WINTHROP — It was, as head Sean Rogers said after the contest, a means for his Danvers High football team to escape after one of the most difficult weeks of their young lives.
Once the opening whistle was blown Saturday night and the focus centered around what happened between the lines, Rogers’ Falcons were, as they have been for the last month-and-a-half, all business.
Playing for the first time since Danvers High math teacher Colleen Ritzer was murdered at the school five days earlier, the Falcons — playing in her memory — completed their regular season with a 39-27 victory over host Winthrop High.
The Falcons wore blue stickers with white lettering on their football helmets adorned with Ritzer’s initials and ‘In Loving Memory’ written on them. The American flag at Miller Field was flown at half-mast, and pink balloons were released into the night sky as a moment of silence was held pre-game for Ritzer, who was just 24 years old.
“I give a lot of credit to that resilient group with all that’s been going on at their place,” Winthrop’s classy head coach, Sean Driscoll, said of the Falcons. “They had a lot on their minds, they’d already clinched the (Northeastern Conference South) title and knew they were going to the playoffs next week, but they still came out and played hard. They didn’t let up at all.”
It was the sixth straight victory for Danvers (6-1 overall, 5-0 NEC South), which will play just the second-ever playoff game in program history Friday night at home when it hosts Masconomet (4-3) at Deering Stadium. The Falcons will be the No. 3 seed and Masco the 6-seed in the Division 3 North playoff quarterfinals.
“This was about getting momentum heading into the playoffs. We wanted to have at least one home game,” said Rogers.