By David Willis
---- — WEST NEWBURY — D.J. Engelke had one regret yesterday: being caught from behind on a 70-yard run that looked to be a sure-fire touchdown.
“I think I got a little ahead of myself there,” said the halfback with a laugh. “I saw two defenders, and I think my mind was going a little faster than my legs and I ended up tripping over my feet.”
That play aside, it was a picture-perfect day for Engelke and the Pentucket football team.
Behind the speedy senior’s 195-yard, two-touchdown day, the top-seeded Sachems dominated every facet of the game on the way to pounding No. 8 Hamilton-Wenham in the quarterfinals of the Division 4 North football tournament yesterday afternoon.
It marked Pentucket’s first postseason victory since beating Apponequet in the 2001 Eastern Mass. Division 4 semifinals.
“This is the first time any of us have ever been to the playoffs, so we wanted to squeeze the most out of this day” said senior co-captain Chris Croteau. “We did that. It was a great game and no one can take that away from us.”
The Sachems will now host No. 5 Watertown in the Division 4 North semifinals on Saturday at 1 p.m. Watertown beat Pentucket’s archrival, No. 4 Triton, 31-22 on Saturday.
“We were so amped up for this game,” said linebacker Josh Wesolowski. “We had some bad starts recently, so we wanted to come out fast. After the first quarter we knew we were playing well.”
Pentucket wasted no time taking control. The Sachems held the Generals to a three-and-out on the first possession of the game, then needed just four plays to take the lead on a 1-yard QB sneak for a touchdown by Ryan Kuchar.
After another 3-and-out by Hamilton-Wenham, the Green and White added to their lead when fullback Andrew Noyes spun in from 10 yards out, and it was 12-0 after each team had run just six plays.
“We were so excited that nothing was going to bring us down,” said Noyes. “We knew we had to come out firing, and we did with those two scores. But we didn’t let up after that. We came out even harder after that.”
The Sachems kept rolling from there, as Engelke’s ill-fated 70-yard scamper set up a 2-yard Jeff Porter touchdown in the second quarter. Engelke then notched two of his own scores, with TD runs of 38 and 19 yards on Pentucket’s first two possessions of the second half.
Engelke, who has battled injuries throughout his career including a shoulder injury this season, showed what he could do when healthy. He needed just seven carries to rush for his career-best 195 yards, an average of 27.9 yards a run. It was the first time in his career he broke 100 yards rushing in a game.
“D.J. played fantastic,” said Wesolowski. “All of our backs had great days and the line played very well.”
Noyes added 9 rushes for 51 yards and a touchdown and Porter had 34 yards on nine carries. With Pentucket firmly in control, the starting running backs and QB Kuchar (three pass attempts) were done midway through the third quarter.
Once again led by Wesolowski, their 5-foot-5, 135-pound dynamo of an inside linebacker, the Sachem defense was equally as dominant. They surrendered just 60 yards of offense and no first down in the first half, and the Generals did not manage a legitimate drive until the Sachems had long ago sent their backups in.
Wesolowski led the way with 14 tackles, while cousin and fellow linebacker Croteau had 10 stops. Star freshman Pat Freiermuth chipped in with 10 tackles and an interception, Sean Clohisy had eight stops, Chad Legault and Noah Malhi each had a sack and Nick Zaia and Ryan DePaolo helped lock down the victory with an interception each.
“We will be happy and enjoy this one,” said Wesolowski. “But come Monday it will be all about Watertown. We can’t wait.”
Pentucket 32, Hamilton-Wenham 0
Division 4 North Quarterfinals
Hamilton-Wenham (3-4): 0 0 0 0 — 0
Pentucket (6-1): 12 6 14 0 — 32
P — Ryan Kuchar 1 run (kick failed), 7:51
P — Andrew Noyes 10 run (rush failed), 5:19
P — Jeff Porter 2 run (pass failed), 3:38
P — D.J. Engelke 38 run (Nick Zaia kick), 9:41
P — Engelke 19 run (Zaia kick), 2:27
RUSHING: P (33-301) — D.J. Engelke 7-195, Andrew Noyes 9-51, Jeff Porter 9-34, Ryan Kuchar 2-13, Kyle Messier 1-5, Liam Sheehy 1-4, Nick Arcadipane 1-2, Brennan McGuirk 1-1, Ryan DePaolo 1-(-1), Kiernan Haley 1-(-3); HW (20-57) — Ian Dickey 15-34, Cam Macri 2-30, Peter Duval 2-(-2), Jack Clay 1-(-5)
PASSING: P — Kuchar 0-3-0; HW — Clay 17-31-3, 151, Thomas Rostad 0-2-0
RECEIVING: HW — Christian Ecker 6-76, Macri 4-24, Duval 5-22, Alex Rogers 2-29