Winthrop Vikings head football coach Sean Driscoll praised his team following a 27-20 win over Saugus this week noting that the team accomplished the win without its three top running backs, as Jordan Corbett Franks and Phil Locigno started the game on the sidelines with injuries and Mitchell Paulson left the game midway through the second quarter, with a minor injury.
“We survived in that game, but I think that was important for us,” said Driscoll. “It was a tribute to this team that they stayed together and believed we could get it done.”
The game started out well for the Vikings as they took the opening kick-off and methodically moved the ball down the field to the Saugus one-yard line during a 9-plus minutes drive. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get the ball across the goal line and Saugus took over on downs.
After a strong defensive stand from the Vikings defense, Saugus was forced to punt the ball and Winthrop embarked on another strong offensive drive, moving the ball once again to the Saugus one-yard line and failed to score.
At the end of the first quarter, the score was 0-0, despite a strong offensive showing from Winthrop.
“Not scoring on those two drives almost came back to bite us, because we lost Mitchell for the rest of the game shortly after that,” said Driscoll. “With Corbett-Franks and Locigno already sitting out the game with injuries, we were left with two running backs who really hadn’t had a lot of carries.”
To help his running game, Driscoll moved an offensive lineman to fullback, to provide some blocking for his tailbacks and added a new guard on the line.
Barker’s first scoring toss came in the second quarter on a 31-yard play to Reuben Powell. The extra point by Quinton Dale gave the Vikings a 7-0 lead, but it was short-lived.
On their last possession of the first half, the Sachems scored to head into the half tied 7-7. When Saugus got the ball to start the second half, they promptly marched down the field and took the lead 14-7.
“I always tell the guys, when the other team does something good, we have to get right back out there and do something good keep them from building momentum,” said Driscoll.
And that was exactly what happened as Robert Diaz took a quick pass from Barker and turned it into an 80-yard touchdown, helping the team tie the game 14 apiece.
On the Viking next possession, Barker found Dale for an 18-yard touchdown. A failed two-point conversion left the score at 20-14, heading into the fourth quarter. Saugus seemed to be on the verge of stealing the victory from Winthrop late in the fourth quarter, when they scored a touchdown of their own and added an extra point to make it 21-20, with about three minutes to go in the game.
“From there we went to our no-huddle offense and I was really proud of the way the team handled the pace, especially since we had so many new people playing positions they had only practiced in the past,” said Driscoll.
The drive, which started at the Viking14 yard line, was over with 48 seconds remaining in the game, when Jake McKinnon pulled in a 14-yard pass for the winning score.
For the night, senior quarterback Barker was 7 of 9 passing for 201 yards and four touchdowns to four different receivers.
McKinnon caught 2 passes for 28 yards and the winning score, Powell had 2 catches for 46 yards and a score, Dale had two catches for 47 yards and a score and Diaz added one catch for 80 yards and a score.
In the running game, the Vikings compiled some pretty good yardage, despite being without their three top backs for most of the game.
Prior to his injury, Paulson had 1r carries in the team’s first 22 offensive plays for 92 yards. He was replaced in the running game by Diaz who had 15 carries for 73 yards, and Powell who carried 13 times for 55 yards.
“It was a good win for us, it gets back to .500 on the season and it’s the first win in our league,” said Driscoll. “Now, we have a tough stretch of games against some good teams and they’re all league games until Thanksgiving Day, so we have our work cut out for us.”
The Vikings will travel to Pentucket Regional School District Saturday for a 1:30 p.m. start against arguable the best team in the NEC/Cape Ann Tier 3 Division. Pentuckets enters the game with a 3-3record, just as Winthrop does, but like Winthrop has played the bulk of its non-league schedule against bigger teams, losing to Marblehead, Hamilton-Wenham (still undefeated) and Lynnfield last week.
“This game at Pentucket ends a stretch of four straight away games for us,” said Driscoll. “After this we’ll be at home for Amesbury, on the road at Triton and then home to finish the season against Newburyport and Revere.”