By Hector Longo
---- — All around the state of Massachusetts, football coaches have found their latest coaching vessel, the calculator.
Heads will be spinning this weekend as playoff spots for the MIAA’s new playoff system are decided upon.
The simple rule is that if you finish first or second in your league, you are in. That could be altered — if too many teams gain automatic bids in a certain sectional — but it will be rare, especially up here in the North.
After the automatic bids are picked, the remaining at-large spots will be decided for each section.
A handful of area teams have done the hard work already and locked down their spots. Others are out already.
Many lie in the middle of the pack and are thinking one thing this weekend.
“Win and we are in,” said Andover High coach E.J. Perry, whose club can qualify with a seed as high as No. 4 in Division 1 North with a win over Lowell tomorrow night. “I don’t even want to really think about what happens with a loss. We can make it, but a lot of things would have to fall right for us. Winning takes care of not having to worry.”
Here’s a look at all the Mass. teams and where they stand as the final week of the regular season approaches:
Central Catholic: They’ve racked up plenty of points. More importantly, Tonight’s home date with Chelmsford could lock down a league title with a Raider victory.
Haverhill: The 4-2 start has the Hillies looking at a home playoff opener. The battle with the Knights tomorrow night is for an automatic bid, but Haverhill coach Tim O’Connor says the Hillies have done enough to down the at-large if necessary.
North Andover: Only 3-3 with the Hillies left Friday night. Right now, they are the six seed. It’s all academic, since the No. 9 seed is 2-4 Newton North.
Pentucket: A win at North Reading Friday night locks up the No. 1 seed in Division 4 North.
Whittier: Coach Kevin Bradley says a win over Shawsheen Saturday could vault the Wildcats into a home date in the playoffs. The winner picks up the CAC Large automatic bid for second place.
IN THE HUNT
Methuen: At 4-3 in the clubhouse, Coach Tom Ryan says a Lowell win over Andover or a Central win over Chelmsford would send the Rangers to the postseason. The sad fact looms that if Andover and Chelmsford post upsets, Methuen could be the odd man out with Malden, a team the Rangers beat, sneaking in as the No. 2 team in the GBL.
Andover … Currently, the sixth seed, ahead of Lowell, the Warriors need to beat the Raiders to be in for sure. Plain and simple. If not, it’s Novena time.
North Reading: An upset over Pentucket would pack a ton of points and push the Hornets into the playoff equation. Will it be enough to reach the top 8, we’d have to wait and see.
LONGEST OF LONGSHOTS
Greater Lawrence Tech: First, the Reggies have to shock unbeaten Northeast. After that, a handful of games would have to break just right mathematically.
NH PLAYOFF RAP
Two solid weeks remain in the New Hampshire regular season, but much of the playoff picture is in place. Here’s a quick look at Division 1 and the locals in all levels.
There’s a three-way tie at the top with Exeter ,Dover and Winnacunnet at 4-3. The Warriors have to face unbeaten South and could be the odd team out.
Unbeaten Concord (7-0) is basically in. The regular-season finale between Bedford (6-1) and Central (5-2) will leave one pretty darn good football team on the outside looking in.
If unbeaten Nashua South (7-0) beats 5-2 Keene this week, it will be the Panthers and Cardinals of B.G. advancing.
Pinkerton is clearly the pick, at 5-2. Londonderry has no excuses. In a 3-way tie at 3-4, the Lancers have Memorial and Salem left plus it owns the tie-breakers over Goffstown and Merrimack.
Highlighting just the local interests, if Sanborn can beat 1-6 Kingswood this week, it’s in. That’s the good news. The reward is a playoff date at unbeaten Monadnock. That’s the bad news.
Windham, at 6-1, is in, thanks to the tie-breaker advantage over 4-3 Milford.
The Jags will face Trinity this week for what will decide the top seed in the South Division.
Beat 5-1 Campbell or 0-6 Farmington-Nute and the unbeaten Pelham Pythons will be playoff bound.