Monday, October 22, 2018

MIAA Football: Eastern Mass Divisions 1 and 2 Tournament Preview

Everett and Xaverian are once again favorites in their respective sections, but will the Tide and Hawks meet again at Gillette?
By Matt Feld (@Mattyfeld612), Featuring Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Throughout this week, SuiteSports editors Matt Feld and Joe Parrello will be breaking down, previewing, and making their picks for each of the 16 Eastern Mass. sectionals.

On Monday we will begin with Divisions 1 and 2, move on to Divisions 3 and 4 on Tuesday, continue with Divisions 5 and 6 on Wednesday, and then cap it all off with Divisions 7 and 8 on Thursday.

Next week, we will break down each of the Central and Western Mass. sectionals once those seedings and pairings are released on Sunday, October 28th.

Make sure to be on the lookout Thursday morning as we pick the top first round games across Massachusetts in this year's state tournament.


Favorite: Everett (7-0)

Contenders: St. John's Prep (6-1), Acton-Boxboro (7-0)

Sleeper: Central Catholic (5-2)

Best First Round Game: No. 5 Lexington at No. 4 Central Catholic 

Top Player to Watch: Mike Sainristil, Sr., WR/DB, Everett

Key Difference Maker: Trent Tully, Sr., DB/LB, St. John's Prep

The more things change the more they stay the same. Everett once again enters the Div. 1 North tournament as the odds on favorite. Lifted by the play of superstar Mike Sainristil, running back Isaac Seide, and a strong offensive line the Crimson Tide finished the regular season a perfect 7-0, earning them the top seed heading into the postseason.

There are a handful of challengers who are hoping to get a shot to derail Everett's hopes of a three-peat. 

No. 3 St. John's Prep (6-1) came the closest to knocking off the Crimson Tide during the regular season, having possession down six with two minutes left only to come up short. The Eagles have only gotten stronger since that week three matchup, dismantling opponents with the top defensive line in the state that features John Taylor, Collin Taylor, Jackson Delaney, and Charlie Giunta. Offensively, the Prep is led by Wes Rockett, Aise Pream, and Matt Crowley.

Second-seeded Acton-Boxboro had an impressive regular season finishing a spotless 7-0 including a thrilling, last-second, 38-35 win over Dual County League rival Lincoln-Sudbury. Quarterback Finn Murray has had a strong season while Victor Otero is as good as they come on the outside. The Colonials have a tough first round matchup in No. 6 Methuen (5-2).

Elsewhere, a young Central Catholic (5-2) team has continued to improve as the season has progressed. The Raiders four straight to close their regular slate including a dominating win over Methuen to claim another MVC Large title. Central draws a Lexington team that has relied heavily on a strong second half of the regular season by first-year starting quarterback Anthony Bianchi.

Feld's Pick: Everett may have the star power, but I am going with a St. John's Prep team who has the perfect combination of terrific play up front and enough playmakers on offense to get back to Gillette Stadium for the first time since 2012. 


Parello's Pick: Come on Feld, you're really gonna bet against an Everett team with this many play makers, this much confidence and this much big-game experience? I just can't do it man. the Crimson Tide is top dog in Massachusetts until further notice.



Favorite: Xaverian (5-1)

Contenders: Needham (6-1), Catholic Memorial (5-2)

Sleeper: Attleboro (5-2)

Best First Round Game: No. 8 BC High at No. 1 Xaverian 

Top Player to Watch: Cooper DeVeau, Sr., DB/WR, Xaverian 

Key Difference Maker: Lucas Folan, Sr., DE, Catholic Memorial 

There may only be two football constants come October in Massachusetts over the last six seasons - the Patriots in first place in the AFC East and Xaverian being the team to beat in Div. 1 South.

Xaverian has once again shown the road to Gillette Stadium runs through Clapboard Street. Defensively, the Hawks have been as good as ever not allowing a single point over their final 11 quarters of play. Mike Masse and Cooper DeVeau have been the anchors. One concern for Xaverian is health as injuries have taken their toll on key players on both sides of the ball.

The Hawks may be in for a challenge when they welcome No. 8 BC High (2-5) in one of the top first round games on the docket. 

Second-seeded Needham looked like a potential threat a few weeks ago, but is now looking to regain its rhythm after faltering twice in a row to finish the season. 

No. 3 Catholic Memorial got off to a fast start, struggled in the middle part of the season, and then rebounded to win its final two games to finish at 5-2. When at their best, the Knights build off a defense that can consistently apply pressure and cover in the secondary. Lucas Folan, Owen McGowan, and Khari Johnson lead the unit.

Franklin closed out the season with a huge win over No. 6 Attleboro and now hosts Brockton in the opening round. 

Feld's Pick: I expect Needham to rediscover its play on both sides of the ball that made them so successful the first five weeks of the season, setting up an exciting sectional semi-final matchup with Catholic Memorial. Xaverian is banged up, and will likely have to slug it out versus BC High, this is still their section to lose considering they 14-0 in the last five years at home in the playoffs. The Hawks get back to Gillette Stadium, even if they have to limp there.


Parello's Pick: Xaverian has ruled the roost for quite some time, but methinks it's time for a changing of the guard in D1 South. Catholic Memorial hasn't been perfect, but the Knights are as talented as anyone in the section, and have to be hungry to avenge a close loss they suffered against the Hawks earlier in the season. It won't be easy, but I see CM breaking through and making a run to a sectional crown.



Favorite: North Andover (7-0)

Contenders: Lincoln-Sudbury (6-1), Reading (6-1)

Sleeper: Peabody (3-4)

Best First Round Game: No. 6 Peabody at No. 3 Reading 

Top Player to Watch: Jake McElroy, Sr., QB, North Andover

Key Difference Maker: Cal Kenney, Sr., DL, Lincoln-Sudbury

Coming off a 2017 season in which they faltered in the sectional final, North Andover had high expectations. So far, they all they have done is meet them.

Behind a prolific offense highlighted by one of the top quarterbacks in the state in Jake McElory, running back Freddy Gabin, and do-it-all playmaker Darren Watson the Scarlet Knights enter this year's Div. 2 North tournament as the top overall seed.

Lincoln-Sudbury finished as the Div. 2 Super Bowl finalist a year ago and is without question a threat to get back. The Warriors are as good as they come up front highlighted by Cal Kenney and Michael Ciaffoni while James Dillon leads the ground and pound attack. Braden O'Connell is experienced under center and can beat teams in multiple ways.

After a relatively down season last year, No. 3 Reading poses a threat but faces a tough first round opponent in Peabody.

Feld's Pick: I expect both of the top seeds to hold serve, with Lincoln-Sudbury using its experience from a season ago and North Andover's its offense to fuel deep tournament runs. The Warriors were able to use their physicality to wear down the Scarlet Knights in last year's sectional final, but I expect the North Andover's speed and athleticism to make the difference this time around as they advance to Gillette.


Parello's Pick: I love the look of North Andover's offense, but I'm still a believer in this Lincoln-Sudbury team, especially in the trenches. The Warriors can dominate up front on both sides of the ball, and have enough versatile athletes to play with anyone. L-S continues its "unfinished business" tour with a D2 North sectional crown.


Division 2 South

Favorite: Mansfield (6-1)

Contenders: Natick (5-2), King Philip (5-2)

Sleeper: Barnstable (4-3)

Best First Round Game: No. 5 Barnstable at No. 4 Wellesley 

Top Player to Watch: Vinnie Holmes, Jr., RB/LB, Mansfield

Key Difference Maker: Robert Jarest, Jr., QB, King Philip

Annually, Div. 2 South finds itself as the most interesting section and 2018 promises to be no different.

No .3 King Philip enters the tournament as the two-time defending Super Bowl champion, but will almost certainly have to go on the road for multiple games if they hope to emerge from the South for a third straight time.

While the Warriors have been known for their defense in past years, this year King Philip has relied heavily on its offense. Junior quarterback Robert Jarest has progressed while running back Ryan Halliday has the ability to make people miss and David Morganelli is one of the top wide receivers in the section.

No. 1 Mansfield and second-seeded Natick are the two favorites with the Hornets capturing the Hockomock Kelly-Rex crown and the Redhawks winning their final five games of the regular season.

The Hornets are boosted by a ground attack that can beat opponents in a variety of ways, with Vinnie Holmes, Khristian Conner, Cincere Gill and Aidan Sacco as the focal points. Holmes also leads the defense.

Natick, meanwhile relies heavily on an all-out passing attack with sophomore quarterback Will Lederman one of the top underclassmen in the area and wideouts Max Ferrucci and Angel Lebron both reliable options.

Both Mansfield and Natick are likely to be in store for tough quarterfinal matchups with No. 4 Wellesley and No. 5 Barnstable set to face-off in one of the top opening round games in the state.

Feld's Pick: This is the toughest section to settle on, with each of the top three Super Bowl contender and Wellesley and Barnstable both capable of making a run. Natick has the mojo going, winning five in a row to close the season, and Mansfield has shown an ability to win big games late. But...this relatively young Natick core has yet to experience a deep postseason run, and Mansfield has struggled to formulate a reliable passing game. Robert Jarest and the Warriors were literally yards away from beating the Hornets during the regular season, and something tells me that after so many years of celebrating at home, they'll be doing that this time around on the road.


Parello's Pick: Once again, I have to call for a changing of the guard, and Mansfield seems like the team to finally dethrone Hockomock rival King Philip, who has been outright fantastic the past two seasons. The Hornets have come up big in big games, and have the feel of a team of destiny. I won't bet against that.


No comments :