School football advance

League battles start heating up

Swampscott ready for Beverly clash

By Ryan Mooney
Globe Correspondent / November 4, 2011

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There are only three weeks left in the regular season, but the high school football season is far from over.

Reading is the only team to have clinched a playoff spot. A handful of teams - Blue Hills, Tewksbury, and Nantucket, to name a few - have the opportunity to clinch this weekend. But most leagues are wide open, making the next few weeks exciting, with everything on the line.

Beverly, Swampscott, and Marblehead are all 2-0 in the Cape Ann League/Northeastern Conference, and all three finish with three league games.

One will lose its first league game tomorrow afternoon when Beverly (6-2) hosts No. 19 Swampscott (7-1). Marblehead hosts Beverly next Friday, and Swampscott on Thanksgiving.

If all three finish with the same CAL/NEC record, the team that gave up the most points through the season would be eliminated, and the head-to-head winner of the remaining two teams would move on.

“If we don’t go into that game prepared and play well, it doesn’t matter, we’ll be behind the eight-ball,’’ Swampscott coach Steve Dembowski said. “We would need Marblehead to beat Beverly . . . we want to focus on today, get the most out of today, and then hopefully go into Saturday being as prepared as we can be and see what happens at the end of the game.’’

Beverly took the conference by surprise last season, dropping its first five games before running the table in league play, including a 21-14 win over Swampscott, and winning the Division 3 Super Bowl. They have carried over that success into Division 2A and the only CAL/NEC team to outperform them so far - narrowly - is Swampscott.

Swampscott averages 30.6 points per game and gives up 15.5. Beverly scores 29.1 points per game and gives up 15.8, and in the last two weeks both put up 47 points against Danvers.

Big Blue quarterback Michael Walsh leads Division 2A in touchdown passes with 21.

“I don’t know if you necessarily stop them,’’ Beverly coach Dan Bauer said of Swampscott’s passing attack. “I think you just try to do the best you can to minimize big plays . . . they’re going to get yards and they’re going to make plays, and any good teams do that.’’

Any of the teams in the CAL/NEC can surprise on any given day. Swampscott still has to play Gloucester (0-8, 0-2) next Saturday, Beverly plays Salem (1-7, 0-2) on Thanksgiving, and Marblehead plays Danvers (3-5, 0-2) tonight.

“There are no give-me’s or anything on this schedule. They’re all tough teams, they all come to play, they all come prepared,’’ Bauer said. “It’s exciting at the end of the season and we’re all in good position here, and you never know what’s going to happen. It’s probably going to come right down to the wire.’’

Two top-20 games take place tonight. Third-ranked BC High (5-3, 1-0) hosts No. 11 Xaverian (5-3, 1-0) in the Catholic Conference, and No. 13 Billerica (7-1, 1-0) visits No. 14 Andover (5-3, 0-1) in the Merrimack Valley Large.

Barnstable can clinch the Old Colony title with a win over No. 8 Bridgewater-Raynham tonight. Last Friday, the Red Raiders (4-4, 2-0) took No. 4 Mansfield to overtime and lost by a point, and the Trojans (6-1, 1-0) piled up 346 yards on the ground against Dartmouth in a 30-6 victory that knocked the Big Green out of playoff contention.

Also tonight, Acton-Boxboro (5-3, 1-0) hosts No. 6 Lincoln-Sudbury (8-0, 2-0) as they fight for supremacy in the Dual County Large.

The Eastern Massachusetts Association of Interscholastic Football Officials announced yesterday the selection of Fran Cass of Holbrook as its 2011 Robert Donovan coach of the year. Cass has been the coach at Holbrook for seven years.

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