Ryan Copson (23) gets congratulated by Jarod Bishop

Ryan Copson (23) gets congratulated by Jarod Bishop after making a big play during an earlier Shawsheen Tech Football game. (photo by Bob DeChiara).

BILLERICA – The last time Shawsheen Tech and Northeast Metro Tech met up on the gridiron, the Knights handed the Rams what was undoubtedly their most painful loss of the season, handing Shawsheen a 34-28 defeat in Billerica, by scoring the game winning touchdown with just 18 seconds left in the game.

That contest, back on October 8, was huge at the time, as it handed the Rams their first league loss of the season, and ultimately led to them falling short of capturing the CAC title for a third consecutive season. But, while that game may have been big, this Friday night’s matchup between these two long time CAC rivals has even more at stake, as the teams square off in the semifinals of the Massachusetts State Large School Vocational playoffs. Kickoff is set for 6:00 pm Friday night at Wakefield High School.

The Rams (4-4) and the Knights (7-3), are obviously quite familiar with each other, having played in several close games in recent years, including this season’s thriller. Shawsheen coach Al Costabile is expecting the same kind of battle in this all important playoff game as well.

“It’s a great matchup, and we are really looking forward to it,” Costabile said. “We had a great game with them at our Homecoming back in October. It came down to the last minute, as it often does when we play them.”

No. 1 seed Northeast advanced to the semifinals on the strength of a 49-14 rout of Diman Vocational last Saturday in Wakefield while the No.4 Rams advanced on a forfeit over Southeastern Regional Vocational after Southeastern’s much publicized suspension of their season. But regardless of how the team’s advanced to Friday night’s game, Costabile and his team are looking forward to the opportunity to take on Northeast again, especially after the heartbreaking way they lost their original matchup.

Shawsheen led that contest 28-20 late in the fourth quarter before Northeast tied it up at 28-28 with 2:43 left in the game. Shawsheen then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Knights great field position, and Northeast went on to score the game winning touchdown with 18 seconds left.

“We are excited to be in the vocational playoffs,” Costabile said. “And we are excited for the opportunity to face Northeast again. Usually when a game goes right to the end like our last game with them did, there are always a couple of things you can look back on and just feel like if we had done differently, the result could have been different. We are hoping that if we can clean up some things this time, we will be in better position to win the game.”

If the Rams are going to come away with a different result this time, Costabile knows they will need to find a way to stop the Knights powerful Wing-T offense, which piled up 345 yards of total offense against the Rams in their first meeting.

“They run the Wing-T beautifully. We have to stay very disciplined, because they are always looking for an angle with their counters, reverses and inside handoffs,” Costabile said. “You definitely have to be more disciplined than against some other offenses.”

Costabile is hoping that the Rams having gone up against this offense fairly recently will help them be more successful this time out.

“Familiarity is a huge thing with this offense,” Costabile said. “It definitely will help us that we saw it just a month or so ago, but it is still very difficult to stop.”

The most difficult Knight of all to stop is running back Steve Donnelly, who ran for 154 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting between the two teams. That was merely a drop in the bucket, however, compared to his performance last week against Diman, when he had 263 yards rushing and five touchdowns. Donnelly leads Division 5 in scoring this season with 21 touchdowns and 138 total points, while his backfield mate, quarterback C.J. Moriconi is sixth in scoring in Division 5 with 15 touchdowns and 104 points.

“(Donnelly) is a horse,” Costabile said. “He really hurt us the first time around. He has a knack for finding the end zone. He has the ability to take it to the house from anywhere on the field, but he is particularly dangerous in the red zone.”

The winner of Friday night’s game will take on the winner of Friday’s other semifinal game between Assabet Valley and Greater New Bedford for the state vocational championship. The date of that game has yet to be determined, but it will most likely be the Thursday after Thanksgiving at the site of the higher seed.

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