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Division 3 high school football team previews

Coach Don Johnson and North Attleborough played in the Super Bowl last season.
Coach Don Johnson and North Attleborough played in the Super Bowl last season. (Debee Tlumacki for the Boston Globe)

Here is a look at each EMass football team in Division 3 heading into the 2018 season.

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DIVISION 3 NORTH

Arlington

Coach: Ryan Gendron (4th season). Career: 15-18.

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Experience

Concerns: Depth with underclassmen

Offense: Pistol

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Arlington is determined to avoid a similar dip to 2016, when a 3-8 finish followed a 6-5 campaign in coach Ryan Gendron’s first season. The Spy Ponders return two-year starter Adam Bowler, who has thrown for 2,465 yards and produced 933 more on the ground in his career, with 22 touchdown passes and 10 more rushing. Senior back Joey Pazzia and senior receiver Peter Roche as focal points of the offense. Pazzia and senior Leo Minniti are also leaders on the defensive line. Bowler, Pazzia and Minniti were all Middlesex League All-Stars in 2017. ‘‘We want to compete for a league championship and then we want to win as many playoff games as we can,’’ Gendron said. ‘‘I’d like to play all the way to Gillette [Stadium].’’

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

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Belmont

Coach: Yann Kumin (5th season). Career: 13-31.

Last year’s record: 2-9

Strengths: Offensive firepower

Concerns: Discipline on defense

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Coach Yann Kumin feels that his Marauders have a team minus any individual egos, which has led to a different energy in the locker room during the preseason. Belmont returns four two-way starters, seniors Sam Sagherian (guard/defensive end), Connor Shea (tackle/defensive end), Killian OConnell (running back/defensive back), and junior Derrick Brown (guard/defensive tackle). Other starters back include senior offensive tackle Jake Parsons, senior receiver Jared Edwards, senior linebacker Sam Harris and junior corner Justin Rocha. Junior quarterback Avery Arno is set to lead the offense in his first year as a starter. ‘‘We feel we’re a pretty well-kept secret,’’ Kumin said.

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

Beverly

Coach: Andrew Morency (3rd season). Career: 70-55 (including 10 years at Hamilton-Wenham).

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Tight end, size

Concerns: Schedule, depth at linebacker

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Two years removed from a sectional title, the Panthers have just two starters remaining from the state semifinalist squad: two-way end Bobby Adams and defensive end/running back Clayton McAlpine, each now a senior captain. Coach Andrew Morency hopes McAlpine, along with senior quarterback/receiver Ryan Barron, can create a potent one-two punch on offense. ‘‘Both have had tremendous offseasons and are looking to make a huge splash for their senior year,’’ Morency said. The key for Beverly? Improvement on third down defensively, an area in which the team struggled to get off the field in 2017. ‘‘A huge turnout and strong preseason has the team enthusiastic and driven,’’ Morency said.

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

Billerica

Coach: Duane Sigsbury (5th season). Career: 30-15.

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Team speed and athleticism

Concerns: Depth

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Eyeing a fourth consecutive playoff appearance under coach Duane Sigsbury, the Indians face a number of challenges. Billerica added nonleague contests against Bishop Feehan and Catholic Memorial in addition to their always-challenging trek through the Merrimack Valley Conference. The Indians have 12 seniors that played a role on the 2017 squad that reached the Division 3 North semifinals, including two-way linemen Travis Cole and Phil Xu. Sigsbury is also encouraged by the play of Mike Avery, a junior offensive lineman/linebacker, as well as junior receiver/defensive back Nick Gualtieri. ‘‘The Indians will need to use their overall team athleticism and speed to continue the program’s success and carry on the great tradition of Billerica football,’’ Sigsbury said.

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

Concord-Carlisle

Coach: Mike Robichaud (10th season). Career: 73-31.

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Offensive and defensive lines

Concerns: Depth and experience

Offense: Wing T

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Mike Robichaud said he likes what he has in the trenches, both offensively and defensively, spearheaded by captains DJ Jelin, Drew Freund and Reid Corliss. Junior linebackers Christian Gemelli and Cam Ladd, each in their second full year as starters, provide experience at the next level defensively. ‘‘Success this season is continued development of the team,’’ Robichaud said. ‘‘Transition from inexperienced to forged competitors through supreme effort and attitude in every practice and every game.’’ The Patriots have been eliminated in the first round of the postseason each of the last two years after an appearance in the D3 North final in 2015.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., vs. Oliver Ames

Danvers

Coach: Ryan Nolan (2nd season). Career: 6-5.

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Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Experience and versatility on offense

Concerns: Talented but inexperienced skill position players

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Matt McCarthy, a senior captain, produced 1,000-plus yards from scrimmage last fall for the Falcons, in addition to playing corner and safety on defense. He will continue to line up all over the field for Danvers, a squad with plenty of talent at the skill positions, many of whom lack experience. Senior captain Tom Walfield is a mainstay on both sides of the line for the Falcons. Coach Ryan Nolan said that success for Danvers starts on the line, and that includes tight end and fullback, along with the front seven on D. ‘‘Last year these groups were young, undersized and inexperienced and got pushed around by physical teams at times,’’ Nolan said. ‘‘Ninety percent of these players return this year with experience, year-round strength training, and a commitment to running the ball and stopping the run.’’

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

Lynn Classical

Coach: Brian Vaughan (2nd season). Career: 52-33 overall (including Pope John, Boston English).

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Experience, size and speed

Concerns: Depth

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Senior QB Keith Ridley (1,800 yards, 18 TD passes in 2017) is back to direct the attack for Classical after last year’s turnaround season. He welcomes back targets in senior Nashaun Butler, who hauled 88 catches for 1,000 yards last season, and Malcolm Best (997 yards receiving). The Rams also return nine of 11 starters on defense, including senior defensive back Chase Buono (98 tackles). Junior Kevin Paniagua (6-foot-2, 300 pounds) and senior John Fernandez (6-foot-2, 290 pounds) anchor the offensive and defensive lines for Classical. ‘‘For us to be successful, we must take it one day at a time and get better every day,’’ said second-year coach Brian Vaughan.

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

Lynn English

Coach: Chris Carroll (4th season). Career: 17-16.

Last year’s record: 10-1

Strengths: Skill positions and athleticism

Concerns: Youth in front seven and offensive line

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: English pulled off one of the more impressive turnarounds in the state last fall, from a 2-9 finish in 2016 to an unbeaten run to the Division 3 North final, a 22-18 loss to Tewksbury. Coach Chris Carroll has a four-year starter in senior quarterback Matt Severance to take English to the next level. Senior receiver Prince Brown, senior back Ishmile Bangura and sophomore receivers Mathias Fowler and Tahj Purter are the top targets on the perimeter. Senior Alex Brenes is the key cog on both lines. Carroll wants his team to play fast, especially since it will no longer be sneaking up on opponents. ‘‘In order for Lynn English to have a successful season, leaders need to emerge, and the team needs to play tough, physical football at max effort,’’ Carroll said.

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

Malden Catholic

Coach: Bryan Pinabell (1st season).

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: Skill positions, defensive backfield

Concerns: Controlling the line of scrimmage

Offense: Triple option

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Almost no program in Eastern Massachusetts underwent a change as radical as Malden Catholic in the offseason. MC dropped three of its four Catholic Conference foes from the schedule (only Catholic Memorial remains). The Lancers are 2-38 in the past 10 seasons against conference foes; the lone wins have come against CM. MC also has a new coach, Bryan Pinabell, a five-year assistant for former coach Jeff Smith. The East Boston native has previous head coaching experience at high schools in Georgia and Connecticut. MC will run primarily a triple-option offense featuring senior QB Will Ragucci, a three-year starter, along with backs Sean Kelley (senior), Jordan Kelley (junior) and Zeke Bragg (sophomore). Leonard St. Gourdin, a senior defensive back, is the Lancers top playmaker on D. Staying competitive in all our games, staying healthy and establishing a foundation for our younger programs, would constitute a successful season, Pinabell said.

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

Tewksbury

Coach: Brian Aylward (22nd season). Career: 138-85-1.

Last year’s record: 10-2

Strengths: Depth at key positions

Concerns: Inexperience

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Tewksbury advanced to the Division 3 state semifinals last year before falling to North Attleborough. If the Redmen are to make another deep postseason run, it’ll be on the arm of senior quarterback Jay Connolly, a Merrimack Valley Conference All-Star as a junior. In his career, Connolly has thrown for 2,400-plus yards and 27 touchdown passes, with just five interceptions. Seniors Trace Trant, Justyn Lester and Zach Weitz return to bolster the offensive front. Trant and fellow senior Jack Kelly are integral components of the defense at linebacker, as is senior defensive end Connor Nugent.

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

Winchester

Coach: Wally Dembowski (8th season). Career: 21-55.

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Offensive and defensive lines

Concerns: Experience at skill positions

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Sachems last fall. Quarterback Liam Fitzpatrick, since graduated, was sidelined for six games. And a skin rash forced 18 players out of the lineup for a Middlesex League game against Lexington. Winchester is turning the page to a bright new era, however, with permanent lights installed on its home field for the first time. Coach Wally Dembowski is also upbeat about Winchester’s size in the trenches -- the largest unit since he arrived. Senior captain Joe Lepore, s 6-foot, 225-pound left tackle/defensive end, is the anchor on both lines. ‘‘He’s the engine,’’ Dembowski said of the returning Middlesex League All-Star. ‘‘He plays with a motor every single play.’’ Seniors Brendan Curran,a running back/safety and receiver/safety Matt Romagna, are the other captains for the Sachems. Senior Tony Fiorentino will start at quarterback.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., vs. Newton South

DIVISION 3 SOUTH

Bishop Feehan

Coach: Gary Doherty (2nd season). Career: 105-136-2 (including 19 seasons at Framingham)..

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Offensive line, quarterback

Concerns: Depth at key positions

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Shamrocks won seven of their final eight games after an 0-3 start last season. Second-year coach Gary Doherty is determined to avoid another slow start. Tim D’Ambrosia is a three-year starter at quarterback for the Shamrocks and he’ll have plenty of weapons. Among his targets? Junior tight end Caleb Fauria son of former New England Patriot Christian Fauria and running back Rex Bruschi, yes, the son of Tedy Bruschi. Stan Koss, a 6-foot-1, 260-pound senior, is the anchor of the offensive line.

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

Duxbury

Coach: Dave Maimaron (14th season). Career: 137-39.

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Returning experience on offense

Concerns: Inexperience on defense

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Pretty much every season comes equipped with Super Bowl expectations in Duxbury, and this fall is no different. ‘‘It’s always the same, you’ve got to stay healthy and get a couple of bounces along the way,’’ coach Dave Maimaron said. The Dragons have all kinds of options on offense, with Colby College commit John Roberts at quarterback, senior Jack Jacobson and junior Will Prouty at wide receiver and Tim Landolfi at slotback. Roberts threw for 1,654 yards and 22 touchdown passes as a junior. Princeton-bound Quinn Murphy, a four-year starter, anchors the O line at 6-foot-6, 290 pounds. Linebacker Mike McCutcheon, another senior, is the heart and soul of the defense.

Season opener: Thursday, Sept. 6, 7 p.m., at Bridgewater-Raynham

Hingham

Coach: Jim Connor (1st season). Career: 34-20 at Norwell.

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Balance across the board

Concerns: Adjusting to a new system

Offense: Wing T

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: At 24, Jim Connor was once the youngest head coach the state. Now he is a seasoned vet after seven seasons at North Quincy and the past five at Norwell. The former Boston College lineman slides over to Hingham, where he’s tasked with taking the Harbormen to the next level after a run to the South semifinals last fall. Hingham boasts senior tight end/defensive end Spencer Cassell, who has committed to play football at Harvard, as well as senior quarterback Jack Johnson, whom Connor believes is another legitimate college prospect. Connor said that while no player on his squad will prompt an opponent to game plan specifically for the individual, he is hardpressed to find a weakness on the roster. ‘‘I don’t feel like we have to hide anybody,’’ Connor said.

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

Milford

Coach: Anthony Vizakis (2nd season). Career: 5-6.

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Quarterback, defensive backfield, size on both lines and toughness at running back

Concerns: Youth on both lines

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Scarlet Hawks received a sizable boost on the line from Kevin Pyne, a 6-foot-8, 275-pound tackle who attended Millis High as a freshman and sophomore. Pyne has offers from major Division 1 programs. Dana Olson, his former coach at Millis, is now the defensive coordinator at Milford. The Hawks return a number of key players, including senior quarterback Ryan Pearl, senior back Hugo Lopes and senior wide receivers Brendan White, Shapel Feaster and Sean Lehane. ‘‘We are looking to start fast and play physical,’’ coach Anthony Vizakis said. ‘‘We want to be the toughest team on the field on Friday nights, and if we remain healthy, we will be competitive in every game.’’

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

North Attleborough

Coach: Don Johnson (10th season). Career: 68-21.

Last year’s record: 11-2

Strengths: Experience in secondary, depth at skill positions

Concerns: New quarterback, depth on lines

Offense: Shotgun

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The bad news for North Attleborough? Who steps in for QB Chad Peterson, the Globe’s Division 3 Player of the Year last fall in directing NA to an 11-2 season and the Division 3 Super Bowl. The good news? Coach Don Johnson said that he has options. ‘‘We’ve got three guys there that offer us some different things, I’d be comfortable with either one of them,’’ Johnson said, listing seniors Nicholas Raneri and Luke LaBonte and sophomore Matt Penta. Raneri received a lot of touches in the backfield last season and starred on the D3 state championship baseball team last spring. Senior Ryan Clemente (6-foot-3, 285 pounds), who has verbally committed to play football at Sacred Heart, returns to anchor both lines, at right guard and nose tackle. Beyond Clemente, however, the only other returning lineman on either side of the ball is senior Jack Puccio. ‘‘We’re gonna need them to mature pretty quickly if we’re going to play at a championship level,’’ Johnson said of his linemen.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., vs. King Philip

Oliver Ames

Coach: Mike Holland (4th season). Career: 10-23.

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Skill positions on offense, linebacker

Concerns: Replacing defensive backfield, depth along both lines

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: OA closed last season with four straight wins, yielding 4.2 points per game -- punctuated by a pair of shutouts -- to produce the first winning season in coach Mike Holland’s tenure. The Tigers must replace three of four starters in the secondary; only junior safety Sam Stevens returns. Junior Cam Perron returns at quarterback after making five starts as a sophomore. He’ll have plenty of support from junior back Nathan Cabral, junior receivers Shane Kilkelly and Jake Erlich and junior tight end Evan Craig. ‘‘Our kids need to believe in themselves, trust their coaches, trust one another, and do what is necessary to put themselves in the position to win each game come crunch time,’’ he said.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., at Concord-Carlisle

Plymouth North

Coach: Kevin Cobban (7th season). Career: 34-31.

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Running game

Concerns: Team depth

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Snapping a two-year playoff drought starts in the offensive backfield for Plymouth North, where the Eagles boast the tandem of seniors Robbie Gomes and Johnell Fillipini. As a junior, Gomes had 21 total touchdowns. Senior quarterback Jeremy Whiting is also back under center for the Eagles. Defensively, North will rely on a trio of seniors in defensive end Matt Riordan and defensive backs Peter Haugh and Austin Nolan. The Eagles might not be far off from contention; of their eight losses in 2017, three were by 4 points or fewer. ‘‘We need to continue to develop a four-quarter team and a team that can finish games,’’ coach Kevin Cobban said.

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

Sharon

Coach: Dave Morse (8th season). Career: 31-48.

Last year’s record: 2-9

Strengths: Team speed

Concerns: Team depth

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Eagles failed to earn a win in league play last fall, but coach Dave Morse said Sharon could make a run at the Hockomock’s Davenport Division in 2018. No easy task, especially with reigning Division 3 runner-up North Attleboro in the fold. The Eagles will lean on a trio of seniors in receiver/defensive back Chris Gong, offensive lineman/linebacker Coleman Loftus and running back/defensive back Aaron Strong to return to prominence. The Eagles won an Eastern Mass. title as recently as 2012, but haven’t been to the postseason since 2015.

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

Stoughton

Coach: Greg Burke (26th season). Career: 174-109-4.

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Team speed

Concerns: Lack of experience

Offense: Wing T

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: With the new school still under construction, the Black Knights will be taking their game on the road for the second straight season. There will be two ‘home games’ at Stonehill College, and two more at Canton High. Coach Greg Burke expects to play both junior George Currier and sophomore John Burke at quarterback following the transfer of last year’s starter. Stoughton returns experienced players on the defensive side of the ball, including linebackers Malachi Green and Alex Iverson and defensive backs Cian Swierzewski and Josh Cocchi. Jeff Grier slides from free safety over to corner. Matt Piana and Evan Jackman are the keys up front defensively. Burke’s biggest concern is developing players beyond his defensive stalwarts. ‘‘You’re only as good as your backups,’’ Burke said. ‘‘If you don’t play ‘em or practice ‘em, you just can’t compete.’’

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

Walpole

Coach: Chris Sullivan (1st season).

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Athleticism at skill positions

Concerns: Depth at linebacker

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: A 2000 alum, Chris Sullivan takes the helm of a Rebel program coming off its first season under .500 since 2003. ‘‘We need to start faster and never take the foot off the gas,’’ said Sullivan, a 12-year assistant at Walpole, the past eight under Barry Greener. ‘‘We got down in a lot of games last year and we didn’t have that kind of team that could fight their way back. They’d give it their all, but at the end of the day, it would be not enough.’’ He has named junior Will Jarvis, a starting safety last season, as the starting quarterback. Also, senior Patrick Kearns, a two-time Bay State Conference All-Star on the line, has been shifted to tight end. Sullivan said that the Rebels are green at linebacker and need to start getting better at reads and tackling.

Season opener: Saturday, Sept. 8, 2:30 p.m., at Norwood

Whitman-Hanson

Coach: Mike Driscoll (8th season). Career: 39-37-1.

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Team speed, skill positions, defensive line

Concerns: Depth along offensive line and linebacker

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Panthers have eight of their 11 starters back on both offense and defense, including six players entering their third season as starters. Quarterback Ethan Phelps (2,500 total yards, 32 TDs as a junior), linebacker Mike Connors, defensive lineman Quinn Sweeney, offensive lineman Ryan Trongone and wide receivers Rian Schwede and Jacob Nixon will put W-H in position to compete for the Patriot League’s Keenan Division title, according to coach Mike Driscoll. The Panthers have made the playoffs in four straight seasons but have yet to advance out of the first round under the statewide format instituted in 2013.

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