By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – High school football played in the month of December can mean only one thing – state championship matchups hosted at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
Shrewsbury High School is one of those teams making the trip to the home of the NFL’s New England Patriots Saturday, Dec. 3, where the Mid-Wachusett A, Central Mass. and Sectional Division 2 champion Colonials will lock horns with South champion Duxbury High School.
Shrewsbury enters this matchup with a huge dose of confidence having crushed Westfield High, 42-12, in state semifinal action Nov. 19. That victory followed convincing wins over St. John’s High, 34-28, and Algonquin Regional, 21-14, in the CMass championship Nov. 12. The Colonials also knocked off Thanksgiving Day rival Wachusett Regional, 14-7, in last week’s holiday contest.
“Going to play in Gillette is just awesome. It’s the season we all dreamed about from the beginning of the season,” said senior co-captain Jared Godek. “We wanted to make this so bad and it’s finally here. I can’t believe it because we aren’t there yet but it’s awesome.”
“I’m just so proud of our kids. Our seniors have been awesome leaders all year,” said head coach John Aloisi. “We faced a lot of adversity in the last couple of years. They stuck to the plan. I’m so happy for them.”
Shrewsbury’s 2016 season opened on a somewhat pedestrian note with losses to Nashoba Regional, St. John’s and Algonquin Regional. As late as Oct. 28, the team’s record was a modest 3-3 with the squad needing a spark to ignite players that everyone knew possessed an abundance of talent. That jumpstart occurred with a 27-7 win over St. Peter-Marian and followed with a 14-6 victory over Leominster. Those victories would set the stage for the playoff run that was about to unfold.
Saturday’s contest will likely see more of the continued success the team has demonstrated in all game phases. The offense is on a torrid streak with a season-high six touchdowns in the Westfield pounding with sophomore quarterback Drew Campanale (1,491 yards, 20 TDs on the season) keeping opponents off balance with a lethal aerial attack mixed in with an effective ground game.
Look for receivers Chris Campbell, Brian Moura and Connor McAulay along with tight end Godek to be open downfield and the recipients of Campanale’s mostly pinpoint accurate throws. Running back A.J. Laramee has been dominant down the stretch and is expected to receive the bulk of the carries along with other Colonials who will also contribute to the ground game.
The offensive line has been a force protecting Campanale and opening holes for Laramee and others. Grayson Lee, Noah Bortle, Nick Digirolamo, Kevin Phan, Mike Mulvena and Addison Ferrari will be upfront for the Colonials looking to slow down Duxbury defenders.
The defense will be anchored by Digirolamo and McAulay at the ends while Lee and Godek are stingy in surrendering yards to opponents and will be strong at the tackles. Mulvena, Laramee and Justice Lane will hold down the linebacker duties with defensive backs Ryan Trocki, Aidan Brown, Matt Mulcahy and Campbell roaming in the secondary.
Kicker Phil Smyrnios is blessed with an ultra-strong leg and is steady on PATs and a threat for field goals at long distances. Godek will continue to handle punt duties.
Look for Aloisi to shuffle in a number of players other than those listed throughout the game to maintain a balanced attack both offensively and defensively.
“This is probably going to be my last football game ever because I don’t think I’m going to play in college,” said Trocki, a senior co-captain. “It’s awesome that it’s going to be under the lights at Gillette. There’s no better way to go out. I’m so proud of all my teammates for getting us to this point. Time to take care of Duxbury.”
Taming Duxbury (11-1) will not be an easy task. The Dragons pounded Beverly in their state semifinal matchup, 41-14, with standout quarterback Bobby Maimaron leading the way. The team chose for their starters not to suit up on Thanksgiving Day and consequently was crushed by Marshfield, 53-0. It remains to be seen if the controversial decision by head coach Dave Maimaron to sit out players for more rest was a prudent one.