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Tri-Valley League 2016 high school football preview

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Ashland

Playoff alignment: Division 3 South

Coach: Andrew MacKay (6th season). Career: 26-29.

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Senior leadership, skill positions

Concerns: Inexperience, line play

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: With the graduation of a number of league all-stars, the Clockers will be counting heavily on this year’s senior class. And coach Andrew MacKay believes that they are more than capable. ‘‘We’re really excited,’’ MacKay said. ‘‘A lot of these seniors have waited their turn, they’re fantastic kids -- they were just behind some pretty good players for awhile.’’ Senior running back Colin Hanrahan is poised to break the school’s rushing record this season after a 1,500-yard season a year ago. First team TVL all-star Joe Schelling is a major target at receive. But with Mitch Porter now at Bentley, junior Don Jones and senior Kyle Walsh are competing for the starting spot at QB.

Bellingham

Playoff alignment: Division 3A South

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Coach: Dan Haddad (2d season). Career: Career: 3-8.

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Athleticism

Concerns: Inexperience

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Blackhawks are primed to compete in a tough league this season following a disappointing season in 2015. Coach Dan Haddad noted his team’s athleticism, headlined by senior back Zach Levy, who piled up nearly 2,000 all-purpose yards a season ago. Calling Levy the ‘‘cornerstone,’’ Haddad noted that there are a number of complementary pieces to Levy that the team didn’t have last year. ‘‘We were big and heavy last year and we just weren’t athletic,’’ Haddad said. Senior quarterback John Reed returns to run the offense, and in his second season at the helm, Haddad expects great improvement. ‘‘Last year put a really bad taste in their mouths in the sense they wanted more, and now they’re willing to work for it,’’ he said.

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Dover-Sherborn

Playoff alignment: Division 3A South

Coach: Brad Pindel (3d season). Career: 12-10.

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Senior leadership

Concerns: Depth

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Though the Raiders lost 18 players to graduation, they return a number of starters at key positions. coach Brad Pindel will rely heavily on the leadership provided by his four senior captains: safety Sam Hennessey, linebacker Adam Pollock, running back Jeremy Craig, and tight end Jack Mahoney. ‘‘They’ve done a great job,’’ Pindel said. ‘‘The work ethic and excitement they brought should really help us in the beginning.’’ Also returning is senior quarterback Eric Levine, who threw for over 1,200 yards last year despite missing some time due to injury. ‘‘We want to be competitive in every game,’’ Pindel said. ‘‘Our goal is to go out and compete every down, and if we do that we should have a solid season and win more games than we lose.’’

Holliston

Playoff alignment: Division 3 South

Coach: Todd Kiley (14th season). Career: 116-35.

Last year’s record: 12-1 (Division 4 champion)

Strengths: Leadership, offensive line

Concerns: Depth

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: With a 24-2 mark the past two seasons, and an accomplished group of seniors returning, the Panthers will be on the prowl again. The Division 4 Super Bowl champions will be led by senior quarterback Jack Barrett, a Globe All-Scholastic. ‘‘He’s just one of those kids that makes great decisions and has a lot of composure, good qualities to have for someone that the rest of the team looks to,’’ said coach Todd Kiley. With six starters returning on offense and five on defense, the Panthers are poised for success once again. Senior captain Sam Ratcliffe is a mainstay in the backfield.

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Hopkinton

Playoff alignment: Division 2 South

Coach: Jim Girard (7th season). Career: 53-35 (42-24 at Hopkinton).

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Enthusiasm, team speed

Concerns: Depth, inexperience

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Hillers graduated 20 seniors, including its star power, from last year’s 6-5 squad. This fall, they will rely on team speed, especially on defense, and a talented collection of receivers. Senior Jimmy Adams takes over at quarterback, and coach Jim Girard says there should be a deep stable of backs. The offensive threats include junior Will Abbott, Matt Lindquist, Shane Cooney, and Nick Stanley. ‘‘We feel like we should be a competitive football team,’’ Girard said. ‘‘The Tri-Valley League is a grind, very well-coached, and our kids know the type of competition they’ll see.’’

Medfield

Playoff alignment: Division 2A South

Coach: Erik Ormberg (6th season). Career: 20-35.

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Skill positions, especially deep at wide receiver

Concerns: Inexperience, offensive line

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Despite a disappointing finish in 2015, the Warriors are determined to improve this season leaning on on a good stable of juniors and seniors. ‘‘We’d like to be .500 or better in the league, and make the playoffs,’’ coach Erik Ormberg said, citing the team’s leadership. Junior Ryan Eamer will start at QB, but Medfield must develop a receiver to fill the void left by John Williams, who was a constant threat a year ago. ‘‘We think that this year we have four or five legitimate receivers so our opponents won’t have to focus on taking one of them away, depth, and a quarterback that can get the ball out to all sides of the field,’’ Ormberg said. The receiving corp will include senior James Voss, a 6-foot-7, 240-pound tight end, and sophomore Mitchell Gosner.

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Medway

Playoff alignment: Division 3 South

Coach: Chris Baker (1st season). Career: First year.

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: Depth, character

Concerns: New coaching staff

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: A former assistant at Franklin, where he was the offensive coordinator, freshman, and junior varsity coach, Chris Baker takes the helm of a Mustang program that has depth and a strong senior class. ‘‘We have to do our best for the kids in order for them to get acclimated to us,’’ Baker said of his coaching staff. ‘‘We have to get them tough, physical, and playing without thinking.’’ Justin Pratt, Dylan Brodeur, and Cam Conley are competing for the starting quarterback position, but Baker expects that whoever takes the jobs will be determined and gritty. The Mustangs will rely heavily on senior captains Dylan Ehrmanntraut, a returning league all-star who will run the defense, and Pat Travers.

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Millis

Playoff alignment: Division 4A South

Coach: Dana Olson (3d season). Career: 15-7.

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Athleticism, speed

Concerns: Depth, injuries

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: It’s all about consistency for the Mohawks. The team advanced to the Division 6 South final for the third straight season before falling to Mashpee, 22-20. ‘‘We’ve had a nice run, and it looks like we’re going to keep it going -- it’s just all about depth and staying away from injury,’’ coach Dana Olson said. Though the Mohawks graduated Globe All-Scholastic back Josh Pierre-Charles (now at Nichols), they have two capable backs with juniors Dom Zonfrelli and Kurt Hopkins. ‘‘I don’t think we’ll miss a beat in our running game,’’ Olson said. ‘‘We’ve been pretty blessed since I’ve been here at Millis, we’ve had three unbelievable backs.’’ Look for the Mohawks to have a bit more of a balanced offensive attack this year, thanks to junior Brian Espanet (a UMaine recruit) on the receiving end of tosses from from classmate Bryce Latosek.

Norton

Playoff alignment: Division 3 South

Coach: Tim McCarthy (3d season). Career: 12-10.

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Team speed, defense

Concerns: Depth, inexperience at skill positions

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The first order of business: replacing the production of Justin Ireland, the Tri-Valley Small Offensive Player of the Year who graduated as the school’s all-time leading rusher. ‘‘We don’t have a guy that will run as physical as Ireland, but we have guys that are just as quick,’’ coach Tim McCarthy said. Seniors Andrew Raneri and Ben Combs will take most of the carries. In addition to a new backfield, the Lancers will turn over the offense to sophomore quarterback Tyler Elliott. ‘‘He’s tough and he runs our offense well,’’ McCarthy said. Returning five starters on offense and six on defense, Norton will rely on its speed and defense to help carry the program m toward another successful season.

Westwood

Playoff alignment: Division 2A South

Coach: Ed Mantie (6th season). Career: 38-18.

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Experience

Concerns: Depth

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Wolverines averaged 26.5 points per game in an eight-win season a year ago. Coach Ed Mantie’s squad returns 14 starters, including six seniors who have been playing at the varsity level since their sophomore year. Although Globe All-Scholastic quarterback Brendan Patterson is now suiting up at Wesleyan, Westwood will rely on its experience. Junior Reed Wilson is expected to step in at QB, but junior Jake Antonucci and sophomore Eli Maroun are still in the running. On defense, Conor McCaul will seize a leading role. ‘‘Defensively we have a lot of guys coming back in the right places, linebacker-wise and secondary-wise,’’ Mantie said.