DANVERS – The old saying goes that defense wins championships. After scoring 58 points combined its first two games, the Reading football team needed its defense in crunch time on Friday night.
Clinging to a 14-10 lead in the final minute, the Rockets watched as a pass interference call on 4th-and-10 turned into a first down conversion for Danvers from its own 1-yard line. Moments later after a second 4th-down conversion, Danvers quarterback Travis Voisine had a snap sail over his head at his own 16 on 4th-and-long. He scrambled around & heaved a pass to an open receiver. There was also a horse collar on the play to move Danvers over midfield.
With 1:01 left and the ball at the Reading 27, Brendan Lindmark intercepted a pass on the sideline to secure the pulse-pounding 14-10 win.
“Play the coverage right and play the defense the way it’s drawn up,” said Reading head coach John Fiore when asked what the message was to his team as Danvers was moving in for the game-winning score. “Business was being done a certain way out there, we had some calls with us, some went against us, we just had to keep playing and pay the next down.”
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Lindmark. “Our offense did great and all around our defense did too. We had some parts that were shaky, but all around I think we did really well.”
The Rockets (3-0) struck first with 8:53 to play in the first on a 28-yard screen from James Murphy to Colby Goodchild and Sean Crowley added the PAT. The Falcons (2-1) tied the game at 7-7 with just 1:11 left in the quarter on an 8-yard run from Dominic Baez following an impressive 36-yard leaping grab by Owen Gasinowksi on the previous play.
The Rockets went back up 14-7 early in the second on a 17-yard run from Murphy. Danvers had a goal-to-go situation its next drive but had to settle for a short 20-yard field goal from Aidan Smith, cutting it to 14-10 with 6:30 left.
Gasinowski picked off Murphy two plays later and Danvers again drove inside the Reading 10, but penalties backed them up & the drive eventually stalled on a long missed field goal and Reading carried the 4-point lead into the half.
The game may have remained scoreless in the second half, but there was still plenty of action. Danvers’ defense kept the offense in it by forcing a turnover on downs twice after facing goal-to-go situations and also forced a punt and got an interception from Colin Kelter. Reading’s defense was able to force a turnover on downs, two punts and also forced the game-winning interception.
“Honestly, just stay calm,” Lindmark said when asked about the mindset during the frantic final few minutes. “Just stay calm and do your job.”
“Gutsy, tough, great pick at the end by Lindmark,” Fiore added on the defensive effort from the Rockets. “I can’t say enough, it was a gritty thing. We weren’t sure how we were going to hold up physically against them to be honest with you. We were concerned with their offensive line, tight end, they’ve got some real downhill runners, we hung in there.
“It was a good lesson for our guys tonight.”