Monday, August 29, 2016

Central Mass High School Football Road Trip: St. John's (Shrewsbury)

Led by senior linebacker John Fields (49), St. John's looks to be as strong as ever on defense this year.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

St. John's has been known for it's no-huddle "Blur" offense the past few years, run to perfection by multi-year starting quarterbacks Andrew Smiley and Tim Cassidy.

This year, however, the Pioneers replace nine starters on offense, including a new signal caller. That means St. John's could be a (gasp) defensive team in 2016, and that's not by default. Led by a trio of talented senior in the front seven, and a massively talented junior class, the Pioneers are poised to be one of the best defensive teams in Central Mass.

But oh yeah, they also have the pieces to again be explosive on offense.

I caught first-look at St. John's Saturday in their annual scrimmage against Brockton. For a full write-up of that scrimmage, head over to ESPN Boston. For more on what to expect from the Pioneers this year, continue below.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Central Mass High School Football Road Trip: Leominster



By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

This is the second in our series of camp previews around CMass high school football. For our preview of Shepherd Hill, click here.

Expectations are always high for the football team in Leominster, and this year is no different, with the Blue Devils returning stars at each level of their defense, and Duke commit quarterback Noah Gray on offense.

This team, however, will be looking to change Leominster's hard luck in big games the past few years.

Since coach Dave Palazzi led the Blue Devils to back-to-back Division 1 Central Super Bowl wins over rival St. John's in his first two seasons at the helm, fortune has not been on the Blue Devils' side in the postseason.

In 2013, the first year of the MIAA's new state-wide playoff format, Leominster came into the D2 Central title game widely considered to be one of the best teams in the state. Boasting a 9-0 record, nobody had even played within single-digits of Leominster. But, the Blue Devils fell victim to St. John's quarterback Andrew Smiley's finest high school game, falling 51-42 as Smiley rushed for nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns, and passed for 250 yards and another three scores.

The following year, Leominster fell victim to Fitchburg's magical run to a D2 Central title, falling 7-0 in one of Central MA's most emotional games in recent memory. Then, last season, the Blue Devils lost a 35-30 thriller to St. John's in the district semifinals.

This year the MIAA has realigned football once again, and Leominster finds itself among familiar foes in Division 2 Central. Hard luck aside, the Blue Devils have the talent, and experience, to make it to Gillette Stadium for the D2 state championship game this year.

Here's what you need to know about Leominster.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Central Mass High School Football Road Trip: Shepherd Hill



By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

From now until the Massachusetts high school football season begins on September 9th, I'll be no the road checking out some of the most promising teams in Central Mass.

We begin today with the Shepherd Hill Rams, a team that enters 2016 with lofty expectations after an eventful 2015. The Rams didn't qualify for the postseason last year, thanks to a slow start against a brutal early slate, but rebounded to play some of their best football late, and built the foundation for this year behind a newly expanded offense and defense.

Add in the fact that Shepherd Hill received a transfer from All-State running back Kevin Mensah, to go with its already loaded offense, and hopes couldn't be much higher in Dudley.

All this couldn't have come together at a better time for Shepherd Hill, as realignment has placed the Rams in the new Division 2 Central, which also happens to be the largest classification in Central Mass. How will the Rams stack up against regional powers like Leominster and St. John's? Here's our camp report.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Exceed Sports Performance & Fitness Pushing Athletes in Central Mass



By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Exceed Sports Performance & Fitness moved into a brand new and expanded facility in Westboro earlier this summer, allowing co-owners and coaches Sean Smith and Shane Davenport to expand the training they do for some of the best athletes in the area.

Exceed's client list includes a number of NFL players, college athletes, prep stars, youth athletes and weekend warriors, and it offers programs for all ages and abilities. I stopped by Exceed last week to chat with Smith, Davenport and one of their more talked about clients, All-State running back Kevin Mensah.

I do want to make it clear that this is not sponsored content or native advertising. In other words, they're not paying me for this video. I just know Exceed works with a bunch of the athletes I cover, and I think they do a great job.

Anyways, check out our video on Exceed below.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

SuiteSports Gearing Up for Football Season

Star West Boylston running back/linebacker and UMass commit Cole McCubrey
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

As you may have noticed, loyal readers, SuiteSports' content has been a bit sparse lately.

While summers are usually slower here (especially since I don't care about the Olympics or Major League Baseball), things are about to pick up in the fall as we throw a ton of pro, college and high school football coverage at you.

SuiteSports is excited to announce that we will once again be covering high school football in Central Massachusetts, with the help of some new local reporters, and will be expanding our coverage to the college ranks as I begin reporting for SB Nation, covering Boston College at BC Interruption. I'll also be covering the other three Division 1 football programs in Massachusetts (UMass, Holy Cross and Harvard) here, and as a part of a feature series on ESPN Boston.

By the way, if you're a high school or college student who would like to join our team, email me at jparello86@gmail.com. We'll show you the ropes, pay you (a little), and write you a very friendly college/recommendation letter.