Boston High School: Willie Peoples

Recap: Governor's Academy 36, BB&N 12

October, 6, 2012
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Jesse Gwozdz new perfectly when to hit the hole and when to wait in what was a multi-layered performance against host BB&N this afternoon.

Shadowing his trap blocker up the field, the junior opened his day by turning a simple dive play into an 80-yard touchdown scramble late in the first half. A drive later, Gwozdz was masterfully bobbing and weaving behind his punt blockers for a 66 yard score and a defining 29-12 halftime lead for the defending ISL champs

Doubling as both a big play producer and the defensive back tasked with covering 6-foot-5 Wake Forest-bound tight end Brendan O'Neil, Gwozdz totaled 173 yards and two touchdowns to drive Governor's (3-0) to the program's 12th consecutive victory with a 36-12 defeat of the Knights (1-2) at Nichols Field this afternoon.

“I stepped up the field real quick and no one was back there so I kept running,” said Gwozdz.

“Might be one of the best high school games I have seen one kid play on both sides of the ball,” added Governor's coach Jim O’Leary.

The Governors were aided by another strong performance from senior Elijah Morrissey who ran 21 times for 127 yards and a touchdown. The senior rushed for the Red Dogs' first score then broke a nine yard dive to set up the winning touchdown.

Down 12-7, Governor's senior quarterback Tate Jozokos found the outside edge on a bootleg sweep and scrambled nine yards for the
winner a 15-12 lead at 4:56 in the first.

“The defense has to take away certain things we do and as soon as they do that we go to the next option,” said O'Leary. “We keep setting each other up.”

Governor's scored 22 points in the final five minutes of the first half.

Early Prowess, Late Trouble: The Knight's looked to be in control early after forcing a pair of first-half turnover's to set up the first score then adding a touchdown to maintain there lead. However, 29 unanswered points and four second half turnovers stunted BB&N.

The Knights opened the scoring by turning a fumbled redzone pitch into a six-yard delayed pass through triple coverage from sophomore Cole O'Connor to O'Neil for a 6-0 advantage at 2:46 in the first quarter.

After allowing an 11-yard trap-play for six points by Morrissey, O'Connor worked a pair of quick passes to O'Neil and senior Willie Peoples, for seven and ten yards respectively, to set up another score.

A two-yard dive by O'Connor put the Knights ahead 12-6 early in the second half.

“We tried to find a couple weaknesses in their defense,” said BB&N coach John Papas. “(Quick passes) are part of our game plan. We just fell apart the last four minutes of the first half.

BB&N failed on an onside kick attempt following the score.

Quest to Repeat: A one yard pass from Jozokos to sophomore Colin Smith with six minutes remaining added the final points in what was another undefeated run to start the season for second year coach O'Leary. The Governor's head man lead his program to a 9-0 record last year, grabbing both the ISL title and a NEPSAC Bowl championship.

“It is just repetition,” said O'Leary. “You just have to keep going and get better and better at everything. We knew we were in for a fight and we came to play.”

GOV (3-0) 7- 22 - 0 - 7 --- 36
BBN (1-2) 6 - 6 - 0 - 0 --- 12

B – Brendan O'Neil 6 pass from Cole O'Connor (kick failed)
G – Eli Morrissey 11 run (Colin Smith kick)
B – O'Connor 2 run (pass failed)
G – Tate Jozokos 9 run (Jozokos run)
G – Jesse Gwozdz 80 run (Smith kick)
G – Jesse Gwozdz 66 punt return (Smith kick)
G – Smith 1 pass from Jozokos (Smith kick)

Recap: BB&N 31, St. Sebastian's 28

October, 1, 2011
ALLSTON, Mass. -- Buckingham Browne & Nichols got the football back with 7:56 to go in the fourth quarter, clinging to a 31-28 lead. St. Sebastian’s had scored 14 unanswered points to pull within three, re-energizing the crowd in Harvard Stadium.

The Knights drove down the field with a heavy dose of running plays behind their massive offensive line. They had knocked almost six minutes off the clock and found themselves facing a 4th-down and 12 on the St. Sebastian’s 30-yard-line. BB&N coach John Papas decided to go for it on fourth, feeling it was too far for his kicker and too close to punt. His quarterback Chris Coady threw an incomplete pass, giving the ball back to the Arrows.

St. Sebastian’s put themselves in prime position to score when Patrick Healy hit Brian O’Malley with a short pass as he was running to the right across the field. O’Malley got a block from one of his fellow receivers and ran 64 yards up the sideline. That put the Arrows in scoring range with about one minute left.

Dropping back to pass, Healy was pressured from all sides from the BB&N defensive line, which forced him to leave the pocket. Running to his right, he spotted an open receiver five yards from the end zone. He threw the ball up, but cornerback Adam Bakopolus jumped in front of the receiver and came down with the interception. With that, the Knights held on for the victory.

“That’s a heck of a football team, with a lot of skill, and they’re big up front,” said Papas, in reference to St. Sebastian’s (1-1). “I thought we played our game tonight. Offensively, I thought we did a great job. We bent but we didn’t break in the end.”

By the thread: BB&N (1-1) had to pull out all the stops to get the victory Friday. It started on its first possession of the game. In an effort to keep his team’s drive alive on 3rd and short, Coady kept the ball on a quarterback sneak and pushed the pile, expecting to get stopped for a short gain. Instead, he burst through the linemen and kept running 31 yards for the first touchdown of the game.

Later, in the third quarter, the team was driving again inside St. Sebastian’s territory. Up until this point, BB&N was relying heavily on the run. Knowing that, Coady took the snap and pitched it to his running back Nick DiChiara. He sprinted to his right, looking like he was going to run it. Then, he changed his grip on the ball, and threw a pass to Chad Kohler in the end zone. While in the air, Kohler hit the ball into the air, rather than catching it. The defensive back saw this, and appeared to give up on the play, assuming the ball would fall on the ground. Instead, the ball fell into the waiting arms of Kohler, who was on his back.

Clear night: It was a completely different game for BB&N from the one they played last week against Belmont Hill. After scoring only 14 points in the entire game last Friday, the Knights were able to put up 17 in the first quarter alone Friday.

“I don’t think the weather was great for us last week,” said Papas. “I think this week we came out possessed. We really wanted to prove that last week was not the BB&N team that we think we are. We came out and kind of got after it pretty early.”

Coady echoed those sentiments.

“I don’t want to say the rain but that definitely had something to do with (last week),” he said. “We threw the ball, I think it was five times, last game. We were able to air it out a lot more this week. I don’t want to make excuses or anything but I think we did what we did best this week in running up the seams and between the tackles.”

Healy hurts Knights D: The BB&N defense did not have an answer for Healy, who finished with 97 yards rushing. More than half of that came in the second half. The Arrows’ quarterback appeared to be at his best on long down-and-distances and when his receivers were not getting open, forcing him to make plays with his feet. In the first quarter, on 3rd-and-8, he broke off a 24-yard run. Later in the game, he broke off runs of 11, 23, and 19 yards, keeping drives alive for his team. He was also 12-of-20 for 180 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception through the air.

“He was very special tonight,” said Papas. “Defensively, when a team has great athletes out there, you choose whether you want to put six defensive backs in the game or play with four or five. The one play where we played with four, the receiver ran right by our guy. We tried to make him work the whole field and Bakopolus ended up making that great play in the end.”

Dual threat: Chris Coady, the BB&N quarterback who made the transition this year from running back back to quarterback, lead his team in rushing with 165 yards and 2 touchdowns on 19 carries. He was also 7-of-13 passing for 109 yards, one touchdown, and an interception through the air. The interception he threw was an accurate ball that hit off the hands of his receiver and deflected to a defender.

“What I was impressed with was that every ball he threw tonight was right on the money,” said Papas. “He ran for over 160 and through for 109 yards. That’s a lot of total yards for a quarterback. We were thrilled with his performance.”

What Coady was not thrilled with was his defense on the last St. Sebastian’s touchdown that brought them within three points. He was playing linebacker on the play, and it was between he and Brian O’Malley to find out who was going to come down with the ball. He could not jump high enough, and O’Malley came down with the ball. It was not a great way to get avenge the interception he threw a series before. On the kickoff coverage following the St. Sebastian’s touchdown, Coady fielded the ball and almost fumbled it, which would have been a less than wonderful trifecta for the quarterback.

“It was just a coincidence that it was bad play after bad play after bad play,” said Coady. “I just really didn’t want to lose the game for my team.”


BBN (1-1) --- 17 7 7 0 --- 31
SEB (1-1) --- 7 7 7 7 --- 28

1st quarter
B - Brendan Daly Safety
B - Chris Coady 31-yard run (Matt Rega kick)
S - Samuel Hodgson 4-yard run (Samuel Washburne kick)
B - Coady 1-yard run (Willie Peoples rush)

2nd quarter
B - Willie Peoples 21-yard pass from Coady (Rega kick)
S - John Connolly 1-yard run (Washburne kick)

3rd quarter
B - Chad Kohler 32 pass from Nick DiChiara (Rega kick)
S - Kendall Dardy-Jones 33 pass from Patrick Healy (Washburne kick)

4th quarter
S - Brian O’Malley 16-yard pass from Healy (Washburne kick)

Recap: Belmont Hill 17, BB&N 14

September, 24, 2011

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. –- The crisp sod had turned into a mud bowl and George McLaughlin paced to the middle of the field at Buckingham Browne & Nichols Friday afternoon. In the fourth quarter, his uniform wasn’t the bleached whites, those of a typical place kicker. The mud was caked on, evidence of carry the football all day. As the Belmont Hill running back strode in from the sideline after a timeout, he was about to attempt the first and biggest kick of his career.

After splitting the uprights with a 29-yard field goal, lifting the Hillies to a 17-14 comeback win over the Knights, McLaughlin commented it was just like they’d drawn it up in practice. The situation has always been the same.

“The game’s tied, the game’s on the line,” the senior Belmont resident said about the scenario presented to him every day in practice, “you have to hit it.”

McLaughlin was called upon to kick what would prove to be the game-winning field goal by head coach Kevin Fleming. After the Hillies’ freshman kicker faltered on an earlier attempt, Fleming decided to make a change.

The result was the Hillies’ first win over BB&N (0-1) in four years.

“I was calm and relaxed, actually,” McLaughlin said about the lead up to the kick.

McLaughlin accounted for 15 of Belmont Hill’s 17 points.

After trailing 14-0 at the half, the Hillies (1-0) got back into the game on McLaughlin’s 14-yard touchdown run in the third. Quarterback Connor Murphy hit Eric Oberg on the 2-point conversion.

McLaughlin (18 carries, 98 yards) then tied the game in the fourth with a 12-yard rush. However, the 2-point attempt was stopped with McLaughlin dragged down for a loss by BB&N’s Willie Peoples on a toss right.

A stalled Knights drive, interrupted by a turnover on downs, set up Belmont Hill’s march down the field, culminating in McLaughlin’s kick with 1:44 remaining.


Fleming took over Belmont Hill football in 1989 and has racked up over 100 wins since then. Yet, he feels like the program’s lacked the respect of the ISL during the last couple seasons.

“It was almost as if Belmont Hill had disappeared off the face of the earth,” Fleming said, citing the recent dominance of Lawrence Academy and BB&N.

After announcing that the 2011 season will be his last at the Hillies’ helm, Fleming remarked that the triumph over the Knights was a statement win. That point was reflected by his seniors, including McLaughlin, who’d previously never known a win over BB&N.

“It’s been our goal to take this, what seems like a dynasty here,” McLaughlin said. “They’ve been a great, powerful football program. Coach [John] Pappas is a genius, he’s a great coach.”

Murphy put his skills on display, in particular on the game-tying drive. The Hillies’ signal-caller, who was 15-of-26 for 168 yards, threw just two incompletions on the fourth-quarter drive that commenced with 45 seconds left in the third quarter. On that drive, Murphy completed five passes for 49 yards. None of those completions was bigger than his fourth-down throw to Michael Minahan (7 catches, 104 yards), which kept the drive rolling. On the next play, McLaughlin found the end zone with the game-tying score.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Friday’s game was also the debut of Knights quarterback Chris Coady, who’s making the transition from running back. After an 1,800-yard season in 2010, Coady takes over from Eric Bertino. While the Knights passing game got off to a slow start (with a rain-slicked ball and a couple of Hillie sacks thrown in), Coady picked up where he left off last year with 121 yards on the ground.

Belmont Hill 0 0 8 9 -- 17
BB&N 0 14 0 0 -- 14

Second quarter
BB&N Willie Peoples 10-yard run (kick failed)
BB&N Chris Coady 6-yard run (Peoples run)

Third quarter
BH George McLaughlin 14-yard run (Eric Oberg pass from Connor Murphy)

Fourth quarter
BH George McLaughlin 12-yard run (rush failed)
BH George McLaughlin 29-yard field goal

With new face under center, all eyes on BB&N

September, 22, 2011
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- All eyes will be on the Buckingham, Browne & Nichols football team when it opens its season Friday against Belmont Hill. At its afternoon practice Tuesday, even the hawk perched atop the Nicholas Athletic Center swooped down to get a closer look.

Such is the case when you’ve won three of the last five NEPSAC Super Bowls like the Knights have.

“Our success is great for our program, but our kids know everyone circles us on their schedule and everyone wants a piece of us, but that comes with success,” said head coach John Papas.

A potential pitfall of success is not only sustaining it, but a team allowing the success to go to its head and lose the desire to keep working towards a repeat. Papas was quick to jump on his team in the preseason to make sure that didn’t happen.

“They needed a little bit of a tongue lashing at the beginning of the year,” he said. “We have a lot of kids that have got a lot of press. They had to be talked about that press clippings don’t win championships. But they’ve responded. Since that first week, we really have progressed every day.”

One of those players is 6-6, 270-pound offensive tackle Eric Olson, who fielded multiple Division 1 scholarship offers before verbally committing to Northwestern over the summer. Another is Dan Connaugton, Olson’s 6-3, 275-pound linemate, who is mulling over some Division 1 college football options.

Those two are part of a returning offensive line unit that will be in charge of protecting Chris Coady, who is making the transition from running back to quarterback. The senior played quarterback for two years at St. John’s Prep, after which he transferred to BB&N and switched to running back a season ago. He went on to break the single-season school rushing record, when he notched over 1,800 yards on the ground.

He will replace Eric Bertino, who graduated last year. Bertino lead the ISL with 24 touchdown passes in 2009. Papas said switching Coady back to quarterback was an easy decision.

“It was a no-brainer," Papas said. "He’s an outstanding athlete at 6-3, 225 pounds. He’s a 365-pound bench press kid, plus he’s tough, smart, and he can throw and run. The decision (to put him there) was purely because he’s so athletic and bright."

Coady wasn’t initially excited about the position switch, but has changed his mind over time.

“I just grew to love running back so much,” he said. “I had a blast playing running back last year, so I didn’t really want to leave that, but I’m happy I did now. It’s getting easier and easier every time we scrimmage and practice, with making the reads and throwing the ball.”

It was an adjustment for Coady to get his timing and throwing mechanics back, but he feels he worked enough in the offseason to make sure he didn’t come into practices behind the 8-ball.

“I threw a lot with two of my buddies from Winchester over the summer,” he said. “We went down to a field in Winchester and I was throwing at least three times a week with them, just going through routes and trying to get my motion back, and trying to shorten my motion.”

The hardest parts of handling the position change for Coady have been learning how to read defenses again and knowing where everyone in the offense needs to be, not just himself. When he played running back, he felt he only had to know his responsibility on a particular play, whether it was running a route or finding a running lane. Now, he has to be aware of what everyone is doing on a particular play.

With Coady under center, who will step up to replace his 1,800 rushing yards? It won’t be one particular person.

“We’re really strong at running back,” said Papas. “Nick DiChiara, Willie Peoples, and A.J. Grassa will be a running back by committee. We’ve lost no one on the offensive line so that will help. Hopefully, with Chris being the quarterback, it will add another dimension.”

Because Coady is such a gifted runner, the BB&N offense will feature more option-type plays, allowing him to get out of the pocket and keep the defense guessing. However, its offensive principles will stay the same.

“We’ll run multiple formations,” said Papas. “We’ll run and pass. We’ve always used multiple formations and been multi-dimensional. Our style of football is, we’re going to try to run the ball until they put guys in the box to stop it, and then when they do that we’ll throw it.”

Even though it has not lost as many players to graduation as it has in the past, BB&N is still unsure of how the changes they’ve made will play out for them. One thing is certain: everyone in the ISL will be watching them like hawks.

Coach: John Papas (55-14)
Last Year: 8-1, won NEPSAC Bowl
Key Returnees: Chris Coady, Sr. QB, 6-3, 220 lbs; Junior Arroyo, Sr. WR/DB, 5-11, 173 lbs; Adam Bakopolus, Sr. WR/DB, 5-11, 171 lbs; Dan Connaugton, Sr. OL/DT, 6-3, 265 lbs; Julian Correa, Sr. OL/DT, 5-9, 185 lbs; Nick DiChiara, Sr. WR/FB/LB, 6-1, 203 lbs; Liam Flahive, Sr. RB/DB, RB/DB, 5-8, 171 lbs; Mike Henske, Sr. OL/DE, 6-5, 223 lbs; Cal Halloway, Sr. WR/TE/LB, 6-2, 187 lbs; Ben Kimball, Sr. RB/LB, 5-10, 170 lbs; Chad Kohler, Sr. WR/LB, 6-2, 171 lbs; Chris Mackey, Sr. OL/DT, 6-4, 222 lbs; Ralph Malin, Sr. PK/DT, 5-9, 230 lbs; Eric Olson, Sr. OL/DE, 6-6, 270 lbs; Rhett Wiseman, Sr. WR/DB, 6-1, 180 lbs; Danny Zhang, Sr. WR/DB, 5-8, 134 lbs; Brendan O’Neil, Jr. TE/DE, 6-5, 212 lbs; Willie Peoples, Jr. WR/DB, 6-0, 178 lbs; A.J. Grassa, Jr. RB/DB, 5-10, 176 lbs; Connor Coady, So. OL/DT, 6-0, 215 lbs; Mike McCaffrey, So. WR/DB, 5-7, 148 lbs
Strengths: Experience, Offensive and Defensive Line, Running Game
Weaknesses: How will Coady adjust to playing QB in the ISL after switching to running back for a year? How do they replace his 1,800 rushing yards?
Outlook: This team is coming off its third NEPSAC Bowl victory in the past five years, so success is expected. With that comes the metaphorical bullseye on its back because every team will be trying its hardest to knock off the defending league champion. The biggest question going into the season is how Chris Coady will make the adjustment from running back to quarterback at the ISL level. However, he played the position his first two years at St. John’s Prep, so it will only be a matter of time before he gets readjusted to the intricacies of the position. It also doesn’t hurt that all five members of the offensive line that helped him achieve 1,800 yards on the ground are returning. The talent is certainly there, so if BB&N can survive teams’ best games each week, they could be adding another trophy at the end of the season.

BB&N looks to reload for another ISL run

September, 22, 2010
The Buckingham, Browne & Nichols football program has been a powerhouse under coach John Papas since he took over eight years ago, as the Knights have won and won big — especially lately — losing just three times in the last four years.

Their average margin of victory over that span has been 24.5 points, with most of the scoring done in the first half before Papas takes his starters out for the second.

But this fall, BB&N comes in having lost the majority of its starters – and five Division I athletes – from a team that lost to Lawrence Academy last season, 28-26, denying the Knights an undefeated season and a shot at a NEPSAC bowl berth. In other words, the perception around the ISL is that BB&N is in for a down year, and teams are lining up for their chance to even the score.

“Our kids have to realize that a lot of people that want to get back at us,” Papas said. “[Schools around the league] pretty much think that there’s nothing left. I think we have a bull’s eye on our chest. There’s a lot of payback they want to get. We’ve got to take on all comers right now. We’ve done a lot of punching the last few years. They want to punch us now.”

While BB&N will only have three seniors and will be short on experience, there is going to be enough talent on this team to weather the haymakers the rest of the league will be throwing its way.

Eric Bertino (an ISL-leading 24 TD passes in 2009), a returning starter at quarterback, fullback/outside linebacker Peter Savarese (an ISL leading seven TD receptions in ’09) and newcomer to the sport James Diblaisi, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound hockey player who will play defensive end, make up that small but talented senior class.

Papas raves about Diblaisi’s potential and compares him to Blake Barker, who held several BCS offers last year before committing to Harvard.

“This is his first year of organized football, but I’ll tell you what, he’s been unbelievable in preseason scrimmages,” Papas said of Diblaisi, a Winchester native. “He plays with a flat back and is really tough off the edge. He really has the chance to be a Division I football player if he matures.”

Papas, who previously coached in the college ranks for 13 years at Tufts, Harvard and Bentley, knows a thing or two about sending players onto the next level. In his tenure at BB&N, 31 of his former players have gone on to play college football. There are currently seven ex-Knights on Ivy League rosters, the most of any school in the country, according to Papas.

“We’ve been able to attract a lot of kids that want a first-rate education at an urban prep school,” Papas said of the Cambridge institution that is just a stone’s throw away from Harvard Square. “It’s unique in that you don’t have to board, it’s co-ed and in Cambridge. There are a lot of kids that have come looking for that education and football experience.”

Two new additions to the program are juniors Chris Coady and Dan Connaughton, who transferred in from St. John’s Prep and Lincoln-Sudbury, respectively. Coady, who is also a tremendous lacrosse player, will take over at tailback and outside linebacker, while Connaughton will be a two-way tackle. Both players are receiving early interest from Boston College.

Another junior, Nick DiChiara, younger brother of Mike, a former Knight quarterback who is now at Cornell, will start at middle linebacker and is one of the team’s few returning starters.

Papas believes classmate Eric Olson, a 6-foot, 6-and-one-half-inch, 255-pound offensive tackle, may end up being the most highly sought-after recruit of the bunch, as he is already receiving early interest from BC, Stanford and Notre Dame.

“He’s got great feet,” Papas said. “He plays basketball, as well. He’s just kind of figuring it out. He’s a late bloomer in football.”

Papas’ two starting cornerbacks, junior Rhett Weisman and sophomore Willie Peoples, probably won’t play football in college, but are both Division I athletes. Weisman, Mansfield native, will play baseball at Vanderbilt, while Peoples, who hails from Cambridge, is a budding tennis star.

“He’s a ridiculous tennis player, unbelievable,” Papas said of Peoples, “and he’s out there banging with us.”

While everyone around the league will be focused on a Lawrence team that already has four BCS-committed players, Papas insists his team is focused solely on Saturday’s opener at Belmont Hill. The Hillers, who were the league’s premier program in the years leading up to the emergence of BB&N and Lawrence, had beaten their neighbors 21 consecutive times before the Knights won the last three meetings.

“They have a great tradition and great players as well,” Papas said of Belmont Hill. “If you ask our kids, the biggest game they circle is Belmont Hill.”

It’s safe to say that there are plenty of school’s that have BB&N circled, as well.

2009 record: 7-1
Coach: John Papas (47-13)
Players to watch: Eric Bertino, Sr., QB, 6-1, 200; Chris Coady, Jr., RB/OLB, 6-2 , 220; Dan Connaughton, Jr., OT/DT, 6-3, 265; Nick DiChiara, Jr., MLB, 6-0, 205; Eric Olson, Jr., OT, 6-6 , 255; Rhett Weisman, Jr., CB, 6-1, 180; Willie Peoples, So., CB, 6-0, 175; James Diblaisi, Sr., DE, 6-6, 225; Peter Savarese, Sr., FB/OLB, 5-10, 190.
Strengths: Line play, experience at QB, linebackers.
Weaknesses: Inexperience.
Outlook: The Knights were decimated by graduation, losing five Division I athletes off a team that only lost to a loaded Lawrence Academy squad last fall. Although Papas’ charges will be breaking in a lot of new starters, the cupboard isn’t exactly bare, as a bevy of highly-touted juniors are in the fold to restock the roster. Papas likes what he sees up front on both sides of the ball, and the Knights should be strong enough there to control the line of scrimmage against most of the teams on their schedule. Bertino returns at quarterback, and he will be giving most of his handoffs to Coady, a transfer from St. John’s Prep that is getting major interest in both football and lacrosse. Savarese led the ISL in touchdown receptions a year ago, as Papas likes to use a power run game to set up the play-action pass. The defense operates out of a 4-3 cover two base, and Papas thinks he has one of the best groups of linebackers in Eastern Mass. in Coady, DiChiara and Savarese. Lawrence comes in as the heavy favorite in the ISL, but despite their inexperience, it would be a mistake to dismiss the Knights and their upcoming talent.