Top 10 Breakdown

With the football season about to get underway, we unveiled our Preseason Top 10 poll tonight and it was pretty interesting.

1 St. John’s 0-0 NR 9 99
2 Shrewsbury 0-0 NR 71
3 Fitchburg 0-0 NR 69
4 Leominster 0-0 NR 62
5 Northbridge 0-0 NR 46
6 Milford 0-0 NR 45
7 Auburn 0-0 NR 1 43
8 Marlboro 0-0 NR 38
9 Holy Name 0-0 NR 32
10 Doherty 0-0 NR 14

Also receiving votes (with points): Wachusett (8), Nashoba (7), Assabet Valley (5), Groton-Dunstable (3), Narragansett (2), Oakmont (1)

Not exactly how I saw it, but that’s why there are nine other voters on the poll.

Just breaking down how the votes fell, St. John’s was the clear choice as No. 1. The Pioneers took nine first place votes and one second place vote. Only one voter thought differently, and ranked Auburn over St. John’s.

St. John’s was a big choice at No. 1 last year, and while the Pioneers started strong at 8-0, they lost two league games at the worst possible time and ended up out of the playoffs. St. John’s should be back on top this year thanks to a healthy QB in Griffin Murphy and the continued improvement of WR Richard Rodgers, who might be the best overall athlete in Central Mass.

Most surprising was Shrewsbury coming in at No. 2 overall. I like the Colonials, as they have a great QB in Nate Theodoss and I think if they stay healthy, Hunter Beckmann and Adrian Harters will be a dynamic rushing attack. They play a tough schedule and get moved up into the Division 1A with the old Division 1 North teams and Algonquin. They aren’t going to have a break all season.

My poll looked a little different than the final version. Here’s how I saw the teams fall:

1. St. John’s

2. Northbridge

3. Leominster

4. Auburn

5. Milford

6. Shrewsbury

7. Marlboro

8. Fitchburg

9. Assabet

10.  Doherty

I think Northbridge will be one of the better teams in Division 2 this year. They are expecting big things from the Rams, and with Casey Hippert knocking around people on both sides of the ball, Northbridge should live up to that feeling. New QB Thomas Murphy has people talking about a Rams’ slinger again – just like they used to talk about Danny Brown. I also think RB/LB Tyrell Damon is the real deal and will help them win some games.

Auburn should be another team to watch. They always have a big line and should find the guys to replace the Corey Roys and Jon Lerouxs on the offense. Getting SPM transfer Brian DeSimone will help out quite a bit, too.

Leominster was an interesting choice for me at No. 3. I like the Blue Devils, because nobody is really talking about them this year. I don’t know why. They lost a lot from last year – returning 5 players on offense and 5 on defense, but they get back a few good skill players in RB Malik Daniel and RB Curtis Ludden – who will shift to QB. I think WR Jared Wilbon will step up this year and they should be in good shape. Besides, head coach John Dubzinski is one of the best around and assistant coach Dave Palazzi has taken Ludden under his wing to show him the QB ropes – so he could be poised for a giant season.

Milford and Marlboro are my picks to fight for the D1B title. Marlboro will go as far as A.C. Carter takes them – and with 15 returning starters, it should be pretty far. Meanwhile the Scarlet Hawks return 16 starters and all but two on offense. They have WRs Brett Kane and Matt Cristino back along with QB Tommy Leung, so watch out for them, too.

That being said, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see Gardner or Nashoba challenge for the title, either.

Fitchburg is another team I like, and while they lost junior Quinton Perkins, they return a few good players in RBs Byron and Steph’on Teague and QB Kyle Phillips – who has blossomed into a great player since taking the reigns as a sophomore. I think they should be in the mix because they always seem to find some good athletes to fill in the holes.

Doherty is going to have a great year and I think they’ll break their playoff drought with the move to the D1C. They should fight with Holy Name for the league title and thanks to players like UConn-bound Yawin Smallwood – our Hometeam Magazine coverboy (coming Wednesday, September 9th in the T&G) – and Curtis Hickson, the Highlanders should roll on some teams this year. Last year they were good, but had trouble winning those big games. If Doherty can do that this year, watch out.

I rounded out the poll with Assabet Valley, a team I keep thinking I should rank higher because I hate falling into that “Division 3 mentality”. The Aztecs have a tremendous team this year and they should be thought of as a Super Bowl contender. I think Alan Alvarez will be just as good – if not better – than older brother Alex. I think they have a tremendous defense and players like Marlon Batista will have the Aztecs shutting teams down. Nick Johnson is also back to help build on a running game that gained over 2,000 yards last year. Coach Rob McCann has done a tremendous job and turned the team into a program – which is not easy to do, especially on that Tech level.

The first week poll is always a crap shoot – especially in high school football. You’re just hoping to hit all the good teams and not look like a fool 12 weeks from now. It gets people talking, and that’s the biggest thing. Do you agree with the poll? Disagree? What about my personal take on some of these rankings? Throw a comment below and we can see what’s up.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a take on who I think will compete for the playoff spots this year, just in time to kick off the Football Preview Issue of Hometeam and head into Thursday’s action as the football season gets underway. I can’t wait.

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