As the mercury dips below freezing, it is obvious to New England that football has begun. More so, Catholic Conference play has commenced in Eastern Mass High School Football. One of the four premiere conferences in the state, the Catholic Conference is home to five teams all capable of contending for this year's Division 1 Super Bowl. League play, which officially started this past Friday, serves as the "real season" for conference members. Needless to say, everyone brings their 'A' game for the final four weeks of the season, each demanding their own ticket to the Division 1 playoffs.
Standing at 3-4 heading into conference play, the BC High Eagles carried their three-game winning streak and a fearless attitude into game one. The first victim was Malden Catholic, BC High's annual "trap-game". MC historically stuns the Eagles with a unique game plan, which when mixed in with sixty-five tough North Shore kids, seems to always create problems. The first quarter of this year's game looked no different, as the Lancers of MC jumped out to a 12-0 lead after three early turnovers. However, led by a dominating rush attack and overpowering offensive line play, the Eagles fought back to bury MC 38-12. Senior tailback Dave Bartmess finished with three touchdowns and over one hundred yards rushing. Senior cornerback Mariano Beecher began the scoring with a 75-yard punt return. Two more scores were added later, and MC's dream of another stunning victory was foiled by a tough BC High team. I finished the game with eight tackles, three for a loss, and crushing play from the right side of the offensive line.
Riding a four-game win streak, BC High's schedule shows the three most challenging games of the season in the final three weeks. In a do-or-die game next week, the Eagles face a 7-1 Xaverian Brothers team, which hasn't been challenged much this season. Xaverian, a consistent Catholic Conference contender, is known for featuring a pro style quarterback (take the Seahawks' Matt Hasselbeck and his brother Tim at Washington). This year is different; the Hawks instead feature a dual-threat quarterback in Duke bound Zack Asack. In addition to the 6'4" Asack and his sub-4.5 speed, the Hawks present a punishing linebacking group, who double out of the backfield. The one weakness for Xaverian that I have noticed in my studies of them is the fact that they employ approximately twenty players in the whole game. When the defense shuts down the opponent, they turn around and get ready to play offense. An injury or fatigue for the Hawks could prove deadly. Aside from that, BC High will have to play an immaculate game to prevail at Xaverian, on our first day game of the year. But the way we are playing now, anything is possible.
The most successful team in the Catholic Conference since BC High prevailed in the 2001 Division 1 Super Bowl has been the St. John's Prep (Danvers) Eagles. Standing some forty-five minutes north of Boston, St. John's Prep has notoriously crushed opponents in the past five years. Even when the Eagles' record has been somewhat lackluster, they never disappoint to knock off a Xaverian powerhouse on Turkey Day. However, opponents wonder if the BC High Eagles could be the ones to snap the trend of dominating late season play. A team buried by graduation, St. John's turned to senior running back and four-year starter Chris Zardas to single-handedly carry the squad this year. Everything went downhill when Zardas tweaked his knee in warm-ups against a daunted Marshfield team, who went on to win 40-0. To say the Eagles have looked grim since that day would be an understatement. At 3-4 overall and 0-1 in the conference after a surprising 34-6 loss to Catholic Memorial, St. John's has dreamed of a Zardas return. In an attempt this past week, Zardas again hurt the same knee in true Boobie Miles fashion. A miracle seems to be the only thing that could save the Eagles from a 0-4 conference run. But don't look for any Catholic Conference member to ease up and show sympathy; this could be the year where other teams go out to crush the Prep, turning the tables after a half-decade of embarrassments.
In the season finale at Boston College's Alumni Stadium, the BC High Eagles will take on hated foe Catholic Memorial. BC High's dominance of the Knights ended last year, as late game heroics snapped a 15-year win streak. Previous to my first varsity season three years ago, BC High humiliated CM year after year by stunning totals. In my sophomore season, CM took a stand but lost on a triple-overtime touchdown rush by the Eagles. CM was led by current Boston College running back LV Whitworth, who rushed for 238 yards and four scores. Last season was the Knights' chance to hand out a defeat. Sitting pretty at 33-28 with four seconds left, we went into a prevent defense to avert any Doug Flutie-like heroics. But somehow CM's quarterback connected on a 60-yard missile in the corner of our endzone. This year's battle seems to be another barn-burner in the making. The Knights stand at 6-1 (2-0) after playing somewhat of a weak schedule, but they have on the other hand defeated some pretty good teams. BC High, who is riding an adrenaline rush and a four-game win streak, puts their heart and fight against the most talented CM team that I have seen I my career. Hate amongst opponents (and I mean hate) will also make the game more interesting.
It won't be easy, but it will be fun! The Eagles of BC High are in as good a position now as they have been since their Super Bowl victory a few years back. The Catholic Conference is up for grabs and the team who fights hardest will undoubtedly seize it this year. Just thinking about it makes me go crazy. It's going to be a street fight.
Chris Marinelli is a 6'7" offensive tackle recruit in the 2005 class who verbally committed to Stanford in July. He is writing a weekly series this fall to deliver Cardinal fans insight into the triumphs and travails of his senior season at Boston College High School.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!