By Phil Stacey Sports editor
The Salem News
---- — With only one regular season game remaining for our North Shore football teams, three schools have already punched their postseason tickets.
Another school, St. John’s Prep, would like to join that aforementioned trio — Masconomet, Beverly and North Shore Tech/Essex Aggie — and be included in the playoff picture. To do that, the Eagles will have to go on the road to Westwood and defeat their rivals from Xaverian on Thanksgiving morning.
Let’s take a quick look at the playoff scenarios for all four schools:
A near-perfect regular season at St. John’s Prep can result in a postseason tournament spot with a win on the holiday. The Eagles (8-1) overall carry a perfect 3-0 mark into Catholic Conference play into their clash with the Hawks, who are also 3-0 within the league.
Record-wise, it hasn’t been nearly as successful a season for Xaverian, which is just 4-6 overall. After defeating league rival Malden Catholic in their season opener, the Hawks lost an unheard-of six straight games, including a 62-0 road thrashing at powerful St. Joseph’s of New Jersey. They also lost by two points to Andover, four points to Duxbury, five points to Bridgewater-Raynham and eight points to Brockton.
But they’ve righted the ship over the last three weeks, including key conference wins over BC High (21-17) and Catholic Memorial (17-7). Now, an upset victory over St. John’s Prep in just the Hawks’ fourth home game of the season will punch their postseason ticket.
Who will face the winner of St. John’s Prep and Xaverian is still a mystery; three teams from the Merrimack Valley Division 1 are still in contention for the league’s playoff spot heading into their holiday games.
Central Catholic (9-1) appears to have the insight edge. As the only squad that is unbeaten (3-0) in league play, the Raiders need only a win over Andover to advance to the playoffs. Central’s lone loss this season came when it was hammered in Week 2 against — wait for it — St. John’s Prep (31-7).
Andover (9-1, 2-1 MVC) has lost but one game, to Lowell, so a win over Central will go a long way toward helping them qualify. Lowell (8-2, 3-1 MVC) has already finished league play and will face MVC Division 2 team Haverhill on Thanksgiving. They’d need an Andover win over Central, then prevail in a three-team tie-breaking scenario.
The other three North Shore teams vying for a football championship already have their playoff semifinal opponents set for the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
In Division 1A, Northeastern Conference/Cape Ann League Tier 1 titlist Masconomet gets the opportunity to face defending state champion and perennial No. 1 team in the state Everett High.
Led by players such as Jakarrie Washington (20 TDs), Jalen Felix (12 TDs) and massive Notre Dame-bound offensive lineman John Montelus, the mighty Crimson Tide are 9-1 and will be a heavy favorite over the Chieftains (8-2 heading into their annual holiday clash with North Andover). But don’t expect Masconomet to concede anything; coach Jim Pugh’s team is coming off back-to-back shutout wins and is a perfect 5-0 on the road this fall.
Shooting for its second Super Bowl crown in three seasons, Beverly faces Burlington in the Division 2A playoffs. The game will be played on the Red Devils’ home turf, as their field was awarded a site for the semifinal playoffs.
While much has been made of the Panthers’ second 10-0 start in school history en route to winning the NEC/CAL Tier 2 championship this past weekend, Burlington is 9-1 with its lone loss to unbeaten Reading (in which they scored 15 points, the most Reading has allowed this season).
In winning the Middlesex League’s Freedom Division, the Red Devils have scored 48 or more points three times and possess a pair of dangerous offensive weapons in Anthony Cruz (22 TDs, 138 points) and Marcus Odiah (17 TDs).
In all but one of its eight victories this season, North Shore Tech/Essex Aggie has scored 34 points or greater, including a 60-0 thrashing of Mystic Valley last month. The Bulldogs, who are riding their second four-game winning streak of the season as they prepare for their regular season finale on Saturday against Northeast Metro, are the Commonwealth Conference Small champions and will face Cathedral in Division 4A.
The Catholic Central League Small winner, Cathedral has won six straight after a sluggish 2-2 start and depends on Kadeem Edge (12 TDs) and Kejonte Hickman (9 TDs, 64 points) to propel its offense.