Final MIAA Top 25

Every year, the players, coaches, administrators, and fans outdo themselves, and we have another unbelievable year of high school football in Massachusetts.

This fall was no different.

We saw some tremendous performances, and unreal matchups that produced high drama.

These kids just produced a high level of play throughout, and it was so much fun.

As for these rankings, we take in a lot of factors. Certainly, we look at strength of schedule, how decisive the wins are, and the talent. In this final rundown, we look at accomplishments, and what the teams brought to the table over the course of the season.

This year, there were several teams that had an argument for the top spot, and it was a very tough decision. But we like our pick.

On to the final 2023 MIAA rankings . . .

1. King Philip (13-0) — It was simply a dominant performance over the course of the season for the Warriors. Their closest game was a 13-7 win over very good Foxboro team that ended up in our top 10. The brutish offensive line, plus quarterback Tommy McLeish, and a deep stable of running backs, led the way. The defense was simply dominant. Only four teams all year scored double-digits against KP. The 42-14 rout of a Marshfield team that had just beaten Catholic Memorial was the cherry on top for a great season. Coach Brian Lee has led KP to six of the last seven state title games, winning three. Next year, KP needs to replace some people on the offensive line, but this program is in reload mode right now.

2. Xaverian (11-2) — When we say there were multiple teams deserving of the top spot, we are talking about these Hawks. Here is the argument for the X. If you’re talking about toughest schedule, stop here. Xaverian had it. The Hawks had maybe a top 15 schedule in the Northeast, if you go to Pennsylvania on up. It is that way if you’re using the calpreps ratings. Xaverian only lost two games: at home to both Springfield Central and Catholic Memorial. The Hawks avenged the Springfield Central loss in the playoffs, and went on from there to beat Needham, and St. John’s Prep twice. This is a terrific resume, but there are those two losses. Quarterback Henry Hasselbeck had a year for the ages, and will be fun to watch in college.

3. Springfield Central (8-2) — Considering how many great players graduated off last year’s Central team, part of this has to be considered a surprise. But the Golden Eagles reloaded. Freshman quarterback Jareth Staine had a great season, and wide receiver Mattias Barbour was simply electric all year. The big win was over Xaverian in Westwood in the regular season, but the Hawks avenged that. Still, this was a strong year for the Golden Eagles, who return an utter boatload for 2024.

4. St. John’s Prep (11-2) — We thought about putting the Prep at No. 3, but Central’s earlier win over X when the Hawks were healthier gave the Golden Eagles the nod. But the Prep had a great season. Their play along both lines set them apart. And running back Cam LaGrassa had a stellar year. Probably the biggest win was the 19-8 victory over Catholic Memorial in Danvers. The victories over Marshfield, Andover, BC High, and Central Catholic were also quality.

5. Duxbury (11-1) — Had a good debate over who to put in this spot, either Duxbury or Foxboro. Went with the Dragons. This program has been a beacon of consistency over the years. The Dragons just win at a high level. Each year there has been a tournament, since 2019, Duxbury has found itself at Gillette, winning twice. You don’t see that very often, and the Dragons should be back in the mix next year, although it will be hard to replace linebacker/running back Alex Barlow.

6. Foxboro (12-1) — Jack Martinelli said it best when he talked about his team’s season: “Storybook.” The Warriors had a great season. The team racked up wins over Hanover, Scituate, Shawsheen, Mansfield, North Attleboro, Holliston, and Newburyport. The only loss was a close one to a team that didn’t have many close ones in King Philip. Defensive end Brandon Mazenkas-O’Grady and linebacker Lincoln Moore led that side of the ball. Running back Ben Angelini was strong, and this team brings back a good nucleus for next year.

7. Marshfield (9-4) — An excellent season for the Rams, who lost in the D2 state title game to a very good King Philip team. But, it can be argued that this team had the most notable win of the playoffs when it earned a 52-40 win over Catholic Memorial in the state semifinals. Junior quarterback Tor Maas had a strong year, and the Rams have a host of other juniors coming back. AS god as this season was, next year could be even more special.

8. Catholic Memorial (8-3) — Our preseason No. 1 team had some bright spots, but injuries really took a toll on this team. The Knights lost an out-of-state game against Cardinal Newman of Fla., in which starting running back Mekhi Dodd was lost for the season. The high water mark was probably the 41-38 win over Xaverian in Westwood, on the last play of the game. If Dodd comes back healthy, this team is a wagon for 2024, although the Knights will have to replace some terrific linemen.

9. Milton (9-4) — This might be the ultimate example of a team losing a ton to graduation, but still being able to reload and have a great season. Milton was mostly first-year starters, but they were still really good ones. In the middle of the regular season, the Wildcats lost games to Walpole, Natick, and Taunton. The team also caught a loss to Braintree on Thanksgiving. But the Wildcats were money in the playoffs, and capped it off with a D3 state title win over Walpole. Sophomore Ronan Sammon is a good one to build around for next season.

10. Needham (10-2) — The Rockets came into 2023 off two losing seasons, but this group wrote a different chapter this year. This was one of the most physical teams in the state, and played a hard-nosed brand of football. The Rockets, over the course of the season, beat Walpole, Methuen, Weymouth, Lincoln-Sudbury, Wellesley, Braintree, and Natick. Running back Tate Hoffmeister had a tremendous season, and the Rockets return enough to be a threat in 2024, as well.

11. Hanover (11-2) — The Hawks had a terrific season, and were the only ones to beat Duxbury this year. Although the D5 state title game got away from them, this was still a great year for the Hawks, led by quarterback Ben Scalzi and wide receiver John McDonald.

12. Walpole (9-4) — Even with the loss to Milton in the D3 state title game, Walpole had a great season. Despite the tough start, Walpole went on a run, and earned big wins over Milton, Milford, Weymouth, and Mansfield. Quarterback Noah Mackenzie returns.

13. Milford (10-2) — It was another strong season for Milford, which should be back in the mix in 2024. The Scarlet Hawks were led by linebacker/running back/kicker Nick Araujo, who did a little bit of everything for his team.

14. Uxbridge (13-0) — This team was one of the most dominant in the state, from start to finish. Quarterback Kellen LaChapelle had an outstanding season, from the start and until the D7 state title game. There was never a doubt with these Spartans.

15. West Boylston (13-0) — Another team that was utterly dominant from start to finish. Fear the double-wing, as the Lions ran it better than anyone this year. The 41-7 win over Carver was a great way to close it out for a program that is on a roll right now.

16. Fairhaven (12-1) — It’s hard to get a much better finishing performance than running back Justin Marques had in the Blue Devils’ 26-22 win over Salem in the D6 state title game. Marques is a junior, so watch out for this team in 2024, as well.

17. Andover (10-2) — Another team that lost a ton to graduation but reloaded, anyway. We did not think this program would be able to replace running back Lincoln Beal and quarterback Scotty Brown, but that’s what the Warriors did, as they made the D1 state semifinals.

18. Scituate (9-4) — Another tough schedule played by the Sailors, whose losses were to a murderer’s row of Foxboro, Milton, Duxbury, and Hanover. That’s three state champs and a finalist. This team will be back, as wide receiver Lawson Foley returns.

19. Westfield (9-2) — The second-best team in Western Mass. made a real run in the D3 bracket. Top wins included over Billerica, Minnechaug, and Woburn. The only losses were to Springfield Central and Milton. The Bombers bring back a ton for next season.

20. Billerica (9-2) — This team had a memorable year before losing to Westfield in the D3 quarterfinals. Best wins included those over Methuen, Central Catholic, Tewksbury, North Andover, Westford Academy, and Plymouth South. This team will reload.

21. Methuen (9-3) — Methuen had an up-and-down season, but mostly good before losing to Needham in the D1 quarterfinals. Quarterback Drew Eason had a memorable career for the Rangers. His younger brother, Shane, and Josh Kwakye return.

22. Shawsheen (10-1) — It was another big year for this team, which fell in the D5 state semifinals to eventual champion Foxboro. Quarterback Sidney Tildsley had another terrific year, and he is back to lead the Rams in 2024 in what will be his senior season.

23. Salem (10-3) — It is great to have Salem back as a power in Massachusetts football. This program had some great years in the 1990s, but fell off a bit in succeeding years. Coach Matt Bouchard has done a great job of bringing this program back.

24. Everett (9-2) — The only losses this team sustained all year were to Xaverian in the first game of the season, and Central Catholic in the playoff consolation round. Senior D1 prospect Christian Zamor had a great year on both sides of the ball.

25. Barnstable (10-2) — Coach Ross Jatkola has done a great job with this program. He guided the Red Hawks to a D2 state semifinal appearance, as his team handed Peabody its only loss. Wide receiver Chevy Shakespeare returns next year.

15 out (alphabetical order)

Amesbury (9-3)

Bishop Feehan (8-2)

BC High (6-5)

Carver (11-2)

Danvers (8-4)

Dartmouth (9-2)

Grafton (9-3)

Hudson (9-3)

Lincoln-Sudbury (8-2)

Mansfield (6-5)

Peabody (10-1)

Stoneham (7-5)

Tewksbury (8-4)

Weymouth (7-4)

Woburn (8-3)