We’re kicking off things a little bit earlier this week, as Mother Nature again has some teams making schedule adjustments. Without further ado, here’s this week’s picks from ESPN Boston's Scott Barboza and Brendan Hall.
NO. 2 EVERETT (4-0) AT NO. 1 XAVERIAN (5-0), Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
The skinny: Once again there’s a marquee matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 2 going down on Clapboardtree. We can only hope that this one is of the quality of the Hawks’ double-overtime thriller against Brockton. This one is an equally intriguing matchup as Everett quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso is coming off a record-setting six touchdown performance last week, so the Crimson Tide offense should be firing on all cylinders. Of course, Charlie Stevenson’s defense, led by Kevin Ihlfeld and Zach Bartlett, is only allowing 5.4 points per game, so something’s got to give.
Barboza: Key to victory for Everett could come down to Vondell Langston and his ability to run the ball on offense and off-set the Hawks’ running game from his linebacker position. But I still like the Hawks at home. Xaverian, 27-20
Hall: It is my civic duty to feed the Charlie Stevenson Underdog Machine. Doesn't hurt that the Tide have the best receiving corps in the state, either. Everett, 21-17.
NO. 3 ST. JOHN’S – SHREWSBURY (5-0) AT NO. 16 ST. JOHN’S PREP (3-2), Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
The skinny: When talking about the Pioneers offense, the numbers do all the talking. After last week’s dominant 52-7 showing over town rival Shrewsbury, St. John’s is averaging over 370 yards of total offense per game, led by quarterback Dan Light, wide receiver Richard Rodgers and running John Vassar. The Prep survived a slugfest against Mount St. Joseph of Maryland last week, but they’ll need a little more magic from the legs of do-it-all running back Tyler Coppola (473 all-purpose yards last week) behind an imposing offensive that is led by left guard Nate Cyr.
Barboza: Coppola answered questions from reporters after last week’s win with huge ice packs on his knees after doing yeoman’s work. He’s capable of doing the job again and will be a big part of the Prep’s ball-control plan for victory. The test will be whether the Eagles’ young secondary can withstand the Pioneers’ aerial onslaught. St. John’s (Shrewsbury), 31-21
Hall: I was awfully impressed with how the Prep hung with Brockton and its slew of speedsters, but this is going to be their best taste of both size and speed they've had all year. I'm excited to see what gameplan O'Leary has drawn up to neutralize Richard Rodgers. St. John's (S), 27-21.
PINKERTON (5-1) AT NO. 4 BROCKTON (4-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
The skinny: Pinkerton is the second ranked team in New Hampshire and enters the 15th edition of the New England rivalry with a 4-10 mark against the Boxers and have won just once in the last eight meetings. Brockton also holds an edge in experience as Pinkerton dresses only 10 seniors. The Boxers should be playing with a chip on their shoulder in this one. After their double-overtime loss to Xaverian, Brockton has slipped by St. John’s Prep, 17-14, and were in a tighter game than most would expect against Fitchburg, 28-20.
Barboza: Well, Pinkerton is the best Weezer album by far, but I was never a huge fan of Rivers Cuomo’s music as much as I was a fan of his spectacles. But then, he just stole the look from Elvis Costello who stole it from Buddy Holly. Did I go there? Yeah, I just went there. Ugh. It’s just that I don’t get the chance to write about N.H. football that much and I’ve always dreamed about busting out the Weezer reference. I digress…Brockton, 28-17
Hall: Speaking of Pinkerton, is our readership too young to get these Weezer references? I'm about to drop another one. Say it ain't so, Boxers, you're a heartbreaker. Brockton, 24-16.
NO. 9 READING (5-0) AT LINCOLN-SUDBURY (3-2), Friday, 7 p.m.
The skinny: After disposing of Wakefield, 42-0, the Rockets turn their crosshairs on Lincoln-Sudbury. Led by senior quarterback Brian Bourque, Reading is averaging over 39 points per game and should prove worthy challenge to a Warrior defense that will be smarting over last week’s 28-9 loss to Concord-Carlisle. It all starts up front for the Warriors with defensive tackle Zach Smerlas. The Rockets defense will have to contain Lincoln-Sudbury’s unit led by quarterback Matt Cahill.
Barboza: I like the Rockets offense, which is playing with such precision as though it were manufactured in a Raytheon plant. Reading, 31-21
Hall: Zach Smerlas deserves all the ink he gets, but lineman Jeff Covitz is the rock that holds Reading together. Reading, 17-13.
SOMERSET (5-0) AT MARTHA’S VINEYARD (4-0), Friday, 5:30 p.m.
The skinny: Simply stated, this one could be for all the marbles in the Eastern Athletic Conference. The Raiders’ double-wing attack has been a terror to opposing defenses with the duo of Seth DeMello and Jaron Spear running behind an imposing offensive line that is anchored by senior right tackle Ian Levesque. The Vineyarders are led by multi-talented quarterback Randall Jette, who is equally adept gaining large chunks of yards in hurry by the air or by his feet. There’s another motivating factor to sweeten the pot for the Vineyarders as well as head coach Donald Herman is one win away from No. 200.
Barboza: Godspeed to those making the passage to the Vineyard in a Nor’easter if this one is, in fact, played on Friday night. Jette is a very impressive athlete, but I feel Somerset simply has too much to contend with…And that’s coming from a former Connolly Cougar who has no love lost for an old EAC rival. Somerset, 26-20
Hall: Oh boy, this is a tough one. South of the 495 loop, Randall Jette is in a class by himself in terms of speed and athleticism, but the Raiders are absolutely plowing defenses off the ball. My gut says to go with the Rem Dawgs. Somerset, 25-19.
ROCKLAND (5-0) AT COHASSET (5-0), Friday, 5:30 p.m.
The skinny: The logjam of undefeated teams atop the South Shore League standings (Abington, Cohasset, Rockland) figures to break some this weekend. The Skippers had to first put down another 4-0 team last week in an impressive 24-0 win over an upstart East Bridgewater squad. Rockland took care of business with a 26-0 win over Hull. The Bulldogs get their bite from senior running back Tim Fitzgerald, who registered 12 carries for 119 yards last week against the Pirates. Cohasset counters with a talented runner of their own in Thomas Flibotte (101 yards on 18 carries last week).
Barboza: These two are evenly matched, so I think the game is decided by who wins the turnover battle in what could be a bad weather game. I like Skippers experience in that situation as the defending South Shore champions. Cohasset, 21-14
Hall: I like Thomas Flibotte, but this Rockland defense (8.6 points allowed per game) hasn't allowed a touchdown in seven quarters. Also, I have family in Rockland, and would like to continue visiting them. Rockland, 17-10.
The Best of the Rest
No. 5 Gloucester 21, Masconomet 10
No. 6 Mansfield 28, Attleboro 17
No. 8 Methuen 31, Haverhill 7
No. 10 BC High 14, Hudson Catholic (N.J.) 10
No. 13 Chelmsford 13, Andover 7
No. 14 North Attleborough 21, Canton 7
No. 15 Duxbury 27, Whitman-Hanson 14
Concord-Carlisle 21, No. 19 Westford 20
No. 20 Lynn Classical, 7
No. 21 King Philip 14, Stoughton 10
No. 22 Weymouth 27, Newton North 14
BB&N 27, Milton Academy 21
St. Mary’s 14, Arlington Catholic 7
Archbishop Williams 27, Watertown 16
Acton-Boxborough 24, Arlington 13
Barnstable 34, Dartmouth 20
Dennis-Yarmouth 27, Plymouth South 14
North Andover 28, Northeast 20
Noble & Greenough 24, Thayer 21
Belmont Hill 27, St. Sebastian’s 20
Swampscott 38, Lynn English 31
Walpole 30, Norwood 21