Column: Zerilli one of the best for Manchester Essex

MIKE SPRINGER/Staff photo Anna Zerilli of Manchester Essex kicks an extra-point field goal early in the second half of the annual Thanksgiving day game Thursday in Georgetown. The ball-holder is Jake Rich.

The high school football season officially ended with the Super Bowl tournament, which was held at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 7. Catholic Memorial, where I coach the kickers, played St. John’s Prep for the Division I Super Bowl title that evening. The Prep won the title by beating us 21-14. Now that I have the time to catch up on my reading, going through the Gloucester Daily Times, I saw two articles on the sports page that immediately caught my eye. The first one covered the Manchester Essex All-Decade Team (Nov. 23) while the second one, Gloucester and Manchester Essex Football decade stats leaders, had lists of the top players in several categories (Nov. 30).

One football player who should have been mentioned in both articles is Anna Zerilli, the 5-3, 130-pound kicker from Rockport. She was the first female kicker in the North Shore area and played for the Manchester Essex varsity football team, which has a co-op program with Rockport High. Through hard work and dedication to kicking, she turned out to be the real deal, kicking for the Hornets for three years, from 2015 to 2017. Anna placed in virtually all of Manchester Essex scoring records. To make sure that all her records were accurate, I researched every game that Manchester played from 1960, the year they switched from six-man to 11-man football, to the present. This project took me a month to complete.

During her freshman year, she made history on her first kick, connecting on an extra point against Georgetown on Sept. 25, 2015. She became the first female ever to score for the varsity as a freshman not only in the state but in the entire country. Although she finished that season with just two extra points, she gained valuable game experience. The next season, she got the chance to kick eight more extra points, but her junior season was a breakout one for her. As the starting kicker, Anna scored 31 points from 28 conversions and one field goal to finish among the top five placekickers in scoring in the Cape Ann area.

In addition to this, she placed in the top third of female kickers in the country with 30 points or more in a season. After this very successful campaign, Anna transferred to Proctor Academy in Andover, New Hampshire. Unfortunately for Anna, she tore her ACL and missed the entire 2018 football season.

Concerning the Manchester Essex football program, Anna set the record for most points kicking in a game, 7 vs. Georgetown, with four extra points and a field goal on Nov. 23, 2017; most points kicking in a season, 31, with 28 extra points and one field goal, in 2017; and most points kicking in a career, 41. Anna placed second in school records for most extra points in a game, with five vs. Amesbury on Oct. 20, 2017; for most extra points in a season, 28, 2017; and for most consecutive extra points, 13, 2017.

In the Georgetown game on Thanksgiving Day in 2017, she kicked her only field goal, a 28-yarder, to become just one of six kickers in the history of the school to connect on a three-pointer. And the kick was the second longest as well.

In 2018, she became the first female in New England to sign to play college football, for Lake Forest College in Illinois, a Division III school.

She then kicked an extra point against Beloit on Oct. 26, 2019 to became the first female to score for the varsity in the history of the Midwest Conference. She also made the adjustment successfully for kicking off the ground as the one or two-inch kicking block used in high school football not allowed on the college level.

Rick Gonsalves is a resident of Essex and football kicking coach.

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