By Matt Jenkins Staff Writer
The Salem News
---- — Danvers football coach Sean Rogers is a little weary about believing in momentum when it comes to the Falcons.
Rogers doesn’t deny its existence, but he knows momentum can change direction faster than a talented running back in the open field. So, banking on a little carry-over from week to week is not something the Falcons head coach subscribes to.
If the Falcons were living on recent accomplishments, then they’d have to feel pretty good about where they stand heading into tomorrow night’s game at Marblehead (7 p.m.).
Danvers is coming off an impressive 35-7 win over Swampscott to pull even (1-1) in Northeastern Conference/Cape Ann League Tier 2 play. Marblehead, meanwhile, was dealt its first defeat of the year when Salem stunned the Magicians last Friday night.
“That can be a good thing or a bad thing,” Rogers said about each team’s current streak. “It’s a little more momentum for us, but coming into this game they’re going to be fired up, especially the way they came back in the second half against Salem. They probably feel like if they did more in the first half they should have won. They’re probably going to have more of an edge.”
The Falcons should not be overlooked in this competitive conference.
Unbeaten Beverly has been rolling over the competition all year and sits in the Tier 2 driver seat, but Danvers gave the Panthers a battle just a couple weeks ago. The Falcons hung tight in the first half before falling 35-13.
“I think that was eye-opening,” Rogers said. “We were executing in the first half and besides one touchdown on special teams, it was a 14-7 game and we had the ball. Our players came out in the second half and rather than continue to push the issue to win it felt like they played not to lose. Against a good football team you have to play to win. I think we did that against Swampscott.”
Danvers (4-4 overall) doesn’t control its own destiny, but the Falcons aren’t giving up the fight.
“We still fully believe we can make the playoffs,” senior wide receiver/defensive back Jake Cawlina said. “Anything can happen and we need to keep a good attitude.”
Of course, Marblehead (7-1 overall, 1-1 NEC/CAL Tier 2) now finds itself in the same boat as the Falcons, looking up the standings at Beverly.
A hungry, angry Marblehead team is dangerous.
“We have to really do a good job defensively,” Rogers said. “Their quarterback (Ian Maag) spreads you out and he’s a threat to run. The defensive line needs to control the offensive linemen and the defensive backs have to respect the pass and do their job.”
Playing with the same effort that they did against Swampscott could also carry the Falcons a long way this week.
“I think we were just being aggressive and I know defensively there was not one person tackling somebody,” Danvers senior captain and two-way lineman Joe Manson said. “We had six or seven heads to the ball. Up front we were hitting our blocks and the backs were running really hard.”
As much as Marblehead is capable of spreading the ball out, Danvers has proven to be a balanced offensive team this fall.
Alex Valles and Alex Grant have received the bulk of the carries out of the backfield, and the duo has not disappointed. The duo has produced similar numbers so far, with Valles carrying the ball 75 times for 535 yards and six touchdowns. Grant has 76 carries for 524 yards and seven scores.
John Thomas has chipped in with 358 yards rushing, and the Danvers passing game has come around recently with the emergence of quarterback Nick Andreas. The sophomore signal caller has completed 35 of 62 passes for 338 yards and a pair of scores. Cawlina has been the best target on the outside for Danvers with 20 receptions for 244 yards and four touchdowns.
Perhaps the biggest surprise this season, however, has been the play of Duncan D’Hemecourt on the defensive side of the ball. He has been a breakout player at linebacker for the Falcons, and his play tomorrow night could be a crucial factor.
“He’s been phenomenal at linebacker. He’s plugging every interior hole and climbing over the top on outside runs. What you can’t coach is that he gets over the pressure, plugs hard in the middle and beats down blocks,” Rogers said. “We saw some real positive things last year and we knew he’d get better, but he’s been playing at a level that’s tough to plan for.”