Boston High School: Tommy Kennedy

Recap: No. 7 Dennis-Yarmouth 27, Nauset 15

November, 24, 2011

SOUTH YARMOUTH, Mass. -- Late in the fourth quarter of what was turning into a big win for his Dennis-Yarmouth squad, quarterback Matt Montalto dove for a first down in the Nauset red zone, and the sub 6-footer engaged in a short shoving match with the Warriors' UConn-bound linebacker, 240-pound senior Brendan Battles.

A few plays later, Dylan Hodsdon put the finishing touches on the scoring drive, and the game was in hand. Montalto was then asked post-game about the "Game Over" message written on his eye black strips, and he merely offered a sheepish grin as he motioned towards the scoreboard.

It's that kind of spunk that's embodied this team -- undersized, yet tough and unafraid to confront -- and has led the Dolphins to this, a 27-15 win over their Thanksgiving rivals that wrapped up a perfect 11-0 regular season, their second straight outright Atlantic Coast League title, and their second straight Division 2A playoff berth (and second ever).

This also marked the first time in the rivalry that the league title was directly on the line. But in a snap, Montalto was already moving on to Tuesday night's playoff game with the No. 18 Walpole Rebels.

"It was definitely a little bit different of a feeling than it usually is on Thanksgiving," Montalto said. "It feels great to win, awesome to win, I always love winning on Thanksgiving. But like coach [Paul Funk] said, our season starts on Tuesday now. It's do or die."

Montalto carried the day with another Montalto-like performance, carrying the ball 11 times for 101 yards and throwing for another 50 through the air, including 42 and a score to his favorite target Damion Johnson.

D-Y (11-0, 6-0) found success early through the air on familiar patterns, with Johnson sitting on 10 and 15-yard comeback routes against zone coverage. They marched right down the field to open the game, capping a 10-play, 64-yard drive with a 13-yard goal line fade from Montalto to Johnson at the back pylon for a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.

The Warriors responded soundly on the ensuing drive, marching all the way to the Dolphins' 11 with rushes from brothers Derrick (22 carries, 86 yards, TD) and Nathan Holmes (18 carries, 81 yards, TD). But on fourth down, Mike Messersmith's field goal attempt fell way short and was scooped up by Johnson at the goal line; he juked a half-dozen defenders in between the hashes for a 60-yard return that set up first and 10 at the Warriors' 42.

It took just five plays to capitalize, with Montalto setting up a one-yard Joe Furness plunge with a nifty scamper around the right side. On a designed bootleg left, Montalto ran into some pressure from Battles and reversed direction, turning a two-yard loss into a 34-yard run that was ruled down at the one as he attempted to dive over the pylon. Terrio's kick gave the Dolphins a 14-0 lead with just nine minutes player in the game.

Johnson also added a 50-yard kickoff return and 37 rushing yards, giving him over 200 all-purpose yards for the day.

The Dolphins scored twice more in the second half, and put the clamps down defensively behind linebacker Hunter Oppedisano (two sacks) and nose guard Tommy Kennedy. Until the Warriors' final scoring drive with under five minutes in the game, the Warriors had been held to just 26 yards of offense in the second half.

The Drive: The backbreaker for this one came in the third quarter, when the Dolphins put together an 11-play six-minute, 99-yard scoring drive after a beautiful Nauset punt pinned them at their own half-yard line.

Furness capped the drive with an 18-yard scamper around the left, but it was a series of jet sweeps that opened things up on the drive. First, Hodsdon came around the right from his own 14 and carved up 18 yards. Two plays later, Funk sent Rufus Hamilton in motion to the left, and he sprinted up the left sideline for a 28-yard gain. Two plays after that, they went to the left side again, this time with Quan Lovett, to set up another first down.

"We knew we could get the perimeter," Funk said. "We knew we were faster than they were, and we knew we could get the perimeter. That was the game plan for the second half."

Oppedisano finishes 'em off: If the Dolphins' 99-yard drive swung momentum, then Oppedisano drove the stake into the ground on the ensuing Nauset possession. Five plays into the drive, on first and 10 from the Dolphins' 39, Derrick Holmes took a direct snap for a sweep left, but Oppedisano slipped through the B-gap and took him down for a six-yard loss. The next play, Oppedisano sacked Nathan Holmes for a 10-yard loss, setting up third and 26 from the Nauset 45 when play resumed for the fourth quarter.

Two consecutive false starts then gave Nauset a surreal third and 36 from its own 35, and they punted a play later.

"They just looked away from me, and I took advantage of it, and caught them blindside," Oppedisano said bluntly.

Said Funk, "Hunter's a really good player. He works really hard, he's done some really good things, and he's tough. He's physical. They brought their game in the second half."

Singled out: Keith Kenyon's rebuilding job at Nauset included the installation of the Single-Wing offense, a scheme popular in the first half of the 20th century that has since fallen out of favor as the passing game has evolved. Elements and principles of the scheme still exist in offenses such as the ones run by Urban Meyer and Rich Rodriguez; but Kenyon's scheme is the formation at its roots.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Battles lined up as an off-set fullback behind one of the guards, brought the play from the sideline into the huddle, and called the cadence. Both Holmes brothers lined up in various places in the backfield, ready for a direct snap or a handoff from Battles or their brother, sometimes accompanied by a flanker.

With tight splits, unbalanced lines, and an intimidating lead blocker in Battles -- a state wrestling champion who sometimes left his feet to take down the first player up the gap -- it's a tough offense to stop once it gets going. But a month earlier, the Dolphins shut down Marshfield by deploying a Buddy Ryan-esque 50 Eagle front against the Rams' run-heavy Wing-T offense, and that appeared to help them out this morning.

"Definitely, [but] you've just got to be physical up front," Oppedisano said. "You've got to take on the block by Battles and you've got to work hard."

Funk thought it came down to getting to the point of attack.

"That's what we talked about at halftime -- we've got to get off the ball," Funk said. "And we absolutely did in the second half."

Scouting the Rebels: D-Y quarterbacks coach Nick Montalto, older brother of Matt, was spotted in the stands at the Walpole-Natick game two weeks ago. Asked what his brother told him about Walpole, Matt offered up a Belichickian response.

"What he told me is they're tough," Matt said. "Playoffs are always going to be tough, though. We're looking forward to it."

Turkey Day Honors: For Dennis-Yarmouth, Hodsdon (72 rushing yards) took home Offensive Player of the Game honors, while Oppedisano took home the Defensive Player of the Game award. Nauset's Nathan and Derrick Holmes took the team's offensive and defensive awards, respectively.

NAU (7-4, 5-1) 0 - 7 - 0 - 8 --- 15
D-Y (11-0, 6-0) 14 - 0 - 7 - 6 --- 27

First Quarter
D - Damion Johnson 13 pass from Matt Montalto (John Terrio kick) 6:23
D - Joe Furness 1 run (Terrio kick) 1:08

Second Quarter
N - Derrick Holmes 1 run (Mike Messersmith kick) 3:36

Third Quarter
D - Furness 18 run (Terrio kick) 2:35

Fourth Quarter
D - Dylan Hodsdon 5 run (kick failed) 5:41
N - Nathan Holmes 11 run (D. Holmes run) 0:04

10 thoughts from the first half of football season

October, 19, 2011
Barring catastrophe, we fully expect Everett quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso to break Tom Colombo’s all-time passing touchdown mark of 85 before the month is over. He’s four away, and he’s got two games to do it – this Saturday against BC High, and on Oct. 28 in the Crimson Tide’s Greater Boston League opener against Medford.

The question now is that, with seven games left on the schedule (let’s just declare them Super Bowl-bound now), whether he can surpass the century mark. Last season, he threw for 16 scores in the Tide’s four GBL contests, and another five in two playoff wins over Andover and St. John’s Prep.

All evidence points to DiBiaso shattering the state mark and putting the record nearly out of reach, when all is said and done.

A few weeks ago, when the Rockets upset then-No. 6 Weymouth, we would have told you yes. Even before that, when the Rockets went toe-to-toe in an eventual 36-30 loss to Mansfield, we’d have told you Needham’s on to something.

Now? We’re not sure what to think. Drew Burnett , a senior quarterback with Division 1 offers, broke his ankle in two places during Saturday’s 49-14 win over Milton, putting an end to one of the more promising seasons in the Bay State Conference. With a healthy Burnett, we like their chances of not only controlling their destiny in the Bay State Carey, but against whomever comes out of the Big 3 conference for the Division 1 playoffs.

Head coach David Duffy told ESPNBoston correspondent Matt Noonan earlier today that he will use a rotation of three guys at quarterback in Friday’s crucial tilt with No. 17 Walpole. The Rockets have shown to lineup quality athletes in Dan Pierce, Nico Panepinto, Ian Riley and Mark Riley (no relation), but you have to wonder how quickly the understudy can adapt to Duffy's system, which has begun to diversify the last few years.

We’ve sung their praises several times before, but it bears mentioning again: even after a bump in the road, No. 14 Auburn’s line is rising as one of the state’s best units.

Comprised entirely of juniors and sophomores – including a 6-foot-4, 305-pounder who is just 15 years old – this makes the Rockets at team to watch over the next few years. With short splits and a precise zone-blocking scheme, these guys are a cohesive unit up front and have been blowing teams off the ball to the tune of 17 rushing touchdowns. Dan Flink is the Rockets’ Peyton Hillis, but give speedster Fred Taylor some room to run and he is one of the shiftier players in the Worcester area.

Within the Central Mass sphere, this will continue to be one of the more dangerous teams in Division 3.

Extremely tough.

But such is the beauty and the beast of picking a true statewide All-Star team that doesn’t just simply reward the 25 best running backs in Eastern Mass. – when you’ve got just four slots to pick from 300-plus schools, an elite player inevitably gets left off the list.

Andover’s Andrew Coke came into the season as the lone returning All-State running back (Catholic Memorial’s Armani Reeves was an athlete selection). But as good as he’s been for the 4-2, Golden Warriors, there have been better resumes through the first half of the season.

BC High’s Preston Cooper has 14 rushing touchdowns through six games and is coming off a 202-yard performance in a 32-0 blanking of a tough Marlborough squad. Concord-Carlisle’s George Craan would be on pace for a ridiculous senior season if not for the emergence of Tyquan Culbreath, and the overall ease with which the Patriots have disposed of opponents so far.

Meanwhile, a trio of Western Mass. tailbacks have emerged on the scene forcefully, all averaging seven yards or more per carry.

Springfield Putnam’s Melquawn Pinkney currently leads the state in rushing yards (1,526) and rushing touchdowns (24). Longmeadow’s T.J. Norris (1,003 rushing yards, 15 TD) is a fire hydrant at 5-foot-8 and 220 pounds. Folks within the Everett program still tell us Springfield Central’s Sacoy Malone (916 yards, 7 TD) is one of the best backs they’ve faced in two years. If his performance in the Eagles’ 21-20 upset of Longmeadow last week is any indication (194 yards, 2 TD), he could be in for a terrific second half.

Also not to be forgotten is King Philip’s Charles Ruffin, who is coming on strong after a 147-yard performance in last week’s win over North Attleborough. The track star’s elite speed is known about statewide, but he’s starting show his toughness between the tackles. Health will be key, as he’s already missed some time with injury.

Back when Paul Funk was still an assistant at Everett, the program at Dennis-Yarmouth was in such shambles that the school was thinking of dropping the program altogether.

In his first year, back in 2001, the Dolphins played only JV games. Since then, he’s slowly built up a program that has become arguably the Cape’s most consistent over the last half-decade. Since their last losing season in 2006, the Dolphins are 38-12, including a 6-0 mark this year; if the Dolphins stay the course, they will wrap up their third 10-win season in six years, and their second-straight Division 2A playoff berth after earning their historic first a season ago.

This year, the Dolphins boast one of the state’s elite jump-ball receivers in Damion Johnson and arguably the toughest pound-for-pound quarterback in Matt Montalto. But it’s not about the superstars that make this program go.

More often than not, D-Y wins with undersized players who are neither big nor athletic, but embrace contact and love to hit. With little depth, most of the starters go both ways, and guys like 5-foot-7 defensive tackle Tommy Kennedy are relied upon to shoot the gaps rather than fill them. At the end of the day, this is a well-conditioned, disciplined team that has to be one of the favorites in Division 2A if all goes to plan.

Have you heard about Catholic Memorial's four FBS recruits? Have you heard about their opening day loss to Marshfield?

It’s all old news, but now the question is whether the Knights can heed the lessons learned from the Rams debacle and translate that into a Catholic Conference championship.

Following a bye week last week, the Knights will embark on their four-game conference schedule, which is bisected by a matchup with Brockton in two weeks, on Friday against Malden Catholic. The biggest of those game occurs in their Thanksgiving Day game against BC High, provided there are no missed steps along the way. You have to like CM’s chances against Malden Catholic and the Prep, but if CM can knock off Xaverian, that would set up the winner-take-all matchup at the end of their regular season schedule.

There’s no question the Knights have the talent to beat Xaverian, or the third-ranked Eagles for that matter. But, as has been the case in the last couple of seasons, it’s not about if, it’s about when. Is this the time that the group led by A.J. Doyle, Donovan Henry, Armani Reeves and Camren Williams prove good on their promise?

When New Bedford knocked off Brockton in their Big Three meeting last November, it was a shocking upset.

If the Whalers are to repeat the feat this year, a New Bedford victory wouldn’t be greeted with such surprise.

Myles Medeiros (11 TD passes) has the Whalers offense firing with a legitimate down-field threat in receiver Jaraud Wood, while running back Marcel DePina needs only a yard to shake loose from defenses in the open field. In addition, the defense, led by junior lineman Tyler Arena has been strong.

Meanwhile, Brockton pulled off an upset last week against New Hampshire behemoth Pinkerton Academy (its fifth straight win against the Astros), so you can’t count out the Boxers quite yet, despite a slow start (1-3) to the season. But clearly the balance of power in the Big Three (read: Brockton, Brockton and, ahem, Brockton) isn’t quite what it used to be.

The most encouraging thing you can say about Brockton’s season thus far has been the emergence of quarterback Austin Roberts. The junior signal-caller had his biggest game yet last week against Pinkerton. Roberts completed 14 of 22 passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns to down the Granite State’s top team.

If Roberts can keep the big plays coming, Brockton is still very much a threat.

No. 4 Chelmsford showed once again last week why the Merrimack Valley Conference Large runs through them in a thorough victory over Andover on Saturday.

But let’s not crown the Lions and Mr. Football challenger Tim Joy champions just yet. After all, they still have a pesky Central Catholic team on the schedule, in addition to huge games at Lowell and at Billerica to finish on Turkey Day. Both the Red Raiders and Indians made their debuts in our Top 25 this week after both teams have been flying under the radar a little at 5-1. Dynamic quarterback R.J. Noel has Red Raider nation believing that this could be the team to unseat Chelmsford, while the Indians feature a defense that is much improved from last year’s edition.

Plus, Billerica still has that LaSpada kid causing havoc for defenses and you can’t underestimate that.

Akin to the MVC, the Hockomock League always fields one of the most competitive leagues in the state from top to bottom. And we’ve seen that parity play out in the first half, what with Stoughton’s shocking win over Mansfield.

What is for certain is that the league, which now has two playoff bids for the first time for its Davenport and Kelley-Rex winners, is still wide open.

Mansfield remains in the driver’s seat in the large division with wins over King Philip and Attleboro, but the Hornets’ game against North still looms. In the Davenport, the likely winner-take-all meeting between Oliver Ames and Stoughton is still three weeks away, but the Tigers’ matchup with Mansfield on Friday will be a good indicator of how far they’ve come this season.

Recap: No. 6 D-Y 14, Marshfield 0

October, 15, 2011

MARSHFIELD, Mass. -- Tommy Kennedy had tasted an elusive victory over longtime Atlantic coast power Marshfield once before, as a member of Dennis-Yarmouth's freshman team. But tonight's victory, amidst the mud on a soggy night at James Anderson Field, is in its own classification.

"Freaking nothing like this, never ever," the senior two-way lineman beamed, moments after his Dolphins shut out the Rams 14-0 to control their destiny in the Atlantic Coast League. "First time doing it on the varsity field, nothing better, nothing better."

It's the first time the Dolphins (6-0, 3-0) notched a victory over Marshfield since head coach Paul Funk took over in 2001. And considering the Dolphins had won a total of six games in the 1990's before the former Everett assistant took over, we'll just assume it's been quite a while altogether.

"It's a big win," Funk said. "These kids sold out, they gave it everything they had, I give them all kinds of credit in the world. They're a great group, they've practiced hard all week, and they took it to them. They won that game for us. I said it to these guys up front, offensive and defensive lines, they played great."

Indeed, on a night sprinkled with on-again, off-again rain showers, muddying the long grass, the undersized D-Y linemen controlled the line of scrimmage, paving the way to 163 first-half rushing yards (230 overall) and another night with over 200 yards of offense from gritty quarterback Matt Montalto (22 carries, 148 yards, TD; 6 of 13 passing, 82 yards).

On each of their first two drives of the games, the Dolphins marched all the way down the field on long drives to make it 14-0. They went 80 yards in 15 plays and six minutes on their first one, punching it in from four yards out on a dive from fullback Joe Furness. The second time down, thanks to some generous field position, Montalto capped a 12-play, 55-yard drive with a one-yard sneak for the 14-0 score with 4:33 to go in the half.

"Best running back we have," Kennedy laughed of the 5-foot-10 Montalto, whom he opened holes up the middle for tonight. "I'm glad I don't have to tackle him. He's slippery, he's fast, he'll run through you, he'll juke you out, he'll stiffarm you, he'll do anything."

Meanwhile, the Rams (3-3, 1-1) were held to 39 yards of offense in the first half, and were unable to punch in any of their scoring opportunities. Twice, the Rams turned the ball over on downs inside the D-Y red zone. A third time, on the Rams' opening drive of the second half, quarterback Mark Pomella was picked off by free safety Damion Johnson on a fade down the right sideline. Playing a deep Cover-2, Johnson read Pomella's eyes and broke towards the near pylon, plucking the ball out of the air and charging upfield 20 yards before getting pushed out.

Keying Johnson: Based on the defensive sets the Rams rolled out, it appears head coach Lou Silva was erring on the side of caution when it came to respecting the Dolphins' vaunted pass game. D-Y utilizes three and four-receiver sets to set up underneath and crossing routes, as well as quick screens to the flats; but they are at their most dangerous when getting the 6-foot-2 Johnson -- considered one of the state's elite jump-ball receivers -- loose in space.

With the Rams taking a linebacker or two out of the box, that opened up the middle of the field for dives and isolation plays. With the linebackers playing gaps and the linemen conversing playing their lanes, that opened up the running game in between the hashes, evidenced by the 230 yards rushing.

Montalto didn't go as vertical in the passing game as he's done in past games. But when he did, he targeted Johnson four times for passes of 10, 12, 20 and 17 yards. The first three were seven-yard skinny posts, hitting him square in the chest. The fourth turned out to be one of the game's most crucial play, a 12-yard out route to the right sideline on third and four that gave the Dolphins a fresh set of downs with less than five minutes to play.

"We just wanted to see if we were getting single coverage with him, that's all," Funk said of the strategy.

Little guys get it done: Few personify D-Y's modus operandi on defense as well as Kennedy. He's generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 215 pounds, and sports a thick mohawk, but admits he's more like 5-6, 205, pointing to his stomach and cracking, "I've got some meat."

Like many members of the Dolphins' front seven, Kennedy doesn't intimidate with his physical appearance. But he is quick, and was as key a contributor as any in shooting the inside gaps and preventing the Rams from breaking off long runs up the middle (they never pulled off a run from scrimmage of more than 12 yards).

Deploying a 50 Slant Angle defensive front -- favored against Wing-T schemes like Marshfield's, for its ability to load the box without bailing on pass coverage -- made guys like Kennedy and equally-diminutive defensive end Matt Quatrucci (5-foot-8, 160 pounds) look like playmakers. They'll likely get passing marks for the way they helped bottle up a sound rushing attack led by Mike Williams, Ryan Talanian and quarterback Mark Pomella.

"They're tough, hard-nosed kids," Funk said. "That old saying, it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog. They got it, they got it. They're tough."

Said Kennedy: "I'm powerful, man. I can push them around. But usually [for me], that's what it's about, shooting the gaps. I've got one gap, the linebacker's looking at the other, and the rest is history."

Staying on the field: Perhaps the best example of how efficient the Dolphins were in the run game tonight was by how well they did at keeping the chains moving. The Dolphins converted 7 of 11 third downs on the night, including five of their first six.

D-Y (6-0, 3-0) 7 7 0 0 --- 14
MSH (3-3, 1-1) 0 0 0 0 --- 0

First Quarter
Joe Furness 4 run (John Terrio kick) 3:12

Second Quarter
Matt Montalto 1 run (Terrio kick) 4:42

No. 15 D-Y playing unusual role of favorite

August, 29, 2011
SOUTH YARMOUTH, Mass. -- All of last week, the Dennis-Yarmouth Dolphins gathered with No. 1 Everett for a week's worth of practices at a campground in Brewster, tucked into the elbow of Cape Cod and bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean.

As usual when these two programs butt heads, it's a stroll down memory lane for Funk. In 2001, he left the Crimson Tide coaching staff to take over a program past the verge of collapse. D-Y wasn't just a program in disarray, with a mere six wins to its credit in the 1990's; it was a program so bad, it was relegated to exclusively junior varsity status, with the school even considering dropping the program altogether.

They say if you're not the lead dog, the view never changes. Safe to say a decade after nearly disbanding, the Dolphins are affirmatively in the front of the pack in not just the pecking order of the Cape's programs, but all of Division 2A.

Four seasons ago, it was Nick Montalto kick-starting the program, quarterbacking the Dolphins to a 10-1 campaign and a share of the Atlantic Coast League title (they missed out on the playoffs by virtue of a head-to-head matchup with Marshfield). Last season, after a few .500 seasons, it was Montalto's younger brother, Matt, amassing 37 touchdowns and nearly 2,500 yards of offense as the Dolphins claimed the ACL outright and punched their first postseason berth in school history.

All the intangibles are back again in 2011 to make them a favorite in the ACL again. But putting them over the top -- putting them in Super Bowl contention, in some circles -- is Matt Montalto, the spirited gun-slinger and baseball centerfielder praised as much for his decision-making as his toughness. And that's even after taking into his relative lack of size (Montalto stands just 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds).

"He's just a gamer, great kid, really good leader," Funk said. "He has put his heart and soul into the program. He's almost at 245 on hang clean, 265 on the bench press, he's like a big, strong kid. Even though he's not tall for kid at his position, he can run a 4.6.

"And on top of that, he's the most accurate passer I've ever seen and ever been around. You put those things together with the toughness and leadership qualities, and he's a kid that we're very fortunate to have."

Last fall, the Dolphins were most successful with Funk's read-option attack when Montalto was spreading the ball around to a handful of slot receivers on underneath routes, or hitting running backs Dylan Hodsdon and Joe Furness out of the backfield. Funk noted an improved arm strength over the offseason, adding that he'd put Montalto "up with any of them" in a deep quarterbacking class that includes Everett's Jonathan DiBiaso, Barnstable's D.J. Crook, North Andover's Brandon Walsh, Catholic Memorial's A.J. Doyle, Swampscott's Michael Walsh and Billerica golden boy Nick LaSpada.

That should bode well for arguably the Dolphins' most dangerous target. At 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, senior Damion Johnson is a mismatch and their best deep-ball threat, demonstrating quality body control on jump-balls and exhibiting elite burners in the open field that has touched the 4.5-4.4 range. He's probably in for a bigger season after racking up 728 receiving yards and nine total touchdowns last fall.

At free safety, Johnson was also the ACL's Defenisve Player of the Year, jumping routes to the tune of eight interceptions.

"He's good as a receiver and good on both sides of the ball," Funk said. "At safety, he comes up hard on run. I think he creates problems for teams."

Undoubtedly, the target is on the Dolphins' back, a position at once uncomfortable and enviable.

"That’s what happens when you start wininng games," Funk said. "That's what we wanted to do with this program. When we started from scratch, to where we are now, we still haven't gotten to where we need to be, there's stuff that didn't get finished last year, there's a lot of work be done to get to there. But this is what we hoped as a coaching staff would happen when we started this thing 10 years ago."


Coach: Paul Funk (11th season, 58-39-1)
Last Year: 10-2 (Lost to Duxbury in Division 2A playoffs)
Key Returnees: Matt Montalto, Sr. QB/DB (1,300 passing yards, 22 TD, 4 INT; 121 carries, 1,123 yards, 15 TD); Tommy Kennedy, Sr. OL/LB; Hunter Oppedisano, Sr. OL/DL; Dylan Hodsdon, Sr. RB/DB (11 TD receptions); Damion Johnson, Sr. WR/DB (704 receiving yards, 9 total TD; 8 INT); Arthur Hairston, Sr. OL/DL; Shane Lappen, Sr. OL/DL; Rufus Hamilton, Sr. RB/DB (6 rushing TD); Barry Dempsey, Sr. OL/DL; Spencer McCaffery, Jr. WR/DB; Joe Furness, Sr. FB/LB (11 rushing TD).
Strengths: Team speed, returning skill players.
Weaknesses: Depth at linebackers.
Outlook: The Dolphins climbed to unprecedented heights in 2010, and many of the integral pieces of the puzzle are back for one more go-around, making them one of several favorites in Division 2A. The most integral of them all, Montalto, could have an even bigger senior campaign after totaling 37 scores as a junior. Montalto made a name for himself across the state last year with his elusive 4.6-40 speed and accuracy in the short passing game, and all the familiar targets are back to shoot for an even bigger senior campaign. "Our offense isn’t one to pass the ball 35 times," Funk said. "We're very balanced, very evenly spread out, and Matt's the perfect guy for that in this offense." Without the greatest arm strength in the world, Montalto excelled in spreading the ball around underneath to guys like Hodsdon and McCaffery, and keeping the defense honest with handoffs up the middle to Furness, but Funk noted an improvement in arm strength this offseason. That should bode well for Johnson, who figures to emerge as one of the Cape's all-around most dangerous targets after a strong junior campaign; as should the offensive line, which loses mammoth 310-pound tackled Nate Crary but returns three speedy starters. Defensively, there are concerns of depth in the front seven with the graduation of linebackers Victor Andrade and T.J. Camel, but the secondary should buy the pass rush some time, with Montalto and Johnson manning the safety positions.

What We Learned: Week 10

November, 15, 2010
This past October 30, two Texas high school football teams combined for 165 points in a battle for playoff position, with Jacksonville High defeating Nacogdoches High, 84-81, in the 12th overtime. According to KLTV, the Tyler, Texas-based ABC affiliate covering the game, that set a national record.

If all that's true, then what went down last Friday night at Cawley Stadium is a national record. Andrew Coke ran for eight touchdowns for Andover to lead the Golden Warriors to an 88-82 victory over Lowell in the eighth overtime. Meanwhile, Raiders quarterback Kyle Edwards threw for eight touchdown passes in the loss, four of them to Josh McGlauflin.

The Red Raiders had an opportunity in the eighth overtime to score, but were stopped inches short of the goal line on a fourth-and-three play. The game was tied at 28 after regulation, and the teams traded touchdowns in seven straight overtime periods -- including six straight successful two-point tries by either side -- before Coke marched in from 10 yards out on the Golden Warriors' first play of their eighth-overtime possession.

"I've never seen anything like that," Andover head coach E.J. Perry told ESPNBoston's Scott Barboza. "It was a tremendous accomplishment by this team to put it all on the line. Now we'll have the chance to play with all the marbles on the line against Central Catholic on Thanksgiving Day. It's been a great honor to coach kids like this that are so resilient.

"But I give a lot of credit to those Lowell kids as well. I went over to talk to them after the game and I told them that they had nothing to be ashamed of."

With that win, the Warriors have set up a winner-take-all battle with Central Catholic on Thanksgiving for the Merrimack Valley Large's playoff berth. But it's a pyrrhic victory, as Boston College-bound tight end Brian Miller went down with a knee injury in the first half; his status for Thanksgiving is unknown right now.

"No real update right now," Perry told correspondent Roger Brown in his recruiting blog today. "Brian was not able to get an MRI over the weekend. The orthopedist who was on hand was somewhat optimistic it wasn't an ACL, but without an MRI there now way to know for sure. He's getting that [Monday]."

Paul Funk arrived at Dennis-Yarmouth in 2001, fresh off a successful stint as an assistant at storied Everett, to find a Dolphins program so barren that it had relegated itself to junior varsity status. D-Y faced problems not only with numbers, but with plain old futility -- the Dolphins had won just six games in the 1990's.

Fast forward to Friday night, and the Dolphins are staring at their second Atlantic Coast League title in four years, thanks to a gritty 14-7 win over Plymouth North.

"In nine years, this is what we've got, and I'm pretty proud of that," Funk told ESPNBoston's Brendan Hall. "It's alot of hard work from alot of people."

It was the usual recipe to success for the Dolphins, with linebackers Tommy Kennedy and Victor Andrade leading a swarming defense that marked hard-nosed fullback Matt Walsh all night and kept the Eagles' vaunted running game stalled in first gear. Meanwhile, Matt Montalto wasn't putting up video-game numbers as usual, directing Funk's high-octane spread attack, but he was good enough in the second half, running and throwing for a touchdown each.

Montalto now joins his brother, Nick, as quarterbacks to lead the Dolphins to a share of the ACL.

"He is as good a competitor, as a winner, as you'll ever find," Funk said. "He's been a winner since he was seven. You always have a chance with him at the helm. His older brother was the same way, (Matt's) just an unbelievable person."

As for that elusive playoff berth...

With the league slates of both D-Y (9-1, 4-1) and Marshfield (5-4, 4-1) wrapped up, fate lies in the hands of North (7-3, 3-1), which has one ACL game left -- Thanksgiving archrival Plymouth South (4-6, 2-2). A North win on Thanksgiving creates a three-way tie for the ACL, and would give the playoff berth to the team that has gone longest without making the playoffs -- in this case D-Y, which has never played past the holiday in the Super Bowl era.

You can be rest assured the Dolphins will be scoreboard-watching on this one. This same scenario played out in 2007, when they went 10-1 but with a loss to Marshfield needed a North win on Thanksgiving to create a three-way tie. South took down North in what was considered a big upset, and the Rams went on to the Division 1A Super Bowl before bowing to Chelmsford on a late field goal.

New Bedford could've let its boat sink after suffering four straight losses to start the season, however Dennis Golden's squad righted ship with four wins entering Saturday's matchup against Brockton. Then, the Whalers did the unthinkable, upsetting the Boxers, 23-21.

"Well, we've been much better in the last month than we were in the first month," Golden told Scott Barboza on Sunday. "I'm really proud of the way that our kids have battled back when they very easily could have let things slide."

Now, New Bedford can clinch a Division I playoff berth with a win over Durfee on Thanksgiving Day.

The Whalers jumped ahead of the Boxers, 14-0, at halftime and never trailed in the contest. To close out the win, New Bedford embarked on a 20-play drive, spanning eight minutes and forty seconds of the fourth quarter. Although the Whalers didn't score, Brockton got the ball back with only five seconds remaining, scant time for the Boxers to get a game-winning score.

"Our offensive line was amazing on that final drive," Golden said. "They were just amazing and that was huge for us, keeping the ball out of the hands of their offense at the end of the game."

The Somerset sideline dumped the water bucket over head coach Nick Freitas' with around 30 seconds remaining.

Still, Freitas wasn't about to go Gore v. Bush on calling his team's number in the Eastern Athletic Conference race.

"I didn't feel safe until it was down to point-six second left on the clock there," Freitas said after the Blue Raiders' 49-28 win over Bishop Feehan on Friday.

The Shamrocks once again proved that the EAC runs through them, despite losing their first five games of the season. Feehan won when it counted, taking their first three EAC contests before falling to Somerset.

And the Blue Raiders weren't about to look past their opponent.

"That's all we could think about this year," lineman Ian Levesque said Friday about their matchup with Feehan. "We knew it was going to come down them in our last [conference] game. We knew we had to be ready for them. We had a hard week of practice. We watched extra film. We knew it was going be that tough."

The Whalers line of Jason Brierly, Lance Burlingame, Janny Dosreis, Jacob Medeiros, Oliver Pires and Darian Sousa-Bizarro carried New Bedford in its upset over Big Three rival Brockton.

Andrew Coke, Jr. QB/RB, Andover - The leading scorer in Division 1 added immensely to his already-impressive totals by scoring eight touchdowns in the Golden Warriors' 88-82, eight-overtime win over Lowell.

Matt Costello, Sr. WR, Everett - The senior had another tremendous day receiving in the Crimson Tide's 45-0 win over rival Malden, making eight catches for 195 yards and three scores.

Seth DeMello, Sr. RB, Somerset - He provided the biggest spark in the Blue Raiders' 49-28 win over Bishop Feehan to clinch their first postseason berth of the Super Bowl era, carrying 20 times for 245 yards and scoring six touchdowns (four rushing, two passing).

Ryan Lipka, Sr. WR, Bishop Fenwick - With six catches in the first half of a 36-0 loss to St. Mary's last Friday, Lipka became the first player in the state of Massachusetts to catch more than 100 balls in a season.

Quinton Perkins, Jr. ATH, Fitchburg - The versatile speedster was vicious on the ground for the Red Raiders, carrying the ball 17 times for 278 yards and six touchdowns in a 56-33 shootout win over Gardner.

Andreas Robinson, Soph. QB, Phillips Exeter - In a 56-33 win over archrival Phillips Andover, Robinson ruled the day with 297 yards and four touchdowns on 31 carries.

Montalto lifts No. 23 D-Y to ACL share

November, 13, 2010

SOUTH YARMOUTH, Mass. -- Matt Montalto is a lifelong resident of Yarmouth, but too young to remember the days before Paul Funk took over the Dennis-Yarmouth football program nearly 10 years ago. Funk, a proven assistant at Everett High, came down the Cape in 2001 to inherit a program that won just six games in the 1990's; a program so desolate it had been relegated to playing only junior varsity games.

But after a gutsy second half performance last night, a night that nobody on Station Avenue is soon going to forget, the legacies of both Funk and Montalto have come full circle. Montalto's stats through the air and ground, usually gaudy, took a hit. But so did Plymouth North's vaunted defensive front seven, as the dual-threat junior quarterback slashed the Eagles for a touchdown through the air and ground in the final 22 minutes to orchestrate a 14-7 comeback victory and clinch the Dolphins a share of their second Atlantic Coast League title in four seasons.

"He is as good a competitor, as a winner, as you'll ever find," Funk said of Montalto (181 all-purpose yards). "He's been a winner since he was seven. You always have a chance with him at the helm. His older brother was the same way, (Matt's) just an unbelievable person. I knew at halftime he was going to pick up, because he was banged up and bruised -- they're as physical team as you'll find -- but he just picked us up at halftime and said he was going to get it done. He put us on his shoulders."

Said junior wideout/defensive back Dylan Hodsdon, who caught Montalto's game-winning touchdown pass and then sealed it late with a pick, "Oh Matt, he's a warrior, man. He's awesome. He's the leader on the team, and he's just awesome. Gets banged up, and he keeps on going. Just awesome."

Unlike that 2007 season, though, when they went 10-1 but missed out on a Division 1A playoff berth by virtue of a head-to-head loss to Marshfield, this year's Dolphins (9-1) can claim the ACL's Division 2A playoff berth should North beat archrival Plymouth South (its final ACL opponent) on Thanksgiving. That would create a three-way tie between North, D-Y and Marshfield, the latter of whom beat D-Y earlier in the season but lost to North (both D-Y and Marshfield are finished with their ACL schedules). League tiebreaker rules give the playoff berth to the team that has gone the longest without a postseason appearance, which means the Dolphins -- who have never played past Thanksgiving in the Super Bowl era -- would move on.

"This is the biggest night since the 2007 season," said Montalto, whose brother Nick -- now his quarterbacks coach -- was under center on that '07 team. "It's the biggest game of the 2007 season, it's just as big for the school as it is for the community...It's the biggest thing I've ever been a part of. That's how much it means to me."

Early on, the Eagles (7-3) took control of the field and the clock with their trademark power sets and clock-eating drives on the ground. Behind bruising north-south running between the tackles by senior Matt Walsh (18 carries, 104 yards), the Eagles clawed all the way to the Dolphins' four before being stopped at the goal line on fourth down. Walsh took a toss right, and looked to have clearance, but a Hodsdon dive at his legs tripped him up at the two.

North quarterback Cody Merritt, playing over the top at free safety, avenged the turnover on downs on the ensuing drive when he jumped a slant route and picked off a Montalto dart over the middle, breaking for the right sideline and marching in for a 30-yard pick six. But that initial turnover on downs, however, may have come back to haunt them.

A Tommy Kennedy sack of Merritt on fourth down ended North's first drive of the second half, and gave the Dolphins a starting drive at midfield. On the second play of the drive, Montalto went to the right flat and found Hodsdon, who easily ripped through an armtackle and burst up the sideline before being pushed out some 28 yards later. Four plays later, Montalto finished the drive, flushing out of the pocket to his right and skimping over the near pylon for a 16-yard scamper.

The Eagles went three-and-out on the ensuing drive, and Montalto burst loose around the outside again on the first play for 39 yards. Five plays later, he connected with his favorite target Hodsdon again, a slant over the shallow end zone from the left slot for an 11-yard touchdown reception and a 14-7 lead with 8:31 to go.

All three of North's drives over the final eight minutes came up fruitless, with the secondary picking off Merritt each time. The most crucial one came with 55 seconds left int he game, on second and 15, as Merritt rolled to his left with time and let a sideline fade rip. Hodsdon came over the top and pounced on the ball, underthrown with plenty of air under it, for the second of three fourth-quarter interceptions by the D-Y secondary.

"We knew we had to keep our heads up," Hodsdon said. "That's all we had to do is keep our heads up, and we kept to our assignments."

North head coach Dwayne Follette confessed fatigue may have played a factor in the Eagles' second-half defensive breakdowns.

"We've got alot of kids that play both ways," Follette said. "I think we got tired. We missed alot of tackles, and I think their speed just...we just should have finished that first drive. I thought that not finishing on that first drive really hurt us, because we could have had a nice lead, you know. We just made mistakes at the wrong time."


PN 0 7 0 0 --- 7
DY 0 0 7 7 --- 14

Second Quarter
P - Cody Merritt 30 interception return (Vinny Tavernelli kick) 3:01

Third Quarter
D - Matt Montalto 16 run (John Terrio kick) 2:42

Fourth Quarter
D - Dylan Hodsdon 11 pass from Montalto (Terrio kick) 8:31