By Nick Curcuru
---- — GLOUCESTER — Gloucester head football coach Tony Zerilli had a big smile on his face when he let out a big sigh of relief after watching his team come up in the clutch several times in a 15-14 win over Lynn Classical Friday night at New Balance Track and Field at Newell Stadium.
“What a way to break in the new stadium,” the Gloucester coach said.
He could not have been more right.
Following the grand opening ceremonies of the newly refurbished Newell Stadium, Gloucester and Lynn Classical put together another instant classic in the long line of instant classics between the two schools.
Just when fans thought they had seen everything between the two teams, the Fishermen came away with a win Friday night thanks to a pair of unique plays.
Tied at 12-12 in the second half and with neither defense giving an inch, the Fishermen saw a drive stall out inside the Rams 10 yard line. That’s when Zerilli called the field goal unit in. Gloucester hadn’t successfully kicked a field goal since the 2008 season, but senior kicker Eli Horne, a converted soccer player, booted a 24 yard field goal through the uprights to give Gloucester a 15-12 lead with 2:20 to play in the third quarter.
“It was a unique play for us, we don’t usually kick field goals,” Zerilli said. “But we have a good field goal kicker in Eli Horne and we were facing a fourth and goal from the seven. (Lynn Classical) was doing a good job stopping us in those situations so I sent the field goal team on and he nailed it.
It would end up being the winning three points, but the game was not over yet, not by a long shot.
After the teams traded unsuccessful possessions, the Rams got the ball with 7:54 to play at their own 32. A Brad Scuzzarella 36 yard game brought Classical down to the six yard line and looked to be going in for the go-ahead score. But the Gloucester defense came up with a clutch play when Alex Enes jumped on a fumble at the 14 yard line to give Gloucester the ball back with 2:32 to go.
Lynn Classical’s defense would come up big once again on the ensuing possession forcing a three-and-out after Gloucester had a screen pass for a first down called back on a holding call.
The Fishermen elected to go with another unique play on fourth down as punter Jordan Pallazola, who had a big day on the ground for Gloucester, took an intentional safety while taking a precious 15 seconds off the clock in the process. Gloucester still led 15-14 with just over a minute and a half to play and had to kickoff to the Rams.
“I said to myself, ‘Do we really want to risk a punt here on our own 15 or do we want to waste as much time as possible and take the safety?” Zerilli said. “They weren’t going to kick a field goal, if they scored it would have been a touchdown so we wanted to kickoff rather than punt. We didn’t get the best kickoff after that but the defense came up big and it worked.”
After recovering the ensuing kickoff at the Fishermen 45 yard line, the Rams began to move the ball again driving down to the Gloucester 23 yard line, where they faced a fourth down and four with the game on the line.
Fortunately for the Fishermen, they had one more clutch play left in them as a host of Fishermen, led by Terrance Lane, brought down Classical’s Devin Crayton two yards shy of the first down, sealing the win for Gloucester.
“They were beating us with counters all night,” Zerilli said. “So we overemphasized to our guys to stay home on the back side. They stayed home on that fourth down play and came up with the stop. The defense held tough all night and came up with plays at the most important times in the game.”
Gloucester got things started in the first quarter as senior John Curcuru, team high 106 yards rushing, delivered the first touchdown at the new Newell Stadium, a 10 yard run to make it 6-0 Fishermen.
The Rams responded on the next possession as quarterback Jordan Brown, aided by an outstanding ball fake, took the qb keeper 15 yards to the house to tie the score at 6-6.
Gloucester got back on top in the second quarter when a 14 play 56 yard, nine minute drive culminated with a two yard plunge from Pallazola (88 yards rushing) to make it 12-6 Fishermen. But the Rams once again answered back when Brown hit receiver Tino Martinez with a perfect strike for a 41 yard touchdown to send the teams into the break knotted at 12-12.