A brand new playoff format may have been put in place for Massachusetts high school football this season, but familiarity seems to be one of the themes after the playoff seedings were announced yesterday.
Bishop Fenwick, Beverly, North Shore Tech and Hamilton-Wenham won’t have to dig very deep to find solid scouting reports on their first-round opponents.
Fenwick, the area’s highest seeded team at No. 1 in Division 5 North, will open at home Friday night against Catholic Central League rival St. Mary’s of Lynn.
The Crusaders thumped St. Mary’s, 34-6, two weeks ago to wrap up the CCL crown.
That score could be deceiving, however, as Fenwick (7-0) head coach Dave Woods believes the second meeting could favor the underdog.
“They’re probably the scariest team in Division 5, but in a way it’s good for both of us. We’re both familiar with each other and I was talking to Matt (Durgin, St. Mary’s coach) about trading film and I was saying, do we have to? The kids are familiar with the schemes and it should make for a great game,” Woods said.
“They can go back and look at what worked for them and what didn’t work. We watched film of that game and everything kind of worked, but they’ll do their thing to try to take that away. It favors the team that lost more than won, but on the other hand, if we were able to put a good game plan together the first time hopefully we can do it again.”
If Woods is correct that the losing team has a bit of an advantage in the second meeting, then Dan Bauer should feel good about Beverly’s chances.
The Panthers (4-3) dropped an 18-14 decision to Gloucester (5-2) in early October and the two teams will meet again Friday night at Newell Stadium in a Division 3 Northeast battle. Gloucester earned the No. 4 seed while Beverly drew the No. 3.
The Panthers have won three straight games since losing to the Fishermen.
“In a lot of ways that’s good in terms of preparation; you’ve already played them once, so you have some scouting,” Bauer said. “It also brings a new challenge though, because that was early in the season. We’ve gotten better, but they have also. I think that will be a big challenge.”
North Shore Tech’s Paul Worth knows his team faces a big challenge in Division 6 first round opponent Cathedral.
Cathedral, which will host the Bulldogs on Saturday (time TBA), defeated North Shore in the playoffs last year, but this Bulldogs team has been riding a hot streak.
The Bulldogs have won four in row since starting 1-2.
“We had them last year in the first round and we’re very, very happy we have them again; we get a chance to get them back,” Worth said. “They have their quarterback back and the running back is back, but their offensive and defensive lines graduated. They were really strong and I don’t think they were as good this year after watching film on them. I’m still anticipating another good football team.”
Hamilton-Wenham coach Andrew Morency is also anticipating a very good first round opponent.
The Generals snuck into the Division 4 North bracket as the 8 seed and drew a team Morency knows a little about. Although they didn’t meet in the regular season this year, Hamilton-Wenham will see No. 1 Pentucket, a Cape Ann League foe.
“Looking at the film, they’re a very fast team. What a group of hard working individuals. They’re polished, but I feel with our schedule, we faced everyone like the Fenwicks, Lynnfields and North Readings,” Morency said. “There’s nothing we haven’t seen, but Pentucket is certainly formidable.”
Danvers (3 seed) and Masconomet (6 seed) will meet Friday night in another Div. 3 Northeast game in a contest with maybe the most local interest. Second-seeded Marblehead will host Wilmington on Friday night, also in Div. 3 Northeast.
St. John’s Prep picked up the No. 4 seed in Division 1 North and will host No. 5 Lowell on Saturday afternoon (2 p.m.).
SOUNDING OFF Now that the first regular season under the new MIAA football playoff system is complete, here is what some local coaches are saying: "In the past 10 years, the first half of the season it was kind of like none of the games mattered. It was just like a long preseason. Now, from the first week, every game counts. I think there was a sense of urgency from teams early on. It made for a much more exciting regular season, and being part of it (the playoffs) is going to be awesome." -- Bishop Fenwick's Dave Woods "It certainly is exciting. Playoffs are playoffs and I guess it has that excitement of a one-game season from here on out. The old format had that to some degree. There was more emphasis on the conference then. Here, we have four teams from our bracket playing. In that sense, the conference piece has been minimized to a degree. We'll see how it pans out. It's uncharted territory and we still have Thanksgiving looming, and that game will always be special." -- Beverly's Dan Bauer "It doesn't matter what the system was, somebody was going to be left out. But right now it's overtaking everybody. Everybody is in playoff mode and it seems to be pretty cool." -- North Shore Tech's Paul Worth "It was definitely a little different in the sense that it was a little bit of a mad dash at the end. People were playing hard knowing the what-ifs. It had that sense where anybody had a shot, especially in the CAL Small. I'm sure teams that are left out who had pretty decent seasons will have a different opinion, so it depends on who you ask. But we had some fun the last couple days." -- Hamilton-Wenham's Paul Worth "If you look at Danvers and Revere, and Lynn English, we could've taken care of business ourselves. We can blame ourselves for that. As a first year coach, I look at it and say, are we ready to play in that tournament? I'm realistic. Are we ready to play against Everett and St. John's Prep or Central Catholic? Maybe that's a little overboard for our program at this point. Maybe that's something we can look at next year, see how we do if we continue to build on this." -- Peabody's Mark Bettencourt