Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Roundtable: Calling league race winners
In this week's edition of "Roundtable", ESPN Boston High Schools editors Scott Barboza and Brendan Hall, along with our usual gang of contributors, gave their predicted winner of some of the state's most hotly-contested league races.
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor
Catholic Conference: St. John's Prep Call it capitulation, but I’m going to change my tune on my preseason Catholic Conference pick, which was BC High. St. John’s Prep hasn’t shown anything to indicate that they will have a hiccup in conference play and I fully expect them to be celebrating a championship come Thanksgiving Day.
Hockomock Kelly-Rex: King Philip Given that there presently is a four-logjam of teams atop the standings with identical 2-1 records, it’s all but certain the league will be decided in a tiebreaker scenario, as it was last year. I don’t know how it’s going to pan out, and this exercise is a little bit like throwing darts into the ocean, but I’ll say King Philip will again be the team to make the postseason dance.
Hockomock Davenport: Foxborough Similar situation in the Hock’s small division. Right now, Sharon, perhaps the state’s greatest ongoing story of the year, holds the inside track with a 2-0 record, but I’m looking ahead to next Saturday’s matchup with Foxborough as a make-or-break date. I like the Warriors to win that game and the division, ruining Sharon’s Cinderella run.
South Coast: Dighton-Rehoboth I know Wareham might be the logical, favorite pick here, but the Vikings take on another undefeated SCC squad in Dighton-Rehoboth Friday night. I can see that game going either way and I’m inclined to say the Falcons will pull this one off, entering with a six-game winning streak since their Week 1 defeat to Somerset-Berkley. D-R takes it.
MVC Large: Andover This might be the most competitive division from top to bottom at any level of MIAA football this year, but I really can’t see it getting away from Andover. Just too many weapons to stop for opposing defenses.
Boston City North: Madison Park After a 22-20 loss to Latin Academy in Week 1, Madison Park’s defense has buckled down to pitch shutouts in five of its next six contests. M.P. Machine’s for real.
Boston City South: Dorchester Dorchester passed perhaps its toughest challenge of the season earlier in the year with a 36-24 win over Latin Academy. I look for the Bears to roll to an undefeated regular season.
Atlantic Coast League: Nauset This race too will likely be decided on Thanksgiving Day, and I’m looking at Nauset’s battle with Dennis-Yarmouth as the definitive game. The Warriors ride to the title behind their Four Horsemen.
Patriot Fisher: Pembroke This Friday’s Scituate vs. Pembroke matchup looms large in this race. I’m going with experience in that matchup with the Titans, fresh off a playoff appearance in 2011, proving to be the difference.
Dual County Small: Wayland Wayland has a huge matchup with reigning champion Concord-Carlisle on Friday before another biggie against another DCL Small unbeaten Bedford next week. I like the Warriors to win out and take the crown.
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor
Catholic Conference: St. John's Prep Really, is there any other choice at this point? I picked BC High to take the conference in the preseason, but nobody could have predicted the Eagles' injury-ravaged start. Meanwhile, the Eagles from Danvers look sharp as ever, with its two-pronged rushing tandem of Alex Moore and Jonathan Thomas, and an experienced offensive line that works surgically. It may come down to Thanksgiving if Xaverian beats BC High on Friday night, but is there any question who's the favorite in that Turkey Day game?
Hockomock Kelly-Rex: North Attleborough Don't look now, but the Red Rocketeers are on swole. Alex Jette's return adds another dimension to an offense that has been crawling back to life the last month, and the win over Mansfield last week at hallowed Community Field cements things. It's going to be a headache trying to figure out the playoff berth recipient here, but expect Big Red to take care of business these final three games.
Hockomock Davenport: Stoughton The Black Knights have one league game left, Canton on Thanksgiving, while Sharon and Foxborough still have to claw it out. Sharon also has the looming spectre of Oliver Ames on Thanksigiving morning. In terms of league games (because Attleboro and Bridgewater-Raynahm will be tough outs), Stoughton has the easiest path.
South Coast: Wareham This is all pertinent on Darien Fernandez having a big game on Friday night against Dighton-Rehoboth. When he turns it on, he's a bowling ball of a runner to deal with, what with the low center of gravity combined with superb lower-body strength, and the stats reflect that. This might have been the most complte SCC team heading into the season, and the Vikings have lived up to the expectations for the most part.
MVC Large: Andover Because, in short, in the land of no defense, the team with the most offense is king.
Atlantic Coast League: Nauset Suddenly, the Nov. 9 tilt with Plymouth South is interesting, potentially for all the marbles, unless Dennis-Yarmouth rebounds and stays the course until Thanksgiving. There's a lot of bracketology to be done here, but in the end it comes down to this: How good is your scout team? Because it's not like you see the single wing 10 times a year.
Patriot Fisher: Pembroke I'm a Bob Bancroft guy, and you should be too. Because wherever he goes, it seems, he's got that Midas touch.
Dual County Small: Wayland The Warriors still have three tough league games on tap, including this week's tilt with Concord-Carlisle, but this is a veteran defense that has thrown some haymakers, the most impressive a 10-6 win over Lincoln-Sudbury. Give me Wayland in its first playoff appearance since the 2007 Division 1A Super Bowl.
Boston City North: Madison Park Brighton has come on strong the last month, but frankly they are on the outside looking in. Right now the MP Machine is running at industrial speeds defensively, with shutouts in five of its last six contests and an average of six points allowed per game overall. Hey, can we get an "MP Clap" rendition for the football team too?
Boston City South: Dorchester It's been a storied season thus far for The Dot, including key wins over Brighton and Latin Academy over the last month. Barring something wild the Bears should wrap up the league in the next week, and then it's on to a much-anticipated No. 16 tilt with Madison Park.
Managing Editor, HockomockSports.com
Catholic Conference: St. John's Prep The Catholic Conference is extremely tough to call (as are all the leagues in this week's Roundtable), but between St. John’s Prep’s stifling defense and Alex Moore’s power running, the Eagles should be considered favorites to win the league title. Xaverian barely beat St. John’s (Shrewsbury), which Prep crushed earlier this season, and BC High has struggled to match its preseason billing (albeit thanks in large part to early season injuries). If BC High can regain some confidence this weekend against Xaverian, then next weekend’s game with Prep will be a must-watch, but right now it looks as though it will be Prep's league to lose.
Hockomock Kelley-Rex: North Attleborough I’ve been arguing all season that North Attleborough has the most talented team in the Hockomock League, but the Rocketeers were struck by the injury bug and lost three straight games. Alex Jette’s hairline fracture and Sean Peters’ shoulder injury are nowhere near 100 percent, but the captains are gutting it out to give North a shot at the postseason. The Rocketeers’ win over Mansfield last Friday night has given Big Red its swagger back and changed the whole mood around Community Field.
North faces a big test on November 10 when it hosts King Philip, but the Rocketeers defense has been playing at an extremely high level in recent weeks and the offense has started to finish drives behind quarterback Ryan Perron and running back Dwayne Hunter, Jr. Add Jette back into the mix, even if he is more decoy than big play threat, and suddenly this is a prolific offense again. Franklin still have a shot, but because of last week’s stunning loss to the league’s bottom team, Taunton, the Panthers can’t afford anymore defeats and still have to play both Mansfield and KP. I think North runs the table and Franklin drop both to avoid the calculus lessons that were needed to determine the winner last year.
Hockomock Davenport: Foxborough Foxborough has made a resurgence this season behind star tailback Kiivone Howard and if they beat Sharon on the road on November 10th will finish 3-1 in the division. Stoughton should beat Canton on Thanksgiving Day to also finish 3-1. Then it will be up to Sharon beating Oliver Ames, which will be a very difficult game, to make it a three-way tie at the top.
In both divisions of the Hockomock League there is going to be some serious long-division needed to decide who advances to the postseason. I’m not a great mathematician so I will say that the Davenport is going to come down to Foxborough and Stoughton. Sharon have made a great run against all expectations and its upset of the Black Knights stunned most of the league’s followers. I do not see the Eagles beating either Foxboro or Oliver Ames, but I have been wrong with most predictions in the Hockomock this season so really it's a coin flip.
There’s been a lot of ‘they should win’ and ‘they’re the better team’ going around the Hockomock League right now, but the way the season has gone it is almost impossible to say what will happen next and every game has title implications.
South Coast: Wareham The league really comes down to this Friday night between Wareham and Dighton-Rehoboth. I’ll give the edge to the home team, Wareham, and say that they will take home the league title. Excluding one bad night at Somerset-Berkely, the Vikings have not allowed more than 14 points in a game this season and that strong defense should make the difference.
MVC Large: Andover Andover’s offense has been outstanding this season, averaging just fewer than 39 points per game. All signs point to the league title coming down to the Thanksgiving Day game against Central Catholic, which Andover will be hosting this year. The Golden Warriors offensive attack, led by quarterback CJ Scarpa, should be enough to carry them to the league title.
Atlantic Coast League: Nauset Nauset and its old-school single-wing offense, which was highlighted by Eric Adler on Wednesday, is riding a wave of momentum heading into its November 9th showdown with Plymouth South. That game could decide the ACL and Nauset’s ability to wear teams down with a physical run game and a massive offensive line could be the difference down the stretch. Not to be overlooked is the Warriors’ defense, which is allowing fewer than 12 points per game. With an historic offense producing an historic season, Nauset is poised to take home the league title.
Patriot Fisher: Pembroke Junior quarterback Corey Brandon has started to turn the corner for Pembroke in recent weeks, notably the game against Middleboro in which he threw three touchdowns and completed all of his passes. If the Titans can get that kind of production from the passing game this week against Scituate then they could take home the Fisher division title. The Sailors allowed North Quincy to come back into the game last week and could be vulnerable to a downfield passing attack. I think Pembroke makes it two road wins in a row and takes control of the league this weekend.
ESPN Boston correspondent
Catholic Conference: St. John's Prep Overall, it's been a disappointing year for the Catholic Conference, as just one team currently holds an overall winning record. The one constant this season has been a strong St. John's Prep squad, which is as complete in every facet as any team in the state. While BC High and Xaverian will pose a challenge, expect the Prep to be the last team standing here.
Hockomock Kelley-Rex: King Philip Took this team at the start of the year and will stick with it. This is a jumbled league race but the Warriors have already played the one team they seem like they can't beat in Mansfield and you have to think the defense has found itself after that one slip up.
Hockomock Davenport: Stoughton The Black Knights need some help after that loss to Sharon earlier, but the thought is they get it from Oliver Ames and Foxboro when they play the Eagles. The thought here is that Stoughton is simply the best team in the division and wins whatever tiebreakers happen to pop up.
South Coast: Wareham This one looks like it will come down to the Vikings' game with Dighton-Rehoboth, and while the Falcons can never be counted out in this league, the thought here is that Wareham is just a tad more explosive at the skill positions, led by multi-sport star Darien Fernandez.
MVC Large: Andover This is an offense-driven league, and the Golden Warriors have the ammunition to win any shootout. The one team with the best defense, Central Catholic, awaits on Thanksgiving, but Andover just may have one too many weapons in the end.
Boston City North: Madison Park Normally, it would be tough to go against East Boston in this space, but the Cardinals have been fairly consistent and play some of the best defense in the city. The game with Eastie in two weeks should decide who emerges from this race.
Boston City South: Dorchester The story of the year in the city has been the play of the Bears, who sit in a pretty good position to take the league crown. With wins over Latin Academy and O'Bryant already in its pocket, Dorchester looks good to win this league.
Atlantic Coast League: Nauset Last year, Dennis-Yarmouth was all the rage both in this league and Division 2A as a whole. Next year, keep an eye on Plymouth South and its loaded current junior class. But this year, Nauset has just been the most complete and consistent squad, so look for a run to what promises to be a loaded Division 2A bracket.
Patriot Fisher: Pembroke Scituate is always a tough out and this weekend's game will be a difficult one for Pembroke, but the Titans seem to be playing better at the moment and have the confidence gained from last year's run to the postseason. Expect Bob Bancroft and his team to get there again.
Dual County Small: Wayland Concord-Carlisle and Bedford have both played well this season but the team that has fared the best against the top Large schools in the DCL has been Wayland. Not only do the Warriors own a win over Lincoln-Sudbury, they also handed Millis-Hopedale its only loss. Look for Wayland to not just win this league but make some noise in the postseason.
ESPN Boston correspondent
Catholic Conference: St. John's Prep In my estimation, the Eagles are playing like the best team in the state right now. To survive, the Prep will have to earn it as they finish up with BC High and Xaverian, both of whom would love to play spoiler.
Hockomock Kelly-Rex: King Philip/North Attleboro winner I know, way to go out on a limb. YOU try picking games in this league. I really believe this race comes down to the winner between the Red Rocketeers and the Warriors on Nov. 10, although Mansfield still has a terrific case to make as well. The X-factor in this race could ultimately be Franklin, who controls its own fate as the Panthers finish with road games at KP and Mansfield. Anyone else feeling an ice cream headache coming on?
Hockomock Davenport: Stoughton Much like with the Kelley-Rex, the key game takes place on November 10 when Foxboro takes on Sharon. Since I don't have an Engineering degree from M.I.T., I'm just guessing that the Black Knights have the edge in the complicated three-team tiebreaker rules of the Hockomock League in what I forsee as a three-way tie atop the standings.
South Coast: Wareham Simply put, the SCC will be settled this Friday when Wareham hosts Dighton-Rehoboth. Vikings beware, my public game predictions didn't do so hot last week.
MVC Large: Andover In 2010, the Golden Warriors took down Central Catholic on Thanksgiving to earn a playoff berth for the first time in 25 years. It looks like a similar situation is shaping up this season.
Boston City North: Madison Park In three games against City South opponents, the Cardinals have yet to yield a point. The MP Machine has also already vanquished its two toughest competitors in West Roxbury and Brighton.
Boston City South: Dorchester Expect the Bears special season to end with a City South title and a shot at overall bragging rights in the city against Madison park on Thanksgiving.
Atlantic Coast League: Nauset And the Warriors will earn it, with road games at Sandwich and Plymouth South before hosting Thanksgiving against Dennis-Yarmouth -- the three teams also in contention for the ACL crown.
Patriot Fisher: Pembroke Another league title that should be decided on Friday as the Titans visit hurricane-ravaged Scituate.
Dual County Small: Wayland I feel like the Warriors their tougher non-league schedule up to this point gives them an edge over both Concord-Carlisle and Bedford, both of whom are also unbeaten in league play and both of whom represent Wayland's next two opponents.
Editor-In-Chief, New England Prep Stars
Catholic Conference: St. John's Prep Prep has the best combination of offense and defense but with Xaverian and BC High getting healthy and playing well I would not be surprised if any of the three took it.
Hockomock Kelly-Rex: King Philip This is the tightest division in Eastern Mass but the way KP puts up numbers and distance in games wins out.
Hockomock Davenport: Sharon Sharon holds the advantage here with the win over Stoughton but crazy things happen in league play.
South Coast: Dighton-Rehoboth I am sticking with D-R from the preseason. All eyes will be focused on Wareham on Friday as the two top teams clash for first.
MVC Large: Central Catholic I am sticking with Central from the preseason pick as they have showed that they are the top defensive team in the MVC. With last week's win over Lowell they got by one of their biggest hurdles. Andover should be right there with them at the end but defense should win out.
Boston City North: Madison Park Defense wins leagues championships and the MP machine is as stingy as they come in the City.
Boston City South: Dorchester See above regarding defenses and league titles
Atlantic Coast League: Plymouth South It could come down to next week's match-up with Nauset. I am going with the home team in this match-up.
Patriot Fisher: Pembroke Pembroke's only three losses are all to Top 25 teams. They have won two in a row and this Friday's game against Scituate will be huge.
Dual County Small: Concord-Carlisle It should come down to the winner of the Wayland and Concord-Carlisle game this Friday night. While Wayland is healthier and having a stronger year, I am going with the home team and the recent winning experience in this one.
ESPN Boston correspondent
Catholic Conference: St. John’s Prep Jim O’Leary does not like to lose and after rebuilding last year and getting the offense back to producing this year, O’Leary and the Eagles are winning again. No one else in the conference has a winning record.
Hockomock Kelly-Rex: King Philip KP is undefeated at home and with Franklin for Thanksgiving, I’m giving edge to King Philip. Leading the league in PF/G and PA/G, the Warriors’ offense is dangerous on the ground with Joe Johnston ripping long runs and Jon Dillon finding one of his many options downfield or in the red zone for consistent scores.
Hockomock Davenport: Stoughton Despite losing to Sharon in the fourth quarter, Stoughton has been stingy in the points department. They’ve given up multiple TDs in only three games, and the lion’s share of those short runs.
South Coast: Wareham Darien Fernandez puts on a weekly clinic. D-R has to play from first snap for any chance to stop the Fernandez Express this week for a chance at the South Coast title.
MVC Large: Andover Offensive production by Cam Farnham and co. has been key for Andover this year and will land them the MVC title. Defense is tight like a tiger.
Boston City North: Madison Park In a Boston North that is struggling to win games (MP has the only winning record), the Cardinals stand alone carrying the league on their backs.
Boston City South: Dorchester The Bears have only Boston English and the Burke in their way en route to a perfect league record. If the knuckle down defense continues to flourish, Dorchester will be berthed.
Atlantic Coast League: Nauset Zach Altneu has many reasons to kick extra points, and if necessary, will boot for three himself. Plymouth South is also struggling at home this year.
Patriot Fisher: Pembroke Cory Brandon under center, and possibly in an out pattern, gives me nightmares.
Dual County Small: Bedford I recant my vote during the preseason for Boston Latin to take the DCL Small. I give Bucs edge over C-C based on offensive double threat Christian Boivin and multiple targets he has to choose from on the run.