By David Willis
WEST NEWBURY — Its been the story all season for Pentucket football, and yesterday was no different.
It’s never easy, but when it matters most, the Sachems deliver.
Pentucket fell behind by 10 points early, but surged back behind a gritty offense and resilient defense to finish off Saugus 27-10 to remain undefeated and clinch the Cape Ann League Division 1 title.
“It’s just unreal,” said linebacker Josh Wesolowski. “At the beginning of the season, we knew we had some tough kids. But I never could have expected this. It’s really amazing. I really feel like it’s just hard work paying off right now.”
The victory gave Pentucket its first league title since 2002 with the CAL Division 1 crown. With one game remaining, the Sachems (5-0), are a victory better than Masconomet (4-2) and Triton (4-2), and own the tie-breaker since they have already beaten both teams.
With a victory over North Reading on Friday, Pentucket can lock down its first undefeated regular season since 2001, when the Sachems went 11-0 in the old season alignment on the way to a trip to the Super Bowl.
“It feels amazing,” said lineman Chad Legault. “I love these guys and I am just so happy. Saugus came out so tough but, when we needed to take over, we came our firing every play and made it happen.”
It was Saugus (1-5) that jumped out to the lead with a field goal in the first quarter and a touchdown early in the second for a 10-0 advantage.
“We really came out flat,” said running back/defensive back Jeff Porter.
“We had to get emotional and get physical. We made a couple of adjustments and started to play.”
It was Porter that broke the Sachems onto the scoreboard when he took a handoff and scampered 36 yards into the end zone for a touchdown midway though the second quarter. The Sachems seemed to take the lead one possession later when QB Ryan Kuchar connected with Andrew Noyes for a 25-yard score, but the play was called back for a penalty.
One play later, however, Kuchar lofted a pass into the end zone that running back D.J. Engelke brought in for a 40-yard score.
“I couldn’t believe he caught that,” said Legault. “I saw Ryan throw it up and I though it was going to get swatted down. But D.J. came up with an amazing catch and that was a huge momentum boost.”
The Sachems extended their advantage with 6:40 left in the game when Engelke struck for a 3-yard touchdown, and Porter finished off the scoring with a 17-yard run with 2:18 left.
Engelke finished the day with 47 rushing yards on nine carries and caught four passes for 97 yards.
“D.J. came up huge for us again, said Porter, who finished with a team-high 86 rushing yards. “He gave us some momentum that we needed.”
Leading the attack on defense was Wesolowski. The 140-pound inside linebacker was everywhere on the field against Saugus’ physical option attack, finishing with a team-high 14 tackles. Sean Clohisy was also a force with 10 tackles, freshman Pat Freiermuth added eight stops and Chris Croteau made an acrobatic interception that iced the win.
“We went to the locker room, fixed some stuff and came out hard like always,” said Wesolowski. “Everyone picked everyone else up.”
The Sachems close out the reconfigured regular season — not counting Thanksgiving, which has no playoff implications — when they visit North Reading on Friday.
“We are playing good, but we know every team is a challenge,” said Porter. “North Reading is, so we will be focused for next week.”
Pentucket 27, Saugus 10
Saugus (1-5): 3 7 0 0 — 10
Pentucket (5-0): 0 14 0 13 — 27
S — Jacob DeMonte 32 field goal, 3:32
S — Justin Winn 1 run (DeMonte kick), 7:48
P — Jeff Porter 36 run (Nick Zaia kick), 3:24
P — D.J. Engelke 40 pass from Ryan Kuchar (Zaia kick), 0:25
P — Engelke 3 run (kick failed), 6:40
P — Porter 17 run (Zaia kick), 2:18
RUSHING: P (34-182) — Jeff Porter 9-86, D.J. Engelke 9-47, Andrew Noyes 10-48, Noah Malhi 1-15, Pat Beaton 1-0, Kiernan Haley 1-0, Nick Arcadipane 1-(-1), Ryan Kuchar 2-(-13); S (35-156) — Justin Winn 12-94, Dan Cacciola 19-65, Seth Roy 2-(-1), Brandon Rolli 1-(-1), Ryan Clarke 1-(-1)
PASSING: P — Kuchar 5-9-0, 112; S — Winn 1-3-1, 1, Alex Pettanati 0-1-0
RECEIVING: P — Engelke 4-97, Liam Corkery 1-15; S — Pettanati 1-1