Monday, November 27, 2017

Previewing the MIAA State Football Championships: Divisions 2 & 3

King Philip is headed back to Gillette, but can the Warriors repeat as state champions against an explosive Lincoln-Sudbury team?
By Matt Feld (@mattyfeld612)

Two weeks ago, high school football fans across Massachusetts welcomed the exciting news that all eight Super Bowls would be played at Gillette Stadium.

Prior to the usual six-game slate on Saturday, a pair of contests would be played Friday night, giving fans of all schools the opportunity to see their team play at the home of the New England Patriots.

Those two Friday night games turned out to arguably be the top two games on the docket.

First up in the Division 3 state championship game is Central Mass champion St. John’s (Shrewsbury) against D3 South champ North Attleboro, two teams that have been explosive all season long.

In the night cap, it’s the Division 2 state title game, where defending champion King Philip will look to cap off its second consecutive undefeated season against Lincoln-Sudbury, a squad that hopes to hand longtime coach Tom Lopez his first Super Bowl win since 1989.

Before we preview a loaded Saturday slate of Super Bowl matchups, lets take a look at those two Friday night affairs.

 Division 3 Super Bowl

St. John’s (Shrewsbury) (12-0) vs. North Attleboro (11-1), 5 pm

Those who enjoy a good, old-fashioned offensive shootout are in for a treat when St. John’s (Shrewsbury) and North Attleboro face off against one another.

Arguably the top quarterback matchup of the season pits St. John’s star Steve Bucciaglia against Red Rocketeers’ veteran Chad Peterson. In an offense that can only be compared to a vintage Chip Kelly style from his days at Oregon, Bucciaglia has compiled video game numbers. On the year, Bucciaglia has over 2,800 passing yards and 42 touchdowns.

Surrounding Bucciaglia is the triple-threat out of the backfield of Eamonn Dennis, Colin Deso, and Dan Byers. Those three have filled in nicely for star back Peter Oliver, who hurt his leg back in September. Cole Drugotch, Jay Brunelle, Zach Pedone and Josh Strestha are the Pioneers main threats on the outside. As a whole, St. John’s has scored 553 points this season, while running its patented no-huddle offense.

The Pioneers are going for their first Super Bowl victory since 2012.
The Red Rocketeers, behind Peterson, seem to be playing their best football at the right time. North Attleboro, looking for its first championship since 2002, rolled through the Division 3 South Sectional playoffs, coming through with a pair of shutouts, including a 35-0 win in the sectional final versus Duxbury. Its defensive front, comprised of a rotation of Ryan Clemente, Marks Burns, and Sam Bullock on the interior, combined with Jeff Wilson and Jason Mcneany, has become a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.

Peterson, meanwhile, allows North Attleboro to keep defenses uneasy, as his athleticism makes him a unique threat both with his arm and on the ground.

Expect plenty of points in this one, with each defense looking to make that one key play to swing the entire game.

Division 2 Super Bowl

Lincoln-Sudbury (11-0) vs. King Philip (11-0), 7:30 pm

It seems only fitting that if King Philip hopes to repeat as state champions, the Warriors will have to do so by knocking off another undefeated opponent.

Lincoln-Sudbury, stewarded by 40-year head coach Tom Lopez, is primed and ready for a battle with the South Sectional Champion Warriors. L-S went through the DCL part of their schedule unscathed, and has outscored its three postseason opponents 114-28. 

Alex Marshall and James Dillon make up a forceful backfield, both seemingly impossible to bring down. Braden O’Connell mans the duties under center and has emerged as one of the more underrated quarterbacks in Massachusetts.

Elusive and athletic, O’Connell has a knack for escaping the rush and either throwing strikes on the run, or running for ample yardage. Defensively, Dillon mans the operation at linebacker. The heart and soul of L-S, however, is undoubtedly its offensive line.

Cal Kenney, Aidan Cavanaugh, Dan Kerrigan, Mike Ciaffoni, and Andrew Guerrea help make Lincoln-Sudbury’s rushing attacks one of the more versatile and dominant in the state. 
On the other side is a King Philip team that is looking to finish off the season with a 25-game winning streak. KP squeaked past Mansfield in the Division 1 South Sectional Semifinals, before coming from behind (thanks to three Shane Frommer touchdowns) to knock off Bridgewater-Raynham and reach its second straight Super Bowl.

Frommer is a workhorse and can be expected to tally at least 20 carries on the evening. Quarterback Brendan Lydon is not flashy, but he enters his second trip to the Super Bowl as a senior who has come to relish the big moment. Lydon, after all, threw for over 200 yards and a pair of touchdown passes in King Philip’s Super Bowl win over Reading a season ago. Frommer, junior linebacker Jack Webster, Andrew Dittrich, and Aiden Bender are the centerpieces of a stingy King Philip defense.

Defending champion King Philip will come in as the favorite, but don’t sleep on one of the best Lincoln-Sudbury teams in recent memory.

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