The Sharon High football team hopes that a sweet reward for spending the past three-plus months exhausting their way through a grueling journey will come during the upcoming final week of their nearly 100-day odyssey through the 2012 season.
The Davenport Division Champion Eagles kick off their first postseason game in the Division III playoffs at 5:15 pm this coming Tuesday, versus Patriot League (Fisher) representative Pembroke, at Braintree High School.
“We all know what the situation is,” junior quarterback Sean O’Neill said. “It’s a playoff game. We know it’s the road to the Super Bowl. It’s the most important game in Sharon football history. That’s how we’re treating it.”
“It’ll be a brawl,” said senior captain Adam Banks. “It’ll be two football teams that want to win extremely bad, and it’ll show on the field.”
Sharon dropped their final regular-season game on Thanksgiving, 35-7, to rival Oliver Ames. Banks says the 8-3 Eagles have not dwelled on that defeat.
“Everyone has moved forward and forgotten about that game. We’re just looking at Pembroke,” Banks said.
Head Coach Dave Morse says that playing in the Hockomock League, in which Sharon finished 4-3, has prepared the Eagles well for the playoffs.
“Certainly. It’s one of the premier public school conferences in the state,” Morse said. “I wouldn’t have had it any other way than to come out of this one [league].”
Senior safety Colin Gray said, “We played [on Oct. 20, and defeated, 16-14] a team, in Stoughton, that went 9-2 during the regular season. That was an excellent, excellent football team. We’ve seen some of the best competition in the state.”
“We’ve played some great teams this year,” Banks said, “and we’ve learned a lot from playing them. We’ve gotten better from that, so I think it will help against Pembroke.”
Despite scores of full-pad practices, 11 games, and football activities every day since Nov. 14, Banks says that the Eagles are generally holding up well physically.
“I think we’re feeling pretty good. We’ve been practicing a lot and working a lot, but we’re keeping our bodies in good shape and are working hard,” the tight end/defensive end said.
“This point of the season, everyone is a little bit tired,” Morse said. “You‘ve just got to persevere through it.”
O’Neill said, “We’re a very well-conditioned team. We conditioned just as hard throughout the [regular] season as we have been in the postseason now. We’re fine. We’ll be ready for the playoff game.”
Morse says that among Pembroke’s strengths are doing the little things well. “I think they play sound, fundamental football.
“They move the ball well through the air and on the ground. They tackle really well and play physically at the line of scrimmage,” Morse added.
“Because Pembroke is a team that capitalizes on the mistakes,” Gray said, “a lot of this week is being spent on minimizing those mistakes, and making it so we have a clean, crisp game that puts us in position to win.”
Morse says that the Eagles must submit an overall better showing Tuesday than they did in Easton to defeat the Titans.
“We’ve just got to get better in all aspects of the game – offense, defense, special teams; tackling better, throwing the ball better, running the ball better, kicking the ball better – everything,” Morse said.
O’Neill says that the Eagles need to finish drives with points. “I think we did a good job with getting down to the red zone, but [the offense has to] stop making stupid penalties, just convert. When you get to the red zone, you’ve got to score,” he said.
“We’re going to fix all of our mistakes,” Banks said, “switch some stuff up that needs to be switched, and execute perfectly.”
Gray says that Sharon needs to have more intensity versus Pembroke than they displayed on Thanksgiving. Referencing spirited showings in crucial victories against Stoughton and Foxboro (Nov. 10), he has confidence the Eagles can do so on Tuesday.
“When we needed to win, we showed up. We played to win, and we won those games,” said Gray. “I don’t see any reason why we can’t do that against Pembroke, as well.”
O’Neill said, “We’ve had playoff games in the past – I would consider Stoughton and Foxboro playoff games. We showed up to them, and we’re going to show up against Pembroke.”
Regarding the competitiveness of the upcoming contest, Morse said, “It’s going to be a great game. It’ll be two good teams. It’ll be hard-fought.”
“Both teams are very good,” O’Neill said. “We both want to win the Super Bowl. It’s going to be a dogfight.”
The game’s winner advances to the Division III Super Bowl against the Wayland-Westwood winner. The title game will be on Saturday, Dec. 1, at a location and time to be announced.
“Neutral site, playoff game,” said Gray. “We both want to go to the Super Bowl. It’s going to be a battle out there, like every other game that we’ve played this year.”