Gloucester head football coach Tony Zerilli did not mince words when describing how important tonight’s Northeastern Conference Small tilt at Marblehead is.
“It’s a gigantic game,” he said.
There was no hyperbole in Zerilli’s description as it truly is a gigantic game tonight at Piper Field (7 p.m.) between two NEC Small powers. Tonight’s winner moves to 2-0 in conference play, and more importantly controls its own destiny for the conference title and an automatic berth in the Division 3 Northeast playoffs.
Through four games this season the Fishermen have seen tough, physical teams, strong power running attacks and stout defenses, but they have yet to face a team that puts it all together the way the Magicians do on both ends of the ball.
Offensively Marblehead has yet to be held under 35 points and is averaging 40 points per contest. The offense sports the area’s leading passer in Matt Millett, it’s top two leading receivers in Brian Daly and Jeremy Gillis, and one of the areas most feared rushers in Brooks Tyrrell.
On defense, the 4-0 Magicians are powered by a sure tackling linebacker core and an enormous defensive line.
“Marblehead is a very good team offensively and defensively,” Zerilli said. “Everyone talks about their offense but their defense is just as good. One of our challenges will be to keep our offense on the field and run on them.”
When Gloucester has the ball the game plan is simple, keep the Magicians defense on the field. The Fishermen have thrived in the clock management department through four games, winning the time of possession battle in each one. But tonight Gloucester will have less margin for error as it not only needs to hold onto the ball for a long time, but end its drives with points.