Boston High School: Summer Snapshot
Walnut Lane Farm in Dudley was the backdrop for today's setting, where the Rams played up their "country strong" aesthetic for a farmer-themed shoot. (How much pride do they take in it? Word has it when the Rams hosted Doherty in last year's D4 Central playoffs, the city-bred Highlanders were greeted with several bales of hay on their sideline).
The Rams figure to average around 270 pounds across its offensive line, led by Boston College commit Chris Lindstrom Jr. and also including Chase Flibbert, Austin Jones and Cam MacDonald. They'll also be led by quarterback Drew Jean-Guillaume, a true option quarterback with sprinter's speed (10.8 in the 100-meter dash) orchestrating a powerful Double Wing offense. They figure to be among the favorites statewide in Division 4.
Look for the Rams in our annual preseason photo gallery next month. Here are some of the hits from today's shoot:
Fun shoot today with Shepherd Hill offensive line and QB. Special thanks to Walnut Lane Farm for their hospitality pic.twitter.com/8MwSVuuy7N— Brendan C. Hall (@BHallESPN) July 14, 2014
American Gothic pic.twitter.com/7VS7lJmysp— Brendan C. Hall (@BHallESPN) July 14, 2014
After taking a 31-7 loss to rival St. John's Prep in Week 2 of the 2012 season, Central Catholic railed off eight straight wins, earning a share of the Merrimack Valley Conference's Large division title before falling to Andover on Thanksgiving morning to miss out on an MIAA Division 1 Playoff berth. The Raiders return a handful of key cogs, including the multi-talented D'Andre Drummond-Mayrie, but must replace all five starters from an offensive line that was among the bigger units in Eastern Mass. last fall. With a slew of fresh faces entering the fold, can the Raiders replicate last season's success and make a deep run in the newly-aligned Division 1 North? We checked in with Central last night in preparation for our Sept. 2 photo gallery unveiling.
CENTRAL CATHOLIC AT A GLANCE
Coach: Chuck Adamopoulos (17th season, 112-61 overall)
Last Season: 9-2
Final ESPN Boston Rank: 23
Returning Starters: Eight (three offense, five defense)
Key Losses: OL/DL Ryan Barry, LB Ryan Doherty, OL/DL Sean Kirchner, RB/DB Santino Brancato
Key Returnees: Sr. DT Joe Brown, Sr. WR Cody Demers, Sr. OLB Cam Manning, Sr. RB/DB D'Andre Drummond-Mayrie, Jr. S Michael Balsamo, Jr. ILB Markus Edmunds, Jr. QB Michael Milano.
Overview: The Raiders return one of the state's top talents in Drummond-Mayrie, who currently holds scholarship offers from a half-dozen Division 1 FCS schools and may end up deciding during the season. He'll be the feature back this season, after splitting carries with Brancato last fall but still putting up respectable numbers (87 carries, 621 yards, 10 TD, 7.1 yards per carry). Defensively, he'll be making the switch from cornerback to safety this season, where he'll be paired with the promising Balsamo to create what should be one of the Merrimack Valley's most feared secondaries. On the perimeter, the efforts of the undersized Demers (38 catches) is a bit understated -- good at the underneath routes, but also a deep-ball threat with his straight-line speed. The biggest questions will lay in the trenches, where they must replace all five starters from a unit last season that averaged roughly 250 pounds across. This year's line will be a smaller, more athletic front, which makes one wonder if the Raiders will deviate from last year's spread-based rushing attack and put the ball on the flanks more often. Overall, the Raiders have always been defensively sound, and should be fine once again with Drummond, Balsamo, Edmunds (112 tackles) and Brown (31 tackles, 10 for loss) back in the fold. Look for the Raiders to contend in a loaded Division 1 North.
Checked in with Central Catholic tonight. Look for Raiders in our Sept 2 gallery of top teams pic.twitter.com/V2StLHWGfp— Brendan Hall (@BHallESPN) August 16, 2013
One last shot from tonight's Central Catholic shoot. Behold "The Pit" pic.twitter.com/Ku411Aq7nH— Brendan Hall (@BHallESPN) August 16, 2013
Previously this offseason, we've mused that the Springfield area talent pool is on the up and up, with players such as Amherst junior wideout Taj-Amir Torres getting a handful of offers last month. But no team in the 413 area code this year has stocked as much talent as Springfield Central, coming off a Super Bowl-winning season with many of its integral pieces intact, and speed and athleticism seemingly everywhere.
When we last left the Golden Eagles, quarterback Cody Williams was grinding through a bad ankle injury to lift his troops to a 27-0 shutout of Longmeadow, sparking head coach Valdamar Brower to remark he has "the heart of a lion and he loves the game. Nobody was going to keep him off the field. That dude's a solider." Williams, who holds offers from several local Division 1 FCS programs, will have many familiar targets back as he tries to replicate last season's success.
In the newly-aligned MIAA Division 2, the Eagles will be a heavy favorite out of the West. Can they run the gauntlet and bring home hardware again? We checked in with Central this afternoon in a photo shoot at Berte Field.
SPRINGFIELD CENTRAL AT A GLANCE
Coach: Valdamar Brower (6th year, 40-20 overall)
Last Season: 12-1, Won Division 1 West Super Bowl
Final ESPN Boston Rank: 7
Returning Starters: 14 (seven offense, seven defense)
Key Losses: WR/DB Tejano Smith, OL/DL Shawn Lockett, RB/LB Aaron Owens, OL/DL Ishmael Figueroa, WR/DB Travis Cusson, ATH Stephon Jenkins, OL/DL Adrian Filson, OL/DL Stefan Maldonato, WR/DB Bryan Rivas
Key Returnees: Sr. QB Cody Williams, Sr. ATH Ju'uan Williams, Sr. LB Kenneth Marshall, Sr. OL/DL Sean Lee, Sr. RB/DB Da'Quon Clemons, Sr. OL/DL Khalil Walker, Sr. TE/LB Luis Ortiz, Sr. ATH Malik Johnson, Sr. RB/DB Troy Morrow, Sr. LB Jon Morales, Sr. RB/LB Marcal Davis
Overview: Brower's building job at Central has been slow and steady, but after last year's Super Bowl-winning success the Eagles have evolved into a thoroughbred, with respect across the state. In the newly-aligned Division 2 West, the Eagles figure to be a heavy favorite, though some familiar foes (Putnam, Longmeadow, Minnechaug, Holyoke) figure to make life difficult along the way. In Williams the Eagles have one of the state's slickest passers, but also a winner (20-3 as a starter) with a certain urban bullheadedness not often seen in Bay State quarterback prospects. He'll have plenty of athletes to throw to on the perimeter, the most prolific his cousin Ju'uan, who will be used in a garden variety of roles on both sides of the ball. Clemons figures to be the incumbent at tailback, with his home-run capability and terrific upper body strength, but look for Morrow and Davis to be significant factors in the running game as well. Down in the trenches, the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Lee is one of the state's more unheralded offensive line prospects, while the burly Walker will be the war daddy in the middle of the defensive line, plugging the inside gaps. Overall, this could be the best team yet of the Brower era at Central, and there have been some good ones. The Eagles' Sept. 13 season-opener at Everett will be appointment viewing.
Checked in at Springfield Central this afternoon as part of our ongoing gallery tour. One of top D2 squads pic.twitter.com/Sn1YyuxBYh— Brendan Hall (@BHallESPN) August 14, 2013
L to R: cousins Ju'uan and Cody Williams pic.twitter.com/ZGoHnmDptC— Brendan Hall (@BHallESPN) August 14, 2013
Whether it was the wild hook-and-ladder to clinch its first playoff berth in school history, the see-saw playoff battle with Natick, or the ensuing controversy, Plymouth South sure had a flair for the dramatic in 2012. The question now remains, after an historic season for the ages, and returning most of its core intact -- including tailback Dylan Oxsen, last year's state leader in rushing touchdowns -- do the Panthers have another magical run in them?
In the newly-aligned MIAA State Championship format, the Panthers will be one of several favorites in Division 3 Southeast. We checked in with the Panthers in an afternoon trip to the world-famous Plimoth Plantation living museum, in one of the most entertaining photo shoots of our operation's four-year history.
PLYMOUTH SOUTH AT A GLANCE
Coach: Scott Fry
Last Season: 8-4, lost in Div. 2A Playoffs
Final ESPN Boston Rank: 22
Returning Starers: 14 (seven offense, seven defense)
Key Losses: QB Jason Lamb, OL/LB Derek Anderson
Key Returnees: Sr. RB/LB Dylan Oxsen, Sr. C Brendan Harty, Sr. RB/LB Anthony Schena, Sr. OL/DL Shaun Duncombe, Sr. LB Matt Bremis
Overview: After a dismal 2011 campaign, the Panthers had one of the state's most dramatic turnarounds in 2012, led by an explosive breakthrough by Oxsen (2,100 rushing yards), who led the state in rushing touchdowns (40) to earn a spot on ESPN Boston's All-State Team. The switch to a pistol offense last summer seemed to work wonders for the Panthers, maintaining Wing-T and I-formation principles, but creating new angles and elements of unpredictability with them for one of the state's most potent rushing attacks. They will have to find a suitable replacement for Lamb, but most of the offensive line returns and the defensive front seven should be solid again with a linebacking corps led by Schena and Bremis. Overall, Oxsen was as tough as they come between the tackles last season, and will be expected to shoulder another Yeoman's workload this fall if the Panthers are to repeat their success from last fall. Especially when you consider how many contenders lie in the South region of D3, between Nauset, Dartmouth and Whitman-Hanson in the southeast or Bishop Feehan, North Attleborough and Walpole in the southwest.
South RB Dylan Oxsen discusses football with some of the locals pic.twitter.com/sBrb23pdf9— Brendan Hall (@BHallESPN) August 13, 2013
One could argue Lowell was one of the better teams sitting at home after Thanksgiving with no playoff berth last fall, winning six of its final seven games with a potent offense that really hit its groove from October on. This fall, the Red Raiders should be one of the more fascinating, high-powered offenses to watch -- up there with Natick, St. John's (Shrewsbury) and the like -- returning a deep receiving corps led by All-State candidate Jack Galvin.
In the newly-aligned MIAA State Championship format, some are projecting Lowell as a dark horse in the elite Division 1. Can they continue last season's momentum for an historic 2013? We checked in with the Raiders yesterday afternoon at Cawley Stadium, as part of a photo shoot for our annual preseason gallery, which will be available later this month on ESPNBoston.com.
LOWELL AT A GLANCE
Coach: John Florence (Third season, 15-7 overall)
Last Season: 9-2
Final ESPN Boston Rank: NR ("Last 10 out")
Returning Starters: 12 (five offense, seven defense)
Key Losses: QB Cam Latta, WR/DB Alex Kasirye, WR Anthony Consolo, OL Callen Vail, OL Andres Bolivar, DB Ricky Rosado
Key Returnees: Sr. WR/LB Jack Galvin, Sr. OL/DE Alex Quintero, Sr. RB Ndeiiva Mason, Sr. WR/DB Keagan Latta, Jr. LB Shyheim Cullen, Jr. LB Nicolau Coury, Sr. WR Tom Smith, Sr. WR/DB Michael Holder, Sr. LB Musa Mansaray, Jr. OL/DL Angel Brito
Overview: Behind a high-powered offense returning some of the state's finest skill players, many are pegging the Red Raiders as a favorite in the Merrimack Valley Conference, and potentially a dark horse in the newly-aligned Division 1 North. After a 21-0 shutout loss to Tewksbury in Week 4 last season, Lowell won six of its final seven games -- including an upset of MVC champ Andover -- and lit up the scoreboard along the way, averaging 387 yards of offense and nearly 39 points per game. The biggest hole to fill will be at quarterback, but Lawrence Academy transfer Brian Dolan appears capable of taking the reigns. The Raiders ran one of the more unique offenses in 2012, utilizing pistol sets with layered routes and packaging screens on the backside of zone read plays. That gave way to a breakout season for Galvin (72 catches, 916 yards, 10 TD), who should lead one of the region's deepest receiving corps along with Latta, Bryant, Smith, Cullen, and scatback Mason. Defensively, there is athleticism abound. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Quintero (15 sacks) is a difficult matchup with his speed rush moves and low center of gravity, while Coury and Cullen are bound for breakout campaigns at linebacker after combining for 122 tackles (16 for loss) and 8.5 sacks in 2012. Overall, this is a team that can score points in a hurry, and could play spoiler in a D1 North where St. John's Prep and Everett are the presumed favorites.
Long on athleticism but often short on results, this last decade has seen an impressive turnaround for once-dormant Doherty High. Last fall was an historic season for the Highlanders, which took some of Central Mass.'s heavyweights to the wire (Nashoba) and gave others a swift humbling (Holy Name, Shepherd Hill). They finished 9-3, losing the rematch with Shepherd Hill in the MIAA Central Mass. Division 2 playoffs, but by all accounts 2012 was a high water mark.
At safety they'll return Isaac Yiadom -- a Boston College commit, the state's No. 4 overall prospect, and the program's highest-profile recruit since current UConn linebacker Yawin Smallwood -- but there are questions everywhere else with the graduation of eight starters. Can the Highlanders continue the momentum that's been building for the last few seasons? We checked in with them this morning as part of our annual preseason football gallery.
DOHERTY AT A GLANCE
Coach: Sean Mulcahy (22nd season, 98-143)
Last season: 9-3, lost in Div. 2 CMass Playoffs
Final ESPN Boston Rank: NR
Returning Starters: 10 (seven offense, three defense)
Key Losses: LB Noah Robinson, RB/DB Terence Hall, DB Abdullah Webster, DB Sam Oppong, OL/DL Dave Ritchotte, OL/DL Robbie Nay, LB Maurice Morales, OL/DL Octavio Rodriguez
Key Returnees: Sr. WR/DB Isaac Yiadom, Sr. QB Luke Brennan, Sr. WR Alfred Adarkwah, Sr. RB/LB Pete Franco, Sr. OL/DL Jack Halloran, Sr. E/DB Shawn Jackson, Sr. E/DB Mitch Celaj, OL/DL Mitch Smalls
Overview: Coming off one of their most successful campaigns in years last fall, the Highlanders must find a way to replace eight starters on defense, most notably Robinson (125 tackles, five sacks). Normally that's a daunting task, but the presence of one of the state's best pass defenders in Yiadom, a fluid athlete who covers plenty of ground at free safety and demonstrates great leaping ability, should keep things clean in back. Perhaps the quality secondary can help shore up the youthful front seven. Offensively, Yiadom is the top option, and has great rapport with Brennan, a Franklin Pierce University baseball commit. But keep an eye on Adarkwah, a big target at 6-foot-4 and 170 pounds, who could have a breakout senior campaign. With his long, lanky frame, Adarkwah has an exceptionally large catching radius and does a quality job sealing off defenders downfield on run plays. In the newly-aligned Central Mass. district, Doherty figures to be one of several favorites in Division 4, but they'll have a tougher schedule to endure, including a must-see matchup with D2 favorite Leominster in the final week of the regular season.
Stopped by Doherty High this morning to check in with the Highlanders. Had some fun with this photo shoot pic.twitter.com/JDrQnKmYfp— Brendan Hall (@BHallESPN) August 6, 2013
Look for Doherty in our annual preseason football photo gallery later this month pic.twitter.com/KxVAHTtQOS— Brendan Hall (@BHallESPN) August 6, 2013
When we last checked in with Everett, the Crimson Tide had snuck by Barnstable in one of the most epic finishes ever at Gillette Stadium, for a third consecutive Eastern Mass. Super Bowl title. This afternoon, we caught up with the Crimson Tide as part of our annual summer photo tour, and they once again figure to come into the season as one of the state's top squads.
But boy, are there some holes to be filled, after graduating one of their most talented classes ever. We caught up with the Tide in a photo shoot this afternoon at Everett Memorial Stadium.
(L to R: Lukas Denis, C.J. Parvelus, Raheem Wingard, Lubern Figaro, Angel Duarte)
EVERETT AT A GLANCE
Photo shoot day at Everett fieldhouse. Note C.J. Parvelus lounging. I think he thought that he was still on camera. pic.twitter.com/8NFXW3jq1L— Scott Barboza (@ESPNScottB) August 1, 2013
Coach: John DiBiaso (22nd season at Everett, 263-64-1 overall)
Last Season: 11-1, won Div. 1A Eastern Mass. Super Bowl
Final 2012 ESPN Boston Rank: 1
Returning Starters: Eight (three offense, five defense)
Key Losses: OT John Montelus, WR/DB Jakarrie Washington, WR/DB Jalen Felix, ATH Gilly De Souza, DE Jeff Soulouque, DE Omar Graciano, RB/LB Kenny Calaj, OL Marc Fils-Aime, OL Mike Ottersburg, OL Pat Sullivan
Key Returnees: Sr. DB Lubern Figaro, Sr. LB C.J. Parvelus, Sr. ATH Raheem Wingard, Sr. LB Angel Duarte, Sr. C Zach Pierre, Jr. ATH Lukas Denis
Overview: Do the Tide have enough in the tank for a four-peat? They certainly figure to be one of the favorites in thew newly-aligned Division 1 North, and they are a heavy favorite to roll to an unprecedented 20th straight Greater Boston League title, but the question will be if there is enough experienced depth. ... As always, the secondary will be the state's best, led by Figaro and complemented with Wingard and Denis. Figaro, a hang-tough tackler with keen ball instincts, has 12 Division 1 FBS offers and has cut his list down to Boston College, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Vanderbilt. After expressing plans earlier this summer to make a college decision before the start of the season, Figaro told ESPNBoston.com today that he will put his decision off until at least October. After an injury-shortened 2012 campaign last fall, Denis is bound for a breakout season this fall, and has started to built FBS interest. ... Once again, there is an interesting situation brewing at quarterback. Last year, the Tide were down to their fourth-stringer -- De Souza -- before Week 1, and a number of athletes saw time under center. Wingard assumed the role midway through the season, and figures to be the incumbent heading into training camp. Expect a similar offensive philosophy -- that is, one which seemed to change on a weekly basis, prioritizing perimeter speed -- to permeate once again. ... The linebacking corps, led by FCS recruit Parvelus, should be among the state's best. The backers came at Barnstable with a potpurri of blitzes in the D1A Super Bowl, creating difficulty up the middle. ... Last season's line, led by Notre Dame recruit John Montelus, was one of the nation's heaviest, averaging 324 pounds across. With four starters graduating, expect a youth movement in the trenches.