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2014 Eastern Massachusetts high school football previews

Chuck Adamopoulos returns for his 18th season as head coach at Central Catholic, which won the Division 1 title last season.

Mark Lorenz/For the Globe

Chuck Adamopoulos returns for his 18th season as head coach at Central Catholic, which won the Division 1 title last season.

Abington

Playoff alignment: Division 5 South

Coach: James M. Kelliher (41st season)

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Last year’s record: 10-2

Strengths: Versatility.

Concerns: All-around depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Following an outstanding 2013 season, which saw a conference title and a trip to the Division 5 semifinals, the Green Wave are focused on the year to come. South Shore All-Star Shaun Donovan (Jr.) will return at running back and try to follow up on a terrific sophomore season. "Shaun has true natural instincts," said Kelliher. "In my 40 years at Abington, Donovan is the best true running back I have ever seen." Kelliher also has a lot of confidence in his signal caller, Bryan Dwyer, who started last year. "Any time you have a returning quarterback you have to feel good about that as a coach," said Kelliher. "We expect a lot out of Bryan and he expects a lot out of himself." Seniors Luca Ceraseri (6-4, 235) and Brian O'Donovan (6-1, 260) will play a vital role opening up holes for Donovan, while also clogging holes on the defensive line. The Green Wave head to Brockton to face Cardinal Spellman in week two, which should be an intriguing matchup.

Acton-Boxborough

Playoff alignment: Division 1 North

Coach: Bill Maver (29th season)

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Team speed on defense.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: All of the Colonials' six returning starters are speedy defensive players. While coach Bill Mayer won't say his team is the clear-cut favorite in the DCL Large, he knows it will be competitive again. "Our goal every year is to win the league," Mayer said. "It's been like that the last 29 years."

Amesbury

Playoff alignment: Division 4 North

Coach: Glen Gearin (1st season)

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: Wide receiver Pat Scanlon is a huge threat.

Concerns: Lots of turnover, youth in transition. Coaching situation is in flux.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Connors left Amesbury. Another coach had been hired, but wasn't allowed to assume the position because he wasn't working at the school. Gearin is the interim coach for the season while the school seeks a solution. Wide receiver Pat Scanlon is the team's best player. Travis Motsis will help anchor an offensive line that should be strong. Spencer Fournier should be great at running back and linebacker. Who will man the quarterback position is still to be determined.

Andover

Playoff alignment: Division 1 North

Coach: E.J. Perry (5th season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Passing game, offensive and defensive lines.

Concerns: Adjusting to new up-tempo defense.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: With 35 returning letterman, Andover returns one of the deepest rosters in the Merrimack Valley Conference. Quarterback EJ Perry returns under center after a promising freshman campaign where he tallied 700 yards and seven touchdowns through the air. With the departure of running back Jack Sylvester, the plan for coach Perry and Co. is to return the airborne ways of past Golden Warrior teams. Coach Perry anticipates a 50/50 split between the run and pass game, where Perry's passing game is augmented by running backs Kevin Chen and Brian Duffy. That goal should be made all the easier thanks to the offensive line, which returns four of five starters. Brandon Marty, a 5-foot-8, 185-pound running back who was clocked with a 4.45 40-yard dash this summer, has been impressive early in camp, while slot receiver Zach Walker could be poised for a breakout season. Andover added a new defensive coordinator during the offseason who will employ a more up-tempo style of play, something that could help them climb back towards the top of the MVC.

Apponequet

Playoff alignment: Division 4 South

Coach: Robert Lomp (14th season)

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Offensive skill positions, particularly at running back.

Concerns: Inexperience and depth on the offensive line.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Although junior Chad Gaucher will be taking his first snaps as a starting quarterback Friday against Fairhaven, he will have plenty of experienced help in the backfield. Senior wing-backs Matt Michael and Troy Nanfelt both return, along with 6-6 senior tight end Kevin Falaki who is being heavily recruited throughout the Northeast. Michael, a 2013 South Coast All-Star, heads into the season with 36 career touchdowns, three shy of the school record his brother Nate set back in 2011. The Lakers face a huge test week two at conference rival Dighton-Rehoboth.

Archbishop Williams

Playoff alignment: Division 5 South

Coach: Bill Kinsherf (19th season)

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: Linebacker position.

Concerns: Overall depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Bishops will have a difficult time replacing leading rusher and defensive star Kylan Philbert-Richardson, who was a Catholic Central All-Star in 2013. The strength of the team will certainly be at linebacker as seniors Ryan Earle and Adam Burnes both return after being named All Stars last season.

Arlington

Playoff alignment: Division 3NW North

Coach: John Dubzinski (4th season)

Last year’s record: 9-2

Strengths: Skill positions and leadership.

Concerns: Loss of four league all-stars on defense, depth on the offensive line.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Dubzinski hopes the Spy Ponders can build off last year's historic 9-2 season and piece together another strong year in the Middlesex Liberty. AHS went 3-8 in each of Dubzinski's first two seasons, but flipped the script decisively in 2013. 'We took our lumps the first two years,' Dubzinski said, 'but last year was a great turning point and we want to keep going in that direction.' Arlington will rely heavily on All-Scholastic Frank Roche, who has spent time at quarterback, tailback, slot receiver, kick returner, and safety. Roche, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior captain, will benefit from what should be a dependable offensive line. Nick Rose, Chris Girouard and Chris Rikeman are all three-year starters and should be able to buy Roche time to make a play. Dubzinski is encouraging his players to put the 9-2 season behind them. Just like they did after going 3-8, the key is to move forward. 'When we met with the team for our preseason meeting we put last year in the rearview mirror,' he said. 'It's ancient history.'

Arlington Catholic

Playoff alignment: Division 4 North

Coach: Serge Clivio (24th season)

Last year’s record: 2-9

Strengths: Quarterback and wide receiver.

Concerns: Tackling and overall defense.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: After a tough 2013 campaign, Clivio expects a much better outcome this season. The Cougars are returning a lot of starters including junior Christian Rosati at quarterback. "Christian is a big, strong kid and definitely has a better grasp on the system this year," Clivio said. Rosati will look for veteran receivers Charlie Pigott, Matt Richardson, and Brendan Whitney, especially while senior running back Greg Whelan recovers from an injury (he's expected to miss the first few weeks).

Ashland

Playoff alignment: Division 5 South

Coach: Andrew MacKay (4th season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Senior leadership; running game.

Concerns: Youth and inexperience.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Clockers will be young this year, having lost 15 starters (8 on offense, 7 on defense) from a year ago. But MacKay is excited for the opportunity his younger players have to further the program. 'We have a coachable group of young men, and if they continue to develop we are excited about the possibilities,' said MacKay. With that, MacKay will rely on his group of 15 seniors to lead the way both on the field and off. 'The seniors are a strong group that have helped develop our program,' said MacKay. Captain Brian Mahan (WR/DB) will set the tone, along with running backs Derek Nash and Jake Keating. Junior captain Joe Kerkash anchors the offensive line, which also features junior Spencer Rabidou and senior James Hatch. Junior Filip Cooper and sophomore Colin Hanrahan will also contribute to a strong running game.

Attleboro

Playoff alignment: Division 1 South

Coach: Michael Strachan (2d season)

Last year’s record: 9-2

Strengths: Offensive and defensive line.

Concerns: Replacing graduated quarterback.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Tim Walsh was the best quarterback in Division 1 football last year with 29 touchdown passes, giving Strachan good reason to be concerned about who will be his replacement. In training camp he said two players were battling it out for the job: 6-foot-4, 175-pound sophomore Tyler McGovern and 6-2, 190-pound senior Ross Killion. Attleboro scored 34.3 ppg last fall, a total that will be hard to equal this season.

Austin Prep

Playoff alignment: Division 5 North

Coach: Bill Maradei (36th season)

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Secondary.

Concerns: Inexperience and depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Cougars return three starters in the secondary, which according to Maradei is the team's strength. Senior Connor Duffy and junior Dan Monagle will start in the defensive backfield, while also battling for the starting quarterback position. They are joined by senior captains Kyle Havey (DB/TE), Andrew Lucy (OL/DL), and Bobby Murphy (RB/LB), who will all play key roles on both sides of the ball. "Our first goal is to do well in the league, get in the playoffs, and then make a run," Maradei said.

Barnstable

Playoff alignment: Division 2 South

Coach: Chris Whidden (4th season)

Last year’s record: 9-2

Strengths: Work ethic and coachability.

Concerns: Inexperience.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The three-time defending Old Colony League champions find themselves in a bit of a predicament, losing all but three starters from a squad that bowed out to eventual champion Mansfield in the Division 2 South final last fall. The biggest departure may be that of Globe All-Scholastic Hayden Murphy (Princeton), who accounted for 1,400 yards of offense as a running back and tacked on 58 tackles at middle linebacker. Senior Demichael Johnson and junior Jack Pipatti will be the first to get chances out of the backfield as Murphy's replacement. Junior Griffin Burke makes the jump to the varsity squad and will take the snaps under center. Co-captains Colton Bergal (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) and Owen Murray (6-foot-3, 250) will be looked to as leaders of a young but talented group of Raiders. "We know we have some athleticism on the team," said Whidden. "It's just about how far this inexperience can progress and how far the talent can take us."

BC High

Playoff alignment: Division 1 South

Coach: Jonathan Bartlett (1st season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Senior leadership.

Concerns: Lack of game experience on defense.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Bartlett returns after two years away and is excited about the attitude surrounding the Eagles. The positive vibes coming out of camp start with the Eagles' quintet of senior captains: Sean Holleran (QB), Christian Dallas (TE/DE), Shane Libby (TE/LB), Nick Locken (G/LB), and Scott Gosnell (WR/LB). 'We have a great group,' said Bartlett. 'Good senior leaders. I like their approach and attitude. We expect to compete every year and our guys worked hard this past offseason to get ready.' Junior brothers Will and Matt Johnson are also expected to be major contributors. Will is a wide receiver and cornerback and Matt is a defensive lineman. Junior wide receiver Nick Gill will be another option for Holleran. One concern for Bartlett is on defense, where he must replace a number of starters, including former All-Scholastic linebacker Connor Walsh (Maine).

Bedford

Playoff alignment: Division 4 North

Coach: Jack Belcher (11th season)

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Winning tradition and work ethic.

Concerns: Inexperience at varsity level.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Bedford won the Division 4 North championship last season and for the first time in school history, has had six consecutive seasons above .500. The success has sparked a sense of responsibility in the players. "Our kids are in the weight room right after the holidays and up until right before we start practicing," coach Jack Belcher said. "They feel a sense of responsibility to do that because that is what the kids before them did and that is why we were able to win." Linebacker Aaron Lee returns as a four-year starter and reigning defensive player of the year for the Dual County League small. Lee and defensive tackle Aaron Cook will help solidify Bedford's defense. "Practice has been going good. We practiced with Lowell and scrimmaged them," Belcher said. "They are probably the best team we will see this year. We battled them all week and we were able to hold our own."

Bellingham

Playoff alignment: Division 5 South

Coach: Dan MacLean (5th season)

Last year’s record: 1-10

Strengths: Offensive line.

Concerns: Replacing graduating seniors.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: MacLean's squad will be looking to improve after a rough 2013 season. The Blackhawks went winless in the Tri-Valley (Small) and averaged just 15.7 points per game, while allowing 34.7. After graduating 12 seniors, including middle linebacker/defensive end Jake Marino and wide receiver/cornerback Wes Kudirka, both Tri-Valley All-Stars last season, the Blackhawks have some holes to fill.

Belmont

Playoff alignment: Division 3NW North

Coach: Yann Kumin (1st season)

Last year’s record: 0-11

Strengths: Skill positions.

Concerns: Offensive line depth and experience.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: First-year head coach Kumin knows what it takes to turn a program around. When he was defensive coordinator at Stoneham, he helped a team that won a total of two games in 2010 and 2011 finish 7-4 in 2012. When the opportunity arose to take a head coaching job at Belmont, he knew he couldn't say no. 'Like most guys who have paid their dues and put their time in, you start looking,' Kumin said. 'This job was very appealing to me because there's a great student body. It seemed to be a very similar situation to the one I encountered at Stoneham, so I was really excited.' Kumin inherits a Marauder team that finished 0-11 in the Middlesex Liberty in 2013. He'll try to improve a defense that surrendered 37.5 points per game a year ago. He also has the task of molding an offense that showed signs of dominance in spurts last season but struggled mightily at times. Kumin says Belmont has 'skill for days.' The key is attention to detail and focusing on mastering the nuances of the game. One main contributor for the Marauders will be speedy senior running back Max Jones, who Kumin calls a 'good, hard-nosed runner.' Jones will anchor a Belmont team that is trying to put last season's woes behind it.

Beverly

Playoff alignment: Division 3NE North

Coach: Dan Bauer (12th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Returning skill players.

Concerns: Depth on offensive and defensive line.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: With their first five games against playoff teams, Bauer and his team are looking to take their game to the next level and make an early statement. Although the team lost 13 starters from last year and Beverly's all-time leading rusher Isiah White, they bring back a strong set of skill position players including senior wide receiver Mike McKenna and junior running back Jordan Rawding. With senior quarterback Bryan Flaherty back under center, Beverly should be able to light up the scoreboard this season. If they can make it through their first five games, Beverly could be a tough team to handle late in the season.

Billerica

Playoff alignment: Division 2 North

Coach: Rich McKenna (2d season)

Last year’s record: 2-9

Strengths: Work ethic.

Concerns: Offensive and defensive lines.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Indians begin 2014 with their third coach in as many years as former Cathedral coach Duane Sigsbury slides in to replace Rich McKenna, who departed after one season for Merrimack. Justin Beck will take his first starting snaps at quarterback this fall, but Sigsbury believes the junior has the goods to surprise a lot of people. A pair of rising sophomores will be contributing to the Indians on both sides of the ball. Derek Laundry will see time at both linebacker and running back, while fellow sophomore Dean Brooks will line up at both tight end and linebacker. As training camp comes to a close, the biggest concern for Sigsbury is the cohesion on the offensive and defensive lines. However, Sigsbury believes that come season's end, those two lines could be a strength for his team. 'We just want to work hard every day and climb the ladder,' Sigsbury said. 'No looking back, just keep looking forward.'

Bishop Connolly

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: Justin Kogler (3d season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Offensive and defensive lines.

Concerns: Youth at the skilled positions.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: A host of young players will be the leaders of the Bishop Connolly squad this season as they look to make the playoffs. First year starter Kevin Sullivan will quarterback the squad, which will also seek help in the skill positions from fellow first-year starters Jay McClure at running back and Chaten Nehra at wide receiver. For veteran leadership, Kogler will turn to senior captain Drew Keyes. Kogler expects the 6-foot 1-inch 295-pound lineman to be one of the best players on the field.

Bishop Feehan

Playoff alignment: Division 3SW South

Coach: Curt Smith (5th season)

Last year’s record: 5-5

Strengths: Enthusiasm, camaraderie.

Concerns: Inexperience.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: With only ten seniors on Bishop Feehan's roster and just three with significant varsity experience, Smith focused on developing his underclassmen during the preseason. Smith does expect seniors CJ Panciocco and Jacob Dextradeur and junior Dante Volpe to be serious contributors this year. The Shamrocks will take on Canton in week 1, and Smith said despite a lack of experience, the outlook is the same as any other year. 'The goal never changes,' he said. 'Win every play and give yourself a chance in the fourth quarter of every football game.'

Bishop Fenwick

Playoff alignment: Division 5 North

Coach: Dave Woods (17th season)

Last year’s record: 13-0

Strengths: Rufus Rushins and the running game.

Concerns: Replacing Division 5 Player of the Year, Nick Bona.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Woods has the dreadful task of replacing quarterback Nick Bona, who led the Crusaders to a Division 5 Super Bowl win in 2013. Although replacing Bona may be impossible, whoever gets the job can take some relief in knowing senior Rufus Rushins will be behind him. Rushins has run for 3,888 yards over his three seasons at Fenwick and is on pace to finish with over 5,000 career yards. Senior captains Matt Renzulli, David Hurley, Aidan Moulton, and Rob Carrillo will all play crucial roles on a defense that held opponents to 13.6 points per game in 2013. Woods has yet to choose a starting quarterback, but insists the job will go to Renzulli, senior Mike Campagelli, or sophomore Dan Mastromatteo.

Bishop Stang

Playoff alignment: Division 4 South

Coach: Ryan Sylvia (3d season)

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: Veteran linemen on both sides of the ball.

Concerns: Finding replacements for graduated linebackers.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: A crushing Week 8 loss to Somerset Berkley cost Bishop Stang the 2013 EAC crown, but Sylvia expects his squad to vie for the championship once again. Junior quarterback Matt Golden returns and captains Nick Caswell and Jeff Carvalho will anchor the senior-laden offensive and defensive lines. Sylvia also has high expectations for sophomore running back Nick Landry and senior captains Mike Mello, a defensive back and quarterback, and Mike Chicca, a wide receiver and cornerback.

Blue Hills

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: Ed Catabia (7th season)

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Good team speed and work ethic.

Concerns: Young on defense.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Blue Hills is in the process of installing a turf field, which should be ready to play on in mid-October. Catabia said the transition shouldn't be too difficult for his team, as they play a handful of games on turf fields each season. Catabia is pleased with his young team's work ethic during preseason and hopes his team puts itself in the best possible position to be competitive come tournament time.

Boston English

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: Brian Vaughan (2d season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Offensive line, skill positions, returning defensive players and quarterback.

Concerns: Youthful secondary, team depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Vaughan came over from Pope John of Everett last season to boost his alma mater, and it turned out to be the best decision for both sides. The team's offense went from almost non-existent to one of the best in the City League, posting 20 or more points seven times last season. The transformation from a 3-7 team to 7-4 squad was not solely due to the change in philosophy that the offensive-minded Vaughan brought along, but also because of standout players that had breakthrough seasons, including star quarterback Emmanuel Almonte. The senior finished sixth in scoring in division 6 with 17 touchdowns and 122 points. He also rushed for over 1,600 yards (3 games of 200+ rushing yards), a team and career high. According to coach Vaughan, Almonte has improved even further and has "really grasped" the option offense they run. Look for Almonte and Vaughan to lead this young team to more wins then they've seen at the school in recent memory and possibly a playoff berth.

Boston Latin

Playoff alignment: Division 3NW North

Coach: John McDonough (14th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Depth.

Concerns: Inexperience.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: For Boston Latin, all eyes are on the quarterbacks as Conor Freely, Andreas Kaplan, and Griffin Li compete for the starting position. A few other notable returners for the Wolfpack: Danny Bohan, James Chow, Ross Garrity, Jack Liu, Peter Honzik, and Sebastein Philemon. According to coach John McDonough, the team will be looking to some of the younger players to step up. "We lost a lot of good seniors. As the saying goes, next man up," McDonough said. "We are looking for running back Justin Springle to make an impact, as well as a slew of young linemen."

Bourne

Playoff alignment: Division 5 South

Coach: John McIntyre (5th season)

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: Experienced offensive line and running back depth.

Concerns: Depth on the defense and on the offensive line.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After graduating All-Star running back Chad Marsh, who had a team-leading 10 touchdowns last season, the Canalmen will implement a three-running back attack in the backfield this season. McIntyre will spread the carries between senior Luke Zanoli, senior Elijah Dias, junior Nick Pavalonis and sophomore Dylan Kehoe. After having a 'great offseason' according to McIntyre, he hopes Dias and Pavalonis' offseason success will carry over to the regular season as he expects them to play a more critical role in the offense.

Braintree

Playoff alignment: Division 2 South

Coach: Brian Chamberlain (4th season)

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: Experience and team speed.

Concerns: Depth at linebacker.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Expect to see a lot of underclassmen get playing time for Chamberlain. Coming off a season in which team speed was Braintree's most glaring weakness, Chamberlain said his sophomore class has brought a speed element that should help the Wamps compete in the league.

Bridgewater-Raynham

Playoff alignment: Division 1 South

Coach: Dan Buron (22d season)

Last year’s record: 7-3

Strengths: Skill positions.

Concerns: Getting offensive and defensive lines experience.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: For three straight seasons, Bridgewater-Raynham has played second fiddle to Barnstable in the Old Colony League, but a slew of experience at the skill position has the Trojans poised to break through this fall. The Trojans have the luxury of carrying two quarterbacks with proven experience under center. Matt Clement began 2013 as the starter, but when sidelined by illness midway through the season, Steve D'Emilia came in and guided the offense through the playoffs. Running back/linebacker Brandon Gallagher returns for his senior season and should prove to be a menace on both sides of the ball. Connor Reagan will also be instrumental for the Trojans this fall, lining up as a tight end on offense and setting the edge as a defensive end on defense. B-R has some holes to fill on the offensive line, but Buron believes his guys are coming along strong as they work to erase the memory of a gut-wrenching, 40-14 loss to Attleboro in the Division 1 South semifinals. 'We got embarrassed in the semis last year,' Buron said. 'I think the kids haven't forgotten that, but first things first, and that's taking care of the league.'

Brighton

Playoff alignment: Division 5 North

Coach: Randolph Abraham (3d season)

Last year’s record: 8-3-0

Strengths: Seasoned and experienced core; young, talented receivers; strong running game.

Concerns: Inexperience at skill positions, resiliency.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Bengals are coming off an extremely productive year, as they finished 8-3 and claimed the Boston City title in 2013. Abraham is entering his third season with the program, and says his squad is filled with strong senior leadership. "The commitment level is high this year," he said. The Bengals bring back a seasoned line led by seniors Petroy Thompson, Jorman Ortiz, and Brendon Alford. Sophomore Nate Hall will start at quarterback, and he will be throwing to a solid core of receivers led by senior captain Andy Gomez. Senior True Bray and junior Richard Marrero will be back on defense for the Bengals. "Every year is different. Coaching in the city is a challenge, and every year we are ready for the unexpected. We never get comfortable," Abraham said.

Bristol-Plymouth

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: John Parris (8th season)

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Youth on offensive and defensive lines.

Concerns: Quarterback position.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Bristol-Plymouth has won the Mayflower (Large) title two consecutive seasons but has yet to make it past its first playoff opponent. That is the goal Parris has set for his squad this season. Parris has yet to name his starting quarterback and is concerned about inexperience on the offensive and defensive lines, but noted he has a great core of young, physical players. Bristol-Plymouth also has an upgraded receiving core led by senior captain Cam Dennis.

Brockton

Playoff alignment: Division 1 South

Coach: Peter Colombo (12th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Veteran playmakers.

Concerns: Production from less experienced players.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Boxers will be looking to bounce back from a 5-6 season. 'We hope to rebound. [Last year] was not what we expected,' said Colombo. 'Hopefully some players gained experience.' Colombo said his team has some 'good pillars' to lean on, including 6-foot-6, 300-pound offensive lineman Aaron Monteiro. 'It's one thing to be big, but he brings athleticism,' said Colombo of Monteiro, who is headed to Boston College. 'You'd like to run behind him.' Junior running back Kerry Raymond will have that opportunity and also star on defense. Senior Aaron Williams will be a dual-threat at quarterback and will throw to junior captain and tight end Marcus Bullard and wide receiver John Derolus. Bullard (middle linebacker) and Derolus (safety) will play on defense as well. Junior kicker Ryan Clifford and offensive lineman Danny Estrella will also be keys to the Boxers' success.

Brookline

Playoff alignment: Division 1 South

Coach: Keith Thomas (2d season)

Last year’s record: 0-11

Strengths: Offensive line.

Concerns: Inexperience at quarterback.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Warriors will try to get back in the win column this season after coming up short in that department a year ago. "The outlook is bright," said Thomas, who returns seven starters, including his entire offensive line. "We have a lot of young players starting this year, with experienced players at some key positions." Offensive linemen Jared Farley, Zach Sheloa, Tim Campbell, Ben Solomon, and Chris Casey should provide plenty of running room for backs Max Bochman and Jeffrey Santos. Quarterback Daniel Gittelman-Egan returns to the position after missing last season.

Burke

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: Byron Beaman (4th season)

Last year’s record: 2-9

Strengths: Solid backfield and linebacking core.

Concerns: Depth, inexperience.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Beaman has turned the Bulldogs into a tough out for their opponents. Now, Burke has to turn that effort into victories. Beaman was satisfied with how much more competitive the Bulldogs have been in recent years. And he had this message for his opponents: "We'll be better this season ... You're not going to just take the field and run all over us," he said.

Burlington

Playoff alignment: Division 3NW North

Coach: Shawn Maguire (22d season)

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: Offensive line and backfield may be tough with three lineman and fullback returning.

Concerns: Defense. Only one starter, linebacker Shane O'Halloran, returns.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The team went 4-7 but made the playoffs last year, losing its seventh game in the first round to Melrose. On one hand, they benefited from the new playoff system. On the other, a sub-.500 record and then only returning starters at six positions (five players overall) can't bode well. The team is very inexperienced, as Maguire noted several times, though he did feel the "outlook is positive" despite the youth and inexperience.

Cambridge

Playoff alignment: Division 2 North

Coach: Ryan Saulnier (2d season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Senior leadership and depth.

Concerns: Varsity experience and receiver core.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: It will be a new schedule full of new challenges for the Falcons (formerly of the GBL). Right out of the gate, they face Acton-Boxboro in their first league game in the DCL Large. Senior quarterback Marcus Collins will return, but none of his receivers from last year are back. The Falcons are young with 41 sophomores and 42 freshman.

Canton

Playoff alignment: Division 4 South

Coach: Dave Bohane (21st season)

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Experience in skill positions.

Concerns: depth at offensive and defensive lines.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Canton will look to rebound from a last-place finish in the Hockomock (Davenport) last year by bringing back experience at the skills positions, led by senior wide receiver Derrick Harris. 'We look at the league and we feel it's going to be tough,' said Bohane. 'But if we play how I know we can, we'll be able to play with anybody in the league.' But Bohane isn't looking too far ahead. 'We start with Sharon, and that's the only game we're focused on right now.'

Cape Cod Tech

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: Chris Leonard (4th season)

Last year’s record: 0-8

Strengths: Flexibility an independent schedule gives.

Concerns: Depth and experience on both sides of the ball.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Again playing as the lone independent in EMass, the Crusaders are chasing their first win since 2011. The Harwich school gave up 40.3 ppg last fall so the improvement needs to start with the defense.

Cardinal Spellman

Playoff alignment: Division 5 South

Coach: Ron St. George (7th season)

Last year’s record: 9-2

Strengths: Work ethic and tradition.

Concerns: Game experience and overall depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Cardinals came close to sweeping the Catholic Central Large in 2013, but were unable to knock off Bishop Fenwick. With key starters returning, St. George has his eye on the conference title. St. George will rely heavily on senior captain Matt Anastasi, a Catholic Central All-Star in 2013, to move the ball down the field. "Matt has been our go to guy the past two seasons," St. George said. "He has gained 1,500 yards each year and we expect him to produce again." Fellow All Stars and senior captains John Edward Sagun and James Belton will be responsible for opening up running lanes for Anastasi. Junior Cameron Sass and junior transfer Mike Reale are currently battling for the quarterback job.

Carver

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: Michael Fraccalossi (17th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Offensive and defensive lines.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Always an offensive threat, the Crusaders will look to put a revamped offense to the test this season. Two-year starting quarterback, Ryan Feely will make the move to wide receiver, and junior Pat Bent will take over at QB. At 6-4, Feely not only makes for a big target, but has serious running ability. A 400-yard rushing season can attest to that. Bent can run and pass, which makes their flex offense that much more deadly. The offense is deepest on the line, with four returning three-year starters. Fraccalossi had a chance to preview the offense in scrimmage against Bourne. 'It was very surprising,' he said. '[It] was the best scrimmage we've had. We moved the ball well on offense.' On the other side of the ball, junior Zach Burt will be a player to watch. Fraccalossi said that defense was built around him, a player with quick reflexes that is always on the ball. 'We're a young and very aggressive team,' said Fraccalossi. 'We want to win this year.'

Case

Playoff alignment: Division 5 South

Coach: Anthony Palladino (1st season)

Last year’s record: 0-11

Strengths: Aggressiveness and toughness.

Concerns: Inexperienced offensive and defensive line.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After a winless season, the Case football program is looking for a fresh start. Palladino, hopes that new quarterback Brendan Costa - a sophomore transfer from New Bedford - along with first-time football players Kyle Berube, Matt Dumont, and Nick Ruggiero, 'create and foster a different culture and attitude about Case Football' that ' builds a foundation for a successful program.'

Cathedral

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: Ricardo Anderson (1st season)

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Senior class, returning starters.

Concerns: Team depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: According to Anderson, the Panthers are primed to take over the Catholic Central Small this season. Two years removed from a Super Bowl victory, the team will bring back their entire backfield from that winning season, all of whom were instrumental in winning the championship as sophomores. That bunch includes the speedy Bryan Cedeno (15 TDs last season), the powerful Jermal Brevard-Jackson, and Super Bowl hero, quarterback Kejonte Hickman. "We're just chomping at the bit waiting for our first game this season," said Anderson. "We ran five miles together as a team the other day and just can't wait to get going on the field," he said. And don't take Anderson's optimism as a first-year coach thing. His projection isn't far off. After being dispatched in the playoffs last season, these seniors have something to prove.

Catholic Memorial

Playoff alignment: Division 1 South

Coach: Alex Campea (11th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Athleticism.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Knights play one of the toughest schedules in one of the best conferences in the state. But winning a Catholic Conference title remains the goal. 'We look forward to competing for a conference championship,' said Campea, whose team returns five starters on each side of the ball. 'That's always the goal. We have some spots to fill, but we're optimistic.' Safety Kevin Bletzer (Boston College) and offensive lineman Connor Peck (Bentley) are among the Knights who were lost to graduation. But Campea is confident he has a good core of players to help fill the void. Senior captains Aaron Clancy (WR/DE), Trevor Cooley (TE/LB), Kam Gingrass (RB/CB), and Brian Coppinger (OL/DL) will provide good leadership. Juniors Curt Bletzer (WR) and Darren Wagner (RB) are also poised to be impact players.

Central Catholic

Playoff alignment: Division 1 North

Coach: Chuck Adamopoulos (18th season)

Last year’s record: 11-1

Strengths: Quarterback and running back.

Concerns: Lack of depth, inexperience at wide receiver and secondary.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: As is the case with many championship teams, the Raiders graduated some serious pop on both sides of the ball after capturing the Division 1 title in December. Globe Division 1 Player of the Year and reigning Merrimack Offensive Player of the Year Cody Demers has graduated, taking with him 788 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. The Raiders also said goodbye to the explosive play-making ability of running back/defensive back D'Andre Drummond-Mayrie, who trampled Xaverian to the tune of 119 yards and three touchdowns in the Division 1 title game. While absent some high-profile names, the Raiders do retain a plethora of talent on both sides of the ball. Senior running backs Michael Balsamo (6-foot-1, 202 lbs) and Markus Edmunds (5-foot-11, 210 lbs), who have been producing since they were freshmen, will anchor the backfield while juniors Steve Jackson and Greg Marggraf become the new targets at wide receiver. But maybe no returning player is more important for the Raiders' title defense than quarterback Mike Milano. As a junior last fall, the Globe All-Scholastic completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,810 yards and 15 touchdowns while adding another 710 yards of offense and 14 touchdowns on the ground. 'He's out leader on offense,' said Adamopoulos. 'We're going to go as he goes.'

Charlestown

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: David Cahill (1st season)

Last year’s record: 3-8-0

Strengths: Solid running game, high number of home games.

Concerns: Depth, lack of experience.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Cahill takes over after spending eight seasons as an assistant. The Townies lost some big-name players, including star lineman Brandon Scott who transferred to Deerfield Academy for his senior year. Consequently, the Townies will be featuring a number of first-year players they must rely on. It should be noted that Cahill's squad will play seven of their games at home this season, including four of their first five contests. "We get the opportunity to have fans at games without traveling," said Cahill. "We are more comfortable at home with the great atmosphere." Returning seniors Jonathan Marcel and Daniel Pepple should help lead the attack for Charlestown this season. "Breaking .500 is the goal this season," said Cahill. "We want to bring championship atmosphere back to the players and school."

Chelmsford

Playoff alignment: Division 1 North

Coach: Bruce Rich (19th season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Quarterback, O-line, receiving core.

Concerns: Defensive line, running game.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Eleven returning starters and nearly 40 returning letterman have the Lions poised to make some noise in a hearty Merrimack Valley Conference this fall. Quarterback Jack Campsmith returns for his third and final season under center, experience that should serve as an asset while Chelmsford finds the heir apparent to graduated running back Jack D'Auria (Stonehill). Junior Tyrone Phet is one of several players who could emerge in the backfield. According to Rich, junior wideout Matt Courtemanche could prove to be a dangerous player outside the numbers, as the Lions try to work magic through the air this fall. "We're generally a grind it out, smash-mouth program," Rich said, "but I think you'll see us open it up a little more this year."

Chelsea

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: Michael Stellato (16th season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Senior leadership positive attitude.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Red Devils had a hard time scoring points last season (15.5 per game), but Stellato thinks this year they "can be a playoff team" with the amount of returning starters on offense. Chelsea and Essex Tech, formerly North Shore, are usually atop the league at season's end and don't expect this year to be any different. Key acquisitions from the Chelsea-Pope John (Everett) merger, including standout senior receiver Moises Casado, should help bolster the offense and help the Devils get rolling. Look for senior rusher Sammy Rivera to lead the team.

Cohasset

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: Peter Afanasiw (9th season)

Last year’s record: 11-2

Strengths: Athleticism.

Concerns: Overall depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: After making it to the Division 6 Super Bowl last year, the Skippers will look to build off the momentum gained from the deep playoff run. 'They learned to play in big game situations,' said Afanasiw. 'They know how to compete in space. They're really well-rounded athletes.' Senior running back Cole Kissick will look to be a prominent force in the backfield, after a 19 TD regular season. Despite the loss of Chris Haggerty at quarterback, Afanasiw feels optimistic. He said that Haggerty set an example for his players to follow, that they should try to live up to what he's done. On defense, Cohasset will be led by senior captain and all-state wrestler, Matt Froio. 'We'd like to try and repeat last year - if not, we'd like to improve on it,' Afanasiw said.

Concord-Carlisle

Playoff alignment: Division 3NW North

Coach: Mike Robichaud (6th season)

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Skill positions and a strong backfield.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Coach Mike Robichaud said his team came ready to play in the preseason. "The attitude has been great," Robichaud said. "We are moving at a pace a little slower than usual, but the kids have improved." One area Robichaud is particularly optimistic about is the linebacker position. Junior Patrick Crowley was the team's defensive MVP last year as a sophomore. Seniors Robert Walton and Jack Barrett are also returning starters at linebacker. Junior Austin Hoey will return at quarterback after starting every game for the Patriots last season. Hoey was an All-Star in football, basketball, and lacrosse last year. Senior Andrew Kielar and junior Kejuan Farquharson are other players to watch on offense.

Coyle & Cassidy

Playoff alignment: Division 4 South

Coach: Thomas Pileski (9th season)

Last year’s record: 1-10

Strengths: Experienced offensive and defensive linemen.

Concerns: Lack of depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After a subpar season, Pileski is confident of his team's chances in the EAC. The Warriors ' just 23 varsity players ' need to stay healthy. 'Hopefully we have quality, because we definitely don't have quantity,' Pileski said. Leading the offense will be junior quarterback Tristan Blaisdell, who won the position last season. Pileski expects Blaisdell to bring balance to an offense that was one-dimensional (run oriented) last season, giving Coyle and Cassidy the ability to move the ball through the air and on the ground. The Warriors also benefit from veteran linemen on both sides of the ball.

Danvers

Playoff alignment: Division 3NE North

Coach: Shawn Theriault (1st season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Depth at all positions.

Concerns: Inexperienced offensive line.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: With several key players returning from last year's NEC North Championship, the Falcons look to continue their winning ways under Theriault, a former Wakefield High player. QB Nick Andreas has had a great summer throwing to some electric athletes such as fellow senior captain Cris Valles, senior James English, junior Mike Nestor, and sophomore Matt Andreas. With only a few returning offensive linemen, star running back and captain Chris Behen looks to solidify a ground game. Danvers will be stout on defense with eight returning starters led by senior captain Richie Martino, senior corner John Thomas, tackle Drew Salvo, and defensive end Skylar Falite.

Dartmouth

Playoff alignment: Division 3SE South

Coach: Richard White (11th season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Running backs.

Concerns: Offensive and defensive line.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: With league contests against top-tier programs in Bridgewater-Raynham (Div. 1) and Barnstable (Div. 2), the league grind should award the Indians a wealth of experience when the Division 3 playoffs roll around. The stable is packed at running back as the Indians return a wealth of experience in the backfield. Senior Jack McCabe and juniors Chris Martin and Alex Tisdelle reunite after combining for 12 touchdowns in 2013. Exactly who will be dishing the ball to the backs is still up for debate, however. Senior quarterbacks Matt Beauparland and Blaine Almeida are both in contention for the starting job with both athletes offering a different element under center ' Almeida a more traditional pocket-passer while Beauparland is a more mobile quarterback. The talent at the skill positions is a welcome commodity to the Indians as inexperienced offensive and defensive lines must work to define their identities over the course of the season.

Dedham

Playoff alignment: Division 4 South

Coach: David Flynn (4th season)

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: Senior leadership, returning defensive players.

Concerns: Graduation of key players.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: A sizable group of veteran starters return for the Marauders, led by senior quarterback and captain Mike Kadlick. Dedham's defense will be lead by senior captain Ron Pucci, a three-year starter at cornerback. The offensive and defensive lines will be anchored by senior captains Fred Melly and Jim Coughlin. Flynn also expects significant contributions from senior running back Raheem Powell, a 2013 league all star. Dedham's kicking duties will be handled by returning starter Liam Madden.

Dennis-Yarmouth

Playoff alignment: Division 4 South

Coach: Paul Funk (13th season)

Last year’s record: 10-3

Strengths: Team speed.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Michael Dunn is a versatile weapon for the Dolphins. Funk said Dunn is capable of playing safety, corner, quarterback, and slot receiver. 'He's someone that can just do a lot of things,' Funk said. Dunn has helped Dennis-Yarmouth turn into a consistent contender. The Dolphins finished 10-3 last season, scoring 40 or more points four weeks in a row in the middle of the season. 'What we've cultivated over the past few years is execute, work hard, and worry about ourselves,' Funk said. 'The rest will take care of itself on the field.' Funk will also rely on Andrew Jamiel, Nick Coelho, Zack Mancini, Chip Evangelista, L.K. Metz, and Dan Robles.

Dighton-Rehoboth

Playoff alignment: Division 3SE South

Coach: Dave Driscoll (34th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: All four senior captains started as sophomores and three of them play both ways.

Concerns: Inexperience on the offensive line.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The only Division 3 team in the SCC Large, the Falcons will be eyeing the conference crown in 2014. Senior quarterback Nate Kowalski will be entering his third season under center. "Kowalski is a very smart kid and a great leader to have," said Driscoll. "He makes good decisions and always has control of the huddle". Kowalski will be joined in the backfield by fellow senior captains Kyle Rose (HB/FS) and Norman Manchester (FB/LB), both of whom were SCC All-Stars in 2013. Being the only returning starter on the offensive line, senior captain Chris Duffy (OT/DE) will have to take charge in order to open holes for the explosive tandem. "We just have to keep it simple early offensively and we should have success," Driscoll said. This philosophy will be tested early as the Falcons square off with Apponequet in week two.

Diman

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: Richard Vickrey (9th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Work ethic in the offseason.

Concerns: Execution on both sides of the ball.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Vickney has set a simple goal for his squad entering the season: win the first game. Diman, which had the best Mayflower home record last fall at 4-1, returns seven starters to the squad and looks to those seven to lead a young squad. Vickney notes the team's work ethic will be its identity throughout the season and will hopefully lead to a strong performance and eventual playoff push.

Dorchester

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: Richard Moran (9th season)

Last year’s record: 6-4

Strengths: Leadership, positive team attitude.

Concerns: Only four returning starters, depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: With only four returning starters, the Bears will be hard pressed to make a real run for the playoffs. "We don't really know what we have yet," said Moran of his current roster. "[With all the younger guys] we're just hoping to come together as a team first." The return of senior rusher Johnny Mims, who will make the move to QB this year, and senior Ki Harris means the offense has a chance to be strong. But the Bears' defense, which gave up just 10.8 points per game last year, will be lynchpin of their success.

Dover-Sherborn

Playoff alignment: Division 5 South

Coach: Brad Pindel (1st season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Leadership.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: First-year coach Pindel will be leaning heavily on his upperclassmen. "We have tremendous captains," said Pindel. "It's a great group of kids. We had a great year last year, got a taste of winning, so we just want to compete." Senior defensive back Mark Czeisler is a three-year starter and will star on defense, along with defensive end/tight end Brian Thompson. Matt Ambrosino (CB/WR) will impact both sides of the ball. Pindel's one concern heading into the season is depth, citing a dip in participation.

Dracut

Playoff alignment: Division 3NE North

Coach: Jason Rivers (1st season)

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Skill players, returning experience on defense.

Concerns: Offensive line, inexperience on the offensive line.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Like many teams this season, Dracut has a new head coach. Rivers, who was Dracut's offensive line coach last year, is the new man in charge. His main goal is to build off the momentum the Middies generated last season when they won three of their final four games. After starting the season 0-7, Dracut beat Belmont 36-20, shut out Revere, 14-0, and outlasted Salem, 34-27, before losing to Methuen on Thanksgiving. Rivers said Ty Bassett is a dual threat at quarterback as well as a defensive leader at safety. He also expects production from wide receiver Jack McKenna, who didn't play last season but has impressed early this year. Rivers said linebacker Steve Valente has emerged as one of the defense's leaders. As a former offensive line coach, Rivers is naturally worried about Dracut's line, which features four newcomers and only one returning starter.

Durfee

Playoff alignment: Division 2 South

Coach: Taylor Brown (1st season)

Last year’s record: 0-11

Strengths: Varsity experience; skill positions.

Concerns: Offensive line; depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Hilltoppers are looking for a culture change. Brown wants to "bring back old traditions" to his squad, which has lost 28 straight games dating back to 2011. "We want to be more competitive," said Brown, who returns to Durfee, where he served as defensive coordinator from 2010-12. "This senior group wants to win a game. They have great energy." Even though they have not had much success, Brown is counting on the experience of his roster to turn things around. Senior Mike Correia is "one of the best receivers around, in my opinion," according to Brown, and is garnering attention from Division 1 schools. Junior tailback Elijah Brooks is a strong runner and junior quarterback Jaren Viera will be one of the team's leaders. Senior Brad Kilby, who led the team in tackles last year, will start at middle linebacker. Brown's concern is on the offensive line, which is on the smaller side.

Duxbury

Playoff alignment: Division 2 South

Coach: Dave Maimaron (10th season)

Last year’s record: 5-5

Strengths: Depth at skill positions. Pass Defense.

Concerns: Inexperience on offensive line.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Duxbury finished last year with four straight losses to close out a 5-5 season. The five losses were more than the team has suffered over the previous five years combined. Despite the late season struggles, the Dragons went 4-0 in league play, topping the division. Still, Maimaron's squad is looking to bounce back from what they considered a down year. The team returns seven starters on offense including senior wide receiver Cam Walsh, sophomore running back Devin DeMeritt, and sophomore QB Bobby Maimaron. Senior Mike Callander and and junior Will Macaluso lead a strong secondary for Maimaron's squad that has one pretty clear goal - "We want to get back on the winning track."

East Boston

Playoff alignment: Division 5 North

Coach: John Parziale (5th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6-0

Strengths: Solid core, veteran defense, offensive potential.

Concerns: Graduation hit the team hard.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Eastie is coming off its second straight disappointing campaign. But don't look now; the core is starting to mature. Four-year OL/DL Thomas Wilson looks poised for a stand-out year for the Jets. Returning senior offensive players in quarterback Kevin Sinatra and running back Justin Roman hope to propel Eastie into contention for the Boston North title. "They have to step up and play," said Parizale. "Our biggest strength is the kids' commitment to our program. We have to take it one step at a time."

East Bridgewater

Playoff alignment: Division 5 South

Coach: Shawn Tarpey (10th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Skill positions.

Concerns: Depth on the offensive and defensive lines.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: After a playoff appearance, Tarpey and the Vikings look to repeat their success from 2013, a feat that will not be easy in the South Shore Large. "The entire conference is improving and everyone will be better this year," Tarpey said. Captain Owen Harrington returns at running back after leading the team with 627 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. Junior Ryan Graham will have a full year at quarterback in Tarpey's system after taking over the role half-way through 2013, throwing for 475 yards and rushing for 435 yards and seven touchdowns. "Now that Ryan has some experience and knows the system better, we are more confident heading into the year," Tarpey said. "He has had a terrific summer and hasn't missed one workout." The Vikings will host conference rival Abington in week eight.

Essex Tech

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: Greg Haberland (1st season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Senior leadership, team athleticism.

Concerns: Depth on the offensive line, inexperience.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Last year brought the closing of an era, with North Shore shutting it's doors and merging with Peabody Vocational and Essex Aggie to form the new Essex Tech. The North Shore Bulldogs football program swapped it's signature white and blue colors for Blue, green and white and traded their Bulldog for a Hawk. But that wasn't the only change. With a new program comes a new coach, Greg Haberland, longtime assistant of former North Shore coach, Paul Worth. Worth led North Shore for 18 seasons before handing the duties over to his assistant of 20 years. The familiarity between Haberland and the returning players should help the transition for last season's Commonwealth Small champs, but the loss of starting running back Ross Murphy (15 touchdowns, 111 points last season) is a big blow to their offense. The team will lean heavily on key returning starters from a season ago. Senior Yordany Sanchez, who played WR but will make the switch to QB this year, and senior running back Daniel Bailey will lead the offense. If these seniors can help lead the team amid the shake up, look for the Hawks compete for a playoff spot again.

Everett

Playoff alignment: Division 1 North

Coach: John DiBiaso (33d season)

Last year’s record: 8-2

Strengths: Offensive and defensive lines.

Concerns: Tackling; lack of experience at some positions.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Tide's quest for a fourth straight Super Bowl title ended in the D1 North final last season, but they should be right back in contention this fall. The road back to the promised land could be bumpy early, though. Everett opens with Springfield Central, Xaverian, Tewksbury, and St. John's Prep. 'We've got a real tough start to the season. The first four games are like murderer's row,' said DiBiaso. But the Tide's stout offensive line, led by senior center Eric Trickett, should provide plenty of running room for a bevy of running backs. Senior Nick Orekoya (a Billerica transfer) and juniors Jackinson Joacine and Luis Cardona give Everett plenty of options out of the backfield. Sophomore Jordan MacAfee will debut at quarterback and is 'the real deal,' according to members of the Everett coaching staff. Defensively, the Tide is also strong on the line, which is led by junior end J.J. Colimon. Boston College-bound cornerback Lukas Denis (also a threat at wide receiver) will head the secondary, along with Orekoya and senior Ralph Dupervil. 'It might be the fastest defense we've ever had,' said DiBiaso. One weak spot on defense could be at linebacker where the Tide graduated C.J. Parvelus and former All-Scholastic Angel Duarte, though senior Mark Cardwell should be a solid replacement.

Fairhaven

Playoff alignment: Division 5 South

Coach: Rudy Bulgar (5th season)

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Experience on offense and defense.

Concerns: Third-down defense.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After missing the playoffs by just one game last season, Fairhaven's main goal this season is to qualify for the tournament. 'Our team expectations are to qualify for playoffs, anything less would be a disappointing season,' said the fifth-year coach. Quarterback Cam Charette and receivers Noah Furtado and Kross Negalha, will look to lead Fairhaven's explosive offense as the Blue Devils look to make a push toward the post season.

Falmouth

Playoff alignment: Division 3SE South

Coach: Derek Almeida (1st season)

Last year’s record: 1-9-1.

Strengths: Physicality.

Concerns: Inexperience; new offense and defense to learn.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Almeida accepted the Clippers' coaching job the second week of July, which means he's still figuring out who are his best players. Almeida is also working to make sure his team understands the new schemes he is trying to implement. He plans to run the option frequently and mix in play action on offense. On defense, he's replacing the 4-3 Falmouth ran last year with a 4-2-5 concept. 'It's still football,' Almeida said, 'but it's a little foreign to these kids what we're doing.' Fortunately for Almeida, Falmouth's first game isn't until Sept. 13 at Sharon, so the team has time to adapt. Despite the challenge ahead, Almeida loves the physicality of his squad. He has a bunch of tough players who can contribute; it's just a matter of figuring out whom to put where. Juniors Hunter Scribner and Tyler Brown and sophomore Nick Couhig are competing for the starting quarterback job. Almeida's goal is to narrow it down to two quarterbacks by Week 1. Splitting time isn't out of the question by any means, and Almeida's sure the two quarterbacks who don't start will be on the field in some other capacity.

Foxborough

Playoff alignment: Division 4 South

Coach: Jack Martinelli (33d season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Experience on both sides.

Concerns: Replacing linebackers.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After finishing 6-5, and third in the Hockomock (Davenport), Foxboro should be much improved in 2014. Backed by a strong returning group on both sides of the ball, Martinelli likes what he sees. 'Our skilled kids are really pretty good,' he said of his returners, which include the entire backfield and Hockomock All-Star quarterback Nolan Rogers. 'I think we're ready to put forth a pretty balanced attack.' On the downside, replacing the linebacker duo of Salman Alam and Hockomock All-Star Luc Valenza might be a little tough.

Framingham

Playoff alignment: Division 1 South

Coach: Gary Doherty (17th season)

Last year’s record: 2-9

Strengths: Depth in the secondary.

Concerns: Competitive level of the league.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Senior captain and quarterback Chris Stouranas will lead the Flyers spread offense this year. The Flyers struggled last season as a result of many first-year varsity players getting playing time. Coming into this season with more experience on both sides of the ball, there should be improvement. However, nothing comes easy in the Bay State Carey.

Franklin

Playoff alignment: Division 1 South

Coach: Brad Sidwell (18th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Improved size.

Concerns: Overall experience.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Senior 6-foot-3, 185-pound Kyle Skidmore will lead Franklin's spread offense this year after ending last season as the starter. He should be confident knowing all three of the Panthers' returning starters are skilled players. The Panthers went 1-5 in the league, 4-1 out of it.

Georgetown

Playoff alignment: Division 5 North

Coach: Justin Spurr (1st season)

Last year’s record: 2-9

Strengths: Offensive skill positions. Depth at QB, WR, RB.

Concerns: Depth, size on the line.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Royals' field is being re-done. It was supposed to be completed for this season, but they found arsenic in the soil. They will team play at Haverhill's stadium this season on Saturday afternoons and mornings. Linebacker Ben Meyer will lead the team on defense. Cooper Martens, the team's leading rusher last season, returns to anchor the offense.

Gloucester

Playoff alignment: Division 3NE North

Coach: Tony Zerilli (4th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Quick, athletic, and aggressive.

Concerns: Undersized.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Zerilli's squad is looking to improve from last season's team that made it to the second round of the playoffs. Gloucester returns nine starters including junior three-year starting cornerback Alex Enes and senior linebacker and fullback John Salvi-Souza. With the loss of their entire offensive line, junior quarterback Mike Cody will be depended upon to lead a young athletic team through the Northeastern conference this season. Zerilli said his quarterback has worked hard to improve as a leader and expects him to lead the offensive attack this year.

Greater Lawrence

Playoff alignment: Division 5 North

Coach: Tony Sarkis (9th season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Potent and experienced offense, depth of talent.

Concerns: Young defense.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: A young defensive core is a bit of a concern for the Reggies, but an experienced offense should lead them to a successful season underSarkis. "Offense is our strength," he said. "We are young on defense, but have a good core." Greater Lawrence will look to improve upon its winning campaign last season. A high number of returning starters this season should propel the team even further. The Reggies return Commonwealth All-Stars Yoel Batista (WR)and Brandon Nichols (OL).

Greater Lowell

Playoff alignment: Division 5 North

Coach: Shane Abrams (3d season)

Last year’s record: 0-11

Strengths: Work ethic.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Abrams says the Gryphons are "focused on progress. We come to work every day to get better than the day before." The challenge ahead for the Gryphons will be beating a conference team, a feat the squad hasn't done in the last eight years. Third-year quarterback Nick Rossetti returns to lead offense. "Our main goal is progress [and to] control the things we can control - energy, attitude, focus," said Abrams. The coach expects standout captains Steve Hillson (RB/LB), Mike Lima (OL/DL), Parvel Auguste (RB/DB), and Tyler Mitchell (OL/DL) to pilot the team's success with the help of Eli Bryant (WR/DB).

Greater New Bedford

Playoff alignment: Division 5 South

Coach: Chuck Allaire (8th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Experience on defense and good team speed.

Concerns: Inexperienced offensive line.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Despite graduating 25 seniors last season, Allaire, still feels as if he has a strong senior leadership presence led by senior quarterback Nick Richards. Alongside Richards, fullback and defensive lineman Jacob Tavares will also be a senior expected to make an impact. Though the Bears have just eight returning starters and lack depth, Allaire believes Greater New Bedford can contend in the SCC Small. 'We are not a deep team, but if we stay healthy, we will compete.'

Hamilton-Wenham

Playoff alignment: Division 4 North

Coach: Andrew Morency (9th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Offensive line, Linebackers.

Concerns: Inexperience at running back and quarterback.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: With strong numbers, and some outstanding seniors, the Generals have the potential for a strong year. If they can stay healthy, they could be in the hunt for their third playoff appearance in four years. Nolan Wilson and Jimmy Campbell are a formidable tandem at the wide receiver position as both stand over 6 feet tall.Jimmy Littlefield covers the entire field from his free safety position, and has looked good running behind full back Kai Khristich. The offensive line has the size and experience. If they stay healthy, the offense could be dangerous.

Hanover

Playoff alignment: Division 4 South

Coach: Chris Landolfi (2d season)

Last year’s record: 7-5

Strengths: Young talent, leadership.

Concerns: Moving to new offense, linemen.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: With 30 sophomores and 10 seniors, the Indians will look to blend youth and experience in the coming season. The incoming sophomores will be coming off of a 9-1 season on the freshman team. 'Watching them play,' said Landolfi. 'I expect them to be good. They are all well-rounded athletes.' This season, the Indians will be making the move to a zone offense, which will be more ground and play-action oriented. This move will help fill the void left by graduated all-star quarterback, Dean Prouty. Experienced tailbacks Brad Rogers (5-10, 165 pounds) and Dimitry LaForrest (5-10, 175 pounds), have the speed to make plays. Junior quarterback Joe Byrne has a good arm, making the air attack still a viable option. Seamus Boutin (SS), Stephen Coky (OLB), and Mike McLeod (MLB) will look to lead the team on defense. 'Their leadership, the way they hold themselves, they are really intelligent players,' Landolfi said of the captains. 'It's a good mix with them.'

Haverhill

Playoff alignment: Division 2 North

Coach: Tim O'Connor (5th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Offensive line and secondary.

Concerns: Inexperience and offensive skill.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Haverhill returns five offensive linemen and a strong secondary. O'Connor is confident his team can build off last year's success and string together another successful season. 'Our expectations are to win the MVC and make the playoffs and go as far as possible,' he said. 'We've turned it around and now it's time to keep going forward.' Haverhill beat Lowell, 28-21, on Thanksgiving, capping its season in style. This year the Hillies will count on sophomore quarterback Broughan McGovern, who O'Connor says has a lot of potential. McGovern and Co. will face two tough tests early in Beverly and Central Catholic.

Hingham

Playoff alignment: Division 3SW South

Coach: Paul Killinger (18th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Leadership on offensive and defensive lines.

Concerns: Lack of depth and experience at the skill positions.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Harbormen are looking to bounce back from a 1-3 record in league play last season. The team's strength lies in the trenches with seniors Liam McCarthy, Jackson Perkins, and Wilson Brown locking down both sides of the ball up front. "We will cause problems for people," said Killinger. The pre-season, however, was not too kind to Hingham. With season-ending injuries to senior running back/defensive back Stewart Fay and senior wide receiver Joey Reale, the Harbormen are "scrambling at the skill positions," according to Killinger. Seniors Ryan McGuire and Kevin Hanney are looking to fill the needs.

Holbrook

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: Luke Riso (2d season)

Last year’s record: 1-8

Strengths: Full season under the belt of head coach Riso.

Concerns: Depth and experience of players.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Coming off a one-win season, Holbrook is looking to improve in any way it can. With a full season under the belt of Riso, the squad can look to capitalize on lessons learned last season. Much of the improvement needed is on the offensive side of the ball, where Holbrook averaged just 10.9 ppg.

Holliston

Playoff alignment: Division 4 South

Coach: Todd Kiley (12th season)

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Speed and strength.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Panthers were a relatively young group last season when they lost in the Division 4 South title game. That youth of last season is paying off now. Holliston will have nine returning starters on defense and seven on offense. Four-year starter Joe Bellomo, quarterback Nick Athy, receiver Zach Elkinson and lineman Jonny Docarmo are all returning TVL All-Stars from last year. According to coach Todd Kiley the team had great strength and conditioning sessions this summer and they haven't forgotten about their playoff exit. "Getting so close last year was a motivation to work hard during the summer," Kiley said. "Getting so close to Gillette, that's what motivates them. It's a hungry group. They come to work."

Hopkinton

Playoff alignment: Division 3SW South

Coach: Jim Girard (5th season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Speed at offensive skill positions.

Concerns: Inexperience on defense.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Hopkinton offense should hit the ground running this season with returning starters at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. Pat Ryan is a duel-threat quarterback who, at 6-feet, 185 pounds, has good size and arm strength. Running back Drew Donohue rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season. Matt Decina and Chase Lampert are returning starters at receiver. One area that may concern Hopkinton is the offensive line. Sean Bennett is the only returning starter on the line. While Conrad Lavoie, Josh Sokol, Sam Lehman and Jack Gulefy are all new to the starting lineup, Girard expects a big year from them. "There's a lot of learning going on right now," said Girard. "The kids are picking up things quickly. They are aggressive, intelligent and reliable."

Hull

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: Jake McGrath (12th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Athleticism, returning skill players.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Pirates return a majority of their starters, including four skill players, quarterback Jake Dubovy, receiver Alex Murphy, halfback Ian MacDonald, and fullback Cam Hill. Dubovy had a big year as a sophomore, throwing for 18 touchdowns. Murphy had seven TD receptions, also as a sophomore. McGrath said his team runs a multiple formation offense. They're able to keep things simple, but dynamic based on the game situation. 'I think we'll be competitive this season,' said McGrath. 'We've been working hard. Our goal is to win the South Shore Small League title.'

Ipswich

Playoff alignment: Division 4 North

Coach: Greg Brotherton (2d season)

Last year’s record: 2-9

Strengths: Experience at the skill positions. Experience on defense, especially at linebackers.

Concerns: Depth on both sides of the line, youth in the secondary.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Tigers are young and will rely on sophomores Charlie Gillis and Tyler Starr to play big roles in the secondary as well as on offense. With a decent number of returners, it's hard to fathom the Tigers only winning two games again. The addition of younger players will help their future plans as well.

King Philip

Playoff alignment: Division 2 South

Coach: Brian Lee (10th season)

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Offensive and defensive line.

Concerns: Inexperience at linebacker and overall mental toughness.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: It will be a challenging season for a King Philip team that will have a lot of first-year varsity players getting major playing time. Lee noted one of his wide receivers and his linebackers may be sophomores. Sophomore John DeLuca will take over the quarterback responsibilities. The competitive Hockomock Kelley-Rex can be a tough place for young players, with two top 10 teams last fall.

Latin Academy

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: Rocco Zizza (7th season)

Last year’s record: 9-2

Strengths: Experience and offensive line.

Concerns: Depth, lack of skill position players.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: With 90 percent of last year's starters gone, including the City's all-time leading TD passer in Kyle Dance, the Dragon's will be looking not only for some leadership this season. "We'll be competitive," said Zizza, "But we first have to develop some playmakers." If Zizza can groom some young talent, look for the Dragons to remain a top team in the City South.

Lawrence

Playoff alignment: Division 1 North

Coach: Mike Yameen (10th season)

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Defensive skill positions.

Concerns: Maturity of young players.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Lawrence struggled from the get-go last season, losing its first five games and finishing the year 3-8. They surrendered 34.1 points per game in 2013, which was worst in either division in the Merrimack Valley. This year Yameen believes his team can turn things around and piece together a more consistent season. Nelson Valerio, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior, will call the shots at quarterback. Valerio, a mobile quarterback who has improved his accuracy over the years, finished third in Division 1 with 20 touchdown passes a year ago. His main weapon will be Luis Crispin Jr., a big target who has developed chemistry with Valerio. Yameen said the most important factor for how well his team does this year is maturity.

Lexington

Playoff alignment: Division 1 North

Coach: George Peterson (4th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Veteran players with two or three seasons of varsity experience.

Concerns: Lack of size and depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: It's no secret who Lexington's biggest weapon is on offense. Quarterback Jeff Costello, who accounted for 46 touchdowns last year as a sophomore (30 in the air and 16 on the ground), is back for more. He loses senior wide receiver Rhett Adley, who caught 16 of those 30 passes, but Peterson still expects big things from his No. 1 playmaker. Free safety Alex Huff picked off four passes last year and Peterson believes he'll bring the same energy and playmaking ability this year. Lexington boasts a strong first unit, but Peterson said his team's depth isn't superb. 'We usually have one line of depth, really,' he said. 'We don't have great numbers within our program.'

Lincoln-Sudbury

Playoff alignment: Division 2 North

Coach: Tom Lopez (37th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Team speed and work ethic.

Concerns: Depth and LB and RB, first-year quarterback and the kicking game.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Although Lopez will be relying on many underclassmen, he was impressed by how hard his Warriors worked in the offseason to improve team speed. Expect senior running-back Otto Zacardo to get a majority of the carries.

Lowell

Playoff alignment: Division 1 North

Coach: John Florence (4th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Linebacking core.

Concerns: Inexperience at skill positions, offensive line.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Red Raiders begin 2014 with a slew of new faces on offense as they work to replace quarterback Brian Dolan, running back Ngaiiva Mason, and wide receivers Keegan Latta and Jack Galvin. Galvin, a Globe All-Scholastic last fall, wreaked havoc on opposing defenses as Lowell made a charge to the Division 1 North semifinals. What the Red Raiders lack on offense they make up for on defense with arguably the best linebacking duo in the state. Anchored by Syracuse commit Shyheim Cullen (6-foot-1, 210 lbs) and another Division 1 talent in Nicolau Coury (5-foot-11, 205 lbs), the defense will carry a wealth of responsibility as the offense meshes together. Juniors Joshua Villanueva and Malik Settles may be poised for breakouts this season. Villanueva will be the No. 3 linebacker on defense and should split time with Cullen at running back. Settles will help in the trenches on the offensive and defensive line as the Red Raiders compete in one of the tougher leagues in the state. 'Our expectations are pretty high,' said Florence. 'We understand it's a very tough schedule, not only the MVC but other D1 schools that we play. We have to go out be ready to compete every Friday night.'

Lowell Catholic

Playoff alignment: Division 5 North

Coach: Rick Sampson (4th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Team speed, chemistry.

Concerns: Youth, inexperience.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Sampson is aware the CCL small is going to be very competitive this season. With Cathedral and Pope John Paul II to compete with for the league title, Sampson was quick to concede they are the teams to beat. The Crusaders bring back only three returning starters from last year's campaign, which will make it tough to compete against teams like Cathedral that are top-heavy with senior talent. But if the team can shore up their defense and give up less than the 26.8 points per contest they averaged last season, there is room to get above .500.

Lynn Classical

Playoff alignment: Division 2 North

Coach: Tim Phelps (7th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Team speed.

Concerns: Experience.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Phelps has the challenge of replacing 23 graduating seniors from last year's squad. The Rams' defensive line returns four starters, but he'll be looking to newcomers to rebuild his offense, including a new quarterback. The Rams have good overall speed, but Phelps says depth and injuries could be major issue. Classical had the best home record of any team in the NEC North (3-1).

Lynn English

Playoff alignment: Division 2 North

Coach: Peter Holey (7th season)

Last year’s record: 3-7

Strengths: Athleticism.

Concerns: Offensive and defensive line.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Holey isn't too worried about his young offensive and defensive line and believes his team has the athletes to make a return trip to the playoffs this season. "We're definitely going to rely heavily on our athletes," Holey said. Lynn English brings back two dynamic playmakers in senior quarterback Lucas Harris and senior running back Steve Collins. If their skill position players can stay healthy this season, Holey's team could be a tough opponent in the NEC North. They begin their season Sept. 12 against Peabody.

Lynn Tech

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: James Runner (5th season)

Last year’s record: 4-6

Strengths: Familiarity as a team and returning starters.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Tigers had an average year last season but gave up a boat load of points each game (25 points per game). In order to compete with North Shore, Minuteman, and Chelsea for postseason rights, they must improve defensively first, but they also must improve offensively (17.6 points per game). "Our offense should be better, a lot better this season in terms of consistency" said Runner. Look out for quarterback Rafy Lora (11 TDs last season) to help spearhead the effort.

Lynnfield

Playoff alignment: Division 4 North

Coach: Neal Weidman (7th season)

Last year’s record: 9-2

Strengths: Experience at some positions.

Concerns: Inexperience at others.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Weidman is still unsure of the shape his team will take. "We have some inexperience on the offensive line and at some of the receiver positions. We have about the same amount of returning starters on offense and defense so it is too early to tell which side, if any, we will be stronger at," he said. The team won its first playoff game before losing to Bedford in the second round last season.

Madison Park

Playoff alignment: Division 5 North

Coach: Roosevelt Robinson (20th season)

Last year’s record: 5-5-0

Strengths: Veteran coach, new and undiscovered core.

Concerns: Inexperience across the board, issues with school and low enrollment.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Just two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance, Robinson's squad is in rough shape. Largely due to the school's vastly decreasing enrollment rate, the Cardinals are returning only two starters this season in senior Paul Ghazali and junior Anthony Cannady; the rest of the team will be pieced together from there. "We're at pretty much ground zero building the program," said Robinson. "We're very young. Putting things together in light of the school's issues." This season marks the coach's 20th year at the helm, and it's not exactly how he'd like to spend it. "My kids are still working. Being in the city, doing what we can," he said. "We have to move the younger guys up quickly and go with what we have. There will be a lot of finagling."

Malden

Playoff alignment: Division 1 North

Coach: Joe Pappagallo (6th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Front-seven defense; skill positions.

Concerns: Inexperience at quarterback.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Golden Tornadoes have 17 returning starters and Pappagallo hopes that experience translates into an extended playoff run. (Malden lost to GBL rival Everett, 39-6, in the first round of the D1 North playoffs last season.) 'We were young as heck last year,' said Pappagallo. 'Our goal was to make the playoffs last year...and our goal this year is to do a little better.' Senior middle linebacker Anthony Boulay was a GBL All-Star last season and should headline a solid front seven. Senior Josh Bessey, another GBL All-Star, will play guard and defensive end. Senior tight end Isaac Bethea is receiving Division 1 attention, according to Pappagallo. 'He's fast and catches everything,' said Pappagallo. Sophomore Marvens Fedna steps in at running back for his cousin Raymond Sainristill.

Malden Catholic

Playoff alignment: Division 2 North

Coach: Jeff Smith (4th season)

Last year’s record: 0-11

Strengths: Senior leadership, experience.

Concerns: Depth, youth a key positions.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Lancers were winless a year ago, but return seven starters on each side of the ball. Smith was also able to get his young players game experience last season, something he hopes translates to more success this year. Smith has been pleased with his team's leadership, led by senior captains Alex Massa (RB/LB) and Jason Woods (OL). Senior offensive linemen Anthony Gill and Martin Guinee and senior defensive end Walter Macaulay also provide a veteran presence. The Lancers are still young at key positions. But sophomores Colin Sullivan (QB), Kellen Field (RB/DB), and Liam Smith (OLB) have the potential to be impact players.

Manchester Essex

Playoff alignment: Division 5 North

Coach: Michael Athanas (11th season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Skill players on offense, linebacker depth.

Concerns: Overall depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Hornets should be able to put up points with the best of them, and as long as the defense can improve down the stretch and make key stops, Manchester Essex could be a pain in the neck of Division 5 opponents. They'll look to gain on the momentum of a 6-5 season that saw them lose in the second round of the playoffs to Northeast.

Mansfield

Playoff alignment: Division 2 South

Coach: Mike Redding (27th season)

Last year’s record: 13-0

Strengths: Tight end, running back and both sides of the line.

Concerns: Staying healthy.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The return of all-scholastic tight end Brendan Hill, who suffered a ankle injury on Thanksgiving last year that kept him out of the Div. 2 Super Bowl, will surely open up opportunities for Manfield's running game. "If people want to double him, we'll run the ball quite a bit and if people want to single cover him we'll try and get the ball to him," Mike Redding said. Expect those carries to go to halfback Curtis Boisvert. Mansfield finished as the top-ranked team in the state last fall.

Marblehead

Playoff alignment: Division 3NE North

Coach: Jim Rudloff (6th season)

Last year’s record: 9-2

Strengths: Running back depth.

Concerns: Overall team depth, inexperience at key positions.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: With the return of All-Scholastic senior running back Brooks Tyrrell and senior offensive lineman Derek Dumais, Marblehead should be able to help new starting quarterback Spencer Craig adjust quickly. The Magicians lost 11 starters from last season's team and will depend upon a handful of sophomore and freshmen to fill pivotal roles this season. Rudloff said that senior tight end and outside linebacker Will Millett could be the break out player for the Magicians this season. "He's the kid that is key for us the whole season," Rudloff said. "He's the best blocker in the league when he wants to be." The Magicians hope to make an early statement when they kick off their season against rival Danvers.

Marian

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: Rich Gunnell (1st season)

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Young talent, offensive line.

Concerns: Inexperience. Lack of leadership.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Gunnell, the former Boston College wide out who is second on the school's all-time receiving yards list, is focused on "building up the program" this year. Look for junior rusher Damari Yarell to spearhead the effort to bolster the production for an offense that posted a paltry 11.7 points per game last season.

Marshfield

Playoff alignment: Division 2 South

Coach: Lou Silva (34th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6.

Strengths: Young players from last year now have more experience.

Concerns: Depth, particularly at running back.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After finishing 0-11 in 2012, the Rams pieced together a 5-6 season a year ago. Now Silva's goal is to take another step forward and finish with a winning record. 'Our goal is to improve on that 5-6 and get back to normalcy as far as we're concerned with our yearly record,' Silva said. Junior dual-threat quarterback Jack Masterson, who has started since his freshman year, will lead the way. 'He doesn't have blazing speed, but he's got a little shiftiness to him,' Silva said of Masterson. 'Hopefully he'll find some holes.' Masterson may need to run the ball a good amount because Silva is still figuring out who his main running backs will be. He's not concerned about Shane Leonard, though, who he said is 'gonna be a beast' anchoring the offensive line. Silva has many juniors, like Masterson, who have been on the team since their freshman year. He's expecting those players to lead the way as Marshfield looks to re-enter contention in the Atlantic Coast.

Martha’s Vineyard

Playoff alignment: Division 5 South

Coach: Donald Herman (27th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Varsity experience on offense, talented skill players.

Concerns: Lack of depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: With a largely inexperienced defense and a low turnout of players, Herman will have to rely on offensive veterans to carry the Vineyarders. The backfield features three junior running backs in Austin Chandler, Isaac Higgins. and Jacob Cardoza. Senior quarterback Mike missed time last season with an injury, but could be a significant contributor. Herman expects the improvement of his team's kicking game to be critical, with the duties falling on 6-5 sophomore James Sashin. But Herman stressed the importance of staying healthy with a small roster. 'If we can stay healthy, we can stay competitive,' he said.

Masconomet

Playoff alignment: Division 3NE North

Coach: James Pugh (26th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Team physicality and strength. Depth on offensive line.

Concerns: Inexperience in backfield and skill positions.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Chieftains enter the season feeling good about their chances in the Cape Ann League because of a strong offensive line. "Our offensive line is very aggressive," Pugh said. "We are not big across the board but we are very strong and play physical football." Coach Pugh hopes the strong o-line will be able to open up holes for returning running backs Scott Foden and Gavin Monagle. The most entreating position battle of the preseason is at the most important position, quarterback. Senior Robby Besthenes and sophomore Declan Judge are both in contention for the starting job. "We are confident in both kids," coach Pugh said. "Right now Robby has the edge, but we know Declan can step in and get the job done."

Mashpee

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: Matt Triveri (10th season)

Last year’s record: 4-8

Strengths: Athleticism, backfield.

Concerns: Injuries, depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Coming off of a season plagued with knee and leg injuries, Triveri will be looking to return a healthier Falcons to their winning ways. A fast and powerful backfield led by Robert Andrade (5-9, 165 pounds), DeShaun Dias (5-9, 190 pounds), and fullback Sam Elithalt (5-10, 175 pounds ), will look to lead the charge on offense. Both Andrade and Dias are described as sprint speed players, with Andrade possessing good vision and hands, along with an exceptional ability to make cuts. Last year, due to seven injuries to two-way players, a younger group of players were forced to take on the role as starters. 'It was a trial by fire for those young kids,' said Triveri. 'We had some undersized players who maybe shouldn't have been out there, but they got that experience. They all came back.' The return of defensive end Joe Spinola (6-4, 225 pounds) and inside linebacker Ethan West (6-1, 210 pounds) will bolster a hard-hitting defense.

Matignon

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: Anthony Nalen (2d season)

Last year’s record: 2-9

Strengths: Offensive line.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: With the loss of running back Akeem Anderson, the Warriors will be in dire need of a dynamic player to help bolster their offense, which only averaged 11.1 points per game last season. Playing against the high-powered offenses found at Cathedral and Pope John Paul II, the Warriors would serve themselves well if they can improve upon their shaky defense that surrendered 29.9 points per game.

Medfield

Playoff alignment: Division 3SW South

Coach: Erik Ormberg (4th season)

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Skill positions, senior leadership.

Concerns: Depth on offensive and defensive line.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Medfield, looking for its first winning season since 2008, enters the 2014 season optimistic that it can turn things around. Fourth-year coach Ormberg will be going into the season with 24 seniors, his largest senior class. 'That experience will pay off for us,' Ormberg said. 'They know the system and they are comfortable with what we are asking them to do.' The Warriors can count on returning quarterback Stephen Lebogar along with returning receivers Matt Patry and Dean Adams. Ormberg is expecting big years from them and also from Joey Sears and Dan Zlevor who will solidify the defensive line. Ormberg likes what he saw early in camp. 'We came into camp in great shape and everyone is starting to grasp the offense and defense really well.'

Medford

Playoff alignment: Division 3NW North

Coach: Jason Nascimento (3d season)

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Experience at skill positions.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Mustangs made strides last season, winning three games, after a winless 2012 campaign. Nascimento hopes his squad can continue to build the program and increase that win total once again. 'Any year we can progress and just tack some more W's on, that's a successful season. That's what we're looking to do,' said Nascimento. 'We do have somewhat of a veteran group. These kids got some wins under their belt last year. We're very hopeful for this season. These kids keep getting better and better and they continue to show up, regardless of the outcome.' Nascimento likes the experience he has at the skill positions, particularly at wide receiver, where junior Myles Olivier and seniors Jose Lopes and Damien Antoine lead the way. Senior offensive lineman John Ferrara and junior running back Anthony Derienzo also star on offense. Senior Adrian Pineda is in line to replace former GBL All-Star Reggie Thelemaque at quarterback.

Medway

Playoff alignment: Division 4 South

Coach: Dave McSweeney (7th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Depth, work ethic.

Concerns: Inexperience at the varsity level.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Medway is entering this season still searching for the school's first post-season berth. The loss of key seniors on the offensive line including 6-4, 285-pound Kevin Sheehan and 6-5, 290-pound Cam Smith will be hard to overcome, but McSweeney has confidence in the players he has. 'We have only 13 seniors so there are a lot of open jobs. Will have to see how it plays out,' McSweeney said. 'Based on what I've seen the kids are very competitive. They are open to coaching and are willing to do whatever is necessary for them to improve. We are young but will hopefully make up for that with effort, attitude, and hard work.' With senior Greg Danehy at quarterback and senior Greg Metelus at running back, Medfield will have a strong backfield. Seniors Matt Ahearn and Connor Graves will try to fill the voids left by Sheehan and Smith on the offensive line.

Melrose

Playoff alignment: Division 3NW North

Coach: Tim Morris (21st season)

Last year’s record: 10-2

Strengths: Starters at nine positions returning. Skill positions with some nice experience, including WR and secondary.

Concerns: QB, both lines, and linebacker.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The best thing Melrose has going for them is that they have several seniors slotted all around the field. This was a good team that has a lot of upside if it's younger players can mesh and perform well with the returners. The Melrose defense gave up a league low 13.8 ppg last fall.

Methuen

Playoff alignment: Division 1 North

Coach: Tom Ryan (2d season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Offensive line.

Concerns: Depth at skill positions.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Ryan fared well in his first year as head coach, winning his first four games and finishing the season 6-5. This year he returns MVC All-Conference offensive lineman Kyle Whittaker, who anchors a unit that Ryan considers the biggest strength of his team. Defensive end Nick Comerford is expected to contribute heavily as well. Mike Baglieri will play quarterback for Methuen. 'He's a real tough, gritty kid,' Ryan said of Baglieri. Methuen has a legitimate shot to finish in the upper half of its league if all goes according to plan.

Middleborough

Playoff alignment: Division 4 South

Coach: Pat Kingman (4th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Leadership, experience.

Concerns: Defense.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After a cool end to the month of August and a pre-Labor Day school start, the Sachems are more than ready for the 2014 football season. With a team of 17 seniors, Kingman has been with the majority of this team from the beginning. 'They know what's expected,' said Kingman. 'Things are running smoother than they ever had.' On offense, they'll be led by seniors Casey Tucker and Paul Sances, and junior running back, Eddie Hart. Last season, the Sachems were second in the Patriot Fisher League with 26.1 points per game, while holding opposing teams to just 19.8 points per game. Senior defensive end and former quarterback Cody DiBiase will look to cause havoc in opposing backfields with his speed and vision. 'I hope everyone is ready to go,' said Kingman. 'It's football time in Middleborough.'

Milford

Playoff alignment: Division 3SW South

Coach: Joe Todd (2d season)

Last year’s record: 2-9

Strengths: Enthusiasm and depth.

Concerns: Injuries on the line.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Milford struggled in the competitive Hokcomock Davenport last fall finishing in fifth place. Improvement is needed on defense where Milford gave up 33.3 ppg.

Millis

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: Dana Olson (1st season)

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Offensive and defensive lines; quarterback; running back.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After 20 years as an assistant coach, Dana Olson takes over the reins for the Mohawks, who are coming off a third straight successful campaign. The Mohawks lost in the Division 6 South final a year ago and return this season boasting a ton of size and strength on both the offensive and defensive lines. Junior lineman Pete Fallon (6-4, 260 pounds) is being recruited by Division 1 schools and will help to fill the hole left by former All-Scholastic lineman Jon Baker (Boston College). 'We're very big on the lines,' said Olson. 'But you can't replace Jon, he was a once-in-a-lifetime player.' Senior captain and quarterback Matt Fogarty and junior running back Josh Pierre-Charles will lead the offense. Depth is a concern for Olson, whose team returns eight starters on each side of the ball. The team's co-op program with Hopedale has been dissolved, but the remaining seven Hopedale players will be allowed to finish their careers with the Mohawks. 'We have seven Hopedale kids that have been grandfathered in,' said Olson. 'Once they've graduated, the program will become completely Millis.'

Milton

Playoff alignment: Division 3SW South

Coach: Jim Bowes (6th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Experience.

Concerns: Replacing key players.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Wildcats will have to replace a handful of league all stars from last year's squad.But senior Jonathan Pierre, a running back and cornerback, will return for Milton and will look to make an impact on both sides of the ball. The Wildcats benefit from playing league powerhouse Natick at home, as the Wildcats went 4-1 on their own turf last season. The team faces early tests when they take on Hockomock powers Stoughton and Mansfield to start the season.

Minuteman

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: Brian Tildsley (7th season)

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Attitude and youth.

Concerns: Loss of seniors (15 to graduation).

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Last year, the Mustangs made their return the Commonwealth Small a successful one by chalking up the school's most wins (8) since 1986. Zahir Ramsey wrapped up a stellar career for the Mustangs last season, finishing with 1,778 yards of offense and the most points in Division 6 (23 Touchdowns and 18 Conversions). As a four year starter, Ramsey racked up 277 tackles while leading the team to 25 Victories. This year, Tildsley retursn a very inexperienced group, having lost 15 seniors to graduation. The Team will be led by QB Brian Haddock, whose brother Joe was a 3 year starter for Tildsley from 2009-2012. Defensively, the Mustangs will be anchored by Agyei Alfred, a 250-pound junior who has been starting since his freshman year. 'We know what we are up against this year with the loss of Zahir and those guys, but so far it looks like these young kids are willing to take the challenge. For the coaching staff, the goal will be to get better each and every week. We will never be unprepared for any opponents' said Tildsley.

Monomoy

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: Terrence Roche (2d season)

Last year’s record: 3-7

Strengths: Offensive line.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Now in its second year as a full-fledged varsity program, the Sharks have gotten used to the grind of the season and will be looking for their first league win. The Sharks will utilize a spread offense, and with three returning linemen, they'll have strength in the trenches. Also returning to the offense will be the dynamic senior, Dalton Nickerson. Though the 6-0, 215-pounder lines up at tight end, he can play halfback and fullback, adding a running threat to the offense. Defensive end Patrick Kampersal will be a player to watch on the other side of the ball. At 6-3, he has long arms to tie up receivers at the line, but has the ability to shed blocks when needed. 'The kids have been working hard,' said Roche. 'We are looking to make the next step as a program. There's a lot of positivity going on at Monomoy Regional. We'd like to represent them in a positive way.'

Mystic Valley

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: Craig Turner (2d season)

Last year’s record: 3-7

Strengths: Skill positions, experience, team athleticism.

Concerns: Depth on the offensive line.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Turner got his first shot at coaching last season and it immediately paid dividends for the Eagles, who finished the season with two more wins than they had the season before. Turner is confident his team's progress will continue as he's already seen a "much improved team" this preseason. Look for sophomore running back James LoChirco to be the "key to the offense" for Mystic Valley this year. If the offensive line can aid LoChirco and company, the Eagles could be a team to watch.

Nantucket

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: Brian Ryder (1st season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Size and experience.

Concerns: Adjustment to a more aggressive new system.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Ryder, who spent seven years coaching youth football, is excited to take over an experienced team in Nantucket this season as he opens a new era of Whaler football. Ryder is instituting a more aggressive system with a "family-like atmosphere based on core values." The squad has a plethora of returning starters, including quarterback Andrew Ray. Nantucket has a bye-week Week 1, which Ryder says is a benefit to the team as it works to adjust to the new system.

Natick

Playoff alignment: Division 2 South

Coach: Mark Mortarelli (5th season)

Last year’s record: 10-1

Strengths: Knowledgable seniors at all positions, return of Brian Dunlap.

Concerns: Inexperienced linemen on both sides of the ball.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Although former Natick quarterback and Division 2 Player of the Year Troy Flutie has moved on to Boston College, Mortarelli knows his offense still has the potential to be as lethal as it was last season. Senior wideout Brian Dunlap returns after missing the entire 2013 season with a fractured foot. As a sophomore, Dunlap led the state with 86 catches for 1,550 yards and 23 touchdowns and was named an All-Scholastic. Mortarelli also expects the Redhawks to benefit from a senior class that knows the system even if they haven't played many snaps, and said he just wants his team to protect the ball and stay healthy. 'We're looking to start strong,' Mortarelli said. 'Our goal is to beat Weymouth and go from there.'

Nauset

Playoff alignment: Division 3SE South

Coach: Keith Kenyon (5th season)

Last year’s record: 6-5.

Strengths: Offensive and defensive lines.

Concerns: Inexperience, lack of depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Nauset Warriors Booster Club raised $650,000 to install a new turf field. Kenyon, who also serves as athletic director, said the process started in January and the field was finished the last week of July. Kenyon thought his team, which went 6-5 last year, had good depth heading into the preseason. However, the Warriors suffered five or six injuries during the past few weeks, which Kenyon said may hurt them going forward. Nauset's biggest threat is fullback and strong safety Kyle Cambone, a 5-foot-8, 165-pound senior. Cambone, who was an Atlantic Coast All-Star last season, will likely emerge as one of the most explosive players in the conference this year. Senior tight end/linebacker Razz Green is a large target at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. 'He's had a very good preseason both catching the ball and playing defense as an outside linebacker for us,' Kenyon said of Green. Austin Ziemba, Nick McCarthy, Aiden Keene, and Mike Walsh will also be important pieces of the puzzle for a Nauset team that has high expectations.

Needham

Playoff alignment: Division 2 South

Coach: David Duffy (19th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Size on both lines, teamwork, and enthusiasm.

Concerns: Skill positions.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Duffy said that if his skill position players step up as the season progresses, he has no doubt the Rockets can win the league again. However, the coach also realizes how tall of a task it is to replace All-Scholastic running back Michael Panepinto, who led Div. 2 with 27 touchdowns. 'I see a therapist once in the morning, once in the afternoon and they tell me forget about replacing him,' Duffy said. A majority of the carries will likely go to seniors Jack Roque Jr. and Lucas Goldman.

New Bedford

Playoff alignment: Division 1 South

Coach: Mark DeBrito (1st season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Depth.

Concerns: Inexperience at skill positions.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: DeBrito makes his coaching debut for the defending Big Three champions. DeBrito, formerly the offensive coordinator, hopes his team can build on its success from last season. "We have a lot of returning players," said DeBrito, who has seven starters back on each side of the ball. "The kids coming up have been working their tails off. It's a great group of young men." Senior captains Hunter Fluegel (WR/DB), Alonzo Guillaume (MLB), Chandler Debrosse (QB), Douglas Pimentel (OL/DL), and Sam DeJesus (DE) will be counted on to lead the Whalers.

New Mission

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: Michael Pittman Forman (3d season)

Last year’s record: 5-5

Strengths: Defense and running game.

Concerns: Quarterback position. Depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: When Pittman took over three seasons ago, the Titan's were coming off a winless campaign. Fast forward two years and the team has steadily progressed into a .500 team poised to surprise some in the City League. " I'm hoping we could be in the playoffs and possibly even a Super Bowl this season," said Pittman. "But mostly we just want to be able to compete each game," he said. If senior running back David Pierre and senior QB Cemon Jean can help the team improve, competing for a playoff berth might be in the stars for the Titans.

Newburyport

Playoff alignment: Division 4 North

Coach: Ed Gaudiano (27th season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Skill positions and quarterback.

Concerns: Inexperience and size.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Clippers lost 18 seniors from last year. Gaudiano expects a lot of younger players to start week one. "Inexperience will be a problem," Gaudiano said. "We need some guys to make the jump from j.v. to varsity level. The only way they will do that is with game experience." The Clippers have some notable returners who can help the new players get adjusted to the next level. Quarterback Michael Shay returns along with receivers J.J. Bajko and Ty Therrien. The Clippers also have three returners on the offensive line: Reed Nation, Seamus Sullivan, and Peter Greene. A bye week to begin the season should help the younger players up to speed.

Newton North

Playoff alignment: Division 1 South

Coach: Peter Capodilupo (31st season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Receivers, quarterback, and overall passing game.

Concerns: Experience on offensive and defensive line.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Tigers have all the skill players in place to put up big numbers this season, which led Capodilupo to switch from an offense centered on the I-formation to the spread. However, the coach says his team will only go as far as the offensive and defensive lines allow.

Newton South

Playoff alignment: Division 2 North

Coach: Ted Dalicandro (9th season)

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Quarterback, athleticism and experience on defense.

Concerns: Depth in the offensive line.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Dalicandro believes the Lions can compete with the top teams in the DCL Large. He may be right based on the work sophomore quarterback Austin Burton in the offseason. In July, Burton attended the invite-only Football University (taught by former NFL players)at Westwood High.

North Andover

Playoff alignment: Division 2 North

Coach: John Rafferty (14th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Large senior class, experience at many positions.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Rafferty used one word to sum up last season: Frustrating. 'We were hoping to achieve a little bit better success,' he said. 'Finishing off at 5-6 is sub. 500. That's not what we're striving for.' Rafferty points to games against Andover, Waltham, and Masconomet, all of which North Andover lost in the final minute by one or two points. So going into this year, his main goal is to ensure that his team is prepared to finish games with conviction. 'If we finished out those games our record would have been significantly different,' he said. 'That's a goal of ours, to finish.' Some key players for the Scarlet Knights are slot receiver Robert Shkliew, offensive lineman Yanni Falaras and sophomore quarterback Seamus Lambert. Rafferty feels as though his starters are reliable and proven for the most part, but his biggest concern is what North Andover would do if it suffered a key injury.

North Attleborough

Playoff alignment: Division 3SW South

Coach: Don Johnson (6th season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Depth.

Concerns: Staying healthy.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Johnson's team was plagued by injuries last year, resulting in many underclassmen getting varsity reps. That should benefit the team when they come out of the gate this year with those players, such as running backs Sean Gimler and junior Nick Morrison. However, it can't be a good sign that senior captain Brendan Weir is already out of action after having off-season surgery on a torn labrum in his hip.

North Quincy

Playoff alignment: Division 3SW South

Coach: Mark Nutley (2d season)

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Experience.

Concerns: Offensive line, depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: After a promising summer camp, the Red Raiders hope it translates to success in the Patriot Fisher. Nearly all of last year's starters will return on the offense, including Andrew Kiley, their 6-3 quarterback. Junior wide receiver Aiden Brown and RB Dayvon Jones will look to fit in the single back system with a combination of hands and speed. On the defensive side of the ball, they'll have seven returning starters, including middle linebacker, Zach Dangora. Dangora led his team in tackles, despite missing two games. 'We're excited about the guys coming back,' said Nutley. 'Guys playing together for two years, it helps out.'

North Reading

Playoff alignment: Division 4 North

Coach: Jeff Wall (12th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Discipline, work ethic and senior leadership.

Concerns: Depth and inexperience.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Hornets enter the season with an abundance of senior leadership. Junior linebacker and fullback Nic O'Connell has been an All-League caliber player for two years and has been a captain since his sophomore season. "He is the best leader we have had since our coaching tenure at North Reading," Wall said. "These young men have been working hard and know that they can do something special. The attitude of the team is very encouraging as they continue to strive to improve together." Other notable returners for the Hornets include tight end Mike Farrelly and linebacker Cole Hughes, who is responsible for communication between the linebackers and the secondary. "He has a tremendous football IQ and will serve as a leader on defense," Wall said of Hughes. According to Wall, the team is "learning and working hard to improve every day. They encourage each other and are coming together as a team quicker than expected."

Northeast

Playoff alignment: Division 5 North

Coach: Don Heres (9th season)

Last year’s record: 9-3

Strengths: Enthusiasm, tradition, and coachablity.

Concerns: Inexperience after losing 16 seniors to graduation.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Heres has high expectations for his returning Commonwealth Large champions and feels his squad can be competitive if they remain focused on the fundamentals. Inexperience at the skill positions are a concern, but Heres is confident in the return of league MVP Kevin Rosado on offense. The Knights also welcome back returnees Pedro DelToro, Walter Campos, and Robert Newhook on defense.

Norton

Playoff alignment: Division 4 South

Coach: Tim McCarthy (1st season)

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Offensive and defensive lines.

Concerns: Depth at the skill positions.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Lancers won the the league a year ago, and with 11 returning starters (five on defense and six on offense) and a new head coach in McCarthy, they are in good position to make it two in a row. '[The goal] is to stay in the thick of things in the league,' said McCarthy, who was an assistant at Norton the last two years. 'If our younger players develop quickly, we will compete for another championship.' Junior running back Justin Ireland 'will shoulder the load carrying the ball,' according to McCarthy. Junior wide receiver/safety Jake Eberle will be another high-impact player to watch for.

Norwell

Playoff alignment: Division 5 South

Coach: Jim Connor (2d season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Returning 10 starters, nine of whom start both ways.

Concerns: Replacing key players and team speed.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: In his first year at Norwell, Connor barely missed bringing the Clippers to the playoffs. With excellent leaders returning in 2014, Connor expects to compete for the South Shore title. Senior captain Dan Hilson will see most of the touches at running back after gaining 800 yards last season in a back-up role. Junior Kris Kellaway has earned the quarterback job and will be looking to connect with Joey Volte, who led the team in receiving last year with 600 yards. Other returning starters who will play a key role include Matt Macauley, Max Walls, Jack Brown, Zack Carey (captain), James Reilly, and Jack Marsico.

Norwood

Playoff alignment: Division 3SW South

Coach: John Sarianides (5th season)

Last year’s record: 1-10

Strengths: Returning players.

Concerns: Inexperience.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After a dismal season last year, a young Mustangs team with another year of experience under its belt will look to turn things around in 2014. Norwood will have plenty of power in the ground game with the return of junior running back Zac Pungitore, a league All Star. The Mustangs will need to put up points against league rivals this season if they want to improve upon last year's campaign, when the Mustangs went 0-5 against fellow Bay State Herget teams.

O’Bryant

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: Kevin Gadson (7th season)

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Coaching staff, senior leadership.

Concerns: Youth, inexperience, loss of skill players.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Tigers started last season 8-0 before injuries hampered the tail-end of their season. The loss of starting QB Ajani Alfred-McFall and tough runner Mehki Williams just highlights the team's need for skill-position talent to step up. And having only three returning starters does not make it any easier for them. In what seems to be a rebuilding year, a term Gadson would rather not use, the Tigers will need to "develop younger players" before being their usual competitive selves this season. But young talent or not, Gadson and his staff do a great job of getting all players on the same page and ready to go.

Old Colony

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: Bryce Guilbeault (3d season)

Last year’s record: 3-8.

Strengths: Experience in seven returning starters.

Concerns: Depth. Injuries during preseason.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Guilbeault hopes his squad is the best conditioned in the league as it pursues its goal of winning one game at a time to put itself in a position to compete at the end of the season. While he's worried about the depth of his squad (he only had 31 players come out for football this season), he's impressed with the group's work ethic and dedication. Look out for sophomore running back Ryan Baker to use his speed to make big plays for Old Colony.

Old Rochester

Playoff alignment: Division 5 South

Coach: Henry Quinlan (11th season)

Last year’s record: 10-1

Strengths: Enough quality talent throughout the lineup to be competitive in the conference.

Concerns: Experience and depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Bulldogs had a terrific 2013 campaign, sweeping conference and regular season play, while making a run to the Division 5 South final. They should contend for another SCC Large crown despite graduating 14 players, including All-Scholastic TE/LB Haydon Bergeron. Senior quarterback Alex Aruri (captain) will lead an attack spear-headed by 2013 SCC All-Star tailback Darien Dumond (Jr.) and senior Raekwon Phillips. Senior captain Gerald Lanagan (LB/C) will lead a defense that allowed only 14.8 points per game in 2013. Returning starters Kyle Henry (OT/DL), Hunter Cooney (WR/DB), and Jarrett Johnston (TE/OLB) will play huge roles for the Bulldogs, along with senior Ethan Lizotte (RB/LB) who missed all of 2013 with an injury.

Oliver Ames

Playoff alignment: Division 3SW South

Coach: James Artz (9th season)

Last year’s record: 10-1

Strengths: Skill positions and linebackers.

Concerns: offensive and defensive line.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Fresh off recording the school's first undefeated regular season since 1964 and a trip to the South Division 3 Southwest finals, Oliver Ames is certainly hungry for more. Losing All-Scholastic quarterback Nick Cidado certainly hurts, but the team does return its entire wide receiving corps. Defensively, the Tigers will be led by returning Hockomock All-Star Joe Tepper. 'I'm hoping we're a physical defensive team that flies to the ball,' said Artz.

Peabody

Playoff alignment: Division 1 North

Coach: Marc Bettencourt (2d season)

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Positive attitude.

Concerns: Depth and injuries.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: In his first year at the helm, Bettencourt had the challenge of transforming a winless team and he ended the season on a positive note with the Tanners' 3-8 record. Peabody hasn't had a winning season in the NEC since coming over from the GBL in 2007. With a new new artificial turf, Coley Lee Field, and momentum in their favor, the Tanners show great promise.

Pembroke

Playoff alignment: Division 3SE South

Coach: Robert Bancroft (32d season)

Last year’s record: 5-5

Strengths: Backfield.

Concerns: Inexperience on the offensive line.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: With only seven returning starters, the Titans will look to focus on the fundamentals and taking things one game at a time in the coming season. A young, inexperienced offensive line will be tested early on, which is a major focus point for Bancroft. 'We've got to find our line. We need to get people in there and get the experience,' he said. In the backfield, the return of 6-3, 210-pound running back, Kyle Horn and Khadir Bullock should help PHS on the ground and in the air. Senior quarterback Bill Watts will look to take on the role as starter. The secondary and linebackers appear to be in good shape, but it's the defensive line that is the focus. 'The kids know we have a lot of work to be a good football team,' said Bancroft. Despite that, he said there is optimism in the air. 'The kids have been upbeat. We're not focusing on the negative. We're working on getting better all the time,' Bancroft said.

Pentucket

Playoff alignment: Division 4 North

Coach: Steve Hayden (33d season)

Last year’s record: 8-2

Strengths: Senior leadership.

Concerns: Depth and inexperience on offensive line.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Sachems' offense will rely on the running game. They have a three-headed ground attack with captains Jeff Porter, Josh Wesolowski, and Andrew Noyes all sharing carries. With five new starters on the offensive line and a new starting quarterback, it is hard to predict how the rest of the offense will look. "It's hard to get a good look in practice," Hayden said. "As the kids gain more experience it will get better." Pat Freiermouth will step in at quarterback after spending last season as a tight end. Senior defensive end Jack Richard and outside linebacker Noah Nahli are two players to watch on defense.

Plymouth North

Playoff alignment: Division 3SE South

Coach: Kevin Cobban (3d season)

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Running game, experience at skill positions.

Concerns: Depth on offensive and defensive line.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Heading into their first season in the Patriot League, the Eagles plan on doing the same thing that led them to success in Atlantic Coast League - hand the ball to Christian Carr. Standing just 5-feet, 4 inches, Carr is a "hard-nose runner that has speed to break it outside," according to Cobban. Carr is looking to build on his 20-touchdown season last year behind senior center Gavin Johnson and junior linemen Justin Cabral and Brian Parker. Cobban's squad also returns starters at other skill positions on offense, highlighted by senior quarterback Cullin Cosgrove, a three-year starter, and senior wide receiver Colby Randell. "We will be tested early and often," said Cobban. "We want to be the last team standing."

Plymouth South

Playoff alignment: Division 3SE South

Coach: Scott Fry (11th season)

Last year’s record: 12-3

Strengths: Team speed, athleticism.

Concerns: Lack of experience.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After capturing back to back Atlantic Coast titles and making a run to the Division 3 Super Bowl, the Panthers make the jump to the Patriot Fisher League. 'We're going to play teams we've never played before,' said Fry. 'That's going to be challenging for us, and a challenge for them.' The Panthers lost 14 players to graduation, including running back Dylan Oxsen (Assumption College), who had 24 touchdowns in the regular season. They'll return eight starters, four on defense and four on offense. Despite a lack of experience, Fry said overall team speed and athleticism are strengths for his team. Fullback Justin Lamb (6-1, 215 pounds) will look to fill Oxsen's shoes in the team's I-form offense. Two-way all-league player, Zach Tilson (6-5, 250 pounds) will be a player to watch on defense, as he can be quick off the line for a player of his size. 'It's an enthusiastic group that has worked hard all summer,' Fry said. 'This is one of the teams that will get better week to week.'

Pope John Paul II

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: John Muldoon (4th season)

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Overall depth, experience at skill positions.

Concerns: Staying focused.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Lions led EMass in scoring last season with 42.8 points per game, failing only twice (both losses) to break the 40-point mark. The team returns all of their offensive weapons, including strong-armed and accurate quarterback Ryan Barabe, who tossed 27 touchdown passes a season ago, and bruising running back Diego Meritus, who finished 4th in division 6 with 21 TDs and 140 points. If the Lions can patch up their defense, their Achilles' heel, which gave up 30-plus points five times last year, they should be the team to beat in the Catholic Central Small.

Quincy

Playoff alignment: Division 2 South

Coach: Bill Reardon (7th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Senior quarterback James Lam, experience on offense.

Concerns: Experience at linebacker.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Presidents are looking to build on back-to-back 7-4 seasons in 2014. With a bevy of talent returning on the offensive side of the ball, Reardon is confident his team will take the next step. Leading the Quincy offense will be senior quarterback James Lam, who ran for 10 touchdowns a year ago and added five through the air. The Presidents also bring back All-League junior tailback Jahvae Handsom-Fields who had three games with 175+ yards a year ago. The QB-RB combo will be protected by four returners on the offensive line including seniors William Young, Abraham Hoti, and Stephen Scolaro, along with junior Mike Munroe. "We want to be competitive and continue to push Duxbury," said Reardon. "The attitude is great right now, we are getting better every day."

Randolph

Playoff alignment: Division 4 South

Coach: Keith Ford (2d season)

Last year’s record: 1-9

Strengths: Multiple attacks and experience on the offensive/defensive lines.

Concerns: Consistency and depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Following a transition year in 2013, Ford is looking forward to better success his second year. The Blue Devils return three captains from last year's squad; junior Fabian Thames (OLB/WR), senior Willie Pittman III (OL/DL), and senior Brent White (QB). "We have Brent back again and our wide receiving core is extremely dangerous," said Ford. "We need to stay healthy and play hungry, which will lead to wins." Junior Shemar Murray will be one of White's primary targets down the field at 6-4.

Reading

Playoff alignment: Division 2 North

Coach: John Fiore (11th season)

Last year’s record: 8-2

Strengths: Commitment, team attitude, depth.

Concerns: Inexperience.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Fiore is confident that sophomore quarterback Corey DiLoreto will be 'pretty darn good' by the end of the season, and he says to 'look out for him the next two years.' As for this year, DiLoreto will start his first varsity game when Reading takes on Masconomet Sept. 5. Fiore says DiLoreto has a strong arm and is a broad-shouldered, tall quarterback. At running back, the Rockets will rely on steady production from 5-foot-9, 178-pound junior D'Aundray Burcy. Fiore calls Burcy a good downhill runner who has breakaway speed. Senior wide receivers Joe Pappalardo and Will Murray will also likely be key contributors. Reading has tied or won six straight league championships, and Fiore is hoping his team can make it a seventh.

Revere

Playoff alignment: Division 3NE North

Coach: Lou Cicatelli (13th season)

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Strong junior class with seven returning starters on both sides of the ball.

Concerns: Team depth/offensive line.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Last year was a learning curve for the Patriots with seven sophomores on defense and seven on offense. Cicatelli said his squad had a strong finish down the stretch with consecutive wins against Medford, 35-14, and Winthrop, 13-7. "If we can stay healthy we should be in the thick of it this year," he said. The Patriots are expecting big performances from their senior tailback Kaleb Silva, who had a 75-yard touchdown in the Patriots' Thanksgiving victory, and junior quarterback Dan Murphy. The Patriots will play on the road this season while their new stadium is under construction.

Rockland

Playoff alignment: Division 5 South

Coach: Brian Kelliher (3d season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Experience.

Concerns: Depth on the defensive line.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After a playoff appearance in 2013, the Bulldogs have enough experience coming back to contend for the South Shore title. "Our goal is to compete for the league title and get into the playoffs," Kelliher said. "The new playoff system is very beneficial for the sport and if we get in again we can make a run." Senior Joey Reardon will start again at quarterback after earning South Shore All-Star honors in 2013. Fellow all-star Justin Nguyen (Sr.) will get the majority of the carries after leading the team in rushing last year, with senior Leshon Crawford joining him in the backfield. Seniors John Kamande (LB) and Liam Ball (DE) will anchor the Bulldog defense. Kelliher's team will be tested early and often, opening up with Cardinal Spellman, Plymouth South, and Cohasset.

Salem

Playoff alignment: Division 3NE North

Coach: Scott Connolly (11th season)

Last year’s record: 2-9

Strengths: Enthusiasm and work ethic.

Concerns: Depth on both sides of the ball.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Witches are looking for their first winning season since 2010. Improvement starts on offense where Salem scored just 13.4 ppg. It will help that the first three games are at home. What won't help are the opponents: Gloucester, Marblehead and Lynn Classical.

Sandwich

Playoff alignment: Division 3SE South

Coach: Bill O'Connell (1st season)

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: Defense.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: O'Connell took reins at Sandwich on July 23. He's still getting acclimated to the job but knows he has an experienced group. O'Connell and his team participated in a three-way camp with Mashpee and Old Rochester earlier this summer. He said the camp benefited both the players and coaches and that it was a great way to help him get adjusted. Dan Perry, a senior defensive end, will anchor the Blue Warriors' defense, a unit that allowed 21.7 points per game last season. O'Connell called Perry one of the best defensive players in the league, and he's confident Perry will continue to build off an impressive junior campaign. Senior captains Tyler McMahon and Steven Tully will be keys on the offensive and defensive lines.

Saugus

Playoff alignment: Division 4 North

Coach: Mike Broderick (10th season)

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Experience.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Broderick expects the experience of his team on both sides of the ball to yield better results. The Sachems return 15 lettermen, all of whom saw substantial playing time last season. Justin Winn returns at quarterback along with Dan Cacciola at running back. Steven Whitehurst, Luke Surette, and Brendan Grocki are all returners on the offensive line and are all two-way players. Grocki and Surette play linebacker while Whitehurst plays defensive tackle. Seth Roy is a player to keep an eye on. The running back and defensive back was second on the team in tackles before suffering a foot injury last year.

Scituate

Playoff alignment: Division 4 South

Coach: Herb Devine (7th season)

Last year’s record: 7-5

Strengths: Athleticism.

Concerns: Depth on the offensive and defensive line.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: An experienced squad that has dominated the Patriot Fisher League, the Sailors will look to make a run for the playoffs in 2014. Devine said this team is 'by far the most athletic group that I've ever had.' Seven players will be returning to the offensive core, which is typically the lifeline of this team. Senior quarterback Christian Brady can run and throw with precision in the spread offense. The loss of Dawayne Kirton will be a big one for Scituate, but the 5-10, 200-pound Chris Bearce will look to fill Kirton's shoes at running back. Defensive tackle Devin McCarthy (6-2, 355 pounds) has speed off the ball, and will look to cause problems in opposing backfields. He'll be flanked by junior corners Charlie Malone and Dante Sanderson. 'We are one of the better teams in our division and we want to prove it,' said Devine. 'The kids have something to prove this year.'

Seekonk

Playoff alignment: Division 5 South

Coach: Vernon Crawford (3d season)

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: All-around speed and discipline.

Concerns: Inexperience, only four returning starters.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Warriors are only returning four starters from last year's playoff squad, but Crawford expects the team to compete in the SCC Large again in 2014. Junior Brendan Smith will take the reigns at quarterback after throwing for more than 1,000 yards last year as a backup. "We have a ton of speed and like to throw the ball a lot," Crawford said. "Smith got a lot of reps last year, which gives us confidence going forward." Captains Ben Sawyer (Sr.) and Abe Masse (Jr.) will split carries if Crawford ever does decide to run the ball out of his two back spread. On the other side of the ball, Zack Garabian (Sr.) and Zach DeBlois (Jr.) both provide size and strength in the trenches at 6-4, 270 pounds and 6-2, 230 respectively, while Sawyer and Masse anchor the defense from their linebacker positions. The Warriors start the season at home with Case and Greater New Bedford.

Sharon

Playoff alignment: Division 3SE South

Coach: Dave Morse (4th season)

Last year’s record: 2-9

Strengths: Athleticism.

Concerns: Consistency.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After a remarkable 10-3 campaign in 2012, Sharon took a step back last season, dropping to 2-9 and a fourth place finish in the Hockomock (Davenport). However, losing just five starting seniors, the team looks poised to rebound nicely. 'We're looking pretty good thus far,' said Morse. 'We've got a lot of athletes and a lot of experience. A very big defensive line should also be a strength for us.'

Shawsheen

Playoff alignment: Division 5 North

Coach: Albert Costabile (23d season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Great attitude, enthusiasm, and work ethic.

Concerns: Depth on the offensive line.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Costabile is confident his current roster can compete in the Commonwealth Large with junior Alex Tate (QB) leading a pack of eight seniors. "We are well-balanced at all grade levels with healthy and enthusiastic competition at many positions," he said.

Silver Lake

Playoff alignment: Division 3SE South

Coach: Mike Aveni (4th season)

Last year’s record: 5-5

Strengths: Offensive and defensive lines.

Concerns: Experience.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Last season, Silver Lake was able to do something it hasn't been able to do since 1980, make the playoffs. One year removed from a 0-10 season, the Lakers improved to 5-5 in 2013. Aveni's squad wants to continue that success. "We have to take it to the next level," said Aveni. To reach that level, the 4th-year coach will lean on his core seniors: QB/LB Adam Gay, DE/OT John Gallagher, LB/RB Xavier Dillingham, and SS/RB Sean Perkins. Coming off a 3-1 season in league play, the next step is simple for the Lakers - win the league.

Somerset Berkley

Playoff alignment: Division 3SE South

Coach: Nick Freitas (6th season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Large group of returning players.

Concerns: Graduation of key contributors.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The 2013 EAC champions will have to defend their crown without former league All-Stars Zachary Estrella, Daniel Matanes, and Ross Mello. But the return of senior running back Chris Wood, also an All Star, will be huge for Somerset-Berkley's offense. Although the posted a 4-0 league record last season, the Blue Raiders struggled against nonleague teams.

Somerville

Playoff alignment: Division 3NE North

Coach: Tony Gulla (3d season)

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Defense.

Concerns: Inexperience.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: To put it simply, the Highlanders are young. They have just three seniors on the roster and will start six freshmen. 'Growing pains,' said Gulla. 'The logical progression would be to take another step forward, but I think we're prepared to take a step back if we have to. We've got a ton of young kids; they're very talented young kids. We can be competitive, it's just gonna be a struggle getting over the hump.' While it is young, the defense is expected to be a strength, with nine returning starters, made up mostly of sophomores and juniors. 'As the defense goes, so will we,' said Gulla. Junior outside linebacker Justin Berry and senior safety Matt Collins will be impact players. Isaac Saron, who replaces former GBL All-Star Phoenix Huertas at quarterback, and nose guard Carlo Gerton are the Highlanders' other two seniors. Freshman Giovanni Pierre is 'one of the best wide receivers around,' according to Gulla.

South Boston

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: Ray Butler (2d season)

Last year’s record: 0-10-0

Strengths: Core of maturing seniors.

Concerns: Relying on first-year players at key positions.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: After a winless campaign in his debut, Butler is returning 12 players this season, seven of them seniors. "The core group has to continue to mature," said Butler. "Our goal is to get better every week and keep improving." One player to watch is senior QB/LB Robert King, who was a Boston City League All-Star and Boston Scholar Athlete last season. The fact that the Knights are relying on several first-year players to plug a number of holes is a cause for concern. However, there's nowhere to go but up for South Boston, and senior Garrette Stultz could be a sleeper with big-play potential. Stultz returned two kicks for touchdowns last season, and also scored on a pick-six. He should slot in at free safety and rotate through the Knights' offensive attack.

South Shore Voc-Tech

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: Derek Mariani (16th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Secondary and defense.

Concerns: Youth and lack of experience and leadership.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: South Shore returns only seven starters, leaving the team young with a lack of experience at many key positions. Mariani is working to instill confidence in his squad as he works toward his preseason goal of building a team identity. Mariani has taught his team that with the new playoff system, every game is important and he expects his squad to play "good, tough football."

Southeastern

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: Dan Tripp (6th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Veterans in the skill positions.

Concerns: Young offensive line.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Southeastern will look to returning quarterback, senior Andrew MccElligot, to fill a leadership role on the young squad. Tripp also said he expects some returning sophomores to have an immediate impact on the team. Tripp set a simple goal for the squad - to win the league - and is hoping returning talent in the skill positions, specifically three returning running backs, will allow the team to reach its goal.

St. Clement

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: Colin Walsh (12th season)

Last year’s record: 10-2

Strengths: Talent at skill positions.

Concerns: Depth, inexperience.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Anchormen were decimated by graduation. That includes quarterback Michael Sullivan (28 TD passes), receivers, Khaneil Bruce (16 TD receptions) and Junior Oyaronbi (11 TD receptions), and top running back Deron Hines. With lots of inexperience on offense, the Anchorman's younger players will make or break their season. "We are going to continue on the same pace we were on last year, with an aggressive, attacking offense," said Walsh. "We're not using our youth as an excuse not win. We plan to continue to get better."

St. John’s Prep

Playoff alignment: Division 1 North

Coach: Brian St. Pierre (1st season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Work ethic.

Concerns: Young and inexperienced on offense.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Former NFLer and Prep star St. Pierre takes over for longtime coach Jim O'Leary and faces a tough challenge trying to rebuild the Eagles' offense. The Prep graduated its entire offensive line, quarterback Michael Geaslen, and one of the state's best running backs, Johnathan Thomas. Senior A.J. Carrigan and junior Oliver Eberth, a transfer from Andover, have split time at quarterback during camp. Senior Cody Harwood, who filled in for an injured Thomas last season, will be the Eagles' featured running back. But with tight end and Boston College commit Jake Burt and wide receiver Owen Rockett, the Eagles still have some firepower left. "They've been working really hard," said St. Pierre of the offense. "We've changed a lot offensively, thrown a lot at them, and they've handled it well." St. Pierre also has high hopes for his defense, with experienced linebackers Sean Fallon, Brandan Kahari, and John Churchwell leading the way.

St. Joseph’s Prep

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: Deondre Kennard (1st season)

Last year’s record: 2-8

Strengths: Senior leadership.

Concerns: Overall team depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Kennard's main goal is getting the team back to .500. "I'm optimistic about the coaching strategies we're implementing this year," he said. "I'm about teaching and cultivation, and this year will have a lot of both." With their top offensive threats back, inlcuding QB Tim Buccelli and sophomore tight end Derek Griffin, the Phoenix should improve upon their 15 points-per-game average from a season ago.

St. Mary’s

Playoff alignment: Division 5 North

Coach: Matt Durgin (7th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Work ethic.

Concerns: Overall depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Spartans will rely on senior Connor Sakowich to carry the load at running back after losing Jordan Manthorne to graduation. Durgin expects to contend for a league title in 2014 after a playoff appearance last season. The big test will come when Durgin's squad faces Cardinal Spellman and Bishop Fenwick in weeks five and six.

Stoneham

Playoff alignment: Division 4 North

Coach: Bob Almeida (3d season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Offensive line should be strong, good running backs. Defensively, run prevention should be strong.

Concerns: Youth and inconsistency may hurt the team.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After a first-round loss to Lynnfield last fall, Stoneham is dealing with a lot of turnover. "We're very young and should benefit from a long preseason," said Almeida. "They're great kids, very coachable, and work hard every day. We will compete in every game, play every snap tough and do it together."

Stoughton

Playoff alignment: Division 3SW South

Coach: Greg Burke (22d season)

Last year’s record: 10-2

Strengths: Work ethic.

Concerns: Inexperience in skilled positions.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After making a stellar run to the Division 3 state semifinals last year, Stoughton's road will be a little tougher this season. That's because the team will be without several of its key playmakers on offense due to graduation. Still, Burke remains optimistic. 'We're sort of a one game at a time kind of team, but of course we want to do well,' he said. 'The kids know how we did last year and they're working really hard this year to improve on that.'

Swampscott

Playoff alignment: Division 4 North

Coach: Steve Dembowski (16th season)

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: Experience at skill positions.

Concerns: Depth on defensive and offensive line.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Big Blue return 23 seniors and 10 starters from last season. Dembowski said of his seniors, "we'll be getting contributions from most of them." One of their returning seniors, linebacker Jordan James, had 90 tackles last season. On the offensive side of the ball, Swampscott could be explosive with senior dual threat quarterback Devon Conroy and senior running back Mike Faia. With a strong linebacking core led by James and senior Christain Llorenete, the Big Blue will need to rely on their defense to lead the way if they plan on making a trip to the playoffs this season.

Taunton

Playoff alignment: Division 2 South

Coach: Chris Greding (3d season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Offensive and defensive lines.

Concerns: Youth and inexperience at skilled positions.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: After going winless in the league last season, Greding said his team is ready to reestablish itself. Taunton is aiming to at least stay within the middle of the pack and specifically stay on par with King Philip. They will be led by quarterback Adam Leonard, who has been starting since his sophomore year. "Kid's a leader," Greding said. "He's got a good arm and he's tough as nails. He really personifies what our city is all about; we're small, we're scrappy and we really just don't give up."

Tewksbury

Playoff alignment: Division 3NE North

Coach: Brian Aylward (18th season)

Last year’s record: 13-0

Strengths: Experience, mainly in the backfield.

Concerns: Kicker hasn't been tested.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Aylward wants to make sure his team moves forward. While last year's Division 3 state championship is an incredible memory, he knows the importance of focusing on the present. 'It'll always be there no matter what happens,' Aylward said. 'At the same time, that doesn't do any good for us this year.' Running back and strong safety James Sullivan will carry Tewksbury and middle linebacker and fullback Tommy Casey will contribute as well. Tewksbury can't do any better than it did last year, but Aylward and Co. hope they do just as well.

Tri-County

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: Anthony Mazzola (5th season)

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Strong leadership and a productive off season.

Concerns: Young quarterback and special team players.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Mazzola learned a lot coaching his team through the first season with a new playoff system. "You have to get out of the gate quick and have to know who you are week one," he said. "You have to win in September to play meaningful games in November." Tri-County has spent the preseason developing its team identity, which Mazzola says is a physical team with attitude. "When other teams come to play us, we want them to know they're in for a fight," he said.

Triton

Playoff alignment: Division 4 North

Coach: Pat Sheehan (5th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Offensive line and defense.

Concerns: Inexperience at quarterback and skill positions.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Vikings are stacked with seniors and expect to take another step forward. 'Eighteen returning seniors really helps on the leadership end,' Sheehan said. 'The kids came into camp in great shape and we have had a great energy.' Triton will have a new quarterback this year but with receivers James Wood and Kevin Clark and a strong offensive line, there shouldn't be much of a drop off. The real strength of this team is its defense. Returning defensive tackles Ellsworth Rogers and Jimmy Ford anchor the line. With returning All-League safety Luke Boyle and depth at the linebacker position, Triton's defense will be tough to score on.

Upper Cape

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: Mike Hernon (4th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Offensive and defensive lines.

Concerns: Depth at skill positions.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Upper Cape has captured the league title each of the past two season, and it's the expectation of Hernon that the team will follow suit with a third title this season. The squad is returning eight players to the offensive and defensive lines, which Hernon noted will make them tough up front and allow the squad to wear down their opponents and grind games out. Finding a replacement for the talented and graduated Jon Dumont (26 touchdowns) will be a challenge.

Wakefield

Playoff alignment: Division 3NW North

Coach: Mike Boyages (18th season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Defense returns solid, balanced experience and should be the backbone of the team.

Concerns: Inexperience on offense, especially in skilled positions (only three returning starters overall).

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Warriors hope to continue their winning tradition in the Middlesex League under Boyages (.734 winning percentage and six league championships). Wakefield was knocked out of the playoffs early last year and will look to improve this season. Senior defensive back Anthony Cesare seems to be the leading competitor for the starting quarterback job. Watch out for junior Ty Beck in the secondary. The 6-foot-3 speedster has already started his first two seasons at Wakefield, and will likely start on offense this fall as well. Watch out for senior RB Luke Martin, who returns after leading the team with 887 rushing yards last fall.

Walpole

Playoff alignment: Division 3SW South

Coach: Barry Greener (6th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Experienced underclassmen.

Concerns: Lack of depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Coach Barry Greener has yet to decide on a starting quarterback, with juniors Tyler Berkland and Noah Miree battling for the position. The winner of the competition will have a potent receiving corps at his disposal. Senior captains Jack Lavanchy and Andrew Papirio and junior Amire Loftus are all electric threats in the passing game. Running back Steve Cuqua will take a majority of the handoffs after posting over 1,300 rushing yards as a sophomore in 2013, and senior captain Matt Ordway will anchor the offensive line at left guard. Greener said Walpole's key to success ' in addition to staying healthy ' will be the development of the defense.

Waltham

Playoff alignment: Division 2 North

Coach: John Bourque (4th season)

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Strong leadership

Concerns: Staying healthy.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After a run to the state semifinals last year, Waltham should be poised to compete with Acton-Boxborough for the DCL Large title. With Moses Holloway likely taking the quarterback responsibilities after the graduation of Dana Parello, the Hawks' offense should find their way in time for the playoffs.

Wareham

Playoff alignment: Division 4 South

Coach: Dan Nault (16th season)

Last year’s record: 1-10

Strengths: Dedication and work ethic.

Concerns: Over-all depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Lack of varsity experience led to a difficult 2013 season and a win-less record in the SCC Large, but Nault expects his squad to be very competitive during the upcoming season. "We are all leap years ahead of last year," said Nault. "We are going to surprise some people this season and can compete with every team in the conference." Junior Steven Toal will start at quarterback, while Nate Moore (Sr.) and Josh Onujiogu (Jr.) will split carries in Nault's motion wing-t offense. Toal and Onujiogu will also be the linebackers in Nault's 5-2 defensive scheme. The Vikings will be tested early when conference foes Seekonk (week two) and Dighton-Rehoboth (week three) head into town.

Watertown

Playoff alignment: Division 4 North

Coach: John Cacace (8th season)

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Skill positions, returning QB.

Concerns: Depth, youth, inexperience.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Quarterback Nick Giordano could carry this team back to the playoffs. He threw for over 1,800 yards last year with 17 passing touchdowns, and rushed for 500 more yards and four more rushing scores. Austin Farry is also returning after over 1,200 all-purpose yards.

Wayland

Playoff alignment: Division 3NW North

Coach: Scott Parseghian (14th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Returning quarterback.

Concerns: Young offensive line.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Wayland is looking to returning quarterback Robert Jones to provide the spark on offence. Coach Scott Parseghian is expecting a big year out of him. "Jones is more confident with the offense," said Parseghian. "He has great legs, he is a running quarterback but he can throw the ball, too." Jones will have a big target in tight end Andrew Straube. On defense, returning All-League linebacker Andy Carmichael and defensive end Brad Belinsky are players to watch.

Wellesley

Playoff alignment: Division 2 South

Coach: Jesse Davis (3d season)

Last year’s record: 7-5

Strengths: Skill positions.

Concerns: Depth at offensive line.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Raiders senior captain Davis Wall and junior Jake Mohan will have big shoes to fill at quarterback this season following the graduation of All-Scholastic QB John Fadule. Davis said his team had a great camp during its annual preseason trip to Maine and said the team is excited to take on Concord-Carlisle in week 1. Concord-Carlisle edged Wellesley last year in the season opener, 33-29, but Davis's squad is prepared to flip the script. In addition to Wall, look for senior captains Jack Dolan, TJ Noonan, and Thomas Nocka to be key contributors this season for the Raiders.

West Bridgewater

Playoff alignment: Division 6 South

Coach: Bill Panos (29th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Experience.

Concerns: Lack of depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: West Bridgewater's new school is currently being built on its football field, so the Wildcats are playing this season without a true home field. Instead, the squad is using facilities on the Bridgewater-Raynham campus to practice and will play some home games on the turf field at Bridgewater-Raynham. With 12 seniors on the squad this season, experience and leadership should help them overcome the challenges of playing without a true home field.

West Roxbury

Playoff alignment: Division 6 North

Coach: Derek Wright (3d season)

Last year’s record: 3-8-0

Strengths: First-year starters with something to prove, Wright getting settled with program.

Concerns: Offensive and defensive line, vast inexperience, replacing 14 seniors.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Not only did the Raiders graduate 14 seniors, but among them was star quarterback David Bertucci and running back Michael Obiangiwe. This fall, junior Andre Smith, who was a tight end last season, will move in behind center while sophomore Kavon Washington will step off the offensive line to slot in at full back. Senior Telly Auger and sophomore Shandon Givan will aid in the running game. It's a youth movement in West Roxbury, and its large crop of first-year players is a bit concerning. Last season was an opportunity for the Raiders to do some damage, but they could not capitalize with their experienced core. "It's definitely a rebuilding process," said Wright. "Our goal is to try and be better than last year. I expect them to be hard workers."

Westford

Playoff alignment: Division 2 North

Coach: Adam Gagne (2d season)

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: Leadership.

Concerns: Staying healthy.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Challenges await the Grey Ghosts. With Newton South's improved offense, there will be no breaks in the DCL Large. James Antonelli will again be behind center, looking for his favorite target, Brett Fitzgerald.

Weston

Playoff alignment: Division 4 North

Coach: Sean McHugh (4th season)

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Senior leadership and team speed.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After finishing 3-8 last season, coach Sean McHugh looked to his senior captains to set the tone in the offseason. "Practice has been very competitive," McHugh said. "Overall team attitude has been great. The kids have been willing to put in the work." Wide receiver/defensive back Maurice Blake and running back/slot receiver Tom Dell-Erario have been role models for the younger players. "Tom is a very vocal leader while Maurice demonstrates leadership through his actions and hard work," McHuse said.

Westwood

Playoff alignment: Division 4 South

Coach: Ed Mantie (4th season)

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Depth and speed.

Concerns: Inexperience.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: After an eight-win season that ended with a bitter playoff loss to division rival Holliston, the Westwood football team is entering 2014 with something to prove. 'We were able to win one playoff game but it was a quick exit for us,' coach Ed Mantie said. 'It left a sour taste in the kids' mouth and it gives us more incentive on Thanksgiving.' Westwood lost six seniors who were two-way starters on last year's team but the players have worked hard in the off season to make sure they can fill the void. 'This is one of the hardest working teams we have had,' said Mantie. 'The school created a new weight room for us because too many kids were showing up to lift . . . the gym wasn't big enough.' The hard work has been paying off for returning All-League players Chris Eldridge and Chris Hanley, who are both poised to have another big year. The playoff loss a year ago can turn out to be a good thing for this year's team because of the post-season experience. 'The experience of playing in a big game is something that we can build on.'

Weymouth

Playoff alignment: Division 1 South

Coach: Kevin Mackin (10th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Work ethic and intensity.

Concerns: Varsity experience.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The way the Wildcats performed in training camp has Mackin raving about the character of his players. Their work ethic should produce results on the field given that their defense is likely to be strong once again. Mackin also noted that there was a battle for the starting quarterback position between juniors Will Rodgers and Josh Holmes.

Whitman-Hanson

Playoff alignment: Division 3SE South

Coach: Mike Driscoll (4th season)

Last year’s record: 0-10-1

Strengths: Skill positions, strength.

Concerns: Depth at linebacker.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Last year is far in the rear view mirror for Driscoll and the Panthers. With nine starters returning on offense, the Panthers are anticipating not just a bounce-back season, but a very successful one. "We expect to have a winning season," said Driscoll. "We want to challenge for the league title." The Panthers will lean on the skill positions to put up the points that weren't there a year ago. "We will play up-tempo football," Driscoll added. "We want to control the game." Junior quarterback Nick Smith will have two proven targets in senior wide receivers Nick Villanueva and Mike Lenane, both three year starters. Driscoll is confident that his team is on the right track. "We have a rich tradition here, we are working hard to get back to that winning tradition."

Whittier

Playoff alignment: Division 5 North

Coach: Kevin Bradley (14th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Balanced offense, defensive front.

Concerns: Inexperience in secondary.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Wildcats are in good shape after a 7-4 run last season. They return eight offensive starters and six defensive starters. The squad returns Commonwealth All-Stars Connor Bradley (QB) and Jesus Sanchez (RB). Bradley is impressed with the leadership from his senior class that has been passed down to the underclassmen, giving his squad overall depth, "something every team hopes for," he said.

Wilmington

Playoff alignment: Division 3NE North

Coach: Mike Barry (7th season)

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Senior leadership, offensive line.

Concerns: Health, consistency.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: "We should be better than last year," said Barry, who has been at Wilmington for 20 years, the last six as head coach. "We have several starters back. The O-line has looked good in the preseason and there's more speed on the perimeter. "We lost several close games last year. We are looking to develop confidence and win the close games. We need to stay healthy." James Hill is a potential scholarship player being looked at by several schools. Matt Penney returns as the team's leading rusher from a season ago.

Winchester

Playoff alignment: Division 3NW North

Coach: Wally Dembowski (4th season)

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Eight players who have been on team who have been in program since freshman year.

Concerns: Still a building program, so not a lot of depth at some positions.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: When Dembowski reflects on the 2013 season he remembers the good and the bad. He remembers inching by Wilmington, 7-6, thanks to a sterling defensive effort and beating Woburn, 21-19, in overtime on Thanksgiving. He remembers losing to Reading by just 10 points after the Rockets destroyed them the year before. But he also remembers the bad, like a 47-21 loss to Lexington. 'We ended up getting tattooed,' he said. 'The moon wasn't aligned right. The ACT (standardized test). The travel. Whatever it was.' And the three consecutive losses to Concord-Carlisle, Wakefield, and Burlington are all memories. But the past is the past, and now Dembowski's focus is moving forward. In his three previous years at Winchester, the Sachems had eight, 10, and 11 seniors; this year they have 17. Nine or 10 kids that have gone through the program are now ready to lead the Sachems, including quarterback Michael Grassey. Grassey, who stands at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, is also a basketball captain. Jimmy Crowther and Pat Gill will also be key cogs for Winchester. While some promising players opt to leave Winchester and transfer to private schools, Dembowski is proud of the fact that many others have stayed at Winchester. 'The kids who have remained behind have really done a nice job of having the program go in the right direction,' he said.

Winthrop

Playoff alignment: Division 4 North

Coach: Sean Driscoll (8th season)

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Strength at skill positions, experience.

Concerns: Overall depth.

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Vikings are returning 17 seniors, which will go a long way in Winthrop has been hovering around .500 for a few years now, going 5-6 last fall after back-to-back 6-5 seasons in 2012 and 2011. "We play in a tough league against a lot of big schools, which is a tough task year in and year out," said Driscoll. "We need to stay healthy to be able to compete in our conference." A key factor to the Vikings' performance will be senior quarterback Dylan Driscoll, Sean's son, who will enter this year with another season of experience under his belt.

Woburn

Playoff alignment: Division 3NW North

Coach: Rocky Nelson (29th season)

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Senior class, team speed.

Concerns: Depth.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Chris Jewett, who is also a track star at Woburn, will be a key offensive contributor for Nelson's team. Jewett is a three-year starter and serves as a receiver, running back and cornerback. He's one of the fastest kids in the state according to his coach, and he uses that blazing speed to his advantage on the football field. Nelson said his team has eight returning starters on offense and six on defense. 'That's a very good nucleus,' Nelson said, 'but depth is always a concern.' Woburn got off to a sizzling start last season, ripping off five wins in a row before losing to Arlington. Nelson hopes his team gets off to as hot of a start this season and he's confident they'll be able to build on last year's success.

Xaverian

Playoff alignment: Division 1 South

Coach: Charlie Stevenson (22d season)

Last year’s record: 10-1

Strengths: Experience at quarterback and on defense; good depth at running back and wide receiver.

Concerns: Inexperienced offensive line.

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Hawks, who lost in the Division 1 Super Bowl a year ago, return six starters on offense and nine on defense, including reigning Catholic Conference MVP and Northwestern commit Joe Gaziano, who recorded 12 sacks last season. "Joe's a great player," said Stevenson. "He plays with a great motor, he's one of our leaders. I'm glad he's on our team." Middle linebacker Kenny Kern also returns to the defense, which Stevenson calls "really solid." Offensively, the Hawks lost All-Scholastic running back Shayne Kaminski to graduation. Senior Noah Sorrento, who has starting experience, will replace him and also start at linebacker. Dual-threat senior quarterback Jake Farrell leads the offense and will throw to wide receivers Colby Tippett and Damien Wood.

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