Local high school football teams began league play last weekend, and I predicted players would elevate their play due to the increased stakes.
What I neglected to predict was that coaches, too, would elevate their commitment now that the league season is underway.
I saw evidence of this Friday afternoon in Saugus as I sat in a steady rain in the bleachers at Stackpole Field. Newburyport and Saugus were finishing up the first half when one Amesbury football coach after another climbed the bleachers and settled in at the top of the bleachers.
By the fourth quarter, Thom Connors and two of his assistant coaches were standing in the rain, taking mental notes on both teams. After all, Amesbury will have to beat Saugus and Newburyport to achieve its goal of winning the Cape Ann League/Northeastern Conference Division 3 championship.
We’ve officially opened the league schedule. It’s the time of year when played elevate their play, and three coaches from the same staff drive an hour each way in rush hour traffic to stand in the rain and watch future opponents.
On to the picks.
Winthrop at Amesbury, 7
Amesbury (5-2) has scored 157 points in its last four games, an average of 39.33 points per game. It’s not like Amesbury coach Thom Connors has been running up the score, either. Last week, he called off the dogs after Amesbury led Triton 42-0 in the third quarter. Triton made it respectable with a 42-13 result. Here’s a scary thought for future Amesbury foes. The Indians now have one of the league’s top receiving threats in Devlin Gobeil back on the field, after the senior missed four games with an injury.
The pick: Amesbury 30, Winthrop 14
Georgetown at Ipswich, 7
Georgetown is struggling to overcome the injury bug, which is always difficult at small schools. Last week, the Royals only accumulated 79 total yards of offense last week in a 14-0 loss to North Reading.
The pick: Ipswich 14, Georgetown 0
Triton at Newburyport, 10
I’m interested to see Newburyport quarterback Connor Wile’s progression as he attempts to return back to form after being sidelined with a shoulder injury for much of the last six months. Last week, the quarterback looked comfortable on the field, but not necessarily confident in his arm strength. Four games remain, and I’m sure Newburyport coach Ed Gaudiano and offensive coordinator Ryan McCarthy would like to be able to call on Wile to throw the ball down the field by the Thanksgiving game against Amesbury.
The pick: Newburyport 21, Triton 13
Saugus at Pentucket, 2
Saugus runs the triple-option running attack, and Pentucket is pretty good against the run. Pentucket tailback Cody Rothwell is coming off a four-touchdown game in a win over Winthrop, and Saugus was gashed on the ground by Newburyport last week. I like Pentucket to win the battle at the line of scrimmage and the game.
The pick: Pentucket 26, Saugus 14
Last week’s record: 3-1
Overall record: 21-12