Boston High School: Wahconah

Highlights: Holliston vs. Wahconah

December, 6, 2014
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Zach Elkinson ran for a championship game record five scores as Holliston ran away with the Division 4 state championship in a 43-0 rout of Wahconah.

ESPN Boston correspondent Mike Uva has the highlights:

(Video by Greg Story)



Video: Breaking down the D4 championship

December, 6, 2014
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Holliston cruised to the Division 4 state championship with a 43-0 blanking of Wahconah Regional at Gillette Stadium.

ESPN Boston High School editor Scott Barboza and John Sarianides break down the action:



Telestrator: Inside Wahconah-Holliston

December, 3, 2014
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In this week's edition of "The Telestrator", ESPN Boston High Schools editor Brendan C. Hall and correspondent Mike Uva take you inside one of the biggest matchups of State Championship Saturday, the Division 4 Final between Western Mass. champion Wahconah and Eastern Mass. champ Holliston.

The two teams are practically mirrors of each other along the offensive and defensive lines, but Wahconah brings a big weapon to the table in tight end/defensive end Cole Morrison, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound junior who is beginning to build Division 1 interest. But the Warriors' biggest question they have to solve is how they will match up with Holliston's electric returning All-State athlete Zach Elkinson. We took a look inside what makes Morrison and Elkinson so integral to their teams:

(Video by Greg Story)

The Telestrator - MIAA Playoffs Super Saturday from ESPN Boston on Vimeo.

Recap: No. 17 Wahconah 27, Pittsfield 13

October, 11, 2014
DALTON, Mass. -- If ever there was a time for Pittsfield to seize the moment, this was it.

History told you this is a program that embodies itself as a tough, resilient and proud bunch. On the flip side, it is also a team that, more often than not, finds ways to lose. Because of that, the Generals have never been able to elevate themselves into the upper-echelon of the Berkshire County League – a league that has been dominated by two schools – Wahconah Regional and Hoosac Valley.

On Friday night, while facing Wahconah, a club Pittsfield has not defeated in well-over a decade, it was an opportunity to rewrite history. Throughout the week, the Generals took the high road by calling it 'just another game' on the schedule.

But once Pittsfield stepped foot on Warrior Field, it was no longer just a game.

Wahconah, the 17th ranked team in the poll, came into the contest undefeated, the No. 1 team in the BCL, and a virtual lock for a Western Mass. Division 4 postseason spot. Likewise, Pittsfield also entered unbeaten. A Generals victory would heighten their position in a tightly-contested Western Mass. Division 5 playoff race.

But history would not be made despite Pittsfield's attempts to do so. The Warriors built a 19-point halftime lead and managed to withstand a tenacious third quarter by the Generals to come away with a 27-13 victory and improve to 6-0.

The way it started out, it appeared as though Wahconah would coast. They put up 210 of their overall 385 yards in the opening half and led 19-0. Meanwhile, a defense that doesn't get the credit it deserves, was able to hold the Generals to just 12 yards during that span.

They finished with 128 yards.

"It was a tale of two halves," Warriors head coach Gary Campbell Jr., said. "We played well defensively in that first half and I don't know if our guys got fat and happy in the second half. You could feel the momentum start to shift in the second half but I was proud of our guys for getting it back physically. The only way of turning the tide in football is physically turning the tide and controlling the line of scrimmage. I was happy that our kids did that in the fourth quarter."

Wahconah grabbed the early lead on a Quinn Caesar 9-yard carry, followed up by Evan Gurney's conversion run to cap a 78-yard drive on its initial possession which ate nearly the entire first quarter. Caesar led the Warriors with 147 yards on 16 attempts.

Wahconah expanded the lead to 16 early in the second quarter after senior quarterback Nick Clayton hit Caesar with a swing pass and the fleet-footed senior did the rest, cutting through and around the Pittsfield defense for a 46-yard score. Matt Salvatore proceeded by Matt Salvatore's conversion reception.

While the Generals' offense couldn't get out of their own way, Wahconah tacked on three points right before the half on Ryan Washburn's 35-yard field goal.

"Our defense did a great job in limiting them to just 13 points because they are a high-scoring offense," said Clayton, who completed 8 of 15 passes for 148 yards. "In the second half we just kept telling everyone to relax and play our game. I thought our line took over in the end because we were able to pound the ball up the middle."

Pittsfield's body language heading into the half showed a team that looked beaten and emotionless. But apparently head coach Brian Jezewski found the right words during the break to re-ignite his team. The Generals (4-1) stormed into the second half a much-different group. With newfound hope, Pittsfield dominated nearly the entire third quarter and was able to pull itself to within a touchdown heading into the final quarter.

Behind senior running back Devon Tucker (19 carries, 88 yards), the Generals engineered a 54-yard drive to begin the quarter. Facing fourth down on the Warriors’ 15, Tucker took a pitch and bolted around right end for the score to make it 19-7. Pittsfield then recovered a squib kick after Shane Cronin pounced on it at the Wahconah 47 once it bounced off of up man Kevin O'Brien. Back in business, the Generals moved down field with relative ease before quarterback Chad Shade darted in from 14 yards out with 3:38 remaining.

Shade received national attention this week when his circus-like run and touchdown pass in a win over Lee was aired on SportsCenter’s “Top Plays”. The PAT failed and Pittsfield was only down 19-13 with still a whole quarter left to be played.

It was clearly obvious to everyone in attendance that momentum had made a major shift over to the Generals side. After recovering a fumble in the final seconds of the third, Pittsfield had the ball in its hands once again with a chance to move in front. A 16-yard run by Tucker had the Generals deep in Wahconah territory. But on fourth and 9, Shade's pass into double coverage in the end zone was intercepted by senior Josh Rocca.

The Warriors managed to turn that pick into valuable points as they marched 87 yards before Clayton threw over the top of the coverage to receiver Cole Morrison for a 13 yard scoring strike with 3:17 to go. Clayton's follow-up conversion run sealed would eventually seal things.

"I think they were expected us to keep pounding the ball but we were able to get it to Cole," said Clayton. "We play every down like it is the last play of a game. We have been able to come together and face adversity when it comes towards us and just power through it."

Pittsfield made one last attempt to narrow the deficit but Shade was picked off again, this time by Washburn, to close the curtain on this one.

"Our guys played with a lot of heart," Jezewski said. "They're not going to give up. I credit Wahconah for having a great program but our guys hung with them. With our offense and our play makers we are never out of a game. We play a real-fast tempo and we want to get after it. Our guys did a great job up front on both sides the ball. The only program we ever talk about is ours. We are Pittsfield High School and we represent our whole community and I think we represented ourselves well tonight."

Our 2014 Summer Football Primer

July, 8, 2014
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


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.


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.

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.

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


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


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.


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.

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

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.

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.

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.


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?

Recap: No. 9 Burlington 2, No. 17 Lexington 0

April, 18, 2014
LEXINGTON, Mass. -- It is a known fact that revenge is viewed as a valuable asset for teams. However, it can also become a huge distraction, as it so often takes away from a program's initial premise.

Burlington avenged an earlier loss to Lexington on Thursday, defeating the Minutemaids, 2-0. The victory served as nothing more than another step towards this program's overall goal of returning to the Division 2 state final. The Red Devils have reached the title game in two of the last three years, having lost to Wahconah Regional (2011) and Grafton last year. They are considered by most as being one of the favorites to return this year.

"We really didn't think about that first game against (Lexington) very much," said junior Kaela Hersee. "We just came out and proved that we can play against them. Overall, I think our entire team is playing very well right now."

Back on April 9, when the two clubs first met, Lexington pitcher Maddie Orcutt struck out 14 en route to a 1-0 triumph.

In the re-match, Orcutt, a senior who will attend Cornell University next fall, continued her dominance over the Red Devils early on. Through the first three innings, the righthander breezed through the Burlington line up, offering up just one infield single while striking out three.

"This game was similar to the earlier one," Lexington head coach Frank Pagliuca said. "It was a pitchers’ duel again for the most part. Today, they were able to string some hits together and take advantage of some opportunities. We really didn't do that today. Pitching-wise Maddie [Orcutt] was great but we need to execute a little better at the plate and that's something that has been an issue for us.

“I was encouraged by how we played for the most part but we just didn't execute offensively the way we needed to. Maddie pitched great against a good, aggressive team. She had to make a couple of adjustments which she did and kept us in it."

In the Red Devils' half of the fourth, things started to shift. With one out, Samantha Gibson singled. Hersee followed by lining a hard liner to left. Lexington left fielder Jane Casey-Fleener appeared to have a bead on the ball but at the last second it tailed away from her, rolling out to no man's land in deep left. With Gibson scoring ahead of her, Hersee never stopped running until she crossed the plate for a two-run homer.

"I was just trying to do my job," Hersee said. "After I hit it, I was just thinking that I needed to keep running."

The two-run cushion served well for Burlington pitcher Jillian Ghio, who replaces all-everything hurler Kelly McCarthy in the circle this year. The righty overwhelmed the Minutemen (3-1) throughout the cold and breezy afternoon. She had not allowed a hit over the first five frames. But in the sixth, the no-hit bid became a memory after Caitlyn Burke lined a shot that caromed off of Ghio for Lexington's lone hit in the contest.

Ghio finished her day with seven strikeouts.

"Seeing [Orcutt] for a second time we knew what she had this time around," said Red Devils coach Kristen Mahoney, her team having now won three straight and improving to 4-1. "We knew how to attack her and the girls got it done. We graduated five starters from last year's team and we have great kids taking their spots, and I feel Jillian is going to be great for us. I'm very excited to have her on this team."

D3A final: North Middlesex 12, Wahconah 0

March, 14, 2014
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The end of the first period told the story. Wahconah skated off the ice towards their dressing room looking like a team thoroughly dejected, dazed and beaten.

Not even the Warriors could have expected the blitzkrieg they endured during the first period when North Middlesex scored twice in the opening minute and added three more markers before the frame came to close en route to a 12-0 blowout in the Division 3A state final played at MassMutual Center Thursday night.

It was the team's 11th straight victory on the season.

The state crown marks the third for the Patriots. They won championships as a Division 3 program in 1995 and 1998.

Not in a million years did I think we would come out 12-0," said senior defenseman P.J. Dupre. "I thought it would be a 2-1 game right to the end. We just came out on fire and they couldn't keep up with us. Scoring two goals in the first minute of a game is certainly a crushing feeling for the other team. We weren't going to stop from there because we knew that team came back from a three-goal deficit in the Western Mass. final against Chicopee."

Any drama in this one disappeared early. Dan McNamara, a senior forward, led North Middlesex (19-3-2) with four goals and an assist. It was the first four goal game of his career.

"This feels good," McNamara said. "Especially for all of the seniors who have worked very hard the last four years to attain this. It's been a long journey. We got dropped down a division which kind of helped us a little bit and I feel we have improved a lot since then. Tonight we wanted to establish our fore-check early and set the tone for the rest of the game. That's been the best part of our game all year."

The offensive explosion began just 19 seconds into this contest after Ryan McCarthy lit the lamp with a shot from the right circle that caromed off the shaft of Wahconah senior starting goalie Stedman Roger, over his right shoulder and across the goal line. Just 20 seconds later, McNamara bagged his first, pushing a rebound underneath a sprawled out Stedman.

The Patriots increased the lead to 3-0 at 2:21. P.J. Dupre unleashed a shot from the right circle that bounced off of Steadman's chest and then ricochet off of a streaking Brian Walter from the left slot. Things only worsened for the Warriors (16-7-1) soon after. Devin Blanchard ripped a shot into the back of net at 4:10 to end Steadman's evening, replaced by sophomore Nico Romano. But even with the chance in net, the results remained the same.

Dylan Connor gained control of a rebound out front and backhanded a shot over Romano's right shoulder at make it a five-goal affair. As the final minutes ticked off the clock to finally close out the frame, that would prove to be the only saving grace for Wahconah by this point. The Warriors had won their last 13 contest coming in.
Yet it is hard to fathom a championship game being so one-sided but the Patriots proved otherwise. Any chance for the Warriors (playing in its first state hockey championship) to shake off the disastrous first period and try and regroup would prove futile. The Patriots came out continued their offensive mockery in the second period. McNamara found the back of the net twice within a span of 30 seconds to make it a 7-0 advantage. He would add his fourth score at 5:38 of the third.

Less than two minutes later, Mike Carson scored North Middlesex's eight goal with a blast from the right perimeter. Through 30 minutes, the Patriots held a distinctive 26-6 shots on goal advantage.

Down by so many, Wahconah never mustered any kind of serviceable threat inside the Patriots zone. They were to busy chasing down the North Middlesex forwards who were sprinting with the puck down the other end of the ice.

Besides McNamara tallying in the fourth in the third, McCarthy scored another as did Connor. Donnie Frederick finished things off with a late score. The Patriots finished with 38 shots to the Warriors' 14.

"I didn't expect this,'' North Middlesex head coach Mike McCarthy said. "I saw Wahconah last week in a game that was incredible in which they were down 6-3 going into the third period and came back to win it. They really have a good team but our strength in the corners was really the difference because we were able to win battles out of the corners.

“Hats off to Wahconah for a fantastic season. When you lose I know you don't want to hear anything but they had a great season. Tonight they just ran into a team that was hot and have been that way for a while now."

D4 semifinal: Doherty 22, Wahconah 16

November, 23, 2013
LEOMINSTER, Mass. -- Before they had time to blink, the Doherty Highlanders were trailing 16 points to Western Mass. power Wahconah Regional.

Like a Mike Tyson fight (pre-Buster Douglas, of course), Doherty found itself lying on the canvas in a heap after the Warriors came out swinging right from the outset.

With one foot firmly planted on the Highlanders' throats, Wahconah failed to complete the task when it had the chance and let Doherty off the hook. Helped by a couple of Warrior miscues, Doherty was able pull itself up, and in the process, save its season after rallying back to post a 22-16 triumph in today's Division 4 state semifinal played at Doyle Field.

"It seemed our kids were so excited about this game and the atmosphere that we got tired after two plays," said Highlanders head coach Sean Mulcahy, his team finishing with 325 yards to the Warriors' 257. "Wahconah took it to us early and I think our kids did panic a little bit."

Doherty (10-1) faces Dennis-Yarmouth (a 21-14 winner over Bedford on Saturday) in the final on Dec. 7 at Gillette Stadium – time to be announced.

While some pundits assumed the Highlanders' overall talent-level would be far too great for the Warriors (10-1) to handle, it appeared to be the other way around in the early going.

On the Warriors’ opening possession, senior quarterback Ethan Wells, who played marvelously all game long, directed his club on a 53-yard scoring drive with Wells completing the drive by connecting with junior wide out Ryan Washburn for a 26-yard scoring reception. Matt Salvatore's proceeding conversion catch had the Warriors in front, 8-0.

Wells put his diversity on display for the Highlanders, demonstrating his capabilities throwing the football as well as running with it. He finished with 129 yards on 30 carries and was 6 of 13 passing for 93 yards. Lining up in the shotgun throughout, Doherty's defense appeared baffled about what Wells would do next, consistently loading the box to take away the run.

Yet, the strategy didn't seem to faze Wahconah. After a second consecutive Highlanders punt, the Warriors were given a short field to work as they set up on Doherty's 43-yard line. Four runs by Wells, netting 17 yards, positioned running back Darrow Brown to bust through for a 10 yard scoring run with just over a minute remaining in the initial quarter. Brown then threw a pass to Cole Morrison for the two-point conversion pushing the Warriors out to a 16-0 advantage.

In spite of the deficit, it was certainly still within reach for Doherty, and its plethora of talent, to jump back into it. All the Highlanders needed was something to fall their way and provide a much-needed lift. It came in the form of running back Jahkari Carpenter.

With Doherty's running game totally inept during the opening frame, Carpenter changed that early in the second thanks to his 59-yard jaunt. That was immediately followed by senior quarterback Luke Brennan's 19-yard touchdown scamper to make it 16-6 after the conversion run failed.

"Our defense made some great adjustments after [Wahconah] went up by 16 points," said Brennan, who finished with 93 yards on 6 of 15 passing. "Our offense eventually clicked and that's what we did the rest of the game. Everyone kept their poise. We knew it was going to be a war. We knew we needed to grind for four quarters and keep our composure the whole game no matter what happened and that's what we did."

On the ensuing kickoff, the Warriors made a critical error which in turn provided the momentum shift Doherty grasped hold of and didn’t surrender.

Senior Eli Pease had the ball squirt through his hands that ended up sitting on the 1-yard line. After a delay-of-game penalty, Wells had no place to go inside his own end zone and was smothered by the Highlander defense resulting in a safety.

"Once we got that safety I felt our kids could finally breathe a little and now start to play," Mulcahy said.

He added, "We'll enjoy this and now get ready for Burncoat on Thanksgiving. We'll worry about Gillette after Thanksgiving."

With 4:47 still left before halftime, Doherty came all the way back. Carpenter's 42-yard zig-zag touchdown and Mitch Celaj's conversion catch had this contest knotted at 16-16. Carpenter finished with 114 yards on 14 attempts.

"We did a great job coming out for this game," Warriors coach Gary Campbell Jr. said. "Offensively and defensively we were executing. But in the second quarter the wheels came off. All you can ask for are opportunities. If you get them phenomenal and if you don't that's the way it goes. Doherty is a quality team but I was pleased to see our kids hang with them through four quarters like they did. We'll fight with anybody but this one will sting a little.

“I thought Ethan [Wells] played great for us today. He is our heart and soul. He's a tough kid who is still deciding on attending either RPI and WPI. It doesn't matter where you put him on the field. He's just a very smart, tough player that can play anywhere."

It only got worse Wahconah after a shotgun snap deflected off of Pease, who was in motion, resulting in Highlander senior Peter Franco’s recovery on Wahconah's 40. But Doherty running back Issac Yiadom gave the ball back to the Warriors, coughing it up inside the 10. Yiadom carried the ball four times for 40 yards.

Wahconah's offense did nothing following the turnover and had its punt partially blocked. Doherty took over on the 16 and needed only one play to take a 6-point lead. Alfred Adarkwah's 16-yard scoring grab from Brennan with 16 seconds before halftime had the Highlanders in a much-better frame of mind than what transpired during opening 11 minutes.

The second half was a bend-but-don't break style offense and defense from both teams. Doherty had a chance to pad its lead late in the third but Carpenter lost control of the ball inside the Warriors 10. Likewise, Wahconah put forth its best drive of the game following the turnover. Beginning at his own 8-yard line, Wells' legs did much of the work in moving the Warriors all the way the Highlanders’ 6. Facing a fourth-and-goal Wells' pass to the back of the end zone was battered down by senior Shawn Jackson.

Doherty regained possession and eventually ran out the clock for the triumph.

D2 softball final: Grafton 2, Burlington 1

June, 16, 2013

WORCESTER, Mass. -- If you are Grafton softball head coach John Gemme, you always like your chances when you hand the ball to pitcher Kendal Roy.

The junior right-hander is one of the upstart premier pitchers in the state and, once again, she put those talents on display Saturday and, in the process, made believers out of Burlington.

Playing an instrumental role in helping the Indians win their first Division 2 state championship a year ago, Roy was back at Rockwood Field looking to raise another banner. After working her way out of some early trouble, Roy got into a groove which spelled doom for the Red Devils as she pitched the Indians to their second consecutive state crown with a 2-1 victory.

Roy grew more-dominate as the game progressed. She finished her day by allowing just four hits while striking out 11. Burlington senior pitcher Kelly McCarthy, also solid in defeat, surrendered eight hits, fanning five.

"You get the first one and you say that's unbelievable because a lot of things have to go right," Gemme said. "To get a second one is a lot harder. There is a lot more work involved. Today we needed to be aggressive at the plate. McCarthy was trying to get ahead of our hitters so we felt lets just jump on that first pitch if its a strike. If she throws a first pitch strike lets not wait and just get after it right away. I thought we did a good job of that today."

Grafton (24-2) entered this contest having played its state semifinal game the night before at Turners Falls High School, where it defeated Wahconah Regional. The bus ride from Grafton to Montague is approximately 90 minutes. But a lack of sleep didn't seem to bother the Indians too much.

"We knew there wasn't a game after this one so we just wanted to go out and leave everything on the field," Roy said. "We came in pumped up on adrenaline from Friday night's win and we took it into this one today so I wasn't feeling any pain. I think we have proven that we are a good team and Grafton softball has a very good organization."

Grafton got on the board in the second inning. After McCarthy had set down the first two batters with ease, she issued a walk Makayla Ritzie. The sophomore then stole second before coming home on senior Marissa Ruggiero's solid single up the middle.

One inning later, Grafton was back at it. Amanda Voellings, a sophomore, singled and advanced to second on Ali Page's SAC bunt. Tara Faford (5-for-6 in her last two games) reached on an infield single to put runners on the corners. Roy then smacked an RBI single to center giving the Indians a 2-0 advantage.

Burlington (22-4) will look back on this game knowing it had some early chances to score on Roy. Three times during the first four innings they stranded runners in scoring position -- twice at third. But Roy, showing tremendous poise, managed to tight rope out of danger and keep the Red Devils off the scoreboard.

In the sixth, Burlington was able to manufacture a run. April Adams opened by reaching on a Voellings error at second base. After stealing second, Adams took third on catcher Ali Page's throwing error. With one out, Haley Currie hit a SAC fly to right allowing Adams to tag up and score.

Suddenly the Red Devils had come to life having closed to within a run. But in the seventh, Roy reached back for a little something extra and retired Burlington in order and claim another state championship.

"I don't think we've had anyone strike us out 11 times before today," said Red Devils head coach Kristen Mahoney, whose club fell to Wahconah in the 2011 title tilt. "We weren't able to adjust to [Roy] quick enough. We had some extra base hits early but that timely hit just wasn't there for us today."

D2 softball semi: Grafton 4, Wahconah 2

June, 15, 2013
MONTAGUE, Mass. -- Despite coming into Friday's Division 2 state semifinal as defending state champions, Grafton knew it had its work cutout for them against a team just as lethal.

Wahconah Regional, the 2011 state champs, entered this contest bolstered by a 21 game win streak. The Warriors were the hottest team remaining in the tournament and was looking for a return trip to the finals. But the Indians were able to jump on Wahconah pitcher Becca Grunow for a pair of first inning runs and held on for a 4-2 triumph.

Grafton (23-2) will look to make it back-to-back titles when it meets Burlington in the final on Saturday, beginning at 4 p.m. at Rockwood Field.

Senior Tara Faford was the catalyst in this one for the Indians. The University of Bridgeport third baseman went 3-for-3 at the plate with two RBI.

"I went up to plate trying to feel as comfortable as I could," Faford said. "I just tried to go with whatever pitch [Grunow] gave me. I didn't know to much about her so I just went with it."

Grafton took the early 2-0 lead thanks to a throwing error by Warriors catcher Brianna Herforth that allowed one run to cross followed by a run-score single from Faford. The Indians would add a solo run in the third . Ali Page (2 hits) singled and moved to second on a SAC bunt. Faford stepped into the batter's box and blasted a double to center.

But Wahconah (21-3) showed some life in its half of the fourth. With two runners on and two out, Chloe Warren, a freshman, came through with a clutch two-run single to center to cut the deficit to 3-2.

But the Warriors would get no closer thanks to the pitching of junior Kendal Roy (CG, 8 hits, 8 Ks), who didn't allow another Wahconah batter to reach second base for the remainder of this outing.

"I didn't think we played very well defensively today," said Warriors coach Dustin Belcher. "Defense has been our anchor all year but today we made some crucial errors at some critical times. It was one of those days where nothing was going our way and Grafton got timely hits when they needed them."

Grafton added a little insurance in the fifth. Faford singled to right and took second on the play after right fielder Rachel Brennan bobbled the ball. Roy then lined a single up the middle plating Faford.

"Wahconah swings the bats," Indians coach John Gemme said. "When we jumped ahead 2-0 early I thought we would score a few more but we stranded a lot of people today (8 total). For two years now these girls stay nice and relaxed and don't let things bother them and somehow find ways to come out on top."

D3 softbal semi: Assabet Valley 3, Mt. Everett 1

June, 13, 2013
AMHERST, Mass. -- Mount Everett was feeling it. After putting together six solid innings of shutout ball, and leading 1-0, the Eagles entered the seventh and final inning of Wednesday’s Division 3 state semifinal a bit giddy knowing they stood on the cusp of earning their first state final appearance in school history.
With their junior hard-throwing pitcher Alicia Bazonski tossing zeros on the scoreboard, conditions seemed ideal for this Berkshire-based school to continue in its history-making quest.

Not so fast.

Central Mass. champ Assabet Valley, who were virtually non-existent at the plate over the first six frames showed some much-needed life in the seventh. The Aztecs were able to push across the tying run in the frame and then added two more in the eighth to claim an improbable 3-1 triumph at UMass.

What the Eagles failed to accomplish in their inability to tack on a couple of more runs during regulation would prove to be their demise. Assabet, a team noted for scratching and clawing until the final out, stuck to the script and the end result is an opportunity to bring home its first state championship. The Aztecs will face St. Mary’s of Lynn for the title on Saturday, beginning at 1 p.m. from Worcester State University’s Rockwood Field. The Eastern Mass. champs won back-to-back state titles in 2009 and 2010.

Needing any kind of lift, the Aztecs finally got one in the seventh. Senior Morgan Parmeter led things off by stroking a single to right. After stealing second, Parmeter took third on a Jen Casavant ground out. With Mount Everett’s infield drawn in an attempt to keep Parmeter at third on any ground ball, sophomore Maddie Parmeter, Morgan’s younger sister, ripped a hard single to right to knot game at 1-1.

“Nobody on this team wants to go home," Maddie Parmeter said. “Especially our seniors who didn’t want this to be their last game. I knew my sister was on third base and I wanted to get her home, so I just hit the ball as hard as I could. I think they were expecting bunt so I just pulled back and hit it and was able to get it past them."

Assabet’s dugout, which resembled a morgue over the first six innings, suddenly rose to life. The following inning, the Aztecs stuck the dagger in the backs of the Eagles. With two out, Brittney Lutz reached on an infield single but never stopped running. The senior ended up beating the throw to second putting the go-ahead runner into scoring position.

Lutz later revealed that she thought the ball had gotten away from first baseman Natasha MacLeay and kept on running. MacLeay, after receiving the throw from shortstop Emily Coon, hesitated long enough to allow Lutz to slide into second safely.

A bit discombobulated over the previous events, Bazonski tossed a wild pitch which allowed Lutz to easily take third. Morgan Parmeter next lined a solid single to right to put Assabet ahead. Casavant followed by ripping a hard grounder off the glove of third baseman Sam Hoover and into left field which resulted in a double and plating Parmeter with an insurance run.

In the bottom half of the eighth, Maddie Parmeter (CG, 4 hits, 5 Ks) set the Eagles down in order giving the Aztecs (20-4) their first crack to win a state crown in any sport in school history.

Having last reached the semifinal round back in 1990 when it lost to Hopedale, Mount Everett (21-2) claimed a one-run lead in their half of the third. A one-out double by Brooke Morehouse was proceeded by Chandler DeGrenier’s RBI single.

“Give Assabet the credit because they stayed with it," Eagles coach Kurt DeGrenier said. “They put the ball in play against Alicia [Bazonski] and were taking choppy swings and hitting line drives. We held them off for six innings and then they got us. I’m proud of our girls because they had a great season but today you have to give their pitcher a lot of credit. She wasn’t throwing very hard but was keeping us off-balanced. We didn’t put the ball in play very hard at all against her."

The way Bazonski was hurling, it appeared as though one run might be enough. Bazonski surrendered seven hits and struck out seven.

“That girl is a great pitcher,” Assabet coach Mike O’Brien said. “She spotted the ball well on the outside corners and throws in the lower 60s consistently. For some reason our girls never got down. We were down 1-0 going into the seventh and anyone could’ve folded at that point in time. But the character and integrity of this team is don’t stop fighting until the very last out is recorded. We started to get to (Bazonski) a little late but she’s a real competitor and I give their coaching staff a lot of credit too.”

Wahconah Regional 10, Belchertown 0
Chloe Warren, Gabrielle Lavino, Liz King and Rachel Brennan all had two hits to lead the second-seeded Warriors to a 10-0 thumping of Belchertown in the Western Mass. Division 2 final. Warren also drove in a pair.

The Warriors (21-2) scored five runs in the first inning and added five more in the fifth to put this one away. It also marked Wahconah's 21st straight victory after starting the season 0-2. The Warriors face Central Mass. and defending state champion Grafton here on Thursday in the state semifinal beginning at 3 p.m. The top-seeded Orioles complete their season at 19-5.

Recap: Wahconah 24, South Hadley 21

December, 1, 2012
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -– Wahconah Regional didn't win many games this season in lopsided fashion.

It turned out to be a good omen for the Warriors, who applied their win-close-contests formula to celebrate the Western Mass. Division 2 Super Bowl championship Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.

“We haven't really blown out anybody. But we've been pretty methodical and done our thing. Maybe tonight that just helped us keep our composure,” Wahconah head coach Gary Campbell Jr. said after a 24-21 win over South Hadley.

Wahconah (9-3) clinched its fourth Super Bowl crown without scoring a point in the second half. But South Hadley (9-3) was also kept off the scoreboard after halftime, a product of the Warriors' strong rushing attack.

Senior quarterback Lane Grogan and junior Ethan Wells earned every carry for the Warriors. The duo combined for 37 rushes, 164 yards and two touchdowns.

“They did a great job of controlling the ball and controlling the clock,” said South Hadley head coach Eric Scammons, whose program sought its second title in three years. “They just take so much time off the clock with each of their drives that, even though we were getting stops, we didn't have a lot of time left to do anything. And they were able to stop us defensively.”

Wells (21 carries, 87 yards) scored the game-winning TD as time expired in the first half. His 1-yard plunge and subsequent conversion run were possible thanks to Jordan Fiske.

Wahconah's senior split end made arguably the toughest catch of Super Saturday, snaring a 41-yard toss that sailed directly overhead. Fiske beat defensive backs Bryan Shippee and Anthony Bullough to make the catch, then tumbled to the turf.

One second remained on the game clock, giving the Warriors one more snap.

“That is, hands down, my favorite catch of my entire career,” Fiske said. “There is no way to describe how happy I was after I caught that.”

Scammons had a different take: “Scoring at the end of the half and then getting the ball coming out, that's big. The Patriots are notorious for doing that … I think that did take the wind out of our sails, psychologically, a little bit, even though we had a half left.”

The Tigers had every reason to believe they'd reclaim the lead. The 45-point first half featured five lead changes.

Sophomore Riley Villeneuve (10 carries, 82 yards, 2 TDs) staked South Hadley to its first and second leads. He dug Wahconah a quick hole with a 30-yard run just 66 seconds into the game. His 3-yard run late in the quarter erased Grogan's TD and conversion runs.

Midway through the second, Darrow Brown (4 receptions, 87 yards) made a leaping 15-yard TD grab. Grogan fired the strike that his receiver pulled down while battling Thomas Fitzell. The six-point play was followed by Joseph DiMassimo's conversion catch.

South Hadley had the answer. Shippee's 6-yard scamper and Liam Murphy's third extra point gave the Tigers a 21-16 lead with 1:19 left in the half.

Wahconah's five-point deficit didn't last long, however.

“We made a goal to get here. As soon as we got here, we said, 'Hey, why not just win?'” Grogan said. “It's probably the best game we've played all season.”

Fiske ran a simple seam route on his highlight-reel catch. It was one of a dozen pass plays the Warriors attempted to keep South Hadley from fully committing to the run.

“We spread them out. We went no backs,” Campbell said. “We thought we could move the safety out of there with a little motion. The safety went with it – bang.”

The senior's recollection of the catch, understandably, was a bit more emotional.

“I got open. I was just thinking, 'If I drop this, I'm going to get shot,'” Fiske said. “I let it land in my hands, wrapped it up tight, and wouldn't let go.”

Few outside Wahconah's program figured 2012 would end with a Super Bowl celebration like the 1983, 1998 and 2003 campaigns. This year's team included just six seniors.

The title-tested junior class is also six-strong.

“We have 20 sophomores. We're going to be OK,” Campbell said. “We always expect to do well, but we didn't expect to win it in July. But we're going to take it. We ain't giving it back.”

Western Mass. Division 2 Super Bowl


Wahconah (9-3) 8-16-0-0 – 24
S. Hadley (9-3) 14-7-0-0 – 21

First quarter
S – Riley Villeneuve 30 run (Liam Murphy kick), 8:54
W – Lane Grogan 4 run (Grogan run) 4:55
S – Villeneuve 3 run (Murphy kick), 1:06

Second quarter
W – Darrow Brown 15 pass from Grogan (DiMassimo conversion from Grogan), 4:45
S – Bryan Shippee 6 run (Murphy kick), 1:19
W – Ethan Wells 1 run (Wells conversion run), :00

Video: Previewing Super Saturday football

November, 30, 2012
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- ESPN Boston High Schools editors Scott Barboza and Brendan Hall preview Saturday's slate of 19 MIAA Super Bowl Championships, from yesterday's Media Day at Gillette Stadium:

(Video by Greg Story)

Quick-hit thoughts from Thanksgiving football

November, 23, 2012
1. The biggest thing that stood out to me from yesterday’s Natick-Framingham game was how efficient the Redhawks’ passing game remained despite limited touches by Brian Dunlap. The sophomore has an unheard-of 30 receiving touchdowns since his first varsity start last season, but for the first time in his career did not register a touchdown catch.

I posed this question to the Framingham defense in my pick Wednesday, and I’ll pose it again to Plymouth South -– how do you cover Brian Dunlap? But now, I’m wondering if bracketing or shading a safety to his side is even the best gameplan. The Natick coaching staff was pretty high on Alex Hilger before he missed most of the season with a broken collarbone, and yesterday we saw why. Athletically, he’s a terrific target who can stretch the field. Between Dunlap, Hilger and the recently-blooming Justin Robinson, it might be a case of "pick your poison".

Still, I think the key on Tuesday will be running back Nick Lee, who injured his ankle last month but looked solid yesterday. He told me yesterday his right ankle was “100 percent”, and anyone who watch Natick’s No. 9 win over Walpole knows that wasn’t the case.


2. You could make a pretty solid list of elite players sitting at home after Thanksgiving -– Xaverian’s Maurice Hurst Jr., Catholic Memorial’s Peter Ngobidi, Needham’s Mike Panepinto and Nantucket’s Terrel Correia come to mind. But the one I was really looking forward seeing was Amherst running back Kieran Presley, who ended his career yesterday with 175 rushing yards and two scores on just 10 carries in a 35-15 win over Northampton.

We profiled Presley after his ridiculous 359-yard performance in a Nov. 2 win over Chicopee, and you can argue he is playing his best ball right now. He finished with 1,009 yards on the season, but 684 of those yards have come in the last three weeks – including four scores of 56 yards or longer. Head coach David Thompson also says there is varying degrees of interest from a scattering of Division 1 FBS and FCS programs, including UConn, Albany, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and James Madison.

It looks like the Hurricanes finally got their zone-blocking scheme down midway through the season, but unfortunately they’ll be on the outside looking in. Just a hunch, Thompson has a good thing going forward with this program.


3. I said this on FOX 25 last night, and it bears mentioning again. For the most part, there isn’t an overwhelming favorite among any of the divisions in Eastern Mass. Out in Central Mass., Division 1 is wide open, and on paper Nashoba feels like the overwhelming favorite but this is a team that Doherty nearly upset earlier this season.

However, in Division 3 Central, it’s Auburn, Auburn, or Auburn. The Rockets are No. 9 in our statewide poll, and No. 1 in the Telegram & Gazette’s poll, for good reason. As a team, they’ve run for 2,863 yards and 44 touchdowns, with an average of 10 yards per carry, led by senior Tyler Desjardins (120 carries, 1,560 yards, 23 TD).

Much like USC’s student body right or Nebraska’s I-bone formation, there’s not a lot of trickeration to the domination – everybody knows what’s coming. The Rockets run primarily power sets with jumbo personnel, and have been blowing people off the ball all season. I’ve previously mused that in the past the Rockets have gotten by just on outweighing people at the point of attack (they average about 280 pounds across, after all), but this is a unit that seems to get more mobile every time out. All-State candidate Aaron Dyke is at the forefront of this, able to pull down and lead block on sweeps fluidly.

The rest of the field in Division 3 consists of Hudson, Tantasqua and Groton-Dunstable. To those three teams, I say good luck.


4. Sharon’s Dave Morse, Stoughton’s Greg Burke and Plymouth South’s Scott Fry are on many short lists for Coach of the Year, and deservedly so. But I think we should also consider Upper Cape’s Mike Hernon for any such nod. In just his second year at the helm, he has the Rams in the playoffs as Mayflower Small champs, with a 10-1 record. The Rams are one of the highest-scoring teams in Division 4A (28.1 points per game), and they have junior running back Jon Dumont to thank for that. He had an impressive start to the season (89 carries, 889 yards, 11 TD in his first five games), and is a hard north-south runner with 40 speed allegedly in the 4.5 range.


5. If Barnstable and Everett win out on Tuesday, then the Division 1A Super Bowl is by far the marquee game of the Gillette Stadium slate. Some of us -– myself included -– are probably wondering why that got the 3:30 p.m. slot instead of 6 p.m., which has been designated for Western Mass. Division 2. Especially considering the crowd for last year’s Western Mass. Super Bowl, an early-afternoon contest between Springfield Central and Longmeadow, was thoroughly a ghost town.

All of that considered, I might end up eating my words if Wahconah makes it. I had a conversation with noted Berkshire Eagle columnist Howard Herman the other day, and he assured me that if the Warriors make it to the Super Bowl, the town of Dalton “will shut down”. Hope he’s right.

Roundtable: Predicting the MIAA tournaments

May, 31, 2012
Today, with the MIAA Baseball and Softball tournaments set to begin, the lacrosse tournament in its first action, we roll out predictions from staff and correspondents.


Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


Final - Duxbury over Acton-Boxborough
Why this pick: Really?


Eastern Mass.
Final - Concord-Carlisle over Hingham

Final - Algonquin over Grafton

*Brackets to be released

State Final
Concord-Carlisle over Algonquin
Why this pick: The Patriots defend better than just about anybody in the state, save for No. 1 Duxbury. While C-C might not overwhelm with offense, they're still talented up top with Will Blumenberg and Jackson Finigan.

Division 3 EMass
Final - Dover-Sherborn over Norwell
Why this pick: Because it has to be the Raiders' year eventually, right?


Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor

Division 1

Final - Malden over Boston Latin

Final - King Philip over Bridgewater-Raynham

Final - Milford over Shrewsbury

Final - Agawam over Minnechaug

State final - Milford over King Philip
Why this pick: The Scarlet Hawks have been the most consistent team box to wire. And there's Shannon Smith, who's been unreal this season.

Division 2

Final - Dracut over Burlington

Final - Coyle-Cassidy over Fairhaven

Final - Grafton over Notre Dame Academy

Final - Hampshire over Wahconah

State Final - Dracut over Grafton
Why this pick: The Middies beat up on a deep Merrimack Valley Conference schedule this season. That'll make the postseason seem a little easier.

Division 3

Final - St. Mary's (Lynn) over Greater Lowell

Final - Greater New Bedford over Avon

Final - Blackstone Valley Tech over Assabet

Final - Turners Falls over Franklin County Tech

State final - Greater New Bedford over Blackstone Valley Tech
Why this pick: As mentioned in my bold prediction, I think the Bears will enter well adapted to playoff softball.


Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


North: Lowell
The No. 1 seed Red Raiders have one of the state’s toughest draws to start, in a pairing I like to call the “Group of Death” in the upper left quadrant of the bracket. To get to the semifinals, the Raiders have to face the winner of tonight’s Westford-Salem matchup, followed by the winner of Chelmsford and Malden Catholic. Should they make it to the semifinals, the presumptive opponent would likely be Peabody -– and you have to think the Tanners will roll out ace Pat Ruotolo in that matchup.

If the Raiders can survive all of that -– which they can, with a deep stable of hitters and one of the state’s best rotations in Matt Tulley, Chad Gens and R.J. Noel –- why shouldn’t they win this bracket?

South: BC High
“Group of Death 1-A” might be the lower left quadrant in this bracket –- Barnstable, Catholic Memorial, Framingham and the Eagles. A win over Framingham would pit the Eagles against either CM or Barnstable –- neither of which is an easy out by any stretch – and after that, you have to think there is vengeance on their minds at the possibility of facing Franklin again in the semifinals (the Panthers crushed BC High last year, plating 17 runs). A BC High-Xaverian final isn’t out of the question here.

Central: St. John’s of Shrewsbury
No team in the state has been as consistent as the Pioneers, who swept St. John’s Prep, didn’t allow a run in two games against Burncoat, and came back around to clobber their lone losses (BC High, New Bedford) the second time through. Look for Ben White, Mike Badjo and company to beat Milford in a much-anticipated final.

West: East Longmeadow
This is the last chance for the Spartans, who have been placed with lofty expectations since the town won the state American Legion title two summers ago. If Steve Moyers, Matt O’Neil and company can’t get it done this year, then when?

State Champion: Lowell
One of the state’s great baseball cities gets a state title to call its own, while Tulley and Gens go down as two of the Mill City’s best ever.


North: Danvers
North Andover is the No. 1 seed for the second straight year, but Danvers has the big-game experience to overcome everybody else in this bracket. Potential semifinal matchups with either Lynn Classical or Reading will be must-see.

South: Plymouth North
This is my bold prediction of the playoffs. Few teams across the state have a track record like Eagles skipper Dwayne Follette when it comes tournament time, and if they can get by Dennis-Yarmouth in the quarterfinals –- a team they lost to twice this season –- I can see them overcoming Hingham or Oliver Ames. Top seed Dighton-Rehoboth lost to the Eagles in last year’s final, by the way –- could we see this again in 2012?

The Eagles are aggressive on the basepaths and at the plate, in a unique brand of baseball my loyal legion of Twitter followers have dubbed “DwayneBall”. How this hasn’t become a hashtag until 2012 is anyone’s guess, but let’s get this trending, fellas.

Central: Auburn
Rockets have the clearest path to the final, whereas No. 1 seed Northbridge might have to avoid an upset from feisty Hudson in the quarterfinals. The Rockets also hold the advantage over Northrbridge in the regular season.

West: Monument Mountain
More than Pittsfield or Taconic, everyone out west says this is the best team in the Berkshires. And the fact the Spartans have been doing it all without Columbia-bound shortstop John Kinne, who has been out all season, is even more impressive.

State Champion: Plymouth North
A seven-loss state champion? Better believe it. I like the Eagles’ chances in any given year, to be honest.


North: Lynnfield
Or to put it more bluntly, I like any team from the Cape Ann League taking this field.

South: Coyle-Cassidy
Mac Curran gets most of the attention, but this is a squad that dominated the Eastern Athletic Conference, has won 10 of its last 11, and is among the state’s stingiest defenses (2 runs allowed per game). A potential semifinal matchup with Wareham is very intriguing.

Central: Maynard
Bryant University commit Mike Marshall has been as good as advertised for the Tigers, but he’s not alone. The Tigers have five starters batting over .375, led by Marshall, and will dole out ace righty Ben Chiasson, a Franklin Pierce commit who has been one of Central Mass.’s best (7-1, 51 IP, 83 K, 12 BB, 0.96 ERA).

West: Frontier
Frontier and Pioneer Valley (the top two seeds in this field) split the regular-season series, but I’m going to go with Frontier unseating the defending Division 3 runners-up. Quality bats in the Frontier lineup, let by Keith Spencer, Rylan Baronas and Niko Ames -– those three have a combined 64 RBI between them.

State Champion: Coyle-Cassidy
We could end up with a heck of a pitchers’ duel at Fitton Field if it’s Coyle’s Curran against Maynard’s Chiasson, but for now that’s just wishful thinking of course.

Andy Smith

Division 1 North: St. John’s Prep
Coach Pat Yanchus said Saturday his team isn’t hitting the way he’d like them to be going into the tournament, but they have enough strong pitching and defense to carry the bats if needed. Plus, given the way the bracket is laid out, it’s hard not to see Prep cruising to at least the semi-finals. I think they can win the final two games and take the North.

Division 1 South: Norwood
8-0 over its last 8 games. Call it a crazy pick, but I never bet against the Big Mo...mentum.

Division 1 Central: St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Hard to find a team that has played as well as SJS has against against a schedule as tough as SJS had this season. I can’t see any team taking SJS down in this bracket. I think this is a state finals team.

Division 1 West: Springfield Cathedral
Cathedral went 18-2 and won four games all year by more than 3 runs. That type of experience with small deficits can only help in the playoffs, where most games are the tightly-contested, grind-it-out type.

Division 1 State Champion: St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
If I think long enough, I could talk myself into Prep winning D1, but SJS has been playing too well for too long for me to think someone will take them down in these playoffs.

Division 2 North: Danvers
The Falcons have outscored opponents 33-14 in the past five games. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say Saturday night’s 8-2 loss to St. John’s Prep was a reminder of the difficulties that lie ahead in the playoffs. I look for them to go all the way.

Division 2 South: Dennis-Yarmouth
Same rationale as D1 South: D-Y is 10-0 in its last 10 games. I’ll take the team with the most momentum going into the playoffs and feel good about it.

Division 2 Central: Northbridge
Important rule to follow: If you want to keep getting assignments, don’t bet against Editor David Lefort's alma mater. Northbridge it is.

Division 2 State Champion: Northbridge over D-Y
I can’t see a team from the West making it to the state title game. Ultimately, I don’t think Danvers has enough pitching to make it to the finals. I’m taking Northbridge here because of nothing more than a gut feeling. I could very well be wrong here. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Division 3 North: Newburyport
They won Division 3 last season. Their longtime coach retired at the end of last year, but here they are again. This veteran team was two wins away from the No. 1 seed in this bracket. Give me the team that’s been there before. I trust them to do it again.

Division 3 South: Coyle-Cassidy
This bracket is Coyle's to lose. Two of its three losses this season came against Dartmouth, and that team isn’t in this bracket. C&C is an easy pick here.

Division 3 Central: Oxford
This team is capable of putting up a lot of runs when it needs to (scored double-digit runs eight times this season). I like teams with firepower, so I’m picking Oxford here.

Division 3 State Champion: Newburyport
For all the reasons mentioned in the bold prediction.

John Botelho
Staff Writer, Brockton Enterprise

South Section Champions:

Division 1: BC High
The offense has been top notch all season, and probably features more future NCAA D1 hitters than any lineup affiliated with the MIAA. Put metal bats in their hands after using wood all year, and the Eagles will bash their to a South crown.

Division 2: Oliver Ames
Hall of Fame coach Leo Duggan seems to have a knack for developing pitching. Ryan O'Shea, a Central Michigan commit who was supposed to be the staff ace, has thrown four innings this year because of a shoulder injury. The Tigers didn't miss a beat early and raced out to a commanding lead they never relinquished in the Hockomock League Davenport Division. Their path won't be an easy one, but David Holmes (4-0, 1.35 ERA) is as good as any pitcher in this sectional. If he beats Pembroke, one of the Tigers' younger pitchers will have to find a way to pitch OA past a very good Hingham team but this team is capable of playing with anyone, and comes into the tourney battle tested from Hockomock League play.

Division 3: East Bridgewater
The Vikings and Coyle & Cassidy will get a lot of play here, but E-B just seems to have the clearest bracket. Coyle will have to go through Apponequet or Rockland in the quarterfinals before squaring off with the likes of a string Wareham or Middleboro team just to reach the finals. The Warriors are loaded with pitching, led by Mac Curran and Donny May, who both sports sub-1.00 ERAs this year, but they have less room for error than East Bridgewater does. A match-up featuring these two teams in the final would be ideal, as they're probably the two most complete teams in this sectional.

State Champs

Div. 1: BC High beats Lowell in EMass final, then takes out Steve Moyers and East Longmeadow in the state title game.
Div. 2: Danvers beats Monument Mountain in state title game.
Div. 3: Lynnfield beats Pioneer Valley in state title game.