MANCHESTER — During most of the 39 times that a Masconomet player touched the football Saturday afternoon, it didn’t make much of a ripple.
But on three all-important occasions, the Chieftains caused major waves — much to Gloucester’s dismay.
A punt run back for a long score, a desperation touchdown pass on the final play before halftime (set up by a lengthy kickoff return) and a fumble that was returned to pay dirt are the reasons Masconomet sits at 4-1 on the season. It was those three key plays that enabled them to escape a gritty Fishermen squad, 21-19, at Hyland Field.
“You learn a lot more about yourselves as players when you play tough games like this,” said Masconomet captain Dylan Mann, who produced two of his team’s three touchdowns. “Guys on both teams going home with all kinds of bumps and bruises ... that’s how you know you were in a great game.”
Indeed, these two squads slugged it out for 44 minutes as Masconomet found itself in a dogfight against the embattled Fishermen (1-4). The hosts never gave an inch, holding a wide edge in rushing yards (162-77), passing yards (138-43) and first downs (13-6) while holding the football for seven minutes more than the Chieftains.
If not for those above-mentioned three big plays, Gloucester would have left with an upset victory. Instead, it was a tough lesson to learn from.
“Those big plays will kill you,” said Gloucester head coach Tony Zerilli. “Ultimately, they did us in; that makes the loss that much worse.
“Defensively, we went in with a good game plan. Their strength is running the ball, and our strength on D is stopping the run, and I think we won that battle. They also have a good defense and know how to stop the Wing-T, but we made some adjustments at halftime and had some nice plays. But those big plays ... “