The end zone
Players to Watch
LB/RB Tom Brandt, Natick: He recorded 75 tackles and 18 sacks at defensive end last fall, but as a senior will make the switch to linebacker and running back this season - his first time at either spot. He reportedly runs a 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds, and has fielded interest from Boston College, UConn, and Buffalo.
TE/DE Rob Branchflower, St. John's, Shrewsbury: The 6-foot-5, 250-pound captain didn't put up gaudy stats last fall (12 catches, 157 yards) but is unquestionably the rock of one of the area's best defensive lines.
QB Dan Guadagnoli, Framingham: Entering his third season under center, he is coming off a 2,000-yard campaign in '07. Running a no-huddle offense, he's an early contender for MVP honors in the Bay State Conference.
TE Andrew Barrett, Holliston: The Panthers have another Division 1 talent on the line of scrimmage in the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Barrett, who is being shifted from tight end to left tackle. He'll also line up at defensive end.
RB/LB Travis Patterson, Nashoba Regional: Ran for a school-record 1,405 yards last season, and is considered one of the region's top running backs. UConn, Boston College, and a handful of 1-AA schools have expressed interest in him.
(First-year head coaches)
Tom Cullen, Milford: The Scarlet Hawks' defensive coordinator for the last three seasons under John Dagnese, Cullen has seven years of college coaching experience, in addition to a long run at Amherst Regional High.
Jim Girard, Dover-Sherborn: Served as Wayland High's defensive coordinator for the past three seasons.
Bill Long, Algonquin Regional: Coached special teams and the offensive and defensive lines at St. John's for the last four seasons.
Dave McSweeney, Medway: The Mustangs' 10-year defensive coordinator steps in for Mike Regan as head coach.
Steve Simoes, Hopkinton: Was an assistant to longtime Hillers coach Dave Hughes from 1991 to 1994 before taking a job as an assistant baseball coach at Holy Cross.
Hall's Top 10
(with 2007 records)
1. Lincoln-Sudbury (9-2)
2. St. John's (7-4)
3. Franklin (9-2)
4. Natick (9-2)
5. Shrewsbury (13-0)
6. Waltham (5-5)
7. Holliston (9-2)
8. Framingham (5-6)
9. Nashoba Regional (7-4)
10. Medfield (10-3)
By the Numbers
770 - Last year's combined winning percentage of Waltham's first three opponents this fall, when the Hawks start by facing defending Super Bowl champs Everett (which hasn't lost since 2005) and Chelmsford, followed by a visit from Xaverian.
9.1 - Average points allowed per game last year by Franklin's defense, one of the state's best. The Panthers went 9-2, but missed out on a playoff berth after back-to-back losses to Hockomock League rivals Foxborough and Mansfield (by a total of 9 points).
4 - Shutouts last season by Lincoln-Sudbury's defense. The Warriors went 9-2, but missed out on a playoff berth as a result of a complex tie-breaker system.
25 - Years that Weston High was independent in football before joining the Dual County League's Small Division this season. The Wildcats won one Super Bowl, in 1991, as an independent.
Game of the Week
Framingham at Walpole, tomorrow, 7 p.m. Led by Dan Guadagnoli, Framingham returns seven starters on offense and could run some no-huddle against the defending Bay State Herget champs. But the key will be how well the Flyers defense, led by linebacker Pat O'Connell, handles two explosive Rebels - quarterback Sonny Mastromatteo and junior running back Ryan Izzo, last fall's Globe Division 2 Player of the Year.
Compiled by Brendan Hall