EDITORS NOTE: This is Part 2 of the Eagle-Tribune All-Decade football team, highlighting the defense. The All-Decade offense ran last week.
Offenses may dominate the headlines and the highlight reels, but plenty of dynamic defensive players made a major impact on the Eagle-Tribune area football scene over the past decade.
They say that defense wins championships, and the duo of D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie and Markus Edmunds did exactly that, leading Central Catholic to a Division 1 state title. The same goes for Victor Pizzotti, who helped Windham win a Division 2 New Hampshire crown.
Few hit harder than intimidating Haverhill linebacker Phil Panici, and MVC quarterbacks were rarely brave enough to test dominant cover cornerbacks like Hillie Patrick Yale and Methuen’s David Kelly.
Salem’s Sean Nartiff dominated the line of scrimmage and dealt out crushing hits across New Hampshire, while Pinkerton’s Gannon Fast was a terror for opposing QBs and became the first second-generation Eagle-Tribune football MVP.
North Andover’s Joe Samuelman did it all as a linebacker. Fellow Scarlet Knight Brandon Walsh is best remembered as a record-setting QB, but he also brought the heat on defense.
Timberlane’s Jason Hughes and Pentucket’s Cody Rothwell always seemed to make the big play, and became key contributors at the University of New Hampshire along with Drummond-Mayrie.
And while many experts believe Pat Freiermuth will soon be starring in the National Football League as a tight end, “Fry” dazzled as a linebacker for Pentucket andBrooks.
So, we now present, the Eagle-Tribune area All-Decade Football Defense:
Carlos Cabrera (Central Catholic, 2017) — A 6-foot, 265-pound tank at defensive tackle. Eagle-Tribune All-Star as senior (65 tackles, 10 for loss, five sacks). Tallied eight sacks as junior for Division 1 finalists. Offensive tackle protected blindside for All-Decade QB Bret Edwards. Also Eagle-Tribune All-Star and Division 2 champion heavyweight wrestler and talented shot putter. Played football at Trinity College.
Gannon Fast (Pinkerton, 2019) — Eagle-Tribune defensive MVP as senior (71 tackles, 30 solo, team-high 8.5 sacks), leading Astros to Division 1 title game. Three-year starting defensive end. Took over as starting fullback as senior and ran for exactly 1,200 yards and scored 22 TDs. MVP of 2019 CHaD All-Star Game. Played football at East Coast Prep last fall. Dad Ralph was 1991 Eagle-Tribune offensive MVP.
Sean Nartiff (Salem, 2016) — Hulking 6-foot-2, 280-pounder. Eagle-Tribune defensive MVP as senior (50 tackles, six sacks, two fumble recoveries). Eagle-Tribune All-Star as junior (31 tackles, five sacks). Offensive tackles anchored run-heavy wing-T offense (2,613 rushing yards in 2015). Also played goal line fullback (three career TD runs). Played football at Western New England.
Jared White (Salem, 2019) — Eagle-Tribune Lineman of the Year as junior (34 tackles, three sacks). Eagle-Tribune All-Star as senior (38 tackles, five sacks). Defensive tackle at just 5-foot-11, 190 pounds. Offensive tackle a force in wing-T offense than ran for over 4,000 yards and led Blue Devils to Division 1 semifinals his junior and senior years. Defender in lacrosse and ran indoor track. Now attends UNH.
Pat Freiermuth (Pentucket/Brooks 2018) — Projected first-round pick in 2021 NFL Draft by CBSSports.com. Now All-American tight end at Penn State (875 yards, 15 TDs catches in two seasons). Started two seasons at Pentucket (2013-14) and three at Brooks (2015-17). Eagle-Tribune 2016 defensive MVP (52 tackles, four sacks) and two-time All-Star (2014-15). Eagle-Tribune Super Teamer in basketball.
Ryan Doherty (Central, 2013) — Exploded onto scene as senior, earning Eagle-Tribune defensive MVP (81 tackles, 14 for loss, 11 sacks, two interceptions). 6-foot-2, 200-pound outside linebacker had two sacks in win over perennial power Tewksbury. Tight end caught TD on Thanksgiving. Eagle-Tribune All-Star shot putter. Became All-Northeast-10 pick and captain for Stonehill football (73 tackles as senior).
Markus Edmunds (Central, 2015) — A force on Central Catholic’s 2013 Division 1 state title team. Earned Eagle-Tribune defensive MVP that fall (137 tackles, 18 for loss, four sacks). Eagle-Tribune All-Star as senior (85 tackles). Two-time All-Scholastic. All-MVC as sophomore (108 tackles). 5-11, 220-pounder. Started at running back as senior (693 rushing yards, 12 TDs). Played football at Tufts.
Phil Panici (Haverhill, 2015) — Huge-hitting 5-foot-10, 240 pound strong-side backer. Eagle-Tribune defensive MVP as senior (94 tackles), leading Hillies to Division 2 North final. Blocked punt that was returned for game-winning TD in North semifinals. Eagle-Tribune All-Star as junior (74 tackles). Starting guard in Hillies’ double-wing offense. Defender in lacrosse. Started at defensive line at Union College.
Joe Samuelman (North Andover, 2016) — Two-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star inside linebacker (2014-15). Made 69 tackles as junior and approximately 85 stops as senior, earning MVC defensive MVP. 6-foot, 215 pounder. Moved from tight end to running back due to injuries as senior and ran for 1,175 yards and 21 TDs. Scored four TDs on Thanksgiving as senior. Started at receiver/tight end at Trinity College.
Nolan Dragon (Pentucket, 2012) — Four-year starter. Two-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star (2010-11). As junior made 22 tackles, including 14 in second half, in win over rival Masconomet. Made at least 50 tackles every season. Fullback ran for 1,189 yards and scored 21 TDs as senior. Excellent blocker. 6-foot-2, 225-pounder. Football and basketball captain. Played tight end and linebacker at Merrimack College.
Victor Pizzotti (Windham, 2017) — Two-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star. Made 62 tackles as senior and 56 as junior. Fullback ran for 1,114 yards and scored 23 TDs as senior and 853 yards and 13 TDs as junior. All-NH Division 1 South linebacker for 2014 Division 2 state champs. First-year wrestler won Division 2 heavyweight title as senior. Played football at Worcester Academy and Assumption College.
D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie (Central, 2014) — Driving force for Raiders’ 2013 Division 1 champs. Eagle-Tribune All-Star that fall (81 tackles, nine pass breakups). Starting running back (618 rushing yards, 15 TDs as senior) ran for 119 yards and three TDs in state title win. Eagle-Tribune track All-Star in discus and decathlon. Became starting defensive back (135 career tackles) and quad-captain for UNH.
Joey Howshan (Central, 2019) — Four-year varsity player made 216 tackles and 14 interceptions for career. Eagle-Tribune All-Star as junior and senior. Ball-hawking safety made nine interceptions and 84 tackles as junior. Running back ran for 1,112 career yards. Two-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star 400 hurdler won Division 2 title as senior (55.25). Heading into sophomore season for Bentley University football.
Patrick Yale (Haverhill, 2015) — Shutdown cover cornerback. Two-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star. Had six interceptions as junior, two in tourney win over Lynn English. Rarely tested as senior (three interceptions). Starting kicker made five field goals and 46 PATs in final two seasons. Dangerous kick returner. Catcher in baseball (hit .306 as senior). Started for Colby College football (75 career tackles).
David Kelly (Methuen, 2018) — Went from JV backup as sophomore to two-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star. Lock-down cornerback. As senior made 22 tackles, two interceptions and six pass breakups. Two-year starting receiver (56 catches, 687 yards, six TDs). Backup QB completed 5 of 7 receiver option passes for 148 yards and three touchdowns as senior. Team MVP. Played receiver at Framingham State.
Brandon Walsh (North Andover, 2012) — Best known as QB, but also made huge impact as heavy-hitting strong safety. Eagle-Tribune defensive MVP as junior and All-Star as senior. 6-foot-3, 215 pounder was Knights’ No. 2 tackler in final two seasons. On offense, set then-area records for career passing yards (5,208) and TD passes (52). Eagle-Tribune baseball MVP as senior, pitched for UMass Amherst.
Cody Rothwell (Pentucket, 2013) — Delivered brilliant senior season. Eagle-Tribune All-Star led Sachems with 94 tackles and eight interceptions, rushed for 2,019 yards on just 194 carries (10.4 yards per carry) and scored 22 TDs. Ran for over 250 yards three times that fall. Starting defensive back for Sachems as junior. Saw time for St. John’s Prep as sophomore. Became core special teamer for UNH football (18 career tackles).
Jason Hughes (Timberlane, 2016) — Mr. Versatility. As senior made 26 tackles and two interceptions as safety. Eagle-Tribune All-Star passed for 756 yards, rushed for 579 yards, accounted for 10 total TDs, kicked seven field goals and punted. Also Eagle-Tribune All-Star pitcher in baseball and guard in basketball. Heading into third season as starting place kicker for UNH. Was All-CAA last fall as junior (14 field goals).