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|Turkey Day preview: Two playoff-bound titans meet|
|Friday, 21 November 2008 14:10|
In the good old days Thursdayâ€™s Thanksgiving Day game between Duxbury and Marshfield would have been for the league title. But with the league champion Rams (9-1) now playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and the Dragons waltzing through the Patriot League undefeated at 10-0 after winning the inaugural Patriot Bowl (47-13), the Turkey Day battle boils down to bragging rights on the South Shore.
The Rams have always been ranked higher in the Boston Globe poll than the Dragons, based on the traditional strength of the program and the fact that they play in Division 1A. But this year itâ€™s been an about face, as Duxbury is currently ranked #6 in Eastern Massachusetts after opening the season with a spectacular come-from-behind win over perennial Division I powerhouse Xaverian, followed by wins over Bridgewater-Raynham (DI) and Plymouth North (DIA).
Marshfield is no slouch ranked at #9, as it opened its season with a big win in California against Beverly Hills High School, while its lone loss came at the hands of seventh-ranked Mansfield.
With resumes like that itâ€™s no surprise that both teams have already qualified for their respective Super Bowl play-offs, with the Rams taking on Framingham and the Dragons facing the winner of the Apponequet/Old Rochester Turkey Day battle.
So what does this all mean when approaching Thursdayâ€™s game? Do you rest your key players, who could possibly be called on to play three football games in 10 days, or do you go all out and accept the fact that potential injuries are just part of the game.
â€œYou think about that for about two seconds,â€ said Duxbury Coach Dave Maimaron. â€œWeâ€™re healthy right now, and for many kids this game can provide memories for a lifetime. My biggest fear isnâ€™t injuries; itâ€™s just that I hope we play well. I want to make sure we take plenty of positives out of this game as we get ready for the playoffs.â€
Marshfield Coach Lou Silva was battling the flu last week, so John Napoleone, the Ramâ€™s defensive coordinator for the past 20 years, gave his impression of what the game means to his players.
â€œNo matter whether we go to the play-offs or not, Duxbury is the game,â€ said Napoleone. â€œThe team and the town have high expectations about this game every year.â€
While Duxbury fans have become accustomed to watching wide-open, high-scoring, winning football all season long, Marshfield backers know that keeping the ball out of the hands of Duxbury QB Sean Cross and running back Shane Dibona are the keys to a Ram victory.
â€œWe like rough, tough football,â€ said Napoleone. â€œWe donâ€™t have the size weâ€™ve had in the past on our offensive line, but we have a dearth of running backs. Junior captain Rob MacNeil (5â€™10â€/205) is our power back, and we have four halfbacks that are smaller and quicker. We rotate them all and just try to pound the ball.â€
The Ramsâ€™ approach will mean a busy day for Duxburyâ€™s defensive line of Will Shields (6â€™3â€/235), Kyle Gavoni (5â€™11â€/205), Quinn Cully (6â€™/195/8 sacks), and Dibona (6â€™2â€/220/8 sacks), who would be shocked if Marshfield QB Stephen Sousa made passing a major part of his game plan.
While running has always been Coach Silvaâ€™s strategy for success, this yearâ€™s Duxbury squad has been nearly impossible to game plan against.
Stopping Dibona (142 carries/1043 yds.) may seem like the only logical way for opponents to stop the Dragons, but when you have a receiving corps loaded with the likes of Hakeem Lecky (18 rec./233 yds.), Ian Whitney (8 TDs/12/333), Cully (6 TDs/12/307), and Pat McWilliams (5/128), along with the arm of the top TD passer (17) in Division 2A, it forces the opposition to pick its own poison.
â€œWeâ€™ve been holding our opponents to under 10 points a game, but we know Duxbury has a bunch of great athletes,â€ said Napoleone.
Marshfield will be counting on a defensive line of Brendon Powell (5â€™10â€/200), Salvatore Scalia (6â€™4â€/250), Zach Triner (6â€™2â€/215), and Ryan Steward (5â€™9â€/210), along with linebackers Sean Griffith (5â€™8â€/165), James Russell (5â€™11â€/193), Ken Anzalone (5â€™10/185) and MacNeil,
While they havenâ€™t received as much publicity as their offensive teammates, Duxburyâ€™s linebacking corps has been outstanding all season long, as senior Tyler Genereux in the middle, along with Chris Norling and Steve Ripley on the outsides, have helped the Dragons limit their opponents to eight points per game.
Contributing to those stellar statistics is the Duxbury defensive backfield of Lecky (4 interceptions) and free safety Colin McKenzie (3), along with strong safety Matt Savard and Whitney.
Should the game become close at the end, the Dragons may have the advantage with the leg of sophomore Ben Startzell, who is 36/37 in PATs and 4 for 4 in field goals with a long kick of 36 yards.
â€œOur biggest strength is our offense,â€ said a confident Maimaron. â€œItâ€™s as balanced as you can get. Weâ€™ve got 1682 yards rushing and 1569 passing. Their defense is very similar to ours in that they have athletes that can get off their blocks quickly, but I think there are some things we can do to combat that because they arenâ€™t as big as they have been in the past.