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Breaking down the MIAA football power rankings

The postseason picture is starting to take shape as we enter Week 6 of the football season.

A quick look at the MIAA Power Rankings shows that there are some local games with the potential to have big playoff implications, even though we are only in the second week of October.

Here’s a look at where things stand and what to keep any eye on over the next several weeks.

DIVISION 1 — It is hard to imagine a way for Central (4-1), Longmeadow (4-1) and Minnechaug (4-1) not to take three of the division’s four postseason bids.

The winner of this week’s Central-Longmeadow game will clearly be the early favorite to take the top position.

The remaining spot will likely be left to No. 4 Northampton (4-1), No. 5 Chicopee (3-2) or No. 6 Holyoke (2-3).

Those three teams all have big games this weekend as the Blue Devils head to Holyoke tonight at 7 p.m. and the Pacers host Division 2 power South Hadley (4-1) on Saturday.

If Northampton can bounce back from last week’s loss to Minnechaug, it could all but knock Holyoke out of contention and turn this into a virtual two-team race.

Chicopee’s losses have come to Minnechaug and Central and a win Saturday would serve notice that they could win the Suburban League and earn the fourth spot that way or make a close run at the title and still earn enough points to get in.

DIVISION 2 — South Hadley (4-1) and Putnam (4-1) are tied atop the D-2 rankings with Wahconah (3-2) close behind in third. If either the Tigers or Beavers run the table, they’ll be the top seed.

If both teams can navigate through a tough Suburban League schedule this month, their game at Central on Thursday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. could be for both the top seed and the league title.

If D-1 Chicopee rolls through the Suburban, things get much more wide open seeding-wise.

Amherst Regional (2-1) is tied with Hoosac Valley (3-2) for fourth place. The Hurricanes have a very winnable game against Chicopee Comp (0-4) at home today at 4 p.m., but then they get to the meat of their schedule.

Amherst plays at South Hadley (Oct. 19), home against Putnam (Oct. 26) and at Chicopee (Nov. 2) before heading to winless West Springfield (Nov. 9).

The Hurricanes’ postseason hopes will rest on that three-game stretch.

Finally, don’t sleep on No. 9 East Longmeadow (1-2), which could rack up a ton of power points playing in the AA and has had a brutal schedule to date.

DIVISION 3 — The field is so deep that Athol (4-1) and Frontier Regional (2-1) are the fifth and sixth teams in the latest rankings.

No. 1 Belchertown (4-0), No. 2 Mount Greylock (5-0) and No. 3 Greenfield (5-0) are all undefeated, while No. 4 St. Joseph’s (4-1) plays in a Berkshire League with three D-2 schools.

Greylock has won an incredible 31 straight games, but gets into the toughest part of the schedule starting next week with St. Joseph’s (Oct. 19) and Wahconah (Oct. 26) in a pair of contests that will likely determine which two teams will play in the county title game Thanksgiving Day.

Athol can take control of the Intercounty and D-3 when it heads to Greenfield (Oct. 26) and hosts Belchertown (No. 2).

The Green Wave and Orioles then square off in Greenfield on Nov. 9.

DIVISION 4 — Pathfinder (5-0) has a big leg up in the top spot, but the next five teams — Easthampton (3-2), Turners Falls (3-2), Mohawk Trail (2-2), Ware (2-2) and Franklin Tech (2-3) — are closely bunched together.

Easthampton would like nothing more than one last trip to the postseason under coach Joe Kocot and the schedule has given the team the potential to be 6-2 heading into the big matchup at home against Pathfinder on Nov. 3.

Turners and Mohawk are helped by playing in the Intercounty and even finishing in the middle of the pack there could be enough to lift them past most of the Tri-County teams.

GAME OF THE WEEK — South Hadley at Chicopee, Szot Park, 1 p.m.

The Tigers and Pacers square off in a contest that will have an impact both on the Suburban League race and the D-1 and D-2 power rankings.

The Tigers backfield of Bryan Shippee (44 carries, 390 yards rushing, three TDs) and T.J. Fitzell (30 carries, 283 yards rushing, seven TDs) has led the way on the ground, while quarterback Sean Rondeau (214 yards rushing, 463 yards passing, five TDs) is a dual threat.

This will be the best win of the season to date for either team, as their combined seven wins have come against teams with a total of five victories.

Jim Pignatiello can be reached at jpignatiello@gazettenet.com.

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