There’s nothing quite like playoff football. And North Shore football fans will have plenty of postseason action to watch this weekend as the quarterfinals of the North sectional postseason get underway Friday night.
Lynn fans will get a double dose of action both Friday and Saturday, as St. Mary’s and Classical play a doubleheader tonight, and English and Tech play tomorrow.
Div. 7 North Quarterfinals
No. 8 Manchester Essex at No. 1 St. Mary’s
At Manning Field (5), the road to the postseason has been pretty smooth for the undefeated Spartans. St. Mary’s outscored opponents 308-72 in its seven regular season games, all decisive wins. Archbishop Williams, a fellow Catholic Central League powerhouse, was the only team to give the Spartans any trouble in a 20-7 win on the road for St. Mary’s.
Look for the Spartans to jump out to a quick lead, something that has been their M.O. all season. Prior to last Saturday, the Spartans had held opponents scoreless in the first quarter, and are averaging 17 points in the first quarter this season.
The Spartans’ opponent, the Hornets, hail from the Cape Ann League and went 3-4 in the regular season, including 1-3 on the road. Manchester Essex is riding high after a 35-14 win against Amesbury in its regular season finale.
Div. 3 North Quarterfinals
No. 6 Danvers at No. 3 Classical
At Manning Field (7:30) is the only all-Northeastern Conference matchup in the quarterfinal round. Classical dealt Danvers one of its two losses — the other coming last week against Marblehead — back on Oct. 6 at Dr. Deering Stadium. Now, the Rams get a second shot at the Falcons, this time on Classical’s home turf.
The 28-14 win over Danvers helped the Rams improve to 5-0 at the time, and it was a battle. Classical pulled away late with some big plays down the stretch. The Rams offense, led by first-year quarterback Keith Ridley, is averaging 29 points per game, while the Falcons are coming off a loss in a defensive battle against the undefeated Magicians, 10-7, last Friday.
Div. 4 North Quarterfinals
No. 7 Wakefield at No. 2 Marblehead
At Piper Field (7), the Magicians have a much different look this season than the team that went to the Div. 2A Super Bowl last year, but they’ve picked up where they left off, going 7-0 in the regular season. Marblehead has been a defensive force to be reckoned with all season long, holding opponents to an average of six points per game. Only once have the 2017 Magicians allowed more than 10 points — a 21-12 win at home against Gloucester.
Wakefield (3-4) played a tough schedule, with six of seven games against playoff teams, and is coming off a 21-14 win over Div. 5 Watertown.
Also in Div. 4 Friday night, No. 6 Gloucester will travel to No. 3 Wilmington at 7.
Div. 5 North Quarterfinals
No. 8 Bedford at No. 1 Lynnfield
At Pioneer Stadium (7), the Pioneers looked like they were on track for a 7-0 record before running into Cape Ann League champs Hamilton-Wenham last Friday, falling, 35-7. But other than the loss to the Generals and a close 28-26 win over Wayland in Week 2, Lynnfield has outscored its opponents 195-49 in the other five games.
Bedford’s (2-5) two wins came against Boston Latin (30-0) and Atlantis (32-7), and the Buccaneers are coming off a 41-18 loss to Wayland.
Div. 1 North Quarterfinals
No. 6 St. John’s Prep at No. 3 Everett
At Everett Veterans Memorial Stadium (7), the Eagles (3-4) got a tough draw in the Division 1 tournament bracket, getting powerhouse Everett (6-0) on the road. The Crimson Tide spoiled the unveiling of the new Glatz Field at St. John’s Prep, toppling the Eagles, 42-28, on September 23.
But the Eagles were still trying to find themselves at that point in the season. It was in the middle of that game that sophomore Matt Crowley stepped under center, and he has since emerged as a strong quarterback, a move that also opened up Mike Yarin as a wide receiver. Between Yarin and Aise Pream, Crowley has weapons to use both on the ground and in the air. The Eagles’ 28 points were the most allowed by the Crimson Tide defense this season.
But Everett is still Everett, the reigning Div. 1 champs. The Crimson Tide knocked the Eagles out of the tournament in 2014 and 2015.
Also tonight, in non-playoff action, Revere will host Burlington (6:30), Winthrop will travel to Essex Tech (7), Peabody will host Westford Academy (7), Fenwick will host Northeast (7) and Medford will visit Lawrence (7).
Div. 3 North Quarterfinals
No. 8 Winchester at No. 1 English
At Manning Field (2), the Bulldogs (7-0) blew through the regular season to nab the top seed. Throughout the year, one of English’s strengths has been the fact that it has several different players capable of making a big play on offense. But the defense has been equally impressive, holding six of seven opponents to 20 points or less this season.
On the other side, Winchester has had a tough year at 2-5, and has yet to win a game on the road (0-4). But if there’s one thing you can say about the Sachems, it’s that they’re battle-tested. Six of Winchester’s seven regular-season games were against playoff teams, including Div. 1 Lexington (a 42-19 loss), and Division 2’s Newton South (20-19 loss) and Reading (14-7 win).
Div. 8 North Quarterfinals
No. 8 Marian/Keefe at No. 1 Tech
At Manning Field (7), Marian/Keefe will try to find a way to do what no one else has been able to so far this season: stop the two-headed running monster of Tech’s Steffan Gravely and Keoni Gaskin. Gravely has been running wild over the past few weeks, setting the new Tech all-time rushing record Saturday against Greater Lowell. The Gryphons gave the Tigers their toughest test of the season, and while the offense was quieter than usual, the defense was stout in the 13-0 win.
Marian/Keefe hails from Framingham, a co-op team from Marian High and Keefe Tech. St. Mary’s actually visited Marian/Keefe in Week 2, coming away with a 50-8 win. The co-op squad has two wins on the season, against Matignon and Tri-County.
Div. 5 North Quarterfinals
No. 6 Watertown at No. 3 Swampscott
At Blocksidge Field (12), Colin Frary has emerged as one of the top quarterbacks on the North Shore, and he’s led the Big Blue to a 6-1 record. Swampscott’s one blemish on the season was a 36-7 loss to English, but in its other six games, the Big Blue offense is averaging a whopping 41 points per game.
Swampscott will see a Watertown (3-4) team that limps into the postseason after losing its last three games, all against Middlesex League opponents.
Div. 6 North Quarterfinals
No. 8 Salem at No. 1 Hamilton-Wenham
At Hamilton-Wenham (1:30), the Witches will surely have their work cut out for them against the unbeaten Generals. Hamilton-Wenham is coming off a win against previously undefeated Lynnfield and aside from a seven-point win against Manchester Essex, the Generals haven’t had much trouble with any opponent.
Salem (4-3) has been right in every game it’s played, save for a tough loss against Swampscott. But the Witches are coming off back-to-back losses against English (13-12) and Classical (44-20).
In non-playoff action, Saugus will visit Pentucket at 1:30.