There are lots of intriguing games on the Week 6 High School schedule, including Shepherd Hill at St. John’s, St. Peter-Marian vs. Burncoat and North at Holy Name.
The Shepherd Hill-St. John’s game, which would be considered the Game of the Week – and may still be – is more like the Battle of Attrition, with St. John’s having lost senior speedster Peter Oliver for the season due to a broken leg suffered in the Pioneers’ win over Wachusett a couple weeks back.
While for many that would swing the advantage to the Rams and their stable of running backs, they’re a banged-up bunch, too, with both of their top runners – Zach Magdis and Ben Carpenter – having been injured in last week’s win over Wachusett.
The availability of Magdis and Carpenter this week against the Pioneers and their swarming, gang-tackling defense is likely to be a game-time decision. Nate Cooper filled in admirably at running back for Shepherd Hill after Magdis and Carpenter went out, scoring three consecutive touchdowns on runs of 11, 19 and 69 yards.
St. John’s will again be led by what is fast becoming it own personal Dynamic Duo – senior quarterback Steven Bucciaglia and sophomore running back/wide receiver/kick return Eamonn Dennis.
Bucciaglia is the leading passer in Central Mass., having completed 78-of-114 passes for 1,556 yards and 18 touchdowns. Dennis, who has scored four touchdowns on kick returns – including a 95-yarder last week against Shrewsbury High – also has five receiving touchdowns and four rushing TDs.
Another “Neighborhood” Game for the Guardians
For the second time in three weeks St. Peter-Marian will look to keep its emotions in check as it takes on a Burncoat High team full of kids that are well know to the SPM players and coaching staff.
“In the city there is no game that is not a huge rivalry,” St. Peter-Marian coach Justin McKay said. “We have a lot of kids on our team that come from the Burncoat area. It’s a special game for them. As a private school you have kids on the team from all over the city.
“This week there are a number of kids looking forward to playing Burncoat because they grew up in that area and they would have gone to Burncoat if they didn’t choose to go to St. Peter-Marian,” McKay continued. “So, it’s an opportunity to play against their friends from the neighborhood.”
According to McKay, despite their 2-3 record and victories over one-win Worcester Tech and win-less Sutton the Patriots are yet another team on the rise in the city.
“Burncoat is 2-3 right now, but they’ve beaten some quality opponents,” McKay said. “Rick Cincotta is one of the better coaches in Central Massachusetts; he knows what he’s doing. They have talented athletes all across the field. They’re fast, they’re athletic, they go no huddle and they can score points on people. So, playing them is a challenge for us and a challenge for our program.”
McKay said he feels, at times, that the Guardians have let the emotional side of the game of football sneak onto the field at inopportune times.
“We’re a team of highs and lows. That’s something we have to take care of if we want to continue to go forward,” McKay said. “There are a lot of people who don’t realize a lot about our program. They’re kind of sleeping on the fact that we can play football. We just get into moments where we get caught up too much in the emotion of the game.
“It tends to bring our play to a really high level or a really low level,” McKay continued. “We have to do a better job of controlling that as we go forward because we feel like we have a talented football team but that we’re done in sometimes by our own mistakes.”
One of those times – when St. Peter-Marian was done in by its own mistakes – came against Doherty High two weeks ago.
“We were up by eight against Doherty with five minutes to play; our kids thought the game was in the bag. Then, the ball bounces a weird way a couple times and Doherty beats us,” McKay said. “And then all our kids here all week is ‘Doherty beat you, Doherty beat you, Doherty beat you.’ I want us to learn from that sharpen our focus because of that. We still haven’t gotten the lesson fully.”
Against Oakmont, after Matt Dumphy scored on a 99-yard run with 64 seconds left in the game, The Guardians were ahead by 13 points.
“Our focus late in both of those games was not acceptable. In that situation the only thing that can’t happen is for Oakmont return the kick for a touchdown,” McKay said. “It doesn’t matter how you make the play, but you’ve got to make the play in that instance. We didn’t, and they scored a touchdown on that ensuing kickoff.
“It’s not an effort thing; our kids our putting in a tremendous effort, it’s just that understanding, that football IQ – down, distance, time and what you need to do at that point – that we’re lacking at times,” McKay continued. “We have to be focused on the fact that when we’re up late we’ve got to seal the deal. But, we’ll get it; we’ll get there.”
Polar Bears Looking to Ice Naps
North comes into its game with Holy Name having won four straight. Following a loss to Algonquin the Polar Bears have ripped off consecutive wins against Murdock, Sutton, Worcester Tech and Burncoat. In Holy Name they will face a team that not only beat it 45-12 last year, but picked up its first win of this season last week – a 38-7 win over Sutton.
“Holy Name has a senior named David Peale who I think is one of the best running backs out there,” North coach Dan Boyle said. “He is an excellent, fast, physical running back. We know we need to stop him. The beat us at Holy Name last year and we’re playing them up there again this year.”
Junior Conway Campbell and sophomore Matt Cormier will also need to be neutralized if the Polar Bears are to have a shot at winning their fifth straight game. Both players scored a pair of rushing touchdowns last week against Sutton.
“Holy Name struggled against Doherty, Uxbridge and BMR, but they’re on the upswing,” Boyle said. “They really took it to Sutton. They’re definitely gaining momentum at the right time.”
Boyle said a key to North’s success this season has been the play of the offensive line.
“The offensive line has really stepped up and gotten better week-to-week,” Boyle said, “They have bought in week-to-week to what we’ve wanted to do.”
The Polar Bears offensive line consists of juniors Ralph Joseph (left tackle), Amos Wisseh (left guard), Josh Santiago (center) and seniors Quahean Minor (right guard) and Charles McNeil (right tackle).
“Josh is the only offensive lineman who returned with experience; he played right tackle for us last year and we moved him to center out of necessity,” Boyle said. “It’s been a perfect fit because he knows the offense the best of all of them so we have him making our line calls.
“Amos was a fullback for us last year and came in this year as a fullback, but he looked around at what we had and offered to make the move to offensive line,” Boyle continued. “It was a selfless act; he did it to make us better. He felt, and I agree, it was the best way for him to help the team on the offensive side of the ball.”
Boyle said he knows, and he has made the team aware, that the Polar Bears haven’t accomplished anything yet.
“Being 4-1 is great; we’re happy where we are,” Boyle said. “We knew Algonquin was going to be a tough opener and that Burncoat was improved. Sutton and Murdock played us tough and Worcester Tech is young but getting better.
“Holy Name, we’ve never been successful against them and they just had a big win against Sutton,” Boyle continued. “After Holy Name Doherty is 4-1, playing a tough schedule and then we have Blackstone-Millville. We need to keep getting better if we want to keep having success. We’re competing to get in the playoffs but we’re not there yet.”
Week 6 Games
Doherty (4-1) vs. South (1-4)
6 p.m., Friday, Foley Stadium’s Commerce Bank Field
Worcester Tech (1-4) at Assabet Valley (3-2)
7 p.m., Friday, Assabet Valley, Marlborough
Monty Tech (0-5) at Abby Kelley Foster (2-3)
7 p.m., Friday, Kendrick Field
Shrewsbury (4-1) at Algonquin (1-4)
7 p.m., Friday, Dick Walsh Field, Northborough
Leominster (0-5) at Wachusett (3-2)
7 p.m., Friday, Hal Lane Field, Holden
St. Peter-Marian (3-2) vs. Burncoat (2-3)
Noon, Foley Stadium’s Commerce Bank Field
North (4-1) at Holy Name (1-3)
Noon, Holy Name High School
Shepherd Hill (4-1) at St. John’s (5-0)
1 p.m., Pioneer Field, Shrewsbury