, the Shamrocks emerged victorious, though it wasn't nearly the 41-7 blowout they delivered a year ago. In this one, the Shamrocks rattled off 24 unanswered points, en route to a 24-7 victory on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Somerset.

With the win, Feehan clinches at least a share of the EAC crown. But even if they were to lose to Bishop Stang on Thanksgiving, the Shamrocks would still be the conference's Div. 3A playoff representative based on head-to-head with S-B.

The Shamrocks will face South Coast Conference champ Dighton-Rehoboth on Nov. 27 in a Divison 3A playoff.

"I watched my brother win a Super Bowl," said quarterback Nick Romero. "I watched Nick Schwieger, all the greats play and win Super Bowls. That's what we've been working all season for. We've got one more, then we've got D-R, just like in 2009."

Somerset got on board first, an eight-yard toss sweep from Mikey Garrant, to go up 7-0, and the Blue Raiders took a 7-6 lead into the half. But momentum swung to the Shamrocks' favor with two key sequences of events.

First, Feehan opened up its first series of the second half running midline option out of its tried and true Wing-T scheme, with two big gains out of up-back Matt Glebus (15 carries, 123 yards). He took his first carry of the drive 53 yards, bursting up the middle then cutting to his left twice, pushed out of bounds some 53 yards later. The gain was negated 20 yards thanks to a downfield block in the back, but one play later Glebus was at it again, this time just bulling straight up the middle for a 39-yard gain that put the ball at the S-B 1 yard line.

Two plays later, Romero followed his left guard over the goal line to punched it in from a yard out and give the Shamrocks their first lead of the game, 12-7 advantage.

[+] EnlargeBishop Feehan Matt Allen
Brendan Hall/ESPNBoston.comMatt Allen's two fourth-quarter touchdowns put the finishing touches on Feehan's comeback victory.
"Nicky stepped up today," said running back Matt Allen (11 carries, 76 yards, two total TD). "He really read it nice. All season, that's what we do, we practice the option. We knew it was there, their linebackers kind filled slow, so he took it. Glebus, by the way, he stepped up. He went off today."

S-B's ensuing drive moved deep into Feehan territory, aided by a 41-yard pass completion from Jack Aramantes to Garrant,but after two failed dives found itself facing fourth and goal from the Shamrocks' five. Out of a timeout, Aramantes took a few steps to his right, threw across his body to the near pylon, and watched as safety Isaiah Douglas crashed from over the top and took the pass 60 yards the other way.

"I just knew it was coming," Douglas said. "I could tell that he was coming to the back corner."

That led to a five-play 40-yard scoring drive capped with a 14-yard screen pass from Romero to Allen, for an 18-7 lead with 6:07 to go. Allen added another score late for good measure.

Setting the edge: The Shamrocks are no stranger to S-B's vaunted double wing attack by now, and head coach Curt Smith stressed the outside gaps in practice this week. With Chris Barthe, Mitch Martin and Zach Forget

"Win the C and D gap battle," Smith said. "If we can control the off-tackle and outside, when you take that away it's all play action passes. That's it. You can't sit back and read it and hope for it. You've got to smack them in the mouth in the C and D gap, and play the play action passes. That formula so far has worked for us. It's the only way I know, and it's worked so far."

Plenty to boot: In the box score, Allen will go down as 0-for-2 on point after kicks. But as is the case every now and then, stats can be misleading.

One of the most underrated angles in the Shamrocks' surge over the final three quarters was Allen's booming blasts on kickoffs. Allen recorded three touchbacks on the day, including two in the fourth quarter. The Raiders' offense isn't always built to score quick when playing from behind, so with 80 yards to go o their final two drives of the game, it was an added layer to what was an uphill battle.

BISHOP FEEHAN 24, SOMERSET-BERKLEY 7

BF (7-2, 3-0) 0 6 6 12 --- 24
SB (9-1, 3-1) 0 7 0 0 --- 7


Second Quarter
S - Mikey Garrant 8 run (T.J. Eisele kick) 5:42
B - Isaiah Douglas 17 run (kick failed) 3:03

Third Quarter
B - Nick Romero 1 run (rush failed) 3:51

Fourth Quarter
B - Matt Allen 14 pass from Romero (pass failed) 6:07
B - Allen 4 run (kick failed) 3:23

ESPN Boston Week 10 football picks

November, 9, 2012
11/09/12
1:42
AM ET
NO. 5 WALPOLE (9-0) AT NO. 21 NATICK (8-1)
The Skinny: The most anticipated regular-season matchup is finally upon us. A swelling crowd is expected to turn out for this one, as the Bay State Conference’s Herget division title is on the line. Natick is looking to bounce back after coming up on the wrong side of one of the year’s biggest upsets (a 40-34 loss to Wellesley), but Troy Flutie, Brian Dunlap and co. will have to do it against one of the state’s stingiest defenses. Walpole hasn’t allowed a point since Sept. 28, and hasn’t allowed a touchdown since Week 3.

Scott Barboza: I’m shudder to think that we might not have any questions to answer during our Sunday night chat this week now that we’re finally about to give our picks on this game. Walpole, 27-21.

Brendan Hall: I’m sure the primary topic of discussion in this Sunday night’s Top 25 chat will be “What’s your prediction for Natick-Walpole in 2013?” Walpole, 20-17.

NO. 17 NAUSET (9-0) AT PLYMOUTH SOUTH (6-3)
The Skinny: Raise your hand if you thought this would be the de facto Atlantic Coast League championship back in August. South’s Dylan Oxsen leads the state in rushing touchdowns (28), doing so behind a uniquely modified pistol attack that gets the hard-charging junior downhill in a hurry. Written off a month ago, the Panthers are suddenly in prime position for their first postseason berth here, but they’ll have to find a way to neutralize all the chicanery that comes with Nauset’s single wing attack, led by running back Jimmy Sullivan.

Barboza: It’s time we start considering Oxsen as a serious candidate for our Offensive Player of the Year Award. Plymouth South, 13-7.

Hall: If you know me, you know I’m a fiend for the ground-and-pound. For that reason, can’t go wrong with either team, but I’m sticking with my preseason pick. Nauset, 28-21.

NO. 23 ABINGTON (9-0) AT EAST BRIDGEWATER (6-3)
The Skinny: Abington can clinch the South Shore League title with a win over the Vikings, and are the favorites here behind a dynamic offense led by Babila Fonkem, Pat Dwyer and Brandon Cawley. Defensively, the Green Wave are allowing just under seven points a game the last three weeks, but they figure to have their hands full trying to slow down quarterback Andrew Benson in the option game.

Barboza: I’m going to mention Brandon Cawley’s name again just because the other night on Twitter he’s said I only mention the running backs. JK guys, JK. Abington, 32-24.

Hall: If this is truly Abington coach Jim Kelliher’s last season, then you can’t find a more fitting farewell. Abington, 31-20.

SHARON (7-2) AT FOXBOROUGH (7-2)
The Skinny: Is the clock about to strike midnight on Sharon? The Eagles remain unbeaten in the Hockomock’s Davenport division, but still have two big league games on the slate. The first one is Friday night, where they will attempt to contain tailback Kiivone Howard, who leads the Hockomock in rushing yardage (1,405).

Barboza: Foxborough quarterback Mike Slaby could be the difference-maker. Foxborough, 23-17.

Hall: What would a Hockomock League berth be without a little bit of mathematics? Foxborough, 21-7.

MARBLEHEAD (8-1) AT BEVERLY (9-0)
The Skinny: The Magicians claimed the CAL/NEC Tier 2 title last season with a senior-laden team. However, Marblehead’s in the mix again, even after a surprise loss to Salem a few weeks back. Meanwhile, the Panthers can clinch the league crown with a win on Saturday. The vaunted Panthers offense (averaging 38 points per game) and its rushing attack is closing in on 3,000 combined rushing yards on the season, led by a backfield of Brendan Flaherty and Kenny Pierce. The Magicians have relied on 1,000-yard passer Ian Maag (13 touchdowns) for a bulk of their offense.

Barboza: It’s been a nice bounce back run for Marblehead in an attempt at a repeat title, but, after all, this is the #yearofthepanther. Beverly, 28-14.

Hall: We love Jim Rudloff’s mind games as much as the next guy, but the Magicians are simply overmatched here against one of the state’s best rushing attacks. Beverly, 35-21.

BISHOP FEEHAN (6-2) AT SOMERSET-BERKLEY (9-0)
The Skinny: As in each of the last three seasons, the Eastern Athletic Conference title will be determined in a matchup between the Shamrocks and Blue Raiders. Feehan came away with a decisive victory last year, but Somerset-Berkley is looking to lay claim to its second crown in the last three years. The Blue Raiders are led by a dynamic back field of Garrett Carlos and Mike Garrant, but they’ll encounter a physical Feehan front seven anchored by linemen Chris Barthe, Seamus Cuddy and Mitch Matrin.

Barboza: Nick Freitas escapes with EAC title No. 2. Somerset-Berkley, 27-20.

Hall: In terms of EAC supremacy, Feehan had the 2000’s. And now, Somerset has the 2010’s. Somerset-Berkley, 24-17.

FRANKLIN (7-2) AT MANSFIELD (6-3)
The Skinny: The Panthers get back into Hockomock Kelley-Rex play after a startling loss to Taunton two weeks ago. If Franklin is to hold out hope of hanging around in the division race, they’ll need a win at Mansfield on Saturday. The Hornets are in a similar situation having dropped a close decision to North Attleborough two weeks ago. Look for the Hornets, led by Robbie Rapoza, to pound the ball on the ground and play some ball control in trying to keep the Panthers’ spread attack on the sideline. Franklin junior quarterback Nick Zucco has been a revelation this year, but the Panthers can also run the ball behind Kyle Finamore. The Mansfield defense has been bolstered by junior linebacker Alex Ruddy, who currently leads the team in tackles.

Barboza: As predicted a couple weeks back, the Kelley-Rex picture is only obfuscated more. Expect another wild finish. And, of course, another prediction my friends in Mansfield will relish. Franklin, 38-36.

Hall: If the Hornets can establish the run game early, they can do just enough to hold off a furious Franklin rally. Mansfield, 27-24.

KING PHILIP (8-1) AT NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH (6-3)
The Skinny: Another pair of Kelley-Rex teams with one division loss meet in this rivalry game. The Red Rocketeers have cobbled together a three-game winning streak, following a three-game losing streak in the middle of the season. The better news yet for North in recent weeks its improving health, seeing several key contributors return to the field in recent weeks. Meanwhile, King Philip has rolled through Attleboro and Oliver Ames by a combined 75-21 margin since its loss to Mansfield.

Barboza: I find myself simply rooting for another chaotic finish to the Kelley-Rex division race, but I’m sticking with my preseason pick. KP, 24-21.

Hall: This is a new team with Sean Peters and Alex Jette both healthy. I’m looking at a return to early September form down the stretch for the Big Red. North, 30-23.

Roundtable: X-factors for key league matchups

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
12:33
AM ET
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.

ESPN Boston Week 9 football picks

November, 2, 2012
11/02/12
2:58
AM ET
ACTON-BOXBOROUGH (6-2) AT LINCOLN-SUDBURY (7-1)
The Skinny: Although the Colonials enter this rivalry game after a letdown against Waltham last week, these teams always have a say in the determination of the Dual County League crown. The Warriors have worked toward reclaiming the division title with help from a talented cast of seniors who have two-way success with the football and the lacrosse teams, including Chris Giorgio, Henry Guild and John Sexton. A-B’s wing-T attack is led by a pair of promising juniors in William Tejada (14 TDs) and Tom Saponaro.

Scott Barboza: Bill Maver has the building blocks for a strong group next year, but this senior group from L-S has been primed to make their run during the last two years. The seal the deal for the division, but it’s a rivalry game, so throw the records out. L-S, 20-14.

Brendan Hall: The Warriors take the inside track to their third consecutive postseason berth, but because it’s A-B they do it in knock-down, drag-out fashion. L-S, 17-10.

DIGHTON-REHOBOTH (6-1) AT WAREHAM (7-1)
The Skinny: Both teams sport a perfect South Coast Conference record entering Friday’s tête-à-tête and their only loss came against a common non-league opponent in Somerset-Berkley. Since their opening day loss, the Falcons have run off six straight wins, including a 5-0 record in the SCC. D-R’s ground attack is keyed by 6-foot-7 tackle Chuddy Nwachukwu, but the Falcons have also seen dividends in the passing game behind sophomore quarterback Nathan Kowalski. The Vikings, also undefeated in the SCC, have big-play ability with the electrifying Darien Fernandez in the backfield. Yet, Wareham has also brought the lumber on defense, surrendering just 26 points through five league games.

Barboza: In big SCC games, it’s hard to pick against a Dave Driscoll-led team. D-R, 16-14.

Hall: As usual, our loyal correspondent Corey comes up with some innovative names, this one “The Fernandez Express”. As long as Darien’s legs keep churning, the Vikings will stay ahead. Wareham, 17-13.

STONEHAM (7-1) AT BURLINGTON (7-1)
The Skinny: The Red Devils can sew up the Middlesex League Freedom division title with a win over the upstart Spartans. Stoneham saw its undefeated record blemish last week in a 42-28 loss to Wakefield, but the Spartans are capable of throwing a monkey wrench into the race behind Aaron Louis and Darius McPherson. Meanwhile, Burlington’s backfield tandem of Anthony Cruz and Marcus O’Diah has few equals in Eastern Mass.

Barboza: Cinderella’s ball comes to a halt. Burlington, 33-24.

Hall: Stoneham appears to have a quality foundation for the long haul, but in the short term this Burlington rushing attack will be too much for the Spartans to handle. Burlington, 28-14.

GOVERNOR’S ACADEMY (6-0) AT MILTON ACADEMY (4-2)
The Skinny: The defending ISL champs put their undefeated record on the line in a road game. Gov’s 40-6 win over Brooks last week kept its point-per-game average above 41 points a game as Tate Jozokos and Eli Morrissey continue their assault on opposing defenses. Mustangs junior running back Drew Jacobs continued his breakout season with four touchdowns last week in a throttling of Belmont Hill.

Barboza: Opposing teams better hope they have Jacoby Jones or Ellis Hobbs returning kicks for them because it’s a 108 yards or bust with Justin Yoon kicking off. Still, Gov’s offense takes over. Governor’s, 31-24.

Hall: The Governators haven’t lost a game since Jim O’Leary took over in 2011. How crazy is that? Governor’s, 30-20.

WAYLAND (5-3) AT CONCORD-CARLISLE (4-4) (
The Skinny: Wayland looks for the inside track in the Dual County League’s Small division, entering the game with one of the league’s stingiest defenses (10.6 points allowed), and two versatile targets in senior wideout Mark Bonner and junior tailback Robert Williams. C-C, the defending league and Super Bowl champs, lost Tim Badgley in the preseason, but running backs Evan Boynton and Shayne McCloskey have picked up the slack.

Barboza: Yeah, I went with the Patriots winning a long time ago, in fact before we learned Badgley would be out for the year. It’s political season, so consider me a swing voter here. Wayland, 14-7.

Hall: I have the feeling this game is going to be possession-based. In that case, give me the better defense. Wayland, 10-6.

LOWELL (6-2) AT ANDOVER (8-0)
(The Skinny: Lowell has been on an offensive tear the last four games, going 3-1 and averaging 43 points per game over that span. Cam Latta has spearheaded the surge, but can he outduel Andover’s C.J. Scarpa? The 5-foot-8 senior hasn’t thrown an interception since Oct. 6, meanwhile the Golden Warriors are averaging over 370 yards of offense a game.

Barboza: Calculators ready? Andover, 46-38.

Hall: Remember the 88-80, eight-overtime game between these two in 2010? Let’s do the honorable thing here and move the venue to the Tsongas Center. Andover, 45-40.

NORTHBRIDGE (7-1) AT AUBURN (8-0) (
The Skinny: Auburn, one of the state’s stingiest defenses (5.1 points per game), holds first place in the SWCL A division, and can put a vice grip on it with a win over the Rams. Offensively, the Rockets have rode one of the state’s biggest lines to bull their way to over 2,000 yards rushing and over 2,700 yards of total offense, led by quarterback Drew Goodrich and Tyler Desjardins. But Northbridge quarterback Matt Phelan (1,344 passing yards, 11 TD; 673 rushing yards, 19 TD) will be one of the more slippery athletes the Rockets will have seen all season long. Can they contain him?

Barboza: Again, more than the score, I’m wondering what the line would be set at on these occurrences: how many times the Rockets venture to pass versus the Rams keeping it on the ground. Think it’s a push, but … Auburn, 31-27.

Hall: Classic clash of philosophies here: Jeff Cormier’s power running scheme versus Northbridge guru Ken LaChapelle and his pioneering run-and-shoot. Give me the team with the better line, in a physical battle. Auburn, 20-13.

BC HIGH (3-4) AT XAVERIAN (2-6) (
The Skinny: What would you have said if we told you back in August these two teams would be meeting in November with a combined 10 losses? But that’s what we have here, as the two Catholic Conference foes will fight to stay alive in a conference that St. John’s Prep is favored to take a hold of. If linebacker Luke Catarius is a go for BC High, that should provide an interesting matchup for Xaverian and its talented skill corps of Austin DeCarr, D.J. Pagliuca and Hunter Taute. The key matchup will be in the interior, where two close friends and Division 1 commits will square off – Xaverian defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (Michigan) versus BC High guard Jack McDonald (Virginia).

Barboza: Going with my preseason Catholic Conference pick in this one for whatever that’s worth – though it’s still probably worth more than Facebook stock. BC High, 21-17.

Hall: Give both teams credit here, they’re still fighting hard. But at this point, the Eagles have a little bit more momentum. BC High, 21-10.

BARNSTABLE (7-0) AT BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM (5-3)
The Skinny: Once again, these teams engage in a winner-takes-all battle for the Old Colony League crown in this week’s Game of the Week. Some elements to watch entering this one will be to see how the Red Raiders secondary is able to shake off a lackluster performance last week against Billerica. Similarly, B-R had its troubles with La Salle Academy and its spread attack a couple weeks back, so we’ll see how the Trojans’ secondary is able to deal with Barnstable quick and nimble wideouts. Let’s not overlook the running backs in this one, however. Hayden Murphy figured prominently into last year’s win by Barnstable in this game and Trojans sophomore sensation Brandon Gallagher (12 TDs) will be one to watch for years to come.

Barboza: Because it’s what Dan Buron wants us to do anyway, and for the fact I think the Red Raiders repeat. Barnstable, 30-24.

Hall: Any time you have an NFL veteran coaching the secondary, you have to think things will shore up after a bad week. Barnstable, 35-28.

ESPN Boston Week 5 football picks

October, 5, 2012
10/05/12
4:24
AM ET
FRIDAY
ATTLEBORO (4-0) AT MANSFIELD (2-2)
The Skinny: The Blue Bombardiers have opened up the season undefeated and opened Hockomock League play with a win over Canton last week. Meanwhile, Mansfield is coming off a loss to Stoughton (the second in as many years). Attleboro’s 6-foot, 185-pound running back Malique Clark has tallied eight touchdowns in the early going while Robbie Rapoza is looking for a repeat performance of his four-touchdown game against Dracut two weeks ago.

Scott Barboza: Upset, blue light special. Blue Bombardiers pull out a stunner. Attleboro, 14-8.

Brendan Hall: Hornets will find a way to rebound on Friday night in front of their home crowd. How often does Mansfield lose two straight in league play? Mansfield, 20-10.

SHEPHERD HILL (4-0) AT NO. 19 AUBURN (4-0)
The Skinny: Auburn saw its state-best win streak snapped at 41 games last fall to these very Rams, before rolling to its fourth consecutive Super Bowl title. This year, we're not sure who has the advantage. Both teams excel at moving the ball on the ground, with Shepherd Hill's Brad Picard (6.7 yards per carry) moving behind a swarming double wing, and Tyler Desjardins (10.8) getting help from a Rockets line that is among the state's biggest.

Barboza: For the Rockets to be knocked off for a second straight year, that would be the greatest upset of all. Auburn, 20-13.

Hall: Set the over-under on total rushing yards in this game at 400. Auburn, 28-21.

BURLINGTON (4-0) AT NO. 6 READING (4-0)
The Skinny: A must-see matchup between the Middlesex League's two most talented teams, which includes some of the state's top players at their respective positions. Speedster Marcus Odiah leads a powerful rushing attack from Burlington, but the Red Devils will have their hands full trying to neutralize the Rockets on either side of the ball. Offensively, the Rockets are led by one of the state's finest quarterbacks in Drew Belcher, while defensively the Rockets have allowed just two points through four games this season.

Barboza: The scoreless quarter streak will end, the Rockets keep the win streak going. Reading, 28-14.

Hall: If you score on the Rockets, keep the ball. Reading, 17-3.

FOXBOROUGH (3-1) AT NO. 24 STOUGHTON (4-0)
The Skinny: A game that could go a long way to deciding the Hockomock League Davenport division crown will be played under a different light Friday, after the Black Knights attend the funeral of fallen tammate David Wade that day. Stoughton will have plenty at stake emotionally, playing for Wade’s memory and coming off another “upset” of Mansfield. Foxborough knocked the Hock on its heels as well last week, upsetting North Attleborough and shutting out the Red Rocketeers.

Barboza: Just too may athletes at too many positions for the Black Knights. Do it for David. Stoughton, 21-17.

Hall: Tough times make tough people. Stoughton, 13-10.

SATURDAY
XAVERIAN (1-3) AT NO. 4 DUXBURY (4-0)
The Skinny: The Hawks assuredly will enter our Mass. Army National Guard Game of the Week with a chip on their shoulder and desperate to turn around a losing record. The Dragons look to make it two in a row over Xaverian, after sealing a victory at the Hawk Bowl last year. Duxbury’s defense paid dividends in that game, and while some of the talent has graduated, they have three-year starting inside linebacker Marshall McCarthy to quarterback the defense. The matchup to watch here will be the interior line play with C.J. LoConte (Army lacrosse commit) going head-to-head with Michigan football commit Mo Hurst.

Barboza: Look for Dave Maimaron to work in some wrinkles this week to keep the Hawks’ defensive line in check. Duxbury, 31-21.

Hall: Hawks will find their groove in this game, but the Dragons will escape for their state-best 31st straight win. Duxbury, 24-17.

CHELMSFORD (4-0) AT HAVERHILL (3-1)
The Skinny: A battle between two Merrimack Valley Conference teams off to quality starts in 2012, two of the league's most productive running backs square off in this early-season battle. Chelmsford's Jeff D'Auria (10 TDs) has been a workhorse out of the backfield, while the Hillies' Chance Brady (724 rushing yards, 12 TD) might be the most complete back in the league.

Barboza: The Lions skated on thin ice last week and I think it catches up with them facing the Hillies’ pistol offense with Tommy Morgan at quarterback. Haverhill, 30-28.

Hall: Considering how much talent moved on from a year ago, have to appreciate what Chelmsford is doing right now. Chelmsford, 21-6.

NO. 3 ST. JOHN'S PREP (3-1) AT NO. 12 BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM (3-1)
The Skinny: This game screams ball control. Both teams come with highly-touted backfields. The Eagles’ duo of Jonathan Thomas and Alex Moore is the most dynamic in the state. But with Arcel Armstead back and Brandon Gallagher running strong early in the season, the Trojans can match metal with metal. Expect a lot of work out of the I-formation and two-tight end sets as these teams counter strength against strength. The number of completed passes in this one could figure to be counted on one hand, but you can’t argue with what head coaches Jim O’Leary and Dan Buron have done with their respective systems in their careers.

Barboza: I think this one’s going to be very close, but I can’t settle on a score. So I’m going to set a line for the project number of TOTAL possessions in this game. But I’m picking Prep to win. Possessions: 8.5 (that’s being generous perhaps).

Hall: In my book, the waggle trumps the counter. B-R, 7-6.

DARTMOUTH (1-3) AT NO. 25 SOMERSET-BERKLEY (4-0)
The Skinny: An underrated non-league matchup between old EAC rivals on the South Coast, both teams figured to have their hands full in this one. For Dartmouth, they must figured out how to slow down the Blue Raiders' vaunted double wing attack, led by senior Garrett Carlos, who has over 350 yards rushing the last two weeks on just 19 carries. For Somerset, the key is slowing Mitch Loranger and Nick Simonetti, two of the more talented players in the Old Colony League.

Barboza: Can the Raiders ride Carlos and Mikey Garrant to a Super Bowl appearance this year as they did with Seth DeMello and Jaron Spear two years ago? Just might. Somerset-Berkley, 34-28.

Hall: Indians were a trendy sleeper pick for 2012, but I think they'll have some trouble against this double wing attack of the Blue Raiders. Somerset-Berkley, 24-14.

ESPN Boston Mr. Football Watch: Week 5

October, 1, 2012
10/01/12
2:20
PM ET
THE CONTENDERS
Drew Belcher, Jr. QB, Reading
Threw for two touchdowns, and ran in a third, in a 26-0 shutout of Melrose.

Brian Dunlap, Soph. WR, Natick
Caught eight passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns in the Red Hawks' 29-0 shutout of Newton North.

Troy Flutie, Jr. QB, Natick
Completed 16 of 24 passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns in the Red Hawks' 29-0 shutout of Newton North, and added 34 rushing yards on seven carries.

Jon Hurvitz, Sr. RB, Duxbury
Ran for a touchdown in the Dragons' 28-0 shutout of Middleborough.

Dylan Morris, Sr. WR, Barnstable
In a performance that will go down deep into Hyannis folklore, Morris caught two second-half touchdown passes -- the second clinching it in the second overtime -- in the Red Raiders' historic 13-7 upset of Everett.

Nick Peabody, Sr. QB, Barnstable
After going 0 for 10 with an interception in the first half against Everett, recovered to throw two touchdown passes and 96 yards, to deliver the upset.

Andrew Smiley, Jr. QB, St. John's (Shrewsbury)
In the Pioneers' 46-14 thumping of Wachusett, completed 13 of 24 passes for two touchdowns and added 93 rushing yards on seven carries. It's the first time in four starts he didn't eclipse at least 330 yards from scrimmage.

Jonathan Thomas, Jr. RB, St. John's Prep
Carried 23 times for 224 yards and three touchdowns in the Eagles' 27-12 win over Brockton.

Cody Williams, Jr. QB, Springfield Central
Completed 8 of 12 passes for 172 yards and three scores in the Golden Eagles' 41-21 win over Chicopee.

Quron Wright, Sr. RB, Holy Name
In a 33-8 loss to Nashoba, the scatback ran for 251 yards and a score on 32 carries, bringing him within 420 yards of the school's all-time rushing mark.

ON THE RISE
Shadrach Abrokwah, Sr. RB, St. John's (Shrewsbury)
Ran for 146 yards and five touchdowns on 15 carries in the Pioneers' 46-14 win over Wachusett.

Garrett Carlos, Sr. RB, Somerset-Berkley
Kept up his torrid pace with 180 yards and two scores on 15 carries, in the Blue Raiders' 35-14 win over Wareham.

Jeff D'Auria, Sr. RB, Chelmsford
Ran for 290 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-27 win over Dracut.

David Harrison, Sr. ATH, Weymouth
In his first start at quarterback, moving over from his usual wideout position, he was 15 of 25 passing for 259 yards and four scores, including the game-winner with 23 seconds left, to beat Needham 32-27.

Kiivone Howard, Jr. RB, Foxborough
Carried 29 times for 130 yards and three touchdowns in the Warriors' 21-0 upset of North Attleborough.

Alex Medeiros, Jr. QB, Bishop Connolly
The running back, who's been filling in at quarterback for the Cougars, ran for 175 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries in a 36-0 win over Marian.

Jon Ojukwu, Sr. RB, Nashoba
Exploded for a ridiculous 270 yards and five touchdowns on just 11 carries as the Chieftains rolled over Holy Name, 33-8.

Mikey Panepinto, Jr. RB, Needham
Ran for 224 yards and three scores in the Rockets' 32-27 loss to Weymouth.

Matt Phelan, Sr. QB, Northbridge
Completed 6 of 9 passes for 93 yards and a score, and added 154 rushing yards and three scores on just five carries, as the Rams rolled Southbridge 42-12 to earn coach Ken LaChapelle his 300th career victory.

C.J. Scarpa, Sr. QB, Andover
Completed 12 of 25 passes for 203 yards and two scores, in the Golden Warriors' 15-13 upset of Xaverian.

Jimmy Sullivan, Jr. QB, Nauset
In the Warriors' 20-14 win over Cardinal Spellman, carried 16 times for 147 yards and a score.

Brandon Watkins, Sr. RB, Martha's Vineyard
Did it all for the Vineyarders in a 41-8 rout of Randolph: 7 carries for 171 yards and 3 TD; 1 reception for 41 yards; and an interception.

Recap: Somerset-Berkley 35, Wareham 14

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
7:58
PM ET
SOMERSET, Mass. – With two run-oriented attacks in Somerset-Berkley and Wareham squaring off on Saturday, you would’ve thought going in you count the number of combined passing attempts easily on one hand.

Neither the Blue Raiders nor the Vikings deviated from their game plans, but after being mired in a close game, it was in fact a passing play that helped S-B along to a 35-14 win over Wareham.

On the final scrimmage play of the first half, Raiders quarterback Jack Amarantes hit running back Mike Garrant on a wheel route out of the backfield for a 35-yard touchdown play.

“I don’t know what the pass play was itself, but I knew they were playing with just the one high safety so we tried to take advantage of that,” S-B head coach Nick Freitas said.

Even though S-B (4-0) went to the locker room down 7-6, the tone carried over into the second half.

The Raiders started the third with the ball and promptly dialed up another big scoring play with Garrett Carlos running 63 yards to paydirt. On the ensuing Wareham (3-1) possession, Garrant grabbed a fumble recovery -- his second takeaway of the game after a first-quarter interception – and had the Raiders rolling again. Six plays later, Amarantes plunged into the end zone over right guard for an instant two-score lead.

S-B didn’t relent. It’s a tone that Freitas hoped to establish during practice last week leading up to the date with the explosive Vikings and Darien Fernandez (16 carries, 91 yards) calling.

“We probably had our best Thursday practice that we’ve had all season,” Freitas said. “The kids were flying around and having fun.”

DYNAMIC DUO
In the early going, the Raiders have gone where their backfield tandem of Carlos and Garrant led them.

Carlos, who entered the game averaging over 10 yards per carry, kept up his torrid pace with 15 carries for 180 yards and two touchdowns. In addition to his momentum-shifting touchdown reception, Garrant also added 91 rushing yards on 12 carries.

Carlos and Garrant seem to pick up where the other leaves off in all ways, even during their postgame interviews. They alternated finishing each other’s thoughts, adding in a plug for the offensive line here and a shoutout to the coach staff there.



There are parallels to 2010, when S-B last claimed the Eastern Athletic Conference crown. That year, the Raiders ran behind Seth Demello and Jaron Spear to a Super Bowl appearance at Gillette Stadium.

While Carlos and Garrant both bring different elements to the Raiders offense than did their predecessors, the result might just be the same this year.

“I’m just worried about Dartmouth next week,” Freitas said, dousing any hype between another potential meeting between his team and Wareham at a later date.

He paused and then added, “They’re good. I think they’re a contender for the SCC.”

His players were aware of the circumstances, however.

“This is a team [Wareham] that a lot of people are saying is going to come out of the [South Coast Conference] as a winner, we’re trying to get out of the EAC, and that’s who we could possibly face,” Carlos said. “This game is huge and hopefully we’ll get to see them again this year.”

Roundtable: Big surprises in first month of football

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
4:31
PM ET
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.

Mr. Football Watch: Week 4

September, 24, 2012
9/24/12
12:18
PM ET
THE CONTENDERS
Drew Belcher, Jr. QB, Reading
Tossed four touchdown passes in the Rockets' 32-0 shutout of Arlington.

Brian Dunlap, Soph. WR, Natick
Caught six passes for 147 yards and two scores in the Red Hawks' 33-7 win over Milton.

Jalen Felix, Sr. ATH, Everett
Taking primarily handoffs in the Crimson Tide's 19-7 win over St. John's Prep, carried 12 times for 96 yards and a touchdown.

Troy Flutie, Jr. QB, Natick
Completed 14 of 21 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns, and added 35 yards on the ground, to eclipse 300 yards from scrimmage in the Red Hawks' 33-7 win over Milton.

Jon Hurvitz, Sr. RB, Duxbury
Racked up 185 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns in the Dragons' 42-14 win over New Bedford, with 140 yards and four scores coming on the ground.

Marcus Odiah, Sr. RB, Burlington
Ran for 243 yards and four touchdowns in the Red Devils' 48-28 shootout win over Belmont.

Nick Peabody, Sr. QB, Barnstable
Completed 27 of 39 passes for 402 yards and five touchdowns in a 35-14 win over Sandwich. Peabody currently leads the state with 13 touchdown passes through the first three weeks of the season.

Andrew Smiley, Jr. QB, St. John's (Shrewsbury)
Went over 330 yards from scrimmage for the third straight week, this time completing 14 of 26 passes for 207 yards, and adding 126 yards with two scores on the ground, in a 21-6 win over Catholic Memorial.

Jonathan Thomas, Jr. RB, St. John's Prep
Carried 19 times for 101 yards in the Eagles' 19-7 loss to No. 1 Everett.

Quron Wright, Sr. RB, Holy Name
In the Naps' 43-6 win over Arlington Catholic, Wright carried the ball just six times for 216 yards and touchdown runs of 56, 64 and 81 yards. In the last two weeks, he has just 11 carries but for 365 yards and six touchdowns. For the season, that's currently an absurd 16.9 yards per carry.

ON THE RISE
Garrett Carlos, Sr. RB, Somerset-Berkley
Carried four times for 187 yards and four touchdowns in the Blue Raiders' 49-6 win over Tri-County.

Justin Mount, Sr. ATH, Westford
In the Grey Ghosts' 27-12 win over Malden Catholic, ran 105 yards, caught another 90, and added an interception. In three games, he has 496 yards rushing and three picks.

Aaron Owens, Sr. RB, Springfield Central
Carried 17 times for 127 yards and three touchdowns in the Golden Eagles' 32-12 win over Chicopee Comp.

Jon Ojuwkwu, Sr. RB, Nashoba
Ran for three first-half scores, including the opening play from scrimmage, in the Chieftains' 42-3 win over Algonquin.

Mike Panepinto, Sr. RB, Needham
Ran for 103 yards and four touchdowns in the Rockets' 42-7 rout of Braintree.

Mike Rando, Sr. RB, Walpole
Went off for big gains in the Rebels' 46-13 win over Brookline, totaling 120 rushing yards and a score on just three carries, and hauling in four passes for 80 yards.

Rob Rapoza, Sr. RB, Mansfield
In the Hornets' 31-16 win over Dracut, he had 20 carries for 248 yards and three scores, and added fourth touchdown on a reception.

C.J. Scarpa, Sr. QB, Andover
Completed 18 of 31 passes for 255 yards and three scores, and added a fourth touchdown on the ground, in the Golden Warriors' 34-0 win over Methuen.

Jimmy Sullivan, Sr. QB, Nauset
Ran for 190 yards and three touchdowns in the Warriors' 34-14 win over Mashpee.

Cody Williams, Jr. QB, Springfield Central
Another solid outing for the junior, completing 11 of 15 passes for 220 yards and two scores in the Golden Eagles' 32-12 win over Chicopee Comp.


PLAINVILLE, Mass. – A storm is a-brewin’, better run for cover.

Thunder crackled in the distance and rain poured down in bowls as King Philip softball ace Meghan Rico put the finishing touches on a two-hit shutout against Somerset-Berkley in their Division 1 South quarterfinal on Thursday. Retiring the side on strikeouts in each of the first four innings, the reigning Division 1 state champions showed that they’re again a force to be reckoned with, behind the George Washington signee’s right arm.

“I told the team,” Rico said after the Warriors’ 2-0 win over the Blue Raiders at the Plainville PAL ‘We’re not going down. I will pitch until we get a run.’”

The Warriors (20-2) waited until their final at-bat to find the runs they needed in support of their pitcher.

Rico’s battery mate Olivia Godin’s two-run, two-out home run in the sixth plated the deciding runs.

Rico took care of everything else, striking out 18. She retired the first 11 Blue Raider hitters via the strikeout to start the game.

Scattering two hits by Paige and Ali Gouveia in the fourth and seventh innings, in addition to one walk surrendered, Rico turned in one of her top wire-to-wire performances of the season.

“I felt pretty good today,” Rico said plainly, “I had a good warm-up.”

THANK YOU NOTES
Rico and Godin operate as two hemispheres of the same brain when it comes to KP’s pitch calling. But Rico was particularly thankful for Godin’s plate heroics on Thursday.

The Warriors cobbled together seven hits against Somerset starter Megan Kay, but were unable to get any sort of a rally started. KP had a prime two-on, no-out situation in the third. However, the Warriors were held scoreless as Kay tagged out a runner trying to score at the plate after a wild pitch, followed by an unusual double play off of Rico’s pop out on a safety squeeze bunt attempt.

“Thank god for her,” Rico said of Godin. “It’s a little scary, we haven’t been hitting too well.”

The Warriors next face No. 5 seed Silver Lake in the semifinals, Saturday (11 a.m.) at Taunton High School's Jack Tripp Field.

WALKING ON AIR
Godin, a UMass-Amherst signee, can spray the ball to all fields and is adept at going the other way, especially with the inviting confines at the PAL and its power allies.

With lead-off hitter Hailey Mullen (2-for-3, run scored) on second with two outs, Godin shot Kay’s first offering over the right-center field fence. She barely took time to notice what had happened.

“Off the bat, I knew I was going for at least a triple,” Godin said. “I was hauling.”

As for what kind of pitch she saw? Well, that was a little fuzzy as well.

“Every time I hit a home run, it feels like a blur. All I remember is the bases, and remembering to touch them.”

Updated MIAA softball Top 25 poll

April, 24, 2012
4/24/12
2:39
PM ET
While our top two squads remained steady this week, there was a whole lot of movement throughour our MIAA softball Top 25 poll this week.

Undefeated Central Catholic moved into the third spot, after New Bedford suffered its first loss of the season. It was a good week for the MVC overall as Dracut also hit a high point in the poll, hitting No. 6 after an impressive run at the Hudson school vacation week tournament, capped by a championship win over the No. 17 Hawks.

Somerset-Berkley, which knocked off the aforementioned Whalers, headlines the teams new to the poll this week. The Blue Raiders make their season debut at No. 15. Also breaking in this week were No. 24 Lynn Classical and No. 25 Bellingham.

The big mover of the week was Holy Name, which jumped up five spots to make its first appearanace in the top 10 this week.

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