By Matt Williams Staff writer
The Salem News
---- — DANVERS — During a five-week road trip in which they won just one game, the Danvers High football team often played well for quarters and halves, but not entire games.
Returning to Dr. Deering Stadium was the perfect opportunity for the Falcons to put together 44 solid minutes, and they did so in resounding fashion with a thorough 35-7 win over Swampscott.
Running backs Alex Valles (162 yards) and Alex Grant (109 yards) each went over the century mark on the ground and scored two touchdowns a piece as the Falcons (4-4) amassed 378 rushing yards.
“All year we’ve been preaching playing physical football all the way through and we did that for 44 straight minutes tonight,” said Danvers coach Sean Rogers. “That’s so important in divisional play because its pedal to the metal all the time.”
Danvers snapped Swampscott’s three game winning streak, dropping the Big Blue to 4-4. The win also snapped a seven game skid against Swamspcott and was Danvers’ largest in the series since 1982.
For the Falcons’ 18 seniors, who were honored before the game in a Senior Night presentation, getting such a satisfying win over a program like Swampscott could be a benchmark victory.
“This class has been through a lot. They’re trying to build us back up and they fully bought into winter and summer conditioning,” said Rogers. “We’re not there yet, but we’re trying and where we are is a reflection on the seniors.”
Seniors like Joe Manson and Connor Morrison opened huge holes on the offensive line all night. Speedy backs like Valles and Jon Thomas found lane outside, and when the Big Blue took those away, Grant was ready to hit them up the middle.
“We got exactly what we deserved, which was a pounding,” said Swampscott coach Steve Dembowski. “It was complete domination from top to bottom. We thought we had a good plan and we didn’t. Danvers outcoached us and outplayed us.”
Danvers opened the scoring with Grant’s 9-yard touchdown run in the first. Aided by senior Jake Kobierski’s interception of Swampscott QB Brian Santry, the Falcons added two more scores in the final 3:52 of the first half to pull away.
The first came on a 24-yard romp by Grant. Swampscott then turned it over on downs near midfield, and Danvers’ sophomore QB Nick Andreas completed two passes to Valles along the sidelines and then scampered for 12-yards to set up first and goal.
Valles capped the 2-minute drill with a 5-yard score that put the hosts in complete command, 21-0.
“Our backs did a tremendous job hitting the holes and running down hill,” said Rogers.
The Big Blue were on the move after halftime but fumbled the ball away at the Danvers’ 39-yard line. The Falcons responded with another scoring drive, this one capped by Cawlina’s artful TD catch on a 11-yard strike from Andreas.
Santry (10-of-16, 90 yards plus 53 yards rushing) hit fellow Big Blue captain Josh Rothwell with a 12-yard score to put the Big Blue on the board. Generally, though, Swampscott had no answer for Danvers’ defense.
“We tried to win the game on every play,” said Dembowski. “We got dominated every where, both up front and in the secondary.”
Valles showcased his speed on a 60-yard TD run to cap the scoring and put any hopes of a Big Blue comeback to bed with 1:53 left in the third. Anthony Garron hit all five PATs for the hosts.
Danvers used eight ballcarriers and averaged 7.6 yards per carry, a credit to their dominant offensive line. Defensively, Manson and senior Justin Woodbury had sacks.
“The staff challenged the line to put the game on their shoulders and control it, and the guys responded with a good job in the trenches,” said Rogers.