Monday, September 21, 2015

Central Mass HS Football Power Rankings: Week 3

Doherty RB/DL Tavian Vassar packs a punch for the Highlanders.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Teams around Central Mass had little time to catch their breath in the season's second week, as league play started across the Mid-Wach and SWCL, including a showdown between regional powers Leominster and Shepherd Hill.

One Mid-Wach squad shot itself way up in our rankings, while another has fallen out completely. See our complete Top-10 below.

1. Leominster: 2-0, Division 2

Last Week: Ranked No. 1, defeated No. 4 Shepherd Hill 36-26.

Junior quarterback Noah Gray is living up to every bit of his preseason hype, throwing for four touchdowns against a good Shepherd Hill defense, with three of those going to star athlete Derek Franks. The Blue Devils are absolutely loaded with speed this year, but after Saturday's win against the Rams, we can safely assume they're plenty tough too.

Things get no easier for Leominster, though, as the Blue Devils hit the road for a date with St. Peter-Marian next week.

2. Northbridge: 2-0, Division 5

Last Week: Ranked No. 3, defeated Bartlett 35-0.

These Rams continue to dominate and remind us that they may be the best collection of talent in the school's illustrious history. Quarterback Koby Schofer had another stellar evening, rushing for a pair of touchdowns, then throwing three to classmate Chandler Brooks. Things will get tougher the next two weeks when the Rams host Auburn next Saturday, then Grafton the following Friday.

3. St. John's: 1-1, Division 2

Last Week: Ranked No. 2, lost to Catholic Memorial 14-4.

Even in defeat, you have to be impressed with the defensive effort from St. John's. The Pioneers will only get better offensively as the year goes on, but being held off the board, even against a good opponent, is always cause for concern in the St. John's "Blur" scheme.

4. St. Peter-Marian: 2-0, Division 4

Last Week: Ranked No. 5, defeated Groton-Dunstable 30-6.

It was a big week for senior Alec Simonovitch, who opened the scoring by returning a fumble 40 yards for a touchdown, then got on the board catching a touchdown early in the second half. Add in some great play from quarterback Seamus Leary (1 TD rushing, 1 TD passing) and you get a solid day all around from the Guardians, who suddenly look very dangerous in Division 4.

Things really get going for SPM the next two weeks, as it hosts No. 1 Leominster, then Worcester rival Doherty.

5. Wachusett: 2-0, Division 2

Last Week: Ranked No. 9, defeated No. 8 Fitchburg 28-0.

In what was a "show me" game in Division 2, Wachusett showed it was ready to be contender, doing a little bit of everything in a blowout win of reigning Division 2 Central champion Fitchburg. The Mountaineers ran for a pair of scores in the first half, then returned an interception and a punt for touchdowns in the second half of a dominant defensive effort. Next week will bring another big Mid-Wach and Division 2 game as Nashoba comes to town.

6. Shepherd Hill: 0-2, Division 4

Last Week: Ranked No. 4, lost to No. 1 Leominster 36-26.

Another week, and another tough loss to one of the region's best programs for Shepherd Hill. You can't penalize the Rams much, as nobody in Central Mass has opened with a harder pair of games, but with four straight games against Mid-Wach mainstays coming up (Shrewsbury, at Nashoba, Wachusett and at Fitchburg), Shepherd Hill needs to get going to build some momentum for the postseason.

7. Littleton: 2-0, Division 6

Last Week: Ranked No. 6, defeated Maynard 24-0.

Another week and another dominant performance for Central Mass' best small-school program. Quarterback Connor Bassett already has four touchdown passes on the young season, two of them to star receiver Chris Renaccio.

8. Doherty: 2-0, Division 4

Last Week: Ranked No. 7, defeated Holy Name 42-30.

The Highlanders fall a spot because of Wachusett's rise, but I actually feel better about the Highlanders after they handled a good Holy Name team, despite the outstanding play of Nap junior Kevin Mensah. We knew Doherty could run the ball with Tavian Vassar, but we also saw some good running from power back Manny Brown, and some excellent passing from senior quarterback Nick David.

The Highlanders now boast a balanced attack, and it will be interesting to see how much they can score against Division 4's top teams.

9. Nashoba: 2-0, Division 2

Last Week: Ranked No. 10, defeated Shrewsbury 20-7

Quarterback Robby Atwood answered the bell for the Chieftains last week, scoring a pair of rushing touchdowns and adding another score through the air. It was a surprisingly easy win for Nashoba against a solid Division 2 opponent, and certainly a good sign for a program looking to be back on the uptick.

10. Grafton: 2-0, Division 4

Last Week: Unranked, defeated Uxbridge 21-13.

The Indians scored a nice win over scrappy Uxbridge, and will look to challenge Northbridge for league supremacy in SWCL A. The next three weeks could tell the story of the season for Grafton, which hits the road for games at league rivals Tantasqua, Northbridge and Auburn.

The Indians could be one to watch in Division 4, as running back Matt O'Brien (who I may have snubbed as a middie last spring on my CMass Lacrosse All Star Team) is off to a blazing start, rushing for nearly 500 yards on almost 10 yards per carry the first two games.

Dropped Out: Fitchburg (Ranked 8th Last Week)

The Red Raiders tumble out of our Power Rankings after a shutout loss to Wachusett drops them to 0-2 on the year. Fitchburg certainly has talent and toughness on defense, but manufacturing points will be a concern going ahead as the Raiders hope to make some noise in Division 2. Just making the playoffs will be a challenge at this point, but after last year's magical run, don't count Fitchburg out quite yet.

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