NO. 3 BARNSTABLE (3-0) AT NO. 1 EVERETT (3-0)
The Skinny: On paper, this matchup promises to bring plenty of offensive firepower, but don’t sleep on these defenses either. The Crimson Tide knocked off No. 2 St. John’s Prep last week thanks to some clutch plays from linebacker Omar Graciano, along with some well-executed special teams play in the form of quarterback Gilly De Souza’s directional punting. The admiration of Barnstable’s defense by Everett’s coaching staff is no secret; they said the Red Raiders were the hardest hitting team they faced last year. That unit takes on the identity of inside linebacker Andrew Ellis.
Scott Barboza: No matter which way you slice it, this one’s coming down to a single possession. Everett, 30-24.
Brendan Hall: Anticipating a lot of big hits in this one. And if these two end up meeting at Gillette Stadium, they might need to stock up on some extra smelling salts. Everett, 20-14.
NO. 2 ST. JOHN'S PREP (2-1) AT NO. 7 BROCKTON (2-1)
The Skinny: Which Brockton are we going to see Friday night? The one that demonstrated vintage toughness in wins over Catholic Conference powers BC High and Xaverian, or the one that struggled to move the ball in a 12-0 loss to Reading? And which St. John's Prep are we going to see? The one that dominated the ground game against two MVC opponents, or the one that struggled in the second half against Everett last weekend? One thing is for sure, these are very familiar foes, as Brockton looks to improve to 3-0 against the Catholic Conference.
Barboza: Sticking with my preseason pick here. St. John’s Prep, 20-17.
Hall: If Brockton's Austin Roberts isn't one of the toughest quarterbacks around, then I don't know what satisfies you. Brockton, 20-10.
NO. 24 HOLY NAME (2-1) AT NO. 8 NASHOBA (3-0)
The Skinny: Holy Name running back Quron Wright has been getting plenty of attention so far, with his ridiculous average of 16.5 yards a carry, but this may be the toughest defense the Naps see all season long. Led by Division 1 prospect Zach Hume at linebacker, Nashoba is allowing just eight points a game, including just one touchdown in its last eight quarters. Both teams love to run the ball, both can eat up the clock, and both rely on a committee of backs to get the job done. Something has to give.
Barboza: Hume is the difference here in a defensive struggle. Nashoba, 13-7.
Hall: It's going to be a slobberknocker. But I've been covering Holy Name games since 2005, and I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen them attempt a kick on the point after. Holy Name, 8-6.
NO. 11 XAVERIAN (1-2) AT NO. 25 ANDOVER (3-0)
The Skinny: The Golden Warriors have breezed through their early schedule, but welcome a non-league test against the Hawks. Xaverian will enter looking to get back to .500 after dropping two straight games. Andover will have its hands full with Xaverian’s big bodies up front, including Ray Gobbi, but the Golden Warriors have speed to burn at the skill positions with Will Heikkinen and Cam Farnham creating one of the more dynamic receiving tandems in the state.
Barboza: Hawks play ball control and hold on for the win. Xaverian, 17-10.
Hall: I don't think you can call C.J. Scarpa one of the best quarterbacks in the state -- at least yet -- but he's damn fun to watch. Andover, 35-31.
NO. 18 NEEDHAM (3-0) AT NO. 20 WEYMOUTH (3-0)
The Skinny: This one should go a long way to deciding the Bay State Carey race this year, once again. Even after losing some of its top offensive threats from 2011, Weymouth hasn’t lost a step with Jack Lehan (7 TD passes) under center. Ozzy Colarusso and David Harrison provide playmaking ability on both offense and defense. The Rockets have gotten a boost in the ground game from junior running back Mikey Panepinto. With senior quarterback Ryan Charter another year wiser in the pocket, Needham has the offensive teeth to forge another playoff run.
Barboza: Hold on to your hats folks. Needham, 40-37.
Hall: How soon before we come up with some goofy hashtag for Ozzy Colarusso? #BlizzardOfOzz? #OzzmanCometh? I know, shaddup. Weymouth, 28-24.
NO. 21 MANSFIELD (2-1) AT STOUGHTON (3-0)
The Skinny: We don’t have to remind anybody in Mansfield how the meeting with the Black Knights ended up last year. Corner Marcus Middleton set the defensive tone in last year’s 8-0 blanking of the Hornets with an interception on Mansfield’s first play from scrimmage. He and the Stoughton secondary will factor again in Friday’s meeting, matching up with a talented group of Hornets receivers in Brendan Hill and Mike Hershman. Aaron Mack is dependable picking up tough yards for Stoughton in the ground game. The Hornets counter with their own weapons at running back, highlighted by Rob Rapoza who ran for 248 yards against Dracut.
Barboza: The Hornets will live by Roger Daltrey’s cry, “We don’t get fooled again.” Mansfield, 21-18.
Hall: Stoughton is a program on the up and up. But last year's shocking shutout shook the Hornets' nest, if you will. Mansfield, 21-7.
NORTHBRIDGE (3-0) AT SOUTHBRIDGE (1-2)
The Skinny: Long-time Northbridge head coach Ken LaChappelle is going for his 300th win Friday night in Southbridge, an exclusive club joined by just two other coaches in MIAA history. But unlike those two, this has been the only stop for LaChappelle since 1976, over which the Rams have won 10 Super Bowls and produced some of the greatest quarterbacks to ever come through the Central Mass. region. A nice celebration is expected, as Northbridge comes in the heavy favorite behind its do-it-all quarterback Matt Phelan.
Barboza: Can’t go against history. Northbridge, 27-14.
Hall: For the unfamiliar, LaChappelle is a pioneer in MIAA football, installing the run-and-shoot at Northbridge in the 70's and having Howitzer-loads of success ever since. Hats off to one of New England's true offensive masterminds. Northbridge, 28-0.
NO. 21 BC HIGH (1-2) AT ST. PETER'S PREP (N.J.) (3-0), AT RUTGERS STADIUM
The Skinny: St. Peter's came up to Viola Stadium a year ago and delivered a swift 35-19 beating that fueled the Eagles to their second Division 1 Super Bowl title in four years. A lot of things have changed since then, with new faces in new places, but BC High's Villanova-bound wideout Lincoln Collins is expected to be the X-factor for BC again after his big day in last year's contest. But if this Marauders squad is anything like the St. Joseph Regional (N.J.) that shut out Xaverian 62-0 two weeks ago, we could be in for an interesting day.
Barboza: This ain’t Darmouth, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around. St. Peter’s, 38-20.
Hall: Safe to say the BC High receivers have never seen a cornerback tandem quite like Tre Bell and Brian Githens. St. Peter's, 35-14.
WAREHAM (3-0) AT SOMERSET-BERKLEY (3-0)
The Skinny: Another matchup which presents the question of whether this will be the first of two meetings on the season also features two of the most buzzworthy rushers on the early season. No one started the season better than Wareham running back Darien Fernandez, who tallied a school-record six touchdowns against Falmouth. Meanwhile, Garrett Carlos has been a force for the Blue Raiders out of their double wing offense. The senior back has average a shade over 10 yards per carry.
Barboza: Just going on a hunch here and perhaps the overdue promise of a Portuguese steak at Academica (wink, wink). Somerset-Berkley, 14-13.
Hall: Having running backs Elias Tobia and Charles Tranfaglia back will be significant for Wareham, and with that I expect a big day out of my second favorite sub-5-foot-7 back, Darien Fernandez. Wareham, 24-21.
THAYER ACADEMY (0-1) AT ROXBURY LATIN (1-0)
The Skinny: Thayer is coming off a thrilling 49-43 shootout loss to defending ISL champ Governor's Academy, but it was a breakout game for quarterback Jack Becker (4 passing TDs). He'll go off against Latin quarterback Mackay Lowrie, a Boston College commit, in what could be another high-scoring affair.
Barboza: A promising season gets off to a tough start against a tough schedule for Thayer. Lowrie’s the real deal. Another shootout could be in store though. Roxbury Latin, 36-30.
Hall: Thayer has some terrific perimeter talents, between Aaron Gilmer and Bryan Vieira, and that will be the difference here. Thayer, 34-28.