2013 EMASS Football Preview

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Middlesex - Liberty

Arlington

  • Last year's record: 3-8
  • Strength: Skill positions on offense; overall experience.
  • Concerns: Overall depth, especially on the offensive line.
  • Coach: John Dubzinski (3rd season, 6-16)
  • Playing surface: Artificial turf
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

It's been a turbulent first two seasons for Arlington head coach John Dubzinski, but things are looking up for the Spy Ponders. Unlike the last two seasons, the Spy Ponders will have a large, seasoned group of seniors who will take hold of the leadership roles on the team. The roster boasts 20 seniors with 18 returning starters, numbers Dubzinski hopes will pay dividends on both sides of the ball. Arlington returns nearly the entirety of its offense, including senior quarterback Seth Coiley, a Middlesex Liberty All-Star. After rushing for 700 yards and tallying eight touchdowns - passing and rushing - last fall, Coiley will rotate with junior Frank Roche under center, a move Dubzinski hopes will capitalize on the dynamic playmaking abilities of both players. Three-year starter Zach Thomas, a league All-Star at outside linebacker, could be in line to have a monster season at tight end. The only glaring hole is that left by outside linebacker Matt Garcia. Senior Marco Saenz-Grant will fill in the shoes for Garcia at linebacker, while junior defensive end Nick Rose and senior defensive back Andrew Cunningham continue to grow in their positions. Two-year captain Lucas Hanley will shore up the middle of the field at inside linebacker. "Every coach gives the old cliché that they just want to get better day by day." said Dubzinski. "When we met in the preseason, we had the kids write down their goals, and the majority of kids wanted a winning record and to make the playoffs, to improve on last year."

Belmont

  • Last year's record: 1-10
  • Strength: Intelligent group of kids, very coachable.
  • Concerns: Depth across the board.
  • Coach: Kevin Gildea (9th season, 35-52)
  • Playing surface: Artificial turf
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

Belmont continues to face an uphill battle in a grueling Middlesex (Liberty) League, and it won't get much easier this season. With only 32 players making up this year's roster, coach Kevin Gildea and the Marauders can ill-afford any major injuries over the course of the season. But Belmont has reason to be excited by this year's group. According to Gildea, junior running back Max Jones (5-foot-8, 160 pounds) and senior running back J.D. Niles (5-foot-9, 175 pounds) could wreak havoc in an offense that is focused on the run. Under center, the quarterback job is a two-horse race between 6-foot junior Nick Call and a 5-foot-8, 165-pound freshman Cal Cristofori. On defense, the Marauders hope to improve on the 28.2 points per game they allowed last fall. "We continue to stress believing in each other," said Gildea. "Believe in each other, believe in the coaches, believe in what we've been doing. There's a lot of unity with this group, which has been nice."

Lexington

  • Last year's record: 4-7
  • Strength: Young but athletic at the skill positions on offense.
  • Concerns: Youth, especially along the offensive line.
  • Coach: George Peterson (3rd season, 8-14)
  • Playing surface: Grass
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

In his first two seasons as Lexington's coach, George Peterson was lucky enough to have a roster full of experience; seniors who had played in a handful of contests, and bench players to match. This fall, Peterson will line up seven players on both side of the ball who have never played in a varsity game. Lexington was hit hardest up front, as the Minutemen return only one player on the offensive line, and must move on without offensive and defensive tackle Nick Nerolian (University of Albany). While the offensive line works to find its identity over the first few weeks of the season, sophomore Jeff Costello will line up behind the line's only returning starter, Rhett Adley. An "elusive, very accurate thrower," according to Peterson, Costello will replace last year's dual-threat starter in Xander Erickson (1,640 yards and 10 passing touchdowns; 159 rushes for 429 yards and seven touchdowns). Junior wideout Connor Murphy and running back Mike Fernandes should provide some pop in the Minuteman offense, but change won't come overnight. "We try to take things on a day to day basis and that's what we preach and focus on." said Peterson "We're focused on getting better every single day. Having to get through the mistakes and the learning curve of playing in a varsity game will be the biggest change for us."

Reading

  • Last year's record: 13-0
  • Strength: Experienced, explosive offense.
  • Concerns: Holes in the defensive line.
  • Coach: John Fiore (10th season, (76-28))
  • Playing surface: Artificial turf
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

If teams in Division 2 are hoping for a slower, softer Reading team in 2013, they might have to wait until next year. With a 13-0 season fondly in the rearview mirror, coach John Fiore and the Rockets return a plethora of talent from their Division 2 title run last fall, especially on offense. Senior Drew Belcher, the Division 2 Player of the Year, returns for an encore performance following a junior campaign in which he threw 1,700 yards and 21 touchdowns to complement his 800 yards and 15 scores on the ground. Belcher will miss two of his favorite targets in Ryan Maney (eight touchdowns) and Chris Godwin (five touchdowns), but tight end Robert DiLoreto will return for his senior year. Along with a stacked offense, the Rockets return many of the players that comprised the most prolific defense in the state (4.7 points per game allowed in 2012 was the lowest in EMass). Gone is All-State defensive lineman Matt Comerford and linemate Peter Fodera. Senior lineman Chris Polleys is sure to step up and fill one spot, with the other potentially going to 225-pound sophomore Sean Valente. Three-year starter Liam Kenneally is heading the linebacker position, the Rockets will continue to hit and hit hard. "I think that we have to try to find as much consistency as possible at everything were doing," said Fiore. "We can't compare last year to this year. We can only build off the things we do each year that resulted in success. How we're practicing and what we're doing in the offseason to get ready, the teamwork, the leadership the kids bring to the table, that's what we have to continue on with."

Winchester

  • Last year's record: 3-8
  • Strength: New, promising weapons on offense.
  • Concerns: Inexperience on both sides of the ball; team speed.
  • Coach: Wally Dembowski (3rd season, (4-17))
  • Playing surface: Artificial turf
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

The first few games will be crucial for Winchester this year, as the Sachems return only three starters on offense and five on defense. New quarterback Michael Grassey (6-4, 220 pounds) will replace Tim Mangano (1,400 yards passing, eight touchdowns), and will stand tall as a pocket passer. Winchester will also have a new face at running back, as John Costello makes way for senior captain Dana Marrocco. Seniors John Dooley and Quinn Johnson will line up outside the numbers as new threats for the Sachems. With all the new faces comes the inevitable wait for unity and cohesion, and that includes the offensive line, which will have two new linemen this fall. Two players who spent a handful of time on the shelf last season, junior slot receiver Davis Clarke and senior lineman Tony Oquendo-Loftman, could prove to be strong additions to a single-back formation that looks poised to throw the ball and throw often. "Players are starting to understand who I am and what I expect and just how to act," said Dembowski. "There are less kids now questioning what we do because when they execute the scheme and do it the right way they realize this stuff works. There's that trust between coaches and players now."

Woburn

  • Last year's record: 5-5
  • Strength: Young, skilled players on offense.
  • Concerns: Loss of four league All-Stars on offense.
  • Coach: Rocky Nelson (28th season, (180-105))
  • Playing surface: Artificial turf
  • Schedule: Complete list of games

With the new football playoffs in place, Woburn will have a tough time duplicating the late-season success they found last fall. After starting the season losing four of their first five by a combined score of 84-15, the Tanners nearly took down eventual Division 2 champion Reading, holding one of the state's most prolific offenses to 18 points. This fall, the Tanners are going to have to fill huge holes on both sides of the ball, but may just have the talent to do it. Woburn graduated running back Jared O'Brien, tight end David Pratt, and offensive linemen Rory O'Brien and AJ Santiago, all of whom were Middlesex All-Stars last fall. Senior Rob Vocci returns under center after earning his way into the starting role last fall. Voci, a mobile quarterback himself, will be flanked by a pair of up-and-coming running backs in juniors Marvin Jean and Chris Jewett. On defense, Chris Scichilone will help anchor the front seven, while Christian Cesvette will help man the secondary.

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3 games to watch

Sept
6

Duxbury comes in with a 42-game regular-season winning streak, while Abington went 13-0 and won a Div. 4 Super Bowl last year.

Sept
20

This is Dorchester's first home game ever on the newly renovated Roberts Field. LA brings All-Scholastic QB Kyle Dance.

Oct
25
Natick at Walpole

These two preseason Top 10 teams tied for first in the Bay State Herget last year. This game could well decide the title again.

Preseason Top 20

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