---- — When it comes to the MIAA’s new high school football format starting this fall, there may not be a team in the state with a more interesting road to the postseason than Manchester Essex.
The Hornets, who are looking to improve upon a 3-8 record in 2012, play in the Cape Ann League Small, an extremely difficult task for a school their size as Georgetown is the only team in the league that plays in the same division. But with the new point-based system in place, there are perks to playing games up a division as wins are worth an extra two points towards divisional standings.
Manchester Essex will be playing four games against higher division teams this fall meaning they have more points up for grabs than other teams in their division, but their regular season schedule, and path to the postseason, is also significantly more difficult.
Here’s a look at who Manchester Essex is competing with this season and which games you should circle on the calendar.
The new playoff format, which was outlined in Monday’s Gloucester Daily Times, has Manchester Essex playing out of the Cape Ann League Small, and Division 5 North. There are two ways for the Hornets to qualify for the postseason: Finishing first or second in the CAL Small, or finishing in the top eight out of 14 teams in Division 5 North.
In the CAL Small, Manchester Essex will be opposing Thanksgiving rival Georgetown, Amesbury, Lynnfield, Hamilton-Wenham and Ipswich. Division 5 North features Manchester Essex, Austin Prep, Bishop Fenwick, Brighton, East Boston, Georgetown, Greater Lawrence, Greater Lowell, Lowell Catholic, Madison Park, Northeast Regional, St. Mary’s, Shawsheen and Whittier Tech.
Manchester Essex plays just three regular season games against Division 5 North teams as they open the season with Northeast, Greater Lawrence and Georgetown respectively before finishing off the regular season with four straight games against higher division teams.
Games to watch
The Hornets regular season schedule is very interesting as they start off testing their mettle against three fellow Division 5 North Teams.
Northeast Regional, Manchester Essex’s opening day opponent on the road September 7 (1:00 p.m.), is always a super tough team and that will be a great barometer right out of the gates. An opening day win over the Golden Knights and the Hornets will know that they can compete within the division.
From there, the Hornets will travel to Greater Lawrence on September 21 following a Week 2 bye before meeting up with Georgetown in the opener at Hyland Field on September 27. The September 27 matchup will be the first of two meetings between the Royals and Hornets as they will also meet on Thanksgiving morning in Georgetown at the conclusion of the playoffs.
In Week 5, Manchester Essex will begin its most difficult stretch of the season polishing off the regular season with four straight CAL Small games against teams from a higher division.
The Hornets will travel to Lynnfield on October 5 to take on an always strong Pioneers team before traveling to defending CAL Small champion Hamilton-Wenham on October 12.
Manchester Essex finishes up the regular season with a pair of home games against Ipswich on October 18 and Amesbury on October 25.
There are no breaks in the Hornets’ schedule this fall, every week presents an important game in terms of playoff positioning, and every week presents a difficult opponent.
All the Hornets need to do is get into the postseason, because if they compile enough points to finish in the top eight, there will be no doubts that they can handle any team thrown at them in the postseason.
2013 Manchester EssexFootball Schedule Date Opponent Time Saturday, September 7 at Northeast Regional 1:00 p.m. Friday, September 13 bye Saturday, September 21 at Greater Lawrence 1:00 p.m. Friday, September 27 vs. Georgetown 7:00 p.m.* Saturday, October 5 at Lynnfield 1:00 p.m.* Friday, October 18 vs. Ipswich 7:00 p.m.* Friday, October 25 vs. Amesbury 7:00 p.m.* Friday, November 1 playoffs begin Thursday, November 28 at Georgetown 10:00 a.m.** *Conference Game **Thanksgiving Day