High School: MIAA Pre-Season Top 40 Countdown

As the calendar turns to August, we once again kick off our high school coverage with the 40-team MIAA preseason countdown. Over the course of the offseason, we pared down this list from one of closer to 75. It was truly difficult to get the number down to 40. This is an exhaustive exercise each year, but fun to do.

We will start — in alphabetical order — with the 15 teams that just missed the cut for the top 25, then count things down all the way to number one.

And with that, we’re off. We hope you enjoy the content, and have a great season.

15 teams that missed the cut (in alphabetical order)

Bishop Feehan

The Shamrocks had a successful run in 2021, as they beat rival North Attleboro at the beginning of the season and were eliminated from the D2 playoffs with a close loss to Reading. The main source of optimism around Feehan this year stems from strong play in the trenches. Case Mankins (6-4, 255), Eddie Cinelli (6-2, 270), Tristen Upton (5-11, 240), and Jake Gosselin (6-0, 240) are the names to watch there. MLB/FB Dante Bruschi is an instinctive linebacker, while Connor McHale (KR/WR/S), Nick Yanchuk (RB/OLB), and Cam Burns (RB/CB) are all dangerous with the ball in their hands. Nonleague tests with North Attleboro and Attleboro will be interesting, while a very good St. Mary’s team and Bishop Fenwick are the biggest hurdles within the Catholic Central League.


After a successful, 4-1 Fall II season, Brockton dropped to 5-6 last year, but still had some positives, such as winning the Southeast Conference for the second year in a row and making the playoffs. There is potential for greater strides this fall in coach Peter Colombo’s last year. It starts with a wide receiving group that will be tough to contend with, led by junior Cam Monteiro, who already holds D1 offers. The rest of the unit is strong with Christensen Paul, Mike Victor, and Matt Turco. Running back Kensley Rock has the coaching staff excited. Makhi Boston and Tsunami Resende anchor the lines, and defensive end/tight end Donovan Munroe has plenty of potential, as well.


Doherty has been one of the top programs in both Central Mass. and the state in recent years, consistently churning out teams that are both athletic and physical, and able to compete with just about anyone in the region. The Highlanders had a bit of an inexperienced team in 2021 and posted a 6-5 record. We project Doherty to improve on that this fall. There is a nice mix of largely junior and senior talent on Sean Mulcahy’s squad this year. Juniors include Malachi Burke (RB), Juan Reynolds (FS/WR), and Bryce Miller (OL/LB). Seniors to watch are Liam Bisnette (OL/DL), Khamani Lomax (OL/DL), Tim Moynagh (WR/QB/DB), and Ryan Flanagan (WR/DB). The schedule is tough with its usual CMass slate and a new date against Mansfield also on there.


A consistent power out of the Hockomock League’s Davenport Division is Foxboro, which should again be a team to watch. Last year, behind running back Dylan Gordon and a deep group of skill positions, the Warriors put together a 9-3 season. Along the way, Foxboro earned wins over North Attleboro, Plymouth South, Stoughton and Wilmington. The only losses were to Duxbury, Milford, and Mansfield. This year, Foxboro loses most of its offensive production, but should still be strong behind a very good junior class. That group includes WR/CB Tony Sulham, LB/RB Lincoln Moore, and DE/TE Brandon Mazenkas. Senior WR/S Payton Francis is also one to watch. The schedule is interesting with nonleague tests against Holliston, Whitman-Hanson, Plymouth South, Hopkinton, and a crossover Hockomock test with North Attleboro.


Melrose has been consistently one of the best programs in the state under coach Tim Morris. The program has always featured a strong defense and powerful running game. Melrose has most recently won state titles in Division 4 in both 2017 and 2019. And although the team had an uncharacteristic, 3-8 down year last season, five of those losses were by one score. We expect Melrose to bounce back both in the Middlesex League and the state. The offensive line should be a strength with Columbia-bound two-way lineman and captain Braden Marceau-Olayinka (6-3, 260), center and captain Jack Claeys (5-10, 225), and Charlie Krygowski (6-2, 240). The skill spots are led by running back/strong safety and captain Stephen Fogerty and wide receiver Otto Albanese. The Middlesex crossover game with Reading to open the season should be a good one.

North Reading

Always one of the top programs out of the Cape Ann League, North Reading cranked it up a notch last year. The Hornets made it to the Division 5 state title game, where they fell in a close one to Swampscott, 14-7. With a quality nucleus back for this season, the Hornets can possibly reach those heights again, or further. Leading the way is quarterback and league MVP Alex Carucci. The Hornets also have returning league all-stars in OT/MLB Sam Morelli, OT/DL Anthony Pino, WR/S Craig Rubino, and RB Will Batten. Coach Ed Blum is also looking for contributions from OG/DL Owen Delano, K/OLB/WR Matt Guidebeck, OL/DL Teddy Suny, WR/DB Ryan McGuire, and others. The Hornets open with nonleague games against Northeast and Greater Lawrence before jumping into Cape Ann League play against Pentucket.

Old Rochester

One of the perennial powers out of the South Coast Conference is Old Rochester. This is a program that consistently runs the ball well out of the I. The Bulldogs made it to the Div. 6 state title game in 2018, where it lost to Stoneham, 26-20. Now, Old Rochester competes in D5 and should be one of the favorites in that bracket. It is the clear-cut team to beat in the SCC. Last year, the Bulldogs notched some good wins on its way to a 7-3 year. The only losses were to Dartmouth, Fairhaven, and Pentucket. This year, the Bulldogs return eight starters on each side of the ball. Leading the way are QB Noah Sommers, FB/LB Jacksen Martin, RB/LB Walter Rosher, OL/DL Brendan Hubbard, and WR/CB Landon Maxwell. There are some interesting nonleague games with Dartmouth, KIPP, and Dennis-Yarmouth.

Plymouth South

In 2019, Plymouth South made it to the Div. 4 state title game, where it lost to Melrose. Expectations are high again for the Panthers, who this season have a team with a chance to make another deep playoff run. Last year, Plymouth South had a strong team that went 8-3, including wins over Hanover, Stoughton, and North Quincy. The losses were to Scituate, Foxboro, and Westfield. Once again, much of the optimism centers around junior running back Casious Johnson, who is a returning All-State performer. Joining him on the Panthers this fall is his younger brother, freshman RB/CB Gio Lynch. There is a solid skill group returning in WR Jamie Andrews, WR/CB Liam Davis, CB/S Declan Davis, and QB Cole Brunstrom. Offensive lineman Harry Ottino (6-4, 255) and three-year starter at LB Jackson Elliott also return.


Rockland has.a proud tradition and added to it last season with a Div. 6 state title. The Bulldogs beat Abington at GIllette Stadium, 23-13. It was the second time Rockland defeated a very strong Green Wave team in 2021. The only losses for this team last year were to Middleboro and East Bridgewater en route to a 10-2 mark. Once again, Rockland promises to have the type of team that can make a deep playoff run. The Bulldogs should be solid on both sides of the ball, and have experience in the right places. Leading the way again is RB/DB Lucas Leander. Leander had a terrific 2021 and is a valuable runner and receiver. QB Michael Moriarty returns, as does RB/S Jake Wilson, and WR/CB Gavin Wardwell. The Bulldogs open the season with games against Hingham, Silver Lake, and Whitman-Hanson before South Shore League Sullivan Division play starts.


Going back to 2018, Scituate has won two Div. 4 state titles, and established itself as one of the premier programs both in the South Shore and the state. The Sailors always feature a balanced offense and strong defense. Although this team has to replace a lot of key pieces on both sides of the ball, the Sailors should still be formidable. Leading the way for Scituate this fall are their four captains. Danny Thompson is a returning two-way starter on both lines at 6-5, 295. Also a two-way starter at TE/DE is 6-3, 225-pounder Jamieson Hodlin. Returning defensive starter Colin Morley at 5-10, 200 will move from outside to inside linebacker. Will Chatteron, a returning starter who played CB last year, will move all over the field on offense. Senior Shane Johnston transferred back to Scituate from St. Paul’s (NH) and will make an impact on the lines at 6-5, 275.


In recent years, Shrewsbury has been a model of consistency, as the Colonials have not had a losing season since 2015, and won the Mid-Wach A three times. Last season, Shrewsbury went 6-5 with wins over Wachusett, Nashoba, Doherty, and Shepherd Hill. The Colonials have a nice group back and will try to make a run in the Div. 1 playoffs. Some names to watch include senior WR/OLB Oliver Canavan (6-0, 175), junior captain and TE/DE Cooper Ackerman (6-4, 230), senior captain and QB/S TJ Welch (5-10, 180), senior captain and RB/DB Owen Keeley (5-11, 180), senior captain and LB/G John O’Leary (5-11, 190), senior OT/DT Joe McKenzie (6-6, 225), senior OG/DT Karol Harasim (5-10, 185), senior captain and LB/G Thomas Caputo (5-10, 195), and senior OT/DT Brad Blattner (6-7, 295). The Colonials play an Eastern Mass.-heavy schedule that includes Andover, Acton-Boxboro, and Walpole in nonleague play.


There have been few programs around the state that have been on as much of a roll as Swampscott. The Big Blue won Div. 5 state titles both in 2019 and 2021. Coach Bobby Serino has his program competing well with everyone on the schedule. Last year, the Big Blue posted quality wins over Masconomet, North Reading, Beverly, Bishop Fenwick, Danvers, and Peabody. The only loss was to D3 state champion Marblehead on Thanksgiving. The Big Blue lost a lot of production to graduation, but return WR Elijah Burns, CB/WR Jason Codispodi, CB/WR Chris Ferragamo, and G/LB Ethan Gee. The nonleague schedule again is challenging with Auburn, Lynn English, Bishop Fenwick, Saugus, and Northeast.


Coach Brian Aylward’s program has been a model of consistency over the years, and we expect that to continue this fall. Going back to 2012, Tewksbury has won eight Merrimack Valley Conference Small Division titles. This team is just always there. Once again, the MVC Small projects to be one of the toughest leagues in the state. In addition to Tewksbury, programs like Chelmsford, Billerica, and North Andover all have the potential to win that league. Tewksbury will be led by seniors Michael Sullivan (WR/DB, 5-10, 175), Sean Hirtle (LB/FB, 5-10, 180), Blake Ryder (DE/TE, 5-11, 190), and Alex Arbogast (RB, 5-9, 165). The nonleague portion of the schedule also should be tough, with teams like Danvers, MVC crossover opponents Lowell and Andover, Belmont, and Wilmington on Thanksgiving.


When sizing up the Bay State Conference this fall, there are a number of different teams with a chance to make a real impact. Programs like Natick, Milton, and Wellesley are right there. Then there is Walpole, and the potential exists for a big year on Common Street. In 2021, Walpole went 7-4 with competitive losses to those aforementioned teams and Masconomet. So the Timberwolves are close, and we believe they will take the next step. The reason for that optimism is a terrific group of seniors, especially on offense. Quarterback Corey Kilroy, wide receivers Max Collins and Sean O’Brien (a big target at 6-foot-6), running back Andrew Falzone, and offensive lineman Mike Welter (6-1, 265) lead the way. From Sept. 16 to Sept. 30, Walpole plays Natick, Wellesley, and Milton in consecutive weeks. Then there is an interesting nonleague tussle with Shrewsbury. Those games will reveal a lot.


While Springfield Central gets most of the attention out in Western Mass., Westfield is a program that people should also be paying attention to. Last year, the Bombers made it to the Division 3 Final Four before losing to eventual champion Marblehead. Although Westfield will be a little young, the Bombers will be very talented on both sides of the ball. Sophomore quarterback Jax St. Pierre earned valuable experience as a freshman last year. Junior running back Kaevon Eddington and sophomore Lucas Guay will power the ground game. Senior Connor Connally, sophomore Kash Kelly, juniors Antonio Adams and Noah Delgado, and sophomore Nick Guay are the top receivers. Offensive linemen Declan Connally, Jadon Gibbs, and Michael Ritchie started last year and are back. The defensive line returns sack leader Tyreek Mejia plus Jacon Gibbs and Ritchie. Cooper McNamara is the top linebacker, and the secondary is led by Sean Roselli at corner and Connor Connally at safety.

Top 25

25. Grafton

Last year, Grafton established itself as one of the best Division 4 programs statewide. This team earned wins over Northbridge, Bedford, Shrewsbury, Marlboro (twice), and Nashoba. The only loss was in the postseason to a very good Scituate team that eventually won the D4 state title. There is reason to believe that Grafton will make another run this season, as there is a good nucleus back from last year’s team. Seniors to watch include OL/DL Mark Kogan, QB Casey Jordan, TE/LB Ryanne Chibani, OL/LB Cooper Berube, and RB/DB TJ Cahill. Grafton has one of the best young running backs in the state in junior RB/DB Tyson Thomas, along with fellow juniors OL/DL Riley McCann and WR/DB Wes Williams. The schedule remains tough as the three opening games against Nashoba, Masconomet, and Worcester South should reveal a fair amount.

24. Lincoln-Sudbury

Going back to when Tom Lopez was the coach at Lincoln-Sudbury, and now under Jim Girard, the Warriors have always had a proud tradition. Every year, L-S has been one of the teams to beat out of the Dual County League. Under Lopez, L-S ran the Wing-T, and under Girard has been more multiple. But any way you slice it, this has been a proud program that can basically compete with anybody. L-S last made the Division 2 state title game in 2019 with a loss to Mansfield.  The Warriors had a strong Fall II performance, and then last year went 9-1 with the lone loss in the D2 playoffs to Marshfield. L-S lost a lot to graduation, but returns some top players. Leading the way are captains Mason Greenfield (6-2, 205, WR/LB) and Chase Gozdeck (6-2, 210, TE/DE), and fellow senior Matt Pendergast (6-2, 305, OL/DL). The schedule features intriguing nonleague games with North Andover, Brockton, and New Bedford.

23. Milton

Last year, Milton went 8-3 with wins over Walpole and Dartmouth, among others, and losses to Scituate, North Attleboro, and Natick. We expect coach Steve Dembowski and Co. to once again be one of the top offensive teams in the state. The Wildcats can always throw the ball as well as anyone, as they won this summer’s Northeast 7v7 New England title. Six players return who were Bay State Conference All-Stars in 2021. Leading the way is QB/FS Owen McHugh, who is a captain and one of the top returning quarterbacks in the state. Other BSC All-Stars include Jack Finnegan (RB/CB, capt.), Drew Cakouros (C/DL, capt.), Liam McLaughlin (LB), Michael Fulton (WR), and Luke Sammon (WR). Other standouts for the WIldcats include KJ Beckett (OLB/TE, Bowdoin commit, capt.), DIllon Mackenzie (WR), and Shane Olsen (WR). Nonleague games with Scituate and Holliston should be two of the most intriguing games on the schedule.

22. Barnstable

Maybe a few months ago, we would have assumed that Barnstable was in for a rebuilding year. After all, the Red Hawks lost two All-State players in running back Eugene Jordan and linebacker Pat O’Neill. Most teams lose firepower like that, and the expectations drop a bit. But Barnstable appears to have reloaded and looks capable of matching or exceeding last year’s 8-3 record. It has been a very good offseason for the Red Hawks’ young talent. Returning starters include sophomore WR/DB Chevy Shakespeare, senior OL/DL Will Robke (Williams commit), junior OL/DL Harry Ellis, junior DB Eric Lovell, senior DB/WR JJ Martin, and junior WR Darren Thomas. Coach Ross Jatkola is also expecting big years from senior RB Marc Wiseman, senior QB Jake Mooney, and junior WR/RB/DB Tajardo France. The independent schedule includes games against Brockton, Reading, Bridgewater-Raynham, Mansfield, Milford, and Central Catholic.

21. BIllerica

It was a solid 2021 for Billerica, which made the Division 3 playoffs out of the Merrimack Valley Conference Small Division. For the year, BIllerica earned wins over teams like Hanover, North Andover, Westford Academy, and Wilmington. The losses were to North Attleboro, Tewksbury, and Chelmsford as Billerica finished 9-3. Under coach Duane Sigsbury, Billerica has been a consistent force with a strong passing game and stingy defense. Leading the way for Billerica this year are seniors JT Green (QB), Scott Einarson (TE/DE), Sebastian St. Pierre (WR), and Keith Johnston (NG). Sigsbury also expects big contributions from juniors like Mike Murnane (FS), Gus O’Gara (WR), and Cole Dillon (TE). The rest of the MVC Small is tough, with teams like Tewksbury, North Andover, and Chelmsford all expected to contend.

20. Andover

Last year was a bit up and down for Andover, as the Golden Warriors posted a 5-7 record. But when it comes to talent and experience, Andover has a ton coming back. Leading the way is RB/OLB Lincoln Beal, an NEFJ All-State performer who has been a standout for Andover since his freshman season. Another talented, experienced performer is QB Scott Brown, who will be in his fourth year starting. Up front is Jason Osborne, who at 6-2, 275 pounds is an OL/NG and a Central Conn. St. recruit. LB Bryan McSweeney is 6-1, 205 and started last year as a sophomore. DE Danny Hunter is 6-1, 210 and a three-year starter. Senior OL/DL Stephen Medeiros started as a junior and is 6-2. Brian Hnat is a big target at 6-4.5 at WR/DB and is a Brown recruit. Dante Berger is a 5-10, 190-pound RB/DB. The opener with Shrewsbury should be interesting, as Andover won a 49-42 shootout between the two last year.

19. Natick

Natick is coming off a 9-2 season in 2021 where the only two losses were both to Milford, and one of them was by a point where Natick missed a two-point conversion with no time left on the clock. The Redhawks have won five straight Bay State Conference divisional titles and could be in good position to do so again. Natick has a lot of production to replace, as its two top running backs, two top receivers, and quarterback have graduated. The Redhawks also lost a lot on the lines. They will be led by captains Lou Linton (OLB/WR), Henry O’Connor (LB), Drew Waldron (DB/WR), Jack Hubbard (C), and Jack McCarthy (DE/TE). Other returning contributors include Brett Heyde (OG), Keenan Kelly (DL), Teddy Ferrucci (RB/OLB), Joe Spinazola (DB/WR), Matt Pole (WR/DB), Owen Corrigan (WR), and Brady Holcomb (LB). Two quarterbacks are competing for the job: sophomore Damon Taylor and senior Drew George. The nonleague schedule includes games with Milford and Brockton.

18. North Attleboro

It is a new beginning in North Attleboro, as coach Don Johnson stepped down this offseason. The new coach is Mike Strachan, who grew up in North Attleboro and played for the Red Rocketeers. Most recently, Strachan was the head coach at Thanksgiving Day rival Attleboro from 2013 to 2021. He takes over a North team that went to the Division 3 state title game last year. The Red Rocketeers went 8-4 last season, with wins over King Philip, Milton, and Billerica, and losses to Marblehead, Mansfield, Foxboro, and Bishop Feehan. North will make the move into the Hockomock League’s Kelley-Rex Division, as Mansfield is coming down into the Davenport. Although North loses a fair amount of production, the Red Rocketeers return a solid nucleus. Leading the way are captains Zach Gallagher (OL/DL), Greg Berthiaume (LB), and Nathan Schultz (WR/DB). Sophomore QB Chase Frisoli started as a freshman and is poised for a big sophomore campaign. Jack Munley is another TE/DE who saw time last year. The schedule includes an opener at Bishop Feehan and Hock crossover games with Mansfield and Foxboro.

17. Marshfield

It was a terrific 2021 for Marshfield, which went 9-3 and made the Division 2 Final Four. Some of the wins included ones over Lincoln-Sudbury, Methuen, and La Salle Academy (RI), Hingham, and Beverly. The losses were to Catholic Memorial in the postseason, Duxbury on Thanksgiving, and St. John’s Prep in a close game in the opener. Coach Chris Arouca has orchestrated a fast-paced, uptemo offense that takes defenses off guard. Top players for the Rams include RB/WR Jason O’Keefe, who broke the school record for receiving yards. The Rams also return OL/DL Jacob Cappuccilli, LB/RB Aidan True, DB Joe Corbo, and RB Jack Marini. The first four games of the season are all against quality programs, as the Rams start out with St. John’s Prep, Methuen, BC High, and Bridgewater-Raynham.

16. Methuen

Methuen has been a program that has steadily risen in the Merrimack Valley Conference Large Division the last few years. The big, signature win came over Everett in the Division 1 playoffs. In addition to that, Methuen also scored nice victories over North Andover, Lawrence, and Andover. The losses were to Franklin, Central Catholic, and by one point to Marshfield. Methuen is capable of making a run in the D1 playoffs, and has some experience in key spots. Junior QB/DB Drew Eason leads the list of returners. Also coming back are TE/OLB Anesti Touma, QB/DB Xander Silva, OL/DL Josiris Gomez, RB/DB Shane Eason, NG Joe Jean, OL/DL Jared Rao, and K Omar Aboutoui. The schedule opens with Lynn English, then the Rangers trek down to the South Shore for a rematch with Marshfield.

15. St. John’s (S)

The 2021 season was a big one for St. John’s of Shrewsbury. The Pioneers had their first year in the Catholic Conference, and while they only went 5-6, they pulled off some big wins. Some of those victories included over St. John’s Prep, Taunton, Shrewsbury, and BC High. The defeats came at the hands of Catholic Memorial, Central Catholic (twice), Xaverian, Mansfield, and Everett. Although St. John’s lost a fair amount of production to graduation, there is enough here to make a run in Division 1. Leading the way for the Pioneers are OT/DT Pat Borawski, QB Ryan Miller, RB/LB Ben Wing, WR Keith Sarkodieh, WR/DB Garrett Ranieri, FL/LB Matt Marchese, SS Luke Lengel, FS Ron Burton III, and RB Logan Mercer. The schedule once again is one of the most difficult in the state. The nonleague slate includes Mansfield, Shrewsbury, Central Catholic, and Fitchburg.

14. Wachusett

It was a successful 2021 for Wachusett, as the Mountaineers went 8-3 and made the Division 1 playoffs. Wins included those over Algonquin, Fitchburg, Andover, Minnechaug, Doherty, and Shepherd Hill. The losses were to Franklin, St. John’s Prep, and Shrewsbury. A lot of the optimism around this 2022 team revolves around the quarterback.  Wachusett has one of the best ones in Tucker McDonald, who will continue his career at UConn. He returns two OL/DL in Hudson Foster and Harrison Rohlfs. Wide receivers Arturo Johnson, Joe Cappabianca, LB Ethan Blomquist, and FS Matt Raeke are back. Running backs Cole Carelli and Aiden McGeary are also returning. TE/DE Grayson Baker is back. The nonleague slate is interesting with Franklin, Fitchburg, Minnechaug, Acton-Boxboro, and Salem (NH).

13. Everett

It’s hard to find a tradition in this state that tops Everett’s, especially in recent memory. The Crimson Tide won 12 state and Super Bowl titles from 1997 to 2017. However, Everett has not been back to the big game since that storied 2017 team, which already has two players in the NFL in Isaiah Likely and Lewis Cine. Last year, the Crimson Tide pulled off a huge win at the beginning of the year over Xaverian. But Everett fell short in the playoffs with a 25-22 loss to Methuen. Other notable wins included over St. John’s of Shrewsbury, Revere, and Andover. This year’s team returns starting quarterback Kamari Ellerbe, DB/WR Pedro Rodriguez, WR/RB/DB Christian Zamor (committed to Boston College), OL Nick Raymond (6-2, 265), and WR/DB Jacoby Ward. Coach Rob DiLoreto said weight room participation in the offseason was good. The Xaverian game once again highlights the nonleague slate.

12. Franklin

This program had a bit of a breakthrough season in 2021, as the Panthers went 10-1 and won the ultra-competitive Hockomock League Kelley-Rex Division. The only loss was a competitive one to eventual Division 1 state champion Springfield Central. Along the way, Franklin beat King Philip, Duxbury, Milford, Mansfield, Methuen, and Wachusett. The Panthers graduated a good bit of production, but have strong athletes waiting in the wings. Jase Lyons, who started last year at safety, could be the next man up at quarterback. Luke Davis (WR/CB), Grayson Hunter (TE), Ben Papa (OL), Ben Ryan (OL), and Leo Meuse (OL) are all names to remember on offense. The defense returns more experience. Look out for Jay Gulla (DL), Emmett Lackey (DL), Julian Rampino (DL), Nick Quintina (LB), Luke Sidwell (CB), and Devine “DJ” Johnson (CB) as the main contributors there. There are three strong nonleague games with Wachusett, Brockton, and Duxbury before league play starts.

11. Reading

Coach John Fiore has done an excellent job with the Reading program, as the Rockets are consistently competitive with anyone on the schedule. The Rockets tend to have great run-pass effectiveness, and have had a run of very good quarterbacks. Last year, Reading went 10-1 with wins over the likes of Barnstable, Bishop Feehan, Danvers, Woburn, and Stoneham. The lone loss was in the Division 2 playoffs to eventual champion Catholic Memorial. Much of the optimism revolves around starting quarterback James Murphy, who will be a four-year starter. He’s 6-foot-5 and an accurate passer with good feet. Other contributors for the Rockets include WR/DB Aiden Bekkenhuis, OL/DL Eamon Centrella, OL/DL Collin Donahue, OL Ryan Mulvey, WR/LB Ryan Strout, WR/LB Jesse Doherty, WR/FS Alex DiNapoli, LB Giacomo Iapicca, and DB Jack Daugherty. The first three games against Melrose, Barnstable, and Danvers will tell a lot.

10. Marblehead

Not many on the North Shore have it going better than the Magicians. Heck, not many in the state do. Marblehead is coming off a 12-0 season where the Magicians won the Division 3 state title game over North Attleboro at Gillette Stadium. Even though some key pieces from that team are gone, Marblehead still has enough coming back to be considered the favorite to repeat as D3 state champs. In addition to the victory over the Red Rocketeers, Marblehead in 2021 posted quality wins over D5 champ Swampscott, Masconomet (twice), Westfield, North Andover, Beverly, Danvers, and Peabody. The top returning player is WR/TB/DB Connor Cronin, a senior who blew up last season. Other main contributors figure to be WR/DB Zander Danforth, MLB/OT Christian Pacheco, TB/WR/CB Andy Palmer, QB/LB Miles O’Neil, LB/G Sam Annese, DT/G Jack Anashansly, and OT/DE Scott Campbell. Concord-Carlisle, Lynnfield, and North Andover highlight the nonleague slate.

9. Milford

One of the premier rising programs in the state right now is Milford. Coming out of the Hockomock League’s Kelley-Rex Division, Milford made a huge impact last year. The Scarlet Hawks won games over the likes of Mansfield, Foxboro, and Natick (twice) in a 9-3 season. The losses were to King Philip (twice), and Franklin. Coach Dale Olson has it rolling, as Milford will be a threat both to win the Kelley-Rex, but be a contender in the Division 2 playoffs. The Scarlet Hawks have an experienced, talented team. Quarterback Evan Cornelius is back as a returning starter. Other players to watch include DE Mason Baldic, DT Keith Lee, RB/WR Isaiah Pantalone, LB/K Nick Araujo, LT Tyler Potter, and OC Ryan O’Connor. The schedule is once again tough, with dates with Bridgewater-Raynham, Wellesley, Natick, and Barnstable highlighting the nonleague slate.

8. Duxbury

Year after year, Dubury graduates top players, then replaces them and keeps winning. That is the tradition and expectation set, and coach Matt Landolfi has another group capable of winning a lot of games. In 2021, Duxbury made it to the Division 4 state title game, where it lost to Scituate, a team it beat in the regular season. The Dragons also beat Marshfield, Foxboro, Hingham, Danvers, and Bridgewater-Raynham. The only other loss was to a very good Franklin team. The top returning player is a very good one in senior quarterback Matt Festa, who first got playing time as a freshman. Other players to watch include RB Alex Barlow, S Brendan Bonner, WR/CB Chris Walsh, WR Colin Quinlan, OL Nicholas Ayres, OLB Finn Carley, and OL/DL Jack Johnson. The three games to open the season are against Hanover, Scituate, and Franklin.

7. Mansfield

Under coach Mike Redding, Mansfield has won consistently at a high level for decades now, going back to the 1990s. The Hornets are typically tough, and don’t always have high-D1 talent, but find a way to compete with the best in the state. Their most recent great success was a Division 2 state title in 2019. Last year, Mansfield went 7-4 with wins over North Attleboro, Foxboro, St. John’s of Shrewsbury, and Barnstable. The losses were to Franklin, King Philip (twice), and Milford. Redding has a talented and experienced team back for this fall. Two-way lineman Jephte Jean is 6-3, 260 and a wrecking ball on both sides. LB/RB Rocco Scarpellini is a hard runner on offense and a good tackler on defense. Trevor Foley is a 6-4 wide receiver who runs great routes and has excellent hands. Mansfield moves down to the Hockomock Davenport this year. The schedule includes St. John’s (S), North Attleboro, Doherty, Haverford (Pa.), and Barnstable.

6. King Philip

One of the perennial powers in the state out of the Hockomock Kelley-Rex, King Philip had a terrific 2021 and is looking to build on that. The Warriors made it to the Division 2 state title game last year, where they gave Catholic Memorial a heck of a battle before succumbing at Gillette Stadium. In its 9-3 season, KP earned wins over Milford (twice), Mansfield (twice), and Chelmsford. The losses were to Franklin, North Attleboro, and of course CM. We expect KP to once again be a top-tier squad. Junior Tommy McLeish looks to take over the quarterback spot, and he has plenty of potential. Running back Rudy Gately is another in a long line of workhorse backs for coach Brian Lee. Chris Sesay (6-6, 265) is a big, two-way tackle. Nate Kearney (FB/DE) and Will Astorino (FB/MLB) are two tough players for the Warriors. The schedule opens with BC High, Needham, and Xaverian, with the last game a premier showdown in the state that weekend.

5. Central Catholic

When you talk about Division 1 powers in this state, that conversation always has to include Central Catholic out of the Merrimack Valley Conference. Coach Chuck Adamopoulos always has the team ready, and it is usually solid on both sides of the ball. Last year, the Raiders made it to the Div. 1 state title game, where they lost to a Springfield Central team that they beat in the regular season. Along the way, Central beat a St. John’s Prep team that it lost to in the regular season. One of the top players for the Raiders this year is ILB/TE Preston Zinter, a Notre Dame pledge who played on the edge last season. ILB Sean Mercuri led the team in tackles last year. RB/S Mathias Latham is a terrific RB and S. G/DT Jaden WIggins and OT/DT Presley Titus hold it down on the lines. QB Blake Hebert is a promising sophomore who is taking over for NEFJ All-State performer Ayden Pereira and already holds a UMass offer. WR/CB Ty Cannistraro, CB/TB Marquis Bridgewater, OLB Marcus Rivera, and K Mikey Ryan are all returning as well. Central opens with Springfield Central and St. John’s Prep.

4. Xaverian

There are not many teams in this state who have enjoyed more success at a high level than Xaverian. The Hawks always are tough, run the ball well, and play great defense. This year’s team promises to be no different. Last year, Xaverian went 8-3 with wins over St. John’s Prep, St. John’s of Shrewsbury, and Brockton (twice). The losses were to the two top teams in the state — Catholic Memorial and Springfield Central — and a very good Everett team. Expect a typically strong Hawks squad this season. Offensive and defensive tackle Jon Mould (6-6, 295) had Power 5 FBS offers and is going to Harvard. OG/DE Matthew DeFeo is very good on both sides of the ball. WR/CB Charlie Comella had a strong 2021 and will build off that. So did S Anthony Busa, and WR Jon Monteiro is one of the best junior receivers in the state. FB/LB Cole Jette and RB Michael Oates are staples in the backfield. Nonleague games to start the year against Everett, Bridgewater-Raynham, King Philip, and Lawrence will set the tone.

3. St. John’s Prep

In the past 10 seasons, St. John’s Prep has won Division 1 state titles in 2012, 2018, and 2019. The Eagles are always tough to handle, and coach Brian St. Pierre has done an excellent job since taking over for Jim O’Leary. Last year was a bit of an up-and-down experience, with wins over Central Catholic, Marshfield, Wachusett, Bridgewater-Raynham, and Shrewsbury. The losses were to Catholic Memorial, Xaverian, St. John’s of Shrewsbury, and Central Catholic in a rematch in the Division 1 playoffs. The Prep received some great news in the offseason when S/WR Joenel Aguero returned to Danvers from IMG Academy. Aguero is a five-star prospect and Georgia verbal commit. Captains Jesse Ofurie (WR), Carson Browne (RB), Mikey Nabbout (DE), and Christian Difo (OL) will lead the team. OL Pius Ejindu is another player to watch. Marshfield, Central Catholic, Haverhill, and La Salle Academy (RI) test the Prep before Catholic Conference play.

2. Springfield Central

No program has come on in recent years quite like Springfield Central. The Golden Eagles won Division 3 state titles in 2018 and 2019, and then really kicked the door down in 2021 by taking the Div. 1 championship. Coach Valdamar Brower has moved on to become the defensive line coach at UMass, and now Bill Watson has taken over at Central. Last year, Central beat Central Catholic at Gillette, and also scored wins over Franklin, Xaverian, and Westfield. The only losses were to Central Catholic (in the regular season) and IMG Academy, one of the very best programs in the country. Coming back for his fourth year starting at quarterback is William “Pop” Watson. The Nebraska verbal commit is accurate and has as strong an arm as you’ll find around here. He is protected by senior offensive tackles Jayden Bass and Ahmari Owens. Kevin Jackson is the most experienced receiver, and RB Tariq Thomas had a great night in the second Central Catholic game. The defensive line is stacked with tackles Bryce Gentry Warrick and Quadir Price and end Josiah Griffin. S Kymari Latney is a big hitter. Central Catholic, BC High, and national power St. John’s (DC) highlight the nonleague schedule.

1. Catholic Memorial

Since coming to Catholic Memorial from Everett, coach John DiBiaso has led the Knights to three state title games, losing twice to St. John’s Prep in Div. 1 showdowns, and beating King Philip in the 2021 Div. 2 championship. While CM has drawn criticism for not opting back up to D1, you cannot deny how good this program is right now. Last year, the Knights went 12-0 with wins over Marshfield, Xaverian, St. John’s Prep, Bishop Hendricken (RI), Reading, St. John’s (S), and La Salle Academy (RI). Some longtime observers put that CM team up there with some of the best ever from this state. Offensively, this team will be explosive. QB JC Petrongolo saw time as a freshman and is a skilled distributor. Running backs Carson Harwood and Datrell Jones are two breakaway threats, and Jones is a Boston College verbal commit. The wide receiver group of Jaedn Skeete (BC commit), Matthew Rios, and Marvens Amazan is excellent. The line is strong behind Tim Bruen, Guerby Lambert, and Brandon Sullivan. DE Boubacar Traore is one of the best at his position in New England. The linebackers are led by Will Claude and Brady McGowan. CB Max Tucker and S David Afogho pace the secondary. The Catholic Conference is loaded, as usual, but CM will be the heavy favorite both there and in D2.