FOXBOROUGH — Forget about the outcome of Saturday's Eastern Mass. Division 2A Super Bowl between Gloucester and Duxbury. Simply getting there was a tremendous accomplishment for the Fishermen.
Of course, that's little consolation to the Gloucester players, who walked off the field at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough feeling dejected after a 46-26 loss to the unbeaten Dragons (13-0). But there is very little to hang your head about if you're a member of the Gloucester High School football program.
Sure, compared to last year's 13-0 record and 41-0 trouncing of Hingham in the Division 2A Super Bowl, this year's 11-2 campaign and Super Bowl loss seems like a disappointment. But let's be real. Seasons like 2007 don't come around very often, yet 2008 wasn't really all that far off.
Gloucester's two losses came to a very good Swampscott squad, which made the playoffs in Division 3, and arguably the top team in the state in Duxbury. The talk in the Gillette Stadium press box was that the Dragons could hang with any team in the state, regardless of division.
"Duxbury is a special team and everyone knows it," said Gloucester head coach Paul Ingram.
Still, Gloucester hung with the Patriot League champs for three quarters. They trailed just 25-20 after the third quarter and had opportunities to jump in front but couldn't convert.
"We had plenty of opportunities, but we either shot ourselves in the foot or they made big defensive plays," said Ingram.
Despite some miscues, Gloucester's will and determination kept them in the game against a team with a size advantage and an abundance of talent, including University of Iowa-bound running back/linebacker Shane DiBona, who stands at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds.
While certainly talented in their own right, the Fishermen played gritty all year. They were not quite the juggernaut of last year, a team that rolled to an unbeaten record and disposed of their two playoff opponents (Masconomet and Hingham) by a combined score of 80-0.
This year's squad had to overcome the graduation of nine starters, including the backfield of Andrew Fulford and Anthony Enderle, who combined for over 2,100 yards in Gloucester's run-happy offense. They were also playing with the knowledge in the back of their minds that no Gloucester team had ever got to consecutive Super Bowls.
However, the Fishermen did more than overcome it. They outscored opponents by an average of 36-12 and did indeed become the first team in Gloucester history to get to a consecutive Super Bowl.
The Dragons recognized the Fishermen's accomplishment.
"We know that Gloucester has a good tradition and they were a very strong team again this year," said Duxbury senior linebacker Kyle Gavoni.
The loss will still sting for a while, but there's plenty to be proud of for Gloucester.
"Win or lose, a lot of people would love to be standing in Gillette Stadium after a game," said Ingram. "The kids are used to winning and they're used to winning big games, so they are disappointed. But I'm proud of them."