With the start of the Massachusetts football season hours away, let's get the season going with our first installment of our weekly picks:
EAST LONGMEADOW at LYNN CLASSICAL
The Skinny: One of several pivotal regional showdowns this opening weekend as the Spartans -- a program on the rise, which spent time in our polls last season and took Longmeadow to overtime on Thanksgiving -- look for some respect on the North Shore. Classical is one of several favorites in top tier of the newly-aligned NEC/CAL. Both teams are looking to make a statement.
Scott Barboza: I'm siding with the Rams' home-field advantage here. Lynn Classical, 24-17.
Brendan Hall: Hard to forget that this is a Classical team that took Catholic Memorial to the wire, won eight games and was a Gloucester loss from going to the playoffs. Still, let's not underestimate the Spartans. East Longmeadow, 21-14.
NO. 11 ANDOVER AT NO. 21 NORTH ANDOVER
The Skinny: This about as intriguing a matchup as you'll find in Week 1. The question is what will Andover's offense like this sesaon? Whether he's lined up in the backfield or under center, we can expect another huge season for Andrew Coke. The same can be said for North Andover quarterback and fellow Mr. Football candidate Brandon Walsh.
Barboza: This will be a good test of the Golden Warriors' defense, especially Coke, who will be playing some in the secondary this season. Andover, 20-16.
Hall: Two high-octane spread attacks. Can you say Wild West? North Andover, 38-35.
NO. 8 BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM AT NO. 2 DUXBURY
The Skinny: The connections on this one run deep from B-R head coach Dan Buron, who's the uncle of Duxbury WR/DB Andrew Buron. Both of these offenses looked a bit sluggish at times during the preseason, but each return what should be among the top defensive units in their respective divisions. This could be a low-scoring affair.
Barboza: Revenge factor is big here as the Trojans haven't forgotten what the Dragons did to them in last year's season opener on their turf. B-R, 16-14.
Hall: I promise, no goofy nicknames for the Duxbury defense this year. Straight, no chaser. Duxbury, 21-10.
NO. 5 BROCKTON AT NO. 3 BC HIGH
The Skinny: Like leaves changing colors, this annual season-opening showdown at Viola Stadium is a rite of autumn. Usually a tightly-contested matchup, a Paul Mroz 55-yard strike to Albert Louis-Jean sealed this one a year ago. Preston Cooper, the reigning Catholic Conference MVP, will lead an Eagles squad that is loaded up front. Meanwhile, eyes will be on Josh Brewster as he takes over the vaunted tailback role at Brockton.
Barboza: This is an important game to getting the Eagles offense on track, and look for Bartley Regan to have a big game. BC High, 28-26.
Hall: Hard to believe the Boxers haven't won since Paul Mroz's Hail Mary to Lucas Depina last season, oddly enough over BC High's archrival. But I can see them pulling out some fourth-quarter magic to win this one. Brockton, 14-13.
NO. 4 CATHOLIC MEMORIAL AT MARSHFIELD
The Skinny: By now, CM's fantastic foursome of A.J. Doyle, Cam Williams, Armani Reeves and Donovan Henry are household names in Massachusetts. But they matchup here will be in the trenches, where historically Marshfield has always been well-equipped. The Knights' line is certainly not lacking in size, but the key might be how they weather Lou Silva's unorthodox variations of the Wing-T attack.
Barboza: I was going to go upset special here, but I think the Knights simply have too much on offense. CM, 31-20.
Hall: This ain't you father's Wing-T, and the ol' ball coach Lou Silva is gonna have his boys fired up for this one. I'm feeling lucky. Marshfield, 10-7.
CENTRAL CATHOLIC AT MARLBOROUGH
The Skinny: Another regional showdown, Central graduated one of the MVC's best linebacking corps last year in Trae Musumarra and Jaycob Morales, but still have an elite quarterback in Matt McDermott. Marlborough, always a tough out under Sean Mahoney, figures to be an effective passing attack out of a complex read-option scheme. But watch out for Austin Garvey, a returning 1,000-yard rusher who can punish in multiple ways.
Barboza: The Raiders lose a lot from last year, but they still have an experienced quarterback in Matt McDermott. He'll be the difference in this one. Central, 20-14.
Hall: Let's not forget two years ago Central came down to Kelliher Field and everybody thought it was gonna be a cakewalk. All the Panthers did was pitch a shutout and go on to the D1 Super Bowl. Marlborough, 14-12.
DIGHTON-REHOBOTH AT SOMERSET
The Skinny: An underrated non-league rivalry in Southeastern Massachusetts. There's plenty of interaction between the two towns including D-R head coach Dave Driscoll, who's a Hall-of-Famer at Somerset. After a Super Bowl appearance last year, this is an early test for the returning EAC champion Raiders.
Barboza: The backfield combo of Rocha and Benvie will be exciting to watch all season. D-R, 27-13.
Hall: We're still due for a night of steak dinner with some friends of ours down in Camelot. I hope that offer's still on the table after I pick the Blue Raiders to lose this one. D-R, 13-7.
LEOMINSTER AT NO. 1 EVERETT
The Skinny: Storylines galore in this one. Leominster controversially pushed legendary coach John Dubzinski aside to make room for Dave Palazzi, who previously won a Super Bowl with Millbury and is known for his spread scheme. That could be beneficial for their speedy skill players, who looked promising in the preseason. Also of note, Leominster's freshman squad beat Everett's last season. Meanwhile, quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso is breaking in some new receivers after throwing for a state-record 43 touchdown passes in 2010. He should be helped by a bulky offensive line and one of the state's best running backs in Vondell Langston.
Barboza: Too many weapons for the Crimson Tide, even without Costello and Asprilla. Everett, 27-13.
Hall: Quick shoutout to my old defensive coordinator from my playing days at Oakmont, Kevin Murphy, who's now on Dave Palazzi's staff at Leominster. OK, now that we've gotten that out of the way....Everett, 28-10.
FOXBOROUGH AT NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH
The Skinny: Although these two schools are in different Hockomock divisions now, this rivalry is a heated one. Paul Sestito is looking to lead the Warriors back to the playoffs in the Kelley-Rex division and a win against the Red Rocketeers would go a long way to building confidence.
Barboza: The Red Rocketeers lost a lot from last year, but they hold on for a win in this Hockomock rivalry matchup. North, 20-13
Hall: After some lean years, the tables are stacked in the Warriors' favor to make a return to prominence. It starts Friday night. Foxborough, 15-9.
No. 24 GLOUCESTER AT LYNN ENGLISH
The Skinny: It'll be a new look Gloucester team from the squads that won three out of the last four Super Bowls, but the Fishermen are still talented and will be lead by TE/LB Chris Burke. Lynn English's attack should be tough through the air, and is bolstered by several transfers as well.
Barboza: The Fishermen keep the winning streak in tact and get head coach Tony Zerilli his first win. Gloucester, 13-7.
Hall: The King ain't dead. Gloucester, 24-12.
ATTLEBORO AT BISHOP FEEHAN
The Skinny: The battle of Attleboro will feature two teams looking to get to the top of their respective divisions. The Bombardiers might have one of the best backfields in the state with transfer Zach Schweiger joining J.J. Jolaoso, while Curt Smith's team is eyeing an EAC crown.
Barboza: Great non-league town matchup. The backfield of Schweiger and Jolaoso takes over. Attleboro, 27-20.
Hall: All this talk about Mansfield, North Attleborough, King Philip, even that dark horse Franklin, and quietly the Blue Bombardiers might have the best backfield in the Hock. Let's not forget these guys pounded Feehan last year, too. Attleboro, 17-13.
NO. 6 MANSFIELD AT CHRISTIAN BROTHERS ACADEMY (N.Y.)
The Skinny: Well, to be fair, we don't know much about Christian Brothers other than it's a great song by Elliott Smith (look it up). So let's talk about the Hornets instead. Will Blayne Kelley-Taylor take some of load Jamel Marshall used to shoulder? Will the defense be the same without some of its key cogs from last season? This will be a good test and a start to the answer to those questions.
Barboza: When in doubt, go with the locals. And I like the Hornets defense led by Nick Leonard. Mansfield, 21-17.
Hall: Overrated? Overrated? Without Gerry McNamara we don't win 10 games this year, OK? Not 10. Oh wait, there's football in Syracuse? Mansfield, 21-19.
NO. 9 ST. JOHN'S (SHREWSBURY) AT HOLY NAME
The Skinny: Shrewsbury is looking for an encore performance after a record-setting year from two of its finest players in program history, Dan Light and Richard Rodgers. How do they follow up? Efrain Montalvo, one of the region's best running underneath routes, figures to be the key figure here. Meanwhile, the Naps lack numbers as usual, but are always well-prepared under Mike Pucko.
Barboza: Effrain Montalvo goes off for a couple of touchdowns. St. John's, 13-7.
Hall: As usual, the Naps will make this interesting. St. John's. 20-13.
NO. 22 LINCOLN-SUDBURY AT TEWKSBURY
The Skinny: The Warriors are the prohibitive favorites in the DCL Large thanks to juniors Brian Carroll and Chris Giorgio. While quaterback Kevin Saunders hopes to lift the Redmen back to the top of the MVC Small.
Barboza: Carroll could emerge as a Mr. Football candidate by season's end. L-S, 20-17.
Hall: A quality barometer for both schools. L-S was a raw squad when they fell in their opener last year, but I think they're well-oiled this time. L-S, 17-10.
NO. 19 DRACUT AT NO. 12 ST. JOHN'S PREP
The Skinny: The matchup to watch out for is in the trenches. The Middies have a terrific offensive line led by Peter Salem. On the other hand, the Eagles don't return a single starter on the O-line from last year. That group could take their bumps early on.
Barboza: The questions on the Eagles' offensive line bear their head in this one. This is my upset special of the week. Dracut, 26-20.
Hall: The Middie Machine officially arrived six seasons ago when Bobby Russo led them to an upset of Prep. The rest is history. Bobby's the quarterbacks coach now -- you don't think he's got something to say this week? Dracut, 31-27.
NO. 13 AUBURN AT SHREWSBURY
The Skinny: Auburn puts its 37-game win streak, third best in the nation, on the line in this one. The Rockets will have to weather a Shrewsbury defense, led by linebacker Kristian Jackson, that figures to be much-improved from a four-win 2010 campaign. On their own end, Auburn is breaking in some new skill players, but still have one of the fastest down-field threats in Fred Taylor, while boasting a line that is young but averages 250 pounds across.
Barboza: 38 and counting...Auburn, 21-20.
Hall: There's a good chance Auburn's 37-game win streak comes to an end Saturday. But honestly, I think the chances are greater in Week 2. I see the Rockets escaping. Auburn, 14-12.
BEST OF THE REST
Billerica over Burlington
Chelmsford over Westford
Concord-Carlisle over Beverly
Franklin over Milford
Holliston over Stoughton
King Philip over Wayland
Masconomet over Lowell
Minnechaug over Silver Lake
Nauset over Dover-Sherborn
Needham over Norwood
Oliver Ames over Medfield
Plymouth North over Methuen
Reading over Lawrence
St. Peter-Marian over Fitchburg
Woburn over Acton-Boxborough
Xaverian over Malden Catholic