By Matt Jenkins Staff Writer
The Salem News
---- — MIDDLETON — Paul Worth didn’t have a rah-rah, rally-the-troops kind of postgame speech to deliver to his North Shore Tech/Essex Aggie football team Saturday afternoon.
Worth simply gathered the Bulldogs, expressed his extreme thirst, then dumped the contents of a water bottle onto the Barry Field turf.
The message may have been delivered in an unorthodox manner, but the veteran coach’s message was as clear as the spilled liquid.
North Shore Tech/Essex Aggie suffered a loss — its first of the season in a 46-22 setback against St. Mary’s of Lynn — but the thirst remains.
“That’s all it is, a lost opportunity,” Worth said after his team slipped to 4-1.
Of course, if Worth has his druthers, this setback will only push the Bulldogs to become a better team.
The hosts moved the ball well against a bigger opponent from a higher division, but ultimately the game was lost after the Bulldogs’ first three possessions.
Knowing that his team’s best chance to win was by controlling the ball and the clock, Worth scaled back on his playbook and stuck with power football. In many ways, the approach worked; the Bulldogs chewed up yardage and the clock ran. But despite producing 121 yards of offense on the first three drives, none of those drives resulted in points.
North Shore coughed up a fumble on the St. Mary’s 21-yard line to end the first drive, then the next two possessions vanished on failed 4th-and-short situations in enemy territory.
“Normally we convert those (short yardage situations), but they wanted it a little more than we did. That really was the turning point,” Worth said. “If we went down and scored and got up on them early, then maybe it’s back-and-forth and maybe they make a mistake because the pressure is on them. As soon as the pressure was off them, they stepped their game up.”
The Spartans (4-1) responded to each of North Shore’s first three possessions by posting points, and by the time halftime rolled around, the Bulldogs were trailing, 22-0.
“It was good momentum. We had great respect for North Shore; they’ve been putting points up on the board, so we had to play well on defense,” St. Mary’s coach Matt Durgin said. “I thought we did that. We got key stops at key times.”
North Shore Tech/Essex Aggie was left to chase its guests the rest of the afternoon.
Ross Murphy finished with 106 yards rushing and two touchdowns for NST/EA, while teammate Chris Sudak produced 91 yards on the ground, including a 21-yard touchdown run.
St. Mary’s, meanwhile, had a pair of 100-yard rushers in Jordan Collier and John Gaeta. Collier had 127 yards on nine carries and three scores, while Gaeta, a fullback, ran for 110 yards on 12 carries with one TD.
“Great teams have lost football games and gone on to win a Super Bowl,” Worth said. “You gotta learn from it. You have to convert when you have the opportunity.”