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    2017 Division 7 high school football previews

    Here is a look at each EMass football team in Division 7 heading into the 2017 season.

    DIVISION 7 NORTH

    Brighton

    Coach: Randolph Abraham (6th season). Career: Career: 36-18.

    Last year’s record: 10-1

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    Strengths: Senior leadership

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    Concerns: Young offensive line

    Offense: Spread

    Playing surface: Artificial turf

    Outlook: The Bengals averaged 32.2 points per game in 2016 and, unfortunately for opposing defenses, head coach Randolph Abraham will return most of his offensive firepower. Seniors William Jean, Jerrod Clark, and Erick Brown combined for 36 touchdowns from the skill positions, and junior quarterback Patrick Bynoe has secured the starting quarterback spot. Abraham said his defense is a well-tested unit, with four returning starters. He said the offensive line is a potential area of concern, but added that the young group is eager to prove themselves.

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    Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 6:30 p.m., vs. North Reading

    Chelsea

    Coach: Jack Halas (3rd season). Career: Record: 6-16.

    Last year’s record: 4-8

    Strengths: Offensive and defensive lines

    Concerns: Finding a quarterback

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    Offense: Spread

    Playing surface: Artificial turf

    Outlook: Looking to improve on last year’s 4-8 record, coach Jack Halas feels his team is well prepared to win the battle in the trenches this season. ‘‘Our offensive and defensive lines are pretty good,’’ he said. ‘‘They’re young, but they’re good.’’ He also says he has faith in his front seven; his team will play a base 4-3, and senior defensive linemen Ronnie Buford and Rafael Reyes will be important in that scheme. Running backs Zach Leo and David Bui return to bolster the offensive backfield, but the Red Devils still need to figure out their starting quarterback situation in order to fire on all cylinders.

    Season opener: Saturday, Sept. 16, 10:30 a.m., at Northeast

    East Boston

    Coach: John Parziale (8th season). Career: Career: 42-32.

    Last year’s record: 5-6

    Strengths: Depth

    Concerns: Finding a quarterback

    Offense: Multiple

    Playing surface: Artificial turf

    Outlook: The Jets return senior running back Brandon Ortega, who figures to be a critical component in an offense that must replace running back Joel Pastrana and quarterback Jeff Benzan. Fellow senior Javier Arruda could be in line for more carries, and junior wideout Kasey Vasquez will give the team an outside threat. ‘‘We have some holes, our biggest one is we need to find a quarterback,’’ said head coach John Parziale. Parziale said that while finding a quarterback is his team’s top priority, he also has some concerns about filling out his offensive line. Seniors David Capone and Anthony Macias will be relied upon to provide veteran leadership in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

    Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 6 p.m., at New Mission

    Georgetown

    Coach: Eric McCarthy (3rd season). Career: Career: 7-14.

    Last year’s record: 6-4

    Strengths: Skill positions

    Concerns: Young offensive line

    Offense: Multiple

    Playing surface: Artificial turf

    Outlook: Coach Eric McCarthy has the Royals poised for success this season. Senior quarterback Tommy Long is back to lead the offense and his receiving corps features classmate Jimmy Sherman and talented junior Hunter Lane. Also in the fold is senior running back Mark Mansfield, who McCarthy calls ‘‘a very athletic and very strong’’ presence in the backfield. But where skill positions are a strength, the offensive line remains a work in progress. ‘‘We have a lot of youth and inexperience,’’ McCarthy said of the unit, pointing out that his team had to replace four starters. But McCarthy feels good about his offense as a whole and believes his team will be strong. ‘‘We’re looking to take the next step as a program,’’ he said.

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

    Greater Lawrence

    Coach: Tony Sarkis (12th season). Career: Career: 85-57.

    Last year’s record: 7-4

    Strengths: Offensive continuity

    Concerns: Youth

    Offense: Spread

    Playing surface: Grass

    Outlook: Greater Lawrence returns three fifths of its starting offensive line in juniors Giovanni Covino, Michelette Vargas and senior Malib Pastrana, a CAC all-star last season. Another key will be fellow senior all-star David White, who will be shooting through gaps on both sides of the ball as a running back and linebacker. On offense, quarterback Kyle Vasconcellos graduated, so the Reggies might turn to junior Jose Caceres to fill the void. With just six returning starters overall, coach Tony Sarkis will have to plug any holes with new blood, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

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

    Latin Academy

    Coach: Rocco Zizza (10th season). Career: Career: 59-38.

    Last year’s record: 8-3

    Strengths: Defense

    Concerns: Finding a quarterback

    Offense: Power I

    Playing surface: Grass

    Outlook: The Dragons graduated quarterback John Teehan and most of his offensive linemen, and coach Rocco Zizza knows his defense may need to pick his team up this season. ‘‘The defense right now is much further ahead than our offense,’’ he said. ‘‘We have a lot of returning starters on defense.’’ While the team will need to implement some new components to its I-Formation offense, Zizza offered reasons for hope on that side of the ball. ‘‘We’ve got a couple of basketball players that haven’t played before that could put some pressure on defenses,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re raw and inexperienced, but talented.’’

    Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 6 p.m., vs. Cathedral

    Lowell Catholic

    Coach: Jason Houston (3rd season). Career: Career: 28-38.

    Last year’s record: 6-5

    Strengths: Quarterback, offensive line

    Concerns: Other skill positions

    Offense: Multiple

    Playing surface: Artificial turf

    Outlook: Head coach Jason Houston and returning CCL Small Offensive Player of the Year Austin Wentzel, a senior, have designs on improving upon last year’s 6-5 record. Aiding that effort will be an offensive line featuring five players with varsity starting experience, including Patrick Canney and Owen Kelley, the CCL Small Offensive Lineman of the Year. ‘‘Our skill positions were hit hard by graduation and we will be young and inexperienced, although we have some talent there,’’ Houston said. He added that the team will have to contend with the departure of several key pieces on the defensive line among seven graduated two-way starters.

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

    Manchester Essex

    Coach: Jeff Hutton (3rd season). Career: Career: 11-11.

    Last year’s record: 5-6

    Strengths: Experience

    Concerns: Depth

    Offense: Multiple

    Playing surface: Artificial turf

    Outlook: Third-year coach Jeff Hutton thinks his team can outdo last year’s 6-5 mark. ‘‘If we can survive our league, we should be battle tested for the playoffs, if we can get in,’’ he said. Working against them will be the limitations of being a smaller school, with the Hutton citing a turnout of just 30 players this season. One of those athletes will need to fill the Hornets’ quarterback vacancy. However, the team does return its entire backfield and offensive line, and those two units will stabilize the offense as it integrates a new quarterback.

    Season opener: Saturday, Sept. 9, 10:30 a.m., at Northeast

    Mystic Valley

    Coach: Jason DeMartino (1st season). Career: First year.

    Last year’s record: 8-3

    Strengths: Senior talent

    Concerns: Depth

    Offense: Spread

    Playing surface: Artificial turf

    Outlook: The Eagles welcome first-year coach Jason Demartino, and his transition will be eased by the presence of a strong group of seniors. Quarterback Philippe Guerrier will be joined by wide receiver Isaiah Granderso, with Alex Morrisett, in the backfield. ‘‘With our senior leadership and some solid juniors we should be able to produce,’’ DeMartino said. DeMartino thinks his team is up to the challenge of following up last year’s conference title, but added that a lot of young players will need to step up to match that result.

    Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., at Nashoba Valley Tech

    O’Bryant

    Coach: Kevin Gadson (10th season). Career: Career: 65-31.

    Last year’s record: 9-2

    Strengths: Cohesion

    Concerns: Replacing graduated seniors

    Offense: Multiple

    Playing surface: Artificial turf

    Outlook: Despite a dominant 9-2 season last year, head coach Kevin Gadson speaks humbly of this year’s team. ‘‘We had some really good people who stood out,’’ he said of last season’s roster. ‘‘Our work is cut out for us because we gotta find a way to replace them.’’ Senior Jardel Fernandes is expected to be a force on both sides of the line for the Tigers. ‘‘We’re looking for some big things from him in terms of being a leader,’’ Gadson said. On offense, Gadson also highlighted Amarj Alexander, a lightning-quick track star who will be used all over the field, and junior Emmanuel Exilhomme.

    Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 6 p.m., at Boston English

    St. Mary’s

    Coach: Matt Durgin (10th season). Career: Career: 159-73.

    Last year’s record: 11-1

    Strengths: Skill positions

    Concerns: Offensive line, depth

    Offense: Double wing

    Playing surface: Artificial turf

    Outlook: The Spartans road to victory will be paved by senior Calvin Johnson, the reigning Catholic Central Large MVP. He led Division 3A last season with 31 touchdowns and racked up more than 2,000 all-purpose yards. This year, he’ll be the team’s quarterback in a double wing offense, with classmate William Brumfield among the running backs who will flank him in the backfield. The offensive line remains a work in progress for coach Matt Durgin. ‘‘We had some good kids up front last year, so we have some new faces there,’’ he said. ‘‘As soon as they mature, they’ll be better.’’

    Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 5 p.m., vs. Saugus

    DIVISION 7 SOUTH

    Abington

    Coach: James M. Kelliher (44th season). Career: Career: 267-186-10.

    Last year’s record: 6-5

    Strengths: Returning seniors, linebackers.

    Concerns: Offensive line, depth.

    Offense: Wing T

    Playing surface: Grass

    Outlook: With a team on the young side, the Green Wave will lean on their experienced seniors to start the season. Senior quarterback Jack Maguire returns for a team that reached the Division 4A South semifinals last season. Maguire will have seniors Brian Cashman and Kyle Rogers as returning targets. Coach James Kelliher said senior Ethan Curtin will be among players to watch as a wideout that has developed into a well-rounded talent. Seniors Garrett Porter (guard) and Mike Broomstein (tackle) will help a younger line get adjusted to the next level. ‘‘I think once they get adjusted, the incoming sophomores will make a mark,’’ said Kelliher. ‘‘I think we can surprise some people. They’ll compete and fight every single game.’’

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

    Archbishop Williams

    Coach: Bill Kinsherf (22nd season). Career: Career: 114-114-1.

    Last year’s record: 6-4

    Strengths: Line, defense

    Concerns: Replacing key players

    Offense: Pro set

    Playing surface: Artificial turf

    Outlook: The Bishops look poised for a strong campaign, with 15 seniors returning to the lineup. Eight starters return on defense, including senior captains Tom Veasey at outside linebacker and John Connolly at defensive end. Both three-year starters can stop the run and play in pass coverage, according to head coach Bill Kinsherf. Senior running back Oronde Alfred returns to the lineup after rushing for 455 yards and five touchdowns. At quarterback, replacing three-year starter Jack Rega will be key. Senior Nick Riley and sophomore Neil Sanders will compete for the job. After making 13 catches for 186 yards last season, senior receiver Sean LaVallee will be a top target on offense.

    Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 6:30 p.m., at Stoneham

    Bellingham

    Coach: Dan Haddad (3rd season). Career: Career: 8-14.

    Last year’s record: 5-6

    Strengths: Offensive skill

    Concerns: Experience

    Offense: Wing T

    Playing surface: Artificial turf

    Outlook: The Blackhawks return eight players on defense and seven players on offense. After having a roster of mostly sophomores last season, coach Dan Haddad feels that the fear of playing a tough schedule has waned for this team. Replacing running back Zach Levy (21 touchdowns) will be a tall task for, but Haddad feels the offense is a strength. Senior AJ Pelletier will step in as an elusive back with a mix of power. Junior Jim Kilduff will take over under center, a quick quarterback with a strong arm, according to Haddad. Freshman WR Chris Domercant is poised for a breakout season as a disciplined player with good hands.

    Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., vs. Blackstone-Millville/Hopedale

    Bourne

    Coach: John McIntyre (8th season). Career: Career: 33-53.

    Last year’s record: 1-10

    Strengths: Offensive line, experience

    Concerns: Size, depth

    Offense: Double wing

    Playing surface: Grass

    Outlook: Last year was a learning curve for a team of mostly underclassmen. With the majority of the team returning, coach John McIntyre feels confident in this group. The Canalmen will move from a Spread offense to a Double Wing, hoping to establish the ground game early behind an experienced front seven. Seniors Colby Gaertner (tight end), Louie Gordon (guard), Nick Fasoli (center), and Chance Beck (fullback) will be tasked with leading the way. ‘‘I think if we execute and stay healthy we can be competitive this season,’’ said McIntyre.

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

    Bristol-Plymouth

    Coach: John Parris (11th season). Career: Career: 48-50.

    Last year’s record: 3-8

    Strengths: Returning players

    Concerns: Depth

    Offense: Pro set

    Playing surface: Grass

    Outlook: Head coach will be counting on his returning seniors to get the season started off on the right track. Key among that group are senior wide receiver Nick Power and tight end Conner Lapworth. The Craftsmen are hoping to improve upon their 13.8 points per game on offense last season.

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

    Carver

    Coach: Michael Fraccalossi (22nd season). Career: Career: 84-113-3.

    Last year’s record: 4-6

    Strengths: Returning line

    Concerns: Depth

    Offense: Multiple

    Playing surface: Grass

    Outlook: With an experienced line and senior running back Casey Fernandez returning, the Crusaders could be a tough team in the South Shore League. For a team that went 4-6 last season, replacing quarterback Chris Willis will be a point of focus for coach Michael Fraccalossi.

    Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 6:30 p.m., at Martha’s Vineyard

    Case

    Coach: Anthony Palladino (4th season). Career: Career: 12-32.

    Last year’s record: 6-5

    Strengths: Defense, offensive line

    Concerns: New quarterback, new offensive scheme

    Offense: Wing T

    Playing surface: Grass

    Outlook: Head coach Anthony Palladino feels he has a playoff team, with seven returning starters on defense. Junior inside linebacker Ty Couto will be among the key leaders after recording 105 tackles last season. Moving from the Spread to a Wing T will be a point of concern, along with getting a new quarterback adjusted. Mobile quarterbacks senior Devin Proulx and sophomore Danny Silva will compete for the job. Couto and junior Chris Costa (12 touchdowns) return at running back and should help provide an early boost. ‘‘I feel that we have the talent and ability to be a playoff team,’’ said Palladino. ‘‘We just have to be sound at running and stopping the run.’’

    Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., at Bristol-Plymouth

    Cohasset

    Coach: Peter Afanasiw (12th season). Career: Career: 82-35.

    Last year’s record: 5-5

    Strengths: Experience

    Concerns: Depth, staying healthy

    Offense: Multiple

    Playing surface: Artificial turf

    Outlook: After overcoming a steep learning curve last season, coach Peter Afanasiw feels his team could be in the mix to compete for the South Shore League title. A team of mostly juniors and seniors now includes Noah Froio, an explosive player who can play running back and wide receiver. Splitting carries with him will be senior Michael Nolan. Senior captain Cal Osten returns as a linebacker/fullback. The team will have to incorporate a new QB for the first time in a few seasons. Junior Matt Lund and sophomore Tucker Fulton will compete for the job. ‘‘We stand a good chance of beating any team week to week,’’ said Afanasiw. ‘‘The key is being consistent and eliminating mistakes.’’

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

    Diman

    Coach: Steve Winarski (2nd season). Career: Career: 70-20-3 (62-17-3 at Durfee)..

    Last year’s record: 8-3

    Strengths: Returning players, experience

    Concerns: Injuries, depth

    Offense: Multiple

    Playing surface: Grass

    Outlook: After going 8-3 last season, the Bengals could be a top team in the MAC Vocational Large with a roster boasting 18 seniors, including scat back Jacob Swenson, who will return after breaking his leg last season. Head coach Steve Winarski said Swenson will also be a key on defense. Senior quarterback Justin Brodeur takes over under center, with an ability to make adjustments at the line. A senior-laden line will pave the way, including 6-foot-5-inch, 270-pound Andrew Benson. On defense, Winarski expects Benson to have an impact at end with a mix of speed and power. Winarski is looking for his team to win its first game and build on that to go for a second straight league title and get past the second round of the playoffs.

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

    Mashpee

    Coach: Matt Triveri (13th season). Career: Career: 105-33.

    Last year’s record: 12-1

    Strengths: Offensive line, returning starters

    Concerns: Injuries, depth

    Offense: Pro set

    Playing surface: Grass

    Outlook: The Falcons will take to the field after winning their second straight Super Bowl last season. Junior Devaun Ford (26 touchdowns) will take over duties as the full-time tailback. Coupled with wide receiver Cam Kergo, the duo gives the team to air it out. ‘‘We have a chance to be pretty good,’’ said head coach Matt Triveri. Up front is what he calls his biggest line to date, with seniors John McNamara (6-6, 275), Ian Ahearn (6-1, 225), Roo Garcia (5-11, 290), Toren Burton (6-0, 195), and junior Xavier Gonsalves (6-4, 230). Replacing 4-year QB Nick Carpenter will be key, but the team has full confidence in senior Jake Johnston as his replacement. ‘‘He’s a quiet leader, but they know he’ll fight for them,’’ said Triveri. ‘‘We have complete confidence in him as they do.’’

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

    Monomoy

    Coach: Brandon Perry (1st season). Career: First year.

    Last year’s record: 5-5

    Strengths: Senior leadership

    Concerns: Inexperienced line

    Offense: Multiple

    Playing surface: Artificial turf

    Outlook: Brandon Perry takes over as head coach of the Sharks this season. The 2002 Old Rochester graduate played running back and defensive back, and played semi-pro in the NEFL. Among the stops for the eight-year coach were Bishop Stang, Upper Cape, and Sturgis as a football and track coach. He inherits a team with 12 seniors already familiar with a run-first system. The coaching staff will also return. ‘‘The senior class has been very helpful with my transition,’’ said Perry. Key players include senior linebacker/fullback Eli Nickerson. A solid tackler, he’ll be making the transition to fullback. Junior quarterback Isaac Hart will step in under center, a mobile pocket-passer that has continued to impress. Perry and his team feel they will be better than the 6-5 record they set as a goal for this season. ‘‘I think there’s an excitement around the program that we haven’t seen in years,’’ said Perry. ‘‘I’m just trying to reinforce that they have to work hard and earn it.’’

    Season opener: Saturday, Sept. 9, 1 p.m., at Cape Cod Tech

    Nantucket

    Coach: Brian Ryder (Fourth season). Career: 25-8

    Last year’s record: 9-2

    Strengths: Defense, athleticism

    Concerns: Depth, injuries

    Offense: Power I

    Playing surface: Grass

    Outlook: In 2016, the Whalers utilized a ground game to reach the semifinals of Division 4 South tourney. With the majority of starters returning, head coach Brian Ryder has high expectations. Nantucket once again is sizable up front, with seniors Nick Correia (6-foot-5, 340 pounds), Mark Hamilton (6-2, 250), Owen West (6-235) and junior center Cam Willett (6-2, 205). While defense is a strength, the return of senior back Alex Small and three-year starter Jack Holdgate only bolster the lineup. Other key players include sophomore back/strong safety Torrane Burton, who emerged as a top player last season. Senior Max Cunningham will give the team options at wide reciever, a player with long reach and solid catching ability. “I feel like we have a lot of individual talent,” said Ryder. “These kids are skilled, but the key is that individual talent doesn’t win games - a team does.”

    Season opener: Saturday, Sept. 9, 1:30 p.m., at Bishop Stang

    Seekonk

    Coach: Vernon Crawford (6th season). Career: Career: 28-46 (23-30 at Seekonk).

    Last year’s record: 8-3

    Strengths: Passing game, secondary

    Concerns: Size, depth

    Offense: Spread

    Playing surface: Grass

    Outlook: Power back Matt Heaney and the majority of his O line from last year’s 8-3 squad that charged to the Division 4 South final has graduated. Yet coach Vernon Crawford is confident that Seekonk can make another run. ‘‘We just have to be real good at doing what we do -- being fast and keeping [foes] off guard,’’ said the coach. Directing a no-huddle spread attack that wears teams down, senior Terry Smith is back at QB. Classmate Shane Smith is a two-way standout at receiver and free safety. Just 5-foot-3, 155 pounds, senior Brian Dias wrecks havoc at nose tackle. The goal remains the same, according to Crawford: win the South Coast Conference.

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

    Southeastern

    Coach: Dan Tripp (9th season). Career: Career: 46-44.

    Last year’s record: 5-6

    Strengths: Ball control

    Concerns: Experience

    Offense: Double wing

    Playing surface: Artificial turf

    Outlook: The Hawks lost several talented linemen to graduation last year and coach Dan Tripp is ‘‘looking for players to step in and be starters in 2017.’’ Defensively, the Hawks will be anchored by seniors Kyle Burns and Troy Butler. Burns is Southeastern’s top defensive back while Butler is a versatile middle linebacker. On offense, both Burns and Butler will serve as important pieces for the Hawks’ double-wing approach. Junior Ryan Kinney starts at QB.

    Season opener: Saturday, Sept. 9, 10:30 a.m., at Whittier