Central Catholic, that newly beloved conqueror of the Everett Crimson Tide, has already punched its ticket to Gillette Stadium.
Tewksbury, Littleton and Bedford still have serious work to do this Saturday in the MIAA football semifinals.
Saturday's winners will on Dec. 7 play for actual state championships in their respective divisions, a wild new concept in trophy-crazy Massachusetts, where 19 Super Bowl champs were crowned last year.
Central Catholic's date with Xaverian in the Division 1 Super Bowl is set.
Here are the three remaining semifinals involving local teams:
Tewksbury (10-0) vs. Melrose (9-1)
Cawley Stadium, Lowell
Saturday, 11 a.m.
The MIAA, not Tewksbury, chose Cawley Stadium, but Tewksbury certainly likes this "neutral" site" a couple hundred yards over the Tewksbury town line.
"We're thrilled about (playing at Cawley)," said Tewksbury coach Brian Aylward. "It doesn't have to do with how close it is, but our guys love playing there. They have had some good experiences there (including beating Lowell 21-0 there last season), and have had opportunities to play there since eighth grade."
Last Saturday at Doucette Stadium, Tewksbury defeated Marblehead, 34-21, in a terrific Northeast title game. Junior linebacker Tom Casey returned an interception 22 yards to snap a 21-21 tie with 2:43 to play. Junior running back James Sullivan rushed for 152 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries (Sullivan is fourth in Division 3 in scoring with 106 points, including 17 touchdowns.) Senior Eddie Matovu had a monster game at running back and defensive end. Senior quarterback Johnny Aylward and wide receiver Kevin Dick hooked up for the ninth time this season, a 29-yard TD that tied the game 21-21 in the second quarter.
But coach Aylward was mostly moved by 5-foot-7, 165-pound center John Devito giving Tewksbury's offense a fighting chance while lined up across from Marblehead's 6-foot-5, 305-pound junior nose tackle Derek Dumais. "Obviously that was a concern going in," said Aylward. "You can be as tough as you want, but there are still physics involved. Johnny kept fighting and did a great job."
The athletic Redmen have tired out bigger teams late in games. Aylward does not expect to tire out Melrose. "Their guys can play forever," he said.
Melrose's only loss was 17-14 in overtime at Wakefield on Sept. 27. (Those longtime Thanksgiving rivals will play again next Thursday.) The Red Raiders walloped Woburn, 31-7, in the Northwest title game last Friday.
"Their skill guys remind me of Reading's a year ago (which defeated Tewksbury 42-6 in a Division 2 semifinal). They're big, strong backs, and no one back is relied on as a go-to guy," said Aylward. "The quarterback (Malik Garrett) is outstanding. I think teams try to take away his runs and then he hurts them throwing the ball."
Tewksbury will try to improve to 11-0. Only one previous Tewksbury team got to 11-0 -- the 1985 Super Bowl championship team on which Aylward was a fullback and his brother Rob, now a Tewksbury assistant, was the quarterback. Those Redmen finished 11-0. Perfection in this world of the new expanded playoff would be 13-0 (don't forget Thanksgiving).
The winner of this game will play the winner of Friday night's Stoughton vs. Plymouth South game in the Super Bowl.
Bedford (8-1) vs. Dennis-Yarmouth (8-2)
Brockton High School
Saturday, 3 p.m.
Has any team had a more thrilling playoff ride than Bedford? Two weeks ago, the Buccaneers rallied to defeat previously undefeated Lynnfield, 14-7, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter, with Olan Abner scoring the winning TD with nine seconds left. Last Saturday, Bedford defeated Pentucket, 22-14 in overtime, in the North final. Abner scored on a fourth-down screen pass on the opening OT possession. The Buccaneers' trusty defense then smothered Pentucket.
Bedford has allowed only 58 points this season (6.4 per game). The Buccaneers' only loss was 8-7 to Concord-Carlisle
Bedford coach Jack Belcher is not yet ready to speak of Buccaneer Magic in the program's first-ever visit to the MIAA playoffs." You can't think that way," he said. "Maybe later on you can."
The reality is that Dennis-Yarmouth is high-scoring good. The Dolphins have won seven straight since back-to-back losses to Plymouth North (24-7) and Nauset (21-20) in September. In the playoffs, they have defeated Hanover (42-13), Apponequet (35-27) and Holliston (26-7). D-Y senior quarterback Spencer Tyler has thrown 19 touchdown passes.
"They're predominantly a spread team, but do sometimes line up in the wing-T and I-formation," said Belcher. "But (Tyler) does everything a spread quarterback does."
So like Lynnfield's, this is another high-scoring (33.3 ppg) offense for the Buccaneers' defense to tackle. Led by linebacker Abner, defensive end Ryan Clasby and DBs Aaron Lee and Tom Sands, Bedford's first-team defense has allowed just six touchdowns in nine games.
The winner of this game will play the winner of Doherty vs. Wahconah in the Super Bowl.
Littleton (10-0) vs. Turners Falls (8-2)
at Westfield State University
Saturday, 11 a.m.
Everyone knew Littleton could score. The Tigers went into last Friday's Central Mass. title game averaging 41.7 points per game. But now the defense is starting to growl. Littleton held Blackstone Valley, a team that was averaging 36.9 points, to one harmless fourth-quarter touchdown in a 28-8 victory last Friday night. Linebackers Matt Jackson and Ryan Clark have been Littleton's two top tacklers this season. They have been joined in the playoffs by Alex McLaughlin, the team's 5-foot-11, 180-pound star quarterback, now also playing free safety.
"(McLaughlin) has given the defense a shot of adrenaline," said Littleton coach Mike Lynn. "He plays free safety a bit like a linebacker. He comes up quick on the run, and is great in pass coverage."
On offense, McLaughlin and senior running back Travis Bassett remain unstoppable. Bassett rushed for 198 yards and two touchdowns against Blackstone Valley. He leads the area in scoring with 162 points, including 23 touchdowns.
Bassett has 895 rushing yards and 522 receiving yards (on 26 receptions). McLaughlin has rushed for 1,137 yards and 15 touchdowns, and passed for 1,109 yards and 13 touchdowns.
"Our seniors have led the way, just like you would hope. And certainly our star players have been just that -- and more," said Lynn, coaching Littleton in the MIAA playoffs for the seventh straight year (Super Bowl losses in 2008 and 2009).
All Lynn knows about Turners Falls is what he has seen of its last two games via the film exchange. Turners Falls defeated Mohawk Trail Regional, 36-22, in the Western Mass. final last Friday.
"Their quarterback is a dual-threat kid, runs and passes well," said Lynn. "Their I-back runs very well."
Turners Falls quarterback, senior Malcolm Smith, has passed for 1,115 yards and 16 touchdowns. Junior Trent Bourbeau rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns in the win last Friday.
Turners Falls two losses were 46-21 to Easthampton on Oct. 19 and 54-7 to Springfield Cathedral on Nov. 2. The Indians reached the Western Mass. Division 4 Super Bowl last season, losing 12-8 to Pathfinder.
The winner of this game will play the winner of St. Clement vs. Cohasset in the Super Bowl.
Follow David Pevear on Twitter and Tout @merganser10