By Kevin J. Stone, Contributing Writer
MARLBOROUGH – Just three years ago, the Marlborough High School football team was battling Nashoba in the Division 4 Central Massachusetts semifinals.
After a down year in 2019 and the odd Fall II season earlier this year, the Panthers got their fall 2021 campaign started on the right foot Sept. 10, with a 27-0 shutout of Tantasqua.
A week later, the same Panthers squad assembled a 27-21 victory over Shepherd Hill in their first regular season game at home at Kelleher Field since 2019.
While Marlborough played a special “Thanksgiving in April” matchup against Hudson earlier this year, they, indeed, played the rest of their Fall II home games on the turf field at Whitcomb Middle School.
Panthers seek return to 2019 glory
Sean Mahoney has been around the block a time or two and believes this team has the ability to regain some of that magic that drove Marlborough deep into the playoffs a few years ago.
There is one slight difference, though, coming in the form of a new statewide season format that’s been implemented this fall.
“You don’t know, with the new format, how many [wins] you’re going to need,” Mahoney said.
“We’re going to go one at a time, obviously,” he continued. “But I would be disappointed if we weren’t in the playoff mix.”
Admittedly, it might take a bit longer for the Panthers to get back to the level they were operating at a few years ago simply because numbers are down. That’s a problem that coaches are seeing statewide.
“Our numbers are lower than they were [in 2019], but our level of talent is getting back to that level,” said Mahoney. “Our depth isn’t at that level, but our talent is close to that level.”
That talent starts with senior captains Adam Al-Nammari, Eli Hintz, Cam Ginetti and Jake Jones.
Al-Nammari and Hintz set up on the offensive and defensive lines. Ginetti takes tight end and linebacker duties, while Jones takes the field as a wide receiver and a linebacker.
“They’re all proven commodities,” said Mahoney.
Those captains are joined by teammates like junior running back and converted lineman Nealon Stemple, wide receiver and defensive back Brandon Alfaro, junior quarterback Jason Knollenberg, and sophomore Miguel Borges.
Marlborough dominates in season opener
After losing to Tantasqua in a brutally cold, raw, windy and rainy double overtime game during the Fall II season, this year’s opening win sparked an important flame that Mahoney hopes stays lit throughout the 2021 campaign.
“We went in not really knowing what we had,” he added. “One game doesn’t indicate where you’re at, but we played well, and we did a lot of good things. We got contributions from a lot of kids, so it was a good start and a good night.”