By HockomockSports.com Staff
2018 Kelley-Rex Football Preview
2017 Record: 5-6
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Mike Strachan
Key/Returning Players: Justin Cote, Sr., RB/OLB; Nick Evans, Sr., OT/DE; Eddie Porreca, Sr., DT; Alex Rodriguez, Sr., RB; Josh Therrien, Sr., WR/FS; Desmond Woodson, Sr., OLB; Qualeem Charles, Jr., OT/DT; Isaac Gudiel, Jr., OG/LB; Nolan Jaeger, Jr., WR/CB; Jason Weir, Jr., QB/DE; Michael Strachan, So., LB/TE
Injuries hampered Attleboro right from the start of the 2017 season, but the 2018 Bombardiers are healthy and hoping for a big turnaround this fall to compete with the top teams in the Kelley-Rex division and make a return to the postseason.
The graduation of quarterback Cam Furtado is a significant loss on offense, but the Bombardiers will hand the ball to junior Jason Weir, who has a big arm and a lot of potential at the QB position. Size and strength won’t be a problem for Weir, who played defensive end as a sophomore. Seniors Justin Cote and Alex Rodriguez will be the primary backs for Attleboro this year and give the Bombardiers dynamic weapons out of the backfield. The offensive line is bolstered by 6-foot-6, 290-pound junior Qualeem Charles and 6-foot-3, 265-pound senior Nick Evans. At 6-foot-3, junior Nolan Jaeger will be a weapon at receiver along with senior Josh Therrien and sophomore tight end Michael Strachan.
Evans battled injuries at the start of last season, but he is one of the top defensive linemen in the league and is drawing Div. I college offers. Attleboro will be a tough team to run against this season with Evans on the end and Charles (who is also getting DI looks) and 6-foot-3, 365-pound senior Eddie Porreca on the inside. Strachan and junior Isaac Gudiel will be starting at inside linebacker, while senior Desmond Woodson will be starting on the outside. Therrien is capable of making plays downfield at his free safety position and will be the leader of the secondary.
“I am looking forward to the 2018 season,” said Attleboro coach Mike Strachan. “We have a strong senior class and we have strong leadership on our football team. Our team worked out hard in the off-season and I am looking forward to that hard work paying off this season.”
2017 Record: 3-8
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Eian Bain
Key/Returning Players: Ryan Driscoll, Sr., WR/DB; Sean Leonard, Sr., TE; Evan Wertz, Jr., LB; Sean Hofferty, Sr., RB; Liam Arsenault, Sr., OL/DL; Nick Gordon, Sr., QB/DB; Riley Downing, Sr., OL/DL; Will Davis, Sr., WR; Jack Jarosz, Sr., OL/DL; Jack Nally, Jr., WR; Jake Davis, Jr., WR/DB; Dom Natale, Jr., OL/DL; Thomas Gasbarro, Jr., QB/DB; Nolan McLaney, Sr., DB;
Third-year head coach Eian Bain is optimistic about the 2018 season, and the long list of players returning with plenty of experience is a big reason why. The Panthers have over a dozen players back that started or saw significant time on offense and the same goes for the defense, include a very seasoned secondary.
Franklin must replace three-year starter Jake Noviello at quarterback but Bain is confident that a healthy competition between senior Nick Gordon and junior Thomas Gasbarro will result in a strong option starting under center for the opening week. While Franklin has to replace its quarterback, they return a ton of skill players on offense including senior tight end Sean Leonard, who hauled in a league-best eight touchdown passes last season. Ryan Driscoll (five touchdowns), Jack Nally, Will Davis, and Jake Davis will fill out the receiving corps while Sean Hofferty and Owen Palmieri man the backfield. Seniors Riley Downing and Liam Arsenault are experienced and will anchor the offensive line.
Junior Evan Wertz will be a key piece in the middle of the Panthers’ defense after having a breakout campaign last year with nearly 100 tackles from his linebacker spot. Senior Spencer Briggs and sophomore Alex Honor will also see time at linebacker while Downing is joined by Jack Jarosz, Dom Natale, and Keenan Bassma on the defensive line. The Panthers boast a seasoned secondary with Nolan McLaney and Driscoll both back, along with Palmieri, Jake Davis, and both Gasbarro and Gordon.
“We have experience on both sides of the ball,” Bain said. “It is a cohesive group that has been working hard together for our first two years and they are eager to the turn the corner with our program.”
2017 Record: 12-0
2017 Finish: MIAA D1A State Champions
Coach: Brian Lee
Key/Returning Players: Jack Webster, Sr., FB/LB; Aidan Bender, Sr., RB/DB; Max Armour, Sr., LB; Luke D’Amico, Sr., DB; Terrell Jacobs Baston, Sr., OL/DL; Ryan Halliday, Jr., RB; Josh Fice, Sr., OL/DL; Nolan Gunning, Jr., OL/DL; David Morganelli, Sr., WR;
The target on King Philip’s back is bigger than ever as the Warriors pulled off a second straight undefeated season and another state championship.
So how will head coach Brian Lee get this year’s team to focus on 2018 and not the past two seasons?
“The work and preparation have been the same but now it’s up to this season class to leave their legacy,” Lee said. “The previous two classes had their moments, now it’s up to these seniors to make their own moment. This team will go as far as these seniors lead them.”
The seniors will have plenty of opportunities to make their mark because King Philip doesn’t have a returning starter on offense. The Warriors need to replace quarterback Brendan Lydon, who didn’t lose a game as a starter. Junior Robbie Jarest looks poised to take over under center this season. While it isn’t a lot of experience, Jarest took over in the second half of the state final after Lydon got hurt and helped the Warriors finish off Lincoln-Sudbury. The toughest shoes to fill will be those of Shane Frommer, who will go down as one of the best players in KP history.
Junior Ryan Halliday will be the feature back while Aidan Bender and Sam Callanan will be in the mix as well. Jack Webster and Jack Collentro will be keys to the offense from the fullback position. Senior Terrell Jacobs Bastons has some experience on both sides of the ball and will likely start at guard while classmate Josh Fice will fill in the other guard spot. Junior Nolan Gunning is likely to get a starting spot as well, either at center or tackle.
Defense has been a staple for the Warriors throughout their successful run over the last couple of years, and that’s what KP will count on again this season. The strength will come from the linebackers with Webster back in an outside spot and Max Armour returning in the middle. Jacobs Bastons will be a big presence in the middle of the defensive line while the secondary will have familiar faces back in Aidan Bender, Timmy Nault, and safety Luke D’Amico.
And as we saw in the state final, having a reliable kicker is priceless. Cole Baker, who booted the winning field goal in the final, is back for his third year. Not only will he be a big help on offense, his kickoffs will be a weapon for the defense.
2017 Record: 8-3
2017 Finish: Reached D1A South Quarterfinal
Coach: Michael Redding
Key/Returning Players: Key/Returning Players: Damani Scott, Sr., QB/FS; Michael DeBolt, Jr., WR/DB/K; Vinnie Holmes, Jr., RB/LB; Makhi Baskin, Jr., RB/DB; Nick Marciano, Jr., RB/DB; Aidan Sacco, Sr., RB/DB; Philip Dinov, Sr., RB/LB; Chris Copponi, Sr., RB/LB; Chris Graham, Jr., OL/DL; Jason Comeau, Jr., OL/DE; Khristian Conner, Sr., WR/DB; Daenin Walker, Sr., OL/DL
Mansfield has finished second in the Kelley-Rex in each of the past three seasons and the Hornets will be counting on experience under center and depth at the skill positions to end King Philip’s two-year reign atop the division and return to the top of the league standings for the first time since 2013.
Senior Damani Scott will be the starter at quarterback for the second straight season and he will be backed up by the capable Jack Mousette, giving the Hornets plenty of experience and reliability from their signal caller. Scott will also have a ton of weapons to call on this year with a skill position group that head coach Mike Redding calls one of the best that Mansfield has had in a while. Khristian Conner and Aidan Sacco will be weapons in the passing game while junior Vinnie Holmes is back in the backfield. Juniors Makhi Baskin, Michael DeBolt (who was also an outstanding kicker last year), and Nick Marciano will provide depth in the slot/running back positions. Senior Daenin Walker and junior Jason Comeau will add experience to the offensive line.
Defensively, Holmes will return to the linebacking corps after setting a program record for tackles in a season as a sophomore. Seniors Chris Copponi and Philip Dinov also return and can play as linebackers or as defensive ends depending on matchups. The secondary will be strong for the Hornets this year with Conner and Sacco at the corners and Marciano and Baskin at the safety positions. The only new additions on the defense are Anthony Capece at noseguard and junior Joe Plath at linebacker.
Redding said, “We have an experienced, athletic, aggressive defense that should be tough to score on and we’re young on offense, but have a ton of depth and talent at skill positions. Just need to gain some experience up front with our new guys on OL and DL.”
2017 Record: 6-5
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Mike Holland
Key/Returning Players: Cam Perron, Jr., QB; Dean Pacini, Sr., OL/LB; Darnele Ryan, Sr., LB; Sam Stevens, Jr., DB; Shane Kilkelly, Jr., WR; Nathan Cabral, Jr., RB; Shane Murphy, Sr., OL/LB; Billy Tat, Sr., OL/DL; Luke Thibeault, Sr., OL/DL; Garrett Wood, Sr., OL/DL;
The 2018 version of the Oliver Ames Tigers have already had to make an audible after star running back Anthony Berksza suffered a season-ending injury over summer. Berksza had a breakout year last season, rushing for over 1,100 yards and finished with 16 total touchdowns, 15 of those rushing.
With Berksza out, Oliver Ames will rely heavily on the rest of its returning starters to carry the load. Junior Cam Perron returns under center after taking over the starting job during the regular season last year. While Perron looks to find some of his options, he has an offensive line protecting him that has some experience but will be looking to form cohesiveness throughout the year. Dean Pacini, Shane Murphy, Billy Tat, Luke Thibeault, and Garrett Wood all return with experience playing on the line. One challenge will be finding someone to step up and be a leader of that group after the graduation of two-time all star Jack Mills.
Nathan Cabral takes over as the feature tailback and OA head coach Mike Holland is confident the junior can get the job done. Holland says Cabral runs hard and is a tough player. Perron will also have the likes of Shane Kilkelly, Jake Erlich, and Evan Craig to work with as targets.
The heart of the defense will be at the linebacker position. Both Pacini, Murphy, and Darnele Ryan return after starting there last year and Holland will count on both senior captains to lead the way for the Tigers. Sam Stevens is back in the secondary at the safety position but OA will need some new faces to emerge alongside him.
“We’re looking forward to the start of the season,” Holland said. “We have a great group across the board. We have some experienced players back and some talented players competing for jobs.”
2017 Record: 5-6
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Brad Sidwell
Key/Returning Players: Noah Leonard, Sr., QB; Brayden Merrill, Sr., WR/DB; Tryton Zavala, Sr., WR/DB; Wesner Charles, Sr., WR/DB; Christian Tourinho, Sr., OL/DL; Cam Correiro, Sr., OL/DL; Corey Pintabone, Sr., TE/DL; Ryan Williams, Sr., OL/LB; Jared Rockwood, Sr., TE/DE; Max Moitoso, Sr., RB/LB; Prince Brown, Sr., WR/DB; Mason Frank, Jr., OL/DL
Taunton started last season with a 3-0 record, one of the program’s best starts in years, but then lost five straight games, including a playoff game against BC High, the top seed in Div. 1 South. The Tigers turned it on again from that point, winning the final three games of the season, including an impressive win against Brockton, to finish with a winning record under second-year head coach Brad Sidwell.
Experience will be a key for the Tigers this season, as Taunton tries to build on that playoff appearance and the momentum from a strong closing stretch. Senior Noah Leonard will be the starting quarterback for the third straight year and is now fluent in Sidwell’s offensive system. Leonard will have familiar targets in senior wideouts Brayden Merrill, Tryton Zavala, and Wesner Charles, while junior Cam Carroca looks to step in as a feature running back and junior Javon Franklin is a new target in the passing game. On the line, Taunton returns plenty of size in 6-foot-3, 337-pound tackle Christian Tourinho and his fellow senior Cam Correiro. Senior Ryan Williams will be the center, while junior Mason Frank, listed at 6-foot-2 and 274 pounds, will be back to battle at the line of scrimmage.
Size and athleticism will be strengths for Taunton on the defensive side of the ball as well. Tourinho, Correiro, and Frank can bottle up opposing running games and will be joined on the line by seniors Corey Pintabone and John Rockwood. Williams will lead the linebacking corps along with classmates Max Moitoso and Kyle Cuoto. Senior Prince Brown will be back at corner and senior Sebastien Celestin looks to step into the safety position.
“Taunton football is progressing forward,” said Sidwell. “Like all teams, we’d like to gain some confidence early in the season and carry it on. The Kelley-Rex division is challenging with great programs, coaching staffs, and communities. We are happy to be a part of it and want to represent Taunton High well by competing at the high standard set by the other league members.”
MILFORD, Mass. – Heading into halftime, Franklin was frustrated. The Panthers had made a series of mistakes from turnovers to missed blocks to dropped passes to using up timeouts early in the half and Milford had taken advantage, playing the game at its pace and grinding out a three-point lead.
After the break, Franklin turned the game around, scoring 21 straight points and forcing Milford to abandon the power running game that it prefers. Behind three touchdown passes from senior Jake Noviello, Franklin pulled out a 28-10 victory in Friday night’s Game of the Week and evened its record at 1-1.
“They’re tough and we knew that. They compete and those kids don’t quit,” Franklin coach Eian Bain said about Milford. “We gave them the ball in great field position, we allowed them to execute their game plan, and we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”
He added, “Once we got out of our own way, that’s all it took. Milford is a very good, competitive, and tough team. You can’t do that kind of stuff and expect to beat them.”
Things started perfectly for the Panthers, who marched down the field on the opening possession of the game. Franklin went 78 yards in 11 plays and no-huddle offense was clicking in perfect rhythm. Noviello (15-26, 180 yards) was 5-for-8 on the drive and capped it with an eight-yard strike to Jack Nally (who caught four of the five completions on the drive) for the game’s first score.
Special teams got Milford right back into the game. Junior Shapel Feaster returned the ensuing kick-off 66 yards to start the Hawks at the Franklin 20. The Hawks made it count with junior Brendan White (11 carries, 26 yards) tying the game with a four-yard run that was aided by a big push from his teammates that carried him and several would-be tacklers across the goal line.
Ryan Driscoll coughed up the ball on the kick return and again Milford started well into Franklin territory; this time at the Panthers 16. A holding call denied Ryan Pearl a touchdown on a keeper and a Jackson Gilbert tackle on third down and goal forced Milford to settle for a 20-yard Sean Lehane field goal to take the lead.
The Hawks got the ball out of halftime and there was a lot of energy on the sidelines, but Franklin forced a punt on the first possession and then its offense got back into gear. The Panthers put together a 12-play, 75-yard drive and took the lead for good. Noviello was 4-for-6 on the drive and threw a perfect pass to hit Evan Wendell in the far corner of the end zone for a 14-10 lead.
“Once we got rolling in the second half, the kids settled down,” said Bain. “They knew they were in a fight, but we also knew what we were doing wrong. It’s not hard to fix mistakes that are self-inflicted and we were able to correct them and get back on track.”
On Milford’s next possession, Evan Wertz ripped the ball away from White and returned it inside the 20, with a penalty getting Franklin down to the six. Two plays later, Noviello hit Driscoll for the six-yard score and a crucial two-possession lead.
“We’ve got a really young quarterback and anytime, with our offense, when we get behind it’s tough,” admitted Milford coach Anthony Vizakis. “We like to ground and pound, but that can only go so far.”
With the Hawks needing to up the tempo, Vizakis turned to sophomore quarterback Colby Pires and a spread formation, but Franklin picked off a pair of passes, including a sliding interception on the far sideline by Nolan Mclaney that gave the Panthers a chance to put the game away.
“We see a bright future with Colby Pires and we’re definitely working towards that,” Vizakis explained. “Nothing against (last year’s starter) Matt Curran, he’s a good kid and we’re using him in other spots, but we see Colby being a starter here for a few years, so he’s getting some good experience.”
Facing fourth and one on the next drive, Noviello used a hard count to draw Milford offsides and, although his pass was intercepted by Feaster, Franklin got the first down. Sean Hofferty(15 carries, 39 yards) finished the drive with a two-yard dive to wrap up the scoring.
Bain said, “As soon as we could get them out of their comfort zone, that’s what you want to do is make your opponent play left-handed. Once we tipped the scales, we were able to switch the match-ups into more of our favor.”
Despite the loss, Vizakis, who is in his first year in charge of the program, saw plenty to build on going forward. He said, “We started six sophomores tonight, offense and defense, so young kids getting good experience. We’re definitely going to be teaching every day.”
When asked about the importance of picking up a win before league play kicks off next week, Bain joked, “My car would be on blocks right now if we were 0-2.”
He continued, “The kids have worked so hard for this. It hasn’t been like that around here in a while where we go in and expect to win and I feel like we’re there now. To start 0-2, it’s hard to keep preaching that mantra.”
Franklin (1-1) will try to keep the momentum going next week against unbeaten Mansfield in what the Panthers are expecting will be the first game on the new turf at Pisini Field. Milford (0-2) will open Davenport division play against Canton at World War II Veterans Memorial Field.