---- — With the playoffs nearly here in the newly realigned MIAA football scene, a true favorite has yet to establish itself in the Merrimack Valley Conference Division race.
Central Catholic appears to have the upper hand but, just two weeks ago, Chelmsford looked awfully strong while defeating Andover. Then, last week, Lowell knocked off the Lions to put their name back near the top.
Andover, meanwhile, seemed lost a couple of weeks ago, but it looked rejuvenated the last two weeks and seems to be getting its act together. It can get into the playoff picture Friday at Lowell.
But first things first. Central must take care of business tomorrow by winning the MVC outright and, if the Raiders can establish a running game to supplement Mike Milano, they’ll do just that.
PREDICTION: Central Catholic 24, Chelmsford 16
Andover (3-3) at Lowell (4-2)
Wow, was I off the mark about La Salle last week. Jack Sylvester and Will Eikenberry (combined 6 TDs) led a dominant Golden Warrior victory. But I’m pretty confident about Lowell.
Prediction: Lowell 24, Andover 20
North Andover (3-3) at Haverhill (4-2)
If Haverhill can contain Casey Walsh and the North Andover’s passing attack, the Hillies should be able to grind out a pivotal victory with their gritty defense and three-headed running game. But it won’t be easy.
Prediction: Haverhill 21, North Andover 20
Pentucket (5-0) at North Reading (2-4)
The unbeaten Sachems aren’t powerful enough to coast, but led by Jeff Porter (2 TDs last week) and linebacker Josh Wesolowski they’re too good for the banged-up Hornets.
Prediction: Pentucket 28, North Reading 7
Billerica (0-6) at Lawrence (1-5)
Lawrence won a thriller last week on a late Kenny Richards touchdown and it may just win another.
Prediction: Lawrence 26, Billerica 20
Manchester Central (5-2) at Salem (2-5)
The Blue Devils are improved, but they’ll have a hard time stopping star Manchester back Jesiah Wade.
Prediction: Manchester Central 34, Salem 20
Exeter (4-3) at Timberlane (1-6)
The Owls could easily have won four games by now, but they’ve struggled to win the close games. Exeter is a bit down, but are two-time defending Division 1 champs.
Prediction: Exeter 28, Timberlane 14
Goffstown (3-4) at Pinkerton (5-2)
The Astros should roll. They will probably be working on ways to upgrade prior to the playoffs.
Prediction: Pinkerton 33, Goffstown 16
Londonderry (3-4) at Memorial (1-6)
The Lancers could easily be 5-2 behind dynamic Dennis Bishop.
Prediction: Londonderry 28, Memorial 26
Northeast (6-0) at Gr. Lawrence (2-4)
Northeast has a prolific offense and the Reggies’ defense has been inconsistent.
Prediction: Northeast 35, Gr. Lawrence 16
Pelham (6-0) at Campbell (5-1)
Campbell is averaging 50 points per game over the last three games, but I think the Pythons will have a good game plan.
Prediction: Pelham 28, Campbell 21
Kingswood (1-6) at Sanborn (4-3)
The Indians can go a long way toward locking up a winning season by playing mistake free.
Prediction: Sanborn 28, Kingswood 12
Georgetown (0-6) at Hamilton-Wenham (2-4)
The Royals are, quite simply, outmanned.
Prediction: Hamilton-Wenham 27, Georgetown 7
Whittier (4-2) at Shawsheen (2-4)
The Wildcats looked good last week, with Connor Bradley throwing for two TDs and running for a third, but they’d better not take the Rams for granted.
Prediction: Whittier 26, Shawsheen 20
Trinity (6-1) at Windham (6-1)
Whoever takes better control of the ball should prevail in what should be a classic.
Prediction: Trinity 30, Windham 24
Brooks (1-4) at St. Mark’s (1-4)
Both teams are averaging 21 points per game, but Brooks’ defense may be slightly better.
Prediction: Brooks 26, St. Mark’s 21
Phillips Academy (5-0) at Deerfield (3-2)
The Big Blue is playing with an awful lot of confidence.
Prediction: Phillips Academy 31, Deerfield 17
Season record: 80-26