DANVERS — Changing the culture of a high school football program is a somewhat abstract idea, yet taking down a powerful conference foe for a second consecutive week can make it quite tangible.
For Lynn Classical, storming into Deering Stadium and upending previously undefeated Danvers, 28-14, one week after edging an excellent Gloucester team, represents a huge leap forward for a Rams program that’s spent the past several years dwelling in the cellar of the Northeastern Conference.
“There’s no magic pill; no magic trick. We just came in here and talked about working hard,” said Classical first-year coach Brian Vaughan. “You’re going to get out of it what you put into it, and if you go 120 miles per hour all the time you might not win every game, but you’ll get positive results.”
A former assistant at Everett High, Vaughan employs a similar up-tempo offense at Lynn Classical (5-0) with junior quarterback Keith Ridley running the show and the 6-foot-3-inch, 215-pound signal caller repeatedly gashed the Falcons on the ground.
These two defensive stalwarts entered Week 5 having allowed just 40 points combined. The Danvers first-team defense had yet to give up a single point over four wins, but that changed quickly when Ridley burst down the sideline on a quarterback keeper for a 38-yard score early on.
In the fourth quarter, Ridley capped a nine-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to make it a two-possession game, and sealed it with a backbreaking run up the middle on fourth and 21 for another 38-yard touchdown, finishing with 197 rushing yards.
“[Ridley]’s a big guy and we came in saying we were going to ride his coattails, “said Vaughan. “We were able to wear [the Falcons] down a little bit, but that was a tough, physical team that kept coming until the end.”
Danvers (4-1) failed to come away with points on two drives deep into Rams territory, but captain Tahg Coakley — determined to craft a highlight on senior night — blocked a Classical punt and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown to make it 7-7 midway through the second quarter.
While turnovers gave life to the hosts, they also took it away.
Danvers lost two fumbles deep in Rams territory and quarterback Justin Mullaney threw an interception right into the chest of Classical senior captain Ishmael Johnson for a 48-yard pick-6 to open the second-half scoring.
That opened a lead for the visitors and made it possible for Ridley and the Rams running game to put another win on ice.