MIAA Division III Super Bowl Preview: Dartmouth Vs. Melrose
Tomorrow marks a full day of action at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, as the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association will host six different division state championship games on the home field of the New England Patriots. While five of the six match ups don't hold much clout in the South Coast, the Division III title game between the local Dartmouth Indians and Melrose Red Raiders is the talk of the town.
Deja Vu, All Over Again- Its like deja vu, all over again for these two teams as they squared off in the same game just a year ago. In last season's division III title game, the Indians knocked off the Red Raiders 14-7, thanks to a strong defensive effort and clutch scoring, not unlike the style of this year's Super Bowl team.
Back-To-Back- As previously mentioned, the Indians are the defending D III state Champions, so they will be attempting to go back-to-back with Super Bowl wins, like the Dartmouth teams from 1983 and 1984 did over 30 years ago.
Prepare For A Heavy Dose Of Martin- If there's one thing Melrose can be certain of, it's that they'll most likely see a lot of plays run for Dartmouth's star running back and senior captain Chris Martin. For two year now, Martin has been running the show for the Indians offense, putting up major numbers on the ground and points on the scoreboard. In last year's Super Bowl, Martin proved to be a huge headache for the Melrose defense, as he carried the ball 31 times for 215 yards and a score. He's put together another brilliant season, after getting off to a bit of a slow start, as he is up over 1,500 rushing yards on the year and closing in on former Dartmouth great Jordan Todman's single season touchdown record of 29 total scores. For Dartmouth to win the game, like in many of their match ups, they're going to need Martin to be just as good as he was in last year's title game.
Flare For The Dramatic- One thing that every great championship team needs, is the ability to rise up in crucial moments and make plays with their backs against the wall. That's something that both this year and last year's Dartmouth teams did well. One of the key reasons for that is senior captain Matt Craig's key play. Multiple times last year the wide receiver/defensive back made plays in crucial moments of the game to help Dartmouth ride a winning streak all the way to the title. Craig's been at it again this year, making a bevvy of outstanding plays on both sides of the ball, including a tremendous, one-handed catch late in this year's semi-final win over Milton that would have made Odell Beckham Jr. jealous. While Dartmouth doesn't do a whole lot of passing, Craig is a reliable target for quarterback Cole Jacobsen to look to for a big time play, if they need one. Along with Craig, fellow seniors Alex Tisdelle and Jack Sullivan have played well on both sides of the ball and have been key contributors to the team's scoring. Look for the both of them to get opportunities to leave their imprint on the game as well.
Steady Work Under Center- One difference between this year's Super Bowl team and last year's for Dartmouth is the steady play of Jacobsen at quarterback. Last year, the team employed a two quarterback game plan with one that was more of a passing threat and one known for his scrambling ability. This year, the Indians entered the season with a bit of a question mark at the quarterback position but since the second week of the year Jacobsen has stepped up as the team's top option. The junior has developed as a dual threat both in the passing and running game, giving Dartmouth a chance to score in multiple ways, whereas last year they were a bit more one dimensional.
Defense Leads The Way- As it did for the 2014 Division III title team, Dartmouth's defense leads the way for the 10-2 ball club. In 12 games this year, Dartmouth has allowed just two opponents to go over 20 points and has pitched three shutouts. Those numbers in high school football are DOMINANT. They currently are holding all opponents to 9.4 points per game and, coming off of a title game a year ago in which they held Melrose to just seven points, things are looking good for defensive coordinator Mike Martin's unit. Last year Martin's defense stymied a powerful Melrose offense, in the Super Bowl, allowing them to gain just 180 total yards of offense and holding them to two third down conversions on eight attempts. Another effort like that from the Dartmouth defense should yield another title for the Indians.
Captain Consistency- Like his fellow two captains, Dartmouth's starting center/linebacker Sean Smialek has been a model of consistency for this Indians team. Starting the season as the team's only returning starter along the offensive line, the captain, found a way to lead what has turned into a strong group of blockers for Dartmouth's offense. On the defensive side of things, the senior has done a strong job of making the defensive play calls and anchoring a shutdown unit, which has given opponents few opportunities to score all year long.
Streaking To A Title- Last year's title winning team finished the year with an eight game winning streak, that saw them go from a questionable playoff contender to a dominant force in a matter of months. This year's team is following that trend as they are currently on a seven game win streak of their own. Winning their eighth straight would tie them with last year's club and notch them their second straight Super Bowl title.
Going For 4- Dartmouth head coach Rick White is back at the helm, looking to win his second title as a head coach in as many years. A win this year would give White his fourth state title as a Dartmouth Indian, as he won two as a player on those back-to-back championship teams of the early 80's. So it's a chance for the coach to even up his playing record with two titles a piece as a player and coach. Last year, White was also named the New England Patriots High School Coach of the Year, following his team's Super Bowl title. He'll look to take another run at that honor as well, depending on Saturday's outcome.
A Better Team- While the Red Raiders of Melrose High School enjoyed a successful season last year, finishing 10-3 on the year and just one win short of a state title, they come into this year's battle an even better team. The Red Raiders enter tomorrow's rematch at a perfect 12-0, looking for an undefeated season with a win. The only things standing in their way are the defending state champs and a dominant Dartmouth defense.
Check It Out- The game is set for a 3:30 pm kickoff tomorrow and will be available to watch on Comcast Sports Net New England, as will the other games on the docket. This is a game you're not going to want to miss. So if you can't get out to the game tune in on TV and cheer on this local Indians team as they look to get their second title in as many years.