Last Monday, we headed out to Holyoke to see some of the Excel Sports Academy's 7-on-7 that will conclude tonight with a playoff and championship. The championships are being held tonight.
Here are a few things we saw and heard:
— There is reason to believe that Amherst is going to make a move in Division 5. The passing game is in the strong hands of quarterback J.B. Mills, and he has nice weapons on the outside like CJ Woodfine-Holmes and Shane Robles.
Robles, a transfer from Arizona, made a beautiful, one-handed catch in one of the games last week.
The Hurricanes also have one of the top offensive linemen in the state in Jack Nagy, who plays lacrosse and has had a great offseason.
— East Longmeadow has to replace a fair amount, but one player who has worked hard in the offseason and improved his game is senior quarterback Aidan Bean.
A backup last season, Bean anticipates his receivers breaks well and throws them open, rather than waiting for them to get there.
— Another impressive-looking player we saw was West Springfield wide receiver/defensive back Ben Green.
The senior has good speed, long arms, and snatches the ball well when it comes his way.
Owen McGowan announced his commitment to Boston College on Thursday, and it's a huge pickup for the Eagles.
We love the junior's passion for the game, and as a linebacker, he reads his keys well and hits with authority.
There are plenty of quality linebackers in the state this year, and McGowan is in that top tier for a program that will be very much in the mix for a Division 1 state title.
— Holy Cross snagged a big one this week in Springfield Central 2020 linebacker Dante Bolden.
Central is becoming a pipeline to the Patriot League, as cornerback Keshaun Dancy and wide receiver Myles Bradley each went to Colgate out of the 2019 class.
Bolden most likely projects as a Mike at the next level, but has also show excellent coverage ability this offseason to stick with smaller players.
With Bolden and Bishop Fenwick's Joe Rivers already committed, Crusaders coach Bob Chesney has two of the top defensive players in the state locked up before the start of the season.
— Dexter defensive end Stephen Brooks announced via Twitter that he is committing to Columbia. Brooks, who was one of the first local offers handed out by UMass coach Walt Bell, is explosive off the edge and one of the better pass rushers in the NEPSAC.
— We were remiss in overlooking Andover kicker Shamus Florio in our preview of the Golden Warriors in our MIAA 40-team preseason countdown.
One of the top kickers in the state, Florio committed to Yale, and will be a weapon on special teams again for the Golden Warriors this fall.
MVC transfer news
We confirmed with North Andover coach John Dubzinski on Sunday that Ricky Brutus is transferring from Methuen to the Scarlet Knights
This is a massive pickup for the defending Division 2 champions and equally tough loss for the Rangers.
Brutus is a shifty, elusive back with good speed, and he will now join a backfield that already has one of the best in the state in Freddy Gabin, who had a breakout junior campaign.
Right now, Div. 2 North looks wide open, but with Gabin and Brutus in the fold, North Andover seems to have as good a shot as anyone to emerge, even with a boatload of losses to graduation.
Early BC, UMass practice tidbits
Although we have not been able to get over to Chestnut Hill or Amherst for the first practices of the season for BC or UMass, respectively, some interesting nuggets have already emerged.
In the spring, Ben Petrula was working at left tackle for the Eagles. However, in the first practice report out of BC, redshirt freshman Tyler Vrabel was listed at that spot.
That's a huge responsibility for someone who has yet to play a college snap, but we have only heard good things about Vrabel's potential, and the Eagles have been excited about him ever since he signed out of high school.
Right now, there is a lot of uncertainty around that position, so any good news is welcome for the Minutemen there as they prepare for their season opener at Rutgers.