The Sharon High football team will take their 4-0 record to rival Canton for the Eagles’ first Davenport Division matchup of the season on Friday night.
Head Coach Dave Morse says that the players realize the magnitude of this game. “Most of these guys we have playing were around last year, and they understand the importance of these division games,” he said.
In the split-division format of the Hockomock League, the winners of the Kelly-Rex and Davenport divisions qualify for the postseason. The standings are based solely on intradivision games.
With playoff aspirations, senior captain Sean Asnes says that the Eagles have been singularly focused this week.
“Everyone knows that it’s that big, so we’re all coming in, trying to get as prepared as possible,” Asnes said.
“This is a big game,” said senior Drew Kowalski. “These are the games that count; we’ve got to win these to go to the Super Bowl. It’s the most important game of the year, so far.”
The Eagles defeated the Bulldogs 28-13 last October in Sharon. With many returning starters on both sides, Morse says that the contest this season should have many similarities to that of 2011.
“Hopefully, a very close game with two good teams,” said Morse. “A lot of the same players are back. It’s going to be another tough one that won’t be decided until the fourth quarter.”
Morse says that Canton’s strengths include speed and blocking. “They’re very good up front, and have very good skill-position players. They’ll give us fits all day.
“Canton is a very physical team. They’re very smart. They know their assignments. They’re very well-coached. They have a bunch of good players. All in all, across the board, a very good, strong team,” Morse added.
“They look pretty good,” said Kowalski, a safety. “They get a nice push off the line. We’re really going to have to be strong up front.
“As long as we shut down the outside and prevent them from getting a good push up front, we should be all right,” Kowalski added.
Sharon needs to get off to a strong start against 1-2 Canton, says Kowalski. “Come right out, don’t give them any chance to get up on that scoreboard. Prevent any momentum going against us.”
The past two weeks, vs. Taunton and North Quincy, the Eagles dug themselves first-half holes, only to storm back victoriously during both fourth quarters. Morse says that he does not want to see his squad repeat that early pattern on Friday.
“[A strong opening] is going to be huge, because we’re playing better teams now,” Morse said. “If we start slowly, we may never be able to catch up, which we had to do the last two games. A fast start is crucial, almost imperative.”
The playing surface will be one difference from last year’s game, which was held on the Sharon High grass; Canton’s state-of-the-art turf field hosts on Friday.
Morse says that matching the Bulldogs’ speed on their fast track and becoming adjusted to the carpet may pose a challenge.
“It might take a little bit to get used to,” the coach said. “Hopefully, we can do that in pre-game before the game. Once you get used to it, you’re fine. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen after you’re down seven points.”
Asnes says that he is confident in the team’s gameplan for Canton. “We were really prepared [for the Bulldogs] last year. Our coaches always do a great job of preparing us for the game. We’re set for Friday.”
“I think our guys have prepared well,” said Morse. “They do a lot of little things correctly. They listen to their coaches. They’ve put in extra time on their own.”
Morse says that he has noticed a sense of urgency around the team this week, despite three consecutive practice sessions in the rain.
“We’ve been happy with the tempo. I thought it would be a little bit monotonous, but it has been high tempo, high energy. We’ve gotten a lot done in bad conditions with the weather. I have been really happy with the practices,” Morse said.
“Practice has been pretty good,” said Asnes, a running back/cornerback. “We know it’s a huge game. We’re all just focused on winning.”
Morse says that a competitive rivalry has developed with Canton in recent years. “Our kids take this one pretty seriously.
“Two towns close to each other that have played tight football games against each other the last two years – it’s a good rivalry. It’s a good thing for high school football to have games like this,” Morse said.
“It’s pretty intense,” said Asnes. “We’re similar skill levels in football, basketball and baseball. We’re right next to each other in towns.
“We won football last year, so obviously we’re trying to keep that up this year,” added Asnes, a running back/cornerback.
Morse told the team earlier this week that he expects between 3,000-5,000 people to jam Canton’s Memorial Stadium for the 6 pm game.
“It’s definitely going to be exciting out on that field on Friday night,” Kowalski said. “I think the crowd definitely has a big effect on the team. It gets us going, gets us excited.
“It’s hard to not get your heart beating when there are 3,000 people yelling and screaming on the sidelines,” Kowalski added.
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere. It’s why you sign up,” said Morse. “You dream about playing on Friday nights in front of crowds like this. You dream of playing big games like this under the lights.”
Asnes said, “As a team, we always get more energized, amped up when it’s a night game, especially when there are a lot of people there, because we want to put on a show.”
“They know we’re going to give them a run for their money,” Kowalski said. “They’re going to be coming out fired up and ready.
“We’re going to have to make sure they don’t get momentum on us,” he added. “Shut them down early, and hopefully we’ll get up big.”