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2017 Division 2 high school football previews

Globe Staff 

Here is a look at each EMass football team in Division 2 heading into the 2017 season.

DIVISION 2 NORTH

Cambridge

Coach: Roy Howard (1st season). Career: 0-0.

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Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Skilled positions.

Concerns: Inexperience.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

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Outlook: Roy Howard becomes the head of the Cambridge program, moving up from his assistant position. The Falcons have a strong group of young players coming back that includes quarterback Javon Harden, Andrew Anilus (WR), Jimmy Dorielan (RB), and Tariq Lucona (WR/CB). ‘‘Our goal has always been to just compete and learn on and off the football field,’’ said Howard, whose team will begin its fourth season competing in the Dual County League.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., at Arlington

Chelmsford

Coach: Dave Kaizer (2nd season). Career: 4-7.

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: Front 7 on defense, skill positions and kicking.

Concerns: Inexperience on offensive line.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: In his first year at the helm, coach Dave Kaizer saw vast improvement from August to November. With a number of starters at skill positions returning there is potential for even more improvement this season. ‘‘Our team goal is to go 1-0 every week, 1-0 every day and 1-0 every play,’’ said Kaizer. Sal Lupoli returns as a senior in the backfield and at linebacker for the Lions while senior Jack Slattery and Chris Bungard anchor a strong defensive line. The veteran leadership of Matt Hooton under center could be just the ingredient for a successful year.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., at Acton-Boxborough

Lincoln-Sudbury

Coach: Tom Lopez (40th season). Career: 283-122-4..

Last year’s record: 9-2

Strengths: Lineman on both sides of the ball.

Concerns: Inexperience.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: A strong sophomore and junior class has the Warriors hopeful for another successful season. Losing a three-year starter like Danny Ryan is never easy to replace but Lopez is confident in his 40th season there is someone who can step up. Harrison Gross at defensive end, 6-foot-3-inch, 265-pound Cal Kenney on the line, and James Dillon at running back and linebacker will play a key role for L-S.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., vs. Dighton-Rehoboth

Masconomet

Coach: Gavin Monagle (3rd season). Career: Career 69-66-2 (10-12 at Masco)..

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Tremendous group of players. Experienced line, receivers, and defense.

Concerns: A challenging schedule that begins with Melrose and ends with Everett.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Even with a difficult schedule, Monagle feels between the league and the experiences of playing Billerica, Tewksbury, and Waltham in the playoffs last year, the Chieftains are prepared for the new alignment in Division 2 and the challenges ahead. ‘‘Our biggest goal is to keep improving. Our league is very competitive, and four teams have won a piece of the title in the past two seasons,’’ Monagle said.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., at Melrose

Medford

Coach: Jason Nascimento (6th season). Career: 10-32..

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Senior leaders.

Concerns: Difficult schedule.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: On a positive note for the Mustangs, they improved their win total by two games last season, despite having to line up against eventual Division 1 Super Bowl champion Everett. This year, playing in the Notheastern Conference, there is even more hope for improvement with a good number of players returning. The loss of Ben Antoine on the offense hurts after the star player finished second in Division 2 with 26 total touchdowns. ‘‘We graduated a lot of experience last year and we will have a lot of young guys that will need to step right in,’’ said Nascimento. ‘‘We have taken a few new approaches to the way we teach it so hopefully it translates.’’

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., at Lynn Classical

Newton South

Coach: Ted Dalicandro (12th season). Career: 35-86..

Last year’s record: 2-9

Strengths: Skill positions.

Concerns: Depth and experience.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Being bumped up to Division 1 last year, along with losing a number of key role players, was a bad recipe for a Newton South football team that won only two games. This year the Lions move to Division 2 and the Dual County League Small, a much better fit. Senior wideouts Lucas Lopes and Lejaun Pope return as threats in the passing game. ‘‘Offensively we could be explosive if we can get the ball into our athletes hands in space,’’ said Dalicandro.

Season opener: Saturday, Sept. 9, 2:30 p.m., vs. Winchester

North Andover

Coach: John Dubzinski (3rd season). Career: 33-33 overall. 10-12 at NA..

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: Skill positions and kicking game.

Concerns: Depth at offensive and defensive line.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Scarlet Knights are returning 10 starters from last year across the board and in Dubzinkski’s third season with the reigns they are looking to raise the bar. Junior quarterback Jake McElroy returns with fellow classmate Darren Watson and senior Chikeziri Ogwuru behind him in the backfield. ‘‘We are setting high goals like winning the MVC and winning games in the playoffs,’’ said Dubzinski. ‘‘But in order to do that we need to put our big boy pants on and embrace the commitment it takes to be a good football team.’’

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., vs. Woburn

Peabody

Coach: Marc Bettencourt (5th season). Career: 22-22..

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Experience at skill positions.

Concerns: Depth

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Tanners played a devastating schedule last season, finishing 5-6. A positive point differential of +44 and group of returning veteran players means this could be a successful season for coach Matt Bettencourt, in his fifth year on the sidelines. Senior Eric DeMayo (MLB/FB) shines in a talented defense that only gave up 14.5 points per game last season. Noah Freedman (RB) and Sam Mastromatteo (WR) will be difficult to stop on offense as well.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., at Somerville

Reading

Coach: John Fiore (14th season). Career: 111-39.

Last year’s record: 8-4

Strengths: Experience, tradition, work ethic, and running game.

Concerns: Inexperience at a lot of key positions.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Rockets are coming off from yet another Super Bowl run and many key players return who know how to win. Missing Middlesex League All-Star quarterback Corey DiLoreto won’t derail the success as senior Matt Panacopoulos steps into the spotlight with experience already under his belt - throwing a touchdown pass in last season’s Super Bowl loss to King Philip. With senior running back Jack Geiger returning to the backfield and a defense anchored by Pat Conroy and Zack Riffe, a third-straight trip to Gillette might be in store.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., vs. Wakefield

Waltham

Coach: John Bourque (7th season). Career: 32-31..

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Leadership.

Concerns: Difficult schedule.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: It was a bounce back year for the Hawks after finishing only 3-7 the year before. Still in the competitive Dual County Large and now in the new alignment being in a deep Division 2 North, John Bourque and his squad have their work cut out in 2017. Kyle Torres (WR) will hopefully join with Nick Caliri (RB) and continue to create a consistent offensive attack that averaged 20.2 points per game last fall.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., vs. Newton North

Westford

Coach: Pat Gendron (1st season). Career: 0-0..

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: A good group of leaders.

Concerns: Depth.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: ‘‘The kids are fired up. Everything is positive and everything is going well,’’ said first-year coach Pat Gendron, who has a talented group of seniors who have stepped forward to lead the younger players in camp. Receiver Tyler Blagg is a threat on the outside with junior Cam Barisano at QB. Richard Haggerty and Scott Beattie anchor the defensive backfield, and John Sturrock is stout at the line of scrimmage.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., at Dracut

Woburn

Coach: Jack Belcher (1st season). Career: 77-62 over 13 years..

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Skill positions.

Concerns: Proper practice intensity.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The curtain closed on Rocky Nelson’s storied career at Woburn High with a 6-5 record last season, and now in steps Jack Belcher to take over for the coaching legend. ‘‘I grew up in Stoneham so I remember Woburn football - one of the powerhouses of Eastern Mass. for a long time,’’ said Belcher. ‘‘The last 10 years Woburn High is 49-47, and I think we need to be a lot better than a .500 team relatively quickly. We are looking to compete for the league title every year.’’ Belcher will have a large number of talented seniors at his disposal in his first year. Eli Ibrahimi, Ryan Getherall, Nelson Claude, Dustin Burkle and Bishop Fenwick transfer Isaiah Cashwell-Doe will be a fun group to watch on both sides of the ball.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., at North Andover

DIVISION 2 SOUTH

Barnstable

Coach: Chris Whidden (7th season). Career: 39-28..

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Experience at skill positions.

Concerns: Inexperience on defensive front.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The main goal for coach Chris Whidden and his Red Raiders’ squad is simple: Outperform their ability. Senior center and linebacker Lou Cocozza will be heavily leaned on up front while Zeb Tilton (WR/DB), Sam Rosen (WR/DB), and Ryan Welsh (RB/DB) are dangerous offensive weapons. Early in camp Whidden said, ‘‘we are still in the determining phase of what we actually are going to be.’’

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 6 p.m., at Dennis-Yarmouth

Braintree

Coach: Brian Chamberlain (7th season). Career: 27-39..

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Speed and athleticism.

Concerns: Lack of experience.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Wamps enter the season having graduating 27 seniors from last year’s team, but coach Brian Chamberlain believes this won’t affect the program and its progress one bit. ‘‘We have some good football players that are going to win,’’ Chamberlain said. ‘‘If we keep progressing the way we have been we should be okay.’’ Zach Harris makes the switch from running back to quarterback, giving Braintree an extra ingredient of explosiveness offensively with Billy Silvia now in the backfield. Leading them up front will be 6-7, 300-pound senior Trumayne Guy.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., vs. Quincy

Bridgewater-Raynham

Coach: Dan Buron (25th season). Career: 185-77-2.

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Experience at skill positions.

Concerns: Difficult schedule.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Trojans’ schedule might be one of the toughest in all of Eastern Mass. A season opener at Duxbury (Sept. 8), followed up by a trip to Xaverian (Sept. 15) and a date later in the season at St. John’s Prep (Oct. 20) are only a few of the challenges Dan Buron’s squad will face. The loss of all-everything running back Shawn Noel Jr. hurts, but with Corey Sullivan back under center - and a good core of new tailbacks - the offense should be a fun one to watch once again.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., at Duxbury

Durfee

Coach: Taylor Brown (4th season). Career: 13-20.

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Strong nucleus of returning players.

Concerns: Depth at offensive and defensive lines.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: After consecutive 4-7 finishes, the Durfee program improved to a 5-6 record last season in coach Taylor Brown’s third season at the helm. The Hilltoppers find themselves in another competitive Big 3 race but Brown feels the group he has is ready for the challenge. ‘‘It will be important for this team to get off to a good start,’’ Brown said. ‘‘The last few years we have finished strong, this year we will look to start strong and to finish even stronger.’’ Quarterback Latrell Canto returns at quarterback as a junior while linebacker Lucas Roque anchors the defense coming off from a 100-plus tackle season last year.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., vs. Somerset Berkley

King Philip

Coach: Brian Lee (13th season). Career: 76-14..

Last year’s record: 12-0

Strengths: Returning players at skill positions.

Concerns: Graduated whole offensive and defensive line.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: An undefeated season that included a D1A Super Bowl title at Gillette makes Brian Lee and his King Philip team one of the premier programs in Division 2. ‘‘We expect to compete and work hard,’’ said Lee. ‘‘We are in a really tough league and if you are not ready to play you could be looking at 0-4 real fast. Last year is over and you don’t get any extra points for it.’’ Quarterback Brendan Lydon returns as a senior along with running back Shane Frommer. Wideouts David Morganelli, Aidan Bender, and Thomas Madden will create great speed for the reigning state champions offensively.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., vs. North Attleborough

Mansfield

Coach: Mike Redding (30th season). Career: 236-80-4.

Last year’s record: 8-2

Strengths: Skill players returning.

Concerns: Inexperience on offensive and defensive lines.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: A loss to Marshfield in the playoffs last year ended what was a promising season for the Hornets. With 12 starters returning from that team, Redding believes this team could be a tough out in the new aligned Division 2. ‘‘Preseason has been very good so far with a great work ethic so we are excited about the season,’’ said Redding. Joe Cox (RB/OLB) and Hunter Ferreira (WR/OLB) both return as three-year starters. Even with an inexperienced line on both sides of the ball, senior Will Shield (6-foot-2, 275 pounds) and junior Colbey Eason (6-foot-2, 260 pounds) should be solid up front.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., vs. Walpole

Marshfield

Coach: Lou Silva (37th season). Career: 236-144-7.

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Veteran team.

Concerns: Depth.

Offense: Wing T

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Time will tell if Lou Silva’s 37th season at the helm of the Rams is his final. With the talent returning Marshfield most certainty has a chance to send the legendary coach out on top. An All-Scholastic as a junior last season, running back and safety Jack McNeil is back from having rushed for 21 touchdowns and more than 1,000 yards in 2016, and notching 74 tackles. Jackson Phinney is under center again having started every game for the Rams as a sophomore and his younger brother Casey Phinney is a breakout player to watch defensively at middle linebacker. ‘‘First goal is to win the league,’’ Silva said. ‘‘Then, have a good showing in the playoffs and see what we are made of.’’

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., at Cranston West (R.I.)

Natick

Coach: Mark Mortarelli (8th season). Career: 57-22.

Last year’s record: 9-2

Strengths: Experience.

Concerns: Depth.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Red Hawks put together a strong campaign in a tough Bay State Conference last season. With a handful of experience and seniors coming back, Mortarelli is confident that this year will be much of the same. ‘‘We have a lot of guys who understand the system,’’ Mortarelli said. Malik Williams (RB), Christian D’Antonio (QB), Peter Ryan (FS), and Tim Ramstrom (OLB) are the team’s senior captains, anchoring a veteran Natick group.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., vs. Needham

New Bedford

Coach: Mark DeBrito (4th season). Career: 13-20.

Last year’s record: 1-10

Strengths: Deep at skill positions.

Concerns: Still have some growing up to do.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: With only 10 seniors on the roster, the Whalers will be learning heavily on a group of young, talented underclassmen in coach Mark DeBrito’s fourth season. Tru Williams is a returning starter under center and Nigel Palmer, off from an impressive 16 touchdown freshman campaign, is back at running back. Barron Hilton makes the move from tailback last season to wide receiver where he will add an extra threat on the outside. Colby McCoy, a 6-foot-4, 265-pound senior transfer, joins senior captain Edgar Semendo as a veteran presence on the squad. Sophomore lineman Eric Dosenburg (6-4, 265) plugs into the middle on both sides of the ball.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., at Taunton

Quincy

Coach: Bill Reardon (10th season). Career: 39-59..

Last year’s record: 0-11

Strengths: Experience.

Concerns: Depth on offensive line.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: ‘‘We are about the work we have put in, and we are a better team than we were last year,’’ said coach Bill Reardon, who will be entering his 10th season for the Presidents. A group of experienced senior captains in Shorn Hawthorne (WR/S) and Dominic Laptiste (WR) will contribute significantly on offense with junior Colin Keaveny slinging the ball to them. Brian Nguyen (RB/LB) and lineman Jamel Williams should be key factors in determining if Quincy can bounce back.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., at Braintree

Wellesley

Coach: Jesse Davis (6th season). Career: 35-21.

Last year’s record: 10-1

Strengths: Offensive line and quarterback.

Concerns: Experience.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Jack Tishman was one of the most dazzling arms in all of the state last season, leading Division 1A with a total of 16 touchdown passes. Returning as a senior, he has to help lead a core group of players who do not have much experience playing at the varsity level. ‘‘Had a great off season. Players are physically ready for the season,’’ said coach Jesse Davis, who is entering his sixth season for the Raiders.

Season opener: Saturday, Sept. 9, 3 p.m., vs. Concord-Carlisle