By Greg Phipps
With their coaching situation still in a state of uncertainty, the Saugus Sachems football team fell behind by three points last Friday night against the Northeast Metro Golden Knights in Wakefield. But similar to their effort the previous week at Amesbury, the Sachems rallied to make the contest close before dropping a 26-18 decision.
Trailing 26-6 early in the final quarter, quarterback Mason Nickolas connected with Christian Correia on TD passes of 36 and 15 yards. Saugus was unsuccessful on both point-after tries. In fact, they were unable to muster the PAT following all three of their touchdowns, which would have closed the gap even more. Saugus advanced into Northeast territory on its final possession but the drive stalled on an interception.
All told, Nickolas threw for 268 yards, completing 10 of 19 passes in the process. Receivers Correia (five receptions for 134 yards) and James Moise (three catches for 103 yards) both eclipsed the century mark in pass-catching yardage. Moise was the recipient of a 50-yard scoring strike from Nickolas in the second period.
“[The comeback effort] shows the heart the team has to never give up and keep fighting,” interim head coach Mike Mabee told the press after the contest. “They really stepped it up and kept fighting for the rest of the game.”
Mabee was the middle school head coach entering this season. He is filling the position vacated by Anthony Nalen, who was placed on administrative leave back on Aug. 30, pending a police investigation into an alleged hazing incident. Nalen was cleared of any criminal violation last week but is still awaiting a decision by the school administration on whether or not he is reinstated as head coach. Nalen’s assistant coaches have been let go, according to reports, while members of Mabee’s middle school coaching staff are assisting at the varsity level.
On Friday, the powerful running game of Northeast produced some time-consuming drives. All four of its scores came via the rush. The Sachems were looking up at a 14-6 disadvantage at halftime. The Golden Knights extended their lead to 20 with two second-half touchdowns.
“They had some big, bruising backs. Their [offensive] line handled us a bit,” Mabee observed. “Our guys toughened up in the second half. We moved a few guys around. We did a better job with that.”
Saugus, now 0-2 on the season, plays its home opener at Stackpole Field this Saturday (scheduled 1 p.m. kickoff) against the Salem Witches, who have started out strong at 2-0, outscoring opponents 50-19 over their first two games.