Undermanned because of injuries and missing their best running back, the Winthrop Vikings gamely tried to battle an improved Danvers Falcons team last Friday night at Miller Field.
Unfortunately, after more than 3 and a half quarters of solid defensive play, the Vikings committed one turnover too many on offense and the Falcons won the game 16-3.
“To be honest I was impressed with the way we played the game defensively,” said head coach Sean Driscoll. “Really, the lone bright spot for our team was how we played defensively against a very good football team. We only allowed one sustained drive throughout the entire game, which led to their first score in the second quarter and after that we came back with our only sustained drive of the game, and had to settle for three points.”
The key defensive player of the game was Anthony Hatzisavas, winner of the Black Shirt Award with Nick Doonan and Anthony Spinazzola also stepping up big for the Vikings on defense. A key injury to top running back Nick McCarthy in last week’s game, forced the Vikings to throw more than they prefer to and despite a promising first half, in which senior captain Will Milano completed 5 of 12 passes for 74 yards, the Falcons started playing the pass more in the second half and leading to three interceptions. The last one a late pick by Danvers linebacker Dan Skinner that killed Winthrop’s last scoring threat.
“You just can’t turn it over three times in a high school football game and expect to win,” said Driscoll. “I’m sure (Milano) would like to have back that last pass, especially, because at the time we were in four down territory and if we hadn’t picked up the yardage there we were going to go for it anyway. But he tried to get us the first down and the Danvers player made a nice play on the ball.”
The 16-3 score really doesn’t do this game any justice.
The teams played essentially even football for more than three quarters, and Winthrop had two goal line stands, one late in the first half and another midway through the final frame, which resulted in a Winthrop first and ten from their own one-yard line with less six minutes to go and trailing 7-3.
At that point, Milano intentionally stepped out of the back of the end zone, taking a safety and giving the Falcons’ two more points to go up 9-3.
On the ensuing Winthrop kickoff, the Vikings got the play they were hoping for as Danvers mishandled the kick and Winthrop recovered.
The Vikings then put together its best drive of the second half, as the Vikings attempted to go for the tying touchdown in the final moments.
But with the clock ticking down on a third down play, Milano attempted another pass and Danvers’ Skinner got to play the part of hero instead.
The Falcons scored on their final drive, marking the final margin, but the game was over when Skinner intercepted the pass.
Overall, Milano went just 6 of 22 for 84 yards, with three interceptions and no touchdowns in the loss. But the running game also came up empty, as four running backs combined for just 45 yards on 24 carries.
“Obviously, in a game like this you can see that injuries to a small program like ours are a big deal,” said Driscoll. “Danvers played a great game. Their defense did what it had to, when they had to do it and you don’t ever want to blame things on injuries. That said, we are lacking a little balance to our offense right now and it looks at this point like that will be the case at least through the next week.”
McCarthy is expected to miss this week’s game against an improved Marblehead team, that regardless of the outcome this week, will likely be playing Swampscott for a playoff berth when the tow meet on Thanksgiving Day.
“From what we’ve seen so far, Marblehead is the best team in the (Small) division right now and we’re kind of hoping that they are looking past us when we face them this week,” added Driscoll.
Senior quarterback Milano is just four touchdown passes shy of the career school record for passing touchdowns. With two games to go in the season, including Thanksgiving day at home against archrival Revere, Driscoll said that Milano will likely get a chance to set the school record, especially considering the injury to McCarthy.
“Well, we’ve actually been throwing the ball about 20 times per game, and with McCarthy out at least one more week, I’m sure we’re going to keep with that trend,” said Driscoll.