We're in for a handful of quality football games tonight. Here's our thoughts on some of the area's best, with picks from ESPN Boston's Scott Barboza and Brendan Hall.
NO. 10 CHELMSFORD (4-0) AT NO. 11 METHUEN (3-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
The skinny: The Rangers have bounced back in a big way since their opening night upset to Plymouth North, running off three straight wins with a 99-38 margin of victory. Meanwhile, Chelmsford's stingy defense has only yielded 28 points in four games with Tim Joy and a solid group of linebackers leading the charge. Something's got to give and it's not likely that the Methuen offense, led by quarterback Cal Carroll and wide receiver Raudy Minaya, is going to blink first.
Hall: This game is going to be won between the tackles. With that in mind, even though Chelmsford's defense has played flawlessly through the first month of the season, I think Ryan Savastano gets through the teeth of it to put the Rangers thoroughly on the map. Methuen, 24-21
Barboza: I think the Lions have a slight edge in the matchup, defensively, but I like the Rangers ability to move the ball a little bit more. Methuen, 27-21
NO. 15 KING PHILIP (4-0) AT NO. 8 MANSFIELD (3-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
The skinny: On paper, these two Hockomock League foes match up quite evenly. The host Hornets' offense, led by star running back Jamel Marshall, is averaging 31 points a game since their Week One loss to Aquinas Institute (N.Y.); their Kyle McGuire-led defense has pitched a shutout and allowed just one rushing touchdown to Hockomock opponents so far. KP and its three-pronged rushing attack of Chris Cacciola, Jim Johnston and Charles Ruffin can score in a hurry, as Foxborough found out last week. The Warriors' defense, led by Mike Boari and Alec May, hasn't allowed a point since Week One.
Hall: I like the way this KP defense is playing right now, and I loved the Dom Capers-esque "Psycho" package they bust out at times. All together now, repeat after me: Swag. KP, 14-10
Barboza:I had my finger on the "Upset Alert" button and then I remembered just how good Jamel Marshall can be. Mansfield, 21-14
THE FORSBERG-LEFORT BOWL: NO. 17 AUBURN (4-0) AT NORTHBRIDGE (4-0), 7 p.m.
The skinny: After escaping with a win against high-scoring Hudson last week, the visiting Rockets (alma mater of ESPNBoston Celtics writer Chris Forsberg) put their state-best 28-game win streak on the line against a long-standing Southern Worcester County rival. Northbridge (alma mater of ESPNBoston editor David Lefort) has always ran one of the state's most efficient run-and-shoot offenses, and it has a very capable trigger man under center this year in senior Thomas Murphy (894 passing yards, 9 TD).
Hall: Northbridge coach Ken LaChappelle told the Telegram & Gazette last month that Murphy is among the three best quarterbacks he's coached in 35 years. That's a deep pool that includes some of the best to ever come out of Central Mass, period (Danny Brown, anyone?). I'll take his word for it, and I'll take Murph for the win...I also want to stay employed. Northbridge, 35-31
Barboza: True to the Rockets' late form, I see them escaping with win No. 29 in a low-scoring affair. Auburn, 14-7
WESTWOOD (4-0) AT NORTON (4-0), 7 p.m.
The skinny: There will be just one Tri-Valley League team left undefeated following this showdown. Westwood gets the majority of its production from super back Sean Amaru, a senior coming off a career-best 335-yard, six touchdown affair last week against Millis. The Lancers' defense has been holding tight since their week one upset of Medway, allowing just over nine points per game.
Hall: I'll be the first one to acquiesce on my prediction that Holliston would run the table on the TVL. As long as Amaru stays healthy, I truly believe the Wolverines are capable of taking down anybody in this league. Westwood, 21-7
Barboza:Let us not forget that the Lancers are the only team to have beaten Medway (in Week One). I think that Norton team shows up tonight. Norton, 20-16
MOUNT ST. JOSEPH (MD.) (3-1) AT NO. 19 ST. JOHN'S PREP (2-2), Saturday, 1 p.m.
The skinny: Both teams enter this contest in need of a stop to their losing skid. Since starting the season 3-0, the Baltimore-based Gaels have lost two straight and been outscored 65-7. Prep is on somewhat of a battle-tested losing skid, hanging tight through one half with No. 2 Everett and almost escaping Marciano Stadium last week with a win over No. 3 Brockton.
Hall: I'll admit I don't know a whole heck of a lot about the Prep's opponent, but according to the school's Wikipedia entry, Mount St. Joseph's "most success has come from the soccer program" (yes, journalism in 2010 at its finest, I know). Betcha' these guys could beat Duke, though. SJP, 21-10
Barboza:Going at this one completely blindfolded. Survey says: Go with the Eagles. SJP, 28-24
Best of the Rest
No. 1 Xaverian 31, Lynn English 21
No. 2 Brockton 35, Fitchburg 7
No. 4 St. John's (S) 25, Shrewsbury 16
No. 6 Wachusett 17, Nashoba 12
No. 9 Reading 21, Wakefield 3
No. 12 North Attleborough 16, Franklin 13
No. 14 Westford 21, Marshfield 12
No. 24 Acton-Boxborough 21, Wayland 20
Andover 24, Lawrence 10
Barnstable 35, New Bedford 21
Bridgewater-Raynham 27, Plymouth North 23
Dennis-Yarmouth 31, Austin Prep 24
Dracut 27, Lowell 17
Durfee 30, Portsmouth (R.I.) 17
Foxborough 24, Attleboro 22
Lincoln-Sudbury 21, Concord-Carlisle 14
Marlborough 20, Gardner 18
Natick 31, Needham 27
Revere 34, Marblehead 21
Silver Lake 21, Dartmouth 6
St. Sebastian's 28, Milton Academy 24
West Roxbury 18, East Boston 14