Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Central Mass HS Football Power Rankings: End of 2015

Senior running back/defensive back Jake Benjamin did a little bit of everything for Nashoba during the Chieftains' run to a Division 2 state championship.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

It was a wild season of high school football here in Central Massachusetts, as three CMass teams advanced to Gillette Stadium, with a pair of them taking home state titles.

It was a competitive year across all divisions in the region, and several programs re-emerged as powers on the state level.

We haven't done our Power Rankings since the regular season ended, so these final rankings will include the entire playoffs, and even give credit to non-playoff teams that took advantage of some big games in their consolation schedule.

Who's in and who's out? Find out below.

Power Rankings

1. Nashoba: 13-0, Division 2

Accolades: Division 2 State Champions, Division 2 Central Champions, Mid-Wach A Champions.

Not much more you can say about the Chieftains, who rode their dominant lines and opportunistic play makers all the way to a state championship. A perfect season in the region's toughest division, with last-minute wins over the top teams in Central and Western Mass (Leominster, St. John's and Springfield Central), along with a dominant Super Bowl performance against Reading make Nashoba out top team of 2015.

2. Northbridge: 12-1, Division 5

Accolades: Division 5 State Champions, Division 5 Central Champions, SWCL A Champions

Northbridge made this decision plenty hard though, with a fantastic group of seniors that has gone a combined 34-5 the last three years, with a trio of appearances at Gillette Stadium and a state title.

Koby Schofer, Jake Wood, Mike Quinn, Chandler Brooks, Keenan Quinama and company can be forgiven for a Thanksgiving Day loss where the Rams rested their starters, because in the end Northbridge captured that elusive state-wide championship.

With as much talent as anybody, and the hardware to prove it, this year's Northbridge squad. was a team for the ages.

3. St. John's (Shrewsbury): 8-3, Division 2

Accolades: Division 2 Central Finalist

Only a last-minute goal line stand from Nashoba could keep St. John's from capturing the D2 Central title, and this year's Pioneers group was a fun one. Led by dual-threat quarterback Tim Cassidy, powerful lineman Sean Ragan, and slippery receiver Cam Lucey, St. John's boasted one of the region's best offenses, but it was an ever-improving defense led by junior linebacker John Fields that made the Pioneers true contenders.

4. Leominster: 8-3, Division 2

Accolades: Division 2 Central Semifinalist, Mid-Wach A Runner-Up

Leominster endured some heart-break this year, falling in dramatic fashion to Nashoba in the regular season, then losing a similarly tight game to St. John's in the playoffs. Still, that shouldn't take away from what was one of the most exciting teams in the state, led by quarterback Noah Gray, athletic brothers Kyle and Keith Jackson, and powerful lineman Ed Cuddahy.

As great as Nashoba was this year, both Leominster and St. John's were right there. Division 2 was as competitive as it's ever been in 2015.

5. Grafton: 8-4, Division 4

Accolades: Division 4 Central Champions

The Indians were one of several Cinderella stories in the region this year, capturing the D4 Central title behind star senior running back Matt O'Brien, breakout junior athlete Ifeatu Melifonwu, a pair of underrated lines, and one of the craziest plays you'll ever see.

A hard-nosed team that found ways to win, Grafton upset Tantasqua and Holy Name in the sectional tournament to bring home the CMass crown.

6. Holy Name: 6-5, Division 4

Accolades: Division 4 Central Finalist

The victims of that crazy play against Grafton, the Naps were a great story in their own right. A Division 4 afterthought coming into the year, Holy Name went on a memorable run at the end of the season to qualify for the state tournament. Holy Name bounced back from a tight-loss to Algonquin to upset St. Peter-Marian the following week, then defeated Gardner to qualify for the playoffs.

In the D4 tournament, the Naps shocked the region by upsetting recent power Doherty in the first round, behind the running of star backs Kevin Mensah and Thomas Lech.

7. St. Bernard's: 11-1, Division 6

Accolades: Division 6 State Finalist, Division 6 Central Champions, Dual Valley Champions

Speaking of underdog stories, few are bigger, or, uh, smaller, than St. Bernard's. Led by 5-foot-3 quarterback Cooper Bigelow, the Bernardians shocked the state by making it to Gillette behind a series of impressive victories.

St. B's got physical to win the D6 Central title against West Boylston in a 7-6 slug fest, then blasted Lee to advance to Gillette. The Bernardians were actually tied with eventual champion Mashpee 8-8 in the fourth quarter of the title game, but just couldn't keep up with Falcons running back DeShaun Dias.

Even with a disappointing finish, it was a fantastic ride for St. Bernard's, one these kids will never forget.

8. Marlboro: 7-4, Division 2

Accolades: Mid-Wach B Champions, Division 2 Central Semifinalist.

Perhaps lost in the Division 2 shuffle is Marlboro, a team that scored an impressive win over Algonquin early, then shocked the region by beating Leominster in the D2 consolation game.

Led by star back Owen Cappadona and a powerful offensive line, the Panthers could run the ball as well as anybody, and were a tough out, even for the talented teams in Division 2.

9. West Boylston: 9-2, Division 6

Accolades: Mid-Wach D Champions, Division 6 Central Finalist.

Much has been made of bulldozer junior running back/linebacker Cole McCubrey, who led the region in rushing with exactly 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns (all on 10.5 yards per carry), and rightfully so, but the Lions were more than just a one-man show.

The defense was a complete unit that held opponents to just 12 points per game, and the offensive line, led by Mark Campbell, developed into one of the best in the region. Quarterback Tim McQuade also enjoyed a fine season as a decision maker in the both the pass and run game for West Boylston.

Call coach Mike Ross' first year a success at West Boylston, and the Lions have plenty to build on for 2016.

10. Algonquin: 8-3, Division 2

Accolades: Mid-Wach B Runner-Up, best record since 1986.

Algonquin was left for dead after opening the season 0-2, but the T-Hawks would win five of their next six, barely missing the hotly-contested Division 2 playoffs, and finishing second to Marlboro in Mid-Wach B.

Even those two early season losses (close ones to No. 8 Marlboro and No. 1 Nashoba) show just how good this team was all year. Add in a non-playoff win over perennial power Shepherd Hill, and the program's first eight-win season since the mid-80s (and first back-to-back winning seasons since 86-87), and you have a group on the rise in Northborough.

Best of the Rest

11. Littleton: 10-1 (D6 Central Semifinalist, Mid-Wach C Champs)
12. Tantasqua: 6-5 (D4 Central Semifinalist, SWCL B Runner-Up)
13. Shepherd Hill: 6-5
14. Doherty: 8-3 (Inter-High Champs)
15. Wachusett: 7-4
16. Uxbridge: 8-3 (SWCL B Champs)
17. Leicester: 8-3 (SWCL B Runner-Up)
18. Monty Tech: 10-2 (Voke Bowl Champs)
19. Groton-Dunstable: 7-4
20. Auburn: 7-4

No comments :