James Brumfield and the St. Mary’s Spartans will host Winthrop on Friday night.
By STEVE KRAUSE
The first round of the MIAA football playoffs tonight will see 13 out of the 17 teams in the Item coverage area in action — and all of them will play opponents they haven’t faced yet this season.
And in that sense, it will truly be a second season.
Tonight, two of Lynn’s teams are in action, with Lynn Tech traveling to Daly Field in Boston to play Brighton at 6:30 while an hour later, because of a Manning Field doubleheader, St. Mary’s kicks off at home against Winthrop.
Also tonight (games at 7 unless otherwise noted), Swampscott travels to Triton, Marblehead hosts Wayland, Lynnfield is at home against Northeast Regional, Bishop Fenwick hosts Amesbury, Revere travels to Chelmsford, Peabody is up at Westford Academy, Danvers is home against Wakefield, and Gloucester is at Newell Stadium against Melrose.
In non-playoff games, Classical is home against Woburn (5, the front end of the Manning doubleheader), English is at North Andover and Salem travels to Winchester.
Saturday will see St. John’s Prep at home against Acton-Boxborough (1:30), Beverly at Hurd Stadium against Somerville (1) in tournament games; and Saugus hosting Boston Latin (11) in a non-playoff contest.
Tech at Brighton
At Daly Field, outside of an opening-week victory over O’Bryant (28-20) the Bengals, top seeds in Division 4, have run roughshod over their opponents, both in their league and out. They have a 6-0 record coming into the tournament.
Tech (3-4), seeded eighth, has had a season reflective of its record. In the games the Tigers have won, all have been decisive, and all have featured the one-two punch of Item/Agganis Foundation Player of the Week award-winner Steffan Gravely and Keoni Gaskins.
However, in the games they’ve lost, it’s been a different story. Tech has competed in all of them, but have made mistakes at critical times that have cost the Tigers games.
Should Tech win this weekend, the Tigers would play the winner of Mystic Valley and Georgetown. The Tigers have played both teams this season, losing to each.
Winthrop at St. Mary’s
At Manning Field, of all the games this weekend, these are the two teams that could possibly be the most familiar with each other. They have a common opponent: Lynn English. St. Mary’s, the top seed in Division 3A, defeated the Bulldogs handily in Week 2, 38-12, while English got its only win of the season against Winthrop, in overtime, at Manning Field.
Both come into this game on rolls. The Spartans have been on one all season long. They are 7-0, and are coming off a 40-0 rout of Austin Prep.
Winthrop didn’t get its first victory until Week 4, 14-0 over Salem, but won its next two out of three games to grab the No. 8 slot.
Both teams have Players of the Week. St. Mary’s has Calvin Johnson, who, last week against Austin Prep, ran for 188 yards and scored three touchdowns — all in one half. Winthrop has Jon Gonzalez, who ran for 200 yards last Friday night against Swampscott.
Other St. Mary’s weapons on offense include James Brumfield, quarterback Marcus Atkins, and, on defense, Liam Reddy.
Swampscott at Triton
At Triton, the Big Blue, seeded seventh in Division 3, come into this game on a three-game losing streak, having dropped games to Salem, Revere and Winthrop. Triton has lost two straight, to North Reading and Masconomet.
It was looking to be a promising season for the Big Blue. A high-powered spread offense, led by quarterback Colin Frary and receiver/kicker Sean Lahrizi, was carving up defenses, including both English and Classical, to the tune of a 3-1 start. It was after a loss to Gloucester and a win over Saugus that things went south.
Triton got off to a 5-0 start, the high-water mark being in Week 1 with a victory over Division 1A Peabody.
Should the Big Blue get past Triton, they’d face the winner of No. 3 Bishop Fenwick and No. 6 Amesbury.
Wayland at Marblehead
At Piper Field, the Magicians, No. 1 in Division 2A, like St. Mary’s in Division 3, have taken on, and dismissed, all comers, entering the tournament with a 7-0 record.
The Warriors (3-4) play in the always-tough Dual County League/Small. Their record is deceiving; three of their losses were against non-league teams, including to Division 1A top seed Lincoln-Sudbury and Masconomet, the third seed in Division 2.
Along with gliding through the Northeastern Conference/North schedule, the Magicians won non-league games against Wakefield and Walpole. They have lots of leaders on the squad, two of the biggest being quarterback Drew Gally and running back and Item Player of the Week winner Jaason Lopez.
Northeast Regional at Lynnfield
At Pioneer Stadium, The Pioneers survived a slow start to finish the regular season at 4-2 and draw the No. 4 seed in Division 3A. The Golden Knights, 5-2, are right behind them at No. 5.
Lynnfield has a host of offensive weapons, starting with Item Player of the Week winner Matt Mortellite.
The Knights, out of the Commonwealth Athletic Conference, have built a solid program under coach Don Heres. Their only two blemishes came in Week 1 against Manchester-Essex and in Week 5 against Shawsheen, the team that was set up to be the top seed in 3A until it lost last weekend to Greater Lawrence.
The winner of this game will play either St. Mary’s or Winthrop next weekend.
Peabody at Westford Academy
At Westford Academy, the Tanners, seeded fifth in Division 1A, take on the No. 4 Grey Ghosts (3-4), who finished fifth out of six teams in the Dual County League/Large.
The Tanners are also 3-4, having finished fourth in the Northeastern Conference/North, ahead of Classical and English.
Peabody is coming off a loss to Danvers in its final game of the regular season.
Should the Tanners win Friday, they’d play the winner of No. 1 Lincoln-Sudbury and No. 8 Cambridge next weekend.
Revere at Chelmsford
At Chelmsford, the Lions, No. 3 in Division 1A, are one of four teams in the sectional that finished with a 3-4 record, the others being Peabody, Westford and the Patriots. On point value, the Patriots drew the sixth seed.
However, Revere comes into the tournament on a hot streak, having won crucial games over Saugus, Salem and Swampscott to claw its way into the postseason. Patriots quarterback Eddie Sullivan has proven to be a very effective on-field leader, and he’s had plenty of help offensively.
Should Revere win Friday night, the Patriots would play the winner of No. 2 Reading and No. 7 Malden Catholic.
Amesbury at Fenwick
At Donaldson Field, the Crusaders come in at No. 3 with a 6-1 mark, but were a point-and-a-half behind Triton in the rankings. North Reading is the top seed.
Amesbury is 2-5 and No. 6 in Division 3. The Indians started out losing their first five games, but wins over Manchester Essex and Hamilton-Wenham gave them enough points to leap into the sixth spot.
If you’re looking for a comparison, the Indians lost to Pentucket earlier this season while the Crusaders defeated the Sachems, 21-6, in the non-league portion of their schedule.
Fenwick is led by Isaiah Cashwell-Doe, who won a Player of the Week award this season, and sophomore quarterback Cory Bright.
Also playing Friday night in tournament games are Danvers (at home vs. Wakefield) and Gloucester (home vs. Melrose).
The Falcons, seeded third in 2A, are led by quarterback Dean Borders and running/all-purpose back Matt Andreas, who is sure to be in the conversation for MVP of the Northeastern Conference/North.
The Fishermen, fourth in 2A, were winners of the Northeastern Conference/South (they were a perfect 5-0 within their league). There were several key players, most key among them Christian Sanfilippo, who scored five touchdowns last week in a win over Saugus.
Acton-Boxborough at St. John’s
At Brother Linus Commons Saturday, the Eagles, led by Player of the Week Mike Yarin at quarterback, turned a tough start into a 5-2 record by winning their last four, and snagging the No. 3 seed in Division 1, just behind Lexington.
So far, the Eagles have swept through the Catholic Conference (they play Xaverian on Thanksgiving), losing only to No. 1 Central Catholic and No. 5 Everett. They won a big road game last Friday against Bridgewater-Raynham.
The Colonials, 4-3 and No. 6, lost their first two games, reeled off four wins in a row, and fell last week to Division 1A top seed Lincoln-Sudbury.
The winner of this round will face either Andover or Lexington next weekend.
Somerville at Beverly
At Hurd Stadium Saturday (1), the Panthers finished up in the win column with a hard-fought win over Lynn Classical at Manning Field last Friday night. For the season, the Panthers finished 5-2, having lost back-to-back games to Marblehead and Danvers, and are seeded fourth in Division 2.
They’ve been led all season by quarterback Kevin Morency, as well as Sam Abate, Kevin Flaherty and Hugh Calice.
In non-tournament games, it doesn’t get any easier for English, which travels to North Andover Friday night. The Bulldogs are 1-6 coming into the game, and were thrashed last weekend by Marblehead, 43-0.
Classical is also 1-6, but the Rams are coming off a tough loss, 28-22, at home to Beverly. The game between the Rams and Woburn is at 5 p.m.
Saturday, Saugus will try for its first win of the season at home against Boston Latin. Tonight, Salem travels to Winchester (7).
Steve Krause can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.