By Phil Stacey Sports editor
The Salem News
---- — TOPSFIELD — It’s the oldest cliche in the world of sports, one that probably predates dirt or grass.
But when you hold your opponent to just two first downs and 35 yards of total offense in a title-clinching contest, the oft-used phrase ‘defense wins championships’ is more than apropos.
Dominating in every facet of the game, Masconomet clinched the Northeastern Conference/Cape Ann League Tier 1 football crown in resounding fashion last night, pasting Revere, 42-0.
“I don’t think we get enough credit for our hitting (defensively),” said Masco captain Chris Schleer. “We want to make it so teams don’t want to run the ball on us.”
From the second play of last night’s game, when captain Dylan Mann drilled Revere ballcarrier Tom Portrait with a monster hit in front of the visitor’s bench and forced a fumble that teammate Corey Tines recovered, Masconomet (8-2) set the tone defensively. They never allowed the Patriots’ offense to get untracked and, conversely, scored on each of their first six possessions.
“That hit by Dylan on the first play ... boy, could we have asked for anything better?” asked head coach Jim Pugh. “He’s a kid who loves blocking and tackling. He’s so unselfish, a great leader.”
In winning the program’s sixth league title in the last 10 years (all under Pugh), Masconomet led 28-0 after two quarters, got an inspired halftime speech from Mann urging the team to keep its collective feet on the gas pedal, and did just that to finish a perfect 4-0 in league play.
“This feeling is incredible; we’ve wanted it all season,” said Mann, who had a game-high 70 yards rushing while scoring on runs of 1 and 4 yards in the first half. “We were freshmen the last time Masco won a (league) title, so to do it again our senior year is a great feeling.”
Without delving too deeply into their playbook — “we ran pretty much basic stuff,” said Schleer, the team’s quarterback — the Chieftains grinded out 270 yards on the ground while a staggering 14 different players got a chance to lug the pigskin.
Schleer, who scored on an 8-yard keeper early in the third quarter, added 52 yards passing and a score while connecting on 8 of his 10 throws.
Mike Tivinis and Gavin Monagle added scoring runs of 4 and 32 yards, respectively, while junior tight end Nolan Rice hauled in a 9-yard TD pass from Schleer in the right corner of the end zone.
All the while the guys up front, including captain Pat McNamara, Kevin Zegel, Sean Antonuccio, Jordan Belakonis and 6-foot-3, 265-pound senior lineman Casey Guerrero were in complete control in the trenches, holding their blocks while opening large gaps for their backs to run through.
“The championship is great. It’s what the kids work so hard for,” said Pugh. “They won this in March, April, May, June, July and August when they were putting all that (offseason) work in. We really do believe this team works as hard as anyone around.”
Masconomet will play rival North Andover at home on Thanksgiving, then prepare for their first playoff game in three years by taking on what many believe is the state’s best team, Greater Boston League champion Everett, in the Division 1A semifinals on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
“Everett’s not a team you can just look past, you know?” smiled Mann. “It’ll be like David vs. Goliath. But we’ll see. We’re looking forward to North Andover, then Everett.”