WORCESTER, Mass. -- The campus of Assumption College was the setting for the first-ever meeting between two all-postgraduate prep school programs, perennial Bridgton Academy of Bridgton, Maine, and brand-new upstart East Coast Prep of Great Barrington.
East Coast rallied to take down the Wolverines, 28-17, highlighted by a go-ahead touchdown catch from Manchester (Conn.) product Ashton Grant in the fourth quarter. A number of local Bay State products made some good impressions on the drizzly afternoon:
Bridgton: Prince Unaegbu, TE, 6-5, 222 lbs. (Brighton HS)
Lost amidst all the talk last winter of his physicality and rebounding ability on the basketball court was his ability on the gridiron, one of the most explosive two-way edge players across Eastern Mass playing in the low-tier Boston City League. He has put on some strength and improved his hand skills and pass-blocking technique; at times was explosive, totaling three catches for roughly 50 yards lining up at both slot receiver and tight end.
While admitting there is still a ways to go, Bridgton head coach Chad Walker made a lofty declaration on Unaegbu’s projectability.
“He’s going to continue to develop. To be honest, whoever takes a chance on him could get a stud someday,” Walker said. “The kid is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around, does everything you ask him to do. The sky is the limit for him. If he keeps working, gets in the right program, I would not be shocked if you see him on Sundays, to be honest with you. He’s that raw, but he’s that athletic.
“You just watch his explosiveness. Again, how far he’s come from day one to where he is now, it’s remarkable.”
When Unaegbu initially made his declaration to attend Bridgton last summer, there was talk of him eventually joining his cousin, former ESPN Boston All-State defensive end Peter Ngobidi, at UMass in the long-term. But other interest has sprouted from the FCS down to Division 2, from Rhode Island to New Hampshire down to many of the Northeast-10 Conference schools.
Bridgton: Malik Lee, RB, 6-1, 245 lbs. (Mashpee HS)
In terms of producing college-bound talent, Mashpee is quietly becoming one of the strongest small-school programs in Massachusetts, having sent Kevin Byrne, Zak Orcutt and Jordan Keli’inui to Division 1 FBS programs over the last several years. The next could be Lee, who has put on significant bulk over the last year, and hits the hole noticeably quicker and with more authority. He also excelled as a blocking fullback in several series, which included a few pancakes on lead blocks.
“His quickness is there, he’s starting to get more north and south,” Walker said. “The biggest thing we work with him [is] the ability to carry the ball but also his ability to get his shoulders downhill now rather than running east and west, which he got away with in high school. Now with the faster game, speed difference, him getting north and south and downhill is what we’ve worked on it. “
Savannah State is scheduled to visit Lee on the Bridgton campus tomorrow, among a scattering of Division 1 and Division 2 interest. With eligibility still a concern, a year of residency at college could be needed before Lee can set foot on the field.
Bridgton: Nate Chrzanowski, OL, 6-4, 311 lbs. (Mashpee HS)
Another projectable product from the Mid-Cape region, Chrzanowski demonstrated a good motor and finishing abillity as an interior offensive lineman in the running game. He’ll have to work on his balance, but his size alone is intriguing. Chrzanowski visited the University of Maine this past weekend, and has seen a smattering of interest from the Mid-American Conference down to Division 2.
Bridgton: Jhalen Bien-Aime, RB/DB, 5-9, 165 lbs. (Boston Latin HS)
Initially a cornerback, the Wolverines moved him to tailback midway through the fall season and have been pretty happy with the results. For such a small, compact frame, the coaching staff is unafraid to run him between the tackles.
“He’s got some power, some ability to make guys miss in the hole,” Walker said. “There’s a kid you can split out and roll him the ball. He is a great athlete, a kid with a big upside when he gets into a college program. I think he’s probably gonna end up at the Division 2 level, but again he’s just a kid that I think is going to excel in a program and give someone a great skill level on the offensive side of the ball.”
Bridgton: John Strezo, DE, 6-5, 210 lbs. (Arlington Catholic HS)
Walker doesn’t hesitate to call Strezo, a Burlington resident, one of the program’s most overlooked assets.
“John Strezo is probably our most underrated player,” he said. “A little stiff, which is going to come with character, he gets better week in and week out. He’s one of our better football players, a kid who’s going to give it all you have. Broad shoulders, he’s 6-6, big upside, because he’s going to keep getting better and better. He’s probably one of our most under-recruiting and underrated players at this point.”
A number of Northeast-10 schools, including Assumption, Stonehill and Bentley, have shown interest to this point.
East Coast: Jordan Fiske, TE/DE, 6-3, 225 lbs. (Wahconah HS)
When we last heard from Fiske, he was helping lead the Warriors to the MIAA Division 2 West Super Bowl, last December at Gillette Stadium. UMass has been the most desired school for Fiske, and he could potentially try to walk-on to the Minutemen’s program.
His catching ability has improved this fall, and he made a terrific snag coming across the middle on a slant in the third quarter. But his best asset, according to offensive coordinator Todd Tinker, might be his motor.
“He’s an everyday workhorse kind of player that you love to see, especially coming from a small school in Berkshire County that isn’t known for football,” Tinker said. “He’s not exactly a dime a dozen from there. His best development, it’s his commitment to wanting to be better, if I can say that. Everyone kind of fluffed him off, because of where he came from, and I think he took that to heart.”