Football: Players to Watch on Defense

Shawn Cardoza
Oliver Ames senior Shawn Cardoza should be a force on the defensive line for the Tigers. (Ryan Lanigan/

By Staff
Players are listed in alphabetical order.
Mac Brown, Senior – Canton
One of the better lineman that didn’t get much attention last year was Canton’s Mac Brown. He’s got solid size but possesses his ability to move and find the ball was huge for the Bulldogs last year. We’d be remiss to not mention how impressive Brown is on offense but we expect a big year on defense this season. If teams want to run to Brown’s side, don’t expect a big hole to open up. He has the ability to take a lineman on one-on-one and will be a big factor for the Bulldogs this season.
Shawn Cardoza, Senior – Oliver Ames
One play that stands out was on special teams (a gigantic hit in a game against Stoughton) but it was just a taste of the power that Cardoza has. The burst he displayed coming off the line made it very tough for opponents to try and match up with him. It seemed with within a second of the ball being snapped, Cardoza was in the backfield disrupting the play. He’s strong enough to go through you and he;s fast enough to go around you. It won’t be very fun for the players who have to get hit by Cardoza this season.
Connor Downs, Senior – Foxboro
After graduating a handful of talented and experienced seniors, the Warriors are going to rely heavily on the returning players that did see substantial time last year. Downs saw plenty of time at linebacker this season and will be on of the best at that position in the Hock this year. Downs shows some patience at linebacker and reads the play well and attacks. As the play develops, Downs is quick to figure it out and react. Although it’s just one play, take last year’s game against Stoughton for example. Downs came right up the middle right to Stoughton back Joey Girolamo. Despite Girolamo being one of the toughest backs in the league, Downs was able to get right past him for a sack. We might be seeing that more often this season with Downs.
Connor Finerty, Senior – Mansfield
After recording a team-high in sacks last year, Connor Finerty is back for what could be a very big senior campaign. On top of his three sacks, Finerty had five tackles for loss, which was second on the game and forced a fumble. Strength is one of his biggest attributes which makes it tough for opponents to stop him – on both sides of the ball – but his speed complements his power which makes him even more dynamic. Finerty, a captain for Mike Redding this year, has the chance for a special 2015.
Connor Flynn, Senior – North Attleboro
On offense, Connor Flynn is part of a three-headed monster rushing attack with Nick Rajotte and Bobby Mylod. On defense, Mylod’s versatility makes him a dangerous player. Whether it be as a corner or a linebacker, Flynn is likely to make a play. He’s able to track the play well and then attack and make a play. The Rocketeers lost some good playmakers to graduation and will be looking for players to step into those roles. Flynn might be one of those players.
Tyler Gomes, Junior – Franklin
During his sophomore season, Tyler Gomes made himself familiar with opposing quarterbacks time and time again. In seemed like every game, Gomes was finding his way through the offensive line for a sack. Gomes’ athleticism and strength allow him to take opponents on one and one – if teams don’t double team him. Expect Gomes to draw a lot of attention and be a big factor as the Panthers make a push to return to the postseason.
Blake Hill, Junior – Milford
Blake Hill might have been one of the most underrated players on the defensive side of the ball last year. At the linebacker spot Hill was all over the field for the Scarlet Hawks. He did well to read the play and then attack and make a play. Milford graduated a lot of talent but with Hill back, he will be able to make an impact on both sides of the ball. Even if the play goes away from him, he doesn’t give up on the play and tracks it to the end. Hill is also a threat on the offensive side of the ball as he can take off with the ball in his hands and run over defenders.
Cory Lombardo, Senior – King Philip
There are only two Kelley-Rex Hockomock League All Stars coming back and Cory Lombardo is one of them. During the Warriors’ historic run last year, Lombardo was an anchor on defense and really helped define KP’s style and attitude. With KP graduating a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, Lombardo is the perfect player to help set the tone for the players stepping in. He does well to read the play and has real good strength. Good luck to anyone that’s trying to get past Lombardo.
Xzavian Marrero, Senior – Stoughton
The Black Knights lost a lot of talent when the Class of 2015 graduated but expect Stoughton to reload to be just as tough on the defensive side of the ball. One player that got some experience last season that is back this year is senior Xzavian Marrero. Marrero got time at corner last year and will be one of the top players at that spot this year. One reason Marrero is able to excel in the secondary is because of his tremendous athleticism. Whether it be going up and defending a pass, tracking down a ball carrier or laying a hit on someone, Marrero can do it.
Kyle Murphy, Senior – Attleboro
There are certain players that can change a team’s game plan and Kyle Murphy is one of them. Whether it be on the offensive line or the defensive line, Murphy is good enough to dominate on any given down. Since his sophomore year, Murphy has been a headache for offensive guards and tackles. Not only is Murphy’s size an advantage, his combination of quickness and strength is not something you see everyday. Last year in the playoffs, Murphy showed off how good he really is with his performance against eventual state champs Xaverian. Expect a lot of teams to pay plenty of attention to Murphy this season.

Ryan Lanigan
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