DANVERS — By the time the Danvers High football team got the ball back for a second drive after scoring a quick touchdown on their opening possession, you could tell it was going to be a long night for their opponent.
Hosting a Division 3 North quarterfinal at Dr. Deering Stadium, the Falcons ran all over visiting Belmont, jumping out to a three score lead by halftime before waltzing their way to a convincing 41-7 triumph.
Brothers Rich and Russ Canova combined for 190 yards on the ground, the defense forced four turnovers (two interceptions, two fumbles) and special teams more than did its job all night in what was a complete team effort.
“I think the biggest thing I was proud of is that we were at the point where we came in at the end of the first half and the kids legitimately wanted to clean up the details,” said Falcons’ coach Ryan Nolan, his team now 8-0 as they move on to host Winchester next Friday with a spot in the sectional finals on the line.
“They were focused and it was about coming out and finishing the second half and improving. There’s a certain amount of maturity in these kids who have been there before and understanding what they want to do. I really saw that tonight with the seniors and that went down to the underclassmen as well.”
Winning the coin toss and opting to receive the opening kickoff, Danvers’ Chase Eary — who left the game in the third quarter with an apparent shoulder injury — got things started off on the right foot with a nice 40-plus yard to midfield. Two plays later, Russ Canova flew into the end zone from 44 yards out.
After forcing a Belmont punt, the Falcons put together a 12-play, 61-yard drive, capped off by a four yard plunge to paydirt from Rich Canova. All of a sudden, it was 14-0 Falcons before the first quarter horn had sounded.
“I thought Russ Canova ran the ball exceptionally hard; he did a great job,” said Nolan. “Usually he’s a blocker for his brother and everybody else but he did great with the opportunities we gave him.”
Leading 21-0 at the break thanks to a three yard touchdown scamper by Eary, Danvers picked up right where it left off in the second half. What may have been the game’s decisive play occurred on Belmont’s opening drive of the third frame: Rich Canova forcefully blocked a punt, watched the ball bounce all the way back into the end zone, and his teammate, Andrew Chronis, jumped on it for another score. Boom, 27-0 Falcons.
The Falcons’ lone defensive breakdown came on the ensuing Belmont possession, as they got burned for a 68-yard catch and run connection from Avery Arno to Preston Stephens.
Rich Canova and JP Kelter added touchdown runs of two and four yards, respectively, to round out the scoring, while James Carmilla and Rich Canova had the picks.
“We got some good contributions offensively from some guys you don’t always see get a ton of touches,” said Nolan. “I thought the line did a really good job being on people; the kids did a great job up front. (Quarterback) Ezra (Lombardi) made a couple of key throws when he had to, too.”