Thursday, November 28, 2013

Massachusetts Thanksgiving Football Game Notes

Burncoat WR Nathan Dubay (11) grabs teammate Tyrae Sims (34) and helps him fight across the goal line in an eventful Thanksgiving Day game against Doherty.
By Joe Parello  @HerewegoJoe

Thanksgiving Day was interesting for high school football in Massachusetts this year, as the new state-wide playoff format led to 12 teams playing meaningless games a week before their respective Super Bowls. Well, they were meaningless when it came to competing for a state championship, but don't tell those kids or coaches that these games didn't matter.

Playing to Win and Injuries

By in large, teams competing for Super Bowls next week played to win their rivalry games, and thus, put their starters at risk of injury. It didn't work out for some, as D2 East champion Mansfield lost star tight end/wide receiver Brendan Hill in the first half of its game against Foxboro. The athletic 6-foot-6 Hill left the game with a knee injury, and was seen on the sideline with crutches. This would, obviously, be a huge blow if Hill is not able to play December 7th in the D2 Super Bowl against St. John's (Shrewsbury).

This info comes from the Boston Herald's fantastic reporter Bruce Lerch, who also reported that Xaverian lost a pair of two-way starters in their win over St. John's Prep, as RB/LBs Shayne Kaminski and Kenny Kern left in the first half. The Hawks will play for a D1 Super Bowl at Gillette against Central Catholic.

St. John's (Shrewsbury) had an injury scare of their own, as Mr. Football finalist quarterback Drew Smiley left the game with a shoulder injury against St. Peter-Marian.

Smiley quickly responded to several Tweets from fans and fellow CMass players (Some from SPM) that were concerned about his injury, telling them he would be good to go for the Super Bowl. So, at least on the surface, him leaving the game appears to have been a precaution.

Leominster Goes Out on a High Note

For teams that aren't playing at Gillette, Turkey Day still very much means something. Case in point, Leominster. After the Blue Devils were upset by St. John's in the D2 Central final, they had one thing on their minds: Beat Fitchburg.

Coach Dave Palazzi's group was able to do just that, as quarterback Neil O'Connor threw for four touchdown passes, and the Blue Devils blew the game open with a 30-0 run in the third quarter. Leominster came up short of their ultimate goal, and there's no doubt they had the team to achieve it, but a win in the state's fiercest rivalry game isn't a bad consolation.

Doherty and Burncoat's Strange Day

Since the three people I spoke with at Holy Cross' Fitton Field refused to let me cover the St. John's-SPM game without paying $16, I drove down the street to catch Doherty's rivalry game with Burncoat. Well, it turned out to be for the best, as I was treated to a very unique game, chalk full of drama.

Here are some notes.

-Doherty jumped up 18-0 on a first quarter run that included a rushing touchdown from senior two-way lineman Matt Smalls. The Highlanders were all smiles, but Burncoat quarterback Chris Ladou kept the Patriots within striking distance with a great pass to Nathan Dubay. Doherty's Luke Brennan appeared to put the game on ice with a 20-yard touchdown run before intermission, but the start of the second half brought some interesting developments.

With Doherty's backups in, Burncoat rattled off back-to-back touchdowns, good for 14 points, to make a game of it. The Highlanders promptly put their starters back in, but a bad snap led to a Brennan fumble, and Ladou found Jairo Baez for an eight-yard touchdown against the starting Highlander defense to give Burncoat a 30-24 lead.

Doherty would drive it down and score on a six-yard Brennan run. Brennan would scramble around and toss the game winning two-point conversion to Shawn Jackson shortly thereafter, and the Highlanders escaped with a very interesting Turkey Day win when Isaac Yiadom picked off a tipped ball on Burncoat's next drive.

-Burncoat is pretty good. Seriously, I came away very impressed with the Patriots. First of all, the competitiveness from Burncoat was evident, as running back Tyrae Sims (Burncoat's MVP for the game) and Dubay brought it every play. That attitude was exemplified on a nine-yard touchdown run by Sims, where he was stopped cold by a hoard of Highlander defenders, but he kept his legs churning, and Dubay came off his block to grab Sims and drag him into the end zone. You can see a picture of that play above, and check out the full game highlights here.

The Patriots were the second best team in Inter-High, but still only won three games this year. Gotta tell ya, from what I saw Thursday, this team has some real talent, primarily on offense. They aren't ready to play with a state title contender like Doherty yet, but the Highlanders weren't exactly a power three years ago, so why can't Burncoat turn things around in the coming seasons?

The depth isn't there to win regularly, but any team in CMass would be lucky to have guys like Dubay, Sims and Ladou on their team.

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