The Stoneham and St. Mary’s football teams do not drift from what makes them successful.
The two teams, located at schools just 8.2 miles apart, run the ball effectively.
Stoneham (11-1), the top seed in Division 6, has churned out a 3,417-yard, 43-touchdown rushing attack. Third-seeded St. Mary’s (11-1) is not far behind, with 2,960 yards rushing and 39 scores. That success has paved the way for their Super Bowl matchup Saturday (3 p.m.) at Gillette Stadium.
The 1-2 punch of senior backs Derick Coulanges and David Brown Jr. have been dominant, teaming for 2,244 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Their production starts up front.
“The world needs linemen,” said fifth-year St. Mary’s coach Sean Driscoll. “Nowadays, maybe more than ever.”
After scampering into the end zone with a 15-yard pitch-and-catch from sophomore quarterback Tyler Guy in the first quarter last Wednesday at Fenway Park, Brown wasn’t the only one enjoying himself. Chris Marks, a 6-foot-1-inch, 240-pound junior right tackle from Lynn, joined in on the celebration.
The Spartans follow the lead of senior left Carlos De La Rosa (6-1, 190), sophomore left guard Adrien Lule (5-9, 190), senior center Graham Richman (6-1, 305), senior right guard Tommy Falasca (6-2, 220), and Marks.
“Coming into the year, we were concerned with our offensive line,” said Driscoll. “It was a huge concern. All we asked was for them to get better each week. They know there’s no one else that can get it done.”
“They’re gritty and determined. It’s not always perfect, but they get the job done when the money’s on the line. They’re the most improved unit on our team.”
De La Rosa joined the team after moving from Florida and Lule stepped into a starting role, with both newcomers protecting Guy’s blindside.
“Our left side of the line, it’s their first year playing varsity,” said Falasca. “They’ve improved a lot. Coach has been getting them up to speed and once the season came, coach told them that they needed to step it up.”
Determination, toughness, and the will to win prevail for an undersized unit. Drawing upon a grind-it-out mentality, the group holds their blocks by incorporating solid technical work. Marks, in particular, showcases his drive by finishing blocks well, driving defenders into the ground.
“They play with a sense of urgency,” said Driscoll. “They know that they’re going to be undersized in most games, but they battle.”
Stoneham coach Bob Almeida understands the value of work in the trenches. A four-year player at Boston University, he captained the Terriers as a senior, in 1979.
“Every little bit, we critique really hard,” said Almeida. “Before every game, we tell them that we are going to win or lose because of you.”
With emphasis on physical blocking, Almeida preaches a flat-back, wide-base approach. Stoneham is balanced in its play calling because of its depth, able to hit all four gaps on either side of the line.
Junior left tackle Mason Morris (6-2, 215), left guard Donaldo Robelo (5-8, 220), a senior captain, junior center Bobby Ingemi-Jones (6-1, 275), senior right guard Sal Asaro (6-3, 270), and senior right tackle Jarred Linehan (6-4, 270) is a veteran group that execute pulls and down blocks to perfection.
“It’s kind of hard to express it, but we know what each other are thinking,” said Robelo. “We don’t need to worry about our steps, I know where his foot is going to be, where my foot is — we trust each other. Trust is the big thing.”
All check in at 215-plus pounds and with the ability to move, allowing senior running back Colin Farren (1,335 yards, 17 touchdowns) and senior QB Jason Nutting (691 yards, 13 scores) to produce, averaging 8 yards per carry. Senior tight ends Tim Doherty and Paul Mannke are also pivotal.
“The coaches are always telling us to take pride in our work, and we do,” said Robelo. “We follow our three rules: don’t stop, don’t look back, and follow it all the way through.”
“I do take pride in [the line], they know that,” said Almeida. “We’re an emotional group and we need to play with emotion to do what we do. Those guys show up every single day, ready for work. They don’t ask for anything, they don’t get any recognition.”
Cam Kerry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.