WINTHROP — A dominant defensive performance lifted the Winthrop football team to a 23-6 win over Northeastern Conference foe Saugus Friday at Miller Field.
“The strength of this team is our defense,” Vikings coach Jonathan Cadigan said. “That showed. We did a really nice job against a tough team. Everybody did their job on that side of the ball.”
The Vikings got a boost from a 70-yard kickoff return touchdown by Austin Daigneault just before the half. It was just what Winthrop needed to gain some momentum after falling behind 6-0.
“At the time we were trailing,” Cadigan said. “In our first game against Beverly (21-6 loss) we were letting up big plays and not responding. We weren’t getting those big plays and it hurt us. Austin’s return gave us that.”
Quarterback Bobby Hubert paced the offense with 19 carries for 155 yards and one touchdown. Running back Tyler Rockefeller (24 yards) also scored.
“It’s really just a matter of getting our guys the ball and what they’re able to do with the touches,” Cadigan said. “Tyler had some cramps so we had to manage that a bit. Bobby does a great job of running downhill.”
The Sachems couldn’t get anything going against Winthrop’s defensive front.
“(Winthrop) was sending a lot of pressure,” Saugus coach Steve Cummings said. “We were having a hard time reaching and getting a piece of it. Early on we had great field position and we fumbled away three points. That could’ve been a big difference.
“But Winthrop had a great gameplan.They executed really well and my hats off to them.”
An injury to Mason Nickolas in the third quarter didn’t do the Sachems offense any favors. The junior quarterback left the field in an ambulance after an elbow injury.
“It looks like he has a dislocated elbow,” Cummings said. “He was in a lot of pain. He was getting better and making strides every week. Your heart breaks with something like that because it may be something that sidelines him all year. It’s a tough loss for us because he’s a big part of what we do. It means other people will have to step up. We’re going to have to figure it out.”
After a scoreless 23 minutes, both teams found the endzone in the final minute of the first half. Saugus’ Marvens Jean (31 rushing yards) ran for an 8-yard touchdown but a penalty on the celebration cost Saugus on the extra point.
Daigneault responded by scooping up a short kick and taking it 70 yards for a touchdown to tie things up and Rockefeller ran in a two-point try to give the Vikings a 8-6 lead before the break.
Late in the third quarter, Hubert broke free on a 63-yard run to the endzone and added added a two-point run to stretch Winthrop’s to 16-6.
With Nickolas out, the Sachems turned to Christian Correia at quarterback but they couldn’t get anything going.
Rockefeller ran in a 6-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to cap the scoring.
The Vikings (1-1) will hope to keep rolling at Danvers next Friday (7) while the Sachems (0-2) host Marblehead next Saturday (11).