The Mercuri family is hoping that the third time is the charm.
Junior middle linebacker Sean Mercuri will lead the Central Catholic defense in the Division 1 Super Bowl against Springfield Central on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Gillette Stadium, with his father, Michael, and oldest brother, Michael Jr., in attendance.
His middle brother, J.J. Mercuri, will assuredly be watching from his dormitory at the University of Tampa, hoping that his younger brother can secure Central’s first Super Bowl win since 2013.
Michael Jr. led the Raiders to the Super Bowl in 2015, but his squad fell, 44-14, to a powerhouse Xaverian team. J.J. Mercuri played a key role in Central’s playoff upset at Everett in 2018, but the Raiders fell to St. John’s Prep in the D1 North final, and J.J. broke his leg early in 2019, a season that also ended with a loss to Prep in the sectional final.
After starting out playing football in eighth grade, Sean now leads Central (11-1) with 96 tackles despite missing all of his freshman season with a broken leg and playing with lower stakes as a sophomore during the Fall II season.
“Fall II really was [Mercuri’s] freshman year,” said Central coach Chuck Adamopoulos.
“We expected some good things from him, but he’s played better than I thought he would. He’s made significant improvements and is a mainstay for us on defense as a junior.”
Mercuri leaned on his older brothers for tips and workout plans when he started getting serious about football. He also credits Central linebackers coach Jay Fielding — a former star at Westfield State — with teaching him about reads and coverages.
Now that he’s headed to Gillette, Mercuri has asked Michael Jr., who had a standout career at Merrimack and is now an assistant athletic director at the college, for advice.
“[Michael Jr.] said to just focus on the game,” said Mercuri, who also has three sacks and three interceptions this season.
“Once the first play is over, you’re just locked in. I’m going out there for [my family]. Hopefully we can get a ring, especially after this hard season. I feel like they’d love it and be proud of me.”
Michael Mercuri Sr. also has experience on that stage. He helped Chelmsford win the Super Bowl at Gillette as a sophomore running back in 1988. As a senior, his team lost to Central Catholic and missed out on the Super Bowl, so Mercuri Sr. has plenty of respect for Adamopoulos, who was an assistant coach for the Raiders in 1990.
“[Adamopoulos is] a great coach and this year is just another example,” said the elder Mercuri. “You can see how much the line has improved. He always gets the team to peak at the right time, year after year.”
While Central Catholic’s defense has improved since the Raiders prevailed in a 67-52 shootout at Springfield Central in Week 1, Sean Mercuri and his teammates will have to be locked in from the opening kickoff to try and contain the Golden Eagles’ explosive offense.
For Adamopoulos, the success of his defense will depend in many ways on the mental and physical performance of his 5-foot-10-inch, 185-pound junior linebacker, who also calls the signals for the Raiders.
“[Springfield’s] offense is on a whole different level than other teams we’ve seen this year as far as how many quick and athletic guys they have,” said Adamopoulos, “But [Mercuri is] the type of player that can play in that type of game. He’s been the glue for us defensively.”