By Nick Curcuru
---- — The regular season starts now for both the Gloucester and Manchester Essex football teams.
The brutal grind of double sessions is over, the teams are grasping their respective offensive and defensive systems, and after this weekend the final preseason tune-ups have passed and the teams are turning their attention to Week 1 of the regular season.
“We get into our regular season routine (today),” Gloucester head coach Tony Zerilli said after Saturday’s scrimmage at Peabody. “We recharged the batteries over the weekend and its time to get ready for Classical.”
On Saturday, both the Fishermen and Hornets competed in their final dress rehearsal of the preseason with a scrimmage against Peabody and Pentucket respectively. Both squads played the scrimmage in actual game format in order to get ready for the regular season.
With double sessions finishing up on Friday, ending a grueling first two weeks of practice where players whip themselves into football shape while at the same time memorizing the playbook, both Gloucester and Manchester Essex were a little sluggish at the start of Saturday’s scrimmages.
“It’s a long couple of weeks,” Hornets head coach Mike Athanas said. “We practiced hard and we practiced tough early on. I thought early on Saturday we were a little lackluster, we needed to get a few series behind us to get into a groove.”
Zerilli echoed his sentiment.
“We had two-a-days Thursday and Friday and we started a little rough today,” he said. “But we kept working on it and eventually we got into a rhythm.”
On Saturday, Gloucester showed off its physical defense and running attack on offense, and while the first series or two didn’t go as planned, Gloucester looked strong once it found its groove.
In the middle of the first half the Fishermen started to move the ball on offense, and they took control in the second half with a long touchdown run from John Curcuru and a defensive score from Mike Sheehan, who scooped up a Peabody fumble after a big hit from senior captain Drew Shairs in the backfield.
The Fishermen were very tough against the run on the defensive end and even looked solid defending the pass, which was a weakness in 2012.
“Defensively we did a good job reading our keys and reacting,” Zerilli said. “We worked hard and we were physical, which is what we want.
Overall it was a tough-nosed scrimmage. They have a power offense, we run the wing-t and we got in some good reps. It was nice to play the scrimmage like a game so we could get the kids a series with down and distance. We also got some good reps from our starters and backups. You always want to get the second team good playing time in the preseason. You never know what can happen during the season, your second stringers could be starters by week two.”
Much like Gloucester, Manchester Essex also played better as Saturday’s scrimmage wore on.
Athanas was quick to credit the play of quarterback Craig Carter, who had good chemistry with slot receiver Seth Cohen, who is back in 2013 after missing the entire 2012 season with a collar bone injury. Brett Williams also had a strong day at offensive tackle.
“We weren’t happy with the first quarter, but we settled in and did some good things after that,” Athanas said. “We still have a lot to work on, but I think this preseason we’ve worked really hard. The kids are in good shape and we are starting to settle in. We are back into our regular season stuff now. It’s time to start preparing for Northeast.”