Some quick-hit thoughts from around Massachusetts as we conclude another wild Friday night of the MIAA football season:
1. Scary moment for Taunton this afternoon in its battle with King Philip, when the Tigers’ two-way lineman Cian Doherty lay motionless on the turf and was carted off the field in an ambulance. Doherty took to Twitter tonight to let everyone know he’s OK, which has to be a sigh of relief for anyone who was there to see it live. We wish Cian a healthy (and speedy) recovery.
2a.You don't schedule the Catholic Conference's big three (St. John's Prep, BC High and Xaverian) unless you think you have the horses. It is understated what gumption Red Raiders coach Chris Whidden had by dropping Durfee and Sandwich from the schedule to pick up Xaverian and BC High in back-to-back weeks, especially when you consider what they lost. They graduated 24 seniors from last year's squad, one of the best in school history, which included ESPN Boston Offensive Player of the Year Nick Peabody as well as All-Staters Andrew Ellis and Tedaro France.
When you play the big boys, you've got to take big shots, and Barnstable took two big shots at the end to win it -- first, the corner fade to Derek Estes, then the big 50-yard heave to Colby Blaize that set up Derek Pacheco's winning field goal. If you saw last week's win over BC High, you could have seen these home run calls coming. Whidden is a shrewd play-caller, knows how to exploit holes in a defense, and knows how to keep them honest.
If I'm in Division 2 South, I would hate to be the team that draws Barnstable -- which sits tied for seventh in our latest bracketology -- in the first round. It's one game, sure, but it feels like we could be on the verge of something special again with these guys.
2b. Getting trounced by D-Y 37-9 in the opening weekend of the season was apparently the best thing to happen to Barnstable. The Raiders got gassed repeatedly by D-Y's read option game, and so conditioning has been an emphasis ever since -- a typical Monday, for instance, might involve a combination of 100 up-downs and a half-dozen 100-yard sprints. The conditioning was evident tonight. Watching Estes in man coverage, it felt like he could run with his man all night.
2c. As Twitter follower Kyle Estabrooks (@kestabrooks86) points out, Barnstable is 20-2 at home since 2009. If you want to break that down even further, the Raiders have just one loss at home since Chris Whidden officially took over in 2011. Whidden joked in post-game, "It's a different world once you cross that bridge", but it definitely feels like there's some Voodoo brewing down there on West Main Street.
3. With league play underway, there were a good amount of traditional Thanksgiving rivals squaring off tonight. My first stop tonight was at Plymouth North, which was hosting Thanksgiving rival Plymouth South, and the 4 p.m. start didn't seem to matter. A capacity crowd watched South escape Romano Field with a win, and the place took on a playoff-like environment. The new playoff format is going to test the strength of traditional Thanksgiving rivalries, but if the North-South game is any indication, the good ones will be just fine.
4. That said, Friday football games are meant to be played on Friday nights. Understandably, many of these afternoon starts are related to the EEE precautions that annually envelop Southeastern Massachusetts, but if you must move a game from night to day, Saturday afternoon is a much better fit. There's just something awkward about a Friday afternoon football game.
5. Since its 31-23 loss to Everett in the opening weekend, No. 5 Springfield Central has yet to surrender a point, outscoring the opposition 98-0 over the last eight quarters. Meanwhile No. 15 Westfield hit the 300-yard mark again on the ground behind its vaunted triple option attack, beating Putnam 35-22 to give them an astounding 144 points in their first 12 quarters. The Golden Eagles and Bombers meet on Nov. 1, and it feels like that will be the game of the year in Western Mass.
6. Baton Rouge, La., prospect Dylan Moses made waves nationally earlier this week when he verbally committed to LSU as a freshman, stirring up heated debate again about the pros and cons of early offers. Personally I'm against this type of recruiting behavior, but that's beside the point here. You have to appreciate what University of Michigan men's basketball assistant coach Bacari Alexander tweeted earlier in the week about this subject:
We don't offer early because you have to date a little before marriage right? #itsAnnArbornotVegas
— Bacari Alexander (@bacari34) September 24, 2013
7. Twitter follower and local quarterbacks coach Todd Krueger made an observation tonight comparing Natick quarterback Troy Flutie to Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. It's an interesting observation, because it goes full circle. Troy naturally gets compared to his uncle Doug, a fellow Heisman winner, for his gunslinger style of play. Two weeks ago, as he prepared to take on Texas A&M, Alabama head coach Nick Saban compared Manziel to the elder Flutie.
8. Perhaps lost amidst all the hoopla about the No. 1 team in the state faltering for the fourth straight week was a very big upset in the Middlesex League, as unranked Arlington -- yes, Arlington -- took down No. 10 Reading 17-14 for the Rockets' first league loss in nearly two years. The Rockets were assumed by many to have an easy path through the league, but have been shaky to start 2013 even before tonight's upset. Kudos to John Dubzinksi Jr., who has been steadily building a quality program the last several years alongside his father and defensive coordinator, Hall of Fame former Leominster coach John Dubzinski.