Boston High School: Stoughton

Player of the Week: Peabody's Doug Santos

November, 4, 2014
11/04/14
11:13
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PEABODY, Mass. -- Good things are brewing around Peabody football these days and junior running back Doug Santos has been a big part of the Tanners' resurgence.

Peabody squeaked by Lexington, 42-38, in a Division 1 North first-round playoff game with Santos going off for 255 yards and six touchdowns in the win. Now, the Tanners are moving on to face old Greater Boston League rival Everett in the sectional semifinals.

ESPN Boston editor Brendan C. Hall caught up with our Player of the Week for this interview on Monday:



*****

Top 5 performances from first-round playoff games:

Joe Girolamo, Sr. RB, Stoughton – Ran for 237 yards and three touchdowns in the Black Knights’ 23-16 win over Oliver Ames.

Ryan Graham, Jr. QB, East Bridgewater – Was nearly perfect, completing 10 of 11 pass attempts for 183 yards and three touchdowns in the Vikings’ 49-12 win over Fairhaven.

Chris Lindstrom, Sr. OL/DL, Shepherd Hill -- Tallied seven tackles with three sacks and a forced fumble in the Rams' 24-0 win over Groton-Dunstable.

Josh Pierre-Charles, Jr. RB, Millis – Ran for 263 yards and four touchdowns in the Mohawks’ 42-26 win over Mashpee.

Doug Santos, Jr. RB, Peabody – Ran for 255 yards on 35 carries with six touchdowns in the Tanners’ 42-38 win over Lexington.
NEWTON, Mass. -- Don't look now, but something special might be brewing at Newton South.

Led by sophomore quarterback Austin Burton, the Lions notched their first win over Dual County League rival Acton-Boxborough in more than a quarter decade with a 32-28 win. Burton, one of the state's top statistical passers on the season, threw for 425 yards and five scores in the victory over the Colonials.

For that, he was named our ESPN Boston Player of the Week, presented by New England Dairy. Editor Brendan C. Hall caught up with Burton on Monday for this interview:


*****
TOP 5 PERFORMANCES FROM WEEK 5:


Emmanuel Almonte, Sr. QB, Boston English – Rushed for 219 yards and 2 TD while throwing for another 103 yards and pocketing an interception on defense in a 22-6 win over O’Bryant.

Ryan Barabe, Sr. QB, Pope John Paul II – Went a perfect 10-for-10 on passing attempts with 241 yards and 4 TD in a 54-20 win over Lowell Catholic.

Austin Burton, Soph. QB, Newton South – Threw for 425 yards and 5 TD in a 32-28 win over Acton-Boxborough.

Cole O’Connor, Sr. QB, BB&N – Threw for 351 yards and two touchdowns on 12 of 22 passing in a 35-28 win over St. Paul’s.

Brandon Swain-Price, Sr. WR/S, Stoughton – Hauled in 4 catches for 135 yards and 3 TD, and pocketed an interception in a 40-19 win over Oliver Ames.

Recap: No. 22 Stoughton 40, Oliver Ames 19

October, 3, 2014
10/03/14
1:09
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EASTON, Mass. – Inside of the two-minute warning, Oliver Ames was driving and had a goal-to-go, down by a score in the second quarter. The Tigers looked primed to tie Thursday night’s Hockomock League Davenport division game against No. 22 Stoughton.

From there, everything snowballed in Stoughton’s favor. The Black Knights scored two touchdowns within in the final 28 seconds of the half to propel them to a 40-19 win.

“It changes the game,” Stoughton head coach Greg Burke said. “The game was pretty much over at that point.”

An interception and a fumble recovery gave the Black Knights (4-0, 2-0 Davenport) two possession within the final two minutes of the half. They capitalized on both them.

Stoughton senior Brandon Swain-Price hauled in an interception with 1:37 remaining in the half. It appeared Swain-Price had a 95-yard touchdown return as well, but a block in the back set up the Black Knights at the OA 11-yard line.

It wouldn’t matter, as Stoughton drove the length of the field in a minute and nine seconds, capped Joey Girolamo’s 4-yard touchdown run.

The Black Knights had the ball back again with 10 seconds remaining, after the Tigers (1-3, 0-2) fumbled on the first snap of the ensuing drive.

That’s when Swain-Price asserted his will again.

“Coach said, ‘Just jump up for it and get it,’” he said.

Stoughton quarterback Jake Gibb (6 of 8, 192 yards, 3 TD, INT) then used Swain-Price’s mismatch against single coverage to throw a 35-yard jump ball, which the 6-foot-3 senior cherry-picked in the back of the end zone.

In an instant, the Black Knights took a 34-13 lead to the locker room.

“We’re still making way too many mistakes,” OA head coach Jim Artz said. “We should be tied at the half going in, instead we’re down 34-13. Just a little too many lapses, broken tackles.”

Stoughton put the game all but out of reach with a score on the opening possession of the second half on an 8-yard touchdown run by Kirby Impoinvil.

The Black Knights had a near instant 6-0 lead as Ryan Sullivan ran back a punt return for a 37-yard touchdown. But OA responded and took a 7-6 lead on a 13-yard touchdown run by Jameson Dixon.

It was all Stoughton from then on, as Gibb and Swain-Price connected for touchdowns on two straight drives with passes of nine yards and 75 yards, respectively.

Go to the big man: Burke and his coaching staff looked to exploit the matchup against Swain-Price early and often Thursday night.

At 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Swain-Price plays in tight and split wide – playing tight end on Stoughton’s double wing and goal-line formations, and moving to wide receiver on the Black Knights’ flexbone and pro-style looks.

“You’ve got to [get him the ball], he’s a tremendous athlete,” Burke said. “He can do anything he wants to.”

Swain-Price also was opportunistic on defense. The free safety had a prior interception wiped out by a pass interference call before he had what looked to be a 95-yard interception return for a score erased by a block-in-the-back call.

“We’re brining each other up when we’re down,” he said of Stoughton’s stout secondary. “If one person gets beat, we all help him out.”

And, like Swain-Price’s mates in the defensive secondary, he has a top-flight complement in the passing game with Gibb.

“Honestly, it was a great ball,” Swain-Price said of his 35-yard score at the end of the half. “I couldn’t ask for anything more. He’s a great quarterback, the line blocking for him, it was all a team effort.”

Road gets tougher: OA suffered its third straight loss following a win over Plymouth North in the season opener. Thursday’s loss was compounded by the fact the Tigers might also have lost starting quarterback John McMillan for the season.

McMillan left the game in the first quarter with a lower body injury. He was replaced by sophomore Travis Campbell (8 of 12, 74 yards) performed admirably in his first varsity appearance.

“He’s a sophomore thrown into the fire,” Artz said. “For a sophomore coming in and that being his first varsity start against a very good football team, not only did he do a good job, he did a great job.”

But the Tigers find themselves in some straits while looking to qualify for the Division 3 Southwest tournament. OA entered the weekend’s action in the bottom half of the divisional table, looking up a couple of Hockomock teams, including North Attleborough and Milford, along with the Black Knights.

“We're not were we need to be,” Artz said, “and we've got a week to figure out because we have to somehow sneak into the playoff picture because right now it's not good enough."

ESPN Boston state football championship predictions

September, 4, 2014
9/04/14
12:53
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Before the MIAA football season kicks off this weekend, ESPN Boston editors Scott Barboza and Brendan C. Hall give their state championship predictions for the season:

Scott Barboza, ESPNBoston.com High Schools Editor

Division 1: Xaverian
The Division 1 field could look a lot as it did last year; I think there’s a real potential for Central Catholic vs. Everett and Attleboro vs. Xaverian rematches in the North and South districts, respectively. But this race all comes down to depth, and the Hawks have plenty of it across all positions. This time, Xaverian will not be denied at Gillette Stadium.

Division 2: Mansfield
Once again, Division 2 South should prove one of the most tightly contested sectional races across the state this year, but I see the Hornets moving through. With a defensive core that returns starters such as Curtis Boisvert, Connor Finerty, Q’Ra Guichard and Brendan Hill, the Hornets are built for the postseason. That bodes well if they are to meet St. John’s (Shrewsbury) in the state final again, as the Pioneers are primed for another Gillette visit.

Division 3: Marblehead
The Magicians ran into a loaded and experience Tewksbury squad in the North final last year, but this is their year. The Southern districts will be extremely competitive – particularly with many of the Hockomock League’s Davenport Division’ s entrants (Oliver Ames, Stoughton) loading up for this season. However, with Brooks Tyrrell running behind a hulking offensive line, including UMass commit Derek Dumais and Dan Marino, Marblehead is running all the way to the hardware.

Division 4: Dennis-Yarmouth
The Dolphins were denied of the title last year by a talented Doherty squad in the game of the day during championship Saturday. They won’t get fooled again. D-Y is likely to see another challenger from the Central district again – perhaps Doherty once again, or Shepherd Hill – but the Dolphins will come away champions behind Mr. Football candidate Michael Dunn, just as they did a few years back with his cousin Matt Montalto under center.

Division 5: Auburn
The Rockets are a few years off their historic winning streak, but they’ll climb back to the top of the hill with another impressive rushing attack led by preseason All-State Mark Wright. Watch out for Bishop Fenwick to again make a run at Gillette behind returning All-State Rufus Rushins, but Auburn wins out.

Division 6: Pope John Paul II
Had the Lions made the cut in the South sectional playoffs, they might have been the favorite last year. The one-two punch of Ryan Barabe and Diego Meritus will propel one of the state’s top offensive units – regardless of division – to a championship. Of course, PJP will not be without challengers, however, particularly in their own sectional playoff, where challengers Diman, Mashpee and Millis lurk.

*****

Brendan C. Hall, ESPNBoston.com High Schools Editor

Division 1: Xaverian
Hard to pick against the Hawks and their loaded crop of scholarship-caliber talent as they seek to avenge last year’s state final loss. When the smoke clears, this could be one of Charlie Stevenson’s best defenses in a long time, led by Damion Wood and defending ESPNBoston Defensive Player of the Year Joe Gaziano. The North bracket should be a tough battle, but I think Everett has enough talent to outlast that field.

Division 2: St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Going with the vengeance theme here again in D2, as one of the state’s most feared hitters, Boston College-bound safety Davon Jones, looks for another swing at it. Mansfield should be the prohibitive favorite in Eastern Mass., but once again the power is in the South portion and it’s a cauldron. Don’t be surprised if Natick or Marshfield makes it out of the bracket.

Division 3: Marblehead
Jim Rudloff loves to play the underdog card, but there’s no way the Magicians aren’t the lead dog in this race, with returning All-State tailback Brooks Tyrrell once again running behind an offensive line with Division 1 scholarship talent. This race gets interesting in the southern districts, where a number of teams have a good shot at reaching Gillette, and I have no idea who to pick. Walpole? Oliver Ames? Stoughton? Plymouth North?

Division 4: Shepherd Hill
Plain and simple, this is a Division 1-sized offensive line playing in Division 4, led by one of the state’s best hoggies in Chris Lindstrom, with an impressive blend of power and speed at the skill positions. They should get a tough battle from Doherty in the Central district. Once again, it could come down to Holliston and Dennis-Yarmouth in the East, but I like D-Y’s chances of returning to Gillette.

Division 5: Auburn
I picked the Rockets to win last year, and that sputtered. But on the heels of an explosive breakout campaign from Mark Wright, here’s hoping second time’s a charm. A number of Catholic Central teams could stake their claim in the East, led by St. Mary’s and Bishop Fenwick, but keep an eye on Northbridge out of the Central district as well.

Division 6: Pope John Paul II
A year after getting left out of the inaugural South football playoffs, Lions come back roaring with an even more explosive offense, triggered under center by Ryan Barabe and led in the backfield by workhorse Diego Meritus. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Millis come out of the South either, and Boston English is my favorite in the North with slippery dual-threat QB Emmanuel Almonte.

Our 2014 Summer Football Primer

July, 8, 2014
7/08/14
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?

Four hockey coaches get MSHCA hall call

May, 5, 2014
5/05/14
1:42
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STONEHAM, Mass. -- It was a grand night for the Mass. State Hockey Coaches Association (MSHCA). The well-established organization inducted four head coaches into its Hall of Fame, Sunday evening.

Before a capacity crowd inside Montvale Plaza filled with past and present coaches, family and friends, Mike Nanartowich (Hudson), Brian Murphy (St. John's of Shrewsbury), Dan Mark (Stoughton) and John Maguire (Waltham) became the latest members of the fraternity. Combined, the four coaches have spent a total of 112 years behind the bench.

Also inducted was Arlington Catholic long-time assistant coach Jim Hunt. Coach of the Year accolades went to John Devany (St. Joseph's Prep) in the boys’ category while Arlington Catholic's Maggie Taverna received the honor as girls’ coach. Tim Hooton was given the Brian “Trooper” Sullivan award for officials and UMass-Dartmouth coach John Rolli was awarded the William J. Stewart, Jr. Award for outstanding service and contribution to Massachusetts Secondary Schoolboy hockey.

Included in the festivities, the MSHCA recognized six high school players for their athletic and academic excellence. They included, Luke Amato (Arlington Catholic), Ian Lapham (Reading), Kevin Dober (Newton South), Alex Tepper (Nashoba Regional), Ryan McKennedy (Lowell) and Colin MacDonald (Marshfield).

“All of these student-athlete's academic distinctions are off the charts,” said former Lincoln-Sudbury coach and 2010 inductee Dan Doyle.

MSHCA secretary and 2003 inductee Charlie Driscoll, who spent 16 season guiding Medford as well as stints at Archbishop Williams, Malden Catholic, Wakefield and Reading, served as emcee.

Nanartowich, who won a Division 3 state title in 2012, was introduced by former Marlborough coach and 2012 inductee John Butler along with 20-year assistant coach Mike Correa.

“Mike Nanartowich was one who was always prepared for every game he coached,” Butler said. “He helped bring a lot of credibility and entusiasm to Central Mass. Hockey. Mike has always been a student of the game and is always looking to learn new things constantly.”

Added Correa, "Mike wrote the script on how to run a successful hockey team," he said. "Players at Hudson have succeeded because they had a meaningful relationship with their head coach.”

Nanartowich, who was named Mass. State High School Coach of the Year in 2012, expressed humility of the honor bestowed on to him.
“I think the best word that describes what hockey means to me and what Hudson High School means to me is the word blessed. I've been blessed with great players and great assistant coaches. For me, it's not about numbers, it's about the players.”

Murphy, who stepped down as Pioneers coach at the end of the 2013 season, having earned seven Super 8 appearances along the way, was introduced by former Shrewsbury coach and Class of 2004 member Phil Irving.

“To be here, it takes a tremendous amount of support from a large number of people over a long period of time,” Murphy said. “I had a wonderful experience coaching at St. John's and enjoyed every minute of it. As any coach will admit, you are only as good as your players so I would be remissed if I didn't offer my sincerest thanks to all of my players over the years.”

Former Bridgewater State coach Bob Carpenter spoke on behalf of Mark, who served as a team captain under Carpenter his senior year there.

Mark offered a special thank you to former Stoughton coach Jim Gormley, who coached Mark for four seasons at the varsity level and later brought him on as an assistant coach.

“Probably the biggest influence of my life is Jim Gormley,” said Mark. “I cannot thank him enough for everything he taught me. I really want to thank MSHCA for inducting me. When I look at the number of people inducted into this Hall of Fame it's pretty over-whelming and now my name will be there with theirs and is greatly-appreciated.”

Doyle introduced Maguire and began saying, “Coach Maguire's moral compass is always in order yet he is his own man. His teams have always achieved above the level of their talents because John coaches them the right way.”

Maguire, who is closing in on 350 victories with the Hawks and took home a Division 1 state title in 2002, had nearly half of the banquet hall filled with family and friends in recognition of his honor.

“In my first three years the Hawks were 3-15 three years in a row and I remember our mailbox being run over by a disgruntled player,” laughed Maguire. “I am certainly humbled by this introduction.”

The event ended with the news that Marshfield coach Dan Connolly will be stepping down as MSHCA president this year.

“It has been extremely humbling being president of this organization,” Connolly said. “As coaches, we don't coach for the money, but for the love of the game and the kids.”

Hockey teams kick off season at Regan Summitt

December, 9, 2013
12/09/13
1:42
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MARLBOROUGH, Mass. -- It is never easy replacing a legend, but that is the task which has been handed down to first-year St. John's (Shrewsbury) coach Mike Mead.

Mead's Pioneers, along with many of the state's other top-echelon programs, took part in Sunday's Fifth Annual Garrett Regan Hockey Summit at New England Sports Center. The event is named after the former 26-year Hingham High coach and Massachusetts State Hockey Coaches Hall of Fame inductee who passed away in June 2008.

Mead, who was appointed to the position last September, takes over for Brian Murphy, who stood behind the St. John's bench for 29 seasons, posting an overall record of 392-217-63, including a pair of Division 1 state titles (1999, 2004) and a handful of Super 8 appearances.

Mead is no stranger to St. John's. He served as an assistant under Murphy for 16 years, leaving in 2007 to spend more time with his family. He is also head of the Math Department at the school.

"Brian is a great friend and was a great mentor," said Mead. "He kind of broke me in. When this opportunity happened I jumped at it. My kids are little older now so everything sort fell into the right place at the right time for me."

Mead exudes the fact that the Pioneers have a plethora of depth, including a freshman team with 25 members. "We have a lot of kids who came back and tried out," he said. "We have good numbers and good depth. I don't really know the kids yet so with our tryouts I did things by grade. I didn't do it with returning players. We did juniors and seniors one day and freshman and sophomores the next. What I have seen so far I have been pleasantly surprised."

St. John's will, again, be paced by senior defensemen Bryan Nelson (23 points last season), Connor McCann, senior forward Kevin Butler and senior goaltender Mario Pizzeri.

Mead is also counting on senior forward Chris Adams and junior forward Dan Barlock to make their presence felt.

"We'll try to be aggressive on the forecheck and having two men on the puck," Mead said. "The biggest thing for us will be on offense. I feel we are a strong defensive team. I'm going to need some of our seniors to put the puck into the net."

Lancers quest for four: Malden Catholic began its quest for a fourth consecutive Super 8 crown, taking on Springfield Cathedral, another Super 8 qualifier from a year ago.

The Lancers controlled the opening frame, building a 4-1 lead before the Panthers rallied for three unanswered tallies to earn a 4-4 tie in the 2-period scrimmage.

By most people's observations, MC is the prohibitive favorite to claim another Super 8 crown again this season.

Despite the losses of two of their most prolific players (Casey Fitzgerald and Mike Iovanna, who combined for 56 points a year ago), there is still plenty of talent to carry the Lancers again this season. Junior forward Ara Nazarian (26 goals, 24 assists) leads the way. Senior forward Tyler Sifferlen, junior forward Austin Goldstein, sophomore forwards Matt Filipe and Jake Witkowski along with defensemen John McLean, Nick Rolli are solid. As of now, Alex Reissis appears to be the front-runner between the pipes replacing departed Connor Maloney.

"We lost some major contributors but we have a good bunch of younger kids who have come in that should fill those spots fine," MC head coach John McLean said. "The issue is you cannot replace a Casey Fitzgerald (who joined the United States National Team Development Program). He was a special player but the guys that are going to play need to step up.

“As far as our expectations I just worry about the next game. We don't think about the Super 8. Right now we're rolling everyone and everyone is getting to play. When we work we're good and when we don't want to work then we're just average. All that matters is winning the last game of the year. Last year was a long learning curve for us. Hopefully our leaders this year will step it up and take us to the Garden again. We have a lot of good, young strong players. It's just a matter of them gaining the confidence to play at this level."

Against Springfield Cathedral, Sifferlen netted a pair of goals, with Goldstein and Rolli accounting for one apiece.

"I think we have a good group of young core guys on this team," said Nazarian, a UNH commit. "We have good leadership from our older guys. It's a good mix of young and older guys. I think things are looking good so far. There is one goal here and that's to win the whole thing. That is our mindset. We won last year so we know every team we play is going to give us their best so we need to give it our best every game. This is a whole new season so we're just focusing on winning it again and not look back on last year."

Raiders on the rebound: Having reached the third round of last year's Super 8 before falling to St. John's Prep, Central Catholic remains hopeful for another stab at the big dance. Raiders head coach Mike Jankowski is a main reason as to why this program has emerged as a driving force statewide.

With Central everything begins from the net outward. Senior goaltender Colin Soucy, arguably the best high school netminder in the state, will be relied on heavily to get the Raiders back into Super 8 contention.

"We've had a lot of success of late," Jankowski said. "The culture has changed here and we are getting kids coming back from juniors and prep schools and believing in this program and high school. We want kids to enjoy their high school experience here. The schedule we play keeps is very competitive and it keeps our kids engaged and maintains them playing at a high-level. There's nothing like high school hockey in terms of the relationships and friendships the kids build. It's an awesome brotherhood that all teams should experience."

For years, Central often flew under the radar, constantly being overshadowed by other programs. But due to their recent success, that is no longer the case. Jankowski wishes it was not like that but when you win consistently, you now have a target on your back.

"Now, instead of coming in as a dark horse which we like to ride, there is a new expectation level which has been set here but I think we're ready for it," he said. "Colin is back and what he did for us, especially at the end of last year, was remarkable. For the kids to have that confidence in him at his position just gives us that added advantage. The goalie position where it makes a difference in a team's won-loss record. Colin is just a great example of being a great character kid."

Panthers on the prowl: With the loss of two key contributors last year, Springfield Cathedral will be looking to its youthfulness to help them make a return visit to the Super 8. Gone are defenseman Matt Foley and forwards Artie Potter and Dominic Blad. But who returns should play a key role in the Panthers postseason hopes. It all starts with goalie John Liquori. The team's lone senior, Liquori played himself into a top-level talent a year ago. Forwards Peter Crinella (a Holy Cross commit), Johnny Leonard, D.J. Petruzzelli, Cole Foster, Zac Prattson and Riley Prattson will give Cathedral the ammo it needs on offense.

Defense will be a work in progress, but Bryce Peritz, Jordan Tetreault and Cam Griffin return.

Also make note on freshman goaltender Keith Petruzzelli over the next couple of years.

"We've got babies but they're all good," Panthers coach Brian Foley said. "Our first two lines are going to score goals. We had a great first week of practice and you noticed how much they improved in just one week. It'll be fun over time to see how these guys mature this year. I think this will be our most-offensive team that we've had ever. All of those kids did a lot of work on their strength and speed during the off-season. I also think our defense and goaltending will be outstanding as well."

BC High movin’ on: With the loss of all-everything goaltender Peter Cronin, all is not lost at BC High. Brandon Payzant, a sophomore, was Cronin's understudy a year ago and by the looks of things, he appears to be a quick learner after playing solid between the pipes today against St. Mary's of Lynn.

"Brandon was with us last year as a freshman," Eagles coach John Flaherty said. "Obviously he had a great kid to watch and learn from. Peter was great working with Brandon so he now has a year of experience under his belt in practice and being around these guys. Now he is able to get some game experience. He's a good athlete and someone who will be able to step in and carry the load for us. We are also carrying eight defense (spearheaded by Sam Topham) where we hope to find the right combinations in order to keep the puck out of our zone."

On offense, BC High will count on Patrick Kramer (25 points), Steve DeForge, Chris LaLiberte, Tim Larocque, Jake Lemanski and Connor Noonan to work the puck into opposing team's defensive zones.

"We have a lot of experience back," Flaherty added. "It is just now we need guys to play bigger roles for us. Overall we are returning seven defensemen, 11 forwards and one goaltender and most of them have been around for a few years and it is our hope this is the year they blossom."

Hawks a sleeper?: Don't rule out Xaverian as a potential candidate to do some big things this season. Reaching the Division 1 South quarterfinals last season, the Hawks should be a better unit this year in spite of the departures of Eddie Pratt (17 goals last year) and defenseman Mike Brennan. They are led by forwards Antonio Marini (35 points last year), Tim Sweeney (24 points) and Jake Farrell (14). Defensively, Rick Smith and Ryan Walsh will be keys in shutting down opposing offenses.

Shot in the arm for SMH: After spending last season at Brewster Academy, St. Mary's of Lynn head coach Mark Lee was overjoyed learning that goalie Bailey MacBurnie was returning for his senior year.

Two years ago, as a sophomore, MacBurnie secured a 1.38 goals-against-average in helping the Spartans earn a No. 2 seeding in the Super 8 Tournament. With him back in the crease, expect St. Mary's to make another solid postseason run.

"Bailey can certainly be a difference maker for us," Lee said. "I think with this team we are putting a lot of kids in a position to allow them to gain great experience because overall we are a young team. I think we'll get better as the season goes."

With another year under their respective belts, you can look for forwards Jordan Manthorne and Jon Powers, the only two players to reach double digits in scoring last season, to lead to carry this club offensively.

Burlington moves on from repeat: Defending back-to-back Division 1 state champion Burlington will count on its defense to help the Red Devils in their quest for a third state title.

"So far I'm happy with our progress even though it has only been a couple of days," said Burlington head coach and recently-inducted Mass. State Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Conceison. "We have a strong defense and some forward that are young so it will be a work in progress to get our offense going. This is kind of a similar team to last year in that our offense started to come together at the end of the year. It's going to take a while for our offense to gel. We lost some firepower on offense last year (losing C.J. Grinnell and Joe Bernardi) but our defense is back."

The Red Devils also lost goalie Derek DeCastro to graduation and hope to fill the void with senior Mike Guleserian.

The Hall calls: Longtime Hudson head coach Mike Nanartowich will be inducted into the Mass. State Coaches Hall of Fame in May, along with Murphy, Waltham head coach John Maguire and Stoughton front man Dan Mark. Two years removed from his Division 3 state championship triumph over Medway, Nanartowich, now in his 24th season, regards Shrewsbury as the favorite in Central Mass. this year.

The Colonials return a front line of Dan and Jack Quinlivan along with David Belbin. Last season the trio combined to score 125 points. However, never never rule out the possibility for the Hawks at making a serious charge by season's end.

"You still have to go out and show up for every single game," Nanartowich said. "Right now you have to give the edge to Shrewsbury because of the people that they are returning as well as Wachusett and its depth. But at this point, I just think Belbin and the Quinlivan brothers can be the most-dominant line in all of Central Mass. this year. How you take care of their speed and skill requires a lot of game planning. As for us, we will still go out and play everyone straight up like we always do."

In regards to going into the Hall of Fame, Nanartowich remains humble over the selection. He passes the credit over to the players and coaches he has worked with over the years as the reason for the honor.

"I'm going in with a bunch of great guys and guys who have won at a good level," he said. "For me, all that hard work of watching tape, going to various rinks to scout and those commitments you make in the off-season with your team has paid off in winning a state championship and now it has paid off in terms of being recognized by your peers."

Hawks longtime assistant coach Mike Correa added that the honor bestowed on Nanartowich is certainly well-deserved.

"There is probably no one who does more for his players or works harder at preparing kids, not only for the game but life lessons as well, than him," Correa said. "Winning the 2012 state championship is not the reason why he should be in the hall. It is all the dedication he has brought to all the kids who have played in this program over the years which stands out to me."

D3 South final: Plymouth South 14, Stoughton 12

November, 23, 2013
11/23/13
1:18
AM ET


BROCKTON, Mass. -- A season ago, the Plymouth South High School football team surged to the program’s first ever playoff appearance, but fell in the first round of the playoffs, one win shy of a Super Bowl appearance at Gillette Stadium.

Fast forward one year, and star running Dylan Oxsen made sure the Panthers would finally get to find out what the turf in Foxborough felt like as he powered Plymouth South past Stoughton, 14-12, in the Div. 3 South final to punch a ticket to the state title game.

“The feeling is so good to be the senior group to finally make it to Gillette,” Oxsen said. “Before last year, South had never even made the playoffs. Last year, we made it to this game and we lost. There is no better feeling than this right now.”

Added South coach Scott Fry: “It’s not a very old program; we've only been around for 20 years. Relatively speaking, when you’re talking Stoughton years, that’s not very long. We’ve always kind of been the step sister of Plymouth so it says so much about our kids and the student body.”

Oxsen, who got off to a slow start against rival Plymouth North last week, hit the ground running Friday night under the lights of Marciano Stadium at Brockton High. He ripped off both of his touchdown runs and ran for 150 of his whopping 214 yards before halftime against the Knights.

After the team’s traded three-and-outs on the first two drives of the game, Oxsen took advantage of the good field position South was given after Stoughton punted from deep in their territory.

He took the first carry eight yards up the middle before gashing Stoughton on the second touch of the drive for the final 29 that stood between him and the end zone to put the Panthers up 7-0.

Early in the second quarter, South forced another punt, this time taking over at their own 25.

Their leading man went to work once again, this time taking eight of the Panthers’ nine carries on the drive, racking up an impressive 72 yards, finally capping the drive with a 6-yard plunge to extend the lead to 14-0 with 4:07 remaining in the first half.

Plymouth South appeared on the verge of putting the game out of reach as Stoughton’s ensuing drive seemed to stall when a long pass on third down tipped off the hands of a would-be receiver.

Facing a fourth-and-8 at the South 15, Stoughton head coach Greg Burke opted to bypass a field goal attempt, instead putting the ball back into the hands of sophomore quarterback Jake Gibb.

Gibb, who took over as the starter midway through the season, responded like a true veteran as he delivered a perfectly lofted pass into the outstretched hands of Lennox Green. For the second straight week, South blocked what would prove to be a big extra point.

With just over a minute remaining in the half, a muffed kickoff looked more the part of an onside kick attempt, but the Black Knights fell on the ball just over 10 yards down field. A long pass looked to have the Knights in business, but South quickly forced and recovered a fumble.

Just three plays later, with the Panthers trying to run out the clock, a pitch ended up on the turf, and Stoughton returned the favor by recovering a fumble.

With just 25 seconds to go in the second quarter after the fumble recovery, Stoughton once again turned to the budding sophomore slinger.

After an incomplete pass on first down, Gibb connected with Joe Girolamo on a bubble screen over the middle. Girolamo followed his pulling offensive line 37 yards into the end zone for another score. A two-point rushing try was stuffed by the Panthers, sending the team’s into the break with Plymouth South leading 14-12.

Both sides came out in the second half playing their best defense of the night, and the offenses combined on one third quarter first down.

“Our defense doesn’t get a lot of credit because we have Dylan Oxsen on our team so it’s kind of the Dylan Oxsen show when everybody comes to see us play,” said Fry, “but our defense has played awesome all year minus the [Dennis-Yarmouth] game where we didn’t have everybody. Outside of that game, we’re probably averaging less than seven points against this year.”

Late in the contest, South’s defense forced a turnover on downs, leaving the Panthers looking to Oxsen for one more trip down the field.

The senior running back obliged, taking every carry during an 11-play drive that left Stoughton at their own 30 with just 2:04 remaining.

A couple of big pass completions by Gibb and a defensive pass interference moved Stoughton all the way to the South 24, but the defense came up big once again as Anthony Schena intercepted a pass near the end zone to seal the victory.

“He’s a kid who is a two-sport captain, and doesn’t always get all the credit he deserves,” said Fry. “Kids who are leaders seem to just step up and make big plays and that’s what he did there.”

Added Schena: “Our team is mentally tough and we make sure its not over ‘til the clock says zero. We just keep playing ‘til the end, that’s how football is played. That’s why we’re able to make big plays.”

Some statistical information gleaned from the last week or so of the MIAA football playoffs:

3. This is our house: Through its first year, and through the respective sectional tournaments, the MIAA football playoff system acquitted itself well in regard to its playoff seedings. Of the 138 games played through the weekend, throughout the state tournaments, the higher seed prevailed in 110 of those games — about 72 percent.

While most teams made the most of home-field advantage in the playoffs, only five divisions statewide were won out exclusively by the home teams, including (surprisingly enough) Division 2 South – which we deemed “The Group of Death” entering the playoffs.

However, again while higher seeds held a clear advantage on the greater bulk of playoff games, seven teams won their district championship game despite being the lower seed, meaning higher seeds were only 15-for-22 in sectional final games.

Here’s a look at the seven teams who pulled off “upsets” in those finals pairings:
  • Abington (Div. 5 South)
  • Bedford (Div. 4 North)
  • Central Catholic (Div. 1 North)
  • Doherty (Div. 4 Central)
  • Hoosac Valley (Div. 5 West)
  • St. John’s of Shrewsbury (Div. 2 Central)
  • Stoughton (Div. 3 Southwest)

2. Mr. Consistency: Melrose senior quarterback Malik Garrett is among the leading rushers in the state during the playoffs, running for 466 yards and seven touchdowns. But the rugged 5-foot-11, 195-pound signal caller has supplemented the ground game with a rather consistent passing result.

In fact, you can set your clock to Garrett gaining 115 yards in the air – as evidenced by his identical marks throwing for 115 in the Red Raiders’ three playoff wins over Middlesex League foes Burlington, Arlington and Woburn. Garrett has also been accurate, while completing 20 of 31 pass attempts throughout the playoffs – good for a completion percentage just a shade less than 65 percent. It’s an impressive feat, considering Garrett often throws on the roll, as part of Melrose’s spread option attack. And, if he’s not looking downfield for a receiver, he just as likely to run over you.

1. Picture Perfect? Well, Mansfield’s quarterback Kyle Wisnieski nearly was during Friday night’s win over Barnstable in the Div. 1 South final. While completing 20 of 27 pass attempts for 284 yards and four touchdowns against no interceptions, the Hornets senior quarterback registered nearly a perfect passer rating on Friday. Based on the NFL’s passer rating rubric, in which a “perfect” rating is 158.3, Wisnieski posted a 147.2 in Mansfield’s 41-16 victory. Along with a tremendous effort from the Hornets defense, in particular their defensive line, which limited All-State candidate running Hayden Murphy to just 21 rushing yards, Wisnieski and the Hornets took their game to near ... well, perfection.

D3 Southwest final: Stoughton 16, Oliver Ames 14

November, 16, 2013
11/16/13
12:20
AM ET
NORTH EASTON, Mass. -- Sophomore Jake Gibb wasn't the starting quarterback at the beginning of the season for Stoughton, but you'd never know that with the confidence he played with on the Black Knights’ final drive Friday.

Gibb led Stoughton from their own 26-yard line to the Oliver Ames 8 in 16 plays before kicking the game-winning field goal himself with just over a minute left as No. 2 seed Stoughton downed previously unbeaten No. 1 Oliver Ames, 16-14, in the Division 3 Southwest final.

"We had a tough time," Stoughton head coach Greg Burke said. "They are a good team, an excellent team. I'm happy they had a great season and I'm glad we aren't playing them again. They gave us a good licking in the first one and we played a little better today and we played harder and it showed, I think, that we got a little better then maybe they did.

Oliver Ames opened the fourth quarter with two straight incompletions before punting it to the Black Knights with 10:30 left in the fourth quarter. Stoughton used up 9:22 on their 16-play drive before Gibb put it through the uprights on a 25-yard field goal with 1:08 left.

But Oliver Ames nearly stole it back.

After the field goal, Oliver Ames returned it to their own 28 and quarterback Nick Cidado drove his team down to the Stoughton 11-yard line in 51 seconds. But with just three seconds left, the Tiger's 28-yard field goal was wide right.

"We probably should have knocked off a few more seconds down here," Burke said of their long drive. "We tried to knock off as much as we could for the field goal but you don't want your own guys thinking about a field goal, you just want to go out and do it. It's a touch call for a sophomore."

Gibb actually missed a 32-yard field goal in the first half, but credited his teammates for keeping him calm on his second attempt.

"It started low and I was really nervous about that," Gibb said of his confidence level. "The team settled me down and made sure I was calm kicking it."

Gibb finished with a staggering stat line of sorts (2 of 4 passing for 30 yards, in addition to 8 yards rushing), but the timing of his numbers couldn't have been any better.

On its last drive, Stoughton ran into a third-and-7 on its own 29 before Gibb had his first completion — a 21-yard gain to junior Brian Crimmins. Just three plays later, the Black Knights faced third and 4 at the OA 44, and this time Gibb scrambled for just enough to move the chains.

Maybe the biggest run for Gibb came when Stoughton faced a fourth-and-2 from the OA 29-yard line, Gibb's QB sneak gained four yards and a first down for Stoughton. Gibb had his second completion of the night, hitting Crimmins on a third-down that gave Stoughton the ball inside the OA red zone.

"The coaches have definitely helped me out the most," Gibb said. "They always tell me 'you're the one next if something happens' and that's what happened when Stanley [Sajous] went down. I had to step up. Coach tells me what to read and I have the run option and if I see it, I'll take it.

Crimmins was without a reception before his two catches as Gibb had yet to complete a pass, only having attempted just one in the first half — a Hail Mary-esque try right before the half — and one in the second. Despite not having connected, there was no wavering in Gibb's confidence.

"It's very high," Gibb said. "[Brian] told me he was going to be there for me no matter what, I threw it there and I trusted him with everything that I have and it turned out great."

Lennox Green and Jovani Pires did most of the legwork in the backfield for Stoughton, who ran on 14 of its last 16 plays. Pires finished with 107 yards on 16 carries, while Green had 96 yards on 13 carries and both of Stoughton's touchdowns.

Green opened the scoring on the first play of the second quarter, punching it in from one-yard out after Oliver Ames turned the ball over on their first two possessions. The Tigers got on the board after Colin Lozzi came up with a huge tackle in Stoughton's end zone to force a safety. The Tigers then took the lead with just 12 seconds left in the first half as Cidado found sophomore Franklin Holgate for a one-yard score, just one play after the two connected on a 29-yard play.

OA forced a three-and-out on Stoughton's opening drive of the second half, and a low snap gave the Tigers the ball at the Stoughton 26-yard line. Five plays later, Cidado hit sophomore Andrew Callachan over the middle for a 7-yard touchdown. The extra point fake attempt was snuffed out by Stoughton.

The Black Knights made it a 1-point game when Green took a handoff to the left, but cut back across the middle and outran OA defenders for a 45-yard touchdown with 48 seconds left in the third quarter. Stoughton's extra point fake also failed, making it 14-13.

Stoughton will now face Plymouth South, the winner of the D3 Southeast Bracket, in the D3 State Semifinals.

The game will be Nov. 22 (7 p.m.), at Brockton High School.

D3 Southeast final: Plymouth South 7, Plymouth North 6

November, 15, 2013
11/15/13
11:54
PM ET
PLYMOUTH, Mass. -- Over the last two seasons, star running back Dylan Oxsen has been the driving force behind much of Plymouth South's success.

On Friday night, as South downed visiting crosstown rival Plymouth North, 7-6, to capture the Div. 3 Southeast Sectional crown, it became obvious early in the contest that Oxsen wasn't headed for the explosive performance many were predicting.

A slow start saw Oxsen rush for just two yards in the first quarter. The second quarter was better as Oxsen ripped off 45 yards before halftime.

Just three plays into the second half though, Oxsen fumbled away his first of two turnovers in the third quarter. That first one set up North's lone score of the game -- a 1-yard plunge on fourth down with 3:40 from QB Cullin Cosgrove. Dylan Anti blocked the ensuing point-after try, setting the stage for the comeback win.

The game looked like it might slip away from the Panthers when Oxsen fumbled his second carry of the next possession, setting the Eagles up inside the 50 again.

This time though, the defense pushed North backward before forcing a three-and-out. Instead of pinning South deep in their territory, Plymouth North was only able to get off an 11-yard punt because Matt Bremis tore through the line and nearly batted the kick down.

"Give it up to the defense," said Oxsen. "I fumbled twice and they still held North to one touchdown. They did a great job."

Even after losing two fumbles, there was never any question that South would be going back to Oxsen.

"If we're going to win a game, we're going to win it with Dylan Oxsen," said South coach Scott Fry. "Two fumbles or not, he's going to be the guy who has to carry the load to get us into the end zone. He hasn't scored 60-something touchdowns the last two years without being our go-to guy."

Oxsen rewarded that mindset on the very first play, tearing off an impressive 28-yard and moving the ball down to North's 35.

That was the first of eight consecutive carries for the go-to guy, twice more moving the chains before setting up a first-and-goal from the 6.

After Bremis took a carry, the ball went back to Oxsen on a sweep left. He broke one tackle near line of scrimmage and shot in for a touchdown, tying the game.

Gordan Fitzgerald's extra point put South up with 5:03 to play.

A facemask penalty on the kickoff pushed PN to midfield, but when a fourth-and-6 pass attempt fell to the ground, the Panthers took over with just under three minutes to play.

Once again, Oxsen -- who finished with 160 yards on a career-high 39 carries -- proved to be the go-to guy, taking five straight carries and picking up a pair of first downs before South took knees and advanced to next Friday's Div. 3 South game against Stoughton, with a trip to Gillette Stadium on the line.

THE LESS-HERALDED LEADER: Bremis helped set up Oxsen's go-ahead score with his pressure on the punt, but that was just the tip of his impact in the win. He was perhaps the key cog in slowing down North's Christian Carr, who rushed for more than 350 yards a week ago.

Against South, however, Carr was limited to 69 yards on 22 carries. Meanwhile, Bremis racked up a team-high 10 tackles from his linebacker position.

He also played an important role in the offense, rushing for 26 yards on eight carries in short-yardage situations. More importantly, he paved the way for Oxsen — especially on the game-winning drive — as a lead-blocker, and sealed off a would be tackler on the 28-yard gain.

"He's a fullback in an I-formation," said Fry. "He doesn't get a lot of press. Ya’ know, it's Oxsen, Oxsen, Oxsen, as well as it should be, but Ryan is a starting linebacker, a starting fullback and he's probably our inspirational leader on both sides of the ball."

Added Oxsen: "Bremis is an absolute animal. He loves football. He lives and breathes football. He is so aggressive on defense, he knows how to read everything, and I can't even put into words how good he is on defense. And when he gets the ball on offense, he's not going down on first contact. He's a wrecking ball and he does a lot for us."

D3 Southwest: Oliver Ames 27, North Attleborough 13

November, 9, 2013
11/09/13
12:38
AM ET
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – The Oliver Ames football program is having an historic season. The Tigers already completed their first undefeated regular season since 1964, and, on Friday night at Muscato Stadium, OA added its first victory over North Attleborough since 1994.

Oliver Ames outscored the Rocketeers 20-6 after halftime and behind a punishing defensive line claimed a 27-13 victory that sends the Tigers to the Division 3 Southwest final.

OA head coach Jim Artz knew that his team was in uncharted waters at this stage of the season and was taking on a team that had dominated the overall series record. He expected his team to battle nerves early on and said that if the team was close after a quarter, then the Tigers would be alright.

He noted, “With their team speed and the way that they attack, we knew that the first quarter was really going to be tough. If we felt comfortable with where we were at and okay at the end of the first quarter then we’d be fine.”

He added, “We just had to wear them down a little bit because I think that we’re bigger and stronger and I think that we showed that.”

The Tigers (9-0) dominated the North offensive line from the first series, although on the second possession Rocketeers quarterback James Kummer somehow stood in the pocket and took a huge hit to complete a 32-yard pass to Dan Moore. North (5-4) took advantage of the big play and finished the drive with Jack Blasť running it in from five yards out to make it 7-0.

The Oliver Ames offense has been explosive this season and it was a big play by running back Matt Berksza (17 carries, 135 yards) that got the Tigers going at the end of the second quarter. His 45-yard run as the first quarter ended put OA at the North 11. Two plays later he finished the drive with a one-yard dive to tie the score.

Oliver Ames had the chance to take the lead before the break, but Nick Sanborn’s 43-yard field goal attempt, into the wind, came up short.

In the second half, the Oliver Ames offense started to click into gear behind senior quarterback Nick Cidado. Facing third and 11 at midfield on the opening possession, Cidado picked out senior wide receiver Reid Starr down the center of the field for a 50-yard, go-ahead touchdown. The North defender tried to jump in front for the interception but could not get there in time.

North head coach Don Johnson remarked, “We had good coverage, but he just misplayed the ball and it turned into a big play; caught us on the man-to-man blitz.”

Artz praised his senior quarterback for his ability to run the offense with both his arm and his legs.

“I’ve been touting him all season long. We used him a little more leg-wise tonight because they were doing a lot of slanting and trying to take away zone with Matt [Berksza] and we said if you’re going to slant that way then we’ll run back this way.”

North tried to get back on its next possession, but after reaching the OA one-yard-line, Kummer fumbled on a play that looked like his knee may have been down. The Tigers could not take advantage.

The Rocketeers forced a Berksza fumble and took over on the Tigers 22. Five plays later, Mike Lambert took a sweep to the right for six yards and a touchdown. A penalty forced the extra point back five yards and Connor Flynn missed wide left to keep OA on top, 14-13.

The Tigers responded immediately. OA went 69 yards in eight plays to extend the lead back to eight points with 9:57 remaining in the game. Cidado and Berksza rushed for 68 of the yards on the drive and junior Joey Tepper took it the final yard into the end zone.

On its next possession, the Tigers appeared to be trying to run down the clock. Instead, on second and eight, Artz took a chance and called for a play-action pass. Cidado threw a 31-yard strike to sophomore Sam Kelly (four receptions, 88 yards) to make it 27-13.

When asked about the play, Artz explained, “As long as they kept two high safeties, then we were going to run but we saw them creeping down and creeping down and they still had timeouts to burn. We could either play it safe or be aggressive and I thought it was the appropriate time to be a little bit aggressive and go for it.”

He added, “Sam Kelly is an outstanding young receiver and Cid put it right where it needed to be. It gave us a lot more breathing room and a whole different comfort level.”

Johnson was disappointed that his team was surprised by the call. He reflected, “It shouldn’t have [surprised us]; we know that is something that they like to do. It was just a poor play on defense.”

Down by two scores, North was forced to start looking downfield in the passing game, but Kummer was constantly under pressure from the OA defensive line. Chris Duggan, Josh Briggs, and Pat McNeeley each had shots on Kummer in the fourth quarter, as well as linebacker Tepper. It was a problem for which North had no answer.

Johnson admitted, “We didn’t do a good job protecting him to give him a chance. They’ve got some good, fast, strong players up front that overpowered us tonight.”

The win sets up an all-Hockomock League D3 Southwest final with Oliver Ames hosting rival Stoughton in a rematch of the Tigers' 35-7 win from earlier this season.

MSHCA announces Hall of Fame class

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
7:35
PM ET
The Massachusetts State Hockey Coaches Associaiton recently announced its 2014 Hall of Fame induction class.

The honorees will be enshrined during a May ceremony.

Here's a look at this year's class:
  • John Maguire, Waltham
  • Dan Mark, Stoughton
  • Brian Murphy, St. John's (Shrewsbury)
  • Mike Nanartowich, Hudson
  • Assistant Coach - Jim Hunt, Arlington Catholic
  • Referee's Award - Tim Houghton, EMHOA
  • Stewart Award - John Rolli, UMass-Dartmouth

The 42nd Annual Coaches Hall of Fame Dinner will be held Sunday, May 4 at 4 p.m. at Montvale Plaza in Stoneham.

For ticket information, contact Charlie Driscoll at 978- 777-7075 or email mshca2005@yahoo.com.

Roundtable: Best players, breakout stars, sleepers

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
6:03
PM ET
Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools editor


Best QB: Cody Williams, Springfield Central
Best RB: Johnathan Thomas, St. John's Prep
Best WR: Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE: Brendan Hill, Mansfield
Best OL: Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best DL: Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best LB: C.J. Parvelus, Everett
Best DB: Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense: Natick
Best rushing offense: St. John's Prep
Best offensive line: St. John's Prep
Best defensive line: Reading
Best linebackers: Reading
Best secondary: Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Medway
Coach Dave McSweeney's affinity for power football isn't a secret, and this season he'll have two road-graders to run behind in Kevin Sheehan (6-4, 285) and Cam Smith (6-5, 290, Lafayette commit). If there's any exhibit for why we needed to change the postseason format, the most glaring sample might be the Mustangs, who went 19-3 from 2009-10 with no playoff berth. In this new playoff system, a gameplan like the Mustangs' is built for the long haul.

Lynn English
Perhaps this isn't a surprise pick so much as an affirmation. In a Division 2 North that is perceived to be wide open after heavy favorite Reading, the Bulldogs have enough talent to make a deep run. There has always been elite talent at the skill positions, but Preseason All-State selection Chris Tinkham gives them a presence in the trenches they've lacked the last few years, a rare "war daddy" type who overpowers the interior gaps. The biggest question will be where the Bulldogs put junior Jordan Javier, a 6-foot-4 transfer from Haverhill who is a matchup problem at his natural split end position but also throws one of the prettiest balls you'll see on the North Shore.

Quabbin
The Panthers struggled to a 4-7 tune last season in a weak league, but there is some promise. Quarterback Dylan Kierman is an underappreciated talent, who should get a boost from the return of slippery receiver Nick Thyden. The Panthers run a unique "Air Raid" scheme, and another year of experience with it could surprised teams in Division 4 Central.

THREE BREAKOUT ATHLETES TO WATCH

Lukas Denis, Jr. ATH, Everett
After an injury-shortened 2012 season in which he was the assumed successor to record-setting quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso, but barely saw the field, Denis is moving to the perimeter, where he will take a role similar to the hybrid slot-back role that Manny Asprilla made legendary in 2010. Defensively, he should serve as a terrific compliment in the secondary to highly-touted safety/cornerback Lubern Figaro, and has already begun to pick up some Division 1 FBS interest.

Alfred Adarkwah, Sr. WR, Doherty
Standing a long 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan, Adarkwah has an unusually large catching radius for a high school receiver. This summer in passing leagues, the Highlanders toyed with Adarkwah and Boston College-bound receiver Isaac Yiadom on the same side of 2x2 formations. Head coach Sean Mulcahy has to be excited with the possibilities that opens up -- just imagine sending those two on a post-wheel combo route. Or better yet, imagine running them on a bubble screen, taking advantage of both Yiadom's elite speed and Adarkwah's great downfield blocking skills.

Taj-Amir Torres, Jr. ATH, Amherst
Already a household name in track and field, where he was named the state's Gatorade Player of the Year last spring as a sophomore after winning New Englands in the 100-meter dash, he's about to get a whole lot more attention. Boston College, UConn and UMass have already offered Torres, who made just 24 catches last season but made some incredible feats of athleticism. Hurricanes head coach David Thompson told us earlier this month "[We're] trying to get the ball in his hands every opportunity we get", so expect bigger numbers in 2013.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS

Div. 1 - Everett
Div. 2 - Springfield Central
Div. 3 - Walpole
Div. 4 - Doherty
Div. 5 - Auburn
Div. 6 - Millis/Hopedale

***

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor

Best QB - Drew Belcher - Sr. Reading
Best RB - Johnny Thomas - Sr. St. John’s Prep
Best WR - Brian Dunlap - Jr. Natick
Best TE - Rory Donovan - Sr. Cardinal Spellman
Best OL - Jon Baker – Sr., Millis/Hopedale
Best DL – Joe Gaziano – Jr., Xaverian
Best LB – Eddie Motavu – Sr., Tewksbury
Best DB - Lubern Figaro - Sr. Everett
Best passing offense - Natick
Best rushing offense - St. John's Prep
Best offensive line – Bridgewater-Raynham
Best defensive line - Reading
Best linebackers - Leominster
Best secondary - Everett

THREE SURPRISE TEAMS

St. Mary’s (Lynn)
OK, so a team coming off an 11-2 season and a Super Bowl appearance might not exactly be a surprise, but with a couple of other Catholic Central teams garnering the buzz in the preseason, let's not forget the Spartans have another season with Jordan Collier (1,495 yards, 18 TD).

Hingham

We've heard them knocking, but can they come in? The Harbormen have whittled the gap in recent years, particularly against Patriot League nemesis Duxbury, but they're still waiting to break through. They could have an in-road in Division 3 Southwest. An early non-leaguer against Oliver Ames should be a bellweather for things to come, but the real proof will come Oct. 5, against those aforementioned Dragons.

Wakefield
The Warriors fell short of their goal of winning the Middlesex League's Freedom division last year, but should be in the mix in a wide open Division 3 Northwest race. We'll have a better impression after a visit from Lynn English in Week 2.

THREE BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETES

Joe Johnston, Sr. RB/S, King Philip
Anybody who saw Johnston's hard-nosed 157-yard, 2-touchdown performance against North Attleborough last year knows Johnston's style. He's a burden for would-be tacklers inside the box, and once he kicks it outside, he's also very hard to catch.

Grant Kramer, Sr. OT, Duxbury
The younger brother of Boston College tackle Aaron Kramer, Grant is now ready to assume the role as the next great lineman on the Dragons' line (and there have been some very good ones in recent memory). He currently holds offers from Coastal Carolina and Villanova but has also expressed interest in attending West Point.

Connor Moriarty, Sr. RB, Walpole
When Rebels starter Mike Rando went out with an ankle injury near the midway point of the regular season last year, it was Moriarty who carried the load down the stretch. Expect even bigger numbers this year.

WAY TOO EARLY CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTIONS:

D1 – St. John’s Prep
D2 – Springfield Central
D3 – Walpole
D4 – Doherty
D5 – Auburn
D6 – Millis/Hopedale

***

Josh Perry
ESPN Boston correspondent


Best QB - Drew Belcher, Reading
Best RB - Jonathan Thomas, St. John’s Prep
Best WR – Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE – Brendan Hill, Mansfield
Best OL – Jon Baker, Millis-Hopedale
Best DL – Andrew Bourque, Reading
Best LB – Kevin Bletzer, Catholic Memorial
Best DB – Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense - Natick
Best rushing offense – St. John’s Prep
Best offensive line – St. John’s Prep
Best defensive line - Reading
Best linebackers – Catholic Memorial
Best secondary - Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE:

Attleboro
A new coaching staff, the energy of a new field complex, and a strong crop of returning seniors could make the Bombardiers the surprise team of the Hockomock League. Attleboro has always been a sleeping giant and the program continues to find solid athletes, it’s now up to the new staff to build a system that fits the talent on the roster. With a couple of league rivals dealing with injuries and suspensions, Attleboro could sneak up on people.

Barnstable
Everyone assumes that there will be a significant drop off for the Red Raiders due to a big graduating class, but there is still potential to be a solid team in D2 and in the OCL. This may not be a another season with Barnstable holding the top spot in the poll, but it shouldn’t be written off either.

Stoughton
The Knights are expected to finish behind Oliver Ames in the Davenport, but don’t be surprised if they pull an upset or two and give the Tigers a run at the title. Watch out for running back Malachi Baugh, who will be getting the majority of the carries this season and is a beast to try and bring down.

THREE BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETES TO WATCH

Luke Morrison, Sr. TE/DE, Attleboro
Attleboro’s giant tight end/defensive end is a monster match-up on both sides of the ball and could be a real threat as Tim Walsh’s favorite target in the Bombardiers passing attack.

Ryan Charter, Sr. QB, Needham
Mike Panepinto has deservedly drawn praise as the star man on the Needham offense, but the senior quarterback, who has been under center for 1-1/2 seasons already, will have high expectations as the Rockets try to get back on top in the Bay State.

Kyle Wisnieski, Sr. QB, Mansfield
With the graduation of running backs Robbie Rapoza and Kevin Makie and the continued injury problems for wide receiver Michael Hershman the key cog for the Hornets offense will be its senior quarterback. Wisnieski’s ability to spread the ball around and pick the right options out of a still talented receiving corps that includes Brendan Hill is going to be the key for Mansfield’s run at a Hockomock title.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS:

Div. 1 – St. John’s Prep
Div. 2 - Nashoba
Div. 3 – Bishop Feehan
Div. 4 - Doherty
Div. 5 - Auburn
Div. 6 – Millis-Hopedale

***

Ryan Kilian
Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Massachusetts Prep Stars


Best QB - Drew Belcher, Reading
Best RB - Johnathan Thomas, St. John's Prep
Best WR - Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE - Rory Donovan, Cardinal Spellman
Best OL - Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best DL - Alex Quintero, Lowell
Best LB - C.J. Parvelus, Defense
Best DB - Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense - St. John's (Shrewsbury)
Best rushing offense - St. John's Prep
Best offensive line - St. John's Prep
Best defensive line - Reading
Best linebackers - Duxbury
Best secondary - Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Bedford
While Wayland and Concord-Casrlisle have earned the DCL Small Championship the past few years do not sleep on Bedford in 2013. The Bucs play one of the toughest schedules in Division 4 and the return All-DCL running back Olan Abner.

Chelmsford
While Lowell, Central and Andover are getting most of the early press in the MVC Large, the Chelmsford Lions return one of the State's top running backs in Jeff D'Auria, a seasoned young quarterback in Jack Campsmith and a nice nucleus of tough experienced defenders.

Archbishop Williams
If Archies can find early offensive balance to take some of the work load off the shoulders of star senior back Kylan Philbert-Richardson, they could make some noise in the D5 playoff hunt.

THREE BREAKOUT ATHLETES TO WATCH

Ian Kessel, Soph. RB, Haverhill
The St. John's Prep transfer saw late game carries last season as a freshman for Prep's Super Bowl Champion squad. The speedy halfback is now back home in the MVC Small, and with the graduation of work horse, All-State RB Chance Brady (Tufts), there should be plenty carries to go around.

Devin Lekan, Sr. DE/TE, Chelmsford
D'Auria and Campsmith return to lead the offense for Chelmsford's but it is the Lion defense could be the story if they stay healthy. The Lions feature the 2nd team all-MVC performer was the most impressive player in the games I saw last season.

Nick Orekoya, Jr. DB/RB Billerica
Orekoya saw a lot of playing time as a two-way starter for Billerica last season. With another year under his belt Orekoya should thrive in coach Rich McKenna's high octane offense.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS

Div. 1 - Everett
Div. 2 - Reading
Div. 3 - Tewksbury
Div. 4 - Dennis-Yarmouth
Div. 5 - Auburn
Div. 6 - Boston Cathedral

***

John Botelho
Editor-in-Chief, South Shore Sports Journal


Best QB - Troy Flutie, Natick
Best RB - Dylan Oxsen, Plymouth South
Best WR - Brian Dunlap, Natick
Best TE - Rory Donovan, Cardinal Spellman
Best OL - Jon Baker, Millis/Hopedale
Best DL - Steve Manning, Abington
Best LB - Kervin Jean-Claude, Brockton
Best DB - Lubern Figaro, Everett
Best passing offense - Natick
Best rushing offense - St. John's Prep
Best offensive line - St. John's Prep
Best defensive line - Auburn
Best linebackers - Brockton
Best secondary - Everett

THREE TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE

Brockton
They're ranked pretty high in any poll you look at because people have just come to accept the fact that Brockton generally reloads. They graduated 18 starters from last season's Super Bowl team, including quarterback Austin Roberts, who was one of the best in school history. Roberts, Micah Morel and Joe Previte are all playing ball at prep schools this year, and Anthony Davis has moved on to Div. 1 Central Connecticut. Still, the Boxers will very solid again. They have a number of athletes and playmakers, including returning do-it-all Aaron Leclair. Transfer Jamal Williams is going to compliment him well, and sophomore Kerry Raymond is physically imposing at 6-foot-1 and 205. Aaron Monteiro's 6-foot-5, 295-pound frame gives Brockton an anchor on the offensive line. They have plenty of guys ready to step forward on the other side of the ball as well, led by Kervin Jean-Claude, Justin Ahanon and Leclair.

Abington
The Green Wave went unbeaten in their march toward a Super Bowl crown last year, but saw a slew of stars graduate. QB Brandon Cawley, TE/DE Pat Dwyer, FB Jack Malafronte, RB Babila Fonkem, DB Mike Walsh, OL Tyler Perakslis and OL Matt Diver are just some of the elite players Abington graduated. These guys won't miss a beat though, as they have a ton of talent back. Matt Kilmain broke out for more than 400 yards on 27 carries in two postseason wins last year, and he might not even be the best player back this season. Abington returns its top three tacklers from a year ago and has most of their front seven back on defense. Jim Kelliher has one of the best coaching staffs going at this point, and these guys look like they're headed back to the playoffs. (For bold prediction purposes, I'm also going to go ahead and say I think they beat Duxbury on opening night, because that's how good I think this team can be).

Stoughton
The Black Knights missed the playoffs last year because of the wrong day for a let down game, taking a tough defeat to eventual Super Bowl champ Sharon. The Knights lost some very good players, but leading running back Malachi Baugh is back in the fold and they return four starting offensive lineman, so there's no reason to think the offense won't be up to par again. The Hockomock League has proven in recent years to be one of the toughest to win, but a second guaranteed playoff berth can only help a team like Stoughton.

THREE BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETES TO WATCH

Aaron Monteiro, Jr. OL, Brockton
Monteiro has something that can't be learned, or even worked toward. His 6-foot-5, 295-pound frame is one that will draw the interest of coaches at the next level. Coach Peter Colombo is very excited about plugging the junior into his offensive line, and it's not just because of the size. Monteiro worked during the off-season to get himself stronger and is primed to be one of the best lineman in the state. He plays basketball in the winter, something that has helped him develop quick and agile feet for a guy his size.

Sam Malafronte, Jr. LB, Abington
Started at linebacker a year ago as a sophomore for the Div. 4 Super Bowl champs, and finished second on the team in tackles. A very good athlete who is a work-out warrior, Malafronte will team with Matt Whelan to lead a solid corps in the middle of the field for the Green Wave.

James Shea, Sr. WR, East Bridgewater
The Vikings have benefited from having tremendous athletes in the backfield the last few years (think Casey DeAndrade, Tim O'Brien, Andrew Benson and Kevin Lynch), but in 2013 their most dangerous player will be splitting out wide. Shea can run with just about anyone -- he finished sixth in the 100-meter dash in the South Shore League last spring -- and is going to wreak havoc pulling in passes all year.

WAY TOO EARLY STATE CHAMPION PICKS

Div. 1 - Everett
Div. 2 - Natick
Div. 3 - Plymouth South
Div. 4 - Doherty
Div. 5 - Abington
Div. 6 - Millis/Hopedale

D2 South Baseball: Hingham 7, Stoughton 4

June, 9, 2013
6/09/13
9:07
PM ET
BROCKTON, Mass. -- Junior John Carlson tossed a complete game, striking out eight and added three first inning RBIs to lead Hingham to a 7-4 win over Stoughton in the Division 2 South Sectional Finals.

“He’s a very unique, can-do kind of guy,” said Hingham head coach Frank Niles. “We knew his pitch count was up but he’s Johnny Carlson and he battled it all the way.”

Carlson got off to a hot start, sitting down Stoughton’s top three in order in the top of the first. The Harbormen saw their two first batters retired but senior first baseman Eddie Bowler reached on a walk. Senior Evan Flanagan followed with a single into left and junior Austin Irvin reached on an error to load the bases.

Up stepped Carlson, and on the first pitch of the at-bat, he stroked one into left center field for a bases-clearing double to give Hingham an early 3-0 lead.

“I just got a pitch middle-in and took a swing at it and it happened,” said Carlson.

Stoughton pulled one back in the top of the second when Stoughton pitcher Mike Gallagher crossed the plate on a fielder’s choice ground out. The Black Knights added another in the top of the third on Jovani Pires’ solo homerun to left and were poised to add more damage, loading the bases with just one out. But Carlson got out of the jam, inducing two straight pop ups.

“I just stay as calm as I can,” said Carlson of when the game wasn’t going his way. “The game gets pretty intense and I just focus on the next batter.”

The Harbormen tacked on four runs in the bottom of the fourth with a big help from Stoughton errors. David Hutchins singled and pinch runner Zach Silva advanced to second on an errant pick off attempt. Silva went to third and Cody Clifford reached first on another error before Luke Ferris singled over the head of shortstop Pat Jackman to bring Silva home. Leadoff hitter Stephan White singled home Clifford to make it 5-2.

“We got some extra chances,” said Niles. “Stoughton’s obviously a good team but they gave us a couple extra chances.”

Another error from Stoughton loaded the bases for Hingham and a single from Evan Flanagan scored two more runs to extend Hingham’s lead to 7-2 through four innings.

“Defensively, we haven’t pulled that in a while,” said Stoughton head coach Mike Armour. “It’s baseball, you’re going to make your errors and unfortunately we made a few more today than we have in the past and it cost us.”

The Black Knights didn’t go down without a fight though, as Pires picked up two more RBIs, this time a double into right field that scored two runs for Stoughton to bring it to 7-4.

With over 110 pitches, Niles made a visit to Carlson, but the junior southpaw stayed in the game.

“I wasn’t going to let him [take me out],” said Carlson.

Carlson retired the side in order in the top of the seventh to end the game, finishing with a strikeout.

Now Hingham will play Division 2 North Champion Masconomet, who defeated Danvers 5-2 in the final earlier today at Lowell's LeLacheur Park.

“We’re ready to go,” Carlson said. “We’ve got some arms rested up and we’ll be back here on Tuesday trying to make it happen.”

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