Sports

Division 6 high school football team previews

Lynnfield Ma 10/20/17 Hamilton-Wenham High quarterback Billy Whelan avoids the pressure from Lynnfield High William Collins during first half action of MIAA football at Lynnfield High. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff) topic 21schlynnfield reporter Karl Capen
Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff
Billy Whelan returns to quarterback Hamilton-Wenham this season.

Here is a look at each EMass football team in Division 6 heading into the 2018 season.

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DIVISION 6 NORTH

Arlington Catholic

Coach: Anthony Petrelis (1st season).

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Last year’s record: 5-6.

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Strengths: Running back, skill players, senior leadership.

Concerns: Inexperience.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

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Outlook: With new coach Anthony Petrelis, who used to be the defensive coordinator, and few returning starters, the Cougars are inexperienced on the field and the sidelines. However, what Arlington Catholic lacks in experience, it more than makes up for in other areas. ‘‘We are an inexperienced team,’’ Petrelis said. ‘‘But we have a lot of skill and athleticism.’’ That skill and athleticism takes form in senior returning RBs Josh Smith and Christian Santillana. Additionally, the Cougars are returning seniors 6-foot-3 WR Matt Morganelli and 6-foot-4 TE Frank Cancelliere to lead a big, athletic offense.

Season opener: Thursday, Sept. 6, 6:30 p.m., vs. Watertown

Austin Prep

Coach: Bill Maradei (40th season). Career: 273-147-4 overall; 173-86 at Austin Prep.

Last year’s record: 1-10.

Strengths: Senior class, quarterback, backfield.

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Concerns: Depth, offensive and defensive lines.

Offense: Double wing

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Austin Prep hasn’t even played a game yet and things are already looking up. The Cougars are coming off a 1-10 season that coach Bill Maradei described as the toughest year he’s ever had, but with a move from the Catholic Central (Large) to the Catholic Central (Small), Austin Prep’s outlook is nowhere near as bleak as you’d think. ‘‘Moving leagues is never easy,’’ said Maradei, who will retire after 2018. ‘‘But we’ll be more competitive.’’ The Cougars return 10 starters and are looking for their double wing offense’s backfield to carry the load. Among the returning starters are senior captain quarterback Matt Rubino, senior captain running back Lucas Gebolys and senior running backs Dylan Cann and Chris Tucker. Maradei had high praise for senior captain and two-way lineman Nick Christopher, citing Christopher’s leadership as a major reason why the team’s senior class will be a strength this year.

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

Bishop Fenwick

Coach: Dave Woods (21st season). Career: 161-77.

Last year’s record: 4-7.

Strengths: Quarterback, receiving core.

Concerns: Offensive line depth.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: After losing star QB Cory Bright to a torn ACL just two games into the 2017 season, the Crusaders are looking forward to getting back the school’s career passing touchdown leader. Bright, who had 1,990 total yards and 20 touchdowns in his last healthy season, headlines a strong group of senior captains. The Crusaders are returning WR/DB Keegan O’Connor, DB/WR Derek DelVecchio and OL/DL Tom MacDonald. Including the four captains, Bishop Fenwick is returning 13 returning starters, something that, according to coach Dave Woods, has created high expectations for the team.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., vs. Hamilton-Wenham

Essex Tech

Coach: Dan Connors (2nd season). Career: 2-9.

Last year’s record: 2-9.

Strengths: Veteran leadership.

Concerns: Implementing new offense/defense systems.

Offense: Triple option

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Returning seven starters on both offense and defense from a 2-9 squad last year, head coach Dan Connors is hoping the added year of experience can lead to a strong turnaround. ‘‘The rookies that went through a tough 2-9 season last year are now hardened veterans,’’ Connors said. ‘‘[They] spent the summer training four nights per week.’’ Amongst the returners are seniors QB Vinny Brazzo (179 rushing yards, 313 passing yards, five total TDs) and RB/S Hunter Lane (792 total yards and four TDs). Seniors LB Mason White, LB Manny Alves and DE Chris Levie are also expected to play big roles.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., vs. Ipswich

Greater Lowell

Coach: Shane Abrams (7th season). Career: 20-46.

Last year’s record: 5-6.

Strengths: Quarterback, running back, strong senior class.

Concerns: Staying healthy, depth.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Coming off a 5-6 season that culminated in a first round playoff exit, Greater Lowell should have the experience this year to build on those results. The Gryphons return key starters on offense in senior quarterback Jake Noel (776 rushing yards, 584 passing yards, 10 total TDs) and senior RB/LB Juan Serrano (648 rushing yards, 310 receiving yards, 11 total TDs, 43 tackles, three interceptions, two sacks). In addition, its entire offensive line is returning, all of whom also play on the defensive side of the ball on the line or linebacker.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 21, 7 p.m., at Shawsheen

Hamilton-Wenham

Coach: Jim Pugh (3rd season). Career: 194-115 overall; 16-6 at Hamilton-Wenham.

Last year’s record: 9-2.

Strengths: Chemistry, senior leadership, offensive line.

Concerns: Linebacker, secondary.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Although Hamilton-Wenham is returning 10 starters (five offense and five defense) from a 2017 team that went 9-2 and lost in the North finals, coach Jim Pugh expects the team’s mindset to stay the same. ‘‘We’ll be different for sure,’’ Pugh said. ‘‘But our mindset is the same as it is every year.’’ Among the Generals’ returning starters are senior captain quarterback Billy Whelan, who threw for 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns last year and junior running back Ian Coffey who ran for 750 yards and 12 touchdowns on nearly eight yards per carry. Also returning for the Generals are captains and offensive linemen Henry Smith and Thomas Monahan, both of whom Pugh cited as being key factors in the team’s excellent chemistry. ‘‘We’re going to have to find some linebackers and defensive backs,’’ Pugh said. ‘‘But if we can put the pieces together, we’ll be back in the [playoff] mix.’’

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., at Bishop Fenwick

Ipswich

Coach: Kevin Fessette (4th season). Career: 18-15.

Last year’s record: 6-5.

Strengths: Captains, talented underclassmen.

Concerns: Inexperience.

Offense: Split back veer

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: After graduating a large senior class, Ipswich will rely on a strong group of underclassmen. ‘‘They’re young, talented guys,’’ said coach Kevin Fessette. The Tigers’ underclassmen will be mentored by the team’s two captains, senior QB/S Yanna Kakis and junior RB/S Cam James. Kakis has been Ipswich’s starting QB ever since he won the job in 2016 and will be looked at to lead by example both on and off the field this year. The Tigers’ talented backfield should keep the team competitive in every game.

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

Northeast

Coach: Don Heres (13th season). Career: 79-58.

Last year’s record: 4-7.

Strengths: Experience, team chemistry.

Concerns: Expectations.

Offense: Wing T

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After a disappointing 4-7 season in 2017, Northeast is poised for a bounce back year. Coach Don Heres knows expectations are high with a number of key returners on both sides of the ball. Seniors QB Zach Sanderson (2,165 rushing yards, 28 TDs), RBs Sean O’Brien (800 rushing yards) and Connor Joseph (600 rushing yards) lead an extremely potent Golden Knights rushing attack. Key to the success of Northeast’s ground game is returning senior offensive linemen Shane Meredith and Manny Patel, both of whom will be entering their fourth year as starters.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., at North Reading

Salem

Coach: Matt Bouchard (5th season). Career: 12-32.

Last year’s record: 7-4.

Strengths: Work ethic.

Concerns: Experience.

Offense: Shotgun

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: A young Salem team is returning a handful of seniors but will be relying on players with limited varsity experience to step it up this year. ‘‘We have some talented players that need to gain experience as fast as possible,’’ said coach Matt Bouchard. The Witches are returning senior captains TE/DE Jayco Pena and OL/DL Matthew Noonan. WR/SS Nate Minaya, a senior transfer from Bishop Fenwick, should provide some important varsity experience. Two key underclassmen, juniors DB Jeffrey Holloway and OL/DE Melkin Bautista, will play a big role on defense for Salem.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., vs. Austin Prep

Shawsheen

Coach: Albert Costabile (27th season). Career: 173-109 overall; 133-86 with Shawsheen.

Last year’s record: 8-5.

Strengths: Experience on defense.

Concerns: Inexperience on offense.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Coming off of a trip to the second round of the playoffs before being edged out by Stoneham, Shawsheen is returning a strong, experienced defense. Senior OLB Stephan Saint-Juste (35 tackles), senior DL Omar Eldaly (59 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovered) and senior DE Frank Irizarry (32 tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble) lead a defense that returns six starters. Taking over the quarterbacking duties will be senior CJ Zemetres, who started four games at QB last year and threw three touchdown passes.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., vs. Wilmington

Stoneham

Coach: Bob Almeida (7th season). Career: 164-98-1 overall; 39-29 with Stoneham.

Last year’s record: 9-3.

Strengths: Quarterback, backfield.

Concerns: Inexperience on offensive and defensive lines.

Offense: Double wing

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Coming off a 9-3 season in 2017, Stoneham is looking to duplicate it success, especially on offense. If the Spartans are to do that, the backfield will be the driving force. ‘‘Our quarterback and backs should be a good strength for us this year,’’ said coach Bob Almeida. The Spartans return quarterback Deshawn Chase, who took over on Thanksgiving last year. Also back are Kevin McShane, who ran for eight touchdowns and averaged 11 yards per carry as a fullback, running back Christo Argyropoulos who led the squad with 920 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in 2017, and Seth Russell, who split time at cornerback and running back last year with five touchdowns and seven yards per carry. Stoneham is returning seven starters, five of which are on offense and two on defense.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., at Archbishop Williams

Whittier

Coach: Kevin Bradley (18th season). Career: 122-68.

Last year’s record: 6-5.

Strengths: Leadership, offensive line

Concerns: Inexperience

Offense: Wing T

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After graduating 23 seniors this past season, 2018 will be a challenging year for Whittier. The Wildcats return just two starters, seniors OL/DL Josh Rousso and Joe Cahill. Were just so young, said head coach Kevin Bradley. This is definitely a rebuilding year for us. In addition to Rousso and Cahill, the Vikings return senior quarterback Tyler Flodstrom and junior running back AJ Espinal. Flodstrom and Espinal are taking over the reigns of the Whittier offense and should prove a nice 1-2 punch in the Vikings backfield.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., vs. Southeastern

Winthrop

Coach: Jonathan Cadigan (1st season).

Last year’s record: 2-9.

Strengths: Youth/underclassmen.

Concerns: Depth.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Coming off a 2-9 season and losing long time coach Sean Driscoll to St. Mary’s, 2018 should be a rebuilding year for Winthrop. New coach Jonathan Cadigan knows his team is young and as a result, needs to be the best practice team it can be, in order to prepare for live game action. The Vikings return a handful of key starters in seniors FB/LB Feedle Small, DE/T Chris Castro, C/DE Mike McCone and WR/DB Andrew Love, all of whom should help the Vikings improve on a disappointing 2017 season.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., vs. Pentucket

DIVISION 6 SOUTH

Apponequet

Coach: Zane Fyfe (4th season). Career: 10-23.

Last year’s record: 2-9.

Strengths: Skill positions.

Concerns: Inexperience.

Offense: Wing T

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: What Apponequet may be lacking in age, it certainly is not lacking in experience. The Lakers have only four seniors on the roster yet they have 17 returning starters. ‘‘We’re definitely going to be looking towards the veteran players for leadership,’’ said coach Zane Fyfe. ‘‘We’re going to have to rely on them.’’ The returners are led by senior running back and linebacker Brent Dixon, who is coming off of a torn ACL he suffered four games into last season; senior wide receiver and defensive back Cobi Desrosiers, who had 22 catches for 311 yards and three touchdowns while recording 65 tackles and an interception on defense; and senior fullback and linebacker Shayne Comey, who led the team on offense with 426 rushing yards and seven touchdowns while also pacing the defense with 98 tackles, two sacks and five forced fumbles. Although Apponequet struggled in 2017, Fyfe is confident that if the Lakers can master the fundamentals they’ll be a good team this year.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 6:30 p.m., vs. Middleborough

Ashland

Coach: Andrew MacKay (8th season). Career: 38-39.

Last year’s record: 5-6.

Strengths: Depth, quarterback.

Concerns: Inexperience.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Starting this fall Ashland will be playing in the Tri-Valley Large. Moving up from the Small Division to Large is sure to be different but coach Andrew MacKay is looking forward to the challenge. ‘‘We’re super excited,’’ MacKay said. ‘‘We’re cautiously optimistic but we know if we take things day by day we can succeed.’’ The Clockers return five key seniors in QB/S Jackson Hornung, RB/ILB Brady Assencoa, DB/WR Nathan Sickles, S/WR Jake Latessa, and C/DL Ryan Dwinells.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., vs. Medway

Bishop Stang

Coach: Dennis Golden (2nd season). Career: 79-96-1 overall; 4-7 at Bp Stang.

Last year’s record: 4-7.

Strengths: Ground game, receiving core, experience.

Concerns: Defensive line, linebacker.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Bishop Stang is going from an inexperienced 2017 team into an experienced 2018 team. The Spartans return 15 starters, eight on offense and seven on defense. Coach Dennis Golden’s team made some improvements last year, but he knows the clock is ticking. ‘‘They have to be ready to go before Week One,’’ Golden said. Senior offensive guard Doug Chicca and senior defensive tackle Jarod Potocki are the leaders of the team and headline a senior class that should give the Spartans a big experience boost.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., vs. Seekonk

Cardinal Spellman

Coach: Ron St. George (11th season). Career: 262-129-5 overall; 79-44 at Spellman.

Last year’s record: 6-5.

Strengths: Captains, offensive line.

Concerns: Inexperience.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: One of the youngest, most inexperienced teams in the Catholic Central, Cardinal Spellman enters the 2018 season with just three returning starters, all on the offensive line. Seniors Rob McAlpine (C/DT), Andrew Force (OL/DL), and Collin Tracey (OL/DL) are captains and will be looked to for both veteran leadership and strength on the lines. ‘‘Those three supply the team leadership,’’ said coach Ron St. George. ‘‘We need them to be at their best if we want to compete.’’

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

Dedham

Coach: David Flynn (8th season). Career: 39-93.

Last year’s record: 6-5.

Strengths: Experience at skill positions, athleticism, depth.

Concerns: Size and strength, inexperienced offensive line and inside linebackers.

Offense: Pistol

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Coming off its best season in over a decade, Dedham is on the verge of becoming a perennially strong program. The Marauders return 28 seniors from its 6-5 squad in 2017 that made the playoffs before falling in the first round to Old Rochester. Among the returning seniors are captains WR/DB Jack Tannous, RB/DB PJ DeVirgilio, RB/LB Billy Casey, and OL/DE Elijah Brown. Senior Ryan Flaherty will once again be handling the quarterbacking duties after taking over the quarterback position midway through last season. The Marauders are returning seven starters on both offense and defense, and should be primed for more improvement in 2018.

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

Dover-Sherborn

Coach: Stephen Ryan (2nd season). Career: 13-9 (2004 at D-S).

Last year’s record: 4-7.

Strengths: Skill positions.

Concerns: Size on offensive/defensive line, overall depth.

Offense: Wing T

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Heading into his second year at the helm of Dover-Sherborn, coach Stephen Ryan expects the Raiders to be competitive. D-S returns senior RB/DB Tylan Mendes, senior RB/DB Timmy Polk and senior TE/DL Jamie Wirth, a Tri-Valley League All-Star in 2017. The backfield combo of Polk and Wirth will be expected to lead the Raiders’ Wing T offense and will be looking to make up for a lack of size on the offensive line.

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

East Bridgewater

Coach: Shawn Tarpey (14th season). Career: 93-62-1.

Last year’s record: 3-8.

Strengths: Quarterback, offensive line.

Concerns: Skill positions, depth.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: East Bridgewater is heading into the 2018 season with hopes that its quarterback and offensive line can make up for some skill position depth issues. Coach Shawn Tarpey acknowledged that they’re working out some kinks at the skill positions. The Vikings return three-year starting QB Liam LeVangie, WR/DB Evan Dyer, OL/DL Sal Clifford and OL/DE Dan O’Shea. All four are the Vikings’ captains and will headline a returning class that contains 10 returning starters, with five on offense and five on defense.

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

Fairhaven

Coach: Rudy Bulgar (9th season). Career: 28-56.

Last year’s record: 5-6.

Strengths: Fullback, running back.

Concerns: Depth.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Experience is always a good thing, and that rings true for Fairhaven. The Blue Devils return 15 starters, seven on offense and eight on defense. Were returning a pretty good core from last year, said coach Rudy Bulgar. That core includes a strong backfield in senior fullback Zach Guillote, junior running back Flynn Bourgault, and junior running back Owen Cebula. Calling the shots for that backfield will be senior quarterback Brady Bennett. The Blue Devils athletic backfield should carry the brunt of the load for the offense.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., vs. Greater New Bedford

Greater New Bedford

Coach: Justin Cruz (1st season)..

Last year’s record: 2-9.

Strengths: Work ethic, defense.

Concerns: Culture.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: First-year coach Justin Cruz is ready to change Greater New Bedford’s football culture. ‘‘They’ve worked hard all season,’’ Cruz said. ‘‘I’m excited to see it all come together.’’ The Bears are returning seven starters, most of whom play on both sides of the ball. Returning seniors TE/DE Noah Saunders and Myles Silva, who can line up anywhere on the field including DB/WR/QB, lead the Bears’ returning class. Junior Dartmouth transfer Ethan Almeida will handle the majority of the quarterbacking duties and will be a playmaker.

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

Martha’s Vineyard

Coach: Donald Herman (1st season). Career: 220-90.

Last year’s record: 2-8.

Strengths: Experience, QB.

Concerns: Depth, physical size.

Offense: Wing T

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After taking the last two years off, 28-year Martha’s Vineyard coach Don Herman is back with the Vineyarders. The legendary five-time Super Bowl winning-coach is excited about his team’s talent and experience. ‘‘We won’t be outmatched at the start of any game,’’ Herman said. ‘‘We should have a good chance to win any game we play in.’’ Amongst 15 returning lettermen, the Vineyarders return senior three-year starting QB Ivan Shepard, OL/DL Andres Garcia, RB/DB Tristan Scheller and OL/LB Michael Courtney, all of whom are expected to play key roles on offense and defense.

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

Middleborough

Coach: Pat Kingman (8th season). Career: 48-30.

Last year’s record: 10-3.

Strengths: Running backs, linebackers.

Concerns: Inexperience.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Coming off a Division 6 Super Bowl win in 2017, Middleborough is in for a rebuilding year in 2018. The Sachems return just four starters, three on defense and one on offense. Coach Pat Kingman knows his young team will have to focus on the process of the season and not the results. ‘‘We can’t be outcome oriented,’’ Kingman said. ‘‘We have to be task oriented.’’ Versatile senior threat Brandon Hogan, a LB/WR/RB, and RB/S Isaiah Cobbs will be heavy lifters in the Sachems’ strong backfield.

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

Norwell

Coach: Mark Killinger (1st season)..

Last year’s record: 9-2.

Strengths: Strong senior class, veteran leadership.

Concerns: Offensive line depth, new offense/defense systems.

Offense: Wing T

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Coming off of a successful 9-2 season in which Norwell advanced to the second round of the state playoffs, the Clippers will be relying on their senior class to keep up the success. ‘‘We’re hoping to rely on a strong senior class that is built on strong leadership,’’ said first year coach Mark Killinger. ‘‘We’re striving to be one of the top teams in the [South Shore] league.’’ QB/DB Cal Smith, RB/LB John Stout and Ben Bostrom, OL/DL Declan Gore, Cole Casper and Jack Breare highlight the Clippers’ strong senior class on both offense and defense.

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

Old Rochester

Coach: Justin Kogler (4th season). Career: 43-23.

Last year’s record: 9-2.

Strengths: Experience at skill positions.

Concerns: Staying healthy, league schedule.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: After a 9-2 season and a loss to eventual state champion Middleboro in the sectional semifinal, ORR is returning 14 starters, seven on both sides of the ball. Senior RB Will Garcia (1,400 rushing yards, 21 TDs) and senior QB Cole McIntyre (400 rushing yards, four TDs) are back to lead a strong Bulldogs ground game. On defense, the Bulldogs return their top three tacklers, including senior linebacker Desmond Dias (55 tackles, three tackles for loss, one interception) and junior linebacker Cam Brezinski (76 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, two interceptions).

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., vs. Wareham

Rockland

Coach: Nick Liquori (2nd season). Career: 8-3.

Last year’s record: 8-3.

Strengths: Team speed, aggressiveness.

Concerns: Inexperience.

Offense: Double wing

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: With a successful 8-3 season in the rear-view mirror, Rockland is hoping to carry that success over to 2018. ‘‘We definitely want to build off of last year’s success,’’ said coach Nick Liquori. ‘‘We’re going to lean on the leadership of our returning starters.’’ Those returning starters are seniors QB/LB Dante Vasquez, OT/DE Codie Garcia, OG/DE Anthony DeCecco, and RB/DB Michael Eversole. Those four seniors are the Bulldogs’ only four returning starters and should prove vital to the team’s season.

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