With the last week of the regular-season upon us, the majority of the playoff spots have been secured. Oh, sure, there are some No. 5 seeds – and even a few No. 6s – that are hoping for an unlikely win coupled with an unlikely loss by a higher seed to give them just the crease (football term) needed to squeeze into the final spot.
Playoff-bound teams now, for the most part however, are fine-tuning parts of their offensive and defensive game plans and hoping their Week 8 games are injury-free affairs.
The top tier in Central Mass. appears to be set with St. John’s (7-0, 22.43 power rating) leading the way, followed by Shrewsbury (6-1, 17.91), Shepherd Hill (5-2, 15.80) and Doherty (6-1 (15.11) in the Nos. 2-4 spots.
The Pioneers will host 6-1 Marlborough at 2 p.m., Saturday; Shrewsbury hosts undefeated Nashoba (7-0) – the top team in Division 4 – at 7 p.m. Friday; Shepherd Hill hosts 3-4 Groton-Dunstable at 7 p.m., Friday, and Doherty plays/hosts winless North Middlesex (0-7) at Commerce Bank Field at Foley Stadium at 6:30 p.m., Friday.
The only team in Division 3 that seems to be facing a win-and-they’re-in scenario is Doherty. If the Highlanders lose to North Middlesex and Wachusett (4-3), currently the fifth seed, beats Westborough (3-4), the No. 6 seed in Division 4, The Mountaineers could sneak in to the final playoff spot.
If that scenario played out it would be a devastating blow to Doherty, but there are some football fans who would say, if you can’t beat a winless team at home with a playoff berth on the line, you don’t deserve to play in the postseason.
The top three teams – Nashoba, Grafton and Marlborough – are all set. The Chieftains (7-0) will remain the top seed even if they lose to Shrewsbury. Grafton (5-2, 15.03) also seems locked into its No. 2 spot, even if the Indians lose to 5-2 Northbridge. Marlborough (6-1, 14.43), the No. 3 seed, will stay right where they are, even if the Panthers lose to the Pioneers.
The fourth and final spot in Division 4 provides a little intrigue, however.
Groton-Dunstable is currently in that spot, with a 3-4 record and a 11.03 rating, but hot on the Crusaders’ heels for that last spot are Fitchburg (3-4, 10.43) and Westborough (3-4, 9.31). A Westborough defeat of Wachusett and a Groton-Dunstable loss to Shepherd Hill would create a scenario where the Rangers could leapfrog the Crusaders at sneak off with the final playoff spot.
The final determination in that scenario would come down to the awarding of opponents’ points for wins and losses and I’ll leave that to the slide rule community that governs such things. As I like to say, I majored in journalism in college because there was no math requirement for graduation – and I’m only half-kidding.
This is another division that appears set with undefeated Nipmuc (7-0, 20.71) leading the way, followed by Northbridge (5-2, 12.86), Oakmont (4-3, 12.43) and Auburn (4-3, 11.57).
Nipmuc hosts winless Sutton (0-6) at 1 p.m., Saturday, Northbridge hosts Grafton (5-2) at 7 p.m., Friday night, Oakmont travels to Barre to take on Quabbin (2-5) at 7 p.m., Friday and Auburn travels to Millbury to take on the 4-3 Woolies.
North High (4-3) is the team on the outside looking in here. Even if the Polar Bears were to defeat 5-2 Blackstone-Millville at noon on Saturday at Commerce Bank Field at Foley Stadium, and Auburn was to lose to Millbury, it doesn’t seem like North would get enough opponents’ points to overtake the Rockets.
There are conflicting points of view about the first three spots in this division. Some of the local ratings pundits say they are locked up, while some of the coaches in those three spots say only the top spot has been determined, but that could, of course, just be coach-speak to keep the kids engaged..
Littleton (7-0, 20.29) is the top seed in Division 6 and the Tigers are, at the moment, followed by St. Peter-Marian (5-2, 17.09), Blackstone Millville (5-2, 15.20) and Maynard (5-2, 14.29).
Millbury (4-3, 13.71) and Uxbridge (4-3, 13.00) could have a shot a cracking the top four, but Maynard would have to lose at Clinton (3-4) at 7 p.m., Friday while the Woolies would have to defeat Auburn and Uxbridge would have to beat winless Southbridge for either to have a chance.
This is quite possibly the most interesting divisional race on the final weekend of the season.
Undefeated Blackstone Valley Tech (7-0, 19.29) appears to have the top spot locked up and the Beavers are followed by Leicester (5-2, 15.14), West Boylston (5-2, 14.20) and Assabet Valley (5-2, 13.83).
The Division 7 landscape could change in a hurry, however, if undefeated Oxford – currently fifth in the division’s power ratings with a 7-0 record and a 13.71 rating – defeats Leicester and Assabet loses to winless Monty Tech (0-7). Even if that scenario played out, however, the fact that the Pirates’ opponents’ combined record of 8-41 could keep them out of the playoffs, despite having – at that point – an 8-0 record.
This is another division that appears to be all set.
St. Bernard’s (4-3, 12.00) leads the way, followed by Narragansett (4-2, 11.67), Nashoba Valley Tech (4-3, 10.71) and Lunenburg (4-3, 10.69).
Bartlett (4-3, 10.66) has a shot to sneak in; the Indians would have to defeat Tantasqua (1-6) at 7 p.m., Friday while the Blue Knights lose undefeated Littleton, the top dog in Division 6, at the same time – both very possible scenarios.
Even then, however, Lunenburg could garner too many opponents’ points to allow the Indians to overtake it.
Week 8 Games
North Middlesex (0-7) vs. Doherty (6-1)
6:30 p.m., Friday, Foley Stadium’s Commerce Bank Field
Abby Kelley Foster (3-4) at Bay Path (4-3)
7 p.m., Friday, Minutemen Field, Charlton
Burncoat (3-4) at Nashoba Valley Tech (4-3)
7 p.m., Nashoba Tech, Westford
South (1-6) at Fitchburg (3-4)
7 p.m., Crocker Field, Fitchburg
Nashoba (7-0) at Shrewsbury (6-1)
7 p.m., Friday, Shrewsbury High
Blackstone-Millville (5-2) vs. North (4-3)
Noon, Saturday, Foley Stadium’s Commerce Bank Field
Holy Name (2-4) at St. Peter-Marian (5-2)
1 p.m., Saturday, Guardian Field, Worcester
Worcester Tech (1-6) at Blackstone Valley Tech (7-0)
1 p.m., Saturday, Blackstone Valley Tech, Upton
Wachusett (4-3) at Westborough (3-4)
2 p.m., Saturday, Joe Mewhiney Field, Westborough
Marlborough (6-1) at St. John’s (7-0)
2 p.m., Pioneer Field, Shrewsbury