---- — The focus is on Central Catholic this week, and particularly its secondary.
The Raiders host a Lowell squad that plays a very similar game Friday night, and the contest has serious playoff implications. Both teams are 3-1 and 1-0 in the MVC Division 1 race, just behind Chelmsford (3-1, 2-0), so the winner will go a long way toward locking up a playoff berth as one of the division’s top two teams.
In order to win, Central must lock down or at least contain Lowell receiver Jack Galvin, a returning MVC all-league performer who hasn’t slowed down despite catching balls from a new QB, Lawrence Academy transfer Brian Dolan.
Stopping Galvin completely will be tough, but I think the Raiders have sone good skill players in the secondary and they may be able to apply some pressure up front.
Because of Johnny Thomas, Central let me down against St. John’s Prep, I’m hoping that doesn’t happen again.
PICK: Central Catholic 26, Lowell 22
Concord (5-0) at Pinkerton (4-1)
The Astros have superstar Manny Latimore, but how will they respond against the unbeaten No. 1 ranked team in the state?
PICK: Concord 28, Pinkerton 21
Lawrence (0-4) at North Andover (1-3)
If you like offense, this is the game to go to. The Scarlet Knights finally broke into the win column last week, while the Lancers are desperate to do the same. Turnovers will decide it.
PICK: North Andover 38, Lawrence 34
Pentucket (3-0) at Masconomet (3-1)
Masconomet has played a tougher schedule, including a win over tough North Reading. But the Sachems have been the surprise of the region, including an upset of favorite Newburyport, led by QB Ryan Kuchar (6 total TDs).
PICK: Masconomet 20, Pentucket 14
Andover (1-3) at Billerica (0-4)
This is a must-win situation for the Warriors against a Dracut team that is struggling mightily, having been outscored 145-77. The return of running back Jack Sylvester should be a big boost.
PICK: Andover 30, Billerica 19
Sanborn (3-2) at Merrimack Valley (4-1)
Sanborn has been progressing nicely and is capable of an upset, but Merrimack Valley has been rolling other than a stumble against Portsmouth.
PICK: Merrimack Valley 26, Sanborn 14
Windham (4-1) at Kennett (3-2)
The Jaguars have a knack of winning the close games, winning two games by four points, and Jags QB Brendan McInnis (595 yards, 5 TDs) has been a force.
PICK: Windham 27, Kennett 20
Merrimack (3-2) at Londonderry (2-3)
After a 2-0 start, the Lancers need to rebound from three straight losses if they want a berth in the playoffs.
PICK: Merrimack 26, Londonderry 21
Saugus (0-4) at North Reading (2-2)
The Hornets gave Masco all they could handle last week, but have still lost two straight. They should get back on track this week.
PICK: North Reading 27, Saugus 7
Timberlane (1-4) at Nashua North (0-5)
Time is running out for teams seeking to salvage a decent season.
PICK: Timberlane 23, Nashua North 16
Dracut (0-4) at Haverhill (3-1)
I hate to jinx the Hillies, but it’d be foolish not to pick the red hot Brown and Gold against a winless Dracut squad that North Andover rolled over last week.
PICK: Haverhill 24, Dracut 7
Gr. Lawrence (2-3) at Shawsheen (1-3)
The Reggies should win this one against a Rams team struggling on offense, scoring just 13 points total in three losses to start the year before earning a win last week. But I have a bad feeling about this one.
PICK: Shawsheen 22, Greater Lawrence 20
Methuen (4-1) at Tewksbury (4-0)
Once surging Methuen hit a bump in the road against Haverhill last week. But the Rangers will be fired up for the return of head coach Tommy Ryan to Tewksbury, where he was an assistant. The favored Redmen, however, look to be too tough.
PICK: Tewksbury 34, Methuen 20
Salem (1-4) at Goffstown (1-4)
After more than a season without a win, Salem finally gave Blue Devil fans reason to smile with a 50-6 thrashing of Manchester West. Could the John Cerretani-to-Jake Poore (3 TDs last week) connection continue?
PICK: Goffstown 27, Salem 21
Lynnfield (4-0) at Georgetown (0-4)
The banged-up Royals will be doing well to score a touchdown.
PICK: Lynnfield 38, Georgetown 7
Pelham (4-0) at Epping (2-2)
The Pythons and Chris Medeiros (516 rushing yards) are one of the state’s biggest surprises.
PICK: Pelham 28, Epping 14
Rivers (1-2) at Brooks (1-2)
With his five TDs last week, Chris Cervizzi is tied for most TDs scored in the ISL with eight.
PICK: Brooks 27, Rivers 22
Phillips Academy (3-0) at Cushing (2-1)
Cushing blasted Northfield Mt. Hermon 48-6 last week, but I’m not about to pick against the Big Blue the way they’re playing.
PICK: Phillips Academy 27, Cushing 13
Season record: 51-22