2012 EMASS Football Preview

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Div 2 Merrimack Valley (Division 2)

Dracut

  • Last year's record: 8-4
  • Strength: Team chemistry, leadership from captain Zach Bassett.
  • Concerns: Loss of 19 seniors to graduation, loss of starting quarterback.
  • Coach: Jason Houston (3rd season, 13-10)
  • Playing surface: Grass
  • Schedule: Complete list of games
  • showReturning: 5 lettermen
    • Austin Bobb, QB/DB, 2014, 5-11, 160
    • Jeff Breen, TE/DL, 2013, 6-4, 235
    • Jacey Hebert, WR/DB, 2014, 6-0, 180
    • James MacDonald, WR/LB, 2014, 5-8, 170
    • Kyle Rodrigues, OL/DL, 2013, 6-4, 250

Coach Jason Houston thinks this team has something special this year: Zach Bassett. The second-year captain starts at wide receiver and linebacker, but works as more than just a player on the field. "He's a leader in the off season and in the regular season," Houston said. "We used to have pockets of kids who would hang out - Zach brought everyone together." According to Houston, Bassett is the catalyst behind a team chemistry that includes every member in activities. The aforementioned chemistry will be extremely important to this team, which is starting without an experienced quarterback. Jimmy Ryan, who started at QB last year, has decided to focus on wrestling his senior season, leaving the position to sophomore Tyler Bassett. The younger brother of the captain, Tyler "is mature way beyond his years," according to Houston. "He started on defense four games his freshman year," Houston added. "He wants the job. Other guys wouldn't want the press or the limelight, he wants the job." Houston believes having Zach as an anchor has helped Tyler prepare to start on offense. "Having his older brother as a returning captain has made an impact," Houston said. "He's been grilling him, helping to get him ready for offense."

Haverhill

  • Last year's record: 4-7
  • Strength: Experience at skill positions, overall athleticism.
  • Concerns: Inexperienced offensive line.
  • Coach: Tim O'Connor (3rd season, 4-18)
  • Playing surface: Artificial turf
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

When Tim O'Connor took over the Haverhill program three years ago, the Hillies were struggling and finished at 0-11. He has turned the team around and this past season, the team flirted with a .500 finish. Haverhill is returning a slew of starters this year and with the return of the football program, comes the return of a positive outlook in the city according to O'Connor. "We won several games last year for the first time in years," he added. "There's an excitement in the city. People are looking forward to seeing what we can do." The Hillies return starting quarterback Tom Morgan and a pair of wideouts for him to choose from (Tom Maguire and Nick O'Neill). They start Friday at Malden.

Lawrence

  • Last year's record: 5-6
  • Strength: Veteran defensive leadership.
  • Concerns: Lack of offensive experience.
  • Coach: Mike Yameen (8th season, 20-57)
  • Playing surface: Artificial turf
  • Schedule: Complete list of games
  • showReturning: 13 lettermen
    • Franger Baez, WR, 2013, 6-2, 175
    • Henry Carpio, DB, 2013, 5-7, 155
    • Jeremiah Damiron, RB, 2013, 5-6, 160
    • Andy Delacruz, DE, 2014, 5-11, 210
    • Carlos Domenech, LB, 2013, 5-10, 210
    • Nicholas Espinal, DB, 2013, 5-9, 160
    • Carlos Gonzalez, DE, 2013, 5-6, 160
    • Hector Jimenez, OT, 2013, 6-2, 240
    • Michael Monclova, DE, 2013, 6-2, 245
    • Jaddiel Polanco, DB, 2013, 5-7
    • Louis Rosa, QB, 2013, 5-7, 160
    • John Roy, WR, 2013, 5-6
    • George Urena, WR, 2013, 6-2, 170

Without a specific All-star on the squad this year, Lawrence coach Mike Yameen believes it's going to come down to the team chemistry to get the program ahead. "We've always been fortunate to have quarterbacks with varsity experience," Yameen said. "This year we don't have one. I think they're coming together as a group more because we don't have the All-stars." He added that the team has exceeded the coaching staff's expectations in the preseason. "We have guys with varsity experience but not a lot of returning starters. Most of the starters we have coming back are on defense. We lost a lot of seniors on offense last year that are going to be hard to replace." Lawrence opens up against Reading to help get the squad battle tested before a rigorous MVC schedule kicks in.

Methuen

  • Last year's record: 3-8
  • Strength: Overall athleticism, experience.
  • Concerns: Competitive schedule.
  • Coach: Tom Tone (2nd season)
  • Playing surface: Grass
  • Schedule: Complete list of games
  • showReturning: 4 lettermen
    • Austin George-Williams, QB, 2014, 6-0, 160
    • Evan Lacroix, WR, 2014, 6-0, 165
    • John Maginnis, S, 2014, 5-10, 160
    • Rudy Severino, CB, 2014, 5-8, 155

Heading into his second season, coach Tom Tone is nothing but positive when it comes to the players he is bringing back to the program. Despite the 3-8 record the Rangers posted last year, Tone thinks that the squad will be "in the hunt at the end of the season." Gio Rivera (DE), Dicky Aziz (OL), and Anthony Giorgio (OL) are returning starters and captains. Tone expects the three veterans as well as Sam Weeks (OL) to lead the way.

North Andover

  • Last year's record: 8-3
  • Strength: Inexperience.
  • Concerns: Athleticism. A new league asKnights join MVC.
  • Coach: John Rafferty (12th season, 78-43)
  • Playing surface: Artificial turf
  • Schedule: Complete list of games
  • showReturning: 8 lettermen
    • Colin Couillard, OL/DL, 2014, 5-11, 218
    • Glen Hartford, TE/LB, 2013, 6-1, 215
    • Nate Hitchcock, LG/DE, 2013, 6-2, 215
    • Matt Iannone, WR/DB, 2014, 5-11, 175
    • Tom O'Mara, OL/LB, 2013, 6-2, 215
    • Ahamdi Ogwuru, RB/LB, 2013, 6-0, 185
    • Nick Oswald, RB/DB, 2013, 5-9, 190
    • Casey Walsh, QB, 2014

Just three offensive starters and three defensive starters return to the Knights this season, leaving coach John Rafferty with a lot of holes to fill as the team moves to the Merriamck Valley Conference. Nick Oswald returns and will be the team's top running back, as Matt Iannone, the team's leading rusher last season, shifts to wide receiver. North Andover graduated one of the top quarterbacks in the state in Brandon Walsh (14 rushing TDs, 11 passing), but his brother Casey is a solid replacement. The younger Walsh played three games last season when his older brother Brandon was hurt, and there should be a smooth transition. While Nate Hitchcock is the lone returning starter on the offensive and defensive lines, seniors Tom O'Mara, Ahamdi Ogwuru, and Glen Hartford will form a punishing linebacker corps for the Scarlet Knights.

Tewksbury

  • Last year's record: 7-6
  • Strength: Experienced running backs and wide receivers.
  • Concerns: Depth in a program with around 50 athletes.
  • Coach: Brian Aylward (16th season, 82-77-1)
  • Playing surface: Grass
  • Schedule: Complete list of games
  • showReturning: 7 lettermen
    • Johnny Aylward, QB/S, 2014
    • Kevin Dick, WR/DB, 2014
    • Zak DiRocco, QB/CB, 2013
    • Tim Martel, DL, 2013
    • Kyle Pandolph, G/LB, 2013
    • Dominic Rosado, CB/WR, 2014
    • Tim Sughrue, TE/S, 2013

Tewksbury is bringing back just three returning starters, but veteran coach Brian Aylward doesn't want to call this a rebuilding year. "We lost a great group of kids that worked hard and meant a lot to the program," Aylward said. "But we had a great off season and there's a lot of enthusiasm. We've got a lot of talent." Two of the returning starters are running backs James Sullivan (5-foot-11) and Ed Matobu (6-2, 205). James is just a sophomore and could be a driving force behind Tewksbury's offense for the next three years. Kevin Dick and Dominic Rosado will start at wide receiver this year. Neither were starters last year, but have offensive power according to Aylward. Tewksbury opens up against Div. 1A Super Bowl runner-up Lincoln-Sudbury at home on Saturday at 2:30. "Lincoln-Sudbury will be a good opponent to measure what we're going to do," Aylward said.

3 games to watch

Sept
7
Everett at Leominster

The Crimson Tide take a 25-game winning streak into this game against the reigning CMass Division 1 Super Bowl champs.

Oct
12

With Troy Flutie and company on one side and Ozzy Colarusso on the other side, all signs point to a great, high-scoring game.

Nov
10
Cathedral at Pope John

A rematch of the game that decided the Central Catholic Small winner in 2011. Cathedral won, 16-12, and went on to the Super Bowl.

Preseason Top 20

Rank Team Last year
1 Everett 13-0
2 BC High 10-3
3 Xaverian 6-5
4 St. John's Prep 4-6
5 Barnstable 7-5
6 Bridgewater-Raynham 9-2
7 Duxbury 13-0
8 King Philip 9-2
9 Natick 9-2
10 Walpole 9-3
11 Weymouth 9-2
12 Brockton 5-6
13 Mashpee 13-0
14 Reading 8-4
15 Andover 7-4
16 Needham 9-4
17 Mansfield 9-2
18 Central Catholic 6-5
19 Westford 6-5
20 Beverly 7-4