|King Phillip will try to complete a perfect season in the late game at Gillette Saturday.|
When Reading and King Philip take the field at Gillette Stadium for the Division 1A Super Bowl on Saturday night at 8 pm, it will showcase two programs that have taken on drastically different paths.
Reading symbolizes a program epitomized by consistency in recent years. The Rockets will be playing at Gillette Stadium for the second consecutive season, and have won at least eight games in all four years since the installment of the new postseason format.
Their hard-nosed, physical style of football has driven them to an 18-5 record over the last two seasons, and has made them arguably the most formidable program outside of Division 1 in all of Massachusetts.
On the other side is King Philip – a team that has turned a number of heads so far this fall. Despite losing a handful of key skill guys to injury midway through the season, the Warriors have still managed to run the table in pursuit of the school’s first football state championship.
Battle-tested after playing a difficult Hockomock League schedule, the Warriors powered through slugfests in the tournament, defeating Marshfield in the Division 1A South semifinals, and besting Bridgewater-Raynham in the sectional finals to reach their first state championship game.
So, without a further ado, here is what to look for this weekend’s Division 1A Super Bowl.
8-3, D1A North Champ
Road to Gillette: No. 7 Malden Catholic (33-0), No. 3 Chelmsford (28-0), No. 1 Lincoln-Sudbury (21-7)
Advantages: Experience, secondary, quarterback play
Key Players: Corey DiLoreto, Sr. QB; Nick DiNapoli, Sr. RB; Jack Geirger, Sr. WR; Eric D’Agostino, Sr. CB; Jack Gohr, Sr. LB; Anthony D’avolio, Sr. LB; Joe Bradley, Sr. LB;
Plenty of the focus should be placed on Reading’s defense. Behind a steady linebacker core that includes Anthony D’avolio, Joe Bradley, and Jack Gohr as well as a ball hawkish secondary spearheaded by Eric D’Agostino (four interceptions), the Rockets have allowed just seven points this postseason.
Facing a potent Chelmsford Lions team in the North sectional semifinals, the Rockets pitched a 28-0 shutout, surrendering just 125 yards of offense. Since falling to Lexington in Week 4 – a game in which they allowed 56 points – the Rockets defensive unit has allowed 70 points over seven games. Of those 70 points, 28 came in Reading’s Thanksgiving Day game against Stoneham.
The Rocket offense, however, is hardly anything to sneeze at. Quarterback Corey DiLoreto is a lethal dual-threat weapon who showcases terrific arm strength in addition to quickness and agility. DiLoreto’s athleticism often allows him to evade pressure off the edge, giving him extra time to step up in the pocket and fire deep down the field.
The senior has put up a combined 22 touchdowns (15 rushing, 7 passing) while amassing 1,600 total yards. Out of the backfield is veteran tailback Nick DiNapoli, who has been a force to be reckoned with all season long. DiNapoli has run for over 1,000 yards and scored 11 touchdowns, including rushing for at least 100 yards in Reading’s past seven games. Finally, there is the matter of Jack Geiger, who has emerged as a top-level wide receiver this season.
Geiger’s five-foot-eight inch standing may fool some, but that would be a grave mistake. The senior wide out has displayed tremendous quickness, allowing him to be used out of the backfield in certain situations, and an ability to haul in the deep pass. Look for Reading to use him as a tailback when DiNapoli needs a breather.
11-0, D1A South Champ
Road to Gillette: No. 8 Attleboro (51-21), No. 5 Marshfield (14-7), No. 6 Bridgewater-Raynham (33-28)
Advantages: Strength of schedule, run game, offensive line
Key Players: Brendan Lydon, Sr. QB; John DeLuca, Sr. RB; Shane Frommer, Sr. RB; Chris O’Niel, Sr. CB; Brett Mazur, Sr. DT; Giovanni Fernandez, Sr. DT
A quick glance at King Philip’s track record this season and one would be hard pressed to define the Warriors' season as a “Cinderella Story.” A closer look at the Warriors, though, and there is no question that when they take the field on Saturday they will be looking to write the final chapter of a magical season.
The team is in search of not only its first undefeated season, but also its first state championship. King Philip has never had a Super Bowl berth and, in a season mired by injuries early on, 2016 certainly did not feel like it was going to be the year the Warriors’ made school history. But, behind lead running back Shane Frommer and a big play defensive unit, the Warriors have overcome consistent adversity.
Early on King Philip asserted itself as a true contender, coming up with key road wins at North Attleboro and Mansfield as part of a 7-0 regular season. Across the state there may have been no team with a more daunting path to Gillette Stadium come tournament time, but the senior-heavy Warriors were undeterred.
After a walloping of Hockomock League rival Attleboro, King Philip used their ground-and-pound attitude to push past Marshfield and Bridgewater-Raynham. In the postseason alone, King Philip has run for over 200 yards in all three of its games.
Do not look past the Warriors’ defense either. In each of their last two postseason games, cornerback Chris O’Niel has made game-saving interceptions on the opposing team's final drive. A defensive tackle duo comprised of Giaovanni Fernandez and Brett Mazur is more than capable of handling an opponent's running game, and look for them to stay home on Saturday to limit the potential damage from a running quarterback like DiLoreto.
Keys to the Game
This game is undoubtedly destined to be decided at the line of scrimmage. If Reading is to have any chance of dashing the Warriors’ undefeated dreams, they will need to shut down the power run game of King Philip. This probably will entail putting eight in the box and forcing the Warriors’ receivers to win the one-on-one matchups on the outside.
On the flip side, King Philip’s defensive line is staring at a tall task as they take on one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in Massachusetts. Discipline is the key for the Warriors. Should they choose to chase after DiLoreto, allowing him to escape the pocket, run, or throw freely down the field, it could be a long night for the Warriors’ defense. But if King Philip is able to sit back, contain DiLoreto, and force him to sit and the pocket and not use his greatest asset – his legs – then King Philip will have the game right where they need it to be.