The MIAA football playoffs start tonight, so let's dive into the predictions. ESPN Boston has done a great job breaking down the Eastern Mass games, so let's focus on CMass and WMass here.
Central Mass Playoff Picks
St. John's Shrewsbury (7-4) vs. Shrewsbury (5-6)
The Pioneers have too much speed, including senior WR Efrain Montalvo (905 receiving yards).
ST. JOHN'S SHREWSBURY 24, SHREWSBURY 10
Leominster (8-3) vs. Fitchburg (6-5)
Leominster won this matchup, 21-14, on Thanksgiving. I don't think it will be so close this time around.
LEOMINSTER 31, FITCHBURG 14
Gardner (11-0) vs. Holy Name (7-4)
This was a 34-0 drubbing in favor of Gardner when the teams met in October. Senior RB Jamison Craft (1,622 yards, 27 TDs) has a great game and Gardner rolls again.
GARDNER 31, HOLY NAME 14
Nashoba (11-0) vs. Shepherd Hill (8-3)
The Chieftains offense is too balanced and too explosive for Shepherd Hill.
NASHOBA 35, SHEPHERD HILL 7
Auburn (10-1) vs. Groton-Dunstable (6-5)
The one-two punch of senior backs Dan Flink and Fred Taylor will power Auburn to an easy win.
AUBURN 38, GROTON-DUNSTABLE 6
Hudson (8-3) vs. Oakmont (7-4)
Oakmont relies on senior RB Tyler Osborn and junior RB Jacob Zagwyn to pull off the upset.
OAKMONT 23, HUDSON 13
Nipmuc (7-4) vs. Northbridge (6-5)
Can Northbridge's passing offense score enough points on a cold night? I think the Rams avenge their regular-season loss to Nipmuc with with a late drive directed by junior QB Matt Phelan.
NORTHBRIDGE 28, NIPMUC 24
Grafton (7-4) vs. Southbridge (7-4)
With all the talented running backs in this game, expect a low-scoring, ball-control contest.
SOUTHBRIDGE 14, GRAFTON 7
Narragansett (11-0) vs. Clinton (5-6)
Senior RB Sean Young should run wild in this one.
NARRAGANSETT 30, CLINTON 7
Leicester (7-4) vs. Bartlett (7-4)
Bartlett handled Leicester fairly easily just a few weeks ago; look for senior linebacker D.J. Kirby-Thomas to make a big impact.
BARTLETT 20, LEICESTER 7
Assabet (10-1) vs. Littleton (5-6)
Assabet's pair of 1,000-yard backs (senior Nate Costello, junior Paul Harpin) should be enough to cruise in this game.
ASSABET 31, LITTLETON 13
Valley Tech (9-2) vs. Bay Path (9-2)
Bay Path won, 34-7, when these teams met on Nov. 5, but I'm picking Valley Tech to pull the biggest upset of the day. Senior RB Julian Picard runs wild in the second half.
VALLEY TECH 22, BAY PATH 14
Western Mass Playoff Picks
Springfield Central 30, Minnechaug 13
Longmeadow 35, West Springfield 20
Putnam 34, Wahconah 14
Springfield Commerce 17, Hoosac Valley 10
Mount Greylock 24, Mahar 20
Lee 17, Belchertown 13
McCann Tech 38, Turners Falls 20
Palmer 26, Pioneer Valley 22