Hanover had to pass a big test to earn a Division 5 Super Bowl appearance.
The top seed in the D5 bracket received all it could handle from a physically imposing Danvers squad in the state semifinals Saturday at Weston High, but prevailed, 27-24, to set up a showdown with second-seeded Foxborough for the state title (date/time TBA).
Under first-year head coach Brian Kelliher, Hanover has a chance to win its second Super Bowl since 1976.
“Danvers is a tough, physical team and they tried to shorten the game on us with the running game,” said Kelliher, who served as defensive coordinator last season under Chris Landolfi and has been a Hanover assistant since 2017.
“We had to fight. They punched us in the mouth several times. I’m really proud of how we matched their physicality. We haven’t faced a team like that all year, and our kids competed.”
Hanover opened the season with a 28-18 win over rival Duxbury, then rolled to nine more wins while averaging 37.4 points and allowing 12.2 points per game.
Brandon Errico put the Hawks (11-0) ahead early with a 65-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff, but Danvers (7-4) routinely fought back with Owen Gasinowski (149 scrimmage yards) leading the charge.
The senior tailback provided a 32-yard touchdown pass to Mike Kasprzak to give Danvers an 18-12 lead in the third quarter, and rushed for a 17-yard touchdown to make it 24-19 Falcons early in the fourth quarter.
Each time they fell behind, Ben Scalzi and Hanover answered. The senior quarterback finished 14-of-20 passing for 220 yards and three touchdowns, including a 3-yard touchdown to Owen Cross in the third, and a dart to Mekhi Bryan for a 34-yard touchdown early in the fourth, which proved to be the winner.
Vinny Mancini added 90 yards rushing, and had a team-leading 15 tackles. The Hawks denied Danvers on fourth down to seal the victory.
“Our offensive and defensive line, they were outmanned, but they kept matching their physicality,” said Kelliher.
“We started the year and we just focused on playing Duxbury, and that’s where it all built from. We never looked ahead. We took it one step at a time and it built. Chris [Landolfi] did a great job building this program on being a family, and that’s what these kids are.”