Sports

St. Mary’s gears up for Nashoba Valley in sectional final

St. Mary's football coach Sean Driscoll gives his team a pep talk after last Friday's win at Greater Lawrence. (COURTESY PHOTO )

LYNN — If there’s one thing Sean Driscoll knew when he took over as head coach of the St. Mary’s football team, it’s that he was walking into a program that carries a winning culture. Year in and year out, the Spartans expect to find themselves in the thick of the conversation for a Super Bowl bid. They reached the Super Bowl in 2016 and fell one game short last season.

Fast forward to Week 10 of this year and the Spartans are exactly where they hoped to be — in the Division 7 North sectional final and two wins away from another Super Bowl appearance.

“When you take over a program that’s continually winning you try to continue that,” Driscoll said. “We did have a good nucleus back. We had a talented senior class. Some of them didn’t play much but that’s because of the great senior class from last season. We set goals for ourselves. Win the (Catholic Central) League, win the North, win Eastern Mass. and try to get into the Super Bowl. We’ve had our ups and downs throughout the year but the kids have stayed the course. We’re in a good position now where we can try to reach one of our goals Friday night.”

The No. 4 Spartans defeated No. 5 Georgetown (49-6) and No. 1 Greater Lawrence (30-24) in the sectional quarterfinal and semifinal, respectively. In the win over Georgetown, Jalen Echevarria rushed for 145 yards and scored three touchdowns. The Spartans dodged a pair of bullets when they forced two turnovers inside their own 5-yard line. In last Friday’s victory at Greater Lawrence, Echevarria scored three touchdowns on 218 yards of total offense in a back-and-forth affair that came down to the final seconds.

In order to keep the tournament run alive, St. Mary’s will have to get past No. 2 Nashoba Tech Friday. The Vikings, no stranger to Lynn teams, lost to Tech in Week 1 (6-2) and defeated KIPP in Week 4 (39-0). Nashoba Tech took down No. 7 O’Bryant (34-14) and No. 3 Latin Academy (41-27) in the quarterfinal and semifinal, respectively.

Driscoll and the Spartans have watched the Vikings on film this week.  

“Nashoba has some skill guys and two very good quarterbacks,” Driscoll said. “They switch roles, one’s more of a runner and one’s more of a thrower. They’re very well coached. You can see that in their linemen. Defensively they’re well coached. That being said, if we can come out and control the line of scrimmage we’ll be in a good place. If we do what we preach as far as ball control offense and don’t hurt ourselves with turnovers, we should be in a good place.”

Aside from avoiding turnovers, Driscoll pointed to open-field tackling against Nashoba’s spread offense as another key for the Spartans.

“It’s a team effort,” Driscoll said. “Defensively we have to make the one-on-one tackles. Same thing with special teams. We have to make the plays with urgency. In high school football oftentimes it’s the team that makes those plays, especially against a spread offense like Nashoba’s.”

The objective after last week’s win at Greater Lawrence, Driscoll said, was to turn the page and move forward with a good week of practice in preparing for Friday’s sectional final. So far, so good.

“Anytime you get to this point of the season, Week 10, you pull back a little bit and reassess where you are,” Driscoll said. “We went back to some of the basic things. The kids have responded great after playing a tough team in Greater Lawrence. I was hoping we’d come out and have a good week of practice and so far we have. That’s the good news.”

Kickoff for Friday night’s game at Nashoba Valley in Westford is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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