When preseason camp opened in August, Manny Gasca had barely been cleared to practice. Now the Georgetown senior is the leading rusher for the Pentucket/Georgetown co-op, which is off to a 2-0 start after grinding out a 24-16 overtime win Friday at North Reading, the reigning Division 5 state champions.
Gasca provided the winning 3-yard touchdown in overtime and Georgetown junior Shawn Thomey led the Panthers to a goal-line stop at the end of regulation with key pass breakups. In all, there are 11 players from Georgetown on the roster, and Pentucket co-coach Dan Leary said they’ve caught up to speed after the co-op was formed this summer.
“It was a little tricky getting those guys signed up and physicals [registered], but our Pentucket players were great in welcoming them,” said Leary, who is coaching along with 42-year veteran Steve Hayden.
“They came over motivated, and focused, and now they’re part of Pentucket football,” Leary said. “It’s not like there’s players from two teams playing together. Now it’s like everyone feels like they’re part of the same team, pulling the same rope.”
In addition to their varsity contributions, players from Georgetown have helped fill out the depth for Pentucket’s program on the nonvarsity squad, giving the team sufficient numbers to run intrasquad scrimmages and get starters a break from special teams on gameday.
“The co-op has helped immensely,” said Hayden. “And we’re giving kids [from Georgetown] a chance to play, so it’s a great opportunity for them, and for us. The new guys all made big plays and they’ve been a big part of our success so far.”
Dracut back in the game
Dracut did not know it would have a football team until just before the season when the administration formed a co-op with Innovation Academy of Tyngsborough, but the Middies still came out ready in their first matchup, trouncing English High 38-0.
Just the 20 players from Dracut were eligible, since the other players didn’t have the requisite practices, but among them were sophomore Ryan Cole (9-of-13 passing, 206 yards, 3 touchdowns) and senior Andre Bouras (53-yard pick-6 and 72-yard TD catch).
“I think they always believed that it was going to happen,” Dracut coach Jermaine McKenzie said. “Emotions were up and down during this time, but they always believed that it would happen. They stuck together this year. This has been a unifying experience for them.”
The defense was “lights out,” applying what the third-year coach is looking to do.
“I was happy for the kids. They’ve been working hard,” he said. “They’ve been really jelling together. Everybody’s bought in, and we’re having fun while we’re doing it.”
⋅ Duxbury coach Matt Landolfi views his two quarterbacks as complementary. During Thursday’s 21-17 nonleague win at No. 18 Mansfield, both signal callers made the most of their opportunities to help the 13th-ranked Dragons (1-1). In the first half, starting quarterback Trevor Jones, a junior, rushed for a 2-yard touchdown and connected with senior Zachary Falls for a 13-yard TD through the air.
Senior QB Finn Carley delivered in crunch time, rushing for a go-ahead 7-yard score for a 20-17 lead with 7:13 remaining.
“They both are starting on defense, so we’re trying to just get whoever is freshest out on the field,” Landolfi said.
Despite competing for reps, there’s no animosity between the QBs.
“Trevor is a great QB and he’s my teammate just like anyone else,” Carley said. “When he’s on the field, I’m going to root for him no matter what. When I get out there, I just do what I can to make plays and make the most of my opportunities.”
⋅ Mansfield held a moment of silence before the second half of its home opener to honor head coach Mike Redding’s mother, Marilyn Redding, 83, who died shortly after training camp began Aug. 24 . . . St. John’s Prep held a moment of silence prior to its home opener for longtime Salem News reporter Jean DePlacido, 80, who died in July.
⋅ Peabody senior Domenic Scalese kicked a 38-yard field goal and added four extra points during a 31-14 win over Lynn Classical to become the program’s all-time leading scorer with 109 points . . . Catholic Memorial’s 30-game win streak came to an end with a 35-2 loss at Cardinal Newman (Fla.), leaving Wakefield as the school with the longest win streak in the state at 17 games.
⋅ The MIAA football committee will meet Monday at 11:30 a.m. in Franklin. The committee recommended a new playoff proposal to the Tournament Management Committee in June.
Week 3 Games to Watch
Friday, Springfield Central at Xaverian, 7 p.m. — The Golden Eagles appear to be on a mission after losing to St. John’s Prep in the D1 Super Bowl last December. But the Hawks are more balanced than ever with Henry Hasselbeck under center to complement a strong running game.
Friday, Franklin at Duxbury, 7 p.m. — The Dragons bounced back from a season-opening loss to score a huge win at Mansfield, and now they take on another Hockomock League power before heading into add Patriot end League play.
Friday, Milton Academy at BB&N, 7 p.m. — The Independent School League schedule kicks off this weekend with BB&N hosting a rare night game under the new lights at Filippello Park in Watertown.
Friday, Mansfield at Marshfield, 7 p.m. — These are two of the best 0-2 programs to be found in the state and both teams will be desperate to get in the win column in this nonleague battle.
Saturday, Billerica at Central Catholic, 1:30 p.m. — Finally set to open at home after a two challenging two-game road games trip to start their season, the Raiders face off with a tough Billerica squad that is among the contenders in the Merrimack Valley Conference.
Correspondents Brad Joyal and AJ Traub contributed to this story.