Thursday, October 25, 2018

MIAA Football: Eastern Mass. Divisions 7 and 8 Tournament Preview

Mashpee has been a fixture at Gillette in recent years, but the Falcons will have to navigate one of the state's trickiest brackets to get back again this season.
By Matt Feld (@Mattyfeld612), Featuring Joe Parrello (@HerewegoJoe)

Throughout this week, we have broken down each of the 12 sections spanning Divisions 1 through 6 in Eastern Mass.

On Monday, we began by breaking down Divisions 1 and 2, continued on Tuesday with Divisions 3 and 4, and then yesterday took a dive into Divisions 5 and 6.

Today, we are ready to cap off our Eastern Mass. sectional previews as we unveil our preview and picks for Division 7 and 8. Continue below for breakdowns from our Matt Feld, and picks from each of our editors.

Check in back in tonight and tomorrow as we provide coverage from the top first round games across the Eastern Mass. playoffs, and check in on the final regular season meetings out in Central and Western Mass.
Favorite: Greater Lawrence (5-2)

Contender: St. Mary's (4-3)

Sleeper: Latin Academy (4-3)

Best First Round Game: No. 7 O'Bryant at No. 2 Nashoba Tech 

Top Player to Watch: Jose Caceres, Sr., QB., Greater Lawrence 

Key Difference Maker: Jalen Echevarria, Sr., RB, St. Mary's

There is plenty of speed and athleticism to go around in this section, with each of the top teams bolstered by quickness on the ground and in the passing game.

Greater Lawrence enters as the top overall seed finishing with a 5-2 mark. They've won four in a row since dropping two of three to start the season. Dual threat quarterback Jose Caceres has 830 passing yards and 13 touchdowns to go with 584 more yards on the ground and another eight scores. Omar Medina and Ader Mezidor are Caceres' two top options.

St. Mary's may be the No. 4 seed, but they are certainly a contender to get back to Gillette. The Spartans limped slightly to the finish line getting upset by Archbishop Williams in week six before coming up just shy versus Mashpee. Jalen Echevarria is the most explosive back in the section and has carried St. Mary's on numerous occasions.

One potential team to watch is Latin Academy who opens up versus East Boston in an under-the-radar first round matchup.

Feld's Pick: Greater Lawrence played well down the stretch, and while Jalen Echevarria certainly has the capability of leading St. Mary's on another run to Gillette Stadium, I think the Reggies have too many weapons on the offensive side of the ball.


Parello's Pick: Greater Lawrence has been on a heck of a run, but this St. Mary's team can match them on the ground, and know what it takes to win big games in the tournament. As Matt said earlier, this is far from a normal No. 4 seed.



Favorite: Mashpee (7-0)

Contender: Abington (6-1), Case (6-1)

Sleeper: Cohasset (5-2)

Best First Round Game: No. 6 Nantucket at No. 3 Case

Top Player to Watch: Devaun Ford, Sr., RB/DB, Mashpee 

Key Difference Maker: Will Klein, Jr., RB/WR, Abington 

Mashpee has ruled the roost not only in Div. 7 South, but across Massachusetts the past three plus years.

Heading into the 2018 postseason, the Falcons are not only three-time defending Super Bowl champions but they are also protecting a 27-game winning streak dating back to 2016. The road back to Gillette, however, promises to be tougher than ever before.

A flurry of landmines await Mashpee over the next few weeks. No. 5 Cohasset could be awaiting in the wings in the sectional semi-finals.

The Skippers had the Falcons on the ropes back in week five, marching all the way back after falling down by 17 points at the half only to eventually come up short, 27-23. Despite the loss, Cohasset showed it had the pieces to dethrone Mashpee with quarterback Matt Lund throwing three second-half touchdown passes and Cliff Ward showcasing his potential as a weapon at receiver.

On the other side of the bracket is No. 2 Abington who came within a point of Mashpee before the Falcons held on for a 21-20 victory back in week four. The Green Wave will likely have to beat a strong Case team if they hope to get a second crack at Mashpee.

The Green Wave are well experienced from their South Shore Tobin bouts this fall and finished off their regular season slate with a 26-14 win over the aforementioned Skippers. Junior Will Klein is well worth the price of admission for his talents both on the ground and in the passing game while Gabe Spry provides steadiness out of the backfield.

Feld's Pick: All season long, Mashpee has been living on the edge. Not only did they knockoff Abington and Cohasset by just a combined five points, but they also barely outlasted a strong St. Mary's team on the road. Devaun Ford and the Falcons can never be counted out, but I think that this time around the Green Wave finish the job and end Mashpee's run of dominance.


Parello's Pick: Oh Matt, ye of little faith. This Mashpee team just knows how to win and, while other teams in the bracket know they can play with the Falcons, nobody can match their big-game experience and overall talent level.



Favorite: Pope John (7-0)

Contender: West Roxbury (5-2)

Sleeper: TechBoston (3-4)

Best First Round Game: No. 6 Charlestown at No. 3 West Roxbury 

Top Player to Watch: John Smith Howell, Sr., RB/DB, Pope John

Key Difference Maker: Marcus Gonzalez, Sr., RB, TechBoston 

Pope John entered the 2018 season as the favorite in Div. 8 and so far they have done little to egg on any doubters.

The Tigers cruised through their regular season slate, knocking off some of their top fellow competitors in Div. 8 including St. John Paul II, 34-8 and third-seeded West Roxbury, 26-12. Overall, Pope John outscored its opponents 243-52 during the regular season. The Tigers are powered offensively by the running back combination of John Smith Howell, Sam Poindexter and Greg Smith.

Speaking of West Roxbury, the Raiders are unquestionably the biggest threat to knock off Pope John. They gave the Tigers their toughest fit of the season back in week one and finished the season winning five straight games. Luis Pena has been a reliable option at wide receiver but the story is running back Talif Stewart.

The Raiders, however, will have to first have to exert revenge on No. 6 Charlestown who shut them out, 12-0, earlier this year.

A potential sleeper in the bracket is No. 8 TechBoston. Marcus Gonzalez who has lived up to the hype all season long. It would not be a shock if the play of Gonzalez allowed the Bears to hang tough with Pope John for most of Friday.

Feld's Pick: West Roxbury keeps up their solid play from the end of the regular season, but Pope John is questionably the best team in this bracket and they use their vaunted rushing attack to carry them out of the North.


Parello's Pick: Pope John has been dominant from the moment this season kicked off, and it's hard to see anybody even slowing the Tigers down, let alone knocking them off. This powerful ground game could power Pope John to a state championship.

POPE JOHN over Boston English/New Mission


Favorite: West Bridgewater (6-1)

Contender: Upper Cape (5-2)

Sleeper: St. John Paul II (5-2)

Best First Round Game: No. 7 Old Colony at No. 2 Upper Cape

Top Player to Watch: Christian Keeling, Sr., RB, West Bridgewater

Key Difference Maker: Jazary Salim, Sr., RB, Upper Cape 

This is an awfully tough bracket to try and figure it out.

St. John Paul II may just be the best lower seed in the state, as the experienced Lions enter the tournament in the spot. The top two seeds, West Bridgewater and Upper Cape, both had solid regular seasons but had their stretches of inconsistent play.

Christian Keeling has been the face of West Bridgewater's attack this season. The senior running back has not only put up monster numbers out of the backfield but he has also proven valuable on special teams as evidenced by his 73-yard kick return for a touchdown last week. Benjamin Skinner has been a reliable option on the outside.

No. 2 Upper Cape is in for a dogfight to begin the postseason with a rematch versus No. 7 Old Colony from the final week of the regular season on tap. The Cougars would certainly love to avenge not only their 13-6 loss to Upper Cape, but also get the last laugh after Upper Cape's win landed them the league championship outright.

The running back duo of Jazary Salim and Kemrin Glover leads the way for the Rams. 

The Lions, meanwhile, got off to a blistering 5-0 start before dropping their final two. Going on the road will be nothing new for them as they went 3-1 away from home this season.

Feld's Pick: This is one of the tougher sections to pick due to the threat of No. 6 St. John Paul II and the rematch between Upper Cape and Old Colony. St. John Paul has played a bruising schedule, but I am rolling with Christian Keeling and West Bridgewater's run game.


Parello's Pick: 
Let's dig a little on this. Look, West Bridgewater is rightfully the favorite in this bracket, but St. John Paul was undefeated and widely considered one of the two or three best small school teams in the state. The Lions didn't lose their mojo overnight, they simply ran into a Pope John buzzsaw and lost a close one at Austin Prep. They'll have to knock off a good Coyle & Cassidy team, followed by a probably matchup with Upper Cape Tech before they even see West Bridgewater, but this could be a case of a talented team winning a big one in round one, then carrying that momentum the rest of the way.


No comments :