DUXBURY, Mass. -- In a battle of two teams in the top five of ESPNBoston's preseason poll, No. 4 Catholic Memorial traveled to No. 2 Duxbury this morning in a highly-anticipated game scrimmage.
By virtue of two quick scores, CM took the first quarter. First, Penn State-bound middle linebacker Camren Williams intercepted a bullet over the middle, taking it 60 yards to the house. The ensuing kickoff was misplayed by Duxbury, giving the Knights the ball again at the Duxbury 30. CM marched down the field, aided by a late hit call on Penn State-bound athlete Armani Reeves; 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior Peter Ngobidi punched it in on a dive from two yards out.
Early on, perhaps in part to communication errors, Duxbury's offense was working out kinks. But as the game progressed, things loosened up. The Green Dragons notched their only score in the third quarter, when Andrew Buron took an eight-yard hitch route, shook his man in single coverage and scampered 40 yards down the left sideline.
Overall, it was an evenly-played matchup, with neither team able to get much of a drive going over the final three quarters.
"We're only replacing two starters on defense," Duxbury head coach Dave Maimaron said. "[But] you can tell that our offense isn't nearly where it needs to be in getting ready for B-R next Friday. So we have a lot of work to do on the offensive side of the ball. We're just not executing. We made some mental errors. That's a little frustrating right now."
Said CM head coach Alex Campea, "Overall, we did OK, I guess that's what I'm going to say. We did some good things at good times, other times we didn't. Consistency is a thing you look for through the entire season, and right now we don't have that."
Some other thoughts from the scrimmage:
-- The amount of talent in Duxbury's lacrosse program, and how many of those Division 1 recruits are an impact in football, is one of the reasons we've been so high on the Dragons this preseason. The Dragons return nine starters on defense, including Reilly Naton (Yale) and James Burke (Penn State) at the two safety spots, and linebackers Henry Buonagurio (Drexel) Seamus Connelly (Duke) and Max Randall (Dartmouth).
From that, the Dragons boast speed all over the field, and from that run an aggressive scheme out of a 3-4 base that isn't afraid to throw an array of blitzes.
But perhaps the athletic talent is most evident in Duxbury's pass coverage. In the Division 2A Super Bowl championship season a year ago, this unit combined for 16 interceptions, led by Naton with five. That lockdown coverage was on display again this morning, forcing CM's NC State bound quarterback A.J. Doyle into some second-guessing.
Said Reeves of the Dragons defense: "It was a really good test. You know, they brought a lot blitzes, mixed a lot of [Cover] 2's and 3's in there, Cover 6's, so it was a really good test of A.J., getting a lot of looks out there. It was really good for the wide receivers, to see where the holes open up in the zones."
-- In turn, the pass coverage bought some time for the speedy edge rushers, who forced Doyle to sometimes make decisions with his feet. Between Connelly Brody Zisko and Henry Narlee (two sacks), the Dragons got consistent pressure from the outside.
"We have a bunch of athletes on our defense who can get to the quarterback," Maimaron said. "We try to put on as much pressure as we can from various spots. The defense kept us in that scrimmage today."
-- On a defense full of speed, Williams is hardly the fastest. But he took charge of the defense and showed why Reeves calls him "the backbone", making all the right calls, and demonstrated a great nose for the ball, taking good angles in pursuit and coming up with two interceptions. His first, as discussed above, was a laser over the middle that he snagged away from a receiver running a shallow drag route, jumping in front. His second came on a tipped pass deep down the left side of the field.
"[He's been] terrific. He's making plays all over the field," Campea said. "I mean, he's a terrific player, he's a terrific leader, he sees the whole field and makes plays happen."
Said Maimaron, "Their linebackers are phenomenal. That Williams kid is an amazing player, he's tough to block. We just have to get better and be able to execute."
-- CM's Boston College-bound running back/defensive back Donovan Henry was not at this morning's scrimmage, as he was attending to the wedding of a family wedding.
-- By now, Catholic Memorial's "Big Four" of Doyle, Williams, Reeves and Henry are household names in the Northeast, as are the Dragons' many athletes, including quarterback Matt O'Keefe (a Johns Hopkins lacrosse commit) and wideout Don Webber (an Ivy League recruit). But keep an eye out for 5-foot-7 sophomore speedster Khai Perry, a fire hydrant who will get reps at running back and returner. The left side of the offensive line will be in focus, too, with bulky junior left tackle Rob Kosharek (6-foot-6, 250 lbs) and senior guard Gordon Acha (6-foot-4, 255 lbs).
Some of CM's lesser-known athletes look to be in for big things this fall, including wideout/cornerback Josh Charles, running back Eddie Murray, and linebackers Kevin Bletzer and Garrett Ewanouski. On the line, 6-foot-4 tackle Tyler Loring is getting a good share of Division 1 looks, while John Schneider and Mike Lyons will also turn some heads. Ngobidi is a Division 1 prospect at defensive end, and will split time on defense in both two-point and three-point stances.