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Division 8 high school football team previews

Steven Williams will be back at quarterback for Charlestown.
Steven Williams will be back at quarterback for Charlestown.(Barry Chin/Globe Staff file)

Here is a look at each EMass football team in Division 8 heading into the 2018 season.

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DIVISION 8 NORTH

Boston English

Coach: Ryan Conway (3rd season). Career: 6-15..

Last year’s record: 2-8.

Strengths: Skill positions, speed

Concerns: How the team handles adversity.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The challenge for coach Ryan Conway this off season was to figure out the best way to build his team after taking in New Mission as a co-op. Conway didn’t want the kids from New Mission to feel timid coming into a new team and he didn’t want his English kids to feel entitled because it’s their team. ‘‘I was very mindful to remind the coaches and the players that the best players will play and that all positions were open,’’ said Conway. Boston English senior Tristan Champagnie is emerging as the favorite to start at quarterback for English. ‘‘Tristan is way out in front right now but we don’t want him to know he probably will win the job,’’ said Conway. English also expects New Mission sophomore and ball-hawking linebacker Luke McDonald to emerge as one of the team’s best defenders this year and in years to come.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., at Keefe Tech

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Burke

Coach: Byron Beaman (8th season). Career: 21-52.

Last year’s record: 2-8.

Strengths: Running back.

Concerns: Selfishness.

Offense: Wishbone

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Coming off a 2-8 campaign in 2017, the Bulldogs will feature a young team that will need to rely on a few key players if they want to have a successful 2018. There will be a lot of young guys vying for spots and to prove themselves. Coach Byron Beaman is putting it on himself and his staff to put those young players in the best spots to succeed. One of the senior leaders the team will look to is 2017 Boston City All-Star Audriel Guante, who plays fullback in the Bulldogs’ wishbone attack. A playmaker that the team will turn to will be junior Avantai Withers, a starting running back as a sophomore. Beaman figures Withers will be the team’s starting quarterback this year to take advantage of his athleticism.

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Season opener: Friday, Sept. 14, 6:30 p.m., vs. Weston

Cathedral

Coach: Derrick Beasley (1st season).

Last year’s record: 10-2.

Strengths: Defensive line.

Concerns: Quarterback.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Panthers start 2018 with a new coach, Derrick Beasley, a new quarterback, senior Tito Okundaye, and a roster of new faces for a program that finished 10-2 a year ago. Paul Sobolewski, the Globe’s 2017 D8 Coach of the Year, is now at Pope John. And All-Scholastic back Khalil Blair and his 34 touchdowns departed via graduation. There were other key losses to graduation, and transfer. Okundaye’s twin brother, Tuto, will start in the backfield. And senior Chris Jean-Louis has exhibited potential, but is working his way through a new injury.

Season opener: Saturday, Sept. 8, 1 p.m., at Old Colony

Charlestown

Coach: David Cahill (5th season). Career: 8-28.

Last year’s record: 5-3.

Strengths: Experience at QB, RB.

Concerns: Numbers.

Offense: Spread

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Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Townies had quite the two-year turnaround under coach David Cahill as they went from 1-8 in 2016, to 5-3 and a playoff berth in 2017. Charlestown is loaded up with 10 returning starters from last season and is ready for another shot in the playoffs after losing to New Mission last fall. That’s been something that has stuck with Cahill and one of his goals this season is to get over that hump and get to the semi-finals. A key player to the Townies’ success is gifted quarterback Steven Williams, a Boston City All-Star a year ago. Williams will need weapons and someone who Cahill expects to take a big step this year is sophomore receiver Wellington Arias. Combining that duo with a solid rotation of experienced running backs should make a potent offense for the Townies.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 14, 6 p.m., vs. West Roxbury

Keefe Tech

Coach: Harry LeSage (3rd season). Career: Career: 12-20.

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Speed at running back and quarterback, consistent pass rush

Concerns: Shallow depth in the secondary, inexperience at linebacker

Offense: Wing T

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: After a four-year co-op agreement with Marian, Keefe is going solo, forced by the closure of the neighboring Framingham school in May. Moving away from last year’s triple option, Keefe plans to run its offense on the legs of returning senior quarterback Emmanuel Capellan. ‘‘[Capellan] does everything for our offense,’’ said head coach Harry LeSage. ‘‘If we call the right play, he’ll be real hard to stop.’’ With seven starters returning to the Broncos, LeSage expects speedster Miguel Perez to add a unique wrinkle beside Capellan at running back. While the Bronco defense places a lot of responsibility on its linebackers, its heart and soul lies in its pass rush at defensive end. Expect to see sophomore Jake Roy and Damian Guzman making life miserable for quarterbacks this fall.

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Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, at Keefe Tech (Framingham State).

Lynn Tech

Coach: James Runner (9th season). Career: 42-45.

Last year’s record: 12-1.

Strengths: Offensive and defensive line depth, intelligent quarterback, speed at skill positions.

Concerns: Overall endurance, inexperience in secondary.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: How fast is Lynn Tech? Seven players clocked 40 times no higher than 4.4 seconds according to coach James Runner. Senior quarterback David Barrios headlines a high-octane group of 14 returning starters (six on offense, eight on defense) with their sights set on another Vocational Small Super Bowl. Seniors Chance Buono and Guliani Daniels take over at running back following the graduation of 2017 All-Scholastic and Commonwealth Conference MVP Steffan Gravely (35 touchdowns and 2,254 yards). ‘‘We’re going to be doing something different every time we’re out there,’’ said Runner, who plans to split carries between all his running backs. On the other side of the ball, defensive tackle Ali Bdawi and middle linebacker Emerson Ramirez both return to wreak havoc on opposing backfields. The duo compensates for a susceptible Tigers secondary with question marks surrounding depth and experience.

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Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., vs. Nashoba Valley Tech

Madison Park

Coach: Roosevelt Robinson (24th season). Career: 127-98-1.

Last year’s record: 1-7.

Strengths: Tight end

Concerns: Inexperience, low numbers.

Offense: Wing T

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Coming off back-to-back sub .500 seasons, the Cardinals are in a rebuilding mode. The 2018 Madison Park football team will feature a lot of young players playing in key roles. Longtime head coach Roosevelt Robinson has been looking for a leader and he believes he found that player in tight end/defensive end Brandon Henry. One of the few seniors, the captain figures to be the Cardinals’ best player, and crucial to the success of the team. ‘‘Hes going to be the guy we look to, to get this thing going,’’ said Robinson.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 14, 4 p.m., at O’Bryant

Matignon

Coach: Michael Hill (2nd season). Career: 4-7.

Last year’s record: 4-7.

Strengths: Offensive line.

Concerns: Depth and injuries.

Offense: Power I

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: In coach Michael Hill’s first season, the Warriors finished just 4-7. However, the season did end on a high note as the team went on a 4-1 run to close out the season. Although most of their losses last year were not really competitive, a good core of returning players should help turn that around this season. It all starts with talented junior quarterback Sam Wright, who will be playing behind an offensive line consisting of all returners. The heart and soul of the squad, however, is senior Kenneth Rezendes, a three-time captain who is the reigning Catholic Central Special Teams Player of the Year. That combination should bode well for the Warriors’ offensive attack and their chances in the Catholic Central Small.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 14, 7 p.m., vs. Hull

Minuteman

Coach: Brian Tildsley (11th season). Career: 41-60.

Last year’s record: 4-6.

Strengths: Experience, versatility

Concerns: Depth

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Minuteman pulled off an impressive turnaround last fall, finishing 4-6 after a winless campaign in 2016. The headliner is Ngor Manyang, a senior quarterback/running back who was the team’s leading scorer last season. Coach Brian Tildsley feels the captain is one of the best players in Division 8. Manyang is invaluable because of his versatility. He lines up as the tailback in the Wing T, but when Minuteman shifts to the wildcat, the southpaw slinger lines up at QB. Fullback Darrion Cassius is another player to watch for a squad seeking its first playoff spot since 2014.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 28, 5 p.m., at Charlestown

Pope John

Coach: Paul Sobolewski (1st season). Career: 73-69 (at Cathedral).

Last year’s record: 2-6.

Strengths: Speed.

Concerns: O-Line depth.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: In just their second season since the program shut down in 2013, 2017 Boston Globe Coach of the Year Paul Sobolewski is looking to build a contender from the ground up in his first year at Pope John after spending two years at Cathedral. ‘‘My goal is to keep building the numbers each year so we can compete for league championships,’’ said Sobolewski. With only four seniors, the Tigers are no doubt a young team but they aren’t necessarily without experience. The team will feature a few transfers from Cathedral, namely senior linebacker Ajan Nelson, the Catholic Central Defensive Player of the Year, and running back John Smith, a Catholic Central All-Star as a freshman. The Tigers also welcome senior wide receiver/corner back Rashard John from New Mission.

Season opener: Saturday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., vs. West Roxbury

South Boston

Coach: Germaine Sattiewhite (2nd season). Career: 3-7.

Last year’s record: 3-7.

Strengths: Ability to mix up the offense.

Concerns: Knowing how to win.

Offense: Pro set

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Knights’ 3-7 record from a year ago is a tad misleading. After all they did finish 3-3 in the regular season securing the seventh seed in the Division 8 North playoffs. But they dropped their next three games after losing to Cathedral 52-0 in the first round. Also, four of their losses were only by six points or less, so they could have easily went the other way. Coach Germaine Sattiewhite is looking to improve upon last season and with seven returning starters, the Knights are equipped to do just that. 2017 Boston City All-Star Daniel Austin returns for his junior year at running back, and is ready to carry the load on offense behind an experienced offensive line spearheaded by seniors Wilson Sanon, Carlos Robles, and Marcos Roman.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 6:30 p.m., at Brighton

Tech Boston

Coach: Raul Brown (4th season). Career: 18-14.

Last year’s record: 4-7.

Strengths: Leadership.

Concerns: Linebacker.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Fresh off a postseason run that saw the Bears advance to the semifinals of the Division 8 North playoffs, Tech Boston looks to continue on that success in 2018 despite losing 10 seniors. The first goal for the Bears is to win their division, something they are hoping to do off the arm, legs, and leadership of senior quarterback Marcus Gonzales. ‘‘He’s hands down one of the best players in the city this year and if he can pull this team together, we’ll be good,’’ said coach Raul Brown. A big test for the young Bears will be week one against Georgetown. ‘‘If we can beat Georgetown, that will be the ultimate test to see how good we are for the year,’’ said Brown.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 6 p.m., vs. Georgetown

West Roxbury

Coach: Derek Wright (7th season). Career: 22-41.

Last year’s record: 6-3.

Strengths: Running game.

Concerns: Quarterback.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Derek Wright’s ultimate goal is to always be better than the year before, a tall task for a team that earned the third seed in the Division 8 North playoffs a year ago. The Raiders are returning a veteran unit in 2018 and Wright believes his group of guys have what it takes. ‘‘My guys seem to like each other and its not always like that,’’ said Wright. ‘‘They are a close-knit bunch and they play well for each other.’’ Their leading rusher and scorer from a year ago, 2017 Boston City All-Star Ismael Presume is back and hopes to carry the offense that will feature a new quarterback under center. It is a three-man race for the spot but Methuen-transfer Alex Luna is the favorite to land the job.

Season opener: Saturday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., at Pope John

DIVISION 8 SOUTH

Atlantis Charter

Coach: Jerome Thompson (2nd season). Career: Career: 0-9.

Last year’s record: 0-9

Strengths: Athleticism

Concerns: Commitment

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: After an 0-9 campaign in their first year at the varsity level, the Tritons have their eyes set on making the playoffs. Second-year coach Jerome Thompson admits it may be ‘‘audacious’’ but he feels with a roster numbering 35, he can can keep his best players fresh and rested for the fourth quarter. Senior running back/corner Dezmin DePina is considered the program’s best athlete. Brian Arruda is a 235-pound guard/linebacker. Former soccer player Nasrallah El-Lakis has displayed skill as a kicker, receiver, and corner.He also expects to be a source of leadership for a young team.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 6 p.m., at Martha’s Vineyard

Blue Hills

Coach: Ed Catabia (11th season). Career: Career: 71-42.

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: Team eager to learn

Concerns: Inexperience

Offense: Wing T

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: After failing to qualify for the playoffs last season, the Warriors are a team ready to learn and compete for the Mayflower small division. Blue Hills is young: juniors Connor Pfingston (quarterback) and Mason Murphy (running back) will be expected to carry the load. But coach Ed Catabia is confident. ‘‘They are great kids to be around, they’re eager to learn and the players are very coachable.’’

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 5 p.m., at Hull

Cape Cod Tech

Coach: Chris Leonard (8th season). Career: Career: 11-55.

Last year’s record: 4-6

Strengths: Defense

Concerns: Depth

Offense: Read option

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Defense will be the strength of the 2018 Crusaders, according to coach Chris Leonard. That starts with senior ends Trevor Castillas and Richardson Pierre, and their ability to pressure the quarterback. Senior captain Payton Walker will man the middle at linebacker. Archer Estenvil, a 2017 Mayflower League All-Star, is shifting to quarterback as a senior, trying to make the read option even more dangerous. Archer’s brother, Keke, expects to be a part of the running back rotation along with Kyle Chase.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 6:30 p.m., at Monomoy

Coyle & Cassidy

Coach: Chris Pabst (4th season). Career: Career: 8-25.

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Senior leadership

Concerns: Staying healthy

Offense: Triple option

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Bounced in the D8 playoffs by St. John Paul II as a seventh seed, the Warriors are looking to build on that experience with a team heavy on underclassmen. Heading into his third season as starter, junior captain Jackson Murray will be leading the dangerous triple option attack after scoring 10 touchdowns in the final five games last season. ‘‘Smartest kid on the field,’’ said coach Chris Pabst. ‘‘He’s going to turn heads this year.’’ Another player to watch: 6-4, 270-pound two-way tackle Kurtees Poisson, who is already garnering college interest as a junior. ‘‘He’s going to be a force to be reckoned with,’’ said Pabst.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., vs. Carver/Sacred Heart

Holbrook

Coach: Randy Grimmett (1st season). Career: First year.

Last year’s record: 1-10

Strengths: Returning rlayers, Skill position depth

Concerns: Offensive depth

Offense: Wishbone

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Randy Grimmett is the Bulldogs’ third head coach in as many seasons. Although he inherits a strong upper class, he does inherit a few issues. The Bulldogs are 1-19 in the past two seasons and they do not have the numbers to run a JV squad this season. Grimmett is trying to build up the numbers of the co-op. The good news? After playing all their games on the road for the past three years, the Bulldog’s will be motivated to play their first actual home games. Upperclassmen include junior back Aidan Centeno, who night carry a Swiss Army knife role. Grimmett teased the idea of him also playing quarterback. Another player to watch? Alvin Ybon, a 6-foot-6, 300-pound left tackle who also plays basketball.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 14, 6 p.m., vs. Atlantis Charter

Hull

Coach: Michael O’Donnell (2nd season). Career: Career: 5-6.

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Returning offensive line, quarterback

Concerns: Backfield, linebacker

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: In Michael O’Donnell’s first season as coach, the Pirates snuck into the Division 8 South playoffs as the eighth seed. In 2018, with a strong offensive line and an experienced quarterback, Hull is aiming to take the next step. After taking varsity snaps as a freshman, and then as a sophomore, junior Trevor MacDonald is slated to play his second full season at quarterback. Senior captains Christian Amador and Nick Scanlon return to solidify the offensive line. But who will run behind that line minus graduate Christian Olivieri, a 2018 Globe Scholar-Athlete now at Bates.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 5 p.m., vs. Blue Hills

Millis

Coach: Brian Kraby (1st season). Career: First year.

Last year’s record: 12-1

Strengths: Size

Concerns: Inexperience, low numbers

Offense: Power I

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Amazingly, the two-time Division 8 Super Bowl champions came dangerously close to not fielding a team in 2018. Under the direction of first-year coach Brian Kraby, Millis returned just 10 players from last year’s squad, and minus 18 senior grads, headlined by QB Bryce Latosek, the Globe’s D8 Player of the Year in 2017. Kraby has put the focus on the basics and getting better every week. The Mohawks will focus on their size up front and power football. One of the big guys clearing the way for the running game is 6-foot-5, 350-pound guard Murrell Quashie. He’ll be a big asset.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., at St. Mary’s

Old Colony

Coach: Brandon Mendez (4th season). Career: Career: 21-13.

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Running game

Concerns: Depth

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: A 6-1 regular season earned the Cougars the fourth seed in the Division 8 South playoffs, but they were ousted with a first-round loss to Sacred Heart. Despite graduating nine seniors, coach Brandon Mendez believes he has a young group of good players who can once again contend for a playoff spot. But first, they will attempt to replace the production of Jarred Gagne, the reigning Mayflower League MVP. Junior Matt Bumpus, the starting quarterback last season, will slide into the backfield. Junior Kyle Scholz, whom Bumpus competed with for the starting QB position last season, will now start under center.

Season opener: Saturday, Sept. 8, 1 p.m., vs. Cathedral

Randolph

Coach: Lonnie Simmons (1st season). Career: First year.

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: Speed, athleticism, and aggressiveness

Concerns: Scheme familiarity

Offense: Pro set

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: In Lonnie Simmons, the Blue Devils are playing for their fourth head coach since 2013. A Syracuse native who starred collegiately at Ithaca, Simmons is the school’s indoor and outdoor track coach and former football assistant. Focusing on continuity, Randolph will transition from the spread to a Pro style, run-oriented attack. Three players will play pivotal roles in the scheme: quarterback Derrick Revolus, wide receiver Jamarii Robinson, and running back Fernando Rodriguez III.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 6 p.m., at Latin Academy

South Shore Voc-Tech

Coach: Derek Mariani (20th season). Career: Career: 109-104-2.

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Experience

Concerns: Not playing to potential

Offense: Wishbone

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Vikings made a three-win improvement last fall and coach Derek Mariani hopes his squad can make another leap in 2018 and contend for the Mayflower League Small title. How will South Shore accomplish that goal? Playing with toughness and discipline. The Vikings feature an all-senior backfield of league all-star Shane Fougere and Dominic Georgakakis. Seniors Nick Podgurski and Spencer Joseph will each get reps at quarterback.

Season opener: Saturday, Sept. 8, 1 p.m., at Tri-County

St. John Paul II

Coach: Matt Marshall (2nd season). Career: Career: 9-2.

Last year’s record: 9-2

Strengths: Strong senior class

Concerns: Inexperience

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Lions are ready to reload and take another shot at the Division 8 title after getting knocked out in the semifinals by eventual Super Bowl champ Millis. Senior wideout Mike Satkevich returns after earning a captaincy as a junior. Head coach Matt Marshall also expects plenty of leadership and production from Kevin Flynn, the 2017 Catholic Central Small defensive lineman of the year. Senior quarterback Chris Bresnahan takes over under center for grad Devan Harrison, a league all-star.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., at Sandwich

Tri-County

Coach: Anthony Mazzola (9th season). Career: Career: 26-55.

Last year’s record: 2-8

Strengths: Experienced seniors

Concerns: Offensive line

Offense: Pro set

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After a disappointing finish last fall, the Cougars will field with 24 seniors. T-C is also transitioning from the Wing T to a a Pro style attack. Coach Anthony Mazzola believes his Cougars will be in the mix for a conference title and a tournament spot. One of those seniors is captain Nate Glidden, a three-year starter at offensive guard and middle linebacker and returning Mayflower League All-Star. Tri-County will utilize more two-back sets, led by senior fullback/tailback Evan Langille, along with juniors Jordan Pina and Jason Beaulieu. ‘‘Those three guys are a good combination in the backfield,’’ said Mazzola.

Season opener: Saturday, Sept. 8, 1 p.m., vs. South Shore Voc-Tech

Upper Cape

Coach: Ken Owen (2nd season). Career: Career: 196-113-5 (193-105-5 at Rockland).

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Ground game

Concerns: Filling holes on defense.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: In his second season on the sideline -- after a highly-successful run at Rockland -- Ken Owens and his squad are looking to make noise in the Mayflower League. There are just five seniors on the roster, but a number of juniors received considerable playing time as sophomores. Senior tackle Anthony Georgopoulos anchors the O line and two-way end Wally Alden is the undisputed leader. ‘‘He has a nice effect on the younger kids and he’s the one we turn to get us through practice, pump up the intensity and everything else,’’ said Owen. One player to keep an eye on for a breakout year: junior receiver/safety Drew Brightman.

Season opener: Saturday, Sept. 8, 12 p.m., vs. Bourne

Wareham

Coach: Fran Cass (1st season). Career: First year.

Last year’s record: 9-2

Strengths: Mental toughness, passion

Concerns: Inexperience

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Vikings will look a lot different this season, for a number of reasons. First, Fran Cass, formerly the head coach and assistant at Holbrook/Avon, is now running the sideline. And tailback/QB Issac Nascimento, who was a two-time Globe All-Scholastic, accounting for 26 touchdowns last season, has graduated. Wareham will also be minus its entire offensive line, along with a pair of skill position player, because of discipline. ‘‘We’ll need to be mentally tough and have a passion for football in order to come out and hold this thing together,’’ said Cass. One player to watch: junior tight end Dominic Labelle, a 6-foot-4 target that figures to be an integral part in the Wareham offense.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., at Old Rochester

West Bridgewater

Coach: Bill Panos (33rd season). Career: Career: 178-142.

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Experience

Concerns: Depth at quarterback, offensive line

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Fresh off his induction to the Massachusetts High School Coaches Hall of Fame, Bill Panos is prepped for his 33rd year as at the helm of the Wildcats. West Bridgewater was eliminated by eventual Super Bowl champion Millis in the first round of the D8 South playoffs. But with 14 seniors, Panos is confident his 2018 squad will be another solid bunch, led by Mayflower League MVP Christian Keeling (1,486 yards, 22 TDs as a junior). Junior Matt Lavoie, a Mayflower League All-Star, returns at QB.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., at Diman