Tag: NFL

Noontime’s High School Notebook: Leftover Thoughts From Week One

Will Batten (No. 6) recorded four touchdowns last Friday in North Reading’s season-opener against Northeast Metro Tech. (PHOTO: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports.com)

By Matt Noonan

It was an exciting first week of the Massachusetts high school football season.

There were some exciting finishes, along with outcomes that raised an eyebrow. Additionally, there were games like the one I witnessed that was a tale of two halves.

Last Friday, I made the trek to North Reading to watch the Hornets score an opening night win over Northeast Metro Tech.  

The game was highlighted by Will Batten’s four touchdowns – two on the ground and two through the air (receptions) – that helped the Hornets secure a 28-0 lead that morphed into a 35-20 victory.

While North Reading’s offense – and yes, its defense – highlighted the opening half, it was the Northeast ground game that shined during the final two frames. Halfbacks Chris Zullo and Lael Jean-Baptiste zipped through various gaps the Knight offensive line paved with a few bursts resulting in touchdowns.

The Knights outscored the Hornets, 20-7, during the final 24 minutes.

North Reading seeks its second win on Friday when they visit the Greater Lawrence Technical School for a 6 p.m. kickoff. Northeast will host Saugus on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. – the Sachems lost to the Knights last season by a score of 28-0.

One outcome that surprised me last week was Xaverian Brothers beating Everett, 49-14.

To be honest, I thought the game would be a bit closer, but the contest was highlighted by a young man whose last name is Hasselbeck.

Henry Hasselbeck, the son of Matt Hasselbeck, who happens to be a Xaverian Brothers alum and played in the National Football League (NFL), shined in his debut with the Blue and Gold by throwing three touchdowns and finishing the non-league matchup with 190 passing yards.

One of Hasselbeck’s touchdowns was highlighted on ESPN this week – it was a five-yard leaping score that saw the junior signal-caller leap over an Everett defender at the five-yard line.

In addition to Hasselbeck, halfback Michael Oates added three rushing touchdowns.

Xaverian hosts Bridgewater-Raynham in its home-opener on Friday – the Trojans dropped their season-opener to Milford by a score of 42-0.

I thought Wilmington would beat Arlington Catholic in its season-opener. But clearly, I was wrong.

Quarterback Isaiah Osgood was the player to watch last Saturday as the senior signal-caller recorded four touchdowns (two on the ground and two through the air) against the Wildcats. The four scores helped the Cougars score an opening day win, as well as gain some much-needed momentum for this week’s matchup with Bishop Fenwick High School.

Noontime’s Games to Watch in Week Two

Tech Boston (1-0) at Georgetown (0-1) Friday, September 16 at 6 p.m.: Halfback Ahmir Carrington rushed for two scores in Tech Boston’s season-opener last week against Boston English/New Mission. He will once again be a factor this week against the Royals. PREDICTION: Tech Boston over Georgetown

Medfield (1-0) at Dedham (0-1) Friday, September 16 at 6:30 p.m.: Medfield’s defense shined last week against Medway, thanks to Matthew Stevens who finished with 14 total tackles. Let’s see if the Warriors’ defense can carry them to another victory against a Dedham squad that produced two scores last Friday against Westwood. PREDICTION: Medfield over Dedham

Waltham (1-0) at Winchester (1-0) Friday, September 16 at 6:30 p.m.: A pair of 1-0 squads will square off in Winchester on Friday evening after both squads scored an opening day win over a squad from Newton (Waltham beat Newton North, 23-20, while Winchester topped Newton South, 13-6). PREDICTION: Waltham over Winchester

Bellingham (1-0) at Westwood (1-0) Friday, September 16 at 7 p.m.: Clearly, I was wrong about my hometown Wolverines last week as Westwood topped Dedham in its home-opener. This week, I’ll be more optimistic about Westwood, but if the Green and White are going to score its second win, they will need to slow down wide receiver Michael Spera. PREDICTION: Westwood over Bellingham    

Wellesley (1-0) at Milford (1-0) Friday, September 16 at 7 p.m.: Both teams looked pretty good in their respective season-opener – perhaps this is an early postseason preview? Maybe, but I think the Scarlet Hawks will be able to make a few more plays to secure its second win of the 2022 season. PREDICTION: Milford over Wellesley    

Five New England D2 Teams To Watch This Fall

Khyon Fitzpatrick and the New Haven Chargers will once again be a squad to watch in the Northeast-10 this fall. (PHOTO COURTESY: Clarus Studios)

By NoontimeSports.com

Our preseason college football coverage continues by highlighting five New England NCAA Division II teams to watch this fall – all the teams listed below compete in the Northeast-10 Conference (NE10).

In case you missed it, make sure to check out our New England FCS and Division III teams to watch, as well.

American International College (AIC): After beginning their 2021 campaign with three-straight wins, including a dramatic come-from-behind victory against Pace University, the Yellow Jackets’ winning ways vanished with a hard-fought loss to Bentley. AIC would lose its next five contests before ending its season with a 14-7 victory over the Setters.

The hope for the Yellow Jacket is they can use their final contest from 2021 as motivation – perhaps a learning lesson? – for what they must do to contend for a conference title.

AIC was competitive last fall – they certainly provided challenges for the top teams in the league but look for coach Kris Kulzer’s squad to finish with a few more wins this fall.

Wide receivers Jaheim McGuire and Jaxon Ramsay return after combining for 64 catches, 1,079 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns.

Bentley University: A new signal-caller will be spotted under center this fall – quarterback Stephen Sturm graduated following an impressive career with the Falcons, which saw him throw for 7,166 yards and 58 touchdowns in four seasons.

Additionally, Bentley will have a new coach as Alvin Reynolds takes over for Bill Kavanaugh, who stepped down as the head football coach in March. Reynolds has been with the Falcons since 2018 – prior to arriving in Waltham, he spent time with a slew of NFL teams, including the Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, and Jacksonville Jaguars

Reynolds will guide a Falcons squad that finished 9-2 overall last year, as well as secured a bid to the NCAA Division II postseason for the first time since 2004.

Halfback Nathaniel Larkins, who finished second on the team with 558 rushing yards, returns, along with wide receiver Noah Neville (32 catches for 555 yards and six touchdowns). Linebacker Salvatore Lupoli Jr. also returns – he placed second on the team in total tackles with 90.0.

Saint Anselm College: Quarterback Drew Willoughby will be the player to watch on the Hawks this fall.

Named the NE10 Rookie of the Year last November, Willoughby enjoyed an impressive debut with the Royal Blue and White by completing 251 of 431 passing attempts for 2,803 yards and 22 touchdowns. Additionally, he added three scores on the ground.

Willoughby led Saint Anselm’s to three conference wins last year – the hope is he can continue his impressive play this fall, beginning in the opening week against Millersville University.

Halfback Vincent Wagner returns, as well, along with wide receiver Anthony Brown, who led the Hawks with nine touchdown receptions.

Southern Connecticut State University: The Owls won four of 10 contests last fall, including a non-league victory over Central Connecticut State University in the opening week (the Blue Devils, an NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) squad, compete in the Northeast Conference (NEC)).

As a team, SCSU averaged 332.4 yards per game – most of their offensive yards came through the air, thanks to wide receivers Tylon Papallo and Izaiah Sanders, who represented the program on the league’s second team. Papallo and Sanders combined for 10 touchdown receptions to go with 76 catches for 1,196.

The expectation is both student-athletes will return this fall, which will certainly pose problems for opposing defenses.

Linebacker Robert Nunez, who earned NE10 All-Rookie honors, will also be a player to watch on the Owls. He finished second on the team in total tackles

 (63.0) and solo stops (29.0).

University of New Haven: 27 graduate students helped the Chargers not only finish atop the NE10 final standings last fall with 10 victories but also advance to the second round of the NCAA Division II Tournament (UNH beat Bentley in the opening round before falling to Kutztown University).

It’s possible a few of these student-athletes will return this fall, but UNH will return some underclassmen, including defensive back Khyon Fitzpatrick, who finished second on the team with 62.0 total tackles.

Fitzpatrick was recently named a preseason first-teamer by The College Football Network (TCFN) – he, along with Bentley’s Cedie Dashiell II, was the only two student-athletes from the NE10 on the list.  

New Haven has been the team to watch (and follow) these last few years in the NE10 so the expectation is they will once again be in the hunt for a league crown.

Framingham State’s Onujiogu’s Signs With The Seattle Seahawks

Joshua Onujiogu (No. 91), who played defensive end at Framingham State, was recently signed by the Seattle Seahawks. (PHOTO COURTESY: Frank Poulin Photography)

By NoontimeSports.com

Joshua Onujiogu’s football journey is not over yet.

The Framingham State University defensive end that racked up a career-best 44 solo stops last fall, including 13.5 sacks and 25 tackles for a loss, was signed yesterday by the Seattle Seahawks.

According to D3Football.com, Onujiogu is the only NCAA Division III student-athlete to ink his name on a contract with an NFL team.

The Wareham, Massachusetts native gained attention from the Houston Texans and New England Patriots following an impressive pro day workout earlier this year at Holy Cross. He also visited with the Patriots ahead of this year’s draft.

Onujiogu has been a staple of coach Tom Kelley’s defense since his initial season with the Rams in 2016. He registered 228 total tackles in 47 contests to go with 36 sacks, 67 tackles for a loss, and three forced fumbles.

Against Westfield State University last September, Onujiogu recorded his first-ever interception to go with nine total tackles, including five tackles for a loss of 26 yards.

Prior to his team’s initial NCAA postseason contest against Muhlenberg College, Onujiogu was named the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Defensive Player of the Year. He was also named to the New England Football Writers’ (NEFW) Division II/III All-New England team while securing a spot on the D3Football.com All-Region 1 squad.

Onujiogu concluded his final season by earning a spot on our Noontime Sports All-New England Team.

Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe Selected By The New England Patriots

Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe was selected by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. (PHOTO COURTESY: DraftWire.USAToday.com)

By Matt Noonan

Did the New England Patriots add some competition to its quarterback room?

Perhaps they did by selecting Bailey Zappe this afternoon in the fourth round of the 2022 National Football League (NFL) Draft.

Zappe quarterbacked Western Kentucky University last fall to a 9-5 overall record while establishing new single-season FBS records for passing yards (5,967) and touchdowns (62).

The 62 touchdown passes erased the original mark of 60, which was established by Joe Burrow in 2019.

Prior to becoming the quarterback at Western Kentucky, Zappe was spotted under center for three seasons (2018, 2019, and 2020) at Houston Baptist University, but elected to transfer after the Huskies’ 2020 season concluded after four games.

The team elected to not compete in the Southland Conference’s spring season.  

Zappe, who was selected with the 137th pick, may not be the flashiest quarterback selected in this year’s NFL Draft. However, he certainly seems to fit the “Patriot mold” given the squad may need an extra arm if Mac Jones were to get injured. Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham are still on the roster, but it is possible one or both quarterbacks may not make the final cut.

The Victoria, Texas native is not the biggest signal-caller or has the arm strength of North Carolina’s Sam Howell, but he does throw a “catchable ball” that should create some explosive plays. Zappe led all FBS signal-callers last fall in completions (51) and yards (1,805) on deep passes and could certainly develop into a capable backup quarterback.

With drafting Zappe, it’s possible Jarrett Stidham’s time in New England could be coming to an end. The 2019 draftee, who has played eight games for the Patriots, could be a valuable target for some teams looking for a younger backup quarterback.

As of this afternoon, it seems likely that Brian Hoyer would step in if Mac Jones were to get injured.  

Josh McDaniels named the next head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders

Josh McDaniels, who was the New England Patriots offensive coordinator in 2021, was named the next head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. (PHOTO COURTESY: Boston.com/AP)

By Matt Noonan

The National Football League (NFL) coaching carousel continues to spin with the occasional stop before not one, but two conference title games.

Prior to the start of Sunday’s conference championships, numerous outlets confirmed that Josh McDaniels has been named the new head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. Dave Ziegler, a former New England Patriots colleague, will join him as the team’s next general manager.

McDaniels has spent most of his coaching career in New England in multiple roles, including defensive assistant, quarterbacks coach, and most recently as the team’s offensive coordinator. He arrived in New England in 2001 as a personal assistant after his initial coaching stint as a graduate assistant with Michigan State in 1999.

This is not McDaniels’ first head coaching role as he led the Denver Broncos to an 8-8 finish in 2009 before getting fired one year later after guiding the Broncos to a 3-9 start.

McDaniels remerge in 2011 as the St. Louis Rams’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach before returning to New England in 2012 as both the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. His coaching certainly had an impact on Tom Brady, who guided the Patriots to six Super Bowls, and Mac Jones, the organization’s initial draft choice last April.

The 2021 season was a tumultuous one for the Raiders, headlined by the firing of their former head coach Jon Gruden to the release of two players, including Henry Ruggs III. But somehow, someway, the Silver and Black were able to secure a spot in the postseason where they lost to the Cincinnati Bengals in the opening round.

McDaniels becomes the second NCAA Division III football alum to be named a head coach this offseason — Brian Dabol, who played defensive back for the University of Rochester, accepted the head coaching role on Friday with the New York Giants.