Falmouth And Mashpee Go Head-To-Head On The Gridiron
By: Rich Maclone
It’s a happening because it’s finally happening. Tonight, for the first time ever, Falmouth and Mashpee High Schools will meet on the gridiron as the Falcons head to Guv Fuller Field for a nonleague game between two teams that have lots of history even though they’ve never once played before.
The reason that they’ve never met is pretty simple—for decades, students from Mashpee attended Falmouth High School. Some of the best players who have ever suited up for the Clippers, including Jamaal Branch and Willie Ford, have ties to Mashpee. The ties between the clubs go on and on. There are plenty of Falcons fans who used to be Clippers, and there is a Falcon who used to be a Clipper. Falmouth’s current head coach, Steve Femino, used to be the head coach at Mashpee back in the Falcons infancy as a varsity program and the man who followed him, Bill Kulis, retired as the FHS defensive coordinator at the end of last season. Mashpee assistant coach Mark Doucette is a teacher at Falmouth High School.
Separated by just about seven miles, the two schools have been miles apart in terms of success on the football field over the past few years. Mashpee recently had an 18-game winning streak come to an end and was last year’s Division IV Super Bowl champion. The Clippers have suffered through a couple of tough seasons and last year won just a pair of games.
Both enter this weekend’s tilt having lost their opener. Mashpee proved to be mistake prone against Austin Prep on the road and lost 22-13. Falmouth couldn’t stop Wareham’s Darien Fernandez, who ran for nearly 250 yards and scored six touchdowns, and they were walloped 51-14.
For these teams, though, the game represents an opportunity to kick-start the season and own lifetime bragging rights for winning the first game, something that is not lost on the participants. “It’s really just another nonleague game, but it is cool that it’s the first time we’ve ever played,” Falmouth captain Ronnie Zampanti said prior to practice on Wednesday.
The two teams met for the first time on Wednesday morning, not over the line of scrimmage but for breakfast. The captains and seniors from both teams convened at the Falmouth High School cafeteria for a breakfast gathering and goodwill meeting.
“It was good to put a face to the names,” FHS co-captain Sam Burt said. “We know a lot of them anyway; we’ve gone to camps with them and stuff.”
Falmouth Athletic Director Kathleen Burke said that she expects one of the biggest non-Thanksgiving Day crowds in decades to pack the stands at Fuller Field. “There’s a lot of interest,” she said. “We’re expecting a big crowd.”
Mashpee AD Matt Triveri, who is also the Falcons head coach, said that he’s heard that 2,000 to 3,000 fans could be at the field, and he understands why it is drawing so much interest. “There are a lot of people around here who went to school there, and now they have kids who go here. It’s great for the kids to be a part of history, the first game. It’s special,” he said.
Femino concurred. “It’s a great thing for the communities. The first time that we’ve ever played, that alone is pretty special, and hopefully it’s the start of something.”
Neither coach, Triveri nor Femino, is especially happy with the way that his team performed in their first game of the year, and they’re hoping to see better efforts this evening. “If we play like we did against Austin Prep, we’re in trouble. It’s that simple,” Triveri said. “We need to execute better. It’s that simple.”
One Falcon who will certainly be looking to leave his mark on the game is Jared Taylor. The senior running back is a former Clipper who transferred to MHS after his sophomore year. The move paid off big for him and Mashpee last year as he ran for a school record 306 yards in the Super Bowl to lead the team to a blowout win over Cardinal Spellman. Taylor’s former teammates, Burt and Zampanti, said that they aren’t particularly gunning for him. “We’re playing Mashpee, not one player,” Burt said. “He’s just another guy in a blue shirt.”
Taylor, who went for over 100 yards with a TD last week, is a little more than just another player. For Mashpee he’s counted upon to be a difference maker, and there’s no place he’d rather make a difference than in his hometown. Taylor is usually pretty soft-spoken, but two weeks ago when the Boston Herald asked him about playing at Fuller Field, he spoke up. “Automatically, Falmouth is personally one of my biggest games and I want to show them I am a good player,” he said to the Herald. “They didn’t see me as a tailback and I want to prove them wrong. I’m pretty cool with most of my teammates even if they talk a little smack, but when it comes to game time, that’s where I do my talking...They will be ready, but we are going to take it to them at their house, so I’ll be at the old field feeling pretty nice.”
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