READING — In the middle of the season, games don’t get much more meaningful than this.
Tonight, Woburn High and Reading High will put their unbeaten records on the line against each other at Hollingsworth Field (7 p.m.).
The Rockets enter the game at 4-0, while the Tanners are 3-0 (with a bye in Week 3). Both teams won their Middlesex League Liberty Division openers last Friday, with Reading shutting out Belmont, 34-0 and Woburn outrunning Arlington, 47-16.
In the Division 2 power ratings that the MIAA released on Wednesday, Reading is third, behind Lincoln-Sudbury and Milford. Woburn is sixth.
“Anytime you have two unbeaten teams playing in the middle of the season, it’s not just another week,” said Woburn coach Jack Belcher. “That’s a very good team, the best we’ve played so far. They’re very well-coached and have good players on both sides of the ball.”
Like Belcher, Reading coach John Fiore thinks that his team will face its biggest challenge to date on Friday.
“All that matters is that’s an excellent football team,” Fiore said. “They’re big. They’ve been crushing everybody. They have talent all over the roster.”
Though neither team has lost yet, both teams have been tested. Reading came from behind in its second game to defeat Barnstable (ranked fourth in Div. 2), 18-14, and held off Danvers to win, 14-10, in Week 3. The Tanners will be the third unbeaten team (not counting the season opener) that Reading has played this season.
In Woburn’s season opener, the Tanners jumped out to an early 21-0 lead before a very good Wilmington team came back to pull within two points, 21-19. The Tanners ended up winning, 27-18.
“Our kids held on and scored late, but they learned that you have to play every play,” Belcher said. “You don’t worry about the 48 minutes. Just play each play. We’ve gotten good at that. They’ve learned to play with emotion, not to play emotionally.”
The two teams’ offenses offer an interesting contrast. While Reading spreads it out and has passed more than it has run in its first four games (QB James Murphy has thrown 923 yards and 8 TDs), Woburn has utilized a double wing offense that emphasizes the run and has passed just eight times. In the victory over Arlington, the Tanners gained 406 yards on the ground, with sophomore Brian Ferreira gaining 247 behind a big, cohesive offensive line.
“They have three good running backs and a big offensive line,” Fiore said. “The quarterback is very good, too. Fundamentally, we’ve done well, but we’ll need to tackle even better. So far nobody has been able to tackle Woburn.”
Neither offense is one-dimensional, either.
“In the first four games for them, three for us, they’ve thrown it around and we’ve ground it out,” Belcher said. “That’s not to say they can’t run or we can’t throw.”
Both coaches have been pleased with how their teams have prepared themselves.
“We’ve had some really good practices this week,” Fiore said. “The team has a really good work ethic”.”
Said Belcher, “I can’t remember one bad practice. The seniors been great and the juniors and sophomores have had some pretty big roles.”