On Monday, we unveiled our statewide MIAA Top 25 preseason football poll. Today, we continue our annual countdown of the poll with Nos. 15 through 11.
NO. 15 BOSTON COLLEGE HIGH
Coach: Jon Bartlett (5th season, 33-12)
Last Season: 6-5, lost in Division 1 South Semifinals
Returning Starters: 9 (6 offense, 3 defense)
Key Returnees: Sean Holleran, Sr. QB, 5-11 185 lbs.; Nick Locken, Sr. OL/MLB, 6-1 240 lbs.; Will Johnson, Jr. WR/DB, 5-8 160lbs; Ryan Black, Sr. OL/DT, 6-2 245 lbs; Scott Gosnell, Sr. DB, 6-2 195 lbs; Christian Dallas, Sr. TE/DE, 6-3 200 lbs.; Shane Libby, Sr. TE/LB, 6-3 240 lbs; Brendan Smith, Sr. RB/OLB, 6-0 195 lbs; Brendan Lynch, Jr. OL/DT, 6-5 270 lbs.
Strengths: Commitment, attitude.
Weaknesses: Inexperience on defense.
Outlook: When Jon Bartlett took over in May for his second stint as head coach for BC High, one of the first things he stressed to his players was how much of a “team” they needed to be. It didn’t take players long to buy into the system, after learning that the man that had been their head coach for the past two seasons (Joe Gaff), would be returning to the staff as an assistant for Bartlett. “For coach Gaff to not only bring coach [Bartlett] back but to also stay with this team, it showed us how committed he is to all of us,” explained senior quarterback Sean Holleran. “That commitment makes us even more excited to play.” The Eagles will look towards Holleran’s leadership to guide the Eagles on offense and also their signature I-formation that will feature senior running back Brendan Smith. With a history of producing talented running backs in recent years, none of this will be possible without the power from the offensive line led by Nick Locken, Ryan Black and Brendan Lynch. On defense, inexperience may be a weakness heading into camp, but coach Bartlett has faith in his younger players to step up when they get their number called. Two returning players to keep an eye are ball-hawking senior defensive back Scott Gosnell and senior linebacker Shane Libby. The Eagles will be challenged like always, having to go through the gauntlet, that is the Catholic Conference, but with plenty of leadership from captains and seniors alike, BC High will be determined and use their loss to conference foe Xaverian in last year’s D1 South Semi-finals as extra motivation.
NO. 14 HOLLISTON
Coach: Todd Kiley (12th season, 91-33)
2013: 9-2, Division 4 South finalists
Returning starters: 17 (8 offense, 9 defense)
Key Returnees: John DoCarmo, Sr. OL/DL, 5’11, 235 lbs; Nick Athy, Sr., QB/S, 6’, 200 lbs; Zach Elkinson, Sr., WR, 5’9, 175 lbs; Joe Bellomo Sr., RB., 6’, 215 lbs.
Strengths: Experience, athleticism, strength.
Outlook: It’s been an offseason keyed on conditioning for last year’s runner-up in Division 4 south, with many of the returners on Todd Kiley’s Panthers surpassing their personal records in the weight room this summer. Holliston can be expected to be a favorite in the Tri Valley League as well as in Division 4 south this year, a year after falling to Dennis-Yarmouth 26-7 in last year’s D4 south title game. Holliston will also be one of the most experienced teams in Eastern Mass., returning eight starters on each side of the ball to give the athletic squad a veteran presence. “We’re definitely a senior laden team , a lot of experience. Our guys have taken it up on themselves to put themselves in position to get a title. A lot of them have been working since day after Thanksgiving last year,” Kiley said. After averaging nearly 40 points per game last year, the offense will be based around captain quarterback Nick Athy, his favorite target: senior receiver Zach Elkinson, and running back Joe Bellomo – all three of whom made the cut for our pre-season all-state watch list. The Panthers will get things started quickly this week, heading to No. 25 Natick, who reached the D2 south semifinals last year, in a scrimmage on Saturday “I’m good friends with Coach Mortarelli, Kiley said of the Natick coach, “He’s done a great job with those guys. They just put together a solid product every year. A lot of people would have thought they’d take a step back, but they’re just as good as they were last year. That’s gonna be an awesome test on Saturday.” Look for a stingy and experienced Panthers defense to terrorize the TVL this year, led by linebackers Connor Lefevra and Derek Kiley and defensive lineman Michael Chipman. Their toughest test may very well come in just a matter of weeks, when they travel to take on Duxbury on September 5. “This is a hungry group, they’re very focused. It was a great summer, they worked their tails off,” Kiley said, “Getting that close like we did last year gave these guys some experience. That experience is really going to pay off for our guys.”
NO. 13 MARBLEHEAD
Head Coach: Jim Rudloff (6th season, 41-17)
2013: 9-2, lost to Tewksbury in Div. 3 Northeast sectional final
Returning starters: 10 (5 offensive; 5 defensive)
Key Players: Brooks Tyrrell, Sr. RB/DB, 6-0, 195 lbs.; Derek Dumais, Sr. OT/DT; 6-5, 315 lbs.; Dan Marino, Sr. OT/DT, 6-3, 245 lbs.; Will Millett, Sr. TE/OLB/LS, 6-4, 220 lbs.; Spencer Craig, Sr. QB, 6-2, 205 lbs.
Strengths: Running game; depth and experience on offensive line; special teams return units.
Weaknesses: Lack of game experience at key positions on defense.
Outlook:One of the most talked about players in the state entering this football season will not be playing a down past December. Marblehead’s Brooks Tyrrell is a game-changing athlete both on the gridiron and the lacrosse field, but will stick to the latter when he matriculates to Notre Dame next year. While he’s with the Magicians, Tyrrell presents a multi-faceted threat, allowing Marblehead to run inside out of a single-back set while also presenting a threat as a receiver out of the backfield and across formations. The Magicians’ running attack is also advantaged by a pair of college-grade tackles in recent UMass commit Derek Dumais and fellow senior Dan Marino. Dumais presents a versatile element to Marblehead’s line, as he can play both tackle positions and kick inside to guard. Look for a breakout season from Will Millett, an adept blocker and pass catcher at tight end, who will also be an integral part of the Magicians’ defense at outside linebacker.
NO. 12 DENNIS-YARMOUTH
Coach: Paul Funk (13th season, 89-45-1)
Last Season: 11-3 (4-2 ACL), lost in Div. 4 State Final
Returning starters: 11 (6 offense, 5 defense)
Key Returnees: Michael Dunn, Sr. QB/DB, 6-1, 200 lbs; L.K. Metz, HB/LB, 5-11, 180 lbs, Andrew Jamiel, JR, SE/DB, 5-9, 145 lbs; Zack Mancini, SR, G/DT, 5-8, 220 lbs; Nick Coelho, SR, C/DE, 6-1, 215 lbs; Chip Evangelista, SR, G/LB, 5-11, 185 lbs.
Strengths: Speed and athleticism, offensive line, linebackers, secondary.
Weaknesses: Defensive line, depth.
Outlook: The 2014 Dolphins will go as far as senior Michael Dunn can carry them, and don’t be surprised if that is a return trip to the Div. 4 Superbowl. D-Y graduated a talented group of seniors in the offseason including most of their offensive backfield, but D-Y seemingly has the ability to mass-produce undersized, yet athletic and speedy skill players that perfectly fit into their read-option scheme. Dunn is the lone exception to the Dolphins undersized nature, sporting a 6-1, 200-pound frame and was the Dolphins main weapon from every offensive skill position last season. But with the departure of QB Spencer Tyler, Dunn will take the majority of snaps under center. Despite the move to primary signal caller, head coach Paul Funk says Dunn will still be a threat across the field, “It wouldn’t surprise me if there were times where [junior quarterback Ian] Crosby was under center and Dunn lines up in the slot. He’s one of those kids who can do it all and him running in our triple option from quarterback is definitely something that we like.” Flanking Dunn in the backfield is L.K. Metz who will likely see a sizable increase in his workload at tailback and split out wide is Andrew Jamiel after a breakout sophomore campaign. D-Y also returns three starters from the offensive line; center Nick Coelho and guards Zack Mancini and Chip Evangelista. The question mark surrounding the Dolphins this year is their defensive line. Typically undersized, 2014 looks to be the same up front for D-Y, but their strength remains in the second and third levels where Metz and Evangelista return at linebacker and for those unfortunate to reach the secondary, will be welcomed by Dunn. Over the past three seasons, the seniors have amassed a 15-1 record at home, but only once in the opening four weeks of the season will they be in the friendly confines of the Lagoon (week two vs. No. 19 Plymouth North) while traveling No. 23 Barnstable, No. 24 Marshfield and Scituate.
NO. 11 WALPOLE
Coach: Barry Greener (6th year, 46-11)
2013: 7-4, lost in Division 3 Southwest Quarterfinals
Returning Starters: 10 (5 offense, 5 defense)
Key Returnees: Steve Cuqua, Jr. RB, 5-10, 185 lbs.; Matt Ordway, Sr. OG, 5-10, 210 lbs.; Andy Papirio, Sr. WR/DB, 5-10, 175 lbs.; Chris Bender, Sr. FB/DE, 6-0, 215 lbs.; Jack Lavanchy, Sr. WR/S, 6-1, 180 lbs.; Lovie Salvant, Jr. RB/ROV, 5-10, 165 lbs.; James Murphy, Sr. LB, 5-10, 185 lbs.; Mike Curran, Jr. LB, 5-6, 175 lbs.
Strengths: Speed, secondary, linebackers.
Weaknesses: Experience at quarterback, depth at running back.
Outlook: After a sophomore season in which he racked up over 1,500 rushing yards –- including his 300-plus yard, six score performance in an overtime epic with rival Natick –- there is a wave of hype beginning to build around Cuqua, who now clocks in the 4.5 range for 40-yard dash and has put on some more muscle in the offseason. “We can run, we’re pretty quick,” Greener said. But the Rebels are thin beyond Cuqua, and are hoping the speedster stays healthy. With the graduation of Will Bolster, the Rebels will have two juniors, Tyler Berkland and Noah Maire, vying for the starting spot under center. Defensively, though, they should be in much better shape after last year's trial by fire. Injuries in the secondary led to a slew of youngsters thrown to the wolves, but what was a deficiency a year ago is arguably now their strongest asset. The Rebels will likely stick to a 4-2-5 to counter many of the spread looks they now see in the Bay State Confernece. Between Lavanchy and Papirio -- the latter considered one of the better man-to-man defenders on Walpole's basketball team -- there is a lot to like. "He's a physical corner -- he'll hit you," Greener said of Papirio. Overall, the Rebels have a solid foundation in the junior and senior classes after enduring injuries to key players a year ago, and look suited make another quality run through the BSC. As usual, October's meeting with Natick could decide the Herget division.
-BRENDAN C. HALL