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Thursday, November 7, 2013
ESPN Boston football playoff semi-final picks

By ESPNBoston.com

D2 South: No. 3 NATICK (8-0) at No. 2 BARNSTABLE (7-1), 6 p.m.

Scott Barboza: Home-field advantage really comes into play here, with a surely raucous crowd and a long ride to Hyannis. Barnstable, 27-23.

Brendan Hall: Barnstable coach Chris Whidden said it best after the Xaverian upset when he proclaimed, "Once you come over that bridge, it's a different world here". Troy Flutie has yet to face a secondary as talented as the Red Raiders, but conversely, Barnstable has yet to face a quarterback as talented as the Boston College commit. Either way, they're going to be talking about this game for years. Natick, 38-36.

D1 North: No. 5 LOWELL (6-2) at No. 1 EVERETT (7-1), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: Next time I’m rolling into Everett, I’m going with the Secret Service. Lowell, 17-10.

Hall: Scott, if Lowell actually does win here, I'm not even sure Liam Neeson could save you the next time you make the trek up Route 99. Everett, 28-17.

D1 South: No. 3 BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM (5-2) at No. 2 ATTLEBORO (7-1), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: Simply stated, the team that wins the line of scrimmage and controls the point of attack wins here. B-R, 14-13.

Hall: If the Mansfield game is any indicator, the best way to ensure a win over Attleboro is to literally, in the famous words of Barry Switzer, hang half a hundred on 'em. That was a 49-42 Hornets win, by the way. This Blue Bombardiers offense is a-rollin'. Attleboro, 31-24.

D2 South: No. 4 NEEDHAM (7-1) at No. 1 MANSFIELD (8-0), Friday 7 pm.

Barboza: Both teams have athletes to burn at the skill positions, but I like the Hornets’ depth in numbers of those athletes across the field to sway this pick. Mansfield, 31-28.

Hall: If football is a chess match, this one is the "blitz chess" variation. These teams should be quite familiar with one another, despite being in different leagues, and I think this one will play out at a similar pace to their high-octane 2011 matchup. Mansfield, 34-30.

D2 West: No. 4 LONGMEADOW (5-3) at No. 1 SPRINGFIELD CENTRAL (7-1), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: The Lancers must score early to stay in it to avoid the pitfall from which Westfield couldn’t recover last week. Central, 28-20.

Hall: Longmeadow had the best defensive game plan I've seen yet for slowing the Central offense, and I expect a similar plan in the rematch Friday night. All that considered, I just don't see the Lancers' trademark run-heavy Wing-T scheme hanging too many points on this talented Central defense. Central, 25-14.

D3 Southwest: No. 4 NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH (5-4) at No. 1 OLIVER AMES (8-0), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: Never could have imagined such a Hockomock League matchup in seasons past –- another added benefit of the new system. Just going with momentum here from a North team which has found a way to win. North, 17-14.

Hall: This could end up becoming a budding Hockomock rivalry in the years to come. Oliver Ames, 20-10.

D3 Northwest: No. 3 ARLINGTON (7-1) at No. 2 MELROSE (7-1), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: A week or so ago, I talked about Melrose being a potential sleeper in the sectional bracket. I’m backing that up with this week’s pick. Melrose, 28-21.

Hall: Melrose's option game is quite tricky to defend, and Malik Garrett is the perfect catalyst. Last week I labeled him as one of the state tournament's breakout stars, and he's looking pretty good right now after a terrific performance in the first round. Melrose, 30-20.

D5 South: No. 3 CARDINAL SPELLMAN (7-1) at No. 2 ABINGTON (7-1), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: Tough one to judge here, but I picked the Cardinals last week to face off against CCL rival Fenwick down the road, so I’m sticking to my guns. Spellman, 31-26.

Hall: Whichever way I go on this one, someone in my family's not going to be happy with me at Thanksgiving. Abington, 27-20.

D1 North: No. 3 ACTON-BOXBOROUGH (7-1) at No. 2 CENTRAL CATHOLIC (7-1), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: Black-and-blue game written all over it. Colonials might actually have the best athlete on the field in Will Tejada, but too much to overcome with the Raiders. Central Catholic, 24-17.

Hall: Outside of a stumble to St. John's Prep early in the season, this Central defense has been among the sharpest in Division 1. Expect D'Andre Drummond-Mayrie, Markus Edmunds, Mike Balsamo and company to muck it up. Central, 17-10.

D4 Central: No. 4 ST. PETER-MARIAN (6-2) at No. 1 SHEPHERD HILL (7-1), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: Always tough beating a team twice within a season, but I’m going with Drew Jean-Guillaume to keep things rolling. Shepherd Hill, 21-14.

Hall: What the Guardians lack in size they make up for in speed, and it's hard not to be impressed with Tyis Boykin after last week's trifecta. After a controversial ending in this meeting a few weeks ago, St. Pete gets vengeance here. SPM, 30-28.

D4 South: No. 4 HOLLISTON (7-1) at No. 1 WESTWOOD (7-1), Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: There’s no way the second time around could possibly live up to the first one, right? Well, it very well could. But either way, I see the same result. Westwood, 32-31.

Hall: The only way this matchup lives up to the first installment is if they bust out fireworks again. That was pretty cool. Westwood, 35-30.

D2 Central: No. 3 MARLBOROUGH (7-1) at No. 2 ST. JOHN’S OF SHREWSBURY (6-2), Saturday 12 p.m.

Barboza: In the teams’ regular-season meeting, I picked against the Pioneers. I’m doing my penance here. St. John’s, 35-28.

Hall: Anything other than a Leominster-St. John's rematch in D2 Central would be a big upset. St. John's, 41-27.

D1 South: No. 4 BC HIGH (5-3) at No. 1 XAVERIAN (7-1), Saturday 1 p.m.

Barboza: I think Kenny Kern is the X-factor. He’s run tough in recent weeks and has been steady all year at linebacker. Xaverian, 20-18.

Hall: My upset special of the week. Something tells me the Eagles have a few new tricks up their sleeve for this one. BC High, 7-6.

PHILLIPS ANDOVER (7-0) at PHILLIPS EXETER (6-1), Saturday 2:30 p.m.

Barboza: A game steeped in tradition takes on a different level this year with both squads having exceptional seasons to date. When in doubt, go with Bill Belichick’s former home, and with Ian Maag, a pretty good high school player in his own right previously at Marblehead. Andover, 27-23.

Hall: One of my favorite rivalries, where the crowd is just as big an attraction as the game itself. Anyways, have you guys seen some of the scores Andover is hanging on people this year? Ridiculous. Andover, 30-14.

Last Week’s Picks:
Barboza: 9-1 (74-29 overall)
Hall: 9-1 (75-28 overall)