By Matt Williams
---- — DANVERS — Playoff football games come with a lot of pageantry and analysis.
But they’re won in the trenches, and that’s where Masconomet was dominant last night when they opened the Division 3 Northeast tourney with an eye-opening 30-0 win over Danvers at Dr. Deering Stadium.
The sixth-seeded Chieftains, a wild card qualifier, handled the Northeastern Conference South champions at the point of the attack all night. Danvers (6-2) had its six-game winning streak snapped while rushing for just 13 net yards.
Masconomet (5-3) advances to face Marblehead (7-1) in the sectional semis next week.
“In our biggest wins this year our defense was physical, and we knew we had to be physical here,” said Masconomet head coach Jim Pugh, whose team overcame an early injury to running back Mackenzie Cashin.
Already without top running back Mike Tivinis, the Chieftains used their depth to control the game. Gavin Monagle had a game-high 111 yards rushing on 13 carries with a 55-yard TD in the second half, and Austin Cashin (Mackenzie’s twin) ran for 87 yards and a score.
“When my brother got hurt I didn’t know what to think. I just took it out on the field and ran as hard as I could,” said Austin Cashin. “The backs couldn’t have asked for more from the offensive line tonight. I love those guys.”
Masco’s Mike MacKay took a short punt 50 yards to the house in the second quarter for the game’s first points. Danvers went 3-and-out on the ensuing possession, and Masconomet ate up the next 8:01 with a physical drive that ended in Troy Bunker’s 22-yard field goal.
“Special teams are momentum swingers, and that return was a big one for them,” said Danvers head coach Sean Rogers. “We came out slow and tentative, and I’ll take the blame for that. We were outcoached by a great staff over there.”
Receiving to begin the third quarter, Masconomet’s Austin Cashin scored from 20 yards away early on. After another Danvers 3-and-out, Bunker plunged in with 37 seconds left in the quarter to make it 23-0.
“It was awesome to see so many guys step in with the injuries we had,” said Pugh, whose team shook off having lost two of their last three contests and looked at the playoffs as a chance for a fresh start.
“The biggest difference was practice,” said Austin Cashin. “We didn’t practice hard in weeks we lost and knew we had to practice hard this week.”
Freshman Matt Andreas had an interception in the first quarter for Danvers, but the hosts couldn’t turn the turnover into points. Captain Alex Valles was limited to 20 rushing yards in five carries, and junior QB Nick Andreas threw for 117 yards as the Falcons aired it out trying to come back in the second half. Anthony Cordoba had five grabs for 64 yards, and Danvers was disciplined with zero penalties and the game’s only turnover.
“They beat us at the point of attack and when they were on offense, they beat us at their point of attack,” said Rogers, who led the Falcons to their first playoff game in nine years. “This gave the kids a taste of what playoff football is like. Now, it’s about pride.”
For Masconomet, big men Jack Butt, Ben Rosenbaum and Mike Jesi (2 sacks) were dominant. Will Lawrence played well on both sides of the ball and David Drigo, Monagle, Corey Tines and MacKay flew to the ball on defense.
“My hat’s off the Danvers for what they’ve been through,” said Pugh, whose team wore blue-and-white ribbons on their football helmets to honor fallen Danvers High teach Colleen Ritzer. “They played their hearts out.”