Not much needed to be said this week at Gloucester High School Football practice, the feeling in the air was just different.
The Fishermen ran their plays a little faster this week, the thuds of colliding shoulder pads were a little louder, each play was run with a little more urgency on both sides of the ball and of course the intensity was increased. It’s playoff time in Massachusetts and the journey towards a state title for Gloucester begins tonight when the fourth seeded Fishermen (5-2) host No. 5 Beverly (4-3) at New Balance Track and Field at Newell Stadium in the Division 3 Northeast Quarterfinals.
This is the moment the Fishermen have been waiting all season for and they have treated this week of practice accordingly.
“The great thing about this team is everybody knows what needs to be done this week,” Gloucester senior captain David Dimaio said. “There’s 19 seniors on the team and we have waited all season to prove ourselves in the playoffs. Nobody needs to be told what to do this week.”
The Fishermen and Panthers battled to a virtual stalemate in Week 4 with Gloucester coming away with an 18-14 victory thanks to an Ian Kennedy quarterback sneak with 19 seconds left. Both teams feel they have improved since then, but Gloucester has what it believes to be an ace in the hole, a bye week in Week 8.
“It feels like the first week of the season again,” Fishermen senior captain Drew Shairs said. “We got some good rest in last week and came out this week with a lot more energy.”
While Gloucester has already played Beverly this season, head coach Tony Zerilli cautions that the Panthers are a much different team than they were in Week 4.
Beverly started off the season 1-3 breaking in several new starters to a team that won the Division 2A Super Bowl in 2012. Turnovers hurt the Panthers in all three of their losses, Gloucester included as they put the ball on the ground twice in the final five minutes of play with the lead.