---- — In just a few weeks the Gloucester football team will kick off a new era of football in the state of Massachusetts. The MIAA instituted a two-year realignment for football in the state that will culminate with a state wide playoff and just six Super Bowl champions compared to the 19 that were crowned in 2012.
As a result of the realignment, the Northeastern Conference and Gloucester’s schedule has been turned on its head. The Fishermen will partake in a seven game regular season before the playoffs, which will take place in weeks 8-10. Gloucester will play Thanksgiving Day rival Danvers after the playoffs commence.
Although the season has a much different feel to it, Gloucester’s schedule is still filled with familiar faces from the Northeastern Conference and it’s also filled with challenges. If Gloucester moves on to the postseason this fall, it will have certainly earned it.
Here’s a look at who Gloucester will be competing against this fall and a look at some of its most important games in the upcoming season.
For the 2013 season, Gloucester will set up shop in the Northeastern Conference North and Division 3 Northeast. The NEC was split up by teams’ overall winning percentage from the last five seasons so the top tier of the league features the Fishermen along with Beverly, Lynn English, Marblehead and Swampscott.
In Division 3 Northeast, Gloucester will join Beverly, Danvers, Dracut, Marblehead, Masconomet, Revere, Salem, Somerville, Tewksbury and Wilmington. The top eight teams in the division will qualify for the playoffs.
Here’s where things get complicated. The top two finishers from each conference will automatically qualify for the postseason while divisional standings will be determined by a point based system. Each win over a team from a higher division is worth 12 points, each win over a team in an equal division is worth 10 points and each win over a team in a lower division is worth eight points. In addition teams will receive three points for each win a defeated opponent picks up and one point for each win a team that defeated you picks up.
This fall, Gloucester will play two games against teams in a higher division (Lynn Classical, Lynn English) and one game against a team in a lower division (Swampscott).
Once the playoff brackets are set after week seven, the tournaments proceed by division. Teams that fail to qualify for the playoffs will play consolation games determined by another formula. Each team is guaranteed at least 10 games. Thanksgiving Day games will be played after the state semifinal round and before the Super Bowls.
In other words, it’s a long and complicated road to the postseason, but on the plus side, every game has significant playoff ramifications.
Circle the calendar
The realignment makes every game matter, but there are still a few contests on Gloucester’s schedule this Fall that jump out at you. The first of course being the opener on September 6 against Lynn Classical (7:00 p.m.), which also happens to be opening night at the brand new Newell Stadium.
The Fishermen want to open up their new home on the right foot, and it just so happens to be an extremely important game against a good opponent in a higher division. A win over Lynn Classical would be worth more than almost every other game this season. And with the Fishermen and Rams’ history of putting together competitive, gut wrenching games, September 6 could end up being a night to remember for a variety of reasons. A win on opening night will set up the Fishermen in great position to cruise into the postseason.
Gloucester’s playoff fate will probably be decided during a crucial four-game midseason stretch starting in week 3 at Masconomet on September 20 (7:00 p.m.) and finishing up in week 6 at home against Lynn English on October 11 (7:00 p.m.) with games against Beverly on September 27 and Marblehead on October 4 sandwiched in between (both 7:00 p.m. starts).
All four teams are dangerous, and all four teams have taken two straight wins from Gloucester. To top it off, each of those four teams has been to the playoffs within the previous two seasons - Beverly and Masco in 2012, Marblehead and Lynn English in 2011 - so they know how to win. Masconomet and Gloucester play down to the wire every season. The Panthers have settled nicely into their role of conference titan while Marblehead and Lynn English always factor into the conference standings.
Two wins in that tough stretch and Gloucester is well within the thick of the race, three wins in those four games and they are sitting pretty. But going 1-3 during that stretch will have them on the outside looking in so it is extremely important that Gloucester picks up multiple wins during that stretch.
Gloucester visits Swampscott in the regular season finale on October 19 (2:00 p.m.).
Defending Division 2 A Super Bowl champion Beverly graduated a ton of key starters but still returns plenty of talent. The Panthers figure to be Gloucester’s biggest competition in the NEC North that appears to be up for grabs as the Fishermen, Panthers, Bulldogs, Magicians and Big Blue all believe they have what it takes to bring home the conference crown.
This season may have a different feel to it. The format has changed drastically but one thing is certain, there are a lot of important football games to be played this fall, and a few of the most anticipated games of the fall will be played at Newell Stadium. What more can we ask for?
Date Opponent Time Friday, September 6 vs. Lynn Classical 7:00 p.m. Friday, September 13 vs. Salem 7:00 p.m. Friday, September 20 at Masco 7:00 p.m. Friday, September 27 vs. Beverly 7:00 p.m.* Friday, October 4 at Marblehead 7:00 p.m.* Friday, October 11 vs. Lynn English 7:00 p.m.* Saturday, October 19 at Swampscott 2:00 p.m.* Friday, October 25 bye Friday, November 1 playoffs begin Thursday, November 25 vs. Danvers 10:00 a.m.** *Conference Game **Thanksgiving Day