Whoops

WHOOPS — Reading quarterback James Murphy (11) and running back Dan DiMare (1) miss connection on a handoff but Murphy picked up the ball for a short gain during last week's playoff win. Friday, the Rockets (7-1) host North Andover (5-3) in the semifinals of the Division 2 North football playoffs at Hollingsworth Field.

If anyone is not excited about tonight’s slate of local games, then you are not a true area high school football fan. Be gone with you then.

Those who stick around and want to continue reading, welcome aboard, this is a big night with two sectional semifinal games and two “non-playoffs” that are not without their own drama.

All four of our games pit “us against them.” Personally, these games are hard to read because they expect to be that close and against teams we are not familiar with.

It would not surprise me if I missed on all four games. When you have teams playing each other from different leagues it is hard to figure match-ups since there are very few common opponents to compare with and these games are expected to be close.

But, we’ll try.

Here are the games we care about.

North Andover at Reading, Friday, 7 p.m. — Last year’s North Andover Super Bowl-winning team may have been the best high school football team I have seen in covering a football game for my zillion years. They dismantled Woburn twice last year and did so with such superior skill that in a word they were “scary.” No surprise they went 12-0 and cruised to the state title in Div. 2.

Now a year later the Scarlet Knights are hitting their stride and playing their best football as they pull the bus into 0-1-8-6-7 tonight. And as we all know they play in the (always tough) MVC so they run the gauntlet every Friday night.

North Andover likely possesses more speed and offensive weapons than any other team Reading has seen this year.

Reading is young but has matured fast. We also have a cool (somewhat) new nickname to pin on a player as Danny “Playoff” DiMare had one of those special games a week ago in the playoff win over Chelmsford. The Rockets figure to be the more physical team and are playing great defense.

North Andover may want to stack the box against the Rockets now and force freshman QB James Murphy to make the throws.

And how poised is this Murphy kid? Unfazed by the magnitude of this game he was innocently riding his bike around town with other 14-year-olds with no school in Reading on election day this past Tuesday. A bit like Tom Brady taking a nap in the locker room before that first Super Bowl win over the Rams in 2002. Very cool.

Reading 18, North Andover 15

Winchester at Danvers, Friday, 7 p.m. — Maybe the Sachems can simply join the Northeastern Conference (please do, say Woburn fans worried about this Thanksgiving) as their playoff opponents always appear to come from the NEC.

After shaking off a small playoff jinx with its home win over NEC member Lynn Classical last week, here comes the NEC’s best with unbeaten Danvers.

When Danvers has a good football team it is usually a quick, diverse offense that cause opponents fits. This year’s team looks to be from the same blueprint. This will be a very tough game for the Sachems.

Rant alert: Can we please clarify that Winchester won its first playoff game a week ago “under the new format” and not call it their first “ever” playoff win as I saw in some headlines and twitter sites? C’mon, I know we must go back in the "Way Back Machine," but the school does own Super Bowl (playoff) victories in 1990 and 1986.

Danvers 28, Winchester 14

Lawrence at Woburn Friday, 6 p.m. — After picking successfully against the Wu for four straight weeks we hopped aboard the Tanners in their much-needed easy “W” over Medford last week.

Tonight we have an interesting game against Lawrence. A very fast and skilled offensive team that would likely beat Woburn on a warm, clear, calm day (or night) in September. But, in the cold and wind at Woburn High tonight, the Lancers are going to be hindered from what they like to do.

These conditions are made to order for the Wu. There is no mystery on what the Tanners want to do and that is pound the football and be physical.

Personally I did a lot of scouting for this one. Firing up the video on Hudl for my story prep and texting a respected local coach (what’s up, Sigs) for some insight, I think I have this handicapped correctly. My 17-game win streak of correctly picking the Woburn games is on the line.

Go Tannahs!

Woburn 22, Lawrence 12

North Reading at Burlington, Friday, 7 p.m. — Sorry, but the column is running long so simply going with the local team with the senior quarterback and a team that is getting a little healthier and perhaps resembling the one that went 3-0 to begin the season.

After facing Melrose in two of the past three games, this has to help the Devils in this spot.

North Reading High has grown enough in enrollment to be in a football game against Burlington? Interesting.

Burlington 24, North Reading 16

Last Week: 3-1. Season: 21-7.

(Steve Algeri's picks appear during the high school football season.)

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