Updated: 3 days ago
For the third year in a row, we will be kicking things off with a 40-team preseason countdown of MIAA teams. Due to the nature of this offseason, we were not able to get an eye on as many players as we usually do. This forced us to switch up the format of our annual countdown. We are now going to bind teams together in groups of five and work our way down. We are not necessarily going to do it this way every year now, but wanted to use it for this season. The general format is still the same. We will start the month of August with the teams that just missed the cut, then count down from 25 toward the beginning of the season. We still have our other preview of team-submitted information, but wanted to keep this separate. Regardless of what is decided for games in the fall, we wanted to put out this preview. We hope you enjoy it.
(Teams that just missed the cut, in alphabetical order)
Bishop Fenwick; Bridgewater-Raynham; Brockton; Dennis-Yarmouth; Fitchburg
Bishop Fenwick had a terrific 2019, reaching the Div. 6 state final before losing to Ashland at Gillette Stadium. The Crusaders should be strong again as they hope to finish the job, as quarterback Chrys Wilson returns. Wilson doubles as an outside linebacker, and his brother, Andrew, is a strong middle linebacker. There is experience on the outside with Stefano Fabiano and Angel Martinez at wide receiver and defensive back, while Matt Juneau anchors the line. . . . Every year, Bridgewater-Raynham plays one of the toughest regular season schedules in the state, then is ready to make life difficult for everyone in Div. 2 South when the playoffs start. The Trojans beat some good teams in 2019, like Duxbury, Brockton, and Dennis-Yarmouth. They also lost to some heavyweights, including Div. 1 champ St. John's Prep There were some key personnel losses, but developing junior quarterback Austin Hartsell is back, and senior wide receiver/running back Anthony Morrison is one of the more underrated players in that part of the state. . . . Brockton, like B-R, had some nice highlights in 2019, with wins over Duxbury, Xaverian, and New Bedford. But consistency was an issue, and the Boxers were booted from the Div. 1 South tournament by Franklin for the second year in a row. There are reasons for optimism. The lines return with most of their starters back. Quarterback Devonte Medley had a strong junior season and is a threat both as a runner and thrower. Wide receiver/defensive end Nayvon Reid is terrific on both sides of the ball. Another receiver, Ademola Faleye, is a big target at 6-foot-6. Middle linebacker Rodrigo Lima is a leader on defense. The key may lie in how the Boxers replace explosive running back Ahmik Watterson. . . . Dennis-Yarmouth last year was a team that was left out of the Div. 5 South playoffs, but could have made a real run if included. The Dolphins figure to be a real factor this time around. Any time you talk about this team, the first player mentioned has to be wide receiver Geoffrey Jamiel. A tremendous route-runner with good speed, Jamiel beats defenses that are geared to take him away. A force since his freshman year, Jamiel hopes to go out with a bang as a senior. While Jamiel brings the excitement on the outside, the Dolphins should be strong up front with most of their starters returning there. Linebacker and H-back Pat O'Neill is one of the top returning linebackers on the Cape. D-Y needs to be able to replace graduated pass catchers like Jaquan Phillips and Michael Gurney if the Dolphins want to take the next step. . . . Two years ago, Fitchburg had one of the top freshman teams in Central Mass. Last year, many of those players blossomed into impact players on varsity, and the Red Raiders began to feel the positive effects because of that and some other factors. Along the way, Fitchburg beat West Springfield, Algonquin, and Nashoba (twice). The losses were to Wachusett, Tantasqua (twice), and Leominster. Only one of those setbacks came by more than one touchdown. Defensively, Fitchburg should again be strong. The offensive line returns almost everyone. The main weapon on offense will again be Anthony Oquendo, who is one of the best running backs in that area. When Oquendo comes off the field, Fitchburg has another strong runner to go to in Duncan Poitras. This is a team that is not at its peak yet, but could take the next step soon.
Franklin; Leominster; Lincoln-Sudbury; Marblehead; Nashoba
Over the past few years, Franklin coach Eain Bain has built a program that always finds itself playing good football deep into the Div. 1 South playoffs. Although teams like Mansfield and King Philip remain the class of the Hockomock Kelley-Rex, Franklin is starting to make its case, as the Panthers have eliminated Brockton from the postseason in back-to-back seasons. The Panthers suffered heavy graduation losses, but return linebacker Xander Honor, a four-year starter who has been second on the team in tackles consecutive years. Kicker Parker Cheuvront also handles the punting duties and has attracted some college attention. Replacing all-conference quarterback will either be junior Jared Arone or sophomore Jase Lyons. . . . Although Leominster was 5-6 last season, it was close to a much better season. Narrow losses included those Doherty, Shrewsbury, Nashoba, and St. John's of Shrewsbury. Coach Devin Gates returns a senior-laden team that boasts seven returning starters on defense, and six on offense. One of the top players in Central Mass. comes back in 6-4, 245-pound defensive end Kyle Philbin, who is being recruited by Division 1 programs. His twin, Jack, is a 6-2, 230-pound linebacker who helps shore up the front seven. Wide receiver/defensive back JC Cora has some experience at quarterback and is just a playmaker. Quarterback Caeden Constant returns as a junior after a promising sophomore debut. VoShon Dixon had some strong games as a junior and returns as one of the top running backs in Central Mass. . . . Lincoln-Sudbury coach Jim Girard had a terrific first year with the Warriors. L-S, fresh off losing a tremendous senior class, reloaded and made it all the way to Gillette and the Div. 2 state title game. Although L-S lost that to a terrific Mansfield squad, it beat defending champ North Andover along the way. This year, L-S returns a strong two-way lineman in Will Ohler. The Warriors should be able to move the ball well with skill players like running back/linebacker Gordon Gozdeck, wide receiver.defensive back Jesse McCullough, and wide receiver/defensive back Collin Murphy. Quarterback Riley O'Connell is a junior captain, so the Warriors' spread offense should be in good hands. . . . Year-in, year-out, Marblehead is always one of the top teams on the North Shore, and we don't see that changing this time around. Even though the Magicians suffered some key injuries last year, they still pulled out big wins over Swampscott, North Andover, North Reading, and Beverly. The losses were to four good teams in D4 state champ Melrose, Revere, Danvers, and Wayland. Promising young quarterback in Joshua Robertson came in last year as a sophomore and did not look his age, as he threw for 1,574 yards and 17 touchdowns. Two-way lineman J.T. Monahan is a captain in football, lacrosse, and hockey. Senior Gadot Gaskins is a talented wide receiver and defensive back who was injured in the first game of the season last year. He ran a 35.02-second 300 meters in track. . . After winning the Div. 4 state title in 2018, Nashoba took a slight step back with a very young team in 2019. This year, we expect the Chieftains to be where they usually are — one of the top teams in Central Mass. One of those young contributors from a year ago, junior Connor Salmon, is a returning league all-star at linebacker and leading tackler who will have an expanded role at running back. Quarterback Josh DeGeronimo also plays defensive back and is a great athlete and leader. Trevor Schartner is a versatile threat at outside linebacker and fullback, and running back/linebacker Ethan Revell has good speed. Wide receiver/defensive backs Joey Sabourin and James Borsari improved over the course of last season. Humza Qureshi is a strong, two-way lineman. Sophomores Liam Kelley and Owen Fitzsimmons both played a lot on the defensive line last year and will add more work at tight end this fall.