Boston High School: Zach Bassett

Recap: No. 4 St. John's Prep 49, Dracut 6

September, 8, 2012
9/08/12
12:49
AM ET


DRACUT, Mass. -- The two-back attack of senior Alex Moore and junior Jonathan Thomas proved to be too much for Dracut on Friday night as St. John’s Prep avenged last season’s 13-7 home-opening loss as they defeated the Middies, 49-6.

Moore and Thomas did their damage early and often as the pair both scored two touchdowns with Moore’s pair coming in the first half on a first quarter 12-yard run and one more in the second quarter from 15 yards out to give the Eagles a 21-0 lead deep into the second quarter.

“We have the two backs who can break it at any time,” St. John’s Prep coach Jim O’Leary said. “Our offensive line played well, and Jack [Sharrio] made some good choices out there.”

[+] EnlargeJonathan Thomas and Alex Moore
Ryan Kilian for ESPNBoston.comSt. John's Prep running backs Jonathan Thomas (1) and Alex Moore (27) combined for 200-plus yards rushing in a 49-6 win over Dracut.
Sharrio managed the game well and also connected on a pair of first half scoring strikes to Gerry Kahari (16-yards) in the opening quarter and a nice 7-yard touch pass to Anthony Bongiorno with time running out in the second quarter.

St. John’ Prep led 28-0 at the half as a result of executing in the red zone, dictating offensive possessions, converting defense to offense and capitalizing on Dracut’s (0-1) special teams mistakes.

In the second half Prep came out and continued to dominate on both sides of the ball as Thomas scored twice in the third quarter before the teams exchanged scores late in the fourth to give St. John’s Prep (1-0) the 49-6 opening night victory.

Moore and Thomas: Moore finished the game with 138 yards rushing on 10 carries, all coming in the first half. Thomas finished with 92 yards on the ground on just seven carries. Both players also made game-changing plays on the defensive side the ball as Moore had an interception and a jaw dropping hit from his safety position to open the second half.

“We have a lot of players returning on defense,” Moore said. “We really want to use our defense to get ahead in games, get interceptions and get turnovers. We just like to hit. We are fast and we use all our abilities to our advantage.”

Thomas was also impressive defensively as the heralded junior back had two interceptions from his cornerback spot, with the second beginning the second half when he picked off Dracut quarterback Tyler Duff and took it 45 yards to the house for a score.

“I can play anywhere on the field,” Thomas said. “If it means stepping up on defense then it means stepping it up on defense.”

Both players lauded their underrated offensive line for the holes that they used throughout the game on the offensive side of the ball.

“They open up holes and we just run through them,” Thomas said. “They do not get enough credit but we let them know we appreciate them. They are the hardest workers on the team.”

Bassett leads youth: Dracut graduated a large senior class from last year’s squad and only returned three players on each side of the ball. The growing pains and transition will be there for head coach Jason Houston and the Middies but there is reason to be hopeful.

“We are only going to get better by paying the likes of St. John’s Prep, Mansfield in Week 3. Our kids want to play the best teams and with the always tough MVC schedule it will only make us better in the long run.

Senior running back and co-captain Zach Basset is a workhorse and two-way rock for Houston and the Middies. The veteran carried the ball 18 times for 87 yards.

“Zach is the kind of football player that any coach would want,” Houston said. “He has played anywhere from freshman year at quarterback to running back to slot receiver. He plays anywhere that you need him to play and it is 100 percent all the time. He is our team leader and he has been our team captain for two years now.”

A program first: The win by St. John’s Prep was the first win over Dracut in the five game history of the rivalry.

“As a program St. John’s Prep has never beaten Dracut,” Thomas said. “The coaches reminded us of that and we had to focus on this being the year and we came out and let them know.”

Dracut took the opener last season 13-7 in Danvers as both teams struggled to get anything going offensively in that match-up.

“It is a nice start for us,” O’Leary said. “It is going to get harder for us, much harder, but I got to play everyone tonight and we played well. This is the first time we have ever beat them and the fifth time we have played.”

ST. JOHN”S PREP 49, DRACUT 6
SJP (1-0) 7 21 14 7 --- 49
DRA (0-1) 0 0 0 6 --- 6

First Quarter
S – Alex Moore 12 run (Stephen Camarro kick)

Second Quarter
S - Gerald Kahari 16 pass from Jack Sharrio (Camarro kick)
S - Moore 15 run (Camarro kick)
S - Anthony Bongiorno 7 pass from Sharrio (Camarro kick

Third Quarter
S – Jonathan Thomas 45 Interception return (Camarro kick)
S – Thomas 38 run (Camarro kick)

Fourth Quarter
S – Ian Kessel 30 run (Camarro kick)
D – Gabe Morales 2 run

ESPN Boston Week 1 football picks

September, 6, 2012
9/06/12
11:06
PM ET
FRIDAY
NO. 1 EVERETT AT NO. 7 LEOMINSTER
The Skinny: Leominster has never beaten the Crimson Tide since this series began in 2002, but the Blue Devils have usually been a tough out. In 2009, the teams played to a 14-6 Tide win. The last two meetings, the Blue Devils got under the Tide’s skin early before Everett’s talent took over. But Leominster is brimming with excitement, its proud football culture awakened again following their first Super Bowl championship in a decade last fall. Everett, meanwhile, seems to be settled at every position but quarterback – and with a line averaging over 315 pounds, that will suffice. If Leominster is to pull off the upset, they’ll have to a find a way to contain electric wideouts Jakarrie Washington and Jalen Felix.

Scott Barboza: Leominster turns it into a game, but still too many horses in the stable for Everett despite the questions. Everett, 27-20.

Brendan Hall: It’s going to be a majestic crowd at Doyle, and some readers will undoubtedly conclude I’m biased towards Leominster because their defensive coordinator coached me 10 years ago at Oakmont. But I’m not. Even I’m not foolish enough to pick against the Tide in this one. Everett, 24-13.

NO. 2 BC HIGH AT NO. 22 BROCKTON
The Skinny: Injuries were an overarching theme of the preseason and both of these teams were affected. Bad news for BC High is Luke Catarius is out with a hairline ankle fracture, but Brockton should have Micah Morel in the lineup for their Week 1 challenge. We’ll get a look at the reigning Div. 1 Super Bowl champions new-look offense with Brendan Craven under center and Brandon Owens in the backfield while the Boxers will be sporting a Georgia Tech-inspired scheme with Auggie Roberts back at quarterback.

Barboza: A Jackson Bockhurst field goal will be the difference. BC High, 17-14.

Hall: Things unraveled for Brockton pretty quickly in last year’s meeting in Dorchester. The Boxers are fighting an uphill battle again this year, but at least it will be respectable. BC High, 28-14.

NO. 23 SPRINGFIELD PUTNAM AT NO. 14 SPRINGFIELD CENTRAL
The Skinny: With the schools sitting less than a mile from each other along Roosevelt Ave., the season-opening battle between these rival schools has become must-see as of late. Putnam won this contest last season, kick-starting an historic 2011 season that ended with their fifth Super Bowl title in eight seasons. Central will be looking for revenge, but it’s not easy replacing 2,000-yard rusher in Sacoy Malone. Putnam, meanwhile, turns to a plethora of new faces to replace record-setting running back Melquawn Pinkney, including quarterback Kayjuan Bynum and running back Wayne Lowery.

Barboza: I came away very impressed from talking to Central QB Cody Williams last year at Gillette. He blossoms into the real deal this year. Central, 21-16.

Hall: I like the direction Central is headed in over the long run, but Putnam is still Roosevelt Ave (See what I did there?). Putnam, 7-6.

LA SALLE ACADEMY (R.I.) AT NO. 16 NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH
The Skinny: Big Red will have its hands full opening night with their challenger from just across the state line. The Rams feature a high-octane attack led by reigning Gatorade Player of the Year running back Josh Morris and senior quarterback Anthony Francis. The key to this one will be in the trenches where North’s offensive line led by Eric Beckwith and Sean Peters could have the advantage.

Barboza: This Rams team is very talented, but North holds on – just barely. North, 28-26.

Hall: Josh Morris and Co. have been dying for that elusive win over a Massachusetts squad, and I think they finally get it here. La Salle, 17-13.

NO. 12 KING PHILIP AT DOVER (N.H.)
The Skinny: Self-admittedly, we don’t know as much about Dover as we do KP, but we can be some what certain what the Warriors will be showing them on defense. And, of course, that’s a variety of different looks and blitz and coverage schemes. Dover, which sits just outside of ESPN Boston correspondent Marc Thaler’s Granite State Top 10 poll, will also have to contend with KP quarterback John Dillon, who will enjoy a greater role directing the offense in his second year as starter.

Barboza: KP’s “Psycho” package gives Hockomock League teams fits, nevermind an offense that hasn’t seen it. KP, 28-8.

Hall: Knowing little about Dover outside of what our loyal New Hampshire correspondents tell us, I’m going to trust their convictions on this one and say it will be close. But I’m still going with the team closer to Boston. KP, 20-10.

NO. 4 ST. JOHN’S PREP AT DRACUT
The Skinny: The Middies have been a bit of a bugaboo for St. John's Prep in recent years and some around Danvers feel Dracut has simply posed a matchup problem for the Eagles with its spread attack. Good news for Prep is that their secondary, with Lucas Bavaro, Gerry Kahari, Alex Moore and Johnny Thomas, has matured into a strength of the team. Dracut senior linebacker Zach Bassett could be the key to the game, trying to slow down Prep's running attack.

Barboza: Looking for a defensive struggle here. Prep, 14-7.

Hall: Classic trap game for The Prep, against a classic trap opponent that’s had their number in recent years. Dracut, 10-6.

NORTH ANDOVER AT ANDOVER
The Skinny: North Andover's season starts with a Walsh at quarterback, but of another name. Brendan Walsh's younger brother Casey takes the helm of the Scarlet Knights' offense. It also marks North Andover's first Merrimack Valley Conference game. The Golden Warriors will counter with a high-flying attack that impressed during this summer's Northeast 7v7 passing tournament. Quarterback C.J. Scarpa has plenty of targets including Cam Farnham and Will Heikkinen.

Hall: I know it’s a familiar rival that’s been on the schedule for years, but North Andover is still in for a whole new ball game. And since it’s now officially an MVC game, there will be no less than 172 points scored and 1,000 yards of offense. Andover, 35-30.

Barboza: Ditto. Andover, 31-20.

MARSHFIELD AT CATHOLIC MEMORIAL
The Skinny: Last year at this time, Catholic Memorial entered Marshfield’s stadium with plenty of hype, behind three Division 1 FBS commits and a No. 4 preseason ranking in ESPNBoston.com’s poll. They promptly got shut out by the Rams, 24-0, fueling their ensuing seven-game win streak. The Knights will no doubt be looking to exact revenge, and they’ll look to Preseason All-State defensive end Peter Ngobidi to stifle the Rams’ vaunted run game.

Barboza: Ngobidi is a dominant force and asserts his will here. CM, 7-0.

Hall: The Knights got embarrassed last year in Marsh Vegas, and I expect them to exact revenge here. CM, 16-13.

SATURDAY
NO. 24 HOLY NAME AT NO. 17 ST. JOHN’S (SHREWSBURY)
The Skinny: For all of Holy Name’s success under Mike Pucko, the Naps have never beaten St. John’s during his tenure. Could that change on Saturday? Holy Name turns to one of the state’s most elusive scatbacks in Quron Wright, and will hope for a big day. St. John’s has already hit the injury bug, with incumbent QB Connor Kurtz (knee) out for the season, but RB Shadrach Abrokwah is a nice fit for their hurry-up scheme, and is poised for a breakout senior season.

Hall: If the Naps are ever to beat St. John’s, this has to be the year. Holy Name, 9-8.

Barboza: Hate to do this to the Naps, sorry. St. John's, 22-21.

NO. 9 DUXBURY AT NO. 8 BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM
The Skinny: B-R is itching to get over the hump after dropping its season-opener to the Dragons the past two seasons. The Trojans have some terrific talent between the tackles, led by Joey MacInnis, to pave for a big afternoon for junior tailback Arcel Armstead. Duxbury graduated one of its most talented classes ever from the 2011 Super Bowl champion squad, but still has plenty of talent left over to keep the state’s longest active win streak (26) going. Look for guard Rob Kosharek, linebacker Marshall McCarthy and running back Jon Hurvitz to have big days.

Barboza: Now that Dan Buron's nephew Andrew (former Duxbury standout) has graduated, expect the Trojans to get back to their winning ways. B-R, 14-10.

Hall: After graduating one of the program’s most talented classes ever, Marshall the Missile gets the full spotlight. And he usually gives the fans their money’s worth. Duxbury, 14-10.

CONCORD-CARLISLE AT BEVERLY
The Skinny: C-C heads into its non-league tilt with the heavy NEC/CAL Tier 2 favorite already limping, losing its star running back Tim Badgley (ACL tear) for the season. If the Patriots are to repeat last year’s Super Bowl championship success, sophomore quarterback Will Blumenberg will have to grow up quickly. Meanwhile, Beverly features one of the North Shore’s most feared rushing attacks with the three-pronged approach of Kenny Pierce, Brendan Flaherty and Dom Abate.

Barboza: ETA on when the Kenny Pierce hashtag gets rolling again? We're looking at you James Coffey. Beverly, 27-14.

Hall: I’m excited to see what Will Blumenberg can do for the Patriots, but the Panthers just have too much in the tank to be stopped in this one. Beverly, 28-7.

Recap: Lowell 35, Dracut 20

October, 7, 2011
10/07/11
11:58
PM ET
LOWELL, Mass. -- The Dracut football team found itself down by two touchdowns going into the fourth quarter Friday. It was faced with an arduous task of a 3rd-and-goal from the Lowell 19-yard line.

Dracut quarterback Jimmy Ryan dropped back to pass and surveyed the field. Seeing only a few defenders in the middle of the field, Ryan decided to run for it, figuring it was two-down territory anyway, so picking up even half that yardage would put his team in better position on fourth down.

He ran past one defender and then another, all the way down to the 1. Fourth-and-goal from the 1 was more than manageable. Ryan got up in pain after the play, holding his arm. He had to come out for the next play, preventing Dracut from having its starting quarterback on the field for the biggest play of the game.

Dracut went to a Wildcat-style formation where wide receiver Zach Bassett lined up as quarterback. Someone on the offensive line was called for a false start on the 4th-and-1 play, backing the Middies up five yards.

Now needing a touchdown from six yards away, Dante Torres took over at quarterback for Dracut. He rolled to his right on the fourth down play, but threw an incomplete pass, giving the ball back to Lowell.

The Red Raiders held on for a 35-20 victory.

GETTING IT DONE ON BOTH SIDES
Lowell (4-1) came into the game Friday known as a team that could put up a lot of points on teams, but it was its defense that made big plays in this game. On Dracut’s first offensive possession of the game, it was using the running game to attack the defense. It got out to midfield, but running back Leo Lakmany fumbled the ball going down to the ground, which was recovered by Lowell.

In the second quarter, with Dracut (2-3) punting deep in its own territory, Lowell made the decision to go after the punt with a heavy rush and try to block it. R.J. Noel was able to burst through the protection and block it. Cam Latta picked the ball up at the 8-yard line and ran it in for the touchdown.

Later in the quarter, with about a minute to go, Dracut was facing a 3rd-and-22 at midfield. Ryan dropped back and tried to throw, but was intercepted by Nyakeh Koroma. He ran it back all the way to the Dracut 13-yard line. Noel hit Gilberto Brown for a touchdown on the very next play, giving Lowell a 21-8 lead going into halftime.

The defense recovered a Ryan fumble in the last quarter when he dropped back to pass on 4th down. A few plays later, Noel ran a quarterback keeper up the middle 47 yards for a touchdown, making it 35-14.

BOUNCING BACK
The defense was able to get consistent pressure on Ryan throughout the night. It has been a key point of emphasis after giving up 44 points to Nashua South in the team’s only loss of the season.

“We said after the Nashua game that we wanted to make a name for the defense,” said linebacker Ryan Garrigan. “We came out and just played as hard as we could from the moment the ball was snapped.”

“Normally it’s just the offense doing their job but hey, we have to do our job. We did a great job today. We had three turnovers, which are huge. They ended up making the game go in our favor.”

DOUBLE TROUBLE
This was a game of two teams notorious for their spread offenses and their dual-threat quarterbacks. Noel had 18 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown, while Ryan had 25 carries for 93 yards. Through the air, Noel was 8-of-12 for 96 yards and two touchdowns, while Ryan was 11-of-23 for 142 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.

Garrigan felt that playing against a spread offense like Dracut’s so often in practice gave the defense an upper hand when playing a quarterback like Ryan.

“They run the same stuff that we do, they just give it a different name for it,” he said. “When we practice it’s like the same thing that the offense is going to run against us, so it was nice and easy for us. It was just a matter of who was going to execute better, and we executed better tonight.”

Lowell coach John Florence said that facing the speed of a spread offense in practice helped his team immensely for Friday.

“Our ability to go no-huddle matches theirs, it’s not something different we have to prepare for, ” he said. “It’s not just spreading out the field, but it’s the speed at which they go.”

THE ROAD AHEAD
With the loss, Dracut falls to 2-3 with a difficult three-game stretch ahead of it. In consecutive weeks, they play a scrappy Tewksbury team, Chelmsford, and Andover. It will not be easy for a team hoping to be a prominent player in the Merrimack Valley Conference.

Lowell will take its 4-1 record into games against Central Catholic, Tewksbury, and Billerica.

LOWELL 7 14 7 7 -- 35
DRACUT 0 8 6 6 -- 20

1st quarter

L - Jack Galvin 2-yard pass from RJ Noel (Connor McHugh kick good)

2nd quarter
D - Dante Torres 4-yard pass from Jimmy Ryan (2-pt conversion good- Ryan pass to Jeff Breen)
L - Cam Latta 8-yard punt block return (McHugh kick good)
L - Gilberto Brown 13-yard pass from Noel (McHugh kick good)

3rd quarter
D - Zach Bassett 2-yard run (Jack MacShane kick failed- hit upright)
L - Brown 10-yard pass from Galvin (McHugh kick good)

4th quarter
L - Noel 47-yard run (McHugh kick good)
D - Bassett 2-yard run (kick failed)

Recap: Billerica 40, No. 22 Dracut 14

September, 30, 2011
9/30/11
11:06
PM ET
DRACUT, Mass. -- For the first half at least, it looked like Friday night’s Billerica-Dracut game was going to rival last year’s shootout, where the teams combined for 102 points in a blowout Middies win.

Billerica put an end to those thoughts in the second half, however, shutting down the hosts in a 40-14 rout that sends a message to the rest of the Merrimack Valley Conference -- that the Indians have the defense to match the explosive offensive arsenal they’ve seemingly always had.

Overall, Billerica (3-1) held Dracut (2-2) to just 172 total yards of offense, including 12 in the second half. The Indians did not allow a first down in the final 22 minutes, and Matt Clifford and Nick LaSpada made interceptions in the fourth quarter.

Of course, the Indians did a lot of damage with the ball in their hands, as Clifford scored a touchdown on a kickoff return, a pass reception and a handoff in the first half and finished with 249 all-purpose yards. LaSpada completed 14-of-23 passes for 239 yards and two scores, while rushing for another. Byron Ramirez rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, and receiver Willie Ricard was LaSpada’s favorite target, with eight catches for 134 yards and a touchdown.

A few observations from Billerica’s dominant win...

Laying it on the line: Coming into the game, one would have thought Dracut’s line play would be a little superior to Billerica’s. But that was not quite the case Friday night, as the Indians held their own against an active Dracut front. One player in particular who had a phenomenal night was 6-foot, 195-pound senior Billy McInnis. Although he was clearly one of the smaller linemen on the field, McInnis may have been the quickest, as he found his way into the Dracut backfield consistently and protected LaSpada from his right tackle spot. Dracut also had some solid play up front, particularly seniors Peter Salem and Jacob MacShane, but it was Billerica that had the edge there, which came as a mild surprise.

More than just LaSpada: Everyone knows how well LaSpada has played over his career at Billerica, and the hype around the senior signal-caller and safety has been justified. However, there was a lot of talk last year that he didn’t have much around him in terms of skill players.

Well, that’s not the case anymore. Clifford, a junior, is an explosive weapon no matter where you put him. Ramirez is a bruising runner with good vision. Ricard is a tall and fast option to throw to on the outside. While LaSpada gets a lot of just praise, let’s put to bed the notion that he is doing it all by himself out there, because he really isn’t. There’s more to Billerica’s offense than just him.

Middies show their Tuff-ness: It was a rough night for the Dracut offense, which has seemed to have hit a lull at this point in the season. However, one player to keep an eye on for the future is 5-8, 170-pound junior Bryant Tuff. The speedy Tuff gets moved around a lot on offense and just makes plays wherever he goes. He had Dracut’s longest play from scrimmage with a 46-yard run that set up Zach Bassett’s first touchdown. Tuff also made an interception deep in Dracut territory early on that helped keep the Middies in the game. While Dracut seems to be struggling a little on offense right now, the Middies can look forward to getting revved back up by getting Tuff the ball in space and watching him work.

BILLERICA 40, DRACUT 14
Billerica (3-1, 2-0 MVC) 12 14 0 14 --- 40
Dracut (2-2, 0-2 MVC) 0 14 0 0 --- 14

First Quarter
B - Matt Clifford 94 kickoff return (kick blocked)
B - Clifford 49 pass from Nick LaSpada (pass failed)

Second Quarter
D - Zach Bassett 2 run (Jacob MacShane kick)
B - Willie Ricard 55 pass from LaSpada (pass failed)
D - Bassett 14 pass from Jimmy Ryan (MacShane kick)
B - Clifford 50 run (Matt Shannon rush)

Fourth Quarter
B - Byron Ramirez 14 run (Jason Ferri pass from LaSpada)
B - LaSpada 1 run (rush failed)

What We Learned: Week 1

September, 12, 2011
9/12/11
6:01
PM ET
The best and brightest from a helter-skelter Week 1 of MIAA football:

A RAM-BUNCTIOUS UPSET
Catholic Memorial plummets 15 spots to No. 19 after getting shut out 24-0 at Marshfield, and today there is undoubtedly some intense conversation going down on Baker Street. But to totally make the story about the heavily-favored Knights failing to get out of first gear is to forget what a well-coached team Marshfield is.

As we predicted last Thursday, this was going to be a bad matchup for the Knights. The talk at CM is often centered around its four BCS commits in Armani Reeves, Cam Williams, A.J. Doyle and Donovan Henry, while the line is considered a weakness in spite of its size.

Let's not forget that Marshfield is one of the South Shore's more historic programs over the last two decades (Sean Morey, Austin Giles, anyone?). For as long as we can remember, Lou Silva has been running an unorthodox Wing-T scheme and has always been strong in the trenches. Think back 10 years ago when Sean Morris was the Rams' feature back, and remember that every starter on that line went on to earn a college scholarship. Like those gritty Acton-Boxborough squads of the early 2000s, year after year the Rams' emphasis has been on beating you at the point of attack not with size, but speed.

For the Knights, who have garnered a lion's share of preseason hype the past few seasons, a hard lesson was learned. Games are still won on grass, not paper.

BE ON GUARD FOR ST. PETE
St. Peter-Marian debuts in the poll this week at No. 23 after scoring one of the more significant victories west of I-495 traveling up to Crocker Field and taking down a Quinton Perkins-less Fitchburg squad, 20-6. Those in the know will tell you it's far from an upset.

Could we be headed for a return to the golden era of Jerry Azumah, Ricky Appiah and the late legendary coach Owen Kilcoyne? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. Still, the Guardians certainly have some talent that is blooming late, but worth your consideration.

Senior defensive end Jordan Knowles is a force coming off the edge at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, able to overpower with a bull rush but also come across the face with a shifty swim move. He racked up two sacks and nine tackles in the loss, and barring injury could end up with 12 to 15 this season. Meanwhile, the Guardians were stout in the secondary, with Roosevelt Westbrook, Tyler Kmon, and Jonathan Harrigan all coming up with a pick each. Tre Watson, a star during basketball season, is another key cog.

But the sleeper of the bunch might be senior quarterback Steve Flynn, who threw for 240 yards and two scores, and also led the way defensively with 11 tackles from the defensive end spot opposite Knowles. This is Flynn’s first season as the full-time starter under center, and he’s still somewhat new to the sport (he didn’t pick up a football until his sophomore year).

You might remember his older brother Frankie –- a baseball standout at SPM, and one of the stars of the 2002 Jesse Burkett squad that lost to Louisville, Ky. in the Little League World Series final –- and the apple hasn’t fallen too far. At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, Steve is an imposing force on the mound for the Guardians’ baseball squad, with a fastball that has touched 90 miles per hour.

On the gridiron, though, he’s just as intimidating.

“He’s definitely the real deal,” Guardians head coach Tom Henrickson said of Flynn. “He’s thrown the ball 75 yards downfield. It’s insane. You have to see his arm to appreciate it. He’s thrown a 20-yard out from the short side of the field all the way across, and it’s a laser. You just don’t see that in high school football, he’s a real good one.”

Not to mention, Flynn will be a tough one to tackle this season. While he runs a 4.9 40-yard dash, he also reportedly benches upwards of 350 pounds, one of several reasons he’s just starting to get Division 1 looks.

“He’s not fast, but he’s not slow either,” Henrickson said. “People go to sack him, you try and grab him and he just tosses you…[against Fitchburg] our running back didn’t pick up a blitz, so he took a sack once, but it took four guys to take him down. He’s like an unknown commodity.”

ANOTHER NAIL-BITER, ANOTHER CLASSIC
Once again, the Central Mass clash between St. John's of Shrewsbury and Holy Name went down to the wire. And, once again, the Pioneers emerged victorious over the Naps.

What also was displayed in the annual rite of autumn, in rare form, was the gut and determination of Mike Pucko's team to overcome what they might lack in depth. With an unseasonably warm day and playing on artificial turf at Assumption College, the matchup was a battle of attrition. Pucko commented postgame that his team was "gassed" by halftime.

"We knew we were going to be in for a long second half," he told Scott Barboza on Saturday.

With many of his players running on empty by the third quarter, three of the Naps starters would be taken to the hospital by ambulance while fighting dehydration. Lineman Sean Zuromsky was overcome by the heat at the end of the third. After receiving a double-team block from the Pioneers offensive line, Zuromsky doubled over, face first into the turf, unable to breathe.

"He was so dehydrated, his mouth was white," Pucko said.

Outsiders might think it extreme, the savagery of a brutal game, which football can be. But the underlying truth is that pound-for-pound, Holy Name teams remain toughest team in the state. Pucko gets his players to show up and play, no matter who the opponent, no matter what the circumstance.

That doesn't necessarily fit into the "What We Learned" category, but it's worth reaffirming.

CRIMSON CHURNING
The feeling among the Everett contingent following last Friday’s 47-12 win over Leominster was not of satisfaction, to say the least.

“We take good out of it, but we have a long way to go,” quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso said.

“There are a lot of things we need to improve upon,” said his father, long time head coach John DiBiaso.

Fact: right now, there isn’t a player in the No. 1 Crimson Tide’s program at the talent level of either of its graduated wide receivers Matt Costello (Princeton) and Manny Asprilla (Boston College), considered two of the greatest in program history.

But here’s another fact: The Tide could have put up 60 on Friday if not for a few drops in the end zone. Jakarrie Washington and Jaylen McRae are two potential home-run threats with burners (filling Costello’s deep-ball role) while Kenny Calaj and Vondell Langston are tough to bring down, when taking handoffs out of the backfield or coming over the middle (much like Asprilla’s role there).

Consider Everett’s new batch of receivers like a baseball glove. It’s going to take a few games to get broken in.

But when they’re broken in, look out.

DEFENSE IS KING
As much as folks might dwell on the 42 points the Eagles posted on the Boxers at Viola Stadium, equally if not more impressive was the true shutout the BC High defense posted.

The Eagles' defense thrives behind junior middle linebacker Luke Catarius, who again set the tone with 15 tackles, including three for a loss, along with 1.5 sacks and two quarterback hurries.

"We just really practiced the coverages and where they set up," Catarius told ESPN Boston correspondent Adam Kurkjian on Friday. "I just read my keys well and made the plays."

Easier said than done, but the Eagles were effective in shutting down the Boxers' ground game behind Josh Brewster and quarterback Paul Mroz was held to completing just two passes for 10 yards with an interception.

The Eagles simply never Brockton in the game.

BIG WEEKEND FOR THE SMALL
The Merrimack Valley Small went 4-1 on this opening weekend, including eye-opening upsets by Lawrence (33-14, over then-No. 17 Reading) and Dracut (13-7, over then-No. 12 St. John’s Prep). If you can recall, the Small had another strong start a season ago, but this time around the feeling is that momentum will stick.

By now, Dracut’s read-option attack is a well-oiled machine, and despite some obvious signs of rust – and without returning MVC lineman of the year Peter Salem due to injury – the Middies sold play fakes well and at times took the outside lanes at will. It’s also got a strong junior class led by quarterback Jimmy Ryan and running back/linebacker Zach Bassett.

For anybody that saw Reading this summer or in scrimmages, this Lawrence upset comes as a surprise. The Rockets are stout at the line of scrimmage and feature a core of youngsters that is talented in spite of its inexperience. But what the Lancers lack in size they more than make up for in speed, and that should make waves in this spread-happy conference.

Some predicted a drop-off at Methuen after the graduation of Cal Carroll and Raudy Minaya, and the departure of head coach Pat Graham. But they’ve picked up right where they left off, with quarterback Eric Lacroix racking up nearly 300 yards of total offense and having a hand in every score, as the Rangers exacted revenge on Plymouth North with a 27-13 win.

And last but not least, Haverhill snapped a 32-game losing streak forcefully, with an impressive 39-12 win over a Malden squad that isn’t as thin as some people are saying. The Hillies reportedly took it to Central Catholic in a preseason scrimmage, so don’t be surprised if they make some noise when it comes to the gauntlet that is the MVC slate. It’s too early to predict hypothesize on the chances of their first postseason berth since 2002, but this will be a fun team to watch.

STREAKING NO MORE
While Auburn extended its state best 37-game winning streak on Friday, Eastern Massachusetts' longest football winning streak came to an end for Gloucester. The Fishermen's 26-game winning streak was derailed by a motivated Lynn English team at the Manning Bowl.

Bulldogs quarterback Jermaine Kelley went off for six touchdowns and 279 yards while earning ESPN Boston Player of the Week honors for Week 1. Kelley, a transfer from Swampscott, spread the ball around with Josh Batista accounting for four touchdowns and top target Malcolm Brown-Simpson, a Pope John transfer, providing big-play potential to the aerial attack.

Lynn English head coach Peter Holey wasn't about to get ahead of himself even after the victory, adding that there's a long way to go before deeming the season a success during practice in Lynn on Monday afternoon. However, with a talented offense led by Kelley and a talented running back in senior P.J. Dorsey, the Bulldogs will be worth watching all season long.

BAROMETER OF THE WEST?
Springfield's Putnam High beat previously ranked Central (No. 20 in preseason poll) on Friday, showing that the Beavers are the early favorites to claim the Division 2 crown in Western Mass. While the Division 1 race out West always runs through Longmeadow, the question is who will be the team to stand up to the Lancers this year?

We think Central can still be that team -- this weekend's test against No. 1 Everett will be an every greater indication -- but Putnam could serve as a great measuring stick. With a schedule that includes Westfield, Chicopee and West Springfield, the Beavers should prove a barometer as to who can take the fight to Longmeadow. After all, that is because Putnam might be the best team in Western Mass not named the Lancers.

Recap: No. 19 Dracut 13, No. 12 SJP 7

September, 10, 2011
9/10/11
5:42
PM ET
Dracut PrepBrendan Hall/ESPNBoston.comDracut junior Zach Bassett came up with the game's first score and was in on a slew of tackles on Saturday.


DANVERS, Mass. -- St. John’s Prep is usually the team with the big, experienced offensive line and overpowering ground attack.

Saturday at Cronin Memorial Stadium, however, it was visiting Dracut which fit that bill, and the result was a 13-7 win.

“We’ve got a lot of things to work on,” Dracut coach Jason Houston said. “It wasn’t pretty.”

Indeed, it was a sloppy game on both ends. But if you think a senior group of linemen pushing its way forward on both sides of the ball is attractive, yesterday’s performance by the Middies (1-0) was a thing of beauty. Dracut, looking to reach its fourth consecutive postseason appearance and third straight out of the Merrimack Valley Conference’s Small Division, received the requisite might from seniors Anthony Metzler (5-10, 280), Mike Schiavi (6-4, 285), Conor McAnespie (5-10, 185), Jack Whelton (6-3, 200), Shawn Butt (5-11, 260) and Jacob MacShane (5-11, 200) to make up for the loss of reigning MVC Lineman of the Year Peter Salem, who was out nursing a minor injury.

Quarterback Jimmy Ryan, a junior making his first start, rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and completed 10-of-15 passes for 113 yards. The Middies scored on a 2-yard Zach Bassett rush and a 16-yard zone-read keeper by Ryan in the second quarter to take a 13-0 lead into halftime.

Alex Moore (26 yards rushing, 74 receiving) dove over from a yard out for the Prep’s only score with 2:58 to go, but the Middies picked up three first downs and forced the Eagles to burn their remaining four timeouts.

Game over.

“I look at it as a win is a win,” said Bassett, who rushed for 47 yards and also made a key fourth-down stop on Prep quarterback Tommy Gaudet to start the third quarter. “Every win is huge, especially one like St. John’s Prep. But we’re going to look back, enjoy it tonight and go after it on Monday.”

Some other observations...

Middies swarming: Dracut’s defense was billed as a strength coming into the season and it lived up to that reputation Saturday. In addition to the play from the linemen, the linebackers out of Dracut’s 3-5-3 alignment were all over the field. Tony Ngeth, Bassett, Matt Ferrazzani, junior Pat Noonan and Ryan Schwartz were suffocating. St. John’s Prep inexperienced offensive line opened very few holes and those that did appear closed fast.

“I wouldn’t want to play this defense,” Ryan said with a smile. “They’re phenomenal. They’re fast. They’re strong. They just know where to be at all times.”

Filling big shoes: Ryan stepped in for his first varsity start and wasn’t fazed one bit by an excellent group of defenders on the other side of the ball. He executed the zone read properly and made accurate throws in the short-range passing game. He did exactly what the offense asked him to do and more, and it looks like Dracut is going to be set at the quarterback position for another two years. He has a good group of skill players to work with in junior Bryant Tuff, Dante Torres, Ferrazzani, Bassett and Leo Lakmany. All four showed good hands and nice toughness after the catch.

Green in the trenches: The Prep replaced every offensive lineman and it showed. The youth up front resulted in a lot of false starts and missed assignments. That will work itself out in time, though, as the Eagles were cleaner in that regard in the second half. The Prep was also missing senior Brennan Giles (6-2, 286), maybe the team’s most experienced player in the trenches. Either way, Dracut had the advantage up front.

Promising Prep D: The Eagles are going to be excellent on defense. Even with the offense sputtering like it did for most of the game, the Prep defense managed to shut out a good Dracut offense in the second half. Junior nose guard Corey Jean-Jacques (5-11, 291), a wrestling standout who just came out for football this year, is a nice anchor with ends Owen Lynch and junior Anthony Bongiorno providing speed off the edge. Junior Lucas Bavaro, sophomore Sean Smerczynski, junior R.J. Pizzano and sophomore Jonathan Thomas are a nice corps of young linebackers, while juniors Moore, Gerald Kahari and Jack Sharrio are hard hitters in the secondary. Once this offense starts clicking, look out, because the Prep’s defense is good and will be even better in 2012.

DRACUT 13, ST. JOHN’S PREP 7

DHS (1-0) --- 0 13 0 0 - 13
SJP (0-1) --- 0 0 0 7 - 7

Second Quarter
D - Zach Bassett 2 run (Jacob MacShane kick)
D - Jimmy Ryan 16 run (kick failed)

Fourth Quarter
SJP - Alex Moore 1 run (Connor Shaw kick)

New faces, same tradition for No. 19 Dracut

August, 25, 2011
8/25/11
5:27
PM ET
DRACUT, Mass. -- It is a humid, overcast afternoon as coach Jason Houston and his Dracut High School football team put the finishing touches on their first of two Thursday practices in a field hundreds of feet behind the football complex. The practice has already ran beyond its original noon ending time, but it’s this extra time that could prove valuable in the future for the No. 19 Middies.

During one drill, Houston is taking a hands-on approach, acting as a quarterback while trying to teach his linebackers their proper gap-filling assignments on running plays. After each snap, they ask him questions about pre-snap adjustments, what to do when a player goes in motion, and so forth. The second-year coach answers them all, expecting that uncertainty one week into preseason camp. The questions have to be answered now, because once the season starts, the competition will not wait for them to work things out.

On the first Saturday of the season, the Middies play No. 12 St. John’s Prep. Four of the six weeks after that, they face off against Merrimack Valley Conference Large competitors Billerica, Central Catholic, Lowell, and Chelmsford. That is stiff competition, to say the least.

“Playing St. John’s Prep is going to be quite the task for us, where we’re only returning four offensive starters,” said Houston. “But it’s a good way to gauge ourselves in the season and you can’t get better by playing teams that are worse than you. You have to play teams that are better than you. That’s why we play SJP, we scheduled Brockton a few years ago, and had Marshfield and Westford the last few years.”

“We know going in that we might lose one, maybe two of those games, but we’d like to split our non-league games,” he continued. “That way, when we get to the MVC Large teams, we’re a little more ready to play those teams. We should have all the kinks worked out by league play.”

One of the important new offensive starters is quarterback Jimmy Ryan. He spent two years as a backup to Matt Silva, who graduated, but this year he will be thrown into the metaphorical fire that is the MVC. He seems up for the challenge. Also graduated is Chris Malonis, who paired with Silva to be one of the most prolific pitch-and-catch combinations in the MVC.

“I’m excited (to take over at QB),” said Ryan. “I know there’s a history of great quarterbacks here, from Coach (Bobby) Russo, (Matt) Grimard, Tim Dillon, to Matt Silva of course. I don’t want to be the guy to let everyone down, but I think I can do it. I’ve been in this system for two years now and I know we have a great coaching staff here so I think I’ll be ready.”

“I know the schedule isn’t easy, but the coaching staff does a great job preparing each week and coming up with schemes and all that, so I think we’ll be ready no matter who we’re playing,” said Ryan.

Malonis was back at practice Thursday, helping lead the scout team offense and acting as quarterback during wide receiver vs. defensive back drills. He and Russo still being around the program can only help Ryan as he grows into his role.

As practice ends and Houston addresses his team, he acknowledges there is more work to be done. He knows how much he’s going to rely on his new starters on both sides of the ball if he wants to get back to and make some noise in the playoffs.

Can his team do it? That’s a question that can only be answered once the season starts.

DRACUT AT A GLANCE

Head Coach: Jason Houston (2nd season, 8-4)
Last Year: 8-4 (Lost to Reading in Division 2 playoffs)
Key Returnees: Zach Bassett, Jr., WR/OLB 5-8, 170 lbs., Dante Torres QB/DB 5-11, 160 lbs., Jimmy Ryan QB 5-10, 160 lbs., Peter Salem, Sr., OL/DL, 6-0, 225 lbs., Tony Ngeth, Sr. RB/LB, 5-9, 170 lbs., Mike Sarault, Sr., RB/LB, 5-7, 165 lbs., Ryan Ignacio, Sr., RB/LB, 5-10, 170 lbs., Nick Dubuque, Sr., OL/DL, 5-6, 185 lbs., Anthony Metzler, Sr. , OL/DL, 5-10, 280 lbs., Mike Schiavi, Sr., OL/DL, 6-4, 275 lbs., Nick Staub, Sr., OL/DL, 6-2, 230 lbs., Tom Babaletos, Sr. OL/DL, 5-11, 250 lbs., Matt Ferrazzani, Sr., TE/LB, 6-0, 190 lbs., Ryan Schwartz, Sr. WR/DB, 5-9, 160 lbs., Shawn Butt, Sr. OL/DL, 5-11, 245 lbs.
Strengths: Experience on both the offensive and defensive line
Weaknesses: Youth in the secondary, only returning four offensive starters, untested players at the skill positions
Outlook: With so many new players on offense, Dracut will try to rely on its defense through the first few weeks of the season. It will also try to take the pressure off its new quarterback. “Early on we’ll probably lean on the run game a lot more than what we’ve done in the past,” said Houston. “I don’t know if we’ll be throwing the ball and gun-slinging it in the first couple of weeks, but we should be alright. We’ll probably look to control the clock with the run game and rely on our defense to get some big stops early, get the offense in some third-and-longs. We’re more experienced upfront on defense so we might be able to do more stuff, play more man-to-man and put some pressure on guys. That will play into our gameplan of controlling the clock and controlling the tempo. Keep the other offense off the field so we can grind it out with our offense.” They will look for balance on offense, not just in run versus pass, but also spreading the ball around through the air. If Dracut can achieve that, they will surely make noise in the MVC and stand a good chance at coming away with their fourth league title in as many years.

Silva claws No. 23 Dracut to another upset

October, 23, 2010
10/23/10
1:08
AM ET
CHELMSFORD, Mass. -- Dracut High senior Matt Silva had been leveled, smashed, kneed and elbowed all night by a gritty Chelmsford defense.

After an eight-yard run to the heart of the Lions’ defense in the fourth quarter, the quarterback took a well-deserved walk to the sidelines while favoring his ribs.

He dropped to a knee and succumbed to the pain that he had felt all night. However, after the ever-vocal quarterbacks coach Bobby Russo gave him a few words of encouragement, Silva looked up at the scoreboard and the pain seemed to evaporate.

The No. 23 Dracut Middies (5-2, 1-0 Merrimack Valley Conference - Small) were on their way to a 42-21 upset of No. 13 Chelmsford (5-2, 1-0 MVC - Large) on the road, and all the hard work the Middies had put in had paid off.

"We don’t let them get big heads," said Dracut head coach Jason Houston of his team. "We knock them down in practice all week long...but this is a good group of kids. They all work hard."

Silva led his team against a physical defense and had to earn every yard he got on the ground -- all 100 of them. The Dracut captain ran 13 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns and completed 12 of 19 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns.

His favorite target -- wide receiver Chris Malonis -- finished the game with seven catches for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Malonis also had an interception on defense.

Chelmsford keyed in on Silva all night. The Lions hit him when he had the ball, handed it off and even after he threw it -- yet Houston basically had to pry the ball from Silva’s hands when he was injured in the fourth quarter. He simply did not want to give up the reigns.

"I want the ball in my hands at all times," Silva professed about his playing style. "I’m the quarterback. If I make a mistake it's my fault, if I throw an interception it's my fault, if I get sacked it's my fault.

"I believe I have the best offensive line in the state, and they really stepped up tonight."

Chelmsford’s Tim Joy blitzed Silva frequently, but the offensive line stepped up to the task. Joy finished with 10 tackles and an interception. The interception came after he faked a blitz and creeped back into coverage while Silva was focusing on evading the Chelmsford defensive line.

The Middies had excellent line play on both sides of the ball.

Although Chelmsford’s Joe Gennaro ran the ball 10 times for 92 yards in the first half, Dracut’s defense limited him to 36 yards in the second half. Gennaro was injured coming into the week but looked fine at tailback.

As the Middies' lead grew larger in the second half, Chelmsford tried to score quickly by taking the ball to the air. Quarterback AJ Rotella completed nine of 23 passes for 109 yards with two interceptions.

The Lions also tried to find success on offense with Eddie Sheridan. The junior running back, who fits the Gennaro mould in Chelmsford’s offense, had five carries for 65 yards and one touchdown.

The two teams put on a back-and-forth battle late in the second quarter that could have been the turning point in the game.

Dracut had a 6-play drive culminate in a touchdown to take a 14-7 lead, but then let Chelmsford tied the game five plays later at 14 with four minutes, two seconds remaining in the half.

The Middies responded quickly with a 3-play drive just over a minute later, and then made it a 2-possession game after sophomore Zach Bassett intercepted Rotella on Chelmsford’s first play of the drive.

Dracut’s upset of Chelmsford came at the cost of a lot of bruises on Friday night, but after an 0-2 start to the season, the Middies will take a few bumps to get a few wins down the stretch.

NO. 23 DRACUT 42, NO. 13 CHELMSFORD 21

DRA 0 28 7 7 --- 42
CHE 7 7 0 7 --- 21

First Quarter
C - Joe Gennaro 2 run (Charlie Calenda kick)

Second Quarter

D - Chris Malonis 18 catch from Matt Silva (Silva kick)
D - Silva 1 run (Silva kick)
C - Eddie Sheridan 12 run (Calenda kick)
D - Silva 41 run (Silva kick)
D - Zach Bassett 16 interception return (Silva kick)

Third Quarter
D - Malonis 86 catch from Silva (Silva kick)

Fourth Quarter
C - Gennaro 1 run (Calenda kick)
D - Malonis 27 catch from Silva (Silva kick)

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