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The final two teams left standing in Division 2A will meet Saturday afternoon when the Natick Red Hawks face the Beverly Panthers at Gillette Stadium.
Members of both teams got a chance to become familiar with the field on Thursday as the captains from both teams were invited to Gillette Stadium for breakfast, a tour, and a chance to walk on the field.
“It’s just surreal. I always wished we could play here some day and it’s finally great to finally do that. To play on this field is just a honor,” Natick running back Nick Lee said.
When the teams return today, they are bringing along their high power offenses that made both Natick and Beverly two of the best teams in the state.
Natick quarterback Troy Flutie has lived up to his last name, leading the division with 29 touchdown passes thrown. In addition, his offensive line has given the junior QB plenty of time to throw the ball and scramble around if needed.
Brian Dunlap has been the receiver of choice for Flutie with a Division 2A best 16 TD catches and 28 total TDs. On Tuesday against Plymouth South, Dunlap showed his ability to get ahead of the defense and get open for those big plays with a 73-yard touchdown reception.
On the ground, senior captain Nick Lee has proven to be a reliable force on the ground.
While the offense has been strong, the defense had some trouble on Tuesday stopping the Plymouth South running game. Giving up 310 yards and five touchdowns to Plymouth South on Tuesday, shutting down running back Brendan Flaherty is going to have to be a priority for the Red Hawks.
Awaiting Natick is a Beverly team that hasn’t lost since November 11, 2011. Fast on the ground, Flaherty comes into the game with a team best 24 touchdowns and ranks fourth in points scored in Division 2A.
The Beverly defense has been on lock down for most of the season, holding opponent to no more than 14 points during the regular season. In their playoff game against Burlington, the Panthers held one of the best teams in the state to 21 points in the 34-21 win.
For the Panthers, they need to find a way to get to Flutie. While he can scramble, his offensive play is helped by the fact that he does not need to worry about the pocket collapsing around him. Giving Flutie limited time to throw the ball can potentially force some bad passes out of Natick or force them to run.
With weapons on both sides, the chances of this game turning into a blowout are low, with the winner potentially being the team with the ball last.