There are two pieces of good news for high school football fans as we prepare for Week 7.
The first is that this weekend marks the first in which local teams will play league games.
The first six weeks served as the non-league portion of the schedule when wins and losses had no bearing on things like championships or postseason berths.
Starting tonight, the games take on an added significance. One loss may effectively end a team’s pursuit of a league title and postseason berth.
In turn, a win means everything, and the level of play typically improves when relatively equal teams battle for the same goal.
The second piece of good news is that, by next weekend, the football schedule should return to its more traditional format.
More Friday night games, no field restrictions due to the EEE virus, less unusual start times and likely more fans in the seats.
I maintain that the games always feel more important on Friday night, and they certainly feel more important in late October and November.
That being said, I should be careful what I wish for. I may spend tonight sitting in the rain, longing for the days of warm, Friday afternoons of football.
On to the picks.
Newburyport at Saugus, 4
First, a logistical note: Saugus plays its home games at Stackpole Field, which is not at the high school. Take Route 1 south to Main Street, exiting toward Saugus Center. Go past the high school, through the set of lights to Summer Street. The field is at the end of Summer Street. As for the game, Saugus is coming off an emotional loss. The Sachems fell to Winthrop 13-7 in overtime last Friday night. Winthrop senior Ruben Powell took advantage of a short Saugus field goal attempt in overtime, collecting the ball at the 8-yard-line and racing 92 yards to the end zone to give Winthrop the win at Miller Field. On other hand, Newburyport has momentum after a 13-7 victory over Ipswich Saturday. Could this be the week Connor Wile returns at quarterback?
The pick: Newburyport 14, Saugus 6
Pentucket at Winthrop, 7
Pentucket has struggled getting significant offensive production from anyone other than its do-everything tailback Cody Rothwell. It will be interesting to see how much coach Steve Hayden leans on the bruising offensive weapon now that league play is under way. Last week, Rothwell had 22 touches for a total of 196 yards and a touchdown. Still, Winthrop is a very difficult team to play on the road, as was evidenced by last week’s shocking overtime win over Saugus.
The pick: Winthrop 16, Pentucket 12
Amesbury at Triton, 2
Amesbury quarterback Matt Talbot has been remarkably efficient this season, accounting for five rushing touchdowns and nine passing touchdowns in six games. Last week, the senior captain had three carries, all of which resulted in touchdowns in a win over Georgetown. Triton will offer a challenge with its passing offense, but I think the Indians make fewer mistakes.
The pick: Amesbury 27, Triton 13
North Reading at Georgetown, 2
I would imagine this will be Georgetown’s last home game at Haverill Stadium now that the field restrictions in Georgetown have been lifted. The mosquitos might be gone, but the Royals are still reeling from the injury bug. Last week, Georgetown played without starting quarterback Niko Edwards, leading rusher Tim Dillon and leading receiver Colby Ingraham. With freshmen and sophomores playing on both sides of the ball, Georgetown will be hard-pressed to stop the CAL’s top rusher in Carl Lipani.
The pick: North Reading 34, Georgetown 13
Last week’s record: 3-1
Overall record: 18-11