You are hereThe Final HSS Insight Top 25
The Final HSS Insight Top 25
HSS Insight Final Top 25
1. Xaverian (13-0) – At the beginning of the season, we pegged Xaverian as the top team in Eastern Mass., but we did not expect the Hawks to run the table. Very few people around this state have a good grasp of just how difficult it is to go undefeated against the type of schedule Xaverian plays every year. Seeing as how that is the case, we thought we’d lay things out right here as plainly as possible.
Think of all the great Xaverian teams, particularly the ones of the 1990s, when the Hawks were beyond loaded with players that not only went on to play in major Division I college football, but the NFL. The only time they ran the table was in 1998. Consider that in 1994, 1995 and 1996, the Hawks won Division 1 Super Bowls with teams that were far more talented than this year’s, but were not able to go undefeated once. Then, in 1997, the Hawks had perhaps their greatest team in school history, but suffered a Thanksgiving Day defeat to maybe the best St. John’s Prep team of all time, thus missing the playoffs.
The following year, in 1998, Xaverian only had a handful of returning starters, but two of them were Derrick Knight and J.P. Comella, and that electric backfield, along with option quarterback extraordinaire Wally Quigg, helped the Hawks narrowly escape the upset bid of a Diamond Ferri-led Everett squad. Even then, the Hawks needed a 34-yard field goal from Kevin Tully as time expired to save the 10-0 season.
Since then, the Hawks were only able to make it back to one Super Bowl, in 2005, when they lost to a Brockton team that probably had the most similar season to this 2009 Xaverian one. The Boxers went 13-0 that year, beating Xaverian, 14-7, at Marciano Stadium, against a brutal schedule that Brockton looked less than dominant in.
Now, let’s look at this season. The first five games on the schedule only had one true heavyweight on it, as Xaverian survived a 14-7 dogfight with Brockton in what was easily one of the most physical, hard-hitting games of the year. Other than that, though, the games at Malden Catholic, Waltham and Hudson Catholic (N.J.) and at home against Somerville were fairly tame.
From then on, though, it was anything but. Over the final eight games, Xaverian beat Everett, Bridgewater-Raynham, St. John’s of Shrewsbury, BC High, Catholic Memorial, St. John’s Prep, Brockton for a second time and then Everett for a second time. For those scoring at home, the only three teams that weren’t in the playoffs out of that group are the three Catholic Conference teams, who couldn’t go because Xaverian took their spot. Both B-R and St. John’s of Shrewsbury were unbeaten at the time the Hawks played them, and final cumulative won-loss record of those seven teams is 53-25.
Go and find me a team that played a tougher schedule over its last eight games of its season. By the time you find one, the only place you can be in this corner of the country is New Jersey or Pennsylvania.
Could a team like Reading or Gloucester, in a one-game scenario, play with or even beat Xaverian? Of course. No high school team is unbeatable, I don’t care what their record is or how talented. Upsets happen. This Xaverian team certainly had close shaves against teams not as good as those two.
But when you look at what Xaverian did, the number of quality teams the Hawks beat week after week, there’s no other team that truly deserves the No. 1 ranking as much as they do.
2. Reading (13-0) – In any other year, the Rockets would be a slam-dunk No. 1 team. We had the feeling at the end of the regular season that Reading was falling off a bit with the loss of standout running back/safety Tino Perrina. Boy, did that ever turn out not to be the case. Ryan Pollock made up for his absence in a big way, while the offensive line proved to be one of the best in the state.
3. Gloucester (13-0) – The Fishermen overcame their most difficult challenge of the season in the Division 1A semifinals to a Westford Academy team that nearly pulled off the shocker. But when push came to shove, no one had an answer to Gloucester’s dominant run game. He may not be the fastest back, but no one sets up his blocks better than the powerful Connor Ressel.
4. Brockton (9-2) – For everyone that predicted doom and gloom for the Boxers after the suspension of three players before Thanksgiving, they gave Xaverian a nice run for it in the Division 1 semifinal in Weymouth. There is no doubt that even better days are ahead for the Boxers. Brockton will return over 20 players that either started or played meaningful varsity minutes on offense or defense in 2010.
5. Natick (12-1) – Reading did have a lot to do with it, but that was certainly not Natick’s best performance at Gillette on Sunday. The Red and Blue certainly wish they could have punched in a touchdown in the second quarter instead of giving it away on a fumbled option pitch. With the graduation of many key pieces, Natick will have some rebuilding to do next season.
6. Franklin (11-1) – Tuesday’s 28-26 loss to Natick will go down as one of the better postseason games of the year, and maybe one of the best of the last several years. Although the Panthers didn’t make it to Gillette, they were able to put together a memorable unbeaten regular season through a tough Hockomock League slate. Replacing players like RB Matt Carini and QB Nick Colson will be difficult.
7. Everett (8-3) – The Crimson Tide’s youth was exposed in Saturday’s 29-0 loss to Xaverian. Everett will lose a number of seniors, but there were plenty of quality sophomores, juniors and even freshmen that took the field in that Super Bowl. This was a down year for the Tide, but to reach the Super Bowl with two losses to Xaverian and one to Dracut is nothing to be ashamed of.
8. Billerica (10-2) – Losing quarterback Nick LaSpada to a knee injury certainly made things more difficult in Tuesday’s semifinal game against Everett, although backup quarterback Wayne Bolz did a nice job helping the Indians move the ball through the air in his absence. LaSpada returns, as does a few of his receivers, but Billerica will have to replace its entire offensive line.
9. Dracut (9-3) – Junior quarterback Matt Silva clearly wasn’t 100 percent and played valiantly with an injured non-throwing shoulder in his team’s 20-6 loss to Reading in the Division 2 semifinal on Tuesday. Although the Middies fell to a superior Reading squad, it was still a very good season for Dracut. Silva returns but there will be some rebuilding to do for 2010 around him.
10. Bridgewater-Raynham (10-3) – The Trojans dominated Needham in a Division 1A semifinal on Tuesday to earn a trip to Gillette before running into the buzzsaw that is Gloucester. Even though that game turned into a rout, the play of quarterback Mike Connolly in tough conditions stood out. Next season, the Trojans will build around FB/LB Mike Chicoine, LB Nick Schlatz and OL Mike Devin.
11. Marshfield (9-3) – The Rams finally broke through for a Super Bowl win after three straight championship game losses in one of the few close games at Gillette.
12. Walpole (10-1) – The Rebels must replace the irreplaceable Ryan Izzo next season, but will have a few nice pieces to build around with LB Dave Conroy and DBs Dave Thibault and Craig Hanley.
13. Mansfield (9-2) – One has to assume the Hornets are wishing they had the final minutes of the Franklin and North Attleboro games back.
14. Masconomet (10-3) – Evan Bunker put forth one of the more memorable Super Bowl performances of the day, as he almost single-handedly gave the Chieftians the comeback win over Marshfield.
15. Barnstable (7-3) – The Red Raiders were on fire at the end of the season and will most likely pick up where they left off in 2010. The only place this team needs to replace some players is the offensive line.
16. King Philip (8-3) – Losing Brandon Howard will be a big loss. But the Warriors will be competitive again next season, as several key skill players return plus two starting offensive linemen.
17. North Attleboro (8-3) – The Red Rocketeers lose some good skill players and their entire offensive line, but there is still a lot of speed in the program and the freshman and JV teams were outstanding.
18. Methuen (8-3) – This team will enter 2010 as the favorites to win the Merrimack Valley Conference Small Division, as the Rangers return quarterback Cal Carroll and some good linemen.
19. Central Catholic (8-3) – The Red Raiders will miss quarterback Andrew Ouellette but some good linemen return, as does running back Trae Musumarra and linebacker Jaycob Morales.
20. Falmouth (9-2) – Was there any team on this list that surprised people more with their performance than the Clippers? The upset win at BC High will be remembered for years down on the Cape.
21. BC High (6-4) – The loss to Falmouth was certainly a shocker, but the Eagles recovered nicely down the stretch and earned a nice late-season win over St. John’s Prep to earn second place in the CC.
22. Westford Academy (8-4) – The Grey Ghosts nearly pulled off the shocker against Gloucester in the semifinals. This team will be back next year, as its skill position talent was junior-laden.
23. Duxbury (9-3) – While Duxbury’s Thanksgiving Day win over Marshfield was nice, the Green Dragons couldn’t pull off the sweep. This team loses some key pieces but will be good again in 2010.
24. Bishop Feehan (10-2) – The Shamrocks had a couple of lopsided losses to North Attleoboro and Attleboro, but got it done in the postseason. Running back Zack Schweiger returns next fall.
25. Marblehead (10-3) – This team flew under the radar all season and nearly knocked off Feehan in one of the better games on Saturday. Quarterback Hayes Richardson will be tough to replace.
Also receiving votes: St. John’s Prep (4-6), New Bedford (6-4-1), Chelmsford (6-5), Andover (6-5), Taunton (6-5), Attleboro (5-6), Needham (7-5), Weymouth (7-4), Framingham (6-5), Acton-Boxboro (6-5), Waltham (5-5), Lynn English (8-3), Lynn Classical (7-4), Wellesley (9-2), Winchester (9-2), Foxboro (7-4), Plymouth North (6-5), Plymouth South (6-5), North Andover (8-3), Wilmington (8-3), Concord-Carlisle (8-4), Bedford (7-2), Scituate (8-3), Hingham (6-5), Somerset (8-3), Martha’s Vineyard (7-3), Swampscott (7-4), Beverly (7-3), Rockland (6-6), Hanover (7-4), Dighton-Rehoboth (9-3), Fairhaven (8-3), Wareham (8-3), Lynnfield (10-2), Arlington Catholic (9-2), Austin Prep (10-3), Cohasset (9-2), Abington (10-1), Mashpee (9-2), Hull (7-3), Holliston (12-1), Westwood (9-2), Medway (10-1), East Boston (10-2), Whittier (12-0), Manchester-Essex (9-2), Bristol-Plymouth (8-3), O’Bryant (8-2), Lowell Catholic (6-4), Chelsea (8-2), Northeast (8-5), Tri-County (8-4).