Not a terrific week for us, as we went 13-7.
Felt good about getting the Abington win over Cohasset right, but we were way off with Lincoln-Sudbury beating Wayland.
Matt Feld (Twitter: @mattyfeld612) is back this week for his picks, and we will be getting started with the MIAA North and South playoffs. There are also some of the most compelling games in Central and Western Mass. as those regular seasons come to a close.
The Football Championship Subdivision has two extremely important games with Harvard playing Dartmouth in a game with major Ivy League title implications. Ditto for the Patriot League and Holy Cross at Lehigh.
Onto the picks.
No. 8 Wachusett at No. 7 St. John's (S)
We spoke to Shepherd Hill coach Ryan Dugan about both teams. Wachusett defeated Shepherd Hill, 35-14, and St. John's beat the Rams, 63-52: "First of all, (the Pioneers) have two Power 5, top-20 teams in the country-type recruits on their team. They've got (Eamonn) Dennis going to Michigan. (Jay) Brunelle is going to Notre Dame. Those guys are as good as any receivers we've seen in this area in probably over a decade. They're dynamic. They complement each other well. Dennis is more of a speed guy that they try to get the ball quick to on the perimeter and make plays. And Brunelle was kind of the classic, big, long, downfield threat, who can score on any play because he gets over the top on defense. They complement each other very well. They've got a very good offensive line. They've got two or three really nice weapons and a better quarterback who really knows his role in the offense. Knows how to spread the ball to all these weapons appropriately. We've been going against (Pioneers offensive coordinator) Chris Moriarty to back to his Burncoat days, and there's not a better offensive mind in our area. It's really a perfect match and the reason they're so good. . . . (On if it is hard to stop later in the season because it's a rhythm-based offense). Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. St. John's, particularly for being such a large school in our area, they have the good fortune of those teams getting twice as many practice reps as other teams in our area because they're only working on one side of the ball. Most of their personnel are two-way players, or at least practice two ways, even if they don't play two ways on game day. They have the good fortune of ,they have so many good players, and they have so much depth across the board that the quarterback and those skill guys, they can work their timing. They can work their rhythm twice as long as most teams. When you mix that talent with that coaching and that added benefit of double time, it's a part of the reason they get better and continue to get better throughout the year. . . . (St. John's standout defensive tackle Justyce) Hathaway has improved a lot. . . . We've had some success against them (on offense). Obviously, we scored 53, but it wasn't enough by any means. We obviously had some success, but they do a lot of good things. The first thing they make you do is they make you earn every single yard. It kind of goes back to the Patriots mindset of it's a bend-but-not-break defense. So they just play very, very solid. They don't really try to do too many elaborate things because they know that they're very good players that are very disciplined and aren't going to make any real mistakes. So they'll let a team like us, or I'm sure a team like Wachusett's game plan going into this game is to get those 3-, 4-yard plays that turn into four, five, six first downs on a drive that that really try to keep the clock running and try to score some points and try to advance the football, but also try to realize probably your best chance to play defense against a team like this is when you have the ball. The thing about St. John's is that their offense and their defense is so good that it will keep them in the game. When it came to making big plays, two things that came up to me when St. John's played was our game and the Shrewsbury games — two games that were pretty even games — that their defense made the one or two stops that the other two couldn't against their offense. So when they get called to make a big stop at key times, they could do that. Part of it is just how solid and fundamental they are that it's hard against a good team to put those long drives together time after time after time. It's a challenge, and they do well with that. . . . Wachusett's offense is very, very dynamic. It looks simple on the surface, but it's really complicated to stop. First of all, you can go in with a great plan, but like Mike Tyson said, 'Everybody has a good plan until they get punched in the mouth.' What it is, is they're just very, very physical. They're very, very downhill. They have multiple backs, including the fullback (senior Aidan Tomaszewski). On the interior, they run some complicated schemes. They run all the Win-T staples. They've got the bellies. They've got the traps. They've got the power off-tackle. They've got the GO-sweep. There's a lot of good scheme there, and you mix it in with a stable of backs and a very big, physical offensive line, it turns into a dynamic offense. What we found out when we played against them is when they have to pass the ball, they can. The first few games they played, they kind of dictated their pace and kind of called their own game. Against us, it was a pretty competitive game for a while, and they were really able to expose us in the passing game. We were selling out all night to stop the run. We were having a decent, not really great, success against it. They ran a couple boots. They ran a couple spread plays on us that was really impressive that they could morph their offense kind of at a moment's notice. It makes them that much tougher to stop, much more difficult to stop. . . . I think the offensive line is (both always good but also better because of its experience). The fact that, at a school like Wachusett, when you're a larger school, if you're able to play as a sophomore or junior, that means you're a fantastic player. That means you're beating out a lot of quality guys to earn that spot. So the fact that they've got at a school like Wachusett where they are two- or three-year starters just shows how good these guys are. They're as good as anybody we've seen in the area. It's not just a talent thing. They are incredibly disciplined. They are incredibly tough, very well-schooled, and I think they're underrated in how athletic they are. They're big and they can drive block and they can do a lot of the one-on-one stuff. But especially seeing them in person, I was very impressed with how well they blocked in space. Knowing they don't want to run outside, but when they have to, knowing that their linemen can get out in space and block in the secondary, especially with the new rules now where once you get out the tackle box, you can't cut (block). That's a real disadvantage for offensive linemen on the perimeter that we've certainly felt in our offense. The ability for offensive linemen for not to be able to cut outside the tackle box makes it so that if you're an athlete out there, it makes it that much more valuable because you can block while not leaving your feet. . . . (Offensive lineman and linebacker Jacob) Nadeau (gave us the most trouble). He's as good of a defensive player as we've played this year. He may be as good of a defensive player as we've played in the last handful of years. He made plays sideline to sideline against us. Really, really good player: great lateral quickness, great instincts. Then, I didn't see the film, and he has two interceptions against Algonquin and one of them was a pick-six. So that would have been my one question going into this game for a guy like him. He was so fantastic against us and a couple other running teams that I had scouted Wachusett against. My question for him if I was a college scout would be, 'Man, if this kid could play in the passing game, he could be a really, really big-time player.' When I heard what happened at Algonquin, I said, 'Well, he may be just that good.' I'm sure this week will be a huge test for them. I'm sure there will be a lot of college scouts (who want to see) how it goes for him. From what I hear, he's a great kid and does it the right way. He's one of those three-year starters, show it shows the quality he has. . . . (Fellow linebacker) Cole Jacobson really complements (Nadeau) well. He's a little more of a knifing linebacker. He's a little smaller, but he's got great instincts and great speed. He really complements Nadeau well. And, again, they're big up front. They're big up front. So it's really hard to run the ball against them. They can rotate in a lot of guys. Their big guys have size. They've got explosive size in there. I think St. John's is going into the game where they feel like they have to get the ball in the perimeter, which is their strength, so it will be interesting to see. Wachusett's secondary, which certainly we didn't test. We haven't been tested that much this year against probably the best passing game in the area."
Prediction: St. John's 35, Wachusett 31
Feld: I’ve been on the Wachusett bandwagon all year long. There’s no reason to stop now as the Mountaineers face their toughest. The Pioneers will be eager to prove this wrong but I think Wachusett’s defense is just strong enough to squeak out a close road win. LOOK OUT.
Feld's pick: Wachusett 24, St. John's 22
No. 10 King Philip at Barnstable
Two teams capable of winning Div. 2 South if they win here. Going to go with the KP team that has been so consistent in the playoffs.
Prediction: King Philip 27, Barnstable 14
Feld: This is a tough first round for King Philip as the Red Raiders are physical up front and should be able to contain the Warriors running game. Robert Jarest is the difference as KP does its part to earn a rematch with Mansfield.
Feld's pick: King Philip 27, Barnstable 16
No. 11 Doherty at Shepherd Hill
A critical Div. 3 Central showdown. The Rams have been hit hard by injuries but continue to field a strong squad. Doherty, though, is perfect still and has given us no reason to doubt them to this point.
Prediction: Doherty 20, Shepherd Hill 18
Scituate at No. 13 Canton
The Bulldogs are out for a little revenge against the team that beat them in last year's Div. 5 South sectional final.
Prediction: Canton 24, Scituate 14
Feld: Scituate is hoping to repeat the magic of last years sectional final win over Canton, but the Bulldogs are a step above what they were a season ago. The sailors keep it close, but the Bulldogs'' mistake-free nature and rock-solid defense seal the deal.
Feld's pick: Canton 20, Scituate 13
No. 19 Lynn English at No. 12 Tewksbury
Both real good teams here, and Lynn English is a dangerous No. 7 in Div. 3 North, but Tewksbury is so hard to beat in the playoffs lately. And they Redmen seem more consistent this year overall.
Prediction: Tewksbury 28, Lynn English 27
Feld: Hard to bet against the Redmen who have had another strong season.
Feld's pick: Tewksbury 26, Lynn English 20
Dracut at No. 16 Revere
This may be a 7-2 matchup in Div. 4 North, but we feel the Middies are capable of pulling the upset like they did against Marblehead as an eight seed a year ago. But we'll stick with a Revere team that is proven its worth so far.
Prediction: Revere 35, Dracut 28
Feld: Middies are no slouch but Revere enters the postseason spotless for a reason
Feld's pick: Revere 24, Dracut 12.
New Bedford at No. 18 Wellesley
The Whalers have a long road trip to face a very good Wellesley team in this 5-4 matchup in Div. 2 South. They can overcome that, though, with their combination of size, strength and discipline in all three facets.
Feld: Wellesley has flown under the radar for most of the season in the always competitive Div. 2 South. As a result, the Raiders are undoubtedly hungry to show just how lethal their offense can be.
Feld's pick: Wellesley 28, New Bedford 20
Beverly at Concord-Carlisle
This feels like one of the best potential games of the weekend in Div. 3 South. It's not an easy one for either side, but we like how the Panthers have been tested so much this season, and feel that experience can pay off.
Prediction: Beverly 21, Concord-Carlisle 20
Feld: Tough draw for Concord-Carlisle who has had a standout 2019 campaign. Beverly, however, has played the schedule and holds the right formula for success. I’m taking the Panthers in a rock fight.
Feld's pick: Beverly 17, Concord-Carlisle 14
North Reading at Marblehead
Marblehead just seems more battle-tested, and can win this whole thing in a deep Div. 4 statewide field.
Prediction: Marblehead 24, North Reading 16
Feld: Marblehead's two losses came at the end of the season to a pair of undefeated squads by a combined seven points. They are ready for the road challenge.
Feld's pick: Marblehead 20, North Reading 16
Nantucket at Mashpee
The Whalers have a lot of speed back on the field. We think they might have enough to outrun a good Mashpee team that is a little better up front.
Prediction: Nantucket 24, Mashpee 21
Minnechaug at Wahconah
Minnechaug has had the better season so far, but that Wahconah home field advantage is real, and we think the Warriors just might pull the upset here.
Prediction: Wahconah 27, Minnechaug 20
Northampton at Amherst
Amherst is feeling good about itself, as it should be, after last week's win over South Hadley. Northampton beating the Hurricanes last year adds some motivation in one of the better rivalries in Western Mass.
Prediction: Amherst 22, Northampton 21
Milton Academy at BB&N
For as much as we think Milton has turned into a machine this year and is riding high off its two huge wins over Governor's and Belmont Hill, we think the Knights have gotten better, too, and can throw the whole NEPSAC bowl season upside down.
Prediction: BB&N 24, Milton Academy 21
Boston College at Syracuse
The Eagles remember what happened a year ago and are good enough to exact revenge.
Prediction: Boston College 35, Syracuse 13
Liberty at UMass
Liberty is just better at this stage of the game.
Prediction: Liberty 55, UMass 28
Dartmouth at Harvard
Tough home one for Harvard, who still can make a run at the Ivy League title. But a nationally-ranked Dartmouth team could be just a little stronger here.
Prediction: Dartmouth 31, Harvard 21
Holy Cross at Lehigh
The Crusaders come in with a shot at making a real play for the Patriot League title here.
Prediction: Holy Cross 13, Lehigh 10
Merrimack at Rhode Island
The Warriors on the road have played well all year and getting bette every week.
Prediction: Merrimack 35, Rhode Island 21
Saint Anselm at Bentley
Bentley is the clear favorite here even though St. Anselm has the pieces to make this interesting.
Prediction: Bentley 33, St. Anselm 17
Williams at Weleyan
Williams has a shot to get a huge road win here, and we feel quarterback Bobby Maimaron and Co. can get the job done.
Prediction: Williams 31, Wesleyan 28
Last week: 13-7