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Spartan challenge for St. Mary’s, Stoneham – Boston Herald


With sights set on returning to Gillette Stadium for the first time since losing in the 2018 Div. 7 Super Bowl, St. Mary’s (L) coach Sean Driscoll saw a long list of dangerous opponents on his side of the Div. 6 bracket before the playoffs began. No path back is easy, but this one felt exceptionally difficult.

Knocking off reigning champion Rockland in the semifinals took a Herculean effort. Now, at 3 p.m. on Saturday, the third-seeded Spartans (11-1) match up in the Div. 6 final against a top-seeded Stoneham (11-1) program that also last reached Gillette in 2018 – beating Old Rochester for the title.

Driscoll feels his group is ready for one more signature performance to trade places.

“It’s been an exciting year, we’ve had a lot of big games this year,” he said. “Stoneham is a very, very good football program year-in and year-out. … One thing I told my kids (before playoffs) is ‘You want to be the best, you’ve got to run through the best.’ We’ve been keeping that mentality all the way through.”

Stoneham has run through some of the best itself within the Middlesex League to help head coach Bob Almeida earn his 200th win and a signature Thanksgiving Day victory over rival Reading.

In a battle between power versus speed, much of the former comes from Stoneham with its smash-mouth, clock-controlling philosophy. Quarterback Jason Nutting and Colin Farren star for the Spartans, though James Landers and Givani Caruso are effective complimentary backs behind full back Ty Baker, tight end Paul Mannke, right tackle Jared Linehan and the rest of a strong offensive line.

The result has been 36 points per game over the last four matchups at the tail end of a year the Spartans have gutted out success.

“It’s really been a special year,” Almeida said. “(Smash-mouth) is just our philosophy, it’s what we do. We try to stay out of negative plays … and are scoring on long drives this year. It’s been our calling card for us so far.”

If there’s a team to withstand it, it’s St. Mary’s. Signature defensive plays at the most critical moments have powered it, including a forced late turnover in the semifinal to seal Rockland’s rare, 14-point performance against them. Defensive linemen Tommy Falasca, Nick Sacco and Jack Marks, as well as linebacker Joel Maggs and defensive backs Dave Brown and Tyler Guy, have played monstrous roles thus far.

“I think that win (over Rockland) was good for us,” Driscoll said. “We are where we are because of our defense.”

Stoneham has a lot to look out for defensively itself. Brown is a special talent as a do-it-all skill player, soaring alongside fellow 1,000-yard rusher Derick Coulanges to form a star tandem.

Baker, Landers and Sean Kilty round out a strong linebacker group looking to slow that rushing attack for Stoneham, while Mannke (defensive end), Dom Florino (safety) and Kevin Gilmartin (cornerback) should play pivotal roles as well.

“I think it’s two good teams, it should be a really good game,” Almeida said. “We have to play our best football.”



Saturday, Dec. 3, 3 p.m. at Gillette

St. Mary’s vs. Stoneham



Head coach: Sean Driscoll


St. Mary’s 37, WINTHROP 14

ST. MARY’S 12, Bishop Feehan 10

Bishop Fenwick 26, ST. MARY’S 20 (ot)


ST. MARY’S 42, Cardinal Spellman 8


ST, MARY’S 37, Archbishop Williams 13

ST. MARY’S 20, Lynnfield 6

St. Mary’s 15, Rockland 14

St. Mary’s 34, Austin Prep 21




Head coach: Bob Almeida

STONEHAM 24, Winthrop 16

Stoneham 24, ST. BERNARD’S 6

Stoneham 46, DENNIS-YARMOUTH 14

Wakefield 28, STONEHAM 6

STONEHAM 30, Melrose 13

Stoneham 28, WATERTOWN 24

Stoneham 34, WILMINGTON 11

STONEHAM 50, Burlington 0

STONEHAM 40, Assabet Valley 8

STONEHAM 50, Oakmont 23

Stoneham 21, Cardinal Spellman 14

Stoneham 30, READING 22



St. Mary’s is making its fourth championship game appearance. The Spartans sole win came in 2005 when Stephen Masella ran for 141 yards and a touchdown in a 21-0 win over South Shore in the Div. 3A Super Bowl.

Stoneham is competing for its second title in three attempts. After losing in its initial appearance in 1994, the Spartans rebounded by defeating 26-20 in the 2018 Div. 6 Super Bowl as Christos Argyropoulos ran for 113 yards and the game-winning 42-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.


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