Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Central Mass HS Football Power Rankings: Week 8

Just two weeks ago, Algonquin was on the ropes, but the T-Hawks are now surging toward the playoffs.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

With only one week left to play in the regular season, Central Mass football is a crazy mess.

Nowhere is the situation messier than in Division 2, where Algonquin is coming off a huge win over Wachusett. For those keeping track at home, Algonquin has now beaten Wachusett, who has beaten St. John's, who has beaten Leominster, who has beaten Algonquin, who has beaten Shrewsbury, who has beaten Shepherd Hill, who has beaten Algonquin…

Yeah, good luck sorting that out, and to make things even more interesting, we've got a de facto playoff game between Leominster and Shrewsbury this weekend.

But it's not just D2, all the divisions across Central Mass have intriguing story lines. Without further ado, here are our Power Rankings heading into the final week of the regular season.

1. Wachusett: 6-1, 2-1 Mid-Wach A. Division 2.

Last Week: Ranked No. 1, lost to Algonquin 21-6.

I debated this for a while, especially with St. John's looking so impressive Saturday, but ultimately I decided to keep the Mountaineers in the top spot. Wachusett has been great throughout this season, but ran into a talented and motivated T-Hawk squad playing its best football. If Wachusett can take care of business Friday against Groton-Dunstable, it will still be in line for a home game in the first round of the playoffs.

2. St. John's (Shrewsbury): 5-2. Division 2.

Last Week: Ranked No. 2, defeated No. 5 Leominster 35-0.

The Pioneers scored the most impressive win in the region, maybe all year, when they thrashed rival Leominster 35-0. You could make a case for the Pioneers at No. 1, and if they beat suddenly-surging Algonquin this weekend, it will be hard to deny them. A win against the T-Hawks would also give St. John's a home playoff game in the first round.

3. Grafton: 7-0, 4-0 SWCL A. Division 3.

Last Week: Ranked No. 3, defeated Uxbridge 34-21.

The Indians continue to roll, and face Auburn in a game for the SWCL A title and top seed in Division 3 Central this Friday.

4. Algonquin: 5-2, 2-2 Mid-Wach A. Division 2.

Last Week: Ranked No. 6, defeated No. 1 Wachusett 21-6.

The Tomahawks have quieted the doubters the last two weeks, and currently sit atop the D2 Central power ratings. A home date with St. John's this Friday will likely determine the top seed in the playoffs, but either way, Algonquin is back in the postseason for the second time under fifth-year coach Justin McKay.

The Tomahawks hadn't made the postseason since 1987 before McKay arrived.

5. Auburn: 7-0, 4-0 SWCL A. Division 3.

Last Week: Ranked No. 4, defeated Southbridge 21-7.

The Rockets look to finish their first perfect regular season since 2012, but it won't be easy at fellow unbeaten Grafton. Don't be surprised to see these two teams meet again a few weeks down the road in the D3 Central title game.

6. Marlboro: 5-2, 4-0 Mid-Wach B. Division 2A.

Last Week: Ranked No. 7, defeated Fitchburg 35-7.

Could the Panthers be flying any more under the radar? This brutally efficient ground game is among the best in the state, and Marlboro has all but locked up the top seed in D2A. For all the talk of the top teams in Division 2, Marlboro may have as good a shot as anybody in the region of making it to Gillette Stadium.

7. Maynard: 7-0, 6-0 Mid-Wach D. Division 4A.

Last Week: Ranked No. 8, defeated Lunenburg 30-8.

The Tigers continue to prove that they're the top small-school team in the region. Maynard can lock up the top seed in Division 4A this weekend, and will head into Central MA's smallest divisional playoff bracket as a heavy favorite.

8. Nashoba: 4-3, 2-1 Mid-Wach B. Division 2A.

Last Week: Ranked No. 9, defeated Shepherd Hill 14-10.

The Chieftains had their backs against the wall, and delivered with a physical victory over Shepherd Hill. Nashoba may not be the undefeated juggernaut it was a season ago, but lookout for the Chieftains come playoff time.

9. Leominster: 4-3, 2-2 Mid-Wach A. Division 2.

Last Week: Ranked No. 5, lost to No. 2 St. John's 35-0.

It has been a season of ups and downs for the Blue Devils, as they mounted a furious comeback against Shepherd Hill two weeks ago, then suffered a deflating loss to St. John's last week. Leominster will have to play like its season hangs in the balance this week against Shrewsbury because, with the Blue Devils sitting at 4th and the Colonials at 5th in the power ratings, it does.

10. Shrewsbury: 4-3, 1-1 Mid-Wach A. Division 2.

Last Week: Unranked, defeated St. Peter-Marian 27-7.

The Colonials find their way back into our rankings after an impressive victory over St. Peter-Marian. Drew Campanale, Chris Campbell and company will now host Leominster in a winner-take-all show down Friday night.

Dropped Out: Nipmuc (5-2. Ranked No. 10 LW)

In the Hunt:
Littleton (6-1), West Boylston (5-1), St. Bernard's (6-1), St. Peter-Marian (5-2), Doherty (4-3), Quabbin (5-2), Blackstone Valley Tech (6-1), Sutton (4-3), Uxbridge (4-3), Leicester (4-3)

A quick note that West Boylston will host Littleton in a huge game Friday, with the winner likely entering our Top 10 heading into the playoffs.

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