SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

August 23, 2010

The Master From Maine

Perrone restored the pride to Salem to become one of the Witches' all-time greats

(Continued)

"What coach Perrone was doing for us, we channeled our energy and it made us more hungry to go out there and beat them."

Salem had been having loads of success with the ground game up to that point in the season, so Swampscott stacked the line defensively by putting nine men in the box. Perrone opted to open up the passing game and Stellato responded with a breakout day. In the end, Perrone was able to keep his Witches focused as they stunned the Big Blue 16-8.

Long before then, Perrone had cemented himself as one of the greatest and most innovative football coaches in North Shore history. Coming to the Witch City from Maine in 1973, he amassed a 151-64-7 record in 22 years, with only three losing seasons — and those losing seasons were barely that, as his clubs went 4-5-1 in its worst years.

Emotional ending

The strike continued the following week as Salem hit the road to face two-time defending NEC champion Winthrop. The Witches got off to a slow start and trailed 21-6 heading into the final quarter, but rallied and on the final play of the game Stellato heaved a Hail Mary pass to receiver Manny DePena, who came down with a miracle catch in the end zone to make it 21-20.

Instead of an extra point to tie the game and send it to overtime, Perrone opted to give Elvin Rodriguez the ball on a sweep behind 300-pound offense tackle Willie Jones with Stellato lead blocking. When the 'E-Train' dove into the end zone for the 22-21 win, pandemonium ensued on the Salem sideline.

The strike ended four days later on Nov. 16 as the team prepared for its yearly Thanksgiving Day battle against 7-2 Beverly. Salem led 10-7 the entire second half until late in the fourth quarter when, on a 4th-and-1 from their own 28-yard line, Panther running back Jimmy Fultz fell into the pile of linemen and appeared to be down. However, his knees hovered inches above the grass at Hurd Stadium and he emerged from the pile to beat the stunned Salem players in a foot-race 72 yards to paydirt. A botched extra point left the Witches trailing, 13-10, with under a minute left in the game.

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