By Gianna Addario
---- — After tonight’s Division 1A semifinal contest against Everett, the Masconomet football team will have played in eight postseason games since 2003.
The only thing standing in the way of a third trip to the Gillette Stadium is tonight’s clash against the reigning Super Bowl champion Crimson Tide.
The two teams are set to do battle on neutral territory at Manning Field in Lynn (7:45 p.m.). Masco comes into the game at 9-2 with losses to Lowell and Beverly, while powerhouse Everett (9-1) has just one loss, to top-ranked Barnstable, coming in late September.
Since Masco’s loss to Beverly in Week 6 the Chieftains have put together a five-game win streak, including a big Thanksgiving Day victory over rival North Andover.
“We had a great day. Our seniors kept the focus on their Thanksgiving rival and didn’t look ahead to playoffs,” said head coach Jim Pugh, who was recently named NEC/CAL Tier 1 Coach of the Year. “We were very excited with the way played.
“The kids set the tone the last 10 days. We didn’t want to look ahead and worry about Everett until after Thanksgiving, but we’re looking forward to it (tonight).”
In the last five wins, Masconomet has scored 30-plus points in all five contests while its defense has allowed just 51 points, including one shutout against Revere.
Senior captain and running back Dylan Mann finished the regular season with a team-high in rushing yards (615), rushing touchdowns (7), receiving yards (260) and receiving touchdowns (4). Mann was named this year’s NEC/CAL Tier 1 MVP for his stellar numbers.
In the same breath, quarterback Chris Schleer will play a key role in tonight’s game. He has completed 61 passes on 113 attempts for 849 yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for 200 yards and five TDs.
“There’s no one better at calling audibles than Schleer,” said Pugh, whose team has been a perfect 5-0 away from Walt Roberts Field this season. “We’re not focused on what their defense is doing; we’re focused on our offense and that’s been the case all year.
“We’ve been in the situation before. We’ve been going over the game plan and have been trying to keep the kids healthy and in shape.”
On the other side of the field, Everett brings nine Greater Boston League all-stars, including Player of the Year Jakarrie Washington (20 TDs).
The ever-potent Crimson Tide, who feature Notre Dame-bound, 290-pound John Montelus up front, haven’t played a game since Nov. 9, which could play to Masco’s advantage.
“We love the challenge,” Pugh said. “If you’re an athlete you want to be playing against the best, and that’s what Everett is. We know Everett will have a tremendous team, and our kids are pumped to get the job done. No one has to do anything spectacular; they just need to do their jobs.”
Everett, which has won nine Super Bowls under coach John DiBiaso has an abundance of team speed in skill players such as Washington, Jalen Felix, Kenny Calaj and Gilly DeSouza.
“Everett’s speed is something we’ve seen before. During our game against Beverly we saw Brendan Flaherty and Kenny Pierce, who are very fast. I’m not saying they’re the fastest, but they’re up there,” Pugh said. “We just need to play physical football.”
For the most part Masconomet has remained healthy, despite junior fullback/linebacker Mackenzie Cashin going down with a season-ending injury against Revere. Cashin is second on the team in rushing with 457 yards and six touchdowns.
In addition, Mike Tivinis has run well for the Chieftains in the last two games since returning from injury.