Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Previewing the MIAA State Football Championships: Divisions 5 & 6

Dennis-Yarmouth's explosive offense will try to keep pace with West Springfield and stud running back Vaunell Hill.
By Tom Joyce (@TomJoyceSports)

We've already looked at Friday night's games at Gillette (Divisions 2 and 3), and previewed the D4 and D7 title games yesterday. Now, our Tom Joyce looks at two of the more intriguing matchups featuring teams from the Central and Western part of the state.

Division 5 Super Bowl

Dennis-Yarmouth (12-0) vs West Springfield (11-1), 3:30 p.m.

Although they are separated by about 150 miles, the teams going head-to-head in the MIAA Division 5 football State Championship this Saturday at Gillette Stadium are more alike than different.

This year’s matchup features the undefeated Dennis-Yarmouth Dolphins (12-0) and the West Springfield Terriers (11-1), in a battle of two of the state’s top offenses.

It would be an understatement to say the Dolphins have steamrolled their competition this season. They have scored over 43 points per game this season, and have held the opposition to just one score on six separate occasions.

The Phins can throw out of their spread offense with Jacob McCarthy leading the charge under center. His go-to target is slot receiver Daryan Thompson, while running backs Rob Evans and Jonah Arsenault have been a dynamic duo for the team all year.

Beyond those skill guys, the Dolphins have received major contributions from their offensive line and run defense from a host of players, including co-captain Sawyer MacDonald, a guard and middle linebacker. Defensive ends Sam Kenny and Adane Atkinson also help keep the pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

This decade, the Dolphins have been a difficult team to stop. They last went undefeated (13-0) and won a Super Bowl in 2011, but they made it to the big stage in 2013, falling to a Doherty team led by current Boston College star Isaac Yiadom, 28-26.

Despite the track record, past and present, the Dolphins will be met with quite the challenge on Saturday.

The Terrier defense has produced six shutouts this season, and they too have enjoyed much success on the ground this season. Their top running back, Vaunell Hill, has already rushed for 1,907 yards and 25 touchdowns this season, despite sitting out on Thanksgiving Day, giving him the potential to surpass the 2,000-yard mark in championship game.

The Terriers offense is averaging nearly 38 points per game this season. In addition to Hill, quarterback Tylor Rochefort has also excelled. In the team’s 34-0 Thanksgiving day win over Agawam, Rochefort threw for 185 yards and three touchdowns.

Defensively, the Terriers are led by end Dalien Hicks, tackle Anthony Mineo and linebacker Anthony Tangredi.

Both squads are senior-heavy. The Terriers have 19 seniors on their team this season, while the Dolphins have 20.

Since neither site has showed a major weakness this season, speed will likely be the biggest difference-maker in this matchup, both mentally and physically. Whichever team makes quicker decisions and has more speed running on the outside will likely end up the victor here.

Division 6 Super Bowl

Littleton (11-0) vs Middleboro (9-3), 9 a.m.

One team has the opportunity to finish up a perfect season. The other has the opportunity to achieve something it hasn't in quite some time.

The MIAA Division 6 State Championship football game features two sides whose backgrounds headed into the contest are quite different. On one side, the Littleton Tigers (11-0) are hoping they can cap off a perfect season at Gillette Stadium this week. They will be met with great resistance, however, against the Middleboro Sachems (9-3), the champs from Eastern Mass.

The Sachems entered the playoffs as a No. 5 seed and have not played in a Super Bowl in 34 years. Meanwhile, the Tigers, who also played in the Div. 6 championship as recently as 2014 (when they fell to Cohasset) and won it in 2013, were the top seed in their section this season.

While they went 5-2 in the regular season, there a couple of reasons why the Sachems have made it this far, emerging as a serious contender.

For starters, the Sachems compete in the South Shore League Large, which featured four teams (East Bridgewater, Norwell, Rockland, Middleboro) who made the playoffs. This tough competition early in the year helped prepare Middleboro for this stage, and it received a major boost when running back Jeremy Soule returned to bolster the team’s offense for their playoff run. In Middleboro’s state semifinal game against Stoneham, Soule ran for 246 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Dual-threat quarterback Evan Gwozdz, who has 31 touchdowns this season, is the focal point of the team’s offense along with Soule, but they also have three talented wide receivers who have over 20 receptions this season in Colin O’Brien, Harry Lapierre and Davis Riendeau.

Throughout the season, the Sachems have received a strong effort from their defense as well.

“We’re not the biggest team in the state,” Sachems head coach Pat Kingman said, “but we have 11 guys flying to the ball every play and that’s what you need.”

The Sachems will need a great day from those guys in order to beat the Tigers. After all, they come into this contest averaging nearly 37 points per game on offense.

If you had to point to the biggest reason why Littleton has made it this far, it would easily be their offensive line. This 5-man wrecking crew features Tommy Keenan, Thomas MacGregor, Jake Kivlan, Jack Scaramucci and Brady Hunt. Their tight end, Mitchell Crory, another senior, is also a gifted blocker. This has allowed running back Brad Klock to exceed 1,000 rushing yards this season while Mitch Beaudoin and Kevin Frisoli have also made noise in the backfield.

The Tigers do not throw much, but when they do, quarterback Will Scott is capable of throwing deep.

Meanwhile, Littleton’s defense, led by defensive back Evan Lyons, Beaudoin on the defensive line, middle linebacker Tucker DeCoste and Hunt at linebacker, has only allowed 12 points per game this season.

Seeing the strong qualifications of his opponent, Kingman said he is looking forward to seeing which team will come out on top

“I don’t know if there’s one key,” he said. “I think it’s going to come down to the team with the most focus and executes the best. You expect your play makers to make plays and know their roles. The best team will come out on top. Who knows who that is? That’s why we’ve got to play the game on Saturday.”

No comments :