By Matt Feld
After falling behind Xaverian 10-0 early in the second quarter, Catholic Memorial turned on the jets seemingly hitting some big red button that unleashed its full onslaught of offensive firepower. Darrius LeClair ran for three touchdowns, Shiloh White appeared impossible to catch once in open space, Owen McGowan proved unstoppable once he got downhill, and Barrett Pratt overcame hit-after-hit to make a handful of clutch throws. When it was all over the Knights had scored 42 unanswered points to come away with a 42-10 win.
The win left the Knights a perfect 5-0 while Xaverian dropped to 1-3.
Across the rest of the state. Wachusett remained perfect with a 27-7 win over Leominster, Natick escaped after stuffing Wellesley's late two-point try, Old Colony came up with a monster victory over Mayflower Athletic Conference rival Blue Hills, and Marblehead held off Beverly to remain one of four teams who support perfect records in Div. 4 North.
Now that Week 6 is on its way, here are my five takeaways from Week 5 of the MIAA season and my always supporting hot take to go with it all:
1. The Two Top Teams In Massachusetts Will Meet on Saturday
Coming into the season, most onlookers predicted that Catholic Memorial and St. John's Prep would be the class of the Bay State with the likes of Everett, Springfield Central, and St. John's Shrewsbury also involved in the discussion.
So far the Knights and Eagles have done little to quell existing beliefs with regards to their dominance while the others have experienced hiccups along the way. Those Catholic Conference powers will meet on Saturday when Catholic Memorial takes a visit to Danvers in a game that could very well be just the first of two showdowns between the sides. A season ago, St. John's Prep got the best of the Knights topping them during the regular season and then outlasting them in the Div. 1 Super Bowl.
Many believed that CM would pass the Prep this season, but there are reasons to believe that the Eagles are still the team to beat in Division 1. Yes the Knights are a consensus No. 1 in most polls, but the Eagles have shown through the first five weeks that they still have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. Senior Matt Crowley is as battle tested as any quarterback in Eastern Mass, sophomore back James Guy has the makings of an All-State performer, and Pat Nistl is proving to be an effective offensive weapon.
The Knights have their own plethora of firepower with Zach Mitchell, LeClair, White, and Daniel Lopes leading that category. That does not even take into account McGowan, who may already be the best player in the area.
The biggest factor that could impact this matchup is the health of Knights’ quarterback Barrett Pratt. Pratt left CM's game on Friday night after three quarters with a lower leg injury. Coach John DiBiasio made it clear afterwards that while there was no reason to believe Pratt sustained a significant injury he would be cautious in handling his senior.
2. Tewksbury Once Again Eyes The Top of Div. 3 North
Two weeks into the season, Tewksbury looked like it may be primed for a rebuilding year of sorts. Heck who could blame the Redmen. A season ago they were nothing short of impressive with quarterback Jack Connolly leading them on a postseason run to Gillette that included a state semifinal win over Duxbury.
Except over the last month the Redmen have promptly reminded everyone that well — quite obviously — the season does not only last 14 days. Courtesy of do-it-all playmaker Shane Aylward, Tewksbury has come roaring back. First, they defeated BC High for a second consecutive season before knocking off defending Div. 2 Super Bowl champion North Andover. Now the Redmen are slotted in the fourth spot in Div. 3 North and with three more winnable games on the schedule to finish the season there is plenty of reason to believe they could be in line for another sectional title.
3. A New Threat In Div. 2 South
As if Div. 2 South needed any more contenders competing for the sectional crown, it seems as though another has emerged.
On Saturday afternoon, New Bedford picked up a monstrous win over Barnstable. The Red Raiders are now 2-2 after a fast start to the season and find themselves clinging to the No. 7 spot in Div. 2 South. The Whalers, meanwhile, are spotless at 4-0, tied for the top overall seed with Natick and find themselves with three opponents remaining who all currently possess sub-.500 records.
Whalers’ cornerback Shahid Barros was the star of the show Saturday coming through with a game-clinching pick-six with less than two minutes remaining. Running back Nygel Palmer finished with 140 yards and two touchdowns for New Bedford.
Right now Div. 2 South looks like a three-horse race with Mansfield coming up with a clutch, defense driven, 15-13 road win over Hockomock Kelly-Rex league rival King Philip. The aforementioned Redhawks picked up a victory in similar fashion halting a late two-point attempt by Wellesley to hold on, 14-13.
If New Bedford can finish off the season undefeated they would be in line for home-field advantage throughout the sectional tournament. I can't think of many teams who would like to make that ride down Route 24.
4. Concord-Carlisle Enjoys Its Moment In the Sun
The past three seasons, Lincoln-Sudbury has been the talk of the Dual County League and with good reason. In each of those years the Warriors reached the sectional final including a 2017 trip to Gillette Stadium. While the Warriors are certainly still holding their own, it appears as though Concord-Carlisle has stolen the spotlight in 2019.
Late Saturday afternoon, the Patriots held off a stingy Wayland team coming up with a game-winning two-point play to hold on for a 21-20 triumph. The Patriots now stand at 4-0 — a mark that includes a 34-21 road victory over Whitman-Hanson to begin the season.
Christian Gemelli is quickly becoming a household name around the streets of Concord (and Carlisle). Gemelli put his full array of talents on display in the Patriots win over Wayland. First, with the Patriots trailing 20-13 and just 0:43 remaining in regulation, he returned a kickoff 50 yards to the Warriors' 40-yard line. Just four plays later, Gemelli found Tyler Jameau for a 25-yard touchdown with just three seconds remaining. Gemelli then plowed into the end zone for the game winning two-point conversion.
There seems to be plenty of magic in the air just off Route 2.
5. In 2019, Newton Is Home To the Top Quarterback In Massachusetts
Newton North has had an up-and-down season to date. The Tigers came out firing to begin the 2019 campaign defeating Waltham and Needham by a combined score of 53-13. Since then, however, the Tigers have lost a pair of heartbreakers first falling to Wellesley in overtime, 33-30, and then coming up short in a shootout to Framingham, 49-40.
But while quarterbacks around the state such as Matt Crowley, Colby Pires, Colin Schofield, Will Lederman, Ayden Pereira, William Watson III, and Barrett Pratt have certainly proven their value in a variety of ways, Newton North slinger Andrew Landry is in a class by himself.
Through four games, Landry has thrown 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Yes that’s a pristine 16:0 TD-to-INT ratio. He also has 912 passing yards to his name. Standing at 6-foot-6, 205 pounds, his build makes him a challenge alone for opposing defenses while his arm is able to seemingly effortlessly hurl balls down field on a regular basis.
It's a tad bewildering he apparently remains uncommitted after this year.
Feld's Hot Take Of the Week: People Lose Sight Of What Makes A High School Coach A Good Coach
It happens weekly on repeat. It feels like at times its something you could DVR but instead of clicking the "just this one episode" option you select "full season."
First, fans file in to attend that week’s game. Whether it’s a big conference matchup or just another date on the schedule, that doesn’t matter. For parents, who are there every step of the way with their kids focused on giving every ounce of energy they have on boosting their success, every week may as well carry the weight of a league championship. Every game is the last chance for their child to earn an athletic scholarship.
Then, the game begins, and one team takes the lead. Almost instantly the heckling begins pouring in from the bleachers.
Then, on the ensuing drive, the offense goes nowhere. A couple of runs that only generate tackles for losses. Now — gasp — the team is losing 7-0 AND is forced to punt. Insert the classic "this play calling is so predictable."
Better yet — "Even I could see that coming."
To top it all off, the team your child isn't playing for extends their lead.
Enter — "We do this every week. We have no idea what we're doing out there. (Insert kid's name) should be playing (insert different position)."
This gets to this week’s hot take — all too often people lose sight of what makes a high school coach effective.
It's totally fair to evaluate a head coach based on their success. They should be judged on whether they have been able to successfully grow the program, make it more attractive for students to join, and ultimately led to long-term state championship aspirations. No one wants to be at the bottom of the league.
Coaches who preside over five straight one-win seasons don’t really deserve to keep their jobs.
Except this isn't the Big 12 or the ACC, the Rose Bowl or the Cotton Bowl, or your local NBA Summer League. We're not here to analyze from the press box or stands how the coach is teaching defensive slides to make sure his 2-3 zone doesn't give up an extensive amount of offensive rebounds.
We're not here to provide existential comment boxes filled with dialogue surrounding whether or not the play calling is too predictable.
We're certainly not here to scream obscene comments from the stands that include the likes of "Tackle him!" Unbeknownst to those parents, apparently, the players on the field are trying to do that.
The high school coach has been hired to undoubtedly oversee the growth of student-athletes who want to be part of the program. But what does growth in this context mean? Does it really mean improving the results on the scoreboard every week strictly via a play-calling perspective? Or is it actually about developing those kids into better people first and better players second?
Because anyone who has been around collegiate or professional sports — and been successful in that field — would tell you the former leads to the latter. Personal traits such as selflessness, dedication, and empathy ultimately breed winning.
That's what high school coaches are there to provide. They are there to instill values into their players that they can take with them further into life. They are there to be second mothers and fathers when kids need a distraction from home. They are there to be mentors, tutors, and guides when students are lost on how to separate school life from athletic life. At heart — the most polished coaches are an extension of the classroom while providing a unique kind of escape. They are able to connect with their athletes when they're struggling, discover what learning habits suit them the most, and develop a greater understanding for what they're looking for in their athletic experience.
The way to judge a high school coach does not depend on if they play your son at quarterback or your daughter at goalie. It does not depend on what they call on fourth and inches, or whether or not they decide to punt in the second quarter. It's about the way they handle themselves when the lights are off and the fans have gone home. It’s about how they use the other 165 hours during the week to prepare their athletes for the next steps of their lives. They are not always going to be Friday night heroes.
For high school coaches it’s not all about the X's and O's or W's and L's but rather about how they relate to their Jimmys and Joes.