EXETER, N.H. -- The first of four Under Armour Northeast 7-on-7 football tournaments commenced this morning with the North Regional, at Exeter (N.H.) High, where over three dozen squads from high schools in New Hampshire, Maine and Northern Massachusetts squared off.
Due to inclement lightning, the tournament was called in the early afternoon, with one game left in pool play, and will not be re-scheduled. Instead, what was initially supposed to be a 10-team "New England Championship" on July 30, at Bishop Fenwick High, will expand to potentially as many as two dozen; any team that had a chance at advancing from their pool in today's tournament is invited to participate in the de facto title game.
Some notes and observations from pool play of the shortened tournament:
Air Javier: Lynn English is always an intriguing program to watch, because it's never short on athletes at the skill position. And if Jordan Javier's performance today is any indicator, the Bulldogs should have a lot of fun in the preseason figuring out how to optimize their personnel.
Javier transfers into English as a junior from Haverhill High, and at 6-foot-4 and 198 pounds he is an obvious matchup problem at wide receiver. In the Bulldogs' final game of pool play, Javier lined up wide for the first offensive series and made a tight grab near the sidelines.
After that first series, Javier moved to quarterback and was impressive, demonstrating a quick release, above-average arm strength and playmaking ability when flushing out of the pocket. Utilizing interlocking square-in routes at different depths, Javier made a handful of completions to senior receiver Chris Lessard for quality gains.
His most impressive throw might have been his deep ball to junior receiver Lucas Harris early on in the game. Running a deep corner route to a first down marker some 35 yards down field, Javier let it rip with a simple flick of the wrist, a high-arching floater that dropped softly into the bread basket as Harris planted and turned 45 degrees northeast, his feet coming along for the ride as he fell just over the marker.
Simply put, Javier can make the difficult look effortless. English will have an interesting time figuring out what to do with the quarterback spot -- Harris and Lessard also split time at the position last season -- and obviously it's a whole different look when the pads are on. But the Bulldogs should have fun figuring themselves out in August.
Juniors on the rise for Prep: St. John's Prep was without Maryland-bound running back Johnathan Thomas, the state's No. 1 Class of 2014 prospect, who was having minor cosmetic surgery on his right temple. He might have been missed, as the Eagles dropped their first contest and was trailing by two scores to Winnacunnet (N.H.) when play was halted.
That said, two juniors impressed for the defending Division 1 Super Bowl champs, who could potentially enter the preseason as the top-ranked team in Massachusetts. Wide receiver Owen Rocket excelled in the open field, running great routes and making tight catches in traffic.
Folks over on Spring St. are excited about the potential of tight end Jake Burt as well. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Lynnfield resident didn't see a lot of time behind All-Conference tight end Anthony Bongiorno last year, but expect him to be an integral part of the offense this season. With a powerful frame that still has some maturing to do, he is an ideal player for these 7-on-7 type tournaments, able to box out his defender in goal line situations.
Hillies have some promise: It's going to be tough for Haverhill to replace quarterback Tommy Morgan and running back Chance Brady from last year's dynamic record-setting offense, but there are some pieces in place to potentially have another good season.
The Hillies went 3-0 in their pool before play stopped, and senior Shane Finn made some good throws at quarterback. Utilizing a pistol set with trips and 2x2 formations, Finn made some quality reads and while he may need to improve his arm strength, had a few frozen ropes deep for scores.
On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Michael Kwegyir-Attah will be one of the more interesting prospects to watch in the Merrimack Valley Conference this season. Originally hailing from Ghana, last year was Attah's first year ever playing organized football. Still, his junior highlight film is impressive, filling gaps adequately in run support and squaring up well at the point of attack.
At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Attah is a tweener prospect, getting varying amounts of interest from FCS programs such as New Hampshire and Albany. He has long arms, and in pass coverage today he used them well, delivering a good punch in press coverage and staying in front of his man, though he did give up a touchdown.
Warriors roll: Winnacunnet was among the more impressive looking squads from the Granite State today. Quarterback Ing Hao Veasna, he of the heroics in last year's run to the Warriors' first state championship in 12 years, proved his mettle and is set for another terrific season.
Meanwhile, senior wideout/safety Alec Boucher, who caught a handful of nice balls against Prep, should be in for a bigger campaign this fall. Standing 6-foot-1 with a 6-foot-4 wingspan, and also a basketball star during the winter, he is another tweener prospect who is getting looks from UNH, Fordham, Assumption and Merrimack. If there's anything that speaks to his athleticism, it's this: Last spring, he picked up a third sport -- track and field -- for the first time in his life, and finished third in New Hampshire in the high jump.