Friday, October 10, 2014

Central Mass HS Football Preview: Week 6

St. John's (Shrewsbury) WR/S Davon Jones will be critical for the Pioneers, on both sides of the ball, against cross-town rival Shrewsbury.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

We've already looked back on Week 5 of Central Mass high school football in my latest Power Rankings, so let's move right onto previewing this weekend's games.

Game of the Week

No. 4 Shrewsbury at No. 2 St. John's (Shrewsbury), Saturday at 2 pm

Other than just Power Rankings and media polls, this game has major ramifications for the Division 2 Central playoffs. Shrewsbury currently has the inside track to home field advantage in the postseason, but D2 favorite St. John's can seize it with a home win over the rival Colonials.

Many have already conceded D2 Central to the Pioneers, but consider the following:

Shrewsbury has shown itself capable of both blowing out smaller opponents, as well as winning close games, and the powerful Colonials offensive line has paved the way for one of the region's best rush offenses. Add in the breakout season of quarterback Jack Campanale, and this could be the most complete attack St. John's has seen so far.

Also, never discount the rivalry factor. Shrewsbury has knocked off its cross-town rival the last two years. Both games were decided by less than a touchdown, so if this one is tight, the kids on the Shrewsbury sideline should feel plenty comfortable.

Sneaky Good Game of the Week

Doherty at No. 3 Leominster, Friday at 7 pm

Leominster scored a few impressive wins before being upset by St. John's in last year's D2 Central final, including one over eventual D4 state champion Doherty. That game was Doherty's only loss last year, and this year's Highlanders would like to forge their only legacy by scoring a win in, perhaps, Central MA's most feared venue: Leominster's Doyle Field.

It won't be easy for either team, however, as each is hitting its stride, led by powerful ground games on offense and tons of speed on defense. The Highlanders will look to get speedy back Jahkari Carpenter into space, while the Blue Devils have turned Eddie Rivera into a threat as both a running back and Wildcat quarterback.

It's hard to bet against Leominster at Doyle, but both of these teams have a world of talent, and seem to be finding themselves. It could come down to which quarterback can make a play near the end, so Doherty's Eric Vecsey and Leominster's Noah Gray may serve as the proverbial "X-factors."

Other Games to Watch


Bartlett at No. 1 Northbridge, Friday at 7 pm
Marlborough at Nashoba, 7 pm
North Middlesex at Fitchburg, 7 pm
St. Bernard's at Littleton, 7 pm

Bartlett gets its first true test of the season, and boy is it a doozy. Division 5 Central favorite, and reigning champion, Northbridge has plenty of firepower, but they haven't faced a team with as much pop in the trenches as Bartlett. This could turn into a "speed vs power" match up.

Marlborough and Nashoba seem to be two ships passing in the night, as the Panthers have bounced back from an opening day loss to rattle off three in a row, while Nashoba has lost three in a row after winning on opening weekend. The Chieftains still have enough talent to play with anybody, but with the way Will Cowdrey and the Panthers are running the ball, Nashoba will have to put together its best game to end the losing streak.

North Middlesex continues to be the surprise story in the region, and a win over winless, but still competitive Fitchburg, will push the Patriots ever closer to a playoff spot in Division 2.

Finally we have a battle of small-school unbeatens, as reigning Division 6 state champion Littleton and star Connor Bassett host surprisingly undefeated St. Bernard's. The Bernardians are beating opponents by over 22 points per game, but Littleton is miles ahead of anybody they've seen yet. This could end up being the biggest test of the season, so far, for both teams.


No. 5 Shepherd Hill at Wachusett, 3 pm

Shepherd Hill still holds its status as the CMass favorite in D4, for now, despite a loss to Leominster two weeks ago, while Wachusett hopes to bounce back from a loss against Leominster last week, where it really never found its footing.

SH looked more competitive against the Blue Devils, but Wachusett needs this win more. We'll see what happens in an intriguing Saturday afternoon match up that is sure to feature some pads poppin.'

Player to Watch

Davon Jones, Sr. WR/S, St. John's (Shrewsbury)

Shrewsbury will be without star running back Mike Abasciano (though sophomore A.J. Laramee filled in admirably last week), so the Colonials may need to throw a bit more this week against St. John's. That could mean a big day for rangy safety Davon Jones.

A BC commit, Jones is arguably the state's best defensive back, and a big play receiver on the offensive side of the ball. If Shrewsbury looks to throw the ball down the field, quarterback Jack Campanale will have to locate #24 before the snap each play, and the Pioneers may look for him to make some big plays down the field, as running against the physical Colonials front is no easy proposition.

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