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Central Mass Super Bowl Preview

Saturday, December 01, 2012


St. John's quarterback Drew Smiley will need to be on his game to knock off reigning Division I champ Leominster.

It's Super Bowl time in Central Massachusetts, and six divisional champions will be crowned today. Let's take a look at each of the games, and what your team needs to do to capture a Central Mass title.

Division 1
Leominster vs. St. John's at Fitchburg State, 2:30 p.m.

This is a rematch of last year's championship game won by Leominster at Gillette Stadium. The Blue Devils again defeated the Pioneers earlier this season when a last-minute Garret DelleChiaie touchdown pass lifted Leominster by a score of 37-34.

The Blue Devils come in after punching Shrewsbury in the mouth on a snowy Tuesday, while St. John's recommitted to its ground game and squeaked past Wachusett.

The winner of this game will likely be the one that can establish balance offensively and limit the giveaways.

Division 2
Nashoba vs. Shepherd Hill at Gillette Stadium, 11 a.m.

Nashoba comes in as a pretty heavy favorite in this one, and with good reason. The Chieftains are one of the region's two remaining unbeatens, and have developed a potent passing attack to go with their already efficient ground game.

If Shepherd Hill is to come out on top in this one, they will have to do to Nashoba what they did to Doherty Tuesday: Control the line of scrimmage. The Rams are known for doing that on offense- they run the ball as well as anyone- but against the Highlanders, they used blitzing linebackers and defensive backs to sniff out Highlander run plays and rush the passer.

Whether or not that will work against the dominant Nashoba offensive line remains to be seen.

Division 3
Auburn vs. Tantasqua at Worcester State, 4 p.m.

Auburn is the region's other unbeaten, and they haven't really been tested all year. The Rockets will look to finish off one of the most dominant seasons in Central Mass history with a victory over surprising Tantasqua.

Quarterback Randy Harrington led the Warriors to an upset of Groton-Dunstable Tuesday, but will face an even stiffer test today against, perhaps, the region's best defense.

Still, nobody has been able to score on the Rockets out of the gate this year. A quick start or two by Tantasqua could put Auburn in unfamiliar territory.

Division 4
Northbridge vs. Grafton at Fitchburg State, 11:30 a.m.

Northbridge leans on quarterback Matt Phelan to do it through the air and on the ground, but running back Danny Clasby has emerged in recent weeks.

The defending champion Rams will need that balance against a solid Grafton team that has played really good football off of everybody's radar this season. The Indians have played Northbridge and Shepherd Hill tough, and have been able to win both offensive shoot outs and defensive slugfests.

Given the weather forecast for this game, I would expect the latter, and wouldn't be surprised if that Grafton defense makes this a game.

Division 5
West Boylston vs. Leicester at Worcester State, 10 a.m.

Leicester comes in as the defending champs, but also as an underdog to upstart West Boylston. The Lions have cruised to a 12-1 record, but were surprisingly challenged by Narragansett Tuesday.

Prior to that, quarterback Steven Gould was on an absolute tear, and you can be sure he has Leicester's attention. The Wolverine defense seems ready, as they smothered Tyngsborough's explosive offense last week. Add in that junior quarterback Drew Mazzeo is a threat to score on the ground each time he touches the ball, and Leicester could be in position for a surprising repeat.

Both teams play great defense, but Leicester is the better team running the ball. If the weather is bad, that could be the difference.

Division 6
Blackstone Valley Tech vs. Bay Path at Worcester State, 1 p.m.

Blackstone Valley Tech would like nothing more than to beat Bay Path for the Division 6 championship. The Beavers fell to the Minutemen in last year's playoffs, and Bay Path handed BVT its only loss this season. So, as great a year as BVT has had, The Colonial League and Division 6 still belong to Bay Path.

That is, unless the Beavers can win this one.

The first meeting between these two teams was a low-scoring affair, as the Minutemen held BVT's normally explosive offense in check on the way to a 13-12 win. The Beavers will have to get the ball into the hands of their two biggest play makers, Shawn Wilkins and Taylor Hanson, if they want to get that monkey off of their collective back.


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