The way it played out, the Division 7 Central bracket proved to be one of the more difficult sections to both qualify for and advance out of.
Blackstone Valley did both, despite losing its opener to Millbury, 13-7.
"Once we lost our first game," coach Jim Archibald said, "we figured we had to win out (to make the playoffs)."
And that's exactly what his team did.
"All year, our defense has been outstanding," Archibald said. "Hasn't given up more than 13 points. Our kids are battle-tested, they're tough, and they have just not let us lose this year. They keep answering the call. We try to change up as much as possible, and nothing fazes these guys. They just come to work every day and give us everything they have, and I'm very proud of the way they've played this year."
— As his team prepares for the Div. 5 state title against Nipmuc, Scituate coach Herb Devine said that playing on the big stage of Gillette Stadium will not necessarily be a major adjustment for his kids.
"I think for us, we played at Fenway last year, so the nostalgia of playing at a stadium, for these guys, they're used to it," Devine said. "But being at Gillette, Gillette is like the heart of football in New England. To be here and drive up, to see the stadium and think that we're going to be able to be out here on Saturday, as a coach, I feel like a little kid. Driving up, and I know these guys are excited, but they're a focused group, and they want to come out here and play well, get a win. And that's going to be the focus all week. We'll enjoy this, and love it, and look around, and talk to everybody, take pictures. But at the end of the day, come Saturday, these guys are going to be ready to play."
One aspect of facing the Sailors that opposing coaches tend to point to is how the Scituate offense is adept at finding the weak spots in a defense and attacking them. According to Devine, a lot of that comes from his quarterback, Aidan Sullivan.
"Aidan, his football IQ is on another level, where him and I can communicate to what we're trying to do," Devine said. "But the guys, all 11 guys have to be on the same page. We try to do a good job of, 'OK, how are they going to line up?' And then we know right after the first play how they're lining up, or the second play. We're not going to go into a game with one set of plays. We're going to say, 'OK, we've repped these plays so much all season, and no matter what a team puts out there, we have plays to go against those plays.' We'll be prepared, and Nipmuc, they're a great coaching staff, and will come out in what they do on defense, and then we're just going to have to execute what we do on offense. Hopefully we can execute."
— Springfield Central and Tewksbury will face off in the Div. 3 state title game, which should be one of the most compelling games of the weekend. This will be Central's first trip to Gillette since the current playoff format was introduced, as the Golden Eagles always found themselves coming up short in the state semifinals.
Central wide receiver Myles Bradley spoke about the ability to break through that barrier this year.
"It was a blessing," he said. "I feel like I've been working for it the past four years. Now, to finally get over that hurdle is really big for me, and I know it's big for my teammates, as well."
Bradley made a verbal commitment to Colgate this season, and he said it is nice to have the recruiting process over with.
"Definitely, it's a weight off my back," he said. "Now that I'm locked into Colgate, I can just focus more on the season and school, not have to worry about dealing with recruiting visits and all that."
Of Tewksbury, Bradley described Central's opponent as "a really hard, tough, hard-nosed team." As for Central's approach, Bradley says it will ride the one that brought it to this point. "We're just trying to play to our strengths, get our playmakers the football, and make plays in open space," he said. "We feel like we're one of the fastest teams in the country, and we just want to get our guys the ball and let them work."