Looking at the D3 Playoffs

Well, the football season hasn’t even started, but it’s never too early to check the ‘ol crystal ball and see where things could be in November. Our 40-page Hometeam Magazine Football Preview should be hitting the newspapers today, so to celebrate, I wanted to take a look at how Division 3 shakes up, with looks to follow on the other divisions the next few days.

The new playoff format has put the league in three divisions, A, B and C. The winners of each division will qualify for the postseason, then the remaining teams will be put into a poll and the top five finishers based on Power Ratings will claim the other spots. There could be six teams from 3A and one each from B and C. Who gets them? Well, let’s take a look.

Division 3A
This league is interesting because it has taken two teams from Division 1 last year (Oakmont and St. Bernard’s) and Division 3 playoff participant Groton-Dunstable and put them with Clinton, Hudson and Lunenburg. That makes for a very tough league.

I think Oakmont will be the team to beat in this division. The Spartans have perhaps the fastest WR in the league in Seth Sheridan and I don’t think there is a guy in the area that can cover him. The key to Oakmont’s season will be new QB Luke Bakanowski, who coaches talk up as being more than capable of hitting Sheridan on his fly patterns for some big gains. Jon Jacobs looks to get the bulk of the rushes, so the Spartans should have a capable offense to get things done this year.

They’re going to have their hands full with Groton-Dunstable. The Crusaders impressed last year in their first varsity season and reached the playoffs in Division 3 East and had five all-stars last year. All those stars are back, so it will be interesting to see how they shape up in a tougher division. QB Ryan Romich is back and will combine with Cam Willcox and Brad Prasky for a pretty strong offense. Jake Penney and Ryan Welch will lead the defense. The Crusaders return 14 starters, so they should be expected to contend and a Super Bowl title is not unheard of.

St. Bernard’s could do well in this league as well. The Bernardians won their last five games last year and return three-year starting QB Taylor Lively, while RB Evan Brideau also returns. If they can find the other players to fill in the holes, they should be okay.

My dark horse for a playoff spot is Clinton. I like what they’re doing over there and with 12 returning starters, I think they’ll be much better than the three wins they put up last year. Former St. Peter-Marian coach Justin Ball, one of the all-time good guys, is on the staff as the new offensive coordinator, so that will bear watching to see what he can get out of guys like Josue Guerra.

Lunenburg will bear watching, but I’m not sure the Blue Knights will be able to replace all those great skill position players from last year. They’re going to be a different team with Mike Xarras shifting to QB, but with a winning attitude in place, anything is possible. Lineman Jon Birr will be one of the best around.

Hudson might also have its work cut out for them. The Hawks return 13 starters, so that’s a positive, but they lost QB Jack Sprague to Maynard, which was a loss. Hudson will shift to Dana Barry at QB and look for players like WR Wes Pellerin to shoulder the load.

Division 3B

Narragansett is my pick here. The Warriors return 13 starters, including three-year starting QB Steve Ciaramitaro. He’s going to have some weapons on offense like RB Nate Batallas to help him out. OL Tom Mason looks ready to enjoy a good season and should break that “glass playoff ceiling” from the past few years to get back to the dance.

The rest of the division is in a state of flux, as Littleton returns 11 starters from last year, but lost a lot of their skill players and some key defensive faces. LB Derek Karr is poised to improve on an MVP season from last year, but is he enough?

Murdock could make a run under new coach Rob Allard, but can RB Evan Breau pick up the slack on the ground to keep the Blue Devils competitive?

Maynard also has a new coach in Kevin Capone and has 12 returning starters, so it will be interesting to see how the Tigers respond this year. RB Max Penfield will be looked to improve on last year’s marks.

West Boylston is a team I’ve been high on for a few years now, and with 11 returning starters they could get it done again this year. They will have a new QB, RB and top WR, so the Lions need to take care of some heavy lifting first.

Ayer is still not there yet, but they return 12 starters and their numbers are starting to get back up – which is good because there is still a bitterness left with the departure of the Groton-Dunstable folks.

Division 3C

Assabet was my pick on the Frenzy and I am sticking with them. RB Alan Alvarez will make up a great backfiend with Nick Johnson and with 12 returning starters, they should be in good shape. I like Marlon Batista on the line and new QB Adrian Leonardson should be a good one.

Worcester Tech will be their primary foes, as the Eagles look really strong this year. They return both RBs in Josh Borrero and James Lamoureaux. They lost some transfers on the line – coach Ron Silvestri told me they went from a Super Bowl contender to fighting for a playoff berth because of it. New QB Jaarmil “JT” Givens has been praised heavily the past few years and now has the keys to the offense to show it was all worth it. Tech also has two 280-pound linemen and they average about 250 across the board. Big boys.

Bay Path is another team that can surprise a few people this year. They graduated RB Granger Stenman, but should be able to fill his spot with a committee of backs. Nate Gaines is back at FB and Matt Hall is back at QB. They should push the Aztecs this year.

Valley Tech is starting its second year under Glenn Arnold and they lost all but 10 starters, so the Beavers will be a wait-and-see team.

Same with Monty Tech, as second-year coach Matt Sallila has 14 returning starters and people are hearing good things about the future of the program.

Keefe Tech has its numbers up a lot from the past few years, which is great. They changed from the Unicorns to the Broncos this year, so hopefully that will jump start their program a little.

Nashoba Tech returns 13 starters, including QB Tyler Greathead.

So who are my picks? With eight teams, power ratings are going to be very important. Assabet and the rest of the D3C teams may be at a disadvantage here because they don’t play up much, so they lose those extra points the other teams may accumulate and that will cost them. That being said, I still think Assabet’s record will carry them to a good playoff seed. Here’s a stab at how they could fall after Thanksgiving:

1. Narragansett

2. Assabet

3. Oakmont

4. Groton-Dunstable

5. St. Bernard’s

6. Worcester Tech

7. St. Bernard’s

8. Clinton

This should change about 100 times during the season, as football is one of the toughest sports to predict based on injuries and upsets and all that good stuff. What do you guys think? Leave some comments and let’s discuss it.

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