Get out the red ribbon and obnoxiously large pair of scissors because this could be a historic weekend in Eastern Massachusetts.
For the last time until at least 2015, those who fall in crucial league matchups and are pushed out of contention for a league title will be forced to play out the rest of their schedule knowing playoff hopes are dead. Under the new format next year, these games will be played earlier in the season (league schedules must be completed by Week 7) and may not mean quite as much, with first- and second-place teams in a five-team division guaranteed at least a shot in the postseason.
As we enter Week 9, one game can keep many teams from making a run at the Super Bowl. To highlight a few:
- Burlington can clinch the Middlesex (Freedom) with a win over Stoneham
- The winner of the Barnstable and Bridgewater-Raynham matchup can clinch the Old Colony
- Lincoln-Sudbury can clinch the Dual County (large) with a win over Acton-Boxboro
Here are this week's games to watch with our predictions:
Week 8 Results: Anthony 4-1, Mastro 3-2
Season: Mastro 49-21, Anthony 42-28.
No. 1 Barnstable (7-0, 1-0) at No. 12 Bridgewater-Raynham (5-3, 1-0), Friday, 7 p.m.:
Mastro: The case for Bridgewater-Raynham: Fresh off two straight victories over Xaverian and Dartmouth, Dan Buronís Trojans should have the confidence to at least hang with the stateís best quarterback and his elite set of wide receivers. B-R always has a tough offensive line, Brandon Gallagher really surprised with his explosiveness at running back this year, and the B-R passing attack is probably underrated. In a perfect storm, the Trojans are certainly capable of pulling off the upset. That said, until I fall down a flight of stairs I won't be picking against Nick Peabody and the Rockets. Barnstable 28, Bridgewater-Raynham 13.
Anthony: I think this game is going to be close, particularly because of Bridgewater- Raynham's track record. They've played a tough schedule with opponents like Duxbury, St. John's Prep and Xaverian, so I don't think theyll be surprised when Peabody and the Rockets take the field. That said, Barnstable's win against Everett proved itself as the top team in Eastern Mass, and I think they reassure that tonight. Barnstable 30, Bridgewater-Raynham 15.
Sharon (7-1, 2-0) at Franklin (6-1, 2-1), Friday, 7:
Mastro: As close as this game should be, we might see the third consecutive week where Franklin's fate is held in the feet of kicker Mike Carden. Carden drilled a 41-yard field goal with time winding down to push the Panthers over Attleboro two weeks ago and nearly pulled off the miracle again last weekend (his 48-yard attempt fell just a few yards short as Taunton held on for a 28-27 victory). Two weeks in a row, though, Franklin has allowed at least 28 points against, and if the Panthers can't buckle down on defense Ė in a game where points will be at a premium Ė Sharon's magical season should be able to continue. Sharon 21, Franklin 7.
Anthony: You nailed this one, Jason. As the season gets deeper, it's critical to keep opposing teams off the scoreboard. The games get closer, grittier and tougher, and giving up at least 28 points isnít going to get it done. Sharon attacks the field from all directions, whether it's the passing attack of Sean O'Neil, or the running duo of Sean Asnes and Brad Kaufman. Sharon 28, Franklin 14.
Dighton-Rehoboth (6-1, 5-0) at Wareham (7-1, 4-0) Friday, 7:
Mastro: You know Wareham's Darien Fernandez is going to get his. A power runner with speed and quick feet, heís tough to stop. Then you have Anthony Abbott, an experienced quarterback who can run over linebackers himself. The Vikings have gone over 35 points in four of seven games this season and thatís no fluke. It's going to take another special game from Falcons quarterback Nathan Kowalski (he passed for four touchdowns in a three-overtime victory over Old Rochester) to give D-R the edge. Expect another tight one. Wareham 34, Dighton-Rehoboth 28.
Anthony: Wareham has a ton of firepower on offense, and their defense is just as dominant. In the last four games, the Vikings have allowed just 20 points, and they haven't allowed more than 14 in a game all season. It's going to be a tougher test keeping Kowalski and the Falcons contained, but I think the Vikings can do it this week and Fernandez takes over. Wareham 30, Dighton-Rehoboth 27.
Masconomet (6-2, 2-0) at Lynn English (5-2, 1-1), Friday, 7:
Mastro: Isaiah Davis is a legitimate running back for Lynn English. Itís scary to think how good he might be next year in his senior season, especially if the Bulldogs offensive line continues to improve. I haven't seen Masco play this year, but I hear only great things about Dylan Mann and the rest of that running game as well. These are two very evenly matched teams playing in a game that will have a major impact on the CAL/NEC Division 1 this year, but I'll have to go with Davis putting up 100-plus yards and a pair of scores as the Bulldogs win. Lynn English 20, Masconomet 14.
Anthony: What impresses me about Masconomet was its 34-24 win over Lynn Classical last week. Classical was 5-1 coming into the game, until Mann and the Chieftains roughed up the Rams. Tonight's game is pivotal to the CAL/NEC playoff picture. If Masco wins, they'll be in position to wrap up the conference title next week against Revere. But before I get too far ahead of myself, it's clear coach Jim Pugh and Masconomet are focusing only on tonight. Mann and running back Mackenzie Cashin are two versatile backs that can give English trouble. It's clear Davis is one of the premier talents in the conference, and he'll help English keep this game air-tight, but I like the Chieftains in this one. Masconomet 21, Lynn English 15.
Pembroke (4-3, 2-0) at Scituate (5-3, 2-0), Friday, 7:
Mastro: Pembroke might have been the best team (other than maybe Cambridge) to be left out of our Boston.com 100 until last week. The Titans' three losses have come against three top-class teams in Duxbury, Stoughton and Oliver Ames. While their offense has done David Blain's disappearing act sometimes this season, their defense has continued to keep them in contention until the final quarter. In a game that features a pair of electric quarterbacks, I'll take the one (Corey Brandon) who threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns last week. Pembroke 34, Scituate 23.
Anthony: This late in the season, it's tough to pick against better-tested teams. Perhaps I'm reading too far into it, but Pembroke played Duxbury close, losing 14-6, and battled with Oliver Ames and Stoughton earlier this season as well. Just look at Tewksbury and what they're doing against MVC (small) teams. They've played the top teams from the large conference like Central Catholic and Andover, and it has boosted them to conference wins. I see the same pattern taking shape for Pembroke, starting with a strong performance from Brandon against Scituate. Pembroke 30, Scituate 20.
Stoneham (7-1, 2-1) at No. 10 Burlington (7-1, 3-0), Friday, 7:
Anthony: Burlington crushed Wakefield two weeks ago, and then Wakefield outmuscled Stoneham with a 42-28 win last week. So that means Burlington should beat Stoneham, right? Sure, but it's not that simple. The Spartans bring a balanced attack on offense, led by quarterback Andrew Cann, who loves throwing to Eric Mooney downfield. But Burlington can't focus too heavily on the pass because backs like Darius McPherson and Aaron Luis can shred opposing defenses. That said, Burlington is ready to match Stoneham's offensive attack with the duo of Marcus Odiah and Anthony Cruz. The Devils have been tested this year (played Reading close in a 22-15 loss), and I think they lock up the Middlesex (Freedom) with a win Friday. Burlington 31, Stoneham 20.
Mastro: Stoneham has been a nice story (a rebuilt youth program always pays dividends, as Anthony highlighted in Thursday's Globe North) and has a chance to be more than that with a win this weekend. Itís still amazing to think that a year ago the Spartans went 0-5 against Middlesex Small opponents. The key will be slowing down the Devils' potent run game, but there will be points to be had in this one, with Burlington allowing almost 20 per game. And Cann is capable of leading Stoneham to an upset. Stoneham 28, Burlington 21.
Acton-Boxboro (6-2, 0-1) at Lincoln-Sudbury (7-1, 2-0), Friday, 7:
Anthony: I think this game is going to be exceptionally close, but I also think Lincoln-Sudbury is going to pull this one out and secure the top spot in the Dual County (large). L-S has a superb defense, which has allowed just 7.3 points per game. The Warriors can grind out the tight games, like they did in a 14-7 win over a strong Westford team last week, or like the 15-12 win they picked up against Tewksbury in Week 1. Behind running back Chris Giorgio and quarterback Henry Guild, the Warriors proved they can score, too. Lincoln-Sudbury 28, Acton-Boxboro, 22.
Mastro: Two weeks ago, I might have picked the Colonials, but after getting ran over by Waltham last week while playing a lifeless second half, I have my doubts. And after watching L-S hold Westford's high-powered offense to just seven points in an overtime game, I'm ready to go all-in on these Warriors. The concern with L-S was a lack of experience to start the season. Well, now we're in Week 9 -- there is no such thing as inexperience. Lincoln-Sudbury 27, Acton-Boxboro 13.
Wayland (5-3, 1-0) at Concord-Carlisle (4-4, 2-0), Friday, 7:
Anthony: I think Wayland is going to shake up the DCL Small with a win over Concord-Carlisle, who jumped out to a quick 2-0 conference record with wins over Weston and Boston Latin. Like Lincoln-Sudbury, Wayland averages just less than 25 points per game but possesses a stout defense that can keep the game in check. Not to mention, Wayland pulled out a nice 10-6 win over Lincoln-Sudbury two weeks ago. Wayland 20, Concord-Carlisle 12.
Mastro: I think the DCL Small is going to be a dogfight these last few weeks here, and if the best defense prevails, Wayland gets the league title. The Warriors have allowed about 10 points per game this season, even with a schedule that has included Nauset, Acton-Boxborough, Lincoln-Sudbury and Westford. Matt Goddard has been an impact quarterback and there's no telling how far the this team can go. Wayland 28, Concord-Carlisle 6.
BC High (3-4, 1-0) at Xaverian (2-6, 1-0), Saturday, 2:15:
Anthony: I said it last week and I'll say it again, I think the Catholic Conference title is decided Thanksgiving morning when St. John's Prep and Xaverian square off. In order for that to hold true, the Hawks have to win the rest of the way. So let's start with a win against BC High. After losing to Everett, Xaverian impressed in a 32-27 loss to Bridgewater-Raynham, and then beat St. John's (Shrewsbury) 33-31 with a 31-yard field goal from kicker Kyle Darrow. However, expect BC to challenge Xaverian, as the Eagles are riding in to the Hawk Bowl fresh off a 44-0 thrashing of Malden Catholic. Xaverian 26, BC High 18.
Mastro: I'm standing on the sidelines at St. John's Prep last weekend when Jim O'Leary asks the guy to his left what the score of the Xaverian vs. St. John's (Shrewsbury) game was. The Prep coach is told that Xaverian won, 33-31. He looks at me and says, 'See, Xaverian beat St. Johnís.' I said, 'Yeah, barely. You guys crushed St. John's 49-8. Thanksgiving wonít be close.' That was a mistake. OíLeary spent the next few minutes explaining to me how the Eagles match up better against their Shrewsbury opponents, with a defense that has no problem shutting down spread offenses. It probably took a lot more effort, game-planning and execution for the Hawks to earn the same result. The point of this story: You're right, Anthony. Thanksgiving could be a showdown. But first, Xaverian takes care of business against BC High at home. Xaverian 28, BC High 14.
Tewksbury (4-4, 3-0) at Methuen (2-6, 0-2), Friday, 7:
Anthony: Throughout the entire season, Tewksbury has been challenged with a difficult schedule, playing out of conference against teams like Central Catholic, Andover and Lincoln-Sudbury, who are all ranked in the Globe Top 20. The Redmen lost to Lincoln-Sudbury, 15-12, Central Catholic, 16-7, and Andover, 51-42, in shootouts that featured more than 1,000 yards of offense. What does this all mean? When it comes time for Tewksbury to play in their division, they find ways to win. A win against Methuen will clinch the Merrimack Valley (Div. 2). It won't be easy Ė the conference is super competitive and Tewksbury coach Brian Aylward knows he can't take the Rangers lightly. Led by junior running back Ed Matovu and quarterback Johnny Aylward, I think Tewksbury takes this one. Tewksbury 27, Methuen 20.
Mastro: Tewksbury has played like such an underdog this year that I completely forgot the Redmen played for a Division 2 Super Bowl last fall. And when they beat Haverhill in Week 2 and some were wildly surprised by the result, I realized that this was a team getting very little respect. But that might have been just what coach Brian Aylward wanted. Tewskbury has lined up across some of the best teams north of Boston and competed with each one. Of their four losses this year, the Redman have yet to be demolished (they've lost four games by a combined 29 points). Maybe after this win over Methuen they'll start to be taken seriously. Tewksbury 35, Methuen 14.
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.