You can't get more mediocre than a .500 record.
That's what we gave you last week.
Probably the biggest surprises were Springfield Central blitzing Everett in the manner it did and Southern Illinois doing the same to UMass.
Now, we are sitting at 12-11 overall and needing a big week.
Thank goodness, then, for Central and Western Mass. MIAA ball getting in full swing. This will be a pick 'em geared a little bit more toward those games. There are a ton of fun takes across the region, and Western Mass. has some real intriguing ones, as well.
Let's get to it.
No. 3 St. John's (Shrewsbury) at No. 1 Catholic Memorial
We will have Matt Siegel (Twitter: @SportVideoMA) here for this one taking video. If you're not already following him, please do. He does an excellent job and will be all over the action, which should be fast and furious.
We asked two coaches who went up against both St. John's and Catholic Memorial over the weekend in game-like conditions/scrimmages to get their thoughts on these two teams. Here are some of the things they said:
Haverhill coach Tim O'Connor, whose Hillies scrimmaged St. John's (S): "(With Notre Dame commit Jay Brunelle and Michigan commit Eamonn Dennis), you can just see right away. There's no mystery why those guys are going where they are. They're both dudes. You stand next to Brunelle for a second and you say, 'OK!' (Laughs). You can tell he wants it, too. He's real good. (Dennis) will run right by you. . . . (The Pioneers' offense) is very heavy on (run-pass option). . . . They've got the two huge tackles (Sean Sullivan and Colin LeBlanc). . . . (The Pioneers' on offense) will go fast. That's what they want to do. If you get in a shootout with them, you're playing their game. You need to keep (their offense) off the field. . . . We were able to trap (the Pioneers' defensive line) and move them a bit between the tackles. It's a question of whether or not other teams want to do that. . . . (Brunelle) and (Dennis) are great on the perimeter, but they didn't hurt us between the tackles." Lynn Classical coach Brian Vaughan, whose team played Catholic Memorial in an exclusion game for the Rams: "I think, from an offensive standpoint, for them, their tempo (stands out). Up-tempo, linemen get to the line quick. They're lined up. They run a play. They're lined up and ready to run a play like 12 seconds later. . . . Their size and athleticism up front was something that could help them in the long run. . . . (Since they go up-tempo out of different formations) sometimes you can't switch personnel. You have to go with your base defense just so your kids aren't confused. So that's a huge advantage for them. . . . . To me, (the Knights) look like the best team in the state. . . . . They were going off-tackle a little bit when they were doing their double-wing stuff. For us, it was tough to defend. . . . They're fast (on defense). They're fast. I have a few fast guys, and we try to get them on the perimeter, and their linebackers are in the 10-technique, flying out there, getting there in short steps. I was impressed. They're fast on defense. They're physical on defense. Good size all-around. Like I said, they're a really good football team. . . . I'm going to say this: I didn't see any weakness that night (against Classical)." Prediction: Catholic Memorial 45, St. John's (S) 35
No. 2 Springfield Central at No. 4 Central Catholic
Call it "Central West vs. Central East," if you want. These two teams are both very much in the mix for state titles, and have more in common than just their names. Both teams run the spread very well, have great coaching, line play, and very young, but talented rosters. How about this? You'll have a freshman quarterback on one side (SC's William Watson), and a sophomore on the other (CC's Ayden Pereira). Watson made his debut as a varsity starter last week and shined, and we've heard nothing but good things about Pereira. If CC can eliminate big plays, Chuck Adamopoulos and Co. have a shot. If not, well, the Golden Eagles will be 2-0 on their three-game road tour of Eastern Mass. powers (SC travels to West Roxbury next week to face Catholic Memorial). Prediction: Springfield Central 30, Central Catholic 27
No. 6 Mansfield at La Salle (Ohio) We love how Mike Redding and Co. carry the flag for Massachusetts by challenging themselves with out-of-state competition. Sometimes they win, and sometimes they lose badly, but they usually compete well enough to win respect for football in the Commonwealth, something not even the best teams from around here always do.
Read up on La Salle here and what Lancers coach Pat McLaughlin has to say about his team and Mansfield's.
Mansfield is definitely the underdog here. That will help. However, for as tough a schedule as the Hornets play, there is not a team like this on it.
Prediction: La Salle (Ohio) 28, Mansfield 13
No. 10 Xaverian at No. 7 Everett This game holds weight in a different manner than usually is the case when these teams meet. For Xaverian, you tell us where the easy regular season wins are on the schedule after this: Bridgewater-Raynham, Catholic Memorial, Brockton, St. John's (S), and BC High. Everett's next two games after the Hawks are against St. John's (S) and Brockton. Even if the Crimson Tide roll through their Greater Boston League schedule like most expect, where are their playoff points going to come from if they don't recover in time to beat these other nonleaguers? In other words, you're heading into must-win territory for both teams. Everett's speed on the perimeter will give Xaverian problems, but the Crimson Tide will have trouble defending the latter's power run game. We'll take the Hawks to beat Everett for the first time since 2016. Prediction: Xaverian 19, Everett 17 No. 17 Lynn English at Swampscott We like the Big Blue. This is a program that has always been able to pass the ball well for a long time, and will be able to again this year. There aren't many secondaries built with the capability to stop Swampscott's aerial attack, but Lynn English is one of them. With players like Tahj Purter and Mathias Fowler patrolling the back, people who seem open at first glance won't be by the time the ball gets there. The Bulldogs are pretty good on offense, as well, and balanced. Prediction: Lynn English 33, Swampscott 21 Tantasqua at No. 18 Shrewsbury Jon Hargis has done an excellent job with the Tantasqua program in a short period of time. He has built up its strength across the board, and given the program an identity with its ability to run straight at teams until they get tired and stop wanting to make tackles. Shrewsbury returns a good amount, and this is a program that has played and won a lot of big games before. That said, we like the matchup of Hargis and Co. being able to play keepaway on make an opening-week statement.
Prediction: Tantasqua 15, Shrewsbury 14 Grafton at Nashoba It has been a tough offseason for the Nashoba community, as legendary Chieftains coach Ken Tucker — and father of current head man Jamie — passed away this summer. Both of these teams lost a lot to graduation, and Nashoba does not have a very big senior class. That said, the Chieftains are the reigning Division 4 champs, and we like them at home in a close one. Prediction: Nashoba 16, Grafton 14 Leominster at Westfield If this game is anything like last year's meeting, it might be the most exciting game of the weekend. A year ago, Westfield went to Doyle Field and came away with a 29-28 win. That loss started a six-game Leominster losing streak before the Blue Devils turned it around and won five straight, including a 36-0 blanking of Fitchburg (more on that team later) on Thanksgiving. That revenge factor comes into play a little, but at home, the Bombers get the edge.
Prediction: Westfield 24, Leominster 22 Northbridge at Blackstone Valley RVT Northbridge might be flying a little under the radar right now, which is fine, but this is a good team with some size and, as always, a passing attack worth paying attention to. Blackstone is coming off a dominant, Division 7 state title, but graduated a good senior class. We think the Beavers will be a factor again in that state title chase, but we will take the Rams on the road here.
Prediction: Northbridge 35, Blackstone Valley RVT 32 Fitchburg at West Springfield This is where we will be Friday night in one of the best intersectional games of the weekend. West Side is looking like one of the best teams in Division 5 this season, and we've seen up close how athletic its skill position players are over the course of the offseason. Fitchburg, though, may have a little something going with its trademark physicality and run game. We will roll with the Red Raiders on this one, based on that.
Prediction: Fitchburg 25, West Springfield 14
Colleges Kansas at Boston College Our Kevin Stone (Twitter: @kstone06) will be here Friday night for what should be a fun atmosphere under the lights at Alumni Stadium. The Jayhawks come in with a Les Miles-coaches team that has underperformed so far with a loss to Coastal Carolina last weekend. BC is a three-touchdown favorite, but Miles knows how to get his team up for big games and relishes the underdog role. We like the Eagles here, but not to cover.
Prediction: Boston College 27, Kansas 10 UMass at Charlotte Things are bad right now in Amherst, and could get worse following last weekend's 45-20 loss to Southern Illinois. Right now, we simply do not have any confidence that the Minutemen are ready to get that first win until it actually happens. Prediction: Charlotte 37, UMass 24
Merrimack at St. Francis (Pa.) The Warriors competed well last week at Central Connecticut State and will likely do so again. We love how coach Dan Curran has lit a fire into the belly of his players. Still, we feel beating St. Francis on the road is a tall order, and Merrimack's next win won't come until Mayville State on Sept. 21. Prediction: St. Francis 35, Merrimack 24 Bentley at American International Both of these teams lost in the opening weekend of Northeast-10 play, with Bentley falling in a hard-fought, 14-7 game to No. 22 West Chester. AIC struggled on offense in a 34-20 loss to Bowie State. Last year, the Falcons won this game in Springfield, 28-20, and we see a similar result this time around. Prediction: Bentley 27, AIC 20 Trinity at Tufts The Jumbos will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of their undefeated, 1979 team on Friday before welcoming Trinity to Medford for Saturday's 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
Trinity right now is the class of the NESCAC. We could see an upset here but hard to pick against the Bantams.
Prediction: Trinity 27, Tufts 21 Last week: 10-10 Total: 12-11