|West Boylston and St. Bernard's will each play for Central Mass titles Saturday.|
It's finally here!
After over two months of football in the Heart of the Commonwealth, we're finally ready to crown Central Mass HS football champions across six divisions. All six games will be played Saturday at two different neutral sites (Leominster's Doyle Field and Worcester's Foley Stadium), with each winning team moving on to the state semifinals, where they will face the Western Mass champion from their respective division.
This preview will cover Central MA's three smallest divisions, so be on the lookout for a our larger division preview soon!
Nipmuc vs Uxbridge: 6 pm, Foley Stadium
Nipmuc hosted its first playoff game in program history, and did so in style with a 36-8 win over Holy Name, a team that had defeated the Warriors just weeks ago.
Running back Pat Donelan has come on strong for Nipmuc, rushing for three of his seven touchdowns last week against the Naps, and suddenly the Warriors have the look of an explosive attack.
They'll need every bit of firepower they have against quarterback Max White-Cohen and the Spartans. Uxbridge comes into this game with one of the region's best offenses, averaging over 30 points per game, and its passing attack is a huge reason why.
Nipmuc showed they could choke out a run-heavy team like Holy Name last week, and the Warriors achieved a similar feat earlier this year against St. Bernard's, but this a completely new challenge. It should be a fun game all around as two contrasting styles go head-to-head.
West Boylston vs Littleton: 3 pm, Foley Stadium
This game is a rematch of the fantastic regular season finale these two teams played. That game was a 38-26 West Boylston win, and Lions running back/linebacker Cole McCubrey had himself a day. The bruising senior and UMass commit rushed for six touchdowns against the talented Littleton defense, but expect things to be a little tougher this time around.
No amount of film study can prepare a defense for McCubrey's power, but now that the Tigers have seen him in the flesh, I'd expect them to be better prepared to slow the freight train down. No team in the region can completely stop him, but I trust that Littleton has the talent and toughness to contain him enough to hang in this one.
On the other side of the ball, all eyes will be on Littleton's Anthony Rausa. After starting most of the year at running back, Rausa moved to quarterback last week when Griffin Shoemaker was lost to injury. Rausa helped lead Littleton past scrappy Leicester, and it's clear Littleton has confidence in him, which is good, because it looks like Shoemaker is going to miss the rest of the season.
Can Littleton turn the tables this time around? Yes, but it will take a Herculean defensive effort.
Maynard vs St. Bernard's: 3 pm, Doyle Field
Maynard has been the story of the season thus far, and the Tigers will look to keep that story going against St. Bernard's. Maynard has done it on both sides of the ball, averaging 32 points per game, while allowing just 9.6, and they've done it with a roster short on bodies.
St. Bernard's is no stranger to winning without large numbers, as the Bernardians made it all the way to Gillette Stadium last year. Much of that powerful offensive line is back, and running back James Xarras is having a fantastic season behind the big fellas up front.
Both these teams run it well and play great defense, but Maynard seems to have a little more speed. Can St. B's make up for that by bullying the Tigers? We'll find out Saturday.