2011 EMASS Football Preview

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Div 1 Merrimack Valley (Division 1)

Andover

  • Last year's record: 8-4
  • Strength: Running back; Speed; Line.
  • Concerns: Making up for massive loss of talent.
  • Coach: E.J. Perry (2nd season, 8-4)
  • Playing surface: Artificial turf
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

Andover wasn't expected to win the Merrimack Valley Conference Div. 1 last year and was even less likely to hang with Everett in the first round of the playoffs. Now, after proving everyone wrong last season, the Golden Warriors are emerging as the team to gun for in the loaded MVC Div. 1. Everyone knows about running back/quarterback hybrid Andrew Coke, a scoring machine who is going to be showcased in the secondary (where colleges are projecting him to play), but this should be one of the more well-rounded teams. Despite losing some serious talent along the line, coach E.J. Perry brings back T.J. Leeman and Matt Crush, and the emergence of Ben Hartford should give him three very good linemen. The loss of linebacker Ned Deane will be softened by the presence of Will Clark, who also plays tight end. Perry believes the team will benefit from last year's experience with a whole new system, now being able to ‘‘understand and play through the system rather than trying to learn every second.''

Billerica

  • Last year's record: 5-6
  • Strength: Passing game.
  • Concerns: Defense.
  • Coach: Peter Flynn (22nd season, 140-87)
  • Playing surface: Grass
  • Schedule: Complete list of games
  • showReturning: 20 lettermen
    • Matt Clifford, WR/DB, Junior, 5-11, 175
    • Chad DellaPorta, OL/DL, Junior, 6-1, 305
    • Jason Ferri, OLB/RB, Senior, 5-10, 180
    • Justin Fritz, WR/DB, Senior, 5-11, 170
    • Corey Glavin, ILB, Junior, 5-11, 185
    • Eddie Jankowski, MLB, Senior, 6-0, 210
    • Conor Kelly, OL/DL, Junior, 6-0, 180
    • Nick LaSpada, QB/FS, Senior, 6-2, 190
    • Dylan Lavery, P, Junior, 5-10, 160
    • Chris Murphy, OL/DL, Sophomore, 6-5, 290
    • Eric Noetzel, OL/DL, Sophomore, 6-5, 290
    • Martin Owens, DL, Senior, 6-0, 285
    • Byron Ramirez, RB/OLB, Senior, 6-1, 205
    • Will Ricard, WR/DB, Senior, 6-1, 185
    • Robert Senesi, OL/DL, Junior, 6-0, 280
    • Matt Shannon, WR/DB, Senior, 5-11, 170
    • Cam Slatton, WR/DB, Senior, 5-9, 170
    • Brian Thompson, OLB, Senior, 6-0, 210
    • Steven Trask, K/WR, Junior, 5-10, 170
    • Josh Westcott, OL/DL, Senior, 6-0, 230

The focus may have been on all-world quarterback Nick LaSpada last season, but the real story was the Indians' underachieving defense which led to a disapointing record. This year, with only one more year of LaSpada and a new defensive coordinator in former Trinity player Dan MacKay, Billerica may be feeling the heat to get to the Super Bowl. LaSpada has been in great sync with his receivers in the preseason, completing all 22 of his passes to his athletic group of pass-catchers led by Matt Clifford, Justin Fritz, and Cam Slatton. The defense allowed 24.2 points per game last season, but a year of seasoning for the line and the addition of pass-rushing senior Tom McLaughlin from the lacrosse team is reason for optimism.

Central Catholic

  • Last year's record: 7-4
  • Strength: Passing game; linebackers.
  • Concerns: Youthful mental mistakes.
  • Coach: Chuck Adamopolous (15th season, 97-54)
  • Playing surface: Artificial turf
  • Schedule: Complete list of games
  • showReturning: 9 lettermen
    • Ryan Barry, OT/DT, Junior, 6-4, 245
    • Santino Brancato, RB/LB, Junior, 5-10, 180
    • Fortune Kalala, RB/LB, Senior, 5-10, 180
    • Evan Lattrell, RB/LB, Senior, 5-10, 165
    • Matt McDermott, QB, Senior, 6-2, 200
    • Christian Nunez, OT/DT, Senior, 5-11, 240
    • Nick Parent, C/OLB, Senior, 5-10, 175
    • Henry Rodriguez, WR/DB, Senior, 5-11, 185
    • Ben Tavitian, G/DT, Junior, 5-11, 210

Central Catholic was hit hard by graduation, particularly on offense, but does bring back quarterback Matt McDermott and enough of the line to threaten the top-heavy Merrimack Valley Conference Div. 1. Ryan Barry should anchor both sides of the line and pave the way for running backs Fortune Kalala and Santino Brancato, both of whom are also hard-hitting linebackers. McDermott has built up a great rhythm with receiver Henry Rodriguez, and the senior quarterback has the legs to be very effective as a dual-threat. The youthfulness of the Raiders and the tough division gives them a low basement, but what little they do return could make them a contender.

Chelmsford

  • Last year's record: 7-4
  • Strength: Speed; tight end; defensive experience.
  • Concerns: Staying healthy.
  • Coach: Bruce Rich (16th season, 113-49-2)
  • Playing surface: Artificial turf
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

Chelmsford certainly entered 2010 like Lions, but went out like lambs, unable to capitalize on a 4-0 start to the season after being hampered by injuries which led to inconsistency. Assuming health (always a risky thing), coach Bruce Rich's team should be considered as much a favorite as anyone to emerge from the bruising Merrimack Valley Conference Div. 1. ‘‘I think the playoffs is our goal every year, you've got to set the bar high,'' said Rich. ‘‘You have to get lucky and stay healthy.'' Linebacker/tight end Tim Joy gets a lot of publicity — and rightfully so — but keep an eye open for senior quarterback Colby Emanouil and running back/cornerback Eddie Sheridan, two of a plethora of returning starters for Rich's experienced squad.

Lowell

  • Last year's record: 5-6
  • Strength: Speed; quarterback.
  • Concerns: Defense.
  • Coach: John Florence (1st season, 0-0)
  • Playing surface: Artificial turf
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

Lowell doesn't have a Nick LaSpada like Billerica, an Andrew Coke like Andover, or a Tim Joy like Chelmsford, and that may have contributed to a winless season in the MVC Div. 1 last year. But the Red Raiders were 5-2 in nonleague competition, and made history in an eight-overtime classic against Andover. ‘‘Well, hopefully we don't give up 88 points in a game again,'' said first year coach John Florence. The defense should see a sizable improvement with an added emphasis on attacking the ball carrier and tackling. Lowell brings back R.J. Noel, who was one of the more unheralded quarterbacks last season. Florence hopes to battle week in and week out, but would like to establish a foundation of consistency for a program which has sorely lacked it.

3 games to watch

Sept
24

The Crimson Tide visit the Eagles in Week 3 for a rematch of last season’s Division 1 Super Bowl.

Oct
14

Marshfeld handed the Atlantic Coast League champs their only loss last season and this one could decide the league title again.

Nov
11
North Attleborough at Mansfield

Coaches Don Johnson and Mike Redding — former teammates at North Attleboro and Holy Cross — face off after each led their teams to impressive 10-1 seasons last fall.

Preseason Top 20

Rank Team Last year
1 Everett 12-0
2 Duxbury 13-0
3 BC High 6-4
4 Catholic Memorial 5-5
5 Brockton 8-3
6 Xaverian 8-3
7 Mansfield 12-1
8 St. John's Prep 8-5
9 Bridgewater-Raynham 10-3
10 Andover 8-4
11 Dracut 8-4
12 Weymouth 11-1
13 Concord-Carlisle 10-3
14 Dennis-Yarmouth 10-2
15 Lincoln-Sudbury 8-4
16 Reading 12-1
17 Gloucester 13-0
18 North Andover 10-2
19 Billerica 5-6
20 Chelmsford 7-4