Gloucester High football coach Tony Zerilli finds himself and his Fishermen in the same spot that most teams are in when a new season rolls around. Gloucester has to find players to step up and fill the spots that opened up when 2016’s seniors moved on.
One spot that Zerilli does not have to worry about is at quarterback, where senior captain Matt Smith will take the snaps. Smith has some solid offensive players surrounding him, including senior tight ends Ollie Emerson and Brandon Rivera, wide receivers Cody Burke and Calvin Spencer and running backs Geoffrey Lattanzi, Marc Smith, Jon Ortiz, Dylon Lark, A, J. Romeo-Oliver and Ryan Argentino.
Zerilli said he and his team are excited to get things going Friday night in Revere.
“(Revere) coach (Lou) Cicatelli is a good friend of mine, so we have a good rivalry going between us, and I’m sure the players are looking forward to opening things up under the lights in Revere,” Zerilli said. “We do have a lot of young guys on the team and we need them to show up and play varsity football starting Friday.”
“We have to be a more dynamic team this year, last year we kind of became the Christian Sanfillipo show, this year we have four good backs and a quarterback who can run the ball,” Zerilli said. “It’s important that we share the wealth, spread the ball around and make sure that everybody stays hungry. We have to have these young kids ready to show up and play.”
After the road opener in Revere, Beverly will come to Gloucester on September 15, a very big early season test for the Fishermen.
Gloucester will look to seniors Carlos Hernandez and Kevin Gabriele to make plays for the defense, with Emerson, Argentino and Lattanzi doing double duty on offense and on defense.
Zerilli said his group is not the biggest team out there, none of his starters crack 200 pounds, but since you can’t really do much about improving team size, one of the keys for the Fishermen will be health, they have to stay healthy and on the field.
“If we stay healthy, I think the guys we put out there are very athletic, we’ll be okay,” the coach said. “We don’t have a lot of kids, but we do have a lot of good football players on this team. As long as we stay healthy I think that we’ll be fine.”
“On offense I think we are a dynamic team, we can do a lot of things, we can run inside the tackles, we can run outside the tackles,” Zerilli said. “Our QB (Smith) has a good head on his shoulders, he knows how to find the open guy and he can really deliver the ball on point.”
“We don’t ask Matt to throw 30-35 balls a night, we want him to throw 7-8 a night and connect on those passes,” Zerilli said. “I certainly think he can do it, and he can really lead this team as well as getting leadership from the other seniors.”
After the opener in Revere, Gloucester will play at home five times in seven games, hoping to get a boost from playing in front of the Newell Stadium crowd.
“We’re all looking forward to Friday night, it’s always a good ride down to play Revere. Now we finally get out there and play a real game after three weeks of the pre-season. It’s very exciting, starting the season, for the kids and the coaches,” Zerilli said.
At Danvers, it isn’t just that Andreas era that ended last October when Matt hurt his leg in a loss to North Reading. It was also the end of the Shawn Theriault era as well.
Into the breach is Ryan Nolan, who sounds as if he should be blowing fastballs past Major League hitters.
Last year, the Falcons were 9-2, and bowed out in the in the MIAA tournament with a loss to North Reading, in a game that cost them Matt Andreas.
Ryan comes into the picture with the Falcons in transition. Andreas’ departure leaves a huge hole to fill, but Nolan feels as if he’s got something to build on just the same.
He’ll start with team captains Justin Mullaney, a senior who will be calling signals this year; and tight end/linebacker Zach Dillon. Mullaney was 21-for-42 in 2016 for 267 yards and three touchdowns.
Nolan will continue with Tahg Coakley, who is the No. 1 returning rusher. Coakley had 450 yards last season. Coakley also has the best stats among the receivers coming back this year, having caught 17 passes last year for 409 yards.
Danvers opens its season Friday night, at home, against Winthrop, another squad that will be long on youth and enthusiasm and short on experience.