, Newburyport, MA

October 18, 2013

Playoff breakdown, take two

Dan Guttenplan
Making the picks

---- — I attempted to break down the high school football playoff picture last week by using the Division 4 power ratings.

Unfortunately, I didn’t use all of the criteria the MIAA uses to select playoff teams. My apologies. I’ll give it another try this week.

The first — and most important — criteria for earning a playoff berth is a team’s league standing at the end of the season. In Cape Ann League Division 1 and Division 2, a team must finish first or second in its particular division to earn an automatic berth to the playoffs. So, four teams from the entire Cape Ann League will earn automatic berths to the postseason.

Division 4 includes a collection of teams from CAL Division 1, CAL Division 2, Middlesex Conference Freedom, Dual County League Small, Northeastern Conference South, Northeastern Conference North and the Catholic Central Large.

Since each of those conferences include five or more teams, if any team in Division 4 places in the top two in its respective division, it receives an automatic berth in the playoffs.

If the season ended today, automatic berths would go to Pentucket (4-0, 3-0) and Lynnfield (5-0, 3-0). The Sachems are the top team in CAL Division 1, and Lynnfield is the top team in CAL Division 2.

Newburyport (3-2, 2-1) is tied for second with Masconomet (3-2, 2-1) in CAL Division 1, so the Clippers will need to win the battle of second-place teams tonight to help secure an automatic berth in the playoffs. Even though Masconomet is not in Division 4, Newburyport will need to finish ahead of the Chieftains in the CAL Division 1 standings to earn the automatic berth.

In CAL Division 2, Amesbury (2-3, 2-1) and Hamilton-Wenham (2-3, 2-1) sit in a tie for second, although the Indians have already defeated the Generals. So, if Lynnfield beats Hamilton-Wenham tomorrow — as is expected — and Amesbury wins its next two games, the Indians will receive an automatic berth.

Of the other Division 4 teams, Watertown (4-1, 2-1) seems likely to earn an automatic berth for finishing in the top two spots in Middlesex Conference Freedom. Bedford (3-1, 1-1) is in the hunt for a top-two seed in the DCL Small. Winthrop (3-2, 2-1) currently sits in second place in the Northeastern Conference Small.

So, that’s seven spots accounted for by teams ranking in the top two spots in their respective conferences. That leaves one wildcard spot. If the season ended today, that spot would go to Triton (3-2, 1-2), the highest ranked team among the remaining Division 4 squads.

Onto the picks.

Today’s games

Masconomet at Newburyport, 7

I would like Newburyport in this game even if Masco had its injured running back, Mike Tivinis. The Clippers have played really well since an opening-week loss to Lynnfield, with big wins over North Reading and Triton coming in the last three weeks. Newburyport probably has enough on its resume to get into the Division 4 playoffs as a wildcard, but I like the Clippers to secure an automatic berth with this win and another next week against Saugus.

The pick: Newburyport 20, Masconomet 9

North Reading at Triton, 7

The Vikings absolutely needs this win with Masconomet waiting on the schedule next week. The Vikings have started a not-so-great trend of losing the close ones and winning by huge margins. It would be nice to see Triton win a close one before the Masco contest, although I think the Vikings are talented enough to win this one by a couple of touchdowns.

The pick: Triton 30, North Reading 10

Tomorrow’s games

Amesbury at Georgetown, 2

Historically, when Amesbury makes the playoffs — like in 2007, 2008 and 2012 — the Indians close out the regular season with nice winning streaks. Give the Indians this win and another next week against Manchester Essex, and they’ll close out this regular season with four straight wins and another playoff berth.

The pick: Amesbury 41, Georgetown 7

Saugus at Pentucket, 2

Saugus (1-4) picked up its first win last weekend against North Reading. That was probably just what Pentucket coach Steve Hayden wanted to see as he started building the case that his players can not overlook the underdogs from 30 miles down Route 1.

The pick: Pentucket 28, Saugus 6

Brooks at Governor’s Academy, 2

The Govs (4-0) are keeping things interesting as they continue to push their winning streak into the mid-20s. They ran the streak to 22 last week after trailing at halftime for the second straight game. Brooks (1-3) would love to take a lead into the half this week, but I’m not sure it’s going to happen.

The pick: Govs 30, Brooks 9

Last week’s record: 4-1

Overall record: 16-5