WORCESTER – The St. Peter-Marian football team will look to make it two wins in as many tries for new head coach Justin McKay when it squares off against Uxbridge High at 1 p.m., Saturday, but make no mistake, the Guardians will need to deliver another top-notch all-around performance is they expect to defeat the Spartans on the road in Uxbridge.

Both teams enter the game 1-0.

Ken Powers' This Week in High School Football Preview: SPM vs Uxbridge Highlights Weekend 1

“We’re going to have our hands full; Uxbridge is a very talented program. They are a very good all-around football team. We’re going to have to come to play. That’s been the message since Day 1 this week,” said McKay, doing his best Bill Belichick impersonation. “I think it starts with the coach, Bob Martellio. He’s done a fantastic job turning that program around. They’re a perennial program that has learned how to win and has really turned the corner.”

Uxbridge defeated Maynard High, a Division 4A state finalist last season, 33-22, in Week 1, scoring 12 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for the come-from-behind win. Senior Matt Johnston was the catalyst of the comeback, scoring on touchdown runs of 1 and 52 yards.

Earlier in the game Johnston caught a 58-yard touchdown pass from Spartans’ quarterback Ryley Rosborough, who completed 9-of-15 passes for 186 yards and two scores. Rosborough, whose other scoring strike was a 12-yarder to Scott Kaeller, also scored on a five-yard touchdown run.

St. Peter-Marian enjoyed a pretty quality win of its own last week, shutting out another perennially powerful Central Mass. program – Auburn High – 20-0.

While the SPM defense was busy holding the usually high-octane Rockets to less than 100 yards of total offense, the Guardians 1-2 punch of quarterback Danny Malm and running back/receiver Matt Dumphy – both are seniors – were busy making their presence felt on offense.

Ken Powers' This Week in High School Football Preview: SPM vs Uxbridge Highlights Weekend 2

Photo by Jack Neri and Hailey Flamand

Dumphy caught a 31-yard scoring strike from Malm and scored on a 61-yard touchdown run. Malm – the son of standout Worcester State University athletes Don and Judy – completed 8-of-12 passes for 130 yards and two TDs, his other touchdown toss being a 10-yarder to Owen Leary. Malm also had an interception on defense.

Dumphy entered 2017 off a successful junior season in which he rushed for 259 yards and a touchdown on 41 carries and recorded 342 receiving yards (on 18 catches, a 19 yards-per-catch average) and another score. Malm had a good 11th-grade year as well, completing 113-of-201 passes for 1,648 yards and 17 touchdowns last season.

“We’re just trying to stress basics and fundamentals,” McKay said. “As a coaching staff we’re trying to put them in the best possible positions to have the best success possible. Danny had a fantastic game; he was awesome for us, both through the air and on the ground. But we have a number of other kids that touched the football, too. We try to spread it out and get everybody touches. We want everybody involved in the offense.

“Uxbridge is so good defensively – they do a lot of different things and they’re very physical at the point of attack – we have to go back and make sure we’re taking care of fundamentals,” McKay continued. “The opening game you come out and the kids are so excited. They’ve learned this new offense and now they’re going and going fast, but they’re making some fundamental mistakes that, realistically we can’t make if we want to be successful for the rest of the year.”

The 33-year-old McKay had a Central Mass. football connection long before he got to Central Mass. He played his high school football at Ashland High, the first three years for Kevin Maines, now the Douglas Superintendent of Schools, and the fourth for legendary North Middlesex football coach Sandy Ruggles.

He went on to play his college football at Assumption for Sean “The Chin” Mahoney, who graduated from Uxbridge High, played at Worcester State, coached at Shrewsbury before going to Assumption and is now at Marlborough High. When Mahoney was dismissed following McKay’s sophomore season with the Greyhounds, McKay decided he was done playing and turned his focus to coaching.

McKay served as an assistant at Wachusett – starting while he was still in college – from 2004-2011, before getting the head job at Algonquin in 2012. He resigned his coaching post at Algonquin in order to take the SPM job.

AKF, Oxford Renew Fast Developing Rivalry

Another pair of teams that enter their early-season showdown with matching 1-0 records is the Bears of the Abby Kelley Foster (AKF) Charter School and the Pirates of Oxford High. The teams will square off at 7 p.m., Friday in Oxford.

AKF’s Week 1 28-16 win over David Prouty allowed the Bears to exorcise some demons from last season.

“We played them last year; it was a close game, back and forth,” AKF Coach Matt Lemire said. “It was one of those games that felt like the team that had the ball last was going to win. We ended up losing 38-36 and we finished the season 5-6.

“Last year was our first full varsity season and we had a chance to finish over .500,” Lemire said. “We feel like that was a game that slipped through our hands and with it the chance to possibly finish above .500. So, playing Prouty was a circle-it-on-the-calendar game for the kids and they were excited to get the win.”

Lemire said the development of the Bears’ football program began with a pair of flag football seasons, followed in 2014 by a freshman schedule. AKF bumped up to a junior varsity schedule in 2015 – although it did play a pair of varsity games at the end of the year – and officially became a full-fledged varsity program last season.

Oxford, interestingly enough, is in the AKF record book as the Pirates were the Bears first official win as a varsity program, back in 2015, by a 24-14 score.

“That was the year we played a junior varsity schedule, but during the playoff weeks at the end of the season (the Central Mass. Football Committee) needed one more team to even off the bracket for the non-playoff teams and the committee selected us,” Lemire said.

Abby Kelley beat Oxford to open last season, shutting out the Pirates, 36-0. Lemire said he knows the Bears will be facing a much different team this season, however.

“Oxford was young last year but it seems like they’ve done a lot of growing up since we saw them last,” Lemire said of the Pirates, who were 1-10 a season ago. “You can see the coaching is really paying off. It looks like they’ve improved quite significantly. They played well against Worcester Tech last week (a 31-14 Oxford win).”

The Bears will look to make it three wins over Oxford in as many tries with a combination of some key returning skill players and the continued solid play of a veteran offensive line.

Leading the list of returning skill players is a troika of juniors – running back Greg Asare, receiver Delvin Attafah and Cyrus Bonsu, who serves as a rushing and receiving threat for Lemire.

“Greg’s not really a speed back,” Lemire said of the 6-foot, 215-pounder who rushed 119 times, gaining 734 yards and scoring 14 touchdowns. “He’s more of a power back who breaks a lot of tackles and drags would-be tacklers with him.”

Lemire has replaced Noah Christo, last year’s quarterback who is now a member of the AKF coaching staff, with junior Matt Kerr. Christo last season rushed for 454 yards and 12 touchdowns on 61 carries and also completed 29-of-55 passes for 429 yards and five touchdowns.

“Matt’s done a pretty good job coming in and picking up the offense,” Lemire said of Kerr who played wide receiver last year and recorded nine receptions for 105 yards and a score. “He played well last week against Prouty.”

Kerr operates behind a senior-laden offensive line that features Eddie Burnett at left tackle, A.D. Ndiku at left guard, Jesse Appiah at center, Elijah Ashmore at right guard and Desmond Ampomah at right tackle.

“Burnett is the only junior on the offensive line and all of our team captains are offensive linemen,” Lemire said, “Appiah (a two-year captain), Ndiku and Ampomah.”

Lemire also pointed out that because Kerr is left-handed it is Ampomah, not Burnett, who is responsible for protecting the QBs blind side.

Week 2 Schedule

Holy Name (0-0) vs. Doherty (0-1)

When: 7 p.m., Friday

Where: Commerce Bank Field, Foley Stadium

South (0-1) at Auburn (0-1)

When: 7 p.m., Friday

Where: Memorial Field, Auburn

Abby Kelley Foster (1-0) at Oxford (1-0)

When: 7 p.m., Friday

Where: Oxford High

Shrewsbury (1-0) at Grafton (1-0)

When: 7 p.m., Friday

Where: Grafton High

Tantasqua (0-1) at Wachusett (1-0)

When: 7 p.m., Friday

Where: Wachusett Regional

Burncoat (0-1) vs. Worcester Tech (0-1)

When: Noon, Saturday

Where: Commerce Bank Field, Foley Stadium

Springfield Central (0-1) at St. John’s (1-0)

When: 1 p.m., Saturday

Where: Pioneer Field, Shrewsbury

St. Peter-Marian (1-0) at Uxbridge (1-0)

When: 1 p.m., Saturday

Where: Uxbridge High

Murdock (1-0) at North (0-1)

When: 3 p.m., Saturday

Where: Commerce Bank Field, Foley Stadium

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