By Phil Stacey
---- — SAUGUS — It’s time to get the Danvers Express back on track.
And in order for that the happen, a return to the basics is needed.
For the second straight weekend the Falcons were derailed at the point of attack, chewed up on the ground and left staring at the short end of the scoreboard. This time, it was a 24-14 setback to a much improved Saugus team at overcast Stackpole Field.
“A frustrating day,” was how head coach Sean Rogers began his postgame remarks, and his sentiment couldn’t have been more apropos.
Using its triple option attack with precision and discipline, Saugus slashed up the Falcons to the tune of 358 rushing yards while averaging seven yards a carry. Senior Ismael Minaya was a bull in rushing for 167 yards and a score on 18 carries, while the elusive C.J. Randolph picked his spots wisely while running out of the quarterback spot and gained 125 yards on 23 carries.
The Sachems’ offensive line got off their blocks quickly and got low enough to win the leverage battle most of the afternoon, further frustrating the Falcons. Slow feet on both sides of the DHS line hurt, too, against a Sachems (3-1) squad that moved the ball up and down the field while taking valuable time off the clock.
A microcosm of Saugus’ effort on this day came from senior captain Tom Trainor. As the leader of his team’s offensive line, Rogers called him “an animal” as the 5-foot-11, 225-pounder opened huge holes for his backs to plow through all four quarters. When it came time to switch over to defense, Trainor tore it up at linebacker.
“We executed exactly the way we hoped to do,” admitted Saugus head coach Mike Broderick. “Our system is predicated on discipline and guys knowing their assignments, and the will to grind it out and get it done. We did that very well (Saturday).”
When Danvers did possess the football, they had trouble moving it. The numbers show they finished with 243 yards of offense, but those totals are skewered by their two touchdown plays: a 60-yard run by speedy sophomore John Thomas off a double-reverse, and a 48-yard touchdown pass from junior Ryan Chasse to wideout Jake Cawlina, coming on a fly pattern in which the senior captain out-leaped his man at the Saugus 15-yard line and walked into the end zone untouched.
Aside from those two plays, Danvers managed just 135 yards on 34 plays. The Blue-and-White’s bread-and-butter plays — jet sweep, power, traps — sputtered on Saturday afternoon.
“The effort was there; it’s that we had a lot of breakdowns in assignments,” said Rogers. “They had our guys’ heads spinning at times with their option, and guys were trying to do other guys’ jobs instead of just focusing on their own.”
No, the sky isn’t falling. The Falcons haven’t morphed from a team that went 2-0 and scored 84 points in its first two contests into one that has suddenly forgotten how to run, pass and tackle.
For those looking for a quick history lesson, the 2004 Danvers High club lost its fourth game of that season to drop to 2-2 — and didn’t lose another regular season game the rest of the way, winning the school’s first Northeastern Conference title in 63 years in the process. So all is not lost.
But there are holes that need to be patched up. A return to properly running the team’s 6-7 base plays is a good start, said Rogers, something they’ll hammer home in practice this week.
Before hitting the road this Saturday against a Lynnfield (1-2) team that’s had two weeks to prepare for them, the Falcons need to rediscover the elixir that got them off to such a flying start this season.
Whether or not they’re able to depends on their execution.
Plain and simple.
Phil Stacey is the sports editor of The Salem News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 978-338-2650 and on Twitter @PhilStacey_SN.