Monday, October 6, 2014

Central Mass HS Football Power Rankings: 10/6/14

Junior guard Sean Ragan and the St. John's offense are beginning to hit their stride.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Leominster continued its bounce back from an 0-2 start with another impressive win, this time a 35-9 thrashing of contender Wachusett, while St. John's rolled up talented Nashoba 35-0.

Both of these established powers, as well as Division 4 favorite Shepherd Hill, who blasted Grafton 45-6, were impressive, but could anybody wrestle the top spot away from Northbridge?

Check out our latest Power Rankings below.
Power Rankings

1. Northbridge: 4-0, 1-0 SWCL B. Division 5

Last Week: Ranked No. 1. Defeated Lunenburg 35-20

The Rams got a bit of a scare against the dangerous Blue Knights, trailing 20-8 on the road against Lunenburg in the first half, but the backfield combination of QB Koby Schofer and RB Jake Wood proved too much. Schofer ripped off a long touchdown run before intermission, then Wood rushed for three second half touchdowns as the Rams scored 27 unanswered points to come away with a big win.

2. St. John's (Shrewsbury): 3-1. Division 2

Last Week: Ranked No. 2. Defeated Nashoba 35-0

St. John's seems to have things clicking offensively now, and junior quarterback Tim Cassidy has settled into his role getting the majority of the team's snaps at quarterback. This looks like the St. John's offensive juggernaut many predicted at the beginning of the year, with Cassidy a threat to throw for multiple touchdowns, Davon Jones and Nick Calvano spreading defenses thin on the outside, and running back Shane Combs gashing teams up the middle. All of this built around one of the state's best lines, led by sensational junior guard Sean Ragan (pictured above).

The only difference is, the Pioneer defense has been FAR better than anybody could have imagined. Nashoba isn't quite where it used to be as a program, but beating the Chieftains like this is an impressive win for anybody.

3. Leominster: 2-2, 1-0 Mid-Wach A. Division 2

Last Week: Ranked No. 3. Defeated Wachusett 35-9

But just when you thought you could write St. John's into the Division 2 state semifinal, a resurgence occurs in Leominster. The Blue Devils began their climb out of an 0-2 hole with a huge second half against then-No. 1 Shepherd Hill, and continued it by pummeling Wachusett Friday. The Leominster defense has looked great the last three weeks, holding EMass offensive powerhouse Lowell, Shepherd Hill and now Wachusett to a combined 39 points (just 13 PPG).

For some context, Lowell came into their game against Leominster averaging 36.5 points per game, and were held to 14. Shepherd Hill has scored 42 points per game against everybody else, and was held to 20 against Leominster, while Wachusett came into Friday night's game averaging 26, but was held to just 9 against the Blue Devils.

Oh yeah, and the Blue Devils have found great success with running back Eddie Rivera running the Wildcat, and quarterback Noah Gray seems to have settled in. Buckle up, because Division 2 is going to be interesting the rest of the way.

4. Shrewsbury: 4-0, 2-0 Mid-Wach A. Division 2

Last Week: Ranked No. 3. Defeated Fitchburg 21-14

But it isn't just St. John's and Leominster. Though I dropped the Colonials this week, mostly due to Leominster's impressive win, Shrewsbury is very much still a contender in Division 2. Despite trailing going into the fourth against Fitchburg, Shrewsbury continues to impress on both lines, and a breakout game from running back A.J. Laramee should help the Colonials deal with the loss of star running back Mike Abasciano, who is out the next month with a broken foot.

5. Shepherd Hill: 3-1, 1-0 SWCL A. Division 4

Last Week: Ranked No. 5. Defeated Grafton 45-6

Another week, and another big rushing performance from the Rams, who piled up over 300 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground against Grafton. Surprisingly, none of those touchdowns came from speedy quarterback Drew Jean-Guillaume, however, the dual-threat signal caller did toss a pair of scores. Those were Jean-Guillaume's first passing touchdowns this season, and the Ram passing game getting going has to be the last thing anybody in Division 4 wanted to see.

In the Hunt: Blackstone Valley Tech (5-0), Littleton (4-0), Auburn (4-1), North Middlesex (3-1), Doherty (3-1), Bartlett (4-0), Tyngsborough (4-0), Uxbridge (4-0), Lunenburg (3-1), Wachusett (3-1), St. Peter-Marian (2-2), Worcester North (3-1), Marlborough (3-1), Maynard (4-0)

BVT continues to dominate, and the Beavers are one loss by a ranked team away from breaking into the Top-5. The same can pretty much be said for Littleton, and these two small-school powers appear to be on a collision course for the D6 Central title game. Auburn bounced back from its loss to Northbridge with a beat down of rival Leicester, avenging a loss from last year, while North Middlesex continues its surprising run to the D2 playoffs, riding the arm and legs of quarterback John Bouthwell, as well as a critical two-point conversion stop, to edge Groton-Dunstable 21-20.

Speaking of North Middlesex, the Patriots' biggest win was their season opener against Doherty, but since then the Highlanders have gotten back on track, winning three in a row, including this weekend's blowout over Inter-High rival Worcester South. Things get VERY interesting for Doherty when it travels to Leominster next week. Bartlett continues to wear people down, and the Indians certainly look like a contender in Division 5 with their stable of backs and powerful line.

Tyngsborough is absolutely demolishing people, defeating opponents by an average of 28 points per game, but level of competition is a question mark for the Tigers, who's opponents are a combined 3-14 this season. The next two weeks will bring more of the same with home dates against 1-3 Clinton and 2-2 Oakmont, but Tyngsborough will get to prove itself with a trip to Northbridge on the 24th.

Uxbridge is another one of those teams that sneaks up on you, and its 7-0 defensive struggle win against North two weeks ago is looking a lot more impressive right now. The Spartans dispatched of David Prouty Saturday, and may be undefeated heading into back-to-back games against Northbridge and Bartlett to end the year.

Lunenburg held strong for nearly an entire half against explosive Northbridge, and it's safe to say that the Blue Knights defense is one of the biggest surprises in the region, holding opponents to just 10 points per game.

Wachusett was Leominster's latest victim, but the Warriors are still not to be dismissed, and SPM scored a huge win over rival Holy Name on the back of three rushing touchdowns from running back Anthony Baldino and a pair from quarterback Seamus Leary. The Guardians are ahead of schedule with their young bunch, and the same could be said about surprising Worcester North, who blasted Inter-High rival Burncoat 35-0 Saturday. Running back Tony Sanchez is one of the region's breakout stars and, don't look now, but the Polar Bears may be able to challenge Doherty for Inter-High supremacy when those two meet at Foley Stadium a week from Friday.

Marlborough has bounced back from a bad 30-6 loss to Milford on opening day to win three in a row, and they've outscored G-D and Westborough 55-0 the last two games out. Things get tougher with trips to Nashoba and North Middlesex in the next two weeks before the Panthers return home to welcome St. John's, but running back Will Cowdrey and a suddenly dominant defense should keep Marlborough afloat against anybody.

Finally, we finish with Maynard, a small school that remains impressively undefeated (outscoring opponents by an average of 33 points per game), but hasn't played a team with more than one win this season. We'll see just what star running back Stephen Peterson and the Tigers are made of as the next two weeks bring big tests at Lunenburg and against Littleton.

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