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    Football Monday

    Methuen and Attleboro football stay unbeaten

    So far, a super start to season

    St. John’s back Jonathan Thomas was limited to the bench after hurting knee.
    St. John’s back Jonathan Thomas was limited to the bench after hurting knee.

    Pop quiz: Name the only two undefeated Division 1 high school football teams in the state.

    Normally, the answers would likely include some combination of Everett, St. John’s Prep, Central Catholic, Brockton, BC High, Xaverian, or Bridgewater-Raynham.

    You’d probably be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d utter one, let alone both, of the actual answers to our trivia question: Methuen and Attleboro.


    Methuen, the lone Division 1 North unbeaten, is off to a 4-0 start under new coach Tom Ryan, who spent the previous 13 years as an assistant at Tewksbury. Meanwhile, Attleboro (3-0) is the only Division 1 South team to go unscathed through the month of September under first-year coach Michael Strachan.

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    Ryan knows where his team currently stacked up against the rest of Division 1 since he checks the newspapers to keep up with the power rankings.

    But if you ask him for the key to the Rangers’ turnaround after a disappointing 3-8 showing last year, his answer is simple: taking care of the football.

    “We preach ball security almost too much,” Ryan said. “Our whole mantra on offense is to have every possession end in a kick, whether it be a punt, hopefully it’s a PAT, but if we have everything end in a kick, we’re going to win games.”

    That recipe has worked so far. Through four games, Methuen has only committed one turnover, leading to wins over Dracut, Cambridge, Lawrence, and Malden.


    Next up is a Friday night kickoff against Merrimack Valley foe Haverhill (2-1).

    Down south, the Blue Bombardiers have barely broken a sweat in their three victories, winning by an average margin of 26 points as they sit in a three-way tie atop the Hockomock Kelley-Rex standings with Mansfield and King Philip.

    Strachan credits the team’s strong start to his players’ willingness to focus on the little things, like its alignment on defense, cadence, and how they move from drill to drill in practice.

    “I think when you do that, the other things kind of come around with it,” he said.

    Strachan, who has previously coached in Europe and in the college ranks at Framingham State, came to a Blue Bombardier team that struggled mightily in the Hockomock, going 0-5 in league play en route to a 4-7 mark overall last fall.


    This year, Attleboro already has one more league win than last year after beating Franklin, 37-20, last Friday. Next up, No. 3 Mansfield (3-0) comes to town Friday night with first place on the line.

    So, can either Methuen or Attleboro sustain the success and meet at Gillette Stadium in the Division 1 Super Bowl Dec. 7? Or will a tough schedule derail them?

    “I think we’re trying to prepare ourselves for those kinds of situations and prepare our kids for what happens when things don’t go the right way,” Ryan said.

    So far in 2013, there hasn’t been much in that category.

    Thomas awaiting results

    After sustaining a right knee injury in St. John’s Prep’s 35-14 loss to Everett on Saturday, All-Scholastic running back Johnathan Thomas underwent an MRI Saturday night, according to coach Jim O’Leary.

    O’Leary said he would know more on the Maryland-bound senior’s status Monday.

    “I talked to him last night [Saturday], he was at home and comfortable,” said O’Leary, whose team faces Malden Catholic on Saturday. “Just have to wait for the doctors, and it’s all in their hands. It’s a waiting game. Clearly he was in pain yesterday, and wasn’t in as much [Saturday] night.”

    Thomas ran for more than 200 yards in each of his first two games.

    Anthony Gulizia contributed to this report. For football players of the week go to