We updated our statewide MIAA Top 25 football poll this afternoon for the final time in 2012, following Saturday's action-packed slate of Super Bowl championships.
To see the complete poll, CLICK HERE. A few notes and observations:
Everett back at the top: For the third straight year, Everett finishes the season as the No. 1 team in the land, after capturing a third straight Super Bowl title in thrilling fashion. It's also the second straight year the Crimson Tide both began and finished at No. 1.
In 2011, the Tide went box to wire as the top team in the land, blowing out teams by an average of 28.6 points. This fall, they spent the first four weeks of the season at No. 1 before suffering an upset at the hands of Barnstable in double-overtime. The Red Raiders then spent the next seven weeks at No. 1, but the two met again last weekend at Gillette Stadium for the Division 1A Super Bowl title; and this time, it was the Tide on top, narrowly escaping Foxborough with a 20-19 victory.
How steady has Everett been at holding down the No. 1 spot? Only two other teams -- Brockton and Xaverian -- have ever held the No. 1 spot in the history of our poll, for a combined four weeks. That means Everett has been the No. 1 team in the land for all but 11 weeks since the inception of ESPNBoston.com's statewide poll in 2010.
Prep second to none: One of the most interesting debates we had was what to do with the Nos. 2 and 3 spots. In the end, we went with St. John's Prep at No. 2, and Barnstable falling two spots to No. 3. Everett coach John DiBiaso commented after his Super Bowl win on how he thought Barnstable played better on Saturday than they did in the Week 4 upset; still, it's hard to look past the beating St. John's Prep laid on Brockton, going up 34-6 midway through the second quarter en route to a 48-28 win for their first Division 1 Super Bowl title in 15 years.
Leominster returns: Coming off an historic 2011 Super Bowl-winning season, the Leominster Blue Devils were one of the most-hyped teams in the state coming into this fall, stating the year at No. 7. They fell out of favor late in October, but rebounded nicely with a 42-32 win over St. John's of Shrewsbury to capture their second straight Division 1 Central Super Bowl and finish the year 9-4. For that, they jump back into the poll at No. 10, in part measured by their competitive games against Everett and Brockton.
Also of note with the win? Leominster is now 4-0 against St. John's since Dave Palazzi took the reigns as head coach in 2011.
Central Mass. flip-flop: There has been spirited debate all season long about which is the more dominant team in Central Mass. -- Nashoba or Auburn? Both teams have Division 1 prospects, feature very strong run games, and are 2-0 against common opponents.
In the end, we jumped Auburn up to No. 6, and Nashoba down to No. 8, after the latter had spent most of the season as the highest-ranked CMass squad. What gave Auburn the edge was strength of victory against common opponents. Both handled Hudson easily, but against Shepherd Hill there was a different tune. Shepherd Hill gave Nashoba a heck of a fight in the Division 2 Central Super Bowl last weekend, but Auburn dispatched those same Rams fairly easily back in October, 35-6.
Beverly finishes strong: Beverly's Division 2A Super Bowl victory over Natick, sparked by a Gillette Super Bowl record 347 yards on the ground, was convincing enough to move them up five spots to No. 5 for the final poll. The Panthers were led all season long by Brendan Flaherty, who at this point is a shoo-in for All-State; and for all the talk about his running ability, it was his play at safety that was the difference against Natick, keeping the Redhawks receivers in check with some physical play in the deep field.
Hock rocks: The Hockomock League finishes has the most presence in the final poll, with three teams on the list while no other league has more than two. That said, none of the teams finsihed in the top ten -- Mansfield finished at No. 12, followed by King Philip (20) and Sharon (21). This has to be a surreal feeling for Sharon, which won a combined seven games in the 10 seasons preceding this historic Division 3 Super Bowl championship season.
Feehan flies in: Division 3A Super Bowl champion Bishop Feehan picked a great time to make a season debut, coming in at No. 16 in the final poll following its 21-7 win over Lynnfield. It was an impressive final month for the Shamrocks, who dominated Somerset on Nov. 9 to take the Eastern Athletic Conference crown, then laid a whooping on Dighton-Rehoboth, 49-7, in the Tuesday night Division 3A playoffs.
Also making returns to the poll were Central Catholic (23) and St. John's of Shrewsbury (24).
For the final time in 2012, here's how the football poll breaks down by league affiliation:
Hockomock - 3
AA - 2
Bay State - 2
Merrimack Valley - 2
Middlesex - 2
Atlantic Coast - 1
Big Three - 1
CAL/NEC - 1
Catholic Conference - 1
Central Mass. Conference - 1
Dual County - 1
Eastern Athletic - 1
Greater Boston - 1
Mid-Wach A - 1
Mid-Wach B - 1
Old Colony - 1
Patriot - 1
South Shore - 1
Southern Worcester County - 1