THE MYTH OF KENNY
By day, he's just an unassuming high school student. Come Friday night, he's a legend.
Beverly running back Kenny Pierce inspired some tall tales while racking up five touchdowns in the Panthers' come-from-behind 36-35 win over Lynn English. The hashtag #KennyPierce had Twitter abuzz on Friday night.
"I wanted to get it trending," tech savvy athletic director James Coffey said Monday at the high school.
While the myth of Pierce's performance, which was highlighted by an 81-yard touchdown return for a score, continues to grow, all the mild-mannered running back was concerned with was next week's game against Winthrop. For the returning Division 3 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl champions, it's just another test in getting back to where they want to be.
"We had everybody rooting against us last year," said Pierce of the Panthers who entered postseason play at 5-6 last season, "that just motivated us more. We just want to get back there."
SO FAR, SO CLOSE, SO UNDERRATED
Melquawn Pinkney’s performance for Putnam Friday night is the stuff of instant legend: 17 carries, 421 yards, six touchdowns.
The undersized speedster was the catalyst Friday for a Putnam squad that is quickly erasing that “underrated” moniker, coming four yards short of the state record in his eye-popping performance (Lynn English’s Brandon Guy went for 425 in a 2001 win over Swampscott).
The Beavers debut at No. 20 this week in our statewide MIAA poll, and it’s a recognition well-deserved. Some wonder if these guys are on par with Longmeadow – we’ll have to give it a few more weeks before we jump to that conclusion.
But back to Pinkney – just how underrated are these guys?
“Springfield as a whole is underrated. I guess they don’t think our players are as good or as talented, but we’ve got some good players coming out of here.”
He continued, “I went to a lot of showcases over the summer time, and I hung with the best of them.”
SHOCKING THE HOCK
Two of the state’s strongest two-tier conferences already find themselves full of twists and turns after a weekend full of surprises.
Stoughton provided the upset of the weekend when the Black Knights faced a Mansfield squad that had been averaging 33.5 points per game and promptly shut them out, 8-0. The Knights held a slim 3-0 lead headed into the fourth quarter, then tacked on a safety and last-minute field goal to preserve the shutout.
Did we see this coming? No. Were were totally shocked? As with most things, the truth lies somewhere in between. Take note of the youth on the squad, and pay attention to the secondary featuring juniors Marcus Middleton and Aaron Calixte. The latter is already known on the hardwood, ranked as one of the top junior point guards in New England; but on a whole, this is a unit that sticks out on film for its athleticism.
With King Philip off to a dominating start on defense (4.6 points per game allowed) and North Attleborough being its usual self; combined with promise from Foxborough and Oliver Ames; and the wild card that is Attleboro; this is far from the last upset. Fasten your seat belts.
If you weren't paying attention, you might not have recognized the Bridgewater-Raynahm offense in the Trojans' 28-15 win over Marshfield on Saturday.
After struggling to move the ball on the ground during their first offensive series, Trojans head coach Dan Buron made the decision to flex out hard-nosed running back Nick Schlatz out wide. Without Schlatz to key on the in backfield, B-R diversified it's approach, putting the ball in fellow running back Branden Morin's hands as well as letting quarterback Brad Deluliis make plays with his feet.
The spread look, which included four-receiver sets and some trips alignments, is a far cry from the meat and potatoes I-form rushing attack common at B-R.
“We’ve been doing it a little the last couple of years … with [Brad] Deluliis, Mike Connolly and even Billy Zolga last year, we spread it out and threw a little bit more,” Buron said. “But now what we’ve done is split Nick Schlatz out there and then we have Arcel Armstead, who’s a pretty good running back, too, on the other side, so people have to worry about them because they’re good receivers, too.”
Subtle adjustments like those have gotten the Trojan offense back on track after having a shutout thrown at them by Duxbury on opening night.
Though Buron was not without some weighty praise for the No. 2 Dragons and their swarming defense.
"That's the best defense I've ever seen," Buron said. "We were just trying to get out of there alive."
AUBURN’S O-LINE AMONG STATE’S BEST
With true Belichickian aesthetic, Auburn head coach Jeff Cormier tends to err on the side of caution when giving out praise. Compliments aren’t exactly handed out like candy on Auburn Street – and honestly, when you’ve won a state-best 40 straight games, why change?
When pressed about making it 40 straight following Friday’s 35-6 domination of St. Peter-Marian, “We’re 3-0” was the repeated theme amongst coaches and players alike. But holding back on praise for the big guys in the trenches continues to be an upwardly difficult journey.
Tell you what, we’re not afraid to say it anymore.
Auburn –- yes, Auburn, the birthplace of the modern rocket, tucked away neatly beneath the I-290 loop -– boasts one of the best offensive lines in the state. Doesn’t matter if they’re in Central Mass Division 3, or one of the power conferences in Eastern Mass. As a unit, they’re already one of the biggest around, averaging 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds across. But what separates them from some of the state’s other beefy lines is their surgery.
There’s a significant difference between outweighing your opponent at the point of attack and overpowering them, and the Rockets certainly fall into the latter. Line coach Dana Giampa deploys an aggressive zone-blocking scheme (think Shanahan-era Broncos) that his players ran to near perfection on Friday night. Star SPM defensive end Jordan Knowles found himself out of the play most of the night, after factoring significantly in the Guardians’ first two wins over Shepherd Hill and Fitchburg.
The unit of tackles Steve Domenick and Will Greelish; guards Matt Ramirez and Aaron Dyke; and center Jordan Giampa, paved the way for 462 rushing yards by the varsity, including 191 from Dan Flink.
"I think our offensive line is starting to come along, and I give a lot of credit to Dana Giampa for that, really working with those kids.” Cormier conceded after the game. “They trust in what he's teaching."
Said running back Fred Taylor, "Our line stepped up big. Everybody basically had their A-game."
Time to start taking these guys seriously.
And by the way, what’s scarier, the rushing totals reminiscent of 90’s Nebraska, or the fact that the line is entirely comprised of juniors and sophomores?