Thursday, October 30, 2014

Eastern Mass HS Football Playoff Preview

Led by two-way stars Noah Sorrento (#4), Kenny Kern (#45) and Joe Gaziano (#97), Xaverian is the favorite in a loaded Division 1 bracket.
By Mike Uva (@mike_uva), with a cameo by Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Earlier this week, editor Joe Parello gave you his Central Mass playoff preview. Now, correspondent Mike Uva checks in with his thoughts on the Eastern part of the Commonwealth.

Normally, Joe stays out of these Eastern Mass affairs, but he had a few thoughts on some of the smaller divisions. You can find his thoughts sprinkled in below.

Division 1

The Favorite(s): Xaverian

The Hawks cruised through the regular season and finished a perfect 7-0. They might not admit it publicly, but there’s no question this Xaverian team has been fueled after the devastating loss in last year’s Super Bowl.

In order to be an elite team, you need to be able to run the football when it matters most. Kenny Kern and Noah Sorrento have done just that and have been a two-headed monster in the rushing game. The big question is, will running the football be enough?

Although there’s a better chance of seeing a shooting star in the middle of the day in downtown the New York than Xaverian throwing the football more than ten times in a game, Jake Farrell is perfectly capable of slinging the ball around. But can any team force the Hawks to commit more to the pass?

The Contenders(s): Everett, St. John’s Prep, Central Catholic

Things won’t be easy coming out of the Division 1 North bracket, especially with these three teams in the mix. Each team has one loss, have played hot football lately and have some of the best players in the state.

For Everett, when you win 20 straight GBL titles, playoff football becomes almost like celebrating your own birthday - you know when it’s coming and you expect big things. It’s about moving the ball on offense consistently and forcing your opponents to adjust throughout the game to the point where they can’t figure out how to stop you.

For St. John’s Prep, on the other hand, it’s about listening to a coach who knows a thing or two about winning Mass. High School Super Bowls (Brian St. Pierre), and continuing to be an offensive scoring machine. 

Lastly, Central knows it all starts up front in order to be successful running the read option. Mike Milano may be one of the better quarterbacks that has run it this season, but trusting his eyes based on good blocking from his boys up front is the only way the offense will take off running.

The Sleeper(s): BC High

Something just hasn’t seemed right with BC High all season, and because of that, it makes me have feeling that they could surprisingly make a run for the Division 1 State title. Don’t get me wrong, the task at hand won’t be easy, but after seeing how they played against St. John’s Prep and Xaverian, this team is capable of beating any team on any given day.

The issue?

They need to FINISH. If BC High can find a way to put it altogether for four quarters of football, they have the talent to beat anyone.

First Round Game to Watch: BC High vs Brockton

This isn’t the first time these schools will have faced each other this season, as Brockton came out victorious, 31-17 back on Oct 3. Despite running 30 more plays that game than Brockton and converting eight more first downs, BC High couldn’t piece it together for the win.

In order for BC High to win this one, stopping the run between the tackles is a must. In addition, they need to be more discipline on containing the ball carrier, and not allow him to bounce it to the outside once he gets going.

Player to Watch: Oliver Eberth, QB, St. John’s Prep

18 touchdown passes thrown for over 1,000 yards and a completion percentage of nearly 63 percent this season. Did I mention 12 of those 18 touchdown have come in his past three games? Eberth has evolved from a quarterback who battled for the starting job back in August, to one who’s on the verge on breaking numerous records of a program that has been around for over 80 years.

Other thoughts across the state…

Division 2

The Favorite(s): Reading

The Contenders(s): Natick, King Phillip

The Sleeper(s): Newton South

First Round Game to Watch: Haverhill vs Newton South

Player to Watch: Austin Burton, QB, Newton South

Some Thoughts:

-The Division 2 State title may be one of the more entertaining ones to watch. There are plenty of teams capable of taking home the crown but not every team has that same tradition of winning as Reading.

-Newton South’s offense is ridiculous, thanks in large part to the arm of sophomore quarterback Austin Burton. The kid is a fun player to watch and has the capability of taking over a game.

-Haverhill has come a long way since their 40-0 loss to Central in week two and has become one of the more surprising teams this season. But how can they fare versus a team who airs it out nearly 30 plus times a game?

Division 3

The Favorite(s): Walpole, Marblehead

The Contenders(s): Woburn, Somerset-Berkley, Tewksbury

The Sleeper(s): Wakefield, Plymouth South

First Round Game to Watch: Medfield vs North Attleborough

Player to Watch: Jack Lavanchy, WR/OLB/K, Walople

Some Thoughts:

-Jack Lavanchy’s “Kick Heard Around the World” last week against Natick left Walpole with a perfect record in the regular season and the top spot in the Division 3 Southwest. He has a couple big plays left in him and will lead Walpole to Gillette.

-Wakefield and Melrose know each other pretty well. In fact, when the 2014 season is all said and done, these teams will have played each other three times this season, as the two will face-off in Wakefield this year for Thanksgiving. It always seems that it doesn’t matter what the records are when these two play each other, and if Wakefield can get by in the first round, who knows what Warriors’ coach Mike Boyages and his team can do moving forward.

-Ever since Tewksbury put a scare on Everett early this season, they’ve been a team that makes you wonder how many plays away they are from being one of the better teams in the state. After losing to Haverhill 10-0 two weeks ago, the Redmen responded by finishing the year in fashion, defeating Dracut 42-7. Will that momentum carry over into the playoffs?

Division 4

The Favorite(s): Holliston

The Contenders(s): Winthrop

The Sleeper(s): Weston

Some Thoughts: 

The only the thing in the way of Holliston from winning the Division 4 State title this year is themselves. They scored 300 points in the regular season (42.9 per game) and have multiple playmakers who have turned their double-wing formation into pure poetry in motion.

If Central Mass favorite Shepherd Hill ends up meeting Holliston at Gillette, we could see 70 points scored on less than a dozen pass attempts between the two teams.

Division 5

The Favorite(s): Bishop Fenwick

The Contenders(s): Abington, East Bridgewater

The Sleeper(s): East Boston (Editor Joe Parello's Addition: Brighton)

Editor Joe Parello's Take:

-Man, it's tough to bet against Bishop Fenwick and human wrecking ball Rufus Rushins in this bracket, but Boston City North champion Brighton could present an interesting matchup for the Crusaders in the D5 North finals.

Fenwick is now known for suffocating defense and a brutalizing running game, but the Bengals have the bodies and mentality to match the Crusaders on both sides of the ball. Don't get me wrong, Fenwick comes in as the prohibitive favorite in D5 for the whole state, but don't sleep on this city team that plays with a chip on its shoulder.

-In the South, East Bridgewater and Abington seem destined for a mid-October clash. EB's win over Abington last week locked up home field for the Vikings, who are riding a seven-game winning streak. Have to believe they're the favorite in that bracket.

Division 6

The Favorite(s): Pope John Paul II

The Contenders(s): Southeastern, Dorchester

The Sleeper(s): Mashpee

Editor Joe Parello's Take:

We've been talking about PJP taking home the Eastern Mass D6 title all year that it seems like a foregone conclusion. Maybe it is with quarterback Ryan Barabe looking as efficient as any quarterback in the state, and star running back Diego Meritus running over and around defenders. Still, either undefeated (though untested) Southeastern or also unbeaten Nantucket should provide a bit of a test in the South final.

-In the North, Dorchester looks like the best bet to challenge the Lions, after a blowout win over Boston English on the regular season's final week. Perhaps working best in Dorchester's favor is simply playing in the North, where they can avoid PJP, Southeastern, Nantucket, Mashpee and Millis-Hopedale, and still potentially play for an Eastern Mass championship.

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