Before we get to the picks, let me break down the race for the Cape Ann League Small title.
Obviously, if Georgetown beats Newburyport tonight, there is no race. The Royals clinch, and the Thanksgiving matchup between Newburyport and Amesbury will have no playoff implications.
If Newburyport wins tonight, the Clippers could clinch a title with a Turkey Day victory over Amesbury.
The only way Amesbury has a shot is if Newburyport wins tonight, and the Indians win on Thanksgiving. That leaves Georgetown, Newburyport and Amesbury in a three-way tie for first place.
A lot of people have asked about the tie-breaker should those three teams finish with one loss. It comes down to head-to-head matchups. Since all three will have suffered their loss to one of the co-champions, it will come down to points differential in those head-to-head matchups.
That’s where it gets crazy, and I don’t want to get into all of the different possibilities until we see what happens tonight. But if Newburyport has a chance to pile on the points against Georgetown tonight, it will only help should the Clippers lose to Amesbury next week. As far as losses go, the Indians are in pretty good shape since their only league loss was a 15-14 defeat at Georgetown.
Either way, let’s worry about tonight’s game before we start breaking down the points.
Onto the picks.
Georgetown at Newburyport, 7
Give the Clippers credit for putting themselves in this situation. After an 0-5 start, this two-game stretch of Georgetown and Amesbury could not have looked very appealing to coach Ed Gaudiano and his staff. With four straight wins, the Clippers now control their own destiny. Even a team that’s been as dominant as Georgetown must have concerns about a dynamic Newburyport passing offense that has accounted for 1,517 passing yards and 17 touchdowns. The Royals matched up well with Amesbury — a run-first team. Will they defend the pass as efficiently?
The pick: G’town 28, N’port 27
Pentucket at North Andover, 7
The Sachems (5-4) have lost three of their last four. At a glance, they might look like a team in trouble, but let’s break down that four-game stretch. The first two losses came Amesbury and Wilmington — teams with a combined record of 15-3. The Sachems dropped those games by a combined total of four points. Then came a win against Lawrence (5-4) — a team that currently sits in second place in the CAL Large. Then came a loss to Masconomet, a team that will likely go undefeated in league play. If the Sachems finish off the season with wins against North Andover and Triton, they’ll finish 7-4 and tied for second in the league. There’s still plenty to play for.
The pick: Pent. 21, N. Andover 12
Triton at Wilmington, 7
Triton (4-5) has played five games decided by six points of less this season. The Vikings are 2-3 in those games. Not bad for a team learning to win one year removed from a 1-10 campaign. Next season, those close games may be comfortable victories. This is a team a year away from competing for a CAL Large title. Look for another close one tonight.
The pick: Wilmington 12, Triton 7
Amesbury at North Reading, 11
Imagine being Amesbury coach Thom Connors this week. If his team watches Newburyport beat Georgetown tonight, he won’t even have to say a word in the locker room tomorrow morning. He can just show his players the CAL Small standings, and that’s all the motivation they’ll need. If his team watches the Royals win tonight, his job tomorrow morning becomes much more difficult. “I know we’re out of it, but let’s win for the seniors!” he might say before kickoff. Of course, these are my concerns — not Connors’. If I know the Amesbury coach at all, his pregame speech will be exactly the same regardless of what happens tonight.
The pick: Ames. 28, N. Reading 0
Last week’s record: 4-1
Season record: 31-14