FRANKLIN, Mass. -- Heading into the final of Sunday’s Under Armour Northeast 7v7 football tournament, host Franklin High had an unsavory memory from last year on its mind.
While the Panthers’ 28-26 win over Hockomock League rival Mansfield doesn’t quite make up for the 27-0 hurting the Hornets put down in November, the Franklin squad came away with a modicum of payback and defending their home turf in the process.
“This is a springboard for us,” Panthers junior quarterback Dan McDermott said.
The Panthers earned a spot in Wednesday’s New England championship at Gillette Stadium with an unconventional approach at quarterback.
This fall, Franklin head coach Brad Sidwell will have a log jam at the position. But, on Sunday, the Panthers used the depth at the position to their advantage, cycling in three quarterbacks to start each series on offense.
Senior Nick Canesi, junior Nick Zucco and McDermott marched the Panthers up and down the field throughout the afternoon. With each first down, touchdown and victory throughout the day, the Panthers could be heard across the complex of fields, spurred on by a healthy contingent of spectators from Franklin.
No matter which signal-caller was taking snaps, the Panthers’ receiving corps of Rob Dellorco, Brandon Eccher, Quinten Harrell, Chris Johnson and Joe Mammola kept the chains moving and the points piling up.
“We knew we could rely on them to make the play when it counted,” Canesi said. “We have confidence in all of them.
While defense might not come to mind in offseason passing tournament, the Panthers claimed the championship thanks to a defensive stand in the final minute against Mansfield. After reaching the end zone in a last-minute comeback bid, the Hornets were shut down by Franklin on a 2-point try as time expired in the final.
One last time, the Franklin sideline exploded, pouring onto the field for the most raucous celebration of the day.
FAMILIARITY AT QB
The trio of Franklin quarterbacks were under the tutelage of one of the Panthers’ finest to play the position. Merrimack College sophomore quarterback Nick Colson has spent his summer months in his hometown guiding the Panthers offense through their passing league schedule.
While Colson is well familiar with the Panthers’ spread attack, he also put his imprint on Franklin’s summer offense, going with an upbeat tempo.
“It’s great having him around and learning from him,” Zucco said. “He knows the system and knows what to call. Plus he’s a kid, he’s not that much older than us and able to relate to us.”
ON TO GILLETTE
Having reached the finals, Franklin and Mansfield advance to the regional finals at Gillette on Wednesday. So it’s possible the familiar Hockomock opponents could meet again. Another kind of rematch that could be in store is a potential meeting between the Hornets and Reading, the winner of Saturday’s East tournament. The Rockets and Mansfield return to Gillette, the site of their epic 2010 Super Bowl matchup.
East finalist St. John’s Prep will also be among the teams at Gillette in addition to “Wild Card” entrants – teams advancing to the quarterfinals that were picked out of a hat. One team confirmed by tournament organizers to be among the field is Essex Junction (Vt.).