Thursday, November 9, 2017

Your MIAA Football Sectional Finals Preview: The North and South

By Matt Feld (@mattyfeld612)

The sectional championships are upon us for MIAA football, and this weekend brings a slew of tremendous matchups as we continue our journey down the Road to Gillette Stadium.

In Eastern Massachusetts, we're prepping for an astonishing 16 sectional title games, as EMass teams will play for sectional titles in all eight divisions of the North and South sections. While we obviously can't go in-depth on every single one of those games, here are the matchups, players and story lines to watch in the North and South.


Primetime Matchup: No. 3 Everett vs. No. 1 Central Catholic, Division 1

If there was one team fans have thought all along had a shot at dethroning the Crimson Tide, Central Catholic was it. In a battle of the unbeaten, Division 1 favorite Everett will travel to the top overall seed in Division 1 North, Central Catholic, with a trip to Gillette Stadium on the line.

All season long the sides have been at their best, often taking the life out of their opponents well before halftime. The Crimson Tide, bolstered by their multitude of weapons, quality offensive line, and stout secondary have outscored teams 352-120 through eight games. Jake Willcox has been terrific in his first year under center totaling 21 touchdowns while Isaiah Likely, Mike Saniristil and Jason Maitre are as quick as they come on the outside. Defensively, Lewis Cine and Duane Binns lead a stalwart unit.

On the flip side is a veteran Raiders team that is more than up to the task. Quarterback Bret Edwards has experience playing in multiple big games including a state title back in 2015 versus Xaverian (Central Catholic defeated Everett in the sectional final that year). Max Faro and Ty Donatio formulate a potent ground game while a senior heavy offensive line is one of the tops in Massachusetts.

The hallmark of Central Catholic, however, is their defense, which continues to frustrate opposing offenses. Jackson Clark has become a fierce pass rusher while Joe Howshan and Mathias Villafane have been dominant manning the secondary. Over the course of nine games Central Catholic has allowed just 99 points, holding teams to seven points or less on five separate occasions.

If Central Catholic hopes to knock off Everett there may be no more important stat than time of possession. Lexington and St. John’s Prep failed to keep Everett’s offense off the field, possessing the ball for only a matter of minutes before turning it back over to Willcox and the Crimson Tide offense.

Should Edwards, Donatio, and Faro be able to control the pace of play and create long, time draining drives it may be just enough to leave open the possibility of a sectional final victory.

Player’s Thoughts: “Our defense has been forcing key turnovers and making big stops all year which often gives the momentum back to the offense,” said Willcox. “If the guys can keep doing that and our offensively can be as aggressive and fired up as they have been we should have a good shot hopefully.”

“We just have to have a good week of practice and follow our keys in the game,” said Edwards. “We have the best coaches in the state and they know what it takes to get there.”

Feld’s Pick: 37-20, Everett

Underrated Game to Watch:
No. 2 Marblehead vs. No. 1 Melrose, Division 4

In another battle of teams with a “zero” in the loss column, Marblehead will take a trip to Melrose in the Division 4 North Sectional Final. While being the number one overall seed in the section Melrose has had anything but an easy road up to this point.

The Red Raiders squeaked past Dracut, 14-10, before barely edging past North Reading, 28-27.

Isaac Seide has been the catalyst for the Melrose offense, making plays both out of the backfield and on special teams. That was no different last Friday when Seide ran for 111 yards and three touchdowns in Melrose’s win over North Reading. The quarterback tandem of Jack Sullivan and Charlie Stanton keeps opposing defenses off balance while wide receiver Michael Fennell has emerged as a legitimate threat. Colin Kiernan and Adam Caffey lead a talented defense.

Marblehead, meanwhile, knocked off Wakefield in their opening round contest before getting past Wilmington, 24-17, to reach the sectional final. Seamus Keaney sealed the Magicians’ win over Wilmington with an interception in the game’s final minute. Tim Cronin has been the key offensive weapon for Marblehead out of the backfield while the defense has allowed double-digit point totals on just three occasions.

Expect a tight one, as neither of these unbeatens will go down without a fight.

Feld’s Pick: 21-18, Marblehead

Player to Watch: John Korte, Sr., Wide Receiver, Watertown, Division 5

Korte has been one of the top wide receivers all season, using his height and hands to create a large advantage over opposing corners. He was big in Watertown’s opening round win versus Swampscott, catching a game winning 86-yard touchdown pass, as well as coming up with a pass break up in the game’s final moments.

If Watertown is to get past Lynnfield and claim the Division 5 North Sectional Title, Korte will be at the top of reasons why.


Primetime Matchup: No. 3 Bridgewater-Raynham vs. No. 1 King Philip, Division 2

If Everett vs. Central Catholic is the most highly anticipated matchup of the season, then Bridgewater-Raynham vs. King Philip is a more than adequate second fiddle. Luckily for local high school football fans, while the Crimson Tide and Raiders play Saturday evening, the Trojans will travel to King Philip on Friday night. So you could check out both games, if you're feeling ambitious.

A number of interesting story lines form this matchup. Chief among them is the fact that B-R is hoping for revenge from a year ago when King Philip bested the Trojans, 33-28, to claim the sectional title. While there is no doubt that the Warriors’ eventual state championship win over Reading is most memorable, a number of the King Philip faithful would tell you that the sectional final win over B-R is the biggest victory in the team’s now 22-game winning streak.
Bridgewater-Raynham is bolstered by the running back tandem of Bryce Shaw and Devante Greaves, which has overpowered opponents for most of the season. The two are complemented well by quarterback Corey Sullivan who, while not a traditional deep ball threat, has been solid on third down, especially in clutch spots.

Defensively, Shaw is the anchor, providing pressure up the middle while also having an impact in pass coverage. The Trojans have won seven straight games since a week two loss against Xaverian, including a 41-21 blowout of previously undefeated Natick in the Division 2 South Sectional Semifinals.
King Philip is built in a fairly similar fashion, heavily reliant on its two-way star Shane Frommer to lead the way, with Brendan Lydon under center. The Warriors linebackers, highlighted by Frommer and junior Jack Webster, have emerged as one of the top groups in the Bay State, while Aidan Bender and Luke D’Amico man the secondary. The Warriors are in the midst of an aforementioned 22 game winning-streak, due in large part to some stellar defensive play in the second halves of games.

This contest presents itself as a true tossup, with both teams prioritizing having success on the ground and ball control. While Shaw, Graves, and Frommer can be expected to put up ample production, this game will likely come down to the quarterbacks. Lydon is certainly not known for 400-yard passing games, but repeatedly comes up with key, game turning fourth quarter drives. Sullivan, meanwhile, has also done just that so far this year, most notably against the likes of Barnstable and St. John’s Prep.

Player’s Thoughts: “I think if we go into their house and get the job done it will wash the sour taste from last year right out of our mouths,” said Shaw. “There are not many times you get a second chance in football, so we hope to make the best of this one.”

“I don’t think there’s a lot of pressure,” said Frommer. “Our team has been through a lot of tough games, but we all keep calm and play our game. We know B-R is going to make plays, we just need to have short memories.”

Feld’s Pick: 24-22, King Philip

Underrated Game to Watch: No. 3 Duxbury vs. No. 1 North Attleboro

In one of the more intriguing matchups of the weekend, defending state champion Duxbury will take a trip to Community Field to take on No. 1 North Attleboro with a trip to the Division 3 State Semifinal hanging in the balance.

Despite not being nearly the offensive powerhouse they were a year ago, the Dragons have managed to put up another impressive season under head coach Dave Maimaron. The Dragons have scored at least 30 points in four of their last six games, including a 38-13 win over Hingham last week in a rematch from late in the regular season.

Quarterback John Roberts has had his fair share of big moments, with James Miele and Frankie Tower as threats in the passing game. Defense has been Duxbury’s stronghold this year, however, allowing more than 14 points just once.
On the flip side, North Attleboro is certainly reaping the benefits of having home field advantage throughout the South Sectionals. Always a challenge to beat at home, the Red Rocketeers have outscored their opponents 53-26 through the first two games of the postseason.

Quarterback Chad Peterson has totaled seven touchdowns over those two games. Defensively, the Red Rocketeers have been equally as impressive, holding Stoughton to less than 100 yards of total offense through the first three and half quarters. Duxbury’s chances appear to hinge on whether or not they can contain Peterson in the pocket. If Peterson is able to get out and use his legs as a weapon, like he has so far this postseason, he should guide North Attleboro to a sectional title.

Feld’s Pick: 20-16 North Attleboro

Player to Watch: Jarrett Martin, Sr., Wide Receiver, Catholic Memorial

Due in large part to Martin, the Knights are still alive.

It was, after all, Martin’s terrific catch by the sideline on fourth and 12 that kept Catholic Memorial’s final drive alive before he hauled in a Hail Mary at the buzzer to defeat BC High.

Similar to Korte, Martin’s biggest advantage is his size, which allows him to often win crucial jump balls. Not to be overlooked is Martin’s play on the defensive side of the ball, where he has two interceptions so far this postseason.

No comments :