MANSFIELD, Mass. -- Last year, Mansfield rag-dolled BC High in a scrimmage in Dorchester, as Jamel Marshall, George Busharis and Jeff Hill put on an offensive clinic against the Eagles at Viola Stadium.
On Tuesday, the Eagles returned the favor, but it was not as one-sided. Still, BC High looked pretty impressive, as starting running back Preston Cooper and both starting junior tackles -- returning starter Jack McDonald and Pat Connolly -- were in attendance but not suited up, nursing minor injuries.
It was fairly obvious, though, that BC High didn’t have any depth issues.
“They are big, strong, physical,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding of the Eagles. “I think the difference is this year, they’re big and physical and they just seem better at all the skill positions. Their quarterback’s a little better; Cooper’s a little better; their wideouts are taller, a little faster...”
He was then interrupted and told that the player who housed a 55-yard toss to the left sideline was actually backup Deontae Ramey-Doe.
“Oh, (Cooper) didn’t play?" he said. "I thought it was him. OK. They just got nice skill kids everywhere. The height that we kind of wish we had -- they all seem like they’re 6-1, 6-2, they can run and they’ve got the big horses up front. They’ll be tough to defend the way pound you and then play-action. The quarterback’s very poised. They’re getting a lot of hype, and rightfully so. They’ve got a nice package.
“But I think we held our own against a good football team. We’re making strides. It’s just building that depth a little bit. Unfortunately we can’t make the kids bigger when we go to practices. We just make them tougher, make them smarter and do the best we can with what we got.”
Cooper was a de facto coach on the field for the Eagles, and spoke about the importance of developing the depth that BC High is going to need for the schedule it plays.
“I mean, everyone gave it their all," Cooper said. "Of course we have backups come in and do the job. So even if I’m hurt or I’m out or whatever like that, no one should worry. Everyone should play 100 percent and everyone did that.”
Some other thoughts...
-- Usually, BC High looks big up front, but not athletic. That is not the case this year. The linemen are leaner and quicker. It looks as if the Eagles spent as much time running in the off-season as they did lifting - which is not always how it’s been at that program.
“Offseason conditioning was a huge thing for us -- weight room, speed development, particularly for our linemen,” said BC High coach Jon Bartlett. “We need quicker, faster, stronger linemen. Hopefully that will continue as the season goes along.”
One player in particular who has slimmed down and increased his speed is senior tight end and Temple commit Jameson McShea. Although the coaches have slid him down to defensive tackle, he’s lighter on his feet and more nimble. The defensive line as a whole is still a strength despite the graduation of ESPNBoston All-State Obum Obukwelu (Harvard).
-- Speaking of the former Eagle defensive tackle, don’t be surprised to see senior Oderah Obukwelu sneak into the lineup at some point in the season. A basketball player who didn’t come out for football until this year, the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder made a number of plays in the backfield at defensive end. The BC High staff wishes it could have had him sooner. But there’s another one in the pipeline. Eighth-grader “Mookie” Obukwelu is built more in the mold of Nnamdi, also at Harvard and the oldest of the brothers, who led the 2008 team to a Division 1 Super Bowl.
-- Redding wasn’t kidding about the speed and size at the skill positions for BC High. Seniors Gordon McLeod, Tom Lomenzo, junior Lincoln Collins are all tall, fast players with good hands that make nice plays after the catch. The Eagles are three-deep at quarterback with returning starter Bartley Regan, junior Brendan Craven and running threat Richard Roach.
-- As for Mansfield, the Hornets are trying to build some depth as well. They just don’t have as much of it as BC High.
“We’ve got three or four guys going both ways and what we’re trying to do is get answers for getting everybody going one way,” Redding said. “We’d like to get to the (Carrier) Dome (in the opener against Syracuse’s Christian Brothers Academy) with 22 starters because it’s 12-minute quarters up there. And they’re going to do some no-huddle, we’re going to do some no-huddle. The more one-way we go, the better. So we’re trying to build some depth here in the preseason.”
-- Still, Mansfield has some nice pieces to work with offensively. Quarterback George Busharis has another year of experience under his belt and tossed a nice middle screen over the trees to senior Blayne Taylor, who motored downfield for a long touchdown on the first series.
“I think the idea with Greg (Donahue) and Blayne is to get the ball in the open field,” Redding said. “We’re not going to line up and run iso and pound people but I think our fullbacks can keep people honest inside. And I think with Blayne, it’s whether it’s toss or screen or passes, he’s going to make something happen like Greg. We just want to get the ball to those guys in space.”
-- Mansfield didn’t give up too much in between the tackles. Defensive ends Nick Chiocco and Brent Doherty and junior defensive tackles James Comer and Ryan Galanti combined with linebackers Dylan Finerty, Derrion Walker, Nick Leonard and Zack Schafer to form a stout group in the 4-4 scheme.