By Matt Feld
For Central Catholic, the hits keep on coming.
The Raiders improved to 2-1 on Saturday afternoon as they held off Merrimack Valley Conference crossover foe North Andover, 33-26, at Lawrence Memorial Stadium. Sophomore Ayden Pereira continued to show flashes of stardom totaling four touchdowns in the victory.
The win provided mixed emotions for Chuck Adamopoulos and his staff. On one hand, the Raiders continue to show an ability to plug holes when there seem to be too many to comprehend. The win allowed Central Catholic to keep pace with the likes of Everett as the season turns towards October. On the other, however, the win over the Scarlet Knights saw the Raiders suffer injuries to two more key players.
John Mercuri suffered a heart-stopping, lower leg injury late in the second quarter when he collided with a teammate while trying to block a punt. Mercuri was carted off the field. Wideout Nathan Hebert, meanwhile, suffered an injury to the spine and neck area. Both, Adamopoulous said, are likely to be season-ending.
Central Catholic has a number of tall tasks ahead of them beginning with league rival Andover this weekend. The Raiders are still formidable threat to the likes of St. John's Prep and Everett in the quest for the Division 1 North title. But as the Raiders offense begins to take shape behind the lead of Pereira, running back Mark Kassis, and wideout Nick Donatio, it will be imperative as ever for Central Catholic to receive big production from its underclassmen.
Now, it's time to take a look back at the rest of the Week 4 action across the MIAA landscape with my five takeaways and one hot take.
1. Safety Concerns Met With Words, No Action On Thursday, the MIAA Board of Directors met for a swift four and a half hours discussing a variety of topics including most notably the controversy surrounding the incorporation of NFHS rules into high school football. The meeting provided more confusion than answers with the MIAA showing an inability to clearly lay out a concise, quality answer as to why staying in the Federation is so crucial to the success of the game here. Numerous members of the "high command" showed an innate ability to contradict themselves. Football liaison and executive director Richard Pearson preached a necessity to stay in the Federation so that Massachusetts could keep its seat at the table, but right after the meeting the all-powerful Bill Gaine said unequivocally, "We're not in the business of trying to appease the National Federation." Even Mitt Romney would be impressed with that flip-flop. Gaine's comments at the 11th hour somewhat overshadowed the crucial decision of the day. After nearly an hours worth of discussion, the MIAA Board of Directors shot down the Mayflower Athletic Conference's appeal to play 10-minute quarters in league games for the remainder of the season. The MAC has stated for weeks that it is heavily concerned about the safety of its athletes if they are required to play the NFHS mandated 12-minute quarters. The ruling raises questions over how much the MIAA truly cares about the well-being of athletes across the state. As programs struggle to maintain strong numbers and more teams are faced with the daunting need of putting players on the field who may not be physically mature to handle the wear of a 48-minute high school football game, concerns will only grow louder that Massachusetts High School Football it at a crossroads. "If we are serious about player safety, then playing 12-minute quarters is a bad idea," said John Sarianides, longtime Massachusetts high school football coach and founder of the New England Football Journal. "It ends up being an extra two games a season. It makes no sense. It is irresponsible." Numbers are dwindling, co-ops rising, and programs folding. As the MIAA's most powerful continue to hold firm in their stance that a seat at the Federation table is a necessity, their statements about care for the well-being of student athletes will be met with nothing more than an eye roll.
2. There Is No Slaying the Dragon Two weeks into the season, it looked like Duxbury was reeling. A pair of losses to open the season — one on the road to Brockton and another at the hands of Bridgewater-Raynham — put the Dragons at 0-2. For Duxbury, staring at a winless mark as the calendar turned towards the end of September felt more incredible than their perennial dominance within the Patriot League. Yet since then the Dragons have looked like their old selves. Superstar senior Will Prouty, widely touted for his skills as an All-State wide receiver, was inserted at quarterback. Prouty has proven he can do it all while stewarding the Duxbury offense, showcasing quality arm strength, a soft touch, athleticism, terrific rapport with his teammates, and an ability to leave defenses dumbfounded with both his arm and legs. One week after the Dragons overcame a halftime deficit to knock off defending Div. 5 Super Bowl champion Scituate, Duxbury went into Hingham and cruised past the Harbormen, 41-20. Prouty was the star compiling 414 all-purpose yards and five total touchdowns while also hauling in a pick. Yet it was more than just Prouty that came to play on Friday night with sophomore wide receiver Brady Madigan hauling in a pair of touchdowns and the Dragons' line winning the battle in the trenches. Two weeks ago it looked like Duxbury was in line for a turbulent season. Now it appears the Dragons will end up where they always are — fighting for supremacy in Division 3.
3. A Third Hockomock Contender For most of the past half decade attention towards the Hockomock has been focused on a pair of perennial state wide powers in Mansfield and King Philip. While King Philip has won a majority of those matchups — including a pair in the — the Hornets have proven more than a formidable foe. Up Rte.128 from the two schools, however, Canton has emerged as a legitimate contender both in the Hockomock Davenport and Division 5. In 2018, the Bulldogs had a season to remember claiming a league championship for the first time since 1990 and making a sectional final appearance. The first four weeks of the 2019 season have shown that last season was no fluke. So far the Bulldogs are 3-0 including picking up a 10-0 shutout against Thanksgiving Day rival Stoughton on Friday night. Highlighted by Jack and Matt Connolly, Nnamdi Onlyemelukwe, and defensive end Jahmi Aldin the Bulldogs defensive line has been impenetrable while quarterback Johnny Hagan manages an experienced Canton offense. One season after knocking on the door of a Gillette Stadium appearance, Canton has the pieces back to make another go for gold.
4. Week 4 Results Set Up Premiere Week 5 Slate Most of the top teams in Massachusetts held serve this weekend by holding off rivals in the opening of league play or continuing their dominance. Whatever the case, the outcomes across Friday and Saturday have set up a handful of terrific matchups to look forward to in Week 5. King Philip defeated Franklin for the 16th straight time heading into this week's matchup with Mansfield. The game will determine not only first place in the Hockomock Kelly-Rex but position the victor for a top two slot in Division 2 South.
Wellesley squeaked out a 33-30 overtime win over Newton North. The Raiders win sets them up for a marquee showdown with Natick, whose high-powered offense continued to click on all cylinders in a 49-7 win over Braintree. That puts the Redhawks in the driver's seat for home-field advantage throughout the sectionals. Catholic Memorial showed no signs of a letdown after playing three statewide contenders in a 51-30 win over Malden Catholic, improving the Knights to 4-0 heading into a road trip to Xaverian.
Tewksbury overcame a halftime deficit to take down BC High for a second consecutive season and give a gust of momentum before North Andover (1-2) comes to town. Marblehead maintained its high level play with a 43-0 shutout of Saugus and now may have its largest obstacle of an undefeated regular season staring it in the face with Beverly on the docket.
Down in Division 8, Mayflower foes Old Colony and Blue Hills head into their Week 5 matchup both sporting perfect 3-0 records.
5. Division 3 Central Is Wide Open For most of the of the preseason the conventional wisdom was that St. John's was the favorite to once again claim the district title in Division 3 Central. That conventional wisdom was not unfounded or incarnate. When you look all over the field the Pioneers are simply loaded with talent. Except while St. John's avoided a potentially disastrous 0-3 start with a win over Marlboro on Saturday afternoon there is reason to believe that the road blocks to another state semifinal appearance will be aplenty. Wachusett has shown to have one of the top defenses in all of Massachusetts, allowing just seven points through its first three games. Shrewsbury, meanwhile, suffered its only loss at the hands of Doherty. Both the Colonials and Highlanders have plenty of firepower on offense to match the Pioneers elite skill. Then there is Shepherd Hill who will have a chance to take down St. John's on the road Friday afternoon. This is not to say St. John's is not the most talented team in ssction. They are. If it was not for Springfield Central, the Pioneers would likely be the consensus pick to hoist the Division 3 Super Bowl trophy. But there is plenty of football left to be played and signs that there is more than just one contender out past Worcester.
Feld's Hot Take Of the Week: College Coaches Know More Than You, So Stay Off the Internet Back in 2006, Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boehem gave one of the more legendary press conferences in all of sports over the last 25 years. When asked if star point guard Gerry McNamara was overrated Boeheim, never known for shying away from confrontation, laid out flatly, "Without Gerry McNamara we wouldn't have won 10 f---ing games this year. Not 10.' Except Boeheim did not stop there, going on to say "The coaches voted him first team All-Conference. Well the head coaches they don't know sh-t, I guess." And that brings us to this week's big time take, which is to say the college coaches know more than the parent in the stands or the fan on Twitter. Throughout the season I always heavily enjoy the ripping on certain high school players from lower-level coaches or random parents milling around outside the press box. These people are flabbergasted, appalled, and just flat-out horrified that a player on the field that is not their beloved child could not be gaining recruitment attention while someone else is on their way to a college scholarship. They saw the kid drop one pass, struggle for a half, or have a bad evening and automatically jump to the unfathomable question, "How is that kid going (insert school here?)" Even worse is when they take those complaints to social media — exposing themselves as overly-zealous fools who enjoy having their public ripping of fellow high school athletes rewarded with "likes." The answer is rather simple, obviously — the college coaches know what they're looking for in a recruit. They've spent countless hours watching the player, scouting who he or she is on and off the field, developing a personal relationship with them and their family, and then ultimately considering how that person would fit in their program. They know what to look for in a human being and player more than you do and that is why they aren't deterred by one single moment on a Friday night on the field, pitch, court, rink, or diamond. Better yet the reason they want that person as part of their program is because they have faith in that player's ability to overcome adversity that they encounter and no one heckle from the crowd or one tweet is going to deter that. So maybe, relax. Your "expert analysis" is not really all that insightful. It's more embedded in anger and jealousy than actual fact. Leave the recruiting and analysis to the coaches at the next level and do your job — which is to pull for everyone on the field regardless of laundry color.