Thursday, December 4, 2014

Massachusetts HS Football State Championship Preview: Divisions 1-3

Xaverian enters Gillette with the state's best defense, led by linebacker Kenny Kern (45) and defensive end Joe Gaziano (97)
By Mike Uva (@mike_uva)

Editor Joe Parello got us started with previews of the Massachusetts high school football state championship games for Divisions 4-6 earlier today, and now correspondent Mike Uva breaks down Divisions 1-3.

Let's get to it!

Division 1: Xaverian (11-0) vs. Everett (9-1), 1:30 pm

Week 2 Meeting: Xaverian 21, Everett 14 (9/13/2014)

Xaverian’s Road to Gillette:  

42-0 win against Attleboro
27-0 win against Bridgewater-Raynham
24-10 win against BC High

Everett’s Road to Gillette: 

42-21 win against Malden
55-41 win against Peabody
31-24 win against St. John’s Prep

After the phenomenal game between these teams back in week two, it’s only fitting there’s an encore.

In an era of football where offense is quickly becoming king, it’s been a breath of fresh air to watch Xaverian’s defense. The Hawks may have hands down the best defense in the state, allowing only eight points per game and not surrendering more than 14 points in a game.

Their tenacity and ability to make plays becomes contagious as the game progresses. Damion Wood, Joe Gaziano, Kenny Kern, Colby Tippett and Noah Sorrento are just a few names who have led this defense. On offense, it’s the running back duo of Sorrento and Kern, which has led the Hawks to their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance.

“I think our defense has done a great job all year,” said Sorrento. "We’ve done a great job stopping the run and that starts with our defensive line. The big thing we need to do against Everett, who has play makers, is stop the pass and force three-and-outs.”

For Everett, it starts with Lukas Denis, who has done it all this season.

The Boston College commit has made plays in the secondary, at receiver, on special teams and even at quarterback. Other players to watch include quarterback Jordan McAfee and running back Nick Orekoya. McAfee’s quick release has allowed Everett to have a lot of success through the screen game, a facet of their game the Tide has depended on greatly. With that being said, keep an eye on right tackle Erick Browne. At 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, Browne runs a 4.9 forty and has demolished numerous outside linebackers when setting up blocks on screens.

“This time we need to execute,” said Denis. “We took too many penalties the last time we played [Xaverian] and there was a lot of young guys who were adjusting. Some of the guys on this team weren’t use to being in a big game like that, but now everyone has adapted and we're ready to just play.”


Xaverian’s defense will be the difference in this one. Everett hasn’t played since November 15 and will struggle to run the football early. The Tide will rely on their screen game, but the Hawks will contain it. Look for Denis to go under center in the second half as the Tide do everything they can to get him the ball.

Xaverian 26, Everett 14

Division 2: Longmeadow (11-1) vs. Marshfield (11-1), 11 am

Longmedow’s Road to Gillette:
36-12 win against Minnechaug
28-20 win against East Longmeadow
10-7 win against Fitchburg

Marshfield’s Road to Gillette:
55-20 win against Natick
21-13 win against King Philip
34-15 win against North Andover

If you like old school football, this game is right up your alley. Both teams run the double-wing on offense and aren’t afraid to run the ball.

Stopping Longmeadow’s rushing attack hasn’t been easy for opposing teams. That’s because the backfield duo of Noah Hurwitz and Alex Calabrese has combined for over 1550 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns. Although the Lancers haven’t relied heavily on the passing game, quarterback Connor Ostrander is another player to keep an eye on. He’s been tremendous with his decision making, not only in regards to throwing the football, but also in zone-reads and option plays.   

For Marshfield, their offensive production starts with their quarterback. Jack Masterson is a dual threat who’s combined for over 2,200 all-purpose yards and 30 touchdowns. His number one target is Danny Dalton, a 6-foot-4 225-pound tight end who rewrote the Rams’ record books this season with nine receiving touchdowns. In addition, Frank Catanoso and Jacob Maher provide a threat on the ground, as the two have combined for 20 rushing touchdowns.


Longmeadow has dominated all season long and didn’t lose until Thanksgiving; a game in which they rested their starters. On the flip side, Marshfield has been a roll after dropping their first game of the season 18-13 against BC High. Since then, the Rams have scored 20 points or more in each game, including six games of 34 or more. Longmeadow’s strategy to rest their players will come back to haunt them. They’ll come out slow and will be overpowered by Marshfield, who will force them to depend on their passing game; a situation the Lancers haven’t had to deal with all season.

Marshfield 41, Longmeadow 20

Division 3: Melrose (10-2) vs Dartmouth (10-2), 6 pm

Melrose’s Road to Gillete:
24-0 win against Wakefield
20-19 win against Woburn
28-20 win against Concord-Carlisle
14-7 win against Tewksbury

Dartmouth’s Road to Gillette: 

21-0 win against Nauset
33-12 win against Dighton-Rehoboth
14-0 win against Somerset Berkley
20-16 win against Walpole

Although each of the 12 teams playing Saturday at Gillette could make an argument that their journey to reach the Super Bowl wasn’t an easy one, Dartmouth and Melrose are prime examples; especially as of late.

In the Northwest Semi-Finals, Melrose stopped Woburn on fourth-and-goal from the one late in the fourth to win a 20-19 thriller. For Dartmouth, they trailed 16-7 against Walpole in the Division 3 Semi-Finals with 2:49 to go. Two touchdowns and a recovered onside kick later, the Indians earned their first Super Bowl appearance since 2007, defeating the Rebels 20-16.

Melrose will want to win this game with their workhorse running back, Jack Hickey. They’ll also incorporate Mike Pedrini and Zach Mercer who provide more quickness. But as we saw against Wakefield, when the rushing attack isn’t clicking, quarterback Jake Karelas can open the offense up through the air and will look for sophomore receiver Colby Andrews.

It will be interesting to see if Dartmouth comes out passing, after struggling to run the ball versus Walpole. Now this isn’t to say Dartmouth isn’t capable of running on Melrose, but their success through the air of late may have the Indians confident enough to trust quarterback Blaine Almeida, who orchestrated pure poetry in motion late in that comeback win.

Two targets Almeida will surly look towards are Jake McCabe and Matt Craig. On the ground, running back Chris Martin should see the most touches coming out of the backfield. 

“We need to just play good defense,” said Melrose’s Mercer. “Its going to be about going out there and stopping the run.”


Arguably the two best second half teams in Division 3, it’s vital for both not to fall behind early. I expect this game to be low-scoring until the second half and for Melrose to pull away.

Melrose 34, Dartmouth 23.

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