By Dom Nicastro
Another Friday night in Saugus. Another football victory. Sachem Nation can get used to this. Real fast.
The Sachems have begun the season 2-0 for the first time in recent memory, beating Northeast Metro Tech, 28-22, last Friday night. The Sachems showcased their prowess on the field all night, with Tommy DeSimone leading the charge with an impressive 140 yards on 28 carries and three touchdowns. The big news in this one was Saugus showed it can hang onto a lead in a high-pressure, back-and-forth contest. They blew past Chelsea in their opener, but the Sachems this time around showed they can win the close one and perform in the clutch.
“Our big thing was we had to start fast,” Cummings said. “We knew we had a couple of shots that we knew we wanted to take early. And we were able to execute on some of those things. The kids are excited. But now it’s about can you maintain this expectation? Are you going to start reading your own press clippings and allow yourself to kind of not put in the effort that it’s taken us for the first two weeks to get here. Or are we just going to keep our heads down and keep grinding and just treat every week like it’s the most important game that we have? Now that we have had the success that we’ve had for two weeks, I think the next part of it is just being able to manage that success and keep the same level of intensity that we’ve had.”
The game started with a bang as DeSimone made a 2-yard TD run in the first quarter, setting the tone for the Sachems. However, Northeast’s Chris Zullo quickly responded with a 66-yard run for a 6-6 tie. That, however, was as close as Northeast got.
The first quarter saw another 2-yard touchdown from DeSimone, this time with a successful 2-point conversion pass from Cam Preston to Isaiah Rodriguez, ending the quarter at 14-6 in favor of Saugus. The third quarter saw Saugus further its lead with a 47-yard touchdown pass from Preston to Rodriguez. Northeast closed the gap with Zullo’s 3-yard touchdown run, but Saugus maintained their lead. The fourth quarter was a nail-biter with both teams scoring (another TD, this time from 5 yards out, by DeSimone), but Saugus managed to hold its ground and secure the win.
Rodriguez had an outstanding game with 5 catches for 134 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown catch and a 2-point conversion reception. Quarterback Preston also showcased his skills, completing 11 out of 18 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown.
“We were able to go out and execute Friday night,” Saugus coach Steve Cummings said. “We had a game plan, and we were able to get out to a good start.” He emphasized the importance of starting strong and not playing catch-up, especially against a team like Northeast.
Cummings also praised DeSimone’s performance, noting his dedication to the sport. “Tommy’s the kind of kid who breathes and sleeps football,” Cummings said. “He’s a football guy. I texted him when I saw that he got picked for Boston Herald and Boston Globe players of the week, and his response to me was that he was going to have to buy the offensive line kids something because that’s all the work. He’s just that kind of kid where he gets it. He knows that he can’t run if they don’t make holes.”
While the offensive line – left tackle Ethan Malcolm, left guard Larry Barrows, center Braden Faiella, right guard Wilderson LaFortune (replacing injured Dwayne Williams) and right tackle Koby Jette – was tremendous again, Saugus’ skill players took care of things themselves, too.
LaFortune did well on each side of the ball. He and fellow defensive linemen Travis Goyetche, Dylan Clark and Ethan Malcolm were outstanding all night, causing problems for Northeast. Although they may not have got the great stat line, they sacrificed so their teammates could, Cummings said. “They were eating blocks and letting other guys make plays,” Cummings said. “That was the key to the entire football game. They sacrificed themselves.”
Cummings praised Rodriguez’s exceptional skills with his 134-yard receiving night, saying, “He’s got such a knack for getting the ball at the highest point. He’s such a competitor. He’s just such a natural. He’s so just fluid, and he just moves so well. And he has such great body control. We’ve seen it so many times that you’re almost unimpressed because it becomes routine when you see him do it as often as he does.”
Looking ahead, Coach Cummings discussed the challenges of the next opponent – Lynn Tech – which is also 2-0. It beat Chelsea, 26-0, and Malden, 20-14. Saugus goes on the road Saturday, Sept. 23 at 1 p.m. at Manning Field in Lynn to face Tech. Cummings emphasized the unique offensive strategies they’ll be up against. “They run a little bit of a funky offense,” he said. “It messes with your rules a little bit.”
Cummings is well aware of the challenges that lie ahead, expressing respect for the teams in Saugus’ league – Northeastern Conference Lynch, Saugus, Salem, Peabody and Gloucester have each begun 2-0, and Winthrop was a one-point loss away to a defending Super Bowl champion (St. Mary’s of Lynn) from being 2-0.
Saugus hosts Swampscott Friday, Sept. 29 (7 p.m.) before opening its league schedule at Salem Friday, Oct. 6 (6:30 p.m.).
“Our league is so tough,” Cummings said. “There are no easy outs. And it’s one of the things that makes it so good: every week you get competition.”
Box Score: Saugus 28, NE Voke 22.
Saugus: Tommy DeSimone 2 yard run (kick failed); 6-0.
Northeast: Chris Zullo 66 yard run (rush failed); 6-6.
Saugus: DeSimone 2 yard run (Cam Preston pass to Isaiah Rodriguez); 14-6.
Saugus: Preston 47 yard TD pass to Rodriguez (Connor Bloom kick); 21-6.
Northeast: Zullo 3 yard TD run (Zullo rush); 21-14.
Saugus: DeSimone 5 yard TD rush (Bloom kick); 28-14.
Northeast: Sam Lacombe 32 yard TD rush (Zullo rush); 28-22.
Game notes: Tommy DeSimone had 140 yards on 28 carries and three TD. Isaiah Rodriguez had five catches for 134 yards with a 47-yard TD catch and a two-point conversion reception. Cam Preston was 11-for-18 for 246 yards and a TD.