By Nick Curcuru
---- — The Gloucester football team will officially enter the stretch run of the 2013 regular season tonight when Lynn English pays a visit to New Balance Track and Field at Newell Stadium (7 p.m.)
At 3-2, the Fishermen have set themselves up nicely for a berth in the postseason despite a pair of losses, but there is still much to play for over the final two weeks of the regular season.
Gloucester is still in the running for a home game in the first round of the playoffs, and it needs to take care of business over the final two weeks of the regular season against Lynn English and Swampscott respectively to earn a postseason game at Newell Stadium.
Week 6 is also an important week around Division 3 North, as Beverly hosts Marblehead tomorrow (2 p.m.) and Danvers travels to Lynn Classical tonight (7 p.m.) in a pair of games that could greatly effect Gloucester’s standings within the division.
“The way it’s set up now, every game is important but the league games are even more important,” Gloucester head coach Tony Zerilli said. “The league games determine whether you make the playoffs or not and can effect your seed. This is a big week for us with Beverly playing Marblehead and Danvers playing Lynn Classical, those are teams close to us in our division. We have to look at those games in this system but the most important thing for us is to worry about our game against Lynn English. It’s an important game against a tough team and we need to beat them if we want to finish the regular season strong.”
It’s not just the standings Gloucester will be focusing on over the next two weeks, it is also looking to improve as a team. Most notably Zerilli and the Fishermen are looking to get off to better starts.
Gloucester has ruled the second half this season as its physical style of play wears on opponents, which was evident in last week’s 35-33 loss to Marblehead where Gloucester outscored the Magicians 26-7 over the final 19 minutes of play.
The Fishermen, however, have been working on coming out of the gates faster. Last week’s comeback bid was all for naught as Marblehead built a 28-7 lead.
“Being a second half team is great if you are in the lead or close at the half,” Zerilli said. “But last week we started out really slow and got behind the eight ball. It’s tough to dig yourself out of a hole like that. We like that we tend to get better as the game goes on because the last two quarters are the most important quarters. This week we are hoping to get off to a good start and take the momentum into the second half.”
Looking to derail the Fishermen tonight is a Lynn English team that is 1-0 in Northeastern Conference Large play and still has a shot at the conference crown.
The 2-1 Bulldogs have picked up a pair of wins over Peabody and Swampscott and as they always do, bring a large and athletic team to the field.
“They’re big and athletic like they always are,” Zerilli said of the Bulldogs. “They’re explosive and they try to out athlete you every play on both sides of the ball. We have to be aware of that and make sure we’re in the right position on every play.”
Much like Marblehead last week, the Fishermen will be facing off against a big-play, spread offense. Bulldogs quarterback Jordan Lark stands at 6’4” and likes to use his big arm to throw down the field, Chris Lessard is his favorite target as the two have connected for a pair of touchdowns this season. Lark and Zach Lozzi will handle the rushing duties out of the shot-gun for Lynn English.
As always, Gloucester is going to look to play its game, slow the pace and force the Bulldogs into a grind, something it has had great success in doing this season, even in the games where the team has fallen short.
“We like to grind and that’s what we are going to do, play physical for four quarters and look to move the football down the field,” Zerilli said. “The big thing for us this week will be getting off to a good start. We don’t want to have to dig out of a hole in the second half this week, we want to execute for all four quarters.”