Not even summer vacation washes away the pain of losing a Super Bowl. So it will take much more than that for Madison Park’s football team to forget about last fall's double overtime, two-point loss to Cathedral in the Division 4A Super Bowl.
“We’ll try to [put it behind us] but we’re not going to get over it until we get this one,” senior offensive lineman Raymond Gonzalez said of the 22-20 loss to Cathedral at Gillette Stadium.
But returning to this year’s Super Bowl will take much more than overcoming the loss of nearly the entire team to graduation, including quarterback Hector Villar and receiver David Stewart.
The Cardinals, who finished last season 8-5, will have to overcome the MIAA’s new statewide playoff system. Last year, Madison Park won the Boston City League North Division before defeating Bristol-Plymouth in the playoffs to advance to the Super Bowl.
Under the new playoff system, teams have to win two playoff games before advancing to one of the six Super Bowls at Gillette Stadium. There were 19 Super Bowls under the old format.
While many city league coaches decried the new format because they argue that their low participation rates make it difficult to play more games at the end of the season, one advantage to the new format is that the city will likely get four teams into the playoffs instead of just two teams.
To make matters worse, Madison Park will not have any margin for error this season. They kick off the season next Friday with a rematch against rival Dorchester, who won every game last year before losing to Upper Cape Cod in the Division 5 Super Bowl at Curry College.
Last year Madison Park lost to Dorchester in another two-point thriller in the final game of the regular season. The game was dubbed the “unofficial city championship” since Dorchester and Madison Park had already won their respective divisions before they happened to be meeting in the final game of the regular season. There is no official city championship game in Boston.
“I think it’s good that we are playing Dorchester because Dorchester is one of the best teams in the city and the first game everybody is in good shape,” senior wide receiver Steve Fonseca said. “If we do good against that team we are just going to look at every other team and say, ‘Look what we did to Dorchester?’ [If we can beat Dorchester], we could definitely beat these teams down the road.
“Whatever it takes to get back there right now; we’re just another team just trying to take what’s ours. “
Despite all the obstacles between the Cardinals and another trip to the Super Bowl, Madison Park is more focused than ever this fall on returning to Gillette Stadium.
“After the Super Bowl loss, we are taking this year dead serious,” said senior running Dawhensky Frederic. “We want to have the best year we can, have the best record, and just wherever we go every team is going to feel Madison Park.
“I’m pretty sure we’re pretty determined. We’ll make it back there.”
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- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.