It was the fall of 1967 and the Boston Red Sox, led by their brash young left fielder Carl Yastrzemski, were putting the finishing touches on a historic season that would forever be known as the “Impossible Dream.” Over in Hamilton, a very promising high school football team was also kicking off what would prove to be an equally memorable season locally.
The 1967 Generals would run the table going a perfect 10-0, and, in doing so, became the first football team in school history to accomplish the feat. It’s a distinction that team has held all by itself for the last 43 years, but they may very well have some company come Thursday afternoon. Sitting pretty at 9-0, the 2011 Generals are on the verge of joining that storied squad.
Just like potential no-hitters in baseball, potential perfect seasons in football are something you don’t talk a lot about in the early stages. Come the seventh inning or the seventh game, however, the whispers tend to get louder.
“As the season played itself out we have become more aware of it and the last few weeks we have formally made it a part of our goals,” said coach Andrew Morency. “Now we are at the cusp and we are ready to finish the job.”
The Generals can finish that job in the most fitting fashion Thursday morning at Jack Welch Stadium in Ipswich when they clash with their arch-rivals, the 3-6 Tigers of Ipswich.
After dropping their first three games of the year, the Tigers upset Amesbury in a four-OT thriller and also notched back-to-back wins over Georgetown and Manchester-Essex. The Tigers fell to North Reading, 32-14, their last time out.
With a pair of talented backs in Derek Chamberlain and Peter Moutevelis and a promising freshman quarterback in Nick Andreas to run their patented Wing-T attack, Morency is taking nothing for granted heading into this one.
“I think they have definitely shown the ability at times to move the ball on offense,” said Morency. “They have a really good running game with two very good running backs."
"They have been a bit fragmented in their success, but as a staff we look at them as being on the verge of putting it all together" he said. "We need to come out and be ready for that and we are going to have to play our best game to beat them. I think that’s what has made this rivalry so special because regardless of the records every year it’s a battle.”
With a Tuesday MIAA playoff showdown with Newburyport right around the corner, Morency says a potential perfect season will be something that his team will likely appreciate further on down the road.
“We want to stay focused at finishing up strong, but I think at the end of this when they look back at what they accomplished it’s going to be something that can take a lot of pride in,” he said.
The fact that the defending CAL Small champs came in to a new season with a gigantic bull’s eye on their back and through nine weeks have yet to blink is something that Morency and his staff can take a lot of pride in.
“Going undefeated in any sport at any level is tough enough to do anyways, but after having won it last year and with teams coming into our games all fired up to play us it has made it all the more special,” said the coach. “My hat is off to these players for giving all they have and now they have the chance to make history.”
H-W at Ipswich, Thursday 10 a.m.
The Pick: H-W, 28-13. You know there’s nothing these Tigers would like more than to put the lone blemish on the Generals’ historic season, but I can’t see H-W quarterback Trevor Lyons and Co. letting it happen.
Falcons looking to close Newell Stadium on a high note
If the Danvers High football team was ever in a position to make the turkey taste sweet by notching their first Thanksgiving victory over mighty Gloucester since 2004 this would appear to be the year. After all, the reeling Fishermen have notched just one win all year, while the 4-6 Falcons are coming in off an impressive, 42-28, win over Salem and have a five-win season squarely in their sights.
Danvers coach Sean Rogers would probably be the first guy to throw that theory under the bus, however, for three very good reasons: 1) Gloucester also beat the Witches just two games ago, 35-0, for their lone win. 2) Gloucester is coming off a solid 33-15 loss to 9-1 Swampscott, and has played a slew of other top tier teams (Masconomet, Beverly and Andover to name three) -- awfully tough. 3) Probably the most important reason – Thursday’s showdown will represent the last game in Gloucester’s storied Newell Stadium before it undergoes massive renovations.
“We have to match their emotions because it is suppose to be their last game there,” Rogers notes of the Fishermen who are expected to play their home games next year in Manchester and who have inked a $500,000 deal with sneaker giant New Balance for the naming rights to the new stadium.
“They are going to be up to play this game and we have to match, if not exceed that emotion.”
Finally healthy, Gloucester has found a nice balance on offense with Lenny Taormina (851 yards, 7 TDs) at QB and with backs Kyle Lucido (694 yards, 6 TDs) and Santo Parisi behind him. Rogers says the move of Matt Taormina from the backfield to tight end has made the offense all the more explosive.
“You watch them on tape from the beginning of the year where they had some tough injuries to now and they have probably progressed more than any team in the league,” Rogers noted of the Fishermen who hold a healthy 35-15 advantage over Danvers on T-Day.
“They play downhill football and they put pressure on you in every phase of the game and we have to match that. You mix in Thanksgiving emotions and the records really don’t matter,” he said.
Danvers will look to its front four on defense, who were a key cog in the Salem win, to set the tone again Thursday. On offense it will be a matter of execution and getting their Wing-T attack going behind senior Nick Valles (8 TDs) who comes into the game just 40 yards shy of the vaunted 1,000-yard mark.
Along with Valles, Rogers will start nine seniors Thursday, many of whom will play both ways.
“Our seniors have never beaten Gloucester and the Fishermen will want to keep that streak going,” said the Danvers coach. “It’s going to be an emotional game for sure.”
Rogers got a good measure of his team’s resolve with the win over the Witches, which snapped a four-game losing streak after a 3-2 start.
“It’s a great senior class. You’re talking about a group that has played at the very least two years and many who have played three or four years,” said Rogers. “They’ve devoted a lot of time to Danvers football and I think the underclassmen recognize that.”
Danvers at Gloucester, Thursday 10 a.m.
The Pick: Gloucester, 22-21. Look for the Falcons to leave it all on the field, but it’s hard to picture the Fishermen closing up their vaunted home field on a losing note.
Big Blue and Magicians meet for all the marbles
You could call Thursday’s a case of one stop shopping for Swampscott coach Steve Dembowski and his Big Blue football team.
“The goal is to win the league and the goal is always to win on Thanksgiving for the seniors,” the Swampscott coach explained. “This year we just get to accomplish both of those goals, hopefully, on the same day.”
Hopefully is indeed the operative word in that statement as Dembowski is fully aware of the enormity of the task that lies ahead when the Big Blue travel to Marblehead Thursday morning (10 a.m.) to tangle with the Magicians (4-0, 7-2). Both teams come in with perfect league marks at 4-0, while Swampscott holds the better overall mark at 9-1. Marblehead is coming in off a , which kept its title hopes alive, while Swampscott took care of business .
“They provide a lot of challenges for us in all three phases of the game and I know it’s going to be a battle,” said Dembowski of the Magicians, who have only been and .
Stopping Marblehead starts with stopping the Magicians’ explosive tailback Will Quigley.
“He finds seams through the line very well,” said Dembowski. “He accelerates very quickly and he’s very strong in the upper body. He won’t go down often by an arm tackle or by one tackler. He’s got a big play ability catching the ball out of the backfield and he’s just been a very productive player for them for the last three years.”
Sad to see him graduate, coach?
“No, it won’t be a sad day in my household when he moves on,” Dembowski added with a chuckle.
While containing Quigley is a key, Magicians’ QB Ian Maag has also exhibited a potent arm this year as well.
“They have had some big plays in the passing game this year when people have tried to load the box and stop Quigley,” Dembowski noted. “Our corners are going to have to prevent that big shot down the field.”
Defensively, Marblehead is a very aggressive unit that will show multiple looks.
“Whatever front they show us we need to play very well on the line of scrimmage as they have been very aggressive all year with their linebackers,” said the coach.
This will be the third time in the last four years that this game has meant the title and Wakefield awaits the winner in a Tuesday playoff. Swampscott prevailed in 2008, while Marblehead returned the favor the following season. Last year, Beverly had the title wrapped up by Turkey Day. In a game that is all about seniors, Dembowski has to like his chances.
“I’ve never started 22 seniors before and that’s what we are going to do Thursday,” he said of the prolific group, which is led by captains A.J. Baker, Sam Gold, Zach Kalapinski, Richie Sullivanand the team’s do-everything QB, Mike Walsh.
“That’s truly a blessing on both sides of the ball. This group has been a great group and they have done everything we have asked them to do.”
Swampscott at Marblehead, Thursday 10 a.m.
The Pick: Swampscott, 28-27. Hard to see a team that will start a senior at every position Thursday not rising to the challenge. Bring on Wakefield!
Tanners looking to settle a score in Saugus
Ask any senior on the Peabody football team for the unequivocal low point to their careers in Tanner blue and it’s a safe bet you would get more than a few who would point to their first trip to Saugus’ Stackpole Field two years ago.
While most were only JV-callups at the time, the specter of the (1-8) Sachem’s surprising victory over the favored (3-7) Tanners in the mud left an indelible memory. Flash forward two years and this group of Peabody seniors will be looking to keep that experience a distant memory as they once again head to Saugus as prohibitive favorites in a game that will once again likely be played in the mud.
No one took that loss harder than Peabody coach Scott Wlasuk and the fourth-year coach is determined to turn it into a teachable moment.
“You look back at that game and I guess it’s easy to come to the conclusion that we took them lightly, but that’s not the case,” said Wlasuk. “It’s definitely a game that I will bring up and remind them of as we head into Thursday.”
Thanks to a terrific comeback in their final game, the Tanners (1-4, 4-5) come into Thursday’s contest with a chance to record the program’s first non-losing season since the departure of legendary coach Ed Nizwantowski in 2004. Peabody won last year ‘s game with the Sachems in Peabody and leads the all-time series, 38-26.
Just as they did two years ago, a young Sachems squad comes into this one sputtering at 2-8 after suffering a 35-6 loss to a tough Triton club in their last game.
Wlasuk was on hand for that one and came away with a healthy respect for the Sachems.
“Triton is very good, but I though Saugus played very hard,” he said of the Sachems.
Junior running back Justin Barrasso leads the multiple option attack for the Sachems, who topped Georgetown and Amesbury for their two wins this year.
Peabody will look to crank up its running game to keep Barrasso and Co. off the field behind its dynamic backfield of tailback Nat Gaye (1,152 yards, 11 TDs), quarterback Jason Hiou (633 yards passing, 3 TDs) and punishing fullback D.J. Henrick. Also expected back Thursday is senior halfback Brady Doyle, who has been out since suffering a severe ankle injury in .
When Peabody passes look for Hiou to target his 6-foot-2 safety blanket, senior Nick Ingham (nine catches, 288 yards 3 TDs), who is coming off a terrific two-touchdown performance against Classical.
After seeing his and his fellow seniors final season marred by numerous off the field controversies out of their control, Ingham can think of no better way to end his career by posting a second consecutive Turkey Day win over the Sachems and hoisting the humongous Thanksgiving trophy in Saugus for the first time since 2005.
“I felt it last year with my brother (Scott) when he got the trophy. That was the first time he touched it and it’s just indescribable,” said Ingham. “It’s something you look forward to ever since you were a little kid; it’s like a group goal. After all that we have been through this year I can’t think of any better way to end things.”
Peabody at Saugus, Thursday 10 a.m.
The Pick: Peabody 31-14. The Tanners are not about to let a .500 season and the trophy slip through their fingers in Saugus.