High school football begins on Friday in Massachusetts after the traditional fall season was delayed to spring because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Here’s a league-by-league preview of a most unusual season in Eastern Massachusetts.
Bay State Conference
The format: Teams aren’t playing a balanced schedule, with an uneven number of crossover matchups between the Carey and Herget divisions over a five-week regular season. No plans for a postseason tournament.
The favorites: A dynamic dual threat at Natick, Bentley-bound QB Will Lederman has thrown for 2,535 yards and 28 touchdown passes in 20 career games while also rushing for 1,235 yards. Teams can’t zero in on Lederman, however, because of tailback Jalyn Aponte (1,252 yards, 21 TDs on the ground in 2019 for the Division 2 South runner-up). Rival Framingham is thankful to be competing because the school did not field teams in the spring, fall, and winter seasons. Newton North has a new head coach in Nick Capodilupo, a 2002 grad (and 2001 captain) who’s been on staff as an assistant since 2006. His father, Peter, led the Tigers from 1984 to 2014.
Milton has unfinished business in the Herget after starting 9-0 in 2019 before falling in the Division 4 South final. Milton returns quarterback Chase Vaughan, now a junior, after he threw for 1,768 yards and 17 touchdown passes in 2019. Senior Malcolm Samuels projects as the featured back and has strong instincts as a defender as well, recording 22 tackles and breaking up six passes, in addition to two interceptions and two forced fumbles as a junior.
Players to watch: RB Jalyn Aponte, Sr. (Natick); TE/DL Shawn Ashe, Sr. (Framingham); WR/DB Dante Atwood, Sr. (Newton North); QB Oskar Baldwin, Sr. (Brookline); WR Andrew Barnett, Sr. (Needham); LB/TE Bruce Burba, Sr. (Newton North); WR/DB Wedner Cadet, Sr. (Wellesley); RB/LB/K James Cassidy, Sr. (Weymouth); QB Cody Coleman, Jr. (Framingham); OL/DL Jack Desmond, Sr. (Weymouth); TE Finn Foley, Sr. (Brookline); P Alex Komessar, Sr. (Needham); CB/WR Brian Malone, Sr. (Walpole); QB Will Lederman, Sr. (Natick); WR/DB Anthony Perez, Sr. (Wellesley); WR/CB Malcolm Samuels, Sr. (Milton); OL/DL Cole Tashjian, Sr. (Walpole); QB Chase Vaughan, Jr. (Milton).
Rivalry games: All the traditional Thanksgiving matchups are scheduled for Week 2, including the oldest public school rivalry in the country between Needham and Wellesley. The 132nd meeting in 2019 ended with tempers flaring.
Spectator policy: Though it will vary school-to-school, only parents and/or siblings will be permitted at games. In Braintree, seats will be marked every 6 feet with an X.
Game on: “It’s almost like youth football again, you’re just reporting to the field in your uniform,” Weymouth coach TJ Byrne said.
“We owe it to the seniors to push hard for the time that we have,” Natick coach Mark Mortarelli said.
“Our approach has been, ‘this is not about recreating a regular football season,’” Newton North coach Nick Capodilupo said. “It’s about ‘these are the elements, these are the limitations, and how do you make it go?’”
Boston City League
The format: The BCL will play a seven-game schedule allowing every team to play each other once. The first games begin Friday, with the season finales on April 23. No postseason, but the leaders of the North and South divisions will be crowned champions.
The favorite: Latin Academy aims to repeat as BCL North champion with the talented backfield of senior QB Zach Maffeo and junior RB Malcolm Chrispin. However, Latin Academy needed to beat O’Bryant on Thanksgiving in 2019 to clinch the league title and with senior TE/LB Luke Maffeo — twin brother of Zach — returning as well as senior RB/CB Kerlens Jeanty, the Tigers will be a threat.
In the South, the past two champions — TechBoston (2019) and Boston English (2018) — are expected to be in contention again. The growth and dual threat capability of junior QB Julius Gillard may give TechBoston an edge.
Players to watch: QB/DB Julius Gillard, Jr. (TechBoston), RB/CB Kerlens Jeanty, Sr. (O’Bryant), RB/CB Aamir Johnson, Sr. (East Boston), QB Zach Maffeo, Sr. (Latin Academy)
Rivalry games: Half of the BCL will be playing their Thanksgiving games on April 23 with Latin Academy hosting O’Bryant and South Boston/Burke traveling to East Boston for their 102nd annual game. The rest of the league usually plays non-conference opponents on Thanksgiving, but the BCL is limited to league play this season.
Spectator policy: The BCL does not have a league-wide policy for the number of spectators allowed to attend the games.
Game on: “Let your seniors have fun, let your kids play, treat this season like it’s a spring game because we’ll be back at it in August when it’s really going to count again and when we’re trying to play for a state title,” TechBoston coach Raul Brown said.
Cape & Islands
The format: Three teams from the C&I Lighthouse Division — Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and Sandwich — and one from the Atlantic, Dennis-Yarmouth, kick off their seasons this weekend while the rest of the league waits until March 20. Nantucket and D-Y each scheduled seven games, with the league’s other teams opting for six games. The C&I isn’t holding a postseason and will begin the season with capacity limited to two spectators per player and cheerleader on the home team.
The favorites: Barnstable junior back Eugene Jordan is the Cape’s most fearsome ball carrier, and with senior Michael O’Shaughnessy (LB/DE) and Patrick O’Neil, a junior defensive end who transferred to Barnstable from Dennis-Yarmouth, Barnstable’s size should be too much for Atlantic rivals Nauset, D-Y, and Falmouth.
In the Lighthouse, Nantucket will count on the Bodden brothers — junior quarterback Makai and senior wideout Malique — to elevate the passing game. If Juniors Caiden Shea (RB/LB) and Justin Zadroga (RB/LB) can move the chains on the ground, Nantucket could defend its title over Monomoy, Sandwich, and Martha’s Vineyard.
Players to Watch: DE/LB Michael O’Shaughnessy, Sr. (Barnstable); OL/LB Drew Schlegel, Sr. (Dennis-Yarmouth); RB/DE Sam Cavossa, Sr. (Falmouth); QB Zach Smith, Sr. (Martha’s Vineyard); RB/DB Tyler Potter, Sr. (Monomoy); WR/CB Malique Bodden, Sr. (Nantucket); RB/LB Patrick Terrio, Sr. (Nauset); RB Pat Morin, Jr. (Sandwich).
Rivalry games: The Atlantic teams will get two cracks at their Thanksgiving foes as their schedules consist of home-and-home series against each division opponent. The Lighthouse Thanksgiving rivalries are the final week of the season, set for April 23-24.
Spectator policy: The C&I will begin the season with capacity limited to two spectators per player and cheerleader on the home team.
Game on: “I can honestly say it’s the most challenging situation that I’ve ever been in as a coach,” said Martha’s Vineyard coach Don Herman. “It’s hard to tell with this COVID stuff. Your team could be completely different from one week to the next, it just depends on symptoms and issues. I’m just happy for the seniors to get this year.”
The format: A six-week regular season opens Friday. Manchester-Essex, which reached the D7 Final in 2019, joins the league following the departure of Masconomet, which joined the Northeast Conference. The 10-team league will split into two divisions based on enrollment size. Georgetown opted out of this season because of low participation numbers.
The favorite: Parity is expected in a league laden with upper-classmen talent. North Reading hopes to continue its recent dominance of the Kinney division and is led on offense by hard-running senior Will O’Leary and its anchor on the line, senior Zach Sampson. Perennial contender Lynnfield is led by seniors DJ Capachietti and Jack Ford. Ipswich is led by 2019 league all-star Cole Terry. At Pentucket, junior linebacker Chase Dwight will take over at quarterback.
Players to watch: RB/LB DJ Capachietti, Sr. (Lynnfield); WR/DB Brady Dore, Sr. (Amesbury); WR Jack Ford, Sr. (Lynnfield); WR Ryan Monahan, Sr. (Hamilton-Wenham); FS/RB Dylan O’Rourke, Sr. (Pentucket); FS Robbie Tammaro, Sr. (North Reading); RB/LB Cole Terry, Sr. (Ipswich); WR Trevor Ward, Sr. (Newburyport);
Rivalry games: Thanksgiving games will be played the weekend of April 23-24.
Spectator policy: Each home team will be allowed two family members per player.
Game on: “Our seniors and their leadership have a big task to get the underclassmen ready for varsity football and to play with confidence,” said North Reading coach Eddie Blum.
The format: With new members Bishop Feehan and Bishop Stang on board (formerly in the Eastern Athletic Conference), the CCL kicks off a seven-game regular season on Friday. Austin Prep and Bishop Fenwick, have postponed their Week 1 games because of COVID-related issues. There will be no CCL Cup.
The favorite: Cardinal Spellman went 4-0 in 2019 league play, capturing the CCL Large title, but graduated standout backs Jovan Marrero and Rocky Grillone. “Our ability to run is going to be key for us. Running backs Jaden Porte, Brian Morrill, and Jack Duffy will all have to contribute offensively,” said coach Ron St. George. Fenwick, whose only loss in 2019 was to Spellman, can contend for the CCL Large title. Fenwick pieced together a three-game winning streak following the loss to Spellman en route to a Division 6 title game appearance. Senior Chrys Wilson passed for more than 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2019. Austin Prep dominated the CCL Small in 2019, including three shutout league wins. AP returns league co-MVP RB Mike Gizzi, who will help spearhead the offense for interim coach Mike Foley, formerly a 21-year offensive line coach at Colgate.
Players to Watch: RB Mike Gizzi, Sr. (Austin Prep); LB Miles Hannah, Sr. (Bishop Feehan); RB Brian Morill, Sr. (Cardinal Spellman); QB Chrys Wilson, Sr. (Bishop Fenwick)
Rivalry Games: The majority of the CCL will play Thanksgiving matchups on April 23. Bishop Fenwick, Arlington Catholic, and Cathedral do not have Thanksgiving rival games on the Fall II schedule.
Spectator Policy: Athletes will be able to invite guests to games, but the numbers vary from 2 to 4 depending on school.
Game On: “Our ability to be successful is going to be reliant on our ability to adapt and adjust to unknown and unforeseen circumstances. Week to week is going to be interesting and we all have to adapt,” said Bishop Feehan coach Bryan Pinabell.
The format: The Catholic Conference welcomes Saint John’s High (Shrewsbury) as an interim member, with the Pioneers becoming an official member in Fall 2021. The six teams in the conference will play five games to determine seeding for a four-team playoff scheduled for April 17 and 24. Malden Catholic elected to keep non-conference games originally scheduled for the fall against North Andover, Bedford, and Bishop Feehan, so the Lancers won’t be eligible for the playoff. MC opens the season on pause due to contact tracing after scrimmage opponent Peabody had a positive test. St. John’s Prep adjusted by scheduling St. Mary’s on Friday.
The favorite: St. John’s Prep returns only six starters and has several candidates to take over at quarterback following the graduation of Matt Crowley. Andover transfer Victor Harrington is leading the competition, and his primary target could be junior Jackson Delaney, with junior James Guy leading the backfield. Catholic Memorial is led by Boston College-bound Owen McGowan and Stanford-bound Will Stockwell at linebacker. Xaverian’s offense is poised to take off under third-year starter Michael Berluti. BC High returns quarterback Bobby Wiesenhahn behind a massive offensive line.
Players to Watch: QB Michael Berluti, Sr. (Xaverian); RB Isaiah Bragg, Sr. (Malden Catholic); LB Ryan Carney, Sr. (BC High); OL/DL Noah Eldridge, Sr. (Xaverian); TE/DE Quincy Eutsay, Sr. (Catholic Memorial); LB Luka Feraco, Sr. (Saint John’s); WR/DB Connor Garland, Sr. (Xaverian); LB/RB Thomas Garland, Sr. (Xaverian); RB James Guy, Jr. (St. John’s Prep); LB/FB Owen McGowan, Sr. (Catholic Memorial); WR/DB Zach Mitchell, Sr. (Catholic Memorial); WR Jake Newsham, Sr. (Saint John’s); WR/DB Michael Oates, So. (Xaverian); WR/DB Oluwakoleade Osinubi, So. (Catholic Memorial); OL Erik Russell, Sr. (BC High); LB Will Stockwell, Sr. (Catholic Memorial); OL Sean Sullivan, Sr. (Saint John’s); RB Aidan Sweeney, Jr. (Malden Catholic); DL Collin Taylor, Sr. (St. John’s Prep); QB Bobby Wiesenhahn, Sr. (BC High)
Rivalry games: Thanksgiving rivalry games are scheduled for April 10. BC High hosts Catholic Memorial in the 57th meeting and Prep welcomes Xaverian in the 52nd installment of that rivalry.
Spectator policy: The conference will allow two spectators per athlete.
Game on: “In any conference, your goal is to control the controlables, which is to win the league,” said Xaverian coach Al Fornaro. “We’ve pushed back and pushed forward two seasons [to have Fall II football], so who are we to say we need a state playoff? We’re in a pandemic. The fact that we’re out there playing is good for everybody. And if we win the league, anybody, or maybe the newspapers, can crown a paper champion.
Commonwealth Athletic Conference
The format: The CAC kicks off on Friday. Lowell Catholic joined the CAC after leaving the Catholic Central League. The majority of the CAC will play seven regular-season games. There will be no postseason league tournament.
The favorite: Shawsheen Valley Tech aims to repeat as CAC Large champion, paced by senior back Diondre Turner, who rushed for 1,028 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2019 and was co-MVP. Lowell Catholic is under the direction of first-year head coach Paul Sobolewski, formerly at Cathedral and Pope John XXIII. The CAC Small will be highly competitive after Lynn Vocational Tech, Nashoba Valley Tech, and KIPP Academy each went 4-1 in league play in 2019. KIPP returns 2019 league co-MVP Dave Filias, who had 114 tackles and eight forced fumbles in 2019. “Our experience overall is a strength. We have talked about battling adversity as a program and this year is another chance to do that,” said coach Jim Rabbitt, whose team graduated just two players and returns 22 starters. Whittier initially opted out of Fall II, but superintendent Maureen Lynch reversed her decision last Friday and the team held its first workouts on Monday.
Players to Watch: DL Mike Brice, Sr. (KIPP Academy); MLB Dave Filias, Sr. (KIPP Academy); FB Israel Lainez, Sr. (Northeast); QB Jacob Trzcienski, Sr. (Greater Lowell Tech); RB Diondre Turner, Sr. (Shawsheen)
Rivalry games: Two Thanksgiving contests are scheduled for the 2021 season — Essex Tech vs. Northeast Regional (April 12) and KIPP vs. Lynn Vo-Tech (March 26).
Spectator policy: Athletes will be allowed to invite two guests to home games. No fans are allowed for visiting athletes at away games.
Game on: “The team that looks out for each other the most is going to be the most successful. We all need to be unselfish, disciplined, and hardworking to get through this craziness. It is a blessing to have this season,” said Greater Lawrence coach Tony Sarkis.
The format: The DCL will hold a five-week regular season beginning Friday, with games against opponents from both the Large and Small divisions. The top two teams in each division will play a single-elimination postseason tournament to crown a champion. The other teams will play crossover matchups during Weeks 6 and 7.
The favorite: Lincoln-Sudbury captured the DCL Large Division last season and advanced to the Division 2 Super Bowl. Junior quarterback Riley O’Connell is back after suffering a midseason injury in fall 2019. He is surrounded by plenty of skill, with receivers Jesse McCullough and Nolan O’Brien and running back Gordon Godzeck. Senior Will Ohler, a Bucknell commit, gives L-S a mainstay on both lines. In the Large division, Acton-Boxborough is led by back Alex Berrouet, a Colorado State-bound senior. Concord-Carlisle is the favorite in the Small under first-year coach Josh Reed. Concord-Carlisle was 10-1 last season, and has a stout defense led by Olijah Williams, Tom Grehan, and Eddie Jelin. Wayland will also be a factor with returning DCL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Dresens.
Players to watch: RB Alex Berrouet, Sr. (Acton-Boxborough), LB Sean Brown, Sr. (Westford), QB Ashur Carraha, Sr. (Cambridge), FB/DE Jordan Corbett, Sr. (Concord-Carlisle), LB Nick Dresens, Sr. (Wayland), RB/LB Gordon Gozdeck, Sr. (Lincoln-Sudbury), LB Tom Grehan, Sr. (Concord-Carlisle), LB Jed Hoggard, Sr. (Acton-Boxborough), WR Tyler Jameau, Sr. (Concord-Carlisle), QB Ali Lubwuth, Sr. (Waltham), RB/LB Anthony Maregni, Sr. (Newton South), WR/DB Nolan O’Brien, Jr. (Lincoln-Sudbury), OL/DL Will Ohler, Sr. (Lincoln-Sudbury), DE/T Nicholas Oliveira-Chace, Sr. (Cambridge), RB Jaison Tucker, Sr. (Wayland).
Rivalry games: Lincoln-Sudbury and Newton South, and Acton-Boxborough and Westford will play their Thanksgiving matchups during Week 2. Concord-Carlisle and Bedford are not scheduled to play during the regular season.
Spectator policy: The DCL is allowing two family members per player from both the host and visiting team.
Game on: “We get to play Concord-Carlisle Week 1 and they return a lot of key guys from their team and we return a lot too,” said Lincoln-Sudbury coach Jim Girard. “That will be a great test for us and should be a great game between the previous year’s league champs. It will be a great Week 1.”
Greater Boston League
The format: The GBL decided to push back the winter, Fall II and spring seasons, and winter sports run until April 10. Football practices can begin on April 1. Games will start by April 16, headlined by a premier matchup between Everett and Revere. Schedules aren’t finalized yet, but the plan is for a six-game schedule to crown a league champion.
The favorite: Everett dominated the GBL with 19 titles from 1995 to 2013, was back on top when the GBL reformed in 2019, and is the favorite once again under new head coach Rob DiLoreto. Everett has speed at the skill positions, including Boston College commit Ismael Zamor and reigning GBL MVP Tyrese Baptiste at receiver. Defensive end Josaiah Stewart will anchor a sizable line before heading off to Coastal Carolina and Princeton-bound senior Samy Lamonthe leads the secondary.
Everett’s main competition could be Revere, which left the Northeastern Conference to rejoin the GBL. Under coach Lou Cicatelli, Revere won its first nine games last season before falling to Melrose in the Division 4 North final. Revere returns eight starters on both sides of the ball, including senior quarterback Calvin Boudreau and 6-foot-2 defensive end Dillan Day.
Players to Watch: WR Tyrese Baptiste, Sr. (Everett); QB Aidan Barry, Sr. (Medford); WR Matt Bessey, Sr. (Malden); QB Calvin Boudreau, Sr. (Revere); RB Jayden Clerveaux, Jr. (Everett); OL/DL Deion DaGraca, Sr. (Medford); Dillan Day, Sr. (Revere); RB Billy Ginepra, Sr. (Revere); PK Ronald Juarez, Jr. (Malden); OL/DL Muneer Odally, Sr. (Malden); DL Josaiah Stewart, Sr. (Everett); LB Christian Zamor, Fr. (Everett); WR Ismael Zamor, Jr. (Everett)
Rivalry Games: Medford and Malden hope to schedule a matchup the weekend prior to Patriots Day (April 19). It would be the 133rd meeting between the Thanksgiving rivals.
Spectator policy: The GBL will gather information about how other leagues handle spectators in March. The MIAA recommends two family members per player.
Game on: “It’s our first year back in the GBL and what more could you ask for then an opening game vs. Everett,” said Cicatelli. “An old GBL rivalry is back on the table, so that should make some noise around the football world.”
The format: Five games against division opponents, followed by one crossover matchup based on record between the Davenport and Kelley-Rex divisions, followed by “Thanksgiving” in April. There will be division champions.
The favorite: Mansfield, last seen emerging from Gillette Stadium as Division 2 champion after a 42-0 win over Lincoln-Sudbury on Dec. 6, 2019, returns strong as ever. The Hornets boast one of the top linemen in the state in 6-foot-4, 240-pound TJ Guy, an edge rusher committed to the University of Michigan. The return of Cincere Gill doesn’t hurt, either, as the senior breezed past 1,000 yards from scrimmage in 2019. Kelley-Rex newcomer Milford, under new head coach Dale Olson, features 10 players committed to various college programs, including a trio at UMass: defensive end Dom Schofield, wide receiver Carter Scudo, and Olson’s nephew, Brady, at quarterback.
Stoughton, which returns the Ais twins, Christopher and Christian, in the backfield, figures to push for a Davenport title along with North Attleborough and Canton. North Attleborough had its first losing season (4-7) in 26 years in 2019, while Canton won at least a share of the division crown two years running – including an outright title in 2019 en route to a Division 5 South final appearance. Canton has a new coach in Anthony Fallon, a 1988 graduate of the school.
Players to watch: RB/DB Christian Ais, Sr. (Stoughton); RB/DB Christopher Ais, Sr. (Stoughton); OL/DL Tommy Ambrose, Sr. (Taunton); WR/S Crawford Cantave, Jr. (King Philip); K/P Parker Cheuvront, Sr. (Franklin); OL/DL Matt Connolly, Sr. (Canton) TE Drew Danson, Jr. (King Philip); QB/LB/K Tyler DeMattio, Jr. (North Attleborough); TE Robbie Donovan, Sr. (North Attleborough); OL/DL Sean Ferguson, Sr. (Foxboro); RB/DB Cincere Gill, Sr. (Mansfield); DE TJ Guy, Sr. (Mansfield); FB/LB Nico Holmes, Sr. (Mansfield); LB Xander Honor, Sr. (Franklin); QB Brady Olson, Sr. (Milford); RB Nico Marrero, Sr. (Sharon); OL/DL Jake McCoy, Sr. (Mansfield); TE/DE Jon Moses, Sr. (Foxborough); DE Dom Schofield, Sr. (Milford); WR Carter Scudo, Sr. (Milford); RB/LB Chad Silva, So. (Oliver Ames); RB/LB Michael Strachan, Sr. (Attleboro)
Rivalry games: Thanksgiving matchups are scheduled for the final week of the season between April 22-24, including the 100th meeting between Attleboro and North Attleborough, the 90th matchup between Foxborough and Mansfield, and the first rivalry game between Milford and Taunton.
Spectator policy: Two adults and up to two siblings per player, as of last week. “Things change quickly,” noted Mansfield coach and athletic director Mike Redding.
Game on: “This time, it’s show up and go,” King Philip coach Brian Lee said. “We’re very far behind. We’re able to do what we’re able to do.”
The format: The MAC tweaked its alignment for the upcoming football season, replacing its traditional divisions (Vocational Large, Vocational Small, and Comprehensive) with North, South, and Hybrid divisions. West Bridgewater, South Shore, Tri-County, Blue Hills, and Southeastern will compete in the North; Cape Cod Tech, Upper Cape, Old Colony, Bristol-Plymouth, and Diman are in the South. Holbrook, Bishop Connolly, and associate league members Hull and Atlantis Charter make up the Hybrid division. Starting with Week 1 on March 19, each school in the North and South will play four division opponents and one or two crossover games before capping the season by facing the same seed from the other division (1 vs 1, 2 vs 2).
The favorite: After following up a 2018 state semifinal appearance by reaching the D8 Super Bowl under first-year coach Justin Kogler in 2019, West Bridgewater was poised for another lengthy postseason run had this been a normal season. With a bevy of talented receivers, led by Southern Connecticut-bound senior Ben Skinner, and a trio of dangerous backs in DJ Amaya, Ben Smith, and Will DeLuca all playing behind an offensive line that returns four starters, West Bridgewater is primed to put up points out of its triple-option offense. The biggest question as West Bridgewater tries to unseat Tri-County — which brings back nine defensive starters after winning the Large division in 2019 — is who will win a quarterback battle between juniors Aidan Baker and Nathan Razza. outheastern enjoys the return of third-year starting quarterback James Cordon, who tore his ACL midway through last season after leading Southeastern to the 2018 Large division crown. In the South Division, Bristol-Plymouth is led by speedy junior running back Anthony Fratelli, and is poised for a run at the top spot after last year’s top teams, Old Colony and South Shore (the 2019 statewide Small Vocational champs), lost a combined 32 seniors to graduation.
Players to watch: OL/DT Erik Antoniewicz, Sr. (South Shore); WR/DB John Brightman, Sr. (Upper Cape); OL/DL Liam Connor, Sr. (Blue Hills); WR/S Kyle Cummings, Sr. (Southeastern); OL/DL Corey Cuvellier, Sr. (Diman); RB/DB Joel Delhome, Sr. (Blue Hills); RB Anthony Fratelli, Jr. (Bristol-Plymouth); QB/DB Michael Johnson, Jr. (Atlantis Charter); OL/DL Sean Kubacki, Sr. (Tri-County); WR/CB Joey LeClerc, Jr. (West Bridgewater); TE/DE Dylan McCue, Sr. (South Shore); LB/RB Alex McElligott, Sr. (Southeastern); FB/ILB Ryan McGuiggan, Sr. (Old Colony); RB/LB Liam Mooney, Sr. (Diman); QB/DB Matt Richards, Sr. (South Shore); WR TD Sedam, Sr. (Tri-County); WR/S Ben Skinner, Sr. (West Bridgewater); RB/DB Thomas Stanton, Sr. (Old Colony); QB Angel Velez, Jr. (Tri-County); QB/DB Thomas Zine, Sr. (Upper Cape)
Rivalry games: In Week 2, West Bridgewater faces South Shore and Tri-County takes on Southeastern in games that should go a long way in determining the North champion.
Spectator policy: Some schools, such as South Shore and West Bridgewater, are allowing two adults per home athlete, while others — including Diman and Blue Hills — will not allow fans at the start of the season. Old Colony will be playing its home games on turf in New Bedford and Diman’s home games will be at Atlantis Charter.
Game on: “It was the happiest I’ve been in a long time.” — West Bridgewater coach Justin Kogler on running his first practice of the season.
“This is a different type of year. The concern is just keeping the kids safe and the team safe as a whole. That’s the major concern. It’s not winning football games, especially in the start. If you have one person on the team get sick, things can really change fast.” — Blue Hills coach Ed Catabia.
The format: The MVC has a six-week schedule for teams in the Large and Small Divisions. Week 7 (April 23-24) is reserved for the MVC Conference Cup between the top finishers from each division, as well as matchups between each division’s corresponding seeds (2 vs 2, 3 vs 3).
The favorite: The MVC is one of the deepest leagues in the state. Tewksbury is loaded with key returners, including quarterback Ryne Rametta, linebacker Will McKay, and running backs Kyle Darrigo and Kalu Olu. North Andover has size and skill with tight ends Max Wolfgang and Nick Ankiewicz, and returning quarterback Will Schimmoeller. Andover returns 13 starters and 27 lettermen altogether, and Methuen has 11 starters and 27 lettermen returning. Central Catholic remains the favorite in the Large with QB Ayden Pereira at the controls of a fast-paced offense. Haverhill could make noise with nine returners, while new Dracut coach Josh Porter and new Lowell coach Rob Pike look to start fast. Lawrence postponed its opener Friday vs. Haverhill.
Players to Watch: RB Zac Bergeron, Sr. (Methuen); LB Max Bourque, Jr. (Haverhill); RB/DB Kyle Darrigo, Sr. (Tewksbury); RB/LB Joe Dufour, Sr. (Billerica); RB/DL Steven Ferullo, Sr. (North Andover); WR George Fredericks, Sr. (Chelmsford); RB/LB Josh Gagnon, Jr. (Dracut); WR/DB Adonis Garcia, So. (Lawrence); DL Erek Gomez, Sr. (Lawrence); OL A.J. Heidtke, Sr. (Andover); OL/DL Shane Henrick, Sr. (Methuen); TE Shawn Joubert, Jr. (Haverhill); RB/DB Aaron Morris, Jr. (Lowell); OL/DL Jaykob Oliver, Sr. (Billerica); RB/LB Kalu Olu, Sr. (Tewksbury); OL/DL Adil Njikam, Sr. (Dracut); QB Ayden Pereira, Jr, (Central Catholic); QB Ryne Rametta, Sr. (Tewksbury); LB Anthony Romano, Sr. (Methuen); QB D.J. Sidell, Sr. (Billerica); WR/S Nolan Skafas, Jr. (Haverhill); LB Shane Sutherland, Sr. (Chelmsford); TE/DE Jermaine Wiggins Jr., Sr. (Central Catholic); TE Max Wolfgang, Sr. (North Andover); RB/LB Kevin Yrrizarry, Sr. (Lowell); TE/LB Preston Zinter, So. (Central Catholic)
Rivalry games: Most Thanksgiving matchups within the league will take place in Week 6. Methuen opens and closes with rivalry games. On Friday, Methuen hosts Andover for the Collins/Klimas Cup, and they face Thanksgiving rival Dracut on April 16 in a series that is currently tied, 27-27. Tewksbury hosts rival Billerica on March 27. On April 16, Billerica and Chelmsford play the 82nd installment of their rivalry and Lowell hosts Haverhill in the 118th meeting of that rivalry.
Spectator policy: League protocols allow up to four family members from the same household to attend home games. The MVC is not allowing fans from visiting teams to attend away games, but will revisit as the season progresses. All games will be available via live stream.
Game on: “We feel really good about where our team is, mentally and physically,” said Methuen coach Tom Ryan. “The players have been working hard throughout the summer and fall and I anticipate they will be ready to compete against every team on our schedule.”
The format: The Middlesex will play a five-game season against the five other teams in their own division (Freedom, Liberty). Games will be played on Saturdays starting March 20. With no postseason tournament or preseason scrimmages, teams hope to add a sixth game vs. a crossover opponent during the final week of the season.
The favorite: Melrose capped an undefeated season with a Division 4 Super Bowl title last fall, and return dual threat quarterback Brendan Fennell, running back Matt Hickey, and standout lineman A.J. Norton-Jefferson. Melrose will be the favorite in the Freedom Division, with Stoneham and Wakefield as challengers. Quarterback James Murphy threw for more than 2,000 yards as a freshman and is back to lead a Reading team that returns nine starters on offense. Murphy is complemented by star running back Dan DiMare. Winchester will be Reading’s biggest threat in the Liberty Division with running back Jimmy Gibbons and center Brendan Gill leading the way. They’ll face off Week 1 in Reading.
Players to watch: OL Jake Chirichiello, Jr. (Wilmington), DB Pat Crogan, Jr. (Lexington), OL/DL Dom Decrescenzo, Sr. (Reading), RB/LB Dan DiMare, Sr. (Reading), RB/LB Chris Dragone, Sr. (Stoneham), RB Chad Francis, Sr. (Belmont), QB Brendan Fennell, Sr. (Melrose), RB Jimmy Gibbons, Sr. (Winchester), C Brendan Gill, Sr. (Winchester), RB/LB Matt Hickey, Sr. (Melrose), RB/K Danny Hurley, Sr. (Wakefield), QB James Murphy, So. (Reading), T A.J. Norton-Jefferson, Sr. (Melrose), WR/CB Shawn Pinkham, Sr. (Burlington).
Rivalry games: Because there are no crossover games during the regular season, only Wakefield/Melrose and Winchester/Woburn will continue their rivalries this season.
Spectator policy: Two family members per player from each team will be allowed to attend games.
Game on: “James Murphy grew a couple of inches and added some muscle so he’s going to look a lot different than he did last year as a 14-year old,” Reading coach John Fiore said. “I’ve been with the program since 1993 and he has the best arm I’ve ever seen. We’re expecting big things from him.”
The format: The Northeastern Conference will play a seven-game season, kicking off Friday, and a conference champion will be recognized. Masconomet has joined the conference from the Cape Ann League, while Lynn Classical, Lynn English, and Revere have departed to join the Greater Boston League. Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Masconomet, and Swampscott will make up the North division while Gloucester, Peabody, Saugus, Salem, and Winthrop will comprise the South. Each team will play its four divisional opponents and three teams from the other side of the bracket. Peabody is on pause following a positive test.
The favorite: Swampscott, which won the D5 Super Bowl in 2019, fields another strong team. Marblehead, winner of the league title five of the past six seasons, is led by junior quarterback John Robertson, who inherited the job after a slew of injuries and never looked back, showcasing his football IQ and strong arm. Danvers returns seven seniors, headlined by three linemen who will continue to play in college. Winthrop, with the addition of former Everett standout and Naval Academy commit Dylan Doherty, appears ready for a breakout season. Doherty joins two-time league All-Stars Bobby Hubert and Tyler Rockefeller, both of whom have committed to Springfield College, and Amherst-bound Bryan Conceicao.
Players to watch: WR/FS Andrew Augustin, Sr. (Swampscott); OL/DL Andrew Chronis, Sr. (Danvers); QB Duke Doherty, Sr. (Winthrop); OL/DL Danny Fortin, Sr. (Masconomet); RB/LB Bobby Hubert, Sr. (Winthrop); RB/CB Jaichaun Jones, Sr. (Beverly); RB/LB Kyle Maglione, Sr. (Peabody); RB/LB Cam O’Brien, Sr. (Swampscott); QB Josh Robertson, Jr. (Marblehead); FB/TE/LB Tyler Rockefeller, Sr. (Winthrop); RB/LB Greg Walker, Sr. (Masconomet); OL/DL Ben Wilichoski, Sr. (Danvers)
Rivalry games: Thanksgiving games will be played the weekend of April 23-24. Because of the new conference alignment, Masconomet will play Winthrop that weekend.
Spectator policy: The Northeastern Conference is limiting attendance to two family members for the host team’s players.
Game on: “We, as a coaching staff, have not needed to motivate the kids at all. They cannot wait to be on the field. In August, by the third or fourth 6 a.m. practice, the enthusiasm wanes. That’s definitely not the case now.” said Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff.
The format: A five-week regular season kicks off Friday, highlighted by a clash between perennially strong Hingham and Marshfield. Scituate, which started practice again Monday after a week-long COVID-19-related shutdown, scheduled four regular-season games. The top two teams from each division advance to the semifinals of a single-elimination tournament that will determine a Patriot Cup champion. The third through sixth seeds will play a crossover game.
The favorite: Duxbury has won 12 straight Patriot League titles and is the frontrunner to win both the Keenan regular-season crown and the postseason championship. Duxbury features receivers Cam Reagan and Brady Madigan as targets for quarterback Matt Festa. Newcomer Marshfield and Hingham are contenders in the Keenan, and Plymouth South, Scituate, and Hanover will be in the mix from the Fisher. There are new coaches at Plymouth South (Darren Fruzzetti); Silver Lake (Jim Winters), and Pembroke (Stephen Aborn).
Players to watch: FB/LB Matt Craig, Jr. (North Quincy); QB Hunter Dean, Sr. (Plymouth South); RB/WR Cooper Estes, Sr. (Hingham); DT/TE James Griffiths, Sr. (Marshfield); QB Drew Hall, Jr. (Pembroke); OL/DL Delby Lemieux, Jr. (Duxbury); QB Ben Lofstrom, Sr. (Silver Lake); LB/RB Jason Murphy, Sr. (Whitman-Hanson); WR Dylan Rice, Jr. (Hanover); OL/DL Cam Shaughnessy, Sr. (Plymouth North); RB/DB Isaiah Steinberg, Sr. (Quincy); RB/DB Keegan Sullivan, Jr. (Scituate).
Rivalry games: Several teams will be playing rivalry games the weekend of April 9-11, including Quincy vs. North Quincy, who did not play on Thanksgiving for the first time in almost 90 years. Other rivals, such as Plymouth South and Plymouth North may not get to face each other this year. Whitman-Hanson is not scheduled to face rival Abington.
Spectator policy: Most schools will hand out two spectator passes per player with the idea that parents will attend. Others will also allow siblings to watch in person.
Game on: “When it was 90 degrees in August or 20 degrees in January, they kept showing up. I really hope that they get to play all seven games and have a wonderful season,” said Marshfield coach Chris Arouca.
“The resiliency of these kids to adapt to all that has been thrown at them in the last year should be an inspiration to us all,” Jim Winters, Silver Lake coach.
The format: The first official Southeast Conference season will kick off on Friday when Dartmouth hosts New Bedford. All five schools played as independents last year after the new conference, which combined the Big 3 and two-thirds of the Old Colony League, was formed too late for the 2019 season. The 2021 season will feature four league games, with some schools adding one non-conference opponent, followed by a conference championship game on April 17.
The favorite: Brockton features the most dangerous quarterback-wide receiver duo in the conference – junior quarterback Devonte Medley and senior wideout Nayvon Reid. A line anchored by Union College-bound Naziah Amor and 6-foot-5 Noah Moore will provide protection and open holes for senior running backs Rodrigo Lima and Noah Olawu. In its final season under longtime coach and athletic director Dan Buron, Bridgewater-Raynham is led by 1,000-yard rusher Anthony Morrison, a stout offensive line, and experienced linebackers. B-R is still evaluating its two junior quarterbacks, Nolan DeAndrade and Ryan Brehany. Durfee brings back just about its entire starting lineup, many of whom are still juniors, while New Bedford and Dartmouth will have to make up for the loss of 23 and 20 seniors, respectively.
Players to Watch: LB Corey Abelard, Sr. (Bridgewater-Raynham); OL/DL Naziah Amor, Sr. (Brockton); QB Ryan Dosenberg, Jr. (New Bedford); WR/S Michael Fernandes, Sr. (New Bedford); RB/LB Jason Hall, Jr. (Durfee); WR/DB Jevon Holley, Jr. (Durfee); OT/DE Jared Holmes, Sr. (Dartmouth); QB Will Kelly, Jr. (Dartmouth); RB Ethan Marks, Jr. (Dartmouth); QB Devonte Medley, Sr. (Brockton); FB/LB Najier Monteiro, Sr. (Durfee); OL/DL Noah Moore, Sr. (Brockton); RB/DB Anthony Morrison, Sr. (Bridgewater-Raynham); TE Luke Payton, Sr. (Bridgewater-Raynham); WR/DE/OLB Nayvon Reid, Sr. (Brockton); OL/LB Bill Sousa, Sr. (New Bedford); OL/LB Billois Sousa, Sr. (New Bedford); QB Isaiyah Thomas, Jr. (Durfee)
Rivalry games: April 10 will essentially be Thanksgiving in the SEC, as New Bedford and Durfee will continue a rivalry that began in 1909, while Bridgewater-Raynham and Brockton resume a more recent tradition. Dartmouth will not face its traditional Thanksgiving foe, Fairhaven, as the South Coast Conference is not allowing non-conference games.
Spectator policy: Two family members or friends will be allowed for each home player, and there is discussion at some schools of allowing one fan per visiting player.
Game on: “I’m probably trying to enjoy it more, like I should have over the years,” said B-R coach Dan Buron, on his final season of a career that started in 1993. “I’m really focused on the seniors. For a lot of these seniors, it will be the last time they play.”
The format: The SCC kicks off its seven-week season on March 26. Each school will play the other four teams in its division, plus one crossover, before the top four teams in the Blue and Gold divisions enter seeded tournaments to determine separate champions.
The favorite: The 2019 co-champions, Somerset Berkley and Old Rochester — led by senior quarterbacks Brandon Medeiros and Ryon Thomas (whose top target will likely be his twin brother Dylon) — are expected to pick up where they left off, although Somerset Berkley lost top running back Ethan Robidoux to a torn ACL suffered during basketball season. Dighton-Rehoboth returns nine starters on both sides of the ball, including senior quarterback John Marcille and tight end Wes McQuillan, a 6-foot-4 senior who has committed to play at Assumption. Apponequet has some work to do replacing most of its offensive line, but returns all its skill players, including arguably the conference’s best running back in senior Kevin Hughes. GNB Voc-Tech is building momentum and could make some noise thanks to speedy tailback Heiser Cacho. In the South Division, Seekonk is the early favorite thanks to the play of quarterback J.T. Moran, who threw for 2,608 yards and 22 touchdowns last season, and Nathan Clarke, who caught 67 passes for 1,178 yards. Bourne is coming off a 4-2 finish to last season and Fairhaven switched to the triple-option under new head coach Derek Almeida, who led Falmouth to a 2016 Super Bowl win.
Players to Watch: RB/DB Reece Antunes, Sr. (Fairhaven); RB/S/LB Heiser Cacho, Sr. (GNB Voc-Tech); QB/DB Joe Carrara, So. (Bourne); WR Nathan Clarke, Sr. (Seekonk); RB/LB Logan Cook, Jr. (Bourne); RB/ILB Cole Dixon, Sr. (Apponequet); WR/DB Joey Garell, Jr. (Case); QB/DB Cam Gordon, Jr. (Fairhaven); TE/OLB Mike Henricksen, Sr. (Apponequet); OL/DE Mitch Higgins, Sr. (Old Rochester); RB/OLB Kevin Hughes, Sr. (Apponequet); WR/CB Henry Jones, Sr. (Wareham); QB/DB Peter Joseph, Jr. (Fairhaven); QB Cam Lynch, Jr. (GNB Voc-Tech); OL/DL Robert Maloney, Sr. (Wareham); QB John Marcille, Sr. (Dighton-Rehoboth); RB/S Shawn McDonough, Sr. (Bourne); TE/LB Wes McQuillan, Sr. (Dighton-Rehoboth); OL/LB Logan Medeiros, Sr. (Case); QB J.T. Moran, Sr. (Seekonk); RB/LB Brady Thiboutot, Jr. (Case); QB Ryon Thomas, Sr. (Old Rochester); WR/S Dylon Thomas, Sr. (Old Rochester); FB/OLB Brady Walsh, Jr. (Dighton-Rehoboth)
Rivalry games: Some Thanksgiving rivalry games are scheduled, including Old Rochester vs Apponequet and Bourne vs Wareham, but any matchup vs. an out-of-conference team will not be played. It’s possible the Week 5 matchup between Old Rochester and Somerset Berkley is a de facto SCC Blue title game.
Spectator policy: Most schools are only allowing two spectators per home student-athlete, although Old Rochester and Apponequet are exploring adding one fan per visiting player. ORR and Fairhaven will play their home games on turf fields at GNB Voc-Tech and New Bedford High.
Game on: “It’s so weird. It feels normal, but we’re going home at night and it feels like November. It’s tough to wrap my head around that. But the kids are pumped. The coaching staff and everyone is happy. We’re excited to get it going.” — Somerset Berkley coach Nick Freitas.
The format: The SSL’s seven-week season will feature six regular-season games and postseason “bowl” matchups. The bowl games are scheduled for Week 6 and will pit teams from the Sullivan and Tobin Divisions against each other based on their records, with the top teams from each division meeting for the league title. The matchups for the second, third, and fourth-place teams may be altered to create contests between teams that haven’t previously met. Randolph opted out of the bowls and will instead host Bishop Fenwick in a regular-season game on April 17.
The favorites: Defending Sullivan champion Rockland has senior captains Nick Leander (FB/LB) and Joey Nguyen (RB/LB) to fill the void left by Dante Vasquez, a 2019 graduate who finished his career with a program-record 3,971 rushing yards. Rockland has 14 returning seniors and eight starters back on both sides of the ball.
Defending Tobin champion Abington’s strength is up front with four seniors on the starting offensive line – Ryan Wessling, Aaron Siegal, Dylan Porter, and Matt D’Ambrosio. That group will pave the way for senior running back Cedric Lucas-Summers and provide senior QB Jack Clifford with time to find senior tight end Brady Cristoforo and junior wideout Drew Donovan.
Players to Watch: WR/DB Drew Donovan, Jr. (Abington); RB/ DB Nate Eldridge, Sr. (Carver/Sacred Heart); WR/DB Bernie Mulcahy, Sr. (Cohasset); QB/CB Shane Graham, Sr. (East Bridgewater); QB/DB Ryan Hendricks, Sr. (Mashpee); OL/LB Cam LaPierre, Sr. (Middleborough); OL/DE Grayson Hawthorne, Sr. (Norwell); QB Gardy Augustin, So. (Randolph); FB/LB Nick Leander, Sr. (Rockland).
Rivalry games: The majority of SSL teams will face their Thanksgiving rival during Week 7, which begins April 23. Abington and Norwell will meet because their traditional Thanksgiving rivals, Whitman-Hanson and Hanover, play in the Patriot League, which isn’t allowing teams to play non-conference games. Randolph, which has alternated Thanksgiving opponents in recent years, will visit Cathedral on April 23.
Game on: “We’re playing football in February and March in New England,” East Bridgewater coach Tim Graham said. “It may be cold, we may have snow, but we’re just focused on football — 11 guys on either side of the ball. We don’t care that there’s no [state tournament], we just care that we’re out there and the kids are in a healthy environment for them to grow up a little bit and have a normal experience.”
The format: The TVL will play a five-game regular season that kicks off on March 19 and concludes on April 16. The league left the last week of the Fall II season open in the event of any postponements and will possibly be used to schedule an additional game for teams that don’t need to play a makeup game.
The favorite: Holliston beat up on the TVL Large last season, outscoring all league opponents by 212 points. Holliston’s only regular-season loss was to Division 6 champ Ashland, its first loss to Ashland since 2001. Holliston features tailback Tristan Benson along with 10 other senior starters.
Norton and Medway figure to be contenders in the TVL Small. Norton was unbeaten in the league at 6-0 to edge out Medway (5-1) in 2019. The dark horse is Bellingham, which is young and went 3-8 last year, but pushed Norton to the brink in a 14-13 loss on Thanksgiving.
Players to watch: DL/OL Jack Applebaum, Jr. (Medway), RB/DB John Bennett, Jr. (Dover-Sherborn), RB/LB Tristan Benson, Sr. (Holliston), RB/LB Cam Mulvaney, Sr. (Hopkinton), WR/DB James Wilder, Sr. (Medfield)
Rivalry games: Bellingham will host Norton and Medway will host Millis on March 19. Hopkinton will travel to Ashland on March 26 while Westwood hosts Holliston on April 16. Medfield vs Dover-Sherborn and Norwood vs Dedham will be the two Thanksgiving rivalries not taking place this year because the teams are competing in different divisions.
Spectator policy: The TVL has not decided on a spectator policy yet.
Game on: “We’re going to try to enjoy every day, enjoy the process, enjoy the practices and the camaraderie that we’ve been lacking,” said Medway head coach Anthony Mazzola. “For the emotional well-being of these young kids, to be able to have that interaction and routine again is vital.”
Compiled by Colin Bannen, Matt Doherty, Trevor Hass, Brad Joyal, Cam Kerry, Craig Larson, Jake Levin, Brendan Kurie, Steven Sousa, and Nate Weitzer.