Gloucester Fishermen Football '07

Community plays a role in Gloucester's gridiron success

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Saturday, December, 08 By Rich Slate
Staff writer

The 2007 Gloucester High School football team is no longer just a dreamer.

Instead, this year's Fishermen are legitimate contenders for best Gloucester football team of all-time. That's what happens when you win a Super Bowl and boast a 13-0 record. From this point forward, their team will be held in the highest regard with Gloucester's other champions and powerful teams.

High school football in Gloucester is about more than just the players and coaches, since those names and faces change regularly each season. The constant variable of the powerhouse program, is the legendary fans of Gloucester.

Thousands of people from the city routinely pack Newell Stadium on Friday nights and the fans also travel in packs to road games across the North Shore. If the team happens to reach the postseason, a significant traveling contingent from Cape Ann goes to whichever site is hosting Gloucester.

It's a tired cliche for most public high schools in the United States that usually rings hollow, but in Gloucester it is fact: when you play for the Fishermen, you represent not just yourself, your family, teammates and coaches but also your hometown.

J.D. MacEachern is the voice of Gloucester football on local cable access, so he's been around the program for years. "Football is part of the fabric of Gloucester," said MacEachern. "Something like this has an effect on the community. It was good for the kids, I liked what I saw in terms of the way they were coached and the way they responded. It was a special season (the first time Gloucester has ever recorded 13 wins in a season), and the Super Bowl win was the frosting on the cake."

Many Gloucester fans braved the cold and windy conditions last Saturday and made the trek to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro to see Gloucester dismantle Hingham, 41-0, and capture the title. Still others were content to relax at home, and thanks to Robert Kraft (owner of the New England Patriots), they were able to enjoy the game on television. Through a deal with Comcast Sports Network and Channel 38, all six Division 1-Division 3A games were televised live with commentary from Mike Lynch and Scott Zolak.

"The TV coverage was awesome," said Vinny Orlando, a Gloucester native and father of current Manchester Essex quarterback Pat Orlando. "It allowed everybody to see it and it's something the kids will remember for the rest of their lives."

This season, Ralph Martin Jr. went to all the Gloucester games as a fan and also because his son Daniel played drums in the Gloucester High marching band. He felt like this year's team stacked up with almost any other Fishermen team he could remember.

"It was probably one of the greatest teams that Gloucester's ever had," said Martin Jr. "I was very surprised by how easily they won the playoff games. I thought the Masconomet game (39-0) would be a little closer."

Gloucester has had other Super Bowl winning teams in 1991, 1995, 2000 and now 2007 so there are plenty of options for fans looking for a true heavyweight. Many even feel that a team that didn't even win it all, the 1987 squad, might have been the best. That team lost 21-14 in controversial fashion to Chelmsford in the Super Bowl.

"They had bigger guys on the offensive line, but this one was more talented," said Martin Jr., comparing the 1987 team to this year's. "Except for Everett (the Division 1 champions), BC High (Division 1 semifinalists) and Walpole (Division 2 runner-up), I think they could have beat anybody this year."

For over six years, Jimmy Verga has volunteered to carry the first down markers at Gloucester home games.

"I always thought the '87 team was the best, but it's hard to compare different times and leagues," said Verga.

When you look closely at Eastern Mass. teams that are perennially strong in high school football like Gloucester, Everett, Winthrop, Brockton, etc., there are a few common elements to the enormous success they have all experienced. They each have strong youth programs and solid coaching at every level not to mention talented, tough and hard-working players.

When MacEachern examines Gloucester's storied gridiron history, he recognizes two important factors.

"The youth programs and a lot of tradition," MacEachern said. "You go back through the generations: fathers, uncles, grandfathers, it's kind of a passed down thing here."

Gloucester's Pop Warner system emphasizes everybody playing over singling out superior talent early in a player's career. There are multiple teams rather than just one team made up of all the best players. This allows the most amount of kids to get in-game experience which only helps the high school team when these kids grow up.

If you're a boy that's born and raised in Gloucester, you dream of becoming a football player at the high school. To see that wish become a reality has to be a wonderful feeling, particularly when you etch your name in history like this team has recently done.

Nobody will ever forget the 2007 Gloucester Fishermen football team, they've made sure of it.

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