NAHS Asst Coaches

North Attleboro High head football coach Don Johnson, left, stands alongside assistant coach Paul Sullivan and quarterback Chase Frisoli during a game this season.

NORTH ATTLEBORO — Bidding for an eighth MIAA Super Bowl championship is a feat in itself, never mind winning just one championship.

The Rocketeers of North Attleboro High will be playing in their 11th MIAA Super Bowl championship game Thursday afternoon at 3 at Gillette Stadium against Marblehead High for rights to the Division 3 crown.

The Rocketeers (8-3) are riding an impressive six-game winning streak, having totaled 42, 42, 48, 62, 28 and 28 points on the scoreboard in winning those contests. In addition, the Rocketeers have rested their hats on their defense, allowing the third fewest points (172) among the Hockomock League membership.

The rich tradition of the Rocketeers has not been lost upon the players in practice this week.

North Attleboro won the first of its string of Super Bowl championships in 1973 and ’74 with Bob Guthrie at the helm and then added titles in ’93, ’97, ’98, ’99 and ’02. North was a finalist in the 1988 Super Bowl (losing to Foxboro), 2016 (to Duxbury) and in 2017 (to St. John’s of Shrewbury).

“The kids are really excited about playing,” Rocketeers head coach Don Johnson noted of the focus of practice, with players seeking advice from members of the North coaching staff who have played in Super Bowl games.

“This has been the most excitable week of practice,” Johnson said of the Rockteers happy to be one of the handful teams in the state still practicing beyond Thanksgiving into December. “The kids have had plenty of questions. They take comfort in the fact that so many of the coaches have been involved (in Super Bowls) as players or as coaches. So we have some experience that we can share with them.

“If you had a losing season, the kids are kind of looking forward to the end of the season and not being out in the cold which is not so much fun,” Johnson added. “This week, we’ve enjoyed every minute out there. They’ve been out there with great enthusiasm and energy.”

Marblehead (11-0) was the No. 1 seed for the Division 3 playoffs. The Northeastern Conference champions bea Norwood 21-07, Masconomet 21-7 and Wakefield 40-7 to earn the right to play a Super Bowl game in Foxboro.

Marblehed’s most impressive win of the season may have come on Thanksgiving Day, a 31-28 victory over previously unbeaten MIAA Division 5 Super Bowl finalist Swampscott.

Riding a 20-game winning streak, Marblehead used two fumble recoveries, a pass interception and a blocked punt, turning those into 19 points to beat Westfield and used a late fourth quarter field goal to beat Swampscott.

During the season, the Magicians scored big against everyone, other than a season-opening 6-3 win over Melrose, then putting up 28 points against Concord-Carlisle, 54 against Lynn Classical, 43 against North Andover, 35 against Peabody, 33 against Masconomet, 42 against Danvers and 34 against Danvers.

“They’re very balanced on offense,” Johnson said. “They have a quarterback who can throw the ball very well and they have a very good run game. It’s kind of a 60-40 run-pass mix, they definitely take what the defense gives them and they’re very good at it.”

North and Marblehead are comparable in size.

“Up front certainly,” Johnson said. “There no way near as big and as physical as Mansfield or Attleboro. “The quarterback (six-foot senior Josh Robertson) has a very quick release and they can run a ball-control pass offense,” Johnson said of Marblehead’s ability to unite a short passing game with quick bursts of running (6-2 senior Connor Cronin). And Marblehead presents matchup problems for the North defensive secondary with the size (6-3 senior James Doody and 6-2 junior Shane Keough) of its slot receivers.

“You’re playing three deep, then you’re giving them the little outs and they’ll take them,” Johnson added. The two guys in the slots are my biggest concerns, they are athletic and they can go up and catch the ball. They do a very good job of throwing the ball in the seams and down the middle of the field.”

North Attleboro will pose its own matchup problems for Marblehead, which will have to contend with the tough running of senior Tyler DeMattio, the slashing running style of Tyler Bannon, the passing game between freshman QB Chase Fristoli to Gavin Wells and Joe Munley. And add in the breakaway threats posed by Nathan Shultz and Danny Curran.

“That’s part of it,” Johnson said of North being able to maintain ball possession to grind out first downs and keep the ball away from Marblehead’s offense. “The real key for us is to get some stops on defense. We have to get them three (downs) and out as often as we can.”

The trump card could be in the strength of schedule for the Rocketeers. North had to contend Division 2 Super Bowl finalist King Philip, Division 4 Super Bowl semifinalist Foxboro and playoff-caliber teams such as Bishop Feehan, Mansfield and Attleboro.

“It’s just so hard to judge when you don’t have any common opponents,” Johnson said.

“We found out a whole lot about ourselves,” Johnson said of the first month of the season, losing to Bishop Feehan and Mansfield over the first two weekends. “Even though you lose, it makes you better in the long run. It’s a progressive process every year. “It takes a few weeks to get it all figured out and understand their responsibilities.

“To me, strength of schedule, that’s the big unknown.”

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