Wednesday, September 13, 2017

You MIAA Football Weekend Primer: Week 2

No. 2 BC High's defense will be tested in one of this weekend's premier games against Marshfield.
By Matt Feld (@mattyfeld612)

Anticipation for week one of the Massachusetts High School football season proved justified, as a bevy of eye-opening performances put teams on the map, while a handful of others solidified their status as top contenders.

Despite already entering the season possessing the state's number one overall ranking, Everett exceeded expectations as, behind 305 yards passing and three touchdowns from quarterback Jake Willcox, the Tide dismantled the four-time defending Division 1 South champion Xaverian Hawks.

St. John's Prep and Central Catholic both showed they could be formidable opponents for the Tide in Division 1 North, while Danny Abraham showcased his well known talents in leading BC High to a dominating season opener win over Andover.

Division 2 South came into the year presumed as the deepest section in Massachusetts, and week one only confirmed that belief. Behind Shane Frommer and Brendan Lydon, King Philip increased their winning streak to 14. Meanwhile, Bridgewater-Raynham made a statement with a road win over defending state champ Duxbury, Natick shut out Bay State Conference rival Needham, and Mansfield and Marshfield cruised.

Week two promises even more top level matchups with a number of teams in our Top 25 facing off in an effort to gain an advantage in the standings heading into the middle of the season.

Here are some of the key games to watch for come this weekend.

No. 4 Saint John's Prep vs. No. 3 Central Catholic

While many are ready to crown Everett as a shoe-in to return to the Division 1 state title game, it would be foolish to bypass these two experienced teams. St. John's Prep and Central Catholic will face off on Friday night in an effort to grab an advantage in securing a top two seed in Division 1 North. Each team took care of business in their opening week matchup, but this promises to be a whole different battle.

The host Raiders are experienced with many current senior starters having appeared as underclassmen in the 2015 State Championship versus Xaverian. Quarterback Brett Edwards is in his third year as a starter and is the center of a high-octane offense that consists of wide receiver Mathias Villafane and running back Ty Donatio.

What makes the Raider offense tick above all else is their experienced offensive line. Kalvin Guillermo, Osho Omoyeni, Nate Driscoll, Ryan Burns, and Michael Awiszus spearhead the veteran group, allowing the Raiders' spread offense and to pick other teams apart.

St. John's suffered a big blow prior to start of the season when they lost star wide receiver Wes Rocket for the year with a leg injury. Still, this offense should not be taken lightly. Senior quarterback Mike Yarin looked fully recovered from his offseason shoulder injury in the Prep's season opening win over Haverhill, throwing two touchdowns and ran for another.

Running back Aise Pream is quickly becoming one of state's top offensive talents, while Mike Slattery and Cole Rinkin are able pass catchers.

This game appears poised to be a shootout. Both offenses are primed for a track meet and a high scoring affair is destined to be the result. St. John's Prep's relatively young defense will need to make a statement early on the road if the Eagles hope to come away with a crucial victory.

No. 8 Bridgewater-Raynham vs. No. 5 Xaverian

In one of the more resounding statements from the first week of the regular season the Trojan's defense went into Duxbury and shutdown the defending champion Dragons en route to a 24-10 victory. Now, Bridgewater-Raynham has the chance to officially solidify its position as the top contender in Division 2 as they take a trip to Westwood to take on Xaverian. The Trojans' offense revolves around running backs Bryce Shaw and DeVante Greaves. Quarterback Corey Sullivan proved in week one that he is more than capable of balancing Shaw and Greaves' prowess keeping the opposing defense honest. What makes Bridgewater-Raynham dangerous, however, is their physicality defensively. The Trojan's forced three Duxbury turnovers in the opener while halting a trio of red zone drives.

Xaverian finds themselves on the other end of the spectrum. The Hawks suffered their worst loss in years this past weekend, left looking for answers on both sides of the ball. Yet it should be noted that the Hawks, going up against the most experienced team in Massachusetts, graduated a majority of their notable playmakers from last year, including SuiteSports 2016 Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker A.J. Ryan, and it was the first game of Al Fornaro's head coaching career.

The Hawks are without question still a force to be reckoned with. Running back Ike Irabor is one of the best in Eastern Massachusetts while Michael Saliba provides depth at the position. Cooper DeVeau proved to be one of the most dynamic athletes Saturday on both sides of the ball and Yale bound wide receiver Brian Abraham is primed for a breakout performance.

There is also a revenge factor in this one, with Xaverian hoping to avenge a loss to the Trojans last year that ended the Hawks 25-game winning streak.

“We've had this game circled on our calendar for a while now,” DeVeau said. “We all remember what happened last year and we want to see how we can bounce back as a team after suffering a tough loss this past week.”

A tall task for anyone to come out victorious at the Hawk Bowl, scoring first is almost certainly a must. Should Bridgewater-Raynham be able to establish the combination of Shaw and Greaves in the contest's opening minutes and take an early advantage, the pressure will immediately be put on a Xaverian team who is in need of a victory with an out of state trip and a road game at BC High on the horizon.

Look for Xaverian to get Abraham involved in the early going offensively to force the Trojan's to focus more of their attention on him, leaving a potential opening for Irarbor to take over.

No. 9 Marshfield vs. No. 2 BC High

Another cross-divisional matchup, a trip by the Marshfield Rams to Boston College High promises to be one of the more entertaining contests of the regular season. Despite being a relatively veteran team, it is sophomore running back Casey Phinney who has sparked the Rams early in the season. Phinney ran for 111 yards and three touchdowns in Marshfield's season opening win over Cranston (Rhode Island). Defensively, the Rams rely heavily on the pass rush as Nick Banks and Peter Lavallee each recorded sacks in the season opener while Brody Reynolds led the team in tackles.

The Rams will go up against a BC High team who is too known for their game on the ground and steady defensive play. Abraham ran over Andover for the second season in a row when he tallied 262 yards and four touchdowns last week while an experienced Eagles secondary held the Golden Warriors to just seven points.

While both teams are sure to be eager to establish their prolific running attacks early on, the edge in this one will almost certainly go to whichever team can first present a formidable game plan through the air. If BC High quarterback Will Bowen is able to develop a rhythm in the early going it will surely open up opportunities for Abraham as the game progresses.

On the flip side, if Marshfield quarterback Jackson Phinney can keep the BC High defense on the field on third downs and create an imbalance on time of possession, the Rams should have an opportunity for a road victory in the games waning moments.


Kirk C. Smith said...

It is "worst loss in years", and the Coach's last name is Fornaro.

Joe Parello said...

Thanks for pointing that out. Totally my fault for not catching it while editing. Changed now!