By Nick Curcuru
---- — The Gloucester football coaching staff began the week of practice Monday by issuing a challenge to the team.
“We challenged them early in the week,” Gloucester head coach Tony Zerilli said. “We asked them if they want to play like they did two weeks ago (a 43-15 win over Salem) or play like they did last week (a 27-0 loss to Masco). We didn’t have a good week of practice last week and we got to see what we get when that happens. This week has been different, we were upbeat Tuesday and Wednesday and they have worked to correct our mistakes.”
The players and coaches got right to work Monday, picking apart the Masconomet game film and focusing on how to correct last week’s mistakes. According to Zerilli, the team has responded and got right back to work on Tuesday focusing on the week ahead.
“We watched the film, it showed our mistakes and the kids have really been working to correct them,” Zerilli said. “It was the simple things, blocking and tackling, but they came back out on Tuesday and have been great all week. The leadership has been there and so has the effort.”
The Fishermen could not afford to think too deeply about last week’s loss, and frankly they didn’t have time, as another big game awaits when the defending Division 2A Super Bowl champion Beverly Panthers visit New Balance Track and Field at Newell Stadium tonight (7 p.m.) in the Northeastern Conference Large opener for both teams.
To say tonight’s tilt is a big game would be a severe understatement as both teams need to leave Newell Stadium with a win.
The Panthers come into tonight’s matchup with a 1-2 record, picking up their first win last week over North Andover after starting the season with two straight losses. Gloucester also needs to get back in the win column and regain the momentum it gathered in its first two wins.
To top it all off, this is a rivalry game.
“If you can’t get up for Beverly what can you get up for?,” Zerilli said. “There’s something special about Beverly that gets the kids going, and they’re a good team, its record is deceiving.”
Uncharacteristic mistakes marred the Panthers in their first two games, but they bounced back in a big way in Week 3 with a 48-28 win over North Andover. In that contest, Beverly got its version of the wing-t offense going running all over the Scarlet Knights for more than 400 yards on the ground.
The running back Gloucester will need to be most wary of is Isiah White, who ran for over 300 yards last week and has amassed more than 550 yards on the season.
White is a threat to take it to the house on every play, but he’s not the only one the Fishermen defense will need to keep a close eye on as sophomores Matt Madden and Peter Mulumba can also pick up big yards on any play.
Fortunately Beverly runs the same offense that Gloucester practices every day, so there will be few surprises tonight.
“We know the offense and we know how to stop it,” Zerilli said. “But they have a bunch of kids in the backfield that we have to watch out for. White, Madden and Mulumba are all good runners and they have a disciplined and well coached offensive line. They know the offense just like we do and they know how to stop it just like we do.”
Tonight’s showdown begins a four game stretch against Northeastern Conference competition for Gloucester. Zerilli and company understand the importance of starting off the conference season with a win.
“We have four games left against four tough opponents,” Zerilli said. “Opening up the conference schedule with a win would be key. The team knows what it has to do and it has been focused on the task at hand all week.”