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Football Thursday

No leap to have faith in Lynch

Arlington Catholic off to an 8-0 start behind senior’s offensive wizardry

Arlington Catholic’s Bernard Lynch vaults over a Bishop Fenwick defender for one of his scores Saturday. Arlington Catholic’s Bernard Lynch vaults over a Bishop Fenwick defender for one of his scores Saturday. (Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)
By Phil Perry
Globe Correspondent / November 10, 2011

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ARLINGTON - At this point, it takes a lot for Bernard Lynch to surprise his teammates at Arlington Catholic High.

The unbeaten Cougars (8-0) are so used to his long, electrifying touchdown runs that when he turns a 5-yard pass into a 66-yard gain, as he did on his first offensive touch against Bishop Fenwick last week, or when he hits a hole and sprints for a 46-yard score, as he did on his very next touch, there’s no drawn-out celebration.

Lynch simply trots back to his sideline, and grabs a seat on the bench to catch his breath.

That’s what made his third touchdown in Arlington Catholic’s 49-22 win stand out.

Starting from the 15-yard line, he ran right, met a defender at the goal line and appeared to use every last fraction of his 33-inch vertical leap to hurdle the would-be tackler and land in the end zone.

Though he’s made the spectacular seem pedestrian at times, Lynch still finds a way to astound whenever he takes the field, teammates say.

“That was unbelievable,’’ senior quarterback Pat O’Donnell said of Lynch’s gravity-defying leap. “That was one of those things. I just looked at my sideline, like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ . . . He surprises me every game. It’s unexplainable.’’

In just one half, Lynch had racked up 210 total yards and four touchdowns on eight carries and one catch. In seven games this fall, he piled up 1,146 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns as a running back, receiver, and returner. (He missed an overtime win against St. Mary’s of Lynn with a concussion.)

Arlington Catholic coach Serge Clivio said he knew Lynch would be an exciting player when he showed up as a sophomore transfer from Catholic Memorial and occasionally flashed his athleticism by doing back flips.

Now a senior, the 5-foot-6 Lynch is the key cog in the Cougars’ spread rushing attack. He’s averaging a gaudy 14.5 yards per carry, and Arlington Catholic - after finishing 2-9 last fall - is on track for the program’s first unbeaten campaign.

“Bernard can break a big play every time he touches it,’’ Clivio said. “It’s certainly helped to turn this season around. But it doesn’t matter who’s in the backfield if you don’t have a good line. You put him behind a good offensive line that gets off the ball and gets into people? You just never know what’s going to happen.’’

In the trenches, senior Henry O’Connell of Stoneham, senior John Quinci (Woburn), junior Harry Thom (Arlington), junior John Strezo (Burlington), and junior Garrett Collins (Billerica) have cleared holes for both O’Donnell (Woburn) and Lynch (Dorchester).

The diminutive speedster was invited to camps at Boston College, Rutgers, and University of Connecticut last summer. Although Lynch was impressive in his workouts - he was timed at 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash - he overheard coaches discounting him because of his height.

“I’d hear them start saying, ‘He might be a little too small for our program’ or whatever,’’ Lynch said. “In the back of my mind, every game, I say, ‘I hope they’re watching to see how small I am and see what I can do now.’ ’’

Lynch has received significant interest from Bentley University to play football and run track, but he still does everything he can to prove to bigger programs that he can withstand contact.

He likes to run over defenders rather than run around them (unless, of course, he’s jumping over them); he’s increased his bench-press maximum to 300 pounds; and, as a starting cornerback on defense, he gets in on as many tackles as possible, providing evidence to colleges about his toughness.

“He’s got it all,’’ said Bishop Fenwick coach David Woods. “He’s got the speed. He’s also got the strength and the power to run through tackles. When you finally do get a couple of guys to the ball, he can run right through them and break the tackles. It makes him very tough to defend.’’

Lynch is hoping to be just as problematic Saturday as the Cougars take on Cardinal Spellman (9-0) at home with a chance to clinch the Central Catholic Conference’s Large Division title.

“That’s where my main focus is right now,’’ Lynch said. “What can I do to help this team win?’’

Whatever it is, if there’s a way to astonish, odds are he’ll find it.

Panthers’ rushing overpowers foes

Holliston High senior Jake Frechette set the program’s all-time rushing record two weeks ago and is showing no signs of slowing down. After breaking the career mark with 141 rushing yards against Millis-Hopedale in a 35-13 win, he ran for 154 more last week to help the Panthers beat Medway, 41-12.

His career total stands at 3,263 yards. The previous record (3,013 yards) was held by Matt Bellomo, now at Holy Cross.

“He was driven this year,’’ said coach Todd Kiley, who praised Frechette for putting on 15 pounds of muscle over the summer. “He’s a kid who has very good instincts, just natural instincts. . . . He reads his blocks, he’s strong, he’s fast. That equals a pretty good back.’’

Frechette, a four-year varsity player, and quarterback Dan Barone both have more than 1,100 yards rushing this season, forming a tough two-headed attack in the Panthers’ spread offense.

After losing its second game of the season to Auburn, Holliston (8-1) has reeled off six wins in a row, and will be playing for the Tri-Valley League’s Large Division title on Thanksgiving against Westwood if it can beat Norton tomorrow night.

The team’s reaction to the loss to Auburn “could’ve gone one of two ways,’’ Kiley said. “It could’ve led to a letdown, or it could make us say, ‘We know we can play with any team in our area.’ Ever since then, we’ve had great practice after great practice.’’

Winning ways

With its last-second, 22-21 win over Needham last week, Framingham has a very real shot at winning the Bay State Conference’s Carey Division. The Flyers (6-3 overall, 6-2 Carey) can clinch the title with a win over Weymouth tomorrow night . . . Lincoln-Sudbury Regional clinched the Dual County League’s Large Division title with its 21-14 win over Acton-Boxborough Regional last week. They will play a Division 1 playoff game against Old Colony League champ Barnstable on Nov. 29 . . . Unbeaten Nashoba Regional secured the Midland Wachusett League’s B Division crown with its 24-7 win over Hudson.

Phil Perry can be reached at paperry27@gmail.com.


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