SUDBURY, Mass. -- What one Gloucester running back started, the other finished off. That was the way it went for the Fishermen, as they eased to a 21-0 win over Lincoln-Sudbury in the Division 1A Semi-final on Tuesday night.
Gloucester came out firing in the first half with wing back Gilbert Brown (19 carries, 122 yards, 1TD), and turned in the second to fullback Jordan Shairs (19 carries, 142 yards, touchdown). Both backs worked the Lincoln-Sudbury defensive line for gaps, and accelerated to the second level after they made it through.
“That was the strategy,” Shairs said about sharing the workload. “He was running the ball well and the defense would try to stop him, so then I would get the ball…that’s the best part of our offense.”
To start the game, Brown worked at wingback and ran a lot of jet-sweeps to stretch the defense across the field, while Shairs ran the traps in the middle. In the second half the roles changed -- as Shairs took more belly-handoffs -- but success remained a constant.
The duo worked as well as they have all season, but was thankful of the effort of their offensive line.
The Gloucester offensive line, led by senior co-captain Andrew Mizzoni, neutralized a powerful Lincoln-Sudbury front-seven. With the help of tight ends Chris Unis and Michael Tomaino, the group kept defensive lineman Zach Smerlas in check.
“The line was the biggest thing for us today,” Brown said. “I think they deserve the credit because they work their butts off all year in practice and in games, and don’t get noticed.”
“You have to give the offensive line a lot of credit,” Gloucester coach Paul Ingram said about the success on the ground. “They’re a tough group of kids.”
Lincoln-Sudbury head coach Tom Lopez decided to ditch his Wing-T background and go with a more spread-oriented offense for most of the game. The Warriors had little success running the ball against the Gloucester defense, but did find pockets of hope airing the ball out.
Early in the second quarter L-S showed signs of life on a 13-play drive that started from its own 26-yard line but stalled at the Gloucester 5, after a fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
Warriors’ quarterback Matt Cahill completed 11 of 25 passes for 82 yards with an interception in the game. He and wide receiver Jack Harris showed their usual chemistry and narrowly missed hooking up on a 23-yard touchdown pass that would have cut the score to 13-6 in the second. Cahill lofted a perfect fade to Harris, but the Gloucester defense caught up to Harris just as the ball hit his hands and knocked it loose.
Surprisingly, Gloucester looked as fresh in this game, as they did in the season opener. The team had a familiar spark in its step provided from the return of running back Brandon Cusumano. Cusumano had a few rushes sprinkled throughout the game, but hauled in a 25-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Joseph Avila to begin the fourth quarter. The wingback missed most of the year due to injury, but is back in the lineup and looks healthy again.
With the win, Glloucester advances to the Division 1A Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium, where last year they defeated Bridgewater-Raynham, 33-13.
“The team is fired up,” Shairs said about reaching Gillette Stadium again. “That’s like our home field…We’re not just showing up to for the playoffs, we’re going in and we’re going in to win.”
G 7 6 0 8 -- 21
L 0 0 0 0 -- 0
G - Brown 5 run (Santo Parisi kick)
G - Shairs 1 run (kick failed)
G - Cusumano 25 pass from Avila (Parisi kick)