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2017 Division 5 high school football previews

Here is a look at each EMass football team in Division 5 heading into the 2017 season.



Coach: Colin McQueen (1st season). Career: 0-0..

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Athleticism, versatility

Concerns: Replacing majority of starters

Offense: Wing T

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The team’s defensive coordinator the past two seasons, 28-year-old Colin McQueen takes on an expanded role at Amesbury as head coach. He steps in for athletic director Glen Gearin, who had coached the Indians for three seasons. The Indians’ team speed excites McQueen, who will still coach the defense. ‘‘The speed and versatility of our players helps us match up against any type of offense that we face while minimizing our personnel changes,’’ he said. The Indians also return junior quarterback Blake Bennett, who started 10 games last season in place of injured senior Garrett Collins. The Indians host Norwell on Sept. 9 in the season-opener.


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


Coach: Tom Tone (1st season). Career: 0-0..

Last year’s record: 5-5

Strengths: Offensive line, leadership

Concerns: Adapting to new offensive and defensive systems

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The first order of business for first-year Buccaneers head coach Tom Tone involved implementing new offensive and defensive systems. The defensive coordinator at Bishop Guertin the past two seasons, Tone hopes to run an uptempo, spread offense while the defense transitions to a 4-3 look. ‘‘It’s always a challenge just trying to implement a new system both offensively and defensively,’’ said Tone, who has worked as an assistant at Billerica, Somerville, and Methuen, where he is a teacher. ‘‘That takes a little while.’’ The offensive line and skill position players impressed Tone in the preseason, and seniors Logan Brust, Tim Regan and Toby Hart have all demonstrated leadership traits.

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



Coach: Neal Weidman (10th season). Career: 70-23..

Last year’s record: 6-4

Strengths: Experience, team speed

Concerns: Getting backups experience

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Pioneers are boosted by a large contingent of seniors with experience, and it is for this reason 10-year coach Neal Weidman enters the season optimistic about the readiness of his group. ‘‘I think we’re ahead of where we were last year just because we were pretty young last year,’’ Weidman said. ‘‘Most of the guys that we thought are the guys that are doing it.’’ Senior Matt Mortellite spent the offseason improving his knowledge of the offense, which should lead to improved quarterback play. ‘‘He didn’t play freshman or sophomore year with us,’’ said Weidman. ‘‘Last year was his first year so he knows the offense much better.’’

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


Coach: Ben Smolski (1st season). Career: Career: 0-0.

Last year’s record: 4-6

Strengths: Senior leadership, quickness, speed

Concerns: Quarterback competition, inexperience

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Alum Ben Smolski (Class of 2002) takes charge of the program after serving as defensive coordinator the past two seasons, last year under Mike Levine (4-6 in one season). Senior captains Myles Maloof, Connor Smith and Matt Donlan will pave the way for the Clippers. But challenges remain on offense as they search for a starting quarterback and break in four first-year starters along the offensive line. ‘‘We’ve got to get a guy who can lead there,’’ Smolski said of the quarterback competition between senior Owen Bradbury and junior Thomas Murphy. The signal-callers will be under the tutelage of first-year offensive coordinator Anthony Callahan, who joins the staff from Saugus. ‘‘He’s really energized the offense,’’ said Smolski.


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


Coach: Steve Hayden (36th season). Career: Career: 212-155..

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Cohesion

Concerns: Experience, depth

Offense: Wing T

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: A young Sachems squad will lean on captains Nathan McGrail (WR/DB), Brandon Wilbur (RB/LB) and Ethan Dore (RB/DB) as they attempt to improve on last season’s 5-6 campaign. ‘‘We graduated quite a few,’’ said coach Steve Hayden. ‘‘We’re young, very young, and we’re thin. But hopefully we have a lot of enthusiasm and competitiveness in us.’’ Among the first-year starters is junior quarterback Gus Flaherty. ‘‘I think he’s a very good athlete, and he’s willing to learn,’’ said Hayden. ‘‘He does throw a good ball.’’ The Sachems visit Canton on Sept. 9.

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


Coach: Anthony Nalen (1st season). Career: Career: 11-11 (2-9 at Randolph, 9-2 at Bishop Connolly)..

Last year’s record: 1-10

Strengths: Wide receivers, youth

Concerns: Depth, offensive line

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Former Randolph coach Anthony Nalen moves north of Boston to Saugus, where he inherits a Sachems team that finished 1-10 in 2016. Seven sophomores will start on offense, including three of the four wideouts. Nalen feels he can depend on the underclassmen, though. ‘‘Two of them were starters for 11 games as freshmen, so they’re young but they’re experienced,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s definitely one of our strengths, our receivers, but they’re young.’’ Senior captain Ricky Martinez is the only veteran wide receiver and plays in the middle of the defense at Mike linebacker. ‘‘I think our linebackers are a strong part of our defense,’’ said Nalen, who noted the two sophomores alongside Martinez stood out in the preseason.


Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., at St. Mary’s


Coach: Makonnen Fenton (3rd season). Career: Career: 9-13..

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Experience, offensive playmakers.

Concerns: Consistency.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: UConn-bound senior quarterback Elijah Jeffreys and wide receiver Jiovanny Pierre, also a Division I prospect, lead a Somerville team that expects to build on last season’s 6-5 mark as the Highlanders transition to the Northeastern Conference from the Greater Boston League. ‘‘They usually cancel out each other’s mistakes,’’ third-year coach Makonnen Fenton said of the two senior playmakers. ‘‘It makes your job a lot easier.’’ Fenton anticipates the squad’s experience to lift the Highlanders. ‘‘We return most of our starters on both sides of the ball,’’ he said. ‘‘The young guys that are stepping up are just as good, if not better than the guys who were playing there last year.’’

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


Coach: Bob Serino (3rd season). Career: Career: 8-14..

Last year’s record: 4-7

Strengths: Senior class, experience, team speed


Concerns: -

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: A Swampscott team that endured bumps throughout coach Bob Serino’s first two seasons has blossomed into a roster packed with experience. The Big Blue boast three third-year starters on both the offensive and defensive lines, in addition to quarterback (Colin Frary), linebacker (Dominic Codispoti) and running back (Isaiah Bascon). ‘‘We’re actually two deep at almost every position this year,’’ said Serino. ‘‘We couldn’t say that in the last two years. I really have no concerns at any particular position.’’ Center/defensive lineman Jake Bartram, and sophomore wide receiver/outside linebacker Jonathan Oriakhi, showed notable improvement in the preseason. The Big Blue host Greater Lawrence on Sept. 9.

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


Coach: Pat Sheehan (8th season). Career: Career: 32-45..

Last year’s record: 9-3

Strengths: Quarterback, defensive scheme

Concerns: Depth

Offense: Read option

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Despite the graduation of Lewi L’Heureux, Triton coach Pat Sheehan doesn’t anticipate a dropoff at quarterback with last season’s leading receiver, senior Tommy Lapham, taking over. ‘‘Tommy grew up playing quarterback,’’ Sheehan said. ‘‘He’s a leader on and off the field. He’s athletic. He now has an understanding of the difficulties those guys (wide receivers) face. He knows all the routes at receiver because he was our backup quarterback last year.’’ Sheehan sees Triton’s pressure-centric defensive scheme as a strength, but a lack of depth and size could be a cause for concern. Even so, ‘‘This is definitely not a rebuilding year by any stretch of the imagination,’’ he said. Triton, which advanced to the D3 semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Hanover, opens the season at home against Marblehead.

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


Coach: John Cacace (11th season). Career: Career: 64-47 overall; 61-48 with Watertown..

Last year’s record: 9-2

Strengths: Senior leadership, offensive line, skill players

Concerns: Depth, staying healthy

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Raiders enter 2017 aiming for a third consecutive sectional championship appearance. On offense the Raiders will lean on what coach John Cacace describes as ‘‘a nice group of multi-talented kids.’’ Junior Nick McDermott takes over for Deon Harris under center, but Cacace doesn’t anticipate a drop off in production. ‘‘Nick has tremendous presence at the quarterback position that I love,’’ said Cacace. ‘‘Nick’s a different type of player than Deon was, but I think we’ve got a solid quarterback taking over the reins.’’ Seniors James Walter, Jake Matton, Joe Chau and Ben Landry power an offensive line tasked with protecting McDermott. Cacace believes the Raiders are capable of making a run if they avoid injuries. ‘‘We don’t have a ton of kids, and keeping everybody healthy is going to be important,’’ he said.

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


Coach: Rich Brissette (1st season). Career: Career: 19-35 (at Weston 2001-05).

Last year’s record: 3-7

Strengths: Skill positions, team speed

Concerns: Offensive and defensive lines

Offense: Wing T

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: After spending five years as an assistant on the Wildcat staff, Rich Brissette returns this time as head coach -- a title he previously held from 2001-05 after a 10-year run at Hudson Catholic. Playing an independent schedule instead of the Dual County Small, the Wildcats usher a new five-man rotation into the backfield, a group that includes seniors Theo DelGizzi, Mike Sacco and Andrew Black, and juniors Julian Antoine and Junior Uga. There’s some uncertainty along the offensive line, though, which welcomes five new starters. Brissette will count on offensive lineman/linebacker Hayden Zeller and cornerback/wide receiver Cade Rutkowski -- both sophomores -- to deliver if the Wildcats are to improve last season’s 3-7 record. The Wildcats are also uncertain of the location of their home games through Nov. 1, which is when the school expects the installation of artificial turf to be complete.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., at Dover-Sherborn



Coach: Dave Bohane (12th season). Career: Career: 42-69-1.

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Depth at skill positions; athleticism

Concerns: OL/DL inexperience; tough schedule

Offense: Pistol

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: After last year’s disappointing finish, the Bulldogs are looking to bounce back with a very young, but deep squad. Among the eight total returning starters, senior defensive back Tony Harris is determined to make his third year his best in Green & White. Linebacker Alec Ragusa is ready for a strong senior year too. Coach Dave Bohane calls sophomore quarterback John Hagan a ‘‘young and athletic quarterback who is ahead of the game for his age.’’ The major concern for Canton is inexperience on the offensive and defensive lines. Senior captain Kearvens Theodore is a returning two-way starter in the trenches.

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


Coach: Paul Funk (17th season). Career: 107-55-1.

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Senior leadership, offensive line.

Concerns: Depth.

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The Dolphins will return many of their starters from last season, now in their senior year. In particular, four of the five starting offensive lineman will be back -- Sam Kenny, Sawyer McDonald, Brett Halloran, and Mitchell Hayes. The line will protect second-year starting quarterback Jacob McCarthy. Coach Paul Funk says that McCarthy is ‘‘a smart kid who runs the offense well and is a good leader.’’ In the backfield, seniors Jonah Arsenault and Rob Evans are back from last season and will be vital to the traditional spread offense which Dennis-Yarmouth runs. On defense, the secondary features seniors Brandon Dunn and Daryan Thompson as returning starters. Depth presents a major issue for D-Y as the Dolphins’ season would take a huge blow if injuries begin to mount.

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


Coach: Derek Almeida (4th season). Career: Career: 25-10.

Last year’s record: 13-0 (Division 2A Champion)

Strengths: Team speed; run game.

Concerns: Experience

Offense: Triple option

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: The reigning Division 2A Super Bowl champion is minus nearly all of its starters, on both sides of the ball, from last fall. Graduation claimed the entire offensive line, receivers and starting QB Nick Couhig. However, senior backs Sam Koss and Gates Kelleher return. In the preseason, sophomore quarterback Kyle Connolly has emerged as the front-runner for the starting job. Defensively, Kelleher is a three-year starter at inside linebacker, and in the opinion of coach Derek Almeida, one of the best in the state. Junior Kyle Cardoza is athletic enough to play inside or at defensive end. Expectations are high for Almeida and Co.

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


Coach: Jack Martinelli (36th season). Career: Career: 261-109-5.

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Experience with 35 seniors

Concerns: Offensive Line

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Coach Jack Martinelli believes the 2017 Warriors will ‘‘personify old-school Foxborough football.’’ With 35 seniors, including 14 returning starters, the Warriors are hoping to bounce back from a 5-6 finish. Leading rusher Anthony Capachietti headlines a group of three backs returning for their senior season. At quarterback, senior Devin Hassett and junior Liam Foley had impressive preseasons. Foley is a pocket quarterback with a strong arm while Hassett presents a mobile threat. Martinelli is considering give both quarterbacks snaps in games, a system the 36-year coach has run before. The offensive line, though, is a question. Though four starters return from last year’s unit, the group remains young and still has a lot to prove.

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


Coach: Christopher Landolfi (5th season). Career: 33-13.

Last year’s record: 12-0 (Division 3 champion)

Strengths: Conditioning; Work ethic

Concerns: Team chemistry

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The reigning Division 3 state champion Indians graduated 19 of their 22 starters from a year ago, headlined by two-way line stalwart Patrick Flynn, the Globe’s D3 Player of the Year now at New Hampshire. But the Indians are embracing a next-man-up mentality when it comes to personnel. The returnees include senior QB Andrew Carroll, who will be working behind a rebuilt offensive line. Defensively, senior linebacker Liam Flynn and end Chris Greene are leaders on and off the field. The core group is comprised of seniors who, as juniors last season, received valuable experience during Hanover’s postseason run.

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


Coach: Todd Kiley (15th season). Career: Career: 125-37.

Last year’s record: 9-2

Strengths: Speed and athleticism; Work ethic

Concerns: Depth

Offense: Double wing

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: A perennial power, the Panthers enter the 2017 season as competitive as ever. Up front, junior Scott Elliott is a three-year starter and received an invite to the Army All-American combine. He is receiving interest from D1 college programs. On the perimeter, Holliston has a trio of seniors that are two-way starters: Mikey Nash, Brad Seymour, and Jake Armstrong. At quarterback, senior Ryan Benco, a two-year starter at free safety, takes over for grad Jake Barrett, a former Globe All-Scholastic. Senior Alex Kelley is an anchor at linebacker and is making the transition from the backfield to guard. Depth remains a concern for Panthers, who have dealt with a few injuries in camp, forcing coach Todd Kiley’s squad to take a ‘‘next-man-up approach.’’

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


Coach: Erik Ormberg (7th season). Career: Career: 28-38.

Last year’s record: 8-3

Strengths: Senior leadership; Skill positions

Concerns: Linebacker; the graduation of the two leading tacklers.

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: With the return of several top offensive weapons, the Warriors are shooting to building upon last year’s successful run. Mason Giunta, a three-year starter at running back, has emerged as a vocal leader and a team captain. Junior Mitchell Gonser takes the reins at QB after being featured as a back and receiver last fall. Senior lineman John Lowell, according to coach Erik Ormberg, is ‘‘one of the most durable football players I’ve ever coached.’’ A major concern is at linebacker: last year’s senior unit combined for 55 percent of the team’s total tackles. But Giunta and senior Pat Biles have had promising preseasons at the position.

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


Coach: Tim McCarthy (4th season). Career: Career: 17-16.

Last year’s record: 5-6

Strengths: Team defense; Depth at running back

Concerns: Offensive line experience

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Grass

Outlook: Senior captains JP Hynes (linebacker) and McKinley Kearsley (defensive back) headline a defensive unit that returns eight of 11 starters. On the offense, junior quarterback Tyler Elliott enters his second year as a starter and has exhibited versatility in the running and passing game. When the Lancers are not punishing foes on the ground, Kearsley will be the primary target in the air. Seniors Connor Reynolds and Mike McNichols form a 1-2 punch in the backfield with freshman Nate Sicard has made the case for playing time. Sophomore Ayinde Williams is another option at fullback. Coach Tim McCarthy recognizes his team has ‘‘plenty of talent’’ and is ‘‘hoping it develops quickly.’’

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


Coach: William O’Connell (4th season). Career: Career: 10-23.

Last year’s record: 3-8

Strengths: Offensive experience

Concerns: Rebuilding the defense

Offense: Multiple

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: The Blue Knights will be bolstered by the return of more than half their starters on offense, led by senior linemen Jake Hafferty, Sean VanCott (6-foot-4, 256 pounds), and Jeff Aluisy. Junior Cam Lopes is back for his second year as the starting QB and classmate Cam Travers returns after pacing Sandwich in scoring last season. Senior Nick Abbott is a physical presence at linebacker, as well as at tight end or fullback. Coach William O’Connell expects his team to have great chemistry -- the core group also plays basketball and lacrosse together.

Season opener: Friday, Sept. 15, 6 p.m., vs. Bishop Connolly


Coach: Herb Devine (10th season). Career: Career: 61-39.

Last year’s record: 7-4

Strengths: Skill Positions

Concerns: Quarterback uncertainty; Offensive line depth

Offense: Spread

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Athletic and hard-working, the Sailors return 14 starters from a 7-4 squad. The expectations are high. But who replaces Peter Churchill (29 TD passes), now a freshman QB at St. Lawrence University? Two juniors, Aidan Sullivan and Jack Ruble, entered camp vying for the starting position. Each has showcased a strong arm and sharp pocket awareness in the preseason. Senior receiver Abel Lopes, who led Division 2A in touchdown receptions (12) last season, is a top target and classmate Peyton Crosby is set to be a major weapon on offense, defense, and special teams. He put his speed on display at free safety last season and returned three kickoffs for scores. Injuries have been an issue on a thin O line.

Season opener: Saturday, Sept. 9, 1 p.m., vs. Milford

Somerset Berkley

Coach: Nick Freitas (9th season). Career: 61-28.

Last year’s record: 6-5

Strengths: Combination of depth and experience

Concerns: New conference familiarity; staying healthy

Offense: Double wing

Playing surface: Artificial turf

Outlook: Following an injury-plagued season last year, the Raiders are looking to make an impact in 2017, the team’s inaugural season in the South Coast Conference. Somerset-Berkley returns several starters from last year’s team, now in their junior season. Top lineman Ben McMahon excelled on both sides of the ball last season while junior running back Mike Gagliardi will carry much of the load in the backfield after being utilized mainly in third down situations a year ago. The Raiders’ best player, Chase Stafford, switches from running back to quarterback, a position which Coach Freitas believes the three-sport all-star will be able to fit into seamlessly.

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