Nonetheless, there’s a slate of games ranging from 125-year-old rivalries to playoff-clinching contests – each unique in its own way.
Here’s a look at some of this year’s best turkey day showdowns, along with our predictions.
Week 10 Results: Anthony 9-1, Mastro 8-2
Season: Mastro 63-27, Anthony 59-31.
No. 14 Central Catholic (9-1) at No. 11 Andover (9-1), 10:30 a.m.:
Anthony: Aside from last week’s 20-3 win against Lynn English, Central Catholic has been tied up in some shootouts, like their 42-34 victory against Lowell in Week 8, or its 42-23 win against Billerica the following week. But against Andover, I don’t think that’s the type of game the Raiders want to get into. Andover’s electric offense, led by quarterback CJ Scarpa, has plenty of weapons like receivers Will Heikkinen and Cam Farnham. Central Catholic will advance to the playoffs with a win, and Andover will force a three-way tie with Lowell, in which the Golden Warriors should advance based on the MVC’s wild point system.
Andover 30, Central Catholic 24.
Mastro: First off, poor Lowell. Next year. That said, folks better get to this game early and bring binoculars. At face value, this is a very good Andover offense against a very good Central Catholic defense. What I’m looking at is Andover’s game against Xaverien, perhaps the only true defensive test the Golden Warriors were put to, and they mustered just 15 points. Meanwhile, Central’s defense has held North Andover (31 points per game) to 16 points and Tewksbury (29 points per game) to 7 points. Give me the defense.
Central Catholic 21, Andover 14.
No. 4 St. John’s Prep (8-1) at Xaverian (4-6), 10:15 a.m.:
Anthony: The only record that matters here is that both teams are 3-0 in the Catholic Conference, and the winner will move onto the playoffs while the other goes home. It can’t get any more black and white than that. And now, I make my case for Xaverian. A string of heartbreaking losses to Brockton (22-14), Andover (15-13) and Duxbury (20-16) left the Hawks 1-4 before losing to Everett and then Bridgewater-Raynham, before ending with three consecutive wins. So many times, Xaverian has been on the doorstep of a victory before falling short. I don’t need to make a case for St. John’s Prep. It’s clear what they’re capable of doing with backs like Johnathan Thomas and Alex Moore, and they’ve proved themselves one of the best teams in the state. But on Thanksgiving, I think they’re tested by the Hawks front of Ray Gobbi and Maurice Hurst, and hard-hitting linebacker Hunter Taute. It’s the scoring that might be an issue. But if Xaverian can find the end zone, they might not have to often. Eagle for dinner?
Xaverian 17, St. John’s Prep 14.
Mastro: Hawk sounds tastier. While the 10-minute quarters are a legitimate concern in this game, with a Prep team that loves to pound the run, it goes both ways. The Eagles’ defense has been so good when it matters this year, with Lucas Bavaro and company shutting down run-heavy teams like Bridgewater-Raynham and Central Catholic. There are coaches out there who wait their entire careers for a game-changing running back. Jim O’Leary has two.
St. John’s Prep 28, Xaverian 13.
North Reading (8-1) at Lynnfield (7-2), 10:30 a.m.:
Anthony: On paper, these teams are incredibly close. North Reading 25.2 points per game are just ahead of Lynnfield’s 24.3, while Lynnfield allows just 9.7 points per game, slightly better than North’s 10.8. But I think the advantage lies with North Reading and running back Carl Lipani, who’s rushed for 21 yards and 1,538 yards this season. Likewise, coach Jeff Wall pegs a lot of the team’s success to offensive coordinator Ed Melanson, who’s in his second year with the Hornets. Lipani, behind senior lineman John Fortes and his four horsemen, will lead the Hornets to the Cape Ann/Northeastern (Div. 4) title.
North Reading 27, Lynnfield 20.
Mastro: How about a round of applause for Wall’s crew here, making the Hornets relevant again. They’re playing a very meaningful football game on Thursday, with a chance to go to the playoffs, and they’re actually considered favorites.
North Reading 28, Lynnfield 13.
No. 6 Natick (8-1) at Framingham (5-4), 10 a.m.:
Anthony: After last weeks’ 21-14 win over Walpole, Natick carved its path for the Bay State (Herget) title. Now, all they have to do is beat Framingham and I don’t see the Red Hawks having any trouble here. Troy Flutie and Brian Dunlap are obvious threats on offense, and I think Natick got a bit better now that the two see some time on defense as well. Last week, they both played a pivotal role in Natick’s last-second defensive efforts, swatting passes and breaking up plays to prevent Will Bolster and Walpole from tying the game.
Natick 30, Framingham 14.
Mastro: I walk into the office on Monday and Anthony says this to me: “How crazy would it be if Framingham beat Natick on a last-second Hail Mary pass?” There you go Flutie family. If it happens, Anthony is to blame.
Natick 35, Framingham 20.
Newburyport (6-4) at Amesbury (8-2), 10 a.m.:
Anthony: What’s not to like about Matt Talbot and Amesbury? Talbot, the senior quarterback, has 15 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing scores for the Indians. Last week, he led a 4-play, 52-yard drive with 32 seconds remaining, connecting with Ben Cullen on a 12-yard touchdown, and Mac Short’s PAT lifted Amesbury to a 21-20 win against Pentucket. Is there any better way to head into a conference-clinching game? No doubt Amesbury is riding high after that win, and I think it continues Thursday as they wrap up the Cape Ann/Northeastern (Div. 3) title.
Amesbury 24, Newburyport 12.
Mastro: I’m hearing Tyler Cusack is one heck of a running back for the Clippers, and that defense hasn’t allowed more than 23 points all season. I think points are tough to come by and the Newburyport defense stands tall.
Newburyport 14, Amesbury 7.
Walpole (9-1) at Weymouth (8-2), 10 a.m.:
Mastro: You know the drill: Walpole needs a win and a Natick loss to avoid that dreaded title of “Best team not to make the playoffs,” which will have a whole new meaning next year. Wellesley’s triumphant victory over Natick two weeks ago will at least give the Rebels hope. And while Weymouth already has a ticket stamped to the postseason, I’m wondering how long into the fourth quarter the starters stay in the game.
Walpole 28, Weymouth 21.
Anthony: For these two teams, the common opponent is Needham. Weymouth beat the Rockets 32-27 in dramatic, last-minute fashion, while Walpole handed them a 31-0 thrashing. So Walpole is clearly the better team, right? In reality, it’s not that simple, but I do have to agree with you here Jason. It’s questionable how long Weymouth’s guys will stay in. I don’t think the starters will miss a substantial amount of time, but coach Kevin Mackin will need all his Wildcats healthy against Brockton, and the Rebels will get the best of them in this one.
Walpole 30, Weymouth 22.
Holliston (7-3) at Westwood (7-3), 10 a.m.:
Mastro: It took two weeks for Holliston’s prolific running game to get into gear, and ever since it’s been just about unstoppable. The Panthers haven’t scored less than 20 points in the last eight games. If you haven’t seen Max Athy spin his wheels, you’re missing out.
Holliston 28, Westwood 14.
Anthony: Five times Holliston has put up 40-plus points and three of those times, they posted 49 points. Likewise, Westwood has allowed 16.1 points per game. The question here is obviously whether or not Westwood can slow Holliston down, but Max Athy only operates in one gear.
Holliston 27, Westwood 20.
Blue Hills (9-1) at Bristol-Plymouth (4-6), 10 a.m:
Mastro: Vincent Burton. Blue Hills 30, Bristol-Plymouth 13.
Anthony: See above. Blue Hills, 35, Bristol Plymouth 15.
Holbrook (6-1) at West Bridgewater (3-6), 10 a.m.:
Mastro: Attention to anyone going to this game: Bring an extra quarter. Should Holbrook win, there will be an immediate flipping of coins on the field to decide the fate of the Mayflower Small, which would have three teams – Holbrook, South Shore Voc, and Upper Cape – all at 4-1 in the league. Seriously, bring quarters.
Holbrook 34, West Bridgewater 7.
Anthony: Whoever doesn’t want to see a postgame coin-flip is out of their mind. If Holbrook wins and then wins the coin toss, the postgame Thanksgiving dinner will never have tasted so good. And for South Shore Tech and Upper Cape, Thanksgiving dinner might taste like gnawing on a piece of copper. Give me Holbrook, give me the coin flip!
Holbrook 28, West Bridgewater 10.
Medford (0-9) at Malden (2-8), 10 a.m.:
Mastro: It’s the 125th meeting of the two schools, and regardless of what’s happened over the past three months, this is their Super Bowl. Medford is winless, but the Mustangs have been fighting under head coach Jason Nascimento, who took over midway through the season. I like Malden in this one. Quarterback Jake Martino is a crafty player who can extend plays, and he has a few weapons downfield if the offensive line can give him time.
Malden 20, Medford 13.
Anthony: Nobody likes to go 0-9. All of Malden’s frustrations mount together in this one and they should come out a bit more charged and ready to go. Game 125 is going to be a special one, and I’m pulling for Nascimento and the Mustangs in this one.
Medford 21, Malden 14.
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