It’s only Week 2, but there’s already a game on the schedule with major title implications.
The winner of Friday’s matchup between Fairhaven and Seekonk — two of the top-favored teams in the South Coast Conference Small Division — will have an inside track to winning that tier’s championship and earn a berth in the conference title game against the Large champ.
“It’s our first conference game so obviously you want to get a lead up in the conference tier,” said Fairhaven head coach Rudy Bulgar. “It would put us in a pretty good spot. Not that the season is lost if we don’t get this win, but this, over the years, is the one who kind of gets it takes the bull by the horn. I think whoever gets by this game can do something in the conference and take control.”
For Fairhaven, the matchup couldn’t have come at a worst time. Even though the Blue Devils opened the season with a solid 19-13 win over GNB Voc-Tech last week, Fairhaven suffered a major loss when senior quarterback Brady Bennett went down with a broken collarbone. He’s expected to miss anywhere from four to eight weeks.
“I felt bad for him because he put in a lot of work in the offseason,” said senior Flynn Bourgault. “Hopefully he gets back strong and we win a couple of games for him. We’ve just got to go out there and play our best.”
Bourgault, who usually plays wide receiver and running back, stepped in under center last week when Bennett went down and he’s expected to direct the offense against Seekonk.
“If I have to play quarterback, that’s what I have to do to help this team,” said the 5-foot-8, 173-pound Bourgault, who played JV quarterback his freshman and sophomore years. “The JV playbook was not as big as it is now (with varsity) so it’s a lot different so I’m trying to learn.
“Most of the receivers, I have pretty good chemistry with. If we throw it, hopefully we can connect.”
Most of Fairhaven’s offense came on the ground last week with Zach Guillotte rushing for 147 yards and Owen Cebula picking up 82 yards and Bourgault adding another 54.
“I thought we ran the ball in and outside of the tackles,” Bulgar said. “I think it’s ball control. We’ve got to eat the clock up and we have to score on them and not give up the big plays. It’s kind of generic, but that’s what it is.”
The Blue Devils will need to find a way to move the chains if they hope to slow down Seekonk’s uptempo offense that thrives off of quick strikes.
“Their two-minute, hurry-up offense causes confusion for the defensive side,” Bulgar said. “With our numbers being low, we don’t have much substitution going on so that’s a wear and tear in itself.
“We’d like to control the ball and control the clock, keep them off the field and not give up any home runs when they do get on the field.”
Fairhaven played Seekonk tough for the first half last year, but the Warriors ran away with it in the second half.
“That’s what happened last year,” Bulgar said. “It became a track race right away. We didn’t make any stops defensively.”
While Seekonk is running the same offense as in 2017, it may not be as potent with the graduation of quarterback Terry Smith. Sophomore Jared Moran has taken over the signal-calling duties, but is still adjusting to the varsity speed.
“He’s a little inaccurate right now, but he’s seeing the plays. That’s the biggest thing,” Bulgar said. “He throws a good ball. He’s a big quarterback. He’ll be alright.”
Moran completed 21 of 46 passes for 267 yards and two scores against Bishop Stang last week, but also threw two interceptions.
“We have to slow them down on the defensive side,” Bourgault said. “We’re excited. We get to play them at home and have a chance to stay undefeated. It’s a very big game. Once we get through Seekonk, I think we’ll be in good shape.”
Seekonk at Fairhaven
When: 7 p.m.
Records: Seekonk (0-1); Fairhaven (1-0)
Last week: Bishop Stang 42, Seekonk 22; Fairhaven 19, GNB Voc-Tech 13
Last season: Seekonk 54, Fairhaven 20
New Bedford at Whitman-Hanson
When: 7 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 1340 WNBH
Records: New Bedford (0-1); Whitman-Hanson (1-0)
Last week: Taunton 7, New Bedford 6; Whitman-Hanson 41, Marshfield 13
Last season: DNP
Outlook: Mental mistakes plagued the Whalers in their one-point season-opening loss. They turned over the ball twice and had a few bad snaps that cost them key yardage at inopportune times. The offense showed glimpses of greatness with Tru Williams through the air and Latrell Canto providing a spark from the backfield, but it lacked consistency. The defense was strong throughout and will need to be again this week against a Whitman-Hanson team that jumped out to a 34-0 halftime lead before cruising past Marshfield. The Panthers scored on their first four drives with quarterback Ethan Phelps running for two TDs and throwing another. He finished with two TD passes. Phelps completed 10 of 17 passes for 110 yards despite sitting out the fourth quarter.
Apponequet at Old Rochester
When: 7 p.m.
Records: Apponequet (0-1); Old Rochester (1-0)
Last week: Middleboro 18, Apponequet 14; Old Rochester 42, Wareham 0
Last season: Old Rochester 30, Apponequet 0; Old Rochester 43, Apponequet 14
Outlook: It doesn’t get any easier for Apponequet, which opened the season against defending Div. 6 state champion Middleboro. Now the much-improved Lakers take on an ORR team that kicked off 2018 with a lopsided win over Wareham, showing that the Bulldogs have not dropped off much despite the graduation of the record-setting Harry Smith. Will Garcia stole the spotlight for ORR, rushing for more than 150 yards and four scores in the first half as the Bulldogs took a 35-0 lead into the intermission. Quarterback Cole McIntyre completed 2 of 4 passes for 49 yards and threw for his first varsity touchdown — a 48-yard strike to Anthony Childs. Of the Lakers’ 170 yards of total offense against Middleboro, 161 came on the ground with a team-high 91 from Kevin Hughes, who stepped up when Brent Dixon sat out the second half due to precautionary reasons.
Cardinal Spellman at Bishop Stang
When: 7 p.m.
Records: Cardinal Spellman (0-1); Bishop Stang (1-0)
Last week: Hanover 26, Cardinal Spellman 12; Bishop Stang 42, Seekonk 22
Last season: DNP
Outlook: Justin Lopes was a force on the ground and through the air in Stang’s season-opening win by running for more than 200 yards and throwing for nearly 100. He had two scoring strikes and ran for another score. The defense was also impressive with Eric Camacho hauling in two interceptions. The Spartans will look to keep it going on both ends against a hungry Cardinal Spellman team that opened the season with a 14-point loss to rival Hanover. The Cardinals had no answer for Hanover quarterback Andrew Carroll, who threw for nearly 200 yards and four scores. Spellman is in a little bit of a rebuilding mode this year with just eight seniors although three are two-way linemen. The Cardinals’ offense runs through a pair of juniors in quarterback Javon Marrero and running back Will McAlpine.
Attleboro at Dartmouth
When: 7 p.m.
Records: Attleboro (1-0); Dartmouth (0-1)
Last week: Attleboro 21, Milford 7; Central Catholic 48, Dartmouth 6
Last season: Dartmouth 6, Attleboro 0
Outlook: Coming off a lopsided loss in Week 1, the Indians look to bounce back against a solid Bombardiers team that pounded the ball against Milford to open the season. Dartmouth’s defense, which allowed 48 points to Central Catholic, will need to keep tabs on quarterback Jason Weir and running back Justin Cote, who combined for more than 200 rushing yards and two rushing TDs as the run-happy Bombardiers won by two scores. Weir was also solid in the air, completing 6 of 8 passes for 41 yards and a score. The only bright spot for Dartmouth’s offense was that Nolan Ellis connected with Eric Viera for the team’s lone score. It was Ellis’ ninth touchdown pass in his eight varsity game.
GNB Voc-Tech at Somerset Berkley
When: 7 p.m.
Records: GNB Voc-Tech (0-1); Somerset Berkley (1-0)
Last week: Fairhaven 19, GNB Voc-Tech 13; Somerset Berkley 6, Durfee 0
Last season: Somerset Berkley 33, GNB Voc-Tech 0
Outlook: Junior quarterback Ethan Almeida, a transfer from Dartmouth, had a strong debut in Voc-Tech’s six-point loss to Fairhaven, scoring both of the Bears’ touchdowns. Almeida rushed for 44 yards and threw for another 114. His favorite targets were Sheldon Clark (two catches for 64 yards) and Alijah Ferreira (two catches for 37 yards). The Bears open their SCC Large schedule against a Somerset Berkley team that needed some late-game heroics from Jake Meehan. The senior quarterback capped a 14-play, 93-yard drive with a one-yard run on fourth down with 2:48 left to propel the Raiders past the visiting Hilltoppers. The win made Nick Freitas the program’s winningest head football coach with 68 victories. But it didn’t come easily as Somerset’s best drive of the game prior to the winning one was stopped at the Durfee 34.
Wareham at Bourne
When: 7 p.m.
Records: Wareham (0-1); Bourne (1-0)
Last week: Old Rochester 42, Wareham 0; Bourne 19, Upper Cape Cod 6
Last season: Wareham 40, Bourne 0
Outlook: Both teams are adjusting to new looks with the Canalmen learning to use a spread, up-tempo offense and the Vikings transitioning under first-year head coach Fran Cass. Even though Bourne’s offense struggled to finish drives in Week 1, the Canalmen rode their defense and special teams past Upper Cape, holding the Rams to just 90 yards and recording six sacks. Spencer Rose and James Cahoon took care of the offense. In addition to returning a punt for a score, Rose caught a 26-yard TD pass from Cahoon, who completed 13 passes for 167 yards. It was a tough debut for Cass against a talented and veteran ORR team as his team was down 35-0 at halftime. Rakeem Jackson carried the offense, rushing for 53 yards. While first-year quarterback Isaac Pinheiro completed just three of 11 passes for eight yards, he showcased his arm by airing the ball out a few time, just missing his targets down field. Wareham finished with just 77 yards of total offense, including 20 in the first half.
Keefe Tech at Old Colony
When: 1 p.m.
Records: Keefe Tech (0-1); Old Colony (1-0)
Last week: Boston English/New Mission 36, Keefe Tech 34; Old Colony 16, Cathedral 6
Last season: DNP
Outlook: It wasn’t pretty or perfect, but the Cougars opened the year with a 10-point win over a Cathedral team that went 10-2 a year ago. Old Colony made some mistakes, like fumbling on the opening play, and only managed 133 yards of offense — all on the ground — but found a way to pull out the win by scoring 16 straight points. Old Colony’s touchdowns came on runs of 1 yard by Mitchell Wilson and 47 yards from Kyle Scholz. Matt Bumpus had both conversion runs.
Follow Laurie Los on Twitter @LaurieLosSCT