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ESPN Boston state football championship predictions

9/4/2014

Before the MIAA football season kicks off this weekend, ESPN Boston editors Scott Barboza and Brendan C. Hall give their state championship predictions for the season:

Scott Barboza, ESPNBoston.com High Schools Editor

Division 1: Xaverian

The Division 1 field could look a lot as it did last year; I think there’s a real potential for Central Catholic vs. Everett and Attleboro vs. Xaverian rematches in the North and South districts, respectively. But this race all comes down to depth, and the Hawks have plenty of it across all positions. This time, Xaverian will not be denied at Gillette Stadium.

Division 2: Mansfield

Once again, Division 2 South should prove one of the most tightly contested sectional races across the state this year, but I see the Hornets moving through. With a defensive core that returns starters such as Curtis Boisvert, Connor Finerty, Q’Ra Guichard and Brendan Hill, the Hornets are built for the postseason. That bodes well if they are to meet St. John’s (Shrewsbury) in the state final again, as the Pioneers are primed for another Gillette visit.

Division 3: Marblehead

The Magicians ran into a loaded and experience Tewksbury squad in the North final last year, but this is their year. The Southern districts will be extremely competitive – particularly with many of the Hockomock League’s Davenport Division’ s entrants (Oliver Ames, Stoughton) loading up for this season. However, with Brooks Tyrrell running behind a hulking offensive line, including UMass commit Derek Dumais and Dan Marino, Marblehead is running all the way to the hardware.

Division 4: Dennis-Yarmouth

The Dolphins were denied of the title last year by a talented Doherty squad in the game of the day during championship Saturday. They won’t get fooled again. D-Y is likely to see another challenger from the Central district again – perhaps Doherty once again, or Shepherd Hill – but the Dolphins will come away champions behind Mr. Football candidate Michael Dunn, just as they did a few years back with his cousin Matt Montalto under center.

Division 5: Auburn

The Rockets are a few years off their historic winning streak, but they’ll climb back to the top of the hill with another impressive rushing attack led by preseason All-State Mark Wright. Watch out for Bishop Fenwick to again make a run at Gillette behind returning All-State Rufus Rushins, but Auburn wins out.

Division 6: Pope John Paul II

Had the Lions made the cut in the South sectional playoffs, they might have been the favorite last year. The one-two punch of Ryan Barabe and Diego Meritus will propel one of the state’s top offensive units – regardless of division – to a championship. Of course, PJP will not be without challengers, however, particularly in their own sectional playoff, where challengers Diman, Mashpee and Millis lurk.

*****

Brendan C. Hall, ESPNBoston.com High Schools Editor

Division 1: Xaverian

Hard to pick against the Hawks and their loaded crop of scholarship-caliber talent as they seek to avenge last year’s state final loss. When the smoke clears, this could be one of Charlie Stevenson’s best defenses in a long time, led by Damion Wood and defending ESPNBoston Defensive Player of the Year Joe Gaziano. The North bracket should be a tough battle, but I think Everett has enough talent to outlast that field.

Division 2: St. John’s (Shrewsbury)

Going with the vengeance theme here again in D2, as one of the state’s most feared hitters, Boston College-bound safety Davon Jones, looks for another swing at it. Mansfield should be the prohibitive favorite in Eastern Mass., but once again the power is in the South portion and it’s a cauldron. Don’t be surprised if Natick or Marshfield makes it out of the bracket.

Division 3: Marblehead

Jim Rudloff loves to play the underdog card, but there’s no way the Magicians aren’t the lead dog in this race, with returning All-State tailback Brooks Tyrrell once again running behind an offensive line with Division 1 scholarship talent. This race gets interesting in the southern districts, where a number of teams have a good shot at reaching Gillette, and I have no idea who to pick. Walpole? Oliver Ames? Stoughton? Plymouth North?

Division 4: Shepherd Hill

Plain and simple, this is a Division 1-sized offensive line playing in Division 4, led by one of the state’s best hoggies in Chris Lindstrom, with an impressive blend of power and speed at the skill positions. They should get a tough battle from Doherty in the Central district. Once again, it could come down to Holliston and Dennis-Yarmouth in the East, but I like D-Y’s chances of returning to Gillette.

Division 5: Auburn

I picked the Rockets to win last year, and that sputtered. But on the heels of an explosive breakout campaign from Mark Wright, here’s hoping second time’s a charm. A number of Catholic Central teams could stake their claim in the East, led by St. Mary’s and Bishop Fenwick, but keep an eye on Northbridge out of the Central district as well.

Division 6: Pope John Paul II

A year after getting left out of the inaugural South football playoffs, Lions come back roaring with an even more explosive offense, triggered under center by Ryan Barabe and led in the backfield by workhorse Diego Meritus. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Millis come out of the South either, and Boston English is my favorite in the North with slippery dual-threat QB Emmanuel Almonte.