The Masconomet and Pentucket football teams have had some incredible battles on the gridiron over the season.
It’s possible that none carried the emotion, or importance, or one of the first meetings, 50 years ago in 1963.
It was a battle of unbeatens that the Chieftains won, 22-0, in a game contested in the days after America lost one of its icons in President John F. Kennedy.
Tonight, as Masconomet hosts Pentucket, the Chieftains will honor the 50th anniversary of that 1963 sqaud, which went 9-0 and to do is Masco’s only unbeaten, untied football team.
“It’s an exciting time for us,” said Dave Doughty, one of the co-captains in ‘63. “We did a big reunion for the 25th, and we had a lot of people and a lot of laughs. I know there are guys flying in from Oregon, Wisconsin and Arizone to be here. It could be our last hurrah.”
Pentucket was certainly the biggest win for Masco, which lost out on that year’s Class D state title on points. The Chieftains had Steve Chew, who led the state in scoring in ‘63 (142) and graduated wirh 424 career points, along with a big line and plenty of athletes.
“We’d heard that Pentucket hadn’t allowed a run of more than 10 yards all year. We opened with a 20 yard sweep right and a 20 yard sweep left,” Doughty recalled. “The lead into the game was really big for us.”
There was a crowd of nearly 5,000 that day, as the battle of unbeatens was the only game in Essex County. It was also one of the first games playes after Thanksgiving, moved from Friday the 23rd to the following Saturday after the assassination.
“That brought a screeching halt to the game, and to America,” said Dick Ray, another ‘63 captain. “It made you realize, you thought this game was important and now a beloved President died. It hit us pretty hard.”
As the nation grieved, some sense of normalcy began to return after Thanksgiving. Masco was one of the few schools that didn’t have a Thanksgiving rival (they began facing North Andover on Turkey Day in 1975); they were only looking forward to Pentucket.
“It took the air out of the balloon. We were trying to collect our wits,” said Doughty, who won the Salem News’ Student-Athlete Award in 1963. “It was another week of build up and there was a lot of interest in the game. I remember there being rows and rows of people.”
Masco led 16-0 at halftime but the game was hardly over. Coach Walt Roberts, for whom Masco’s field is named today, told his team they were on the verge of something special, and to give a little more and leave it all on the field.
They did, and in the process they made Masco history.
“Even with all the Super Bowl appearances they haven’t been undefeated,” said Ray. “That is really a very special honor. You can’t take a game off or have a bad game. You have to be your best every game and that’s how we played.”
Masco, which began playing as a regional school in 1959, played teams like Lynn tech (then known as Lynn Trade), Essex Aggie, and Woodbury, which would become a huge school in Manchester, New Hampshire. One of their toughest games was against Cape Ann power Ipswich, a hard-fought 12-0 decision.
“They fumbled in the end zone and we recovered. That was the first score and if we didn’t get that, who knows,” said Doughty.
The Chieftains regulars didn’t play in the second half often, as Roberts was not keen on running up the score. In some ways, that makes Chew’s scoring prowess even more impressive.
“Steve was an unbelievable runner. I’d be blocking and I’d hear his breathing change and he’d take off like a rocket,” said Ray. “He didn’t need much of a hole, although we did provide him with some big ones.
“A lot of people don’t realize how good Tommy Skinner was. He’d do really well when defenses stacked up against Steve, and we had a good fullback that could blast his way through when he had to.”
Masco had 28 players on the roster and had five Eagle-Tribune and coaches’ CAL all-stars: Chew, Doughty, Dave Gangi, QB Paul Richardson and Skinner. They were also named to the Greater Lawrence-Lowell all-star football game, as was Ray. Most of the players played three sports, with basketball and baseball being the most popular besides football.
The Chieftains outscored their nine opponents 300-84.
“Westford had beaten Framingham North, which was a Class B team, and that was worth eight points. It was like winning two games in Class D and that cost us the state title,” said Doughty, who went on to play at Bowdoin College.
Masco had the last five games of 1962 and then took the first five of 1964 to wind up with an impressive 19-game winning streak.
As they come together to be honored tonight, the 1963 squad will remember that magical time in the middle, and that incredible and emotional win against Pentucket.
“Just to be able to renew the camraderie with old teammates, guys we haven’t seen in 25 or 30 years is some cases, is great,” said Ray. “On top of all the exciement of fall football, we’re reliving those glory days all rolled into one packge.”
This year’s Chieftains (3-1) are renewing acquaintances with the Sachems (3-0), who didn’t meet Masco in a non-league game during the NEC/CAL experiment. Pentucket took the last meeting back in 2010, 23-7, and Masco won the two prior to that. The last ten meetings in the series are dead even at 5-5.
High flying Marblehead (5-0) has scored at least five touchdowns in each of its game this season. Headed into Hurd Stadium for tomorrow’s 2 p.m. kickoff, why should the Magicians be concerned offensively?
Mostly because Beverly’s historically been one of the better defenses against the spread under coach Dan Bauer. Over the last three seasons, the Panthers haven’t allowed more than three touchdowns in a game against either Marblehead or Swamspcott, the area’s premier spread offenses.
In fact, Beverly (1-3) has held Marblehead to 14, 13 and 14 points in the last three meetings, though the Magicians scored 39 and 33, respectively, in the two meetings prior to that. Swampscott hasn’t hung more than three TDs on Beverly since 2007.
Magicians QB Matt Millett had done an excellent job reading defenses so far this year and leading running back Brooks Tyrrell certainly adds a dimension beyond the passing game. Beverly has always had a knack for matching the pre-snap movements of any spread offense, and that’s the “game-within-the-game” to keep an eye on tomorrow afternoon.
Ex-Marblehead linebacker Josh Freedland, now a junior at Bates, had a game-winning interception in his own end zone last weekend to seal the Bobcats’ win over Williams.
It was his second career interception and made a memorable end to a game in which he recorded the first two sacks of his college career and also forced a fumble.
Freedland was one of the starting linebackers on Marblehead’s first Super Bowl team back in 2009.
The last time Danvers beat Lynn Classical was back in 2005, and ironically that was the also the last time the Falcon football team earned a conference championship. Those two things accomplishments could go together again this season should Danvers top the Rams tonight at Manning Field.
Both teams are unbeaten in league play and the winner would be the only Northeastern Conference South team without a league loss.
The keys to the game for Danvers will be containing the Rams rushing attack. Linebackers Michael Favreau and Marco Lagambina will have to play well for the Falcons, as Classical loves to use both power runs and misdirection to break big gainers.
A request for the folks at Peabody High: Yard lines. The grass at Coley Lee Field is only painted with markers every five yards, meaning there are no “dash marks” in between to indicate the individual yard lines. Thus, if the football is spotted between the 20 and the 25, it’s left to the reporters, statisticians, announcers and fans to guess if the ball is on the 22-yard line, or perhaps the 23.
Moving the Chains, a column on high school football, appears in The Salem News every Friday during the fall sports season. Contact assistant sports editor Matt Williams at 978-338-2669, MWilliams@salemnews.com and follow him on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN.
MASCO’S UNBEATEN 1963 SEASON
Lynn Tech 40-12
Essex Aggie 42-12