By Nick Curcuru Sports Editor
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — If past years are any indicator on how this afternoon’s game between Gloucester and Masconomet at Hyland Field (2:00 p.m.) will go, expect a dog fight that isn’t settled until the game’s final minutes.
The Fishermen (1-3) and Chieftains (3-1) have played each other every year since the 2007 season including a pair of postseason clashes and just about every meeting has been highly competitive.
Last year’s meeting may have been the most hotly contested and easily Gloucester’s most heartbreaking loss of 2011. The Fishermen outplayed the Chieftains but four fumbles, including one in the final minute at the six yard line with Gloucester looking to go in for the winning score, cost Gloucester the game.
The Fishermen, who are hoping to put together a winning streak after last week’s 35-7 drubbing of Peabody, will be looking for revenge after the way the 2011 contest ended, and they are also expecting a close game.
“It’s always a battle (when we play Masco) and I think that’s great, we love the competition we have with them,” Gloucester head coach Tony Zerilli said. “It usually comes right down to the wire. We’ve played each other for a number of years and we each know how to defend each other. It’s gonna be a good game.”
Saturday’s battle will pit strength vs. strength on each side of the ball.
On the defensive end Gloucester will look to stop Masco’s two-headed monster rushing attack of Mike Tivinis and Dylan Mann. The Chieftain’s love to ride both of their backs out of the I-formation in front of a big and physical offensive line.
The Chieftains’, who hold victories over Catholic Memorial, Wilmington and Salem, strength is running the football, and they make no bones about it, but Gloucester’s strength on defense is stopping the run. Powered by a big front three featuring a rotation of Drew Shairs, David Dimaio, Anthony Palazzola and Nick Sanfilippo, and a rock solid linebacking core, the Fishermen pride themselves on being tough against any opponents running game.
“They have two good hard runners in Mann and Tivinis and they like to showcase them,” Zerilli said. “Our challenge this week on defense is to stop them, foce them into doing something they aren’t comfortable doing. They like to line up in the I and run the ball but we defend the run pretty well.”
When Gloucester has the ball it will look to a strong running attack to counter Masco’s tough run defense. Gloucester has been racking up big yards on the ground this season led by running back Zach Smith, who leads the NEC with 497 yards rushing to go along with four touchdowns. The Fishermen also have multiple options to spell Smith in Mark Horgan, Jon Good and quarterback Santo Parisi.
The Chieftains defense features a big defensive line and a strong group of linebackers, much like the Fishermen defense.
“Their defense is very good and they’ve had success stopping the wing-t,” Zerilli said. “It’s going to be a tough matchup, maybe a low scoring matchup.”