Pope John Makes Final Preparations for Saturday’s Title Game at Gillette Stadium
By Lorenzo Recupero
Pope John High School football players and coaches will be competing in the biggest game of their lives this weekend at Gillette Stadium, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be doing anything any differently. Preparations will go as planned for the Tigers and that means not changing a thing at all.
“[We’ve] practiced all week like it’s any other game. We want to make it like preparing for any other game and not make it bigger than what it is,” said Pope John coach Paul Sobolewski of the team’s preparation for the Division 8 State Championship game against St. Bernard’s at Gillette Stadium Saturday at 9AM.
Sobolewski, who referenced a particularly successful coach around these parts, Bill Belichick, while explaining his decision to do things the same as they have all year even though the stakes are heightened.
“Good coaches learn from the best, and I’m not Bill Belichick and we aren’t the Patriots, but like Belichick says ‘it’s just another week’, so at the end of the day we have a job to do and have to go out and do it,” said Sobolewski.
The Tigers, who are one of less than a handful of HS teams still undefeated, probably don’t have to alter how they go into a big game, either. With 12 wins under their belt and an offense averaging 34.6 points per game and a defense allowing just 6.8 per game, it would seem on paper that the team’s done what they’ve needed to succeed all year long.
And although the playbook and how they’ll prepare has gone unchanged for the Tigers, coach Sobolewski was quick to note that the City of Everett has helped his team with where they’ll practice by opening Everett High School’s stadium for the final meetings leading up to the big game. The team used Lafayette Field on Edith Street all year long before the relocation.
“[Practicing at Veterans Stadium] is really making us a better team,” said Sobowlewskj as
he praised the city for the gesture prior to his first super bowl as head coach. “With our type of offense, it’s good to be on a turf eld like this for many reason, like spacing and kicking,” said Sobolewski, who employs a spread offense.
One reason the spread attack has helped the Tigers offense excel this season is the overall speed the team has on the eld each game, an attribute coach Sobolewski knows he has to take advantage of to knock off a sturdy opponent like St. Bernards.
“Our speed [is our strength]. We really haven’t seen a team who could match us in that regard and it shows in many facets of our game, including special teams and defense,” he said.
And with only five seniors on the roster, Sobolewski believes his team’s youth will add to its overall advantage in the matchup as well.
“They have experience. They have over 100 wins in the last 10 years. They are like the mini Everett High School of Central Mass pumping out 10 and 11 win seasons,” said Sobolewski of St. Bernard. “They have experience on their side, we are just young. And I think that helps because we don’t have that pressure on us compared to teams that have been there. Our guys don’t know any better, but they expect to win. I think as every day goes by we get more and more confident,” said Sobolewski.
On Tuesday the teams held a coin toss at Gillette Stadium and Pope John won the right to play as the designated home team, meaning they will use the Patriots sideline in the contest, another confidence booster for the team according to Sobolewski.
Following the champions breakfast at Gillette on Tuesday, Sobolewski tried to keep the things light and the pressure off his administration and coaching staff as well. “I told our administration that If you wanna roll out the duck boats on Broadway Monday if we win, go for it,” he joked.
Tickets for the game can still be purchased via the MIAA tournament website.