Gloucester quarterback Santo Parisi was in obvious pain hobbling to the sidelines after each play following a second half ankle injury.
Those who were expecting the senior quarterback, playing in his final high school game, to sit out a few plays were sorely mistaken. Parisi didn’t sit out a play on offense or defense and he not only played, he played well.
”I kept asking him ‘Are you alright? Do you need a rest on defense?” Gloucester head coach Tony Zerilli said. “He just kept saying, ‘No coach, it’s my last game, I’m not coming out. He took a lot of hits, (Danvers) was hitting him every chance they got but he just got back up and continued to play.”
The senior quarterback ran for 76 yards on the day with a pair of rushing touchdowns and also made a key fumble recovery on a fourth and one play from Danvers around midfield.
His most impressive run was a 35 yard scamper in the third quarter that set up Gloucester’s final touchdown, a one yard run from Parisi himself. While he was clearly hurting, it was evident that he was pushing through the pain to pick up every yard.
”It definitely hurts a lot,” Parisi admitted. “But I had what 24 minutes of football left for the rest of my life, once the adrenalin kicked in I felt alright. It was a tough and physical game but we are the Fighting Fishermen and we showed a lot of pride.”
Parisi was awarded the Thanksgiving Day MVP plaque after the win for the gritty effort.
Most of Parisi’s yards came on a play that Gloucester hasn’t showed in recent memory, a quarterback counter run. The play is run similar to Gloucester’s inside reverse “counter criss-cross” as the team calls it. Instead of an outside reverse Parisi would fake a handoff and reverse field.
The senior captain picked up a 29 yard touchdown run in the first quarter and the aforementioned 35 yard run in the third quarter on that very play.
Parisi also picked up good blocking up front, including a key lead block from tackle Drew Shairs.
”It was something we just put in this week,” Parisi said. “It’s a good play and we blocked it up well, we made it look easy.”
Tier 2 Runners Up
With Marblehead picking up a surprising 25-16 loss at the hands of Swampscott Thursday, Gloucester moved into second place in the NEC/CAL Tier 2, behind 5-0 Beverly.
Gloucester finished the year with a 3-2 record in NEC/CAL Tier 2 play, Marblehead, Swampscott, Salem and Danvers all finished off the conference with identical 2-3 records.
Beverly will represent the NEC/CAL Tier 2 on Tuesday in the Division 2A Playoffs at Burlington. The Panthers are one of four playoff teams Gloucester squared off with this year. Masconomet won Tier 1 and will play Everett Tuesday, Weymouth will meet Brockton in the Division 1 playoffs while Andover will meet St. John’s Prep in the Division 1 playoffs, all on Tuesday.
Tier 3 and 4 of the NEC/CAL was won by Amesbury and Lynnfield respectively, they will meet on Tuesday in the Division 3A Playoffs.
Beardsley out on top
Senior co-captain John Beardsley already had plenty of memories to carry with him from his final season with the Hornets before yesterday’s game. But with four catches for 40 yards and a touchdown, a touchdown-saving interception in his own end zone and contributions in special teams, Beardsley found a way to add a few more memories in his final game. Even more impressive is that his numbers yesterday could very easily have been much higher.
In the first quarter, Beardsley took a screen pass from quarterback Cory Burnham, shook off a defender and exploded down the left sideline for a 55-yard touchdown, only to see those six points erased by a holding penalty.
And as the second quarter wound to a close, Beardsley was the recipient of an incredible trick play that gave him a 66-yard touchdown, but confusion by the officials led to the play being negated incorrectly.
“Great way to close it out,” Beardsley said. “A pick, a touchdown, and two even got called back, but those are still good memories to have.”
It’s really a shame that the perfectly executed trick play was negated, as it was likely the most exciting play the Hornets have run all season. With the Hornets pushing for a two-minute-drill touchdown at the end of the first half, they lined up with three receivers to Burnham’s right and Beardsley to his left.
Burnham took the snap and zipped a lateral pass to Chris Dumont, intentionally bouncing the pass before it reached Dumont. As the pass traveled backwards, though, it was still a live ball, and Dumont heaved a bomb to a wide open Beardsley down the middle of the field.
Unfortunately for the Hornets, an official mistakenly called the original pass from Burnham incomplete and blew the play dead.
“I was bummed,” Beardsley said, “but I was just excited that we got to run the play. I didn’t think we were going to.”
In the end, it didn’t hurt the Hornets, as they cruised to a 27-12 victory without that score. Still, though, it’s disappointing for such a mistake to erase a phenomenal play.
“We just put it in this week for this game,” Athanas said. “It worked to perfection. We told the refs, they knew it was coming but I guess one didn’t. Inadvertent whistle and they had to stop it.”
Touching moment for Fitzgerald
To be sure, Thanksgiving is a bittersweet day for any senior who takes the field for the final time. It’s unlikely anybody had a more difficult day then senior co-captain Jake Fitzgerald, who was forced to watch the game from the sidelines as he continues to deal with a lower-body injury that kept him out of uniform for nearly the entire season.
As Athanas spoke to the team for the final time on Hyland Field after the game, he recognized the difficulties for one of his captains and presented him with the game ball.
“We did it for him today,” Burnham said of Fitzgerald. “It was tough. It was really hard on me. He’s one of my best friends, went up through the ranks with him, and to have him miss so many games was tough, but we did it for him today.”
Santo Parisi, QB, Gloucester- The Fishermen quarterback showed tons of heart and desire playing through an ankle injury that had him in obvious pain. Parisi was still able to score twice on the ground finishing with 75 yards on six carries. He also played every snap on defense refusing to come out of the game, his last football game, according to head coach Tony Zerilli. Cory Burnham, QB, Manchester Essex- As he has all season long Burnham put the Hornets on his back leading the team with 114 yards and two scores through the air to go along with 89 yards passing and a touchdown. Burnham has been the Hornets MVP this season and he finishes up the year with over 1,000 yards passing and the team's top rusher. John Curcuru, RB, Gloucester- Curcuru broke out in a back way in Gloucester's Thanksgiving win rushing for a game high 165 yards and a pair of scores. He sparked the Fishermen offense in the first half with touchdown runs of 63 and 28 yards. John Bearsley, WR/DB, Manchester Essex- Beardsley polished off a strong senior season with another great game hauling in five passes for 40 yards and picking up a key interception in the end zone that prevented a Royals score. Beardsley ends the year as one of the areas top receivers. Devin Hemeon, TE/DE, Gloucester- Hemeon came up big as he always does hauling in a key 32 yard pop pass on third and long setting up Gloucester's third score of the game. He also made a huge stop on defense bringing down Danvers quarterback Nick Andreas on a fourth down scramble with under three minutes to play to thwart a Falcons scoring drive and seal the Gloucester win. Doug Rodier, LB, Manchester Essex- Rodier was injury plagued this season but on Thursday the Sophomore proved why he is such an important player to the Hornets leading the team in tackles, as he usually does when he's on the field.