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.
Since then Beverly has won three straight including an impressive 17-14 win over Marblehead which forced a three way tie for the Northeastern Conference Large crown between the Fishermen, Panthers and Magicians.
While head coach Dan Bauer’s squad has cleaned up some of the mistakes that plagued it early in the year, Gloucester is still expecting the same physical type of game it saw in late September when Beverly last visited Newell Stadium.
“(Beverly) is a lot different from the last meeting,” Zerilli said. “They are a young team and they’ve done a lot of growing up, not making the mistakes that were hurting them early on. But it’s still the same system, we both know each other, we both run the wing-t and we both have the same type of kids that want to play football and want to hit.”
Tonight’s matchup again pits strength vs. strength. Both teams feature a feared rushing attack with 1,000 yard back Isiah White leading Beverly and Jordan Pallazola, who needs just 10 yards to eclipse 1,000 this season, leading the way for Gloucester.
Both teams also feature stout and physical defenses that excel at slowing down the opponents running attack. Something’s gotta give.
“Last game was very even and we’ve both gotten better since,” Zerilli said. “(Beverly’s) a good team and they’re playing well right now. It’s going to take our best effort to beat them.”
Tale of the Tape GLOUCESTER BEVERLY RECORD 5-2 4-3 MASCOT Fishermen Panthers HEAD COACH Tony Zerilli Dan Bauer OFFENSE Wing-T Wing-T POINTS SCORED 175 220 POINTS ALLOWED 173 167 LEADING RUSHER Jordan Pallazola (990 yards) Isiah White (1,141 yards) LAST SUPER BOWL TITLE 2010 2012 STRENGTHS Toughness, defensive front seven Athleticism, backfield