WESTWOOD, Mass. – The date doesn’t matter. Whenever Bridgewater-Raynham and Xaverian renew their ever-intensifying football rivalry – whether it be in August, like Saturday’s scrimmage, or in the regular season – there’s always a tinge of physicality.
That stuck out immediately as a smattering of Trojans and Hawks came to a head in close quarters nearly from the get-go of an exercise that was primarily a passing scrimmage. It possessed the tenor of a black-and-blue trench battle, however, with neither team able to find the end zone with regularity.
Xaverian outscored B-R, 2-1, in the nearly two-hour long scrimmage, with the Hawks’ first unit offense holding the upper hand with two passing touchdowns, while the Trojans’ second unit accounted for its lone score.
Here are some of our takeaways from a rather intense (given that the teams just began practicing in pads a few days ago) morning at the Hawk Bowl:
Choppin’ the Wood: One of the standouts on the day was Xaverian senior wide receiver/safety Damion Wood. The Coastal Carolina commit helped establish the physical tone early on defense, laying down a wallop on a B-R receiver. Wood, who’s listed at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds on Xaverian’s updated roster, looks to have bulked up in the offseason. It’s an added benefit for the Hawks, who will return nine of 11 starters from last year’s defensive corps.
Wood, who exhibited good ball skills last year in a ball-hawking secondary, is also a sure-handed tackler who carries a chip on his shoulder, befitting a player who can play up in the box.
Watch out for the big man: Is there anything Northwestern commit Joe Gaziano can’t do athletically?
While the 6-foot-4 defensive end’s future is on the gridiron, he’s a lock-down pole on the Hawks lacrosse team in the spring. But Gaziano’s palate of skills looks as though it will expand further this fall.
Gaziano was featured prominently in the Hawks’ offensive sets at tight end on Saturday. That’s nothing new, but what is is how head coach Charlie Stevenson might look to utilize him in the future. Gaziano was flexed out on several formations during the course of the scrimmage, showing a flair for the dramatic as well while making a diving catch on a crossing route at one point.
“A couple of times today we did experiment with splitting him out wide,” Stevenson said. “He did make a nice post catch. When he gets inside a cornerback, that’s a big body for that cornerback to come through. He made a nice diving catch over here on a crossing route.
“He’s a big guy who can run and catch. And, once he catches the ball, I’m not going to say he’s quick, but … Clearly, we’re going to get him more involved in our passing attack.”
Do what doesn’t come natural: Both Stevenson and Trojans head coach Dan Buron expressed the importance of Saturday’s get together in that it takes both of their teams outside of their element to a degree.
For B-R, a power-running team, that meant a diminished load for preseason All-State Brandon Gallagher and a lack of the play-action game set up off the ground game. On the flip side, Xaverian’s option game – featuring quarterback Jake Farrell’s play-making ability on foot – and running backs Noah Sorrento and Kenny Kern was all but moot.
But, for Farrell and the Hawks, Saturday proved an important building block for testing out the starter’s arm. Farrell, who missed much of hockey and baseball season with a shoulder injury, is on a “pitch count” – as Stevenson termed it – for the preseason. But for a player that’s limited in preseason snaps, Farrell looked comfortable making throws on the run, hitting timing routes and players on the run in Xaverian’s intermediate and vertical passing plays.
That all equates to a major plus for the Hawks’ incumbent starter.
“Jake’s poised and he’s throwing the ball well,” Stevenson said. “He’s chomping at the bit.”
Meanwhile, B-R senior starter Matt Clement also looked as though he’d put on some bulk in the offseason and was efficient on the Trojans’ rollout passes. Buron, who believes he has two high-grade quarterbacks in Clement, as well as also fellow senior Steve D’Emilia (who spelled Clement for a time late last season).
“He’s bigger, he’s thicker this year,” Buron said of Clement. “He’s an athlete, so we’re going to call on him to run the ball a little bit more this year.”
He continued, “We’ve got two good ones. They need to work on the fundamentals and the decision-making process, but that’s why you practice.”