In keeping with the good holiday spirit, we've given our local ESPN Boston staffers a turn at picking their own high school football game. Behold...
OAKMONT REGIONAL (7-3) AT GARDNER (6-4)
ESPNBoston.com High School Editor Brendan Hall, Oakmont Regional Class of 2003: Before I arrived at ESPN, one of the part-time jobs I held down was subbing gym classes at the alma mater. Mr. Hall kicked some butt in flag football, but alas didn’t take any names. Also, look out for this dude Luke Bakanowsky to have a big day. Oakmont 28, Gardner 14.
BISHOP STANG (4-6) AT BISHOP CONNOLLY (1-8)
ESPNBoston.com High School Editor Scott Barboza, Bishop Connolly Class of 2002: The Cougars only began playing football in 2003 -- the year after I graduated, how convenient? So this isn't one of those time-honored traditions like we see elsewhere in the state. However, the two South Coast Catholic schools separated by only a handful of exits on Interstate 195 and have a healthy rivalry in just about every sport. Plus, this one means a little bit more in the Barboza household since my mother is a Stang alum. A house divided? For one day each year, yes. Frank Sherman's squad is a little banged up heading into Turkey Day, but Cougars always play with pride. Connolly 16, Stang 14.
HOLLISTON (9-1) AT WESTWOOD (7-3)
ESPNBoston.com Columnist Jackie MacMullan, Westwood Class of 1978: Although I'm well aware that Holliston will be heavily favored in this game, it's impossible for me to bet against my hometown. I predict Sean Amaru will have the game of his life and lead the Wolverines to a major upset. Go Green! Westwood 27, Holliston 24.
NATICK (6-4) AT FRAMINGHAM (6-4)
ESPNBoston.com Patriots Writer Mike Reiss, Framingham Class of 1993: Great memories of attending games at Bowditch Field in Framingham and Memorial Field in Natick. This year’s game is at Bowditch, which has had an impressive renovation, and I think the Flyers will squeak out the first Thanksgiving win at their new and improved home field. Framingham 35, Natick 28.
MARBLEHEAD (5-5) AT SWAMPSCOTT (7-3)
ESPN’s Todd McShay, Director of College Scouting for Scouts Inc., Swampscott Class of 1995: I'm obviously leaning towards the Big Blue, but Marblehead has turned things around the last few years. I wish I was in this offense that Steve Dembowski is running now, throwing the ball around as much as they have. I know they're disappointed coming off the loss to Beverly, knocking them out of the playoffs, but you're always fired up for this rivalry. Swampscott 24, Marblehead 17.
LUNENBURG (3-6) AT ST. BERNARD’S (3-7)
ESPNBoston.com Red Sox Writer Gordon Edes, Lunenburg Class of 1972: It has been a down season for both schools, but the Blue Knights (3-7) go into season finale Wednesday night encouraged by playing powerhouse Clinton even for a half in its last game. Bernardians (2-7) were crushed by Clinton 35-12 earlier in the season but defense has tightened since. Lunenburg 20, St. Bernard’s 16.
AUBURN (10-0) AT OXFORD (6-4)
ESPNBoston.com Celtics Writer Chris Forsberg, Auburn Class of 1998: While acknowledging that these have to be the most biased predictions ever considering alumni are being asked to pick a game involving their own school, it's pretty clear that Auburn rolls in this one. Even with a postseason bid already in their back pocket, the Dandies (c'mon, let's bring back the old mascot, there's like 47 other teams in Massachusetts named the Rockets) have allowed only 7.1 points per game this season. What's more, Auburn hasn't lost a game since the town changed the school nickname**. It'll be closer than it should be, given that Turkey Day is a rivalry game and the fact that Auburn doesn't want to waste too much energy with the playoffs looming. Still, the Dandies roll. Auburn, 77-7 (OK, OK, more like 28-14).
** = slight exaggeration
NORTHAMPTON (1-8) AT AMHERST (3-6)
ESPNBoston.com Editor Peter Lawrence-Riddell, Amherst Class of 1992: The “Battle of the Bridge” didn’t take its place on the Thanksgiving schedule until well after I was out of high school. But Amherst-Hamp was always a highlight on the schedule in any sport back in my high school days. I’ll admit this is a homer pick, but this seems like the year for Amherst to get on the board in this Thanksgiving rivalry. Amherst 23, Northampton 21.
UXBRIDGE (4-6) AT NORTHBRIDGE (7-2)
ESPNBoston.com Editor David Lefort, Northbridge Class of 1994: I expect Hall of Fame coach Ken LaChapelle's crew to add another highlight to a successful season with a cakewalk victory over rival Uxbridge, which has given up about 25 points per game this season. Senior quarterback Tom Murphy should add another touchdown pass or two to his robust season total of 17. Northbridge 28, Uxbridge 14.
LONGMEADOW (9-1) AT EAST LONGMEADOW (9-0)
ESPNBoston.com Intern Neil Carroll, Longmeadow Class of 2007: Statistically, the teams look like a reflection of one another. The deciding factor in the game will be whether Longmeadow's offensive line can wear down the Spartan's defense. If the teams played this game out 10 times, both would walk away with five victories. This time though, the Lancers escape on a Ben Sterrit field goal. Longmeadow 24, East Longmeadow 21.
BROOKLINE (1-9) AT NEWTON NORTH (4-6)
ESPNBoston.com Editor Alisha Ricardi, Newton North Class of 2002: NNHS owned this rivalry for all four of my years at North, including in 2001, when I was one of the students acting as mascot George the Tiger. I must be good luck. Add that to Brookline’s flat record, and the Ben Clark-powered Tigers have this year in the bag. Newton North 24, Brookline 10.