BISHOP CONNOLLY (7-3) AT POPE JOHN PAUL II (7-3)
ESPNBoston.com high schools editor Scott Barboza, Bishop Connolly Class of 2002: By the time most of you read this, the game (played Wednesday night) will likely be in progress, or over. So let's talk more about these teams on the big picture. Both teams were on the cusp of securing playoff spots in Division 6 South, only to be shut out. Connolly had been playing for an auto-qualifier berth in a league game against cross city rival Diman, when a Bengals Hail Mary at the end of the first half was enough to punch their ticket and leave the Cougars out in the cold. Meanwhile, the Lions might have been the biggest snub of the tourament -- statewide. After finishing third in their division, Pope John Paul was kept out of the 8-team field due to the automatic qualifiers in the sectional. Its power-ranking quotient against its peers that made the sectional tournament would have had them in the middle of the field.
Well, both teams have something to play for then. My Cougars, which only came into existence the year after I graduated (Jeez, thanks) and co-op with Westport High, have made huge strides under head coach Justin Kogler. They've already ensured the first winning season in program history this year, so this has been a wildly successful year. Not only that, Connolly has the potential to have three of its players finish with 1,000-yards rushing on the season. Quarterback Brian Quinn is just 12 yards away from the mark, while Alex Medeiros (91) and Chris Silvia (124) are also in earshot, as the Cougars have averaged more than 280 yards on the ground per game this season. While I'm biased in this, let's not forget about these Lions. Quarterback Ryan Barabe and wide receiver Brady Jones have been two of the most exciting players I've seen on film this season, so the future it bright both in Fall River and Hyannis. Connolly 30, PJP II 28
GARDNER (5-5) AT OAKMONT (4-6)
ESPNBoston.com high schools editor Brendan Hall, Oakmont Class of 2003: It's been a rough year for the Spartans, but there's no way I can pick against these guys when the legendary Dave LaRoche is this close to that elusive 200th win. Tip of the cap to a decorated career. Oakmont 20, Gardner 12
FRAMINGHAM (2-8) AT NATICK (9-1)
ESPNBoston.com Patriots writer Mike Reiss, Framingham Class of 1993: Always pull for my Flyers, and anything can happen, but looks like this is one Natick should win. Natick 31, Framingham 14.
WESTWOOD (7-3) AT HOLLISTON (8-2)
ESPNBoston.com columnist Jackie MacMullan, Westwood Class of 1978: The great Westwood-Holliston rivalry heads into its third installment of the season (that's just crazy!), and my money is on Berluti and the boys from Westwood. Westwood 21, Holliston 20
AUBURN (8-3) VS. ??????
ESPNBoston.com Celtics writer Chris Forsberg, Auburn Class of 1998: It'll be nice for Auburn to play something other than a doormat on Thanksgiving for a change and senior tight end/defensive end Mike Jankowski makes the big play late in Tuesday's game to seal the win. Now let's talk about shortsighted Oxford decision-makers for a second. Great message you sent your kids by ending our 42-year rivalry because you weren't competitive, all while forcing Auburn to scramble for a holiday opponent (one that robs this year's senior class of actually playing on Turkey Day due to the distance that Northeast will travel). If you hadn't waited until February to bail, then this might not have been a big deal. But you put Auburn in a tough spot hoping to get a cupcake game (which fell through with Sutton's first-year varsity program). Now you've got Bay Path and it'd be really fun if the Auburn football team trekked out to Charlton on Thursday morning to cheer on the Minutemen's victory. But you're probably not worth the time. (P.S., Still love Carl's Oxford Diner, please don't spit in my pancakes as this bitterness will fade soon). (P.P.S., Our annual plea to Auburn decision-makers to change the nickname back to the Dandies. C'mon, let's ditch the generic nickname (sorry Dr. Goddard) for something that actually made us unique). Auburn 28, Random School 21
ST. JOHN'S OF SHREWSBURY (9-2) VS. ST. PETER-MARIAN (7-3)
at Fitton Field, Holy Cross
ESPN.com Buffalo Bills writer Mike Rodak, St. John's Class of 2009: Good to see my Pioneers back in the title game. They'll keep it rolling for yet another Thanksgiving win in this classic rivalry. St. John's 35, St. Peter-Marian 14.
AMHERST (1-9) AT NORTHAMPTON (5-4)
ESPNBoston.com editor Peter Lawrence-Riddell, Amherst Class of 1992: I’ve picked Amherst every year that I’ve been doing this and even though I want to again, Northampton gets the nod this year (that wasn’t easy to write). After three straight wins for the Hurricanes, the Blue Devils get back in the win column. Hamp 27, Amherst 13
NORTHBRIDGE (9-2) AT UXBRIDGE (6-4)
ESPNBoston.com editor David Lefort, Northbridge Class of 1994: Losers of three straight, Uxbridge is barely an appetizer for the Rams leading in to next weekend's state title game. Northbridge 28, Uxbridge 17
BC HIGH (5-5) AT CATHOLIC MEMORIAL (5-5)
ESPNBoston.com sales manager J.J. Alberts, BC High Class of 1989: Connor Walsh leads the way on both sides of the ball to end the year on a high note. BC High 28, Catholic Memorial 3
TAUNTON (5-5) AT COYLE-CASSIDY (1-9)
ESPNBoston.com marketing coordinator Bobby Leonard, Taunton Class of 2009: Both Taunton and Coyle have had their struggles throughout the season but Taunton is riding a 3-game winning streak into the contest. Look for Taunton to prevail at home. Taunton 26, Coyle 16.
STONEHAM (5-5) AT READING (7-2)
ESPN recruiting coordinator Billy Tucker, Reading Class of 1993: Quarterback Drew Belcher will carry the Reading Rockets to victory. Reading 28, Stoneham 17.
STOUGHTON (9-2) AT CANTON (3-7)
ESPN Associate NFL Editor David Auguste, Stoughton Class of 2001: OK, despite their quarterback being out with a concussion, the Black Knights will pound Canton with the ground game coast to coast. Stoughton 28, Canton 6.
BISHOP FEEHAN (4-5) AT BISHOP STANG (4-6)
ESPNBoston.com correspondent Josh Perry, Bishop Feehan Class of 1997: This has been a rough year for the Shamrocks dealing with a young roster and a host of injuries. But, they still have Isaiah Douglas and have been playing better in the last few weeks. I think Douglas has another big day in his final game and Feehan gets some revenge for a loss in the regular season with a hard fought win. Feehan 14, Stang 12
BROCKTON (5-5) AT BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM (6-3)
ESPNBoston.com correspondent Ryan Lanigan, Brockton High Class of 2007: Brockton hasn't had a very strong season, being shutout three times this season and on the other side, B-R's three losses -- Attleboro, Barnstable, and Xaverian -- have all come to top teams. I expect Brandon Gallagher to have himself a day as the Trojans roll to a win over the Boxers. Bridgewater-Raynham, 28, Brockton 7
NAUSET (6-4) AT DENNIS-YARMOUTH (9-2)
ESPNBoston.com correspondent Phil Garceau, D-Y Class of 2009: I can't imagine the D-Y starters will see the field for anthing more than two series, if at all, but there is no way Paul Funk accepts losing to Nauset twice in one season. The Warriors beat the Dolphins for the first time since 2002 earlier this season and D-Y wants revenge. The Warriors need Jimmy Sullivan who has missed some games down the stretch. Without him, the Chowder Bowl will remain at D-Y for the 11th consecutive season. D-Y 33, Nauset 20
NEEDHAM (7-3) AT WELLESLEY (6-4)
ESPNBoston.com correspondent James Walsh, Needham Class of 2002: Needham running back Mike Panepinto is going to be too much for Wellesley to handle. Needham 28, Wellesley 20
METHUEN (5-5) AT DRACUT (3-7)
ESPNBoston.com correspondent Andy Smith, Dracut Class of 2006: It hasn't been the best season for the Dracut Middies, who wake up Thanksgiving morning on the bottom of the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 standings. The high point of their regular season was back in September when it jumped out to an early lead on Reading, only to lose the game in the final minutes. Dracut's Thanksgiving rival, Methuen, already beat them by 15 points once this season, and unfortunately I can't see a different outcome happening the second time around.
ESPNBoston.com correspondent Mike Abelson, Methuen Class of 2009: After beating Dracut the first time to improve to 4-0 I'd have said that Methuen-Dracut 2 would be a redux. With two months of football to look back on now I'm not sure. Methuen, once the top team in D1 North, imploded after beating the Middies in September. The blemish-free record and +25 point differential were exchanged for a 1-5 finish to the year and being outscored 169-93. Meanwhile, the Middies breezed through all three of their non-playoff games in November. Two teams going in opposite directions, but the cream rises on Turkey Day and the Rangers have the better athletes and will prevail. Barely. Methuen 34, Dracut 28
PENTUCKET (7-2) AT TRITON (5-5)
ESPNBoston.com correspondent Greg Story, Triton Class of 2002: What started out as a promising season for the Triton Vikings has spiraled downward since losing to Watertown in the state tournament. Certainly a step in the right direction for Triton, but I think Pentucket bounces back after narrowly missing a bid to play at Gillette. Pentucket 22, Triton 12
COZY LIVING ROOM vs. ICE COLD BLEACHERS
ESPNBoston.com editor Steve Richards, Pittsfield Class of 1984: Out in the far western reaches of the state, we manage to find other things to do on Thanksgiving morning than be outside in who-knows-what weather to play football (sacrilege, I know). This year we’ll be hunkered in front of the TV to cheer on the UMass marching band –- the Power and Class of New England –- as it performs at the Macy’s parade in New York City. Go UMass! Cozy Living Room over Ice Cold Bleachers