Let's get straight to this week’s action with picks from ESPN Boston's Scott Barboza and Brendan Hall.
BB&N (7-0) AT LAWRENCE ACADEMY (7-0), 7 P.M., AYER HIGH SCHOOL
The skinny: Since the beginning of 2008, both the Knights of BB&N and Spartans of Lawrence have lost just one game -- to each other. No two programs have dominated the ISL the last few years quite like these two teams, which always makes their end of the season showdown a must-see. The much-hyped Spartans -- with a plethora of offensive weapons like Marcus Grant, Mike Orloff and Anthony Knight -- showed they're not invincible in a gutsy 7-6 win over Belmont Hill last week. The Knights have seen their share of nail-biters this season, too, but running back Chris Coady has been the ebb and flow in 2010.
Hall: All this talk about the number of playmakers on either side of the ball, and honestly I can't wait to see how Dan Connaughton stacks up against Lawrence's beefy offensive linemen. Betcha that'll be a war. And with the good holiday spirit just around the corner, what better to keep the mood festive than with an upset? Did I mention this is going to be a war already? BB&N, 22-21
Barboza: The Spartans were sloppy in committing seven turnovers last week against Belmont Hill. You can be sure that won't happen again. Lawrence Academy 21-16
NO. 15 LYNN CLASSICAL (8-1) AT NO. 3 GLOUCESTER (9-0), 7 P.M.
The skinny: Lynn Classical has rattled off eight straight win after an opening-day loss to Catholic Memorial, thus setting up another winner-take-all showdown for the NEC title against the Fishermen. This matchup is smash-mouth football personified at its very best. Gilbert Brown has returned from injury for Gloucester and composes a vaunted backfield with Jordan Shairs. The Rams counter with a talented backfield twosome of their own in Keith Nance and Tyler Alicudo.
Hall: I see this one being a defensive battle, with Jordan Shairs ripping off a long touchdown run to win it late. These two lines are going to go at it. Gloucester, 13-6
Barboza: With Gilbert Brown getting back into the mix last week for the Fishermen, there's just too much to stop. Gloucester, 28-17
NO. 12 PLYMOUTH NORTH (7-2) AT NO. 23 DENNIS-YARMOUTH (8-1), 7 P.M.
The skinny: One of the many matchups with league title implications on the line, this one could make the Atlantic Coast League dicey. A Plymouth North win would all but wrap up the ACL for the Eagles, who are currently undefeated in league and would hold wins D-Y and one-loss Marshfield. A Dolphins win would create a three-way tie in the league.
Hall: Like Barnstable two weeks ago, the Dolphins will try to score in a hurry. Matt Montalto doesn't have the strongest arm in the world, but he can put the ball into tight spots in the short game. All that said, I don't know how I feel about the Eagles' chances if D-Y gets into a rhythm early; their power-running attack is fine-tuned for eating the clock, not marching downfield quickly. D-Y, 28-24
Barboza: The Dolphins can get down the field in a hurry and might just be able to challenge Plymouth North with their passing game. D-Y, 17-10
NO. 6 XAVERIAN (7-2) AT CATHOLIC MEMORIAL (5-3), 7 P.M.
The skinny: No league title on the line here, just another tremendous Catholic Conference matchup. CM is reeling, but not in the traditional sense, with two of its three losses coming by one point in the final seconds to teams ranked in ESPNBoston's Top 10. Xaverian avoided its first three-game losing streak in two decades with a 28-0 shutout of BC High, and must prevail here to force yet another Thanksgiving day showdown with St. John's Prep for the Catholic Conference title and playoff berth.
Hall: CM's Armani Reeves, as he has proven week in and week out, is going to be a nightmare to stop for pretty much any defense. But in the end, I think the more disciplined team is going to eke this one out. Xaverian, 17-10
Barboza: I was very impressed with the Hawks' performance last week and I'd expect them to roll into Thanksgiving Day with the Catholic Conference title on the line against St. John's Prep. Xaverian, 31-24
MADISON PARK (6-1) AT EAST BOSTON (6-2), 6 P.M.
The skinny: The Jets take flight with a talented troike in the backfield between Brandon Campbell, Kyle Jimenez-Fox and Andre Rickerson. Meanwhile, Madison Park's Devlin Green is a constant threat to score. The Cardinals are riding a three-game winning streak after their loss Brighton to set up this matchup for the Boston North title and a spot in the Division IV playoffs.
Hall: Eastie's been on a tear since losing to Blue Hills two weeks ago, outscoring their opposition 82-26 the last two games. I expect big things out of Brandon Campbell this week. East Boston, 25-23.
Barboza: The Cardinals were my favorite to win the Division I North crown in boys' soccer, but were upset in the first round by Somerville. I think MP could use a boost after that. Madison Park, 14-7
BISHOP FEEHAN (4-5) AT NO. 20 SOMERSET (9-0), 7 P.M.
The skinny: The Shamrocks have won when its counted most with three EAC wins to set up yet another winner-take-all, in-season playoff game for the conference title. Somerset will be looking to dethrone Bishop Feehan, which has won the last three EAC crowns. The vaunted Blue Raiders attack has outscored its opponents 309-89.
Hall: Somerset had this game won last year before bowing out, and I really don't know what to make of Feehan -- they get blown out a combined 82-21 their first two games, start 0-5, yet are suddenly a potential win away from another (ho-hum) EAC crown. Still, you've got to give it to the Raiders, what with their depth at running back and physical style of play. Somerset, 21-7
Barboza: The Blue Raiders have simply been too consistent wire to wire to pick against them. Somerset, 28-16
MEDWAY (8-1) AT NO. 24 HOLLISTON (8-1), TRI-VALLEY LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP, SATURDAY, 7 P.M.
The skinny: These two league rivals will meet for the first-ever TVL Championship game under the lights and what should be a capacity crowd (both fan bases are known to travel well). Holliston, averaging 41 points per game, has looked flawless all season on offense save for one game -- yep, Medway. The Mustangs, just as they did in their Oct. 1 upset of the Panthers, showed last week that they are a great second-half team with a comeback win over Norton that vaulted them to this game.
Hall: I'm sticking with my pick last week, Medway is going to come away from this little TVL experiment with the league's playoff berth. Holliston's got by far the most explosive offense in Division 3A, but you can't discount the great defensive gameplan the Mustangs had for them. Medway, 21-17.
Barboza: As I said last week, the Panthers are re-focused and have learned their lessons from their first matchup with the Mustangs. Holliston, 26-15
PHILLIPS EXETER (5-2) AT PHILLIPS ANDOVER (2-4), SATURDAY, 2:30 P.M.
The skinny: We all know the history and lore behind this one. Let's take a look at who has the advantage in the matchup from a couple of different perspectives.
Overall: Andover holds a 68-51-10 advantage in the all-time series.
Recent History: Exeter has claimed the last two meetings. Advantage, Exeter
Artwork: Andover's famous Addison Gallery houses works by Hopper, O'Keefe and Pollack, in addition to Winslow Homer's "Eight Bells". Not too shabby. Abvantage, Andover
Hipster Cred: Exeter has Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler among its alums. "Funeral" was a great album. Advantage, Exeter
Alumni (Here's where it really counts): Exeter has Arthur Schlesinger Jr., (a personal favorite historian of one of ESPN Boston's staff members) and slew of other authors including George Plimpton (another personal fav. of said staffer), Gore Vidal (ditto), John Irving (ditto), Peter Benchley (thanks for ruining the beach for said staffer) and Dan Brown (say what you will, but the man has a knack for his genre). Add to the list businessmen Joseph Coors, David Rockefeller Jr., Pierre S. du Pont and Mark Zuckerberg and you have about as much money as ... Well, just about all the world's money we suppose. Also throw in President Franklin Pierce. Andover has the President advantage however, with both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush as alumni. In the realm of the litterati, Andover has "Buzz" Bissinger and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Andover's contributions to baseball are also worth noting with ex-commish A. Bartlett Giamatti and the most colorful owner of all time, Bill Veeck. Other Andover notables (for selfish reasons of said staffer) include Ming Tsai (good food), Frederick Law Olmstead (Central Park, c'mon) and Olivia Wilde (for reasons that should be very, very obvious). Advantage, Push (although Olivia Wilde single-handedly almost puts it over the top for Andover)
Hall: One of the few rivalries where the event itself consistently is as big an event as the game. Exeter's defense has been flawless, and I think at the end of the day they'll make just enough stops to come away victorious in this one. Exeter, 24-20
Barboza: Let's go back to alumni: Exeter has the father of modern football, Amos Alonzo Stagg to its credit, but Andover trumps because I'd hate to live in a world where a young Bill Belichick didn't meet a young Ernie Adams. Andover, 21-20
NO. 16 KING PHILIP (7-1) AT NO. 13 NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH (8-1), 1:30 P.M.
The skinny: Yeah, the Hockomock might be just out of reach after these two teams lost to Mansfield, but that won't prevent these teams from putting on a great show. Two stout defenses will look to shut down either teams offense with KP's Alec May and North's Bob Richman leading the way.
Hall: The way these two defenses have been performing, I'm going to set the over/under at 20. And I'm taking the under. KP, 12-6
Barboza: This will be a GREAT football game to watch. North Attleborough, 16-14
MALDEN (4-4) AT NO. 1 EVERETT (8-0), 1 P.M.
The skinny: The undefeated Crimson Tide have a would capture an unprecedented 16th consecutive Greater Boston League title with a win over their long-time rivals on Saturday. Readers are no doubt familiar with the many prominent players on both sides of the ball for Everett, but players like Witchie Exilhomme, Oshane McCreath and Ricky Francois have emerged as playmakers on the Malden side over the last few games.
Hall: Bring a helmet. Everett, 35-14
Barboza: The rest of the GBL will have to wait another year. Everett, 27-16
BEST OF THE REST
No. 7 Methuen 24, Lawrence 8
No. 10 Duxbury 22, Hingham 10
No. 11 St. John's Prep 13, BC High 10
No. 22 Wachusett 24, Shrewsbury 14
Abington 18, Cohasset 12
Andover 35, Lowell 33
Cardinal Spellman 28, Arlington Catholic 10
Central Catholic 30, Billerica 20
Chelmsford 27, Tewksbury 17
Chicopee 25, Chicopee Comprehensive 21
Clinton 23, Lunenburg 20
Franklin 26, Stoughton 17
Masconomet 14, Malden Catholic 13
Narragansett 20, Hudson 15
Nashoba 17, Milford 0
Oakmont 28, Groton-Dunstable 19
Somerville 28, Cambridge 12
Swampscott 31, Beverly 27
Westford 18, Waltham 14
Westwood 21, Norton 13