Sept. 27 Friday pick 'em

That's more like it. We didn't exactly knock it out of the park last week, but we were better with a 14-7 mark.


Looking forward to more like that, hopefully.


This week, we're heading into Hockomock country to check out Stoughton at Canton on Friday night. Saturday, we'll be over at Alumni Stadium to see unbeaten Wake Forest challenge Boston College.


There are a lot of other big ones worth keeping an eye on, though.


Let's get to it.


High Schools


Stoughton at No. 21 Canton


We spoke to two coaches who have played these 2-0 teams — who are also Thanksgiving Day rivals — so far.


Framingham coach Ed Mantie, whose Flyers lost to Stoughton, 35-16, in the first game of the season for both squads: "It's not just the fact that (Stoughton's running backs are) fast. We had guys in the right position and just couldn't tackle them. . . . The thing with Stoughton, it's not just two (tough backs), (the Black Knights) have, like, five of them. They certainly have the (Ais) brothers (juniors Christian and Christopher), but there were three other backs in that game that they just kind of rolled through. Every single one of them are as physical as the next one, and they're tough to bring down. It puts a lot of pressure on your edge people. They've got to be able to, number one, take on a guard every once and a while and be that physical player. But, other times, when they're unblocked, they've got to come up, set an edge, and make a tackle. If you don't do that, as we found out, it's going to be a long night. . . . It's one of those things where you've got to play defense with your eyes as much as you do with your pads. (The Bulldogs will) have a guy who's responsible for the fullback. They'll have a guy who's responsible for the tight end. They'll have a guy who's responsible for the split end, for the backs. If you just for one second start peeking in the backfield, that half-a-second that you didn't use your eyes, that guy gets behind you (for play-action). That makes it tough, especially when you do have the backs that they have. Canton has played them a bunch, so I'm sure (the Bulldogs) have a good system in place to stop them. But I'll tell you, it's tough. . . . (Christopher Ais) is a middle linebacker, and when he comes (up to make the hit), he comes. He brings it. They can do some good things. . . . We were able to hit some creases here or there, but (the Black Knights are) a good football team. They have as many good athletes on that football team as any Division 1 (team) — Xaverian, BC High, St. John's Prep, as any of those guys. Canton has its work cut out for it. I live in Canton so I'm kind of rooting for both, but I'm also rooting for Stoughton, because we need the points, as well."


Dighton-Rehoboth coach Dave Moura, whose Falcons lost to Canton, 28-7, in the opener for both teams: "Offensively, (the Bulldogs) were very athletic. (Johnny) Hagan, the quarterback, he's been a two-year starter, and I think he ran the offense very well. He's very dangerous with the ball in his hands. He can score from anywhere on the field. He had two strong running backs, (Kyle Fitzgerald and Gersom Rivera). They've got weapons. . . . Up front, they have a tremendous offensive line. In all honesty, I want to say it's one of the best high school football teams I've seen in a long time that we've played against. They've got everything. They've got size. They've got speed. They've got athleticism. Defensively, they absolutely flew to the ball. I don't think we had 100 yards of total offense that night. In retrospect, we did start a lot of juniors. We started two sophomores that night. A lot of sophomores played in that game. We're very young. But they're a very good football team. It's tough for your first (varsity) football game of your life, you're playing them. They're just very sound. They're a very good, sound football team. . . . Honestly, I think (Canton's defense can hold up). I don't want to take anything away from Stoughton. I don't know much about them. I'm also friendly with (Black Knights) coach (Greg) Burke. I just felt that, walking away from that (Canton) game, we're probably not going to see a team better than that the rest of the season, down the stretch. Defensively, they're big up front. Their linebackers are very quick to the ball. Their secondary is very athletic. It will probably be a very good matchup. . . . We played (Canton) last year, as well. We had a different squad. We had 21 seniors last year. It came right down to the end of the game. Besides the fact that (the Bulldogs) are big up front and they're physical and athletic, they're a seasoned team. They went pretty deep in the playoffs, losing to a very good Scituate team last year, and I'd say 90 percent of those kids are back. So that's a very talented group that they've got."


Prediction: Canton 28, Stoughton 27


No. 8 King Philip at No. 9 Franklin


Speaking of Hockomock League Game of the Week-caliber matchups, this is certainly one worth checking out.


You've got a KP team that is every bit in the mix for a Div. 2 South title, and a Franklin squad that will give anyone fits in Div. 1 South.


We feel that this could go either way, but the visiting Warriors won this matchup twice last year, and it's hard to pick against them this time around.


Prediction: King Philip 20, Franklin 17


No. 15 Shrewsbury at No. 16 Doherty


This very easily could be the best game in the state this weekend. It not only has ranking implications, but very serious Div. 3 Central seeding ones.


You'll see some great passing offenses on display, and two well-coached teams who know how to win big games.


When this comes down to a 50-50 choice, we usually go with the home team.


Prediction: Doherty 34, Shrewsbury 33


No. 25 North Andover at No. 3 Central Catholic


North Andover bounced back brilliantly from its opening loss to Marblehead last week by crushing a good Lowell bunch.


Central Catholic took a physical pounding from St. John's Prep. That said, the Red Raiders are strong enough, in our estimation, to rally behind their sophomore quarterback, Ayden Pereira, and exact some revenge for last year's loss to the visitors.


Prediction: Central Catholic 23, North Andover 20


No. 18 BC High at No. 19 Tewksbury


We may have reacted a little too strongly to BC High's opening night loss to Mansfield and dropped the Eagles too far in our rankings.


BC High is a good team with a big line, emerging quarterback, and improved speed.


Tewksbury is smarting off a loss to Methuen. The Redmen shut out BC High last year in Dorchester, and we feel this will be closer, but the same result.


Prediction: Tewksbury 15, BC High 14


Brockton at No. 6 Everett


Talk about history on the field for this one: these are the two all-time winningest programs in Massachusetts, and among the most victories for any in the country.


Twenty years ago, this would be a game between the I-formation (Brockton) and double-wing (Everett). Now, it's wide-open spread for both teams.


The visiting Boxers are struggling on defense, and Everett seems to be hitting its stride. Go with the Tide here.


Prediction: Everett 44, Brockton 22


Leominster at No. 23 Nashoba


The host Chieftains will be playing this game in honor of the late Ken Tucker, the legendary Nashoba coach who passed away this past summer.


Leominster presents a huge challenge for Nashoba, as this will be one of the toughest ground attacks the Chieftains face all year.


That said, hard to go against the hosts in such an emotional game.


Prediction: Nashoba 27, Leominster 21


Swampscott at No. 24 Beverly


In one of the premier Northeastern Conference matchups of the weekend, this will be the air-it-out Big Blue against a Beverly team that has the secondary to match up with just about anyone.


Beverly's Marje Mulumba had the big game for the Panthers in their win over Lynn English, but there are more than one player who can hurt you with this team. Maybe it is someone else this time.


Prediction: Beverly 30, Swampscott 21


New Bedford at Bridgewater-Raynham


Normally, we'd take Bridgewater-Raynham in this one. The Trojans always seem to find a way to win here.


That said, we think New Bedford has turned a corner program-wise and has the ability to really make a statement this weekend.


Prediction: New Bedford 16, Bridgewater-Raynham 15


Duxbury at Hingham


This is the best game on the South Shore this weekend. The Patriot League's Keenan Division will likely be decided by the winner of this game, as tends to be the case.


Both squads are capable of doing big things in Div. 3 South down the line, and they could, as they did last year, meet again.


But we feel like Duxbury has righted the ship after beating Scituate last week, and will go with the visitors in a close one.


Prediction: Duxbury 23, Hingham 21


Wahconah at Longmeadow


We really don't know what to expect here, and the hosts badly need a win to make sure their Div. 5 West playoff hopes and seeding don't take more of a hit.


We like Wahconah's team this year, but feel like the Lancers might be a little more desperate to get the win.


Prediction: Longmeadow 22, Wahconah 16


Newton North at Wellesley


A pair of unbeaten Bay State Conference teams slugging it out, this should be another great take.


Although we love what Newton North and its passing game has been able to accomplish so far, we feel like Wellesley is flying a little under the radar. That changes this weekend.


Prediction: Wellesley 30, Newton North 22


St. Mary's vs. Cardinal Spellman


This game, which will be played in Holbrook, pits one of the best small-school programs in the North (St. Mary's) against one of the best small-school programs in the South (Spellman).


Both teams are off to strong starts, but we feel Spellman is playing a little better right now.


Prediction: Cardinal Spellman 13, St. Mary's 12


St. Sebastian's at Milton Academy


The visiting Arrows took a close loss to Governor's Academy the first weekend, while Milton dropped Brooks without much problem.


Milton loaded up on more transfers this offseason, and the Mustangs seem to have enough firepower to put a big number on opponents.


We feel St. Seb's holds Milton more in check, but not enough to pull off the win.


Prediction: Milton Academy 17, St. Sebastian's 10


Colleges


Wake Forest at Boston College


This game, as we've mentioned, presents a huge chance for Boston College to put the bad memories of the Kansas loss behind it, while also pushing its Atlantic Coast Conference record to 2-0.


Everyone is sort of putting the Demon Deacons in that second spot behind Clemson in the Atlantic Division, but we feel the Eagles work their way in on that Saturday.


Prediction: Boston College 34, Wake Forest 24


Akron at UMass


This might be one of the best hopes for a win for UMass this season.


But injuries and defections have hurt the Minutemen hard early on, and we don't see one here.


Prediction: Akron 40, UMass 21


Brown at Harvard


Harvard could not come away with a win at San Diego in last weekend's opener, but found some success in a passing game that was mostly hit-or-miss last year.


Brown looks to be improved, but the Crimson in their home opener will be a tough out.


Prediction: Harvard 35, Brown 28


Holy Cross at Syracuse


OK, this one might be padding the stats a little, because talent-wise, there is just too big a gap for the Crusaders to win up at the Carrier Dome.


You just hope Holy Cross comes away from this relatively healthy.


Prediction: Syracuse 51, Holy Cross 10


Merrimack at Lehigh


The visiting Warriors are taking on an established Patriot League squad that should be the heavy favorite here.


Merrimack is just out-gunned at this point with a team like that.


Prediction: Lehigh 40, Merrimack 20


New Haven at Bentley


Bentley is one of several Northeast-10 programs locally that have a shot to make things interesting in the league title chase.


New Haven should be favored, and the Falcons certainly will compete, but we're going with the visitors.


Prediction: New Haven 18, Bentley 15


WPI at Springfield


Melrose native Justin Nyland did not have his best performance in last week's win for WPI. We expect him to bounce back, though, and for his team to move to 4-0 against one of the best programs around.


Prediction: WPI 27, Springfield 17


Last week: 14-7

Total: 33-26

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