Wednesday, December 11, 2013

CMass Football All-Stars and Award Winners 2013

Leominster quarterback/safety Neil O'Connor.
By Joe Parello  @HerewegoJoe

We've already gone over the banner year that was for Central Mass, but which players stood above the rest? Well, here is my best stab at answering that, with our 2013 Central Mass Football Suite Stars. Check out our complete All-Star team, and end of the season Award Winners, below.


1. Andrew Smiley, Sr. St. John's
2. Dylan Kierman, Sr. Quabbin
3. Neil O'Connor, Sr. Leominster

Smiley and Kierman have each taken aim at Central Mass records the last two years, while O'Connor ran Leominster's offense with ruthless efficiency. All are dangerous as both runner and passers, and held off Northbridge sophomore Koby Schofer and Doherty senior Luke Brennan in a competitive CMass quarterbacking season.

Running Backs

1. Mark Wright, Jr. Auburn
2. Alexander Givens-Perry, Sr. Bartlett
3. Travis Bassett, Sr. Littleton
4. Jahkari Carpenter, Jr. Doherty

Wright and Givens-Perry paced Central Mass in rushing, while Bassett's athleticism put him a cut above in Division 6. Carpenter was the unsung hero of Doherty's championship run, and will likely be the centerpiece of their offense next year.

Wide Receivers

1. Isaac Yiadom, Sr. Doherty
2. Nick Thyden, Sr. Quabbin
3. Dan Henrickson, Sr. St. Peter-Marian
4. Michael McGillicuddy, Sr. St. John's
5. Liam Pickett, Sr. Oxford
6. Alfred Adarkwah, Sr. Doherty

Yiadom was the most explosive player in the state with the ball in his hands this year, while Thyden made life easy for the prolific Kierman. Henrickson may not be the tallest guy, but he became a lethal deep threat for the Guardians, while McGillicuddy lived off underneath routes and screen passes at St. John's. Pickett set a new CMass record with 64 catches, while Adarkwah made the most of his catches, hauling in 12 touchdowns on only 29 receptions.

Tight Ends/Fullbacks

1. Matt Banchs, Sr. Leominster (FB)
2. Mitch Celaj, Sr. Doherty (TE)
3. Andrew Markvenus, Sr. Auburn (FB)

Banchs was a vital part of Leominster's offense, both as a blocker, and as a receiver leaking out of the backfield on play action. Celaj played all over the formation for Doherty, but we'll list the crafty receiver and blocker as a tight end for these purposes. Markvenus led the way for CMass leading rusher Mark Wright this year, but also showed an ability to run and catch the ball himself.

Offensive Linemen

1. Will Greelish, Sr. Tackle, Auburn
2. Keenan Vella, Sr. Tackle, Leominster
3. Hunter Sallila, Sr. Guard, Fitchburg
4. Chris Lindstrom, Jr. Guard, Shepherd Hill

5. Josh Ponce de Leon, Sr. Center, Shepherd Hill
6. Tom Tabur, Sr. Guard, Northbridge 
7. Mike d'Entremont, Sr. Guard, Nashoba
8. Michael Duquette, Sr. Tackle, St. John's

Greelish's massive frame made him nearly impossible to get around for Auburn, and made him a brutal run blocker. Vella doesn't have Greelish's size, but his quick feet and toughness made him a key cog in the machine that was Leominster's offense.

Sallila was widely viewed as the best run blocker in the region, and after watching tape on him, it's hard to argue that point. The guy is a flat-out beast. Lindstrom and Ponce de Leon are both great in-line blockers, but their athleticism and ability to move around in Shepherd Hill's double wing made them special. Tabur was perhaps the only interior lineman in CMass that was Sallila's equal in terms of run blocking, and keyed the resurgence in Northbridge's ground game.

Finally, d'Entremont's athleticism and toughness made him a valuable asset for rebuilding Nashoba, and Duquette stepped up for the surging Pioneers in the playoffs, particularly in his ability to get to the next level on run plays.

Defensive Linemen

1. Raymond Sarkodieh, Sr. St. Peter-Marian
2. Ed Quill, Sr. Clinton
3. Matt Smalls, Sr. Doherty
4. Jeff DeMango, Sr. St. John's
5. Eric Peltola, Sr. Leominster

Sarkodieh was the region's premier pass rusher this year, racking up a CMass high 14.5 sacks during his senior season at SPM. Quill, meanwhile, was the lone bright spot on struggling Clinton, sacking opposing quarterbacks 11 times for the 2-9 Gaels. Smalls was simply everywhere for the Highlanders, and his ability to both push the pocket, and keep opposing athletic quarterbacks from escaping, were key for the Doherty defense.

One look at the tall, lean DeMango, and fearsome defensive end isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But the lanky and savvy DeMango used his hands better than almost anybody in the region this year, while playing the run and the pass equally well. Peltola played both inside and outside on the Leominster line, and his ability to absorb blocks allowed the athletes in the Blue Devils' back seven to roam freely.


1. Tom Rodrick, Sr. Leicester
2. Nic Wojnar, Sr. Blackstone Valley Tech
3. Alex McLaughlin, Sr. Littleton
4. Matt Jackson, Sr. Littleton
5. Frankie Chiodo, Sr. Nashoba

Rodrick was, perhaps, the best linebacker in the state, and made Leicester's defense a force nearly by himself. Wojnar turned heads with his numbers as a quarterback, but his range and open-field tackling ability made him a monster in the middle of BVT's defense. Like Wojnar, McLaughlin is probably better known for his abilities as a quarterback, but he was equally effective as the leader of Littleton's championship defense.

Speaking of that championship defense, Jackson was actually the Tigers' leading tackler, flying all over the place and making plays for one of the region's more underrated units. Finally, there's Chiodo, another bright spot for the reloading Chieftains. The smart and tough senior also excelled in the Nashoba backfield, but it's his job as Nashoba's defensive leader that gets him on our All-Star team.

Defensive Backs

1. Jarell Addo, Sr. Leominster
2. Davon Jones, Jr. St. John's
3. Camden Brown, Sr. Oakmont
4. Tyis Boykin, Sr. St. Peter-Marian
5. Ben Reiffarth, Sr. Blackstone Valley Tech

Addo, a UMass commit, was CMass' best strong safety, coming up into the box and making plays, while the explosive Jones was competing with Yiadom for the title of the region's best free safety. Brown seemed to be everywhere for Oakmont, and his knack for finding the ball (CMass leading 7 interceptions) helped keep the struggling Spartans in games early in the year.

Boykin is an undersized, but incredibly quick corner with hands so good you don't even want to try throwing his way. Reffarth is another pick artist, and his work on both sides of the ball made BVT the best Voke school team in the state.

Coach of the Year: John Andreoli, St. John's

If this were a regular season award, it would have gone to Leominster's Dave Palazzi. If it were an award for which coach's team bounced back the most, it would be Doherty's Sean Mulcahy, who won the New England Patriots Coach of the Year Award after his team came from behind in nine of 13 games to win a Division 4 State Championship.

But I'm giving it to the coach that achieved redemption this year. Andreoli came into 2013 knowing he hadn't beaten Leominster since Palazzi came to town, and you could tell he put pressure on himself to change that. After the Pioneers lost to the Blue Devils on opening night, and were upset by cross-town rival Shrewsbury, you would have thought Andreoli would doubt his Oregon-style "Blur" offense, but just the opposite happened.

Andreoli pushed the pace in his already up-tempo attack, and was rewarded with 50+ point outings in his team's first three playoff games, including a track-meet win over Leominster in the Division 2 Central final.

His gamble of playing quarterback Andrew Smiley at safety during the playoffs paid off when Smiley hauled in the game-winning interception against Springfield Central, and it just seemed that every move he made down the stretch worked out.

St. John's winning is nothing new, but Andreoli pushed all the right buttons this year, cranking his offense up, fixing a defense that struggled last season, turning Smiley loose on both sides of the ball in the playoffs, getting the most out of uber-talented athlete Davon Jones, and finding the perfect role for transfer Shane Combs.

Offensive Player of the Year: Andrew Smiley, Sr. QB, St. John's

Quabbin's Dylan Kierman rewrote the Central Mass passing records this season, but it was Smiley that elevated his play and carried his team to Gillette. Smiley's 2,400 yards and 28 touchdowns through the air would be enough for any CMass Champion quarterback to win this award, but it was his nearly 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns rushing that made him truly special.

Oh, and the fact that he saved his best performances for the Pioneers' biggest games. From the time St. John's trailed Marlboro 20-7 at halftime on October 26th, the dual-threat signal caller kicked his game into another gear. He scored three touchdowns in the second half of that game, then threw 12 touchdowns and rushed for another five in the Pioneers' four playoff games to make it to Gillette, including a redeeming win over Leominster and shocking upset of Springfield Central.

St. John's couldn't overcome Mansfield in the Division 2 Super Bowl, but no offensive player did more for their team this year in Central Mass than Andrew Smiley.

Defensive Player of the Year: Tom Rodrick, Sr. LB, Leicester

Rodrick was the definition of a "man amongst boys" this year for Leicester. The Wolverine linebacker seemed to not only tower above his opponents and teammates, but nobody in the region moved sideline-to-sideline and fought off blocks more effortlessly.

The brutally strong Rodrick proved nearly unblockable, even for the best lines in Central Mass, and his mere presence made everybody else on the Leicester defense better. The Wolverines were upset in the Division 5 Central playoffs, but not because Rodrick wasn't the best player on the field. If he sticks with his commitment to UConn, the Huskies are getting a heck of a player.

Breakout Player of the Year: Mark Wright, Jr. RB, Auburn

Auburn has become a regional powerhouse under coach Jeff Cormier by playing great defense and running the ball as well as anyone. The Rockets came up short of their goals in 2013, but junior running back Mark Wright proved they have the right guy to lead their ground game in 2014.

Wright led Central Mass in rushing, amassing over 2,100 yards, and rushing touchdowns with 25. The shifty runner did all this while averaging over eight yards per carry on a team that struggled to throw the ball.

Many were surprised that Auburn showed signs of vulnerability this year, but the Rockets were replacing 10 starters on each side of the ball, and playing underclassmen across the board. With a ton of talent in the pipeline, don't be surprised if Wright and Auburn are playing at Gillette next season.

"Show Time" Award: Isaac Yiadom, Sr. WR/S/KR, Doherty

This is an award I'm making up in honor of the first guy to win it. Isaac Yiadom, a Boston College commit who will enroll early to get a jump on things in Chestnut Hill, was easily the most electrifying player in Central Mass. Every time he touched the ball this year, whether on a run, a catch, a kickoff, or an interception, you took a breath in and said to yourself, "here we go."

There's not much else to say about the kid who calls himself "Show Time," except that he was a joy to watch, and whoever wins this award from here on out will be the most entertaining football player in Central Mass. That's something Yiadom certainly was this year, and he made Doherty's game a must-see every week.

CMass Player of the Year: Neil O'Connor, Sr. QB/S, Leominster

At the end of the day, one loss doesn't diminish an excellent season. Neil O'Connor was rightfully named Massachusetts' Gatorade Player of the Year, and I would argue that no single player in the state did more for his team than this kid.

Not only was O'Connor one of the best quarterbacks in the state, he was also a game changer at free safety, and coach Dave Palazzi even lined O'Connor up at linebacker and, occasionally, stand up defensive end. He was a model of efficiency under center, and in the three times I saw Leominster this year, I don't think I saw him miss an open field tackle on defense.

He was the one player in the region that always seemed to be in total control, and even in defeat made an impact. Rodrick was more physically imposing, Kierman put up bigger numbers, Smiley finished stronger and Yiadom was more explosive, but nobody had a better total season than Neil O'Connor.

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