Another pretty solid week last week and we are rolling into what should be a pretty fun couple days.
We went 14-5, and had some nice wins, like predicting Revere to slip by Marblehead.
There are some tough ones to predict this time around both in the high school and college ranks, and some upset possibilities that could throw things out of whack even more.
Onto the picks.
Brockton at No. 16 New Bedford
We spoke to Xaverian coach Al Fornaro, whose team lost to Brockton, 41-21, Oct. 11: "What (the Boxers are) making you do right now is you've got to defend the whole field. Teams that I-formation, you're not really worried about wide flanks or stuff like that. But now, whether they're going with four wide or five wide, which they do quite often, then they'll motion a guy, the quarterback (Devonte Medley) is more than a viable threat as a runner, as we've witnessed, as other schools have witnessed. Then, the boy, I don't know his name, No. 16 (Isaiah Laguerre), who stepped in in the Everett game when their halfback (Ahmik Watterson) went down, (Laguerre) ran away from everybody on that (Everett) team. He ran a sweep, and he was just gone, baby, gone. And we know how fast that Everett is in the secondary. So now he's in the dynamic, and their tailback is back. . . . (Wide receiver Nayvon Reid) can go and get the ball. Brockton's receivers are tall guys, and harken back to the days when they used to have those guys, when Tommy (Colombo) and (coach) Peter (Colombo) were quarterbacks (in the late 1970s and 80s). These (receivers) can go the distance. They're big. They can be physical, just by their sheer size, I'm not sure if they do play basketball, but quite often they can go up like it's a rebound. They can box somebody out in the end zone and go and make a play. And they can run. . . . With any of those types of (read) things, it's option football. You can go a power-read, or read-power. There are many teams who do it. Auburn did it when Cam Newton was there. When that guy comes in motion, or a halfback is there, (the quarterback) is riding him. You can also call it an inverted veer where the quarterback is the dive guy, and the halfback is where the quarterback would be. There's generally not a pitch. They could, but they don't do it. So what they'll do is block down, down. They pull the backside guard, and he will fold up inside the alley, and the quarterback, he rides that halfback laterally looking at the defensive end. If that defensive end is upfield, he'll pull the ball, and he's out the gate. If the defensive end closes to what would be the quarterback, he will then hand the ball off. So it's very similar to the veer, but it's out of the gun. He's just basically reading the defensive end. . . . Again, it will be the athlete matchup. I would imagine (Brockton defensive coordinator) Carlito (Weaver), like a lot of defensive coordinators, at times, your best bet is to be aggressive. If you can rush the quarterback with four and not have to worry about it, then you're going to be golden, because you're going to be playing seven-on-four, or seven-on-five. That's an advantage for the defense, whether you're going man-2 free, zero cover and bringing people. That's a different story. That's the old adage. If they can't block the blitz, might as well keep doing it. If (the Whalers) have a No. 1 target that is their best receiver by far, Brockton just might use a lock and take its best defensive back and say, 'You go cover that cat for the next 48 minutes.' And you can play zone behind him, so he's basically double-covered wherever he goes. . . . With both of those teams, it's actually good for football. I know people in the state will say, 'Why does this guy care about those programs?' It's not so much just a general interest in them. But years ago, we used to scout those (games). Those were exciting games, and there were athletes. John Seed was a quarterback (for New Bedford), Dante Balestracci playing safety and quarterback. One year (Balestracci) bent (former Xaverian running back) Giovanni Benson backwards on our goal line. We beat them, but those were tough, physical city kids on both sides of the ball. They gave no quarter. They're out there to play and play as hard as they can."
We spoke to Barnstable coach Ross Jatkola, whose team lost to New Bedford, 27-21, Oct. 5: "I think Nygel Palmer is one of the best backs I've seen in a while. He's really good. You've got to start there. Defending that is enough in itself. Then I think the quarterback (Ethan Medeiros) really sprouted this year and matured this year, and was able to get the ball out when people pack the box. I think early on, I didn't think people knew if he was going to be able to do that or not. Then that kid, (wide receiver Shahid) Barros has been phenomenal, as well. The combination of those three, it's like, you try and choose who you want to take away, it's almost impossible at times. . . . If you want to take away a receiver, the first thing you think of is bracketing him somehow, where you get a linebacker underneath with coverage over the top. That takes a guy out of the box. Against Palmer, you need all eight or nine guys in the box to stop him. That was kind of like what we tried to do, and he still ran the ball pretty well on us. He broke a big one early. Yeah, I think it just puts you in a bind defensively. It's a numbers game of which one you want to take away more. . . . I think on film, early on in some of the early film we got, it didn't look like (Medeiros) really wanted to run. Then, we scouted him against Bridgewater-Raynham, and he kind of took over in the second half when they had that huge comeback. You don't realize how fast he is until you're defending him. So when you do have all that attention on the running back and he pulls it on the read and you don't have the guys in the right position to tackle, he can be devastating, as well. . . . They were huge up front. They were big and they're mean. But the thing I noticed this year, even from watching the film, is how good they were technically. They were very well-coached it looked like to me up front. They had cool little wrinkles up front where they can wall you off and let the quarterback run underneath. So it's almost like you're getting a pass rush and they're setting up a draw or an inside zone inside off that, which I thought was a nice little play they had. But their defensive line was nasty: big and strong and fast. I'm not sure the kid's name, No. 50 (Tyrek Williams), he was coming down so hard on some of our stuff away from him. He was chasing down from the backside, which is rare to see at this level. So he did a great job defending our run. . . . Sometimes you think (an offensive explosion) is going to happen, and then it ends up being a struggle offensively. What I do, and what a lot of coaches I know like to do, is they put the 11 fastest, meanest dudes on defense. So it could easily be a tight, low-scoring game because of the athletes they have on the field. If they want to shut down the other's offense, I think they both have the athletes to do that. Or you can go the other way and have a high-scoring game, because both offenses are clicking pretty well right now. . . . That was the biggest thing I noticed right away is how disciplined they were this year. We got them to jump offsides and create a lot of crazy turnovers and penalties last year at home. We actually won that game, 3-0. I think having Palmer back (and) being able to establish a run game is so important. Especially at this level, at the high school level, when you can run the ball, it just opens up so many other options. I felt last year (the Whalers) were more pass-first and got themselves into a little bit of trouble. But they're able to pound it this year, and just like I said, up front, they were more polished, very well-coached. The mistakes they made last year, they didn't make this year. So that's the difference in their record."
Prediction: New Bedford 34, Brockton 30
No. 18 Marblehead at No. 15 Danvers
Both of these teams are dangerous once the playoffs get started, as Marblehead just barely lost last week to Revere. Danvers, though, has figured out a way to just win ever close game that has come its way.
Prediction: Danvers 14, Marblehead 13
Fitchburg at No. 19 Nashoba
Fitchburg has its big offensive line and running game that can cause problems for anyone, while Nashoba is coming off a close win over Westboro. We think the Chieftains at home should be the slight favorite.
Prediction: Nashoba 22, Fitchburg 21
No. 20 Lincoln-Sudbury at Wayland
Wayland should not be underestimated as one of the sleepers in Div. 4 North. That said, L-S is a bigger school that should have the advantage here.
Prediction: Lincoln-Sudbury 28, Wayland 14
Newton North at Milton
You will see two of the better passing offenses around in this one. Both offenses can put up a lot of points, but we see the host Wildcats being able to make one or two more key stops to win it.
Prediction: Milton 35, Newton North 28
North Reading vs. Pentucket at Haverhill
It seems like no one is paying attention to North Reading, which is flying under the radar fairly well. Pentucket is one of the best Cape Ann teams, but North Reading comes out on top.
Prediction: North Reading 27, Pentucket 21
Xaverian at BC High
This game has major playoff implications, as a loss could possibly send Xaverian out of the postseason mix for the first time since the new format was introduced. We see BC High as a bit further along at the moment.
Prediction: BC High 20, Xaverian 10
Shepherd Hill at Shrewsbury
Yet another game where you are peeking at the playoff points for both programs. Shrewsbury might be a little healthier, and the Colonials stay alive in the Div. 3 Central chase.
Prediction: Shrewsbury 34, Shepherd Hill 24
Cohasset at Abington
We love both of these perennial powers' chances to make a deep run in Div. 7 South, but the Green Wave have played a tougher schedule to date. That experience pays off.
Prediction: Abington 18, Cohasset 17
Amherst at South Hadley
We've been very high on Amherst all season, even going back to the summer, while South Hadley is just one of those consistent programs that will be a thorn in anyone's side. Still, we think the visiting Hurricanes have a few too many weapons.
Prediction: Amherst 35, South Hadley 14
Wahconah at West Springfield
Wahconah is never an easy out, but right now West Side has the offense to roll up big numbers on anyone it faces. Terriers take this one.
Prediction: West Springfield 33, Wahconah 21
Blackstone Valley Tech at Littleton
A true battle between two of the best lower-division teams in Central Mass. This one could go either way, but we will side with Littleton in what should be a grinder of a game.
Prediction: Littleton 24, Blackstone Valley Tech 21
Belmont Hill at Milton Academy
Right now, this is the game of the Independent School League season. These are the last two unbeaten teams in the league, and for the moment, we will go with a Milton team that seems to be riding high after its win over Governor's Academy last weekend.
Prediction: Milton Academy 34, Belmont Hill 31
Boston College at Clemson
BC had a great bounce-back win over NC State last weekend, while Clemson seems like a team that people don't seem to fear as much as recent years. Still, the Tigers have a boatload of talent, and that should be enough.
Prediction: Clemson 37, Boston College 21
UConn at UMass
This would be one of the sweeter wins UMass could hope for, as the Minutemen beat their rival last year and would like nothing more than to make it two in a row. We're going to go with UMass here to get that second win of the season.
Prediction: UMass 27, UConn 24
Harvard at Princeton
We loved what Harvard brought to the table against Holy Cross last week, and really feel the Crimson are capable of making a statement this week against a ranked Princeton team.
Prediction: Harvard 28, Princeton 26
Colgate at Holy Cross
Although the Crusaders are stung from last week's loss to Harvard, Colgate is not having a good season, and Holy Cross should take care of business.
Prediction: Holy Cross 35, Colgate 13
Presbyterian at Merrimack
You're looking again at a Presbyterian squad that is not very good, while Merrimack has some mojo going after a win over Delaware State. Warriors prevail.
Prediction: Merrimack 33, Presbyterian 10
Stonehill at Assumption
This is one of the games in the Northeast 10 this weekend that will have major implications on which team wins the league title. This is about as even a matchup as it gets, but we like Stonehill to bounce back from last week's loss to Bentley.
Prediction: Stonehill 30, Assumption 28
Western Conn. at Framingham State
These are the last two teams who are unbeaten in MASCAC play. Western Conn. has not lost any games, period, and may be the best team in the league. That said, we feel the host Rams may have a little something extra to put themselves in first place after this weekend.
Prediction: Framingham State 41, Western Conn. 38
Last week: 14-5