For high school football fans, players, and pundits, the weeks leading up to Super Bowl Saturday at Gillette Stadium are full of anticipation and excitement.
Yet another crucial aspect missing from the makeshift Fall II season.
While we can only project how the best teams in each division would have performed in a state tournament if the coronavirus pandemic had not precluded postseason competition last fall, here are few possible matchups that we were denied.
Division 1 Super Bowl
Catholic Memorial (4-0) vs. Central Catholic (7-0)
After reaching the Super Bowl in each of John DiBiaso’s first two seasons at the helm, Catholic Memorial seemed destined to break through for the school’s first title since 1978. The Knights were loaded with talent and speed on both sides of the ball and managed to keep rolling to a Catholic Conference title despite key injuries to quarterback JC Petrongolo (shoulder), tailback Darrius LeClair (knee), and wing back Datrell Jones (ankle). Central Catholic also dealt with multiple injuries, including losing tight end/defensive end Jermaine Wiggins Jr. (ankle) for the season in Week 3. But with junior quarterback Ayden Pereira at the controls, the Raiders blew opponents away with an up-tempo offense that produced 35.1 points per game despite resting many starters in blowout victories. The Raider defense, which only yielded 6.6 points per game, is one of the few units capable of matching Catholic Memorial’s speed from sideline to sideline. This matchup almost happened on April 3 when CM was unable to play Xaverian and BC High couldn’t play Central, but the Raiders scheduled MVC rival Billerica.
Division 1 North final
Central Catholic (7-0) vs. Everett (1-0)
Let’s not assume that Central Catholic would have represented D1 North in the headliner at Gillette. Everett and Central have tangled in the playoffs for five straight years, with Central taking the last two meetings in thrilling fashion. Yet the Crimson Tide remain loaded with talent with several Division 1 college prospects on both sides of the ball and have only begun to start gelling under new head coach Rob DiLoreto. Reigning Greater Boston League MVP Tyrese Baptiste and Boston College commit Ismael Zamor would be tough for any secondary to contain and junior Jayden Clerveaux is beginning to break out as the Tide’s featured back.
Division 2 Super Bowl
Mansfield (6-0) vs. Lincoln-Sudbury (7-0)
This could have been a rematch of the 2019 D2 Super Bowl in which Mansfield roared to a 41-0 victory. But L-S returned almost every key contributor and looked more dominant than the Hornets when the teams each took the field 15 months later. Junior quarterback Riley O’Connell and wide receiver Nolan O’Brien were dynamic playmakers and Will Ohler led a ferocious defense that allowed just 7.9 points per game. With Michigan commit T.J. Guy leading the way, Mansfield’s defense was even better. The Hornets allowed just 3.8 points per game with three straight shut outs prior to a sloppy 12-9 win over Marshfield. Matt Boen stepped in at quarterback for the first time in his high school career and performed admirably, but could the basketball star have led Mansfield through a challenging D2 South bracket and past L-S in another potential Super Bowl?
Division 2 South semifinal:
Natick (5-0) vs. Bridgewater-Raynham (4-1)
Perhaps these two titans would have met for the right to face top-seeded Mansfield in the sectional final. Natick handled B-R, 28-7, in the sectional quarterfinals last season, but the Trojans were on a mission to send longtime head coach Dan Buron out on top. Anthony Morrison was on pace for a record-setting year with 13 touchdowns and well over 1,000 rushing yards in just five games, while Jalyn Aponte and Will Lederman were dominating on the ground for Natick. The Redhawks seemed to be hitting their stride as the season ended, finishing with prolific defensive efforts in blowout wins over Wellesley and Framingham.
Division 4 North final
Marblehead (7-0) vs. Melrose (6-0)
Revere met Melrose in the 2019 D4 North final after the Red Raiders outlasted Marblehead, 26-14, in the sectional semifinals. Along with Everett, Lynn Classical, and Lynn English, Revere could have made some noise in the postseason this past fall, but we’re just starting to see those GBL teams kick off in late April. Marblehead has been dominant all year with a perfect 6-0 mark in the Northeastern Conference, capped by a 34-7 thrashing of Thanksgiving rival and 2019 D5 state champion Swampscott. Junior quarterback Jacob Robertson was just coming into his own for the Magicians. But Melrose looked even sharper with just 4.5 points per game allowed thanks to the two-way efforts of seniors Brendan Fennell, Matt Hickey, and Charlie Haggerty among others.
Division 6 North final
Bishop Fenwick (6-0) vs. Ipswich (6-0)
Another battle of unbeatens could have climaxed in a sectional final this year. While Bishop Fenwick rolled Ipswich, 35-0, in the first round of the 2019 state tournament, the Tigers bounced back from a 3-5 campaign to go 6-0 and win the Cape Ann League. Ipswich would have been sizable underdogs against a powerhouse Fenwick team that produced 40 points per game and held opponents to just 4.8 points per game this season.
Division 7 South final
Mashpee (6-1) vs. Abington (4-2)
There is nothing quite like a contentious rematch between league rivals for all the marbles. Abington edged Mashpee, 25-24, for the South Shore League Tobin title on April 9, but the Falcons would assuredly like to run it back against the Green Wave. Mashpee came into that contest outscoring its opponents, 131-6, behind a dominant rushing attack, and the Falcons bounced back from that loss to edge Rockland, 28-0, and earn a 28-0 win over Sandwich. The 2019 D7 state champions, Abington made the sectional finals in each of the previous two seasons and fell, 40-20, to Mashpee in 2017 before the Falcons went on to win a third consecutive state title.
Division 8 Super Bowl
Blue Hills (5-0) vs. KIPP Academy (5-2)
Could we have had a vocational school and a charter school in a Super Bowl? Blue Hills won its first five games, including a 20-14 win over reigning D8 South champion West Bridgewater. KIPP Academy — a team that was formed four years ago — fell to West Bridgewater in the state semifinals last season and bounced back with a 5-2 season, capped by an impressive 34-19 win over defending Commonwealth Athletic Conference champion Shawsheen.