The Winthrop High football team gave unbeaten Peabody its toughest challenge of the season, but a few key plays proved to be the difference as the Vikings fell short to the Tanners, 28-7, Friday night at Coley Lee Field.
An upset possibility was certainly in the air when Winthrop was driving toward the end zone right before halftime to make it a one-score deficit. With Winthrop in line to receive the second-half kickoff, the potential was there for a tie game on the first possession of the third quarter.
But the Vikings’ drive late in the first half stalled deep in Tanners’ territory, and the hosts kept Winthrop off the scoreboard in the second half. The Tanners scored a late fourth-quarter touchdown to seal a hard-fought victory.
Controlling the Football
Coach Jon Cadigan’s Vikings emphatically put together a 9-play, 90-yard scoring drive all on the ground in the second quarter. Welvis Acosta (15 carries for 84 yards, TD), the game’s leading rusher, capped off the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run.
The Vikings’ running backs, notably Acosta and Demetri Koutsouflakis ( 9 carries for 65 yards), used some strong block up front by Donovan Cassidy and others to keep the ball out of Peabody quarterback Shea Lynch’s hands for the most part.
“Demetri has his best game running the football,” said Cadigan.
Shea, the likely league MVP, was able to showcase his considerable skills with 14-of-18 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns to Danny Barrett. Shea, who is considering Endicott College as a next chapter in his football career, also made some key runs for first downs.
Peabody Strikes Fast
Peabody’s Alan Paulino took George Galuris’ opening kickoff 79 yards for a touchdown in what was a dismal start for the Vikings.
“Obviously, the play set the tone right away,” said Jon Cadigan. “We had pretty good coverage. We had the opportunity to make tackles and we didn’t get it done.”
Peabody added a second score on its first offensive possession and the Tanners’ lead was 14-0 after one quarter. Lynch threw an out-pass to Barrett to pick up a key first down on a third-down-and-17 play.
But the Vikings regrouped and scored a touchdown and then launched another drive but was unable to convert on fourth down.
“That’s a big play in the game because we had an opportunity to go into the half at 21-14 with the football in the second half, and Peabody’s reeling a little bit,” said Cadigan.
The Vikings’ overall performance against Peabody was a positive sign that they can be competitive with the top teams in the upper divisions and that should bode well for the playoffs.
“I think we matched Peabody toughness wise, athleticism wise – it literally comes down to a play here and a play there that they made, and we didn’t make, but I didn’t feel we were overmatched at all.”
It should be noted that the Vikings were minus the services of running back and difference-maker Nick Cappuccio, who is sidelined by an injury.
Johnson Receives Vikings’ Top Defensive Player Award
“Outstanding.” That’s the adjective that Jon Cadigan used to describe junior Mark Johnson’s two-way effort versus Peabody. Johnson caught six passes from quarterback Robert Noonan for 67 yards. He also received the Vikings’ Black Shirt Defensive Player of the Game award. Johnson also blocked a 41-yard field goal attempt by the Tanners’ Division 1 placekicking prospect, junior Domenic Scalese. George Galuris had four receptions in the game. Sophomore Matthew Noonan nearly picked off a Shea Lynch pass.
On to Salem
Winthrop (3-3) travels to Bertram Field Friday for a game against Salem (5-1). “They have a lot of underclassmen at the skill positions and they’re going to be pretty good for the next couple of years,” said Cadigan. “Their quarterback [Corey Grimes] is their best player, and he’s a three-year starter.” Winthrop is ranked No. 4 in the division and if the Vikings can win their next two games, the possibility is present for hosting two home playoff games at Miller Field. And you can imagine the crowds for those playoff games?