SALEM — The new Bertram Field opened for business last night to rave reviews, what with its shimmering turf field, newly painted facade and welcoming environment.
Visiting Boston Latin certainly felt that way, scoring two second half touchdowns to break a halftime tie and spoil the home opener for the Salem Witches, 21-7.
Salem has had its best success this fall when it can run the ball successfully, but that wasn’t the case last night. The Witches had just 58 net yards rushing as Boston Latin’s defensive line, led by junior defensive end Peter Honzik, and blitzing middle linebacker Sebastien Philemon caused all kinds of problems as the hosts had trouble sustaining their blocks and opening holes.
“They really came after it defensively and we couldn’t run the ball effectively,” said Salem (2-7) head coach Scott Connolly. “(Honzik) has a motor that just keeps coming, and we knew (Philemon) was a beast, too. We knew teams were going to try and start taking the C-gap away from us, and they were able to do that tonight.”
The Witches had momentum going into the break, scoring with 29.4 seconds before intermission on a pretty pump fake by Austin Connolly before he hit Shair White with an 18-yard touchdown toss into the left corner of the end zone. White’s kick knotted the score at 7-7, and the hosts would receive the second half kickoff.
But Boston Latin (4-5) owned the third quarter. They held firm when Salem marched down to their 28-yard line before turning the ball over on downs, then marched 71 yards in just six plays as Wolfpack quarterback Roy Bahman found Mike Parham on a waggle pass in the left corner of the end zone for a 13-7 lead.
After a 3-and-out by the hosts, the Wolfpack got a 45-yard punt return Duncan McGaff to set up shop on the Salem 37-yard line and scored eight plays later on a 3-yard run from Dan Bohan. The ensuing 2-point rush gave the Purple-and-White a 14-point lead they’d maintain the rest of the way.
Austin Connolly finished the night 12-of-22 for 106 yards passing for Salem while connecting with six different receivers. Christian Costa had an interception while tailback Aaron Palmer had to work for his 61 yards on 16 carries as holes got swallowed up quickly by the Wolfpack D.
“It was a game of field position, and too often we gave them great field position,” said Scott Connolly, pointing to Boston Latin’s two third quarter scores.
The Witches will host Dracut (2-7), a 14-0 winner over Revere (which Salem has beaten twice) last night, at home next Friday before hosting Beverly on Thanksgiving morning.