The Winthrop Vikings dropped a heart-breaker 21-14 to the Beverly Panthers last Friday, following a re-scheduling of the game.
In an attempt to avoid what was predicted to be a heavy rainfall on Saturday in Beverly, the two teams agreed to play under the lights at Bishop Fenwick instead and the Vikings dropped their first division game of the season, falling to 1-1 in the division and 3-4 overall.
“From my point of view, you never want to play on a Sunday, because I really think the kids need that day for rest, to recuperate, before they start preparing for the next week’s game,” head coach Sean Driscoll explained of the decision to play a night earlier. ‘After the fact, it’s easy to say we could’ve used the extra day to practice, especially since the weather didn’t turn out to be that bad. But the truth is, it was our fault, we couldn’t get the job done when we had to and that makes it a tough loss.”
Overall, the Vikings actually played the favored Panthers pretty evenly in this game.
Despite the fact the Panthers jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on their first play from scrimmage, the Vikings battled back and tied the game at 7 on their first possession.
From there, the two teams traded body blows and with just under six minutes remaining, the game was tied at 14 and Winthrop was moving the ball on a nice little drive, when a costly penalty killed the drive and gave the Panthers a chance to take over.
“We had been moving the ball pretty well at that point, but the 15-yard personal foul penalty stalled the drive and gave them the ball back with time,” said Driscoll. “It was a momentum changer, but the penalty flag was deserved. We made a mistake at a key time and it cost us the game.”
However, Driscoll also noted that the Panthers are a veteran team with 22 seniors, including 20 who start, so their experience and poise proved to be the difference in this game.
“Overall, I was happy with the way we played defense,” said Driscoll. “I thought our kids did a good job of stopping them for most of the night, we had the big play to start the game and then the momentum swung on us at the end, but we played well on defense to that point and Will Milano had a real nice game for us at quarterback.”
Milano completed 9 of 21 passes for 124 yards and threw one of the Vikings’ two scores (to Michael Jenkins), he also had five carries for 27 yards on the ground.
On a night when the usually reliable Viking running game struggled – four rushers totaled just 103 yards, with one touchdown and two fumbles – the extra effort from Milano was appreciated.
“Milano also had a nice game on defense, with a fumble caused and a fumble recovered, coming at a key spot in the game for us,” said Driscoll.
Milano and junior defensive tackle Nick Doonan split the Black Shirt Award honors this week, as the team’s defensive player of the game.
Offensive contributions included 47 yards rushing on 11 attempts for junior running back Nick McCarthy, who also had 56 yards receiving on four catches.
Michael Jenkins added four catches for 60 yards (and the touchdown) and J.P. Doherty rounded out the receiving with one catch for eight yards.
Senior co-captain Frank Ambrosino had 11 yards on six carries, and Chris Strangie added 18 yards on 10 carries.
“The good news is that we’re still not out of it,” said Driscoll. “We come home for the next four games, starting with Swampscott this week and if we can get a win against the Big Blue, we’ll still be tied atop the division standings.”
Winthrop, Danvers and Beverly each have one loss already, with Beverly having previously lost to Danvers. If Winthrop can run the table at home and another team can take down the Panthers, Winthrop can still win the division.
“We’re 2-0 at home so far, I think we play pretty good at home, so our kids know that they can still meet their goal of winning the division,” said the coach. “It’s going to take hard work, and we’re going to have to play extremely well, better than we played this past week, but we can still reach our goals.”