Here it is ... the final week of our Grid Picks contest and for the first time in quite a while, I find myself nine games out of first place, too far out to make a strong challenge at leader Shawn McFarland, who has withstood challenge after challenge all season long.

McFarland enters the week two games ahead of Joe Plasko and Andy Steinmetz and three games ahead of Jason Boris. Mike Haines is still within striking distance just four games back.

Bob Ford, who entered last week just three games behind the leader had a rough week going 7-8 and TJ Engle tied what is perhaps the worst individual record for a week (6-9) sending them down towards the bottom of the standings with the rest of us.

Congrats also goes out to Rod Heckman, who climbed out of the basement and is one game ahead of cellar-dweller Emmett McCall.

We go up and down the Eastern part of the state this week and have added some Thanksgiving Day games in so we'll give it the best shot we have, trying to at least finish in the top five:

NORTHERN LEHIGH VS. NORTH SCHUYLKILL - Both teams escaped with wins in the semifinal round of the District 11 2A playoffs last week. I would have liked to see a Panther Valley-Northern Lehigh final, but I'll settle for this ... Northern Lehigh, 21-14.

PARKLAND AT EASTON - Trojans are the hottest team in the Lehigh Valley right now and get the Rovers two days after a Thanksgiving Day matchup with Phillipsburg ... Parkland, 28-14.

ABINGTON HEIGHTS AT ALLENTOWN CENTRAL CATHOLIC - This is a gamble here since Abington Heights should be the favorite, but the Vikings have proved they belong with the 3A elite after the last two weeks ... Central Catholic, 28-24.

ST. PIUS OF POTTSTOWN AT TRI-VALLEY - Bulldogs beat one Pius X team last week. This week they'll beat another ... Tri-Valley, 14-7.

WEST CATHOLIC AT DUNMORE - West Catholic comes into this game with a 10-2 record, but is only ranked sixth in the Philly City Top 10. Let's gamble with the Bucks here ... Dunmore, 31-28.

SOUTHERN COLUMBIA AT NORTHWEST - There was a time not so long ago that Northwest was playing teams like Cardinal Brennan and Nativity. The Tigers roar here ... Southern Columbia, 28-7.

LOYALSOCK AT LEWISBURG - All I know about Lewisburg is that there is a big prison there, I think. This isn't a lock, but ... Lewisburg, 14-7.

AVON GROVE AT NORTH PENN - No one has beaten North Penn in 12 tries this season. I don't think a grove named after a perfume smelling chain will either ... North Penn, 35-7.

DOWNINGTOWN EAST AT RIDLEY - Two teams that have had outstanding seasons thus far meet here. East has two losses, while Ridley has one. Plus, the latter is ranked right behind North Penn in the Philly Suburban Top 10 and East is 8th ... Ridley, 14-0.

INTERBORO AT POTTSGROVE - A matchup that features two 12-0 teams takes place here, but on strength of schedule, I like ... Pottsgrove, 7-6.

WILSON WEST LAWN AT CUMBERLAND VALLEY - Going with the home team here since Kerry Collins and Chad Henne, two great Wilson West Lawn quarterbacks are long gone and in the NFL ... Cumberland Valley, 14-13.

MILLERSBURG AT UPPER DAUPHIN - Flippin' the coin here since I don't really have a favorite ... Millersburg, 7-6.

CATASAUQUA AT NORTHAMPTON - Turkey Day rivalry No. 1 that has the Roughies "kicking" themselves for taking the points off the scoreboard and going for it on first and goal at Northern Lehigh last week ... Northampton, 21-7.

EASTON AT PHILLIPSBURG - No matter how much that state playoff game against Parkland means this weekend, the Rovers know how important it is to beat the Stateliners on Thanksgiving ... Easton, 21-14.

STROUDSBURG AT EAST STROUDSBURG SOUTH - Mountaineers practiced 10 days for this game not knowing if it would even be played. Well it is, but the Cavs are much better this year ... ES South, 28-14.