Editor's Note: The Globe's Michael Grossi provides his thoughts and insight on the upcoming weekend of Division 2 and 2A high school football.
Dan Johnson is North Attleboro’s jack-of-all-trades
North Attleboro doesn’t have the biggest or strongest players but they do have a ton of athletes. One of those athletes, Dan Johnson, is the Red Rocketeers’ Swiss army knife.
Johnson is the ultimate asset. He returns punts and kicks, is the team’s top cover corner and is a key weapon on offense. Johnson also takes on the punting duties.
So far, Johnson has six touchdowns on the young season and his punts are traveling 42.7 yards per kick.
“Dan does a little bit of everything for us,” said North Attleboro coach Don Johnson. “Offensively, he brings that big play capability. He can make people miss and is our biggest outside run threat.”
Johnson hasn’t had the chance to pad his stats as the Red Rocketeers’ have jumped out to early leads, relegating the first team to the bench. North Attleboro hasn’t allowed more than 7 points in a game yet and average over 29 points per game.
The Red Rocketeers face their first true test this week when they travel to league rival Franklin on tonight.
“This is going to be a close game,” said coach Johnson. “We don’t match up that well with Franklin. They are big and we are smaller and more athletic.”
With North Attleboro playing in Franklin and Mansfield hosting King Philip, coach Johnson believes that after this weekend, there will be a clearer title picture in the Hockomock League.
GAMES TO WATCH
King Philip at Mansfield, Friday at 7 p.m. – This has to be the most intriguing match-up in Division 2 this weekend. Both teams are ranked in the Top 20 (Mansfield at No. 5 and King Philip at No. 10) and the victor will have one less mountain to climb in the race for a Hockomock League title.
King Philip boasts one of the most dominant defenses in the state. The Warriors allow 3.5 points per game, which is the lowest amount in Eastern Mass. Alec May leads the charge for the Warriors from his defensive end position. May recorded eight tackles, two sacks, a fumble recovery and returned a pick for a touchdown in a win over Foxboro last week.
Offensively, King Philip is led by their running back tandem of Chris Cacciola and Charles Ruffin. Cacciola is a bit more of a bruiser but has the ability to split out wide and lead block. Ruffin is a speed demon that can cause fits with his agility and play-making ability.
Mansfield perennially sits near or atop the Hockomock League standings. The Hornets’ combination of a solid ground game and an unyielding defense is what brings them success. Jamel Marshall is the feature back for the Hornets. He is fast and quick but also possesses power. Jeff Hill is probably the biggest weapon for Mansfield. The split end has the ability go outrun defenders and produce in the passing game. He adds another dimension to the Mansfield offense.
However, the Hornets haven’t been as dominant this season, making it a now or never situation for King Philip.
Reading at Wakefield, Friday at 7 p.m. – I guess this can be called the Rockets’ first test of the 2010 campaign. I don't really think it will be. Wakefield was the chic pick to battle with the Rockets for a Middlesex League crown. However, the Warriors have gotten off to a disappointing 1-2 start. The Warriors haven’t developed a passing game yet and against a staunch defense like Reading, they could be in for a long night. Reading might be more dominant defensively this season and hasn’t lost too much punch from its offense.
Chelmsford at Methuen, Friday at 7 p.m – The class of the Merrimack Valley Conference meets in this Large vs. Small tussle. No. 6 Chelmsford has one of the top defenses in the state and it will have its hands full with Methuen quarterback Cal Carroll. Carroll is the catalyst of the No. 8 Rangers’ offense. He can beat you with his arms and his legs. But, he doesn’t do it alone. The offensive line is creating highway sized lanes to run through and also not letting so much as a fly touch Carroll in the pocket. He also has complementary pieces in running back Ryan Savastano and go-to receiver Raudy Minaya.
Lowell at Dracut, Saturday at 6 p.m. – Lowell coach Jeff Moore makes his first visit to Dracut since leaving the school after last season. Unfortunately for Moore, Dracut has brushed off two losses to open the season and found its offensive stride. Last week the Middies hung 60 points on Billerica in a victory.
Acton-Boxboro at Wayland, Friday at 7 p.m. - Wayland shredded Westford two weeks ago only to hit a speed bump last week in the form of Lincoln-Sudbury. If the Warriors want to stay in the hunt for a Dual County Small title, a victory over Acton-Boxboro will steer them in the right direction.
Marshfield at Westford, Saturday at 6 p.m - Marshfield got a big win over Dennis-Yarmouth last week that should give the Rams momentum going into a match-up against an explosive Wesford squad. This should be a good tune up for the Rams as they delve into the teeth of their Atlantic Coast League schedule next week. Marshfield coach Lou Silva says he schedules tough non-league games to help improve his team and get ready for league play. It sure looks like that philosophy is paying off.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Matt Silva, Dracut – How will Silva top his performance from last week? The quarterback totaled over 300 yards in the Middies’ thrashing of Billerica. Now he has motivation staring at him from the other sideline. There is no doubt Silva wants to have his way with his former coach’s squad.
Jamel Marshall, Mansfield – For the Hornets to beat King Philip, a heavy dose of Marshall will be in order. Mansfield has to keep the Warriors’ offense off the field and the best way is to give the ball to Marshall.
Greg Cohen, Weston – Cohen leads the Wildcats with five touchdowns this season. He is a big reason why they started the season 4-0. Weston has a date with Newton South this week and Boston Latin next before starting league games.
John Parsons, Wilmington -- Parsons is the Wildcats' Mr. Everything. Parsons is a punishing runner, a dependable pass catcher out of the backfield and has the ability to throw a pass or two. He is also a run stuffing linebacker for 4-0 Wilmington.
Every team in the Hockomock (Kelly-Rex division) has a winning record. King Philip and North Attleboro are 4-0 while Mansfield, Attleboro and Franklin are 3-1.
Burlington’s Marcus Odiah and Kyle Shields have combined to score 16 touchdowns (four per game) this season.
The top 3 leaders in touchdown passes in Division 2 are on teams in the Merrimack Valley Small. Dracut’s Matt Silva leads with 9, then Methuen’s Cal Carroll with 8 and then Tewksbury’s Sean Connolly with 7.
There are four 4-0 teams in Division 2A, with one in each league. Falmouth (Atlantic Coast), Duxbury (Patriot Keenan), Weston (Dual County Small) and Wilmington (Cape Ann Large) are all undefeated.
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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GlobeSchools for all of the latest updates.
Then there are our fall correspondents:
- Anthony Gulizia | @gulizia_a | Div. 1 football
- Eric Russo | @erusso22 | Div. 2 football
- Stephen Sellner | @stephen_sellner | Div. 3 football
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Div. 4 football
- Greg Joyce | @GJoyce9 | Div. 5 football
- Lorenzo Recupero | @LorenzoRecupero | Div. 6 football
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls volleyball
To reach the high school sports department, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.