Danvers football coach Ryan Nolan wasn’t conceding anything in the week leading up to his team’s trip to Miller Field.
Sure, Jonathan Cadigan’s Winthrop team was ranked in the top 20 in Massachusetts and even higher among public high schools. Winthrop was 4-0 and looking to cement its legacy as an undefeated champion. Danvers had just been drubbed by Marblehead, 41-0.
And Nolan knew from first-hand experience about “the toughness” of Winthrop athletes. “I was a sophomore on the 1995 Stoneham High basketball team and we were knocked out in the North semifinals by Winthrop at Wakefield High when they went on a state championship run,” recalled Nolan. (That would be Coach Peter Grimes’ 1995 state champion Vikings).
“I’ve said it to Coach Cadigan before that I’ve looked at Winthrop as someone like Stoneham, the smallest team in this bigger league – you get a chip on your shoulder, you work really hard, your town’s behind you – there’s a pride there in what all the coaches in Winthrop have done, and Coach Cadigan has kept it up,” said Nolan. “I have the utmost respect for Winthrop even more, because being a Stoneham kid, we’re kind of cut from the same cloth.”
Nolan had scouted Winthrop on game film and knew the players by their names.
“Winthrop’s quarterback Duke Doherty is an unbelievable player and he started two years for Everett,” said Nolan. “[Bobby] Hubert’s a great player and we game-planned and watched film on him. He’s just a tough football player. I heard he’s going to Springfield [College] and it seems like a great fit. [Mikey] Chaves, [Chris] Ferrara, [Ryan] Hovermale, they’re really good football players – we knew they had quick kids in the passing game and we had to bring our ‘A’ game to beat Winthrop.”
What was the Falcons’ attitude coming into Miller Field to play undefeated Winthrop?
“We knew they were very good and we really understood what Winthrop was, but I think we felt like we could go in there and play with them as well,” said Nolan.
The Danvers-Winthrop game was a scoreless tie at the half before Winthrop’s offense executed a screen pass (from Duke Doherty to Bobby Hubert) that led to the Vikings’ touchdown.
“That was a great call by them,” said Nolan.
Danvers’ touchdown came on a third-down pass from Travis Voisine to wide receiver Colin Kelter in the middle of the field. Voisine, a freshman, was starting his third game after the original starting quarterback, team captain Darren McDermott, sustained a broken wrist injury.
“Colin just made an unbelievable play on the touchdown and it was a gutsy call (by offensive coordinator Bruce Rich) at that point,” said Nolan. “I thought our fullback Brad Wilichoski was consistent and went for about five yards a carry and kept us positive on first and second down. Our line did a good job, too.”
So a rivalry has been born between two outstanding coaches in the Northeastern Conference. This round went to Danvers by one point.
“We had a ton of respect for Winthrop but we thought we had a chance to win,” concluded Nolan.