By Matt Feld and Adam Kurkjian
Ahead of this weekend's MIAA Super Bowls at Gillette Stadium, MassVarsity's Adam Kurkjian and Matt Feld are excited to present breakdown of each matchup. On Thursday evening, the two will release their picks for all eight Super Bowls.
DIVISION 1 St. John's Prep (10-1) vs. Catholic Memorial (11-0) One season after St. John's Prep claimed the Division 1 Super Bowl against its Catholic Conference rival, Catholic Memorial will look to reverse fortunes this time around. In that 40-22 triumph for the Eagles last December, senior wide receiver Wes Rockett was the star of the show, hauling in three touchdowns while accumulating over 150 receiving yards. The St. John's Prep defense also stood out shutting out the Knights over the final 15 minutes and intercepting CM quarterback Barrett Pratt three times. The Knights were able to grab some semblance of revenge earlier this year defeating the Prep, 34-32, in a game in which both teams almost accumulated 500 yards of offense. While there were standout performers all over the field, the most notable was Knights freshman quarterback JC Petrongolo, who finished with 267 passing yards and four touchdowns. Since that point, the Eagles have played their best football of the season tearing through the Div. 1 North bracket before grabbing a 35-0 win over Catholic Conference rival Xaverian on Thanksgiving Day. Matt Crowley is at the center of it all as the three-year starter has constantly proven why he is one of the top quarterbacks around. The veteran is surrounded by a pair of quality offensive weapons in Matt Duchemin and sophomore Jackson Delaney. James Guy provides quality production out of the backfield and is one of the better underclassmen around. "There is no better position to have experience than at quarterback and of course we are fortunate to have that in Matt Crowley," St. John's Prep coach Brian St. Pierre said. "Catholic Memorial is the most talented team in the state, but our guys are ready." Just like they were a season ago, the Eagles have been bolstered with terrific line play with Mason Davis and Cooper Smith playing both ways while Anthony Fagan and Collin Taylor have stepped up defensively. Duchemin helps hold down the fort in the secondary. Catholic Memorial, meanwhile, has been widely regarded as the top team in the state all season long. The Knights have speed, athleticism, and explosiveness all over the field with a plethora of players able to make game changing plays. Darius LeClair is a constant threat out of the backfield while Zach Mitchell and Daniel Lopes are the main weapons in the passing game. Pratt — after missing the first Prep game due to injury — will be back under center for the Knights on Saturday. "We still have the taste of last year in our mouth," Pratt said. "That’s what has motivated us from last off-season and through the season. We have the opportunity to make history. Now, it’s just time for us to execute." Defensively, star junior linebacker Owen McGowan leads a unit that can stop teams in a variety of ways. Fellow linebacker Jamall Griffin as well as Mitchell and Will Stockwell help to keep opposing offenses at bay. Zachary Goodwin and Zach Broderick lead both lines.
Key to the Game: The Quarterbacks. Crowley and Pratt are no stranger to the big stage having now led both of their respective teams to consecutive Super Bowl berths, but whoever proves to be more effective in the game on Saturday night will likely walk out with the Super Bowl crown. It may not have so much to do with the final stat line, but which of the two is most able to dictate the team's respective offensive game plans. For Crowley that is likely being able to be on target when the Eagles elect to take deep shots down the field — ones that should be available as long the Prep can develop enough of a game on the ground. On the other hand, Pratt will likely be asked to do more than he has for most of the season. Expect the Prep to sell out to stop the Knight's potent ground game leaving Pratt in the situation of having to complete some big third down throws.
DIVISION 2 Lincoln-Sudbury (8-3) vs. Mansfield (10-1) There were very few people outside the Lincoln-Sudbury locker room who believed the Warriors would be at Gillette Stadium after they graduated most of their 2018 squad. However, coach Jim Girard came over from Hopkinton and installed a spread offense to this traditional Wing-T program, and the results speak for themselves. After starting quarterback Riley O'Connell went down with a broken collarbone, junior Collin Murphy helped the move the offense forward. Players like Leon Mulrain, Andrew Cahill, Gordon Gozdeck, Griffin Brown, Jesse McCullough, Jack Malone, Nolan O'Brien and Ben Ohler round out a deep and talented group of runners and receivers. Finn Garrity, Will Ohler, and Mike Cavanaugh are three two-way linemen who hold up at the point of attack for L-S. Mansfield coach Mike Redding has had some terrific teams over the years, and this fall's edition of the Hornets falls in line with some of the best. The only loss Mansfield has taken was in Ohio to La Salle, which is 12-2 and in the Division 2 state title game in the Buckeye State. Quarterback Jack Moussette likes to hand the ball off to explosive runners like Cincere Gill, Vinnie Holmes, and Nick Marciano, while Mike DeBolt is one of the more versatile players in the state. The senior can hurt you in all three phases of the game, as he is one of the top kickers in the area. Mansfield also has terrific line play, as junior tackle TJ Guy is a big, athletic presence. Mansfield played one of the toughest schedules in the division, as its dominant playoff win over King Philip was an impressive one. They Said It: "It's obvious that we're clearly the underdog. A lot of our players were told that they wouldn't even have a winning season. We've relished the underdog role." — Lincoln-Sudbury coach Jim Girard DIVISION 3 Duxbury (9-3) vs. Springfield Central (9-2) At the beginning of the season, Duxbury lost games to Brockton and Bridgewater-Raynham, and there was some question as to whether or not the Dragons would make it to this point. Behind wide receiver-turned-quarterback Will Prouty, Duxbury took off and emerged from Div. 3 South as the team to beat. Prouty has been terrific both running and passing. Running back Tim Landolfi has been a consistent weapon, while a sophomore-heavy wide receiver corps of Ryan Smith, James Anderson, Kyle Madigan and Drake Hadley has made plays when needed. The defense has been very strong along the front seven. Defensive ends Garrett Shackett and PJ Mullin and linebackers like Landolfi and Seamus Johnston have been key in the Dragons' ability to shut down opponents. For as good as Springfield Central was last year in winning the Div. 3 state title, the Golden Eagles have been even better this season. Freshman quarterback William Watson III has played beyond his years, while running back Marcus Crawford has been a dominant force on the ground. Sophomore wide receiver Joe Griffin has been spectacular, while one of last year's quarterbacks, Isaac Boston, has been a speedy and sure-handed wide receiver this year. The offensive line only has two seniors but has been a physical unit. Defensively, end Terry Lockett and linebackers Dante Bolden and Tyson Thornton have been tough to block all year. Overall, Central challenged itself with a schedule that included Everett, Central Catholic, and Catholic Memorial, and the Golden Eagles have thrived.
They Said It "Our kids believe in each other and believe in the coaches. We're going to give it our best effort. We're not going to roll over and die. We're going to give it the best we can." — Duxbury coach Dave Maimaron DIVISON 4 Plymouth South (10-2) vs. Melrose (11-0) From the start of the season, Melrose has been nothing short of dominant regardless of its opponent. On Saturday, the Red Raiders will look to put on the finishing touches against Plymouth South. The backbone of Melrose's prolific offense is running back Chris Cusolito. Cusolito has tantalized defenses this year with his speed, agility, and athleticism totaling 25 touchdowns. Complementing Cusolito is senior quarterback Brendan Fennell who can beat teams with both his strong arm and ability to tuck it and run. Matt Hickey's three touchdown performance on Thanksgiving Day showed he is more than capable of carrying the load.
Defensively the Red Raiders have both a stout front and strong secondary. Plymouth South, meanwhile, has largely been reliant on its rough and tumble style of play. In pursuit of its first Super Bowl since 2013, the Titans have knocked off top-seeded Milton and Tantasqua to reach Gillette Stadium. Never scared of a rock fight, the Panthers have heavily relied on running back Nick Siegelman who has rushed for over 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns. Not to be lost is the play of quarterback Hunter Dean who was instrumental in the Panthers being able to keep drives alive against Tantasqua in the Div. 4 State Semifinals. Keys To The Game: Tempo. If Plymouth South hopes to pull off the upset and knock off Melrose they will have to use the 10 minute quarters to its advantage. With Melrose looking to push the pace and score quickly, ball control will be a priority for the Panthers. In the event that Plymouth South can limit to Melrose to 2-3 possessions per half they could be in position to steal the game late. If Melrose can get out and run early, however, it may be impossible for the Panthers to keep pace. DIVISION 5 Swampscott (9-3) vs. Amherst (11-0) Swampscott enters this game having played one of the toughest schedules of any Div. 5 team. With a 9-3 record the Big Blue's only losses are to Danvers (7-6), Lynn English (33-30), and Marblehead (22-16), all higher-division teams that had strong seasons. The Big Blue offense has a solid line and a quarterback who makes everything go in Graham Inzana. He has passed for over 1,700 yards, rushed for over 400, and had 53 touchdown passes over the past two years. The running game is also solid behind back Dylan January, who has over 1,100 yards on the ground this fall. Receivers like Andrew Augustin, Zack Palmer, Arturo Vasquez and Cameron O'Brien round out a loaded receiving corps. Many of the top offensive players go both ways, including January at linebacker. Amherst brings a big line to Gillette led by senior Jack Nagy, who at 6-foot-3, 290 pounds controls both lines of scrimmage. The offense will be in the steady hands of senior JB Mills, and he will both hand the ball off and throw to a balanced group of runners and receivers. Josh Vecchio and Dan Block get the majority of the carries, and they follow the crushing lead blocks of JJ Block, who doubles as one of the top linebackers in the area. CJ Woodfine-Holmes, Zayd Sadiq, Shane Robles and Ethan Howard are all threats to do damage as receivers. The defense is hard-hitting and opportunistic, having forced five turnovers against West Springfield in the Div. 5 West final. The Hurricanes have only allowed double-digit points from an opponent twice all season. They Said It "They're a very well-coached team. I've watched film on them. They're very disciplined, and execute real well." — Swampscott coach Bob Serino on Amherst DIVISION 6 Bishop Fenwick (10-1) vs. Ashland (11-1) It's been a banner year for Ashland, with the Clockers capturing a TVL Large title that included a win over Holliston for the first time since 2001. Now, the Clockers are looking to top it off with their first Super Bowl crown since 1995. Highlighting Ashland's attack is superstar quarterback Dom Cavanagh who has totaled almost 3,400 yards and 38 touchdowns. Surrounding Cavanagh are a bevy of weapons highlighted by wide receivers Kevin Russell, Jake Latessa, and Brian Gazard. Cavanagh most notably went 18-of-24 for 259 yards and four total touchdowns in Ashland's win over Holliston. While Ashland has relied on its offensive firepower to reach Gillette, Bishop Fenwick has relied on its stalwart defense. The Crusaders, looking for their first Super Bowl since 2013, elected to up its schedule this regular season. Notably, Fenwick took on Division 1 power BC High to better prepare itself for battles in November and December. To reach the Super Bowl, Fenwick knocked off defending sectional champion Stoneham in the Div. 6 North Final with quarterback Chrys Wilson throwing for 201 yards and three touchdowns. Even more important, however, has been Wilson's performance on defense where he has five interceptions to his name. Fenwick has allowed more than 20 points on just a pair of occasions and one of them was an overtime victory over Cardinal Spellman. Key to the Game: Ashland's passing attack. All season long, Cavanagh has been one of the top quarterbacks in the Bay State slicing up opposing defenses with both his arm and legs. When you take Cavanagh's natural ability and combine it with the playmakers at his disposal the Clockers offense can seem nearly impossible to slow down. If Bishop Fenwick hopes to take down Ashland, they will need their front to make Cavanugh uncomfortable early and often. DIVISION 7 Leicester (12-0) vs. Abington (9-2) Just a week ago, Leicester set a program record by picking up its 12th win in a Thanksgiving Day win over David Prouty. Now, on Saturday morning, it will look to add a final chapter to the history books in its Super Bowl against Abington. Senior Daniel Mero commandeers the offense under center and has 17 passing touchdowns to his name. Both Stephen Olson and Bryce Gosselin have been weapons out of the backfield combining for nearly 1,300 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns. Receiver Jack O'Neil has tortured secondaries hauling in 15 touchdown receptions. Defensively, Jeffrey Pulchalski has been all over the field hauling in six interceptions while Tony Alfonso has eight sacks on the season. Abington has no shortage of stars. Will Klein can make game changing plays in all three facets of the game, including most notably out of the backfield. Gabe Spry has been a dominant two-way player for the Green Wave with quarterback Colby Augusta keeping defenses honest with both his arm and his legs. In recent weeks Seamus Schmidt has stepped up hauling in a pair of touchdowns and coming through with an interception in Abington's state semifinal win over Greater Lawrence Tech.
Key to the Game: Stopping Will Klein. This falls under the "easier said than done" category. Klein is such a versatile performer that he is bound to affect the game in one way or the other. That said, if Leicester can limit the senior's effectiveness, especially when he has the ball in his hands, then the chances of the Wolverines coming out on top increase exponentially. In that respect, even if Leicester does not completely shut Klein down, but slows him a little, then the Wolverines would probably take that.
DIVISION 8 St. Bernard's (8-4) vs. West Bridgewater (12-0) Credit St Bernard's coach Tom Bingham for bringing his team all the way back to Gillette despite losing a good chunk from his 2018 team, which won it all with a defeat of the now-closed Pope John of Everett. Bingham runs the Wing-T to perfection, and has a fullback in the middle who can put up big numbers in Tyler Thibodeaux. A junior, Thibodeaux has rushed for 1,399 yards and 21 touchdowns on 197 carries this year. He doubles as a terrific inside linebacker, the position he played last year. Another junior, Nico Mancini, has rushed for 1,134 yards and 17 touchdowns on 133 carries. Quarterback Dom Cuevas has rushed for 323 yards and five touchdowns on 69 attempts. Yet another junior, linebacker Jacob Banchs, leads the defense with 81 tackles. In just his first season since coming over from Old Rochester, West Bridgewater coach Justin Kogler has led the Wildcats to Gillette. He has one of the best and most versatile weapons as anyone will see this weekend in Ben Skinner. Skinner primarily lines up at wide receiver, but he can do it all, as Kogler said he will try to get the ball in Skinner's hands in any way possible. Quarterback Matt Lavoie and running back Devin Georgantas are also two of the main playmakers for the Wildcats. The linebackers and defensive backs — with players like Skinner, Lavoie, Georgantas, Ben Smith, Tyler Stone, Dylan Leonard, Aidan Baker, and Joey LeClerc — power a defense that has been dominant for most of the season. They Said It "It doesn't take long in your homework to know that they're extremely disciplined. They take care of the football. They're patient, aggressive defensively, and just solid. They don't have a lot of flaws." — St. Bernard's coach Tom Bingham on West Bridgewater