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Year of the QB: Sizing up Bay State's finest signal-callers

Just call 2017 “The year of the quarterback” in Massachusetts high school football.

This year’s senior class boasts an abundance of talent under center, so here is a look at some of the top senior quarterbacks in the state this year -- using superlatives.

MOST LIKELY TO BREAK AN ALL-TIME STATE RECORD

Bobby Maimaron, Duxbury

2015 stats: 32 touchdowns passes, 2045 passing yards, 891 rushing yards, nine rushing touchdowns

Committed to: N/A

Former Natick quarterback turned Boston College wide receiver Troy Flutie's statewide touchdown passing record (112) might not be safe much longer. Headed into his senior year, the Dragons' fourth-year starting quarterback is just 31 touchdown throws away from topping 2013’s ESPNBoston Mr. Football.

With a trio of tall targets in 6-foot-4 Ryan Reagan, 6-foot-3 David Colucci and 6-foot-3 James Miele, it is pretty obvious Maimaron will be throwing the ball again. Head coach Dave Maimaron also noted running back Devin DeMeritt, another four-year varsity player, has game-changing speed and can catch.

The younger Maimaron has thrown 82 touchdowns in 29 career varsity games.

“Having a quarterback with so much game experience coming into a season is a huge plus,” coach Maimaron said. “He has total command of what we are trying to do. He can recognize what defenses are doing. The game has slowed down for him and he can see the whole field.”

Last year Maimaron threw 32 touchdown passes; he threw 34 as a sophomore. It would not take anything he has not done already to surpass Flutie’s career touchdown mark.

It is also worth noting if the Dragons make a deep playoff run, Maimaron could have two additional games to go for the record. For someone who has averaged three passing touchdowns per game over the past two seasons, it would provide a clear advantage and the opportunity to best Flutie by more than one score.

Regardless, the potential record is not Maimaron’s top priority.

“I really haven't thought much about it,” he said. “I've been lucky enough to have some great playmakers around me the past few years but at the end of the day, it's about winning. Records mean nothing if our team doesn't accomplish our ultimate goal of winning a championship.”

MOST LIKELY TO BREAK (ANOTHER) STATE SINGLE-GAME RECORD

EJ Perry IV, Andover

2015 stats: 34 passing touchdowns, 2,852 passing yards

Committed to: Boston College

It would take a year like Flutie’s senior year for Perry IV to take hold of the career touchdown passing record. He is 46 touchdowns away from his future teammate’s mark.

Even so, Perry will likely go down as, statistically speaking, one of the state’s top quarterbacks. He is the only active quarterback who holds a statewide record, having thrown for 636 yards in his team’s 49-41 loss to Central Catholic in the Division 1 North Semifinals last season.

Andover head coach EJ Perry III noted the importance of wide receiver Andrew Soucy in the record-breaking game, as he caught 16 passes for 279 yards. Coach Perry also said this past offseason, Perry IV and his primary target, Dan Gemmell (18 TD catches in 2015) worked especially hard.

With another year of development and his top target returning, Perry could be poised for even better results this fall.

“Physically, the best thing about EJ is his ability to throw the out,” coach Perry said. “That is what impressed Boston College. He can throw the out and come back at 15 yards from the pocket on a rope. Very few high school quarterbacks can do that. He has a strong arm, speed and his mental ability under center is very unique. He can read defenses better than any QB that I have coached.”

Against Central Catholic, Perry showed he can have a big game against a top team when necessary. Seeing how he did it last year, perhaps he does something to help lift his team again this year. It might be a lot to expect record numbers from him, such as seven passing touchdowns in a game (Natick's Troy Flutie, 2013; Bellingham's Ricky Santos, 2002) or eight total touchdowns in a game (Wellesley's John Fadule, 2013 -- six passing and two rushing). But Perry is not concerned with his individual numbers.

“As far as the records go, I would rather be remembered as a quarterback who wins a state title than one who threw for a lot of yards in a loss,” he said. “So that is the only thing I am focused on right now.”

BEST DUAL THREAT

Jack Barrett, Holliston

2015 Stats: 1,585 passing yards, 18 touchdowns; 917 rushing yards, 13 rushing touchdowns

Committed to: N/A

In the air and on the ground, Barrett helped lead the Panthers to their second straight Division 4 State Championship last season, a 27-6 romp over Chicopee Comprehensive at Gillette Stadium. The southpaw is in his second year under center and his third on varsity (he has been Holliston’s punter since his sophomore year). If anyone is looking for a quarterback who could rush for 1,000 yards and throw for well over 1,000 yards this season, Barrett might be the favorite.

“It is a luxury to have a quarterback that can both throw it and run it,” Holliston head coach Todd Kiley said. “It allows us to do a lot of things offensively because he does both equally as well. Jack is the complete package.

“What others outside our program don't get to see are all of the intangibles that Jack brings to this football program,” he added. “He is a great teammate, a great role model, is mentally and physically tough, extremely level-headed, makes great decisions and is a phenomenal leader. He is an easy kid to love.”

Barrett is also the lone quarterback on the list with a chance of playing at Gillette in three straight seasons.

BEST BUILD

Connor Degenhardt, Westford Academy

2015 Stats: 15 passing touchdowns, 1,600 passing yards, 63.2 completion percentage, six rushing touchdowns

Committed to: Holy Cross

Look at Degenhardt and you will see a football player. At 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds, it is easy to see what Holy Cross liked about him. As his Westford Academy head coach Adam Gagne put it, he passes the visual test from college football scouts -- especially with the potential to put on weight.

Headed into his third year as Westford Academy’s starter, size has always been one of Degenhardt’s best assets. As a sophomore, he was already 6-foot-4. But Gagne only sees Degenhardt’s build as a bonus.

“He’s had a tremendous impact on the program for the last several years in which he has continued to be a leader on and off the field,” he said. “It’s a comforting feeling when your best players are your hardest workers, and he fits that mold. Not only is he one of the best players on our team -- one of the best players in the state -- but day in and day out, he’s one of the hardest workers.”

BEST FOLLOW-UP ACT

Jordan McAfee, Everett

2015 Stats: Six passing touchdowns, 849 passing yards, 52.5 completion percentage, 107 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns

Committed to: UConn

Before there was Troy Flutie, there was Jonathan DiBiaso. The 2011 Mr. Football winner briefly held both the career touchdown passing (103) and passing yard (7,052) records. And just a few years after DiBiaso, Everett has another top-tier quarterback in McAfee.

As a sophomore, the UConn commit garnered notice as he helped lead his team to a Division One State Championship appearance, albeit they fell to Xaverian, 38-29. McAfee missed much of last season with mononucleosis as his team finished 5-5.

With the 6-foot-4 215-pound quarterback healthy, they were able to make a playoff push. Entering the Division 1 North bracket a No. 8 seed, McAfee helped Everett upset top-seeded St. John’s Prep, 14-7, and No. 4 seed Peabody, 18-14, before falling to No. 2 Central Catholic, 33-14, in the Division 1 North Sectional Final.

While McAfee’s career stats won’t match up with DiBiaso’s, few teams have multiple Division 1 recruits in such a short span (DiBiaso, now at Tufts, originally went to Dartmouth. Also worth noting: 2014 Everett grad and former quarterback Pat Long is a walk-on at Bryant this season).

BEST TWO-WAY PLAYER

Tank Walker, Springfield Central

2015 Stats: 1,424 passing yards, 12 touchdowns; 399 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns

Committed to: N/A

For a quarterback to play defense, coaches need the reward to outweigh the risk. Springfield Central head coach Valdamar Brower acknowledges his starting quarterback might be the best in Western Massachusetts, so playing him both ways is a risk. But the reason why he is willing to play Walker both ways is simple.

“I think he is a better defensive player,” he said. “Tank is a great athlete.”

Brower said every school who has shown interest in Walker -- including Division 1 FBS and FCS programs -- is looking at him as a defensive back.

Walker, who had a pair of interceptions and 33 tackles at corner last year, did not receive a chance under center until last year as he was stuck behind Cody Williams (Monmouth’s starting quarterback) and Aaron Williams (now at Monroe College).

Walker’s speed makes one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the state. But how many quarterbacks can also say they are one of the top defensive players? Not many.

MOST ATHLETIC RECRUIT

Noah Gray, Leominster

2015 Stats: 1,707 passing yards, 21 passing touchdowns, 447 rushing yards, two touchdown receptions

Committed to: Duke

Gray's days under center might have an expiration date: this year. At this point next year, Leominster quarterback Noah Gray expects to be at Duke -- as a tight end. Once a Blue Devil, always a Blue Devil.

The third-year starter has established himself as one of Central Mass.’ top quarterbacks in recent times. And while there was Division 1 interest in him as a quarterback, his size (6-foot-5 and 230 pounds) and athleticism gave some college coaches another idea.

For now, his focus is playing quarterback one last year before leaving the position for good. And Leominster hopes to capitalize on one last year of Gray. Despite being the No. 2 seed last year and the top seed in 2014, Leominster has yet to win a Division 2 Central bracket with Gray under center.