The 2022 high school football season for MIAA programs kicks off in earnest Friday morning with the start of preseason workouts, Day 1 and 2 devoted to two hours of conditioning/no contact drills. A week from Saturday, Day 8 on the MIAA preseason calendar, teams can scrimmage for the first time. Regular-season play starts Sept. 8-10.
Here are 10 storylines to follow:
▪ Division 1 challengers to Springfield Central: The Golden Eagles of Springfield Central flew to another state title last year after shifting to D1 under the new MIAA alignment. With Nebraska-bound senior quarterback William Watson returning, Springfield remains the team to beat, but there are several worthy challengers from Eastern Mass. With Georgia-bound safety Joenel Aguero back in Danvers after a year at IMG Academy, St. John’s Prep is in prime position to contend. Sophomore Blake Herbert takes over under center for Central Catholic with Notre Dame commit Preston Zinter ready to showcase his talents on both sides of the ball. The Raiders will test their mettle right away as they host Springfield and Prep over the first two weeks.
▪ Thanksgiving rivals look to repeat (or three-peat): Swampscott and Marblehead have battled for over a century on Thanksgiving, often with thrilling results. Last fall, both NEC programs used that final tune-up to stay sharp ahead of their respective trips to Gillette Stadium, where Marblehead won its first state title (Division 3) and Swampscott clinched a second straight Division 5 state championship. Now riding a state-best 20-game win streak, the Magicians turn to 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior Miles O’Neil to replace three-year starting QB Josh Robertson. The Big Blue looks to keep rolling minus three-phase standout Xaviah Bascon.
▪ Premier passers around the state: Reading quarterback James Murphy leads a crop of elite quarterbacks in the Bay State. A starter since his freshman year, the 6-foot-5, 208-pound senior smashed program records en route to a second Middlesex League MVP award last season. Andover’s Scott Brown is poised for another big year in the Merrimack Valley Conference along with Methuen’s Drew Eason. Duxbury’s Matt Festa is one of the best arms on the South Shore and Owen McHugh who led Milton to the Northeast 7v7 New England Championship, will look to take over the helm following the graduation of three-year starter Chase Vaughan.Hanover’s Michael Landolfi transferred to Lawrence Academy after setting a new bar at Hanover High during a standout junior campaign under the tutelage of his father, head coach Chris Landolfi. Matt Hasselbeck’s son, Henry, has transferred from Belmont Hill to play at Xaverian, his father’s alma mater.
▪ South Shore League dominance: No league experienced as success as the SSL last fall with Rockland, Cohasset, and Randolph respectively clinching D6, D7, and D8 titles. Randolph topped league rival Hull in the D8 Super Bowl, Rockland edged Abington, and Mashpee also made a run to the D7 state semifinals, where the Falcons fell to Cohasset. Rockland brings back multi-positional threat Lucas Leander. Cohasset and Randolph graduated a healthy number of seniors, but should still contend under coaches Pete Afanasiw and Jonathan Marshall.
▪ Can Catholic Memorial be stopped? After rolling to a second consecutive Catholic Conference title, Catholic Memorial met little resistance in the Division 2 statewide tournament. The Knights averaged 42.8 points per game and allowed 7.8 points per game over four wins against excellent programs, clinching the school’s first state title since 1978. John DiBiaso’s squad returns a number of highly-regarded prospects, including Boston College commits Datrell Jones and Jaedn Skeete. Boubacar Traore (Notre Dame) is a veteran presence on the defensive line and JC Petrongolo returns under center for a program that has won 17 straight games.
▪ Historic programs changing gears: Rob DiLoreto enters his second full season as coach at Everett while Brockton’s Peter Colombo enters his 20th season. Colombo said he plans to retire after this year after following his father, Armond, and his 35-year run. The two winningest programs in state history have some talented pieces. Brockton wide receiver Cam Monteiro is a two-sport standout who also stars on the hardwood, and Everett wide receiver Christian Zamor looks to cement his own legacy while following in the footsteps of his older brother, Ismael, by verbally committing to BC. Jayden Prophete is expected to step in for graduated tailback Jayden Clerveaux and Nick Raymond will anchor the offensive line for the Crimson Tide.
▪ Battle atop the Hockmock: Snapping a 12-year losing streak against King Philip on Thanksgiving helped Franklin clinch the program’s first Hockomock Kelley-Rex title since 2009. The Panthers also topped rival Mansfield for the first time since ‘09, but graduated quarterback Jared Arone, back Mack Gulla, wide receiver Shane Kindred, and linebacker Jack Marino among others. Mansfield and KP will look to dethrone the Panthers this fall, with Milford, Taunton, and Attleboro also representing significant challenges in the deep league. Foxborough and North Attleborough are the early favorites in the Hockomock’s Davenport Division.
▪ Passing of the torch in the City League: Globe All-Scholastic Malcolm X Chrispin was called one of the best players to put on a Dragons uniform by 20-year-coach Rocco Zizza. But the two-way star has graduated, leaving incoming seniors Bailey Belony, Xavier Polanco, and Brennan Shapiro to lead the Dragons in their pursuit of a second straight league title. English/New Mission is always a threat in the BCL North, as is East Boston, which won the league title during the Fall II season. Brighton looks like a threat from the BCL South with tailback Timel Leviner ready to roll.
▪ St. Mary’s trying to bring more hardware to Lynn: In March, St. Mary’s of Lynn won state titles in both girls’ and boys’ basketball, with David Brown Jr. playing a vital role on the boys’ team. The reigning D6 Player of the Year returns to the gridiron after compiling over 2,000 all-purpose yards and 25 touchdowns last season, helping the Spartans reach the Division 6 state semifinals. St. Mary’s will have to battle Catholic Central League rivals Archbishop Williams, Bishop Fenwick, and Bishop Feehan during league play, but won’t see those private school powers in the state tournament.
▪ The Tri-Valley League triumvirate: Holliston had dominated the TVL standings over the past decade before Ashland emerged as the new powerhouse under Andrew Mackay. During the shortened Fall II season in the spring of 2021, those programs wound up tied atop the table along with newcomer Norwood. Last fall, Ashland topped Norwood, 29-20, en route to a 9-0 regular season and league crown. All three programs are capable of climbing to the top of the league this year.