Quick-hit thoughts from the weekend’s slate of games across Massachusetts:
1. In Saturday’s recap of No. 1 Barnstable’s near-trap against Billerica, I was critical of the Red Raiders’ pass defense. But let’s give credit to Billerica coach Peter Flynn, too, for dialing up a great game plan. The Barnstable defense was giving up the underneath, and roughly 80 percent of Indians quarterback Jordan Balarinho’s passes were short hitches or shallow crosses. It’s similar to the way Leominster exploited Everett’s perimeters back in Week 1 with its’ “90 series” passing game, taking advantage of the space given underneath with quick-step drops and passes to the flats, before running out of gas.
We can chalk this up to old adage that good teams win on bad days, but this sets an interesting scene now for Friday’s monstrous tilt with Bridgewater-Raynham. The Trojans are historically typecast as a ground-and-pound team with surgical line play, and in most years it’s justified, but I feel like B-R’s passing game is underrated this year.
2. In the preseason, I picked North Attleborough as my favorite in the Hockomock League’s Kelly-Rex division, and for a few weeks there that was looking turbulent. But the return of superstar Alex Jette from injury, and the subsequent win over Mansfield, has me feeling confident in that pick again. The Kelly-Rex is still going to be anyone’s guess, and it might take a TI-83 to figure out this league championship thing (thanks, Taunton), but I think the Big Red will win out. And on a side note, perhaps thankfully, this is the last year of applied mathematics in the Hockmock.
3. When you look at the new football playoff system that will go into effect next season, one of the first thoughts is how much the Hockomock League and Merrimack Valley Conference will benefit from the extra playoff berths, as those leagues are traditionally dog-fights that come down to multiple Thanksgiving matchups to determine league champions. But how about the Greater Boston League? If you’ve heard me once, you’ve heard me contend 100 times that the GBL has talented athletes outside of Everett, which should wrap up its 18th straight league title over the next few weeks, and this plan gives the other four member schools a legitimate shot at contending for a state championship, and in turn perhaps demonstrating that underrated talent on a broader stage. As it currently stands in that league, unless you’re Everett, you’re heading into the August with the understanding your season will be ending on Thanksgiving, barring catastrophe.
4. While we’re on the topic of the GBL, keep an eye on Malden’s Franklin Huynh these last few weeks of the regular season. We’ve previously spotlighted guys like Andover’s Cam Farnham and Springfield Central’s Tejano Smith when discussing wide receivers 5-foot-7 and under who can break the game open at any moment. You can add Huynh to that list after catching six balls for 284 yards and three scores in a 42-37 win over Somerville. The 5-foot-6 senior caught slant, vertical and corner routes for touchdowns in the game (in no particular order).
5. Interesting email I received from an ISL parent about 20 minutes after Friday’s MIAA vote concluded: “How do we get them to break it into 2, 3 or 4 sub leagues and create a real championship playoff?” Anything that brings an enhanced playoff atmosphere to the ISL, I am I favor of it. The two de facto “ISL Championship” games between BB&N and Lawrence Academy in 2009 and ’10 were awesome crowds, and arguably had the undivided attention of high school football fans across the state. So again, anything that has potential to create more of these types of games, I say let’s make it happen.
6. After seeing the way Doherty hung with Nashoba on Friday night, the Highlanders are definitely a team to watch down the stretch. Luke Brennan is one of the leading passers in Central Mass., with a quality group of receivers led by Isaac Yiadom. Defensively, Noah Robinson is one of the leading tacklers in Central Mass. Doherty always has talent (see: Yawin Smallwood), but historically has come up short at crucial times. Is it possible we see the Highlanders in their first Super Bowl since 1979?
7. Congratulations to Holy Name’s Quron Wright, who surpassed Emil Igwenagu as the school’s all-time leading rusher in typically monstrous fashion, running for 407 yards and 5 touchdowns and adding a punt return for a sixth score in a 60-32 win over Algonquin. The feat also puts him tops all-time among Central Mass. career rushing leaders, and puts him into sixth place all-time in the state with 5,382. He’ll have to run at an astronomical pace to catch Cedric Washington’s sacred record of 6,688, but –- dare we ask –- at this rate, is the 6,000-yard barrier possible?
8. Mount Greylock Regional took a 20-8 loss to Wahconah last weekend, snapping its 33-game win streak and putting Duxbury in sole possession of the state’s longest active winning streak at 34. Who know when Duxbury’s streak will end, and who knows how Greylock’s competition stands up to the heavyweights across the rest of the state, but 33 wins in a row means they’re doing something right over there.
9. My choice as biggest upset of the weekend is Plymouth South’s 39-12 drubbing of Dennis-Yarmouth, led by junior Dylan Oxsen’s 301-yard, six-touchdown effort on the ground. Don’t look now, but after a 1-3 start, the Eagles are 5-3 and a perfect 3-0 in the Atlantic Coast League, tied with Nauset for first. Put those declarations of Nauset as ACL champs on hold –- the two teams meet on Nov. 9. Beyond this season, we hear some good things about South’s underclassmen going forward.