ATTLEBORO (4-0) AT MANSFIELD (2-2)
The Skinny: The Blue Bombardiers have opened up the season undefeated and opened Hockomock League play with a win over Canton last week. Meanwhile, Mansfield is coming off a loss to Stoughton (the second in as many years). Attleboro’s 6-foot, 185-pound running back Malique Clark has tallied eight touchdowns in the early going while Robbie Rapoza is looking for a repeat performance of his four-touchdown game against Dracut two weeks ago.
Scott Barboza: Upset, blue light special. Blue Bombardiers pull out a stunner. Attleboro, 14-8.
Brendan Hall: Hornets will find a way to rebound on Friday night in front of their home crowd. How often does Mansfield lose two straight in league play? Mansfield, 20-10.
SHEPHERD HILL (4-0) AT NO. 19 AUBURN (4-0)
The Skinny: Auburn saw its state-best win streak snapped at 41 games last fall to these very Rams, before rolling to its fourth consecutive Super Bowl title. This year, we're not sure who has the advantage. Both teams excel at moving the ball on the ground, with Shepherd Hill's Brad Picard (6.7 yards per carry) moving behind a swarming double wing, and Tyler Desjardins (10.8) getting help from a Rockets line that is among the state's biggest.
Barboza: For the Rockets to be knocked off for a second straight year, that would be the greatest upset of all. Auburn, 20-13.
Hall: Set the over-under on total rushing yards in this game at 400. Auburn, 28-21.
BURLINGTON (4-0) AT NO. 6 READING (4-0)
The Skinny: A must-see matchup between the Middlesex League's two most talented teams, which includes some of the state's top players at their respective positions. Speedster Marcus Odiah leads a powerful rushing attack from Burlington, but the Red Devils will have their hands full trying to neutralize the Rockets on either side of the ball. Offensively, the Rockets are led by one of the state's finest quarterbacks in Drew Belcher, while defensively the Rockets have allowed just two points through four games this season.
Barboza: The scoreless quarter streak will end, the Rockets keep the win streak going. Reading, 28-14.
Hall: If you score on the Rockets, keep the ball. Reading, 17-3.
FOXBOROUGH (3-1) AT NO. 24 STOUGHTON (4-0)
The Skinny: A game that could go a long way to deciding the Hockomock League Davenport division crown will be played under a different light Friday, after the Black Knights attend the funeral of fallen tammate David Wade that day. Stoughton will have plenty at stake emotionally, playing for Wade’s memory and coming off another “upset” of Mansfield. Foxborough knocked the Hock on its heels as well last week, upsetting North Attleborough and shutting out the Red Rocketeers.
Barboza: Just too may athletes at too many positions for the Black Knights. Do it for David. Stoughton, 21-17.
Hall: Tough times make tough people. Stoughton, 13-10.
XAVERIAN (1-3) AT NO. 4 DUXBURY (4-0)
The Skinny: The Hawks assuredly will enter our Mass. Army National Guard Game of the Week with a chip on their shoulder and desperate to turn around a losing record. The Dragons look to make it two in a row over Xaverian, after sealing a victory at the Hawk Bowl last year. Duxbury’s defense paid dividends in that game, and while some of the talent has graduated, they have three-year starting inside linebacker Marshall McCarthy to quarterback the defense. The matchup to watch here will be the interior line play with C.J. LoConte (Army lacrosse commit) going head-to-head with Michigan football commit Mo Hurst.
Barboza: Look for Dave Maimaron to work in some wrinkles this week to keep the Hawks’ defensive line in check. Duxbury, 31-21.
Hall: Hawks will find their groove in this game, but the Dragons will escape for their state-best 31st straight win. Duxbury, 24-17.
CHELMSFORD (4-0) AT HAVERHILL (3-1)
The Skinny: A battle between two Merrimack Valley Conference teams off to quality starts in 2012, two of the league's most productive running backs square off in this early-season battle. Chelmsford's Jeff D'Auria (10 TDs) has been a workhorse out of the backfield, while the Hillies' Chance Brady (724 rushing yards, 12 TD) might be the most complete back in the league.
Barboza: The Lions skated on thin ice last week and I think it catches up with them facing the Hillies’ pistol offense with Tommy Morgan at quarterback. Haverhill, 30-28.
Hall: Considering how much talent moved on from a year ago, have to appreciate what Chelmsford is doing right now. Chelmsford, 21-6.
NO. 3 ST. JOHN'S PREP (3-1) AT NO. 12 BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM (3-1)
The Skinny: This game screams ball control. Both teams come with highly-touted backfields. The Eagles’ duo of Jonathan Thomas and Alex Moore is the most dynamic in the state. But with Arcel Armstead back and Brandon Gallagher running strong early in the season, the Trojans can match metal with metal. Expect a lot of work out of the I-formation and two-tight end sets as these teams counter strength against strength. The number of completed passes in this one could figure to be counted on one hand, but you can’t argue with what head coaches Jim O’Leary and Dan Buron have done with their respective systems in their careers.
Barboza: I think this one’s going to be very close, but I can’t settle on a score. So I’m going to set a line for the project number of TOTAL possessions in this game. But I’m picking Prep to win. Possessions: 8.5 (that’s being generous perhaps).
Hall: In my book, the waggle trumps the counter. B-R, 7-6.
DARTMOUTH (1-3) AT NO. 25 SOMERSET-BERKLEY (4-0)
The Skinny: An underrated non-league matchup between old EAC rivals on the South Coast, both teams figured to have their hands full in this one. For Dartmouth, they must figured out how to slow down the Blue Raiders' vaunted double wing attack, led by senior Garrett Carlos, who has over 350 yards rushing the last two weeks on just 19 carries. For Somerset, the key is slowing Mitch Loranger and Nick Simonetti, two of the more talented players in the Old Colony League.
Barboza: Can the Raiders ride Carlos and Mikey Garrant to a Super Bowl appearance this year as they did with Seth DeMello and Jaron Spear two years ago? Just might. Somerset-Berkley, 34-28.
Hall: Indians were a trendy sleeper pick for 2012, but I think they'll have some trouble against this double wing attack of the Blue Raiders. Somerset-Berkley, 24-14.