Thursday, October 12, 2017

Your Massachusetts HS Football Weekend Primer: Week 6

Defending state champion Mashpee will take on one of the best Nantucket teams in recent memory in a battle of unbeatens.
By Matt Feld (@mattyfeld612)

With just two weeks left in the MIAA regular season, playoff seeding and conference standings are beginning to take shape.

While a fair amount of divisions appear to be set in stone, a number of questions still remain. The number one seed in Division 1 North remains up for grabs, as Everett, Central Catholic, and Lexington all have shots to claim home field advantage throughout the sectionals.

Division 2 South seems to be a two-team race for the top spot between reigning state champion King Philip and unbeaten Natick, while Lynn Classical and Lynn English are battling for supremacy in Division 3 north.

St. John’s (Shrewsbury) is in the driver’s seat for the number one slot in Division 3 Central, as long as the Pioneers can hold off Shepherd Hill this weekend.

Perhaps the most intriguing race, however, is in Division 7 South, where a pair of Cape Cod powers in Nantucket and Mashpee are both 5-0 with a matchup looming this Friday.

Here are the games this weekend with the most pressing implications.

Marshfield at Dennis-Yarmouth, Friday at 7pm

Marshfield has cruised since their loss in Week Two versus No. 2 BC High. This week promises to be much different, as the Rams travel to take on unbeaten Dennis-Yarmouth in an Atlantic Coast Conference clash.

The Ram offense has been on a roll over the last three weeks, posting 57, 35, and 54 points respectively. Christian Phinney and Jack McNeil have combined to form a lethal combination out of the backfield, totaling 629 yards on the ground. McNeil is personally rushing for a staggering 22.2 yards per attempt.

The Dolphins have been nothing short of dominant to date holding opponents to a mere 64 points through their first five contests. In just one instance has the Dennis-Yarmouth defense allowed more than 14 points, and that came in a 48-28 win over Plymouth North. They have not given up more than seven points in each of their last three games.

If the Dennis-Yarmouth passing attack, highlighted by quarterback Jacob McCarthy and athletic wideout Daryan Thompson, can find a rhythm early and put a physical Rams team on its heels, an upset could begin to brew.

Nantucket at Mashpee, Friday at 4pm

Another top of the line matchup taking place on the Cape pits south rivals Nantucket and Mashpee against one another.

Mashpee’s prowess on the ground is well documented with Tyler Cuozzo becoming a daunting presence while filling in for DeVaun Ford. In tandem with that, the Falcons' overall offense has been nothing short of prolific, with quarterback Jake Johnston (nine TDs) teaming up with Cuozo to engineer an attack that has combined for 196 points through five games.

Nantucket enters supporting a defense that has allowed just 20 points so far this year, and has a pair of shutouts to its name. Seniors Owen West and Mark Hamilton have been the staples of the unit.

On offense, senior quarterback Jack Holdgate continued to show off his capabilities against Sacred Heart in Week Five, throwing for three touchdowns.

Whether the Falcons' prolific running attack can take control against the Whalers' top-tier front seven appears to be the biggest question.

Central Catholic at Lowell, Friday at 7pm

There is no rest for the weary as, one week after taking on the dynamic Everett offense, Lowell takes on spotless Central Catholic with major Merrimack Valley Conference implications hanging in the balance.

The veteran Raiders continued to cruise on both sides of the ball in their 40-6 win over Haverhill on Saturday, with senior quarterback Bret Edwards and running back Max Faro combining for four touchdowns. Central’s offensive line continues to provide openings for weapon Ty Donatio and Faro out of the backfield.

Defensively, Mathias Villafane and Joseph Howshan have been part of a lockdown secondary.

Lowell proved that they belong in the conversation among the top teams in Division 1, as their offense played well against a nationally acclaimed Everett defense.

The Red Raiders have put up more than 30 points in four of their five contests, with their low point being 27 on the season. Running back Tony Doung will need to come up big against a veteran Central Catholic defensive line if Lowell hopes to secure a key conference win.

St. John’s Prep at BC High, Friday at 7pm

A few weeks ago this game looked to be tilting heavily in BC High’s direction, with St. John’s Prep filled with inexperience on both sides of the ball and struggling to gain any traction offensively.

The move of Matt Crowley to quarterback, however, and has made this game an instant toss-up.

The Prep now boasts a passing attack that BC High has yet to see so far this year. Max Freedman, Luke Brennan, and Mike Yarin are all legitimate weapons, while Aise Pream is a dynamic running back.

Host BC High has followed a familiar formula all season. Their running attack has been amongs the best in Massachusetts, with star running back Danny Abraham rushing for over 280 yards on two separate occasions, while quarterback Will Bowen has provided balance.

Bobby DeMeo has provided a third potential threat out of the backfield and wide receiver Luke Murphy has become a threat in the passing game.

Even though St. John’s Prep continues to improve, a potential vulnerability is the Eagle pass defense. Catholic Memorial found success through the air on three separate drives against SJP last week, while Everett and Central Catholic both began their respective contests with the Prep by throwing at will.

If BC High hopes to gain an edge and pull out their first victory over the Prep since 2013, establishing a legitimate passing attack early to keep up with the Prep offense seems necessary.

Shepherd Hill at St. John’s (Shrewsbury), Saturday at 1pm

One week after Shrewsbury took St. John’s (Shrewsbury) to the wire, Shepherd Hill will look to finish the upset the Colonials were unable to.

The Rams are coming off one of the more thrilling contests in all of Massachusetts so far this season as a last second defensive stand on an opposing two-point try got them past Wachusett, 41-40.

Nathaniel Cooper crossed the goal line three times against the Mountaineers, and poses a threat to the Pioneers’ defense and kick coverage units. In the Ram backfield, Zach Magdis and Ben Carpenter form one of the state's best "thunder and lightning" running back duos, while Mitch Sullivan keeps opposing teams off balance at the quarterback position.

The Ram defense now faces a tall task going up against an offense that has is among the top in the state.

Pioneers quarterback Steven Bucciagla is bound to set Central Mass passing records, and the senior outdid himself once again last week, throwing for 415 yards and three touchdowns in the 45-34 over Shrewsbury. Bucciaglia also added a rushing touchdown.

Coleman Drugotch is one of the top receivers in the section, and special teams extraordinaire Eamonn Dennis is never afraid to show off the jets.

If Shepherd Hill wants any hope of overtaking St. John’s, the same defense that showed itself on the Mountaineers' final drive of the game last week will need to be present throughout Saturday afternoon.

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