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School football advance

Mansfield is buzzing again

Hornets open in familiar territory

Mike Redding and his Mansfield Warriors open the season tonight - at the Carrier Dome. Mike Redding and his Mansfield Warriors open the season tonight - at the Carrier Dome. (2010 File/Robert E. Klein/For The Globe)
By Ryan Mooney
Globe Correspondent / September 9, 2011

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Defending Division 2 Super Bowl champion Mansfield will open its season tonight some 300 miles from home, at Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome against Christian Brothers Academy.

“Last year we went to Rochester . . . we actually got into the Dome for about an hour to practice, and [the kids] were wide-eyed and pretty psyched,’’ said coach Mike Redding. “I think this year when we announced in the spring that we were going to go there and actually play there was definitely a lot of excitement.’’

Last Friday, Redding and his assistants left Camp Mah-Kee-Nac in Lenox - where they were holding preseason practices and team activities - to catch a Christian Brothers scrimmage in Syracuse and ponder what they will be up against. In what was perhaps a statement to the Mansfield brass, the Brothers shut out Baldwinsville, a two-time defending league champion, 27-0.

“They were very impressive,’’ Redding said. “They are very athletic, very skilled, and very well coached. It was a pretty impressive display. We definitely have our hands full in upstate New York.’’

Christian Brothers returns eight starters from last year’s 9-1 campaign and Maxpreps.com ranks the team No. 6 in the state. Dual-threat quarterback Cam MacPherson - the grandson of former Syracuse and Patriots coach Dick MacPherson - leads the offense.

Christian Brothers likes to keep the ball on the ground, running behind lineman Ben Bartlett. The 6-foot-4-inch, 270-pound Bartlett has committed to Syracuse.

“We’ve got to try to put some bodies around where he is because they want to follow him and he’s definitely a dominant lineman,’’ Redding said. “They play with three running backs and all three are pretty equal, good feet, tough kids.’’

Mansfield will likely try to move the chains through the air. As Hockomock League opponents can attest, the Hornets score early and often - they averaged more than 31 points per game last season. Redding plans on throwing the ball more this season, and playing indoors might lead to a formidable game from senior quarterback George Busharis.

Mansfield hopes its second consecutive season opener in the Empire State goes better than the first. Last season, the Hornets fell to Aquinas Institute, 32-5, their only loss of the season.

Aquinas was supposed to come to Mansfield to complete a home-and-home series, but the school was invited to play in the Kickoff Classic at the Carrier Dome. Aquinas did not want to leave Mansfield high and dry, so the school appealed to event organizers to allow an out-of-state team to compete. It was decided that the teams would not play each other.

The Hornets are dedicating their season to the memory of Al DeSimone - longtime coach, founder and president of the Gridiron Club - who died in May.

In other games, Jonathan DiBiaso leads top-ranked Everett tonight in its season opener at home against Leominster. Also tonight, four of the top-10 teams in the state clash. No. 5 Brockton pays a visit to No. 3 BC High and No. 9 Bridgewater-Raynham takes on No. 2 Duxbury. The Boxers and the Eagles are early favorites to win their respective leagues in Division 1. Bridgewater-Raynham is the defending Old Colony champion, and Duxbury finished 13-0 last fall as Division 2A Super Bowl champion. The first game of the George Peterson era takes place tomorrow in Lexington as the Minutemen battle Wakefield. The successor to legendary coach Bill Tighe hopes to pick up where his predecessor left off in the first nonleague game between the teams.