The Player Perspective: FHS Football Relies on “Out for Blood” Defense while Advancing to D1 Semis


Ryan Martin, Writer

24-7. That was the final score this past Friday from Pisini Stadium as the FHS Football team chalked up yet another win, with the #9 seed Methuen Rangers playing the role of victims in the MIAA D1 Playoff Quarterfinals. The Panthers, now 9-0 on the season, saw Methuen put up 7 on the Rangers’ very first drive. But scoring two dozen unanswered was Franklin, reminding everyone who the #1 seed in the tournament is. After the big win, I caught up with FHS Football’s  Kyle Palmieri (senior) and Cullen Pek (senior) and heard what they had to say about the playoff victory:

Ryan Martin: Methuen came into this game unknown, but made a splash in the first round beating an Everett team many thought would make a deep playoff run. What were your first thoughts when you saw you would be hosting them in the quarterfinals?

Kyle Palmieri: They showed before the game started what kind of team they were, they clearly had a lot of heart but we came in confident that we could outplay them and beat them with pure skill and talent

RM: They come out of the gate firing, starting with a long drive and a 7-0 lead. Were you surprised to see them start off so confident? Was there some feeling out on defense through that first drive?

Cullen Pek: I think the tension was really high at that moment. Methuen came out talking and we had to put them in their place, not the first drive we wanted.

Franklin’s Cullen Pek (#46) and Kyle Palmieri (right of Pek) lock in pregame vs. Methuen (via FHS Smugmug)

RM: After that first drive, you guys settle down and don’t allow another score all game. What changed defensively for you guys after that first drive?

CP: The defense had come out for blood after the first drive, but sometimes it takes us a second to calm down and really read our keys.

RM: They ran some really funky plays offensively: A flea-flicker, a lot of bodies in motion, etc. How were you able to stay unfazed by the trick play attempts?

CP: I think the study and preparation we do during the week is what keeps us unfazed. We get a sense of what we can expect they will run during the game, credit to our coaching staff in that aspect.

Pek sacks Methuen QB Drew Eason (via FHS Smugmug)

RM: Franklin now moves on to the state semifinals, where a new change to the MIAA Playoffs will have the game played at a neutral site, the association choosing Shrewsbury High School. What are your thoughts on this change? Are you disappointed not to be hosting, especially as last time the tournament was held you guys lost in this stage in a non-neutral site?

KP: We aren’t thinking about it too much, and we know that we have amazing fans who will come watch. We like to focus on things we can control and not worry about what we can’t, we are just excited to play in this game against a great opponent and we are hoping for a great game on Saturday.

As Palmieri alluded to, Franklin will be in action this Saturday at 11 AM, taking on #5 seed Springfield Catholic. The winner of that game, which will be played from neutral-site Shrewsbury High School, will punch their ticket to Gillette Stadium and play the winner of #2 seed Central Catholic vs. #3 seed St. John’s Prep in the MIAA D1 Superbowl.