Why have the Duxbury, Everett, Dennis-Yarmouth football programs, and others been able to consistently be in contention for North and South sectional titles and Super Bowl championships?
The common thread, more often than not, starts at the youth level, where young players learn the basic principles of the varsity offense.
But for two programs, even more important than continuity is the ability to innovate, explicate, and dominate through a continually evolving spread-based scheme.
When Paul Funk was hired as head coach at Dennis-Yarmouth in 2001, he quickly realized that competing against bigger schools with sizable players would require a program rebuild. He reached out to former Brown University running back Joseph Jamiel, who, two years prior, had founded the first youth football program in the area.
The two worked together to develop a spread offense that would compensate for that lack of size.
Jamiel came on board as offensive coordinator at 2004 and continued to coach the youth program, fostering the rise of D-Y, which won its first shared Atlantic Coast League title in 2009 and first state championship in 2011.
“You can have all these great schemes and ideas,” said Funk, “But football still comes down to blocking and tackling.”
“The success we had is based on the fact that we can take a youth football kid and insert him into varsity and have him use the same terminology, which gives us more time to work on blocking and tackling.”
Friday night, sixth-seeded Dennis-Yarmouth (4-3) will travel to third-seeded Scituate (6-1) in a rematch of last year’s Division 5 South final.
D-Y dispatched Scituate, 45-33, en route to a state title last season, but the Sailors beat the incoming class of Dolphins at their own game this past summer, earning a 14-0 win in the 7-on-7 South Regional tournament final.
Each school runs a similar spread-based offense, but because Scituate shares a youth program with Cohasset, there is limited continuity between the youth and high school programs.
Scituate senior QB Aidan Sullivan went through a crash course in spread principles, developing into one of the better passers in the state as a junior.
“Coming into high school, I was a little behind the eight-ball,” said Sullivan. “Growing up, we switched up the offense every year or two trying to beat [D-Y]. If we had constant flow it would’ve been easier. But now I’m confident and know the offense in and out. It just took a lot of work to get there.”
Scituate coach Herb Devine was frustrated his players did not have the same base knowledge.
“When you’re competing against programs like D-Y, where their whole program buys into what they do at the high school level, it’s a disadvantage for us,” said Devine. “That’s why they’re always in Super Bowls and sectional finals, because of their youth program.”
The same model that put D-Y on the map has also solidified Duxbury as a force in the Patriot League and beyond.
Hired as the head coach at Duxbury in 2005, Dave Maimaron began coordinating with the local youth program. Since, he has directed the Dragons to four state championships and 11 straight Patriot titles.
Duxbury (7-0), which enters the state tournament as the top seed in Division 3 South, is a favorite to secure another state title behind a seemingly unstoppable spread attack.
“When our kids come in on the freshman level, they have a good understanding of our base,” explained Maimaron. “They’re all speaking the same football language, so our [training] camp goes pretty smoothly and probably moves a lot faster than in other places.”
Terminology is even more pertinent for teams in a no-huddle offense.
According to Duxbury senior QB John Roberts, the Dragons run 99 percent of their plays out of shotgun sets, and rarely huddle up.
The Colby commit played wide receiver ihis first two high school seasons, but was able to seamlessly transition to quarterback when record-setting passer Bobby Maimaron, the coach’s son, departed for Williams College two years ago.
Roberts credits the quarterback experience he gained in youth leagues for his success; he has totaled 2,652 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, and rushed for another 15 scores over the last two seasons.
“Having the experience throwing out of the shotgun was huge,” said Roberts. “It’s a small thing, but people don’t realize how big the footwork is compared to being under center.”
While Duxbury quarterbacks are given the responsibility to read the defense and check at the line of scrimmage, their involvement in play-calling pales in comparison to passers at D-Y.
By age 7, D-Y youth players are asked to run a no-huddle system with two or three play variations in every formation. The coaches are there to offer guidance from the sideline, but according to current quarterback Payton Doyle, youth quarterbacks can quickly earn autonomy as they progress in Junior Dolphins.
“At the fifth and sixth grade level, we were expected to see something in the defense and [Joseph Jamiel] trusted us to change out,” said Doyle. “If we gave him the right calls, he trusted us to keep making them. It’s a big leadership role at such a young age.”
Middle schoolers spend a week at the beginning of each season shadowing varsity quarterbacks with guidance from Jamiel, who coached at both the high school and youth level until two years ago.
So when Doyle took over at quarterback this year, it was business as usual for D-Y.
“Everything comes natural to me,” said Doyle, who has totaled 1,282 passing yards, and 20 total touchdowns this season.
“Nothing that we’re doing is new. The only way that our offense really evolves [from the youth level] is that for every formation now there are seven plays that we can run out of it instead of two or three.”
Doyle is working with four returning starters at receiver, including Jamiel’s youngest son, Geoffrey.
Jamiel’s oldest son, JoJo, helped D-Y to its first ACL title in 2009 before playing four years at Sacred Heart. His middle son, Andrew, is setting records as a junior at Stonehill College. Now Geoffrey is carving his own legacy with 51 catches for 541 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore.
The art of route-running has been passed down from father to son, to brother, and Jamiel expects the same of all his players.
“We stress to the varsity kids, if you can’t teach it, you can’t do it,” said Jamiel. “At every position, the youth kids watch and emulate, and the varsity kids help explain the system. It’s a unique situation.”
Many varsity programs work closely with their youth affiliate at this point, but not to the same extent as D-Y and Duxbury.
Barnstable first-year coach Ross Jatkola played at D-Y during Funk’s first years as coach, then coached under Funk for six years after playing at the University of Albany.
With electric senior quarterback Matt Petercuskie running the offense, he has fifth-seeded Barnstable (5-2) ready for a D2 South quarterfinal matchup at fourth-seeded Wellesley (5-2) Saturday.
But in order to find sustained success, Jatkola plans to follow the lead of his former coach and mentor.
“The first thing I did when I got the job [at Barnstable] was call the youth league directors so we could get involved in developing a scheme,” said Jatkola. “So far, we’ve done a great job of that and all the way down to the Mites division, they’re running our scheme, [distilled] down to their abilities.”
“It’ll be exciting to see how it goes. If the kids can catch onto it, we can have a successful program for years.”
Here are four other strong-armed spread QBs
Quarterbacks from programs south of Boston are not the only ones thriving in an uptempo system. Here are four others that have developed into productive passers in a spread attack.
■ Duke Doherty, Everett – The sophomore has directed Everett’s high-powered attack with aplomb, tallying 1,035 passing yards and 16 touchdowns through six games. “It’s tough to handle all the pressure in Everett,” said Doherty. “But my experience running spread for Team Massachusetts against FBU (Football University) competition got me advanced, quickly.”
Everett hosts Andover in a D1 North quarterfinal (Friday, 7)
■ Nolan Houlihan, Billerica – The Indians returned just three starters on offense, but the junior QB had six touchdown passes in his first varsity start, a 54-49 win over Lowell. He’s been running a spread offense since eighth grade, and works on his craft with several instructors, including Framingham State offensive coordinator Aynsley Rosenbaum. Through six starts, Houlihan completed 75 of 121 passes for 1,075 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Billerica faces Tewksbury in a D3 North quarterfinal (Friday, 7).
■ Luke McMenamin, Milton – He was a starting quarterback at the youth level, but he entered his junior season as third string on varsity. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior won the job and hasn’t looked back, compiling a stunning 3,516 yards and 38 touchdowns over two seasons in coach Steve Dembowski’s spread system. “Intelligence is the number one factor for a quarterback in our system,” said Dembowski. “If you can throw the ball 50 yards, it doesn’t really matter. If you can’t make the right decisions, you’re not going to be successful in today’s spread offense.”
Milton hosts Westwood in a D4 South quarterfinal (Friday, 7).
■ Matt Severance, Lynn English – After bursting onto the scene as a freshman, the Bulldogs’ two-way star has compiled impressive career numbers. Severance has 69 total touchdowns and with 4,318 career passing yards, broke the program record — set by Lynn English coach Chris Carroll. “Each year, [Severance] has taken his game to the next level,” said Carroll. “His development has been tremendous and a lot of it comes from hard work and playing in spread offense year round with the emergence of 7-on-7 leagues.”
Lynn English hosts Concord-Carlisle in a D3 North quarterfinal (Friday, 7:15)
Nate Weitzer can be reached at email@example.com.