No. 3 Gloucester grinds its way to another NEC crown

GLOUCESTER, Mass. –- Friday night’s game between NEC Large heavyweights Gloucester and Lynn Classical was played with the intensity and physicality one would expect out of two teams gunning for a league crown and Division 1A playoff berth.

In the end, the visiting Rams made one too many mistakes as the Fishermen held on for a 14-7 win, to improve to 10-0 on the season and mark their 23rd consecutive victory.

With the score tied at seven early in the fourth, a bad snap gave the hosts the ball at the Rams’ 1-yard line. Gloucester senior Jordan Shairs (71 yards, 2 TDs on 21 carries) took it in from there two plays later and it held up as the game-winner.

Classical nearly tied it several possessions later on the strength of a 33-yard Nick Grassa quarterback keeper to put the ball in Gloucester (10-0) territory. But the Rams fumbled soon after and it was recovered by Gloucester senior defensive lineman Bryan Ingersoll.

The Fishermen then fed Shairs seven straight times to help run out the clock.

Shairs scored on Gloucester’s first drive on a 2-yard dive, and Classical responded later in the quarter on Grassa’s 19-yard scamper on an option keeper.

From there, both defenses took over. Gloucester senior Michael Tomaino made two interceptions and laid out the biggest hit of the night when he belted Classical’s Tyler Alicudo on what would have been a sure first down in the fourth quarter.

For Classical, Danny Omoregie and Malcolm Leng-King recovered fumbles, while Christian Cromwell had an interception. All of that came in the first half, as did an Omale Rodriguez recovery of a Classical squib kick after their touchdown. But, as it did all night, the Gloucester defense didn’t budge.

“They’re the best team I’ve ever played,” Shairs said of Classical. “Toughest kids I’ve ever played. It felt wicked good (to beat them), because we’ve been playing them for four years now. … It felt really good.”

Here are a few more observations of this NEC Large tilt:

-- Tomaino had an outstanding all-around game. While Classical’s bread and butter is the option, Grassa had beaten teams deep all year with opponents creeping up to stop the run. Tomaino made sure that didn’t happen. With starting cornerback Brandon Cusumano down with an injury, Tomaino was all over the field. He made great plays with the ball in the air and the Alicudo hit came on the possession following the Gloucester touchdown. If there were an MVP handed out for the game, Tomaino would have deserved it as much as anyone.

“The whole 11 played really well,” said Tomaino, one of four captains. “If anybody wanted to be out there, it was (Cusumano). I just felt like as a captain, I had to step up, be a leader. I stepped up for him, played for him, and we got the job done.”

-- These teams had two of the best front sevens you’re going to find in Eastern Mass. Gloucester’s group is well-documented, but Classical has an underrated unit of tenacious defenders in the box. The defensive line of Omoregie (6-0, 221), Josh Cheever (6-3, 230), Stephan Armand (6-3, 260) and Craig Kanyangarara (6-0, 215) for the Rams is one of the best we’ve seen all year. Linebackers Buddy Ford (6-0, 226) and junior Calvin Ebieshieva (5-11, 180) are speedy, aggressive players who limited the type of big plays Gloucester’s been making all year.


LC (8-2) 7 0 0 0 - 7

GL(10-0) 7 0 0 7 - 14

First Quarter

G - Jordan Shairs 2 run (Santo Parisi kick)

LC - Nick Grassa 19 run (Grassa kick)

Fourth Quarter

G - Shairs 1 run (Parisi kick)