If you had told Winthrop High football coach Jon Cadigan before last Friday’s game against Danvers that his defense would allow only one touchdown, his response probably would have been, “I’ll take that.”
His Winthrop team had averaged close to 30 points a game up to that point. The Vikings were 4-0 and coming off a stellar victory at Newell Stadium in Gloucester that had clinched the NEC South title.
But Mother Nature (delivering a cold, windy night) and the Danvers Falcons held the Winthrop offense to one touchdown, handing the No. 19-ranked Vikings a stunning 7-6 defeat at Miller Field.
It looked like another magical call by offensive coordinator Bobby Nimblett – a roll-right, throw-left, fourth-down screen pass from quarterback Duke Doherty to fullback Bobby Hubert that set up Hubert’s touchdown run -would be all the scoring the Vikings would need.
But Danvers left-handed freshman quarterback Travis Voisine located his receiver, Colin Kelter, in the middle of the field and Kelter found the end zone with 36 seconds left to play. Aidan Smith’s PAT proved to be the game-winning point.
Cadigan didn’t blame the nasty weather for slowing down the Vikings’ offense or for the defeat. He said it was a lack of execution that proved to be the difference.
“The weather was what it was for both teams,” said Cadigan. “We didn’t execute in critical moments. We’ve struggled in the red zone (the part of the field situated between an opponent’s 20-yard line and the goal line) the last three games and that was obviously huge versus Danvers as well.”
The Vikings had one of its best scoring opportunities in the second quarter when they put together an 18-play drive. Winthrop was unable to break the 0-0 tie after the Danvers defense held inside its own 10-yard line.
“Eighteen-play drives at any level of football are hard to come by,” said Cadigan.
The Viking defense did its job well against a big Danvers offensive line.
“That was a tough, tough game – Danvers was very big off front and they run an I-formation offense which a mano-a-mano, we’re going to pound you on the ground type of offense and we held up for most of the night,” said Cadigan. “I was proud of how our defense stepped up all night.”
Steven Perullo made a spectacular individual shoe-string tackle on a toss play for a loss on the Falcons’ final drive. Middle linebacker Ian Harris was the Vikings’ defensive player of the game with a number of great reads and jarring tackles against Danvers’ bruising fullback Brad Wilichoski.
“Ian answered the bell all night long and really took on their fullback,” said Cadigan. “I’ve been proud of how Ian has handled everything this year calling the signals. He didn’t give up an inch against Danvers.”
There were some other noteworthy offensive contributions. Hubert picked up some tough yardage and came very close to breaking one for a long touchdown. Mikey Chaves had another terrific sideline catch. Cam Martin provided Winthrop a spark with an exciting return on the second-half kickoff, giving the Vikings excellent field position from which they ultimately produced a touchdown.
Cadigan was sportsmanlike in defeat and gracious as always in the post-game interviews.
“Credit to Danvers – they’re a very well-coached team,” said Cadigan. “Coach [Ryan] Nolan does an excellent job defensively and they had a good game plan. We just didn’t execute as well as we would have liked to.”
Winthrop will try to end the season on a winning note in the Miller Field finale Saturday (12 p.m.) against the Masconomet Regional Chieftains, who are playing their first season as a member of the Northeastern Conference after being a Cape Ann League power for many years.
Winthrop fans will remember that the Vikings defeated Masco, 21-14 in the MIAA playoffs on the way to their 2006 Super Bowl title. Current Vikings’ defensive coordinator James Fucillo made a huge play late in the game to preserve the victory.