It was another wild weekend state-wide. Here's what we've made of it...
PLYMOUTH NORTH TIGHTENING ITS GRIP ON ACL RACE
So after all these years, does Marshfield standing right in the thick of the Atlantic Coast League race at 4-4 still qualify as a "pleasant surprise"? The Rams, to what should be no one's surprise, have crawled back into the discussion after knocking off Falmouth last Friday to stand at 3-1 in the league. But with the shutout loss to Plymouth North two weeks ago, the Rams will have to hope to take care of business and get Dennis-Yarmouth to upset North in two weeks, creating a three-way tie.
Based on recent performances, that's going to be an uphill battle. The Eagles don't have a whole lot of tricks in their bag, just straight-line, grind-it-out North-South running from a stable of backs led by Matt Walsh; yet every week, it continues to work. North hung 33 points on a young but fast Barnstable defense last Saturday, and gave the Red Raiders a good dry run on what they'll expect this Friday from Bridgewater-Raynham, which could decide the Old Colony League.
"This is a perfect warmup for Bridgewater," Barnstable head coach Doug Crook told ESPNBoston's Brendan Hall. "I mean, this is what B-R is gonna do. They're gonna try to be a possession team next week, try to run that clock off. We watched them last night (Friday, a 20-6 B-R win over Dartmouth), and we're ready. We've been preparing for this moment all season long."
B-R, by the way, is two weeks removed from knocking off state powerhouse Xaverian, and a month from taking a 20-7 loss at home to the Eagles.
TVL TOURNEY IS GOING TO BE ANYONE'S GUESS
Holliston earned the top seed for the opening round of the Tri-Valley League tournament, which begins this Friday at Westwood High with the Panthers facing their Thanksgiving rival Westwood. But with the top four seeds all beating up on each other, anything seems possible.
In their seven wins, the top-seeded Panthers have averaged nearly 50 points a game, which would suggest dominance all around. But in their battle with Medway, the Mustangs controlled the line of scrimmage and put the clamps on their spread offense. Meanwhile, Norton took down Medway in the season's opening weekend and Medway took care of Westwood this past weekend as did Norton last month. The sure thing says to go with Holliston, but nothing's going to be shocking in this one.
Now, before everyone jumps on us for saying this, this next statement is going to come with a disclaimer.
So ready yourselves, here it comes … (Ahem.)
Several teams in Eastern Massachusetts just started their football schedules this past weekend.
I know. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But hear us out.
When looking at the Catholic Conference and Old Colony League schedules, several of those respective league’s teams just started playing for real in Week 8. That’s not to say that their previous six to seven contests didn’t matter. Sure, they all count as legitimate games in the standings and not take anything away from what those teams may or may not have accomplished during that stretch, but there’s no denying for teams such as No. 8 St. John’s Prep and No. 20 Bridgewater-Raynham that they’ve only just begun.
Even though the Eagles had three losses entering Saturday’s Catholic Conference opener versus Catholic Memorial, in the minds of Prep’s players, they’ve got a big “W” where it counts.
“Our season really just started today,” running back Tyler Coppola said after the Eagles’ 42-29 win. “We look at as there being a tournament inside of our season with all of our conference games.”
On Friday evening, B-R kicked off its slate of OCL games with a 20-6 win over Dartmouth, setting up this weekend’s anticipated matchup with Barnstable.
If the upside (if there is one) to playing in a five-team conference, such as the Catholic, or a four-team league, like the OCL, is having a greater amount of time to prepare for the games which have a real impact on postseasons berths, then the downside is that each and every one of those games within their respective divisions carry a much greater weight.
“As I said to our kids before the game, every game in our league is the league championship,” St. John’s Prep head coach Jim O’Leary told Scott Barboza.
Which also means, it’s all that much more difficult when a team is on the down side of one those aforementioned league battles.
“It was a typical Catholic Conference game and everybody’s going to battle till the very end, regardless of the score or what the clock says,” Catholic Memorial head coach Alex Campea said following Saturday’s game in Danvers. “That’s because these games are so important to us. When you only have so few conference games as we have, you only have so many chances.”
HOCKOMOCK BATTLE ROYALE
What else can be said about Friday night’s instant classic between Mansfield and North Attleborough in this year’s (de facto) Hockomock League championship game?
Well, here’s a couple more nuggets to dust off from the game:
The Red Rocketeers drew themselves within two points with 2:07 remaining in the game thanks to a little trickery. Dan Johnson received a handoff from Paul McCarthy and rolled left on a halfback option play. Johnson found Ryan Flannery in the end zone for the touchdown. With Flannery falling backward, the talented receiver, who is ranked fourth in the senior class and considering a couple of Ivy Leagues, made a spectacular catch, tipping the ball to himself for the score.
What might have been more intriguing about Johnson’s touchdown pass was that Mansfield head coach Mike Redding saw it coming all along. “We’d talked about Donny’s [Johnson] son throwing, [but] we though he was right-handed. He’s actually left-handed, so going left and throwing, we covered him pretty well, but it was a great catch by Flannery.” It’s no mistaking that the Hornets and Red Rocketeers have gotten to know each other pretty well through their history, but there’s not much hiding to do between Redding and North Attleborough boss Don Johnson. The coaches played together at North and through college at Holy Cross. “We’ve had that play in our pocket for a little while and were waiting for the right time to pull it out. Both teams know each other so well that you’ve got to mix it up somehow.”
Flannery’s 7-yard score set up the game’s penultimate play, a two-point conversion play that would have tied the game at 17. Although the Hornets added a late touchdown, linebacker Joe Oram’s stop in the backfield on the lynchpin play was the crowning point of a hard-nosed defensive effort that was led by Kyle McGuire on the defensive line and linebacker Ted Ferreira (who also plucked an interception earlier in the game). “[The game] was what it was billed to be, just a great back-and-forth game with two unbelievable teams,” Redding said. “We’re lucky to win. Either team could have had it. I think the fans got their money’s worth. This was a classic.”
HEAD OF THE CLASS
VALVOLINE PEAK PERFORMER OF THE WEEK: JORDAN SHAIRS, SR. RB, GLOUCESTER
The Fishermen have proven capable of scoring no matter who's in the backfield, but Shairs' remarkable performance in their 50-29 win over Lynn English last Friday was especially encouraging. He racked up 247 yards rushing in the win, including a school-record six touchdowns.
Stephen Adams, Sr. RB, Bedford - Adams improved the Buccaneers to 4-0 at home with his performance in their 22-13 win over Tyngsborough. He carried the ball 38 times for 219 yards and a score in the win.
Taariq Allen, Sr. WR/S, Rivers - Allen, who earlier in the week committed to Nebraska, put on quite the show for the Red Wings in their 49-29 win over St. Mark's. He took over running back duties after Ben Patrick went down, and finished with 188 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. He also caught three passes for 88 yards and two more scores, blocked a punt, recorded a sack, and made two interceptions.
Cal Carroll, Sr. QB, Methuen - In the Rangers' 48-28 win over Tewksbury, Carroll carried the ball 21 times for 98 yards and five touchdowns, and also threw for 158 yards on 4 of 10 passing.
Andrew Coke, Jr. RB, Andover - Of all the impressive stats from the Warriors' 46-19 shocker over Dracut, Coke's statline stands out the most: 26 carries for 201 yards and three touchdowns, 2 of 2 passing for 67 yards and another touchdown.
Tyler Coppola, Sr. RB, St. John's Prep - The speedster ran for 246 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles' 42-29 shootout win over Catholic Memorial.
James Burke, Jr. WR/DB, Duxbury - Burke, who is committed to Penn State for lacrosse, racked up 17 tackles and had the game-clinching pick-six in the Green Dragons' 14-3 win over Silver Lake.
Isaiah Jones, Sr. RB, Mahar - In the Senators' 40-6 win over Mohawk Trail Regional, Jones torched the defense for 294 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Nick LaSpada, Jr. QB, Billerica - Video game numbers are becoming routine for the all-everything quarterback. He had 200 yards passing and 140 yards rushing, including a rushing touchdown, in a 14-0 win over Lowell.
Mike Ozzella, Sr. RB, Medway - Ozzella ran for 235 yards and four touchdowns in the Mustangs' 30-16 win over Westwood.
Will Quigley, Jr. RB, Marblehead - Quigley carried 18 times for 278 yards, including an 87-yard touchdown run, in the Magicians' 28-12 win over Danvers.
Ben Shelton, Sr. QB, Wayland - In the Warriors' 35-0 win over Arlington, Shelton torched the Spy Ponders through the air for 299 yards on 7 of 10 passing and three touchdowns.
Elijah Smith, Jr. QB/DB, Hyde Park - He did it all for Hyde Park in its 26-12 win over Latin Academy. He threw for 175 yards and three scores, ran for 65 yards, and came up with two interceptions, including a 92-yard pick six.
Jesse Wilkins, Sr. RB, North Shore - Wilkins carried 28 times for 230 yards and three scores in the Bulldogs' 32-12 win over Mystic Valley.