While the fates of politicians were decided on Election Day, the fates of five playoff-hopeful Blackstone Valley clubs could be determined as early as this weekend or as late as Thanksgiving morning.
When October ended, so did much of the drama in the Division II-B playoff race. Last weekend’s play saw the top three seeds etched in stone in Tolman (6-0), Woonsocket (5-1), and St. Raphael (4-2) and the final spot still up for grabs between Mount Hope and Toll Gate.
But now it’s November and who will join those three teams in the playoffs? For Burrillville and North Smithfield, it looks fairly easy -- all they need is one win in their remaining division games and they’re in.
Lincoln also needs one more win, but it has to come tomorrow in its league finale against mighty Middletown or the Lions are as good as out.
For East Providence, it’s going to take at least two wins and maybe a bit of help along the way, and for Shea, the Raiders also have to win their division finale tomorrow against Johnston and then keep an eye on three other league games and hope those results favor their slim hopes.
Six games are on tomorrow night’s schedule, with the top attractions being the Townies’ clash against Division I power Barrington at Victory Field, the Raiders’ Division II-A contest with the Panthers at Max Read Field, and the Lions dueling the Islanders in Division III action at Ferguson Field.
Those games will get under way at 7 p.m., as will the Division II-B contest between Tolman and Toll Gate at Pariseau Field and the Division II-A affair between Coventry and Cumberland at Tucker Field.
Winless Smithfield will also take on the Providence Country Day co-op unit in a Division IV game at Providence’s Conley Stadium that begins at 6 p.m.
Saturday’s action features a 2 p.m. Division III clash pitting Burrillville and Tiverton at the Broncos’ Alumni Field and North Smithfield’s 4 p.m. contest in Providence against Division IV foe Mount Pleasant.
Saturday’s other games are Division II-B contests that will see Woonsocket host West Warwick at 1:30 p.m. at Barry Field and Ponaganset visit SRA at 4 p.m. at Pariseau Field.
Central Falls has a bye week.
Here’s a look at the weekend’s five games with playoff implications:
East Providence (3-2) at Barrington (5-1)
Undefeated Bishop Hendricken leads the Division I race with a 6-0 record that’s a game better than the Eagles, and right behind those teams are three that are fighting for the next two playoff spots in La Salle (4-2), Portsmouth (4-2) and the Townies.
The Townies have their battle against the Eagles, next week’s game against winless South Kingstown (0-5), and their Thanksgiving Day clash with La Salle remaining, and while they are expected to defeat the Rebels, they must take care of business against their other tougher foes.
The Eagles promise to be a very tough challenge for the Townies. They are averaging a division-best 26.5 points per contest and have one of the state’s best quarterbacks in Jackson Ryan.
But even if the Townies stun the Eagles tomorrow, their Thanksgiving clash with the Rams is probably going to end up being a winner-take-all battle for a playoff berth. The Rams have this weekend off, but an easy test next week against Cranston East (1-4) that should land them their fifth victory.
Portsmouth, which beat E.P. earlier in the year, has winnable games against North Kingstown (0-6) and Cranston West (2-3) and owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with E.P. should they both finish tied in the standings.
Johnston (4-2) at Shea (3-3)
Of the five teams still searching for postseason berths, the Raiders face the toughest road. Not only do they have to beat the Panthers, but they need to keep an eye on the other division games (Coventry at Cumberland, Central at Chariho, and Warwick Vets at Westerly) and hope for the best.
At 5-1, Chariho has already sewed up a playoff berth. Central and Johnston are both 4-2, and Shea, Coventry, and Westerly are each 3-3.
It looks like head-to-head tiebreakers will determine anywhere from one to three berths and that’s where the Raiders are in trouble. Of the five teams in the hunt for the last three spots, Shea’s the only one with three head-to-head losses (to Coventry, Central, and Westerly).
Westerly is also the only team with three head-to-head victories (over Shea, Central, and Johnston), and they have a very easy game against the winless Hurricanes, who are 0-8 overall and have been outscored by a better than 4-to-1 margin (274-65).
That means Shea’s best bet to overcome the tiebreakers is a Central victory over Chariho that would ice the top two seeds in the Knights and Chargers and a Cumberland win over Coventry that would bump the Oakers from the playoffs.
Westerly would own the tiebreakers over Johnston and Shea, and a Shea win over Johnston would give them the nod over the Panthers.
Speaking of the Panthers, Shea is going to need its ‘A’ game in order to beat Johnston, especially defensively. The Panthers boast a 1,000-yard passer in quarterback David Bubar and two players in their backfield who can run the ball as well as catch it in Bret Simas and Greg Doutre.
Middletown (4-2) at Lincoln (4-3)
Expect Ferguson Field to be a packed house for this duel with the Islanders, who boast one of the division’s best tailbacks in Rico McCray (905 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns) and a defense that has yielded an average of less than 10 points per game.
The Islanders, who were promoted to Division III after appearing in the last two Division IV Super Bowls, dropped an ugly 34-6 loss two weeks ago to Moses Brown, which a week earlier, had lost to the Lions by a 20-14 score. The week before that loss, Middletown fell to unbeaten Rogers, 7-0.
The Lions will need to do two things if they plan to hold off their visitors -- limit their penalties and keep McCray, who is also a linebacker, on defense by controlling the clock.
If the Lions lose this duel, the only other way they can eke into the playoffs is if M.B. (4-2) gets upset by winless Classical on Saturday and loses to East Greenwich (2-3) the next week. The Quakers are the only team ahead of the Lions in the standings that do not own a head-to-head tiebreaker over them.
Tiverton (1-5) at Burrillville (4-2)
Unless a royal disaster happens, the Broncos should put away the Tigers and clinch their first playoff berth since 2006.
The Tigers are fielding one of the youngest teams in the league and that has been evident in their play. Tiverton has lost their last four games (and were outscored 74-8 in their last two defeats to East Greenwich and Middletown) and allowed an average of close to 25 points per game.
After this game, the Broncos will bus to Aquidneck Island next Friday night for what could be a playoff preview against Middletown. Rogers (6-0) has already clinched the No. 1 seed, meaning that the Broncos, Islanders, Moses Brown will be vying for the No. 2 berth and a home playoff game.
Burrillville dropped a two-point verdict to Moses Brown earlier in the year, and the Quakers also own a win over the Islanders.
North Smithfield (4-1) at Mount Pleasant (6-0)
If the Northmen hope to clinch their first postseason berth in the program’s 43-years history this weekend, they are going to have to pass a difficult test in the Kilties, who are enjoying their finest season since their 1984 Class C championship season.
The Kilties, who are tied for first place with mighty Exeter/West Greenwich and will play the two-time champions a week from Saturday on the Knights’ campus, are averaging a whopping 36 points and close to 300 yards rushing per game.
The Kilties are also excellent defensively and surrendering an average of 9.6 points per game, but right behind them are the Northmen, who are allowing 10.4 per contest.
If the Northmen lose this game, they will still have two more opportunities to pick up their fifth triumph and land a spot in the playoffs. They will visit Central Falls (2-5) next Friday at Macomber Stadium and host Scituate (1-4) on Thanksgiving Eve.
Prior to this season, the Northmen’s best season in their history was their 8-2 campaign in 1981, but back then, only four teams in the entire state made it to the postseason and the four that qualified that year were undefeated.