DANVERS — As Matt McCarthy waited for the kickoff that would begin his senior season with the Danvers High football team, he recalled first thinking of being in this moment nearly a decade earlier.
“I’d been thinking about it since third grade,” said McCarthy. “I knew once that ball was up in the air, it was game over.”
The senior captain took that kick on his own 7-yard line, eluded a few Masconomet defenders and raced 93 yards the other way to paydirt, setting the stage for the Falcons’ season opening 28-14 win over Masconomet at Morse Field.
“My boys were blocking for me,” continued McCarthy, “and all I had to do was run fast and straight.”
“It was really unbelievable,” added fellow captain Brendan Treacy, who had a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a score while throwing another. “But I’ve seen him make plays like that many times, so it wasn’t that surprising.”
Capitalizing on a pair of Masconomet turnovers, Danvers shot out to a 22-0 lead at halftime and saw that advantage grow to 28-0 before the Chieftains made it respectable on a pair of Jay Theriault (145 yards rushing) scoring runs.
“There’s a belief when you see an athlete make a play like that,” Danvers head coach Ryan Nolan of McCarthy’s opening play exploits. “It was huge emotionally.”
It was the opposite feeling, naturally, on the Masconomet sidelines. The Chieftains later saw a fake punt go by the wayside, setting up Danvers’ second score; a backwards pass that was fumbled away, allowing the hosts to recover and score one play later; and another fumble, this one on the opening kickoff of the second half, which again the Blue-and-White turned into points.
“Inexperience caught up with us early,” said Masconomet head coach Gavin Monagle. “(Danvers) is an experienced team and showed it. They knew what they wanted to do and did it. They stuck to their game plan pretty well.
“That kickoff return ... there’s not much you can say about that. It was awful; we had a lot of missed gaps.”
The Falcons carried the play in the trenches for the majority of the contest before Masconomet got its footing late and began to get traction. Sophomore tackle Andrew Chronis, junior Jacob Stone, and seniors Robbie Murphy, Lance Ledesma and Ron Remotigue all turned in solid outings.
McCarthy, who finished with 93 yards rushing on 19 carries and caught three passes for 47 yards — good for 233 all-purpose yards — praised not only his linemen for their job opening holes, but also fullbacks Jack Strangie (who had a pair of 2-point conversions) and Russ Canova.
After diffusing Masconomet’s attempted fake punt, the Falcons drove 43 yards in eight plays to make it 14-0, with Treacy taking it in from a yard out. When senior cornerback Kyle Little fell on a Chieftains’ fumble on that backwards pass at their 7-yard line, McCarthy took advantage right away by shooting up the gut for a 7-yard score.
“We try to tell the kids that the ball bounces to the kids that hustle most,” said Nolan, “and that you never know when it’s going to happen, but you never take a play off because that’s the play it’ll be on the ground. It’s a mindset they have .... they’re working hard and they made the plays.”
Following the second half kickoff fumble recovery, Treacy rolled to his right on 3rd-and-8 from the Masconomet 15 and found Justin DiTomaso in the flat. The senior tight end caught the ball at the 2 and stretched his arms out so that the football crossed the goal line before he was knocked out of bounds, making it 28-0.
Theriault, who carried the ball 28 times, capped off an 11-play, 65-yard drive to get his team on the scoreboard late in the third quarter, then scored from seven yards out with 7:29 to play. Masconomet reached the Danvers 19-yard line on its final drive with four minutes and change remaining, but the hosts held firm and ran out the clock from there.