For two programs such as Mansfield and Lincoln-Sudbury, whose rich history has spanned decades and across generations, a meeting in the Division 2 Super Bowl Friday night at Gillette Stadium seemed inevitable.
Though, on paper, the teams appear to be polar opposites.
Mansfield touts a strong returning senior class of 23 players while Lincoln-Sudbury has just 11 seniors suiting up. Mike Redding has been pacing his way up and down the Hornets’ sidelines for more than three decades while Jim Girard and his coaching staff are in their first year at the helm of the Warriors — following in the footsteps of the legendary Tom Lopez, who retired last December after 41 seasons at the helm. Mansfield faced high expectations at season’s start while L-Sy faced skepticism.
But, regardless of their differences, the programs have shared in common one attribute over the years: offensive line.
Mansfield had four of its offensive linemen return this season and needed to find a fit at left guard to complete the last piece of the puzzle.
Andrew Cowles was tapped by coach Mike Redding at the beginning of the season to fill the role at left guard and the 6-foot-1-inch, 200-pound senior has not disappointed. Cowles along with seniors Jason Comeau (6-4, 230) and Noah Jellenik (5-9, 245) and juniors T.J. Guy (6-4, 245) and Jake McCoy (6-3, 240) comprisemand arguably the state’s best offensive line.
“[Cowles] got into the weight room early in the season and became a different player,” said Redding. “For coaches you can’t say enough about what it is like to have five linemen playing at a high level together.”
The way the Hornets have been able to pound the ball on the ground is evidence of their dominant play up front.. The success of the rushing attack from seniors Vinnie Holmes and Nick Marciano and junior Cincere Gill can be accredited to the five men in the trenches.
For Comeau, Mansfield’s offensive line has become a second family to him. They cemented a bond spending countless hours together in the weight room over the summer, preparing for a chance at another state championship.
“We would wake up at 5 a.m. to go lift with each other and everyone is such a hard worker,” said Comeau. “We have all been friends since we were younger watching the older teams win Super Bowls. That is just something we have wanted to do from a young age.”
With Girard at the helm, Lincoln-Sudbury hasn’t strayed too far from the rugged style of play implemented by Lopez. It begins and ends with an offensive line that provides a spark on offense. The line has also protected the quarterback, giving him ample time to find playmakers such as seniors Andrew Cahill and Griffin Brown.
Whether they attack through the air or on the ground, the Warriors have relied upon their offensive line to set the tone. They have paved the way for this young and inexperienced squad to reach the threshold of a state championship.
“Offensive line is the heart of the whole offense,” said Finn Garrity, Lincoln-Sudbury’s senior captain and two-way lineman. “[The offensive line] are the guys who are putting their bodies on the line every single play and doing what is right for their team.”Karl Capen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.