By Dan Harrison
---- — This year’s North Shore Tech football team is a special bunch.
People weren’t exactly expecting big things for the Bulldogs after the team went 2-9 last season but this year’s squad has done its best to prove detractors wrong, going 8-3 to capture the Commonwealth Athletic Conference Small championship.
There are a number of special teams each year in Division 4A football, but only one Super Bowl champion.
Tuesday night in Burlington, coach Paul Worth’s boys look to take the next step in their journey to a 4A Super Bowl when the Bulldogs face 9-2 Cathedral in the Eastern Mass. semifinals. The team will look to its 12 seniors in what will be its biggest game to date.
“It’s a great group of seniors. Their freshman year they won one game. They know what work is all about. I don’t know if we have any All-Scholastics or any great players, but we have a great team and that’s what’s carried us all year,” said Worth, who coached the Bulldogs to a Super Bowl title in 1997 and another appearance in 2004.
“Hopefully the team will have a great game and come out on top (Tuesday) but it won’t be an individual effort, it will take a team effort to beat Cathedral. I’m very proud of this group they’ve worked extremely hard for four years. Everything that’s come is to their credit because they deserve it through their hard work.”
Looking at the numbers, Cathedral is 9-2 on the season, averaging 26.6 points per game while surrendering 15.5 points per game. After starting the season 2-2 however, the Panthers rattled off seven straight wins.
One of the two losses came at the hands of Ashland, in which Cathedral blew a 28-0 lead thanks to five passing touchdowns from the Ashland quarterback. The Panthers also lost huge to Triton as the Vikings saw Justin Spillane rush for 111 yards and four touchdowns in the 34-6 win. It was Triton’s only victory of the season.
But going forward Cathedral has been impressive.
“Speed. They’re fast, athletic and that’s what jumps out at me,” said Worth, who took his team up to Burlington for practice on Sunday. “We’re going to try and contain ‘em. We can’t give ‘em any long plays we have to make them earn it.”
Coached by former Manchester Essex hoop coach Duane Sigsbury, the Panthers found their rhythm behind sophomore quarter back Kejonte Hickman. Hickman is young and can be reckless throwing some interceptions along the way this season but, especially late in the season, Hickman found his groove with 6-foot four-inch wide receiver Kadeem Edge.
North Shore Tech fans could liken Edge to former receiver Jordan Smith, who was a huge touchdown threat when he was in the Bulldog Blue.
The Bulldogs will look to Jaz Sanchez and his defensive backfield teammates to try and shut down or at least limit Edge’s impact. Sanchez has been spectacular in he has a knack for going up and getting the ball when opposing quarterbacks try to test him.
Cathedral certainly can air it out, but the Panthers do like to grind the ball when they can. Running back Jermal Brevard-Jackson is a tough, downhill runner who can drag tacklers. Brevard-Jackson had a huge game in the Panthers playoff-clinching win over Pope John two weeks ago rushing for 135 yards and two touchdowns. Hickman is also a dual threat who runs tough for a sophomore.
As dangerous a weapon as Edge is, Worth is more concerned with Cathedral’s ground game.
“He (Edge) is a good wide receiver, but the two backs (Hickman and Brevard-Jackson) are the most dangerous. They can run wild,” explained Worth. “They’ve carried them (Cathedral) all year.”
North Shore Tech will need big play out of its front seven. Don’t be surprised to see linebacker Dan Bailey keying on Brevard-Jackson all game the way he did against Tyler Mahoney of Greater Lowell Tech in a game NST won 36-0.
The Cathedral defense isn’t overly susceptible in either the passing or running games but a tough runner like Ross Murphy, who gains a lot of his yards after contact, could find some success against the Panthers. If North Shore Tech can execute in the counter game with Sudak and up the middle with fullback Tyler Skane, it could force Cathedral to have to account for too many options.
Quarterback Tim Andersen may be called upon to make a few big plays in this game and history indicates that’s a good thing for North Shore Tech. Anderson isn’t one of the top precision-passers around, but he can make big things happen and has developed a nice rapport with Jazmany Sanchez, Yordany Sanchez and Daniel Ramirez.
“We’re not doing anything different (offensively),” noted Worth. “We’ve got some kids who can catch and some kids who can run. We’ll take what they give us.”
If North Shore Tech wants to succeed offensively though it starts with the guys up front and the Bulldog lineman have been great all season.
Ronnie Williams, Denzel Birth, John Sabbio, Eric Comeau, Chris Girrard and even freshman Alex Mason have provided NST with a steady push all season and the group will need to bring their A-game on Tuesday, with a trip to Gillette Stadium on the line.