It ain't high school football season until the Brockton Boxers and St. John's of Shrewsbury Pioneers have met -- for me, at least. The two state powerhouses kicked off their annual preseason series (now in its third decade) this morning at Marciano Stadium. This is usually one of the better scrimmages of the preseason, if not for the talent than at least for the familiarity -- St. John's head coach John Andreoli and Brockton's Peter Colombo were teammates at Holy Cross in 1979.
But this had to be one of the most physical battles between the two in recent years. For two teams that have played a combined six practices in pads, they were very aggressive at the line of scrimmage and in the open field. Both teams should benefit down the road from this kind of exposure, particularly the Boxers, who have just three seniors in their starting lineup.
"All in all, I was very satisfied, going against a veteran team that expects to be pretty good," Colombo said. "We got what we needed out of this."
A few more notes:
-- In the series featuring first-stringers, the Pioneers scored twice, while Brockton had one. The Boxers should have one of the best secondaries in Eastern Mass this season with the likes of Albert Louis-Jean, Dominique Williams and Greg Hilliard roaming the open field, but pay close attention to the St. John's quarterback-wideout tandem of senior Griffin Murphy and junior receiver Richard Rodgers.
Murphy connected with Rodgers twice for touchdowns -- including a 60-yard bomb -- and the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Rodgers made a slew of catches in traffic and on the run. It's hard to remember that this kid's still only 16, and maybe that's because he's been a veteran for so long -- this last school year, his sophomore slate, he was the Pioneers' top wideout and placekicker, and started at forward on Bob Foley's Division 1 state champion basketball squad.
"What I liked today with him, the yards after catch were tremendous," Andreoli said. "In traffic, he's delivering blows. That's a really a credit to his toughness and athleticism."
Equally as impressive was Murphy, whose passes were on the mark for the most part. The Pioneers have gone to the spread, a departure from Andreoli's veer philosophy in years past, but they've caught on rather quick. Murphy looked comfortable directing the offense.
"You look at Griffin, he's a kid that worked tremendously hard in the offeseason, to make all the throws," Andreoli said. "He runs very hard. He delivers the ball hard, and he runs well."
-- Brockton's Trevon Offley -- yes, that's Khalil's cousin -- was the most impressive running back on the day. The 5-foot-7 junior has a very elusive element to his running style that, combined with his lower body strength, makes him tough to bring down. He sprung loose for a 50-yard run, and coupled it with a short touchdown scamper and a few nice 10-yard runs on option pitches and dives. Arm-tacklers beware.
-- When you have a physical quarterback who plays tough, that often elevates the performance of the rest of your offense. We all saw that last year with Dracut's Matt Grimard, and it was on display this morning with Brockton's Sam Previte, one of the few returning starters. No one's going to make any comparisons between the two -- and they shouldn't -- but they share a similar mentality: a linebacker's. The 6-foot, 200-pound senior scratched out a couple of nice 10-yard charges up the middle, bowling people over along the way, and connected with Louis-Jean on a 40-yard pass.
He welcomes contact, and isn't afraid to lower his shoulder or throw his elbows around. Expect that mind-set to trickle down to the younger guys.
"Sam, starting with him, is the hub of our offense," Colombo said. "Those 13 games he played last year, he's seen things and is playing like a senior. That's exciting for us. We need him to play that way."
-- St. John's interior man Troy Moore was the most impressive lineman of the day. From his defensive tackle spot, he consistently found his way into the backfield through either the A or B gaps. As a center, he gave Murphy good enough time to hit players downfield with darts.
Moore is a legit 6-foot-4, 280-pounder whose motor never stops; for me, it's too early to start drawing comparisons to another former Pioneers mauler like James McGillicuddy, but the talent is most certainly there. He is as aggressive as they come, and his motor never stops.
"He's physically strong, but he's so quick and athletic at 285 pounds," Andreoli said. "He's just a heavy guy to move out of there, and he plays heavy. He's low to the ground, doesn't get too far upfield, just gives you 110 percent for 44 minutes. There is no drop off."
Noted Colombo, "he's a superior, superior player. Excellent."
BC and Kentucky have both shown interest, but Moore says it's tailed off a bit lately. However, Moore should be getting a few offers from the Colonial Athletic Association by the end of September.
-- Finally saw the reason for the high interest in Louis-Jean, who is being recruited by a number of FBS schools, in the first-stringers' final series. Louis-Jean caught a short pass from Previte along the far sideline, kicked it into another gear and blew by several defenders with his 4.5 speed, before being brought down out of bounds by a defensive back...some 40 yards after his initial catch.
Oh, so that's what the hype is all about.
"We've got to get the ball in his hands a little more," Colombo said.
Several reporters and editors contribute updates, news and analysis to the High School Sports Blog.
- Bob Holmes: A Reading resident (Go Rockets!) and Boston College graduate, Holmes is the Boston Globe High School Sports Editor. We remind you now that his weekly picks are often made in jest so everyone just calm down when he picks against Everett for 11 straight weeks. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHolmes.
- Craig Larson: A native of West Springfield (Leo Durocher anyone? Tim Daggett?) and Curry College graduate (a proud Colonel!), Larson is the sports editor for the Globe's regional sections: South, West and North, as well as a frequent contributor on the college beat. Abington to Xaverian: it all starts with the schools. Have a compelling story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeLars.
- Zuri Berry: Berry attended the same high school as sports legends O.J. Simpson and Joe DiMaggio. (Guess which one is his hero.) He's a South Boston resident (formerly of Eastie) and the editor of the High School Sports blog as well as the go-to-guy for everything high school sports on Boston.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GlobeSchools for all of the latest updates.
Then there are our fall correspondents:
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- Eric Russo | @erusso22 | Div. 2 football
- Stephen Sellner | @stephen_sellner | Div. 3 football
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- Lorenzo Recupero | @LorenzoRecupero | Div. 6 football
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