We were not able to attend Saturday's Northeast 7v7 tournament North regional, but we made the short trek to Westwood for the South regional Sunday at Xaverian Brothers.
Simply put, the South had a loaded field of top teams from both the MIAA and NEPSAC, and even one of the top programs in New England from Rhode Island in Bishop Hendricken.
When all was said and done, it was Brockton, which went 8-0 through pool play and the four elimination games, to take home the title. The Boxers won an exciting contest with Hingham, 14-7, in which a bomb to the Harbormen's Duke commit Cole Finney was caught about a yard or two short of the right pylon.
Onto the observations...
— Let's start with Brockton. There were a lot of strong performances from the Boxers, but the big takeaway is how dominant class of 2021 wide receiver Nayvon Reid was. We don't know his exact height and weight, but we would ballpark it at around 6-foot-4 or 6-5, and either 200 pounds or close to it.
For someone with his size at 16 years old, you would think he would be a little gangly and still growing into his body. That's not the case. Reid possesses a smooth stride and better-than-you-think speed, and his body positioning and hands made him basically unstoppable.
Reid has not really camped anywhere this summer, as he also plays basketball. But this is a kid who once he gets in front of college coaches will be worth offering.
But once you get past Reid, there really is a lot more to the Boxers pass catchers than just him. Ademola Faleye already has an Iowa State offer, but he only played two games before the team rested him with back soreness.
After that, players like Ted Tessa, Isaiah Laguerre, Trey Ciulla-Hall, and Devin Fortes all had great days. One has to wonder just how many points the Boxers would have put up if starting running back Ahmik Watterson, who was not in attendance due to a family commitment, also made it out.
Throwing them the ball was class of 2021 quarterback Devonte Medley, who has somewhat of a shot put release, but manages to get it to the right spots more often than not.
Defensively, Laguerre, Fortes, and linebackers like junior Rodrigo Lima, Shawn O'Brien, and Achi Wonodi had solid days, but keep an eye on senior Ajani Horne, who made the best defensive play of the day that we saw.
With Brockton up, 14-7, against Hingham, the Harbormen finally went to a deep go route to Finney along the right sideline, a play that had worked all day for them. Horne stayed with Finney step-for-step, then snagged an interception where he leapt and high-pointed the ball in front of the 6-foot-6 Hingham receiver.
— As for Hingham, let's start with Finney. Simply put, he was basically a cheat code with his size, speed, leaping ability and hands. With new coach Mark Nutley coming over from North Quincy, expect more passes to head Finney's way this season.
They did lose a lot to graduation, and the size up front will not necessarily be huge, but this is a team with enough coming back to make some noise in Division 3 South again this year.
— The two other teams in the final four were Newton North and Hendricken.
The former was led by quarterback Andrew Landry, who at 6-5 casts a big shadow, and was able to fire in some darts in the games we saw. He looked good at the Framingham State tournament a few weeks ago, and did again Sunday.
Two other Tigers to watch for are linebacker/tight end Evan Thompson and wide receiver Tyson Duncan. The latter moved up from Georgia last year and played basketball but not football. However, he has been working with the team this summer and his speed is pretty electric.
The Tigers are definitely a team to watch in the Bay State Conference this season.
Hendricken was consistent all day, but just seemed to run out of gas toward the end. The Hawks posted some solid wins along the way, including knocking off last year's South regional champ and Division 5 Super Bowl winner Scituate in pool play.
— Speaking of Scituate, the Sailors seem to have just reloaded. Their only losses were to final four teams in Hendricken and Brockton.
Many top skill players return, but replacing quarterback Aidan Sullivan is the big task. Senior Matt Scibilio seems to be up for it, though, and the Sailors will be right back in the mix for a Division 5 crown.
Look for Sullivan's younger brother, Keegan, a slot receiver and running back who will just be a sophomore, to also make an impact on an offense that returns plenty of playmakers.
— One of the first games of the day we checked out was Barnstable against Stoughton, and the Black Knights won and showed off some impressive athleticism.
With Barnstable, we spoke briefly with coach Ross Jatkola about offensive lineman Declan Moriarty's recent commitment to Navy. Jatkola said getting the commitment out of the way before the season will allow Moriarty to play loose, and that the linemen simply fell in love with the Annapolis, Md. school when he visited.
— BC High did not make it out of its group, but junior Carter Rice continues to impress. He provided blanket coverage on defense and showed impressive footwork after the catch on offense.
Junior quarterback Bobby Wiesenhahn also had a strong day, and given what the Eagles have coming back on the offensive line, which will be enormous, expect a bounce back season in Dorchester.
— One of the most impressive moments of the day came when Dennis-Yarmouth went into overtime to face St. George's. In the rules of the tournament, each team gets one play, and whichever has the longest completed pass wins.
D-Y got the ball first, and St. George's bracketed star Dolphins receiver Geoffrey Jamiel. Still, Jamiel was able to lose both defenders and catch a bomb from junior quarterback Will Levesque for the touchdown.
Levesque will be a first-year starter, but he had a strong day, and the Dolphins return enough, including tight end Michael Gurney and receiver Jaquan Phillips, to have their typical dangerous passing attack when the fall rolls around.
— Duxbury will be starting a freshman quarterback in Matt Festa. The Dragons went 3-1 in pool play but did not advance out of their bracket, which included Xaverian and Abington.
In addition to receivers like Will Prouty and Cam Reagan, watch out for sophomore Brady Madigan. The Dragons always have strong weapons in the passing game, and open the season at Brockton on Sept. 6 in what should be one of the more intriguing games of the opening weekend.
— Speaking of Abington and Xaverian, each made nice runs into the knockout round.
For the Green Wave, outside linebacker/running back Will Klein will be entering his senior season, and we were told that several Northeast-10 schools are showing interest.
Xaverian went 3-1 in pool play and advanced on points, but was knocked out by a Silver Lake team that made a surprise run.
— One quarterback who should have a huge junior year is Natick's Will Lederman. He throws an excellent deep ball, has great touch, can throw on the run, and his escapability when the pads come on is exceptional.
The Redhawks have to replace a fair amount wide receiver, but look for junior Nick Ofodile to fill in nicely there.
This will be a team that returns a good amount of experience on both sides of the ball, so expect Natick to be one of the better teams in Division 2.
— The team to knock Natick out in the round of 16 was Milton, and the Wildcats had an impressive day before falling to Hendricken the next game.
We saw Milton at the Framingham State tournament, but with a more full squad this time, the Wildcats were more successful.
They have to replace a lot at the skill positions coming off of last season, but the Wildcats seem to be progressing nicely in terms of getting back to where they need to be.
— Marshfield made it out of its group, and coach Chris Arouca said numbers in his program have gone up this year with around 110 players from grades 9-12 expected to come out.
The Rams will have returning starters in the double digits, but with the Atlantic Coast League disbanding because of the newly-formed Cape & Islands League, Marshfield will be operating as an independent.
That makes for a difficult schedule, as Marshfield will have the likes of D-Y, Scituate, BC High, Whitman-Hanson, and Bridgewater-Raynham on the slate.
— Mansfield also had a nice day, and was quarterbacked by Jack Moussette, who played well last year when given the chance before suffering a season-ending injury.
The Hornets return a ton of experience and will be squarely in the mix for a Division 2 title. As usual, coach Mike Redding is challenging his players with a tough nonleague schdule that includes BC High and a trip to Ohio to face La Salle of Cincinnati.
Willcox, Rivers commit
Two locals made big Football Championship Subdivision verbal commitments this week when Joe RIvers of Bishop Fenwick pledged to Holy Cross, and Jake Willcox verballed to Brown.
Rivers, a linebacker, has had a great offseason and gets to stay local for Bob Chesney's program, while Willcox, a quarterback, will be in a great situation with new coach James Perry, who does an excellent job with signal-callers.