OK, this is our last shot at pulling ourselves over the 70 percent threshold for the season, even though we will have one last pick of whatever bowl game Boston College goes to.
It's been a fun season to pick games, but we feel like we've left a lot of wins on the table.
That said, there are eight MIAA Super Bowls left, and now is the time for us to really put our best foot forward.
All right, let's pick.
Catholic Memorial at St. John's Prep
One of our first predictions of the year was that no Division 1 team would finish the season undefeated. That has held true, as both of these teams come in with two losses. We think it would be a mistake to put too much emphasis on what happened the first time these teams played, when the Prep controlled the action much of the day in a 27-20 win. Right now, it feels like Catholic Memorial is playing its best football of the season. We see big days from the likes of CM running backs Jamall Griffin and super sophomore Darius Leclair, and think John DiBiaso earns his first Division 1 title on Baker Street.
Prediction: Catholic Memorial 26, St. John's Prep 20
North Andover vs. King Philip
This game pits the two best teams from two of the best leagues in the state in North Andover of the Merrimack Valley Conference and King Philip of the Hockomock League. The Scarlet Knights have been dominant, and their convincing win over Lincoln-Sudbury has a lot of people pegging them as the favorite here. We don't doubt that they should assume that role. The skill talent on North Andover is tremendous. But we just can't pick against King Philip in a big game like this. It's proven to burn us too many times. The Warriors will somehow keep this a low-scoring game and find a way to win.
Prediction: King Philip 17, North Andover 14
Springfield Central vs. Tewksbury
This is not just a big game for Springfield Central, but for all of Western Mass. Since the current format changed in 2013, there has not been a Western Mass. champ at its highest level yet. This represents the region's best shot, well, mainly because its teams have been stonewalled in the semifinals every year. Still, this is not a Tewksbury team that can be taken lightly. The Redmen want to keep this game within the tackle box, slow it down, and have the Golden Eagles offense stay on the sidelines. We feel Central will be able to get on the perimeter and make enough big plays to come away victorious, but it won't be easy.
Prediction: Springfield Central 34, Tewksbury 27
Dighton Rehoboth vs. Nashoba
We had the chance to see Nashoba up close and personal this season, but of course it turned out to be the worst game the Chieftains played all year in a shutout loss at the hands of Wachusett. Other than that, Nashoba has been terrific, and racked up big wins along the way, including two over Marlboro and another over Shrewsbury. Nashoba also took care of Gloucester in the last round, and we feel, in general, this is a team that deserves a little more respect than maybe it is getting. Dighton-Rehoboth is also flying a little under the radar, and its defense can rise to the challenge here and keep the Falcons within striking distance. Keep an eye on two-way lineman Mason Cadorette for D-R, who can make a difference up front.
Prediction: Nashoba 23, Dighton-Rehoboth 17
Nipmuc vs. Scituate
We have to admit: we did not have great success picking the winners of each section. However, one team that we rode from the beginning of the playoffs to this point was Scituate. And, to give ourselves some props, Div. 5 South was an absolutely loaded section, so we are proud of that one. But, more importantly, this is a Scituate team that we knew, way back in the summer, would be a force this season. We love what Nipmuc has done this season, particularly on defense, but quarterback Aidan Sullivan and multi-purpose weapon Will Sheskey have been too explosive for opponents all year. We're going to stick with the Sailors here.
Prediction: Scituate 31, Nipmuc 21
Stoneham vs. Old Rochester
At a very early point in the season, you could tell that these two programs were on a collision course for the Division 6 state title. There are a lot of similarities here, too. Both teams feature strong running games, and have the ability to control tempo and field position with it. Stoneham had been utterly dominant up until its loss to Reading, while Old Rochester has had some scares along the way. However, we love Old Rochester's linebackers, particularly Desmond Dias and junior Dylan DeWolfe. We believe they can help stymie this double-wing attack from Stoneham enough to give the Bulldogs the win.
Prediction: Old Rochester 28, Stoneham 26
St. Mary's vs. Blackstone Valley
Honestly, we did not project either of these teams to be here at the start of the playoffs. We felt Mashpee would rise again out of the South, and that Wahconah would emerge from the West. Well, it is a North vs. Central battle instead, with St. Mary's again checking in as the rep of the former. We like what St. Mary's has done this season, especially by playing such a brutal schedule that included Div. 1 finalist Catholic Memorial. And when we saw Oxford earlier in the year, we thought that was a team that could make it to Gillette. That team was defeated by Leicester and kept out of the playoffs entirely, which tells you all you need to know about the strength of that Central bracket. Blackstone Valley has a tremendous defense, but we are still going to side with the Spartans here.
Prediction: St. Mary's 20, Blackstone Valley 16
St. Bernard's vs. Pope John XXIII
These are two teams — again — who have been on our radar since either very early in the season or before the season. One of our first training camp visits was to Pope John, where the Tigers were braving the rain to get in a workout. They have not disappointed, as they have playmakers on both side of the ball, and a running back in John Smith-Howell who is one of the tops at his position around. St. Bernard's has a variety of weapons, and not any single one you can take away in order to shut down this offense. This is one of the more underrated games of the day, but we are going to stick with Pope John, as we have all year.
Prediction: Pope John XXIII 24, St. Bernard's 22
Last week: 14-6