Despite playing the second-most difficult schedule in the state, according to the MIAA power ratings system, the Danvers football team remains undefeated.
The Falcons (8-0) have churned out several close wins behind a disciplined defense and a stout offensive line, which is full of second-generation stars.
Left tackle Jacob Stone, right tackle Ben Glynos, right guard Ben Wilichoski, and freshman tight end/long snapper Aris Xerras are all the sons of former Falcon players.
If in attendance this Friday night when top-seeded Danvers hosts fourth-seeded Winchester (7-1) in a Division 3 North semifinal, their fathers might recognize another former Falcon patrolling the opposing sideline.
Winchester coach Wally Dembowski starred as a wide receiver at Danvers and then at Holy Cross after graduating in 1984. The former president of Danvers Little League, who still lives in town, recently steered the Sachems to their first playoff win in the new format, but recognizes the formidable challenge ahead.
“Nowadays, with all these one-back offenses, [Danvers] is going back to what most teams were doing in the 80s,” said Dembowski, the cousin of Milton coach Steve Dembowski.
“We haven’t faced a team that can run like this all year. They’re 8-0 for a reason and they’ve beaten a lot of good teams.”
Danvers coach Ryan Nolan grew up in Stoneham, where his father became friendly with legendary Woburn coach Rocky Nelson. Watching Woburn face Winchester every Thanksgiving and learning the basics from Nelson might have factored into Nolan’s coaching style.
“With our program, we teach the same things that were taught to good teams in the ‘40s, ‘70s, or ‘80s,” said Nolan, who spent three years as the Falcons defensive coordinator before becoming head coach in 2017.
“We want to get the best out of the kids, get them to believe they’re playing for something greater than the individual. Having pride in your town makes it easier for them to work hard and sacrifice.”
Stone, the son of former Boston University standout Shawn Stone, showcased that town pride when he decided not to follow his older brother to St. John’s Prep, instead electing to attend public school.
Along with Wilichowski, a third-generation Falcon whose grandmother actually drives the team bus, the 6-foot-4, 285-pound Stone is now looking to carve out his own legacy by helping Danvers to its first state title.
“I’m so proud to be a Danvers Falcon and play for this team,” said Stone. “We all have great Danvers pride. We’re following in [our father’s] footsteps, but we’re making our own path.”