Byline: Bill Doyle
LEOMINSTER - When the Leominster High football team dropped to 0-3 under new coach Dave Palazzi, the Blue Devils didn't panic.
"I was definitely a little concerned," senior wide receiver-free safety Kevin O'Connor said, "but I had a good feeling that we were going to turn it around because we work really hard at practice. I knew we'd start winning games."
The Blue Devils have adjusted to Palazzi's more wide-open, pass-oriented offense and they've won four in a row. They're 4-3 overall and 4-1 in Division 1. Their confidence is sky-high after upsetting St. John's, then ranked No. 2 in the Hometeam media poll, 23-15, in overtime at Doyle Field last Friday.
"It definitely helped us see we can do some things," Palazzi said. "We're in position to be in the hunt at the end of the season."
With no team in Division 1 owning an overall record of better than 4-3, the Blue Devils can't be ruled out.
A week after beating St. John's for the first time since 2008, the Blue Devils face another stiff challenge at Brockton at 7 tonight. The Boxers also got off to a slow start, but have won three in a row to improve to 4-3.
Leominster has beaten the Boxers only once since 1988, on Oct. 27, 2006, when Jonathan Hernandez scored twice in a 26-15 victory at Doyle Field. No player on this year's Blue Devils team has beaten Brockton, but Palazzi quarterbacked Leominster to victories over the Boxers as a junior and senior in the early 1980s.
"We've grown up listening to about how tough Brockton was," O'Connor said, "and watching all the videos of them. So to beat them would mean a lot."
The Blue Devils have had to adjust to a new coach, new plays and new quarterback. The entire starting offense wears wrist bands with the plays written on them. Palazzi installed some no-huddle plays, but hasn't used many of them yet.
Junior Garrett DelleChiaie has completed 61 of 99 passes for 888 yards and eight touchdowns. Kyle Sanders, his favorite receiver, has caught 22 passes for 410 yards and four touchdowns. O'Connor has caught 11 passes for 177 yards and one score.
Geraldo Rivera leads the team with 535 rushing yards and 42 points. Last week, Rivera ran 9 yards for the game-deciding touchdown in...