So yesterday I took a stab at what Division 3 could look like in a few weeks, so let’s do the same for Division 2 today.
Division 2 breaks into two leagues, with each champion getting a berth and the remaining six teams picked by power ratings. It’s nice to have the playoffs, but as one coach pointed out, “There are only 15 teams in the league and 8 make the playoffs – that first round could get ugly if there is a 5-6 team that sneaks in.” He’s right, and that’s the one problem I have with the postseason. Trying to make too many schools happy. Well, that and the fact there will be no true champion crowned.
My pick to win it all in Division 2 is Northbridge. The Rams look great this year and should be the team to beat in a very strong league. They lost QB Zach Zidelis, but slide in Thomas Murphy, who some folks around town think could be better than Zidelis and be mentioned in the same breath as a Danny Brown – which is high praise in those parts. Northbridge will give him a few weapons in TE Casey Hippert – a dynamic two-way player and one of the top pass catchers in the area. Ben Richards and Sean Clark will also be options. Tyrell Damon should carry the ball most of the time, and the Rams’ staff was really high on him when he joined the team at midseason last year. I’m interested to see how he does for a full year – especially with an offense as innovative as one put together by coach Ken LaChapelle.
I think if anyone is going to push them, it will be Auburn. The Rockets are a top program now, and by that I mean they follow the mantra of they don’t rebuild, they reload. People might be counting them out this year because they lost players like Corey Roy, Jon Leroux and four other all-stars. They also lost backup QB Tyler Beede to a transfer, so people are wondering how they’re going to replace their entire defensive backfield and some offensive stars. I think they’ll do quite well, actually. The Rockets work hard all year long and LOVE being underestimated. Coach Jeff Cormier loves to downplay his guys, but he has a great line led by Doug Flink and should benefit from a strong running game led by Brandon VanBeekom and SPM transfer Brian DeSimone – who could be better than Roy was in this offense. I’m interested to see how they replace guys like Marcin Dworak, but I know linebacker Macy Washington had an MVP-type season last year and should lead that 11.
Shepherd Hill is another team that lost plenty from last year – all its defensive starters and all but three offensive players. I remember talking to coach Chris Lindstrom last year and he was concerned because his junior class was thin, but he was very high on his sophomore and freshman class. I think the Rams will be tough once those younger players get some time under their belts, and once the league starts, watch out. Brett Anctil rushed for over 900 yards last year and should improve as the primary ball carrier this year.
Tantasqua is coming off a 13-0 season, but got decimated by graduation. The Warriors have built the program well and should be able to plug some holes, but they might not start rolling until the middle of the season. I’m hearing good things about new QB Jordan Messier and they have a tremendous LB in junior Chris Spinney.
Nipmuc is a hard team to get a read on because they seem to always have a crop of great skill players, but of the seven returning starters this year, they bring back QB Derek Fernandes and RB Matt Smith. They could surprise a few people this year.
Bartlett lost quite a bit from last year and might be in for a tough season thanks to a difficult schedule. The Indians return WR Justin Sandara, but need to plug holes at QB and RB fast. Quabbin is another rebuilding team with a new coach in Tab Bassett. They need the numbers to get up before they can compete with the big boys in this division.
Division 2B is interesting because there’s not one team over there that I look at and say, “Yeah, they’re going to dominate.”
I like Uxbridge here, as they return nine starters and have been getting better every year under T.J. Raeke. Pat McCrohan and Jason Silbor should handle the running chores and if the Spartans can find the players to plug in on defense, they’ll be all set.
David Prouty should compete this year, with the second year under Andrew Tuccio and they have a dynamic junior running back in Zach Grasis (1,100 yards) coming back. I also liked what I saw from defensive leader Christian Ricard. They could make a run for the title.
Grafton is another team on the upswing – I like them over Nipmuc tonight. The Indians lost a lot, especially with the graduation of Nick LaCroix at running back. I’m interested to see what they have in store this year with coach Mike Ross in his second year at the helm. I know numbers are up and they have a full slate of night games, so Grafton Pride is in full effect.
Southbridge should be in the mix, as the Pioneers return eight players and have some strong running backs in Hashian Rosario and Jose Rosario. It will be interesting to see if they can replace two of the top athletes in the area last year in Tyler Ramsey and Victor Martinez.
Millbury is going to be a much different team this year, as the Woolies will rely on the run for the most part. Brandon Richard will be one of the top backs in the area and they have a great line to run behind, so they will be in the mix as well.
Leicester is a team to watch over the next few years, because I think with coach Tim Griffiths back at the helm, they will be back in the glory days sooner rather than later. Same with Oxford. Once they get their numbers up under coach Jeff Parcells, the Pirates will do good things. They lost a few players who didn’t go out for the team this year, but I think Parcells will have righted the ship in time. Quaboag is the new kid on the block and they’re doing some good things so far, and they’re in the perfect league. These three teams are trying to rebuild and they primarily going to do it against teams their size and in their situation. This league is a lot like the D1C, with young rebuilding teams competing against each other and there’s not that threat of a huge behemoth on the schedule to set them back.
My eight teams? It’s a shot in the dark, but I think it could look like:
3. Shepherd Hill
6. David Prouty
Am I overlooking something? Overrating? Add your thoughts in the comments. It will be interesting how things shake out here over the next few weeks.