The road to the Greater Boston League title goes through Everett.
And for some time, Malden High has been unable to drive through that massive roadblock.
Saturday afternoon was no different. The Crimson Tide rolled to a 35-0 victory, but for the first time, the defeat, though painful, was not as devastating.
With the MIAA’s new playoff system in place, Malden (4-3, 2-1 GBL) is one of 39 high school programs from communities north of Boston that have qualified for the postseason. And the Golden Tornadoes are one of five area teams to qualify for the first time.
“The new playoff format has given us this opportunity, so I’m thankful that the MIAA has opened the door to allot more teams,” said Malden coach Joe Pappagallo.
‘Malden is like a new family for me and I love them like a real family.’
And Malden’s Division 1 North first-round matchup could not have been scripted any better: a rematch at Everett on Friday night.
“Last game, we came out flat when we should have came out flying high,” added the coach.
“We’re a running team that is struggling throwing the ball. If we can’t run the ball, you have us right where you want us, and Everett had us right where they wanted us.”
The Golden Tornadoes also had problems defending Everett’s read-option offensive attack. But with another week to prepare, Pappagallo was confident that his squad would be ready.
“We’re going to go into that game, make a couple of adjustments and expect to win that football game,” said the fifth-year head coach.
No player is more determined than his quarterback, sophomore Andrew Papa .
The 5-foot-8, 155-pound player attended Everett High last year, but felt out of place and yearned for a new atmosphere.
“Malden is like a new family for me and I love them like a real family,” said Papa, whose family moved to Malden this past summer.
“Going into that game, I knew my family had my back so it was just extra emotional. Before we went out on the field, I’m not going to lie, I almost cried because there was so much emotion going around.”
Frustration was the primary emotion for Raymond Sainristil as he hobbled off Macdonald Stadium Saturday. He felt that the Golden Tornadoes lacked focus.
“We know together as a unit, we’re better than that,” said Sainristil, who is leading Division 1 in scoring. “Our offense is an explosive offense. We should be able to put numbers up on the board next time.”
It is that type of mentality that Pappagallo hopes his entire team can adopt by Friday night.
“That’s going to be my biggest challenge, no doubt about it, because if our kids put their heads down and put their tail between their legs, then we have no chance,” Pappagallo said.
“But my job this week [has been] to instill confidence, explain to them what they did on film improperly and make those couple of corrections.”
Everett coach John DiBiaso said that Friday’s matchup “is a whole new game.
“It’s the playoffs and you have to take it one game at a time. We’re not thinking about last week or anything that happened last week; we’re just worried about this week.”
with 1st playoff berth
Lowell is also determined to make its mark in its first trip to the postseason, secured with a 28-7 win over Andover Friday night.
“It really hit us after the game,” said quarterback Brian Dolan, a transfer from Lawrence Academy in Groton who tossed three TD passes in the win.
“Everyone was just really excited and emotional because we had just made history.”
Dolan, a key addition this fall, has improved steadily each week.
“I’ve lived in Lowell my entire life and I’ve been around these guys forever, so it wasn’t a huge adjustment,” he said.
“I’ve thrown with them every summer and the guys on this team are great. They made it easy for me and the offense is easy to pick up.”
His favorite target, Jack Galvin, along with captains Tom Smith and Alex Quintero, have been targeting being part of a playoff team since they were in elementary school.
“We’ve been thinking about this forever, and just to be part of it is awesome,” said the senior receiver.
“But we’re not done yet. We’ve still got to finish the goal and win the state championship.”
Lowell takes on defending Divison 1 Super Bowl champion St. John’s Prep on Saturday.
“Obviously the goal is to win, and I think we have the team to go down there and [challenge them],” said Dolan.
“They’re the reigning Super Bowl champions and regardless of not having [running back Johnathan ] Thomas [season-ending knee injury] back there, they’re a very good team.”
Win over Masconomet
nabs spot for Triton
After a 1-10 season a year ago, Triton Regional (5-2) is playoff-bound for the first time.
With 18 returning starters, the Vikings clinched their spot with a 33-6 win over Masconomet Regional on Friday, placing second in the Cape Ann’s Kinney Division.
Senior captains Bradley Whitman and Justin Spillane each ran for two scores as Triton locked up a spot in the Division 4 North bracket, earning a home game against Watertown on Friday.
“It’s really exciting, and to do it the way we did it, with a win over a great program like Masco, it added a little icing on the cake to do it at Masconomet,” said coach Patrick Sheehan.
“We’re trying to impress upon the kids that those are our expectations what we did against Masco. We didn’t play above or beyond our potential, we played to our expectations and if we continue to have high expectations we’re capable of being a good football team.”
He saw Watertown play once this season, while he was scouting another Cape Ann foe: Amesbury.