Monday, October 26, 2015

Central Mass HS Football Power Rankings: Week 8

Leominster quarterback Noah Gray and coach Dave Palazzi will lead the Blue Devils against rival St. John's (Shrewsbury) Friday.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

There's only one week left in the regular season here in the Heart of the Commonwealth, and much is still to be decided. With playoff spots up for grabs in Divisions 2, 4, 5 and 6, this final week could bring some drama.

Check out our Week 8 Power Rankings below, followed by games to watch this week for teams on the playoff bubble.

Power Rankings

1. Nashoba: 7-0, Division 2

Last Week: Ranked No. 1, defeated Fitchburg 28-7.

There was no big-game hangover for the Chieftains, who won Mid-Wach A outright against Fitchburg last week, and are now a win against Clinton away from locking up home field advantage in Division 2 Central. With a great offensive line, solid stable of backs and play making defense, Nashoba looks built for postseason success.

2. Northbridge: 7-0, Division 5

Last Week: Ranked No. 2, defeated No. 6 Tantasqua 42-7.

The Rams' historic shutout streak came to an end last week when they gave up a touchdown to Tantasqua. After that score, the Rams are now surrendering a staggering… One point per game. Clearly Northbridge is the team to beat in Division 5, but an interesting game looms this week against D5 contender Leicester.

3. Leominster: 6-1, Division 2

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

The Blue Devils bounced back from their first loss of the year to trounce Shrewsbury 35-0. Now their sights will turn to the other team from Shrewsbury, hated rival St. John's, which comes to Leominster Friday night for what should be another classic between these CMass powers.

Winner grabs the No. 2 seed in D2 Central (with an outside shot at the top spot), and likely home field advantage for the playoff rematch between these two.

4. St. John's (Shrewsbury): 6-1, Division 2

Last Week: Ranked No. 4, defeated Marlborough 27-13.

The last few years, all the talk around St. John's has centered around its up-tempo offense that has scored points in the bunches. This year's Pioneer offense, led by quarterback Tim Cassidy, is certainly potent, but it's the St. John's defense that just might make this team a state title contender in Division 2.

Against a brutal schedule, that includes a big win over Connecticut power Xavier, the Pioneers are giving up only 14 PPG, and have gotten better as games have worn on. That unit will have its biggest test this week at Leominster against quarterback Noah Gray.

5. Littleton: 7-0, Division 6

Last Week: Ranked No. 5, defeated Tyngsboro 32-6.

What many thought could be an exciting de facto title game in Mid-Wach C turned into a laugher as Littleton rolled at Tyngsboro 32-6. The Tiger defense, which is allowing just over 2.5 points per game, may be the most overlooked unit in Central Mass, and the Littleton ground game, built around running backs Griffin Shoemaker and Nick Fontanella, along with dual-threat quarterback Connor Bassett, is really hitting its stride.

6. Doherty: 6-1, Division 4

Last Week: Ranked No. 7, defeated No. 10 Grafton 25-19.

A week after dropping a close one to Tantasqua, the Highlanders bounced back to defeat fellow D4 contender, and budding rival, Grafton. It was again an all-around team effort for Doherty, as Ricky Webster took another kickoff back to the house, Aaron Adu pulled in a pair of long touchdown catches from quarterback Nick David, including the game-winner, while Tavian Vassar continued to get it done on the ground.

The top seed in Division 4 will be Doherty's if it can take care of business this week against North Middlesex.

7. Tantasqua: 5-2, Division 4

Last Week: Ranked No. 6, lost to No. 2 Northbridge 42-7.

The Warriors fell to powerhouse Northbridge, but did manage to score the first points against the Rams all season. Tantasqua is playoff-bound, but a Friday test at David Prouty could mean the difference between a home and away game in the first round.

8. Uxbridge: 6-1, Division 5

Last Week: Ranked No. 8, defeated Millbury 27-6.

It was another big week for quarterback Max White-Cohen, who threw for over 250 yards and a pair of scores in a blowout win against Millbury. An interesting challenge awaits the Spartans next week against unbeaten St. Bernard's.

9. St. Bernard's: 7-0, Division 6

Last Week: Unranked, defeated Monty Tech 41-0.

The undefeated Bernardians make their debut in our rankings, and could be Littleton's biggest challenger in Division 6 Central. St. B's will have a chance to further prove itself in a Halloween game at D5 contender Uxbridge, and will look to show the region that it's second-ranked scoring offense (over 36 PPG) can score on anyone.

10. Holy Name: 4-3, Division 4

Last Week: Unranked, defeated No. 9 St. Peter-Marian 24-21.

The Naps dropped a close one to surprising Algonquin two weeks ago, and many thought their playoff hopes went out the door with that defeat. Undaunted, Holy Name bounced back to knock off fellow Division 4 contender and league foe St. Peter-Marian in a classic.

Though the Naps still sit on the outside looking in at the Division 4 playoffs, a win next week against Gardner would put them in position to steal the fourth and final playoff spot from the loser of the Grafton-Nipmuc game.

Star running back Kevin Mensah is running the ball as well as anyone in Central Mass, and Holy Name could be the surprise team to watch in D4.

Dropped Out: St. Peter-Marian (Ranked No. 9 Last Week) and Grafton (Ranked No. 10 Last Week)

SPM's loss to Holy Name has suddenly put the Guardians' playoff hopes on life support, but Grafton is still in good shape in Division 4, assuming they can take care of business this week against Nipmuc.

Games to Watch

Division 2

Shrewsbury at Algonquin
Fitchburg at Marlboro
Nashoba at Clinton
St. John's (Shrewsbury) at Leominster

Marlboro is clinging to the No. 4 seed in D2 Central, but a loss to Fitchburg would open the door for surprising Algonquin, should the T-Hawks defeat neighboring Shrewsbury.

At the top of the division, Nashoba can lock up the top spot with a win over Clinton, but if the Chieftains are upset, then St. John's is close enough to grab the No. 1 seed with a win at Leominster.

Division 4

Gardner at Holy Name
Nipmuc at Grafton
St. Peter-Marian at Wachusett
Quabbin at Shepherd Hill

Holy Name seems to have a win and in scenario against Gardner, as the Naps currently sit at No. 5 in D4 Central Power Ratings, just behind Grafton and Nipmuc. As you can see, one of those teams has to lose this week.

But, if the Naps lose, SPM still has a chance with a tough game against Wachusett, and if the Guardians should lose, Shepherd Hill, a team that began the year 0-4, could complete an improbable turnaround and grab the No. 4 seed.

Division 5

Leicester at Northbridge
Tyngsboro at Auburn
Nashoba at Clinton
Hudson at Oakmont

Northbridge will look to complete a perfect regular season, but Leicester has a chance to grab a top-2 seed in D5 Central with a win. Meanwhile, Tyngsboro will look to lock up a playoff spot at Auburn, but a loss there could open up room for Clinton, should it upset Nashoba, or Oakmont if the Spartans can top Hudson.

Division 6

West Boylston at Bartlett
St. Bernard's at Uxbridge
Blackstone Valley Tech at Nashoba Valley Tech
Narragansett at Monty Tech

West Boylston and St. B's are each battling for a home playoff game and the No. 2 seed. Both will take on D5 competition this week, and if they both win, the Bernardians will take the second seed. But, if they should slip up and West Boylston knocks off Bartlett, that could flip.

BVT has a simple win and it's in scenario against Nashoba Tech, but should the Beavers lose, Monty Tech has a chance to steal a postseason bid against Narragansett.

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