The Cape Ann League Small football season is upon us. For teams like Newburyport, Amesbury and Georgetown, this week’s games signify the start of a stretch in which every win and loss could affect postseason aspirations.
For the winless Clippers (0-5), the league schedule signifies a clean slate. The players and coaches can still convince themselves they are at their best when the stakes are highest. Opening the league schedule with Lynnfield at home would appear to be a prime chance to turn the season around.
Amesbury (4-0) and Georgetown (3-0) will not have the luxury of easing into the CAL Small schedule. Those teams, with a combined record of 7-0, face off tomorrow afternoon at Georgetown High. Don’t be surprised if the winner goes on to win the league title. Both of these teams are not only winning, they’re winning in decided fashion. Amesbury is averaging 35.5 points per game and allowing 13.75. Georgetown is averaging 27.7 and allowing 6.7. Bring on the games that matter.
Onto the picks:
Lynnfield at Newburyport, 7
Newburyport cruised to a 14-0 victory over Lynnfield last fall, and the score really didn’t indicate the lopsided nature of the game. The Clippers ran the ball at will and improved to 7-3. Justin Burl played the workhorse with 26 carries for 202 yards. Kyle LeBlanc dominated the game on the defensive side, tallying three interceptions. The Clippers’ game-plan seemed to follow the Bill Belichick model for how to play an inferior opponent with a larger task looming the following week. Coach Ed Gaudiano played it conservatively in what seemed to be a refusal to show his hand to any prospective Amesbury scouts who might have been preparing for a Thanksgiving matchup that would dictate the league title. One major speed bump derailed the Clipper train in the closing minutes when Clippers quarterback Joe Clancy got into a physical altercation, was ejected from the game, and consequently suspended for the following week. It bears mentioning that the Clippers have not win since that Lynnfield game, posting an 0-6 record. Time to snap out of it.
The pick: Newburyport 19, Lynnfield 14
Pentucket at Ipswich, 7
Don’t write off Pentucket. Many might have thought of doing so after the Sachems (3-1) opened the season by losing to North Reading for the first time since 1997. But the resilient squad has not allowed a single point since the second quarter of that game, racking up shutout wins over Greater Lowell, Hamilton-Wenham and Newburyport. The Sachems have the best defense in the River Rival Region, and they run the ball very efficiently on offense. Those are important qualities for a team to possess as the weather gets colder.
The pick: Pentucket 22, Ipswich 0
Amesbury at Georgetown, 1
Ideally, these teams would meet closer to the end of the season because they seem like the best two squads in the CAL Small. But you play the hand you’re dealt, so let’s break this one down. The Indians (4-0) are the most complete team in the area. They have two dynamic running backs with very different skill sets — Kevin Johnston gives defenses fits with his speed, Jesse Burrell brings a power game to the table. Jared Flannigan may not have the best arm in the area, but he knows how to manage a game and move the chains. Steve Serwon is one of the better tight ends on the North Shore, and he gives the team a downfield threat. The Indians defense has been known to give up yards in the middle of the field, but touchdowns are hard to come by against the Indians. Last week, they held an explosive Lawrence offensive attack to seven points. Georgetown, on the other hand, puts so much responsibility on the shoulders of senior quarterback Joe Esposito. Last week Esposito rushed for 214 yards and three touchdowns, threw for another touchdown, kicked four extra points, and led the team in tackles (11). No word if he collected ticket receipts before the game. So I like Esposito to keep it close, but I like Amesbury’s depth too much to pick against the defending CAL Small champs.
The pick: Amesbury 31, Georgetown 27
Triton at North Reading, 11
In case you missed it, here’s how Triton beat Ipswich last week: The host Tigers scored a touchdown with 45 seconds left in the game, tying the score, 22-22. The extra point would’ve given the Tigers the lead and potentially sealed the win. So Brendan O’Neil blocked the extra point attempt to prevent the Tigers from taking the lead. Next Triton senior Bill Tindle returned the kickoff to the Ipswich 15. Then kicker Nick DeFrancesco drilled a 31-yard field goal to seal a 25-22 Triton win. How many of those kind of games did Triton lose last year? The Vikings (2-2) have learned to win, and now they’re making the huge plays down the stretch. Looking at Triton’s schedule, a five-win season isn’t out of the realm of possibilities. This week will be tough, though.
The pick: North Reading 14, Triton 8
Brooks School at The Governor’s Academy, 2:30
The Govs lost to Roxbury Latin, 21-7, last week. So this may be a rebuilding year, which is somewhat uncharacteristic of the Govs. But the Independent School League is unforgiving — that much we know. What perhaps we don’t know is this: Brooks is 0-3 this season, having lost to Buckingam Browne and Nichols, Belmont Hill and St. George’s. So I’ll take the proud tradition of the Govs this week.
The pick: Govs 14, Brooks 0
Last week’s record: 3-1
Overall record: 12-6