By David Willis
WEST NEWBURY — After watching Pentucket fullback Andrew Noyes bust through the line for yet another first down, an exasperated Watertown defender looked at his teammates with confusion.
“We know what they’re going to do,” he screamed. “Why can’t we stop it?”
Like so many teams that have lined up against the Sachems this season, they may have known the plan, but they could do nothing to slow the Green and White.
Top-seeded Pentucket burst out to a 14-point first-half lead and surged to a 23-13 victory over Watertown in the Division 4 North semifinals yesterday in front of approximately 1,000 fans.
The victory sends the Sachems to the Division 4 North final, where they will host No. 3 Bedford on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
“It’s just crazy,” said quarterback/defensive back Ryan Kuchar. “It’s so awesome we have made it this far and we have earned everything. It’s really the greatest feeling in the world. It’s unreal.”
Senior tri-captain Chris Croteau admitted that even he was stunned that the Sachems — who many assumed were facing a rebuilding season in 2013 — were now two wins away from playing for a Super Bowl title at Gillette Stadium.
“Part of me still can’t believe it,” said the guard/linebacker. “It’s a little unexpected, but I am so happy. We came out firing today and everyone on this team deserves it.”
The Sachems wasted little time taking control yesterday.
Watertown took the opening kickoff and marched to the Pentucket 23-yard line, but defensive back Liam Corkery intercepted Raiders QB Nick Giordano to kill the opportunity.
The Sachems then set out on a 12-play, 60-yard drive that ate up more than six minutes and ended with a 20-yard touchdown run by fullback Andrew Noyes.
“Scoring first was such a huge key to the momentum of the game,” said Kuchar. “We score that first one and it really helped our confidence.”
Noyes then added to the advantage with 1:18 left in the first half on a 5-yard touchdown, set up by a 47-yard run by dynamic halfback D.J. Engelke.
“It was honestly the weirdest feeling scoring those two (touchdowns),” said Noyes. “It’s like nothing else. You are so happy and so excited. I think the momentum really pushed us through the rest of the game.”
Watertown seemed to grab some of that momentum when it scored a touchdown with five seconds remaining in the first half. But the Sachems struck right back to start the second half, with Engelke scoring on a 5-yard touchdown run.
The Raiders responded again with a touchdown late in the third, and forced the Sachems into a pair of punts. But Kuchar was able to bury Watertown at its 9-yard line with a perfect punt, downed by tackle machine Josh Wesolowski.
One play later, sophomore Noah Malhi flew off the edge to sack Giordano in the end zone for a safety with 3:41 left, his second sack of the day which all but sealed the victory. Chad Legault added a sack of his own to officially lock up the win a possession later.
“I feel amazing,” said Wesolowski, who made a team-high 12 tackles. “I got pretty banged up, but it’s all worth it. I love this. We came out on D and played hard. We have had close games in the past. Triton, Newburyport, Masco. They all ended in the red zone. So we are used to it.”
Engelke led the offense with 104 yards and one score and Noyes added 73 yards and his two TDs.
Along with Wesolowski, Croteau added eight tackles, freshman Pat Freiermuth added a sack and Legault had eight tackles.
The Sachems now face No. 3 seed and Dual County small champ Bedford, which upset No 2 seed Lynnfield 14-7 in the North semis.
“Coach (Steve) Hayden always says you never know what you are capable of,” said Wesolowski. “We have a very good team and we can’t wait for next weekend.”
Pentucket 23, Watertown 13
Watertown (5-4): 0 7 6 0 — 13
Pentucket (7-1): 7 7 7 2 — 23
P — Andrew Noyes 20 run (Nick Zaia kick), 0:51
P — Noyes 5 run (Zaia kick), 1:18
W — T.J Hairston 5 pass from Nick Giordano (Erik Antonellis kick), 0:05
P — D.J. Engelke 5 run (Zaia kick), 7:18
W — Mike Petrillo 5 run (kick failed), 0:52
P — Safety, Noah Malhi sacks QB in end zone, 3:41
RUSHING: P (35-211) — D.J. Engelke 10-104, Andrew Noyes 13-73, Ryan Kuchar 6-29, Jeff Porter 6-5; W (22-52) — Mike Petrillo 13-46, Austin Farry 5-28, Nick Giordano 4-(-22)
PASSING: P — Kuchar 3-6-0, 30; W — Giordano 16-27-1, 186
RECEIVING: P — Liam Corkery 2-18, Porter 1-12; W — Farry 6-110, T.J. Hariston 5-42, Matt Donnell 5-34