Itís been quite the quagmire in the Merrimack Valley Conference (Large) this season.
Large teams are a combined 6-6 against each other. In one of the most competitively balanced leagues in Eastern Mass, even last-place Lowell is more than capable of springing an upset at any given time.
The key is to remember how the league is determined. A Large team defeating another Large team counts for two points, while a victory over a Small team is worth one. The team with the most points at the end of the season moves on to face Evere....er, the Greater Boston League champion in the first round of the postseason.
With just two weeks of football left before the playoffs begin, here is how the league shakes out.
Central Catholic, 7 points
Large wins: Chelmsford, Lowell
Small wins: Tewksbury, Haverhill, Lawrence
Clinches if: Central Catholic defeats Billerica and Lowell beats Andover this week OR if Central Catholic wins against Andover on Thanksgiving.
Billerica is the defending league champion and Chelmsford was a sexy pick to uproot them, but Central has capitalized on its sleeper status. Trae Musumarra has been a scoring machine and put up eight touchdowns in two games against Large opponents thus far. Musumarra was out injured in Fridayís 24-22 heartbreaking loss against Methuen, but the incredible balance the Raiders display was showcased by Ben Onett, Xavier Peralta, Matt McDermott, and Cam Walsh, among others.
Andover, 6 points
Large wins: Billerica
Small wins: Dracut, Haverhill, Lawrence, Tewksbury
Clinches if: Andover defeats Lowell this week and Central Catholic on Thanksgiving OR if Andover defeats Central Catholic on Thanksgiving and both Andover and Central Catholic lose this week.
The Golden Warriors are under perennial winner coach E.J. Perry, their third coach in three years. Running back Andrew Coke has 28 points and five touchdowns more than Division 1ís second-leading scorer, BC Highís Preston Cooper. According to the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, Coke has racked up 1,413 yards.
Kyle Baker and Connor Clancy have highlighted a strong line that paves the way for Coke and protects quarterback Tom Dempsey, while Ned Deane and Brian Miller (also a tight end) create havoc on defense. Andover is coming off back-to-back wins over Dracut and Billerica after losing by a touchdown to the Merrimack Valley Conferenceís best team, Methuen.
Chelmsford, 6 points
Large wins: Lowell, Andover
Small wins: Haverhill, Lawrence
Clinches if: Central Catholic loses to Billerica and Andover loses to Lowell this week and Andover beats Central Catholic and Chelmsford beats Billerica on Thanksgiving.
Chelmsford boasts some real offensive talent and a strong defense, evidenced by a Large-leading plus-94 scoring differential. The Lionsí Joe Gennaro doesnít have the numbers he put up last season as he has struggled through some injuries, but still represents a serious scoring threat. He is paired up in the backfield with all-around talent Zach Hayes. Tim Joy is an immensely talented two-way player and Eddie Sheridan and Colby Emanouil represent a dangerous return duo. Receiver Anthony Andres has been a viable receiving option, but the loss of quarterback A.J. Rotella has put Chelmsford behind the eight-ball.
Billerica -- 4
Large wins: Lowell
Small wins: Haverhill, Tewskbury
As talented as the Indians are on offense, their early-season defensive woes have rendered them to one of the areaís most disappointing teams. Billerica won the Large last year and were favored going into a playoff matchup with Everett before quarterback Nick LaSpada tore his knee up in the gameís opening minutes. LaSpada has returned to the form that won him the Gatorade Massachusetts Player of the Year award, carrying an offense that averages a Large-leading 28.1 points per game. He benefits from a very strong receiving corps led by Ryan Donahoe. The defense had recorded back-to-back shutout and not allowed more than 22 points since a season-defining 60-42 loss to Dracut in early October.
Lowell, 2 points
Large wins: None
Small wins: Tewksbury, Lawrence
Donít let the two points fool you, Lowell is getting back on track under former Dracut coach Jeff Moore following a dreadful 2009. Winless against the Large, Lowell still has compiled a 4-5 (although the team is just 1-5 since a 3-0 start.) R.J. Noel and Kyle Edwards co-pilot an offense that has scored over 30 points four times and over 40 points twice. Like Billerica, Lowell is still in a position to impact the Large race.
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.