Editor's Note: The Globe's Michael Grossi previews the weekend ahead in Division 2 and 2A football.
Game of the Week:
Plymouth North at Marshfield , 7 p.m. Friday
It seems like every year, an upstart team in the Atlantic Coast League challenges Marshfield for supremacy.
Last year, Falmouth looked as if it would end the Rams’ reign atop the league standings. They didn’t and Marshfield went on to win the Super Bowl.
This year, Dennis-Yarmouth shot out of the gate with a quality win over Barnstable , only to hit the brick wall that is the Rams.
At the beginning of this season, it looked as if the Rams might face a rebuilding year. They graduated almost all of their key players from their Super Bowl winning squad and they started the season 1-2. However, the team’s win over Dennis-Yarmouth gave them the inside track to another Atlantic Coast League title.
The question that's on everyone’s mind is how do these Rams consistently dominate the ACL even when it looks like they would face a down year?
"Tradition helps," said Marshfield coach Lou Silva. "The seniors don't want to be the first class to have a let down. The team knows they can't win every game, but they go into games with confidence and they know they have a chance.
"The ACL is the toughest it has been in a while," Silva continued. "It helps to schedule tough non-league games to prepare for the grind of league play."
Marshfield can clear another hurdle this week with a win over Plymouth North. If the Rams beat Plymouth North, then their only remaining game against a contender would be against Falmouth
But, beating the Eagles is easier said than done.
"Plymouth North brings the power game," said Silva. "They have tough kids that don't mind grinding it out and wearing you down. The same thing can be said about their defense. They just have some high energy kids."
Plymouth North is led by running back/linebacker Matt Walsh. Walsh is a bruising runner and can really wear down a defense. The Rams will also have to keep a tab on Cody Merritt, the Eagles’ quarterback. Merritt is a threat to run and pass and can create problems for Marshfield’s defense.
The winner of this game will be which ever team is able to stop the run and get their defense off the field.
Other Division 2A Games to Watch
Northeast at North Andover, 7 p.m. Friday – This is a very interesting game. Northeast is a Division 4A team but has crushed its competition so far. The Golden Knights score over 30 points per game and allow just 3 points per game. They control the ball with a punishing ground game. North Andover will have to find a way to get Northeast’s offense off the field. Also, I expect the Scarlet Knights to air the ball out in the hope that it will expose a relatively untested secondary.
Division 2 Games to Watch
Mansfield at Attleboro , 7 p.m. Friday– After defeating one of the chief contenders in the Hockomock, Mansfield faces an upstart Attleboro squad that is beginning to turn some heads. The Blue Bombardiers pulled out a victory as time expired last week against Foxboro. Mansfield will have to rein in Attleboro ’s Nate Robitaille. Robitaille is very athletic and has the ability to change a game with his arm and his feet. Also, keep an eye on Attleboro ’s JJ Jolaoso. Jolaoso is a running back and a linebacker that has really imposed his will in the past couple of weeks.
Tewksbury at Dracut, 7 p.m. Friday – Tewksbury was able to slow down the Billerica offense last week but it still wasn’t enough to pull out a victory. The Redmen face another explosive offense in Dracut . The question is whether or not the Redmen can get steadier play from back up quarterback Kevin Saunders if starter Sean Connolly misses another game.
Natick at Wellesley, 2 p.m. Saturday – After getting shut out by Needham last week, Natick will be looking to show the rest of the Bay State League that it is a team that won’t roll over. The Red and Blue will have to employ a steady ground attack in this one. Needham was able to throw a bit on Natick and it makes me wonder if Wellesley will try to attack that flaw and expose it.
Players to Watch
Will Richards, Franklin – Richards had the unenviable task in replacing graduated quarterback Nick Colson for the Panthers. Despite the pressure, Richards has performed very well. He has five touchdown passes and three touchdowns rushes this season.
Chris Malonis, Dracut – Most of the talk about Dracut has centered on quarterback Matt Silva. However, Malonis has provided a steady and explosive target for Silva. He has eight touchdowns on the season, seven coming on receptions. He also has nearly 400 receiving yards in his last two games alone.
Brandon Walsh, North Andover – The talented junior quarterback has North Andover poised for a playoff run. Walsh’s 13 touchdown passes leads Division 2A and he has three rushing scores.
Harry Rein, Hingham – Rein is the do-it-all guy for Hingham. He has four touchdown passes, three touchdowns on the ground and has converted 16 extra points. If Hingham wants to hang with Duxbury, Rein will need to continue to produce.
- Dracut is one of two teams to score more than 30 points per game and give up more than 30 points per game. The other team is Billerica , which Dracut defeated 60-42 two weeks ago.
- North Attleboro hasn’t allowed a team to score more than one touchdown against them.
- Five of the 10 teams in the Middlesex League score less than 10 points per game.
- Arlington is giving up 31 points per game but leads the Dual County League (Small) because it is the only team that won a league game so far.
Several reporters and editors contribute updates, news and analysis to the High School Sports Blog.
- Bob Holmes: A Reading resident (Go Rockets!) and Boston College graduate, Holmes is the Boston Globe High School Sports Editor. We remind you now that his weekly picks are often made in jest so everyone just calm down when he picks against Everett for 11 straight weeks. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHolmes.
- Craig Larson: A native of West Springfield (Leo Durocher anyone? Tim Daggett?) and Curry College graduate (a proud Colonel!), Larson is the sports editor for the Globe's regional sections: South, West and North, as well as a frequent contributor on the college beat. Abington to Xaverian: it all starts with the schools. Have a compelling story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeLars.
- Zuri Berry: Berry attended the same high school as sports legends O.J. Simpson and Joe DiMaggio. (Guess which one is his hero.) He's a South Boston resident (formerly of Eastie) and the editor of the High School Sports blog as well as the go-to-guy for everything high school sports on Boston.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GlobeSchools for all of the latest updates.
Then there are our fall correspondents:
- Anthony Gulizia | @gulizia_a | Div. 1 football
- Eric Russo | @erusso22 | Div. 2 football
- Stephen Sellner | @stephen_sellner | Div. 3 football
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Div. 4 football
- Greg Joyce | @GJoyce9 | Div. 5 football
- Lorenzo Recupero | @LorenzoRecupero | Div. 6 football
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls volleyball
To reach the high school sports department, e-mail email@example.com.