2011 EMASS Football Preview

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Div 2A Middlesex (Small)

Burlington

  • Last year's record: 6-5
  • Strength: Team speed, overall skill.
  • Concerns: Offensive and defensive line depth.
  • Coach: Shawn Maguire (19th season, Career record: 111-78-5)
  • Playing surface: Artificial turf
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

With the Middlesex League splitting into different divisions, there is a better opportunity for the smaller schools to make the playoffs. The Red Devils had no problem scoring last season, and will count on an improved defense to put them at the top of the Middlesex Small standings. "Last year they were all sophomores and juniors," said coach Don Johnson of his defensive backfield. "We're a little bit bigger, stronger, faster, and experienced so we hope to take another step." Keep an eye on running back Marcus Odiah. Odiah led the team in scoring with 16 touchdowns last season, and he is being actively recruited going into his junior year. "He's a very hard worker," Johnson said. "He's a gifted runner, has great vision, he's very elusive and he's just a natural athlete." Burlington's biggest obstacle could be a tough schedule that includes games against Lexington, Reading, and Woburn.

Melrose

  • Last year's record: 3-8
  • Strength: Experience at skill positions.
  • Concerns: Depth.
  • Coach: Tim Morris (18th season, Career record: 86-76-4)
  • Playing surface: Artificial turf
  • Schedule: Complete list of games
  • showReturning: 6 lettermen
    • Dean Anderson, RB, Junior
    • Brett Barbati, QB, Senior
    • Bobby Croce, LB, Senior
    • CJ Hanson, WR/DB, Senior
    • Bryan Reale, QB/DB, Junior
    • Spencer Walsh, RB/LB, Senior

The Red Raiders look to bounce back from a sub-par 2010 season with an improved defense and strong play from key skill position players. Last season the Melrose defense gave up an average of more than 20 points per game in large part due to inexperience, particularly at linebacker and in the secondary. Seniors Bobby Croce and captain Spencer Walsh will lead the linebacking corps, and the return of the Hanson twins (C.J. and Paul) in the secondary should help stop the Raiders from giving up big plays. A talented group of receivers led by the Hansons and junior Dan Griffin will be catching passes from either Brett Barbati or Bryan Reale, who both started games last season.

Stoneham

  • Last year's record: 0-11
  • Strength: Senior leadership; skill positions.
  • Concerns: Overall depth.
  • Coach: David Pignone (2nd season, Career record: 0-11)
  • Playing surface: Grass
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

Coach Dave Pignone enters his second season at the Spartans' helm, hoping to secure his first win since taking over the program. Stoneham has not won a game in two full seasons (0-22). Pignone hopes that the addition of Bob Almeida — who turned around the Wilmington program in 15 years as head coach and most recently coached at Malden Catholic — can help end the Spartans' losing streak. Depth is a problem and most of starters will remain on the field for every down on both sides of the ball. Senior captain Anthony Aidonidis will try to regain the starting quarterback job he lost to Andrew Cann last year when he went down early with a season-ending injury. The defense, which gave up more than 30 points per game last season, remains a serious concern.

Wakefield

  • Last year's record: 6-4
  • Strength: Depth at skill positions.
  • Concerns: Inexperience and depth on lines.
  • Coach: Mike Boyages (15th season, 102-43-3)
  • Playing surface: Grass
  • Schedule: Complete list of games
  • showReturning: 4 lettermen
    • Jamie Bourque, DB/QB, Senior
    • Alec Brown, LB/RB, Junior
    • Nick Calderone, WR/DB, Senior, 5-8, 165
    • Josh Puccio, RB/LB, Senior, 6-0, 175

At first glance, Wakefield's overall offensive and defensive numbers both look mediocre. They scored an average of 19.8 points per game and gave up an average of 17. These averages are skewed by Wakefield's week-to-week inconsistency. When the Warriors won, they won big (see 48-16 win against Watertown), but when they lost, they were blown out (see 42-0 loss to Reading). With a little bit more consistency and a few tweaks Wakefield could contend for the new playoff spot opened up by the Middlesex realignment.

Watertown

  • Last year's record: 7-4
  • Strength: Off-season preparation; quarterback.
  • Concerns: Depth; inexperience.
  • Coach: John Cacace (5th season, Career record: 18-26)
  • Playing surface: Grass
  • Schedule: Complete list of games
  • showReturning: 7 lettermen
    • Mike Bacarri, K, Senior
    • Joey Farrar, QB/DB, Junior
    • PJ Finney, OL, Senior, 6-0, 240
    • Dino Flori, LB/TE, Senior
    • Sean McCusker, FB/LB, Senior
    • Giovanni Ortiz, WR/DB, Senior, 5-8, 150
    • Tim Rudman, OL/DE, Senior

With only three returning starters and seven lettermen from last year, inexperience could be the bane of Watertown's season. Their success will be highly dependant on quickly developing a young team. Junior quarterback Joey Farrar will step in to replace last season's first-team, all-league starter C.J. Logan. Even though it will be his first time playing quarterback at the varsity level coach John Cacace is confident in his abilities. "I think he will be a quality varsity quarterback," Cacace said. "He's very savvy and I think he will be a good leader for our offense." One of the Raiders' best assets is their schedule, which begins with four non-league games, giving the new players a good opportunity to get their feet wet.

Wilmington

  • Last year's record: 8-3
  • Strength: Offensive line; running back.
  • Concerns: Depth.
  • Coach: Mike Barry (4th season, Career record: 25-8)
  • Playing surface: Grass
  • Schedule: Complete list of games
  • showReturning: 9 lettermen
    • Brendan Ahern, Junior
    • Kyle Albanese, Senior
    • Frankie Cerbone, Senior
    • Ed DeLucia, Senior
    • Matt Ferreira, QB/DB, Senior, 5-8, 175
    • Alex Furlong, OL/DL, Senior, 6-1, 200
    • John Parsons, RB/LB, Senior, 6-2, 190
    • Dan Pendenza, Junior
    • Killian Smith, Senior

The Wildcats biggest problems last season were mental. "The biggest thing we've talked about in the off-season is eliminating mistakes," said coach Mike Barry. Turnovers and penalties were big problems but with a little discipline that can change. Three-year starter Matt Ferreira will shift over to quarterback from his normal position at wide receiver to take over for Sean Hanley. Senior captain John Parsons will anchor the defense at linebacker and also do a good amount of ground work on offense. Last season he led the team in tackles and rushed for 12 touchdowns. After last season Wilmington departed from the Cape Ann Large League for the Middlesex Small. Their first league game is at home against Wakefield on October 14.

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