Boston High School: Springfield Commerce

Commerce's Hassan Graham commits to AIC

June, 12, 2013
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Springfield Commerce football star Hassan Graham has committed to American International College for the fall of 2013, his father and head coach Tyrone Mathis said.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Graham has been an integral part of the Red Raiders' program the last few years alongside his close friend, UConn-bound linebacker and ESPN Boston All-Stater Sha'ki Holines. Together, they led the Raiders to an appearance in the 2011 MIAA Western Mass. Division 2 Super Bowl, where they lost to intra-city rival Putnam.

Graham drew varying degrees of interest from a handful of local Division 1 FBS and FCS schools, though no formal scholarship offers were made to this point. A number of schools within the Division 2 Northeast-10 conference -- in which AIC plays -- had shown interest, most notably Stonehill, Assumption and New Haven.

The news comes a particularly proud moment for Mathis, who was an All-Conference defensive end at AIC from 1998 to 2001 and was the first in his family to attend college. Graham was a ball boy for Yellow Jackets for several seasons growing up as well.

"It's really a privilege and honor for this to be happening, because it doesn't happen to everyone," Mathis said. "To be a coach's son, but also to play at your dad's alma mater...it's funny, because the coach that coached me in college is going to coach my son now."

Graham is also a champion wrestler in three different weight classes. As a sophomore in 2011, he was Western Mass. champion at 171 pounds. As a junior in 2012, he was Division 1 state champion at 182 pounds. This past winter, he won Western Mass. again, this time at 195 pounds.

At AIC, Graham figures to project at either linebacker or safety. Mathis is one of several people coaching Graham and area all-stars on the Western Mass. squad in Friday's annual Shriners Chowder Bowl Classic, and speaks passionately of Graham -- who reportedly has gotten his 40 time down into the 4.5 range -- at the safety spot.

"I'm coaching him in the Chowder Bowl, where they'll play him at a safety. First play [of the first practice] he came downhill and made this bone-crushing hit," Mathis said. "The second time, he forced a fumble, and I'm thinking man, this might be a spot for him. I really like him at safety. He has the body, height and size built for the position, and if there's an opportunity for him to play that at the next level I think that would be a good spot for him."

Mindell leaving lasting legacy at Commerce

May, 7, 2013
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The city of Springfield has seen great success in high school basketball over the past two seasons with Springfield Central and Putnam Vocational bringing consecutive Division 1 boys’ basketball titles back to Roosevelt Ave.

While the birthplace of basketball revels in the success of the Golden Eagles and Beavers, one of Springfield’s most revered coaches is being honored for the legacy he leaves behind at the High School of Commerce.

Gary Mindell, who finished his 19th season on the Red Raiders sideline, announced earlier this week that he would retire as both Commerce’s basketball coach and physical education teacher. Mindell ends his 27-year coaching career at Granby High School and Commerce with 332 wins, three Western Mass. titles and a state championship in 2004.

“I kind of knew that coming in to this year, that this would most likely be my last season,” Mindell said. “I just didn’t want to make an announcement too soon or too quick.”

Mindell wanted to coach in Springfield, but needed to wait his turn to gain a head coaching job in the city. He spent eight seasons at Granby, before the Commerce job became available in 1995. He took over a program far from being a powerhouse in the city of Springfield.

Commerce had seven losing seasons in eight years before Mindell showed up. In that span Central, which opened in 1986, had dominated the city with the most talented ball players including future NBA veteran Travis Best. In first eight seasons of the Central-Commerce rivalry, the Golden Eagles were 16-0.

“I took over the program with high ambitions and I brought a lot of passion into the program,” Mindell said.

Enter Commerce Pride.

“That was my motto at Granby and I brought that over to Commerce with me,” Mindell said. “When I took over the program I had to change the whole culture, and one of the things I wanted to do was talk about building pride. Pride in our team, pride in our program, pride in our school, pride in ourselves.”

Commerce defeated Central three out of four times in Mindell’s first two seasons on the Red Raiders bench. In that memorable second season, Commerce won the Western Mass championship and the basketball powers within the city began to switch hands.

“From that point on, all of a sudden, Central wasn’t the king of the city anymore,” Mindell said.

The 2000s were when Commerce built a dynasty. From 2001-2007, the Red Raiders made two appearances in the state championship, capturing two Western Mass. titles and five league titles in a row. The Red Raiders appeared in either the Western Mass. finals or semifinals in each of those seasons.

The highlight of that run of dominance was the 2004 state championship team.

“One of the first times I spoke to him he said, ‘At Commerce they play for championships,’” said Pat Ochoa, the co-captain of the 2004 state championship team. “The goal every year is to win championships and he backed it up.”

The 2004 state championship team defeated a Brookline team headlined by former UConn star and current Charlotte Bobcats forward Jeff Adrien. Commerce went on to narrowly defeat Brookline 53-51, holding Adrien to only four field goals.

“We were so close on and off the court,” Ochoa added. “It just clicked. With Mindell leading us as the coach, it was something special.”

That would be the city’s last boys’ basketball championship until Central and Putnam went back-to-back the past two years. In March, William Shepard led Putnam to the school’s first sectional and state title. Shepard first met Mindell three decades ago when Shepard was in middle school. Their relationship continued at Commerce when Shepard was a star player and Mindell was a volunteer assistant. Shepard would serve as Mindell’s assistant when he first took the Commerce job in 1995.

“I was very proud for him and his school,” Mindell said. “They defended like nobody else. He did a wonderful job of pushing those kids and directing those kids. He got them to buy in to what he was trying to get across.”

Mindell had one more shot to sit atop Western Mass. basketball in 2012. With less talent than some of his other championship teams, Commerce made it to the Western Mass. final and nearly knocked off eventual state champion Central behind the 32-point performance by senior guard Alex Lopez.

“Still to this day I wish I could have given him another championship,” Lopez said. “I’m sure it would have meant everything to coach.”

Lopez will be Mindell’s last star player. The four-year varsity starter was the fourth Commerce player under Mindell to win the John “Honey” Lahovich Award, given the top player in Western Mass. Mike Vaz (’03), Will Dawkins (’04) and Josh Tate (’05) won the other three in consecutive seasons.

Mindell said he had a special relationship with all of his players during their playing careers and to this day continues to keep in touch with many of his former players such as Lopez, now a freshman at Worcester State University; Dawkins, who is currently the Director of College Player Personnel for the Oklahoma City Thunder; and Ochoa, who is a supervisor at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

“Yeah, me and Coach Mindell talk to each other every now and then,” Lopez said. “Not every day, but we still call each other to see how everything is going.”

“Every time we see him, one of the first things he reflects on is how he there was only one team he won a state championship with and it was with us,” said Ochoa, who is also an assistant coach at East Longmeadow High School. “And he always says he keeps that close to his heart and it’s something that he’ll always cherish and at the same time that feeling is returned right back to him.”

Mindell won’t completely be removed from Commerce. He’ll return in September to coach the girls’ volleyball team. He’ll be able to watch a few Commerce basketball games next season, though he said he’ll most likely be sitting in the back row being as inconspicuous as he can be.

After the holidays he and his wife Jenny will spend January, February and March in Tampa, enjoying retirement.

“Of course I loved every minute of it,” Mindell said. “I would have coached for free all these years. The fact that they’ve paid me is really a bonus.

“It’s all about the passion -- the passion for the game and the passion for the kids.”

MHSFCA releases All-State Team

December, 29, 2012
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The Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) released its "Super 26" All-State Team yesterday. Selections are below as follows:

OFFENSE

Quarterback
Zach Bartak, Greenfield, 6'1" 200
Mackay Lowrie, Roxbury Latin, 6'5" 210
Nick Peabody, Barnstable, 6’4" 225

Running Back
Vincent Burton, Blue Hills, 6’2” 200
Dylan Oxsen, Plymouth South, 5’9” 185
Quron Wright, Holy Name, 5’6” 165

Wide Receiver
Will Heikkinen, Andover, 6’1” 196
Brian O’Malley, St. Sebastian’s, 6’3” 195

Offensive Line
Aaron Dyke, Auburn, 6’4” 305
John Foster, Scituate, 6’5” 260
Rob Kosharek, Duxbury, 6’6” 265
Jack McDonald, B.C. High, 6’5" 275
John Montelus, Everett, 6’5" 325

DEFENSE

Defensive Line
Matt Comerford, Reading, 6’5” 275
Terrel Correia, Nantucket, 6’7” 275
Joe Previte, Brockton, 6’2” 260
Maurice Hurst, Xaverian, 6’2” 290

Linebacker
Cam Hanley, Walpole, 5’11” 210
Sha’ki Holines, Springfield Commerce, 6’4” 240
Zack Hume , Nashoba, 6’2” 235
Bryan Vieira, Thayer Academy, 6’3” 190

Defensive Back
Brendan Flaherty, Beverly, 6’1” 185
Kiivone Howard, Foxborough, 6’1” 185
Dylan Mann, Masconomet, 5’10” 180
Alex Moore, St. John’s Prep, 6’1” 195
Justin Mount, Westford Academy, 6’2” 205

ESPN Boston 2012 MIAA All-State Team

December, 4, 2012
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OFFENSE
All-StateQB -- Nick Peabody, Sr., Barnstable
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound signal-caller led the Red Raiders to their most successful season in over a decade, claiming the Old Colony League title outright, holding the No. 1 spot in ESPNBoston.com's statewide poll for seven weeks, and falling to Everett, 20-19, in a thrilling Division 1A Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium. For the season, he threw for 2,627 yards and 34 touchdowns while also carrying the ball 73 times for 366 yards and seven more scores. He is considering several Division 1 FCS schools for college.

All-StateQB -- Drew Belcher, Jr., Reading
In two years as the Rockets' starter under center, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound dual-threat quarterback has gone 21-4, including two Middlesex League titles and a Division 2 Super Bowl championship this season. Through the air, he was very efficient, completing 107 of 169 passes for 1,710 yards, 21 touchdowns and just two interceptions. On the ground he was just as dangerous, carrying 138 times for 804 yards and 15 scores.

All-StateQB -- Troy Flutie, Jr., Natick
The son of Boston College legend Darren Flutie, the younger Flutie endured a record-setting 2012 campaign in leading the Redhawks to the Division 2A Super Bowl title game. He completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,153 yards and 35 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, and on the ground he carried 167 times for 1,075 yards and 14 more scores.

All-StateQB -- Andrew Smiley, Jr., St. John's (Shrewsbury)
Smiley took the starting job during the preseason following injuries, and in his first year running the Pioneers' "Blur" offense, he set the Central Mass. single-season record for passing yardage. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder completed nearly 62 percent of his passes for 3,123 yards and 25 touchdowns; on the ground, he carried 141 times for 1,023 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Pioneers also led the state in yards from scrimmage, averaging 442.2 yards per game.

All-StateRB -- Jonathan Thomas, Jr., St. John's Prep
The Catholic Conference's Offensive MVP established himself as one of the state's most dangerous in leading the Eagles to their first Division 1 Super Bowl title in 15 seasons. The 6-foot, 195-pound Salem resident carried 220 times for 1,794 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also added nine catches for 153 yards and three touchdowns, and defensively added 20.5 tackles and two interceptions. Thomas currently holds a scholarship offer from UMass, but more are sure to follow.

All-StateRB -- Quron Wright, Sr., Holy Name
The 5-foot-6, 165-pounder finished his career as the all-time leading rusher at both his school and in Central Mass. This fall, he totaled 3,199 yards from scrimmage and 38 touchdowns for the Naps, who made the postseason for an eighth straight year. That includes 35 rushing touchdowns and a state-best 2,254 rushing yards, as well as 806 return yards and two return touchdowns. For his career, Wright has 5,891 rushing yards and 2,659 return yards, to go along with 95 touchdowns (84 rushing, seven kickoff return, two receiving, two interception return).

All-StateRB -- Brendan Flaherty, Sr., Beverly
Considered the most dynamic back of the Panthers' vaunted three-pronged rushing attack, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Flaherty led the Panthers to the Division 2A Super Bowl title and their first undefeated season in 100 years. On the season, he carried 160 times for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns, and added 10 catches for 236 yards and four more scores.

All-StateRB -- Dylan Oxsen, Jr., Plymouth South
By far the state's most surprising breakthrough this fall, Oxsen took Eastern Mass. by storm as the Panthers qualified for postseason for the first time in the school's 30-year history. After recording just three touchdowns last fall, the 5-foot-8, 205-pounder exploded for a state-best 40 rushing touchdowns in 2012, to go along with over 2,100 yards on the ground.

All-StateWR -- Brian Dunlap, Soph., Natick
Already off to a remarkable start to his young varsity career, the 6-foot Dunlap led the state in receiving, with 86 catches for 1,570 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also had 34 carries for 301 yards and another score. In just two years of varsity, Dunlap already has record-pace receiving totals: 155 catches, 2,742 yards, 35 touchdowns.

All-StateWR -- Jakarrie Washington, Sr., Everett
The 5-foot-10, 170-pounder was as dangerous on the ground as he was through the air, as the Crimson Tide captured their third straight Super Bowl championship. He caught 33 passes for 439 yards and nine touchdowns, and on the ground had 75 carries for 697 yards and 15 more scores. Defensively, he also recorded two picks and two fumble recoveries, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

All-StateWR -- Elijah Scott, Sr., Cambridge
Scott exploded into the spotlight following the Falcons' shootout loss to Everett, and stayed there for good. On the season, he recorded 73 catches for 1,047 yards and 11 touchdowns, the latter tying a school record, as the Falcons went 7-4 for their first winning season since 2007.

All-StateWR -- Dylan Morris, Sr., Barnstable
The 6-foot, 180-pounder established himself as one of the region's best deep-ball threats, as the Red Raiders reached their first Super Bowl since 1999. On the season, he recorded 33 catches for 716 yards and 13 touchdowns. Morris signed a National Letter of Intent with UMass last month, for baseball.
All-StateWR -- Will Heikkinen, Sr., Andover
Part of one of the most dynamic receiving corps in Eastern Mass., the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder led the Golden Warriors in receptions (67) and receiving yards (1,126), to go along with nine touchdowns as the Warriors reached the Division 1 playoffs for the second time in three seasons.

All-StateTE -- Terrel Correia, Sr., Nantucket
Another one of the state's surprise breakthroughs, the 6-foot-7, 270-pounder was a matchup nightmare for the Mayflower League. On the season, he led the 4-7 Whalers with 26 catches and 372 yards for five touchdowns. Correia is verbally committed to UMass, where he plans on converting to the offensive line.

All-StateOL -- John Montelus, Sr., Everett
The Notre Dame-bound left tackle concluded his Crimson Tide career as a three-time Super Bowl champion. The 6-foot-5, 320-pounder started on each of those Everett championship teams and was a finalist, the first-ever lineman, for our Mr. Football Award. Montelus, who didn’t allow a sack in his high school career, will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January.

All-StateOL -- Rob Kosharek, Sr., Duxbury
The 6-foot-6, 270-pound road-grading tackle was a key part of a Dragons' offensive line that fueled the team to a then state-best 37-game winning streak, that only ended in a Division 2 playoff game against Mansfield. Kosharek led the team in pancake blocks with 28, nearly doubling the amount of Duxbury's second leading blocker.

All-StateOL -- Aaron Dyke, Sr., Auburn
The 6-foot-4, 295-pounder was among the state's most punishing road graders, as the Rockets won their fifth straight Central Mass. Super Bowl title. With Dyke leading the way, Auburn once again went over 3,000 mark in rushing (3,155 yards, 10.1 yards per carry, 53 TD) and accumulated 66 total scores and nearly 4,000 yards of offense. They also outscored the opposition 468-84, with four shutouts, to go 13-0 and captured the Division 3 Super Bowl title.

All-StateOL -- Matt Comerford, Sr., Reading
Reading was one of the state's most dominant offenses in capturing its second Division 2 Super Bowl title in four years, and the 6-foot-4, 270-pounder made sure the Rockets won the line of scrimmage. The Rockets were one of the best rushing attacks (2,544 yards, six yards per carry, 34 TD) and totaled 4,272 yards from scrimmge with 56 touchdowns. Comerford is also a standout goaltender on the Rockets' lacrosse team.

All-StateOL -- Joe Previte, Sr., Brockton
The 6-foot-2, 260-pounder played the interior and was a force for the Boxers, allowing them to total over 3,000 yards rushing in their newly-installed flexbone attack. Behind Previte, the Boxers averaged 255.5 rushing yards per game, among the state's best, and returned to the Division 1 Super Bowl for the first time since 2009. Previte also recorded 35 tackles and a sack as a defensive tackle.

All-StateATH -- Tedaro France, Sr., Barnstable
A true three-phase contributor, the Red Raiders receiver and defensive back was considered by his peers the MVP of Barnstable’s run at a Div. 1A Super Bowl. France tallied 41 receptions for 884 yards and 13 receiving touchdowns. He also had 682 combined return yards for 1,600 yards all-purpose yards and 19 total touchdowns.

ATH -- David Harrison, Jr., Weymouth
Quarterback, running back, wide receiver, it didn't matter which role Kevin Mackin asked the versatile Harrison to play this season. Harrison finished second in Division 1 with 21 touchdowns scored while hauling in 12 touchdown passes and throwing for eight more scores.

All-StateK -- Jackson Bockhorst, Sr., BC High
A feared weapon, not only in the kicking game but with his kickoffs, Bockhurst has earned the reputation as one of the most consistent kickers in the state during the last several seasons. In 2012, Bockhurst connected on three field goals and 17 point-after tries for 26 points.

***

DEFENSE
All-StateDL -- Maurice Hurst, Sr., Xaverian
As the Catholic Conference's Lineman of the Year, Hurst was a dominant force in the middle, recording 51 tackles (23 for loss), 11 sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception. Offensively, he also ran for 63 yards and five touchdowns as the Hawks' goal line running back. The 6-foot-3, 295-pound Hurst is the state's No. 2 overall prospect, and will be heading to Michigan next year.

All-StateDL -- Jon Baker, Jr., Millis/Hopedale
Considered one of New England's top Class of 2014 prospects, Baker dominated the Tri-Valley League once again as the Mohawks made a second straight Division 4 playoff appearance. As a defensive tackle, he registered 78 tackles with four sacks, and was named the league's Lineman of the Year for the second straight season. The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Baker currently holds offers from UMass, UConn and Boston College.

All-StateDL -- Peter Ngobidi, Sr., Catholic Memorial
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Hyde Park resident established himself as one of the state's premier edge-setting defensive athletes, despite the Knights' struggles to a 2-8 campaign. Off the edge, he led the Knights in sacks (12), ranked second in tackles (68) and recorded three forced fumbles. Ngobidi will continue his career next fall at UMass.

All-StateDL -- Jeff Soulouque, Sr., Everett
Soulouque was a feared pass-rusher coming of the edge of the Crimson Tide defense which allowed just 12.6 points per game for the three-time defending Super Bowl champions.
All-StateLB -- Marshall McCarthy, Sr., Duxbury
Perhaps the most surefire tacklers in the state, McCarthy was the fulcrum of the Dragons' defense at his inside linebacker position. The 6-foot, 195-pounder led the team in tackles with 116 (79 solo), averaging nearly 10 tackles per game, and sacks with 12.5. He also had two forced fumbles and an interception.

All-StateLB -- Sha'ki Holines, Sr., Springfield Commerce
The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder is bound for UConn next season and was capable in the pass rush and he is adept at stuffing the run. Holines also finished the season with two touchdowns on offense.
All-StateLB -- Zack Hume, Sr., Nashoba
The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder was one of the most feared linebackers across the state, as the Chieftains captured their second straight Central Mass. Division 2 Super Bowl title to extend their win streak to a state-best 26 games. Hume totaled 113.5 tackles on the season, giving him over 100 for the third straight year, with 10.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, a sack and an interception. Hume is also the two-time Defensive MVP of Mid-Wach B.

All-StateLB -- Andrew Ellis, Sr., Barnstable
Leading one of the state's most aggressive, athletic front sevens, the 5-foot-11, 230-pounder recorded over 100 tackles as the Red Raiders spent seven weeks at No. 1 in our statewide poll and reached their first Super Bowl since 1999. He had 105 tackles on the season, to go along with four interceptions and two forced fumbles.

All-StateLB -- Brad Schiff, Sr., Sharon
At just 5-foot-7 and 155 pounds, Schiff came away with the Defensive MVP award in the competitive Hockomock League. He recorded 174 tackles (17 for loss), four forced fumbles, a sack and an interception as the Eagles unexpectedly captured the Eastern Mass. Division 3 Super Bowl title in their first-ever postseason appearance. For his career, Schiff had 320 tackles (36 for loss), seven forced fumbles, three sacks and an interception.

All-StateLB -- Sean Smerczynski, Jr., St. John's Prep
The 5-foot-10, 216-pounder was an integral force for the Eagles as they captured their first Division 1 Super Bowl title in 15 seasons. On the year, he recorded 76 tackles, six tackles for loss, a sack and two fumble recoveries and was named a Catholic Conference All-Star.

All-StateDB -- Alex Moore, Sr., St. John's Prep
Earlier this week, Moore was named ESPN Boston's Mr. Football for the 2012 for his impact in all three phases of the game. On offense, he carried the ball 112 times for 857 yards and 14 touchdowns, and added a team-high 20 receptions for 455 yards and five more scores. Defensively, he recorded 67 tackles from the strong safety position, to go along with four forced fumbles, four interceptions (including a return for a TD) and five tackles for loss.

All-StateDB -- Micah Morel, Sr., Brockton
One of the top safeties in the state, Morel was also asked to play quarterback for several weeks when Austin Roberts was lost to injury for the Division 1 EMass Super Bowl finalists.
All-StateDB -- Jalen Felix, Sr., Everett
Playing lock-down corner, Felix tallied two interceptions for the three-time reigning Super Bowl champions. Felix also made his presence felt on the offensive side of the ball, leading the Crimson Tide in rushing with 684 yards for nine touchdowns. He also tallied three receiving touchdowns in addition to a kick return for a score.

All-StateDB -- Lucas Bavaro, Sr., St. John's Prep
The Dartmouth commit was one of the most hard-hitting forces in the state, playing a hybrid role of linebacker and free safety for the EMass Division 1 champion Eagles. Bavaro finished third on the Eagles with 46.5 tackles (41 solo), including five tackles for loss. He also tallied two interceptions, two forces fumbles, a fumble recovery and two punt blocks.

All-StateRET -- Cam Farnham, Sr., Andover
Always a big-play threat in the return game, Farnham was also a integral part of Andover's vaunted passing attack. The shifty speedster hauled in 11 touchdown receptions with two returns for a score.

ESPN Boston Preseason Football Photo Gallery

September, 5, 2012
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We unveiled our second annual ESPN Boston Preseason Football Gallery this afternoon, once again highlighting some of the state's top teams and players.

Some of the teams and players you will find in this year's shoot, in memorable places, are:



-- Everett's offensive line, led by Notre Dame-bound John Montelus
-- BC High's talented crop, including Jack McDonald and Luke Catarius
-- Xaverian's Maurice Hurst, Hunter Taute, Ray Gobbi and Austin DeCarr
-- Leominster's four captains, at the United Solutions plastics factory
-- Auburn's offensive line, led by Aaron Dyke
-- Holy Name's trio of Dan Kegbeh, Quron Wright and Basit Dennis
-- St. John's Prep running back Jonathan Thomas, and his offensive line
-- Barnstable's Nick Peabody, Andrew Ellis and Tom Grimmer
-- Mashpee's senior class, including Jared Taylor and Malik Lee
-- Top players from the Springfield schools, including Commerce's Sha'ki Holines, Central's Shawn Lockett and Putnam's Kayjuan Bynum




To view the complete gallery, CLICK HERE.
This season, we're trotting a new feature for football season that we started back in the spring. Each Wednesday, we'll pool the minds of our ESPN Boston staff and contributors to debate several hot button topics across the state in our Roundtable.

Without further ado, let's kick off the new season with these takes:

1. BC HIGH RECEIVED SOME BAD NEWS LAST WEEK WHEN RETURNING ESPN BOSTON ALL-STATE LINEBACKER LUKE CATARIUS SUFFERED A HAIRLINE FRACTURE ON HIS ANKLE. HOW WILL THE EAGLES COPE?

Brendan Hall, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: Over the last decade, BC High has proven to be a program with enough sufficient depth to compensate when star players miss a significant time with injury. However, it’s different when you lose the quarterback of your defense, especially when it’s a player as special a talent as the Eagles’ Luke Catarius.

In the scrimmage against Mansfield, after Catarius went out with the ankle injury, the Hornets went to the underneath game and exploited the flats for big gains. There was also one big miscommunication in the secondary that allowed Kevin Maki to wheel right through the middle of the deep field for a 45-yard completion. Not that this won’t be shored up before Friday’s big tilt with Brockton, but it is worth pointing out.

The good news, obviously, is that the Eagles’ Catholic Conference season doesn’t start until late October – but with Xaverian and St. John’s Prep looking sharp, it will be obvious if this team isn’t in proper shape. With that in mind, I expect Brandon Owens’ role at outside linebacker to have an even bigger significance than before. The pressure will also be on the front four, led by Jaleel Johnson, to buy the back seven time.

Scott Barboza, ESPN Boston High Schools editor: In terms of talent, I think the Eagles can get along. My greatest concern for BC High’s defense without Catarius relates to communication. The linebacker has been the leader of the defensive huddle, with messages from the sideline passed along to the inside linebacker. On field, Catarius was the quarterback of the defense as well, not only knowing his own responsibilities, but that of his teammates. That comes from knowledge of the system and cannot be replicated; it only comes through game-condition experience. The Eagles have a bevy of returning starters on the defensive line and secondary to shoulder the load but this one hurts. Will they rely on Brandon Owens to not only be the feature back, but take on more Catarius’ two-way role? We saw what happened last year when Preston Cooper went down at running back and how Deontae Ramey-Doe filled those shoes. So perhaps this will be more of the same for a deep Eagles’ squad. But a player of Catarius’ ilk cannot simply be replaced.

Adam Kurkjian, ESPN Boston correspondent: Without question, losing one of the top two-way players in the state will have a negative impact on BC High. The Eagles will not be able to replace his production easily and there may be an extra loss or two that comes down their way early on because of it. That said, if he is back by the time Catholic Conference play rolls around, BC High will still be one of the favorites to make it back to the playoffs. But still his loss cannot be understated.

Bruce Lerch, ESPN Boston correspondent: Believe it or not, I think the Eagles will be fine defensively. Obviously, Catarius is a one-of-a-kind talent with the ability to singlehandedly change opposing offensive gameplans. BC High will simply lean more on the unit as a whole rather than an individual to bail them out, as Catarius often did with his read and react style of play. Linebackers Danny Collins and Brandon Owens are leaders, defensive linemen like Billy Breen and Jaleel Johnson will take up blockers and make a few plays on their own, and the secondary will have to be more active in supporting.

Oddly enough, I think it's on offense where the Eagles may miss Catarius the most. A bruising fullback, Catarius helped pave the way for Preston Cooper and Deontay Ramey-Doe to pile up yardage last season. New backs Owens and Skyler Evans, along with a mostly inexperienced line, would have benefitted greatly from having Catarius leading the charge.

John Botelho, Editor-in-Chief, South Shore Sports Journal: I'm not even sure this Luke Catarius injury will have any real impact on BC. And I don't mean that as a slight to Catarius - in fact, I think he's the best linebacker in the state. My point of view though is this is a non-issue for the Eagles for two reasons.

First of all, replacing Catarius obviously wouldn't be easy, but aren't teams in the Catholic Conference best suited to replace someone they lose to an injury? Those teams are so loaded and so deep that it seems they have significant depth at every position. Or at least it seemed that way when Preston Cooper - who was arguably the best running back in the state in the first half of last year - went down with a broken ankle. All BC did was go on to win the Super Bowl as Deontae Ramey-Doe stepped in and the Eagles never missed a beat.

Secondly, and most important, is that BC doesn't open up league play until October 26 when they host Malden Catholic. I think even without Catarius, it'd be considered an upset if the Eagles lost that match-up. If it really comes to it, they don't need Catarius back until November 4th, week eight of the season, when they travel to Xaverian. It's reasonable to think that a hairline fracture would be healed up and they'd have him back by then.

2. WHICH REGION OF THE STATE HAS THE BEST UP-AND-COMING TALENT?

Hall: The emergence of Springfield-area talent over the last few years is one of the best stories developing this fall. But in terms of pure talent, for me it’s got to be the Cape & Islands region.

Every year, there seems to be a Cape player that seemingly washes ashore to earn a Division 1 scholarship. Two years ago, it was Randall Jette from Martha’s Vineyard going to UMass. Last year, Nauset’s Brendan Battles-Santos surprising everyone at UConn’s prospect camp to earn a scholarship practically on the spot. This past summer, UMass dug back into the region to pluck 6-foot-7 tight end Terrel Correia out of Nantucket, with intentions of making him an offensive tackle.

We’ll obviously be watching Correia closely this fall, but he isn’t even the best player from the region. Barnstable quarterback Nick Peabody is among the state’s best, with Ivy League interest. Mashpee has three athletes with Division 1 potential in tackle Nate Chrzanowski, running back Jared Taylor (he of the 300-yard epic last year at Gillette Stadium) and his new backfield mate Malik Lee, a Cape Cod Tech transfer with plenty of upside at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds.

Also keep an eye on Dennis-Yarmouth’s Joe Tyo, who still has to fill out but is projectable with a long 6-foot-5 frame and some active footwork. Falmouth sophomore Craig Green will be an intriguing prospect to monitor, after running a 10.6-second 100-meter dash last spring at the New England Track and Field Championships. And as good as Darien Fernandez was on the basketball court for Wareham last winter, some believe he’s an even better running back.

Barboza: I’m looking no further than our statewide preseason Top 25 poll to find two Springfield squads (Central at No. 14 and Putnum at No. 23) and another (Springfield Commerce) knocking on the door. Central is retooled for another run at Longmeadow in Div. 1 West with some key returnees from last year’s squad that made it to Gillette Stadium. Quarterback Cody Williams could be a breakout performer this year and Shawn Lockett is a legitimate force to deal with on the lines. Melquawn Pinkney might be gone, but the cupboard’s not bare for Putnam with Wayne Lowery, shouldering more of the running load while playing lock-down corner. Sha’ki Holines (UConn) and Hassan Graham (not to be confused with the Patriots receiver of yesteryear) grade out at their positions against anybody across the state.

Kurkjian: This is a tough question because the season has not started yet, so it is hard to assess which region has the top players. As it stands now, though, the North Shore looks to have an overflow of top players if you consider Everett part of that region. Also, don't forget BC High's Brandon Owens hails from Salem.

Botelho: Last fall made it hard to argue with any region being more up-and-coming than the Cape. Four of the nine Eastern Mass. Super Bowl champs were from the Cape and Islands (Dennis-Yarmouth Div. 2A, Bourne Div. 3A, Mashpee Div. 4 and Nantucket Div. 5). Not only did those teams each win Super Bowls last season, but the Cape teams outscored opponents 120-29 in those games. Only Bourne had a competitive game, beating defending Super Bowl champ Hamilton-Wenham, 16-14.

3. WHICH RUNNING BACK WILL HAVE THE BIGGEST BREAKOUT?

Hall: There’s a lot of directions you can go with this one. The addition of Malik Lee, and his soft hands, to Mashpee’s already-dangerous backfield has to feel like a high school offensive coordinator’s dream. Out west, Springfield folks are excited about two potential breakout candidates in Putnam’s Wayne Lowery and Central’s Aaron Owens. St. John's of Shrewsbury's Shadrach Abrokwah is bound for a breakout in John Andreoli's new Oregon-style "blur" offense.

However, I’m going with BC High’s Brandon Owens. That he is already committed to a Division 1 FCS school (Bryant) despite only seeing part-time duty one way last season speaks to his upside. As a runner, there is no wangle to his makeup – he’s a north-south, one-cut guy with a powerful frame that accelerates quickly to hit the hole at full speed.

Losing fullback Luke Catarius for the first six weeks of the season means the Eagles may have to get more creative with their offensive sets. But after seeing him take the corner on toss plays out of “Ace” formations, in the Mansfield scrimmage, I think he’s up for any task the coaching staff throws at him.

Barboza: I think we’re all hedging that Malik Lee of Mashpee will have a monster season in his first year with the Falcons, but I’m going to buck the trend here and go with another runner inside the South Shore League. Abington’s Babila Fonkem tallied seven touchdowns (five of those came in one game against backyard rival Archbishop Williams) and ran for over 1,000 yards last season. I think the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder has the potential to more than double last year’s tally as a feature back during Jim Kelleher’s swan song as head coach.

Kurkjian: From the looks of it, Brandon Owens has had a spectacular preseason and he will be the feature back in what expects to be another punishing ground attack for BC High. It appears as if the Eagles have just reloaded there.

Lerch: Everett's Kenny Calaj is already something of a household name, having been an impact weapon in Everett's offense the past two seasons. The majority of that. however, came as a pass catcher. With a pair of untested quarterbacks still battling to replace record-setting Jonathan DiBiaso, not to mention a mammoth group of offensive linemen, it would only make sense for the Tide to return to the ground game and Calaj should benefit as the main ball-carrier. I'm not sure what the record for all-purpose yardage in Massachusetts history, but Calaj is in a position to do some historic things as a senior.

Botelho: Arcel Armstead is primed to have an elite year at running back for Bridgewater-Raynham this season. It's no secret that Dan Buron-coached teams run the ball as well as anyone, and with both Nick Schlatz and Brandon Morin gone, Armstead will be the featured back for the Trojans. His athleticism alone would be enough for him to have a big year in that system, but B-R returns their entire offensive line from a season ago, led by 6-foot-4, 260-pound Joey MacInnis, meaning the sky is the limit for Armstead.

Don't sleep on guys like Jon Hurvitz at Duxbury, who is the best athlete returning to the Dragons who will need to remake their identity a bit without Matt O'Keefe under center. Hurvitz runs hard and has a chance to be the first running back Duxbury has built their offense around in recent memory.

Also, the South Shore League seems littered with potential breakout candidates. Jared Taylor is probably the best well-known running back who was a back-up last season. He flashed his electric running ability in the Super Bowl to the tune of more than 300 yards. But he won't be the only guy terrorizing defense in the league.

Babila Fonkem returns to Abington for a senior year with added size from his 1,000-yard campaign a year ago. Brian Kilmain, a junior for the Green Wave, could give them the most dangerous two-headed backfield in the league.

Andrew Benson, who looks like he'll officially be a quarterback, is ready to break out at East Bridgewater. He could end up running for more yards than ESPN All-Stater Casey DeAndrade a year ago, for more than one reason. Last year, DeAndrade split carries with Tim O'Brien. While Benson will share the backfield duties with Kevin Lynch, he'll see a higher percentage of touches than DeAndrade last year. Also, E-B's offense was so explosive last year that DeAndrade (and O'Brien) had their numbers cut down because the Vikings had big enough leads that the starters weren't on the field a lot in the fourth quarter. Only when they played Abington and Mashpee did starters stay in the entire game. This year's team will rank among the best in the SSL, but I don't think they'll put teams away so quickly this time around.

4. TAKE A LOOK AT THE FIRST MONTH OF BROCKTON’S SCHEDULE, AND PREDICT A RECORD.

Hall: This is going to upset some of our readers in the City of Champions, but there’s a realistic possibility of the Boxers coming out of the gate 0-4. Of those first four opponents – BC High, Reading, St. John’s Prep, Xaverian – nobody’s gotten worse from 2011, while I feel Brockton is still sitting in second gear after last year’s disappointing end.

That said, it sounds like Bryant-bound running back/defensive back Micah Morel will be ready for Friday’s opener against BC High after injuring his shoulder in the preseason, so that’s a positive sign. As for record, I think the Boxers will steal a game, either against Prep or Reading, to start off 1-3.

Barboza: Well, let’s go the tape … And hold me to this. I’m going:

Week 1, vs. BC High – Loss

Week 2, at Reading – Win

Week 3, vs. Xaverian – Loss

Week 4, vs. St. John’s Prep – Loss

That would make the Boxers 1-3 rolling into October. Then I think they rebound with three straight wins and finish out the season at 6-5 and represent the Big Three in the Division 1 playoffs as a very dangerous team after enduring a trying first month.

Kurkjian: With so many question marks surrounding this offense, it is hard to project exactly how the Boxers will fare. That said, this is a brutal start to the season. The feeling here is that Brockton manages to steal one and get off to a 1-3 start.

Lerch: It's a very real possibility that Brockton goes 0-4, and I think best case scenario is that they salvage a 2-2 mark. Any better than that and I wonder if the Catholic Conference would have an issue with adding a "league game" between Brockton and Everett to play for its championship.

Botelho: Brockton has the best program in state history. Literally. Their 751 all-time wins ranks first in the state by a wide margin (no one else even has 600 wins). They've also captured 11 Super Bowl titles in 40 years. That said, the last few years haven't been what Boxer fans are used to. They missed the playoffs two years in a row, and last season slumped to a disappointing 5-6.

All those struggles did was ignite something in the Boxers, who look primed to return to the postseason this season. I'm going to say Brockton gets through that portion of the schedule (one Peter Colombo said might rank as the toughest in New England) with a winning record. I'm a believer in Brockton this year, and they'll knock off at least one Catholic Conference opponent, as well as take care of business with Reading and Fitchburg. My guess is the Boxers end up 3-2 in this stretch (including a loss to BC High week one, which they'll avenge in the Super Bowl in December).

5. WHAT GAME WILL BE THE MOST THRILLING OF WEEK 1?

Hall: On a state-wide level, Everett’s trip to Leominster is certainly garnering the most interest, and deservedly so. The atmosphere there is going to be electric, with projections of anywhere up to 7-8,000 for expected attendance at Doyle Field. But, at the risk of being the wet blanket here, find me a pundit that doesn’t expect Everett to win.

Putnam-Central will be an intriguing battle out west, but I’m going with an underrated Saturday afternoon showdown in Shrewsbury, where St. John’s will host Holy Name in their customary season-opener. For all of Holy Name’s success under Mike Pucko, the Naps have never beaten St. John’s under John Andreoli. Last year’s contest, a 22-21 St. John’s thriller, was just epic on all fronts. And if there’s any year for Holy Name to get that elusive win over the Pioneers, it’s this one.

Barboza: This might not be the most high profile game on the docket, but I’m looking at the good ole fashioned brawl in the backyard between Dighton-Rehoboth and Somerset. The Falcons, coached by Somerset alum Dave Driscoll, are looking to rebound a bit in the South Coast Conference this season behind physical tackle Chuddy Nwachukwu and the Raiders could bounce back from a rebuilding year last year to finish atop the Eastern Athletic Conference this year. This has always been an underrated rivalry game in Southeastern Mass. and it's a great way to kick off the season for both squads.

Kurkjian: When in doubt, go with the No. 1 team opening up on the road against a program and community brimming with optimism over a Super Bowl win. No matter what happens, the atmosphere for Friday night's Everett at Leominster game will be electric.

Lerch: With apologies to several other high profile (BC High/Brockton) and not-so-high-profile (East Boston/Blue Hills will be a barnburner) matchups certainly deserving attention, the game at the top of my marquee is Duxbury at Bridgewater-Raynham (Saturday, 4 p.m.). Two programs very similar in the foundations programmed by a pair of tremendous head coaches, and both with an eye on getting a jump start on the "reload" process should be ready to go toe-to-toe for 44 minutes (or more).

Botelho: My favorite week one match-up is always Bridgewater-Raynham and Duxbury (especially this year, where these two teams grabbed the top two spots in our pre-season poll over at SportsJournal.co). Both perennial Super Bowl contenders, if either team doesn't bring their 'A' game from the get-go, they start the season with a loss. Dave Maimaron and Dan Buron always have their kids supremely prepared, so this one has a playoff atmosphere in September.

ESPN Boston Mr. Football Watch List: Week 1

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
10:48
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This morning, we unveil our initial "Watch List" for our third annual ESPN Boston Mr. Football Award, presented annually to the state's top overall player.

Last year, Everett quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso took the award unanimously, beating out Catholic Memorial's Armani Reeves, Duxbury's Matt O'Keefe, Chelmsford's Tim Joy and Springfield Putnam's Melquawn Pinkney. In 2010, Everett wideout Matt Costello won the inaugural award after catching for 1,301 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Check back with us each Monday during the season, as we put out our weekly "Mr. Football Watch" tracking the contenders and highlight others potentiall on the rise.

The five finalists for the Mr. Football Award will be announced after Week 10 of the high school season. The winner will be announced on the Monday following the MIAA Super Bowls, and will be honored at Gillette Stadium before the Patriots' December 10 home game.

Here is the first ESPN Boston Mr. Football Watch List of the 2012 season:

Jon Baker, Jr. OL/DL, Millis/Hopedale
Dominant two-way lineman already claims offers from UMass, Boston College and UConn, and has interest from Michigan and Virginia.

Drew Belcher, Jr. QB, Reading
6-foot-4, 200-pounder one of the state's most punishing dual-threat signal-callers.

Vincent Burton, Sr. RB, Blue Hills
Randolph native has 54 rushing touchdowns since the start of 2010, more than any other active player in the state over that time.

Kenny Calaj, Sr. RB/LB, Everett
Transitioning to the Crimson Tide's feature back role, he's got plenty of sizzle, and will have the benefit of a hefty line.

Ozzy Colarusso, Sr. ATH, Weymouth
Versatile scatback plays every skill position for the Wildcats, and accumulated 17 touchdowns last season.

Sha'ki Holines, Sr. LB, Springfield Commerce
UConn-bound linebacker registered 132 tackles and six sacks last season.

Zach Hume, Sr. LB, Nashoba
Registered 122 tackles last season for the 13-0 Division 2 Super Bowl champs, and has varied Division 1 interest.

Maurice Hurst, Sr. DT, Xaverian
290-pound, Michigan-bound Canton resident is widely considered the state's best three-technique. He'll even carry the ball more, after last year's experiment with St. John's (Shrewsbury) led to 220 yards rushing.

John Montelus, Sr. OT, Everett
Notre Dame-bound road grader is considered one of the best left tackles in the Northeast, and will lead a line that among the nation's heaviest at nearly 318 pounds across.

Peter Ngobidi, Sr. DL/LB, Catholic Memorial
One of the better edge-setters around, UMass-bound defensive athlete is at least one ESPN Boston correspondent's pick as the state's best defensive lineman.

Marcus Odiah, Sr. RB, Burlington
His combination of speed and acceleration is matched by few backs in Eastern Mass.

Nick Peabody, Sr. QB, Barnstable
Led the Red Raiders to their first playoff appearance in a decade last season, in part-time duty.

Jared Taylor, Sr. RB/NG, Mashpee
Shot to the top of everyone's list after gassing Cardinal Spellman for a Gillette Stadium record 308 yards in the Division 4 Super Bowl.

Hunter Taute, Sr. RB/LB, Xaverian
Intimidating leader of the Hawks' defense, and will be a force at running back at 240 pounds.

Jonathan Thomas, Jr. RB, St. John's Prep
Already picking up Division 1 interest, poised for a breakout season in Jim O'Leary's rushing attack.

Quron Wright, Sr. RB, Holy Name
Lilliputian scatback needs 1,300 yards to surpass Emil Igwenagu's all-time rushing yards mark at the school.

Holines switches commitment to UConn

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
9:13
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Hours after news broke of his decommitment from UMass, Springfield Commerce linebacker Sha'ki Holines is verbally committing to UConn, his head coach Tyrone Mathis tells ESPNBoston.com tonight.

Holines had initially committed to UMass late last June, and was the Minutemen's first in-state commitment of the Class of 2013, before telling The Springfield Republican's Terrence Payne this afternoon that he was decommitting.

"Personally I thought he committed [to UMass] early," Mathis told ESPNBoston.com. "I thought he should've went to several other camps [before making a decision]. But he's a young man with growing to do, and some decisions to make on his own in life, and that's one of them."

Earlier this evening, Mathis expressed surprise to learn of Holines' change of heart. But after reflecting some more, Mathis says Holines had a fond liking for UConn's camps after coming out to a one-day camp at the Storrs, Conn. campus following his sophomore year. The Huskies didn't extend a scholarship until early July of this summer, however, and by then Holines had apparently made up his mind to shut it down until the beginning of preseason, with a UMass commitment in tow.

"I can tell you this decision took a lot out of him," Mathis said. "It's tough for him talk about, it's a hard decision for a young man to make. I think he just followed his heart and that's where he wants to be now."

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Holines is currently the No. 8 ranked overall prospect in Massachusetts, according to ESPNU, and yesterday was named to ESPNBoston.com's Preseason MIAA All-State Team. Holines helped the Red Raiders advance to the Western Mass. Division 2 Super Bowl last December after going 2-9 in 2010. For the 2011 season, he registered 132 tackles, including six sacks, and recovered four fumbles. As a tight end offensively, he caught 22 passes for 232 yards and three scores.

Commerce's Holines decommits from UMass

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
7:17
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Springfield Commerce head coach Tyrone Mathis confirmed to ESPNBoston.com that senior linebacker Sha'ki Holines has decommitted from UMass.

The Springfield Republican's Terrence Payne initially reported the story of Holines' decision this evening on the newspaper's website. Holines reportedly holds Division 1 offers from UConn and Maine, in addition to the Minutemen.

"When I talked to him about he said yeah, he wants go to UConn," Mathis said. "I don't know if he's gonna commit there, or if he's decommitting just to see what else is out there. It was a shocker to me."

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Holines committed to UMass last June, as the first in-state commitment of the Class of 2013 for head coach Charley Molnar. Holines helped the Red Raiders advance to the Western Mass. Division 2 Super Bowl last December after going 2-9 in 2010. For the 2011 season, he registered 132 tackles, including six sacks, and recovered four fumbles. As a tight end offensively, he caught 22 passes for 232 yards and three scores.

Holines visited the UMass campus for a practice two Sundays ago. Last Sunday, he accompanied teammate Hassan Graham, a senior safety, on an unofficial visit to the UConn campus. Mathis said Holines "enjoyed both places."

"Even after the trip to UConn he didn't say anyhting," Mathis said. "I know him pretty well and I was little bit shocked. If he was thinking about do that, I think he would've came to me first, but I guess he's grown up."

WMass stars shine at Super 7 Showcase

July, 21, 2012
7/21/12
10:29
PM ET
Cody WilliamsBen Larsen for ESPNBoston.comSpringfield Central junior quarterback Cody Williams was named the top offensive player at the Super 7 Showcase in Wilbraham.
WILBRAHAM -- The knock on Western Massachusetts football is that, despite the number of athletes in and around Springfield, they typically don’t get to experience the in-season matchups that warrant serious looks from NCAA Division I football programs.

That may change following the region’s terrific showing at the Super 7 Showcase Saturday, held by Elite Athlete Development at Wilbraham & Monson Academy.

Featuring many top-level recruits from Connecticut and New York, the top players from the Springfield area had the opportunity to compete against competition that’s on another level compared to what they’ll see during the high school football season. A quick glimpse at the post-camp awards will prove that they certainly didn’t waste the opportunity.

In fact, some of the names likely to make headlines this fall, dominated the camp and showed they can play with other top northeast recruits.

Springfiel Central’s Aaron Owens took home the camp’s Most Valuable Player Award. The incoming senior, who was used in various capacities for the Golden Eagles last season, showed an ability to stay with the camp’s receiving corps, which included Manchester (Conn.) tight end Andrew Isaacs and Tottenville (NY) wide receiver Malique Belfort --- who combine to boast 12 Division I offers.

Owens was also in perfect timing with Central quarterback Cody Williams, who took home hardware as the showcase’s Top Offensive Player.

All told in addition to Owens’ and Williams’ honors, Springfield players garnered four top positional awards. Central’s Shawn Lockett won top offensive lineman while Sha’ki Holines of Commerce took home the top defensive lineman award. Commerce’s Hasan Graham was the No. 1 linebacker and Rishawn Harris of Putnam won the event’s top defensive back award.

HOLINES UNVEILS LATEST OFFER
Holines made news earlier this summer with a verbal commitment to UMass. Given his showings at camps similar to the Super 7 Showcase, he’s bound to get even more interest and offers leading up to signing day.

UConn is the latest school to offer the 6-foot-3, 265-pound defensive lineman/linebacker.

He received the camp’s top defensive lineman award for his ability to dominate the 1-on-1 positional drills.

Holines has also received attention from the University of Maine.
Holines was instrumental in the Red Raiders’ turnaround and run to the Division II Western Mass. Super Bowl last season. He recorded 132 tackles with six sacks and four fumbles recovered.

CONNECTICUT YOUTH SHINES
Two of the more talked-about players from the Super 7 Showcase were from the Nutmeg State.

Arkeel Newsome, an incoming junior at Ansonia, took home the top running back award. Given his 2011 accomplishments, it’s easy to see why.

The shifty back ran for an eye-popping 3,763 yards and scored 62 touchdowns as Ansonia went 14-0 en route to the Class M state title.

Newsome already has offers from UConn and UMass and that list is likely to grow.

Isaiah Wright, who’ll be just a sophomore this fall at Holy Cross in Waterbury, made a number of great plays at the wide receiver position.

NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
Two players from Staten Island were as impressive as any duo at the Super 7 Showcase.

Belfort, the 6-foot-4, 170-pounder from Tottenville, took home the camp’s top wide receiver honor. He was equally effective on deep balls as he was going across the middle. His unique combination of height and speed made it hard for defenders all day long.

Belfort is mulling offers from numerous BCS schools, including Arizona State, Boston College, UConn, Illinois, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Virginia.

Naby Sylla hails from nearby Port Richmond High School and was equally impressive on the defensive side of the ball. The 5-foot-8 cornerback earned the camp’s top defensive player award and showed great speed and instincts in one-on-one drills and the 7-on-7 portion of the event.

Sylla has interest from UConn, West Virginia, Albany and Syracuse.

AWARD WINNERS
The camp awarded numerous honors following the camp. The complete list is as follows:

Camp MVP: Aaron Owens RB/DB, Central (MA)
Top Offensive Player: Cody Williams QB, Cental (MA)
Top Defensive Player: Naby Sylla CB, Port Richmond (NY)

Offensive Line
2nd Place: Ismael Figueroa, Springfield Central (MA)
1st Place: Shawn Lockett, Springfield Central (MA)

Defensive Line
2nd Place: George Blake, East Longmeadow (MA)
1st Place: Sha’ki Holines, Commerce (MA)

Tight End
2nd Place: Raishawn Finney, Ansonia (CT)
1st Place: Andrew Isaacs, Manchester (CT)

Quarterback
3rd Place: Blake Rise, Stafford (CT)
2nd Place: Kayjuan Bynum, Putnam (MA)
1st Place: JaQuan McKnight, Ansonia (CT)

Wide Receiver
5th Place: Mecca Gonzalez, Putnam (MA)
4th Place: Isaiah Wright, Holy Cross (CT)
3rd Place: Tavis Frasier, Putnam (MA)
2nd Place: Sam Blake, East Longmeadow (CT)
1st Place: Malique Belfort, Tottenhill (NY)

Running back
2nd Place: Wayne Lowery, Putnam (MA)
1st Place: Arkeel Newsome, Ansonia (CT)

Linebacker
2nd Place: Kyle Soja, Chicopee Comp (MA)
1st Place: Hasan Graham, Commerce (MA)

Defensive Back
3rd Place: Devontae Sewell, Commerce (MA)
2nd Place: Terrell Huff, Windsor (CT)
1st Place: Rishawn Harris, Putnam (MA)

Commerce LB Holines commits to UMass

June, 24, 2012
6/24/12
7:40
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Springfield Commerce head coach Tyrone Mathis confirmed with ESPNBoston.com tonight that Class of 2013 tight end/linebacker Sha'ki Holines made a verbal commitment to UMass this afternoon.

The 6-foot-3, 265-pound Holines chose the Minutemen over interest from several other Division 1 programs, including a verbal offer from the University of Maine.

"He basically went to a lot of other camps, but he really liked the defensive line coach at UMass [Dave Solazzo]," Mathis said. "I just believe he's all camped out. We really didn't get any huge inclination from any other school that they wanted him, so he made his decison and I don't know if anyone is going to jump in at this point."

Holines helped the Red Raiders advance to the Western Mass. Division 2 Super Bowl last December after going 2-9 in 2010. For the 2011 season, he registered 132 tackles, including six sacks, and recovered four fumbles. As a tight end offensively, he caught 22 passes for 232 yards and three scores.

Recap: CMass wins Shrine Chowder Bowl

June, 22, 2012
6/22/12
10:52
PM ET
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- And the streak goes on.

In the 12th annual Shrine Chowder Bowl All-Star Classic, Central Massachusetts hung on to edge Western Mass., 14-6, making it nine straight victories for the visitors.

Central Mass. took that eight-point lead early in the second quarter and looked back only for a minute, ultimately withstanding one late final scoring chance for Western Mass.

“It feels great,” said Central Mass. Offensive MVP Luis Feliz of Clinton, who scored the go-ahead touchdown on an 11-yard run with 9:42 to go in the second quarter. “This will be a great memory.”

West seemed to have a shot at tying late in the fourth quarter. After forcing a turnover on downs, the hosts had a first down on their own 43-yard line. Two errant snaps later, though, they were forced to punt from their own end zone facing a 4th-and-45.

The ball bounced their way again, though, just one play later as Central fumbled on the very next play from scrimmage. Agawam safety Alex Efstratios picked it up and gave Western Mass. one more shot.

Minnechaug quarterback Greg Heineman and the Western squad moved the chains quickly thanks to completions to Tevin Jones and Melquawn Pinkney and hard-earned yards on the ground by T.J. Norris.

It would all be for naught, though, as Heineman, facing a 4th-and-15 on the Central Mass. 30-yard line, was sacked for a 14-yard loss.

On the first drive of the game, Central marched quickly after a 58-yard kickoff return by Leicester’s Tyler Goodney. Nashoba quarterback Trevor Wyand led an efficient six-play drive that resulted in a five-yard touchdown pass to Leominster’s Kevin O’Connor in the back of the end zone.

West answered back quickly, though on the ensuing drive. Heineman checked down to Pinkney, who caught a short pass and then took it 80 yards, weaving his way through many would-be tacklers for an impressive touchdown.

“It really meant a lot to put on a show for my city,” said Pinkney, a recent graduate from Springfield Putnam. “It felt really good to get out there.”

Reversing the curse? Entering Friday’s matchup, it had been eight straight victories for Central and nine wins in all 11 games played since the Chowder Bowl’s inception in 2001.

Despite the friendly nature of the charitable classic, the Western side was determined to turn the tides.

“We wanted to win pretty bad,” said Minnechaug head coach Steve Allosso, who served as the head coach of the Western squad. “I know recently, we’ve been beaten pretty bad. The kids were fired up. I was fired up. After meeting these kids, it was a blast.”

Contrast in styles: Different styles of offense were seen throughout the game and the contrast was seen early on.

Wyand, the quarterback from Nashoba, led a smart and efficient ground attack from the first play on. Quabbin’s Kenny Goodnow, the other Central Mass. signal caller, sprinkled in a few more passes, but for the most part, the visitors were ground oriented Friday.

On the other side of the field, Heineman threw the ball 20 times, connecting on nine passes for 98 yards. Dayvon Williams of Springfield Commerce also went to the air, narrowly missing teammate Tevin Jones on a home run ball in the first half.

UMass offers Commerce LB/DE Holines

June, 6, 2012
6/06/12
9:27
PM ET
A source has confirmed that UMass has offered Springfield Commerce junior Sha'ki Holines, who lines up at tight end, linebacker and defensive end.

The 6-foot-3, 265-pound Holines has been an integral two-way force for the Red Raiders, who advanced to the Western Mass. Division 2 Super Bowl last December after going 2-9 in 2010. Last season, he registered 132 tackles, including six sacks, and recovered four fumbles. As a tight end offensively, he caught 22 passes for 232 yards and three scores.

ESPNBoston's MIAA All-State Boys Basketball Team

March, 22, 2012
3/22/12
4:59
PM ET
THE SUPER TEAM

All-StateGuard – Aaron Calixte, Jr., Stoughton
An exceptional athlete gifted with a tenacious motor, and one of the state's most dynamic scorers, the 5-foot-11 Calixte was the driving force behind the Black Knight's run to the Division 2 Eastern Mass. final, and asserted himself as the state's premier point guard. For his junior season, he averaged 19 points and six assists, and was named a Hockomock League All-Star. Calixte also stands out on the gridiron for the Black Knights' football squad.

All-StateGuard – Tyrese Hoxter, Jr., Charlestown
After playing in the shadows of former All-Stater Akosa Maduegbunam a year ago, the 6-foot-3 Hoxter thoroughly burst onto the scene and had a monster campaign for the Townies, leading them to the TD Garden floor for the first time since 2005 before bowing out to Brockton in the Division 1 Eastern Mass. Final. This season he averaged 19 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.

All-StateGuard – Tyrell Springer, Sr., Springfield Central
After falling short of a state title two seasons ago with New Leadership, the 6-foot-2 Springer led Central to the DCU Center floor this season where the Golden Eagles captured their first Division 1 state title since 1991. The centerpiece of one of the state's most athletic lineups, Springer averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, seven assists and 7.3 steals. He is undecided on college plans.

All-StateForward – Jake Layman, Sr., King Philip
The 6-foot-8 Layman was one of the most dominant players in Massachusetts this season, with the ability to score both inside and out, as the Warriors set a school single-season record for wins (18) before suffering a surprise upset in the Division 2 South quarterfinals. In 21 games, he averaged 26.5 points, 16 rebounds, 5.8 blocks, 3.2 assists and three steals. He closes his career with with 1,752 points, 1,098 rebounds and 391 blocks, giving him career averages of 20.6 points, 12.9 rebounds, 4.6 blocks, 2.8 steals and 2.6 assists. This is his second appearance on the Super Team; he also captured the Hockomock League's MVP for the second straight season. Layman, who was named ESPN Boston's "Mr. Basketball" earlier this week, is ranked the nation's No. 62 overall senior by ESPN, and will continue his career next season at the University of Maryland.

All-StateCenter – Sayvonn Houston, Sr., Brockton
A nightly double-double machine, Houston established himself as one of the state's most dominant true centers, making life difficult down low as the Boxers went 23-3 and made their first Division 1 state final appearance since 1985. He saved his biggest performances for the biggest stages, such as his 20-20 night in the Division 1 South semifinals, or his 22-point, 13-rebound effort in Brockton's overtime win over Charlestown in the Division 1 Eastern Mass. Final at TD Garden. Houston is undecided on college plans.

BEST OF THE REST

All-StateJalen Adams, Soph. G, Melrose
Quickly rising as one of the Bay State's most complete scoring guards, the 6-foot-1 Adams took home Middlesex League MVP honors after averaging 21 points per game. He led the Red Raiders to an 18-2 regular season record, before they fell to state runner-up Brighton in the Division 2 North semifinals. Adams has already declared that he will be transferring to Wilbraham & Monson Academy next season, where he will reclassify to the Class of 2015.

All-StateJaylen Blakely, Jr. G, Brockton
Like Houston, the 5-foot-11 Blakely saved some of his best performances for the crunch time in the playoffs, such as his eight-assist performance in the Boxers' win over Catholic Memorial. Blakely distributed evenly to Brockton's talented shooters and post players, as they went 23-3 and reached their first state final appearance since 1985.

All-StateMatt Droney, Sr. F, Catholic Memorial
A terrific shooter, the 6-foot-4 Droney was named the Catholic Conference's MVP after a season of averaging 20.7 points, six assists and five rebounds per game. He also became the eighth player in school history to surpass 1,000 points earlier this season. The Canton resident will be doing a post-graduate season next year at the Taft School in Connecticut.

All-StateDarien Fernandez, Jr. G, Wareham
The 5-foot-7 waterbug demonstrated a tenacious motor in leading the Vikings to their second Division 3 Eastern Mass. Final appearance in three seasons. Wareham was the state's last unbeaten before losing to state champion Danvers. For the season, Fernandez averaged 24 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds and five steals, and recorded three triple-doubles. He needs just 45 points next season to reach 1,000 for his career.

All-StateRony Fernandez, Sr. G, Charlestown
Fernandez was one of the most outstanding point guards of the MIAA tournament, leading the Townies to a thrilling win over Lexington in the Division 1 North final before bowing out to state runner-up Brockton in the Eastern Mass. Finals. For the season he averaged 16 points and seven assists. He is undecided on college plans, but is currently fielding interest from Division 1 programs such as Maine, Northeastern and Hartford.

All-StateJoey Glynn, Sr. F, Cardinal Spellman
The 6-foot-5 Abington resident did it all this season for the Cardinals, averaging a double-double (18.5 points, 12 rebounds, three steals, 2.2 blocks) as they lost to Eastern Mass. runner-up Wareham in the Division 3 South semifinals. For his career, Glynn scored 1,425 points. He will continue his career next season at Bentley University.

All-StateSteve Haladyna, Sr. G/F, St. John’s Prep
One of two repeat All-Staters, the 6-foot-3 Haladyna was unable to lead the Eagles deep in their Division 1 state title defense, but he still leaves the Danvers campus as one of its most decorated basketball stars. He averaged 22.4 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, both team highs, and for his career he finishes with 1,392 points -- second all-time on Prep's scoring list. The South Hamilton resident will continue his career next season at Tufts University.

All-StateMalik James, Soph. G, Brighton
The 6-foot-1 James elevated his game when the Bengals needed it most, as they made their first state final appearance in school history, falling to Mahar in the Division 2 title game. For the season, James averaged 18.1 points, 8.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds as the Bengals won their first-ever Eastern Mass. title.

All-StateJameilen Jones, Jr. G, BC High
BC High's season came to an unexpected halt as the Eagles loss in the first round of the Division 1 South tournament, but the 6-foot-2 Jones has established himself as one of Eastern Mass.'s premier two-way players. For the season, he averaged 17 points and eight rebounds as the Eagles went 15-6.

All-StateZach Karalis, Sr. G, North Andover
The 6-foot-1 Karalis was one of the driving forces for the Scarlet Knights, who went 21-2 and reached the playoffs an unprecedented 47th straight time. For the season he averaged 15.9 points and shot 46 percent from the field, to go along with 6.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.8 steals. Karalis will continue his career next season at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

All-StateKevin LaFrancis, Sr. C, Acton-Boxborough
After a stellar season in leading the 21-2 Colonials to a Division 1 North semifinal appearance, the 6-foot-6 LaFrancis was named the Dual County League's MVP. He averaged 19.5 points and eight rebounds this season, and finishes his career at A-B with 1,012 career points. He is undecided on college plans.

All-StateAlex Lopez, Sr. G, Springfield Commerce
The 5-foot-10 Lopez led the Valley League in scoring for the second straight season, averaging 22.3 points as the Red Raiders went to the Division 1 Western Mass. Finals and took state champion Springfield Central to the wire. He led Western Mass. in field goals made (185) and total points (512). Lopez is currently undecided on college plans.

All-StateDamian Lugay, Sr. G, Weymouth
The 6-foot-2 Lugay led the Wildcats to a second straight 17-win season, before they were bounced in the first round of the Division 1 South tournament. For the season he averaged 18.1 points and just under four assists, and leaves Weymouth as a two-time First Team All-Bay State Conference. Lugay is undecided on college plans.

All-StateGeorge Merry, Sr. C, Danvers
At 6-foot-7, Merry was a force at both ends of the floor for the Falcons, known for his ability to redirect shots as much as his scoring touch. He averaged 16.1 points, eight rebounds and 6.6 blocks as Danvers captured its first Division 3 state championship in school history. Merry is currently undecided on college plans, but showing interest from several schools in Divisions 2 and 3.

All-StateMarcus Middleton, Jr. G, Stoughton
Tasked nightly with locking down the opposition's top scorer, Middleton established himself as one of the state's premier on-ball defenders. Middleton averaged 16 points per game for the Black Knights, who won the Division 2 South title before bowing out to state runner-up Brighton in the Eastern Mass. championship at TD Garden. Middleton also stars on Stoughton's football squad.

All-StateMatt Mobley, Sr. G/F, St. Peter-Marian
One of state's most pleasant late-blooming surprises, the 6-foot-3 Mobley was one of the leading scorers in Central Mass. as the Guardians made it all the way to the Division 1 Central Final. For the season, he averaged 23.2 points in leading SPM to its most successful season under head coach Marcus Watson. Mobley finished his career at SPM with 1,175 points, and will do a post-graduate season next year at Worcester Academy.

All-StateTyler Nelson, Soph. G, Central Catholic
The 5-foot-11 Nelson established himself as one of the state's premier shooters, as the Raiders made it to the Division 1 North semifinals before bowing out to champion Charlestown. He averaged 15.5 points and four assists this season, shot 42 percent from three-point range, and 91 percent from the free throw line.

All-StateColin Richey, Jr. G, Whitinsville Christian
After winning a Division 3 state title a year ago, the 6-foot Richey nearly led them back, as the Crusaders lost in the final seconds to state runner-up St. Joseph Central in the state semifinals. For the seaosn, Richey averaged 16.8 points, 6.7 assist and 6.3 rebounds for the Dual Valley League champions.

All-StateKamari Robinson, Jr. F, Springfield Central
The 6-foot-5 Robinson was a rock underneath for the Golden Eagles, who captured their first Division 1 state title since 1991 and third overall. He was a nightly double-double threat this season, averaging 13 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and three assists, as Central went undefeated in Massachusetts.

All-StateMichael Thorpe, Sr. G, Newton North
The Tigers went run-and-gun this season, and the 5-foot-11 Thorpe kept them thoroughly going. One year after reaching the Division 1 South finals, he nearly led them back, before losing to state runner-up Brockton in the semifinals. He was named the Bay State Conference's MVP, with averages of 15 points and four assists. Thorpe will continue his career next season at Emerson College.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
All-StateMARCUS MIDDLETON, STOUGHTON

The kind of on-ball pressure Middleton provided nightly to some of the state's premier scorers can take its toll physically, but he was routinely up to the task. As teammate Aaron Calixte saw a barrage of double-teams and box-and-one's, Middleton did his part at the other end, hedging off screens and staying one one's hip, chasing them all over the floor. As much praise as Calixte will get in this unprecedented season for the Knights, an equal amount must be thrown Middleton's way.

ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM
G – Marcus Middleton, Jr., Stoughton
G – Anthony Hodges, Sr., Holy Name
G – Darien Fernandez, Jr., Wareham
F – Jake Layman, Sr., King Philip
C – George Merry, Sr., Danvers

COACH OF THE YEAR
All-StateHUGH COLEMAN, BRIGHTON

The Bengals lost their best player before the start of the tournament, and backpedaled into the playoffs with uninspiring losses to Acton-Boxborough and Madison Park. Yet in the end, they were one step away from the school's first-ever state title. Coleman is an unabashed disciple of the legendary Jack O'Brien, and staples of those historic Charlestown squads are sprinkled all over the program. Not only has Coleman done a remarkable job bringing the team to heights never before reached in his three seasons at the helm, but this is a program that will be dangerous for the next few years.

RUNNERS-UP:
Paul Connolly, Newton North
Dean O'Connor, Franklin

FINALISTS:
Kevin Brogioli, Wareham
John Gallivan, Stoughton
Reggie Hobbs, Lexington
Malcolm Smith, East Boston
Chad Softic, Mahar
John Walsh, Danvers
Dennis Wilson, Madison Park

Central remains No. 1 in final hoop poll

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
5:01
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Division 1 state champion Springfield Central remains the No. 1 team in our final MIAA Top 25 poll of the 2011-12 season, which we updated this afternoon, but there is plenty of movement elsewhere.

Divsion 1 runner-up Brockton and Division 1 Eastern Mass. runner-up Charlestown move up to the second and third spots, respectively, while St. John's (Shrewsbury) and Central Catholic round out the top five.

Danvers makes the biggest jump up in the poll, coming in at No. 6 after capturing the Division 3 state title. The biggest plummet is North Andover, which falls to No. 21 after getting upset in the Division 2 North semifinals.

Elsewhere, Mahar enters the poll for the first time in its history, at No. 12, after capturing the Division 2 state championship in a surprise upset of Brighton. Springfield Commerce (14), St. Peter-Marian (17), Lexington (18), St. Mary's of Lynn (23) and Whitinsville Christian (25) all make returns to the poll, while Wakefield (19) and St. Joseph Central (24) make their debuts.

We thank you for following along with us throughout the high school basketball season. And as always, any questions or comments can be left in the comments section below, or by emailing Brendan Hall at bhall@espnboston.com

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