What a season it was.
As we do our final look at the MIAA Top 25, we just have to state how special this year was. There were some unbelievable performances and games throughout.
Our final list is a little different. This one has a special emphasis on accomplishment. We wanted to get all eight state titlists in. Therefore, two deserving teams — Brockton and Hanover — were bumped out.
In any other setting, Brockton and Hanover would have made it. But when we include the state champs, they were not a part of it.
Let’s take one, last look, with extended explanations.
It was a special season, and thank you to all the players, coaches, administrators, parents, and fans for making it so.
Let’s get to it.
Final MIAA Top 25
1. Catholic Memorial (12-0) — Not a surprise. A wire-to-wire performance here as the No. 1 team. CM had a special group. The Knights were led by running backs Datrell Jones and Carson Harwood, a twosome that everyone on their schedule had trouble stopping. Over the course of the season, the Knights went undefeated for a Division 2 state title and ran their winning streak to 29 games. Wins included those over St. John’s Prep, King Philip, Xaverian, Milford, La Salle (RI), Bishop Hendricken (RI), Chelmsford, and others. What does this team do for an encore? The Knights return the majority of their offensive line, but have to reload in most other spots. They are capable of doing so.
2. St. John’s Prep (11-2) — The Eagles had the single most impressive performance of anyone at Gillette Stadium last weekend. The victory over Springfield Central in the Division 1 state title game was a tremendous one for coach Brian St. Pierre and Co. The Eagles were superiors in the trenches and became the only team in the state to beat Springfield Central. Over the course of the year, the only losses were to CM and Central Catholic. Other major wins included those over Xaverian, Central Catholic, Andover, Marshfield, La Salle (RI) and others. Safety and wide receiver Joenel Aguero had a stellar year for the Prep, and wide receiver and cornerback Jesse Ofurie and running back Carson Browne did, too. The Prep returns three offensive linemen, three tight ends, a quarterback, and six of its front seven.
3. Springfield Central (10-2) — .At one point, we were considering jumping Central into the top spot. The Division 1 quarterfinal over Xaverian, a 56-22 rout, had us thinking that maybe this was the true No. 1 team in the state. However, St. John’s Prep dashed those hopes with a 13-0 win over Central in the D1 state title. Despite that loss, Central had a tremendous season. Quarterback WIlliam Watson had an excellent season. Over the course of the season, Central earned wins over Central Catholic, Xaverian, Methuen, Shrewsbury and others. The Golden Eagles lose an exceptional senior class, but will reload.
4. Duxbury (12-0) — We saw the first game of the season for Duxbury, a 21-7 win over Hanover. The Dragons were impressive throughout, and utterly dominant en route to a D4 state title. Quarterback Matt Festa had a spectacular season, beating teams with both his legs and his arm. Duxbury did not have one single game decided by single digits. There were wins over Franklin, Marshfield, Hanover, Holliston, Grafton, Scituate, Middleboro, Hingham and others. It was just a perfect season for the Dragons, in more ways than one.
5. Wakefield (13-0) — This team also had one of the most impressive wins at Gillette, beating Milton in the D3 state title game. Wakefield had many standout players lead the Warriors to success. Quarterback Javin Willis, tight end Ian Dixon, and backs Christian and Nathan Delgado all played big roles. The season included wins over North Attleboro, Milton, Plymouth South, Stoneham, Masconomet, Woburn, Melrose, Watertown, and others. It was a truly excellent year for the Warriors.
6. Andover (10-1) — Although this team did not win a D1 state title, it was still a very good showing for Andover. Leading the way were quarterback Scotty Brown and running back and linebacker Lincoln Beal. This team earned wins over Central Catholic, Methuen, Tewksbury, North Andover, and Shrewsbury, among others. This was a special senior class that will be tough to replace.
7. King Philip (9-3) — You have to say, coach Brian Lee and his staff got the absolute most out of this group. The Warriors lost in the D2 state final to CM, but it was still an unbelievable season for KP. Running backs Rudy Gately, Will Astorino, and Kyle Abbott had great seasons, and this offensive line truly mauled people. Wins included over Milford, Xaverian, Bishop Feehan, Marshfield, Taunton, and others. This program will be right back in it next year.
8. Central Catholic (9-3) — It was yet another strong year for Central. Linebacker Preston Zinter was one of the best defensive players in the state. Coach Chuck Adamopoulos stepped down after the season, so there will be big shoes to fill there. Along the way, the Raiders beat St. John’s Prep, Methuen, Everett, and others. There are a lot of top players to replace, but we expect this program to reload.
9. Xaverian (7-4) — It was another strong year on Clapboardtree Street. Xaverian did not win the D1 state title, but had plenty of success along the way. Quarterback Henry Hasselbeck had a promising year and is coming back for his senior season. The Hawks earned wins over Everett, Wachusett, and Bridgewater-Raynham, among others. With Hasselbeck, the Hawks return top-shelf wide receivers in Charlie Comella and Jonathan Monteiro.
10. Milford (10-2) — Just a terrific season for coach Dale Olson and his Scarlet Hawks. This is a program that keeps ascending in both the Hockomock League and D2. Milford earned a share and the tiebreak of the Kelley-Rex title. Along the way, Milford earned wins over Franklin, North Attleboro, Mansfield, Taunton, Wellesley and others. Running back and linebacker Romeo Holland was a tremendous performer on both sides of the ball. There is a lot to replace, but this team will be strong again.
11. Milton (11-1) — A tough loss for coach Steve Dembowski at Gillette in the D3 state title game to Wakefield. But a truly special season for the WIldcats and quarterback Owen McHugh.
12. North Attleboro (8-3) — This program was another one that fell victim to Wakefield in the D3 state playoffs. But the Red Rocketeers had a great season, and the return of quarterback Chase Frisoli makes them a contender in 2023.
13. Methuen (9-3) — Could not keep up with Springfield Central in the D1 state semifinals, but the Rangers are going to be heard from again. Quarterback Drew Eason and his little brother, running back Shane Eason, return in 2023.
14. Franklin (7-3) — Coach Eian Bain probably could not have scripted a better finish than beating King Philip by a point on Thanksgiving. The Panthers lose a lot to graduation, but that was the case a year ago, too, and they just reloaded.
15. Grafton (11-2) — At the end of the day, this was probably the best team in Central Mass. The Gators lost the D4 state title game to Duxbury, but had a great year. Wins over Foxboro, Masconomet, Marlboro (2x), Shrewsbury, Worcester South, and Nashoba highlighted it.
16. Bishop Feehan (7-4) — Ignore the four losses. This team went on as good a run as anyone in the D2 state playoffs. Feehan blew out Peabody and Reading, and also owned a win over Bishop Fenwick in the regular season. A great year for Bryan Pinabell and Co.
17. Mansfield (9-2) — A strong year for the Hornets, but ultimately fell short to Milford in the D2 playoffs. Wide receivers CJ Bell and Trevor Foley are back next year, and the Hornets will be a state title contender out of the Hockomock League.
18. Billerica (10-1) — A great season for Billerica, which saw its season end at the hands of North Attleboro in the D3 state playoffs. Senior quarterback JT Green had a terrific season for this team, which has some reloading to do.
19. Everett (8-2) — The kings of the Greater Boston League fell to Central Catholic in the D1 state quarterfinals. Senior quarterback Kamarri Ellerbe had an excellent season for the Crimson Tide, who return a boatload and should contend in 2023.
20. Peabody (10-1) — Senior quarterback Shea Lynch had a season to remember for the Tanners. His deep passing game was as good as anyone you’ll see from around here. Wins over Marblehead, Leominster, and Westford Academy highlighted the slate.
21. Plymouth South (10-1) — The Panthers won a ton of close games over the course of. the season, and were one of the best teams on the South Shore. The return of junior running back Casious Johnson makes this team dangerous in 2023.
22. North Reading (11-2) — You had to see this team coming as the class of D5 with the way it closed out last season. Senior quarterback Alex Carucci went out on top with a terrific performance against Shawsheen in the D5 state title game.
23. St. Mary’s (12-1) — Just a terrific season for the Spartans out of Lynn. As far as individual performances go, they don’t get much better than what David Brown was able to do at running back for St. Mary’s. This team will have to reload with some big graduation losses.
24. West Boylston (11-2) — A tremendous season that resulted in a D7 state title win over St. Bernard’s. This team dominated on the ground all season. Wins included Amesbury, St. Bernard’s, Clinton, Wahconah, Blackstone Valley, and Oxford.
25. Hull (13-0) — Finally, our D8 state champ. The Pirates had a dominant run to the state championship, winning all 13 games. Running back John Gianibas had a spectacular senior season and performance at Gillette.
15 Teams That Just Missed the Cut (in alphabetical order)
Amesbury (9-2); Brockton (9-2); Chelmsford (8-3); Dover-Sherborn (11-1); Hanover (9-3); Holliston (10-2); Leominster (8-3); Marblehead (8-2); Marshfield (7-4); Reading (9-2); St. Bernard’s (11-2); Shawsheen (12-1); Stoneham (11-2); Wachusett (8-3); Walpole (9-2)