DANVERS — High school football teams can’t officially begin practicing for another 25 days, but that didn’t stop dozens of squads from laying the groundwork for what they hope is September success here in late July.
The annual Northeast 7v7 East Regional championship, held Sunday at St. John’s Prep, tested all the participating clubs in terms of athleticism, football acumen and clock management — and inclement weather for the first half of the competition was a solid test of mental toughness, too.
A total of 40 teams from all over the state and as far away as Maine competed in the passing game tournament. By the time the 16-team playoff field was whittled down the Final Four, Masconomet was the lone local entrant left standing.
The Chieftains lost to Milton by a razor-thin 16-14 margin in the semifinals and are now eligible for a spot in the New England championships, which will be played this Thursday at Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood.
Going 4-3 overall and winning two playoff games (come-from-behind wins over Haverhill and Lynn Classical) was a welcome sign for a Masconomet squad that graduated its quarterback and a fair amount of talent from last year’s club.
“It’s a pretty young group, so it was good to see us go out there and compete. We were down a couple of times and came back, and that’s always great to see this time of year,” Masconomet head coach Gavin Monagle said after watching his squad, who alternated Marshall Lastes and Alex Theriault at quarterback every other series throughout the day. (The players primarily coach themselves in these events).
Masconomet got standout plays offensively from Jack Corcoran as well as great shows on both sides of the ball from Max Latam, Bryce Wronski and Jay Theriault.
The 7-on-7 rules give teams 40 yards to the end zone with a snapper, quarterback and five eligible receivers. Quarterbacks must unload the ball before four seconds or be called for a sack, and teams can opt for a one-point or two-point pass after scoring.
It goes without saying that the lack of linemen and true tackling means 7-on-7 results aren’t perfect indicators or what may or may not happen when the pads and helmets go on. But the event is great for learning passing concepts, practicing how to defend 1-on-1 with officials watching for illegal contact, and simply getting together in a competitive atmosphere.
“I think its a tremendous event. Obviously we’re not going to be defined by what happens here, but it’s good to be able to come and work on some things,” said Beverly head coach Andrew Morency, whose Panthers went 2-2 in pool play and missed out on a playoff berth by a one-point tiebreaker with St. Mary’s of Lynn.
Versatile senior Ryan Barror played QB for Beverly and looked comfortable in the pocket, though his ability to move on the run will make him more dangerous outside the 7-on-7 setting. Junior Duncan Moreland was outstanding with an interception returned for a touchdown in Beverly’s last game, a win over Arlington.
Heading into the 16-team playoffs, Danvers was one of the top teams in the field after winning its first four contests. The Falcons, who won a 7-on-7 championship at Endicott in June, outlasted St. Mary’s, 20-6, in the first round before bowing out with a loss to Lynn English in the quarterfinals.
Senior QB Brandon Treacy looked good both in the pocket and on the run for Danvers, which got a number of tremendous catches from classmate Matt McCarthy — including one to beat Wakefield in overtime of their final pool play game. The height and hands of Justin DiTomaso also came in handy.
“I was impressed with Brandon. He’s grown some and has put a ton of work in to get ready for his senior year,” said Danvers head coach Ryan Nolan. “Matt (McCarthy) is such a good athlete, he’s going to make plays in any setting — but especially in the 7-on-7, he’s really tough to keep up with.”
Besides Danvers and Masconomet, local squads Bishop Fenwick and St. John’s Prep also made the Elite Eight in the playoffs. The Prep went 3-1 in its pool with Matt Crowley calling the signals. Senior Aise Pream was tough to cover out of the backfield and Wes Rockett made some impact grabs for the Eagles, who fell to Milton in the quarters. Anthony Fagan made and outstanding touchdown catch while leaning and falling out of the back of the end zone in that bout.
The Crusaders from Fenwick came alive in the the playoffs. The Black-and-Gold went 2-2 in pool play and advanced on tiebreakers before toppling Pope John and then falling to eventual champion BB&N by one score, 22-15. Senior QB Cory Bright, who missed most of last season with an injury, called his own plays and looked to be in full sync with athletic weapons like George Fiskatoris, Stefano Fabiano and Keegan O’Connor.
A total of nine teams from the area took part, with Pingree going 2-2 and missing the playoffs on tiebreakers. Swampscott went 1-3 with an overtime loss and got impressive catches from Jonathan Oriakhi and Andrew Augustin on passes from QB Graham Inzana. Hamilton-Wenham posted a 0-4 record in a tough bracket, and Peabody, making its first appearance in the event, also went 0-4.
The Tanners’ new QB, transfer Matt Jandrisevits from Malden Catholic, threw a good deep ball and hooked up with Colten Cole for a couple of big gains. Declan Russell, Dylan Peluso, Jared Ridley and Colby Therrien also played well and Brandon Caniff had an interception, but most of the concepts are still pretty new for Peabody.
“From the first game to the fourth game we looked a lot better, so that’s a good sign,” said assistant coach Gino Fodera. “We’re learning the routes and how important separation is. These games are like scrimmages because the scores aren’t as important as the experience and the progress made.”
Around the Northeastern Conference, Lynn English and Lynn Classical looked dangerous, with the Rams making the quarters and the Bulldogs falling to BB&N in the semis. Revere also competed, missing the playoffs on a tiebreaker.