STOUGHTON IS STRONG
At several points during his postgame interviews Friday night, Stoughton head coach Greg Burke nearly choked up. A week’s worth of emotion came bubbling to the surface.
Football is a game played and coached with toughness. While the Black Knights showed great mental toughness even showing up for Friday night’s critical Hockomock League Davenport division matchup with Foxborough, emotion was key behind their 20-0 victory.
After the tragic death of senior lineman David Wade, the Black Knights very easily could’ve packed it in, both emotionally and literally. There was some question early on whether the game, which was also Stoughton’s homecoming weekend, would be postponed.
“It was an option,” Burke said of moving the game, “but that was never going to happen.”
Instead, the Black Knights (to a man) were present for Wade’s funeral Friday morning, hustled back to attend afternoon classes and kept their nighttime obligation, running their record to 5-0 with the win over the Warriors. By extent, Stoughton now has a leg-up on the division race.
Much of the credit is due to Stoughton’s coaching staff, which somehow, some way, was able to keep their players moving in the same direction. But Friday night’s win felt like a community effort. From the gridiron club, to the student managers, to the student body, all were involved in a touching display of spirit and support for the Wade family, who were in attendance. Balancing a flood of emotions throughout the week, the Black Knights were able to maintain focus on the field and put together a complete game – a true tribute to their fallen teammate and friend.
ON THE REBOUND
Talk about the year of the rebirth.
Who among us had any of Bishop Fenwick, Sharon and/or Stoneham beginning the season 5-0?
Continuing the trend of teams which were sub-.500 last year and already matched or eclipsed their previous season’s win totals, Haverhill matched its four-win season in 2011 with a “program win” against MVC perennial power Chelmsford on Saturday.
Third-year Hillies head coach Tim O’Connor, a standout in his own day at St. John’s Prep, has seen his team make steady improvement during his first two years at the helm, but could be poised for a breakout year as the Hillies enter Week 6 at 4-1.
Haverhill brings a good array of skill position players on offense. Running out of a pistol style offense, quarterback Tommy Morgan features a big arm from the pocket, but with ability to make plays with his feet as well. The Hillies’ fulcrum is senior running back Chance Brady. Coming off a 1,600-yard, 20-touchdown campaign last year, Brady has kept pace with two games of more than 250 rushing yards in his first four games. In addition to the ground attack, Haverhill also has perhaps one of the best young receiving talents in the state in sophomore Jordan Javier. The rangy wideout hauled in the game-winning touchdown from Morgan with seven seconds remaining on Saturday, while grabbing seven receptions for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
“This was a program changer,” Morgan told correspondent Ryan Kilian after Saturday’s win. “Nobody thought we were going to win this game. For us to come out and win a game like this will make teams think twice about coming in and thinking they have a definite win.”
CAMBRIDGE -- FOR REAL, OR A FLUKE?
It all started with an email.
Like many a high school football coach, John Shea is forever scavenging for new ideas and new ripples to tweak his gameplan. One of his biggest influences is spread guru Andrew Coverdale, the noted offensive coordinator at Louisville, Ky. powerhouse Trinity High, and an expert at the quick passing game and bunch formations. And so a few years ago, the then-Middleboro coach shot off an email to rack his brain.
Coverdale offered his cell phone number in a return email, and the two eventually met up when Coverdale spoke at a coaching clinic in the Boston area. Shea admits, “I stole a lot of ideas from him.”
Fast forward to last Friday night’s contest, when two-time defending Super Bowl champ Everett came to Russell Field for each team’s Greater Boston League opener. In most years, this has been a snoozer, with the Crimson Tide usually pulling their starters in the second half. But through three quarters, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone not shocked to see the scoreboard read “Everett 36, Cambridge 30”.
“I knew we had a shot offensively,” said Shea, who previously served as Cambridge’s defensive coordinator in a stint at the turn of the Millennium. “To be honest, I was worried about the pass protection, which ultimately did us in, but we had the quarterback and receivers to do it, they really had some confidence. I thought even though the score got away from us as the end, I thought we got some big opportunities and took advantage.”
After some early struggles in the game, the Falcons hit their groove in the second and third quarters, highlighted by a spectacular diving touchdown catch from junior Elijah Scott at the back of the goal line. Everett, as has been customary this year, found a way to pull away late for a 51-30 victory.
Not that we’re ones to play up moral victories here, but it bears asking: Was this simply a fluke, or the foundations of a potentially bright future?
So far, the results have been a mixed bag. The Falcons are 2-3, mostly alternating between routing (40-6 over Arlington Catholic) and getting routed (33-6 by St. Mary’s of Lynn). But Shea continues to add ripples to his offense, a modified “Air Raid” attack similar to what you see at the University of Arkansas, tweaked with more zone run plays for the running back.
The latest ripple was last Friday, when the gameplan called for junior tight end Essah Chisholm to line up tight to either tackle and chip off the strong-side defensive end. That helped open the doors for some big gains through the air for Scott and fellow junior wideout Elijah Booker.
At the heart of the offense is junior quarterback David Maaghul, a California transplant who so far leads the state in touchdown passes (19) to just six interceptions, and has 1,510 passing yards through five games.
“[The beginning of 2011 season] he hurts his finger on his right hand and throws the whole year with a splint on,” Shea said. “We made a decision to stay with him and that it would be best for us in the long run. He has a good arm as you can see, but really the mental part is so much beyond what is expected in a high school athlete.
“He has an incredible work ethic, and goes beyond what is ever asked of a high school kid to do, and beyond that his arm has developed nicely. That’s almost a bonus, because the mental part of it I’d put ahead of most kids, really.”
Boston College has begun to express interest in the services of Maaghul and Scott, and the Falcons feature only a handful of seniors. Add Chisholm, Booker and tailback Shaquill Anderson (“Flat out the best athlete we have on the team,” Shea says) to the 2014 nucleus, and this program could do something special down the road.