By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.’
For the Transcript
The Winthrop Vikings got a huge game from first year starting running back, junior Nick McCarthy, and used five rushing touchdowns to demolish the Salem Witches at Miller Field last Friday night, putting an offensive stamp on their 2009 season, despite windy, rainy playing conditions.
“You couldn’t ask for a better start,” said head coach Sean Driscoll. “I think our team, especially up front on the offensive and defensive lines, played very well in getting off the football and taking care of their assignments. I think this game was a perfect example of when everyone does their job, good things can happen for a football team.”
While the weather kept the Vikings’ aerial attack under wraps, for another week at least, Driscoll noted that the rough weather offered the perfect coming out party for McCarthy, while also highlighting the veteran leadership of senior quarterback Will Milano, who adapted to the conditions and did what was best for the team to win.
“Obviously, this is Nick’s first year starting on the offensive side of the ball. He started on defense for us last year but saw pretty limited action on offense, and I think we’re starting to see Nick come into his own as a running back,” said Driscoll. “I think it is a tribute to Nick’s work ethic for him to get to where he is at now. He worked very hard in the off season.”
Last year, of course, the Vikings had perennial all-conference running back Chris Beranger running the ball and turning in the type of rushing games that McCarthy had last week. But for one game at least, McCarthy was able to make the Winthrop fans forget about Beranger and give them a reason to smile when looking ahead to the rest of the season.
“I think Will Milano really showed leadership this week,” added Driscoll. “Obviously, we would have liked to throw the ball more than we did [Milano was 4 for 5 for 34 yards in the game], but the weather really hampered what we were able to do. Coming into the game, Will was very much aware of what the game plan was, but when the weather forced us to make alternative plans, he adjusted very well and understood why were changing and what was best for the team.”
Not to be lost in the excitement over the offensive outburst, the Vikings also pitched a shutout on the defensive side of the ball.
“On defense, Robert Deeb had a tremendous game for us. He was our Black Shirt Award winner this week as the defensive standout on the team, with eight tackles, two assists, two tackles for a loss and a quarterback sack,” said Driscoll.
Deeb also pitched in on offense, catching three of Milano’s completed passes for 34 yards.
“Sophomore James Barker also played well on defense when he had his opportunities,” said Driscoll. “It was nice to see some of the stuff out of James that we saw.”
Driscoll also singled out nose guard Anthony Spinnazola and junior tackle Nick Doonan for their work on defense and noted senior leader Keith Stasio’s work on the offensive line.
“Tight end Mark Jenkins had a very good day blocking. Obviously, it was not a good day to throw the ball, but Mark handled his assignments very well and contributed in the running game with his blocks,” said Driscoll.
Anthony Hatzisvas, making his first-ever varsity start on defense, also played very well and showed that he is growing into his position.
“He [Hatzisvas] got his feet wet and did well,” said Driscoll.
Though Salem is a member of the Northeast Conference, the game doesn’t count in Winthrop’s divisional standings, because Salem plays in the NEC Large and Winthrop is in the Small Division.
Winthrop is the only team in the conference that plays every team in the conference, believing that tough games against Large Division schools at the beginning of the season will give the Vikings valuable experience when it comes time to play the division schedule.
They will follow the season opening home win with two tough road games at Lynn English this Friday (September 18) and at Gloucester on Friday, September 25.
“Lynn English is a very athletic team. They have a very good quarterback who is more of a running threat, and we’ll have our hands full trying to contain him,” said Driscoll. “They had some success last year, and they look to be just as good as they were then.”
The Vikings lost a three-point heartbreaker to English last season, and that was played in the rain and cold, which is similar to the forecast for next week’s game, and the just completed win over Salem.
“Anytime we play a big school, we have our hands full, but we liked the excitement and energy our kids brought to the game last week, and we’re hoping that we can play this game with that same kind of emotion,” said the coach.