Off their fantastic pair of wins in Lynn that have lifted them out of a 1-3 hole, the Tanners sit at .500 going into the final week of the season with a great deal of confidence. That may be warrented, as the Tanners are finally hitting their stride with steadiness on both sides of the ball and currently hold the 8 seed in Division 1 North that would give them their second straight playoff appearance.
Danvers sits ahead tonight for the Tanners at 7pm, a familier foe who Peabody has played two straight thrillers with going back to 2013. That game in Peabody saw Doug Santos' fumble on the final play taken back with no time left for a Danvers win, before they bounced back the next year on the road and escaped one of the season's most entertaining shootouts with a win.
This year the Danvers Falcons come in a powerful two-sided team once again fighting for their own playoff positioning in Division 3. Their 5-1 record has included, like Peabody, two wins over the Lynn teams and a loss to Marblehead.
For Peabody the focus is just winning this as always under Bettencourt and worrying about the postseason afterwards, but it's interesting to at least take a look at how things may fall for the Tanners following tonight's game.
The Division 1 North standings going into the final week of the season are as follows, with the top 8 teams receiving playoff berths:
1. St John's Prep 6-0 22.33 rating
2. Central Catholic 5-1 17.83 rating
3. Andover 4-2 13.83 rating
4. Methuen 3-3 10.50 rating
5. Lawrence 3-3 9.67 rating
6. Everett 3-3 9.67 rating
7. Malden 3-3 8.67 rating
8. Peabody 3-3 8.50 rating
9. Acton-Boxboro 2-4 6.67 rating
10. Lowell 1-4 6.00 rating
11. Lexington 0-6 4.00 rating
12. Chelmsford 0-6 3.50 rating
5-1 Marblehead has clinched the NEC North, eliminating the opportunity for the Tanners to be in on the automatic clincher they grabbed last year, so they'll have to earn their positioning tonight.
Alongside Danvers/Peabody, here are some important games to keep an eye on:
Lincoln-Sudbury (5.67 rating) at Acton-Boxboro 7:00pm
Everett at Malden 7:00pm
Lawrence at North Andover (9.33 rating) 6:30pm
Haverhill (10.83 rating) at Metheun 7:00pm
Chelmsford at Andover 7:00pm
So with these games in mind, as well as the fact that Danvers comes in with a 16.33 rating, a win will all but guarentee a playoff spot and possibly even a boost for the Tanners in the standings.
Everett and Malden face off tonight and one of them will fall to 3-4. Both are in the general vecinity of the Tanners in terms of rating, so a Peabody win will essentially leapfrog them over whichever of those two loses.
Lawrence, meanwhile, heads on the road to North Andover who holds a similar rating. A loss for them combined with a Tanners win could shoot Peabody up as high as the 5th or 6th seed.
The biggest reach of all would be the Tanners jumping up to the 4 seed, which would require a Methuen loss and a variety of other things to go Peabody's way. It would almost take the perfect set of circumstances for the Tanners to return to that positioning that they held last year.
For any of those things to happen though they need to take care of business tonight against a fantastic Danvers team. A loss wouldn't totally eliminate the Tanners from the playoffs, as a number of variables hinging primarily on the result of the Acton-Boxboro game would come into play.
While they may still be able to slip into the postseason with a loss tonight, especially against a team with this rating, it would likely send them on the road to powerhouse St. John's Prep round 1.
This Peabody team has made enormous strides to get from an early hole to such intriguing playoff positioning this week. Despite that, they'll want to be in a game against a similarly skilled team.
Peabody won their first playoff game in years in last season's Halloween thriller vs Lexington. That ended up being an ideal matchup for that Tanners team, they'll want to come out of this week in similar circumstances.
Coach Bettencourt had similar sentiments in the aftermath of last week's win, to him tonight's Danvers game is absolutely a must-win:
“Its a definite must-win, if we want to compete at all in the division 1 tournament we need to go in 4-3…we need to win on Friday night to put ourselves in a position to avoid going up against a a lion in the first round…if we can avoid that obviously you try to avoid playing a top dog."
As always under the new playoff format an insane number of factors will come into play. Old opponents and their results, especially those who Peabody lost to, other games, and numerous other variables.
It's almost impossible to pinpoint exactly where the Tanners will be following this game, but their bounce back from the Marblehead loss has them optimistic about a postseaoson return.