Experienced backfield, strong O-line lead powerful Gloucester

Desi Smith PhotoJan Pena-Ortiz is Gloucester's leading returning rusher. The senior finished just three yards shy of 1,000 on the ground a year ago.

The Gloucester High football team will have lots of familiar faces returning to the starting lineup in 2018, none more familiar than its four starters in the offensive backfield.

The Fishermen return their top three rushers from 2017 in seniors Jan Pena-Ortiz (997 yards), senior captain Ryan Argentino (444 yards) and senior captain Marc Smith (362 yards).

Last year, Pena-Ortiz established himself as a legitimate workhorse at running back, a player who has breakaway speed and the ability to pick up tough yards in between the tackles. Argentino, a fullback, is a bruising runner who has the tendency to grow stronger as the game goes on and wear down defenses. Smith, on the other hand, is one of the most versatile players in the Northeastern Conference with his ability to run and catch.

At the quarterback position, senior James Nelson will lead the offense after starting multiple games as a junior in 2017. He threw for 175 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The Fishermen should be able to keep opposing defenses off balance this season with talented backs that can beat you in many ways.

"It really helps to return your entire backfield," Gloucester head coach Tony Zerilli said. "All three backs have proven that they're productive varsity players. And Nelson may not have started at quarterback last season, but he got some valuable playing time due to injuries so he's experienced, too."

Gloucester has had a knack for molding inexperienced offensive lines into strong units in recent years. This fall, however, the Fishermen have some experience on the line, with three of five starters returning in senior captain Joe Ciarametaro, senior captain Noah Benson and Geoffrey Lattanzi. Gloucester had a good offensive line last fall and those three players were a big reason why.

"Those guys know what they're doing and have really helped us get through the early season transition stages," Zerilli said. "It's a luxury to have that kind of experience on the offensive line. The line has to come together as a unit, and those three have already established chemistry."

On paper, it looks like Gloucester and Lynn Classical are the two teams to beat in Tier 2 of the three-tiered Northeastern Conference. The Fishermen and Rams engaged in their yearly classic game that is decided on the last play, with the Rams leaving Newell Stadium with a 21-19 win, holding on after leading 21-0 at halftime.

This year, the two rivals meet on Friday, September 28 at Manning Field in Lynn (7 p.m.). This could be one of the best regular season games of the year and could decide the conference championship. Gloucester and Lynn Classical shared the title with Somerville in 2017.


Last year’s record: 7-4

Head coach: Tony Zerilli (8th season, 42-35)

Team captains: Ryan Argentino, Sr., FB/LB; Noah Benson, Sr., OT/DL; Joe Ciarametaro, Sr., OL/DL; Marc Smith, Sr., WB/DB;

Top returning rusher: Jan Pena-Ortiz (120 carries, 997 yards, 8TD)

Top returning passer: James Nelson (10-for-27, 175 yards, 2 TD)

Top returning receiver: Marc Smith (6 receptions, 92 yards, 2 TD)

Last league title: 2017 (Northeastern Conference Tier 2)

Did You Know?: The Fishermen are going for at least a share of a Northeastern Conference title for a fourth season in a row. The team last won four NEC titles from 2007-10, when it reached four straight Super Bowls.


(does not include MIAA playoff games)

Date Opponent Time

Sept. 7 vs. Revere 7 p.m.

Sept. 15 at Beverly 1 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Somerville 7 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Lynn Classical 7 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Saugus 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 vs. Marblehead 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Medford 7 p.m.

Nov. 22 at Danvers 10 a.m.