By Matt Williams
---- — LYNN — Danvers coach Sean Rogers decided to trust his defense with the game on the line against Lynn Classical last night.
A host of Falcons stopped Classical’s Devon Crayton on 4th-and-1 in Danvers territory with 42 seconds to play, and the Blue-and-White held on to top the Rams 29-26 at Manning Field.
The win, Danvers’ fourth straight, leaves the Falcons as the lone unbeaten team in Northeastern Conferfence South action. No fewer than a half-dozen visiting white jerseys were in on the final stop, with Drew Salvo, Andy Curtin and Dan Lynch leading the gang.
“Offense will win you games. Defense will win you more games,” said Rogers, who had all the faith that defense would make the stop after Danvers couldn’t execute a fake punt with 2:25 to go that gave Classical (2-3) the ball at their 45-yard line.
Rogers also stopped short of saying defense will win you championships, which is what the Falcons are closing in on with their first win over Classical since 2005. The Falcons are staying grounded even as both a Division 3 Northeast playoff berth and the NEC South banner are within their grasp.
“It comes from our captains,” Rogers said of the team’s grounded nature and maturity. “The team sees they believe it and they’re following. Look, this is one more step, but we have a lot of work to do and two very tough opponents in Salem and Winthrop left.”
“We’re getting there but we’re not there yet.”
The steps taken last night were a combination of offense, defense and clutch plays. Danvers scored two TDs in the fourth quarter last night; the first was a 23-yard strike from Nick Andreas to Anthony Cordoba that gave the Falcons the lead with 10:52 to go, and the second was a 21-yard burst by Chris Behen as Danvers looked to extend the lead, and did so at 29-20.
Captain Alex Valles led Danvers with 126 yards on 13 carries, including first half touchdowns of 53 and 10 yards. He also rushed for a pair of two-point conversions. Andreas threw for 90 yards, completing 7-of-11 passes, and the Falcons mixed passes, QB draws and inside and outside runs with superb effectiveness.
“We’re getting progression offensively where we can make more dynamic plays,” said Rogers. “Our bread and butter is that run. It set up everything.”
Danvers stopped Classical at the 12-yard line on fourth down in the second quarter to prevent the hosts from going ahead by two scores. They then marched 88-yards on 12 plays to go into halftime with a 15-14 lead (they converted for two after Classical took a penalty).
“We knew this would be a tough, fight type of game and that’s what it was,” said Rogers. “That stop and then to march down the field showed our kids we were prepared for the physical nature of this game. It gave us confidence we could withstand it.”
Classical went 49 yards and retook the lead to open the second half, but it took then 8:11 and 14 plays to do so. The drive was emblematic of a Danvers defense that was intent on allowing short gains but little else.
“We knew they’d line up foot-to-foot and pound it. We did a good job limiting those big plays,” said Rogers.
Crayton (game-high 157 yards on 23 carries) broke free for a 53-yard score with 2:50 to play to make things interesting at 29-26. But the Falcon defense got the stop to seal the win.
There were almost too many Danvers defenders making big plays to list: Linebacker Michael Favreau had an outstanding game with a dozen tackles. Senior Ryan Chasse came up with a tackle-for-loss in the shadow of his own goal line, junior Joe O’Donnell had a sack and Lynch had a timely tackle-for-loss. Freshman Matt Andreas had two passes-defended, including one on a two-point conversion try.
“The unsung heroes of this game were the defensive line,” Rogers said. “They kept the blockers off our linebackers and allowed them to make plays.”