The Winthrop Vikings 2010 season has largely been a story of frustration, missed opportunities and bad luck, as a young inexperienced team struggled out of the gate to an 0-7 start.
On Saturday, they were able to erase a good deal of that frustration and disappointment with a 30-29 last second win over then-conference leading Swampscott.
"It was a good day overall," said head coach Sean Driscoll of his team’s one-point victory that came down to a two-point conversion play with nine seconds to go in the fourth quarter.
"Our goal going into the game was to control the line of scrimmage. We thought we matched up well there. Our younger linemen have finally gotten some experience under their belts and we thought if we could control the line, we could move the ball and keep their offense off of the field which was going to be key, because they have a very good offense that can score quickly."
Suffice to say that the Vikings plan worked to near perfection in the first half that saw the Viking saw score touchdowns and two-point conversions on each their first two offensive possessions.
"We got off to a good start with our opening drive, and then after they scored on their first possession, we were able to come right back an answer that with another touchdown," said Driscoll. "That was huge for our self-confidence, that we were able to bounce back that way and build the lead back up."
The Vikings opening drive consumed 5:55 second of game clock, took 11-plays and covered 71 yards. Vikings senior receiver JP Doherty hauled in a 13-yard pass from junior quarterback Jimmy Barker, to give the Vikings their first lead and senior running back Nick McCarthy added the first of three 2-point conversion runs for an 8-0 Winthrop lead.
On the day Doherty caught seven of Barker’s passes for 106 yards and the touchdown, while Barker completed 9 of 14 passes overall for 142 yards and two TD passes. McCarthy meanwhile was the Vikings’ workhorse carrying the ball a game high 35 times for 168 yards and two rushing touchdowns to go along with a 12-yard touchdown reception and the three two-point conversions.
All three players also stood out on defense, where McCarthy earned Gold Helmet honors form the Lynn Item as the North Shore’s best defensive player of the weekend and was also named a Boston Globe Star of the Week, as well as being the Viking Black Shirt winner for a third consecutive week.
"JP Doherty was also exceptional on defense this week," said Driscoll. "He’s really becoming a student of the game and understanding defensively, what teams are trying to do against us."
Driscoll noted that the turning point for the Vikings, in terms of believing themselves that they could knock off Swampscott, came late in the first half with Winthrop holding a 16-7 lead and the Big Blue on the Winthrop one-yard line with three seconds to go.
"Holding Swampscott there gave us a lot of confidence heading into the half and then scoring again in the third after Swampscott had scored to start the half, kept us believing (in ourselves)."
McCarthy TD runs of four yards in the second quarter and six yards in the third quarter, had Winthrop still on top 22-14 as the final quarter began. However, back to back Big Blue Touchdown passes in the fourth quarter had Swampscott on top 29-22 and believing that they had orchestrated a come from beyond victory for the fifth time this season. This time, they were wrong.
Taking over deep in his own end Barker, who has grown into his role as the Vikings signal caller this season, took command of the Winthrop offense with just 1:25 second to play and led a 77-yard touchdown drive that culminated in McCarthy’s 12-yard touchdown catch (from Barker) and set up the pivotal two-point conversion run with nine seconds remaining.
"I was very happy with the way the offense played overall, but especially at the end, Jimmy (Barker) really took command of the huddle on that final drive and made all of the right calls," said Driscoll.
The Vikings also did get a bit of luck on the final drive, which was important since the Vikings have had very few lucky breaks this season. On the first play of the final drive, Swampscott’s defense tipped a pass from Barker that was meant to be an 18-yard play, but failed to come down with the ball. Instead a Winthrop receiver caught the ball and rambled for a 30-yard pickup keeping the drive alive.
"Most of our luck this season has been bad, so we’re happy to take that little bit of good luck and maybe we made our own luck there, because we kept fighting and grinding and didn’t give up," said the coach.
For a young team, that has struggled at times with adversity this season, that change of attitude may be the most important thing to come out of this exciting last chance victory.
"Now it’s time to put this win behind us," said Driscoll. "We want to grab a few more wins here and we are going to be facing a very hungry Danvers tram this week in Danvers."