By Nick Curcuru
---- — DANVERS-- The Thanksgiving Day turkey ended up being extra tasty for the Gloucester football team Thursday.
That’s because the team came away with a hard fought, hard hitting and well earned 28-19 win over rival Danvers on the road at Deering Stadium.
The Fishermen, who picked up their third straight win to finish off the year at 4-7, made several clutch defensive plays in the second half and built a comfortable 22 point halftime lead holding off a late Danvers (5-6) surge to preserve the victory, the eighth straight Thanksgiving Day win for the Fishermen.
“That was Fishermen football out there, just fighting until the end,” Senior captain Mark Horgan said. “It was a physical game, (Danvers) thought they were back in it early in the second half with a couple of breaks but we made plays when we needed to. It was a really physical game, lots of hard hits and lots of hits after the whistle.”
Ahead 22-0 after a dominant first half, the Fishermen looked to be cruising to a win, out-gaining the Falcons 250-55 at the break. Danvers, however, showed a lot of heart playing itself back into the contest.
Three fourth down stops in the last two quarters and a big interception by Horgan, however, kept the game in Gloucester’s favor.
Horgan’s interception at midfield with the Falcons moving and trailing 22-13 with 6:00 to go in the third proved to be a turning point in the contest as Gloucester followed it up with a score to take a 28-13 lead.
On the ensuing Danvers drive Jordan Pallazola came away with what could have been the stop of the game, a fourth and one stop with Danvers driving at the Fishermen 26 yard line. Danvers went for it again on fourth down in the fourth quarter but senior captain Santo Parisi scooped up a failed pitch attempt to thwart another Danvers drive.
Lastly, Devin Hemon brought down Danvers quarterback Nick Andreas short of a first down at the Gloucester 35 to kill the Falcons’ final scoring attempt with under three minutes to go.
Running back Alex Valles raced 43 yards on the Falcons’ first second half possession to make it 22-6. On the very next drive Andreas hit Joe Thomas with a 58 yard score and made it a game at 22-13.
Danvers caught the Fishermen off guard switching from the wing-t it ran in the first half to an empty backfield spread offense in the second. Danvers scored on its first two possessions with it moving the ball at will, but the Fishermen defense adjusted and held strong for the remainder of the game.
“We changed the defense up after (Danvers) caught us off guard in the first series,” Gloucester head coach Tony Zerilli said. “We made some huge plays on defense after that, it was our pride coming through on each one of them.”
Gloucester responded after the Falcon cut it to 22-13 with a nice drive of its own culminating with a one yard run from Parisi to make it 28-13. It was a 35 yard run from Parisi that set up his score.
“We thought we had them a little too early,” Parisi admitted. “But those two scores woke us up. We knew if we got one more touchdown we would win. I just tried to be a vocal leader and get us back to playing our game.”
Late in the fourth quarter Danvers once again punched back thanks to a great individual effort from Valles hauling in a pass from Andreas, breaking tackles and scoring from 55 yards out on a play that Zerilli said was “a great player making a great play.” The all important two point try failed, meaning Danvers needed two scores in just over three minutes to win.
The Falcons would recover a beautifully executed onside kick to get the ball back in Fishermen territory, but the defense held one last time to preserve the win.
It was literally all Gloucester in the first half starting the game with three straight scores.
On Gloucester’s first drive of the day, junior running back John Curcuru (game high 165 yards rushing, 124 in the first half) raced 63 yards for a score, a Pallazola two point run made it 8-0 Fishermen.
Parisi scored his first of two touchdowns on the game on Gloucester’s next drive taking a quarterback keeper 29 yards to pay dirt giving his team a 14-0 lead after one quarter.
Curcuru would add another in the second quarter taking a sweep 28 yards to the house, a Parisi two point run made it 22-0, where it stood at the break.
“We were feeling it in the first half,” Horgan said. “Everybody was blocking, everybody was hitting and we did a great job reading the defense.”
Curcuru led the way for the Gloucester offense with 165 yards on the ground while Parisi and Pallazola added 76 and 75 yards each. Gloucester’s offensive line also played a good game against a tough and physical Falcons front four.
After starting off the year 1-7, Gloucester showed a ton of heart over the final three weeks of the year battling back and earning a win in each one of them. Parisi said he and his fellow seniors wanted to go out on a high note and pushed for every yard.
“It’s a great win over a tough team but at the same time it’s bitter sweet because this is it for most of us seniors,” Parisi said. “We knew what we could do and we brought the pride.”