By Russ Waterman
After 50 teams – including 10 unbeatens – compete in 25 MIAA playoff games on Tuesday night throughout Massachusetts, the respective Super Bowls will be set for December 6. The following includes the schedule for all semifinal playoff games and a capsule view of the teams and the match-ups on Dec. 2.
The schedule for all MIAA playoff games can be found on the MIAA site at http://www.miaa.net.
- Everett (9-1) vs. Boston College High (9-1) at Manning Field, Lynn, 7:45 p.m.
- Dartmouth (11-0) vs. Brockton (8-3) at Marciano Stadium, Brockton HS, 7:45 p.m.
Two-time defending Super Bowl champion Everett had one blip, a loss to St. John's Prep, but has been on course ever since behind Jesus Crawford, a multi-purpose threat who's scored 11 touchdowns. Quarterback Joe Conti and kicker have also been major contributors.
BC High lost only once, 26-0 to the Crimson Tide, but the Eagles have run off five wins in a row. The trademark of both teams is defense, with Everett allowing just 9 points per game and BC High 10.
Brockton has recovered from a 1-3 start by limiting costly turnovers and keeping the ball in the hands of Khali James-Offley, one of the state's premier backs, and quarterback Sam Previte. The Boxers aim to avenge last year's semifinals loss against the Indians.
Dartmouth’s Justin Mello seems to come up with clutch plays on offense and defense every game. Senior signal caller Sean Sylvia also missed several games due to an injury, but is now as dangerous as ever with Georgia-bound tight end Arthur Fontaine as a valuable target.
- Acton-Boxborough (10-1) vs. Dracut (9-2) at Cawley Stadium, Lowell, 7:45 p.m.
- Marshfield (9-2) vs. Framingham (9-2) at Marciano Stadium, Brockton HS, 5:15 p.m.
As celebrated as Acton-Boxborough’s ground attack is, especially with its top runner, Trevor Jeanson, and speedy Akeem Mercury, the Colonials’ defense might be even more impressive, allowing just 39 points in their last eight games.
They face the biggest test of all in trying to contain Matt Grimard, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound left-handed senior quarterback who has rushed for 28 scores and passed for 15 more.
Marshfield’s only losses came to non-conference foes Mansfield and Duxbury. The Rams' offense is led by quarterback Stephen Sousa and running backs James Russell, Sean Griffith and Matthew DiGirgoli. The Rams’s defense will have to deliver a mighty effort to stop Framingham quarterback Danny Guadagnoli, who has accounted for 40 touchdowns.
- Walpole (11-0) vs Reading (11-0) at Reading Memorial HS, 7:45 p.m.
- Mansfield (10-1) vs Bishop Feehan (9-1) at Bridgewater-Raynham HS, 5:15 p.m.
Unbeaten Walpole consistently applies a ton of pressure through one player – junior running back Ryan Izzo. He already has more than 4,000 career yards, including 2,203 this year and a state-leading 247 points this season. Quarterback Sonny Mastromatteo adds a steady presence under center.
Undefeated Reading, which barnstormed through the Middlesex League, can also counter with an offense sparked by an outstanding junior tandem of Tino Perrina and Ryan Pollack, who have combined for 238 points and a defense surrendering eight points per game.
It will be a grudge match between defending champ Bishop Feehan and Mansfield who face off for the second consecutive year in the playoffs. Both squads feature defense as their major strengths, as each allow around seven points per game.
Quarterback Tommy Romero spreads the ball efficiently and Bryan Webb is a major threat for the Shamrocks. Mansfield has a stable of excellent running backs with Shawn Doherty, Kevon Rogers and Greg DiPietrantonio.
- Gloucester 10-1) vs. Masconomet (8-3) at Manning Field, Lynn, 5:15 p.m.
- Duxbury (11-0) vs. Apponoquet (11-0) at Durfee HS, Fall River, 7:15 p.m.
Defending champ Gloucester beat Masconomet 20-13 in their first meeting of the season. Scoring mostly on the ground, the Fishermen can turn to Conor Ressel, Taylor Burbine, Gilbert Brown, Ross Carlson and Giaco Romeo to apply pressure.
Masconomet has won eight straight games, leaning heavily on the exploits of two juniors – running back Evan Bunker and quarterback Chris Splinter.
Duxbury features Shane DiBona – its stellar Iowa-bound running back – and strong-armed quarterback Sean Cross. Ian Whitney and Quinn Cully give Cross capable targets.
Several players have stepped up for Apponequet, which has also posted a perfect record thus far behind the efforts of many players, including Ben Bullock, John Gaynor and Joe Kaminski. Quarterback Mike Wojtkonski has passed for over 1,000 yards.
- Swampscott (9-2) vs. Arlington Catholic (8-3) at Arlington HS, 7:15 p.m.
- Norton (10-1) vs. Abington (11-0) at Bridgewater-Raynham HS, 7:45 p.m.
Swampscott's 21-13 win over Marblehead on Thanksgiving clinched the Northeastern Small Conference title, put them ahead in the holiday series, 47-46-7 and secured a playoff spot sparked by the all-around play of quarterback Chris Cameron. But there might be a battle for air control as Arlington Catholic also has a premier signal caller in Corey Spencer.
Norton running back Sean Ryan has reached the end zone 33 times and run for 1,749 yards. The Tri-Valley champions are making their first playoff appearance in 23 years.
The Lancers must also stop Abington's premier Kristian LaPointe (20 TDs) and quarterback Steve Perakslis, who commandeered the Green Wave to a perfect season and a South Shore League title.
- Amesbury (10-1) ) vs. Whittier (9-2) at Cawley Stadium, Lowell, 5:15 p.m.
- Martha’s Vineyard (10-1) vs. South Boston (10-1) at Taunton HS, 4:45 p.m.
Kevin Johnston, Jarred Flannigan and Jesse Burrell lead a high-powered Amesbury offense averaging 29 points per game.
Bryan Trickett is the centerpiece offensively for Whittier (21 TDs). which also has not allowed a touchdown in four weeks, including last week's 24-0 win over Lynn Tech that secured a playoff spot.
Martha's Vineyard quarterback Mike McCarthy poses an equal threat in the air or on the ground, passing for 17 TDs and rushing for 17 more.
South Boston has some fleet talent in Derick Willis, Daquan Hill and Akeem George.
- Manchester Essex (11-0) vs. O’Bryant (10-0) at Reading Memorial HS, 5:15 p.m.
- Pope John (7-4) vs. Tri-County (8-2) at Taunton HS, 7:15 p.m.
Manchester-Essex quarterback Pat Orlando and backs Brian Cicchone, Ben Kekeisen and Doug Kenerson have accounted for most of the Hornets scoring. O'Bryant, tested only by Brighton in an 18-14 win, has dominated opponents 234-59 in its first-ever perfect regular season. Omari Alfred is the teams' leading rusher.
No team in the division has been hotter than Pope John, winning its last five games by an average score of 40-9.
Much of the Tri-County firepower revolves around the passing talent of quarterback Lucas Mistler. Jared Gaumond is his favorite target.
CENTRAL and WESTERN
This year marks the end of the combined MIAA Central Massachusetts/Western Massachusetts championships. Coaches have voted to end to the separate championships in each section of the state, allowing more teams a chance to compete in postseason play.
- Western: Longmeadow (10-1) vs. Holyoke (6-5) at Westfield State College, 7:30 p.m.
- Centeral: Fitchburg (7-4) vs. Shrewsbury (8-3), at Oakmont Regional HS, 7:45 p.m.
An aura of invincibility no longer surrounds the Longmeadow program as its 47-game win streak was shockingly halted by East Longmeadow, 16-13, on Thanksgiving Day.
Opponents still know they have to stop the state's top tandem of Alex Scyocurka and Niko Sierra (43 TDs combined) to beat the three-time champion Lancers.
Holyoke in-season transfer Arthur Reynolds (via Springfield Central) busted out for 241 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-14 Thanksgiving Day win over Chicopee.
Fitchburg, losers of four straight games in the middle of the season, came through when it counted most as Greg Mendez rushed for 162 yards and scored twice, including the winning touchdown from 10 yards out, in a 20-17 overtime win over Leominster on Thanksgiving to clinch a spot in the playoffs.
Running back Paul Tizzano is the do-everything player for Shrewsbury, playing on both sides of the ball and even filling in at quarterback this season.
- Western: Westfield (9-1) vs Minnechaug at Westfield State College, 5:30 pm.
- Central: Holy Name (7-3) vs Wachusett (9-2) at Wachusett Regional, Holden, 7:45 p.m.
Westfield defeated Minnechaug earlier, 35-19, on four TDs by quarterback Cam Collins and solid running by Josh Kopeski. Tim Gaylord remains one of the most versatile and talented players around.
The Bombers still must pay attention to Minnechaug quarterback Drew Schwendemann, who leads the state in passing yardage (2,783) and TDs (34). His favorite target is Jeff Ligenfelter.
Will this be double jeopardy for Holy Name, which plays Wachusett just five days after being shutout, 20-0? Or can its offense, which has scored just seven points the past two games, recover behind Kevin Greene, Bill Desrosiers and Sean Kelly.
Wachusett can turn to several players for big plays, including quarterback Sean Quinlivan, running backs Cameron Brigham and Matt Pedone and receiver Kellon Haynes
- Western: East Longmeadow (8-3) vs. South Hadley (7-3) at Holyoke HS, 7:00 p.m.
- Central: Tantasqua (11-0) vs. Millbury (7-4), at Foley Stadium, Worcester, 7:45 p.m.
South Hadley overwhelmed East Longmeadow, 47-6, in their meeting this season with excellent efforts on both sides of the ball, including by quarterback Sam Belsky and running by Ben Desmarias.
East Longmeadow, however, is injected with positive thoughts following its epic holiday upset win over Longmeadow, thanks to a tipped deflection of a pass by Dave Fraboni in the end zone with 16 seconds left.
Tantasqua found several ways to win four games by nine points or less and post its first-ever undefeated regular season. Quarterback Corey Lavallee and Brandon Forcier have teamed up for several scores.
The 7-4 Woolies have a potent offense with quarterback Bucky Richards and the versatile running and catching talents of Joe Franchi and Ryan McNamara.
- Northbridge (8-3) vs. Auburn (10-1), at Wachusett Regional, Holden, 5:15 p.m.
Northbridge has a potent air attack with 2,000-yard passer Zach Zidelis and quality targets in Casey Hippert, Mike Padro, Ben Richards and Sean Clark.
Auburn put the clamps on that Rams attack, 28-6, with its trademark defense earlier this season.
- Western: Springfield High School of Science & Tech (11-0) vs. Putnam (8-3) at Holyoke HS, 5:00 p.m.
- Central: Lunenburg (10-1) vs Littleton (10-1) at Oakmont Regional HS, Ashburnham, 5:15 p.m.
Not many teams know each other better than Sci-Tech and Putnam. The two schools are adjacent to each other in Springfield. But after Sci-Tech routed Putnam, 34-6 on Nov. 20 it will take a mighty effort by Putnam to upset the CyberCats in their first undefeated regular season ever.
If Putnam's defense can step up, they still have Justin Reid, who has more than 4,000 career yards and gained 1,269 yards and scored 14 TDs this season, quarterback Sergey Gordievsky, who has thrown for 1,332 yards and 21 TDs, many to receiver Andre Lester.
Lunenburg has already beaten Littleton once this season. Both teams have outstanding defenses, allowing a little over 10 points per game.
Chris Grammel and Mike Rash are the offensive stars for Lunenburg, whose 10-game win streak was snapped last week (19-14) by St. Bernard's.
Littleton has a potent offense led by Eric White and Mike Rentschler.
- Western: Easthampton (8-2) vs. Pathfinder (7-3) at Westfield State College, 3:30 p.m.
- Central Assabet Valley RVT (9-2) vs. Groton-Dunstable (9-2) at Foley Stadium, Worcester, 5:15 p.m.
If the sectional title game between Easthampton and Pathfinder is anything like the 30-28 win by Easthampton on Nov. 9 to capture the Tri-County League title, this will be the best match-up in the western Massachusetts playoffs.
Easthampton features an attack based around Drew Sharp, who ran for 250 yards in the title game, Jared Bean and Evan Duso.
Kyle Axsom, Derek Mann and receiver Doug McCaughey are the major scoring threats for Pathfinder.
This is the fourth straight playoff appearance for Assabet, which barely edged out Groton-Dunstable, 8-7, earlier in the season. Al Alvarez is a powerhouse runner and leading scorer for Assabet with Nick Johnson and James Mahoney also making major contributions.
Quarterback Ryan Romich, an excellent two-way player, and running back Matt Hamel ignite the Crusader offense.