By Nick Curcuru
---- — GLOUCESTER — A slow start against a team notorious for playing its best football at home — especially on Thanksgiving — proved to be too much for Danvers to overcome.
The Falcons fell behind host Gloucester early on and were never able to get back into the contest, eventually falling, 49-22, at New Balance Track and Field at Newell Stadium.
Danvers head coach Sean Rogers could only tip his cap to the victors.
“They’re a good football team,” said Rogers, whose team finished the season 7-4. “We started slow and it’s tough to come back from a start like that. It started to snowball a little, we took some bad penalties and gave them a lot of stuff that kept drives going. It wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the game — but it certainly didn’t help.”
From the opening kickoff, Gloucester sent a message that yards were going to be tough to come by for the Falcons. The Fishermen forced six straight 3-and-outs to start the game while at the same time using the strong wind, which blew from the Annisquam River end zone towards Centennial Avenue, to tilt field position in their favor.
“(Gloucester) beat us to the point of attack and pursued faster than we did. They played better,” Rogers said.
In winning its ninth straight meeting in the all-time series, Gloucester (7-4) executed its game plan perfectly.
“We told (the seniors) they only had 44 minutes left of football, and every one of them used those minutes to the best of their ability, coming out from the start, playing well and playing hard,” Gloucester head coach Tony Zerilli said.
The Falcons offense came out in its standard Wing-T formation but couldn’t find any room to run, which forced them to switch to a spread look. It worked well a year ago in powering Danvers’ second half comeback attempt, but this year Gloucester was ready and shut it down completely.
“We really worked the spread at practice, knowing they realize we defend the Wing-T well and would have to go to something else,” said Zerilli.
Gloucester scored early and often. Quarterback Ian Kennedy capped off a six-play, 53-yard drive on Gloucester’s first possession with a 4-yard score. Senior captain Drew Shairs, a 290-pound lineman, added the conversion to make it 8-0.
The Falcons defense forced a punt on the next drive, but Gloucester answered by forcing a 3-and-out and partially blocked a Danvers punt, thus setting up shop at the Falcons’ 24. Two plays later, Conor Harris took a double reverse 24 yards for a touchdown, Shairs would add another conversion to make it 16-0.
Things went from bad to worse for Danvers from there. After yet another 3-and-out the snap went over the Danvers punter’s head and was downed at the 3-yard line. Jordan Pallazola scored from a yard out and another Shairs conversion made it 24-0. Jon Good added a 12-yard score on the ensuing drive before Danvers captain Alex Valles found the end zone from 28 yards out after the Fishermen fumbled a punt, making it 30-6 late in the first half.
But just before the break Kennedy hit Harris with a 19-yard pass and Shairs plunged in from a yard out with a half-second remaining, giving the Fishermen a 37-6 halftime lead.
John Curcuru raced 43 yards for a score to open the second half and Kennedy capped the scoring for the hosts with a 55-yard touchdown to make it 49-6 after three.
Danvers added a pair of fourth quarter scores on a 20-yard TD run from Valles and a 9-yard run from junior Chris Behen.
“The seniors have a lot to be proud of,” said Rogers. “They’ve done a lot to get better each year and won a championship in their last year. They have a lot to be proud of.”
Gloucester 49, Danvers 22
at Newell Stadium, Danvers
Danvers (7-4) 0 6 0 16 — 22
Gloucester (7-4) 16 21 12 0 — 49
G- Ian Kennedy 4 run (Drew Shairs run)
G- Conor Harris 24 run (Shairs run)
G- Jordan Pallazola 1 run (Shairs run)
G- Jon Good 12 run (run failed)
D- Alex Valles 28 run (pass failed)
G- Shairs 1 run (David Dimaio kick)
G- John Curcuru 43 run (kick blocked)
G- Kennedy 55 run (kick failed)
D- Valles 20 run (Anthony Cordoba run)
D- Chris Behen 9 run (Valles run)
RUSHING: Danvers — Alex Valles 13-102, Chris Behen 5-25, Anthony Cordoba 3-11, Nick Andreas 3-4, John Thomas 2-(-2); Gloucester — Ian Kennedy 4-101, Jon Good 11-100, Jordan Pallazola 10-53, Joh Curcuru 2-45, Conor Harris 4-33, Jake Latassa 2-14, John Salvi-Souza 4-14, Tyler Meunsaveng 3-12, Alex Enes 1-5, Joe Petrilli 1-5, Drew Shairs 1-1, Aiden Fitzgerald 1-0.
PASSING: Danvers — Andreas 4-14-23-0-1; Gloucester — Kennedy 2-3-24-0-0.
RECEIVING: Danvers — Valles 1-10, Cordoba 2-9, Thomas 1-4; Gloucester — Harris 1-19, Connor Adkins 1-5.