2009 EMASS Football Preview

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Div 3A Tri-Valley

Ashland

  • Last year's record: 1-10
  • Strength: Experience at offensive and defensive line.
  • Concerns: Overall depth.
  • Coach: David DiGirolomo (5th season, 17-27)
  • Playing surface: Grass
  • Schedule: Complete list of games
  • showReturning: 10 lettermen
    • Matt Apuzzo, C, Senior, 6-1, 208
    • Tim Carey, LG, Senior, 6-0, 185
    • Joe Cobb, RG, Senior, 5-9, 191
    • Jim O'Brien, RB, Senior, 5-8, 160
    • Matt Perry, TE, Senior, 6-4, 195
    • Joe Rackausais, RT, Senior, 6-0, 282
    • Ben Rohmer, WR, Junior, 5-7, 165
    • Troy Simpson, RB, Junior, 5-7, 150
    • Taylor Stewart, LT, Senior, 5-11, 250
    • Nick Thornquist, WR, Senior, 5-10, 165

Ashland is looking to rebound from last season and grow as a team in 2009. Coach Dave DiGirolomo knows that depth at nearly every position will be a problem, but hopes that an experienced offensive and defensive line will win key battles in the trenches for the Clockers. DiGirolomo is toying with the possibility of a rotating quarterback system, and is giving the reins to some of his youngest players. Sophomore Bo Prozinski will take most of the snaps, but freshman Luke Cuneo is also in the mix to lead a Clockers offense that will need to be more efficient if Ashland is to be competitive this season in the Tri-Valley Conference. Whether it is Prozinksi or Cuneo, their primary role will be to hand the ball off to senior captain Jim O'Brien and junior Troy Simpson, as Ashland will depend on a run-heavy offense. DiGirolomo is expecting a season with ups and downs, but will be satisfied as long as the end product is growth. "We don't have expectations in terms of wins and losses," the fifth-year head coach said. "We just want the best product on the field that we can produce each week."

Bellingham

  • Last year's record: 0-11
  • Strength: Experience, as well as size and strength on both lines.
  • Concerns: Lack of overall team speed and overall depth.
  • Coach: Ted Rigney (7th season, 32-34)
  • Playing surface: Grass
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

Following a winless 2008 campaign, it would be understandable if the mood at Bellingham was sour. Suprisingly, the Blackhawks are anything but negative. "Our outlook is positive, and we're trying to get back into contention," says coach Ted Rigney. "There's only one way to go, and that's up." Rigney is bringing the program back to its roots by employing a wing-T offense centered on experienced halfbacks. Additionally, the defense will play a conservative style as well. "We tried to make a living blitzing last year, and obviously, it didn't work," Rigney said. The goal for Rigney is to use last year as a motivational tool, and the Blackhawks look to prove that last year was just a fluke.

Dover-Sherborn

  • Last year's record: 6-5
  • Strength: Depth at skill positions and kicking game.
  • Concerns: Lack of size and inexperience at offensive and defensive line.
  • Coach: Jim Girard (2nd season, 6-5)
  • Playing surface: Grass
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

Dover-Sherborn is looking to build on a successful 2008 campaign that saw the Raiders finish above .500. Taking the next step is going to be difficult in a competitive Tri-Valley League, but coach Jim Girard seems up for the challenge. "We are building enthusiasm," the second-year head coach said. "We want to move the program in a direction where we are performing consistently at a competitive level." That will be accomplished in 2009 if the Raiders are able to be versatile on both offense and defense. "We're moving some veterans all around to positions for the first time," Girard said. One of these transitions will be newcomers on the offensive line. They will be small, but Girard hopes their awareness and quickness with make up for a lack of brute strength. The Raiders also employ a strong kicking game comprised of twin brothers. They'll depend on Mike Torigian to score from long range and brother Tim to pin opposing offenses deep. The key for the Raiders in 2009 will be the versatility of a veteran unit.

Holliston

  • Last year's record: 4-6
  • Strength: Team speed and experience.
  • Concerns: Depth at all positions.
  • Coach: Todd Kiley (7th season, 44-21)
  • Playing surface: Artificial turf
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

Holliston toughed out the 2008 campaign by starting 10 sophomores and a freshman. This season, coach Todd Kiley hopes that that learning experience will pay off. "We weren't rebuilding last year," says Kiley. "Our best players happened to be young." The Panthers should have a rare blend of young players that have seen varsity experience in the tough Tri-Valley. Kiley says that this squad is faster and stronger than any team he coached previously. Considering that he's already won one league title, it's clear that the Panthers have high expectations for 2009. "It's a top-heavy league, and there's usually five teams in the mix," Kiley said. "We plan on being one of those teams."

Hopkinton

  • Last year's record: 6-5
  • Strength: Senior leadership and offensive line.
  • Concerns: Skill positions and team speed.
  • Coach: Steve Simoes (2nd season, 6-5)
  • Playing surface: Grass
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

Hopkinton is looking to break away from the middle of the Tri-Valley pack this season, but will face some big obstacles in the form of a tough conference and nonleague schedule. Coach Steve Simoes will be counting on senior leadership to guide the Hillers through the fall. But working against Simoes is the lack of skill players with game-breaking potential on both sides of the ball. To work around the lack of speed, the coaches will need to produce creative gameplans. On offense, the Hillers will simply look to control the ball with a run-heavy offense. Defensively, aggressive is the keyword for Hopkinton. "We need to compensate for a lack of size and speed, so we're going to be very aggressive," Simoes said. "We want to fly to the football." If the defense can make big plays and the offense controls the ball, the Hillers have a good chance of making a move for the top of the conference.

Medfield

  • Last year's record: 6-5
  • Strength: Size and experience on both offensive and defensive lines.
  • Concerns: Inexperience at skill positions.
  • Coach: Mike Slason (5th season, 37-11)
  • Playing surface: Artificial turf
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

Medfield's 2009 season will depend on how quickly the young players can scale a steep learning curve and gain valuable Tri-Valley League experience. Variety will be the spice of the Warriors offense this season, as coach Mike Slason will be employing anything and everything to move the chains. "We'll run a basic I-formation to the spread to the California double-wing or diesel offense," the fifth-year head coach said. Learning the multiple offensive sets will be just one challenge for a young Warrior team. "I'd like to be in the top half of the league," Slason said. "If our inexperience doesn't prove to be a factor, we should be in that upper half."

Medway

  • Last year's record: 10-1
  • Strength: Experience and a balanced offensive attack.
  • Concerns: Depth and youth on second-string.
  • Coach: Dave McSweeney (2nd season, 10-1)
  • Playing surface: Artificial turf
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

Medway is looking to capture the Tri-Valley title that barely eluded them in 2008, and will stop at nothing to get that title this year. Dave McSweeney burst onto the scene, nabbing a 10-1 record to start his coaching career. However, he's not satisfied with an excellent 2008 campaign. "We don't talk about win-loss records," McSweeney said. "We'll approach this year one week at a time, and try to take care of business every week." Part of that business plan will be depending on Ted Davenport (133 points last fall) to take handoffs from fellow senior captain John Giacobbe. If those two even come close to repeating their 2008 performances, the Mustangs will score more than enough to take the title this season. The talent is there for the Mustangs in 2009, and McSweeney knows it. "We're not going to mess them up with overcoaching," he said. "They have good instincts, so we'll just line them up and let them play." One challege McSweeney will face is tempering high expectations, and keeping the players focused on the task at hand. "Kids are kids," McSweeney said. "They're smart enough to know what the prize is at the end, so we have to focus on playing week-to-week."

Millis

  • Last year's record: 5-6
  • Strength: Skill positions.
  • Concerns: Lack of experience on offensive and defensive line.
  • Coach: Dave Olmsted (4th season, 8-25)
  • Playing surface: Grass
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

Many high school coaches say that they don't have specific won-loss goals, as long as they put a good product on the field. But when Dale Olmsted says it, it's true. Because after all, there was almost no product on the field at all in 2009. "We weren't going to have football this year, because our numbers were so low," the fourth-year head coach said. "But we've partnered with Hopedale High and brought over 11 kids." Now that Olmsted has enough players to field a team, he can start worrying about where to play them. Young, inexperienced players will dot the Mohawk depth chart, including on the offensive line. One player who knows exactly where to line up is returning star quarterback John Duffy, who will once again take the helm of the Mohawk spread offense. If the untested offensive line can keep him upright, Millis could score in bunches. "I think Duffy is a premier player in this league," Olmsted said. "He's the kind of athlete that makes the players around him better." Now that the Mohawks have a stocked depth chart and Duffy to lead them, there is reason for optimism at Millis.

Norton

  • Last year's record: 11-2
  • Strength: Quarterback and team experience.
  • Concerns: Inexperience at wide receiver and running back.
  • Coach: Ted Curley (1st season, 0-0)
  • Playing surface: Grass
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

Expectations are high at Norton, as the team looks to rekindle the magic of a season ago, when Lancers fell just short of capturing a Division 3 title in their Super Bowl loss to Arlington Catholic. Most expect Norton to battle it out with Medway for the league title, but the Lancers could face unexpected challenges as they become the hunted in the Tri-Valley. After averaging nearly 30 points per game while allowing only 11, there is undoubtedly a target on their back every Friday night. Norton will miss Sean Ryan, who led Division 3 in scoring with 218 points. The graduated Ryan scored 36 touchdowns last season, so the Lancers must look to replace his scoring. The onus will fall heavily on senior quarterback Brendan St. Germaine, who tied for fourth in Division 3 with 12 touchdown passes.

Westwood

  • Last year's record: 7-4
  • Strength: Team speed and receiver experience.
  • Concerns: Size and depth.
  • Coach: Paul Hallion (6th season, 37-19)
  • Playing surface: Artificial turf
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

Westwood's 2009 success will depend largely on finishing off opponents and turning close losses into wins. Last season, Paul Hallion's squad lost three games by less than a touchdown. Making small adjustments might be enough for the Wolverines to claw their way to a Tri-Valley League title. Leading the charge will be team's star senior wide receivers, Jordan MacPherson and P.J. Pender. Both 6'0," 170 pound receivers will be counted on to produce in the red zone in order for the Wolverines to be an offensive force. One issue Westwood faces is getting those two wide receivers the ball. As it stands now, junior Will Smith and sophomore Glenn Parsons are competing for the starting quarterback job. Whoever ends up winning the job will be in charge of "game management" according to Hallion, who will not rotate quarterbacks. The winner of the quarterback competition will face not only the responsibility of getting the ball to MacPherson and Pender, but also the tough task of being the deciding force in close Tri-Valley contests.

10 games to watch

Sep
11

BC High has won both times they met in the past year, including last season's nail-biting Super Bowl.

Sep
11

Walpole hopes to put a tumultuous off-season in the rearview mirror as they start their 2009 campaign.

Sep
17

In an interesting non-league match-up, Hurd Stadium in Beverly will host its first-ever night football game.