Boston High School: Zach Hume

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)

Recap: No. 8 Nashoba 33, No. 24 Holy Name 8

September, 29, 2012
BOLTON, Mass. -– Nashoba running back John Ojukwu was a man on a mission on Friday night as the senior scored all five of the Chieftain’s touchdowns in a 33-8 victory over Holy Name (2-2).

"It was a great team performance and an outstanding individual one, obviously, for John Ojukwu," Nashoba head coach Ken Tucker said. “We just wanted to get him the ball and we did tonight, and he just did the rest.” He probably told you he had some good blocking, but there were a couple of times he did some things on his own.”

Nashoba (4-0) received an All-State effort on the evening from Ojukwu, who ran for 270 yards on only 11 carries on the evening. With Nashoba leading big at the half in their prior three wins Ojukwu had only 250 yards and six touchdowns on 17 carries coming into the game.

Holy Name also went to battle with one of the State’s top backs in senior Quron Wright. Wright did his part for the Naps as he ran for 251 yards on 32 carries and one touchdown. The meeting of two of the top backs was not lost on Ojukwu, who used the match-up as motivation for his performance.

“That made me want to work harder,” said Ojukwu of the match-up with Wright. ”I rested up my injuries and came out here ready to play.”

Ojukwu exploded for three first half touchdowns to pace the Chieftains early as they took a 20-0 lead in to the half. Ojukwu scored on runs of 15, 13 and 83 in the opening half.

“It was not all me,” Ojukwu said. “It was a team effort. I may have scored all the touchdowns but the team won.”

Nashoba did an equally impressive job defensively in the opening half as they forced two first quarter fumbles that they recovered in Holy Name territory.

“We have some very talented players on defense with Zach Hume and Jack Sarnoski,” Tucker said. “He (Sarnoski) is probably the least know, excellent linebacker in Central Massachusetts, if not the state. Frankie Chiodo also played a very good game and so did Paul Louissant. We kept rotating those guys in there. The linebackers are really the key.”

Holy Name came out of the second half with a renewed focus as they stopped Nashoba, three-and-out, on the opening drive of the half. The Naps followed that stop with a 12 play, 67-yard drive capped off by a Wright 4-yard touchdown. Wright would also add the 2-point conversuon to cut the lead to 20-8 with 2:11 remainig in the third quarter.

It would not take long for Nashoba to respond as Ojukwu busted a 57-yard touchdown run, less than a minute later, to extend the lead to 28-6 heading into the final quarter of play. After Nashoba stopped Holy Name to on a fourth down play Ojukwu would put the game to rest as he ran 55 yards for his fifth and final touchdown.

Nashoba also received a strong effort defensively from defensive back Brady Schartner, who was in on both Holy Name first quarter fumbles.

The road ahead: The Chieftains have now outscored their opponents by a total score of 160-32 in their first four games. They host Marlborough and Clinton in their next two games before hitting the road on October 20 to take on Westborough.

Holy Name will stay on the road for their next two contests against Doherty and Milford before heading home on October 20 to take on Gardner.

“Give them credit,” Tucker said of Holy Name. “They are easily the toughest team we have played this year.”

Nashoba defeated Holy Name in the 2011 Central Massachusetts Division 2 Super Bowl 27-0.

“I would not be surprised if we see them again,” Tucker concluded.

NAS (4-0) 14 6 6 7 --- 33
HON (2-2) 0 0 8 0 --- 8

First Quarter
N – John Ojukwu 15 run (Drew Korn kick)
N - Ojukwu 13 run (Korn kick)

Second Quarter
N - Ojukwu 83 run (kick failed)

Third Quarter
H – Quron Wright 4 run (Wright run)
N – Ojukwu 57 run (rush failed)

Fourth Quarter
N – Ojukwu 55 run (Korn kick)

Roundtable: Big surprises in first month of football

September, 26, 2012

Scott Barboza, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: I don’t know if it’s so much of a surprise, but I think we can say that Nauset football is for real and might be the front-runner for the Atlantic Coast League crown this season. While Mashpee has fallen below some preseason expectations, the Warriors 20-point win over the defending Division 4 Super Bowl champions last week was impressive. I’d absolutely put head coach Keith Kenyon on my shortlist for Coach of the Year in the early season, having completely turned that program around in his third year on the job. They’ll have another challenge this week with a trip to Cardinal Spellman, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Warriors undefeated after Week 4.

Brendan Hall, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor: I know in the preseason I predicted Nauset would win out in an Atlantic Coast League that was expected to be a toss-up this year, and through the first three weeks of the season the Warriors have looked strongest. But if you told me in the preseason the Warriors would not only break through a stout veteran Wayland defense, but also roll over Mashpee with ease, I’d have chuckled.

But that’s exactly what we’ve got here. The Warriors have been off to a dominant start to the 2012 season, outscoring the opposition 95-32, including a 34-15 thump of Mashpee last weekend. But more than the impressive statistics on defense, and more than the shroud of scouting mystery provided by its remote location (ever been to Eastham after Labor Day?), it’s the offensive gameplan that makes the Warriors such a tough –- and unpredictable –- squad.

Keith Kenyon has turned around a once-dormant program (4-46 from 2005-09) into a formidable foe, in part due to the fact Nauset is one of the few teams in New England running exclusively out of a true Single-Wing offense. We’re talking one-inch splits, unbalanced formations and even fullbacks calling the cadence.

Last year, captain and fullback Brendan Battles-Santos (also an ESPN Boston All-Stater and UConn freshman) said of Kenyon’s offense, “when he brought in the Single Wing, I thought it was the best thing in high school football. I was like, ‘This is sick’, I’m not even getting the ball and this is fun, you know?”

Heck, even Wikipedia applauds Kenyon’s application of the Single Wing at Nauset.

Last year, you had to pick your poison between the aforementioned blocking back Battles-Santos and brothers Nathan and Dylan Holmes, who shared quarterback duties. This season, Jimmy Sullivan has taken the reigns at QB, and he had his breakout last weekend against Mashpee, carrying 22 times for 205 yards. Look for him to be a continued threat as the Warriors look for their first playoff berth ever in school history.

Adam Kurkjian, ESPN Boston correspondent: Have to go with Chelmsford. It speaks to the depth of the Lions' program that they can lose as much talent and experience from a year ago and beat teams like Westford Academy and Acton-Boxboro that decisively. It remains to be seen whether or not Chelmsford will keep up this pace with the iron of the Merrimack Valley Conference Large Division, but it's a good start.

Bruce Lerch, ESPN Boston correspondent: How about Bishop Fenwick? The program hasn't had a winning season since 2007 and is off to a 3-0 start with three different types of wins. First came a solid 22-14 victory over an always tough Northeast team, then the Crusaders showed they could do the shootout thing by putting up 39 points against Pope John, and last week they showed they can do it with defense in a 14-7 triumph of Lynnfield. Rufus Rushins is finding the end zone on the ground while quarterback Nick Bona and wideout Charlie Maistrellis have a strong connection through the air. The Catholic Central Large has been the domain of Cardinal Spellman, St. Mary's and Austin Prep over the years but Fenwick looks like it may be ready to get back to challenging those teams this season.

John Botelho, Editor-in-Chief, South Shore Sports Journal: Whitman-Hanson is off to a 3-0 start with wins over Plymouth North, Marshfield and should keep getting better. The Patriot League Keenan Division is still a race for who finishes second to Duxbury until someone knocks them off. Still though, the Panthers have closed the gap, at least a little bit, and this league has to be among the best on the South Shore now with undefeated Hingham in it as well. Tom Sapienza has transitioned seamlessly from wide out to quarterback this year, and has already found a top target in Dondre James, who has caught four of his eight TD passes.

Noth Attleborough has also been a pleasant surprise so far this year. Yes, they were a team many people thought could win the Hockomock Kelley-Rex crown, but they already hold wins over Rhode Island's top team in LaSalle and they beat the defending EMass. Div. 1 Super Bowl champ in BC High. If you had North at 2-0 after those two games before the season started, you were in the minority. And they didn't just squeak by, they beat both teams by at least 20 points. Sure, they won a close call against Bishop Feehan, but that was a trap game for them coming off those two huge wins. This team has already raised the ceiling for the expectations significantly in 2012.

Talking surprises, we might as well bring up both Middleboro and Norwell here too. Both programs have struggled to be competitive in recent years, but both are currently 2-1 this year (and both are following 2-9 campaigns in 2011). Neither team has gotten to the meat of their schedule yet, but it's always nice to see teams trending upward.

The Sachems have cruised past Coyle & Cassidy and Falmouth the last two weeks. Unfortunately for them, Duxbury comes to town this Friday. Still though, a clear message would be sent if they can put on a competitive show. As of right now, they'd probably be the favorites against Silver Lake, North Quincy and Carver, and winning those three would mean finishing at at least .500 for the season.

Norwell beat Randolph and South Shore Vo-Tech the last two weeks, surrendering 12 total points along the way. They host winless Rockland on Saturday, and the Bulldogs are having trouble finding the end zone. The Clippers could find themselves 3-1 before they run into Abington and Mashpee in the next few weeks.


Barboza: Averaging nearly 17-yards-per-carry heading into Week 4 action, it’s hard to argue that any other single player in the state has contributed more to his team than Holy Name senior running back Quron Wright.

Beyond Wright, I don’t know if there’s another singular talent that has entirely joined that conversation, but there’s a couple others worth watching. Darien Fernandez is tearing up the record books for the Vikings, setting a school-record with six touchdowns in a 51-14 win over Falmouth and leading Wareham to a 3-0 record. This might be a little more outside of the box, but I defy you to find a lineman who’s been more valuable to his team in the early going than Reading tackle Matt Comerford, who’s absolutely eaten up all comers in the early season, including Brockton’s defensive line, which is no slouch in its own right. If you want to look at the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Zach Hume is poised to lead Nashoba to great heights.

Hall: At running back, Burlington’s Marcus Odiah and Quron Wright have separated themselves for contention with some impressive yardage in the early-going. Wright has amassed over 650 yards rushing on just 39 carries, while Odiah is averaging over 230 yards rushing per game. Both demonstrate exceptional top-end speed, albeit in different manners –- Odiah the long and slender build at 6-foot-1, Wright the short and compact frame that makes him difficult to spot behind the huge Holy Name linemen in the double wing.

And I mean, honestly, how can you not dig #QuronMania?

At quarterback, the competition is furious right now, with a number of players putting up impressive stats so far. St. John’s of Shrewsbury’s Andrew Smiley, Natick’s Troy Flutie, Reading’s Drew Belcher and Springfield Central’s Cody Williams, all juniors, have put up good numbers and showed resilient poise in the crunch. However, Barnstable’s Nick Peabody seems to be a cut above the quarterbacking competition right now. In just three games, he has already racked up 13 touchdown passes and over 1,000 yards of offense.

Defensively, it’s hard to ignore the impact Jon Baker has had in the middle of the field for Millis/Hopedale, and while Xaverian has struggled to a 1-2 record Maurice Hurst Jr. has had a big impact on the interior as a defensive tackle. Also look out for Nashoba linebacker Zach Hume and Reading lineman Matt Comerford, two leaders on two of the state’s stingiest defenses.

Kurkjian: It's still very early, but it's hard to go against Holy Name's Quron Wright. Through three games, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, he is averaging almost 17 yards per carry and has scored 10 touchdowns. Those are incredible numbers, regardless of the opponent, and expect them to continue.

Bruce Lerch: Burlington's Marcus Odiah has a staggering 705 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in just three games for an average of 235 per. Already the program's career rushing leader with 3,551 yards, Odiah could surpass the 4,000-yard milestone within the next couple of games.

Josh Perry, ESPN Boston correspondent: There are a host of quarterbacks that are putting up incredible numbers early in the season, including Troy Flutie of Natick, Drew Belcher of Reading, and my favorite -- Nick Peabody of Barnstable. Peabody fits in perfectly with the Red Raiders attack and has that offense rolling. He leads the state with 13 touchdown passes and has been incredibly accurate, while throwing more than just about anyone else in Massachusetts. Of course, I always have a special place in my heart for teams that love to throw and score points so Barnstable is intriguing.

Alex Jette of North Attleboro is another player that I think could get more attention at a state level, if he can stay on the field for four quarters. He has all the skills - breakaway speed, quick cuts, and great hands in the passing game, but a combination of cramping and some cheap shots at the bottom of piles has taken him out of games in the second half. A good example was Week 1 against LaSalle (R.I.) where he put on a show in the first half with nearly 300 yards of offense, but then was on the field for only a couple of snaps in the second half. Hockomock League play tends to slow down offensive attacks anyway so Jette is missing chances to rack up statistics before having to face Mansfield and KP’s defenses.

Botelho: Quron Wright has put up some ridiculous stats the first three, rushing for over 600 yards already. But don't sleep on Duxbury's Jon Hurvitz either. The Dragons have pushed their state-best win streak to 29 games despite running a changed offense. With Matt O'Keefe under center and a seemingly endless repertoire of weapons at his disposal, Duxbury blew past teams with a pass-happy offense. O'Keefe is gone, but the high scoring offense remains because of what Hurvitz has done out of the backfield. The senior tailback has already rushed for 10 touchdowns and shows no signs of slowing down.

Barnstable's Nick Peabody has torched opposing defenses, leading the Red Raiders to just north of 40 points per game, and his 13 touchdown passes lead the state. We find out just how good Barnstable is this weekend when they play No. 1 Everett. If Peabody can deliver there like he has the first few weeks, Mr. Football is probably his award to lose.


Barboza: Once again, I’ll happily eat my slice of humble pie for picking the Boxers to open up the season 1-3. They’ve certainly acquitted themselves as a better team than that in their two early wins. Whether Brockton can run their Catholic Conference win streak to three games against the Prep on Friday is another question. I’m sticking by my preseason pick that the Eagles will escape Marciano with a victory in tow. However, I think the destiny of this Boxers team is more in line with the pluses than the minuses, provided they can move the ball. The Rockets utterly shut down the triple option in Week 2, creating concern of Brockton’s ability to consistently move the ball. As long as there’s no repeat performance, and Prep’s stout defense provides an ample challenge this week, Brockton will be just fine in the long run.

Hall: Either there is just something about Catholic Conference schools that bring out the best in Brockton, or the Boxers are just better than any of us have given them credit for. Based on the early returns, my inclination is the latter, and you have to like the Boxers’ chances going forward. This St. John’s Prep squad is good, but not invincible, and even perhaps a little too conservative at times if the Everett loss is any indicator.

If the Boxers win out here, their next three opponents are Fitchburg, Pinkerton (N.H.) and Durfee. Of those three, I only expect the Pinkerton game to be a toss-up -– but then again, a year ago supposedly the worst Brockton team in a decade knocked off the unstoppable juggernaut that was supposed to be the 2011 Astros.

It’s very possible we could see Brockton at 6-1 headed into Week 8’s showdown with Leominster, and let the record show I predicted a 1-3 record for the Boxers coming into September.

Kurkjian: Your guess is as good as mine. There is one thing that is for sure, however. This Brockton team is light years better than last year's version. Maybe that's not saying much because last year's team struggled so mightily, but this team is just so much better up front and there's an overall uptick in focus and leadership that recent Brockton teams have lacked.

Lerch: You have to like the strength the Boxers have shown against the Catholic Conference with both of its wins coming against BC High and Xaverian. I think this is the week where we'll be able to better answer this question, as they'll take on a St. John's Prep squad that battled Everett tooth and nail. If Brockton can continue the momentum they picked up last week, I like their chances for a strong finish.

Botelho: Well, the one thing we know about the Boxers for sure is their defense is premier. They shut out BC High, then held Reading's powerhouse offense to just 12 points before allowing 14 in the win against Xaverian last week. The bad news for Brockton is that if they can't get their offense rolling early, they have a hard time finding the end zone at all. Since the beginning of the 2011 season, Brockton has been shutout in five of their seven losses. The only time they've reached double digits and lost since last year was their game 22-15 defeat against St. John's Prep last season.

That said, even with the shutout against Reading already on their tab this season, this year's version of the offense looks more complete than last season's. I'd be shocked if this team is shutout again this year, and wouldn't be at all surprised if they don't lose another game, because they don't need many points to with the defense they've got. My guess is as the season continues to carry on, and they hammer down their Georgia Tech-style offense more, they'll become a tough team to slow down.


Barboza: This name might not be among the better known in the state in year in which, for all intents and purposes, is fairly deep at running back, but Somerset-Berkley’s Garrett Carlos has been a revelation. The senior is averaging a shade over 10 yards per carry while running for 411 yards and eight touchdowns in three weeks. After a bit of a rebuilding year last year, the Blue Raiders’ cupboard is full this year with 20 returning seniors, meaning that Nick Freitas’ team should again be in the poll position for an Eastern Athletic Conference title. And Carlos is no small part of that.

Hall: The one that sticks out in my mind is Wareham’s Darien Fernandez running roughshod over Falmouth in Week 1, running for 246 yards and six touchdowns (five in the first half). He has cooled down since then, but the kid is flat out an athlete. At 5-foot-6 and blessed with great leg strength, he is as durable as he is tough to get a good angle on. He’s already well-known on the basketball court, making our All-State Team last winter in leading the Vikings to the Division 3 Eastern Mass Final at TD Garden. But some have mused he may be a better football player, with some feelers from a few Division 1 FCS programs.

Kurkjian: Going to go with Needham's Mike Panepinto here. So far, he's been outstanding for an undefeated Needham team already owns a win over Mansfield. A tough runner, he simply doesn't go down on first contact and he's a perfect complement to a passing game that continues to get better with junior quarterback Ryan Charter.

Lerch: Needham's Mikey Panepinto is a heck of an athlete who is putting up tremendous numbers in what his probably his second-best sport, given that he's already committed to platy lacrosse at UMass. It's not so much the numbers that have surprised me with Panepinto though as much as it is the manner in which he's gotten them. He was able to get off for some big gains in two of the Rockets games but against Mansfield, he really impressed me by proving that he could also grind out the tough yardage and punch in a series of short TD runs.

Perry: Attleboro running back Malique Clark is not an unknown quantity after several explosive cameo appearances last season. He has breakout speed and the strength to carry the ball 20 times per game. The surprise is that the Attleboro offensive line has been able to create openings for him against tough defenses like Bishop Feehan and Dartmouth. Teams will be packing the box and daring junior QB Tim Walsh to beat them with his arm, but to this point it hasn’t slowed Clark down at all. The Hockomock is loaded with running backs this season, but Clark’s ability to turn a nothing play into a big gain has kept the Attleboro offense rolling and has the Bombardiers at a surprising 3-0. Hopefully, Clark’s rib injury that made him miss this weekend’s game won’t be a long-term problem.

Botelho: Darien Fernandez at Wareham, Kiivone Howard at Foxboro and Hurvitz have all exceeded expectations, but Jalen Felix has kept Everett rolling. He did it again last week against St. John's Prep, scoring a TD and rushing for 96 yards on 12 carries.


Barboza: Aside from a lot of the familiar names you’ve seen in our preseason lists, here’s a couple who have stood out to me in the first quarter season. Both Brendan and I were taken back by the performance of Barnstable center Tom Grimmer during the Red Raiders’ man-handling of Dennis-Yarmouth. He spent most of that evening riding the Dolphins’ nose guard five yards back. I’m also looking at North Attleborough’s big bookend tackles –- Sean Peters and Eric Beckwith. We talked a little bit earlier in the season about how the Red Rocketeers have historically had good speed/zone blockers, but have often lacked size. Both Peters (6-4, 240) and Beckwith (6-2, 270) bring exactly that. Although North sees plenty of pressure from the outside against traditionally strong defensive sides in King Philip and Mansfield in its Hockomock League schedule, they might be better prepared this year to deal with the outside rush than at any time in recent memory behind their pillars on the end.

Hall: I’m making a case for Holy Name’s Basit Dennis to be included in this discussion. Off the field he’s a great story, with his Liberian roots, and a great kid. On the field, at 6-foot-1 and 290 pounds, the senior has been a dominant two-way force in the interior. As talented as Quron Wright is on his own merit, a big reason for his ridiculous rushing average is the Naps’ punishing offensive line, led by Dennis at right tackle.

Brockton’s Joe Previte has been a leader at center for a revitalized Boxer offense. And don’t forget about Everett’s bookend defensive ends, Jeff Soulouque and Omar Graciano, who have taken turns applying pressure on quarterbacks and causing confusion.

Kurkjian: Reading's Matt Comerford was pretty impressive in the game against Brockton Week 2. He's strong, mobile, tough and plays with good technique. And it doesn't hurt that he's about 6-4 or 6-5 and 285 pounds.

Lerch: Regardless of who is taking the snaps in Everett or what trickery John DiBiaso uses to get the ball into the hands of those tremendous athletes, the one constant is John Montelus. The Michigan-bound senior has really solidified his standing as the state's top prospect, regardless of position, and has done it againts one of the state's toughest, early-season schedules.

Two guys to keep an eye on are Millis/Hopedale's Jon Baker and Burlington's Mike Woods. Baker is a 290-pound beast who dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage in the Mohawks rout of Norton last week and has drawn plenty of notice from big-time college programs. Woods is the left tackle and leader of the Red Devils line that has paved the way for Marcus Odiah to run for 705 yards and 10 scores and is another player catching looks from several Division 1 FBS and FCS level schools in the Northeast.


Barboza: Well, since it’s part of our Massachusetts Army National Guard Game of the Week program, I’m going to go with St. John’s Prep at Brockton. As we went over in Question 3, the onus is on Brockton to show that they are in fact the team that’s notched two, tough Catholic Conference wins in the early going. But this one will also be a litmus test for the Eagles, who played a very competitive game against No. 1 Everett. It’ll be interesting to see how Prep responds – whether they use last week as a rallying point into their later schedule or if this one presents a letdown after taking on No. 1. This certainly isn’t a game to be taken lightly and I’d expect neither team will. This will be an ole fashioned slobber-knocker on the ground.

Hall: You ask anyone in Everett, and they’ll tell you Barnstable was the hardest-hitting team they faced all season. The Red Raiders come at you with a certain level of abandon replicated by few programs, and nobody embodies this more than middle linebacker Andrew Ellis. But it’s a much different level of football in Everett than the Raiders have seen so far (Durfee, Dennis-Yarmouth, Sandwich), so this should be a great litmus test under the lights at Everett Memorial Stadium.

Kurkjian: Barnstable at Everett. Any time you have the clear-cut No. 1 team in the state going up against a quality opponent it's pretty compelling. You have to wonder just how healthy the Crimson Tide are coming off such a physical battle with St. John's Prep last week. Barnstable has been throwing the ball all over teams so far but they haven't faced a defense anywhere near the level of Everett's. Everett definitely comes in more battle-tested. Not sure how much Durfee, a rebuilding Dennis-Yarmouth and Sandwich prepare you for the best team in the state, but we will find out Friday night.

Lerch: You really can't go wrong with a loaded schedule this weekend, particularly on Friday, but it's hard to look past another Game of the Week taking place in Everett. Last week the Crimson Tide hosted No. 2 St. John's Prep, and this week, it's No. 3 Barnstable coming to town. Everett hasn't yet seen an offense capable of putting up the kind of numbers that the Raiders have been achieving (145 points through three games) but the reverse of that is true as well in that Barnstable has yet to match up against a team that has as much athleticism as the Tide.

Perry: The easy choice would be Everett versus Barnstable, but I am a sucker for history.

In Hockomock country, old rivals North Attleborough and Foxborough will meet at Ahern Middle School. For decades, the Hockomock League title came down to North, Foxboro, and Mansfield, but recently the Warriors have been hit by changing demographics within the town. Each year the Foxboro program has shrunk a little bit and now KP has replaced it at the top of the league while Oliver Ames, Stoughton, and Canton have threatened to pass them by in the small school division.

This is a Warriors team that has promise and a desire to put North in its place (this is a trend among most teams in the Hockomock). Running back Kiivone Howard has been a star with 9 touchdowns in the opening three weeks and Foxboro wants nothing more than to reestablish itself in the Hockomock pecking order. Although the game lacks playoff implications, the rivalry between the teams makes this a must win for both.

The Rocketeers certainly saw last week what an angry rival is capable of, when they struggled to put away Feehan, and I expect a reaction from them, but still can’t count out Foxboro.

Botelho: This is the easily the most exciting weekend of the season so far, and you can look all over the state and find exciting games. Out west you've Minnechaug-Longmeadow, which is always one of the game's of the year. In the central region, Holy Name and Nashboa are colliding in a Super Bowl rematch. And in Eastern Mass, it's nearly impossible to pick just one. No. 1 Everett vs No. 3 Barnstable should be a blast. No. 18 Needham plays at No. 20 Weymouth in what is essentially a league title game in September. Brockton hosts St. John's. Bob Bancroft's Pembroke team host Whitman-Hanson, the team he became a legend with (and Panthers coach Mike Driscoll captained one of Bancroft's unbeaten Super Bowl champions). East Bridgewater and Mashpee has evolved into a huge tilt in the SSL the last couple years, and the Falcons have ended the Vikings' postseason chances each of the last two years. Mansfield might have the best passing attack in either Hockomock League, and Stoughton seems to have the best pass defense, and this week we'll find out which strength is greater.

A great weekend indeed if you're a high school football fan.

ESPN Boston Mr. Football Watch List: Week 1

September, 4, 2012
This morning, we unveil our initial "Watch List" for our third annual ESPN Boston Mr. Football Award, presented annually to the state's top overall player.

Last year, Everett quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso took the award unanimously, beating out Catholic Memorial's Armani Reeves, Duxbury's Matt O'Keefe, Chelmsford's Tim Joy and Springfield Putnam's Melquawn Pinkney. In 2010, Everett wideout Matt Costello won the inaugural award after catching for 1,301 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Check back with us each Monday during the season, as we put out our weekly "Mr. Football Watch" tracking the contenders and highlight others potentiall on the rise.

The five finalists for the Mr. Football Award will be announced after Week 10 of the high school season. The winner will be announced on the Monday following the MIAA Super Bowls, and will be honored at Gillette Stadium before the Patriots' December 10 home game.

Here is the first ESPN Boston Mr. Football Watch List of the 2012 season:

Jon Baker, Jr. OL/DL, Millis/Hopedale
Dominant two-way lineman already claims offers from UMass, Boston College and UConn, and has interest from Michigan and Virginia.

Drew Belcher, Jr. QB, Reading
6-foot-4, 200-pounder one of the state's most punishing dual-threat signal-callers.

Vincent Burton, Sr. RB, Blue Hills
Randolph native has 54 rushing touchdowns since the start of 2010, more than any other active player in the state over that time.

Kenny Calaj, Sr. RB/LB, Everett
Transitioning to the Crimson Tide's feature back role, he's got plenty of sizzle, and will have the benefit of a hefty line.

Ozzy Colarusso, Sr. ATH, Weymouth
Versatile scatback plays every skill position for the Wildcats, and accumulated 17 touchdowns last season.

Sha'ki Holines, Sr. LB, Springfield Commerce
UConn-bound linebacker registered 132 tackles and six sacks last season.

Zach Hume, Sr. LB, Nashoba
Registered 122 tackles last season for the 13-0 Division 2 Super Bowl champs, and has varied Division 1 interest.

Maurice Hurst, Sr. DT, Xaverian
290-pound, Michigan-bound Canton resident is widely considered the state's best three-technique. He'll even carry the ball more, after last year's experiment with St. John's (Shrewsbury) led to 220 yards rushing.

John Montelus, Sr. OT, Everett
Notre Dame-bound road grader is considered one of the best left tackles in the Northeast, and will lead a line that among the nation's heaviest at nearly 318 pounds across.

Peter Ngobidi, Sr. DL/LB, Catholic Memorial
One of the better edge-setters around, UMass-bound defensive athlete is at least one ESPN Boston correspondent's pick as the state's best defensive lineman.

Marcus Odiah, Sr. RB, Burlington
His combination of speed and acceleration is matched by few backs in Eastern Mass.

Nick Peabody, Sr. QB, Barnstable
Led the Red Raiders to their first playoff appearance in a decade last season, in part-time duty.

Jared Taylor, Sr. RB/NG, Mashpee
Shot to the top of everyone's list after gassing Cardinal Spellman for a Gillette Stadium record 308 yards in the Division 4 Super Bowl.

Hunter Taute, Sr. RB/LB, Xaverian
Intimidating leader of the Hawks' defense, and will be a force at running back at 240 pounds.

Jonathan Thomas, Jr. RB, St. John's Prep
Already picking up Division 1 interest, poised for a breakout season in Jim O'Leary's rushing attack.

Quron Wright, Sr. RB, Holy Name
Lilliputian scatback needs 1,300 yards to surpass Emil Igwenagu's all-time rushing yards mark at the school.

With Hume, no letdown for No. 10 Nashoba

August, 28, 2012
BOLTON, Mass. -- The Nashoba Community Competition Complex is under renovation, roped off while surface improvements are made in anticipation of the upcoming athletic season.

About a hundred yards away, in the back left corner of the school grounds, the Nashoba Regional football team is practicing, undergoing a renovation of its own.

From a distance, it is hard to believe that this team, practicing in an outfield of a baseball field, amongst dirt piles and stationary backhoes, was last year’s Division 2 Central Mass Super Bowl Champion and is this year’s No. 10 team in ESPN Boston's preseason Top 25.

Most of the defense that allowed an average of 7.8 points per game, never gave up more than two touchdowns in a single game, and shut out Holy Name 27-0 in the Super Bowl is back. So is most of the offense that scored less than 20 points only twice all season, but there they are, running through plays trying to get them right.

Much like the field it plays its home games on, Nashoba looks mostly the same, but has its differences from last year. For one thing, it goes from being the proverbial hunter, to the hunted. No team in the Mid-Wach B conference will be taking Nashoba lightly, knowing full well about the explosiveness it brings on both sides of the ball.

“We just have to make sure we get better every single day,” said running back John Ojukwu. “That’s pretty much all we need to do, and not get cocky. We can’t think that teams are just going to give us games. We need to stay focused, and treat every game like it’s our last and be prepared as much as possible. Forget about last year, and just take it week by week.”

Twenty-one seniors are returning, knowing that championship feeling and the dedication it takes to get to that promised land. Complacency is a problem that has stricken many teams, whether it is caused from excessive celebrations or the expectance of victory causing them to not work as hard the second time around. The seniors are determined to not be one of those teams.

“We won’t let that happen,” said senior linebacker Zach Hume. “We talk about that a lot, about how we can’t just come back and walk through the season and take it really easy so we think we can just roll over teams. We won’t let that happen. We had a couple tough games last year, so we have to come out this year and play hard.”

The team was working out four times a week last year, in anticipation of getting back to the training camp grind once the season started. Hume, one of the anchors of the Chieftains defense, worked out with a trainer, bulking up his massive 6-foot-2, 230-pound frame. He also let teammates come over to his house to lift when they had nowhere else to go. It is seemingly small gestures like that which give a team the camaraderie it needs to win a championship.

The practice setting helps. The open, one goal post field has a grassroots feel to it. No pomp and circumstance. No recognition of what once was, and no recognition of what might be coming. Out there, with no eyes on the team but the coaches’ and their own, it is all about football.

That will be important in early September, when Nashoba will line up against Wachusett for the first of many games that will matter. It will be far removed from last year’s undefeated season, except this time, other teams will want to be the one to knock off the defending champs. With that, Nashoba will fall back on those days on the practice field behind its school, and all the repetitions, sprints, and coaching lessons that went along with it. They wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I always say to the kids it’s where everybody wants to be, so enjoy it while you’re there and take advantage of the situation and just prepare yourself,” said head coach Ken Tucker. “It’s the ultimate sign of respect if people are doing that to us. We just have to out-prepare them and outwork them, and nothing has changed. You’re not going to stay at the top unless you do those things. It’s a whole new season, last year means nothing, except everyone is gunning for us. In some ways, it’s a good feeling, because it’s where everybody wants to be. Enjoy it while you’re there because it doesn’t last forever.”

2011: 13-0 (5-0 Mid-Wach B), won Division 2 Central Mass Super Bowl
Coach: Ken Tucker (23rd season, 167-94-1 overall)
Strengths: Returning starters, Skill positions
Weaknesses: Depth
Key Returnees: John Ojukwu, Sr. RB/DB, 5-10, 175 lbs; Jack Sarnoski, Sr. QB/LB, 6-0, 215 lbs; Brady Schartner, Sr. WR/DB, 6-0, 175 lbs; Charles Phaneuf, Sr. TE/LB, 6-2, 215 lbs; Andrew Cross, Sr. RB/LB, 5-6, 175 lbs; Daniel Kennedy, Sr. WR/DB, 5-9, 170 lbs; Markiesh Harmon, Sr. RB/DB, 5-11, 165 lbs; Paul Louissaint, Sr. RB/LB, 6-1, 215 lbs; Zach Hume, Sr. FB/LB, 6-2, 230 lbs; Ethan Benjamin, Sr. T/DL, 6-4, 220 lbs; Alex Parker, Sr. T/DL, 6-2, 235 lbs; Mike Muldoon, Sr. G/LB, 6-0, 180 lbs; Wyatt Greene, Sr. G/LB, 6-1, 195 lbs; Garrett Curran, Sr. T/DL, 5-10, 205 lbs; Jack Garvey, Sr. T/DL, 6-0, 220 lbs; Jake Denaro, Sr. G/DL, 6-2, 205 lbs; Cameron Rothfuss, Sr. T/DL, 6-4, 275 lbs; Benjamin Nicholson, Sr. C/DL, 5-11, 230 lbs; Austin Cabral, Sr. WR/DB, 5-10, 165 lbs; Matthew Kelling, Sr. TE/LB, 6-3, 200 lbs; Joe Rios, Sr. TE/DL, 6-1, 215
Outlook: With over half the returning starters back from last year’s Super Bowl winning squad, it is a safe bet that Nashoba will be playing beyond Thanksgiving. It would be quite an achievement for the team to go undefeated again, given that it will be getting its opponents’ best game every Friday night. Another concern could be complacency, but by all accounts, the team has not lost the hunger and drive to repeat what it started. Tucker has coached championship teams before, so he’s well-versed in how difficult duplicating success is. There’s a leadership level both in the team and the coaching staff that seems to have Nashoba set up for continued success. Can it win a Super Bowl again? It certainly seems like it.